Newbie trying to find focus

Whether you're exploring Buddhism for the first time or you're already on the path, feel free to ask questions of any kind here.

Newbie trying to find focus

Postby duckfiasco » Mon May 28, 2012 6:58 pm

Hi, everyone! I know there have been oodles of "which school is right for me" and "how do I find a teacher" threads. I'm trying to trust karma and prayer on this one and trying to till the soil as best I can beforehand, as it were :)

My question more concerns the time between now and then.

Right now, I do many little things throughout the day. I try to practice moments of mindfulness when waking up, going through a door, departing, arriving, sitting down, before meals, and things like that. I also take a long walk every day and use not stepping on any bugs as my focus. If they risk getting crushed on a road, I move them to the side. I try to send compassion to any creatures, human or otherwise, that I see.

I do have a hard time sitting X number of minutes a day in meditation. More often, I'll be sitting already and think, "I feel like meditating" and focus on my breath or something in my line of sight for fifteen or twenty minutes. I find if I try to make it a point of "TIME TO MEDITATE!", it feels like a struggle and I have to deal with weird feelings of resentment.

I've also read lots of books like everyone on here :) Unfortunately, I think I've taken to building up a pretty storehouse of new concepts that I find hard to apply. Dharma is so tempting to make into a mental exercise. The one teaching I've found resonates deeply where I can start to shut off the conceptualizing part of my brain is compassion. I find tonglen satisfying and natural. When I try to expand the compassion to all beings, a strong feeling of openness arises in my chest, from inside my ribcage. The more I send compassion out, the stronger the sensation expands outward past my body. I don't know what that means if anything. I've been ignoring it. I also get a big doofy smile on my face. Is smiling while meditating a no-no? :tongue:

The only sangha I've been to more than once is a Zen priory. I knew I had to go back when I felt very irritated and ridiculous in the simplicity of zazen. I read somewhere that revulsion in practice is very important to pay attention to. I also heard many times that practice shouldn't just make you feel good about yourself, because the point isn't pleasure, even otherworldly.

So I have these conflicting bits of practice. I find compassion practices transformative and wonderful, but I worry about developing attachment and ignoring the gritty stuff I need to work on. Then I find zazen irritating which must mean something and it has yet to reveal that to me, in proper Zen fashion :rolling: And recently, I tried some visualization meditations. Then I read that vajrayana-like meditations can be dangerous to the unprepared, so I'm slightly terrified to do them again. The few I did were very, very moving. I felt the residual effect last for several minutes after I stopped meditating.

This long, meandering post reflects my state of mind :P I feel very unfocused. I don't even care about a school at this point... Do I gravitate towards what comes naturally? Do I lean towards what I actively resist in zazen? Do I investigate visualization further or will that harm me? Is this all nonsense and I should just go with the flow?

Thank you for reading yet another long post by me, and for any insight! Peace.
Namu Amida Butsu
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
User avatar
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 558
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Newbie trying to find focus

Postby Paul » Mon May 28, 2012 7:11 pm

duckfiasco wrote:Right now, I do many little things throughout the day. I try to practice moments of mindfulness when waking up, going through a door, departing, arriving, sitting down, before meals, and things like that. I also take a long walk every day and use not stepping on any bugs as my focus. If they risk getting crushed on a road, I move them to the side. I try to send compassion to any creatures, human or otherwise, that I see.

I do have a hard time sitting X number of minutes a day in meditation. More often, I'll be sitting already and think, "I feel like meditating" and focus on my breath or something in my line of sight for fifteen or twenty minutes. I find if I try to make it a point of "TIME TO MEDITATE!", it feels like a struggle and I have to deal with weird feelings of resentment.


That is a fantastic approach. I've heard many lamas explain that meditation/mindfulness is something that cannot just be done for a few minutes on a cushion and then followed by hours of not paying attention and being unpleasant to people we meet.

[/quote]And recently, I tried some visualization meditations. Then I read that vajrayana-like meditations can be dangerous to the unprepared, so I'm slightly terrified to do them again. The few I did were very, very moving. I felt the residual effect last for several minutes after I stopped meditating.

This long, meandering post reflects my state of mind :P I feel very unfocused. I don't even care about a school at this point... Do I gravitate towards what comes naturally? Do I lean towards what I actively resist in zazen? Do I investigate visualization further or will that harm me? Is this all nonsense and I should just go with the flow?[/quote]

Most of Vajrayana is not dangerous. There are some things that are, and that is practices like tummo that focus on manipulating the winds. You can seriously damage yourself with those. Other practices simply don't work if you haven't had the empowerment. Visualisation is something that is very safe indeed - for example, you can imagine Chenrezig above your head whilst reciting his mantra with no problems at all.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
User avatar
Paul
 
Posts: 815
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:12 pm

Re: Newbie trying to find focus

Postby duckfiasco » Thu May 31, 2012 7:35 am

Thank you, Paul. It's a relief that visualizations aren't dangerous. Though I have trouble "mingling my mind" with a deity's, the whole process creates concentration I hadn't yet experienced in focusing solely on the breath. Maybe the visualization helps bring more of the scattered mind bits together first.

I alternate between feeling like the empty cup and the full cup. On the empty cup days, I browse around for information :) Today, I found an interesting direction I'd appreciate any input on.

On Dharma Wheel, I saw a reference to the online program Dharma Sun, based on the teachings of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. It looks to be three sections or almost like semesters, each lasting several months with daily video instruction and teachings. It's entirely web-based as far as I know.

* Does anyone have any experience or opinion on the Dharma Sun program, or the teachings of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche?
* The structure and continuous thread of one teacher is what interests me most about the program, not necessarily an instinctual pull towards Tibetan Buddhism. Is this a misguided approach when committing to such a program?
* There are a handful of Tibetan meditation centers in my city, thank goodness. Were I to commit to a program like this, are the differences between Tibetan schools so great that I should try to find a center for that school, or are they more like different shades of the same color? I've noticed that teachings between meditation centers so far, even as different as Zen and Theravada, have the same taste.

I am very grateful for any guidance. I'm trying to prevent easily avoided mistakes to speed things along for whatever benefit there may be to others.

Peace. :cheers:
Namu Amida Butsu
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
User avatar
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 558
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Newbie trying to find focus

Postby Paul » Thu May 31, 2012 12:08 pm

duckfiasco wrote:* Does anyone have any experience or opinion on the Dharma Sun program, or the teachings of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche?


Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche is an incredible teacher. He also has some incredible students, like Erik Pema Kunsang.

* The structure and continuous thread of one teacher is what interests me most about the program, not necessarily an instinctual pull towards Tibetan Buddhism. Is this a misguided approach when committing to such a program?
* There are a handful of Tibetan meditation centers in my city, thank goodness. Were I to commit to a program like this, are the differences between Tibetan schools so great that I should try to find a center for that school, or are they more like different shades of the same color? I've noticed that teachings between meditation centers so far, even as different as Zen and Theravada, have the same taste.


Personally, I think you should just check out what you're interested in - follow your instincts and interests until you find something you want to settle on.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
User avatar
Paul
 
Posts: 815
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:12 pm

Re: Newbie trying to find focus

Postby Jesse » Thu May 31, 2012 3:05 pm

Paul wrote:Personally, I think you should just check out what you're interested in - follow your instincts and interests until you find something you want to settle on.


I agree with this, really I think you just need a solid intellectual understanding of the core concepts in Buddhism. From there just practice whatever feels right.

This long, meandering post reflects my state of mind :P I feel very unfocused. I don't even care about a school at this point... Do I gravitate towards what comes naturally? Do I lean towards what I actively resist in zazen?


Don't bother sticking to a particular school, read and practice whatever helps. Eventually I think you'll find what works for you.

Do I investigate visualization further or will that harm me? Is this all nonsense


Nonsense, imo. :smile:
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein
User avatar
Jesse
 
Posts: 641
Joined: Wed May 08, 2013 6:54 am
Location: Virginia, USA

Re: Newbie trying to find focus

Postby Spirituality » Thu May 31, 2012 3:59 pm

From the sound of it, visualisation would be a very effective meditative approach for you. It's not advised to start tantra till you have some idea of what it is and the commitments involved and I would hesitate to recommend it to someone with a psychiatric background, otherwise: no, not generally dangerous. and though visualisation within buddhism is associated with tantra, most of it isn't. Tonglen for instance is also a visualisation meditation.

I get a big smile on my face doing meditation as well. Isn't it great :)

I'd advise just checking out the local teachers and getting a feel for them. Which fits your temperament best? Which would you most trust as a guide to enlightenment? Whose students do you have most affinity with? Does the sangha function in a way that you would be comfortable joining? Does the teacher strike you as knowing more than you do? Does the teacher strike you as exemplifying wisdom?

Don't hurry yourself. Take your time and remember that it takes a lot of lifetimes to become enlightened and that where you are right now is just where you're meant to be.
User avatar
Spirituality
 
Posts: 60
Joined: Thu May 31, 2012 7:11 am

Re: Newbie trying to find focus

Postby duckfiasco » Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:21 am

Thank you all for your insights and encouragement.

One thing I am a little curious about regarding this Dharma Sun program... I've read here and there about the importance of receiving an empowerment. I imagine this is addressed somehow in an online program, but aren't many Vajrayana practices less effective if not totally ineffectual without receiving an empowerment from a teacher? On a related note, I haven't even officially taken refuge yet, though I'd like to. Feels like there's a lot of preliminary stuff I need to do to make the leap from Dharma dabbler to Dharma student.

Thank you all for your patience and insight.

Peace. :heart:
Namu Amida Butsu
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
User avatar
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 558
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Newbie trying to find focus

Postby Spirituality » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:12 pm

duckfiasco wrote:Thank you all for your insights and encouragement.

One thing I am a little curious about regarding this Dharma Sun program... I've read here and there about the importance of receiving an empowerment. I imagine this is addressed somehow in an online program, but aren't many Vajrayana practices less effective if not totally ineffectual without receiving an empowerment from a teacher? On a related note, I haven't even officially taken refuge yet, though I'd like to. Feels like there's a lot of preliminary stuff I need to do to make the leap from Dharma dabbler to Dharma student.

Thank you all for your patience and insight.

Peace. :heart:


I don't know about the Dharma Sun program, but the main issue here, from my perspective, is refuge and Bodhicitta. Buddhist Tantra requires the bodhisattva vows, which are quite something to take on. However skilled you are as a meditator, for tantra to really give the desired effect, you need Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta in turn requires what lama Yeshe called 'the spirit of emergence', aka a sincere wish to get out of samsara.

In the Gelugpa lineage you would be expected to study the Lam Rim first (analytical meditation aka contemplation aka vipassana) and yes, take refuge and also be ready to take the bodhisattva vows before getting into actual tantra. And yes, that requires an empowerment in most cases (depending on the type of tantra, I understand). However, the way 'normal' meditation is taught in the FPMT for instance includes visualisation too, so it's not as if you have to get into tantra to be allowed the benefit of visualisation practices. If you don't have a teacher near by, you could start with the Discovering Buddhism program: it's basically a Lam Rim and very useful whatever your root tradition turns out to be.

Either way: you're right to hesitate about tantra. Baby steps.
User avatar
Spirituality
 
Posts: 60
Joined: Thu May 31, 2012 7:11 am

Re: Newbie trying to find focus

Postby duckfiasco » Fri Jun 01, 2012 11:37 pm

Well, I suppose I'll trust the wholesomeness of the practices I do to take me to the right place. There's a Vajrayana center not too far from here founded by Kalu Rinpoche (Kagyu Changchub Chuling). I'll check them out and see where things go.

I feel very ready to take refuge.

Thank you for your insight. It's a weird place to be, between the urgency of how short this life is and the need for patience in a path that has no doubt taken lifetimes to unfold so far.
Namu Amida Butsu
The Perfect Way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
- Sengcan (tr. Suzuki)
User avatar
duckfiasco
 
Posts: 558
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am
Location: Oregon

Re: Newbie trying to find focus

Postby Spirituality » Sun Jun 03, 2012 4:34 pm

duckfiasco wrote:Well, I suppose I'll trust the wholesomeness of the practices I do to take me to the right place. There's a Vajrayana center not too far from here founded by Kalu Rinpoche (Kagyu Changchub Chuling). I'll check them out and see where things go.

I feel very ready to take refuge.

Thank you for your insight. It's a weird place to be, between the urgency of how short this life is and the need for patience in a path that has no doubt taken lifetimes to unfold so far.

Well, with that last sentence you have one of the basic Lam Rim insights down pat: the precious human life. I do wonder what your guru will make of you.

Do remember that many famous tantric sages had to wait years before getting their tantric initiation.

As for wholesome... Some tantras can be quite shocking, though the (preliminary) one I do could definitely be called wholesome, but then it's a Dalai Lama guru puja. The potentially shocking nature is in fact one of the reasons for all the preliminaries...
User avatar
Spirituality
 
Posts: 60
Joined: Thu May 31, 2012 7:11 am


Return to Exploring Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests

>