Just another person who's new to meditation/mindfulness, but after researching about it for a while I'm really interested in learning more about being the master of my own thoughts and actions.
Are there any books worth reading that are suited towards beginners?
EDIT: Found these two books - Mindfulness in Plain English and The Mind Illuminated. Has anyone happened to have read these and can recommend which one is great to start of with?
That's the exact practice. You're already doing it right. Sitting down, seeing a thought, trying not to get involved in it.
You can label it if you wish, especially if the same thought comes back a lot. Say, "That's having an expectation." Take a moment to remember, "It's just a thought." Go back to what you are meditating on. That's it. That is the exercise.
There are different ways to meditate. I am assuming we are talking about Buddhist meditation, for example on an object like the breath, a mantra or something you are looking at or visualizing.
So we are practicing staying with the object. Thoughts come up, back to the object. That's it. Anything else is a distraction. But we want to remain calm, be kind and patient with ourselves. That is also the practice. Having compassion for ourselves while doing the exercise. That's also a core part of it.
A book like Mindfulness in Plain English helps. It also helps to visit a meditation group for a few months until you get the hang of it so you can ask questions in person.
Obviously, continually using MDMA to control monkey mind isn't a great long term solution. The ecstacy is heavily affecting your serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, so whether or not you're being mindful while rolling is debatable. Speaking from personal experience (almost two years sober), I wouldn't consider an MDMA experience particularly mindful; you're ultra tuned into sounds, movements, pleasurable sensations, and social interaction, but ultra tuned out of negativity.
If you want to learn to quiet the monkey mind, there's one really good way that you're probably already aware of: meditation. There's many types of meditation, but I'd recommend insight meditation for dealing with that overreactive brain. Mindfulness In Plain English is an easy to read introduction to insight/vipasanna.
Mindfulness in Plain English.
May I recommend Mindfulness in Plain English . It's changed my life.
Mindfulness in Plain English is a pretty good start.
>In your original post and your answers, it sounds like the trainings in morality have become much more natural/obvious as you have progressed through the insight paths. Were there specific path moments that you can link directly to changes in your practice of morality?
What a great question. Probably the most salient, was the first time I really fully had the epiphany 'this is what I am; that means, this is what everyone else is, as well.' I know what it is like to suffer. I know that other people suffer similarly. Naturally, I therefore want to be a force in the opposite direction. Likewise, a lot of my 'ego,' dissolved when I truly noticed that I had not one continuous ego, but many separate, ever changing egos with distinct agendas, wants, needs, and fears. When you realize how many of them you have, and how some of them can even be contradictory, you realize how arbitrary each individual one is. Egos loose a lot of their umph through that realization, and pride is replaced by a sense of play. It becomes very natural to kindly laugh at yourself for being human. Lastly, forgiving yourself very deeply, is what allows you to forgive others. People are only hard on others becuase they are even harder on themselves.
>At what point did you start to think about life, and not formal sitting, as your primary practice? Were there specific stages of insight (or concentration) that made it easier for you to make that shift?
I first got the idea from Mindfulness in Plain English, which I very luckily to read pretty early in my formal meditative career. The line is something to the effect of 'a meditators true goal is to bring unbroken mindfulness to every situation.' I thought for a long time about that, and something about it just made a lot of sense to me. You don't weight train for the sake of training, you train to be stronger and more physically fit. Likewise, we don't meditate for its own sake, we train for mental cultivation. I have been interested in improving myself as long as I can remember (almost obsessively unfortunately), and so this idea immediately clicked with me. I soon discovered Shinzen Young's ideas about daily life practice, and I was hooked. Daily life practice is easier than formal practice in some ways: the material is always varied and complex and inherently interesting.
>I've heard that people past stream entry cycle through the stages of insight regularly, and I'm really confused by what that means. I find is especially confusing because I read that, after one starts on a new path, it becomes harder to experience the higher stages until you've achieved them again on the new path. Can you describe your experience post-stream entry with cycling?
Cycling is roughly true in my expereince. I'm currently in Knowledge of Equanimity (stage 11), and thankfully so - Knowledge of Re-observation (stage 10) is very difficult sometimes. I don't know how many times I've cycled, but at least a dozen or so (not all of them ending in Fruition events).
I say 'roughy' becuase, the thing with the stages of insight is (in my experience), that system is about the barest possible set of stepwise concepts that describe the lived expereince of understanding the three characteristics. They are NOT precise or consistent by any stretch of the imagination. It's taken me a long time to work out when I was in which stage, and even now I'm not always sure. Don't get me wrong, there is definitely something here, and a good reason the stages have so much doctrine behind them. What we're doing here is a process of learning, and of course, sometimes you have to learn concept A before you can learn concept B, and the stages do seem to point at something real in this sense.
But, except for the order, and the rough idea of each stage, NOTHING about them is consistent from person to person or even cycle to cycle in the same person. A stage can last anywhere from but a few moments to a few weeks or longer. The 'symptoms' of that stage can be anywhere from barely noticeable to extremely obvious and intense. The lived expereince of being in a stage can be the most important and obvious thing in your life at the time, or it might seem really counterintuitive, vague, and barely noticeable.
The thing I think the stages are good at, is diagnosing what might be most helpful for you to focus on, or emphasize to get through that stage. But honestly, you can figure that out for yourself without this system, if you just remain sensitive to what works in which conditions.
Was there something about my experience with the stages you'd like me to elaborate on that I didn't here?
>In other words: 'don't worry about it, worry about it'
What do you think about the sentence after what you quoted?
>Whatever there is that arises in the mind, just watch it.
If that didn't resonate with you, here is another example, in a slightly different context but maybe more thorough — from 'Mindfulness in Plain English' page 115:
>When you first sit down to concentrate on the breath, you will be struck by how incredibly busy the mind actually is. It jumps and jibbers. It veers and bucks. It chases itself around in constant circles. It chatters. It thinks. It fantasizes and daydreams. Don't be upset about that. It's natural. When your mind wanders from the subject of meditation, just observe the distraction mindfully.
>Make the distraction a temporary object of meditation. Please note the word temporary. It's quite important. We are not advising that you switch horses in midstream. We do not expect you to adopt a whole new object of meditation every three seconds... What is it? How strong is it? and, how long does it last? As soon as you have wordlessly answered these questions, you are through with your examination of that distraction, and you return...
Always glad to discuss!
I learn a lot as I try to articulate my understanding and experience. That is one of the reasons I started teaching mindfulness practice.
I've listened to a lot of Alan Watts. I love that he described himself as a "spiritual entertainer" and a "philosophical entertainer". I could listen to him talk for hours. :D
I've also listened to many videos of Tolle, he is a great guy. I haven't read books from either of them.
I've read a little about Huang Po back when I hung out in /r/zen a little. I've since moved on from that place. BTW if you ever go there, maybe you already have, take them all with a grain of salt. I think there is more to learn from the zen texts and meditation than the toxic people in that forum.
'Taking the Path of Zen' by Robert Aiken is really good.
'Mindfulness in Plain English' may be the best intro to mindfulness I've read.
'Focused and Fearless' is a very direct and simple guide to Jhana practice, or absorption concentration meditation. It describes very specifically how to reach and identify every level of Jhana.
'The Posture of Meditation' is a great guide to the role your body plays in meditation. It is the most in depth guide on posture, but it can be an intro to meditation in itself. The author teaches that you can read deep mindful states with only correct posture.
Most of those talk about actual practice, which I think is the most important.
For philosophy and understanding what is going on I highly recommend this course:
It is a serious and lengthy course for which you will need patience to sit through lectures. An evolutionary psychologist from Princeton - Robert Wright evaluates Buddhism through the lens of modern psychology.
That was a defining course for me and gave me a lot of motivation to practice whole heartedly.
Mindfulness in Plain English In a lot of ways this was like my Red Pill before the Red Pill. To quote:
> “There you are, and you suddenly realize that you are spending your life barely getting by. You keep up a good front. You manage to make ends meet somehow and look okay from the outside. But those periods of desperation, those times when you feel everything caving in on you – you keep those to yourself. Meanwhile, way down under all of that, you just know there has to be a better way to live. A better way to look at the world, a way to touch life more fully. You click into it by chance now and then: you get a good job. You fall in love. You win the game. For a while, things are different. Life takes on a richness and clarity that makes all the bad times and humdrum fade away. The whole texture of your experience changes and you say to yourself. “Okay, now I’ve made it; now I will be happy.” You are left with just a memory – that, and the vague awareness that something is wrong.
You fell that there really is a whole other realm of depth and sensitivity available in life; somehow you are just not seeing it. You wind up feeling cut off. You feel insulated from the sweetness of experience by some sort of sensory cotton. You are not really touching life. You are not “making it” again. Then even the vague awareness fades away, and you are back to the same old reality. The world looks like the usual foul place. It is an emotional roller coaster, and you spend a lot of your time down at the bottom of the ramp yearning for the heights”