Working with Mahamudra: Center-Spaciousness Paradoxes
Some thoughts—snips of otherwise forgotten nighttime dreams, strange visions, notions of supersubtle transmissions—arise. I won’t write of these beyond just this.
Sit was rich, jhana-intense (3, 4), but with continual movement. I was reading from Clarifying the Natural State for about an hour before sitting. Even though I find this book difficult to process, of course, I am reading it slowly by reading small amounts of it over and over again across days and weeks. I read it the way I do poetry when I’m enjoying it and not planning to turn it into a tidy sniff of litcrit. I simply allow it to wash over and through me, again and again. I don’t really try to understand it (stand under it).
I think this book productively influences my meditation, but, then, almost any beloved dharma book does. Now I understand why the Gelugpa people have reading the dharma as part of daily meditation practice. I read somewhere, too, more than a year ago, that if one is dropping out of practice, one should simply read the dharma. (I think it may have been Thanissaro who said so.) I read much of the time before the A&P Event ofJuly 2013.
This morning’s sit was really all “about” not being about anything. One frustration I’ve had for weeks now is how long it takes me to “get somewhere” during a sit. I start out with much distraction, noise, and restlessness—like a beginner. And there is boredom, nothing to latch onto. It is so bad sometimes that I sit there a whole hour and find it difficult even to stay with these sensations. Noting, or Twirling Swords, or Ajahn Lee’s Method 2 seem to help, for they give me something to do.
Just Sitting, Clarifying the Natural State
But tonight I just sat. I mean really “just.” There were at first momentary shifts that were like Mind & Body: There was thought, there was getting lost in thought, there was remembering to peer into the thought, and then there was awareness of the peerer/mind, which felt local and physical and heady. I looked at this physicality and locality of vantage point with regard to something as ephemeral as a “thought” or stream of them. It makes no sense, really, that there would be a physically locatable point of view on thoughts, the latter having no location, physicality, extension, weight, or entity aspect whatsoever itself.
Looking into mind, I see only thoughts and between-thought awareness. There is strong temptation to “delete” or “dissolve” those thoughts, to “vipassanize” them, as we say, but that is what Clarifying says not to do. And now I understand why. If I do I look for the 3Cs very deliberately, doing so becomes an application, effortful and premature. However, if I simply allow lucid awareness toward thought over and over again, without reaching for anything beyond seeing the thought, which then dissolves—this is crucial. “Over and over again” its just happening is crucial. Boredom is a trick. The Buddha sat under a tree and resolved to sit until he saw, no matter how long it took. Over and over again.
Another movement I noticed was that awareness seems to flow from my head but interspersed was the small of my back and other bodily fields in turn. Now, my head really was not flowing out to make the small of my back. The small of my back just suddenly was, and my head as instantly was not.
Next everything automatically went spacious and the center was hard to detect at all. How can it be that I can feel this space? And why is it that I most feel it when the center seems to be gone? Well . . . this is really just like the head and the small of the back simply alternating, glittering across the way, on and off, in turn. The space is alive; the center is dead. The center is alive; the space is dead. Ah, this must be why Daniel often writes, “Go wide and through,” meaning, I think, that if one is going wide but nothing seems to be at center, then there is still a center, an “off.” Maybe? Maybe that is why the Twirling Swords technique is such a neat trick: It seems to sort of habituate one to pulling the space through that center. Effortful, yes, but after a while the swords disappear, and the sweeping through keeps going—or at least for me it did.
Today, however, I had resolved to just sit. What I think is “mind” shifts continually. It sometimes is the small of my back. It sometimes is the dark behind my closed eyelids. It is sometimes a sudden going-bright behind my eyelids. It is sometimes the velvety sparkling behind my eyelids. It is sometimes the sound of a car passing beneath my bedroom window—even though that experience is over there with the car. All this transpires across time. None of it is wholly anything in any given moment.
Opacity Replaced with Pale Copies
Vision is the sense door that most tends to confuse matters for me. There is here and over there. There is perspective and point of view. It is all rather insistent. Often, during a formal sit, I have a good deal of success “seeing” much of me/thought/mind over there. The key realization in August was that I existed only in relation to the object I was identifying with at the moment. But what I’m learning now is more radical than that. When I opened my eyes, everything was both roiling and gently strobing—the strobing was as if an image of what was kept replacing what was, over and over again. The effect was a kind of transparency overall. Hard to explain, but easy to see. And the whole room was doing this—strobing and actually rolling, and not just visually but viscerally and in some felt-space way. Felt sense and vision both present center-spaciousness paradoxes.
After the bell, I remained in jhana for a while and then rose, completely calm and alert. I reflected on how my sits have for a number of weeks now alternated between profound and shit. Tonight I think I figured out that I’m too high on energy/effort and too low on the faith side. I’ve been having a lot of doubt, frustration, waiting, and expectation, whereas the August cessation came after extremely strong faith arose and effort fell away. Not that I can make this a formula, exactly, but seeing is believing.