Vajra Fist

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  1. If I was currently able to be speaking to a counsellor, I definitely would be. Talking through the reasons why your mind gets hung up on particular stuff seems to me a fantastic spiritual tool. Not only are you learning to understand your own mind, but you're helping to rationalise things to another person. In so doing you're developing a kind of distance from the activity of the mind - you find you're less carried away by your own impulses and moods. That's very close to where genuine spiritual practice starts. I'd always recommend counselling to anyone. You shouldn't feel like there is any stigma.
  2. Nathan Brine

    Looked into Nathan Brine. I read his book with interest. Seems like a decent chap. Sadly his course fees amount to $2,750, which is a bit of a punt for an old miser like me.
  3. Transgender Q&A

    Can I just please compliment Maddie on how level-headed she's been throughout this thread. How she has been able to explain from a position of patience and repose. I find it really difficult to discuss critically things I care about in the face of challenge. Least of all things that would be as personal to me as this. So while I learned a lot I didn't know about the transgender experience, it has been this display of emotional maturity that has been the most instructive part of this thread for me. Bravo.
  4. The fragility of our lives

    Recently I've been reflecting on the increasing geopolitical tensions and the likelihood for a new global war in our lifetimes. In the Western world, we have perhaps some of the most favorable conditions in history for cultivation. Teachings are everywhere and previously sequestered lineages are accessible from your home. We have no disease, famine, extreme poverty or war. But that could all change. For some reason yesterday I got a Facebook update from a chap called the Khenchen Lama Rinpoche. He prophesied a global nuclear war by 2030, and recommended his followers certain practices to stave off that possibility. I don't know anything about him or if he is a reliable source, but it lit a fire under my arse. I feel like instead of spending the majority of my time on hobbies, entertainment, I should perhaps practice more. Practice as much as I physically can. After all, we don't know when this special period of peace might end.
  5. Is 'just sitting' a post-enlightment practice?

    This reminds me of a dharma talk by Mike Luetchford called 'wobbling through life'. He likened shikantaza to riding a bicycle, where at first you tend to 'wobble' between external and internal distraction, until a natural balance arises. My question I suppose is how do you correct yourself when you notice that an imbalance has occurred - I.e. distracted by thought. Do you note the content of your thought, relax and then let them pass? Or do you just sit and hope that your mind eventually shuts up? I've experimented with shikantaza this past week (three hours today), and I've tried both approaches. The first feels a bit more like a method, or something that involves 'doing'. The second approach seems to go either of two ways: sometimes the mind becomes like a shiny metallic ball, reflecting everything without any blemish to the surface. Or the mind can just become dull, you stop realising that you're distracted by thought and just go into a spaced out trance. I've started working through a course by (Dharma Drum inheritor) Guo Gu on silent illumination. His teacher Sheng Yen taught a staged approach to the meditation rather than just throwing students in the deep end with the vague instruction to 'just sit'. It starts with progressive relaxation and then awareness of the body as an initial 'tether' for the mind. Experienced hands - is this the wiser approach?
  6. I've done a few years of breath meditation. Once you've built a foundation in stabilising the mind, typically in zen you either dive into koan or switch to shikantaza, depending on the teacher or school. I've always found the idea of koan study slightly unappealing. In particular breaking your mind, pushing and sweating only to be constantly rebuffed by the teacher. Certainly it doesn't seem like a practice that could be feasible outside of sesshin. Generally, shikantaza - also called silent illumination in caodong chan - or 'just sitting', appeals a lot to my lazy arse. There's a few dojos near me with teachers in the Nishijima/Kodo Sawaki Soto lineage, and I'm curious to give it a go. But a lot of Rinzai practitioners are quite scathing of shikantaza. They say its really only a practice that can be safely employed after kensho. That is when it becomes a reflection of the enlightened mind. Prior to that threshold, they say that by sitting without any effort or attempt to cut through delusion, you're effectively just 'stewing in your own hindrances'. Soto teachers say this enlightened mind is already present, and by sitting in this way it naturally emerges. Soto teachers say that there is no enlightenment to seek. They say so because they see seeking after enlightenment as a desire, which itself becomes an impediment to enlightenment. Whereas Rinzai teachers say that this de-emphasis of the importance of kensho could be a reflection that few if any people attain kensho through this method. ----‐‐‐--‐---‐------------- So what I'm asking is, where do you sit on this? Is shikantaza only something that should be practiced when you're close to kensho, or have already experienced kensho. Or is it a viable path to enlightenment even for beginners?
  7. Medicine Buddha

    I just listen to it when I walk the dog, maybe once or twice a week. Always pick up something new whenever I hear it, it's pretty rich.
  8. Medicine Buddha

    I didn't even notice during the process, it's only in hindsight.
  9. Medicine Buddha

    Thinking back on the timing of this post, made me realise a few things. About six months after I started practicing this, I changed jobs with a salary of double what I was on previously. Accordingly, we were able to move out of rented accommodation and buy our own place about a year later. We got a dog, my son got good grades and went to an excellent secondary school, my work introduced flexible working. Because of that, I had the time and energy to start a regular daily meditation practice. I feel like my practice at this time generated a lot of blessings, which not only created a comfortable environment for cultivation, but also set me on the right path. I have also come to realise that it is very difficult to cultivate without receiving blessings from a buddha. For instance, I've found that karmic obstacles can arise, such as the dog being sick on the carpet as soon as you sit down, or an amazon delivery. They seem like coincidences, but have the effect of disrupting your sitting. While my attitude over the years has shifted toward self-power, away from other-power, I've come to believe that some form of devotional practice is hugely important. Aside from returning to regular sutra study and mantra practice, I have started making financial donations to mahayana teachers that promote the medicine buddha dharma, as recommended by the sutra. I also plan to start a regular practice of bowing toward an image of this buddha, as soon as I can find a consecrated statue.
  10. Arrested Development and Martial Artists

    I've been involved in martial arts since I was a kid. As an adult, I can see clearly that the reason I was so drawn to it was because of insecurities. I was insecure about how well I measured up to other men. So I wanted to be physically stronger, tougher than others, and thereby less deficient. Now I'm an older and wiser, I'm comfortable in my own skin. I see other people without putting myself in the equation, and my natural inclination is toward helping. I find myself returning to martial arts purely as a fun way of keeping active and strong. But importantly, I don't care at all about fighting. Looking around at my peers involved in martial arts, I can still see some of the insecurity and immaturity that drove me to martial arts in the first place (although perhaps not as bad as me). So yes, I feel like martial artists can sometimes be immature, awkward and not fully accepting of themselves, because I was like that too. So that can translate into being overly reactive, competitive and jealous.
  11. Your Experience of Standing Meditation

    I'm still exploring it, but feel like there's a correlation between relaxation and depth of concentration. For instance, Hakuin's soft ointment seems geared toward that. And zhan zhuang, in Corey's interpretation seems to fulfil the same purpose. In the Dharma Drum version of shikantaza (silent illumination), a lot of emphasis is on progressive relaxation before the meditation begins proper. Reggie Ray, who is heavily into somatic meditation, partly from zen, goes so far as to say you can't enter jhana with tension in the body. I think there's something to be said for examination of physical sensations of pain as an application of discernment. For instance, whether it is constant or intermittent, whether the pain is in the body or in the mental aversion. But in terms of cultivation of concentration, relaxation as a side practice feels especially useful.
  12. Your Experience of Standing Meditation

    Corey Hess, who spent quite a few years at Sogen-ji, now teaches zhan zhuang online. From what I gather, it's mostly holding the tree.
  13. Daoist meditation: water and fire methods

    There's a type of vipassana practice from Mahasi Sayadaw called 'noting' which works like this. Modern practitioners include Daniel Ingram and Yutadhammo Bhikku. Some people have experienced some serious breakthroughs in this practice, advancing very quickly. I was on a discord channel run by students of the latter teacher and was quite impressed at their stories. Personally I prefer the more gentle samatha-vipassana approach of Thanissaro Bhikku, of being aware of the breath in different areas of the body. Insight arises naturally, you notice the correspondence between somatic experience and thought.
  14. Longevity stick 16 exercises

    Some thai forest monks also do qigong and zen traditions they do zhan zhuang. I think it's an expedient means. Aside from the fact that sitting takes a toll on the body, qigong makes a nice type of cross training practice. One of the quirks of the mind is that it tends to recoil from the body as an object if there's even the slightest bit of pain or discomfort, distracting itself with thoughts as an escape. The energies produced by qigong can make the body a pleasant place for the mind to reside. The mind will tend to come back of its own accord, and more regularly. The mind stabilises quicker, enabling deeper states of concentration to then arise. I've seen some teachers also talk about the link between prana/qi and the breath. I think this the right dharma talk. But yes, I feel like Buddhist monastics tend to steer away from the actual alchemical side of qigong, aside from of course certain Chan/Zen systems where hara/dantien is emphasised. Generally speaking, I feel like qigong is useful in so far as it aids in Buddhist practice. But I think sitting for longer is better.
  15. Longevity stick 16 exercises

    Found this absolute gem of an exercise set thanks to some eerily well targeted Facebook ads. Apparently it dates to the 70s. Although there is a western chap who has created a set called 'Jiangan' that supposedly dates back to older Chinese yangshengong exercises. This feels sublime for the upper back, particularly if you're generally hunched over a laptop for work like me.