Archive for the Category »Alfred’s Progress «

@ Calm serenity is the human base-line emotional state – Alfred’s progress

Please see (1) to know about Alfred.

“I have not sent you much lately but it is not because I have neglected my meditation practice. I am still at it for about an hour a day and continue to reap the rewards. Here is a short essay that, I think, encapsulates where I am at currently.

The Purpose of Meditation
Because of the strong interest I have developed in meditation I had begun to read about it. Some of what I read has been rewarding in that others have expressed insights that I had arrived at independently. This makes me feel that I am on a good path. However, much of the literature is contradictory and can create confusion. For example some practitioners of mindfulness meditation insist that you should be in a sitting posture and your eyes should be open. Others say any posture that is effective can be used and the eyes can be shut. Confusion sows doubt and doubt erodes successful effort. So, for now, I have stopped reading and am following my own path.

My path
What keeps me most focused is always bringing back to mind the purpose of my meditation. This purpose was always there but, with practice has clarified. I believe that the calm serenity I often achieve through meditation is the human base-line emotional state. When the business of life overwhelms us this tranquility is superimposed upon by agitation, excitement and stress. I also believe that emotional honesty and wisdom are best accessed from the tranquil base-line state. This fairly simple premise is the purpose of my mediation and by keeping it in mind I can redirect my attention appropriately when I stray.”

(1) Alfred

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@ The river is your life! – Alfred’s progress

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“Imagine a beautiful and wild river.  As you travel down it in your boat, you encounter fearsome rapids and long reaches of calm water.  Rain pelts down on you chilling you to the bone and the sun warms you like a snake on a rock.  At night, the forests along the banks, which were so beautiful by day, can become dark moving shadows, mysterious and unsettling.  The river has so many faces, boring and exciting, beautiful and treacherous.  It goes on and on ever downward, never revealing its final destination.

The river is your life.  The boat, which enables you to navigate the river, is your thoughts .  Now imagine you come upon a tranquil glade by the river-side.  You pull your boat to the river bank and tie it securely to a tree.  You sit in the glade and focus on the present, filling your heart with peace and calmness.  You can hear the river gurgling nearby but now you do not have to think about it.  If you do have a worrisome thought about the next rapids or rain storm, you can put that thought into the boat knowing it is securely tied to the bank and is safe.  You can allow yourself this present moment on the bank in the sun, knowing that life, with all its beauty and challenges will be there when you return.

When you return to the river, it will be with new calmness which will not only help you better navigate the rapids but also appreciate the infinite beauty around you which so often is missed.”

(1) Alfred

All his posts

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@ Meditation enables me to ignore the demands of my ‘Self’ – Alfred

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Self

“Most often when we use the word self (2) we attach good feelings to it.  Sense of self, self-assured, self-actualization and a host of other “self” ideas all impress us with the importance of self.  However, there is another self within us that is less noble.

Last night I had an early morning dream where a person I love deceived and betrayed me.  After waking I was upset, my mind was clouded with ill will even though my rational mind kept telling me no actual betrayal had occurred.  It was difficult for me to find tranquility in my morning meditation but, finally, I was able to shed these bad feelings.  That was my “self” feeding me bad thoughts (3).  This self is busy all day reminding us of past mistakes, upcoming appointments, relationship difficulties and problems that need to be resolved. This self is a worry wart and has no compunction about stretching the truth or even lying to you if it suits its need.

Meditation has enabled me to ignore the demands of my self for a bit each morning.  And when my “self” is shut down, the peace and clarity which is always there in the background wells up and fills me with love and gratitude. Gone are worry, anger, jealousy, remorse and self-doubt. An added benefit is that, as the day progresses, I am more able to ignore my “self” (4) and to better able to judge the veracity of its often dubious  proclamations.”

(1) Alfred
His previous posts
(2) My related page –‘One living self and infinite dead selves’: I change every day, mentally and physically, to some minute degree. Yesterday’s version of me disappeared, never to be seen again, as good as dead. My only living self is the one pulsing with life, at this very moment. More….
(3) My related page – ‘Thoughts are like ….’: Birds in the sky, Clouds, Trains arriving at a train station, Uninvited guests, Imaginary demons, Delusions, Plants in the garden, Images on the screen, Balloons without air …..More….
(4) My related page – ‘My shopping cart pulls to one side’: Sometimes I pick a shopping cart that pulls to one side. I make periodic adjustments to prevent any mishaps.  I realized that my mind also tends to make biased and wrong judgments. I adjust my mind like I adjust my shopping cart and avoid mishaps. More….

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@ Meditating while traveling – Alfred

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Returned from a 3 week trip bike riding in Ireland. I was able to meditate daily for the entire trip except the big travel days going and coming. Meditating while traveling gave me several insights.

I began to see the trip as a scale model of my life at home. When at home, I have the usual stresses focused around work, money, relationships and managing things, both physical and mental. At home, meditation helps me keep all of this in perspective and adds a calm cadence to my daily life.

When I travel, I disregard most all of these usual stresses and replace them with a new set. Will the plane be on time for my next connection? Will the rental bicycles be satisfactory? Will I be able to drive on the left side of the road without becoming a casualty? Will tomorrow’s 40 mile bike ride be in a torrential rain storm? These worries loomed large at the beginning of the trip, but as things unfolded and, for the most part worked out well, the stress was reduced. As the stress lessened, I found it easier to still my mind in meditation.

When I returned home, I had over 70 items of mail to deal with, 234 emails, text messages and a host of other things that demanded my immediate attention. Thrust back into the maelstrom of my life, I found it hard at first to still my mind. But in a few days, as order was restored in my routine, my meditation practice returned to the way it was pre-trip and I found calmness easy to access and also some progress almost every day.

The point of all this is that problems always exist in life but the way you perceive them can vary widely. Assumptions about the way things are, is often largely illusionary. It is really a choice we each have, to be crippled by our way of thinking, or to see things more philosophically and not let our perceptions destroy our mental well-being. Often times we feel frustrated or weak because we allow ourselves to adopt an unhealthy attitude. With practice I believe you can change your moods like you would change an article of clothing. Adopting a more patient and thoughtful mood allows us to keep our challenges in perspective. It allows us to see that, no matter how difficult a situation seems, it too will pass.

(1) Alfred
His previous posts

Related pages
How to  drive like a Buddha
My mind related articles relevant to the last para above

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@ “My distress is all in my head” – Alfred

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Practices

I am continuously refining both my routine and working on improving my concentration and mindfulness.  I still look forward to each morning session and have not missed a day yet.  

Ideas

Some people can really get under my skin. They annoy me beyond reason. I get caught up in a cycle of bad thinking about them; analyzing why they say such annoying things, thinking up rebuttals to their comments, and dreading our next interaction. I realize intellectually that no one is perfect and that I should be tolerant but I also feel resentful for the way they disturb my peace.

What if I was in a daily car pool with a person who was very flatulent?
It occurred to me as I meditated that, if I was in a daily car pool with a person who was very flatulent it would similarly annoy me. I would end up feeling angry at the person and would dread the daily car ride. What could be done in this situation to minimize its bad effect on me? My meditative voice told me that 90% of the distress from this situation is all in my head. The ill effects would include dreading the trip before it started, the anger and resentment I would feel during the trip, and the residual effects of these emotions after the trip was over. If I could overcome these ill effects the only problem remaining would be the bad odor. During the trip I could mitigate that effect by opening a window. I also could bring something nice smelling which I could sniff when the odor became strong. Best of all I could take great solace in the fact that I am healthy, that I do not suffer this flatulence and that soon the trip would be over and I would have fresh air in my lungs again.

By redirecting my way of thinking, resentment and anger could be replaced by gratitude and empathy. When these forces rule a little gas is easy to bear. See (2) for my article with a very similar theme.

Results
  • Gifts from Meditation: Getting beyond preoccupation with my own thoughts and worries is one of the basic goals of my meditation. Sometimes reaching this level comes easily, sometimes it comes slowly and sometimes it does not come at all. Once achieved, and I am in a peaceful and present state, different types of ideas sometimes come to me. These ideas seem to come from somewhere outside of myself which is why I consider them gifts. Often these ideas are clarifications or new ways of looking at familiar things. They are gentle guideposts for living.
  • More flexible: I am now feeling more flexible which has made bike riding much more pleasant.

(1) Alfred
(2) I hated the garbage and I stopped

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Category: Alfred's Progress, Relaxation to Meditation  Comments off

@ “Thoughts are like dead leaves blowing in the wind” – Alfred’s progress

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Practices

I had begun to worry about some aches and pains in my neck and hips and so I met with Elisa Cotroneo, a yoga teacher and somatic movement specialist. She was great and gave me some good advice on modifying my morning routine. I have begun to implement these changes and am already feeling an improvement. I have continued to develop the asana which I made up and am finding ever deeper relaxation from its practice.

Regarding your suggestion about extending the sitting meditation
It is interesting because I have begun to do that as a sort of natural progression.  When I find an asana (yoga posture) that makes me particularly tranquil, I will stop counting and continue the pose for some time.  I think these extended time frames are usually only 10-15 minutes now because that is about how long my total meditation time has increased.

Ideas

The Tree Metaphor
When meditating try to experience all those things a tree experiences- the touch of a breeze, sunshine, bird song, roots reaching into the earth, branches to the sky, the weight of being. Avoid all those human overlays such as anger, anticipation, and regret.

Thoughts  vs Ideas
Because we cannot just turn our minds off (and it would be dangerous if we did) I have begun to differentiate between thoughts and ideas as I meditate. My definition of a thought is that it is a fragment of an idea. Thoughts come and go, some good, some bad, like dead leaves blowing in the wind. An idea is a whole thing. It can stand alone like a large smooth rock on the ground. It can be looked at from different sides. The glue that holds an idea together is intuition. Here is an example of an idea – that the tranquility experienced from meditation is a baseline. To achieve tranquility is simply opening a door to a new space. The exploration of that space is what counts. When I meditate I concentrate on that idea (as well as my breath, my body sensations and my state of mindfulness). Keeping that idea in focus allows me to ward off distracting thoughts and achieve tranquility more efficiently.

Results
  • I took a long and stressful (busy traffic and bad weather) car trip helping my son move into a new apartment in Brooklyn. The rented van had extremely uncomfortable seats and we drove for over 7 hours. I used body awareness techniques I have learned from my asanas and ended the trip with no residual body stiffness.
  • I find myself striking up conversations with strangers or people who I hardly know more often.
  • Also, I think I am listening to other people better.

(1) Alfred

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@ Felt fresh at the end of a 3 hour ‘car trip’ – Alfred’s progress

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Practices

This week was interesting because I took a trip to the ocean to fish with an old friend. One day I meditated on the sand on a beautiful ocean beach with the sounds of surf and shore birds. The next day I practiced on my friend’s deck in an urban area. The change of place in some ways distracted me a bit but also it made my “journey” different and I learned something from it.

I am doing pretty much the same practice as last week. However I am constantly refining subtle elements such as body scanning, breathing technique and mindfulness.

Ideas

Meditation is considered a practice because it is something that, for most people, must be learned and developed. The natural state of human consciousness is not tranquil and serene. One of our evolutionary inheritances is to be on guard against danger. Although imminent danger is absent from many of our lives, our atavistic memory can keep us in a slightly edgy and nervous state. To achieve calm and clarity of thought through a meditative practice is to rise above these instinctual tendencies. This does not mean that you become blind to reality. By first recognizing needless anxious thought and then redirecting your mind, you are actually becoming more in tune with the real world and gain the additional benefit of well being.

Results

I took a 3 hour car trip and applied calm and alert thought practices while driving. Not only was the trip very pleasant but, in addition, my perception of time became elastic and I felt as fresh when I completed the trip as when I started.

(1) Alfred

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Posts of Alfred’s progress

@ Breathing in and breathing out as a continuum …Alfred’s progress

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“I am still keeping at it and expanding my practice every day. My core routine is 10 postures, each held for a minimum of 30 breaths. In between, I stretch in ways my body tells me to, some times rocking gently to loosen things up.

I always play soothing music or chanting; there are great chants on you tube. I was burning incense but have stopped because I find it a distraction.

Each day I discover new ways to attend to the present while meditating. Every day I feel a benefit; sometimes great, sometimes subtle.

Some ideas
  • We can be slaves to time. Being constantly aware of the clock and where you need to be an hour from now, robs you of the present. While meditating, do not fall into the trap of counting breaths, as if they are grocery list on which you are striking off items. Immerse yourself in each breath and adhere to your body’s natural relaxed breathing pattern. Time can become quite elastic when you are not measuring it in your mind. I suspect that the perfect present is infinite.
  • If you have trouble stilling noisy thoughts, try some mental exercises.
    • When you breath in, think of what it feels like to exhale and then, as you exhale think of the feeling of breathing in.
    • Think about the sound of wind on your face, of how sunshine smells and what the color green tastes like. Imagine that your body is floating or rotating slowly. Imagine you are slowly melting into the ground.
  • I realize as I try to attain complete tranquility while meditating, that the way I breathe can disrupt this goal. I have found at times a great rush of peace as I slowly exhale but, as I transition to breathing in, I am susceptible to errant thoughts. In order to avoid this undesirable distraction, I have begun to try to think of breathing in and breathing out as a continuum, rather than a transition. As I breath out and feel peace flow in, I concentrate on holding that feeling and I begin to breath in. I do not concentrate on the change of direction of my breath. This is helping me sustain and deepen the feeling of calmness over multiple breath cycles.
Benefits  I gained
  • I went to a social event where I knew nobody. I felt more relaxed than usual in this situation and felt like I was more focused on the person I was talking to at any given moment.
  • During the day when a worrisome thought clouds my mind, I am better at addressing it and filing it away where it belongs, rather than have it put me in a foul mood.
  • I am more easily amused.”
(1) Alfred

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@ Improvements in patience, judging people and pains – Alfred’s progress

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Meditation practices and experiences

When you count your breaths try not to say the numbers in your mind. You might try replacing one, two and three with red, green blue and as you mark each color in your mind try to visualize it. Or make up three syllables to replace the numbers: aaaa, raaa, hum for example.

When practicing meditation be extremely gentle and loving of yourself. Do not think badly of yourself if your mind strays, simply redirect. If you find a position or mental place that makes you feel good then allow yourself extra time there and try to go deeper into tranquility. When you are done, stretch like a cat in ways that feel good, scratch your scalp with your fingers and pat yourself quickly and firmly all over with your hands.

As a boy I had dreams that I could fly. It was not flying like superman, more like I had figured out the secret to undoing gravity. I would rise up above the sidewalk and slowly float down again; like a slow motion jump. At times I would get quite high up so that the town below me looked like scenery in a model railroad set. These dreams were always elating. I felt like the world was filled with many happy secrets and, maybe, I was able to figure them out. Sometimes I would awake, and in my half sleep, still believe in the possibility of levitating. This belief sometimes carried through the day. Meditation is beginning to create a similar feeling of elation in me. Although I am firmly planted in the “real” world, meditation gives me a glimpse of hidden possibilities and is restoring my belief in magic.

Changes I attribute to my daily meditation
  • Increased patience in traffic and with people
  • I am less likely to judge people in a bad way
  • The stretching has reduced some aches and pains I have had for a long time.

(1) Alfred

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@ Silencing loud thoughts – from Alfred

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  • Breathe as if breath was a wheel turning slowly. No end or beginning – the transition between breathing in and breathing out, infinite and smooth.
  • Meditation is not work. It is not like stacking fire wood where there is a beginning middle and end. It is a gift you allow yourself. Like eating a bowl of ice cream when you eat it slowly savoring each taste.
  • The goal of meditation is not to stop thinking. Thinking is like breathing and is always there. You can think differently however. You can silence loud thoughts that demand your attention. Redirect your thoughts towards physical sensations. Think of the sound of a woodland stream and imagine you are the water. Try to feel all parts of your body at once. Let these quiet thoughts put you into a calm and tranquil place.

(1) Alfred

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