A thousand more runs at this thing called meditation.
Questions should be a healthy approach to practice.
Heart not in this today. Meditation a bit of a challenge because of what the teacher is asking us to go down into our feet! Fact is, there’s too much rummaging around up there. Maybe I need to bring it down into the body, the concept I only understood very recently. I still don’t get it. Think of my foot. Okay, I can do that. Ah, but now think of your foot from–‘the inside out’, say what? Not being funny here.
How in the hell do you do: ‘think from the inside out of your foot’, c’mon now, enlighten me if you can. Doesn’t it all radiate from a rich form of imagination, therefore make-believe? Oh, don’t get me wrong here, I’m a believer. Hey, I want to understand this, I really do. I must understand it. If I don’t get it, the bullet train now leaving the station may forever go on without me. Noting, noting, thinking, thinking… I want to understand.
My mediation practice has gone on for a number of years, but it always serves to review, to go over some of the things found on the trail. This moving into the body for me is and has been a challenge for me simply due to the fact that I cannot separate myself from thinking that brain is all!
Tell me, how do I suddenly get out of my head, which I define as that stuff that resides between my ears. This may, in part, be a reference to my physical brain. I’m almost ashamed to say that, given what I’ve experienced in this life.
Then we bump into the question having to do with brain versus mind. Physical heart, the wonderful organ that pumps our life’s juices and ‘The Heart’, that thing in the center of our middle chest thereabouts that has everything to do with all things spiritual. Then if we’re not too careful, we fall flat into that endless conversation differentiating between mind, spiritual heart, and brain and pumping heart and this thing we label conscience, not conscious. How much does each of these things have to do with one another? Once we think we have some answers, how might this define or partially define what we consider to be reality?
Once we think we may have some answers, what do we do with our insight? Is this insight the one referred to in mindfulness meditation, as in Vipassana meditation? Even after all these years, I still struggle with the definition.
My practice now for ten years or so has been Vipassana. Before that, since my first ‘sit’ in ’68 it was Mantra Meditation, our Swami teacher was in Advaita Vedanta. It wasn’t until I began to practice Vipassana did I begin to understand what the reference to insight was all about.
As I understand it, in a hyper nutshell: An insight is an experience usually had during meditation though doesn’t have to be, where one bumps into an awareness, a sudden understanding, a clarity, something that tells you with very little doubt, ah, that’s why that is like that. The oft mentioned: aha! Moment. Some are so subtle that it isn’t until perhaps months or years later that you realize, ‘oh I understand that now, I’m not sure when I understood it but I get it…’ But you remember it!
I think we have insights as part of getting older. With meditation, I dare say, insights may be placed on a sort of a fast track. As a consequence, and because of their quicker ‘arrival’ we see them as insights. We have to be careful about attaching too much of the spiritual overcoat on these things. In other words, meditation, insight meditation, ie meditation on the breath, the most common meditation taught in Buddhism clarifies our thinking, helps remove us from unwholesome activities, (which pull us away from growth derived from meditation), and as a result, we begin to experience insights!
What’s all that have to do with thinking from the inside of one’s feet?
Why everything! When was the last time it occurred to you that you could think through your foot? Think of the implications. If it turns out to be true, it is a huge game-changer. So if I can think from my foot, perhaps this speaks to the oneness of reality. Like maybe we are not self-contained organisms wandering around, and that perhaps there’s a deep, spiritual, electrical connection with one another and everything.
Oh, I know you may know about this. For me, it’s something I’m trying to wrap my head around on a daily basis. I wish I could say I really know, I don’t.
A worthwhile note: It behooves us the make sure we study diligently and carefully and choose most carefully teachers of the highest reputation, this is key.
Hey, so now we can sit there in whatever posture, as we now know there many acceptable postures, they all work. Yes, perhaps the ones where the spine is erect have certain physiological advantages, even spiritual, as in energy flow, chakra stuff. But there you are sitting in a chair, comfortably, yes. With feet on the floor, back reasonably straight. Or you are lying down, at days end this is my final posture, perfect for following an hour-long guided session. And perfectly legit. Find out how, as there are at least two variations in the lying down posture, I do both of them. Perhaps you’ve noticed more and more teachers, I refer here only to the reputable group of teachers at the very top, who will now begin their recorded guided sessions by including, along with sitting, standing, often add, the lying down.
How do I leave that head area, in actuality, in practice, and find myself now thinking from the center of my right foot? I am asked to do this in guided meditations by the most respected teachers on the planet. I won’t name any as I greatly respect them. I am not a certified teacher or a Buddhist scholar, so it’s just me and almost a full life of reading and practice. I realize that my inability may be just that: my inability! Onto the foot! The notion suggests some tough stuff to swallow. The main one being that now my thought process is happening in/from, my foot. How’s that? Can that be? Is that what we’re being asked to do?
I will confess that the concept is not brand new. My guess is that it’s been about twenty years ago that I read about memories being stored throughout the body. I know that if not most then many are aware of this perhaps fact. It could’ve been from my first wife. A gifted spiritual healer. Perhaps she explained it to me one time.
I suspect however a subtle difference in the two: one is ‘thinking from the inside of your foot’, the other is memories stored in parts of the body. But for the sake of this conversation, I add both in for now.
Is it a faith thing? If that is the case, then it makes it a little easier. A little like asking me to experience flying over a beautiful valley on the back of a giant, gentle flying creature the size of my house, like that movie, taking me somewhere to eat a Dairy Queen. I can do that, did it just now. I can do that without getting high or straining. But! That doesn’t mean at all, in the least way of thinking, that it’s taking place. No! It is not! If you think that, then you need to go get checked out.
Yes, I’ve heard that our muscle tissues hold memories, our experiences of this life, and maybe beyond. I find myself accepting this. Over the years I have attempted to explain one thing or another in my life from the perspective of a surfacing memory originating, let’s say in my thigh muscle. But thinking, actively thinking from my leg, or in this case, my right foot is difficult for me.
So you ask, have I given it a try? Hundreds of times. I have followed hundreds of guided meditations and the teacher is asking me to think from the inside of my hand. He or she does this as part of the premeditation calming process, not the meditation itself, let’s be clear.
I can sense feelings in my hand. In meditation, or just sitting somewhere in a still moment, my mind can go to my hand and with some effort and patience, I can begin to feel throbbing, tickling, cool, warmth, so on. This is not thinking from my hand.
Is this a Yogic technique? Perhaps. Also, I do get that we all arrive at the ‘dinner table of life’ offering different perspectives. Some might say some are more advanced. Some prefer to not go to that, ‘more advanced’ thing, rather a more human acceptance that we are not all exactly the same. Why wouldn’t others be better suited than me or you in a given challenge? Happens all day long.
Makes even more sense when you toss in that we have had countless past lives (if you believe this), who’s to say we don’t pass on some of those skills. We’ve all seen it in kids. Just as we have all unfortunately seen a kid leave this ‘born skill’ behind in pursuit of a real job… But we always remember: ‘Geez, remember how he’d beat on the drums hour after hour…’
So depending on where you are on the path if at all, that’s okay too. You may say that I’m doing something wrong or that I haven’t received the proper instructions. Could be!
But now that the top teachers have chosen to add into their Dharma talks, these things about ‘allow yourself to drop down into your feet and feel your foot from the inside…’ I want to make sure I’m on the bandwagon.
There was a time when the most reputable teachers chose to not get too much into talking about the absorption states or the Jhanas. These basically are very real, experienced first hand, deep meditative states we can enter at will which temporarily lift or remove us from the senses, a taste, some say of awakening. I certainly have never experienced them. Though there are, according to some four Jhanas, others say eight, mundane, and ultra- mundane, experiences, they are after all conditioned, and therefore temporary. But the teachers in the U.S. for so long stuck to the basic meditation instruction, not venturing into these arguably more juicy aspects of the practice. Juicy it is! If you really dive into the study and practice of it, hang on!
But therein lies the caution, if we want to take up the practice so to experience these rather amazing things has a self-defeating element, after all the goal is liberation or freedom, the complete ‘letting go’ and not getting caught up in the light show.
Now, of course, there are courses offered by the best teachers in the how-to in Jhanas which I think was smart. I mean, we are smart, we humans, give it to us all. Let us decide how much of it we want to dive into. From simply meditating and reaching a certain equanimity, (things just stop rattling you). To living a skillful and wholesome life. To getting into the Jhanas and beyond. Somewhere in all, that and almost of necessity are the retreats. Or, ‘going away’ for a week to three months or even longer to reputable places run by the best.
You’ve noticed how much I’ve mentioned ‘reputable, the best, etc’. This can’t be overstated. It should be shouted from the rooftops. Make it one’s top concern to get to know the top twenty teachers in the country. It really makes a difference. Google makes that task easy for us. Life is short. We don’t have time to try, dump, try, dump, find good teachers from the start! These same teachers will even recommend and mention other, younger teachers, that perhaps in comparison to the well- known teacher are comparably unknown but that offer the teachings on the level one would hope for. There is in fact a growing number of these.
A simple fact is that to learn the basics we don’t have to hold out for one of the ‘top twenty’ (note: the top twenty is my creation, more than likely the number of truly good teachers is much higher).
Every top teacher with rare exception has written their books. These have become the best manuals available on the planet to learn this stuff.
The way to peel away the union and find out who these teachers are is Google, also consult Dharma resources such as Dharma Seed and Audio Dharma. These are Vipassana resources, as you know there are others, IE: ‘Tibetan Buddhism’ with its own set of wonderful teachers. Without sticking my neck out too far here, it is safe to say that both systems have much in common, though the approach is definitely varied. An interesting fact being seen now more and more is a healthy mix of the two. Teachers from Vipassana are only too happy to host say, for example, a teacher from the Tibetan and Zen traditions to give talks in their gatherings. Some go so far as to say that one day these different schools may very well come together offering the best from each.
Tonight I will once again follow the guidance of the meditation teacher as she or he suggests we drop down to our feet…