Dhyana. Meditation. Attending, Concentration, Cultivation, Abandonment

Dear Friends,

It seems that there have been infinite (In buddhist terms, 84,000.) words written and spoken about meditation. There also seems to be 84,000 approaches to meditation or at least 965,500,000 according to Google search. So anything that might be written about meditation over the next few weeks in these posts has undoubtedly been written before. 

I will be writing about the experiences of meditation in this life, using similes and concepts that reflect some aspects of the practice as I have experienced it. These ideas are not meant to be a definitive map for the path of practicing meditation. In my experience, maps or guides that claim to be the right way or best way, or easiest way, or most appropriate way of practicing, have led me down paths of grasping, clinging, aversion and disengaged bliss or delusion. In other words, suffering; the very experience that meditation is intended to relieve or at least to bring about some understanding of. Also, approaches that promised specific results or any results at all, often led me to seeking something in the future or outside of what is already here, or something based on a concept floating around in my thought stream. This is not to say that any of these paths are wrong approaches or have not been helpful, but when the approach to the approach was rigid or made promises, I found that I either caused myself physical or emotional harm in the fervent desire to do it right and judged others for doing it wrong, or I gave up because the promises seemed unattainable or led to a striving that was the antithesis to ease.  So, for this particular coalescence of thought, experience, and form with the name William, if the practice yields mostly suffering, disengagement, or being ill at ease, the longing and commitment to end suffering for all beings will be hindered.

If during the reading of any of these posts you sense any promises, shoulding, or notice a sense of superiority please bring it to my attention. My hope is that anything that I share or suggest comes across as a warm invitation to be curious and to explore; that through these similes and concepts, anyone who is reading might discover their own approach to meditation and a path to bring ease and to end suffering for themselves and others. I am inspired by the quality of the approaches of His Holiness, the Dali Lama: awakening through joy, Thich Nat Hahn: practicing peace, Pema Chodron: curiosity about everything, Suzuki Roshi: realization happens when it happens, the heart of the culture of Costa Rican people: pura vida, Gangaji: you are that, and the 84,000 meditation guides from the other than human world: live, die, same.  As I wrote before, there is nothing here that has not already been revealed by the buddhas and christs that have come before and I am deeply grateful to learn from and to be anywhere near their retinues. 

So here we go.

In the next four weeks, I will be “excavating” (Thank you Brian Wilson.) my own mind and experiences using four different translations or understandings of dhyana. The first one, “attending” is my translation that is not based on scholarly means but most accurately reflects this life’s experience of dhyana as meditation practice. “Concentration” and “cultivation” are scholarly translations of dhyana and seem to me to be unique and integral aspects of the practice of meditation. “Abandonment” seems to be the complete realization of dhyana paramita.  These are not necessarily experienced in any order because they are all present whenever there is meditation. But, like the subtle progression of the paramitas, there has been, for me at least, a progression from “attending” through to “abandonment”.

Attending. Meditation is loving the one you are with. 

Concentration. Meditation is shoveling the snow from the path, so that more snow can fall, be seen, and shoveled, until spring. 

Cultivation. Meditation is the practice and realization of malleability. 

Abandonment. Meditation is leaving nothing behind and taking nothing with. 

It might be fun to read these statements one by one and reflect on them, letting your own experiences, reference points, echoes, or questions bubble up. Kathie Fischer shared with me that journaling has been helpful for her practice of reflecting, so if that is in your toolhouse you might do that. Linda Atwater and Sharon Pavelda find reflecting through art is helpful. Randall Mullins uses movement a lot for his reflective practice. Whatever your approach, if you would be willing to share what shows up, you can do that here or send it to me via email. Let me know if you are open to your reflections being shared with the community. 

That is enough for this week eh? I’ll write about “attending” next week. 

_______________________

With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.

William

____________________

 Practice

Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than practicing solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome. 

 We practice on ZOOM:

Mornings

  • Mondays – Calm abiding and insight meditation. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
  • Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Thursdays – Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Wednesdays and Fridays – “Formal” Practice 7:00 AM Pacific TIme
  • Sundays – Paramitas. 7 AM Pacific Time 

ZOOM Link:   https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789 

Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to comment or offer feedback and insight you may do so in the comment section on the website or by email to wrgentner@gmail.com 

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Check-In

If you have questions about meditation practice, or would like to have a conversation about the practice or anything else, you can check in with William by making an appointment. Go to “Check In Appts.”

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