Prajnaparamita. Upright Concentration. Upright Intimacy.

Dear Friends,

The eighth fold of the Noble Eightfold Path is samma samadhi (pali) translated into English most often as Right Concentration. So, right off the bat, I am thrown into mental and physical aversion in association word concentration and into grasping and clinging associated with samadhi. 

As a child I was interested in everything that crossed my path and was full of questions, to the dismay of most people. Staying on subject for any length of time was just not interesting enough. Intertwined with that, I always tested extremely high on any standardized evaluations. So, when parents and teachers tried to get me to stay on track with studies or chores, they would experience great frustration and would say, “If only you would concentrate…” or yell at me “Concentrate or you will never live up to your potential.” The expectations were high, but the curiosity in all things had no space for the body or mind remaining in one location or concentrated on one thing for too long. Anger and frustration of adults led to Ritalin, Valium and Compazine by 10. Fortunately my mom, saw the change in how I was approaching life and how the light went out, so she stopped the scrips. But the bat of “concentration” was still used by almost all of the adults in my life.

In my 20’s, I remember how samadhi  was introduced to American culture as a place to get to or something to achieve that would bring peace and enlightenment. That if you chanted the right chant, or sat in a certain position, or surrendered yourself to a certain teacher, you would get samadhi. I sought out many of those options because it seemed like I might finally overcome distraction to be able to concentrate and to quiet the mind of the constant turmoil that had been with me for as long as I had lived.

So as you can see the words “concentration” and “samadhi” are loaded for me and maybe for many of us in this culture that is focused on achievement through suppression and gaining luxury that is supposed to provide ease.

Samma samadhi,  in the way that I have come to understand it through study and taste it through practice, is neither suppression/aversion of something that is active in me nor the achieving/grasping of something that I think I do not have or that I think I am not. It is completely the opposite of these movements. At the same time it is not merely accepting what is and going with the flow, or falling asleep or withdrawing into a cave of ignorance.

In the past few weeks during sangha practice sessions and in conversations with several sangha members, the word and experience of intimacy has been popping up. I think one of the first times was when someone asked after practice, “How can this feel so intimate when we are just experiencing electronic impulses through a screen?” “How does that happen?” Then it would show up in conversations with folks trying to find a concept to apply to the experience of ease of being in the practice. Then Maria Popov, wrote about it in a discourse about DH Lawrence. And for the past two weeks the newsletters from Richard Rohr have been focused on intimacy  as the path to knowing god. Letting this seemingly global attention to intimacy take hold, the practices were simpler, clearer, more stable and almost effortless. It seemed that Upright Intimacy was empty of the twisted karma of this life, and all of the associations with my concepts of concentration and samadhi. Holding that, all the striving for, pushing away and blindness to how things work began to dissipate. 

This intimacy is the kind that does not turn away from what is arising in the thought/feeling/physical stream nor does it cling to that stream or grasp for something different. It is different from the “attending” of Mindfulness or Remembrance, in that there is no separation between observer and observed. The only apparent activity is the effortless absorption in just what is arising and the clear grokking of the insubstantiality of those arisings. This insubstantiality is understood when, by inquiring into these thoughts and feelings, there is the realization that they are made up entirely of other concepts, thoughts and feelings and have no inherent selfness. In other words they cannot stand alone, or they are void of self nature. There is nothing there to hold onto, or to avert from, or to ignore. Realizing this, they are like cotton candy dissolving with the first taste of intimacy.

In this Upright Intimacy, being entwined and interdependent with what is, there is a giving up of any desire to achieve and instead, there is being what is being achieved in the moment. There is a giving up of avoiding what thoughts or feelings frighten or threaten and instead, welcoming them as old friends that are on death’s threshold and supporting their progress by just being there intimately with them. There is a giving up clinging to beauty and instead, being deeply intimate with beauty and being completely of beauty absent of any doubt about beauty as everything. There is a giving up of judgment , and instead, without effort or judgment about judgment, there is the intimacy of boundless equanimity.

Nothing is attained in this Upright Intimacy called samadhi. Nothing comes or goes. Nothing is lost, found, received, or given away. Nothing is done and nothing is undone. And there is no way to get here, because we’re already here.

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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

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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. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
  • Tuesdays: Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Thursdays: Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Wednesdays and Fridays: Zazen 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. 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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