Thursday, 2 February 2017

Obstacles and Their Cures: Part-2

Purified - by Tomasz Alen Kopera

Sleep: is the way of the Mind to excuse itself out of a deep meditation. But it can also happen naturally, say because of sleep deprivation or tiredness. You are highly alert, your mind is not so noisy, you are totally motivated and you sit upright and turn inwards towards the Self. So far so good, the next thing you know is you are getting up from a nice six hour long sleep.

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Why does that happen? As I said, lack of enough sleep can be a reason. But if you find that sleep attacks you during your practice no matter how fresh and well rested you are, you can suspect that the mind has learnt a new trick to bother you. When all else fails, mind starts shutting down, not accepting the highly boring job it has been given, of counting the breaths or of parroting a mantra. It leaves completely, sending you into a dreamland. Instead of a fight route, now it takes a flight route. Years and years of habit has trained it to shut itself and the body down when there is nothing to do, when stomach is full, when there is no immediate danger and mating is not an option. Meditation is exactly the condition that fulfils all these criteria, hence sleep arrives naturally.

How to cure this? Well, it’s a bit tricky. If you lack sleep, try meditating or introspecting just after you wake up from the usual long sleep or a short nap. If you have a “normal” biological rhythm, early morning is the recommended time. I never did that, reason – my biorhythm never corresponds to sun or moon or any other rock out there for unknown reasons. So I can’t say how effective that will be. If it is a mental reflex to avoid facing meditation, it has to be brute forced out of the system. Well, I don’t know any other way, I cured it this way myself. Force sleep away, if you think you are well rested already. As soon as you pass the “peak sleep” point, the body and mind behave as if sleep time is over or is missed and you become alert again. Try tea or coffee to aid it (not if body is going through purification, see below).

Another important thing to do is, and which is most effective, is to cultivate a hyper interest in your practice. Be crazy and passionate for it, make it the number one priority. Difficult, I know. An all-nighter cricket match is more interesting and keeps sleep away for whole night. A 5 minute meditation puts you into deep sleep. Reason – amount of interest. As we had discussed, it is nearly impossible to “grow” your interest artificially. Either you are interested, or not. If you are not, you are wasting your life in meditation, it is not something you want, it is forced onto you, get rid of it, its not your path.

Purification: is a side effect of your practice. It may look like an obstacle, but it is not. Anyhow it can become one if you are not careful. Just as your mind is busy purging stuff out of its depths, the body suddenly becomes hyper sensitive to stuff and overreacts to certain things. Most commonly, food intolerances appear and disappear. Your eating habits change, your diet type changes, quantity of it and times you feel hungry change. Digestive disorders appear. Other kinds, such as allergies or symptoms of deadly diseases are not unheard of, though I rarely experienced anything intense. Its natural and is actually good. It becomes an obstacle and lasts forever only if you don’t pay attention to what is happening.

Why does it happen? It may seem magical, but can be totally explained, except in rare and extraordinary cases, where no one knows the cause of strange symptoms that occur. Your practice of cultivation is increasing your awareness, you are getting intensely conscious of everything – thoughts, sensations, feelings, pains, discomforts, environment, what you say and do and what others say and do. This results in the entire mind-ego-body complex being set on a hair trigger. Even the minutest negativity starts appearing as huge. You get angry and irritated easily by stupid people or the news you hear on TV. You want to lock yourself up in the room and avoid all people. Others may find it strange and will want to lock you up in an asylum, which generally increases your anger and frustration. You now avoid getting in fights and arguments, you avoid insulting people or talking harshly, giving orders or any such acts, and you also instantly dislike other people who do all that to you. This is because now you are hyper sensitive. Such thoughts/actions generate suffering and when you were not aware, such suffering was muted by the noise of the Ego, but now it appears 100x magnified. It becomes painful, you cannot bear it any longer.

Secondly, the mind, which is getting very peaceful, runs out of its usual distractions, you have taken care of them, you cannot be distracted anymore, so it goes a step deeper, and brings out past events, especially the painful ones, hurts, abuse, insults and sufferings. It can be anything – anger, guilt, pleasures, anything that can distract you and results in a long chain of thoughts and Ego boosting journey. It quickly learns about what stops your meditation most effectively and brings that up most frequently. When you clean that up, it goes one step deeper again, till you reach early childhood, and perhaps past it. It is a long and painful process, but it clears up all the junk if you do not suppress it and employ methods mentioned in the monkey mind section of part – 1.

The body reacts to almost everything, since most of us “modern age” people simply treat our bodies as a trashcan for stuff. Greed, not need decides what we eat. Some people eat junk only to show their “social status”. People consume alcohol rampantly, and/or smoke and abuse stuff. Its like a retarded chap hitting himself with a hammer ceaselessly, but since he is insensitive, unaware, he feels nothing, perceives no damage, its “fun” for him, simply because everyone else is also hitting themselves and appear to be happy. Your being so aware brings up the discomforts such lifestyle causes in the body with a 100x magnification, and it becomes painful. Mind takes it as an indication of incoming disease and fires up the immune system, causing action against the invading junk. This is even more painful. However, it purges the body of poisons you were feeding it, you stop hitting your head with a hammer, and it ultimately results in a better health and a pure, clean body. Hence it is called purification.

How to cure it? You don’t need to. The system is curing itself, that’s the beauty of it. Cooperate and surrender. Go ahead and assist it by adopting a clean and hygienic lifestyle. Surround yourself with nice people who understand you and kick out the nasty ones for once and forever. Throw away TV and stay away from newspapers, sick and heavy movies and gossip-heads. Many seekers are ignorant about the purification process and try to stop it, ignore it or bury it under the carpet. This turns it into an obstacle. Its not that you won’t progress unless purification is complete, just that this process gets delayed and lasts for years, causing pain and suffering while it lasts, not fun you see. So consult experienced seekers and teachers if you notice sudden changes in physiology or mental makeup. Do not worry, you are not dying or going insane, its exactly the opposite. Purification will turn you into a new person, a better person, do not resist it.

What if it’s a real disease, not merely a result of heightened awareness? Yes, that is a possibility. Do not consider every symptom as purification, it might not be so. Better safe than sorry, always consult a doctor when in doubt. Treat it if needed. Its fine to ease it with medicines etc. You don’t need to close your mind on it. Do whatever shortens its duration. You don’t want to purify for whole of your life. But be careful not to suppress the process by force or therapies.

There are some paranormal aspects of purification. I’m not experienced in this matter, so can’t say much. But be ready for it, in case your practice is of a “raw” kind. Immediately see your teacher if something strange appears. Chances are your teacher won’t be able to simply make it go, but he will console you. It goes away by itself, when its work is done.

Fear and doubt: arise on a path because you may encounter experiences and knowledge that is totally new for you and also for people around you, including your teacher and seniors. Things like Ego-death cause instant and intense fear and panic. Well, that’s natural, what else can it cause. It may happen that things don’t go as planned or expected, sometimes the practice bears no fruits, sometimes it brings trouble instead of progress. This causes doubt and suspicion in the mind of a seeker. Fear or doubt become obstacles, since unless they are removed, you will not progress. You may make tiny incremental advances, but nothing major.

How to get rid of fear and doubt? Unknown causes fear, knowledge destroys it. Know well, understand the thing that is causing fear, ensure that it is not life threatening, and it will disappear. Fear comes from Ego, so if you have a strong Ego, you will be cowardly, you will walk like a sheep on the path, not like a lion. It takes some amount of courage to face the strangeness your practices may cause. Even social situations, relatives or job and material needs can cause fear and insecurity, and must be dealt with. Since the situations can be numerous and unique for each seeker, I cannot give you a one trick to cure it all. In general, cultivate courage, curiosity and openness, that will get rid of any fears. Solve the survival issues first before you undertake major practices, since a practice is ineffective when all you do is worry about food and shelter while practicing, and moreover, the practice is useless if you end up dead, simply because you were careless about survival. There is a fine line between courage and stupidity, I do not recommend taking up dangerous short cuts or extreme practices. Always prefer a gentler, finer approach. There is no hurry.

Similarly, doubts are removed by knowledge and nothing else. Its fine to be somewhat critical of strange practices, it’s a sign of intelligence. But doubting something simply because you read some random opinions about it is counterproductive. Experiment, see it for yourself, and if its useless or too risky, throw it away. Try plan B instead. A big obstacle can arise in the form of doubt on the teacher. Well, you can’t test it always and convince yourself. By definition, a teacher is smarter, more capable and more experienced than you are, else you’d be the teacher instead, and hence you cannot evaluate a teacher from where you are. You cannot confirm your doubt also, as you cannot get good evidence easily, you simply don’t know. You lack the knowledge and experience about what he is telling you to do, or about his teaching. So, depending on the situation, decide and take action. Usually the action is to find a new teacher. Its stupidity to argue with someone you have a doubt on, you are simply wasting your time if you do so. Its much better to directly ask your teacher to remove your doubt. Most probably, many teachers have gone through similar situations, they understand why you doubt, and will not mind. Some may think of you as disobedient or uncultured, but if you are sweet and diplomatic you can save the relation from getting killed because of some puny doubts.

Intellectual rewards: resemble fruits of the practice and can end up as obstacles [1]. Just when you are about to deepen your meditation, the mind wakes up and starts talking as if it has an IQ of 200. You get profound insights. You understand things, yourself and people in a flash of insight. Sometimes you get ideas about “improving” your practice. But mostly the ideas are of worldly nature – how to earn more, who can be a potential mate and how, how to earn reputation and fame, even how to help and save the world. Ideas on new inventions and scientific discoveries can pop up, and elegant solutions to problems you are facing come up, such as how to fix that annoying bug in the code you are writing. Well sounds good and magical, but the result is now you spend a majority of your time pursuing those ideas and you keep thinking of stuff during meditation. In other words, the mind has killed your practice successfully.

Why and how can that happen? It should be obvious. A peaceful, quiet and well-focused mind thinks better. You are also honing your critical thinking and logic. You are paying attention in your life. You know what I mean, your intelligence has actually gone up. It’s a fruit of the practice. You don’t mess with useless people and unproductive acts, you have so much time you can think for hours, you are not easily distracted. Your health is at its best, your energies are peaking. So, there, that’s the reason. Why would any sane person call it an obstacle? Because it can easily kick you off your path and send you flying in other directions.

Why would I want to stop this, isn’t it nice? All you need to do is use your discretion and not act on ideas that divert you away from your path, however brilliant they seem. The seemingly bright ideas can terminate your meditation abruptly, mind, especially, an intellectual mind, finds them appealing. You want to get up from this boring meditation and write it down, lest you forget. But then probably you will abort something more important which was taking you to a deeper state. Its ok if that happens once in a while, but pay attention if it start happening just when you are about to make a giant leap in your practice. You are not practicing to solve some problems, there are no problems out there, its all perfect.

What if its something really important, like a brilliant idea to earn extra money? It may not survive the mindlessness for long and may get lost - what to do? Depends on you, what is your priority? If you are already doing good in terms of income, extra money means extra burden. Why is money a burden? Its not, obviously, the burden arises due to the extra work and time you must now invest to earn it. So evaluate it from bigger perspective, just don’t run after it simply because its brilliant. If its not your path, its useless, just a distraction, an obstacle.

Discussion on obstacles will continue in the next part.


[1] I’m thankful to Artie Wu for a nice summary of obstacles.

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