Sunday, 10 April 2016

Ingyinbin Journal: Not to Get Carried Away



John, a meditator from New Zealand, spends extended periods in Ingyinbin each year, the home of the revered Webu Sayadaw and with his friend Ashin Mandala. This winter, he has decided to keep a journal, which he has kindly offered to share with us. His journal alternates between observation and poetry, between meditation practice and commentary about Burmese Buddhist society, from his learnings and his questions. The full collection of his musings can be found here.

11 January

Interesting to read Aya Khema and find recounted in intenser and more developed form some of the experiences that have started to occur over the past couple of weeks during Anapana. Not that what is experienced is within a long pole’s reach of the jhanas, but these days have given a more sustained settledness when meditating than hitherto and this is heartening. I walk to the hut with some degree of mindfulness, contentment and a feeling of positive anticipation. Walk through the grounds, say hello to the three young puppies who continue to refuse to be petted, and climb the five concrete steps into the hut, leaving my jandals on the platform outside the gate, which I close behind me, and then settle onto my cushion, having, on the cooler days, closed the shutters on two of the three walls and face the other. 

The body is quickly comfortable and relaxed, although the mind continues intermittently with uninvited thoughts and it can take a good 30 minutes until a stage is reached where it too feels contained and settled, not leaning out after things or feeling that things reach in after it, odd sorts of distractions really. The mind is settled yet doesn’t remain unwaveringly on the breath, a number of times it gets lulled into extraneous thoughts for up to several seconds, or even between times there continue to be fleeting little distractions, sometimes fleeting images or forms of half-thought that are not yet verbal or properly formed. Balancing this, to some extent, the mind is progressively absorbed in the calming, pleasant, upwelling body sensation that begins in the head region and slowly incorporates section by section downward the rest of the body, sometimes skipping from chest to feet and legs and then working back through the hips and torso. 

There is a slight tightness, often, in the legs that can linger, but it is not particularly uncomfortable, indeed the feeling is generally muted because along with it there is a smooth and active feeling of ease throughout the legs and the entire body. The mind tends to feel anchored in the chest or head area, but sometimes when I focus on this I realise that that is a notion more than a place and the mind can move freely and inhabit various portions of the body, not necessarily in any order, nor is it jerky. And where the mind arrives it quietens, soothes, warms and kind of stirs; the body seeming to remain body in its shape, but again on reflection that is notional and the mind and body prove a perfect accompaniment where they are together all over. This can fill a two hour sitting, although the feeling of fluidity and fullness varies from sit to sit. Much piti, both of an energetic showering kind (which seems to emanate mostly from the surface of the body) that brings refreshment and eases any tightness, and another upswelling kind that seems to emanate from or reside deep within the body itself - and the feeling that - almost that - the mind can generate or facilitate either kind, though not in an easily controlled or predictable way, rather there is a feeling of confidence to be able to bring a feeling of calm and settledness to parts of the body by concentrating the attention on them.
Like a glass of milk
topping the brim:
nothing to be added.
Agitation, where it occurs, is mental rather than physical, a feeling of eagerness to keep developing, pressing towards certain sensations occurring, or the mind being more one-pointed, or desiring the suffused sense of light, lightness of the body, to become a full-fledged patibhaga nimitta. Too eager.

Not to get carried away, the morning and evening group sittings bring me down to earth. I remain self-conscious when sitting with others, especially because I am often noisy in the throat and tend to be -
Breathing.
Commotion barely discernible.
Surrender in and out.
Listening to Pa Auk’s or U Jotika’s talks also sets me back in my modest place.