0/ 30-something

Nice long thread on nice, long-cultivated experiencings in meditation, with reflections on Rob Burbea's "energy body" and the perceptual space of the Old School Buddhist jhāna absorptions.
1/I’m preparing a presentation on the Buddhist jhānas. The jhānas are a very distinctive series of meditative absorption states. The style I’ve practiced involves experiencing some synesthesia.

And I’ve been listening to audio of some talks Rob Burbea gave for a jhānas retreat.
2/ Burbea makes references to “the energy body,” and I was unsure what that was. Doing some reading, and getting some helpful comments from several persons here on twitter today, I have a sense for that now, and wanted to create a thread in part related to it.
3/ I’m mostly a rather staid Zen-oriented guy, engaged towards an “ordinary mind” and “suchness” practice. But I have experience with the jhānas, Old School Buddhist (Theravādin) absorptions.
4/

(The words “zen” and “jhāna” happen to be related etymologically, both coming from a Sanskrit word effectively meaning “mental cultivation” or “meditation.”)
5/

I have an essay online which describes and discusses the jhānas a bit (beginning about half-way through the piece). thesideview.co/journal/decons…
6/ Here I want to offer a kind of analogy-image for what the jhānas are like, one that I think can also partly serve as a way to reflect on Burbea’s depiction of the energy body.
7/ The experience of jhāna comes out of a rather intensive, concentrative, focused style of meditation. (The jhānas are pretty much the culmination of the śamatha/ concentration category of Buddhist meditation forms.)
8/ You take an object of focus, like the experience of the breath in a set location— say, just outside the nostrils — and keep your attention exclusively on that object. For hours. For days. In every sitting meditation, in every walking meditation, and in every everything you do.
9/ And in the style of jhāna practice I trained in, you eventually get a “counterpart sign” — often referred to as “the nimitta” (which effectively means “the sign”). My fantasy is that the rest of your neurology has nothing better to do during those hours and days...
10/ ... than to help you connect with your breath — so your brain “shows” it to you, in the form of a synesthesia or like a little focal hallucination. You get to where you can *see* the breath. Different people see different things, but it’s often something bright or white...
11/ ... like a light, or a pearl, or a ball of cotton — kind of just there outside your nostrils. And it’s amazing. And it feels wonderful. And once you’ve got that nimitta, you have like a biofeedback situation....
12/ You can enhance your attentive connection to the breath, bc now you can “see” it and you can make that light, or whatever you’re seeing, brighter and more vivid and larger. You can also kind of let it “take over” and fill your entire experiential field.
13/ So here’s the analogy for that process:
14/ Imagine the breath—the thing you’re looking to attend to & connect with—as a person you’re looking for in a crowded room. You catch glimpses, but there are others are milling around, and maybe they’re trying to talk to you, and you lose track of your person from time to time.
15/ Eventually though it gets to where you can keep track of that person pretty consistently. You’re seeing them, you're following them with your gaze, and you're watching and watching and watching.
16/ And then at some point — they turn around and look at you. You're now *locked on* to each other. You have a largely unshaken, unbroken, acute awareness of your focal object.
17/ (The Buddhists have terms for the factors involved— that get specialized applications here. The “looking towards” aspect of your attention is *vitakka.* The kind of “locked on,” consistent, on-going, and resting-in form of your attention on the object is *vicara.*)
18/ And at some point, in this analogy, your friend’s face starts to glow and turns into a lovely blazing sun or the like. Now it’s even easier to keep a persisting attentive connection to them — because they look fascinating to you, and beautiful,...
19/ ... and gazing at them makes you feel really really good (the term = *pīti*), and there's a kind of underlying, pervasively contented sweetness (=*sukha*).
20/ That’s the first jhāna. There are more jhānas. But I want to pause here and draw a comparison to how Burbea talks about the energy body. This isn’t a direct correspondence, but I see some overlap.
21/ Burbea, first of all, emphasizes that you don't have to believe in the energy body to practice it or, as it were, to practice in terms of it — this is much more an experiential process and a perceptual “space” than necessarily a concrete thing to be believed in or not.
22/ In my analogy, the energy body is like the room where you’re trying to direct your attention to your friend. Everything in your experience is in that room. Sound, light, your friend, voices, folks milling around....
23/ The energy body is a *perceptual space.* I’m tempted to say it’s like a canvas, but it’s “multi-modal” and it's 3-dimensional, and it holds you within it. Everything you feel and sense is there.
24/ This space is a cultivated intimacy with your present experience. It's to be engaged with, not in terms of your notions or ideas about it, but thru the language of sensations and perceptions and possibly images, and the *tone* of those things and the *texture* of the moment.
25/ And you can cultivate a relationship with your experiencing. "How does this whole thing feel?" "What’s this moment like?" "What is the character of this?" – questions not so much to be engaged with intellectually, but to be looked at and felt into and be embraced by.
26/ And for Burbea it can have a spatial character – for him it incorporates your felt sense for everything that's occurring in your body, and on your body, and immediately around your body. And it's to be allowed to be open in character and expansive.
27/ It’s a kind of lived presence. And it can also be a kind of theater space. Felt senses can arise and fall. And Burbea especially recommends we be appreciatively aware of and attentive to where the felt sense is “constricted” or “blocked.”
28/ A core element of meditation practice for Burbea is noticing those blocked places in us, which can be experienced as actual physical areas of tension or discomfort—
29/ and we’re invited to deploy kindness, and felt pleasure, and to bring our uncovered sense of beauty to bear on those tightnesses, and support them to dissipate and release.
30/ (His descriptions here recall for me some of Eugene Gendlin’s approach to therapeutic “focusing.”)
31/ This very much reminds me of my experiences with bodily pains in intensive meditation retreats. I’ve long had the impression that, at least once I’ve gotten into the flow of the retreat, my physical pains *aren’t just physical.*...
32/ At a minimum, they become like actors in a play, who afford an opportunity to work things out & find catharsis. And it’s amazing. It’s like the body knows stuff, and my job is to be really present and really out of the way, so it can do its thing and discern its path.
33/ Burbea, again, stresses that a psycho-physical facticity or not of the energy body isn’t the question. The point is that such a felt sense, such a “theater space” (my term) is *useful.* You can learn stuff there. You can heal stuff there. You can know beauty there.
34/ Burbea:
35/ And as a little call-back to my experience with jhānas and the nimitta— being in a space I could *see* my breath — I'm reminded on the other side of that, I have a greater sense of how *everything* is a nimitta. It’s all display. It’s all message. Everything is an invitation.
36/ As a P.S. This stuff has neurological correlates. I had a primarily tactile nimitta. I didn’t so much see my breath as feel a tingly “spot” on my lip. I worked with that as my “counterpart sign”, precipitating utterly beautiful absorptions, feeling like this image from Dali.
37/37 And, though I’ve not done a jhānas retreat for several years, and I rarely try to generate those forms of absorption these days, my brain has been changed. I still feel that pleasant tingly spot on my upper lip. Right now.

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More from @bodhidave3

8 Jun
1/13~ A few notes to, um, "self," on an ongoing interest.

My current sense is that the Buddhist attention to the core problematic processes of "ignorance" and "desire" goes to something very deep ... and also very simple and very natural.
2~ The Sanskrit for "ignorance" is *avidyā.* Like in English sometimes, the "a-" is a negative (as w/ our word "atypical," which of course means "not typical"). And the "vid" is related to the English words *vision* and *video.*

*Avidyā,* ignorance, literally means "not seeing."
3~ The Sanskrit here for "desire" — also often translated as "craving" — is *trsnā* (which word in Buddhist Pāli is *tanhā*). It literally means "thirst," and in fact our word "thirst" is etymologically related to it.
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29 Apr
1/8)

Brief thread of comments regarding unific, non-dual contemplative experience, and some quick notes about traditional teaching "maps" for it.
2) I don't have a full answer, but sense it can be both. And where "emptiness and form" are characteristically Buddhist terms, you can get non-dual experiences depicted in other traditions, too. Like this in The Book of Privy Counseling, by the author of The Cloud of Unknowing:
3) I don't know Wilber well, but it's apparent he likes making maps of different stages & styles of contemplative practice and experience. The distinction you mention here is one the Mahayana Buddhists draw, differentiating their presentation from earlier "Old School" Buddhists'.
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29 Apr
1/4* I got my heart broken last year. And sometimes her name enters my mind. As a distinctive little thought. Not much more than the name. It has a kind of perseverative quality. And tonight when it occurred in my meditation the sense was

𝑚𝑦 𝑏𝑟𝑎𝑖𝑛 ℎ𝑎𝑠 𝑎 𝑏𝑟𝑢𝑖𝑠𝑒
2* And, like a bruise, my feeling is there’s not much to be done with it. Just let it be. Don’t poke at it. Give it time.

There was also a moment in my meditation when I wondered, “Are all my thoughts 'bruises'?”
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2# But the Greek word for "medicine" — pharmakon — could also mean "poison," and the condemned Socrates had just drunk hemlock (a portion of which he'd previously asked the guard if he could pour out as a libation gift to the gods).
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1/7'

#ShipOfTheseus is trending, prompted by the reference to it in the finale episode of #WandaVision.

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It's fun. Image
2' Image
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When I was a younger man (on Monday) I used to joke about living like a pioneer here in freezing Texas. Today I'm placing buckets beneath spots where the broken pipes are leaking outside to collect water for the toilet. 🪣👨‍🌾
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huh ... I happened to have just met a plumber, going to service a building across the street ... he reports he's being instructed by the city to turn off the water to various locales as an effort to try and preserve pressure for others.
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