The 10-second Attention Rule and Meditation

How long can you hold your focused attention?

Ten seconds.  Think about when we watch T.V. or a movie.  A new action, a new flick of movement in front of our mind/eye happens at least every 10 seconds.  Are we training our minds to only be able to hold attention for that brief interval?  Binge watching (I’m guilty of it too) can create such impatience with having to wait longer or hold attention longer.  I notice that when I’m waiting for a webpage to load or even for my coffee to re-heat in the microwave, there is a level of impatience that arises.  C’mon, c’mon, let’s go!  And I don’t notice this impatient behavior sometimes.  Other times, I do and have to speak to myself to slow down, take a few breaths and focus attention within the breath/body.

Crazy, isn’t it?  These expectations we have that can go unnoticed.  Having to sit at a traffic light is sometimes the same way.  Yet, go to a doctor’s office for an appointment and the expectation is that we will have to wait and we may bring a book.

I’ve just been considering the automatic pilot or unconscious tendencies that occur and how binge-watching programs can train our mind to be impatient or less able to fully focus our attention for a longer period of time.  I now notice how 10 and 15-second meditation apps are popular.  Maybe that’s where we’ve gotten to as a general populace?  Who knows?  I am only speculating on all this.  If one does make a practice of binge-watching programs, one probably should spend an equal amount of practice holding focus and attention for longer periods in meditation.

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Cultivating Pre-set Mindstates

Creating a Meditative Default or Preselected Option

It’s a fallback position that I’m talking about here.  Once upon a time a few years back some man lost control of his auto and slammed into the back of me as we were pulling away from a  traffic light.  I called my daughter just after this while waiting for the police to come to make the report for insurance purposes.  She commented on how peaceful and calm my voice was for just being rear-ended rather violently.  My preselected default meditative state took over without my conscious direction.

Or at least I think that’s why.  Since then it had become more conscious within me to work on cultivating that default state of being when my attention isn’t consumed elsewhere.  Sometimes, it’s repeating a mantra such as, “May I be content and peaceful, may I be happy and in goodwill, may I be protected and safe . . . “and then eventually changing the “I” to “we” meaning all beings.

When waiting for my coffee to finish reheating in the microwave, at a traffic light, while stretching before or after a workout at the gym the mantra takes over my consciousness.  Sometimes, it’s not a mantra, however.  Sometimes my attention is naming the breath activity:  Breathing in, breathing out.  This creates a dropping down into the body and into the moment and peace is naturally there.  I consider these mantras or this breath attention as cultivating a set point which can, after habitual reinforcement, become ones ‘go to’ place in good times and in … well, in times that are not so good when they arise in order to soften those jarring moments of life that can leave us in a state of shock or knock us out of a previous state of consciousness.

Default options are pre-set courses of action that take effect if nothing is specified by the decision maker or the decision maker isn’t sure what to do.  What is your default setting?   Have you consciously cultivated a positive one?

Seeing Your Mind in Meditation

We see our own mind in meditation—at least potentially.  That is if we can get past emotional debris.  Virtue or said another way, a recent unkind, impure heart limits or inhibits clarity.  The mind becomes, in effect, dirty and dull if one has been angry or self-centered.  Attachment to particular desires or having a greedy mind creates potential blockages that prevent feelings of bliss and beauty in meditation.

It is said by meditation teachers that when we meditate we see images of one’s own mind just as we see our image when we look in a mirror.  The truest image of mind occurs when there is stillness in the heart.  I don’t know about you but for me, this stillness and calmness happen when feeling most at peace with life – not resisting whatever experience occurs and most especially when feeling kindness and having good will toward others.  Most of all, feeling good will toward those who challenge my ability to maintain the highest virtues, our highest ideals.

The physically enforced retreat has been the name of the game for this past week in my personal experience.   Always, it is in divine order and for a higher purpose—or this is the way I choose to view it.  Right, so basically, even though I had the flu shot and haven’t had even a slight cold for years, chills, head, and chest congestion arrived in my life.  A meditative retreat is how it has been processed which enabled the mind to heart to be clear and deep meditative bliss and beauty enhanced.

When one is able to look directly at one’s own mind in this way, it becomes clear what needs to change in one’s daily life.  Speaking only kindly, practicing generosity and good will toward others and in other words walking the world with a pure heart being kind and gentle toward one’s self and others.

I have always known this (and taught it in the psychic development course) that virtue is an essential ingredient for success in receiving insight and guidance in meditation.

When one is able to see directly into one’s own mind—beautiful light and blissful states blossom.

This past week of retreat has been a reminder that a beautifully peaceful life enables a beautiful mind and easily successful meditations.

Meditation Considerations for Receiving Insight and Developing Calmness

I’m writing this after returning from the gym and thus recovering from a high-intensity athletic training class.  The body was content to settle into meditation and then to write this.  I’ve learned that no one starts out as a perfect meditator and that each session is different.  Sometimes it is peaceful; other times frustrating because the mind wants to wander; yet, either way, there’s still so much to learn about my own nature. 


When insights into problems that affect my happiness enter during a session, the effort seems well worth it. .  Sometimes, there is only calmness and that’s alright too—having expectations becomes a hindrance to the process.  Silent present-moment awareness that is highly acute and wherein thought is abandoned opens the door to the cosmos on such a level that the body awareness dissolves and thus the self merges with the beauty of silence.   A bit of an awkward sentence as my words can sometimes be when writing about my meditation experiences.  Yet, at times during meditation, I feel restless.  >>Read More

Channeling Insight in Meditation

 

Have you ever felt like you were stripped of control yet at the same time fully awake?  This describes a deep state of meditation. It also describes a mind level in which channeling insight can occur.  There is no “doer” in this state—the self has, for the most part—dissolved.   Only the “knower” is fully functioning and there is no volitional thought.  It can feel much like being frozen and one’s identity is no longer part of the consciousness scenario.  There is a calmness in which insight arrives in this state.

Meditation, for me, is different each time.  I do not expect to reach such a deep state each and every time I sit for meditation practice.  I’ve learned to work with the right meditation and the right time and to let go of expectations of some type of progress or achievement. 

>> CLICK HERE to Read More  



Nimitta – progress signs of Samadhi Meditation

I am going to post this on each of my website blogs as well as my newsletter.  Why? Some information that recently crossed my path explained many of my meditation experiences of the past and currently as well.  Many students of the psychic development class and those interested in spiritual and psychic/intuitive development may have had similar ‘signs’ of their spiritual progress or evolution.

Before I go into what those are, it’s probably best to offer the disclaimer that if one looks for these signs or tries to manifest them, they will be blocking their energy and possibly delaying further consciousness expansion in some way.  My teachers have always guided me not to get “hung up” on manifestations and to take with a grain of salt.  It is just the natural process of the mind—don’t be overly concerned, they’d say.

If you have read much on my website (www.psychicjoystar.com), you will see that I’ve mentioned mysterious occurrences that came about as part of my meditative absorption over the years.  Those were a total and complete mystery to me until this past week!

The history of experience for this life has always evolved in a way that much later explanations arrive that validate occurrences and I’ve always been grateful for that as it assures me that there was no conscious influence on my part.

As many readers may know, my tendency is to reach toward eastern philosophy my deeply personal effort to understand life, the mind, and of reality itself.  My studies and meditation time have not been in vain and have helped me to cope with some very difficult life circumstances.  Yet, there were always those mysterious events lingering in the memory of my mind.  Up until now, there were not fully explained in any kind of satisfactory way.

Then this past week there comes the information that does so!  I simply must share it.  It will be a brief outline and I will paraphrase some of it while keeping true to the text.  I will add some personal notes in parenthesis.  I hope this will be of use to others.
The signs of meditative concentration are known as “nimitta” and include the following:

  • For beginners, it is usually grey smoke color appearing in front of them.  When this occurs, the instruction is to concentrate on the natural breath; and gradually then, the breath and nimitta will become one.   In this stage the mind usually stays automatically will become one.  (Personal note:  when I would go hiking and be breathing more heavily, I would see more of this grey smoke in front of me.  By the way, it started out looking like black ink in the atmosphere, as if someone dumped a bucket of black ink in the sky.  I could see around it and through it and then gradually it lightened.)
  • As meditative concentration develops further, the gray smoky nimitta will change in color to white.  (This is exactly what happened to me.)  This is given the name of “the learning sign”.  As one continues to concentrate on the learning sign, the white form nimitta will change to a transparent nimitta and this is called “the counterpart sign”.  (I was in Sedona, Arizona atop a mountain at the time this occurred.  That was sometime in the late 1990’s.  I was still working as a Physical Therapist at the time.)  The instruction in the text is that one should concentrate on the transparent nimitta until a state of full absorption is reached.
  • The text says that unless one sees the counterpart sign, the meditative attentiveness or concentration is superficial.  (Again, I did not have any of this information until a few days ago and therefore did not know of the instruction to concentrate on the transparent nimitta.)
  • (In the eastern philosophy, the word used to describe these stages of meditation is called “jhana”.  I did not know that word until this past month actually.  And there is the discussion on audios that I’ve heard about maintaining states of absorption for 2 and 3 hours at a time without interruption.  This I was able to do when living alone in the mountains many times.  Since I’ve moved from the seclusion of the mountains–for approximately the past 6 years—that is rarely the case.)
  • The text says that once a person’s meditation practice is very clear they will, one day, see small particles, called “kalapas”.  When one see’s kalapas, they have reached the last stage of samatha(serenity/calm/tranquility) and the beginning stage of vipassana (insight/seeing things as they really are).   At this stage, one understands reality as small particles.

I must pause here to explain that this next part totally blew me out of my seat, so-to-speak!  I wrote about this on my website eons ago and this occurred, also, in the late 1990’s just before I moved (from Florida) to the mountains of North Carolina.  Here it is nearly 20 years later and it is only now that I understand what all of these experiences were about!  The book in which this information is contained was published in 2008, ten years ago.  Yet, it has taken me nearly all of the past ten years to adjust to the huge transitions in my life and to release a significant karmic relationship connection.  It hasn’t been until recently that my personal journey has directed me back to seek deeper levels of meditation, reaching for Samadhi again.  Anyway, this light, so white and so bright and it occurred when I was meditating on a star in the sky at twilight one evening.  I felt myself moving toward it and then the white brilliant light sort of frightened me.  It was everywhere I looked and lasted a good chunk of time and it faded finally as I looked at a large pine tree.   I’ve never seen it again all these many years.

  • The text says that there is a visual-like nimitta which is ‘the best one’.  (Again, the word nimitta means sign/mark/appearance.)  It is not seen with the physical eye.  It is purely a mental phenomenon.  It appears as if it is like a headlight in front of you, incredibly brilliant, so much so that you don’t think you can stare at it any longer.  (At the time I thought perhaps I drew the star right down in front of me – I’d been staring at a star during meditation at the time.)  This is not a visual thing at all and even though it is like looking at the sun, it is quite safe, because it is a pure metal image—according to the text.

If one tries to have any such experiences as described, the effort actually blocks the meditator’s tranquil absorption.  Actually, I recall trying to stare at a star again at various times in the past and could not reproduce that event –or any other unusual experiences of my past for that matter.
I wanted to put this out today so that it may be helpful to others.  Maybe I will save someone 20 years of wondering and never really knowing what those signs are really about!

The text that I’ve been referring to is called “The Experience of Samadhi” by Richard Shankman  and the specific information at nimitta were from interviews with Pa Auk Sayadaw, the abbot of a Forest Monastery in Burma and Ajahn Brahmavamso, who studied with Venerable Ajahn Chah and is the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery and Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Society in Australia.
I am so personally grateful to them for the information shared in the text which has helped me considerably and renewed my meditative effort.

May it be that this information reaches the right person for the right reasons and be of the highest service.


CLICK HERE for complete list of all past newsletters 

Understanding Sati and Samadhi in Meditative Practice

When mindfulness (sati) is continuous, then (samadhi) STABILITY OF MIND will become established–from the teachings of Sayadaw U Tejaniya, a Theravadan Buddhist monk and well-known and highly respected meditation teacher.

Deeper and deeper into the teachings of Buddhism, there is this ‘me’ attempting to walk in the steps of the Buddha.  No, this is not about religion–more about psychology . . . study of the mind.  We all have one but how many of us really observe how the mind works?  How to use the mind in a way that serves the greater good, so-to-speak.  That’s where I’m coming from.

Recently, a new level of understanding and wisdom arrived within my life spectrum, this continuation of consciousness.

Anyone who knows of this ‘me’ probably knows of the difficulty experienced due to moving from places of quiet and solitude for nearly 20 years.  The short version has to do with the difficulty adjusting to suddenly being around noisy humans and family drama.  Moving closer to my daughters has been wonderful in so many ways, but not without the challenges that come along with sudden change.  Here’s what I’m trying to get at . . .

Until my recent study, it wasn’t entirely clear to me that the states of Samadhi established in meditation could be maintained during regular activities of daily living,  outside of a formal meditative state–in other words, off the cushion.  Yet, while living in the mountains many times was there in a stable mind-state without knowing it.   I’ll explain more in a moment.  Additionally, in recent days my study has uncovered another real eye-opener. And that has to do with percentages of attachment equaling the same percentage of aversion.  Here’s what that means . . .

The attachment that has been present to a personal desire and preference for silence has been way too strong or large.  As a result, the aversion or anger to it’s opposite (loud neighbors) has been equally as strong.  It goes back to the basic core phrase we always hear, “Accepting what ‘is'”.  It’s not so easy to accept anything as it is when you have a high percentage of attachment to its opposite.

Of course, there are other factors that filter into the equation of imbecile aversion which include a high level of sensitivity that comes along with open awareness.  Making peace with it while maintaining a stable mind is my continual challenge and the area of focused work in this life.

When living in the mountains, days on end of samadhi, stable mind, occurred — it was as if living in my own hermitage or retreat center.   It is only now that the realization comes that when the mind was pulled into worry about finances or when going into town and mingling with humans that the state dissolved and aversions and defilements arose within the mind. I didn’t think of it as samadhi at the time.  My personal definition of that word involved deep stillness (not necessarily awareness) in which there was no awareness of a self at all.  A new or an additional understanding of the word is the stability of mind, maintained over long periods of time toward the goal of having a stable mind indefinitely or at all times.  That’s the goal.  Frankly, some days it has felt impossible but it always comes down to this moment here now . . .  being aware, mindful or aware of what the mind is doing this very moment.  Being fully in it and observing what the mind and body are doing or the reactions–watching those.

Watching the mind can be a real sport if one’s heart is into it.  Stop a moment and ask yourself, Am I aware?” 

The answer is always Yes, don’t you see?  You will find that there is always that overseer called awareness.  How deep is the awareness?  Is it superficial or is there recognition and acknowledgment of thinking whenever it arises. Is there recognition of sound, feeling (all of the senses) whether pleasant or unpleasant as those arise?  Can you remember in the midst of any aversion that begins to arise that it is only nature happening and not personal?  Neither are your reactions–that’s just nature happening too.

These are just a few of my personal thoughts and experiences on these subjects for any reader’s discernment or consideration.  

Universal Intelligence? Universal Soul? Sati Knowing?

lotus may 2018Let me start with the words “Universal Intelligence” — two words.  Concepts.  Assigned meanings.  What meaning? Well, synchronistic guidance received in meaningful timing that is too unmistakable, too precise to be considered accidental.

Is this the Universal Soul communicating with this soul? or the “Knowing” that I’ve heard called Sati?  But that word, Sati, may not be the right word for this.  Unsure.  Anway…

Applying more than these few words, in order to define this type of magic, isn’t all that useful anyway.  Besides, this type of going-on is likely not to be that unusual really.  It’s probably a stimulated manifestation based on intention.  Yet, in this lifetime, it seems always to be connected to spiritual goals which to me lends it a higher conceptual name.  The precise name is not useful really for a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, as Shakespeare said.

This divine magic has been experienced like being directly guided and supported as if by a master teacher or some overseer of my life who knows exactly what is being learned, and how it applies to my evolution.

Its as if there is some wise being making sure that what is needed is provided in exactly the right timing to apply to the next lesson.  It’s not easy to put into words.  Its happened time and again–too many times to recount.

Yet, here’s the most recent example that stimulated me to write about it in this blog post today . . .

Within days of reading about a particular (somewhat complicated) spiritual teaching and meditation method, the book material was being contemplated.  Next thing, with barely any conscious awareness of how I got to the website, there before me I found myself looking at pages of audio teachings from numerous teachers on a host of varied subjects.

Randomly, I clicked on one of the hundreds of links and found myself listening to the identical teaching that I’d just read about in the book, explaining it further! It was of great benefit to me.  Prior to the random click, there was no hint externally that the audio would further explain the written material.  Yet, it was no accident!

This type of event has occurred often enough for me to release any doubt whatsoever of some divine force guiding the internal and external experiences of my life.