So I have not posted very much in this forum, but I actually stop by quite frequently to read the discussions that take place here and I often find them quite interesting!
So currently I'm dealing with a bit of confusion, and I'd like to ask Tom and any of the experienced meditators on this forum for some advice. When it comes to meditation, I'm very much a beginner.
Hello Julia, this is the perfect place for questions :)
At the end of December I headed for a 10-day Vipassana meditation course, from which I've just returned, which is what has caused some of my confusion. Just to give you an idea of what Vipassana meditation is, for those who are not familiar (I wasn't, 10 days ago!): For three days the mind is trained to become more focused by watching the breath. From the fourth day onward, one works predominantly with body sensations. You scan your body continuously, part by part, to sense subtle (usually pleasant) and gross (less pleasant, pain) sensations. You observe these sensations rise and pass away, trying to build the awareness that sensations are constantly changing, not permanent. The key is to observe rather than to get attached to the pleasant sensations or feel repulsed by the unpleasant ones, to stay "equanimous" or balanced in the face of both good and bad, knowing that things are bound to change. To see reality as it is, and to stay balanced in the face of it. So this practice is geared towards training your mind to stop reacting with its old patterns. I hope I've explained it well enough. (let me know if I should clarify more)
I think it's great you take initiate something like this. I am not personally familiar with that type of meditation, but there are hundreds of different kind. I think the important question is whether this is the right one for you, it might not be. Give it some time, see if anything productive is going on, if not it's no problem as you will find another way.
In the evening of each day, we would watch a video where Goenkaji, the man responsible for spreading Vipassana around the world, would explain the theory behind the method. One thing he absolutely insists on, over and over, is that Vipassana should not be mixed with any other energy work or meditation techniques, going as far as to call it downright dangerous. He says that Vipassana trains the mind in one particular way, and that other methods train the mind differently and that these methods are not compatible. One metaphor given was a man who sits in a boat going down a river. Someone else comes by and says "try this boat, it's much faster." So the first man says, "Okay, but I don't want to give up my boat. Better that I put one foot in one boat, and one foot in the other." A nice way to illustrate it, but in the end a metaphor is just a metaphor, and I'm wondering at the reality behind this. I don't want to simply disregard such a warning, seeing as this man has definitely had more experience than me, but I've never before come across anyone saying not to mix different techniques. I'm wondering if anyone might give their opinions on this?
Goenkaji also seemed to be doubtful as to the usefulness of other meditation techniques. He said that using mantras and visuablization act primarily to concentrate the mind, but that they do not work to help a person grow (change the habit pattern of the mind, in his words).
I think this is indeed the source of much confusion.
Especially in the east, there are many many different kinds of "schools", sects and religious organizations, most of them believe that their way of doing things are better than the others, it is "the right way" and everyone else is doing it the wrong way, in my opinion all that is pretty ridiculous. Another aspect of that is money, some of these organizations and gurus pretty much run on money, profit, and thus the other ways become "dangerous" of course..
I don't personally know why any kind of energy work system should conflict with others, maybe he knows something I don't, he might be right but I don't know him. To be safe, you can try that system and then either go with it, or completely disregard it and there will be no danger, as he proclaims.
"try this boat, it's much faster."
"Okay, but I don't want to give up my boat. Better that I put one foot in one boat, and one foot in the other."
In some way, this has a point, it might be better to stick with something and don't jump around, but one shouldn't:
"Quick, your boat is sinking" "Okay, but I don't want to give up my boat, it is very special, my guru says so"
Meditation is just a tool, there are different ways to use that tool, but none is more holy, sacred, or important than the others, if one acts so it becomes a ritual and some of the efficiency is lost.
Body sensations, visualizations, mantras, binaural beats, they are equal in their purpose. Simply use what works best for one self, and use that. Any kind of meditation or energy works does not provide real growth in itself, it about how it is applied to one's being and intent. That is why no particular technique should be viewed as he does, it is just a tool. A great tool for the mind.
Another question I have involves the connection between mind and body. From the messages I have read in this forum, most people here seem to focus out OOBEs, of getting away from the body. Like I said, Vipassana meditations works primarily with body sensations, and Goenkaji mentioned that the dissolution of all gross sensations so that one is left with only subtle sensations, is a key step on the path of growth. (Or even just being connected to your body, period. I was stunned to see how many areas of my body are "blind") I've come across this concept in other literature that deal with growth and consciousness. Eckhart Tolle at least mentions it in The Power of Now, although he does not really go into it with any depth. Ken Wilber has also written on this subject. I'm wondering what Tom and the rest of the meditators here might say regarding the awareness of body sensations? The idea of meditation to become more fully aware of one's body, versus the idea of 'escaping' it by quieting the mind sufficiently... they seem like two different roads to me, and I'm wondering which to take. Or maybe in the end they lead to the same place, and it's only the words that are different?
I think both roads are great, I also like those martial arts where mental discipline is facilitated through physical exercise, Shaolin monks come to mind.
Try it out, find out what works best for you, and go with that. Experiment, explore.
I have one last thing I'd like to mention. I hesitate to add it because this is an already monstrous message, but I thought I would explain every part of my current situation. Last April I came across a q-link (http://q-link.ca/qlink_home.html
), and have been wearing it every since. I never really felt an effect. During the meditation retreat I took it off (they ask you to take off any pendants). After 10 days, I put it back on and I definitely definitely felt something. At night time during the meditation period, my body would feel pretty strong vibrations... I can't really say whether I consider them pleasant or unpleasant - they were simply there - but these strengthened dramatically when I put the q-link back on. I don't know what it does, but it does something. Ironically enough, when I didn't feel an effect, I didn't mind wearing it. Now that I have experienced an effect, I'm wondering whether I should continue to wear it. It is doing something to the subtle energies of my body, and I'm wondering whether this is a good thing. I'm wondering whether it's simply a crutch, and whether it's not better to try walking without it. Then again, if it can help me...? I'm not sure what sort of advice I'm looking for, but maybe someone here has experience with such things?
Hmm, tough question. I am sceptical about the product, there are quite a lot people riding the new-age wave and trying to exploit it, I have seen that before. My knowledge of biofields are limited, so I can't judge if it works or not. I don't think the effect is harmful in any way. Maybe you can just try both. Go a week with it, and week without and so on, and then conclude if it's positive for you or not.
I have a really strong desire within me to better myself as a person, for my own sake and for the sake of those around me. A lot of changes have taken place in my life over the last year (for the better), and I really want to keep this process going in any way I can. So I'm concerned about engaging with any of these things, whether it's life or meditation or the q-link in a manner that's productive, rather than running after things in a way that may lead me in the opposite direction that I want to go. I know I'm supposed to be experimenting with different methods myself, to find what works for me, but I do feel pretty confused at the moment, and could use some advice from those with more experience.
Sorry that this is so long. Any thoughts are very appreciated.
That is the most important thing, the desire to become a better person, to grow. You can't really go wrong with that. Maybe knowing that the primary way of growth is free-will choices throughout the day, that are based on good intent. Knowing that this is essential, and meditation/OBE/pendants are completely secondary and optional might give you some confidence, and defuse that confuse.
Also, Cole's words share much wisdom.
Just a last thing, have you considered meditation used to reach the point consciousness state?