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Thread: All used up.

  1. #1

    All used up.

    I'm not sure where exactly to begin. I've been interested in Buddhism for some 7 or 8 years now. I've practiced, as in sat, on and off for periods during that time, the most recent and longest of those was about six months of almost daily meditation earlier this year/part of last year. I've listened to hundreds of dharma talks, and I've read books, many of which have felt profound at the time.

    But I have a short memory, and an even shorter attention span. Often I'm angry, depressed and most of the time none of this helps. I feel like the sum total of everything I've experienced in the category of Buddhism, at least in what I can try to remember in my cloudy mind, boils down to putting everything aside and breathing, sitting. But the problem is, breathing and meditation don't seem to provide any lasting results. I quit sitting, last time around, because I ended up 1) hurting my ankle trying to sit long hours during a retreat and 2) I asked the teacher the seemingly ridiculous question of "what happens when I meditate away my ability to enjoy life?", as in I was starting to fear the emptiness I felt. My life is already empty and without meaning, or so it seems very frightening to let go of even the trivial things that make it pass by more quickly.

    So then I try to forget results. So what then? Why practice? My mind won't stop deconstructing everything I do, and I don't have the stamina to meditate into oblivion. I'm out of energy to pursue Buddhism, tired of defending it as it no longer seems the perfectly ideal path I once believed it was.

    I apologize for feeling downright belligerent as I write, I don't know if it's coming through the words or not, but I'm here to have my ego shattered. Once my rollercoaster of anger dips back down into a trough of depression, I'll likely feel like a fool for having opened my mouth.

  2. #2

    Re: All used up.

    But I have a short memory, and an even shorter attention span.
    Firstly I would say: If this is the case then just sit for shorter periods. If you have time, sit in the morning, afternoon and evening for 10 to 15 minutes. Balance it out.

    Also do some Kinhin after sitting.

    Often I'm angry, depressed and most of the time none of this helps.
    Yes. Part of that is being dissatisfied with angry, and depressed. Trying not to be angry and depressed. Basically the harder you fight the more solid it becomes.

    So then I try to forget results. So what then? Why practice?
    To forget results. But don't "try" to forget results. Just sit.


    My mind won't stop deconstructing everything I do,
    Your not the only one. It's a common thing.

    and I don't have the stamina to meditate into oblivion.
    I don't think anybody does. As time goes on we can sit for longer, but in the beginning it is good to start out small, and take it easy. Really, how long you sit for has nothing to do with it.

    I'm out of energy to pursue Buddhism,
    Then don't "pursue" it. Take it easy. Learn what you can when you can.

    it no longer seems the perfectly ideal path I once believed it was.
    Indeed. Idealism has nothing to do with it.

    but I'm here to have my ego shattered.
    Don't have too many expectations.

    I've listened to hundreds of dharma talks, and I've read books, many of which have felt profound at the time.
    Yes. Well, we can listen to thousands, but they won't do much for us if we don't practice.

    -----------------------

    Zen is not always an easy path, but what is stopping it from being easy is entirely up to us.

    Here at Treeleaf we do goalless sitting. But you might want to try a little bit of breathing, Metta practice, Zazen, kinhin and perhaps exercise in the morning. Don't try to have any goal with them. Just do them daily.

    The important thing is to keep doing it. Whether it's for 40 days or 40 years. Some times we might slip, no problem. Just come back to it.

    Gassho

    Will

  3. #3

    Re: All used up.

    Hi Anodyne,

    Would you kindly PM or email me with very specific information on the forms and methods of Zazen (and other Practices) you did in the past, where and with whom you Practice those, and the Zazen you are sitting now? Thank you.

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: All used up.

    A lot of people seem to get disheartened by the Zen path. In the beginning, your delusion propels you, but it isn't very long before you realize it gives you nothing upon which to fasten!

    It's your delusive expectations that have disappointed you, and you can spend a lifetime pursuing a series of paths that will all disappoint similarly because the initial expectations will always be deluded.

    Keep looking! Look-look-look! What is the root of your dissatisfaction?

    Chet

  5. #5
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Jun 2007
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    Wherever the next mediation is. Every now and then I make it back to Norfolk, England.
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    Re: All used up.

    Hi Anodyne

    You sound as if you've done a lot of searching (and a lot of researching!). You say you've read plenty of dharma books, and heard plenty of dharma talks, so I don't suppose there's much that most of us here can say that you won't have heard before. And you've practiced for longer than I have.

    All I can do is share my own small experience with you. I went through a period of reading lots of dharma books, and sitting with no end result. I felt frustrated, like you, though my personal make up is to tend more to despair than anger. I fought against that frustration and despair for a while, trying not to admit it even to myself. Like you, I tried to "defend Buddhism" (mainly from my inner sceptic). The day came when I decided that I was going nowhere and that the time had come to give up. Right in the middle of meditation. And I did, and found myself just sitting, going nowhere and with nowhere to go. Not looking for an end result. And, oddly enough, not looking for an end result was the best result I'd had in years.

    To set it down like that makes it sound very glib and much more of a "turning point" than it was. But, I suppose, if it's any use at all, maybe, like me, you don't have to defend Buddhism, to yourself or anyone else, or to fight the emptiness you fear, or to deny your frustrations with the "ideal path". Maybe your doubts and frustrations are your path. Maybe not; each of our situations are different.

    Gassho

    Martin

  6. #6

    Re: All used up.

    Thank you all for taking the time to read my post, and for your replies.

    Martin, you're probably correct in that there may not be much that can be said that I haven't already heard before in some form or another. But I forget quickly. Sometimes I wonder if information is the problem; I have too many standards by which to judge what I'm doing, and judging myself (and others) is a deeply ingrained habit that I struggle with.

    Chet, I know delusion can definitely get you going... for as much as I'd love to say I'm completely ego-free in my attempts at practice, I'm not. There's usually a little piece of it somewhere, hiding within my intentions, difficult to uproot. Even when we write these posts anonymously on message boards to people far away on the internet there's still that little bit of, "I hope they think highly of what I've said". Maybe not for you guys? :-)

    Will... I think the Kinhin suggestion could be helpful. Thanks.

    -Owen

  7. #7

    Re: All used up.

    Anodyne,

    I will be writing you a PM with some things I want you to try (or "non-try", as we say around here).

    I rather think of myself as like the pitching coach around here. Give me a chance to work with your pitching arm a bit. Bet I can get you in shape. Let me try before you give up on baseball!

    Gassho, Jundo

  8. #8

    Re: All used up.

    Quote Originally Posted by anodyne777
    I'm out of energy to pursue Buddhism, tired of defending it as it no longer seems the perfectly ideal path I once believed it was.
    The awareness that Zen may not be an ideal path might mean that you are finally ready to practice in earnest (expecting nothing, fixing nothing).

    I've had piano students come to me and say "I've been playing piano most of my life, but I still cannot improvise." But, after a lesson or two, what I discover is that they have simply been doing the same routine over and over, not venturing outside of the things that feel 'right' to them when they play. Not really knowing you, I cannot say that this is the case, what I can say is that I practiced a long time before coming to shikantaza and I can say that I was definitely practicing the wrong thing for me before trying it out. So, my advice: Give it two years. Sounds like a long time, but what else do you have to do. Seriously, a few months of an exercise program won't undo the years we might have spent abusing our bodies, likewise with this practice--a lifetime of chasing ephemera won't be changed in a few months.

    So, I wish you the best of practice (and if life leads you to a better one for you, I say great; Zen is not the only game in town).

    Gassho,
    Bill

  9. #9

    Re: All used up.

    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    Quote Originally Posted by anodyne777
    . So, my advice: Give it two years. Sounds like a long time, but what else do you have to do.
    Hi Bill,

    Fine advice, but I would just say ... give it just one instant, beheld right. And one instant and one instant and one instant.

    Sure, that may add up to a couple of years over time, yet is just one instant and one instant and one instant. No place for going, no time passing..

    Gassho, J

  10. #10
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: All used up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by DontKnow
    Quote Originally Posted by anodyne777
    . So, my advice: Give it two years. Sounds like a long time, but what else do you have to do.
    Hi Bill,

    Fine advice, but I would just say ... give it just one instant, beheld right. And one instant and one instant and one instant.

    Sure, that may add up to a couple of years over time, yet is just one instant and one instant and one instant. No place for going, no time passing..

    Gassho, J
    Reminds me of something I heard in a dharma talk once...

    "What's the most important thing in Zen (forget for the moment that there's really no such thing as 'the most important thing in Zen')? The most important thing is to wake up. And what's the second-most important thing in Zen? To wake up again. And again. And again..."

    Chet

  11. #11

    Re: All used up.

    I'll take a different approach. I'm also a newb to Buddhism, so everything I write can be taken with a grain of salt.

    My take is that if it isn't working for you and you are losing interest... then stop. Move on to something else that does work for you. And if you are dealing with constant and intense anger and depression, I would suggest maybe looking into clinical counseling. Who knows, maybe you'll take up the practice again, maybe you won't.

    Personally, I find the suggestions to look for no results silly. Part of our semantics is to talk about goallessness, but that in itself is a goal. We talk about moving toward nirvana, awakening, enlightenment, happiness, virtue, balance, etc. but insist there is no goal.

    If it's a goal you want, then mindfully pursue the goal you are aiming for. Whatever path takes you there, use it. I am not advocating destructive behavior, I think the eight-fold path can be your guide, but they say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting different results.

    But, I could be wrong... I am just starting myself on the path. It will be interesting to see if this the same advice I would offer in a few years after more training.

  12. #12

    Re: All used up.

    Hi Jamie,

    Quote Originally Posted by jamieguinn

    My take is that if it isn't working for you and you are losing interest... then stop. Move on to something else that does work for you. And if you are dealing with constant and intense anger and depression, I would suggest maybe looking into clinical counseling. Who knows, maybe you'll take up the practice again, maybe you won't.
    I agree with that advice fully and completely. Zazen, or the particular way of Zazen known as Shikantaza, is not for everyone in every situation.

    That being said, it is also important that folks not "give up" too soon, or not give it a good college try! I see many folks who just don't understand what it is all about when, I believe, they might. So, one has to use some judgment in telling people to "give up baseball" too soon ... (says the baseball coach!)


    Personally, I find the suggestions to look for no results silly. Part of our semantics is to talk about goallessness, but that in itself is a goal. We talk about moving toward nirvana, awakening, enlightenment, happiness, virtue, balance, etc. but insist there is no goal.

    If it's a goal you want, then mindfully pursue the goal you are aiming for.
    You have to pierce what this "goalless" means a bit more, Jamie. It is not but semantics. One does not achieve goallessness as a goal. One achieves goallessness by dropping, to the marrow, all goals and thoughts of achievement. (Much as one does not stop from hitting oneself in the hand again and again with a hammer by having a "goal" to stop the hitting ... one stops the hitting by stopping). It is more than mere talk, and non-attaining is an art to be attained.

    Gassho, Coach

  13. #13
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: All used up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi Jamie,

    Quote Originally Posted by jamieguinn

    My take is that if it isn't working for you and you are losing interest... then stop. Move on to something else that does work for you. And if you are dealing with constant and intense anger and depression, I would suggest maybe looking into clinical counseling. Who knows, maybe you'll take up the practice again, maybe you won't.
    I agree with that advice fully and completely. Zazen, or the particular way of Zazen known as Shikantaza, is not for everyone in every situation.

    That being said, it is also important that folks not "give up" too soon, or not give it a good college try! I see many folks who just don't understand what it is all about when, I believe, they might. So, one has to use some judgment in telling people to "give up baseball" too soon ... (says the baseball coach!)


    Personally, I find the suggestions to look for no results silly. Part of our semantics is to talk about goallessness, but that in itself is a goal. We talk about moving toward nirvana, awakening, enlightenment, happiness, virtue, balance, etc. but insist there is no goal.

    If it's a goal you want, then mindfully pursue the goal you are aiming for.
    You have to pierce what this "goalless" means a bit more, Jamie. It is not but semantics. One does not achieve goallessness as a goal. One achieves goallessness by dropping, to the marrow, all goals and thoughts of achievement. (Much as one does not stop from hitting oneself in the hand again and again with a hammer by having a "goal" to stop the hitting ... one stops the hitting by stopping). It is more than mere talk, and non-attaining is an art to be attained.

    Gassho, Coach
    To me, it's not a goal because in each moment, you have to 'drop'. It's not like you get somewhere and you're 'done'. How do you remember to drop? Usually when your clinging causes pain.

    To me, waking up doesn't mean being eternally awake, but it's like being in a dream..then caught up with it - it turns into a nightmare...but THIS time, the pain doesn't have to be unbearable for you to remember to 'wake up'.

    Chet

  14. #14

    Re: All used up.

    Hey Chet,

    I don't believe I have the perfect thing to say for you here, but I'm going to try to give you some encouragment anyhow . . . :wink:

    I know how you feel, I've been there more than a few times. Even now, I'm still working on my faith, having just gone through a personally trying time. But, Simply I think Buddhism just works for me, when I follow it's path my life is better. . . and I don't just mean meditation, I mean walking the precepts, striving to uphold the ethics taught in this ancient and timeless tradition.

    I'm sure you have found comfort and truth in the three jewels, otherwise you would have never continued on this path for eight years, don't loose that faith, it's a true aide to us. Of course doubts will arise, this is good, the friction is needed in order to truly learn and continue to grow. Yes, we say there is nothing to grow into, but this takes a good deal of work to realize . . . I believe you are struggling right now with the very same questions that caused Dogen to take the journey to China, you are in good company. Trust in your path and continue to question --- you will find your way.

    Gassho,

    Greg

  15. #15
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: All used up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    Hey Chet,

    I don't believe I have the perfect thing to say for you here, but I'm going to try to give you some encouragment anyhow . . . :wink:

    I know how you feel, I've been there more than a few times. Even now, I'm still working on my faith, having just gone through a personally trying time. But, Simply I think Buddhism just works for me, when I follow it's path my life is better. . . and I don't just mean meditation, I mean walking the precepts, striving to uphold the ethics taught in this ancient and timeless tradition.

    I'm sure you have found comfort and truth in the three jewels, otherwise you would have never continued on this path for eight years, don't loose that faith, it's a true aide to us. Of course doubts will arise, this is good, the friction is needed in order to truly learn and continue to grow. Yes, we say there is nothing to grow into, but this takes a good deal of work to realize . . . I believe you are struggling right now with the very same questions that caused Dogen to take the journey to China, you are in good company. Trust in your path and continue to question --- you will find your way.

    Gassho,

    Greg
    Um...I think you have me confused with Anodyne.

    Chet

  16. #16

    Re: All used up.

    Two things:

    1) You say you have been practicing for some years, with seemingly no progress. Zazen may not be the right answer in life for you. Please be careful in your search for the right method: you may find what works or you may find another delusion. It's often difficult to tell the difference. The right method will settle your mind and anxieties over time. Another delusion will expand the unhappy hollowness.

    2) I've got a little Bi-polar. Those anger-depression swings you mention are familiar to me. It's a lack of chemical re-action going on inside your head that does it, not you "doing something wrong". You might want to look into a small dose of Li before giving up zazen altogether. It will alleviate the swings and spiraling into a pit. The pills alone are not the answer and zazen alone is not the answer, but the two together can work fantastic results.

    The fact that you can objectively analyze and report yourself indicates zazen has done you some good. You may just need a little extra kick to propel your practice.

    Sylvia

  17. #17

    Re: All used up.

    I think doubt on the spiritual path is certainly a part of the process. And if through perseverance it's overcome, then practice is strengthened. However, it would not be wrong it one moves along after sincere effort is given and nothing is "attained".

    take care anodyne777,
    Eric

  18. #18

    Re: All used up.

    Chet,

    Sorry about that. I suppose I should stop posting after midnight, I get confused when overly tired.


    Anondyne,

    Please take what I posted as addressed to you, my apologies.

  19. #19

    Re: All used up.

    A lot of things have been said (and I appreciate the comments) but I'm still having trouble actually *doing*. These days I seem to approach it (and Buddhism in general) like many overweight people with a desire to be thin approach exercise - with a lot of effort for a day or two, then... nothing.
    Looks like that's my big obstacle; I'm not sure what else to say on the subject. Mainly I wanted to post a reply so that you folks knew I was still present and listening to you from time to time.

    Gassho,
    Owen

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