Holding back from suffering

(Photo copyright via Wikipedia Commons, the free media repository)

“You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is somthing you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid.”

[Franz Kafka, “Betrachtungen über Sünde, Leid, Hoffnung und den wahren Weg” Excerpt from “Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer” (written 1917/18, published 1931)]


Dealing with anxiety

(c) svenhaupt.com

Last time I posted the litany against fear, from the novel >Dune< by Frank Herbert. It made me think about how Buddhists deal with anxiety in Vipassana-Meditation. I just heard Venerable Yuttadhammo talk about it in one of his videos, so I decided to visualize it somehow. I have a mind that works better on graphics, so I fiddled and doodled around with various little drafts and finally came up with a colored chart that I like. I thought I could as well share it, since it took like three trials to get it right.

The idea is pretty simple. The first thing a meditator wants to do is to separate the mental process of anxiety from the bodily sensation. One is the voice in your head saying >OMG, where is my wallet? I lost my wallet!< The other one is the tight fist in your stomach that follows right behind. Once you realize that those are actually two different experiences, you can address them separately. You can label the first one as >Fear<, or >Worry<. By doing so you may find out that once you label it, it vanishes immediately (it may also return instantly, but that is yet another moment). Now, you can focus on the bodily experience and label that as >Feeling< or >Tension< and observe how that also immediately shifts and alters the experience, too.

The point of this exercise is that an unobserved and untrained mind will have these two experiences constantly bounce of each other and thereby escalate them to a higher and higher level, which ultimately may run into a full panic attack.
Once you start deconstructing the experiences the bouncing part cannot happen so easily, since your observing and labeling mind gets kind of in the way. It can very easily stop the panic spiral, once you practice it diligently. That requires strong effort, like everything in life.
However, it’s a simple exercise which does not take long to produce results. Somewhere between ten minutes and ten lifetimes, I guess.

Litany against fear

[Art copyright by Robert Ball via Flickr under creative commons licence]

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the littledeath that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.“

[Frank Herbert – Dune (Littainy against Fear by the Bene Gesserit)]

Buddhism before the Theravada

[Photo copyright by Roberto Trombetta via Flickr under creative commons licence]
The Buddha did not teach in a vacuum. His teachings were directed to those who shared the social world in which he lived.
Prof. John Peacock, a British scholar and dharma teacher who studies and translates in more than a dozen languages and is familiar with the philosophical environment of the Buddha’s day, maintains that by framing the Buddha’s teachings in their original context, it is possible to recover the original meaning of teachings that have been ignored and lost by later Buddhist schools—including the Theravada.
This set of six talks from 2011 will examine many of the ways in which Buddhist practice was radically different from the Brahmanical and Upanishadic thinking of the time and, indeed, how it differs in substantive ways from much present day understanding of the Dharma.
The exploration will detail the Buddha’s shift away from metaphysical thinking to a focus on internal experience and ethical activity. In the process there will be consideration of how the Buddha’s earliest teachings diverge from much of the western philosophical tradition, and often from what has become the traditional view of the Dharma today as well.“
Here is the link to all six talks on audiodharma.org
I can listen to these talks over and over again. I have learned more about Buddhism through these talks than through any other source in the ten years before I found them.
They are most highly recommended.