Insight Meditation Houston

Howie Cohn’s Question

Insights from a Retreat

  • Insights from Howie Cohn retreat
  • Agenda
    • At some level the dharma is very simple – BUT we are all different, we are different stages of the journey and the instructions about meditation to the beginner and the 20 year meditator need to be different.
    • Meditation with “old” instructions – ask for observations
    • Share insights from the Howie Cohn retreat
    • Meditation again with altered instructions.
    • Discussion –
  • Do the following Meditation
    • Focus on your nostrils and feel the breath coming in out.
    • It’s OK if your mind winders just let go of the thought and bring your focus back to your breath.
    • Notice how you feel when your mind wanders.
    • Count each time your mind wanders. See if you can do it less than 3 times in next 3 minutes.
    • Notice how you feel when your mind wanders.
  • Howie: There are a lot of beautiful birds here.  You can focus on the sounds of the birds.
    • I focused on the beautiful and soothing sounds of the birds and it was a beautiful symphony that I could hear for hours and it really helped me focus. Meditation was wonderful.
    • Realization 1 – Any point of focus and concentration is supportive – Not just your breath. Birds
      • Caveat – at some point it might be nice to be able to focus on your breath because birds aren’t always there.
    • Q&A – Realization 2
      • Student Comment: I was told that if you focus your attention on your 3rd eye and keep it focused there your thoughts will stop.
      • My thought: “Wow, what a great idea!”
      • Teacher response: “Why do you want your thoughts to stop?”
      • I don’t like when my thoughts interrupt my meditation!
      • Realization: I can develop a different relationship to those thoughts and change the way that I feel about myself.
    • My reaction to the Q&A:
      • I have always known that we “shouldn’t” label and condemn our thoughts.
      • I also know that while meditating I am never pleased when I am distracted by thoughts. I might say to myself “It’s just a thought”, but underneath there is always a sense of disappointment and failure.
      • I thought: what would meditation be like if I was just as pleased by a thought arising as I was of the bird singing?
      • What is stopping me from responding to the thoughts with “radical acceptance”?
      • After meditation when I am trying to be mindful, I am often distracted by thoughts.
      • If I could see those thoughts like a bird’s song, my sense of self and life would alter dramatically.
    • Why thoughts are “bad”? The chain reaction
      • Negative circumstances. Red Light
      • Thoughts – Labeling and Judging – “This is bad”
      • Emotions – Anger
      • Blame – Lousy lights, Why didn’t I leave earlier. Traffic stinks in Houston
      • Physiological – adrenaline – blood pressure.
      • Reactivity – get mad enough you do something stupid. Drive recklessly when the light changes.
    • The Middle way – find this balance – Nuanced – Not simple – No easy answers
      • Radical Acceptance – Hey Dude that’s Ok you are only human!!!
        • Radically accept all of these: thinking, judging, labeling, reacting, emotions, hatred anger jealousy.
      • Right Intention – Right Effort
        • Continually do your practice on a regular basis
        • GOAL IS CONSCIOUSNESS – JUST NOTICING THE FLOW.
        • Work up to 40 minutes a day
        • You will alter your physiology
        • Stopping reactivity becomes natural
        • BUT UNTIL YOU ARE THERE YOU NEED RADICAL ACCEPTANCE TO GET THERE.
      • The middle way by example
        • You will have thoughts, don’t then have thoughts about why you shouldn’t have thoughts.
        • You will get angry, don’t get angry that you are angry.
        • The middle way is balancing accepting (not expecting to be perfect) with intentionality ( continually being striving and optimistic that you will become more and more conscious)
        • Equanimity, contentment – neither joy or sadness nor use of crutches.
      • Comparison – My experience
        • Tibetan Meditation
          • Helps beginners get focused more easily
          • Sadhana’s prayers, songs, visualizations inspirational alter your

disposition.

  • Insight Meditation
    • Cultivates mindfulness most effectively
    • Most helpful for awareness. (You can’t do mantras and listen to other people talk)
  • Rationalizing Acceptance – I thought about my thoughts:
    • Anxiety: There is within mechanisms (neural networks) created to protect me.   All the anxious thoughts are generated to protect us from “tragedy”.   Don’t those thoughts deserve to be loved and cherished?
    • Anger: The thoughts of anger are often generated based on a sense of injustice.
    • While acting on the anger could be problematic, being angry at the anger would not make things better.
    • While anxious thoughts do cause anxiety, fighting those anxious thoughts might produce more anxiety.
    • Embracing all thoughts without judgment and labeling could be called:
      • Radical Acceptance.
      • Non Preferential Awareness
    • A positive disposition
  • Sally Kempton – Meditation for the love it
    • Try different things.
    • Make meditation Fun
  • Book: “How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything: A Workbook”
    • The way we treat our thoughts are the way we treat ourselves.
  • JKZ
    • Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
    • Aren’t thoughts , and afflicted emotions Anger, jealousy, hatred, guilt shame are all part of the unfolding of experience
    • “The path is the goal.”
  • Second Meditation
    • Pick anything that you want to focus on.
      • Your nostrils, Sounds, Thoughts, Visualize a loved one and wish them well
    • Switch to a different point of focus whenever you want.
    • When a thought arises
      • Welcome the thought with joy
      • Treat it like an honored guest
      • Smile at your dear friend the thought
      • Wish it a safe journey
      • Refocus on anything you want
    • No matter
      • what you are focusing on
      • How often you are distracted
      • See if you can feel that you are doing meditation correctly
      • Continually make sure that you are feeling contentment and equanimity
      • If you get carried away with emotions, love yourself in spite of it. Accept your emotions
    • Questions
      • Describe the relationship to your thoughts for meditation one vs meditation two.
        • Did you feel like you are competing?
        • Do you set up expectations for your meditations?
      • What are the advantages disadvantages to the new approach?
      • Which went better meditation one or two?
      • What would your life be like if you were mindful of the relationship to your thoughts all day long and really accepted the thoughts the way you accept a bird singing?

 

  • Be a lamp unto yourself? There is a middle way
    • It is different than Insight Meditation standard or
    • But It is from experience.
    • It is dangerous! It goes against 2,000 year teachings
    • Find a balance between what make sense to you and what is accepted dogma
    • When you are beginning, when you are having trouble there are some different approaches that might help you get started but at some point go back to the traditional instructions.