समाधि - focus pleasure flow
Samadhi “has been described as a non-dualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing subject becomes one with the experienced object, and in which the mind becomes still, one-pointed or concentrated while the person remains conscious.”*
Recently I posted a quote from one of my favourite historical figures:
“Absorbed totally, absorbed in whatsoever you are doing, this is what meditation is. Not that you sit for a special period and repeat a mantra, not that you go to the church or to the temple or to the mosque, but to be in life - to go on doing trivial things, but with such absorption that the profundity is revealed in every action.”
After being reminded by Shinzen Young speaking about the inherent pleasure of concentration, how cultivating one’s ability to focus via meditation spills over into everyday life which itself, in kind, becomes relatively more pleasurable. The higher focus also enabling one to be more present to one’s life and therefore get more out of each moment of life avoiding the pitfall T.S. Eliot identified astutely as being "distracted from distraction by distraction."
Shinzen referenced the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.” In which he speaks about the pleasure coming from concentration and the phenomena of being “in the zone,” commonly spoken of within sports but maybe entered into through any absorbing, focused activity.
Speaking, in his TED talk, of a composer:
So once he gets to that point of beginning to create, like Jennifer did in her improvisation, a new reality — that is, a moment of ecstasy — he enters that different reality. Now he says also that this is
so intense an experience that it feels almost as if he didn’t exist.
And that sounds like a kind of a romantic exaggeration. But actually, our nervous system is incapable of processing more than about 110 bits of information per second. And in order to hear me and understand what I’m saying, you need to process about 60 bits per second. That’s why you can’t hear more than two people. You can’t understand more than two people talking to you.
Well, when you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new, as this man is, he doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels, or his problems at home. He can’t feel even that he’s hungry or tired. His body disappears,
his identity disappears from his consciousness,
because he doesn’t have enough attention, like none of us do, to really do well something that requires a lot of concentration, and at the same time to feel that he exists. So existence is temporarily suspended. And he says that his hand seems to be moving by itself. Now, I could look at my hand for two weeks, and I wouldn’t feel any awe or wonder, because I can’t compose. (Laughter)
So what it’s telling you here is that obviously this automatic, spontaneous process that he’s describing can only happen to someone who is very well trained and who has developed technique.
I doubt the “only” but of course it is absolutely true training helps immensely; definitely, directly training concentration itself enables the skill to be optimally developed and transferable to any activity, and strengthens the resting concentration level of one’s awareness. This direct training of concentration is an essential and unavoidable component of meditation.
Where this gets interesting is when the object of one’s attention becomes one’s attention itself, and/or when the object of ones attention is pleasure itself.
Speaking of the Sahajayana Buddhists, Sahara’s ilk:
"The senses are absorbed within, all thought processes are annihilated, all the seeds of existence are destroyed; it is full of the lustre of bliss, it is like the vacant sky yet cool and sweet."
The writer is here speaking of the state of concentration, aka samadhi, available to one through performance of ritualized yogic sex. Important to note, as in Sahara’s quote, this level of concentration is cultivated in all activity, in fact concentration developed through any activity, like muscle mass, will be utilized in all experiences.
The reason sex works so well as a meditative technology is, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi notes, we are drawn most easily into these concentrated, altered states of awareness through activities which we personally most enjoy. In fact, for some people this attraction towards and enjoyment of sex is too strong and the mind and emotions run away with oneself and the specific meditative focus is lost.
Rant: This is the usually told story at least, with which I do have some problems. For one, I personally doubt whether the loss of any particular focus is actually detrimental unless there is a specific goal, which there most often is, however, in reality while there are many paths and many destinations, everything is really a pathless path to a goalless goal. At least that’s how it seems to me, and sometimes these tunnels of distraction can surface in environments we would have never otherwise discovered and are likely to be important to the specific individual discovering them /rant.
Through samatha/vispasyana, which is to say stilling one’s mind and investigating one’s experience from this place of clarity, one comes into contact with and experiences the nature of one’s own identity. Which consequently it begins to fall apart under observation, by which I mean the clarity of perception yields an experiential insight into what modern neuroscience has come to also shed light on, that our ‘self’ is an illusory phenomena. This would be considered a foundational approach, meat and potatoes.
In tantrayoga the same goal is attained, however instead direct investigation revealing the self to an essenceless emergent phenomena, the self is completely unified into sensorial experience, most often that of becoming a deity. To this experience, almost habitually if not intentionally, will be applied the logic and experience of the previous approach, and/or oneself becomes so strongly absorbed in the experience one’s identity is lost as in the case of the composer mentioned by Mr Csilkszentmihalyi.
As Saraha so clearly states, in this way one can become completely absorbed in any experience and through any phenomena experience anatta, and as one progresses, become permanently “awake.” This is the heart of tantra. Down and dirty in the thick of normal life. Everything which touches ones mind is the object of meditation. Because of the strong development of concentration one can live in this state of ecstasy continuously, every experience is the experience of the bliss of being completely in the flow, what’s more, one is able to maintain the experiential awareness of the illusory nature of oneself which vanishes, yet everything keeps moving on it’s own, just like the composer’s hand… still our being conscious remains!
We experience reality and being human from the Heart.
Known as dak nang in Tibetan, “sacred outlook” or “pure perception.” One lives the in the “rootless root” of nature the self and of life and there is the feeling of being completely naked, completely in the moment. You and everyone you meet becomes a “god” when the sacred outlook cultivated in deity practice becomes a real life, every day experience. This is the arena of Mahamudra and Dzogchen, Ch’an/Zen kind of starts here, but is a little different in practice and theory if not essence.
All emotions are still present and felt with a sense of intense immediacy. Pure sensation alone is thrilling, part of the pleasure of being deeply concentrated, though these sensation can still carry meaning, pain can still be registered as can the suffering of others. From this state of emptiness, with the bliss of pure perception, compassion spontaneously manifests and one becomes a Bodhisattva.
Where this becomes quite interesting is when pleasure is the object of focus and completely overwhelms the system one may fall into visionary states or if fortunate one’s concentrated awareness may turn back towards itself to the exclusion of all other stimulation, creating a kind of Ouroboros of consciousness, when this again overwhelms the sense of self Nirvikalpa Samadhi results, or at least that’s my opinion, I have not yet personally plumbed these depths… just in up to my neck so far.
This focus on consciousness itself, buddhanature, alongside the absorption in sensorial stimulation, is the bedrock of Ch’an & Zen and which Nisargadatta summarize with:
“When you say you sit for meditation, the first thing to be done is understand that it is not this body identification that is sitting for meditation, but this knowledge ‘I am’, this consciousness, which is sitting in meditation and is meditating on itself. When this is finally understood, then it becomes easy. When this consciousness, this conscious presence, merges in itself, the state of ‘Samadhi’ ensues. It is the conceptual feeling that I exist that disappears and merges into the beingness itself. So this conscious presence also gets merged into that knowledge, that beingness – that is ‘Samadhi’”
Mind focus on object, then mind on mind and then no mind at all, re-emerging with “don’t know mind” and the terrible bliss of experience.
I see this fitting with Constructal Law, the physics of flow, as it states everything seeks the path of least resistance, exactly what is occurring when the composer himself vanishes from the picture and his hand moves by itself, the music creates itself… he is the resistor, a reality capacitor, negotiator, which in this instance necessarily disappears. He is safe, comfortable, doing something he loves and so his self can let go and let life flow at it’s fullest. Regardless of us perceiving ourselves as having a self, the physics of our bodies, of existence itself will always motivate action. As Dan Dennett says modern neuroscience posses great problems for free will, something many people find very disturbing… why?
I honestly don’t care if I have free will or not, what difference does it really make?
With this focused pleasure life just as it is, from the most boring to the most exciting becomes more enjoyable. It is in this way religious ascetics can live such spartan existences and still be quite full of joy. I have noticed this within my own life, but I still prefer a little luxury and indulgence. I have noticed, perfectly illustrated by a diagram in M.C.’s TED talk, that if have nothing “pressing on me” from outside, worries, tension, excitement, I now naturally fall into the state of flow. My ability to concentrate, while naturally strong, has only increased and my state of being in day to day life is becoming clearer and clearer, although dragging myself up from the depths of self-destruction, I’ve still got a long ways to go.
For me often accompanying these concentrated states are physical sensations in specific area’s of my body. Most common, in fact almost constant, is a feeling of simultaneous expansion/contraction in the area of my third eye, this began when I first started taking psychodelic drugs, at this time the sensation was a fault line splitting my brain in two and would last for hours every time I dosed. I believe this is similar to the physical chest pain of a broken heart, indeed I was told by a Buddhist who was doing Guru Yoga that she would experience such strong sensation in the area of her heart chakra it would bring her to tears. This leads into areas of psychosomatics and the neuroscience of metaphor, including the performance of ritual from a non-dual state of awareness.
I’ve done a lot of work since then, including different practices which move this sensation/energy through the body and concentrating it at specific centers, the so called chakras. Now these sensations are much more active, balanced and widely spread. I revel in dancing these throughout my body and mind.
This Dionysian aspect I feel is quite important! I believe this communal, ecstatic experience is really the most natural, enjoyable form of heightened awareness and perhaps easiest way to enter non-ordinary states of consciousness. Tantra really comes from this combination of shamanic practices and ideology with the more structured, nuanced practices and ideologies of formal religion.
When tantra first rose to the surface it was wide open to anyone: thieves, kings, prostitutes, beggars, weapon makers, scholars, farmers, with no obstacles of gender, race or class; the only requirement being aptitude and passion. In this arena it was women who rose to the top as the most experienced and deeply enlightened practitioners; the best teachers to whom most of the Tibetan men originally went to offer themselves and receive instruction. One of my favourite stories of such a Devi can be read here. As generations passed these very earthy, intelligent and radical teachings were placed into the patriarchal hierarchy of Tibetan culture and largely removed from everyday life as the property of all people, instead placed into monasteries and controlled by the theocratic monks.
The combination of the naturalness of indigenous spirituality with highly a cultivated psycho-spiritual philosophy, Buddhism in particular, makes Tantra unique in it’s ability to be an immeasurably intense, quick spiritual path, one which neither accepts nor rejects, in essence, any action and can be practiced by anybody, anywhere at anytime. It’s focus on the pleasure of life, on direct experience, on individuality, independence and passion… it’s affirmation of life here and now rather the alternative. Well, I find it thoroughly exciting (and the pay off is marvelous.)
As the great Tilopa said:
The problem is not enjoyment; the problem is attachment
Attachment to stasis while made of a world in constant flux, attachment to a self which through subjective and objective investigation, can be known to be an illusion:
“When you look at your mind, there’s nothing to be seen.
In this very not seeing, you see the definitive meaning.”
“I have seen what is utterly invisible”
It’s not the emperor who has no clothes, it’s the clothes who have no emperor
I’ll end with a few more quotes I wish I had patience to apply more context too:
When you rest in quietness and your image of yourself fades, and your image of the world fades, and your ideas of others fade, what’s left? A brightness, a radiant emptiness that is simply what you are.
A certain scary even disgusting feature; it’s as if you’ve entered a factory and there’s all this humming machinery and there’s nobody home, there’s no watchman, no supervisor, no boss… it’s all just machinery
“None of your neurons know who you are…nor do they care”
So close you can’t see it
So deep you can’t fathom it
So simple you can’t believe it
So good you can’t accept it
- The “Four Faults of Natural Awareness”
“The yantra which is one’s body is the best of all yantras.”
Still! All this pleasure is not at the expense of shying away from pain, of facing the true vicissitudes of life, in fact they become even more unavoidable the less distracted you become, and the big one is death. As the Dali Lama says:
Awareness of death is the very bedrock of the path. Until you have developed this awareness, all other practices are obstructed.
So find yourself a corpse meditate on folks!
با ماه رخى اگر نشستى خوش باش
چون عاقبت كار جهان نيستى است
انگار كه نيستى، چو هستى خوش باش”
- Omar Khayyám
If with wine you are drunk be happy,
If seated with a moon-faced beauty, be happy,
Since the end purpose of the universe is nothingness;
Hence picture your nothingness, then while you are, be happy!
Truthfully… I’m just a dirty hedonist,
I simply want as much good healthy pleasure for myself and all beings as possible.
“I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body”
2 years ago · 12 notes