mind/body dualism

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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Johnny Dangerous
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mind/body dualism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Nov 09, 2014 9:55 pm

Presumably, a lot of us grow up with mind/body dualism..or some kind of physical reductionism as the backdrop of our worldview.

Do you think this affects your meditation, and if so how?

In my case, I find a definite tension upon any examination of how "body" and "thought" or "mind" differ..or more accurately, I seem to want them to differ, and to have a hard time accepting that they can taste the same.

I'm reading Reginald Ray's book Touching Enlightenment right now. I find the writing style cloying to be honest, but the book is interesting. His basic premise is that (especially westerners, I guess) are "disembodied" in that their meditation is a sort of subconsciousness attempt to reach an entirely "mental" realm and to escape matter..which leads to great tension in meditation. Again interestingly, he claims that many people have a problem with the basic shamatha instructions on following breath for just this reason.

I feel pretty agnostic about much of the book at this point, which seems mostly to be sort of psychology-ized Vajrayana.. but I did find this premise interesting, and reflective a bit of my own experiences, as object-focused meditation has always been a huge source of tension for me, and I have always experienced better results and no buildup of tension through shamatha with no object..however you want to term that.

Interested to hear the opinions of others on this, especially more experienced practitioners.
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Jesse » Sun Nov 09, 2014 11:51 pm

I think the main thing that broke me of that tendency was improving my dream recall. When you remember all your dreams, and start having lucid dreams.. it really throws a wrench into how you perceive your body/mind. Also if you reach a certain level of concentration in meditation, you can use your imagination to an absurd degree. You can create life-like images, sounds, etc.

As you meditates everything eventually appears as just streams of stuff... there's thoughts, feelings, perceptions, sensations, but they lack a cohesion we normally find in our daily awareness. When they lack that cohesion, we lose bodily awareness too. Because our body awareness is just another sensation.

So really, there is not much difference between the physical and mental realms in that sense.
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by lorem » Mon Nov 10, 2014 12:03 am

Jesse wrote: [..] eventually appears as just streams of stuff... there's thoughts, feelings, perceptions, sensations, but they lack a cohesion we normally find in our daily awareness. When they lack that cohesion, we lose bodily awareness too. Because our body awareness is just another sensation.

So really, there is not much difference between the physical and mental realms in that sense.
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Mon Nov 10, 2014 12:12 am

Maybe inquiring into the "consciousness" aspect of ear-consciousness, eye-consciousness, and so on, seeing how perception functions relative to the things we normally qualify as solid/real and mental/unreal.

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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Jesse » Mon Nov 10, 2014 12:47 am

lorem wrote:
Jesse wrote: [..] eventually appears as just streams of stuff... there's thoughts, feelings, perceptions, sensations, but they lack a cohesion we normally find in our daily awareness. When they lack that cohesion, we lose bodily awareness too. Because our body awareness is just another sensation.

So really, there is not much difference between the physical and mental realms in that sense.
Don't focus of the parts, focus on the whole. Perception field: include it all.
Depends what your doing! Usually you keep your attention on your meditation object and all those things just arise and vanish. Once you become detached from these phenomena, all that there are is sensations, thoughts, feelings, perceptions, consciousness. That is the self-less whole I suppose? :shrug:
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by lorem » Mon Nov 10, 2014 1:45 am

Usually you keep your attention on your meditation object
Whole perception field is your meditation object (ecstatic?). Take it all in. Yes different types of meditation...

EDIT Hard for me to do this if I have been unmindful for a while. Seems to hurt. Then need to focus just on breath, etc (shamatha). Really been unmindful need to count breaths. That's why need to practice a lot and build capacity. (This is just my experience and relating what I have kind of learned)
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Ayu » Mon Nov 10, 2014 8:04 am

If one meditates about "dependent arising" one observes the details to understand the whole thing.
This also provides insight in how the things are connected and not apart. One can watch this issue on different phenomena: body/mind, nature, economics, forums-discussions...
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Nov 10, 2014 9:32 am

Ayu wrote:If one meditates about "dependent arising" one observes the details to understand the whole thing.
This also provides insight in how the things are connected and not apart. One can watch this issue on different phenomena: body/mind, nature, economics, forums-discussions...
This intellectual exercise though, cultivation of view. While that's really important, he is talking about something else in the book, namely that westerners retreat to a default belief that meditation is a "mental" activity primarily..rather than an experiential one. I'm starting to think there is really something to this.

Example off the top of my head, westerners specifically have a cultural bias against somatization of emotions.... this has actually been studied in abnormal psychology.
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by lorem » Mon Nov 10, 2014 10:01 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:This intellectual exercise though, cultivation of view. While that's really important, he is talking about something else in the book, namely that westerners retreat to a default belief that meditation is a "mental" activity primarily..rather than an experiential one.
School trains us well doesn't it?
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by lorem » Mon Nov 10, 2014 10:25 am

of course being happy is not the goal of life and is actually far from the truth--merely using it as a pointing-out to the fact that there is no actual training in school of mind-body awareness so lots tend to live in their heads.
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Dan74 » Mon Nov 10, 2014 10:45 am

Hi JD!

This has been my experience too. My meditation has always started with the breath and initially it was just the thought of the breath. I think body scanning as a preliminary practice works well to help ground the sit.

As a kid my father taught me a kind of a lying relaxation technique which is similar to body scan, so I was lucky to have had a kind of a head start, I guess.

There are many layers in this onion to peel, lost in thought, lost in the observer, clinging to a particular sensation, etc etc I think a good meditation teacher helps. One other thing that's really helped me over the years is Thich Nhat Hanh's keeping the breath awareness as an anchor practice. This basically starts by bringing a little awareness to the breath as often as one can during the day, until it is always a little bit there. A wonderful practice.

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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Nov 10, 2014 6:16 pm

Well, at this point (nearly done), i'd recommend the book. It's more relevant to Vajrayana practitioners I think, but some of the stuff it brings up is really great. Like I said I do not get into Ray's writing style that much, but something must have worked.

As to body scan, let me put it this way...I think probably that was one of the first meditation instructions I remember reading about, or being given..but reading this book, I realized I was not actually doing that, but that I was sort of intellectualizing the whole process, then getting confused and kind of shutting down or freezing when experiencing actual somatic information, in favor of trying to have meditation be mostly about "mind"..or about my conceptual construct of what "mind" is. Even though I might hold the right view regarding dualism on the surface intellectually, it seems that something a bit deeper definitely believes that for instance, emotions are "mental" and tries to categorize them in this way, which leads to an inability to properly experience or work with them.

Anyway, I thought it was worth mentioning, it's rare that I get anything so direct out of a book, and it came as a bit of a shock to me that i'd been doing this.
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by tingdzin » Sat Nov 15, 2014 6:04 am

I have talked with many people who found Ray's book valuable for the same reason that you did. It is really true that we are so habituated to mind-body duality that it takes a lot of really hard training to get past it, though IMO most people who practice Buddhism in the West would deny that they have fallen into the trap. But once you see it, it can transform your whole approach.

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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Nov 16, 2014 4:57 am

Yeah, I have to admit...with me at least it was right on the money. There's an immediate difference in my sitting practice.
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by _Q_ » Tue Dec 09, 2014 7:16 pm

I haven't read Dr. Ray's book referenced here, but came across this.. http://dharmamind.net/readings/three-ar ... -the-body/. I agree with dr. Ray regarding the mind/body dualism among "Westerners." His premise that current society has developed an emphasis on mind can be traced back to the transcendentalist movement that developed into Christian Science, Unity, Science of Mind, etc.

I cannot speak for Westerners, or Southerners, Easterners, Northerners, for that matter, but from my Zen perspective there is a progression in meditation practice;

___* Shamatha: Dhyāna (Concentration)
___* Vipassana: Mindfulness (Insight)
___* Shikantaza: Dropping body and mind (Release)
___* Genjokoan: Integrating the above as Relative and Absolute (Conventional and Ultimate)

Also of interest is the idea that thoughts themselves, not just feelings/sensations, are addictive. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/scienceonr ... z3L8m0fUn3
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by hop.pala » Sat Dec 27, 2014 5:46 pm

no any mind body dualism in existing.It is perfect lie.To one body belong one mind and one brain.The explanation of dualism is lie.When the people would be dualist,than it must be recognised.One of the biggest lie of the buddhism that the man is dual.

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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Saoshun » Sat Dec 27, 2014 6:39 pm

Dualism is nothing wrong, it's just play of elements of one level. When we just limit ourself to this level it's becomes attachment which can be hindrance in spiritual cultivation but per se is nothing wrong, it's just limited to it's our nature. Humans do not like limitation so problem appears only when we want stretch the limitations of dualism which have own boundaries. If we see the way it is, we can just go thru that and be in dual at the same time being not affected by it I guess that's what is called truly non dualism.

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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Dec 28, 2014 12:35 am

Saoshun wrote:Dualism is nothing wrong, it's just play of elements of one level. When we just limit ourself to this level it's becomes attachment which can be hindrance in spiritual cultivation but per se is nothing wrong, it's just limited to it's our nature. Humans do not like limitation so problem appears only when we want stretch the limitations of dualism which have own boundaries. If we see the way it is, we can just go thru that and be in dual at the same time being not affected by it I guess that's what is called truly non dualism.
Sure, but this is all just conceptual clarification of view. You can "believe" whatever you want about things, and it may or may not play out the way you expect in meditation, in this case for me it did not. I wasn't posting to ask people about positions on dualism but rather to point out my own experiences with how ingrained cultural bias affects mediation- in this case exceptionally basic meditation, and one that is taught to nearly anyone doing meditation, and how cartesian dualism (which is what it is I suppose) colors the use of techniques.
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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Saoshun » Sun Dec 28, 2014 12:45 am

I don't know if you know any non-conceptual clarification, if you catch one you better show it. :sage:

haha and for me it's reality, but it's seems conceptual I know so I wanted to clarify that mind/body/whatever dualism is not a problem and it should not be looked as problem because then it's become a problem really.

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Re: mind/body dualism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Dec 28, 2014 1:59 am

Saoshun wrote:I don't know if you know any non-conceptual clarification, if you catch one you better show it. :sage:

haha and for me it's reality, but it's seems conceptual I know so I wanted to clarify that mind/body/whatever dualism is not a problem and it should not be looked as problem because then it's become a problem really.
Again what you are saying really has nothing to do with the OP, if you believe it's "not a problem", great, more pwer to you. The post is about something specific though, and honestly I'm not terribly interested in being "taught to" by via platitudes about non dualism, as much as I am in hearing from those with similar experiences regarding view of the body in meditation. I'm familiar with the view in Mahamudra, Dzogchen etc. That appearances are simply the play of awareness etc...and I have an actual teacher to ask about such stuff. Being able to cleverly say it, and actually knowing it experientally are two different things I imagine anyway.

I don't find it profitable to pontificate alot about non dualism online..frankly 90% of online talk about the subject comes off as sophistry. For that reason, it's easier to talk about something a little more categorizable, such as cultural biases (I.e. karma carried in, and 'about' the body) some of us might carry into meditation.
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