Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Meditation and Poetics - 3

Meditation class
[Sitting Meditation (Samatha) at Naropa]

AG: Yes?
Student:  What's a discourse?
AG:  A discourse is talking.  Talking.  Improvised conversation on a theme, improvised discussion on a theme.

Student:  Allen?  Are we going to (have to go out and buy) Collected Earlier Poems in paperback … because…
 AG:  No.  What I asked you to read was William Carlos Williams. It doesn't exist, alas, in paperback.  It's hardcover. [Editorial note – A Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams does now exist – in a two volume edition – in paperback]. And this is, perhaps, the only school in America where this book is assigned. However, you're lucky you're getting it.  Because.. very few people ... At Yale they don't (even) know this book. The Yale English Department students (have) never heard of this thing, (they) didn't (wouldn’t) know that it exists.. 

Let's see, where should we begin?  Begin with the meditation business… .
Well, rather than leaving everything up to chance, so that there is a ... Veena Davis is (at the) meditation instruction desk at Naropa. You can check with her.  Meanwhile, for working purposes I'll explain meditation for those of you who have never done any practice at all. 

For the working purposes of this class, I'll be referring to Samatha style -- this is a Hinayana or lesser vehicle, as it is called -- lesser world -- Hinayana style, which is bare attention meditation.  It generally begins if you'll straighten your back. If you can find yourself a place where you can actually meditate. Because what I want to do in the future is we'll start the class with a little sitting.  So for those of you who can find a place where you can sit up straight.  You'll get more refined instructions from real instructors, but for present purposes, sit up straight, finding some seat.  If you're on the ground, cross-legged where you have a three-point landing, where you have a good tripod base.  Then get your back or spine straight so that you can breathe, and maybe loosen your belt, so you can relax your belly, like a baby -- let it fall out.  And with eyes open, for this course, for this particular course, this particular style of meditation, please, since we're going to be dealing in a world which is open to poetry and to meditation, so therefore eyes open.  Mouth closed, with no air pocket in the mouth.  Head supporting heaven -- in other words, sitting up straight, or the traditional phrase is "Head supporting heaven," or as if dangling from heaven, like as in a puppet.  So, in other words, sitting up as high as you can sit in an alert posture, with eyes open, but eyes not fixed or focused on anything in particular.  In other words not trying to draw an image back into the brain, but just resting in middle distance.  And breathing. 

So the question is, what do you do with your thoughts?  In Samatha, or bare attention style, you pay attention to the outbreath, or ride the outbreath or be with the outbreath, or follow the outbreath to its dissolution, or identify with the outbreath.  With posture alert but relaxed shoulders, relaxed anus, relaxed back muscles.  As mind wanders, or as you go off into daydreams with your eyes open (for this class purpose, please, with the eyes open, you can close your eyes somewhere else) if your mind wanders and you get into other thought forms, recognizing them as thought forms you can label it thinking and return to the breath, the out-breath.  And on the in-breath no particular attention or effort.  So just touching the outbreath when you remember to touch it.  Instructions I've heard in the past are twenty-five percent attention to the breath, twenty-five percent attention to posture, becoming alert in posture, twenty-five percent coming into a friendly relationship with your thought-forms, as they rise, and twenty-five percent  just open attitude, receptive attitude. 

So that's called Samatha-style sitting.  And let's do that for about five minutes for those of you who don't know or who haven't tried this previously.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately ten minutes in and continuing to approximately fifteen-and-three-quarter minutes in

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