2. The Three Refuges
3. The Four Noble Truths
The Eightfold Path:
4. Right Understanding
5. Right Intent
6. Right Speech
7. Right Livelihood
8. Right Effort
9. Right Mindfulness
The best place to be, is here, and the best time to be, is now.
- Bill S. Preston esq and Ted “Theodore” Logan
So. If you know me – if you’ve even spent ten minutes I my presence, you’ll know I have difficulty concentrating on one thing for more than five minutes, without wandering off, zoning out, or just following my brain.
No, wait, scratch that. I mean controlling that thing on which I’m concentrated.
The difficulties I have with Mindfulness are the same difficulties I have with Concentration. I have problems with concentration on anything of course, but Right Concentration is specifically the concentration wholesome thoughts and actions.
Meditation is the place where Concentration is practised more fully and.. heh. Guess what I still haven’t managed to get back into daily?
I make excuses. I say “I have other things to do”. I say “It’s either meditate or run and I’m working on my running right now.” I say “running (and cleaning) are a way to meditate – but that’s only true if one meditates on the running or cleaning, which I’ll tell you right now doesn’t happen nearly as much as I’d like.
I have excuses, but they’re just excuses. The truth is, meditation is hard work. And just like anything that’s hard work, I have difficulty starting it each time. So sometimes, I don’t. But it’s hard necessary work.
The Difference between Concentration and Mindfulness
Concentration is a focused, deliberate effort, honed in meditation, while mindfulness is the daily, all day practice.
Remember when I said that the mind is like a mirror? I’ve also heard it referred to as a floor, something in your space that accumulates dirt and junk and crap that you just put on it. Mindfulness is the all day monitoring of that floor – the putting of things away when you’re done with them, the wiping your feet and the picking stuff up that gets dropped. Meditation is the twenty minute regular unfucking that need to be done to clean the mind out fully. I can be as mindful as I like about not dropping shit, but that doesn’t clear the junk that’s already there.
It’s also much easier to live cleanly if you have a clean environment.
The Four Jhanas
There are four absorptions, jhanas, or stages involved in true, Right Concentration. Or at least so I’ve heard. I have, at this time, only experienced the first, so I can’t tell you that the others are definitely there. That’s an article of faith.
- the first is the freedom from passion, desires and unwholesome thoughts, leaving a sense of well-being and deep rapture
- the second is the release on conscious thought, maintaining that sense of rapture
- the third is the fading of the rapture and the feeling of equanimity and clarity
- the fourth is the fading of all sensation, leaving just mindful equanimity
The Path up to this point is in many ways a technique to focus that equanimity and to reach the point at which peace can be found. After all, the fading of sensation could be described as the fading of attachment and the end of suffering. And that, after all, is the reason to walk the Path to start with.
So it’s hardly surprising I’m only a beginner at this. It’s a lot of work, and in many ways it’s in direct conflict with the life one lives in modern Western society.
But even where I am, it’s working. It’s changed my life and it’s changed who I am, and I think I’ll continue to grow.
Right Concentration Links
Zencast: Introduction to Concentration
Next: The Five Precepts.
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