Friday, March 31, 2017

Differences Between Concentration and Mindfulness Techniques - The Meditative Mind (Daniel Goleman)

It’s simple mathematics, he said. All meditation systems either air for One or Zero-union with God or emptiness.  The path to the One is through concentration on Him, so the Zero is insight into the voidness of one’s mind.  This was my first guideline for setting out meditation techniques.”
- Joseph Goldstein at Bodh Gaya, p. xvii

The classical Buddhist text the Abhidhamma is considered the most comprehensive traditional examination of the psychology of states of consciousness.

The Visuddhimagga or "Path to Purifications" is a portion of the Abhidhamma summarized by monk Buddhaghosa.

I studied this text with Chris Chapple when I was taking the course "Following the Buddhist Dharma" at Insight LA. We did many of the mediation techniques described in the Visuddhimagga and some are described on this blog. The Visuddhimagga presents concentration and mindfulness as distinct meditation practices. Concentration is offered as a preparatory practice to mindfulness although it is not required.

The strongest agreement among many meditation schools is the idea of retraining attention.The essence of concentration is non-distractedness.  A meditator's job is to attain unity in the mind also known as one-pointedness. The goal in concentration meditation is to focus the flow of thoughts by fixing the mind on a single object or topic of the meditation. In more advanced states of concentration meditation, the mind is both directed towards the object, penetrates the object, is totally absorbed in it, and sometimes achieves oneness with this object.

In contrast to concentration techniques, in mindfulness meditation, we cultivate the habit of simply noticing sensory perceptions.  Mindfulness does try to concentrate away from sensory perceptions or block them out. These perceptions don't stimulate the mind into thought chains of reaction but are noticed, examined and left to pass by without attachment.

There are 40 meditation subjects of concentration meditation recommended by the Visudhimagga

Ten kasinas (colored wheels about a foot in circumference): earth, water, fire, air, dark blue, yellow, blood-red, white, light and bounded space
Ten asubhas (loathsome, decaying corpses): a bloated corpse, a gnawed corpse, a worm-infected corpse, etc. includes a skeleton
Ten reflections on the attributes of the Buddha, the Doctrine, the sangha, peace, one’s own purity, one’s wn liberality, one’s own posessions of godly qualities or on the inevitability of death, contemplation on the 32 parts of the body or on in out breathing
Four Sublime States: loving-kindness, compassion, joy in the joy of others and equanimity

At InsightLA I did the Ten Kasina practices as well as some of the Asubhas, Reflections of attributes of the Buddhas and Four sublime states.

In contrast, there are just four focuses of mindfulness listed in the Vishudhimagga; on the body, on feelings, on the mind, on mind objects.  Any of the techniques will "break through the illusions of continuity and reasonableness that sustain our mental life. In mindfulness, the meditator begins to witness the random units of mind stuff from which his reality is built. From these observations emerge a series of realizations about the nature of the mind.  With these realizations, mindfulness matures into insight" p, 23

In the early stages of concentration meditation there is  tension between concentration on the object of meditation and distracting thoughts.  The main distractions are: sensual desires, ill will, despair and anger, laziness and torpor, agitation and worry, and doubt and skepticism

“The state of concentration is like a child not yet able to stand steady but always trying to do so.” P.11

In the first state of bare insight (mindfulness practice without concentration meditation training) the meditator's mind wanders between moments of mindful observance. When the wandering comes the meditator is advised to notice the wandering. With practice, wandering thoughts subside once they are noticed and the meditator continues with the mindfulness practice.  Eventually the meditator will reach a level where these disturbances do not arise.

Jhana is the moment in concentration meditation which marks a total break with normal consciousness.  It is full absorption. Rapture at the level of the first jhana is the initially pleasure and excitement of a getting a long-sought object.  Bliss is the enjoyment of that object. The deeper the Jhanas the more one-pointedness becomes more intensified.   Advanced jhanas are referred to by some as “concentration games.”

Mindfulness means breaking through stereotyped perception. In mindfulness the meditator faces the bare facts of his experience.  S/he sees each event as occurring for the first time.  His/Her mind is receptive and not reactive.  S/he has “the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us, at successive moments of perception.”

Bhakti, Kabbalah,  Hesychasm, Sufi, Raja Yoga, TM are all concentration technique based meditation practices.  While Gurdjieff, Krishnamurti's Choiceless Awareness and Thervada Buddhism are mindfulness based systems.  Zen and Tibetan Buddhism are practices that integrate mindfulness and concentration techniques.

Mindfulness and Concentration can both be practiced by a meditator. Powers of concentration help a practitioner with mindfulness.  The Visuddhimaggs claims that it is preferable to do the jhana practices before moving on to mindfulness. But there is a technique called “Bare Insight” where a practitioner starts with mindfulness without practice in concentration meditation. When the mindfulness meditator reaches a level of practice where the mind no longer wanders and strays and notices every moment of the mind without cessation, this is the same as access found in concentration meditation.  So for me the goals are the same, attainment of nirvana/samadhi/moksha/enlightenment/bliss but the techniques differ.  As it is said by many sages "the paths are many, the truth is one."

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Malibu Pier

Sketching at Malibu Pier.  Just getting my hand back in.

Persian Delights

Went to Gallery Girls Persian Delights formerly known as Turkish Delights.  It's always a good time.  Haven't been drawing a lot (or at all) lately.  Trying to get my hand back into it.

Key Concepts in BODYMIND by Ken Dychtwald

I learned a lot from Ken Dychtwald's book there were a lot of topics in it that I was so not familiar with.  For me the key ideas and concepts are:

Bioenergetics is something I have never heard of Dychtwald describes it
"Bioenergetics is a form of psychotherapy that deals with emotional health and sickness from the perspective of psychosomatic unity."
I would like to know more about this field and if it still around or if it has been folded into Somatics.

The Body-Reading process performed by John Pierrakos is something I would like to know more about.

Rolfing is something I always wanted to try.  I attempted it this week but for some reason she gave me a cranial sacral massage instead.

I have talked in 2 other posts about how much I was intrigues by BODYMIND Splits.

I like the idea of 5 Components influencing the formation of the body
1) heredity
2) physical activity and exposure
3) emotional and psychological activity and exposure
4) nutrition
5) environment

I am very interested in his reading of the body and that is what I think I will use most from this book

- ungrounded, hockey puck way of relating to the world
- sometimes the tension in the feet is related to unresolved emotional crisis that involved the possibility of movement or running.  people are holding their ground by squeezing their feet.
- false sense of stability, and exaggerated feeling of determination to remain stable and hold control
-have a hard time making contact physically or emotional with the earth.  They are floaters, dreamers, artistic and imaginative
- weighted down in life, strong need to be grounded and stable, more reliable than creative

- joints are psychosomatic crossroads
- grounding, stability, contact with the earth, self support, ease of movement and change, sense of ease and presence
- injuries are often about resistance to progress
- Sense of ease which we progress through our lives
- when lives are flowing our ankles and knees are flexible
- when we are stuck or conflicted our ankles and knees are rigid

- difficulty grounding
- weakness and fragility in self-support system
- rigid personality
- person who is holding on
-sluggish in the ability to move through the world, difficulty initiating action or following through
-go getters

- lessening of sexual energy and focus
- holding in sexuality
- heightening on sexual energy and sexual focus
- sexual and feeling oriented
- perhaps obsessed with sexual contact

- feeling center of the body
- emotions grow out of our guts
"Most people with lower back trouble report that they first experienced difficulty with their backs as a result of some injury or back-straining activity, such as lifting heavy heights, sitting on uncomfortable furniture, or sleeping on a too soft bed.  Yet it seems to me that the back disturbannce does not begin at the time of the acute injury, but rather that the injury occurred because the muscles and emotions of the back had been chronically held and contracted for some time, thereby predisposing the area to injury.
- stuck between the withheld sexuality of the pelvis and the stored up self-assertion and anger in the upper back
- compulsive people frequently have tight muscles in the lower back
- gateway between lower 3 chakras and upper chakras
- controls the way feelings are allowed to release themselves

- a feeling focuser, amplifier and translator
- emotions, thought, reactions and expressions, mix and swirl in the chest continually changing forms and direction
- Bodymind organs involved in the process of breathing
- Many people breath shallowly and quickly when they are upset
- Shallow breathing can be a defense against experience feelings or feeling
- tension in the heart indicates a chronic over-self-protection
- narrow, fragile chested people
- minimal feeling and energy can flow through this region
- feelings are of emotional weakness, insecurity and depression
- large overdeveloped chest
- overcharge of energy and excitation
- overpowering need to appear strong and be in control
- buried tenderness and receptivity
- underdeveloped sexuality and feelings

- mediators between the emotions of the torso and the expressiveness of the arms and hands
- person sees themselves as having the weight of the world on their shoulders
- have more responsibility than they are built to handle
- overburdened by life
- attitude of fear
- sense of power and ability to carry the burdens
- appearance oriented
- chronic attitude of self protection and fear of being hurt
- highly vulnerable
- person trying not to lose their temper
- annoyed by their situation in life
- holding in energy and expression
- lack of sensitivity or grace
- insensitive
- grasping, clutching, clawing person
- difficulty of holding on to things or people and sustaining relationships
- lack of focus
-- deadness or sluggishness of action
- buried within one's own body
- muscles that hold anger
- blocked feelings get deposited along the spine

- pedestal on which the head rests
-  person encounters the world first with his head/rational self and later the body
- head is too great a burden for the body
- defeat
- tilt will reflect the attitude the are experiencing or projecting
- right (Arrogance and defiance) left (Cute, playful)
- pride
- aggression and tightness
- sadness, anger, the urge to scream or cry
- defiance
- determination
- over self-control

- Mask you present to the world
- hearing
- people can decide to lose their hearing when the are old because they want to withdraw and not hear it
- Ear canals maintain a sense of balance in the bodymind
- reflect the body's state of health or lack of
- warm, loving personality
- a lifetime of withheld expressions and sadness
- difficulty projecting yourself outward
- traumatized eye muscles
- inwardly focused and shy
-  inability to perceive and relate to things that happen up close
- want to focus away from oneself and look outward
- furrowed brow is diligence and concentration

Reflections on Chapter 2 in BODYMIND by Ken Dychtwald

BODYMIND was written in 1977 but for me it seems as it could have been written yesterday.  There is so much information that I have been trying to piece together from many sources that is presented here and a comprehensive and compelling way.

Although all of the book was extremely interesting to me.  I was especially interested in the major MINDBODY splits.  I have been talking for years about the left right split but Ken Dychtwald showed me that was only one possibility.  I feel very excited by this new information.

For Mr. Dychtwald the front/back split separates the private and unconscious self at the back with the more public social self at the front.

Our unwanted and negative emotions get stored in the back of the body and the back becomes weak because it is toring emotions like anger and fear
In our body is a house the front is like the living room in the house and the back is like the attic or basement.  I had never considered this type of split before but it makes a lot of sense to me.  It is a good answer to why it is hard to work with people with back problems and why many back problems are considered psychosomatic and don't register on an xray or can.

The another split that Dychtwald mentions in BODYMIND that I had never considered before is the
Top/Bottom Split.

 I have often seen these people with very big bottoms and small tops are small tops and big bottoms and I have wondered how did the body create such and imbalance.  Dychtwald suggests that the bottom part of our body is stabilizing . moving and balancing.  In contrast, the top half is seeing, hearing, speaking thinking, expressing, stroking, hitting and holding, communication and breathing. We show out dominant characteristics by how our body shapes or our shapes effect our dominant characteristics.

Another split I was introduced to was the Torso/Limbs Split.

 I have seen these type of people skiny arms and legs and a developed torse and also the reverse. Dychtwald explains that the torso is the core and the limbs allow us to reach out and expand ourselves past our self contained restrictions and limits imposed by our torsos.  We says that weak limbs represent bottled up feelings while over developed limbs forecast a person who is a do-er and/or be-er.

The Right/Left split is the one I am most familiar with.

The Left is the feminine side of the body and the Right is  masculine.  This presents itself in injuires, flexibility or lack their of  and we can also see this imblance when people are expressing themselves by crying or  talking with their hands

The head/body split is one I feel a lot in my father's side of the family.

 The are hyper intellectuals who don't care for their body's.  The either are very obese or under developed and weak.  The body seems to be an after thought to them not connected, more like a purse to carry or luggage.  Ken Dychtwald  explains that the head and face are our most social aspects. They are the mask that we present to the world.  The body below the neck is our private self which is mostly covered with clothing.  Many people put more attention on their face and their intellect than their bodies. He says the body is the emotional, animal and less creative self and this reflects in the splits of body/mind, intellect/feelings and reason/intuition.

I loved that book. Sometimes I got tired on Ken Dychtwald talking about how attractive woman after woman in his encounter groups were.  He might have a three way split which a lot of men I know have penis/head/body.  I will add that split to his list.

Body Mind - Yin to Integrate the Split Body

I recently read the book Bodymind by Ken Dychtwald for Yoga Therapy School and was intrigued and impressed.  I have been looking for a book that articulated the types of relationships between mind and body that I have been exploring in my Yin Class for the last couple of years. The chapter that spoke to me the most was Chapter 2 which provided an overview of the major mind body splits.  I was so moved by it that I used it to teach my Yin Class on Saturday.  Here is what I did:

I started with this quote from the book:

"In my attempt to explore the terrain of my own life and being.  I have discovered that my body and my mind are reflections of each other and that the emotions and experiences which have formed my personality have affected the formation and structuring of my muscles and tissue.  As I have become more aware of my own history and the realm of possibilities that it reveals, I have also become to appreciate some of the ways that these body/mind relationships can be discovered, examined and improved up."

I then offered a Prithivi Mudra the mudra of enhancing embodiment

and the Affirmation  "I trust and honor my body"

I gave everyone a copy of this handout that I took for Bodymind with pictures of all the splits on it.

I suggested that students use this class to discover where the imbalances and splits where in their body and where the felt unity and integration.

And then we began the Yin Sequence focusing on Body Splits



Start with

BUTTERFLY WARM UPS (flapping, twisting, circling, rowing, metal triangle)

Butterfly Pose is a Forward Bend that stretches the lower back without requiring loose hamstrings. According to Ken Dychtwald our back is our private and unconscious self.  Unwanted and negative emotions get stored in the back.

 Unfortunately, unwanted emotions don’t disappear a lot of times they get stored in the back.  The back can become weak because it is storing emotions like anger and fear.
Bring awareness to the back and begin to observe any tightness or holding.  Don't try to change anything just notice it.  Being consciously breathing.  On the inhale say to yourself mentally "I am breathing in" or the exhale say to yourself mentally "I am breathing out" . . .


SUPINE BUTTERFLY with two blocks

Supta Baddhakonasana is a pose with many benefits and one of them is a heart opener opening the chest and the whole front of the body,  According to Bodymind the front is the social self and the conscious self.  If the body is likened to a house then the front is like the living room in the house and the back is like the attic or basement.

As you hold this supine butterfly experience what it feels like to have your chest opened and exposed. Does this backbend feel more comfortable than the previous forward bend. How do the front and body differ in your experience today?  Is there a difference you have noticed between the front and the back? Where is the constriction in the body today?  Is it in the front or the back of the body? Is there even any constriction?




Bring your way to table.  Wrists under shoulders needs under hips and begin working through cat cow. As you inhale arch the back and as you exhale dome the back.  Back the hand behind the neck and shine the heart to the sky several tops with this movement up and down movement.  The extend the arm reach more something you really want and then thread the right arm behind the left for the revolved table pose.

The torso is the core body.  The limbs allow us to reach out and expand ourselves past our self contained restrictions and limits imposed by our torsos.  If we have a Torso Limb Split either our Arms and legs are weak and torso is strong or our torso is weak and arms and legs are strong.
Weak limbs can represent bottled up feelings.  Overdeveloped limbs are a sign of  a person who is doer and a be-er.

TORSO/LIMB SPLIT - 2 to 5 minutes each side



Stretches the back leg's hip flexors and quadriceps

Then we moved on to



SPHINX long hold - 3 to 5 minutes

The head and face are our most social aspects.  The head and the face are usually not covered where the rest of the body is.  The body below the neck is more private than the body above the neck.  As westerners we see the head as the place for the mind, intellect and reason.  This split represents the split on the mind vs. body, intellect vs. feelings and, reason vs. intuition.

The next split I investigated was the


BANANASANA - Both Sides  2 to 5 minute hold both sides

The left and right sides of the body, while they may seem extremely similar often mirror different aspects of our characters and personality. The Left is the feminine side and the right is the masculine. We can see quite clearly which shade is more dominant when we see people are expressing themselves: crying, talking with their hands.  We can often have a more flexible or stronger side.

Bananasana or Supta Ardha Chandrasana or Supine half moon stretches the whole side of the body as it works the spine in a lateral flexion (side bend) from the iliotibial (IT) band to the tops of the side rib cage.  It also stretches the oblique stomach muscles and the side intercostal muscles between the ribs



The bottom part of the body is stabilizing . moving and balancing.  The top half is seeing, hearing, speaking thinking, expressing, stroking, hitting and holding, communication and breathing
People can have big top and heavy bottom or a big bottom and heavy top.  They can have an underdeveloped bottom and an over developed top or and underdeveloped top and and over developed bottom.  This is seen in pear shape bodies or people with very large shoulders.


I ended class with a Yoga Nidra where at the end of the body scan I used the splits as tools for integration and unity.

I offered "I trust and respect my body" as a sankalpa along with "I will find the write sankalpa for me" or people to use their own personal sankalpa

After I went through the body scan.  I said

Now feel  the right and left side of the body integrated and unified
the top and bottom of the body integrated and unified
the front and the back of the body integrated and unified
the torso, legs and arms integrated and unified
the head and body integrated and unified
and now the whole body together integrated and unified.

After the Yoga Nidra I directed the class to lie on their side and a fetal position, the position of rebirth and renewal together and say something kind mentally to themselves as if they were speaking to a small child or as if an ancestor as talking to them.

After that we pushed up into a comfortable seated position using prithivi mudra and again I re-read part of Ken Dychtwald's quote

"In my attempt to explore the terrain of my own life and being.  I have discovered that my body and my mind are reflections of each other and that the emotions and experiences which have formed my personality have affected the formation and structuring of my muscles and tissue
and then re-offered the affirmation."

"I trust and respect my body."

And then I closed the class Shalom, Salaam, Pace, Peace, Om.