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The Maelstrom

The Maelstrom

Vipassana, Let it not be the myopia of the p-pa.

Insight does not occur simply because one pays attention to the breathing/body (meaning: paying attention to the breathing is paying attention to the body), insight occurs because, paying attention to the breathing/body, one withdraws one's attention from everything else (that is, primarily, derivative "issues" pre-occupying the mind).

Paying attention to the breathing/body is always paying attention in such a way as to encourage and promote deep penetrating knowledge leading to disgust for, repulsion from, and abandonment of the body, sense experiences, emotions, and the world as seen through Dhamma.

Paying attention, if made an end in and of itself is a source of blindness, the cause of liking and disliking, the beginning of attachment to and re-formation of the world, the very origin of old age and death, grief and lamentation, pain and misery and despair.

It's like an old story my father used to read me (I believe it was from Edgar Alan Poe) called The Maelstrom. The maelstrom is a tornado-like formation made in the sea when the currents of three [let us be Buddhist and speak of 4: earth, water, fire and wind] different directions collide. It is one of the great terrors of the seaman. If a boat is caught in sucha thing, it is torn to shreds in an instant. If one survives that, and one clings to a heavy object, one slides down the sides of the maelstrom to the bottom where one perishes. The only way to survive such a thing is to cling to a very light object. (High View, is a very light object, High View promotes disgust with the world and is easy to let go.) A light object, rises up the sides of the maelstrom's inner tube and one is able to escape.

So when you sit down,
and you sit down sitting up straight,
head, neck, and spine in alignment,
and you bring your attention to the area of the mouth
and in the same way to the breathing,
and you breath in with a long breath,
directing your mind to penetrating knowledge of the body,
and you breath out with a long breath
releasing yourself from the body,
and you breathe in and out with short breaths
stilling, calming, tranquilizing the body,
and you do not "do" anything else,
and you do not Pay Attention
to anything else at all in the world,
then the world begins to peel off from the conglomeration that you have been considering to this point as "Me".
It peels off like a maelstrom.
It can peel off from below the navel,
or it can peel off from the solar plexus,
or it can peel off from the heart,
or it can peel off from the throat,
or it can peel off from the region above the nose and between the eyes,
or it can peel off from the top of the head,
and it peels off and reforms the world in ways that have nothing to do with "you".
It will feel like you are twisting,
but you are untwisting.
This is what is known as the Cobra, or Kundalini force[1] rising, but it is a mischaracterization to call it something happening.
It is something that is unhappening.
And this is not something that is unhappening to 'You',
this is something that has stopped happening to you.

But if you pay attention to the world,
if you do not let go of that attention to the world,
that maelstrom's energy takes that body and twists it
and carries it off
and throws you off
out into that world in the Eastern direction
and tosses you against the debris being carried by the Western current,
or it throws you off out into that world in the Western direction
and tosses you against the debris being carried by the Eastern current,
or it throws you off out into that world in the Southern direction
and tosses you against the debris being carried by the Northern current,
or it throws you off out into that world in the Northern direction
and it tosses you against the debris being carried by the Southern current,
or tosses you up and it tosses you down
and it stirs you round and round and round and round
and it does the hokey-pokey,
and drives you deep into the ground ...

Or so say I



Just an afterthought here. Why is it so important for me to continuously be stressing that the method here is "not-doing" and that what is "happening" here is an "un-happening" ... something that is being un-done, brought to an end?

Because for most of us this trip is going to be very long and progress very slow and painful. Not many of us have the opportunity to devote 100% of our time to sitting down to get this over with. The consequence of this is that if we characterize a moment of liberation as "progress" in the sense of having gained something, and take delight in that, we will lose motivation when the sensations connected with that progress subside, and the reality of our situation reasserts itself.

Insight seems profound for a few minutes and then quickly becomes part of what we think we should have seen all along (think about that! Isn't that the way it should be for one waking from an illusion?); taking pride in our insights is a clear path to continuously feeling foolish (and that is unnecessary baggage that is a hindrance in and of itself). Here the likely path is: letting go of some small weight that is keeping us under, we rise up to hit the next thing that is keeping us under.

Keeping in mind that the way is observing, learning about, not-doing, and letting go, our eye is on the important thing (what we must let go of next) and we do not subject ourselves to unreasonable expectations and the resultant disappointments.

Think of being Downbound by a million threads. The task is cutting those threads one at a time. The eye needs to be on the next thread. The eye on the slight release felt after one has cut one thread is an eye on the useless. One will be free when the threads are cut whether one is looking or not.


[1] AKA: che (say 'key'); or pranha. A little taste of which is experienced whenever one "breaths a sigh of relief".

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