In my afternoon meditation I reached a place similar in importance to the previous meditation milestone, but entirely different. The prior one came from mindfulness; this one was concentration. Total, pure concentration.
This past week I've been listening to some online discourses by Sayalay Susila, who is teaching the Vipassana retreat that I am attending at The Bhavana Society in August. I also ordered and have been reading a book by the abbot of Bhavana, Bhante Gunaratana (Bhante G), called Mindfulness in Plain English. I also found and listened to some online teachings by him.
Between them -- and I'm sure the long meditation yesterday helped -- I've finally discovered that radiant place of pure concentration. I've had plenty of mindfulness -- developed it over my four years in Eugene quite well -- but I no longer have concentration, which Bhante G says is equally important. So, that's been my focus for the past week and today it all came together. I sat and stayed with the breath for the entire hour, without falling prey to distractions. I entered a state that is difficult to describe. When my timer went off, I shrugged off my shawl, said my metta blessings, but the concentration was still so strong I simply sat there for another few moments, then forced myself to move. It felt too wonderful to leave. Now, I know what they mean when they say that your breath is the most fascinating subject in the world to watch, if you do it right. I can assure you that it did not make sense prior to today!
Ayya Susila says that once one reaches this stage the body will fall into it and rest happily for hours without realizing how much time has passed. Bhante G makes a similar statement. I can say that it was certainly a blissful place that my mind was not ready to leave when the hour was up. More importantly, future sessions should reach this stage more quickly.
It's a slow, patient process, but I feel as if my progress on the path has really sped up over the last month or so, and I'm going to go with the flow, see where it takes me.
By the way -- that little book of Bhante G's is wonderful! I've been doing this for years, with live teachers and with lots of books, but he cut through the stuff and nonsense and taught me what it was all about. Highly recommended reading for those who have an interest.
A work in progress
4 months ago