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Check out Phra Aren's observations about his 9 day zoom retreat with me online.

I will paste it in here because can't really share from facebook:

Bhikkhu Panyasampanno

"Following the ‘Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation’ retreat that I finished a few days ago, I am still trying to process. I cannot find the words to explain the changes within. I cannot even formulate a final assessment for myself. The one thing I can say is that there is a distinct change, a knowing that has stimulated an even greater drive to study the words of the Buddha, to sit in meditation, and an even greater conviction that the enlightened mind is indeed attainable in this very life time. Sitting comfortably and focusing on nothing but Metta (loving kindness), mind reached very subtle states of stillness, of peace. It became very evident that every distraction that arose internally, was rooted in desire, like and dislike, craving, attachment - the desire for stimulation, the desire to move the body, the desire to control, the desire to attach, the desire to go further. In the beginning stages it was a constant process of recognizing the distraction, letting go of it, relaxing mind and body, returning to the object of meditation, in this case, metta, karunā, muditā and Upekkhā (the four Brahma Viharas). An instruction in the early stages and throughout the retreat was on the importance of sitting comfortably, relaxing and enjoying the meditation. Something not commonly heard in a meditation class, though it is something I have also stressed over the past few years, having witnessed the negative emotional and physical effects upon so many, from overly strict, “Boot Camp” style retreats. Approaching the practice with a sense of adventure, a light-heartedness, even fun, and treating one’s self with kindness, while at the same time maintaining ‘right effort’, resulted in sittings of three hours or more without exhaustion or physical aches and pains. At one stage, in preparing to sit, I looked at the clock and calculated that I could sit for three hours, as had been suggested by the teacher before that session. A sense of dread arose! The thought of sitting perfectly still, with absolutely no movement and trying to keep mind focused for that length of time was almost overwhelming. Recognizing my error, I determined to just sit! If it was for thirty minutes or many hours, it did not matter. My job was simply to sit and observe, not to control, and also not to meditate with desire, pushing, forcing the mind to focus, causing both mental and physical tension. I turned off the meditation timer and closed my eyes. The result was a relatively easy, speedy progress through the Brahma Viharas and the first four jhānas, resulting in a blissful, yet calm state of peace, well being and quiet mind. Body started to disappear, mind was expansive, aware, and yet strangely independent as it floated content, through the blackness of infinite space. I can only describe it as, how I would imagine an unborn baby feels floating in the womb with nothing to do, nowhere to go, and perfectly safe. The reality that consciousness (“I”, “Me”, the self) and the body are, in some way separate, was so very evident, as was the fact that “I” was not in control, not the feelings, not the thoughts, but just an observer. It also became glaringly obvious why the Buddha stressed the great importance of maintaining Sila (moral discipline/purity), if one is to be successful in Buddhist meditation and to attain the fruits of that practice. With mind in such a subtle state, every defilement rises its head. Every past unskilful action and any guilt, shame, anger, resentment, jealousy or un forgiveness one may feel that relates to such actions, can rise up and block progress, regardless of how many years have passed. Fears also can prevent fruition along the path. Following this experiential understanding of a teaching we all know as meditators, conviction and dedication has increased a thousand fold. Naturally, trained as a Vipassāna meditation monk and having tasted undeniably life-changing freedom from three years under the care and instruction of Luangpor Thong, Phra Ajahn Chai, Phra Ajahn Santi and Phra Ajahn Narvi, I see the many similarities between the Sayadaw style Vipassana and this sutta based method of jhāna meditation called TWIM. All of the experiences I went through in the past ten days, I also went through on consecutive intensive three month retreats over three years. In many ways, because of the one-pointed concentration developed from an average of 18 hours a day in intensive meditation, four hours of sleep and suppressing of any and all defilements, the mind states in Vipassana seemed far more intense, far more blissful and mind blowing. Some, though not all of the attainable stages taught by TWIM that I did not reach on this retreat, due to unresolved issues arising and needing to be forgiven, I have already experienced through Vipassana, in working through the 16 Ñānas and the following cessation, (though for a mere 10 minutes). The major, noticeable difference between the two methods, I would say is the ease with which the TWIM brought about the results. By comparison, through Vipassana, many hours of intensive, uninterrupted practice were required to reach stages which, using the Brahma Viharas, were attained with relative ease, a distinct lack of intensity and a relaxed, happy mind and body. I also observed that the defilements arising, when simply allowed to be there, while returning mind to the meditation, gradually lessened and ceased. Based on my experience with TWIM’s meditation in the Brahma Viharas, and the results, I will continue practicing this method for the foreseeable future. My desire to understand, both intellectually as well as experientially, the Buddhas teachings of mind, the workings of mind, dependent origination and to experience the steps to liberation is stronger than ever. Having now returned to meditation, after almost three years with no practice, I am greatly inspired. After all, it is the DUTY of a disciple of the Buddha, a monk, a renunciate, to meditate and set themselves free. For their own happiness, and for the happiness of the many. With TWIM I have every confidence that Nibbana is attainable.

Phra Aren Panyasampanno



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