Meditation Note: From Flow to FLIPS

My friend, colleague, and meditation teacher extraordinaire, Shinzen Young, after paraphrasing a long comment and question of mine that some in the back couldn’t hear, kidded me, in our group process session this morning, that I would be writing an article about my experience next week.  Since I feel I need a break from 10 days of meditation already, I figured I might as well make his kidding come true and write something.  Last time I wrote something serious during a break on one of his meditation retreats a beautiful and serious poem came flowing out of me (see The Buddysattva Promise on under Articles Online), so maybe this will be useful to someone.

I have had a lot of trouble with sleepiness when I try to meditate for more than a decade now.  That old hypnagogic imagery starts up behind my closed eyes, faint at first, but quickly gets stronger and more interesting.  My conscious mind, “I,” goes away as the imagery gets stronger, and eventually it’s no longer a case of a “me” observing that I’m having hypnagogic imagery, I’m gone, my head falls (the famous “Zen lurch”) and I snap back awake, but I’ve been asleep for a moment.  Not only is the imagery interesting and absorbing, but my body and all sensory input fades away as I slide into the hypnagogic state.  That body fading is especially nice if I’m tired or uncomfortable, my body just disappears.

When I complained about this to Shinzen some years ago, during a retreat in Santa Fe, one alternative he gave me was that if I was going to spend so much time in the hypnagogic state – the “bhavanga” is the Sanskrit term for it- than I could try to develop clarity within it and explore it, use it as a vehicle for meditation, rather than simply see it as an obstacle.  I definitely got better at doing that (add story about reprogramming head lurches), but it’s still really tricky.  It’s like climbing part way down a slippery slope to observe things.  A little ways down I don’t see much, the imagery is pretty dim and undeveloped and overwhelmed by sensory world info, but I still know who I am and what I’m doing, and can climb back to the surface easily.  As I let myself slide further down the seeing gets better, the imagery brighter and more extensive, but the slope gets steeper and slipperier, there’s little or no more input from my body or other external senses to help anchor me to the waking world, so it’s easy to lose my footing and slip all the way down into full sleep.

At the beginning of this retreat (Santa Barbara, 2008-9) I got curious about the hypnagogic state as “visual thinking,” just what was the style and rules?  During one of our long sits I found myself much better able than before to get pretty far down and still make relatively conscious observations in words to myself, things like “The new visual thinking theme starts where the last sensory stimulus/loud noise occurred in image space,” or “Barring outside sounds, new topics usually start in the lower left corner of image space and work upward.”

Encouraged, two days ago I decided to try anchoring myself to the waking world more firmly to see if that would help me keep a stable footing far down in the “hypnagogic valley,” instead of slipping off into sleep.  How?  I reasoned that if I could keep better, steadier sensory contact with body sensation, that would do it.

I’ve done a lot of meditation following body sensation, including the “flow” part, the way one body sensation will morph, usually over the course of a few seconds, into a different kind of sensation and/or shift its locale or intensity, for example.  So I thought I would start one of our long sits following the flow of body sensation, and then make an effort to keep some contact with that body sensation flow as the hypnagogic state came on.

Having decided this I was surprised when a new type, for me, of flow experience started, which I’m calling FLIPS.  Instead of a relatively gentle morphing of one sensation into another in an adjoining body area, it was like the gain was turned way up on my body sensation receptors, so I was aware of a huge, undifferentiated mass of all sorts of varied body sensations all over my body, and my attention started flipping rapidly from one to another.  It could be something like a striated sensation across the back of my right hand for a second, flipping to a pulsing ache in my right foot for a second, flipping to a tenseness in the left part of my stomach, flipping to a lump in my throat, etc., etc.

I was a little started and wondered if somehow I was “faking it.”  But these felt like genuine body sensations, as if I were observing body flow at my normal slow transition times, and except for a general background desire to keep my attention scanning, flipping, I was not consciously controlling the flipping of my attention in any discernible way.   It was like my initial intention sent two commands to myself, (1) turn up the gain all over so lots of or all body sensations are strong, and (2) ping them about once per second at random.

So I let the process continue, paying attention to this rapid flipping at first, following the “flow,” and quickly the hypnagogic state developed.  Then indeed I did go quite deep in terms of vividness of imagery, with a “ping” of a body sensation every second or two in the background anchoring my consciousness.  This went on almost continuously for about an hour or more, and there were only a few occasions when I lost the body sensation but still stayed in the hypnagogic, although I never slipped all the way down into sleep.
The experiment was successful, and I’ll try it again today….didn’t get very sleepy and didn’t get much experienced FLIPS, too much coffee I guess…

Note that in the long sit yesterday, I tried starting with a more usual, “slow flow” following of body sensation flow, and it was nowhere near as effective as FLIPS in letting me stabilize in the hypnagogic state.

My theory of the moment is that it gets harder and harder to keep some contact with the sensory surface as you climb or slide down the walls of the hypnagogic “valley,” it’s inherent nature is that it gets steeper as you go further down, but that by having a more intense and often repeated, every second or so, body signal, it could reach me and remind me of my conscious aims while I was further down.  The stronger signal of the FLIPS – intense, rapidly changing – could be seen “further down.”

Shinzen commented that he had used a similar technique fighting sleepiness in long Zen sits…..

As a final note, in a long sit after I had this initial success in penetrating deeper into the hypnagogic state my wife, who sits beside me, elbowed me occasionally during the sit, as I have apparently acquired a new “talent,” the ability to start snoring without my head dropping first…..   Progress?

I remember reading 30 years or so ago that researchers had found that Transcendental Meditators were showing sleep EEG patterns while meditating, and I remember feeling somewhat scornful, why learn to sleep sitting up when it’s so much more comfortable to sleep lying down?  Karmic payback for my scorn?      😉

Oh, FLIPS?  For those who like scientific sounding acronyms, FLIPS obviously stands for Fast Lateral Intermittent Punctuate Stimuli….     😉


  1. “the hypnagogic state – the “bhavanga” is the Sanskrit term for it”

    Do you have a reference for this? I did a quick web search and didn’t see that definition. I’d be very interested in what the ancients thought of the hypnogogic state. My experience is that some of the perceptions in that state are veridical psychic perceptions – spirit communications, remote viewing, precognition.

    I don’t usually try to continue to meditate if I feel very sleepy. In that case I go to sleep and then meditate after I wake up.

    However, I use relaxation exercises to induce the hypnogogic state and I’ve found that one way to remain awake while in the hypnogogic state is to keep my eyes open. I also find that when my head drops it raises my state of consciousness to a more wakeful state so it keeps me from falling asleep.
    But, if I was very sleepy, I don’t know if these methods would still work for me.

  2. @anonymous:
    >“the hypnagogic state – the “bhavanga” is the Sanskrit term for it”
    Do you have a reference for this?<
    You can google the term and find many discussions, with various levels of complexity and/or metaphysical cloudiness. The experience per se that I have had, and I guess that Shinzen, a very accomplished meditator has had, is that of rapidly changing, flowing visual imagery. For me it happens as I get sleepy, as my senses withdraw from the world, and if I get sucked into the imagery rather than maintaining an "observer" attitude toward it, it turns into a more coherent – plot, continuity – dreamlet and I fall asleep or wake up from it. Our Western term for this is hypnagogic imagery, literally imagery as you are going to sleep, and the implicit and often explicit theory that goes with it is that it is imaginary. It's usually, maybe always accompanied by a stage 1 EEG pattern but not by REMs (rapid eye movements), such as accompany full blown dreams later in the night.
    Here's where the metaphysics get more complex. We Westerners dismiss the imagery as imaginary, but I think the ancient Hindus saw it as an observation of a primary creative process that created the world. Phenomenology that's true for me: this flow of imagery has this natural pull that will turn it into a dreamlet, organize it, for my experience, whereas maintaining this "observer" attitude it's much more continuous flow, continuous change.
    I like to think I'm getting a look into a primordial creative process on the occasions when I see this, but who knows?
    I do think it's a partial look at the world simulation process that goes on all the time in the background of our minds/brains.

  3. When I’m falling asleep I usually see what looks like the sort of colors that I see around people when I’m awake. Do people normally see that sort of thing before they fall asleep? When I meditate I can usually see the colors even when my eyes are closed. They aren’t usually as noisy when I meditate as they typically are, or at least the noise is more relaxed and less rough feeling.

  4. Charles,

    first of, i’d like to thank you for what you do. i’ve been following your works for a long time since i encountered your book on altered states of consciousness.

    i’m glad to know that you’re also practicing Shinzen Young’s meditation strategies. i’m also a student of Shinzen and i find his approach to meditation to be the best (from a scientific and pragmatic perspective) that i have encountered so far.

    my favorite of the Five Ways is the focus on flow/change/impermanence. however, so far, i only seem to experience the feeling of continuous flow when i do lying down meditation. whenever i experience continuous flow (e.g. big waves/vibations or champagne bubbles), it’s almost always a signal that my perception will shift to a dream or lucid dream state (similar to what you have described with your hypnagogic experience). so what i did was i incorporated this to my practice. i even have a term for it. i call it VILD (Vipassana-Induced Lucid Dream). i described the algorithm on my blog.


    my experience with VILD sounds very similar to what you described as FLIPS. my goal in my practice is to be able to consistently carry lucid awareness into the dream state so i can continue the practice in the dream state! (e.g. continue with noting touch, sight, sound, etc.) i would love to hear your thoughts on my approach to lucid dreaming using Shinzen’s strategy 🙂

    thanks for sharing your experiences with your meditation practice.

    godspeed and keep on flowing.


  5. Hi Sandy,

    You wrote:

    “Do people normally see that sort of thing before they fall asleep?”

    It’s hard to answer that because I don’t really know what you see when you are going to sleep.

    I do see some type of colors when going to sleep and I think most people do. Sometimes I see the same thing with my eyes open but I don’t associate those colors with any objects. I would guess that it is not the same as what you see.

    If you draw a picture of what you see around people and what you see with your eyes closed, then post it somewhere on the internet, we would be able to better answer your question. (If you want technical advice on how to do that let me know.)

    Does meditating change what you see around people too?

    I wonder if learning to be aware, with their eyes open, of what patterns appear when the eyes are closed, would help someone to learn to see auras?

    There are various instructions on how to earn to see auras but I suspect they are really afterimages or other types of optical effects and not really what a psychic sees. That is one reason why I’ve asked you to draw what you see around people and e-mails, etc. – so I can understand if I ever see anything like it.

  6. When I see lights around people it isn’t always to the same intensity. When I’m having a “normal” day (when I’m not feeling very psychic), the lights are sort of a soft whitish hum around people and things. It is hard to tell a specific person’s lights from all the background lights when I’m like that, and I don’t get a lot of info from them. When I close my eyes I just see a kind of sea of dull white lights humming and moving along.

    When I’m at the other extreme I can see bright colors around people, and usually I get at least some information from the colors. A lot of that is just because I’ve grown used to associating certain colors with certain types of behavior and ways of interacting with the world. Some colors have a physical way of reacting to things, while others are more emotional, intellectual, spiritual, etc. And when I close my eyes I can see the colors almost better without all the other visual information. But I find that this level of intensity can be really uncomfortable in crowded situations. And the brighter the colors, the more noise they make and they have textures and feelings too. It can feel like “too much”, especially if you are with someone who is angry or unhappy. That can hurt.

    I find when I meditate that the colors get brighter and softer/smoother, almost more melodic. So that they don’t feel like “too much” even though I’m still getting information from them. Generally, I see colors best when I’m feeling quiet inside. So I guess that meditating helps me find that quiet. I also see colors well when I really need to, even if I’m upset. If I’m in a situation of stress or conflict, the colors often show up brightly. When I’m really curious about someone I can often get a lot of info from his or her colors. It almost seems like it is this strange reflex that I don’t have much control over, but it is there when I need it to be there. Alcohol has a really odd effect on colors; even just a single glass of wine is a problem for me. It makes everything very bright and noisy, almost electric and just way “too much”, like needles sticking me all over.

  7. “An Experiment With Time” by J. W. Dunne is a book about the author’s experiments with precognitive dreaming. He found that if he kept a log of his dreams he found that many were precognitive. Other people have done this (including me) and found the same thing. He has a simple technique to help remember dreams: when you wake up in the morning, the first thing you should do before anything else is ask yourself, “What was I thinking about and why?”.

    Precognitive dreams are relevant to the discussion of the hypnogogic state since that state is so similar to the dream state. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that if psychic perceptions can occur in dreams they would also occur in the hypnogogic state. In addition to precognition there are also numerous anecdotes of spirit communication occuring during dreams so one might also expect that to occur during the hypnogogic state too.

  8. This sounds so familiar! I’ll try FLIPS.
    About hypnagogery: I’ve been fascinated by these since I was a kid. Usually it’s not just imagery but sound as well, and I start noticing it after a couple of minutes of meditating or when I lie in bed with eyes closed. But I have the impression it’s there 24/7.

  9. Meanwhile I tried FLIPS during my daily half hour of meditation. It helped to keep observing the hypnagogery in stead of getting drawn too much into it. Nice!

    I have some conflicting thoughts about what I’m reading in “The end of materialism” and what I’ve heard Shinzen Young talk about on a recording of his (probably in “The Science of Enlightenment”). Shinzen talks about the Realms of power and that one should be aware not to get distracted by them.

    So when I see hypnagogery I find it difficult not to get too interested in their contents (for example: trying to figure out if I may be getting ESP info) and just ‘look through them towards the source’ as Shinzen puts it.

    To summarize: I get the impression that CTT finds one should pay attention towards (cultivating) ESP, while SY says you should focus on getting to the Source (first get enlightened, then develop PSI abilities).

  10. @David D:
    About hypnagogery: I’ve been fascinated by these since I was a kid. Usually it’s not just imagery but sound as well…
    That’s interesting. My first reaction was “Sound in the hypnagogic state? I’ve never heard a thing!”
    So maybe there are big individual differences in how people experience this state. I’ve always assumed it’s just visual imagery for everybody. That must be the way it generally is, since I’ve never heard sound mentioned before…..or maybe there are sounds in my hypnagogic imagery that I just so take for granted that I don’t consciously notice them. Have to be alert and see….

  11. To summarize: I get the impression that CTT finds one should pay attention towards (cultivating) ESP, while SY says you should focus on getting to the Source (first get enlightened, then develop PSI abilities).

    David, that’s a pretty interesting observation. I can see how a parapsychologist like Dr Tart would have a bit of a vested interest in cultivating ESP. I can also understand why a spiritual person like Young would think that ESP was just another distraction away from the ultimate goal of enlightenment. It might be like getting too attached to the good feelings one can get from meditation to the point where you don’t continue working on the process. The good feelings are a side effect, but the process of meditation is what is supposed to help you achieve the goals of understanding yourself better and maybe even enlightenment (whatever that might be, 🙂 ).

    I seem to recall that a number of traditions do suggest that becoming more enlightened or connected to the source will have the side effect of increasing one’s psychic abilities, but that always seems to be downplayed as a mere side effect and not the ultimate goal. I sometimes wonder if that is why NDErs are sometimes more psychic after they come back here. For me it was sort of like I did connect to something really important, but I have trouble making sense of it now that I’m back here in this life. It is almost as if I have to somehow learn to find my way back and connect the two places so that I can be OK. The anomalous things I experience could just be an odd side effect of that whole process.

  12. @David D:
    To summarize: I get the impression that CTT finds one should pay attention towards (cultivating) ESP, while SY says you should focus on getting to the Source (first get enlightened, then develop PSI abilities).
    What Shinzen Young and other teachers say is much more important than developing ESP. It’s the implications of ESP that there is a reality to our spiritual nature that’s really important, and that’s the thesis of The End of Materialism. Sure, there are occasional practical uses of ESP and it’s fascinating, and as a techno-nerd I’m fascinated by these too. But why spend thousands of hours to develop your telepathy when you can call anyone on the telephone?
    My life runs much more smoothly, and I’m kinder and nicer to other people as a result of some development of the fruits of meditation. To use Shinzen’s emphasis, developing clarity, concentration and equanimity around the flow of experience. To go deeper than that, note the Buddhist view that we have “original purity” rather than being born in (Western emphasis) “original sin.” So as you go deeper into yourself, you might have to deal with lots of crap on the way, but you’re getting closer to that original purity, suffering less, happier more, and inherently kinder to other people…
    Since so many people suffer because they think science has shown that spirituality is all crap – another major theme of The End of Materialism – it’s important to show, with my best techno-nerdiness and scientific rigor that there is a reality, like ESP, to it. But developing the spiritual side is much more important.

  13. I’ve also read that the traditional Buddhist teaching is that psychic development is a distraction from enlightenment. This is true if one’s goal is enlightenment.

    If one’s goal is psychic development, then pursuit of enlightenment is a distraction. If we waited for people to get enlightened before they became psychic, no one would be psychic.

    Yoga understands this. There are many types of yoga that are all paths towards the same thing. People are different, so it is appropriate that there are different paths.

    I also hear sounds as part of hypnogogic state. Sometimes it’s voices but not always. Sometimes when I meditate I listen to white noise which usually sounds like a hiss. For some reason yesterday it sounded like water noisily flowing over pebbles in a stream. Probably because someone e-mailed me a picture of a stream yesterday.

    “Sure, there are occasional practical uses of ESP and it’s fascinating, and as a techno-nerd I’m fascinated by these too. But why spend thousands of hours to develop your telepathy when you can call anyone on the telephone?”

    If you don’t know there are practical uses for ESP it can be amazing when you find out that there are. However once you look deeper, the limits of the usefulness of ESP become frustratingly apparent. (The ARV people are still working on winning the lottery.) My way of thinking is that psychic development is not really “practical” undertaking.

    One good reason for developing psychic abilities is to have a direct experience that we are more than just a physical body, that we are really spirits temporarily in a physical body. Accepting this belief can do as much for your character as the tranquility of meditation because you start to accept that you are responsible for the eternal consequences to your actions.

    Personally I think meditating for development of character is a great idea. I also think learning to experience our spiritual nature, (ie have psychic experiences) is a great idea too. They don’t have to be antagonistic.

    In reality, approximately no one will become awakened. However some people will be motivated to meditate because they think they’ll get enlightenment. Other people will meditate because they think they’ll get psychic. Either way they are going to benefit from their practice.

    Some people work on psychic development because they want to communicate with their spirit guides. My belief is the best way to improve communication with your spirit guides is to do Buddhist meditation. Calming you mind will make you much more open to their influence although you might not recognize their influence. I think this is part of the effect of meditation on the development of character – a calm mind helps one see the emptiness of egoism, but being calm also makes us more susceptible to spiritual influence.

  14. Thanks Charles, Sandy and Anonymous for your great replies! I’ll ponder them some more.

    Sandy, would you like to talk some more about your NDE?
    I can only try to imagine what that must be like. I had some ‘fake’ OBEs (mostly combined with ‘false awakenings’) while I was into lucid dreaming, but that was just really intense dreaming I guess.

    About sounds in my hypnagogery: they are often there, but much less present or noticeable than the imagery.

    However, I recall one occasion about a decade ago where I was still training to improve my lucid dreaming skills (as learned from a book by Stephen LaBerge) and for the first (and only) time I managed to go from waking to hypnagogery to actually dreaming without ‘losing consciousness’. On entering the actual dream, it was like my ears got short-circuited. It sounded like an electric hum that ended in a loud thunderlike explosion. I even felt a bit of pain in my ears. This was so intense that I almost got fooled into believing something ‘real’ had actually happened.

    1. Hi David,

      I’m not sure what you want to know about my NDE (I actually had two NDEs, but I was very young the first time around). I gave a fairly brief description of my adult experience to the e-magazine Paranormal Underground ( ). My NDE starts on page 54 of the January 2009 issue. There is a lot I didn’t mention in the article because I was really struggling with the experience about a year ago when I first wrote anything down. I had difficulty finding words, so I stuck to the easy parts. I would never have written it down at all except for the fact that I correspond with someone who teaches a university course that includes a section on NDEs. I first described it for him. The magazine account is an edited version of that correspondence.

      BTW, I don’t mind answering questions about my NDE. I can’t always find the language to describe it very well, but I would try my best.

  15. “My life runs much more smoothly, and I’m kinder and nicer to other people as a result of some development of the fruits of meditation.”

    Buddhist meditation is a great practice for spiritual development. It makes one fit for a higher sphere in the afterlife and it does this without a lot of dogmatic preaching. Meditators develop spiritually without even thinking about the afterlife. It even works for atheists.

    Interestingly this type of practice is missing from Spiritualism which devotes a lot of attention to mediumship and spiritual healing, but not to Buddhist style meditation. Many of the great religions preach love and kindness etc, but they don’t really tell you how to achieve those qualities – which makes them open to charges of hypocrisy. Buddhism does tell you how to achieve those qualities. Buddhism is like salt. Every religion is better with a little Buddhism sprinkled on.

    1. Hi David,

      I had an NDE as a little kid (I was two). I didn’t actually remember the experience until I was an adult, and I wasn’t sure if it was a real NDE at first. It was a much simpler experience, which I guess makes sense considering I was so little.

      I had opened a door to the basement to let out my pet dog who had been put downstairs because company was over. I guess I wasn’t supposed to be old enough to unlock doors yet, so no one noticed that there was an open door and a toddler playing on the stairs with a very big dog. I fell down the stairs and cracked open my head right above my nose (I still have a cute little scar).

      I remember this lady picking me up and comforting me. She made the pain go away and made me feel very loved. I remember there were pretty lights everywhere. Really happy lights. But I wanted my dad, and the next thing I remember was seeing dad.

      The lady who picked me up was my maternal grandmother who had died just before I was born. I saw her as one of my “imaginary friends” when I was a child.

  16. @Sandy:
    The lady who picked me up was my maternal grandmother who had died just before I was born. I saw her as one of my “imaginary friends” when I was a child.
    Well you’ve wanted to be “normal,” Sandy, so I’m going to pronounce you “normal!” In the specific sense that other normal people have had similar experiences, even though they are not talked about much. Nobody pays much attention to what young children say about their experiences, anything that doesn’t conveniently fit with adult views is easily dismissed as “imagination.” The defensive maneuvers of adults don’t define reality, however.
    And good for your “grandmother,” in whatever form he/she/it/? was in….

  17. Thanks, Dr Tart. 🙂

    I know having childhood imaginary friends is normal, but I saw mine until I was almost 20. My parents still joke about how as a 5-year-old I would tell them things that coincidentally would later come true. I never fit in with other kids my age and I think I even made some adults uncomfortable. I went through years of weekly assessments as a youngster, and no learning disability or major problem was ever diagnosed. I was just different. But it was all my dad could do to keep the school from insisting that I be put on some very scary drugs. Thankfully, our family doctor backed my dad up in his fight to protect me from that kind of help. By the age of 12, I knew enough to pretend to be normal, so I didn’t have to go in for weekly assessments anymore.

  18. @Dr. Charles T. Tart:

    “I’ve done a lot of meditation following body sensation, including the “flow” part, the way one body sensation will morph, usually over the course of a few seconds, into a different kind of sensation and/or shift its locale or intensity, for example.”

    This sounds like “Knowledge of Dissolution” which is explained in the wikipedia entry for vipassana:

    it says:

    The meditator gradually improves his perception of the three marks of existence until he reaches the step where sensations (Vedana) constantly disappear, which is called bhaṅgānupassanā ñāṇa (Sanskrit: bhaṅgānupaśyanājñāna), knowledge of dissolution.

    The yogi will then experience cessation of cravings (attachments) and aversions (fears), and eventually will reach the step of saṅkhārupekkhāñāṇa (Sanskrit: saṃskāropekṣājñāna): knowledge of equanimity of formations. This step leads to the attainment of bliss nibbāna.

    Have you found that it leads to cessation of attachments and aversions, and to equanimity?

  19. @anonymous:
    This sounds like “Knowledge of Dissolution” which is explained in the wikipedia entry for vipassana:
    Wow! That sure sounds a lot more high class than just noticing how body sensations keep changing! 😉
    That’s like when I told Shinzen Young about my attempts to follow what went on in the hypnagogic state for me – since I get so sleepy when I meditate, why not make that the object of meditation instead of just defining it as a “problem.” When he told me I was exploring the bhavanga, another wow, I was doing that? 😉
    Seriously, we can see a lot of humor in our attachment to fancy terms, but they can also have a positive role in helping us to reframe aspects of experience in ways that might be more useful. So, I’m gaining knowledge of dissolution…..Great. Shinzen wants me to go further and learn to observe the moment of disappearance of sensation, but I’m having a hard time with that one. I recommend Shinzen’s paper on the 5 ways on his website.
    Have you found that it leads to cessation of attachments and aversions, and to equanimity?
    Lessening, at times, yes. Cessation? Can’t imagine it. I live in a human body, and that body wants to keep warm, pain free, eat when it’s hungry, etc.
    There’s a traditional Tibetan prayer for dedicating the fruits of one’s practice, I think I reproduce it near the end of The End of Materialism. The traditional translation of it is about living with no attachment and no aversion. I can’t see that, and I much prefer an earlier translation by Sogyal Rinpoche of living without too much attachment and too much aversion. That I can aim for, that’s realistic. If my body wants me to stay in out of the cold rain, fine. If I see a child or animal that needs help out in the rain, I pray (and will work to make it come true) that I will live with less attachment and aversion: sorry, body, you’ll just have to be unhappy for a while, there’s work to do out there….
    Sogyal Rinpoche now uses the no attachment, no aversion translation. I don’t like that, but heck, he’s the advanced lama and I’m just a Westerner trying to make sense out of all this….

  20. “Seriously, we can see a lot of humor in our attachment to fancy terms, but they can also have a positive role in helping us to reframe aspects of experience in ways that might be more useful.”

    I wasn’t asking because I wanted to know what the term meant. I was asking because I wanted to know if it was realistically attainable. To me that wikipedia excerpt means that when one sees the impermanence of sensation, attachments and aversions loose their force. This is the first road map I’ve seen that is not trivial and maybe not impractical. But from what you are saying it’s not as practical as I hoped.

    1. Anonymous,

      Why does your path have to one already described by someone else? Whenever I see people “following” some kind of traditional teaching… I guess I worry. Not that I’m one to talk, because I have a fondness for what I read in technical journals, but it just seems like it isn’t really possible to repeat such experiences exactly (actually, that happens a lot in science too, lol).

  21. “Why does your path have to one already described by someone else?”

    It doesn’t and it isn’t. But I’ll to learn from others ancient and modern when it’s possible. One of the challenges is to sort the wheat from the chaff. I’ve written a bit about this on my web site ( Varieties of Mystical Experiences ) where I talk about my experiences with Zen, Spiritualism and the alien Healers who showed up (clairvoyantly) at our mediumship class. If you can tell me who else has described that path, I’d like to know about it.


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