Concentration, contemplation: response to “French Roast” (from Hardcore Zen)

Sunset west of El Cerrito, CA‘Beans, I agree with most of what you’ve written.

… first concentration, then contemplation. Concentration always imply a something, a point of focus, we make use of the discriminative mind in order to accomplish this …Contemplation is the spontaneous emergence of the undifferentiated mind.

This morning my sitting was touch and go for a bit, as is often the case. Shortly before the close of the forty minutes, there was a transition, something like what you speak of.

In the parlance of the Pali Canon, the first meditative state is characterized by “thought applied and sustained”, and “thought applied and sustained” ceases in the second meditative state. To what is thought applied and sustained?

Gautama taught “the setting up of mindfulness” in Satipatthana Sutta, but later (in my opinion, later) he taught that his “way of living”, his “way of living in the rainy season”, and “the Tathagatha’s way of living” consisted of “concentration on in-breathing and out-breathing” (outlined here).  Moreover, he claimed the sixteen aspects of “concentration on in-breathing and out-breathing” were his “way of living” prior to his enlightenment, and that the sixteen constituted one instance of the mindfulness of body, feelings, mind, and state of mind.

My principal delight these days is that I perceive the sixteen to key on an interchange between activity that sustains pressure in the fluid ball of the abdomen (in support of posture) and comprehension of the long or short of inhalation or exhalation. One instant I am relaxing the activity of the body that sustains the pressure, the next I am comprehending the long/short of inhalation/exhalation (and the interchange gets to feeling like about 120 cycles a second, sometimes).

In my estimation, you’re describing a feeling you have in connection with the fluid ball, here:

… a big steel rounded ball who is on fire at the lower end of my belly.

You said: “Contemplation is the spontaneous emergence of the undifferentiated mind”. I would offer that the “spontaneous emergence of the undifferentiated mind” is one-pointed, that it involves the experience of a singular location in space, a singular location informed not only by each of the senses but by what is beyond the boundary of each sense as well.

I apply and sustain thought with regard to the three motions right where I am (that is to say, I check in on pitch, roll, and yaw at the location where my awareness is taking place); I draw in the experience of proprioception and of gravity; I recall Cheng Man-Ching’s admonition to “use no force” in the overflow of chi to the tailbone and thence to the top of the head. That I believe is my necessity, to apply and sustain thought in such a manner, in my case in order to simply breathe (sometimes).

To unfurl the red flag of victory over your head, whirl the twin swords behind your ears—if not for a discriminating eye and a familiar hand, how could anyone be able to succeed?

(“The Blue Cliff Record”, trans. T. and J.C. Cleary, case 37 pg 274)

With regard to your statement:

What fuels the fire (at the lower end of my belly), what gives it intensity as strange as it may sound, is pain.

When things get painful with regard to the stretch around that boiler in the lower abdomen, I look for a sense of the fluid ball that is pressurized by activity throughout the body, and I move to comprehending the long or short of inhalation and exhalation. If I draw a blank, nothing doing, then I rest in the resile of ligaments and the cessation of habitual activity, and there I find the movement of breath.