THE NINE-MINUTE PER DAY TURBO PRACTICE
By Rosemary Donnell
Some of you asked me to put Joseph Goldstein's “turbo practice” that I mentioned in a recent talk into written form. I want to add a disclaimer: I was taking notes on a laptop so there may be some things that were “lost in translation” from Joseph’s discussion to my talk and this article.
First some back ground … On July 31st I reported to our sangha about the July annual reunion of the class of 2000 Spirit Rock Community Dharma Leader Program (CDLP). Nancy Hilyard and I were both members of this class. As usual the reunion was held at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS), and this year the featured teacher was going to be Bhikkhu Bodhi. Unfortunately his health did not permit him attending. Despite that, we had a wonderful reunion with sessions from several teachers.
Joseph Goldstein, though officially on Sabbatical, spent a morning with us. He started by asking us to share our current “edge of practice.” Later he shared that he was mainly working on the many ways “self” gets created. One thing I will pass on that he reminded us of: there are two stages of working with self. The first one is personality view or identity view; this is uprooted when you “get it” that this entity we think of as self is not a solid, unchanging thing. Much more difficult and one of the last things to go is conceit; another term for this is comparing mind. In the Buddha’s terminology conceit is the tendency to compare our self as “better than, less than or same as.”
While on this sabbatical, Joseph had been able to do a long individual retreat at his own quarters. He was enjoying it and began to think about a couple of his friends in New York who had two small children and essentially no time to practice. With them in mind, he came up with what he called a "turbo-charged practice." The practice Joseph developed takes only three minutes three times per day; its main focus is uprooting identity view.
(Before I cover this practice, I do want to add that even if you don’t have a long time period each day to do formal meditation, even 15 to 20 minutes each and every day can be a huge help to becoming calmer and kinder.)
Here are the three areas he suggests you place your focus on for only three minutes each.
1. Working on identification with awareness
During the first three minutes, you spend about 1.5 minutes just opening to sounds. That helps you relax. Then the last 1.5 minutes you spend asking the question, “Can I know what’s knowing the sound? Can I find what’s knowing the sound?” The answer on an intellectual level is that there is nothing to find, yet knowing is happening. The practice helps you move this to an experiential level. A Tibetan master said “the finding of no one knowing is the knowing.” Huiko [whey kay] said, “If there is no mind to find, it’s already pacified.” It’s about letting going of the identification with the knower.
2. Working on Identification with the body
The second three minutes are designed to help break identification with the body. It has two parts; it is probably best to do one part one day and one the next rather than both the same day. One part is reflection on death: your own death; extend that to the deaths of everyone you know. (Joseph said that if you have a lot of problems with anxiety, this probably wouldn’t help you that much.) The second part is walking meditation where you focus on feeling your body as only sensations in space.
3. Working on identification with thoughts
You just watch for the arising of thoughts; that’s all you do. When you notice a thought arising, bring your attention to what happens to the thought the moment you become aware of it.
So if you can’t do traditional meditation, this may work for you. You could try it just as an experiment.
If you are not meditating and you don’t even want to try this experiment then Joseph says your practice should be to pay careful attention as to how and why you have resistance to meditation.
Happy meditating and please let me know if you’ve tried this and what you think of it.