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Michael Irwin - How I Latihan

RECOVERY OF LIFE WITHIN. From Michael Irwin, September 30, 2007. Time 21:40

UPDATE: Since writing this article, my latihan hit a wall for the second time in my life. While I kept my ability to stay easily in a blank state, the latihan went dead. My wife suggested that I should observe my body during latihan. In the same way that I was also not paying attention to my thoughts, emotions and imagination I realised that I had also not been paying attention to my body. I followed her advice and was overjoyed at the recovery of life within the exercise. The lesson for me was that in both cases in which my latihan had gone dead, I had been consciously ignoring or rejecting something that was present. In the first case, I had pushed away mental confusion because I defined it as alien to the latihan and in the second I had dismissed the body's movements as not being worth watching. Permitting the confusion to be allowed in my latihan allowed the "Cloud" to manifest. Recognizing the body's presence has brought back a participatory joy. In neither case was the rest of my latihan invalidated.

From Mike Higgins, October 5, 2007. Time 22:27

Michael, Your latest comments prompted me to reread your article and apparently I misinterpreted it previously. I now think that my attitude in latihan is similar to the "void" state you described. It's a focused state of attention in which I observe my thoughts, feelings and actions. It's just that I never thought of it as something I did, i.e., manufactured the void state, but rather as something I allowed to occur. But of course allowing it to occur IS an act of will, just not the egoistic will that gets caught up in thinking and dreaming.

Re: your recent insight about observing your body. This correlates with my experience. Either accepting (immersing myself in) or rejecting experience draws me out of the "void" state of attention. Thank you - Mike

From Philip Quackenbush, November 14, 2007. Time 20:48

Hi, Mike,

In relation to the void (when it isn't yellow), I pulled this out of the bottom of my pack at the recent Menucha "kedjiwaan" gathering which seems apropos to your comment and seems to support your observation, though I haven't any idea when I wrote it down or from what source:

Many people are afraid to empty their minds lest they plunge into the void.

They don't know that their own Mind is the Void.

The ignorant eschew [deliberately avoid] phenomena, but not thought;

The wise eschew thought, but not phenomena.

--Huang Po (early Chinese ch'an [Zen] "master")

IMO, practicing the "latihan" provides one with access to that Void devoid of thought to a greater or lesser extent, but it's buried beneath who knows how much acculturation and societal pressure acquired over one's lifetime, so one CAN become "closed" as well as "opened" to it. However, being the original Source of All, IMO, it can't be totally denied or ignored by anyone.

Peace, Philip

From Michael Irwin, November 16, 2007. Time 0:1

Philip wrote: "Many people are afraid to empty their minds lest they plunge into the void."

I heard a woman on CBC (Canadian Public Broadcasters) Radio saying something very similar about the use of meditation in helping people discover themselves. There is no question in my mind that our world of distractions keeps us from the void, but what is there there (from Gertrude Stein). For me it is not enough to just 'let go' in the latihan. That could simply end in day dreaming. Letting go of thoughts, however, is very difficult to sustain because the distracting world keeps ensnaring us. However, I believe that maintaining attention is the key combined with the purpose of finding and maintaining a blankness, a place where ignored thoughts are allowed at the edges and so eventually fade away. For me that place is occupied by a homunculus which observes whether attention is being paid. For all its emptiness, the void is occupied by my identity. I think that most people think that the void means annihilation rather than presence and that is what frightens them and what can astound them once they realize how comfortable it is.

But then the question is “Now what?” There is no doubt for me that the void is a state sustained by the will. What is willed is the empty state. You mention ‘phenomena’. I take that to mean the things that can happen in that empty state, yet not be rejected as thought or imagination. This surrendered state is a tough call and can be anything including scary. That surrender is where I get stuck in a fear like falling over an edge. Yet sustaining a void is not enough in the latihan (It may be in mediation, I don’t know.). I find it very difficult to admit phenomena in the void state and often just restart my latihan to once again practice surrender from the beginning. Over and over again. Sometimes it works and I do seem briefly to experience ‘phenomena’ in the void. It is fleeting, however, because that darned attention, needed to keep thoughts at bay, also destroys phenomena which seem to need to be experienced, or dance, in the space sort of out of the corner of the eye. If I bother with them, surrender and the phenomena vanish. What I hope for is that someday I may be in the void and be so relaxed that the phenomena can be experienced and continue without the mediation of attention and without the intrusion of comment, i.e. thoughts.

Michael

From Mike Higgins, November 24, 2007. Time 4:24

Michael, Why do you feel you must keep thoughts at bay? What happens if you do not? Does attention to them draw you out of the "void" state of mind? Have you tried observing thoughts objectively? For example, when a thought occurs, simply label it as "thinking."

Phillip, You've introduced a new term, i.e., "phenomena" into our discussion. What is your understanding of the meaning of this term? It seems to me that in the broadest sense of the word, everything we experience is some sort of "phenomena."

From Philip Quackenbush, November 24, 2007. Time 11:30

Hi, Mike and Michael (stereo mikes?),

I think that I used a less appropriate definition from my Mac's Dashboard Widget dictionary for the word eschew; the better one would have been to abstain from.

The interesting thing for me is that, since returning from Menucha, my "void" or "empty" states in "quiet states" before "latihan" (two thus far) have repeated and (it's probably not appropriate to say they've gone "deeper" because a void is a void is a void (or The Void) as a Brooklynite might say, or to paraphrase Gertrude Stein again a gain again.

As a monist (all is "God", or there is only That Which Is; therefore, any separation is an illusion of That Which Is), I see the quote of Huang Po as saying that in order to experience non-separation or non-duality, it's necessary to abstain from thought. If so, then the question is, how? The "latihan" offers one way, though it seems a bit of a roundabout way to me, since it postulates a "purification", when all that is necessary, IMO, is to "live in the now," i.e., be totally involved in whatever is happening at any given moment, without referring to the past or speculating or worrying about the future. Eventually one notices gaps, or discontinuities between the happenings. The widening of the "gaps" gives one more and more of an awareness of the original emptiness, or void, in my experience. The emptiness or void I'm referring to, then, is devoid of any sense of phenomena, i.e., anything occurring at all, yet there is an awareness of that non-occurrence.

The "latihan" itself, then, is not, repeat not, an experience of the Void, because, as the old Scott Joplin tune title says, there's Something Doing, i.e., some phenomena being experienced. After the "emptiness" has ceased, we're back in the world of phenomena, with the difference that it can now be recognized that all phenomena originate in the Void (i.e., come from the Undivided Source), and there is some possibility, IMO, to choose what to do next. Even though BS said that the importance of having a "quiet period" after the "latihan" is to experience the difference in how one feels, IMO it's also to realize that each gap in awareness of phenomena is a new world, or a new life (therefore, there is no real continuity of consciousness, and the ego, or sense of "I" or "me" is the basic illusion creating suffering by attempting to maintain itself). These gaps occur on a subatomic, atomic, molecular, and cellular level much more frequently (the human consciousness generated in the frontal lobes [not basic awareness, which is inherent in all phenomena, IMO] is sometimes maddeningly slow to "get it," I've observed).

The practice of the "latihan" can help lead one into the "realization" of the Void by helping to clear away thoughts and emotions and physical discomforts that block such a peaceful experience, but for some it may be a hindrance in the more direct approach I've outlined above. It's taken over 40 years of bopping away to get to this point for me, but I don't regret it. At least there's been nobody hitting me on the back with a stick if I nod off during "latihan," like a Zen monastery would probably have some guy do during meditation (though there have been some painful emotional periods involved in "getting here.").

Peace, Philip

From Michael Irwin, November 27, 2007. Time 1:30

For Mike Higgins, November 24: “…thoughts at bay…” Because my understanding from Bapak is that the latihan will not happen if there are thoughts (which can include daydreaming, or visual imaginings), what I have come to understand by that is that if my attention is on mental activities, then the latihan cannot function. So keeping ‘at bay’ means either ignoring them or banishing them. I’ve tried both. I don’t think that thoughts on the periphery matter much except that by being there they are more likely to grab my attention than if there is a void without thought. So I tried to learn to maintain a void or blankness for as long as possible. However, the contradiction is that maintaining a void takes will-power which also kills the latihan. So I learned to get into sustaining the void by practice and then tried to let go to it, or let it go, while maintaining attention on whatever would happen (including body movements and corner of the eye perceptions – what I think Philip means by phenomena). As to objectively labelling thoughts as thinking, I do that but that is not enough because it does not insulate me against being captured by them.

My latihan changes quite often so my article is a kind of snap shot. Creating that snap shot meant that while I was writing the article I was examining and trying to remember how my latihans were. Unfortunately the result implies a kind of rigidity that isn’t there when my latihan flourishes. That effect is rather like the quantum problem in which the quantum particle can be in more than one state at once but as soon as it is observed, it presents only one state that cannot be predicted.

Once the latihan kicks in, usually from a void state that I can now easily invoke – though not always – it takes me where it will and I just observe. From that state, however, I find myself unconsciously drifting into daydreaming (thoughts, visualizations) in which it appears that my latihan sort of slowly withdraws until I remember why I am there and notice that my attention is not on my latihan any more. There is no doubt that once the flint strikes the fire, the conditions are not those that were at the willed beginning of the exercise. Thoughts, as long as they are being observed but not participated in become part of the dance of my latihan (Philips phenomena?) and so part of the receiving until they sneak in and take my attention away.

None of this writing describes how I know when my latihan is happening. I don’t know how to do that.

Michael

From Michael Irwin, November 27, 2007. Time 1:32

For Philip November 24:

“…be totally involved in whatever is happening at any given moment, without referring to the past or speculating or worrying about the future.”

I can relate well to your focus on ‘now’. I believe that is at the heart of the latihan and therefore testing (which I now understand should have been translated as ‘receiving’ – ‘terima’ as in ‘terima kasi’, ‘receive thanks’.) I have long maintained that helper work (because it is based in the latihan) is about 'now' and committee work is about 'the past and the future'.

“The "latihan" itself, then, is not, repeat not, an experience of the Void…”

I agree that the void is not the latihan.

“The widening of the "gaps" gives one more and more of an awareness of the original emptiness, or void, in my experience.”

The void is the ‘space’ between the ‘words’, a common concept but a good one.

Michael

From Philip Quackenbush, November 29, 2007. Time 7:51

For Mike Higgins:

I was just rereading the previous posts and realized I never really answered your question of what I mean by phenomena. It's what you said: every thing that we experience, i.e. comes into our awareness. Therefore, the experience of the Void is also a phenomenon contained within awareness, but the attention is not needed to experience it, since attention has a direction and the Void has none. As Huang Po points out, the mind is the Void, by which he means, IMO, the universal Mind, not the personal one, since Buddhism posits that there is no person experiencing anything, the ego being a temporary illusion (easily seen as such when it's realized that it changes from moment to moment depending on the thoughts and resultant emotions that constitute it).

As far as experiencing the "emptiness" or Void in "latihan" is concerned, then, it is the base of all experience and appears as it will, not by will power, but by won't power, so to speak (recent neuroscience findings show that we don't have will power but only won't power, BTW), since the phenomena that are usually in consciousness are a bit like scattered pieces of flotsam drifting on the stream, but the stream itself is always there, in the gaps between the flotsam as well as "soaking" the flotsam, but the Void (the stream) becomes noticeable when the flotsam doesn't cover it up. Most people's consciousness is so full of flotsam that they never see the stream that it's floating in. The purpose of meditation, or quiet periods, or "latihan", then, can be seen as removing the flotsam to see the stream, and in my experience, that happens when the body and the breathing, especially, slow down enough to allow a clearing to appear in the garbage floating in the polluted water (which is where the analogy breaks down, cuz stagnant water is generally more polluted than moving water, but you can't see to the bottom of a lake when it's moving). In Sumarah, I think it is, an offshoot or parallel practice to the "latihan" in Indonesia, it's recognized that the "real" "receiving" only happens when the body is at rest, and they divide the practitioners into the beginners (active) and advanced (passive). In India, too, when shaktipat is given to the student, the admonishment is usually given to ignore all phenomena as imagination. For another analogy, a mirror doesn't give a clear image if it's fogged over.

From Philip Quackenbush, November 29, 2007. Time 8:13

For Michael Irwin,

See my post to Mike Higgins for more on "gaps". Basically, I've found that the "gaps" occur when the physiological responses slow down sufficiently to allow one to become aware of them, and they lengthen with the slowing of the breath. So maybe a yogi buried for four days before retrieval has slowed his breath sufficiently to have huge gaps in his "ordinary" consciousness (or maybe he just goes to sleep while his brain stem maintains his basic functions at a hibernating rate). Not having learned that siddhi, I couldn't claim to know. But I'd say the Void is more likely to be noted (or experienced) during the gap between the out breath and the in breath rather than between thoughts, which tend to dissipate, or become less intense or even disappear, between breaths (you may have to pay attention to notice that effect; I seemed to notice it at first only when I did - now it just happens on its own as an ingrained response during deep relaxation. [another definition of the "latihan" being Dr. Benson's "Relaxation Response" with spontaneous movements]). In any case, when you breathe properly you breathe more slowly, and the more slowly one breathes naturally, the longer one is likely to live, if the physiologist's statistics are accurate.

Peace, Philip

From Mike Higgins, December 1, 2007. Time 18:33

Michael Irwin said: "what I have come to understand by that is that if my attention is on mental activities, then the latihan cannot function."

Yes, I agree that when done properly meditation/latihan is an active rather than a passive process. It requires will power [or "won't" power as Phillip said -{ :?) ]. This is why I objected to the analogy in the other article posted on this site that the latihan is simply a form of dissociation. IMHO, if you are dissociating, then you're doing something other than the latihan.

Re: Phillip's comments regarding breathing. I believe this is the purpose of yogic pranayama, to still one's breath and thus one's mind, and thereby eventually achieve "samadhi". At least according to Swami Rama it is. He was the yogi whom studies were done on at the Menninger Foundation. Under controlled conditions, he was able to stop his heart, alter his brain waves at will, create a temperature difference of a few degrees on two points a few centimeters apart on his hand, etc. For the rest of the story, read Doug Boyd's fascinating book entitled 'Swami'. Best - Mike

From Mike Higgins, December 1, 2007. Time 18:43

After reading my comments, it occurred to me that there are active and passive forms of disassociation. Michael and I are practicing an active form of disassociation in the latihan - disassociating from thoughts, emotions, etc. It is active because I am cognizant that the thoughts and feelings are arising, I'm just not indulging in them.

By the way, Philip, I apologize for adding an 'l' to your name -{ :?o)

From Philip Quackenbush, December 1, 2007. Time 21:54

Hi, Mike,

Re: some of your recent comments:

> IMHO, if you are dissociating, then you're doing something other than the latihan.

Well, not exactly. Like I said it is, IMO, a form of self-hypnosis. To hypnotize yourself, you have to give a suggestion to your "self". In the case of the "latihan", that's a suggestion to "surrender" to "God", or the subconscious, or whatever your concept of surrendering may be. The interesting thing about awareness is that, being (IMO) the fundamental Source of everything, it's able to be aware of being aware of being aware of whatever it's being aware of. So, there can be several "levels" of awareness operating at once, as, apparently, in the case of the "latihan". So, IMO, once the autonomic nervous system is allowed to "take over" and "do its thing," "you" (that "slice" of awareness that you conceive to be "you") can sit back and watch the show, which can be quite a "circus", or "Matrix" movie, "live" and in Technicolor®, and you can put the DVD on "pause" to get a snack from the fridge or take a pee whenever the fit hits you to do so.

> Re: Phillip's comments regarding breathing. I believe this is the purpose of yogic pranayama, to still one's breath and thus one's mind, and thereby eventually achieve "samadhi". At least according to Swami Rama it is. He was the yogi whom studies were done on at the Menninger Foundation. Under controlled conditions, he was able to stop his heart, alter his brain waves at will, create a temperature difference of a few degrees on two points a few centimeters apart on his hand, etc. For the rest of the story, read Doug Boyd's fascinating book entitled 'Swami'.

Sure, you can do all those things with your frontal cortex, but your brain stem and cerebellum are doing it already, so why put it to the "hard work" of doing what it's not really there for? In the "latihan", the autonomic nervous system gets done what has to be done to re-achieve a state of homeostasis without all that effort by the "will", or intent. That's why, if "you" "do" your "latihan" "right", you feel so much better afterwards (the degree of difference depending on how much stress needs to be relieved; a good gage of whether you're doing too much or too little "latihan." IMO, bung Subuh gave good advice in telling us to stay away from such practices, but when he "received" them himself apparently thought they were a "gift from God" and eventually fell prey to the illusion that he was someone special, which nobody is, with increasing megalomania manifesting in his later "explanations", if you look at the chronology. IMO it's OK to "do" them in "latihan", but not to get attached to them as being anything other than a passing phase in realising and operating from one's oneness with "God," which, as bung Subuh said in one of his explanations, has the danger attached to it of thinking that one can do anything, but that isn't the case, because we're all "God" (and so is this beast I'm typing these words on), and not every person wants the same thing, so, oddly enough, we have to cooperate to get what we individually want, usually (read The Wisdom of Crowds for a more comprehensive take on that).

> After reading my comments, it occurred to me that there are active and passive forms of disassociation. Michael and I are practicing an active form of disassociation in the latihan - disassociating from thoughts, emotions, etc. It is active because I am cognizant that the thoughts and feelings are arising, I'm just not indulging in them.

I'd say that I am, too, though I may have expressed it poorly before.

> By the way, Philip, I apologize for adding an 'l' to your name -{ :?o)

No problemo, though it was when I first got the name. I subsequently found out that most Indonesians are terrible spellers, even in their native language, and bung Subuh and the Sekretariat were apparently no exception. At least it's not as radical an error as the one when I was given a corrupted Quranic moniker (a big No-No in Islam, as I found out when I visited the lo-cal mosque), which countless Subud women have been given in its female form.

Peace, Philip

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