Q. David, just a couple questions for the forum. Thanks: 1. How do you know if you are meditating too much? Too little? 2. Should the meditator be a teetotaller?
A. Not very easily is the answer to those extremes, simply because we are all different. There could be a case for too much sitting if it takes over your life, in the sense that you neglect other things that you know you should be doing in your daily routine and life in general. It could mean you may be treating meditation as an escape from your mundane reality. It can also happen that if you sit a lot, somehow the whole process of meditation seems to grind to a halt and becomes stale. I'm not saying that if times get difficult stop sitting, but rather, if you are getting sort of possessed by meditation and becoming too detached from your experiences of life, then this is something to look at. Too little meditation may be easier to spot. If you have an agreement with yourself to sit every day, then stick to that. That routine will soon let you know if it is too little. Sitting for just a few minutes may not be enough. If you build up to 30 to 50, even 60 minutes each sit,then this will be more than enough for a daily routine. The best way to avoid too much or too little meditation is to follow the guidance of a teacher and the tradition that, hopefully, you are following. I would suggest the answer to your second question is this: if you happen to like alcohol, then, as always, walk the middle way. Alcohol dulls the senses and confuses our reality, so this is hardly conducive to meditation and an ethical practice. But then again, if we enjoy a bit of relaxation with a drink, best not to take ourselves too seriously and deny ourselves this small pleasure.
Q . In putting my ' nose to the grind stone & working with what's in front of me', one of the largest areas of practice for me has been working with sexual desire. I've come to realise that if I could put even a little of the time & effort I invest in sexual fantasy & desire (every few minutes) into dharma practice I'd have a very consistent practice indeed. Once I get caught up in these lustful states I find it very difficult to maintain any kind of awareness & sometimes don't even want to. These are strong habitual tendencies that cause me a lot of confusion & distress. Any advice? Thanks.
A. Your experiences are very common to practitioners, especially men, I would suggest. I myself had similar experiences to work with for many, many years. First thing you need to do is try and accept that this is the way you are, and don't make a problem out of it by engaging in dialogue and beating yourself up with mental conflict. For whatever reason, you are like this, so try and accept and make friends with it. Not easy I know, but I know no other way forward. Speaking from my own experiences, I have always tried to incorporate my sexual drive, when it appeared during sitting, into my daily practice of containment, understanding and insightful meditation; and I would maintain awareness, investigate this almost uncontrollable drive, even during the physical act of fulfilling my sexual desires. This drive seems to be the most basic and unfathomable aspect of the human makeup. Most things that go to make us up we can usually get to the bottom of, or at least make good inroads into, but the urge for sex, from my experience, is a chasm that has no parameters. After years of trying to work out why I was like this, I finally learned to accept that maybe I was never going to truly understand, and so I let go of trying. When I finally gave up trying, maybe it was then that I found the best clue to the answer. There was the discovery that my sexual desire/drive was always at its strongest when I felt lonely and insecure, and much more in the grip of fear. We can work on fear, which manifests in countless mental and emotional forms, through the correct practice of the path. I discovered that in time and through the transforming process of practice, fear generally began to subside and die, and I noticed that my attachment to sexual desires also began slowly but surely to diminish. It seems to me that the desire for sex is the expression of fear, loneliness and insecurity, born of a sense of separation from life. With the gradual transformation of fear, our sex drive gets disempowered considerably. I am quite sure that whilst working on the totality of our greed, aversion and delusion, and well before transcending this totality to attain Buddhahood, our sex drive and its need for fulfilment will have profoundly diminished.And although this drive may not yet be completely dead, our enslavement to it and its possession of our minds and emotions will, I'm sure, have become but a fading memory.