Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Confusing message at a Dharma Talk

ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

I've been to 2 dharma talk meetups run by the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW).

The format of last nights session was an hour of mostly guided meditation followed by small group reflections on the meditation and a short "dharma talk."

After the initial meditation the teacher (she's a therapist by profession) invited everyone to share something that they found pleasant during the meditation. She then invited the group to join her outside and I gathered that they did some sensory focusing out there. I chose to stay inside and take advantage of the quiet for my own practice. When they came back in and reflected on their experience, the teacher said that she found the noise of the traffic to be unpleasant but that she was able to focus on the sound of a pleasant birdsong- and this allowed her to move the unpleasant sensation to the background. She then told the group that when they are experiencing stress, finding something, anything, pleasant to notice and observe can reduce their stress

So, I understand that this is a basic coping mechanism for anxiety, and anxiety hinders equanimity. Also, learning to combat automatic negative thoughts by balancing negative sensory input with positive seems like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which I know works for some people. However, using a pleasant stimulus to cover up an unpleasant one seems to me like perpetuating delusion and aversion. Here's what I believe jives more with what I've learned regarding sensory input:

Sensory input, pleasant or unpleasant - take note - identify - maybe observe why you do or don't like it - note its impermanence - let it go

It seems to me that if a person attempts to cover up bad feelings with good ones, they're perpetuating wrong view by seeing the world not as it truly is, and it borders on feeding an attachment to pleasure and an aversion to displeasure.

Can anyone provide their thoughts on this?

person

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited May 23

    I tend to agree with you.
    It's best to not be selective or try to judge a situation, but to settle into it, and just notice the stimuli, and accept that they are there.
    My thought would be to notice the traffic noise, and to reflect that this noise indicates the movement of beings going about their daily business... "May all beings be happy; may all beings be well; may all beings stay safe from harm." Then just go back to noticing and letting go...

    By trying to separate what we perceive as 'good' within sitting through the 'bad' just makes us more attached to what we would like to be, rather than what 'is'.

    Yup. With you on this one.
    (In your shoes, being quite extrovert and mouthy with it, I would have put forward this view to those present....but that's just how I roll....)

    ETA: (I'm doing quite a bit of 'ETA'-ing at the moment!) I would say she was handling the experience of Meditating in a Therapeutic way, and passing on valuable information for those affected easily by stress or anxiety. So I would say she was calling on her therapeutic knowledge to give people the tools needed to deal with specific Mind-sets. But generally speaking, with regard to Meditation, I don't think this would be a constructive exercise, if the emotions of stress and/or anxiety are not an issue....

    person
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @federica said:
    (In your shoes, being quite extrovert and mouthy with it, I would have put forward this view to those present....but that's just how I roll....)>

    I hear ya. I thought that I might bring this up at the session, but I'm trying to be very careful about right speech. It didn't seem like the right time since I hadn't had the opportunity yet to bounce this stuff off of other practitioners. Plus, my tendency to mouthiness and extroversion is usually fueled by a desire to look smart. I'm trying to stop myself from acting on that these days. It ain't easy... I've been the that way for 40 years.

    person
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited May 23

    Agreed @scottpen about your general conclusion and I’d add that by moving which part of the auditory input to listen to, they are being selective and so are thoughtfully working on their mind’s environment, which is not what I understand meditation is about.

    Attachment to pleasure and aversion from displeasure are very natural impulses in a human being and they take many forms. For example today I have been experiencing slight pains around my liver, it was unpleasant and I might have taken a paracetamol for it (if I’d had any). But in meditation such things are just another hindrance.

    It may be you have encountered a more general problem with secular Buddhist streams, that of the therapist-teacher. Often the goals of a therapist are not quite the same as the goals of a teacher.

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    Thanks @Kerome and @Tsultrim for your thoughts. I emailed the teacher about my confusion and she offered the following explanation:

    "Thanks for your question. It’s a good one and a common one on Right Mindfulness. Whenever there is a suggestion of noticing the pleasant there are those who wonder if this is somehow denying the unpleasant. The teaching I was offering is—“where do we place our attention after we notice, experience and let go of the unpleasant”? This likely would have been clearer to you if you had joined us outside for that portion of my teaching.

    It is very important to name the unpleasant as a first step as I did last night. There is no “covering up” of anything in what I was suggesting. It is not necessary to reject, deny, or push away any unpleasant experience to let it be (or as you say “let it go”) and then to move your attention—as you do in every meditation on the breath, moving from what the mind has wandered to back to the breath. In that process there is no need to deny that what the mind has wandered to is also happening. We simply notice it, let it be and come back to the breath. In this case it’s simply that in the mix of the unpleasant experiences of every day life there may also be pleasant elements that can be found, noticed and brought to the forefront, just as the breath is brought to the forefront in our focused attention practice, and for similar reasons—it can help bring equanimity to the mind as well as a clearer understanding of present moment experience.

    We did work with the full process of first working with then unpleasant at least once during the opening practice portion of the class. This was when I first asked participants to notice the unpleasant in the body. We noticed the unpleasant, named it, experienced it, and then let it be. We then came back to the whole body and moved attention to an aspect that was in relative ease or comfort (ie. The pleasant). Then we noticed, named and took in the pleasant, the nourishing. There was no need to reject any aspect of the previously noticed unpleasant experience to do this, nor was the pleasant experience in the body used to mask or cover up the unpleasant.

    I hope this helps to clarify that Right Mindfulness doesn’t involve any aspect of denial or covering up but it does take Right Effort. It takes effort to notice that pleasant elements are part of the mix, just as it takes effort to come back to the breath when our mind wanders away. As all of the limbs of the Eight Fold path are intersectional with each other, Right Mindfulness also both generates and is dependent on our Compassion. It is an act of self-compassion to let the unpleasant be and consciously notice the pleasant, especially in moments in which we are already suffering."

    So in the context of the part of the class that I didn't participate in, it makes more sense. But I dunno... I'm looking for Dharma, not just meditation instruction.

    lobsterperson
  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @ScottPen. Stay away from Bandaid Buddhism, little psychological ploys that barely cover a wound in mind that includes believing in a self, seeing the world as real and that you are separate from it. You need a dressing for the wound that lasts and heals it.

    Things like thinking good thoughts, no matter how couched in pseudo Buddhism they may be, will deviate you from the only approach that can heal your wound.

    To give you an example, most of the thoughts we think arise on their own, we don't make them. Anything can come up good or bad. By taking a stance on them, deciding they are bad, we are strengthening their hold on us by us paying undue attention to them.

    By then attempting to cover them with a good thought we are further defining them as bad and then focusing on another thought we decide is good. All the time we are increasing thoughts' power over us by giving it more attention, when the idea is not to get caught in them, just let them come and go.
    Why do we let them come and go? Because the longer we dwell on them the less time we have to look at the nature of mind, ( they are also mind, but that comes later) which is what Buddhism is about, looking at and finally discovering the true nature of Mind.

    personScottPenShoshin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited May 23

    Moderator Note:

    It's very difficult when living in a Western society as we do, @Tsultrim, to avoid what you dismissively call 'bandaid Buddhism'. Sometimes, it's all we can get, to begin with. Don't knock it; it has its uses, even if it is to encourage deeper understanding and further research.
    I mean, how would we distinguish between such teachings and those you consider preferable, without first being exposed to them?
    Simply because you have managed to rise far above such matters, have a little kindness and consideration for those who find comfort in the simple things.

    lobsterScottPen
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    So in the context of the part of the class that I didn't participate in, it makes more sense. But I dunno... I'm looking for Dharma, not just meditation instruction.

    Providing dharma would be so much easier if people listened rather than questioned. Better still if they were just allowed to find their preferred teachings ... wait a minute ... Dharma is a question ... :o

    You asked and ... what is confusing again? Ah yes pseudo-dhrama rather than the real deal dharma ... B)

    If you ever find The Real Buddha Dharma let us know. Some of us, especially me, need all the dharma and therapy going ... <3
    https://tricycle.org/magazine/buddhism-and-psychotherapy/

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    I'd just add that pleasure, joy, gladness, etc. isn't verboten in Buddhism. And sometimes, directing the mind towards something pleasant or inspiring can be beneficial to one's meditation, as suttas like SN 47.10 illustrate:

    The Blessed One was staying in Sāvatthī. Then Ven. Ānanda, early in the morning—having adjusted his lower robe and taking his bowl & outer robe—went to a certain nuns’ residence. On arrival, he sat down on a seat laid out. Then a large number of nuns went to Ven. Ānanda and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As they were sitting there, they said to him, “Here, Ven. Ānanda, a large number of nuns dwelling with their minds well-established in the four establishings of mindfulness are perceiving grand, successive distinctions.”

    “That’s the way it is, sisters. That’s the way it is. Any monk or nun who dwells with mind well-established in the four establishings of mindfulness may be expected to perceive grand, successive distinctions.”

    Then Ven. Ānanda, having gone for alms in Sāvatthī, after the meal, returning from his alms round, went to the Blessed One. On arrival, having bowed down to him, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he (reported his conversation with the nuns.)

    “That’s the way it is, Ānanda. That’s the way it is. Any monk or nun who dwells with mind well-established in the four establishings of mindfulness, he/she may be expected to perceive grand, successive distinctions.

    “There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. As he remains thus focused on the body in & of itself, a fever based on the body arises within his body, or there is sluggishness in his awareness, or his mind becomes scattered externally. He should then direct his mind to any inspiring theme. As his mind is directed to any inspiring theme, gladness is born within him. In one who is gladdened, rapture is born. In one whose heart is enraptured, the body grows calm. His body calm, he feels pleasure. Feeling pleasure, his mind grows concentrated. He reflects, ‘I have attained the aim to which my mind was directed. Let me withdraw (my mind from the inspiring theme).’ He withdraws & engages neither in directed thought nor in evaluation. He discerns that ‘I am not thinking or evaluating. I am inwardly mindful & at ease.’

    “And further, he remains focused on feelings… mind… mental qualities in & of themselves—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. As he remains thus focused on mental qualities in & of themselves, a fever based on mental qualities arises within his body, or there is sluggishness in his awareness, or his mind becomes scattered externally. He should then direct his mind to any inspiring theme. As his mind is directed to any inspiring theme, gladness is born within him. In one who is gladdened, rapture is born. In one whose heart is enraptured, the body grows calm. His body calm, he feels pleasure. Feeling pleasure, his mind grows concentrated. He reflects, ‘I have attained the aim to which my mind was directed. Let me withdraw.’ He withdraws & engages neither in directed thought nor in evaluation. He discerns that ‘I am not thinking or evaluating. I am inwardly mindful & at ease.’

    This, Ānanda, is development based on directing. And what is development based on not directing? A monk, when not directing his mind to external things, discerns that ‘My mind is not directed to external things. It is unconstricted [asaṅkhitta] front & back—released & undirected. And then, I remain focused on the body in & of itself. I am ardent, alert, mindful, & at ease.’

    “When not directing his mind to external things, he discerns, ‘My mind is not directed to external things. It is unconstricted front & back—released & undirected. And then, I remain focused on feelings… mind… mental qualities in & of themselves. I am ardent, alert, mindful, & at ease.’

    “This, Ānanda, is development based on not directing.

    “Now, Ānanda, I have taught you development based on directing and development based on not directing. What a teacher should do out of compassion for his disciples, seeking their welfare, that have I done for you. Over there are (places to sit at) the roots of trees; over there, empty dwellings. Practice jhāna, Ānanda. Don’t be heedless. Don’t later fall into remorse. That is our message to you all.”

    That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. Ānanda delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

    lobsterScottPenperson
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Can anyone provide their thoughts on this?

    One's thoughts can often get in the way of the truth...
    Look upon them as visitors of the mind and don't allow the mind to become charmed by them.
    In other words....

    ...Easier said than done ...but with practice it's doable :)

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @Jason said:
    I'd just add that pleasure, joy, gladness, etc. isn't verboten in Buddhism. And sometimes, directing the mind towards something pleasant or inspiring can be beneficial to one's meditation, as suttas like SN 47.10 illustrate:

    At a certain point, Mind is all the pleasure, joy, gladness etc. we need. Directing it elsewhere is to lose the pleasure, joy, gladness etc it provides.
    Looking for pleasure, joy, gladness etc outside of Mind is like, "Riding a Water Buffalo in search of a Water Buffalo"' as the old Zen saying goes. Why search elsewhere for what we already have?

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    So the above is not about covering up bad feelings, it's about not feeding them so they grow in strength. The Buddha called it "appropriate attention" and "inappropriate attention"

    Focus, discipline and appropriate attentive awareness. Sounds good to me. <3

    As mentioned, discernment and attending choice mind streams is initially important before one becomes drowned in the mire of self deception, unskilful behavour, crazed dharma, Lamé lamaism, Hinayana uber Alles and unsuitable suitors ...

    tsk, tsk ... this dharma mind-field sure is a mine-feeled ... O.o

    Think of our whole being as knot-dharma, when untied from the Tantra thread, The Zenith Kohan brothers and other Buddhist Matrixes ... We will eventually be free to enter the Not-Dharma, Unmanifest, Jesus Bodhi realms, Hell realms and who knows where ... and float above/through it all without being slightly touched or overly douched in the slightest ...

    Neti-neti no catchee fishee
    https://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/neti-neti

    Wot a plan! :p

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @Tsultrim said:

    @Jason said:
    I'd just add that pleasure, joy, gladness, etc. isn't verboten in Buddhism. And sometimes, directing the mind towards something pleasant or inspiring can be beneficial to one's meditation, as suttas like SN 47.10 illustrate:

    s

    At a certain point, Mind is all the pleasure, joy, gladness etc. we need. Directing it elsewhere is to lose the pleasure, joy, gladness etc it provides.
    Looking for pleasure, joy, gladness etc outside of Mind is like, "Riding a Water Buffalo in search of a Water Buffalo"' as the old Zen saying goes. Why search elsewhere for what we already have?

    Excerpt from the Song of Lodro Thaye (Rain of Wisdom Text)

    This is the sovereign of all reality.
    The nature of mahamudra is unity,
    The realm of dharmas free from accepting or rejecting.
    Possessing the beauty of unconditioned bliss,
    It is the great and vast wealth of wisdom.
    It is the natural form of kindness transcending thought.
    Through prajna, it does not dwell in samsara.
    Through karuna, it does not dwell in nirvana.
    Through effortlessness, Buddha activity is spontaneously
    accomplished.
    The luminosity of ground and path, mother and son,
    dissolve together.
    The ground and fruition embrace one another.
    Buddha is discovered in one's mind.
    The wish-fulfilling treasure overflows within.
    E ma! How wonderful and marvelous!

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @seeker242 and @Jason, I appreciate the Sutta references so much. I'm going to spend some time on Access to Insight this weekend.
    @Tsultrim, as always I appreciate your perspective and insight. In an effort to understand the poem I googled "mahamudra." If nothing else, I learned that I have a lot to learn, which is a valuable lesson. I'm going to take a look at the Rain of Wisdom book.
    @lobster, your lighthearted posts always make me smile, but I gotta admit that I usually only understand a small portion of it :)

    Jason
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited May 24

    @Tsultrim said:
    At a certain point, Mind is all the pleasure, joy, gladness etc. we need. Directing it elsewhere is to lose the pleasure, joy, gladness etc it provides.
    Looking for pleasure, joy, gladness etc outside of Mind is like, "Riding a Water Buffalo in search of a Water Buffalo"' as the old Zen saying goes. Why search elsewhere for what we already have?

    That may be true. But until then, the mind in meditation in my experience is often full of sleepiness, wondering about what to make for dinner, reminding myself the rent it due, thoughts of how uncomfortable I am, boredom, being annoyed at certain sounds, etc. And I've found that it occasionally helps to direct it towards something pleasant or inspiring that can help to focus it and settle it down into the present moment, temporarily counteracting the five hindrances.

    lobster
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    I agree with you.
    Many Westerners seek out meditation as a way to relieve stress and/or become "happier". And this seems to be what the instructor you referenced is teaching.

    But this is not Buddhism.
    As a matter of fact, at our centre's first annual outdoor meditation retreat, we afterwards discussed focusing on sensory input, and our Lama told us that was not the proper way to meditate.
    Even in Mindfulness meditation (Theravadan approach to meditation) you are supposed to be focusing on what goes on inside of you rather than what is external.

    As for Cognitive Behavioral psychology, the place where I see parallels to Buddhism are in the ritual actions (especially pervasive in Vajrayana/Tibetan Buddhism). Setting new brain pathways, deliberately creating new cognitive responses. Don't see it so much in Zen or Theravadan Buddhism. (the focus of my psych degree was on learning/behavior).

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Explorer

    @ScottPen said:
    I've been to 2 dharma talk meetups run by the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW).

    The format of last nights session was an hour of mostly guided meditation followed by small group reflections on the meditation and a short "dharma talk."

    After the initial meditation the teacher (she's a therapist by profession) invited everyone to share something that they found pleasant during the meditation. She then invited the group to join her outside and I gathered that they did some sensory focusing out there. I chose to stay inside and take advantage of the quiet for my own practice. When they came back in and reflected on their experience, the teacher said that she found the noise of the traffic to be unpleasant but that she was able to focus on the sound of a pleasant birdsong- and this allowed her to move the unpleasant sensation to the background. She then told the group that when they are experiencing stress, finding something, anything, pleasant to notice and observe can reduce their stress

    So, I understand that this is a basic coping mechanism for anxiety, and anxiety hinders equanimity. Also, learning to combat automatic negative thoughts by balancing negative sensory input with positive seems like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which I know works for some people. However, using a pleasant stimulus to cover up an unpleasant one seems to me like perpetuating delusion and aversion. Here's what I believe jives more with what I've learned regarding sensory input:

    Sensory input, pleasant or unpleasant - take note - identify - maybe observe why you do or don't like it - note its impermanence - let it go

    It seems to me that if a person attempts to cover up bad feelings with good ones, they're perpetuating wrong view by seeing the world not as it truly is, and it borders on feeding an attachment to pleasure and an aversion to displeasure.

    Can anyone provide their thoughts on this?

    Consider, though, towards the final exhaustion of his body, the Buddha found his back pain unpleasant much like your teacher found the traffic noise unpleasant. Some say that towards the end of his life, the Buddha near-constantly abided in dhyāna heavens to avoid this extreme pain.

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Explorer
    edited May 24

    The story of the Buddha's back pain is one of my favourites.

    Why? Where else do we see the Buddha depicted as so human? So normal?

    I don't know if the eight dhyāna heavens exist, but it strikes me as an odd detail to include.

    If the compilers of various recensions of testaments to the Buddha's dispensation had truly desired that the Buddha seem the perfected man in the sense of: "not like you", distant, not someone you are ever going to be like - then I feel that they would have gotten rid of this story.

    A Buddha with back pain is an inconvenient truth.

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Explorer
    edited May 24

    I'm not sure what the policy for citations here is.

    My apologies for this metadiscussion.

    The above discourse is from the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited May 25

    @Vimalajāti said:
    I'm not sure what the policy for citations here is.

    My apologies for this metadiscussion.

    The above discourse is from the Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra.

    In the Pali Canon, this story can be found at DN 16. The Pali version isn't explicit about why the Buddha entered into these meditative states culminating in the attainment of the cessation of perception and feeling, but it's reasonable to assume it was because of the deadly sharp pains he was experiencing.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Setting new brain pathways, deliberately creating new cognitive responses.

    When 'our' mind [hollow laughter] belongs to:

    • karma
    • impediments and fantasy dharma
    • body armour

    ... what is a buddha gal to do?

    Everything she can would be a good plan ...

    Long the 3.5 Jewels. Buddha for Ever. Death to the fanatics ... wait some mistakes seem to have crept in ... :3

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @Jason said:

    @Tsultrim said:
    At a certain point, Mind is all the pleasure, joy, gladness etc. we need. Directing it elsewhere is to lose the pleasure, joy, gladness etc it provides.
    Looking for pleasure, joy, gladness etc outside of Mind is like, "Riding a Water Buffalo in search of a Water Buffalo"' as the old Zen saying goes. Why search elsewhere for what we already have?

    That may be true. But until then, the mind in meditation in my experience is often full of sleepiness, wondering about what to make for dinner, reminding myself the rent it due, thoughts of how uncomfortable I am, boredom, being annoyed at certain sounds, etc. And I've found that it occasionally helps to direct it towards something pleasant or inspiring that can help to focus it and settle it down into the present moment, temporarily counteracting the five hindrances.

    I hope you understand that the thoughts you are having , no matter what their content, can be helpful to your progress on the path. There is a Zen saying that we don't throw our manure away, but use it to fertilize the fields. Thoughts can be used similarly to fertilize Mind and grow enlightenment.

    At a basic level, simply acknowledging thoughts without reacting to them - by labeling them as pleasant or unpleasant and then redirecting mind to what you now label as pleasant or inspiring- over time, will be a more reliable and lasting way to settle mind. Our thoughts are not the problem , it's our attachment to them that causes our discomfort. Attaching to and labeling thoughts as this and that is attachment and counterproductive.

    As one progresses, it is very helpful to begin to observe thoughts for what they are rather than what they say. At some point we may discover that they are empty and then we have taken a big step, because emptiness along with awareness is the true nature of mind and reality. Observing thoughts, having seen them as empty, then becomes a way to experience realization (without an experiencer.)

    Of course i understand all too well, the torture that sitting meditation can be. I have done a lot of it. I can also understand why someone may seek relief using the approach you suggested. I don't recommend it, however, and the teachers i have had and read in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism never recommended it either. They have suggested relaxing more if there is a lot of thought content or bracing oneself up mentally if sleepy, but never leaving meditation to apply mind to pleasant and inspiring thoughts.

  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    I recall reading somewhere that the Buddha said to take what works and leave what doesn't....

    Of course, just being a simple follower of the Dharma I could be wrong.

    Jason
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @Tsultrim said:

    @Jason said:

    @Tsultrim said:
    At a certain point, Mind is all the pleasure, joy, gladness etc. we need. Directing it elsewhere is to lose the pleasure, joy, gladness etc it provides.
    Looking for pleasure, joy, gladness etc outside of Mind is like, "Riding a Water Buffalo in search of a Water Buffalo"' as the old Zen saying goes. Why search elsewhere for what we already have?

    That may be true. But until then, the mind in meditation in my experience is often full of sleepiness, wondering about what to make for dinner, reminding myself the rent it due, thoughts of how uncomfortable I am, boredom, being annoyed at certain sounds, etc. And I've found that it occasionally helps to direct it towards something pleasant or inspiring that can help to focus it and settle it down into the present moment, temporarily counteracting the five hindrances.

    I hope you understand that the thoughts you are having , no matter what their content, can be helpful to your progress on the path. There is a Zen saying that we don't throw our manure away, but use it to fertilize the fields. Thoughts can be used similarly to fertilize Mind and grow enlightenment.

    At a basic level, simply acknowledging thoughts without reacting to them - by labeling them as pleasant or unpleasant and then redirecting mind to what you now label as pleasant or inspiring- over time, will be a more reliable and lasting way to settle mind. Our thoughts are not the problem , it's our attachment to them that causes our discomfort. Attaching to and labeling thoughts as this and that is attachment and counterproductive.

    As one progresses, it is very helpful to begin to observe thoughts for what they are rather than what they say. At some point we may discover that they are empty and then we have taken a big step, because emptiness along with awareness is the true nature of mind and reality. Observing thoughts, having seen them as empty, then becomes a way to experience realization (without an experiencer.)

    Yes, I do understand that. But I also understand how they can be unhelpful when we're unable to simply note them without them influencing our stream of consciousness and causing anxiety, fear, frustration, lust, sleepiness, or some other obstructive state of mind, making meditative absorption nigh impossible, which is why the Buddha gives various methods of subduing the hindrances and disruptive/unskillful thoughts in order to allow our minds to settle into pleasurable states that, in turn, lead to jhana and then clear seeing. In AN 9.64, for example, the Buddha recommends the four frames of reference. In SN 47.10, he recommends directing the mind towards an inspiring object. And in MN 20, he gives advice on how to settle the mind when trying to develop a state of concentration by 1) directing it away from unskillful thoughts "imbued with desire, aversion or delusion" and towards another meditation object, 2) by reflecting on the drawbacks of the unskillful thoughts, 3) by ignoring the unskillful thoughts, 4) by relaxing the mind/thinking process, or, if all else fails, 5) by "beating down, constraining, and crushing his mind with his awareness."

    Of course i understand all too well, the torture that sitting meditation can be. I have done a lot of it. I can also understand why someone may seek relief using the approach you suggested. I don't recommend it, however, and the teachers i have had and read in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism never recommended it either. They have suggested relaxing more if there is a lot of thought content or bracing oneself up mentally if sleepy, but never leaving meditation to apply mind to pleasant and inspiring thoughts.

    Fair enough. But inclining the mind to inspiring themes, such as the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, devas, one's own generosity, etc., is a common technique found in the Pali Canon and Theravada as a whole, and I've found it helpful on occasion. There are many different tools in the Buddha's toolbox that one can play around with and utilize when they're having difficulties in their meditation.

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @Kundo I'm sure you have lived long enough and being in the Dharma have seen many things you once thought worked that later didn't, especially if they were ego oriented.

  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @Tsultrim said:
    @Kundo I'm sure you have lived long enough and being in the Dharma have seen many things you once thought worked that later didn't, especially if they were ego oriented.

    Yes, but without the experience of learning, I wouldn't have realised it. We all have to take the journey on the path ourselves.

    David
  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @>; @Jason said:

    @Tsultrim said:

    @Jason said:

    @Tsultrim said:
    At a certain point, Mind is all the pleasure, joy, gladness etc. we need. Directing it elsewhere is to lose the pleasure, joy, gladness etc it provides.
    Looking for pleasure, joy, gladness etc outside of Mind is like, "Riding a Water Buffalo in search of a Water Buffalo"' as the old Zen saying goes. Why search elsewhere for what we already have?

    That may be true. But until then, the mind in meditation in my experience is often full of sleepiness, wondering about what to make for dinner, reminding myself the rent it due, thoughts of how uncomfortable I am, boredom, being annoyed at certain sounds, etc. And I've found that it occasionally helps to direct it towards something pleasant or inspiring that can help to focus it and settle it down into the present moment, temporarily counteracting the five hindrances.

    I hope you understand that the thoughts you are having , no matter what their content, can be helpful to your progress on the path. There is a Zen saying that we don't throw our manure away, but use it to fertilize the fields. Thoughts can be used similarly to fertilize Mind and grow enlightenment.

    At a basic level, simply acknowledging thoughts without reacting to them - by labeling them as pleasant or unpleasant and then redirecting mind to what you now label as pleasant or inspiring- over time, will be a more reliable and lasting way to settle mind. Our thoughts are not the problem , it's our attachment to them that causes our discomfort. Attaching to and labeling thoughts as this and that is attachment and counterproductive.

    As one progresses, it is very helpful to begin to observe thoughts for what they are rather than what they say. At some point we may discover that they are empty and then we have taken a big step, because emptiness along with awareness is the true nature of mind and reality. Observing thoughts, having seen them as empty, then becomes a way to experience realization (without an experiencer.)

    Yes, I do understand that. But I also understand how they can be unhelpful when we're unable to simply note them without them influencing our stream of consciousness and causing anxiety, fear, frustration, lust, sleepiness, or some other obstructive state of mind, making meditative absorption nigh impossible, which is why the Buddha gives various methods of subduing the hindrances and disruptive/unskillful thoughts in order to allow our minds to settle into pleasurable states that, in turn, lead to jhana and then clear seeing. In [AN 9.64]

    There is no such thing as unhelpful thoughts. I thought i made that clear in my last post. All the things you mention: fear, frustration, lust etc are the very energies you must learn to work with in meditation if you wish to progress along the path. That's why you meditate to be able to deal with what the world presents. You can't hide from the world's energies by plastering them over with pleasant thoughts. You have to learn to recognize and work with them.

    (https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an09/an09.064.than.html "AN 9.64"), for example, the Buddha recommends the four frames of reference. In SN 47.10, he recommends directing the mind towards an inspiring object. And in MN 20, he gives advice on how to settle the mind when trying to develop a state of concentration by 1) directing it away from unskillful thoughts "imbued with desire, aversion or delusion" and towards another meditation object, 2) by reflecting on the drawbacks of the unskillful thoughts, 3) by ignoring the unskillful thoughts, 4) by relaxing the mind/thinking process, or, if all else fails, 5) by "beating down, constraining, and crushing his mind with his awareness."

    Of course i understand all too well, the torture that sitting meditation can be. I have done a lot of it. I can also understand why someone may seek relief using the approach you suggested. I don't recommend it, however, and the teachers i have had and read in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism never recommended it either. They have suggested relaxing more if there is a lot of thought content or bracing oneself up mentally if sleepy, but never leaving meditation to apply mind to pleasant and inspiring thoughts.

    Fair enough. But inclining the mind to inspiring themes, such as the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, devas, one's own generosity, etc., is a common technique found in the Pali Canon and Theravada as a whole, and I've found it helpful on occasion. There are many different tools in the Buddha's toolbox that one can play around with and utilize when they're having difficulties in their meditation.

    Yes, and i'm a Vajrayanist and i'm taught to work with the world's energies, and i have been provided with a tool box as well from the Buddha up through enlightened teachers of my Vajrayana lineage to my teacher.
    I too incline my mind to inspiring themes during practice, but they are yidam practices where i supplicate my teacher and the Buddha and great teachers of the past and receive their blessings. I never do that and have never been told to do that when working with my mind in sham/vipas practice.

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @Kundo said:

    @Tsultrim said:
    @Kundo I'm sure you have lived long enough and being in the Dharma have seen many things you once thought worked that later didn't, especially if they were ego oriented.

    Yes, but without the experience of learning, I wouldn't have realised it. We all have to take the journey on the path ourselves.

    Yes, but someone had to teach us. Our chances of coming up with something like egolessness on our own would be nil. It took a Buddha to do that. There would be no journey without the teacher, teachings and practices. We take the journey on our own, but we are well provisioned if we do it right.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited May 25

    @Tsultrim
    Yes, and i'm a Vajrayanist and i'm taught to work with the world's energies, and i have been provided with a tool box as well from the Buddha up through enlightened teachers of my Vajrayana lineage to my teacher.
    I too incline my mind to inspiring themes during practice, but they are yidam practices where i supplicate my teacher and the Buddha and great teachers of the past and receive their blessings. I never do that and have never been told to do that when working with my mind in sham/vipas practice.

    Whatever works for you, @Tsultrim, is fine with me. I'm just offering different techniques for those who may find them helpful in their practice, especially @ScottPen, since they seem to be in line with what his teacher was saying (or trying to say).

  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    Yes but you're missing my point - deliberately or not.

    I CBA arguing so _ /\ _

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @Jason said:

    @Tsultrim
    Yes, and i'm a Vajrayanist and i'm taught to work with the world's energies, and i have been provided with a tool box as well from the Buddha up through enlightened teachers of my Vajrayana lineage to my teacher.
    I too incline my mind to inspiring themes during practice, but they are yidam practices where i supplicate my teacher and the Buddha and great teachers of the past and receive their blessings. I never do that and have never been told to do that when working with my mind in sham/vipas practice.

    Whatever works for you, @Tsultrim, is fine with me. I'm just offering different techniques for those who may find them helpful in their practice, especially @ScottPen, since they seem to be in line with what his teacher was saying (or trying to say).

    @Jason said:

    @Tsultrim
    Yes, and i'm a Vajrayanist and i'm taught to work with the world's energies, and i have been provided with a tool box as well from the Buddha up through enlightened teachers of my Vajrayana lineage to my teacher.
    I too incline my mind to inspiring themes during practice, but they are yidam practices where i supplicate my teacher and the Buddha and great teachers of the past and receive their blessings. I never do that and have never been told to do that when working with my mind in sham/vipas practice.

    Whatever works for you, @Tsultrim, is fine with me. I'm just offering different techniques for those who may find them helpful in their practice, especially @ScottPen, since they seem to be in line with what his teacher was saying (or trying to say).

    Yes @Jason, and summing up this discussion, i'm just saying that what his teacher and you are saying to @ScottPen and others imo and that of teachers i have had will retard their progress on the path for the reasons i have outlined and they shouldn't waste their time on them. Preventing that is important, and that's what works for me.

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited May 25

    @ScottPen said:
    I've been to 2 dharma talk meetups run by the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW).

    The format of last nights session was an hour of mostly guided meditation followed by small group reflections on the meditation and a short "dharma talk."

    After the initial meditation the teacher (she's a therapist by profession) invited everyone to share something that they found pleasant during the meditation. She then invited the group to join her outside and I gathered that they did some sensory focusing out there. I chose to stay inside and take advantage of the quiet for my own practice. When they came back in and reflected on their experience, the teacher said that she found the noise of the traffic to be unpleasant but that she was able to focus on the sound of a pleasant birdsong- and this allowed her to move the unpleasant sensation to the background. She then told the group that when they are experiencing stress, finding something, anything, pleasant to notice and observe can reduce their stress

    So, I understand that this is a basic coping mechanism for anxiety, and anxiety hinders equanimity. Also, learning to combat automatic negative thoughts by balancing negative sensory input with positive seems like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which I know works for some people. However, using a pleasant stimulus to cover up an unpleasant one seems to me like perpetuating delusion and aversion. Here's what I believe jives more with what I've learned regarding sensory input:

    This is a form of samatha practice. By focussing on a pleasant or neutral object, the mind calms down and is made ready for the next step which you describe below.

    For one who is at ease — his body calmed — the mind becomes concentrated. When the mind of one who is at ease — his body calmed — becomes concentrated, then concentration as a factor for awakening becomes aroused. He develops it, and for him it goes to the culmination of its development.

    Sensory input, pleasant or unpleasant - take note - identify - maybe observe why you do or don't like it - note its impermanence - let it go

    It seems to me that if a person attempts to cover up bad feelings with good ones, they're perpetuating wrong view by seeing the world not as it truly is, and it borders on feeding an attachment to pleasure and an aversion to displeasure.

    Can anyone provide their thoughts on this?

    Dependent on the eye & forms there arises consciousness at the eye. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there arises what is felt either as pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain. If, when touched by a feeling of pleasure, one does not relish it, welcome it, or remain fastened to it, then one's passion-obsession doesn't get obsessed. If, when touched by a feeling of pain, one does not sorrow, grieve, or lament, beat one's breast or become distraught, then one's resistance obsession doesn't get obsessed. If, when touched by a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, one discerns, as it actually is present, the origination, passing away, allure, drawback, & escape from that feeling, then one's ignorance-obsession doesn't get obsessed. That a person — through abandoning passion-obsession with regard to a feeling of pleasure, through abolishing resistance-obsession with regard to a feeling of pain, through uprooting ignorance-obsession with regard to a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, through abandoning ignorance and giving rise to clear knowing — would put an end to suffering & stress in the here & now: such a thing is possible.

    "Dependent on the ear & sounds....

    lobsterseeker242
  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @Kundo said:
    Yes but you're missing my point - deliberately or not.

    I CBA arguing so _ /\ _

    Please restate your point, and we'll discuss it if you like.

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    This is an excerpt @Jason from The Song of Lodro Thaye (Rain of Wisdom Text) apropos of our recent discussion about meditation. It explains how proper meditation should be done.
    Lodro Thaye was a great Tibetan scholar. He was responsible for the Rime movement in 19th century Tibet and he was also an enlightened being.

    There is no point in much talk,
    But the beginner needs various things.
    One should abandon either welcoming or sending off thoughts of past and future.
    The instantaneous mind of nowness is the unfabricated innate nature.
    In meditation there should be no trace of deliberateness
    One should not stray for an instant in confusion,
    Non wandering. non meditation, non fabrication are the point.
    With freshness, looseness and clarity,
    In the space of liberation, one is mindful, establishing proper watchfulness,
    Always keeping the mind balanced between tight and relaxed,
    One pacifies the accumulation of subtle, tangible, and gross thoughts.
    Rest in the state of natural unfabricated mind.

    lobster
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    Lots of ideas in here! So aside from my 24 hour meditation crisis which this forum helped me out of, I haven't yet had to contend with many painful thoughts while sitting. It's usually just a constant scatterbrain which I'm able to notice without letting anything take root. Sometimes I have to bring my attention back over and over, sometimes it's less so. I've actually forced myself, over the years, to experience stimuli which once bothered me in order to reduce its effect on me... However I think this may have spilled over into my ability to reckon with pain in general. I just don't notice that pain (emotional or physical) is effecting me until I'm being a real bastard to the people around me, seemingly for no reason. So my brain has a lot of stuff locked away that I haven't really felt in a while. I don't think I'll be doing any silent retreats yet.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @ScottPen - and this is a serious question - have you considered being referred to a psychotherapist, for some kind of professional support for the situation you find yourself in...?

  • KaydeekayKaydeekay Explorer
    edited May 28

    Honestly, actually - I think it really depends. People with complex PTSD or borderline, anxiety, or depression can experience very strong emotions and irritation can easily spill into rage, mild emotional pain can easily spill over into an intense feeling of heartache. For people struggling with mental illness, sometimes emotions are very heightened and can be very painful and overwhelming. While, we are buddhists, ultimately we follow the path to ease the suffering of ourselves and others. For some people, it can be very helpful to focus on the pleasant sensory experience to help soothe their emotional overwhelm, then they can refocus mindfully and practice acceptance with the unpleasant emotion or stimuli. I agree with your point that this is something practiced in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy for people who struggle with 'intense' emotions) - refocusing on an external or positive stimuli is very beneficial for people and CBT is a very, very effective treatment for many common mental and emotional issues - it's not 'the path' but it has a lot of value to offer people, I believe. It's efficiency in helping people ease and overcome mental distortions and think more rationally (hello more wisdom) and ease emotional pain is backed by many, many studies.

    So, I do agree that one should practice mindfulness but that if in order to get to mindfulness, one sometimes needs to apply a cool balm to soothe their present experience FIRST, then this may be right for that person. If you don't struggle with intense emotions, then maybe it is easier for you to focus without becoming overwhelmed and so you can just go straight to the mindfulness part...I don't believe there is a one-size fits all to the human condition (and human suffering), easing suffering and becoming actualised and becoming more effective, purposeful, and 'whole' human beings takes many forms. While I think this path is very much one of the most effective ones, I also don't think we should fall into the trap of thinking it will solve everything and close ourselves off from different paths, tools and techniques that can help our flourishing and ease distress.

    ShoshinScottPenperson
  • KaydeekayKaydeekay Explorer

    @Jason said:
    I'd just add that pleasure, joy, gladness, etc. isn't verboten in Buddhism. And sometimes, directing the mind towards something pleasant or inspiring can be beneficial to one's meditation, as suttas like SN 47.10 illustrate:

    The Blessed One was staying in Sāvatthī. Then Ven. Ānanda, early in the morning—having adjusted his lower robe and taking his bowl & outer robe—went to a certain nuns’ residence. On arrival, he sat down on a seat laid out. Then a large number of nuns went to Ven. Ānanda and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As they were sitting there, they said to him, “Here, Ven. Ānanda, a large number of nuns dwelling with their minds well-established in the four establishings of mindfulness are perceiving grand, successive distinctions.”

    “That’s the way it is, sisters. That’s the way it is. Any monk or nun who dwells with mind well-established in the four establishings of mindfulness may be expected to perceive grand, successive distinctions.”

    Then Ven. Ānanda, having gone for alms in Sāvatthī, after the meal, returning from his alms round, went to the Blessed One. On arrival, having bowed down to him, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he (reported his conversation with the nuns.)

    “That’s the way it is, Ānanda. That’s the way it is. Any monk or nun who dwells with mind well-established in the four establishings of mindfulness, he/she may be expected to perceive grand, successive distinctions.

    “There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. As he remains thus focused on the body in & of itself, a fever based on the body arises within his body, or there is sluggishness in his awareness, or his mind becomes scattered externally. He should then direct his mind to any inspiring theme. As his mind is directed to any inspiring theme, gladness is born within him. In one who is gladdened, rapture is born. In one whose heart is enraptured, the body grows calm. His body calm, he feels pleasure. Feeling pleasure, his mind grows concentrated. He reflects, ‘I have attained the aim to which my mind was directed. Let me withdraw (my mind from the inspiring theme).’ He withdraws & engages neither in directed thought nor in evaluation. He discerns that ‘I am not thinking or evaluating. I am inwardly mindful & at ease.’

    “And further, he remains focused on feelings… mind… mental qualities in & of themselves—ardent, alert, & mindful—subduing greed & distress with reference to the world. As he remains thus focused on mental qualities in & of themselves, a fever based on mental qualities arises within his body, or there is sluggishness in his awareness, or his mind becomes scattered externally. He should then direct his mind to any inspiring theme. As his mind is directed to any inspiring theme, gladness is born within him. In one who is gladdened, rapture is born. In one whose heart is enraptured, the body grows calm. His body calm, he feels pleasure. Feeling pleasure, his mind grows concentrated. He reflects, ‘I have attained the aim to which my mind was directed. Let me withdraw.’ He withdraws & engages neither in directed thought nor in evaluation. He discerns that ‘I am not thinking or evaluating. I am inwardly mindful & at ease.’

    This, Ānanda, is development based on directing. And what is development based on not directing? A monk, when not directing his mind to external things, discerns that ‘My mind is not directed to external things. It is unconstricted [asaṅkhitta] front & back—released & undirected. And then, I remain focused on the body in & of itself. I am ardent, alert, mindful, & at ease.’

    “When not directing his mind to external things, he discerns, ‘My mind is not directed to external things. It is unconstricted front & back—released & undirected. And then, I remain focused on feelings… mind… mental qualities in & of themselves. I am ardent, alert, mindful, & at ease.’

    “This, Ānanda, is development based on not directing.

    “Now, Ānanda, I have taught you development based on directing and development based on not directing. What a teacher should do out of compassion for his disciples, seeking their welfare, that have I done for you. Over there are (places to sit at) the roots of trees; over there, empty dwellings. Practice jhāna, Ānanda. Don’t be heedless. Don’t later fall into remorse. That is our message to you all.”

    That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. Ānanda delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

    Yes, in addition - rather than reacting to what you feel dharma and meditation practice SHOULD be - drop your preconceived notions and mindfully explore what does and does not work for you :) - even if at first, it does not seem to fit your idea of the path.

    ScottPen
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @Kaydeekay, Thanks for providing your perspective.

    Kaydeekay
Sign In or Register to comment.