I came across this quote the other day, by Sri Ramana Maharshi…
“The mind is by nature restless. Begin liberating it from its restlessness; give it peace; make it free from distractions; train it to look inward; make this a habit. This is done by ignoring the external world and removing the obstacles to peace of mind.”
And it set me on an interesting path as far as meditation is concerned. I set out to see if by ignoring the input from one’s senses one could meditate more easily. My first attempt led me to rigidity, freezing in place and concentrating so as not to allow the senses to disrupt things. On examining this more closely I found the tension to be detrimental to reaching a meditative space.
But I notice that with most of my attempts at real meditation I still do something with my attention. It’s on my eyes, in a slightly blurred way, or it’s on my sense of touch, looking at disturbances. I find it quite hard to just ignore everything that comes in, my attention zooms immediately to the nearest bright or hypnotic bauble that impinges on my consciousness.
I suspect the answer is something to do with repose, with just being. Has anyone else tried this?
Yes, but I can only keep it up for about 10 seconds.
Which is an improvement on my first attempts which were lucky to cover the bat of an eyelid...
From one zafu's view....
and perhaps is not new info so much as a reminder to what each choice, in each moment, potentially costs us.
Our mind maintains and propels the storyline of it's own fiefdom through a conditioned and selective editing of the continuous flow of info that we all receive through our sense gates in any moment.
Any rejecting, encouraging or ignoring of these data flows simply reinforces the very editing processes that support the storyline that the mind has made itself a master of.
Meditation is actually just a process of the deprograming our conditioned responses to all phenomena.
Here, the mind, when denuded of its story making apparatus, reverts from a failing position of empire builder, back to the more collegial position of job sharing with all the other sense gates, where it then functions more like a librarian than a kingmaker.
Thoughts themselves seem to be the greatest identity hurdle for most people to accept in formal meditation. Our interactions with them is where most folks judge themselves to be lacking in proficiency in this process.
An understanding of when a thought is natural and when it is deliberate, can be a helpful explanation to some of this process.
A natural thought is just a bare mental response to experiencing any of phenomena's birthing's, life & or their passing's away. Such natural thoughts are momentary, spontaneous and capable of flowing in any direction at any time.
A** deliberate** thought is where our mental response are actually a part of our story lines programed response to any of phenomena's arrivals, staying's or departures. It tries to link and relink itself for its own continuance, functions primarily as a programed reaction to phenomena and is limited strictly to the enhancement of the minds own story line.
Natural thought when noticed needs no help from us.
Deliberate thought though, when noticed, can simply be addressed by returning ones attention to anything that operates independently of our mentality. An attention on our normal breathing is one of the more common choices to use. Continue resting your attention on your normal breathing only for as long as it takes for natural thought to return. When natural thought returns and for as long as it continues unmolested, the attention on the breathing can be put to one side until its needed again.
This cyclical process, back and forth, is an untying of the great knot of our own conditioning, which is the meditation itself.
Thoughts in of themselves are no obstacle to meditation. Only when they have been imbued with an agenda (to bring about a specific effect) are they sources of sufferings cause rather than of a way towards sufferings' cessation. Such a meditation need not be limited to peace or by any conceptions of externals & internals.
It is natural for the mind to be pulled towards what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think or feel. It takes effort to practise sense restraint.
One way to do this is to use a mental anchor eg. the in-out breath. With practice, it gets easier until eventually, it becomes second nature.
Ordinarily I don't try to ignore sensory inputs but just let them flow as they will, not attaching to any. Sometimes when the mind is disturbed and under an unusual amount of stress, I do cut off sensory and mental input, very briefly, to get into a workable meditative state. Eyes closed, hands firmly against the temples, I exhale and cease breathing for a few seconds, cutting off even that fundamental bodily sensation. I find this very useful in calming a troubled mind. It's not so much ignoring inputs, but cutting them off entirely. Requires enough effort and focus (not to mention having to hold the breath) that it can be done only for a few seconds - but that is often enough to soften or remove a major obstacle.
I find it interesting that the Buddha points to ‘sense restraint’ and Ramana points to ‘ignoring the world’. They seem to be very similar approaches to weaning the mind away from its fascination with the senses and to find a greater measure of peace and an inward focus.
The restlessness of the mind is something I also still struggle with. I usually fill my days with little things to keep it busy, forums, a little writing, chatting on WhatsApp. It’s only in sleep that I find complete quiet, and that lasts me some time into the morning. Then the difficulty is to keep rest and not fall into lethargy.
I think its also good to keep in mind here that there are different types of meditations with different types of goals. Maharishi's seems to be more in line with samatha or jhanic meditation.
Interesting. You may ignore the world but the world will not ignore you.
When you feel that the world is not ignoring you, you are not ignoring the world!
There is no difference.
I don't disturb the world. It's the world that disturbs me!
The World does not ignore you. But when you ignore the World, your mind is not accepting the reality of the World. Even the act of Centering or eliminating thought or perceived desire is allowing the World to be and being in harmony with it but is not ignoring it. The World perceives you and adjusts for you but is not affected beyond your immediate interactions with it. Thus, if you ignore the World, you become as a pebble in a stream which passes over the pebble, rippling around it but not altered by it. The pebble is acknowledged by the stream but does not effect the stream. When you ignore the World, you are as a ship with furled sails upon the sea, tossed about by the winds and waves. When you acknowledge the World, you can be as a ship sailing across the vast ocean to reach the tranquil harbor.
Well then, is the world real? Should we accept it on face value? Often we hear that things are not what they seem to be.
If you are unable or unwilling to let go or ignore the "world", you will not escape from samsara. Of course, this isn't everyone's cup of tea.
Perhaps ignoring is too strong a word. How about seeing it as "empty"?
Like a dream, a bubble.
You cannot ignore or "unsee" the world because it seems real enough. The work is to see through the illusion and wake up.
I was actually thinking of how small things go wrong each day and I thought over the phrase "don't cry over spilled milk" which means don't cry over small things that have already happened I guess. Regarding ignoring the senses etc I think it's a technique practiced to reach "deep meditation" but when we come out of meditation we still have to do our daily lives.
Not just a technique but more than that, much more. It is a breaking through of the illusion.
We are each a part of the world - inseparable from it. Each of our lives permeates the world and the world permeates each of our lives. We may ignore the world's goings on in our immediate conciesness, shifting our awareness internally is the act perceptive ignoring. however, changing preception does not change reality. It is ok to explore within. it is in fact good. When we turn our conciesness back outward to take our lives into the world at large, we meld our internal awareness with our world awareness. that can be called unity of self and he enviromnment.
Got to return to my bit of the world.
Peace to all
“This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:
Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.
So is all conditioned existence to be seen.”
― The Buddha, The Diamond Sutra