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Mindfulness In Plain English

By Ven. Henepola Gunaratana

About the Author


Venerable Henepola Gunaratana was ordained at the age of 12 as a Buddhist monk at a small temple in Malandeniya Village in Kurunegala District in ri !anka" His preceptor was Venerable Kiribatkumbure onuttara Mahathera" #t the age of 2$ he was gi%en higher ordination in Kandy in 1&'(" He recei%ed his education from Vidyalankara )ollege and Buddhist Missionary )ollege in )olombo" ubse*uently he tra%eled to +ndia for fi%e years of missionary work for the Mahabodhi ociety, ser%ing the Hari-ana ./ntouchable0 people in anchi, Delhi, and Bombay" !ater he spent ten years as a missionary in Malaysia, ser%ing as religious ad%isor to the asana #bhi%urdhiwardhana ociety, Buddhist Missionary ociety and the Buddhist 1outh 2ederation of Malaysia" He has been a teacher in Kishon Dial chool and 3emple 4oad Girls5 chool and 6rincipal of the Buddhist +nstitute of Kuala !umppur" #t the in%itation of the asana e%aka ociety, Venerable Gunaratana came to the /nited tates in 1&78 to ser%e as Hon" General ecretary of the Buddhist Vihara ociety of 9ashington, D")" +n 1&8$ he was appointed 6resident of the ociety" During his years at the Vihara, he has taught courses in Buddhism, conducted meditation retreats, and lectured widely throughout the /nited tates, )anada, :urope, #ustralia and ;ew <ealand" He has also pursued his scholarly interests by earning a B"#", and M"#", and a 6h"D" in 6hilosophy from the #merican /ni%ersity" He taught courses in Buddhism at the #merican /ni%ersity, Georgetown /ni%ersity and /ni%ersity of Maryland" His books and articles ha%e been published in Malaysia, +ndia, ri !anka and the /nited tates" ince 1&(= he has been buddhist chaplin at 3he #merican /ni%ersity counseling students interested in Buddhism and Buddhist meditation" He is now president of the Bha%ana ociety in 9est Virginia in the henandoah Valley, about 1$$ miles from 9ashington, D")" teaching meditation and conducting meditation retreats"

Preface
+n my e>perience + found that the most effecti%e way to e>press something in order to make others understand is to use the simplest language" #lso + learned from teaching that the more rigid the language the less effecti%e it is" 6eople to not respond to %ery stern and rigid language especially when we try to teach something which normally people don5t engage in during their daily life" Meditation appears to them as something that they cannot always do" #s more people turn to meditation, they need more simplified instructions so they can practice by themsel%es without a teacher around" 3his book is the result of re*uests made by many meditators who need a %ery simple book written in ordinary collo*uial language" +n preparing this book + ha%e been helped by many of my friends" + am deeply grateful to all of them" :specially + would like to e>press my deepest appreciation and sincere gratitude to ?ohn 6atticord, Daniel ?" @lmsted, Matthew 2lickstein, )arol 2lickstein, 6atrick Hamilton, Genny Hamilton, Bill Mayne, Bhikkhu Dang 6ham ?otika and Bhikkhu ona for their most %aluable suggestions, comments and criticisms of numerous points in preparing this book" #lso thanks to 4e%erend ister ama and )hris @5Keefe for their support in production efforts" H. Gunaratana Mahathera Bhavana Society Rt. 1 Box 218-3 High ie!" # 2$8%8 &ece'ber (" 1))%
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*ntro+uction
A'erican Bu++hi,'
3he sub-ect of this book is Vipassana meditation practice" 4epeat, practice" 3his is a meditation manual, a nutsAandAbolts, stepAbyAstep guide to +nsight meditation" +t is meant to be practical" +t is meant for use" 3here are already many comprehensi%e books on Buddhism as a philosophy, and on the theoretical aspects of Buddhist meditation" +f you are interested in that material we urge you to read those books" Many of them are e>cellent" 3his book is a 5How to"5 +t is written for those who actually want to meditate and especially for those who want to start now" 3here are %ery few *ualified teachers of the Buddhist style of meditation in the /nited tates of #merica" +t is our intention to gi%e you the basic data you need to get off to a flying start" @nly those who follow the instructions gi%en here can say whether we ha%e succeeded or failed" @nly those who actually meditate regularly and diligently can -udge our effort" ;o book can possibly co%er e%ery problem that a meditator may run into" 1ou will need to meet a *ualified teacher e%entually" +n the mean time, howe%er, these are the basic ground rulesB a full understanding of these pages will take you a %ery long way" 3here are many styles of meditation" :%ery ma-or religious tradition has some sort of procedure which they call meditation, and the word is often %ery loosely used" 6lease understand that this %olume deals e>clusi%ely with the Vipassana style of meditation as taught and practiced in outh and outheast #sian Buddhism" +t is often translated as +nsight meditation, since the purpose of this system is to gi%e the meditator insight into the nature of reality and accurate understanding of how e%erything works" Buddhism as a whole is *uite different from the theological religions with which 9esterners are most familiar" +t is a direct entrance to a spiritual or di%ine realm without addressing deities or other 5agents5" +ts fla%or is intensely clinical, much more akin to what we would call psychology than to what we would usually call religion" +t is an e%erAongoing in%estigation of reality, a microscopic e>amination of the %ery process of perception" +ts intention is to pick apart the screen of lies and delusions through which we normally %iew the world, and thus to re%eal the face of ultimate reality" Vipassana meditation is an ancient and elegant techni*ue for doing -ust that" 3hera%ada Buddhism presents us with an effecti%e system for e>ploring the deeper le%els of the mind, down to the %ery root of consciousness itself" +t also offers a considerable system of re%erence and rituals in which those techni*ues are contained" 3his beautiful tradition is the natural result of its 2,C$$Ayear de%elopment within the highly traditional cultures of outh and outheast #sia" +n this %olume, we will make e%ery effort to separate the ornamental and the fundamental and to present only the naked plain truth itself" 3hose readers who are of a ritual bent may in%estigate the 3hera%ada practice in other books, and will find there a %ast wealth of customs and ceremony, a rich tradition full of beauty and significance" 3hose of a more clinical bent may use -ust the techni*ues themsel%es, applying them within whiche%er philosophical and emotional conte>t they wish" 3he practice is the thing" 3he distinction between Vipassana meditation and other styles of meditation is crucial and needs to be fully understood" Buddhism addresses two ma-or types of meditation" 3hey are different mental skills, modes of functioning or *ualities of consciousness" +n 6ali, the original language of 3hera%ada literature, they are called 5Vipassana5 and 5 amatha5" 5Vipassana5 can be translated as 5insight5, a clear awareness of e>actly what is happening as it happens" 5 amatha5 can be translated as 5concentration5 or 5tran*uility5" +t is a state in which the mind is brought to rest, focused only on one item and not allowed to wander" 9hen this is done, a deep calm per%ades body and mind, a state of tran*uility which must be e>perienced to be understood" Most
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systems of meditation emphasiDe the amatha component" 3he meditator focuses his mind upon some items, such as prayer, a certain type of bo>, a chant, a candle flame, a religious image or whate%er, and e>cludes all other thoughts and perceptions from his consciousness" 3he result is a state of rapture which lasts until the meditator ends the session of sitting" +t is beautiful, delightful meaningful and alluring, but only temporary" Vipassana meditation address the other component, insight" 3he Vipassana meditator uses his concentration as a tool by which his awareness can chip away at the wall of illusion which cuts him off from the li%ing light of reality" +t is a gradual process of e%erA increasing awareness and into the inner workings of reality itself" +t takes years, but one day the meditator chisels through that wall and tumbles into the presence of light" 3he transformation is complete" +t5s called liberation, and it5s permanent" !iberation is the goal of all buddhist systems of practice" But the routes to attainment of the end are *uite di%erse" 3here are an enormous number of distinct sects within Buddhism" But they di%ide into two broad streams of thought AA Mahayana and 3hera%ada" Mahayana Buddhism pre%ails throughout :ast #sia, shaping the cultures of )hina, Korea, ?apan, ;epal, 3ibet and Vietnam" 3he most widely known of the Mahayana systems is <en, practiced mainly in ?apan, Korea, Vietnam and the /nited tates" 3he 3hera%ada system of practice pre%ails in outh and outheast #sia in the countries of ri !anka, 3hailand, Burma, !aos and )ambodia" 3his book deals with 3hera%ada practice" 3he traditional 3hera%ada literature describes the techni*ues of both amatha .concentration and tran*uility of mind0 and Vipassana .insight or clear awareness0" 3here are forty different sub-ects of meditation described in the 6ali literature" 3hey are recommended as ob-ects of concentration and as sub-ects of in%estigation leading to insight" But this is a basic manual, and we limit our discussion to the most fundamental of those recommended ob-ectsAAbreathing" 3his book is an introduction to the attainment of mindfulness through bare attention to, and clear comprehension of, the whole process of breathing" /sing the breath as his primary focus of attention, the meditator applies participatory obser%ation to the intirety of his own perceptual uni%erse" He learns to watch changes occurring in all physical e>periences, in feelings and in perceptions" He learns to study his own mental acti%ities and the fluctuations in the character of consciousness itself" #ll of these changes are occurring perpetually and are present in e%ery moment of our e>periences" Meditation is a li%ing acti%ity, an inherently e>periential acti%ity" +t cannot be taught as a purely scholastic sub-ect" 3he li%ing heart of the process must come from the teacher5s own personal e>perience" ;e%ertheless, there is a %ast fund of codified material on the sub-ect which is the product of some of the most intelligent and deeply illumined human beings e%er to walk the earth" 3his literature is worthy of attention" Most of the points gi%en in this book are drawn from the 3ipitaka, which is the threeAsection collected work in which the Buddah5s original teachings ha%e been preser%ed" 3he 3ipitaka is comprised of the Vinaya, the code of discipline for monks, nuns, and lay peopleB the uttas, public discourses attributed to the BuddhaB and the #bhidhamma, a set of deep psychoAphilosophical teachings" +n the first century after )hrist, an eminent Buddhist scholar named /patissa wrote the Vimuttimagga, .3he 6ath of 2reedom0 in which he summariDed the Buddha5s teachings on meditation" +n the fifth century #")" .after )hrist,0 another great Buddhist scholar named Buddhaghosa co%ered the same ground in a second scholastic thesisAAthe Visuddhimagga, .3he 6ath of 6urification0 which is the standard te>t on meditation e%en today" Modern meditation teachers rely on the 3ipitaka and upon their own personal e>periences" +t is our intention to present you with the clearest and most concise directions for Vipassana meditation a%ailable in the :nglish language" But this book offers you a foot in the door" +t5s up to you to take the first few steps on the road to the disco%ery of who you are and what it all means" +t is a -ourney worth taking" 9e wish you success"

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3able of )ontents
-ha.ter 1 )hapter 2 )hapter = )hapter ' )hapter C )hapter 7 )hapter ( )hapter 8 )hapter & )hapter 1$ )hapter 11 )hapter 12 )hapter 1= )hapter 1' )hapter 1C )hapter 17 Me+itation/ #hy Bother0 9hat Meditation +sn5t 9hat Meditation +s #ttitude 3he 6ractice 9hat 3o Do 9ith 1our Body 9hat 3o Do 9ith 1our Mind tructuring 1our Meditation et /p :>ercises Dealing 9ith 6roblems Dealing with Distractions 1 + Dealing with Distractions E ++ Mindfulness . ati0 Mindfulness Versus )oncentration Meditation +n :%eryday !ife 9hat5s +n +t 2or 1ou

-ha.ter 1

Me+itation/ #hy Bother0


Meditation is not easy" +t takes time and it takes energy" +t also takes grit, determination and discipline" +t re*uires a host of personal *ualities which we normally regard as unpleasant and which we like to a%oid whene%er possible" 9e can sum it all up in the #merican word 5gumption5" Meditation takes 5gumption5" +t is certainly a great deal easier -ust to kick back and watch tele%ision" o why botherF 9hy waste all that time and energy when you could be out en-oying yourselfF 9hy botherF imple" Because you are human" #nd -ust because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent unsatisfactoriness in life which simply will not go away" 1ou can suppress it from your awareness for a time" 1ou can distract yourself for hours on end, but it always comes backAAusually when you least e>pect it" #ll of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, you sit up, take stock, and realiDe your actual situation in life" 3here you are, and you suddenly realiDe that you are spending your whole life -ust barely getting by" 1ou keep up a good front" 1ou manage to make ends meed somehow and look @K from the outside" But those periods of desperation, those times when you feel e%erything ca%ing in on you, you keep those to yourself" 1ou are a mess" #nd you know it" But you hide it beautifully" Meanwhile, way down under all that you -ust know there has got be some other way to li%e, some better way to look at the world, some way to touch life more fully" 1ou click into it by chance now and then" 1ou get a good -ob" 1ou fall in lo%e" 1ou win the game" and for a while, things are different" !ife takes on a richness and clarity that makes all the bad times and humdrum fade away" 3he whole te>ture of your e>perience changes and you say to yourself, G@K, now +5%e made itB now + will be happyG" But then
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that fades, too, like smoke in the wind" 1ou are left with -ust a memory" 3hat and a %ague awareness that something is wrong" But there is really another whole realm of depth and sensiti%ity a%ailable in life, somehow, you are -ust not seeing it" 1ou wind up feeling cut off" 1ou feel insulated from the sweetness of e>perience by some sort of sensory cotton" 1ou are not really touching life" 1ou are not making it again" #nd then e%en that %ague awareness fades away, and you are back to the same old reality" 3he world looks like the usual foul place, which is boring at best" +t is an emotional roller coaster, and you spend a lot of your time down at the bottom of the ramp, yearning for the heights" o what is wrong with youF #re you a freakF ;o" 1ou are -ust human" #nd you suffer from the same malady that infects e%ery human being" +t is a monster in side all of us, and it has many armsH )hronic tension, lack of genuine compassion for others, including the people closest to you, feelings being blocked up, and emotional deadness" Many, many arms" ;one of us is entirely free from it" 9e may deny it" 9e try to suppress it" 9e build a whole culture around hiding from it, pretending it is not there, and distracting oursel%es from it with goals and pro-ects and status" But it ne%er goes away" +t is a constant undercurrent in e%ery thought and e%ery perceptionB a little wordless %oice at the back of the head saying, G;ot good enough yet" Got to ha%e more" Got to make it better" Got to be better"G +t is a monster, a monster that manifests e%erywhere in subtle forms" Go to a party" !isten to the laughter, that brittleAtongued %oice that says fun on the surface and fear underneath" 2eel the tension, feel the pressure" ;obody really rela>es" 3hey are faking it" Go to a ball game" 9atch the fan in the stand" 9atch the irrational fit of anger" 9atch the uncontrolled frustration bubbling forth from people that mas*uerades under the guise of enthusiasm, or team spirit" Booing, catAcalls and unbridled egotism in the name of team loyalty" Drunkenness, fights in the stands" 3hese are the people trying desperately to release tension from within" 3hese are not people who are at peace with themsel%es" 9atch the news on 3V" !isten to the lyrics in popular songs" 1ou find the same theme repeated o%er and o%er in %ariations" ?ealousy, suffering, discontent and stress" !ife seems to be a perpetual struggle, some enormous effort against staggering odds" #nd what is our solution to all this dissatisfactionF 9e get stuck in the 5 +f only5 syndrome" +f only + had more money, then + would be happy" +f only + can find somebody who really lo%es me, if only + can lose 2$ pounds, if only + had a color 3V, ?acuDDi, and curly hair, and on and on fore%er" o where does all this -unk come from and more important, what can we do about itF +t comes from the conditions of our own minds" +t is deep, subtle and per%asi%e set of mental habits, a Gordian knot which we ha%e built up bit by bit and we can unra%el -ust the same way, one piece at a time" 9e can tune up our awareness, dredge up each separate piece and bring it out into the light" 9e can make the unconscious conscious, slowly, one piece at a time" 3he essence of our e>perience is change" )hange is incessant" Moment by moment life flows by and it is ne%er the same" 6erpetual alteration is the essence of the perceptual uni%erse" # thought springs up in you head and half a second later, it is gone" +n comes another one, and that is gone too" # sound strikes your ears and then silence" @pen your eyes and the world pours in, blink and it is gone" 6eople come into your life and they lea%e again" 2riends go, relati%es die" 1our fortunes go up and they go down" ometimes you win and -ust as often you lose" +t is incessantH change, change, change" ;o two moments e%er the same" 3here is not a thing wrong with this" +t is the nature of the uni%erse" But human culture has taught u some odd responses to this endless flowing" 9e categoriDe e>periences" 9e try to stick each perception, e%ery mental change in this endless flow into one of three mental pigeon holes" +t is good, or it is bad, or it is neutral" 3hen, according to which bo> we stick it in, we percei%e with a set of fi>ed habitual mental responses" +f a particular perception has been labeled 5good5, then we try to freeDe time right there" 9e grab onto that particular thought, we fondle it, we hold it, we try to keep it from escaping" 9hen that does not work, we go allAout in an effort to repeat the e>perience which caused that thought" !et us call this mental habit 5grasping5"
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@%er on the other side of the mind lies the bo> labeled 5bad5" 9hen we percei%e something 5bad5, we try to push it away" 9e try to deny it, re-ect it, get rid of it any way we can" 9e fight against our own e>perience" 9e run from pieces of oursel%es" !et us call this mental habit 5re-ecting5" Between these two reactions lies the neutral bo>" Here we place the e>periences which are neither good nor bad" 3hey are tepid, neutral, uninteresting and boring" 9e pack e>perience away in the neutral bo> so that we can ignore it and thus return -our attention to where the action is, namely our endless round of desire and a%ersion" 3his category of e>perience gets robbed of its fair share of our attention" !et us call this mental habit 5ignoring5" 3he direct result of all this lunacy is a perpetual treadmill race to nowhere, endlessly pounding after pleasure, endlessly fleeing from pain, endlessly ignoring &$ percent of our e>perience" 3han wondering why life tastes so flat" +n the final analysis, it5s a system that does not work" ;o matter how hard you pursue pleasure and success, there are times when you fail" ;o matter how fast you flee, there are times when pain catches up with you" #nd in between those times, life is so boring you could scream" @ur minds are full of opinions and criticisms" 9e ha%e built walls all around oursel%es and we are trapped with the prison of our own lies and dislikes" 9e suffer" uffering is big word in Buddhist thought" +t is a key term and it should be thoroughly understood" 3he 6ali word is 5dukkha5, and it does not -ust mean the agony of the body" +t means the deep, subtle sense of unsatisfactoriness which is a part of e%ery mental treadmill" 3he essence of life is suffering, said the Buddha" #t first glance this seems e>ceedingly morbid and pessimistic" +t e%en seems untrue" #fter all, there are plenty of times when we are happy" #ren5t thereF ;o, there are not" +t -ust seems that way" 3ake any moment when you feel really fulfilled and e>amine it closely" Down under the -oy, you will find that subtle, allAper%asi%e undercurrent of tension, that no matter how great the moment is, it is going to end" ;o matter how much you -ust gained, you are either going to lose some of it or spend the rest of your days guarding what you ha%e got and scheming how to get more" #nd in the end, you are going to die" +n the end, you lose e%erything" +t is all transitory" ounds pretty bleak, doesn5t itF !uckily it5s notB not at all" +t only sounds bleak when you %iew it from the le%el of ordinary mental perspecti%e, the %ery le%el at which the treadmill mechanism operates" Down under that le%el lies another whole perspecti%e, a completely different way to look at the uni%erse" +t is a le%el of functioning where the mind does not try to freeDe time, where we do not grasp onto our e>perience as it flows by, where we do not try to block things out and ignore them" +t is a le%el of e>perience beyond good and bad, beyond pleasure and pain" +t is a lo%ely way to percei%e the world, and it is a learnable skill" +t is not easy, but is learnable" Happiness and peace" 3hose are really the prime issues in human e>istence" 3hat is what all of us are seeking" 3his often is a bit hard to see because we co%er up those basic goals with layers of surface ob-ecti%es" 9e want food, we want money, we want se>, possessions and respect" 9e e%en say to oursel%es that the idea of 5happiness5 is too abstractH G!ook, + am practical" ?ust gi%e me enough money and + will buy all the happiness + needG" /nfortunately, this is an attitude that does not work" :>amine each of these goals and you will find they are superficial" 1ou want food" 9hyF Because + am hungry" o you are hungry, so whatF 9ell if + eat, + won5t be hungry and then +5ll feel good" #h haI 2eel goodI ;ow there is a real item" 9hat we really seek is not the surface goals" 3hey are -ust means to an end" 9hat we are really after is the feeling of relief that comes when the dri%e is satisfied" 4elief, rela>ation and an end to the tension" 6eace, happiness, no more yearning" o what is this happinessF 2or most of us, the perfect happiness would mean getting e%erything we wanted, being in control of e%erything, playing )aesar, making the whole world dance a -ig according to our e%ery whim" @nce again, it does not work that way" 3ake a look at the people in history who ha%e actually held this ultimate power" 3hese were not happy people" Most assuredly they were not men at peace with themsel%es" 9hyF Because they were dri%en to control the world totally and absolutely and they could not" 3hey wanted to control all men and there remained men who refused to be controlled" 3hey could not control the stars" 3hey still got sick" 3hey still had to die"
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1ou can5t e%er get e%erything you want" +t is impossible" !uckily, there is another option" 1ou can learn to control your mind, to step outside of this endless cycle of desire and a%ersion" 1ou can learn to not want what you want, to recogniDe desires but not be controlled by them" 3his does not mean that you lie down on the road and in%ite e%erybody to walk all o%er you " +t means that you continue to li%e a %ery normalAlooking life, but li%e from a whole new %iewpoint" 1ou do the things that a person must do, but you are free from that obsessi%e, compulsi%e dri%enness of your own desires" 1ou want something, but you don5t need to chase after it" 1ou fear something, but you don5t need to stand there *uaking in your boots" 3his sort of mental culture is %ery difficult" +t takes years" But trying to control e%erything is impossible, and the difficult is preferable to the impossible" 9ait a minute, though" 6eace and happinessI +sn5t that what ci%iliDation is all aboutF 9e build skyscrapers and freeways" 9e ha%e paid %acations, 3V sets" 9e pro%ide free hospitals and sick lea%es, ocial ecurity and welfare benefits" #ll of that is aimed at pro%iding some measure of peace and happiness" 1et the rate of mental illness climbs steadily, and the crime rates rise faster" 3he streets are crawling with delin*uents and unstable indi%iduals" tick you arms outside the safety of your own door and somebody is %ery likely to steal your watchI omething is not working" # happy man does not feel dri%en to kill" 9e like to think that our society is e>ploiting e%ery area of human knowledge in order to achie%e peace and happiness" 9e are -ust beginning to realiDe that we ha%e o%erde%eloped the material aspect of e>istence at the e>pense of the deeper emotional and spiritual aspect, and we are paying the price for that error" +t is one thing to talk about degeneration of moral and spiritual fiber in #merica today, and another thing to do something about it" 3he place to start is within oursel%es" !ook carefully inside, truly and ob-ecti%ely, and each of us will see moments when G+ am the punkG and G+ am the craDyG" 9e will learn to see those moments, see them clearly, cleanly and without condemnation, and we will be on our way up and out of being so" 1ou can5t make radical changes in the pattern of your life until you begin to see yourself e>actly as you are now" #s soon as you do that, changes flow naturally" 1ou don5t ha%e to force or struggle or obey rules dictated to you by some authority" 1ou -ust change" +t is automatic" But arri%ing at the initial insight is *uite a task" 1ou5%e got to see who you are and how you are, without illusion, -udgement or resistance of any kind" 1ou5%e got to see your own place in society and your function as a social being" 1ou5%e got to see your duties and obligations to your fellow human beings, and abo%e all, your responsibility to yourself as an indi%idual li%ing with other indi%iduals" #nd you5%e got to see all of that clearly and as a unit, a single gestalt of interrelationship" +t sounds comple>, but it often occurs in a single instant" Mental culture through meditation is without ri%al in helping you achie%e this sort of understanding and serene happiness" 3he Dhammapada is an ancient Buddhist te>t which anticipated 2reud by thousands of years" +t saysH G9hat you are now is the result of what you were" 9hat you will be tomorrow will be the result of what you are now" 3he conse*uences of an e%il mind will follow you like the cart follows the o> that pulls it" 3he conse*uences of a purified mind will follow you like you own shadow" ;o one can do more for you than your own purified mindAA no parent, no relati%e, no friend, no one" # wellA disciplined mind brings happinessG" Meditation is intended to purify the mind" +t cleanses the thought process of what can be called psychic irritants, things like greed, hatred and -ealousy, things that keep you snarled up in emotional bondage" +t brings the mind to a state of tran*uility and awareness, a state of concentration and insight" +n our society, we are great belie%ers in education" 9e belie%e that knowledge makes a cultured person ci%iliDed" )i%iliDation, howe%er, polishes the person superficially" ub-ect our noble and sophisticated gentleman to stresses of war or economic collapse, and see what happens" +t is one thing to obey the law because you know the penalties and fear the conse*uences" +t is something else entirely to obey the law because you ha%e cleansed yourself from the greed that would make you steal and the hatred that would make you kill" 3hrow a stone into a stream" 3he running water would smooth the
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surface, but the inner part remains unchanged" 3ake that same stone and place it in the intense fires of a forge, and the whole stone changes inside and outside" +t all melts" )i%iliDation changes man on the outside" Meditation softens him within, through and through" Meditation is called the Great 3eacher" +t is the cleansing crucible fire that works slowly through understanding" 3he greater your understanding, the more fle>ible and tolerant you can be" 3he greater your understanding, the more compassionate you can be" 1ou become like a perfect parent or an ideal teacher" 1ou are ready to forgi%e and forget" 1ou feel lo%e towards others because you understand them" #nd you understand others because you ha%e understood yourself" 1ou ha%e looked deeply inside and seen self illusion and your own human failings" 1ou ha%e seen your own humanity and learned to forgi%e and to lo%e" 9hen you ha%e learned compassion for yourself, compassion for others is automatic" #n accomplished meditator has achie%ed a profound understanding of life, and he ine%itably relates to the world with a deep and uncritical lo%e" Meditation is a lot like culti%ating a new land" 3o make a field out of a forest, fist you ha%e to clear the trees and pull out the stumps" 3hen you till the soil and you fertiliDe it" 3hen you sow your seed and you har%est your crops" 3o culti%ate your mind, first you ha%e to clear out the %arious irritants that are in the way, pull them right out by the root so that they won5t grow back" 3hen you fertiliDe" 1ou pump energy and discipline in the mental soil" 3hen you sow the seed and you har%est your crops of faith, morality , mindfulness and wisdom" 2aith and morality, by the way, ha%e a special meaning in this conte>t" Buddhism does not ad%ocate faith in the sense of belie%ing something because it is written in a book or attributed to a prophet or taught to you by some authority figure" 3he meaning here is closer to confidence" +t is knowing that something is true because you ha%e seen it work, because you ha%e obser%ed that %ery thing within yourself" +n the same way, morality is not a ritualistic obedience to some e>terior, imposed code of beha%ior" 3he purpose of meditation is personal transformation" 3he you that goes in one side of the meditation e>perience is not the same you that comes out the other side" +t changes your character by a process of sensitiDation, by making you deeply aware of your own thoughts, word, and deeds" 1our arrogance e%aporated and your antagonism dries up" 1our mind becomes still and calm" #nd your life smoothes out" 3hus meditation properly performed prepares you to meet the ups and down of e>istence" +t reduces your tension, your fear, and your worry" 4estlessness recedes and passion moderates" 3hings begin to fall into place and your life becomes a glide instead of a struggle" #ll of this happens through understanding" Meditation sharpens your concentration and your thinking power" 3hen, piece by piece, your own subconscious moti%es and mechanics become clear to you" 1our intuition sharpens" 3he precision of your thought increases and gradually you come to a direct knowledge of things as they really are, without pre-udice and without illusion" o is this reason enough to botherF carcely" 3hese are -ust promises on paper" 3here is only one way you will e%er know if meditation is worth the effort" !earn to do it right, and do it" ee for yourself"

&

-ha.ter 2

#hat Me+itation *,n2t


Meditation is a word" 1ou ha%e heard this word before, or you would ne%er ha%e picked up this book" 3he thinking process operates by association, and all sorts of ideas are associated with the word 5meditation5" ome of them are probably accurate and others are hogwash" ome of them pertain more properly to other systems of meditation and ha%e nothing to do with Vipassana practice" Before we proceed, it behoo%es us to blast some of the residue out of our own neuronal circuits so that new information can pass unimpeded" !et us start with some of the most ob%ious stuff" 9e are not going to teach you to contemplate your na%el or to chant secret syllables" 1ou are not con*uering demons or harnessing in%isible energies" 3here are no colored belts gi%en for your performance and you don5t ha%e to sha%e your head or wear a turban" 1ou don5t e%en ha%e to gi%e away all your belongings and mo%e to a monastery" +n fact, unless your life is immoral and chaotic, you can probably get started right away and make some sort of progress" ounds fairly encouraging, wouldn5t you sayF 3here are many, many books on the sub-ect of meditation" Most of them are written from the point of %iew which lies s*uarely within one particular religious or philosophical tradition, and many of the authors ha%e not bothered to point this out" 3hey make statements about meditation which sound like general laws, but are actually highly specific procedures e>clusi%e to that particular system of practice" 3he result is something of a muddle" 9orse yet is the panoply of comple> theories and interpretations a%ailable, all of them at odds with one another" 3he result is a real mess and an enormous -umble of conflicting opinions accompanied by a mass of e>traneous data" 3his book is specific" 9e are dealing e>clusi%ely with the Vipassana system of meditation" 9e are going to teach you to watch the functioning of your own mind in a calm and detached manner so you can gain insight into your own beha%ior" 3he goal is awareness, an awareness so intense, concentrated and finely tuned that you will be able to pierce the inner workings of reality itself" 3here are a number of common misconceptions about meditation" 9e see them crop up again and again from new students, the same *uestions o%er and o%er" +t is best to deal with these things at once, because they are the sort of preconceptions which can block your progress right from the outset" 9e are going to take these misconceptions one at a time and e>plode them" Mi,conce.tion 31/ Me+itation i, 4u,t a re5axation techni6ue 3he bugaboo here is the word 5-ust5" 4ela>ation is a key component of meditation, but VipassanaAstyle meditation aims at a much loftier goal" ;e%ertheless, the statement is essentially true for many other systems of meditation" #ll meditation procedures stress concentration of the mind, bringing the mind to rest on one item or one area of thought" Do it strongly and thoroughly enough, and you achie%e a deep and blissful rela>ation which is called ?hana" +t is a state of such supreme tran*uility that it amounts to rapture" +t is a form of pleasure which lies abo%e and beyond anything that can be e>perienced in the normal state of consciousness" Most systems stop right there" 3hat is the goal, and when you attain that, you simply repeat the e>perience for the rest of your life" ;ot so with Vipassana meditation" Vipassana seeks another goalAAawareness" )oncentration and rela>ation are considered necessary concomitants to awareness" 3hey are re*uired precursors, handy tools, and beneficial byproducts" But they are not the goal" 3he goal is insight" Vipassana meditation is a profound religious practice aimed at nothing less that the purification and transformation of your e%eryday life" 9e will deal more thoroughly with the differences between concentration and insight in )hapter 1'"

1$

Mi,conce.tion 32/ Me+itation 'ean, going into a trance Here again the statement could be applied accurately to certain systems of meditation, but not to Vipassana" +nsight meditation is not a form of hypnosis" 1ou are not trying to black out your mind so as to become unconscious" 1ou are not trying to turn yourself into an emotionless %egetable" +f anything, the re%erse is true" 1ou will become more and more attuned to your own emotional changes" 1ou will learn to know yourself with e%erA greater clarity and precision" +n learning this techni*ue, certain states do occur which may appear tranceAlike to the obser%er" But they are really *uite the opposite" +n hypnotic trance, the sub-ect is susceptible to control by another party, whereas in deep concentration the meditator remains %ery much under his own control" 3he similarity is superficial, and in any case the occurrence of these phenomena is not the point of Vipassana" #s we ha%e said, the deep concentration of ?hana is a tool or stepping stone on the route of heightened awareness" Vipassana by definition is the culti%ation of mindfulness or awareness" +f you find that you are becoming unconscious in meditation, then you aren5t meditating, according to the definition of the word as used in the Vipassana system" +t is that simple" Mi,conce.tion 33/ Me+itation i, a 'y,teriou, .ractice !hich cannot be un+er,too+ Here again, this is almost true, but not *uite" Meditation deals with le%els of consciousness which lie deeper than symbolic thought" 3herefore, some of the data about meditation -ust won5t fit into words" 3hat does not mean, howe%er, that it cannot be understood" 3here are deeper ways to understand things than words" 1ou understand how to walk" 1ou probably can5t describe the e>act order in which your ner%e fibers and your muscles contract during that process" But you can do it" Meditation needs to be understood that same way, by doing it" +t is not something that you can learn in abstract terms" +t is to be e>perienced" Meditation is not some mindless formula which gi%es automatic and predictable results" 1ou can ne%er really predict e>actly what will come up in any particular session" +t is an in%estigation and e>periment and an ad%enture e%ery time" +n fact, this is so true that when you do reach a feeling of predictability and sameness in your practice, you use that as an indicator" +t means that you ha%e gotten off the track somewhere and you are headed for stagnation" !earning to look at each second as if it were the first and only second in the uni%erse is most essential in Vipassana meditation" Mi,conce.tion 37/ 8he .ur.o,e of 'e+itation i, to beco'e a .,ychic ,u.er'an ;o, the purpose of meditation is to de%elop awareness" !earning to read minds is not the point" !e%itation is not the goal" 3he goal is liberation" 3here is a link between psychic phenomena and meditation, but the relationship is somewhat comple>" During early stages of the meditator5s career, such phenomena may or may not arise" ome people may e>perience some intuiti%e understanding or memories from past li%esB others do not" +n any case, these are not regarded as wellAde%eloped and reliable psychic abilities" ;or should they be gi%en undue importance" uch phenomena are in fact fairly dangerous to new meditators in that they are too seducti%e" 3hey can be an ego trap which can lure you right off the track" 1our best ad%ice is not to place any emphasis on these phenomena" +f they come up, that5s fine" +f they don5t, that5s fine, too" +t5s unlikely that they will" 3here is a point in the meditator5s career where he may practice special e>ercises to de%elop psychic powers" But this occurs way down the line" #fter he has gained a %ery deep stage of ?hana, the meditator will be far enough ad%anced to work with such powers without the danger of their running out of control or taking o%er his life" He will then de%elop them strictly for the purpose of ser%ice to others" 3his state of affairs only occurs after decades of practice" Don5t worry about it" ?ust concentrate on de%eloping more and more awareness" +f %oices and %isions pop up, -ust notice them and let them go" Don5t get in%ol%ed"

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Mi,conce.tion 39/ Me+itation i, +angerou, an+ a .ru+ent .er,on ,hou5+ avoi+ it :%erything is dangerous" 9alk across the street and you may get hit by a bus" 3ake a shower and you could break your neck" Meditate and you will probably dredge up %arious nastyAmatters from your past" 3he suppressed material that has been buried there for *uite some time can be scary" +t is also highly profitable" ;o acti%ity is entirely without risk, but that does not mean that we should wrap oursel%es in some protecti%e cocoon" 3hat is not li%ing" 3hat is premature death" 3he way to deal with danger is to know appro>imately how much of it there is, where it is likely to be found and how to deal with it when it arises" 3hat is the purpose of this manual" Vipassana is de%elopment of awareness" 3hat in itself is not dangerous, but -ust the opposite" +ncreased awareness is the safeguard against danger" 6roperly done, meditation is a %ery gently and gradual process" 3ake it slow and easy, and de%elopment of your practice will occur %ery naturally" ;othing should be forced" !ater, when you are under the close scrutiny and protecti%e wisdom of a competent teacher, you can accelerate your rate of growth by taking a period of intensi%e meditation" +n the beginning, though, easy does it" 9ork gently and e%erything will be fine" Mi,conce.tion 3$/ Me+itation i, for ,aint, an+ ho5y 'en" not for regu5ar .eo.5e 1ou find this attitude %ery pre%alent in #sia, where monks and holy men are accorded an enormous amount of ritualiDed re%erence" 3his is somewhat akin to the #merican attitude of idealiDing mo%ie stars and baseball heroes" uch people are stereotyped, made larger than life, and saddled with all sort of characteristics that few human beings can e%er li%e up to" :%en in the 9est, we share some of this attitude about meditation" 9e e>pect the meditator to be some e>traordinarily pious figure in whose mouth butter would ne%er dare to melt" # little personal contact with such people will *uickly dispel this illusion" 3hey usually pro%e to be people of enormous energy and gusto, people who li%e their li%es with amaDing %igor" +t is true, of course, that most holy men meditate, but they don5t meditate because they are holy men" 3hat is backward" 3hey are holy men because they meditate" Meditation is how they got there" #nd they started meditating before they became holy" 3his is an important point" # siDable number of students seems to feel that a person should be completely moral before he begins meditation" +t is an unworkable strategy" Morality re*uires a certain degree of mental control" +t5s a prere*uisite" 1ou can5t follow any set of moral precepts without at least a little selfA control, and if your mind is perpetually spinning like a fruit cylinder in a oneA armed bandit, selfA control is highly unlikely" o mental culture has to come first" 3here are three integral factors in Buddhist meditation AAA 'ora5ity, concentration and !i,+o'" 3hose three factors grow together as your practice deepens" :ach one influences the other, so you culti%ate the three of them together, not one at a time" 9hen you ha%e the wisdom to truly understand a situation, compassion towards all the parties in%ol%ed is automatic, and compassion means that you automatically restrain yourself from any thought, word or deed that might harm yourself or others" 3hus your beha%ior is automatically moral" +t is only when you don5t understand things deeply that you create problems" +f you fail to see the conse*uences of your own action, you will blunder" 3he fellow who waits to become totally moral before he begins to meditate is waiting for a 5but5 that will ne%er come" 3he ancient sages say that he is like a man waiting for the ocean to become calm so that he can go take a bath" 3o understand this relationship more fully, let us propose that there are le%els of morality" 3he lowest le%el is adherence to a set of rules and regulations laid down by somebody else" +t could be your fa%orite prophet" +t could be the state, the head man of your tribe or your father" ;o matter who generates the rules, all you5%e got to do at this le%el is know the rules and follow them" # robot can do that" :%en a trained chimpanDee could do it if the rules were simple enough and he was smacked with a stick e%ery time he broke one" 3his le%el re*uires no meditation at all" #ll you need are the rules and somebody to swing the stick" 3he ne>t le%el of morality consists of obeying the same rules e%en in the absence of somebody who will smack you" 1ou obey because you ha%e internaliDed the rules" 1ou smack yourself e%ery
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time you break one" 3his le%el re*uires a bit of mind control" +f your thought pattern is chaotic, your beha%ior will be chaotic, too" Mental culture reduces mental chaos" 3here is a third le%el or morality, but it might be better termed ethics" 3his le%el is a whole *uantum layer up the scale, a real paradigm shift in orientation" #t the le%el of ethics, one does not follow hard and fast rules dictated by authority" @ne chooses his own beha%ior according to the needs of the situation" 3his le%el re*uires real intelligence and an ability to -uggle all the factors in e%ery situation and arri%e at a uni*ue, creati%e and appropriate response each time" 2urthermore, the indi%idual making these decisions needs to ha%e dug himself out of his own limited personal %iewpoint" He has to see the entire situation from an ob-ecti%e point of %iew, gi%ing e*ual weight to his own needs and those of others" +n other words, he has to be free from greed, hatred, en%y and all the other selfish -unk that ordinarily keeps us from seeing the other guy5s side of the issue" @nly then can he choose that precise set of actions which will be truly optimal for that situation" 3his le%el of morality absolutely demands meditation, unless you were born a saint" 3here is no other way to ac*uire the skill" 2urthermore, the sorting process re*uired at this le%el is e>hausting" +f you tried to -uggle all those factors in e%ery situation with your conscious mind, you5d wear yourself out" 3he intellect -ust can5t keep that many balls in the air at once" +t is an o%erload" !uckily, a deeper le%el of consciousness can do this sort of processing with ease" Meditation can accomplish the sorting process for you" +t is an eerie feeling" @ne day you5%e got a problemAAsay to handle /ncle Herman5s latest di%orce" +t looks absolutely unsol%able, and enormous muddle of 5maybes5 that would gi%e olomon himself the willies" 3he ne>t day you are washing the dishes, thinking about something else entirely, and suddenly the solution is there" +t -ust pops out of the deep mind and you say, 5#h haI5 and the whole thing is sol%ed" 3his sort of intuition can only occur when you disengage the logic circuits from the problem and gi%e the deep mind the opportunity to cook up the solution" 3he conscious mind -ust gets in the way" Meditation teaches you how to disentangle yourself from the thought process" +t is the mental art of stepping out of your own way, and that5s a pretty useful skill in e%eryday life" Meditation is certainly not some irrele%ant practice strictly for ascetics and hermits" +t is a practical skill that focuses on e%eryday e%ents and has immediate application in e%erybody5s life" Meditation is not otherA worldly" /nfortunately, this %ery fact constitutes the drawback for certain students" 3hey enter the practice e>pecting instantaneous cosmic re%elation, complete with angelic choirs" 9hat they usually get is a more efficient way to take out the trash and better ways to deal with /ncle Herman" 3hey are needlessly disappointed" 3he trash solution comes first" 3he %oices of archangels take a bit longer" Mi,conce.tion 3(/ Me+itation i, running a!ay fro' rea5ity +ncorrect" Meditation is running into reality" +t does not insulate you from the pain of life" +t allows you to del%e so deeply into life and all its aspects that you pierce the pain barrier and you go beyond suffering" Vipassana is a practice done with the specific intention of facing reality, to fully e>perience life -ust as it is and to cope with e>actly what you find" +t allows you to blow aside the illusions and to free yourself from all those polite little lies you tell yourself all the time" 9hat is there is there" 1ou are who you are, and lying to yourself about your own weaknesses and moti%ations only binds you tighter to the wheel of illusion" Vipassana meditation is not an attempt to forget yourself or to co%er up your troubles" +t is learning to look at yourself e>actly as you are" ee what is there, accept it fully" @nly then can you change it" Mi,conce.tion 38/ Me+itation i, a great !ay to get high 9ell, yes and no" Meditation does produce lo%ely blissful feelings sometimes" But they are not the purpose, and they don5t always occur" 2urthermore, if you do meditation with that purpose in mind, they are less likely to occur than if you -ust meditate for the actual purpose of meditation, which is increased awareness" Bliss results from rela>ation, and rela>ation results from release of tension"
1=

eeking bliss from meditation introduces tension into the process, which blows the whole chain of e%ents" +t is a )atchA22" 1ou can only ha%e bliss if you don5t chase it" Besides, if euphoria and good feelings are what you are after, there are easier ways to get them" 3hey are a%ailable in ta%erns and from shady characters on the street corners all across the nation" :uphoria is not the purpose of meditation" +t will often arise, but it to be regarded as a byA product" till, it is a %ery pleasant sideA effect, and it becomes more and more fre*uent the longer you meditate" 1ou won5t hear any disagreement about this from ad%anced practitioners" Mi,conce.tion 3)/ Me+itation i, ,e5fi,h +t certainly looks that way" 3here sits the meditator parked on his little cushion" +s he out gi%ing bloodF ;o" +s he busy working with disaster %ictimsF ;o" But let us e>amine his moti%ation" 9hy is he doing thisF His intention is to purge his own mind of anger, pre-udice and illAwill" He is acti%ely engaged in the process of getting rid of greed, tension and insensiti%ity" 3hose are the %ery items which obstruct his compassion for others" /ntil they are gone, any good works that he does are likely to be -ust an e>tension of his own ego and of no real help in the long run" Harm in the name of help is one of the oldest games" 3he grand in*uisitor of the panish +n*uisition spouts the loftiest of moti%es" 3he alem witchcraft trials were conducted for the public good" :>amine the personal li%es of ad%anced meditators and you will often find them engaged in humanitarian ser%ice" 1ou will seldom find them as crusading missionaries who are willing to sacrifice certain indi%iduals for the sake of some pious idea" 3he fact is we are more selfish than we know" 3he ego has a way of turning the loftiest acti%ities into trash if it is allowed free range" 3hrough meditation we become aware of oursel%es e>actly as we are, by waking up to the numerous subtle ways that we manifest our own selfishness" 3hen we truly begin to be genuinely selfless" )leansing yourself of selfishness is not a selfish acti%ity" Mi,conce.tion 31%/ #hen you 'e+itate" you ,it aroun+ thin:ing 5ofty thought, 9rong again" 3here are certain systems of contemplation in which this sort of thing is done" But that is not Vipassana" Vipassana is the practice of awareness" #wareness of whate%er is there, be it supreme truth or crummy trash" 9hat is there is there" @f course, lofty aesthetic thoughts may arise during your practice" 3hey are certainly not to be a%oided" ;either are they to be sought" 3hey are -ust pleasant sideAeffects" Vipassana is a simple practice" +t consists of e>periencing your own life e%ents directly, without preference and without mental images pasted to them" Vipassana is seeing your life unfold from moment to moment without biases" 9hat comes up comes up" +t is %ery simple" Mi,conce.tion 311/ A cou.5e of !ee:, of 'e+itation an+ a55 'y .rob5e', !i55 go a!ay orry, meditation is not a *uick cureAall" 1ou will start seeing changes right away, but really profound effects are years down the line" 3hat is -ust the way the uni%erse is constructed" ;othing worthwhile is achie%ed o%ernight" Meditation is tough in some respects" +t re*uires a long discipline and sometimes a painful process of practice" #t each sitting you gain some results, but those results are often %ery subtle" 3hey occur deep within the mind, only to manifest much later" and if you are sitting there constantly looking for some huge instantaneous changes, you will miss the subtle shifts altogether" 1ou will get discouraged, gi%e up and swear that no such changes will e%er occur" 6atience is the key" 6atience" +f you learn nothing else from meditation, you will learn patience" #nd that is the most %aluable lesson a%ailable"

1'

-ha.ter 3

#hat Me+itation *,
Meditation is a word, and words are used in different ways by different speakers" 3his may seem like a tri%ial point, but it is not" +t is *uite important to distinguish e>actly what a particular speaker means by the words he uses" :%ery culture on earth, for e>ample, has produced some sort of mental practice which might be termed meditation" +t all depends on how loose a definition you gi%e to that word" :%erybody does it, from #fricans to :skimos" 3he techni*ues are enormously %aried, and we will make no attempt to sur%ey them" 3here are other books for that" 2or the purpose of this %olume, we will restrict our discussion to those practices best known to 9estern audiences and most likely associated with the term meditation" 9ithin the ?udeoA)hristian tradition we find two o%erlapping practices called prayer and contemplation" 6rayer is a direct address to some spiritual entity" )ontemplation in a prolonged period of conscious thought about some specific topic, usually a religious ideal or scriptural passage" 2rom the standpoint of mental culture, both of these acti%ities are e>ercises in concentration" 3he normal deluge of conscious thought is restricted, and the mind is brought to one conscious area of operation" 3he results are those you find in any concentrati%e practiceH deep calm, a physiological slowing of the metabolism and a sense of peace and wellAbeing" @ut of the Hindu tradition comes 1ogic meditation, which is also purely concentrati%e" 3he traditional basic e>ercises consist of focusing the mind on a single ob-ect a stone, a candle flame, a syllable or whate%er, and not allowing it to wander" Ha%ing ac*uired the basic skill, the 1ogi proceeds to e>pand his practice by taking on more comple> ob-ects of meditation chants, colorful religious images, energy channels in the body and so forth" till, no matter how comple> the ob-ect of meditation, the meditation itself remains purely an e>ercise in concentration" 9ithin the Buddhist tradition, concentration is also highly %alued" But a new element is added and more highly stressed" 3hat element is awareness" #ll Buddhist meditation aims at the de%elopment of awareness, using concentration as a tool" 3he Buddhist tradition is %ery wide, howe%er, and there are se%eral di%erse routes to this goal" <en meditation uses two separate tacks" 3he first is the direct plunge into awareness by sheer force of will" 1ou sit down and you -ust sit, meaning that you toss out of your mind e%erything e>cept pure awareness of sitting" 3his sounds %ery simple" +t is not" # brief trial will demonstrate -ust how difficult it really is" 3he second <en approach used in the 4inDai school is that of tricking the mind out of conscious thought and into pure awareness" 3his is done by gi%ing the student an unsol%able riddle which he must sol%e anyway, and by placing him in a horrendous training situation" ince he cannot flee from the pain of the situation, he must flee into a pure e>perience of the moment" 3here is nowhere else to go" <en is tough" +t is effecti%e for many people, but it is really tough" #nother stratagem, 3antric Buddhism, is nearly the re%erse" )onscious thought, at least the way we usually do it, is the manifestation of ego, the you that you usually think that you are" )onscious thought is tightly connected with selfAconcept" 3he selfAconcept or ego is nothing more than a set of reactions and mental images which are artificially pasted to the flowing process of pure awareness" 3antra seeks to obtain pure awareness by destroying this ego image" 3his is accomplished by a process of %isualiDation" 3he student is gi%en a particular religious image to meditate upon, for e>ample, one of the deities from the 3antric pantheon" He does this in so thorough a fashion that he becomes that entity" He takes off his own identity and puts on another" 3his takes a while, as you might imagine, but it works" During the process, he is able to watch the way that the ego is constructed and put in place" He comes to recogniDe the arbitrary nature of all egos, including his own, and he escapes from bondage to the ego" He is left in a state where he may ha%e an ego if he so chooses, either his own or whiche%er

1C

other he might wish, or he can do without one" 4esultH pure awareness" 3antra is not e>actly a game of patty cake either" Vipassana is the oldest of Buddhist meditation practices" 3he method comes directly from the itipatthana utta, a discourse attributed to Buddha himself" Vipassana is a direct and gradual culti%ation of mindfulness or awareness" +t proceeds piece by piece o%er a period of years" 3he student5s attention is carefully directed to an intense e>amination of certain aspects of his own e>istence" 3he meditator is trained to notice more and more of his own flowing life e>perience" Vipassana is a gentle techni*ue" But it also is %ery , %ery thorough" +t is an ancient and codified system of sensiti%ity training, a set of e>ercises dedicated to becoming more and more recepti%e to your own life e>perience" +t is attenti%e listening, total seeing and careful testing" 9e learn to smell acutely, to touch fully and really pay attention to what we feel" 9e learn to listen to our own thoughts without being caught up in them" 3he ob-ect of Vipassana practice is to learn to pay attention" 9e think we are doing this already, but that is an illusion" +t comes from the fact that we are paying so little attention to the ongoing surge of our own life e>periences that we might -ust as well be asleep" 9e are simply not paying enough attention to notice that we are not paying attention" +t is another )atchA22" 3hrough the process of mindfulness, we slowly become aware of what we really are down below the ego image" 9e wake up to what life really is" +t is not -ust a parade of ups and downs, lollipops and smacks on the wrist" 3hat is an illusion" !ife has a much deeper te>ture than that if we bother to look, and if we look in the right way" Vipassana is a form of mental training that will teach you to e>perience the world in an entirely new way" 1ou will learn for the first time what is truly happening to you, around you and within you" +t is a process of self disco%ery, a participatory in%estigation in which you obser%e your own e>periences while participating in them, and as they occur" 3he practice must be approached with this attitude" G;e%er mind what + ha%e been taught" 2orget about theories and pre-udgments and stereotypes" + want to understand the true nature of life" + want to know what this e>perience of being ali%e really is" + want to apprehend the true and deepest *ualities of life, and + don5t want to -ust accept somebody else5s e>planation" + want to see it for myself"G +f you pursue your meditation practice with this attitude, you will succeed" 1ou5ll find yourself obser%ing things ob-ecti%ely, e>actly as they areAAflowing and changing from moment to moment" !ife then takes on an unbelie%able richness which cannot be described" +t has to be e>perienced" 3he 6ali term for +nsight meditation is Vipassana Bha%ana" Bha%ana comes from the root 5Bhu5, which means to grow or to become" 3here fore Bha%ana means to culti%ate, and the word is always used in reference to the mind" Bha%ana means mental culti%ation" 5Vipassana5 is deri%ed from two roots" 56assana5 means seeing or percei%ing" 5Vi5 is a prefi> with the comple> set of connotations" 3he basic meaning is 5in a special way"5 But there also is the connotation of both 5into5 and 5through5" 3he whole meaning of the word is looking into something with clarity and precision, seeing each component as distinct and separate, and piercing all the way through so as to percei%e the most fundamental reality of that thing" 3his process leads to insight into the basic reality of whate%er is being inspected" 6ut it all together and 5Vipassana Bha%ana5 means the culti%ation of the mind, aimed at seeing in a special way that leads to insight and to full understanding" +n Vipassana mediation we culti%ate this special way of seeing life" 9e train oursel%es to see reality e>actly as it is, and we call this special mode of perception 5mindfulness"5 3his process of mindfulness is really *uite different from what we usually do" 9e usually do not look into what is really there in front of us" 9e see life through a screen of thoughts and concepts, and we mistake those mental ob-ects for the reality" 9e get so caught up in this endless thought stream that reality flows by unnoticed" 9e spend our time engrossed in acti%ity, caught up in an eternal pursuit of pleasure and gratification and an eternal flight from pain and unpleasantness" 9e spend all of our energies trying to
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make oursel%es feel better, trying to bury our fears" 9e are endlessly seeking security" Meanwhile, the world of real e>perience flows by untouched and untasted" +n Vipassana meditation we train oursel%es to ignore the constant impulses to be more comfortable, and we di%e into the reality instead" 3he ironic thing is that real peace comes only when you stop chasing it" #nother )atchA22" 9hen you rela> your dri%ing desire for comfort, real fulfillment arises" 9hen you drop your hectic pursuit of gratification, the real beauty of life comes out" 9hen you seek to know the reality without illusion, complete with all its pain and danger, that is when real freedom and security are yours" 3his is not some doctrine we are trying to drill into you" 3his is an obser%able reality, a thing you can and should see for yourself" Buddhism is 2C$$ years old, and any thought system of that %intage has time to de%elop layers and layers of doctrine and ritual" ;e%ertheless, the fundamental attitude of Buddhism is intensely empirical and antiAauthoritarian" Gotama the Buddha was a highly unorthodo> indi%idual and real antiA traditionalist" He did not offer his teaching as a set of dogmas, but rather as a set of propositions for each indi%idual to in%estigate for himself" His in%itation to one and all was 5)ome and ee5" @ne of the things he said to his followers was G6lace no head abo%e your ownG" By this he meant, don5t accept somebody else5s word" ee for yourself" 9e want you to apply this attitude to e%ery word you read in this manual" 9e are not making statements that you would accept merely because we are authorities in the field" Blind faith has nothing to do with this" 3hese are e>periential realities" !earn to ad-ust your mode of perception according to instructions gi%en in the book, and you will see for yourself" 3hat and only that pro%ides ground for your faith" +nsight meditation is essentially a practice of in%estigati%e personal disco%ery" Ha%ing said this, we will present here a %ery short synopsis of some of the key points of Buddhist philosophy" 9e make not attempt to be thorough, since that has been *uite nicely done in many other books" 3his material is essential to understanding Vipassana, therefore, some mention must be made" 2rom the Buddhist point of %iew, we human beings li%e in a %ery peculiar fashion" 9e %iew impermanent things as permanent, though e%erything is changing all around us" 3he process of change is constant and eternal" #s you read these words, your body is aging" But you pay no attention to that" 3he book in you hand is decaying" 3he print is fading and the pages are becoming brittle" 3he walls around you are aging" 3he molecules within those walls are %ibrating at an enormous rate, and e%erything is shifting, going to pieces and dissol%ing slowly" 1ou pay no attention to that, either" 3hen one day you look around you" 1our body is wrinkled and s*ueaky and you hurt" 3he book is a yellowed, useless lumpB the building is ca%ing in" o you pine for lost youth and you cry when the possessions are gone" 9here does this pain come fromF +t comes from your own inattention" 1ou failed to look closely at life" 1ou failed to obser%e the constantly shifting flow of the world as it went by" 1ou set up a collection of mental constructions, 5me5, 5the book5, 5the building5, and you assume that they would endure fore%er" 3hey ne%er do" But you can tune into the constantly ongoing change" 1ou can learn to percei%e your life as an e%erA flowing mo%ement, a thing of great beauty like a dance or symphony" 1ou can learn to take -oy in the perpetual passing away of all phenomena" 1ou can learn to li%e with the flow of e>istence rather than running perpetually against the grain" 1ou can learn this" +t is -ust a matter of time and training" @ur human perceptual habits are remarkably stupid in some ways" 9e tune out &&J of all the sensory stimuli we actually recei%e, and we solidify the remainder into discrete mental ob-ects" 3hen we react to those mental ob-ects in programmed habitual ways" #n e>ampleH 3here you are, sitting alone in the stillness of a peaceful night" # dog barks in the distance" 3he perception itself is indescribably beautiful if you bother to e>amine it" /p out of that sea of silence come surging wa%es of sonic %ibration" 1ou start to hear the lo%ely comple> patterns, and they are turned into scintillating electronic stimulations within the ner%ous system" 3he process is beautiful and fulfilling in itself" 9e humans tend to ignore it totally" +nstead, we solidify that perception into a mental ob-ect" 9e paste a
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mental picture on it and we launch into a series of emotional and conceptual reactions to it" G3here is that dog again" He is always barking at night" 9hat a nuisance" :%ery night he is a real bother" omebody should do something" Maybe + should call a cop" ;o, a dog catcher" o, +5ll call the pound" ;o, maybe +5ll -ust write a real nasty letter to the guy who owns that dog" ;o, too much trouble" +5ll -ust get an ear plug"G 3hey are -ust perceptual and mental habits" 1ou learn to respond this way as a child by copying the perceptual habits of those around you" 3hese perceptual responses are not inherent in the structure of the ner%ous system" 3he circuits are there" But this is not the only way that our mental machinery can be used" 3hat which has been learned can be unlearned" 3he first step is to realiDe what you are doing, as you are doing it, and stand back and *uietly watch" 2rom the Buddhist perspecti%e, we humans ha%e a backward %iew of life" 9e look at what is actually the cause of suffering and we see it as happiness" 3he cause of suffering is that desireA a%ersion syndrome which we spoke of earlier" /p pops a perception" +t could be anythingAAa beautiful girl, a handsome guy, speed boat, thug with a gun, truck bearing down on you, anything" 9hate%er it is, the %ery ne>t thing we do is to react to the stimulus with a feeling about it" 3ake worry" 9e worry a lot" 9orry itself is the problem" 9orry is a process" +t has steps" #n>iety is not -ust a state of e>istence but a procedure" 9hat you5%e got to do is to look at the %ery beginning of that procedure, those initial stages before the process has built up a head of steam" 3he %ery first link of the worry chain is the graspingKre-ecting reaction" #s soon as some phenomenon pops into the mind, we try mentally to grab onto it or push it away" 3hat sets the worry response in motion" !uckily, there is a handy little tool called Vipassana meditation which you can use to shortAcircuit the whole mechanism" Vipassana meditation teaches us how to scrutiniDe our own perceptual process with great precision" 9e learn to watch the arising of thought and perception with a feeling of serene detachment" 9e learn to %iew our own reactions to stimuli with calm and clarity" 9e begin to see oursel%es reacting without getting caught up in the reactions themsel%es" 3he obsessi%e nature of thought slowly dies" 9e can still get married" 9e can still step out of the path of the truck" But we don5t need to go through hell o%er either one" 3his escape from the obsessi%e nature of thought produces a whole new %iew of reality" +t is a complete paradigm shift, a total change in the perceptual mechanism" +t brings with it the feeling of peace and rightness, a new Dest for li%ing and a sense of completeness to e%ery acti%ity" Because of these ad%antages, Buddhism %iews this way of looking at things as a correct %iew of life and Buddhist te>ts call it seeing things as they really are" Vipassana meditation is a set of training procedures which open us gradually to this new %iew of reality as it truly is" #long with this new reality goes a new %iew of the most central aspect of realityH 5me5" # close inspection re%eals that we ha%e done the same thing to 5me5 that we ha%e done to all other perceptions" 9e ha%e taken a flowing %orte> of thought, feeling and sensation and we ha%e solidified that into a mental construct" 3hen we ha%e stuck a label onto it, 5me5" #nd fore%er after, we threat it as if it were a static and enduring entity" 9e %iew it as a thing separate from all other things" 9e pinch oursel%es off from the rest of that process of eternal change which is the uni%erse" #nd than we grie%e o%er how lonely we feel" 9e ignore our inherent connectedness to all other beings and we decide that 5+5 ha%e to get more for 5me5B then we mar%el at how greedy and insensiti%e human beings are" #nd on it goes" :%ery e%il deed, e%ery e>ample of heartlessness in the world stems directly from this false sense of 5me5 as distinct from all else that is out there" :>plode the illusion of that one concept and your whole uni%erse changes" Don5t e>pect to do this o%ernight, though" 1ou spent your whole life building up that concept, reinforcing it with e%ery thought, word, and deed o%er all those years" +t is not going to e%aporate instantly" But it will pass if you gi%e it enough time and enough attention" Vipassana meditation is a process by which it is dissol%ed" !ittle by little, you chip away at it -ust by watching it"
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3he 5+5 concept is a process" +t is a thing we are doing" +n Vipassana we learn to see that we are doing it, when we are doing it and how we are doing it" 3hen it mo%es and fades away, like a cloud passing through the clear sky" 9e are left in a state where we can do it or not do it, whiche%er seems appropriate to the situation" 3he compulsi%eness is gone" 9e ha%e a choice" 3hese are all ma-or insights, of course" :ach one is a deepA reaching understanding of one of the fundamental issues of human e>istence" 3hey do not occur *uickly, nor without considerable effort" But the payoff is big" 3hey lead to a total transformation of your life" :%ery second of your e>istence thereafter is changed" 3he meditator who pushes all the way down this track achie%es perfect mental health, a pure lo%e for all that li%es and complete cessation of suffering" 3hat is not small goal" But you don5t ha%e to go all the way to reap benefits" 3hey start right away and they pile up o%er the years" +t is a cumulati%e function" 3he more you sit, the more you learn about the real nature of your won e>istence" 3he more hours you spend in meditation, the greater your ability to calmly obser%e e%ery impulse and intention, e%ery thought and emotion -ust as it arises in the mind" 1our progress to liberation is measured in cushionAman hours" #nd you can stop any time you5%e had enough" 3here is no stick o%er your head e>cept your own desire to see the true *uality of life, to enhance your own e>istence and that of others" Vipassana meditation is inherently e>periential" +t is not theoretical" +n the practice of mediation you become sensiti%e to the actual e>perience of li%ing, to how things feel" 1ou do not sit around de%eloping subtle and aesthetic thoughts about li%ing" 1ou li%e" Vipassana meditation more than anything else is learning to li%e"

1&

-ha.ter 7

Attitu+e
9ithin the last century, 9estern science and physics ha%e made a startling disco%ery" 9e are part of the world we %iew" 3he %ery process of our obser%ation changes the things we obser%e" #s an e>ample, an electron is an e>tremely tiny item" +t cannot be %iewed without instrumentation, and that apparatus dictates what the obser%er will see" +f you look at an electron in one way, it appears to be a particle, a hard little ball that bounces around in nice straight paths" 9hen you %iew it another way, an electron appears to be a wa%e form, with nothing solid about it" +t glows and wiggles all o%er the place" #n electron is an e%ent more than a thing" #nd the obser%er participates in that e%ent by the %ery process of his or her obser%ation" 3here is no way to a%oid this interaction" :astern science has recogniDed this basic principle for a %ery long time" 3he mind is a set of e%ents, and the obser%er participates in those e%ents e%ery time he or she looks inward" Meditation is participatory obser%ation" 9hat you are looking at responds to the process of looking" 9hat you are looking at is you, and what you see depends on how you look" 3hus the process of meditation is e>tremely delicate, and the result depends absolutely on the state of mind of the meditator" 3he following attitudes are essential to success in practice" Most of them ha%e been presented before" But we bring them together again here as a series of rules for application" &on2t ex.ect anything" ?ust sit back and see what happens" 3reat the whole thing as an e>periment" 3ake an acti%e interest in the test itself" But don5t get distracted by your e>pectations about results" 2or that matter, don5t be an>ious for any result whatsoe%er" !et the meditation mo%e along at its own speed and in its own direction" !et the meditation teach you what it wants you to learn" Meditati%e awareness seeks to see reality e>actly as it is" 9hether that corresponds to our e>pectations or not, it re*uires a temporary suspension of all our preconceptions and ideas" 9e must store away our images, opinions and interpretations someplace out of the way for the duration" @therwise we will stumble o%er them" &on2t ,trainH Don5t force anything or make grand e>aggerated efforts" Meditation is not aggressi%e" 3here is no %iolent stri%ing" ?ust let your effort be rela>ed and steady" &on2t ru,hH 3here is no hurry, so take you time" ettle yourself on a cushion and sit as though you ha%e a whole day" #nything really %aluable takes time to de%elop" 6atience, patience, patience" &on2t c5ing to anything an+ +on2t re4ect anythingH !et come what comes and accommodate yourself to that, whate%er it is" +f good mental images arise, that is fine" +f bad mental images arise, that is fine, too" !ook on all of it as e*ual and make yourself comfortable with whate%er happens" Don5t fight with what you e>perience, -ust obser%e it all mindfully" ;et goH !earn to flow with all the changes that come up" !oosen up and rela>" Acce.t everything that ari,e,H #ccept your feelings, e%en the ones you wish you did not ha%e" #ccept your e>periences, e%en the ones you hate" Don5t condemn yourself for ha%ing human flaws and failings" !earn to see all the phenomena in the mind as being perfectly natural and understandable" 3ry to e>ercise a disinterested acceptance at all times and with respect to e%erything you e>perience" Be gent5e !ith your,e5fH Be kind to yourself" 1ou may not be perfect, but you are all you5%e got to work with" 3he process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are" *nve,tigate your,e5fH Luestion e%erything" 3ake nothing for granted" Don5t belie%e anything because it sounds wise and pious and some holy men said it" ee for yourself" 3hat does not mean that you should be cynical, impudent or irre%erent" +t means you should be empirical" ub-ect all statements to the actual test of your e>perience and let the results be your guide to truth"
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+nsight meditation e%ol%es out of an inner longing to wake up to what is real and to gain liberating insight to the true structure of e>istence" 3he entire practice hinges upon this desire to be awake to the truth" 9ithout it, the practice is superficial" ie! a55 .rob5e', a, cha55enge,H !ook upon negati%es that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow" Don5t run from them, condemn yourself or bear your burden in saintly silence" 1ou ha%e a problemF Great" More grist for the mill" 4e-oice, di%e in and in%estigate" &on2t .on+erH 1ou don5t need to figure e%erything out" Discursi%e thinking won5t free you from the trap" +n mediation, the mind is purified naturally by mindfulness, by wordless bare attention" Habitual deliberation is not necessary to eliminate those things that are keeping you in bondage" #ll that is necessary is a clear, nonAconceptual perception of what they are and how they work" 3hat alone is sufficient to dissol%e them" )oncepts and reasoning -ust get in the way" Don5t think" ee" &on2t +!e55 u.on contra,t,H Differences do e>ist between people, but dwelling upon then is a dangerous process" /nless carefully handled, it leads directly to egotism" @rdinary human thinking is full of greed, -ealousy and pride" # man seeing another man on the street may immediately think, GHe is better looking than + am"G 3he instant result is en%y or shame" # girl seeing another girl may think, G+ am prettier than she is"G 3he instant result is pride" 3his sort of comparison is a mental habit, and it leads directly to ill feeling of one sort or anotherH greed, en%y, pride, -ealousy, hatred" +t is an unskillful mental state, but we do it all the time" 9e compare our looks with others, our success, our accomplishments, our wealth, possessions, or +"L" and all these lead to the same placeAAestrangement, barriers between people, and ill feeling" 3he meditator5s -ob is to cancel this unskillful habit by e>amining it thoroughly, and then replacing it with another" 4ather than noticing the differences between self and others, the meditator trains himself to notice similarities" He centers his attention on those factors that are uni%ersal to all life, things that will mo%e him closer to others" 3hus his comparison, if any, leads to feelings of kinship rather than feelings of estrangement" Breathing is a uni%ersal process" #ll %ertebrates breathe in essentially the same manner" #ll li%ing things e>change gasses with their en%ironment in some way or other" 3his is one of the reasons that breathing is chosen as the focus of meditation" the meditator is ad%ised to e>plore the process of his own breathing as a %ehicle for realiDing his own inherent connectedness with the rest of life" 3his does not mean that we shut our eyes to all the differences around us" Differences e>ist" +t means simply that we deAemphasiDe contrasts and emphasiDe the uni%ersal factors" 3he recommended procedure is as followsH 9hen the meditator percei%es any sensory ob-ect, he is not to dwell upon it in the ordinary egotistical way" He should rather e>amine the %ery process of perception itself" He should watch the feelings that arise and the mental acti%ities that follow" He should note the changes that occur in his own consciousness as a result" +n watching all these phenomena, the meditator must be aware of the uni%ersality of what he is seeing" 3hat initial perception will spark pleasant, unpleasant or neutral feelings" 3hat is a uni%ersal phenomenon" +t occurs in the mind of others -ust as it does in his, and he should see that clearly" 2ollowing these feelings %arious reactions may arise" He may feel greed, lust, or -ealousy" He may feel fear, worry, restlessness or boredom" 3hese reactions are uni%ersal" He simple notes them and then generaliDes" He should realiDe that these reactions are normal human responses and can arise in anybody" 3he practice of this style of comparison may feel forced and artificial at first, but it is no less natural than what we ordinarily do" +t is merely unfamiliar" 9ith practice, this habit pattern replaces our normal habit of egoistic comparing and feels far more natural in the long run" 9e become %ery understanding people as a result" we no longer get upset by the failings of others" 9e progress toward harmony with all life"
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-ha.ter 9

8he Practice
#lthough there are many sub-ects of meditation, we strongly recommend you start with focusing your total undi%ided attention on your breathing to gain some degree of shallow concentration" 4emember that you are not practicing a deep absorption or pure concentration techni*ue" 1ou are practicing mindfulness for which you need only a certain degree of shallow concentration" 1ou want to culti%ate mindfulness culminating in insight and wisdom to realiDe the truth as it is" 1ou want to know the working of your bodyAmind comple> e>actly as it is" 1ou want to get rid of all psychological annoyance to make your life really peaceful and happy" 3he mind cannot be purified without seeing things as they really are" G eeing things as they really areG is such a hea%ily loaded and ambiguous phrase" Many beginning meditators wonder what we mean, for anyone who has clear eye sight can see ob-ects as they are" 9hen we use this phrase in reference to insight gained from our meditation, what we mean is not seeing things superficially with our regular eyes, but seeing things with wisdom as they are in themsel%es" eeing with wisdom means seeing things within the framework of our bodyKmind comple> without pre-udices or biases springing from our greed, hatred and delusion" @rdinarily when we watch the working of our mindKbody comple>, we tend to hide or ignore things which are not pleasant to us and to hold onto things which are pleasant" 3his is because our minds are generally influenced by our desires, resentment and delusion" @ur ego, self or opinions get in our way and color our -udgment" 9hen we mindfully watch our bodily sensations, we should not confuse them with mental formations, for bodily sensations can arise without anything to do with the mind" 2or instance, we sit comfortably" #fter a while, there can arise some uncomfortable feeling on our back or in our legs" @ur mind immediately e>periences that discomfort and forms numerous thoughts around the feeling" #t that point, without trying to confuse the feeling with the mental formations, we should isolate the feeling as feeling and watch it mindfully" 2eeling is one of the se%en uni%ersal mental factors" 3he other si> are contact, perception, mental formations, concentration, life force, and awareness" #t another time, we may ha%e a certain emotion such as, resentment, fear, or lust" 3hen we should watch the emotion e>actly as it is without trying to confuse it with anything else" 9hen we bundle our form, feeling, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness up into one and try to watch all of them as feeling, we get confused, as we will not be able to see the source of feeling" +f we simply dwell upon the feeling alone, ignoring other mental factors, our realiDation of truth becomes %ery difficult" 9e want to gain the insight into the e>perience of impermanence to o%er come our resentmentB our deeper knowledge of unhappiness o%ercomes our greed which causes our unhappinessB our realiDation of selflessness o%ercomes ignorance arising from the notion of self" 9e should see the mind and body separately first" Ha%ing comprehended them separately, we should see their essential interconnectedness" #s our insight becomes sharp, we become more and more aware of the fact that all the aggregates are cooperating to work together" ;one can e>ist without the other" 9e can see the real meaning of the famous metaphor of the blind man who has a healthy body to walk and the disabled person who has %ery good eyes to see" ;either of them alone can do much for himself" But when the disabled person climbs on the shoulders of the blind man, together they can tra%el and achie%e their goals easily" imilarly, the body alone can do nothing for itself" +t is like a log unable to mo%e or do anything by itself e>cept to become a sub-ect of impermanence, decay and death" 3he mind itself can do nothing without the support of the body" 9hen we mindfully watch both body and mind, we can see how many wonderful things they do together" #s long as we are sitting in one place we may gain some degree of mindfulness" Going to a retreat and spending se%eral days or se%eral months watching our feelings, perceptions, countless thoughts and %arious states of consciousness may make us e%entually calm and peaceful" ;ormally we
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do not ha%e that much time to spend in one place meditating all the time" 3herefore, we should find a way to apply our mindfulness to our daily life in order for us to be able to handle daily unforeseeable e%entualities" 9hat we face e%ery day is unpredictable" 3hings happen due to multiple causes and conditions, as we are li%ing in a conditional and impermanent world" Mindfulness is our emergency kit, readily a%ailable at our ser%ice at any time" 9hen we face a situation where we feel indignation, if we mindfully in%estigate our own mind, we will disco%er bitter truths in oursel%es" 3hat is we are selfishB we are egocentricB we are attached to our egoB we hold on to our opinionsB we think we are right and e%erybody else is wrongB we are pre-udicesB we are biasedB and at the bottom of all of this, we do not really lo%e oursel%es" 3his disco%ery, though bitter, is a most rewarding e>perience" #nd in the long run, this disco%ery deli%ers us from deeply rooted psychological and spiritual suffering" Mindfulness practice is the practice of one hundred percent honesty with oursel%es" 9hen we watch our own mind and body, we notice certain things that are unpleasant to realiDe" #s we do not like them, we try to re-ect them" 9hat are the things we do not likeF 9e do not like to detach oursel%es from lo%ed ones or to li%e with unlo%ed ones" 9e include not only people, places and material things into our likes and dislikes, but opinions, ideas, beliefs and decisions as well" 9e do not like what naturally happens to us" 9e do not like, for instance, growing old, becoming sick, becoming weak or showing our age, for we ha%e a great desire to preser%e our appearance" 9e do not like someone pointing out our faults, for we take great pride in oursel%es" 9e do not like someone to be wiser than we are, for we are deluded about oursel%es" 3hese are but a few e>amples of our personal e>perience of greed, hatred and ignorance" 9hen greed, hatred and ignorance re%eal themsel%es in our daily li%es, we use our mindfulness to track them down and comprehend their roots" 3he root of each of these mental states in within oursel%es" +f we do not, for instance, ha%e the root of hatred, nobody can make us angry, for it is the root of our anger that reacts to somebody5s actions or words or beha%ior" +f we are mindful, we will diligently use our wisdom to look into our own mind" +f we do not ha%e hatred in us we will not be concerned when someone points out our shortcomings" 4ather, we will be thankful to the person who draws our attention to our faults" 9e ha%e to be e>tremely wise and mindful to thank the person who e>plicates our faults so we will be able to tread the upward path toward impro%ing oursel%es" 9e all ha%e blind spots" 3he other person is our mirror for us to see our faults with wisdom" 9e should consider the person who shows our shortcomings as one who e>ca%ates a hidden treasure in us that we were unaware of" +t is by knowing the e>istence of our deficiencies that we can impro%e oursel%es" +mpro%ing oursel%es is the unswer%ing path to the perfection which is our goal in life" @nly by o%ercoming weaknesses can we culti%ate noble *ualities hidden deep down in our subconscious mind" Before we try to surmount our defects, we should what they are" +f we are sick, we must find out the cause of our sickness" @nly then can we get treatment" +f we pretend that we do not ha%e sickness e%en though we are suffering, we will ne%er get treatment" imilarly, if we think that we don5t ha%e these faults, we will ne%er clear our spiritual path" +f we are blind to our own flaws, we need someone to point them out to us" 9hen they point out our faults, we should be grateful to them like the Venerable ariputta, who saidH G:%en if a se%enAyearAold no%ice monk points out my mistakes, + will accept them with utmost respect for him"G Ven" ariputta was an #rahant who was one hundred percent mindful and had no fault in him" But since he did not ha%e any pride, he was able to maintain this position" #lthough we are not #rahants, we should determine to emulate his e>ample, for our goal in life also is to attain what he attained" @f course the person pointing out our mistakes himself may not be totally free from defects, but he can see our problems as we can see his faults, which he does not notice until we point them out to him" Both pointing out shortcomings and responding to them should be done mindfully" +f someone becomes unmindful in indicating faults and uses unkind and harsh language, he might do more harm than good to himself as well as to the person whose shortcomings he points out" @ne who speaks with
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resentment cannot be mindful and is unable to e>press himself clearly" @ne who feels hurt while listening to harsh language may lose his mindfulness and not hear what the other person is really saying" 9e should speak mindfully and listen mindfully to be benefitted by talking and listening" 9hen we listen and talk mindfully, our minds are free from greed, selfishness, hatred and delusion" <ur Goa5 #s meditators, we all must ha%e a goal, for if we do not ha%e a goal, we will simply be groping in the dark blindly following somebody5s instructions on meditation" 3here must certainly be a goal for whate%er we do consciously and willingly" +t is not the Vipassana meditator5s goal to become enlightened before other people or to ha%e more power or to make more profit than others, for mindfulness meditators are not in competition with each other" @ur goal is to reach the perfection of all the noble and wholesome *ualities latent in our subconscious mind" 3his goal has fi%e elements to itH 6urification of mind, o%ercoming sorrow and lamentation, o%ercoming pain and grief, treading the right path leading to attainment of eternal peace, and attaining happiness by following that path" Keeping this fi%efold goal in mind, we can ad%ance with hope and confidence to reach the goal" Practice @nce you sit, do not change the position again until the end of the time you determined at the beginning" uppose you change your original position because it is uncomfortable, and assume another position" 9hat happens after a while is that the new position becomes uncomfortable" 3hen you want another and after a while, it too becomes uncomfortable" o you may go on shifting, mo%ing, changing one position to another the whole time you are on your mediation cushion and you may not gain a deep and meaningful le%el of concentration" 3herefore, do not change your original position, no matter how painful it is" 3o a%oid changing your position, determine at the beginning of meditation how long you are going to meditate" +f you ha%e ne%er meditated before, sit motionless not longer than twenty minutes" #s you repeat your practice, you can increase your sitting time" 3he length of sitting depends on how much time you ha%e for sitting meditation practice and how long you can sit without e>cruciating pain" 9e should not ha%e a time schedule to attain the goal, for our attainment depends on how we progress in our practice based on our understanding and de%elopment of our spiritual faculties" 9e must work diligently and mindfully towards the goal without setting any particular time schedule to reach it" 9hen we are ready, we get there" #ll we ha%e to do is to prepare oursel%es for that attainment" #fter sitting motionless, close your eyes" @ur mind is analogous to a cup of muddy water" 3he longer you keep a cup of muddy water still, the more mud settles down and the water will be seen clearly" imilarly, if you keep *uiet without mo%ing you body, focusing your entire undi%ided attention on the sub-ect of your meditation, your mind settles down and begins to e>perience the bliss of meditation" 3o prepare for this attainment, we should keep our mind in the present moment" 3he present moment is changing so fast that the casual obser%er does not seem to notice its e>istence at all" :%ery moment is a moment of e%ents and no moment passes by without noticing e%ents taking place in that moment" 3herefore, the moment we try to pay bare attention to is the present moment" @ur mind goes through a series of e%ents like a series of pictures passing through a pro-ector" ome of these pictures are coming from our past e>periences and others are our imaginations of things that we plan to do in the future" 3he mind can ne%er be focused without a mental ob-ect" 3herefore we must gi%e our mind an ob-ect which is readily a%ailable e%ery present moment" 9hat is present e%ery moment is our breath" 3he mind does not ha%e to make a great effort to find the breath, for e%ery moment the breath is flowing in and out through our nostrils" #s our practice of insight meditation is taking place e%ery
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waking moment, our mind finds it %ery easy to focus itself on the breath, for it is more conspicuous and constant than any other ob-ect" #fter sitting in the manner e>plained earlier and ha%ing shared your lo%ingAkindness with e%erybody, take three deep breaths" #fter taking three deep breaths, breathe normally, letting your breath flow in and out freely, effortlessly and begin focusing your attention on the rims of your nostrils" imply notice the feeling of breath going in and out" 9hen one inhalation is complete and before e>haling begins, there is a brief pause" ;otice it and notice the beginning of e>haling" 9hen the e>halation is complete, there is another brief pause before inhaling begins" ;otice this brief pause, too" 3his means that there are two brief pauses of breathAAone at the end of inhaling, and the other at the end of e>haling" 3he two pauses occur in such a brief moment you may not be aware of their occurrence" But when you are mindful, you can notice them" Do not %erbaliDe or conceptualiDe anything" imply notice the inAcoming and outAgoing breath without saying, G+ breathe inG, or G+ breathe out"G 9hen you focus your attention on the breath ignore any thought, memory, sound, smell, taste, etc", and focus your attention e>clusi%ely on the breath, nothing else" #t the beginning, both the inhalations and e>halations are short because the body and mind are not calm and rela>ed" ;otice the feeling of that short inhaling and short e>haling as they occur without saying Gshort inhalingG or Gshort e>halingG" #s you remain noticing the felling of short inhaling and short e>haling, your body and mind become relati%ely calm" 3hen your breath becomes long" ;otice the feeling of that long breath as it is without saying G!ong breathG" 3hen notice the entire breathing process from the beginning to the end" ubse*uently the breath becomes subtle, and the mind and body become calmer than before" ;otice this calm and peaceful feeling of your breathing" #hat 8o &o #hen the Min+ #an+er, A!ay0 +n spite of your concerted effort to keep the mind on your breathing, the mind may wander away" +t may go to past e>periences and suddenly you may find yourself remembering places you5%e %isited, people you met, friends not seen for a long time, a book you read long ago, the taste of food you ate yesterday, and so on" #s soon as you notice that you mind is no longer on your breath, mindfully bring it back to it and anchor it there" Howe%er, in a few moments you may be caught up again thinking how to pay your bills, to make a telephone call to you friend, write a letter to someone, do your laundry, buy your groceries, go to a party, plan your ne>t %acation, and so forth" #s soon as you notice that your mind is not on your sub-ect, bring it back mindfully" 2ollowing are some suggestions to help you gain the concentration necessary for the practice of mindfulness" -ounting +n a situation like this, counting may help" 3he purpose of counting is simply to focus the mind on the breath" @nce you mind is focused on the breath, gi%e up counting" 3his is a de%ice for gaining concentration" 3here are numerous ways of counting" #ny counting should be done mentally" Do not make any sound when you count" 2ollowing are some of the ways of counting" 1" 9hile breathing in count Gone, one, one, one"""G until the lungs are full of fresh air" 9hile breathing out count Gtwo, two, two, two"""G until the lungs are empty of fresh air" 3hen while breathing in again count Gthree, three, three, three"""G until the lungs are full again and while breathing out count again Gfour, four, four, four"""G until the lungs are empty of fresh air" )ount up to ten and repeat as many times as necessary to keep the mind focused on the breath" 2" 3he second method of counting is counting rapidly up to ten" 9hile counting Gone, two, three, four, fi%e, si>, se%en, eight, nine and tenG breathe in and again while counting Gone, two, three, four, fi%e, si>, se%en, eight, nine and tenG breathe out" 3his means in one inhaling you should count up to ten and in one e>haling you should count up to ten" 4epeat this way of counting as many times as necessary to focus the mind on the breath"

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=" 3he third method of counting is to counting secession up to ten" #t this time count Gone, two, three, four, fi%eG .only up to fi%e0 while inhaling and then count Gone, two, three, four, fi%e, si>G .up to si>0 while e>haling" #gain count Gone, two, three, four fire, si> se%enG .only up to se%en0 while inhaling" 3hen count Gone, two, three, four, fi%e, si>, se%en, eightG while e>haling" )ount up to nine while inhaling and count up to ten while e>haling" 4epeat this way of counting as many times as necessary to focus the mind on the breath" '" 3he fourth method is to take a long breath" 9hen the lungs are full, mentally count GoneG and breath out completely until the lungs are empty of fresh air" 3hen count mentally GtwoG" 3ake a long breath again and count GthreeG and breath completely out as before" 9hen the lungs are empty of fresh air, count mentally GfourG" )ount your breath in this manner up to ten" 3hen count backward from ten to one" )ount again from one to ten and then ten to one" C" 3he fifth method is to -oin inhaling and e>haling" 9hen the lungs are empty of fresh air, count mentally GoneG" 3his time you should count both inhalation and e>halation as one" #gain inhale, e>hale, and mentally count GtwoG" 3his way of counting should be done only up to fi%e and repeated from fi%e to one" 4epeat this method until you breathing becomes refined and *uiet" 4emember that you are not supposed to continue your counting all the time" #s soon as your mind is locked at the nostrilsAtip where the inhaling breath and e>haling breath touch and begin to feel that you breathing is so refined and *uiet that you cannot notice inhalation and e>halation separately, you should gi%e up counting" )ounting is used only to train the mind to concentrate on one point" -onnecting #fter inhaling do not wait to notice the brief pause before e>haling but connect the inhaling and e>haling, so you can notice both inhaling and e>haling as one continuous breath" =ixing #fter -oining inhaling and e>haling, fi> your mind on the point where you feel you inhaling and e>haling breath touching" +nhale and e>hale as on single breath mo%ing in and out touching or rubbing the rims of your nostrils" =ocu, you 'in+ 5i:e a car.enter # carpenter draws a straight line on a board and that he wants to cut" 3hen he cuts the board with his handsaw along the straight line he drew" He does not look at the teeth of his saw as they mo%e in and out of the board" 4ather he focuses his entire attention on the line he drew so he can cut the board straight" imilarly keep your mind straight on the point where you feel the breath at the rims of your nostrils" Ma:e you 'in+ 5i:e a gate-:ee.er # gateAkeeper does not take into account any detail of the people entering a house" #ll he does is notice people entering the house and lea%ing the house through the gate" imilarly, when you concentrate you should not take into account any detail of your e>periences" imply notice the feeling of your inhaling and e>haling breath as it goes in and out right at the rims of your nostrils" #s you continue your practice you mind and body becomes so light that you may feel as if you are floating in the air or on water" 1ou may e%en feel that your body is springing up into the sky" 9hen the grossness of your inAandAout breathing has ceased, subtle inAandAout breathing arises" 3his %ery subtle breath is your ob-ecti%e focus of the mind" 3his is the sign of concentration" 3his first appearance of a signAob-ect will be replaced by more and more subtle signAob-ect" 3his subtlety of the sign can be compared to the sound of a bell" 9hen a bell is struck with a big iron rod, you hear a gross sound at first" #s the sound faces away, the sound becomes %ery subtle" imilarly the inAandAout breath appears at first as a gross sign" #s you keep paying bare attention to it, this sign becomes %ery subtle" But the consciousness remains totally focused on the rims of the nostrils" @ther meditation ob-ects become clearer and clearer, as the sign de%elops" But the breath becomes subtler and subtler as the sign de%elops" Because of this subtlety, you may not notice the presence of your breath" Don5t get
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disappointed thinking that you lost your breath or that nothing is happening to your meditation practice" Don5t worry" Be mindful and determined to bring your feeling of breath back to the rims of your nostrils" 3his is the time you should practice more %igorously, balancing your energy, faith, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom" =ar'er2, ,i'i5e uppose there is a farmer who uses buffaloes for plowing his rice field" #s he is tired in the middle of the day, he unfastens his buffaloes and takes a rest under the cool shade of a tree" 9hen he wakes up, he does not find his animals" He does not worry, but simply walks to the water place where all the animals gather for drinking in the hot midAday and he finds his buffaloes there" 9ithout any problem he brings them back and ties them to the yoke again and starts plowing his field" imilarly as you continue this e>ercise, your breath becomes so subtle and refined that you might not be able to notice the feeling of breath at all" 9hen this happens, do not worry" +t has not disappeared" +t is still where it was beforeAright at the nostrilAtips" 3ake a few *uick breaths and you will notice the feeling of breathing again" )ontinue to pay bare attention to the feeling of the touch of breath at the rims of your nostrils" #s you keep your mind focused on the rims of your nostrils, you will be able to notice the sign of the de%elopment of meditation" 1ou will feel the pleasant sensation of sign" Different meditators feel this differently" +t will be like a star, or a peg made of heartwood, or a long string, or a wreath of flowers, or a puff of smoke, or a cobAweb, or a film of cloud, or a lotus flower, or the disc of the moon or the disc of the sun" :arlier in your practice you had inhaling and e>haling as ob-ects of meditation" ;ow you ha%e the sign as the third ob-ect of meditation" 9hen you focus your mind on this third ob-ect, your mind reaches a stage of concentration sufficient for your practice of insight meditation" 3his sign is strongly present at the rims of the nostrils" Master it and gain full control of it so that whene%er you want, it should be a%ailable" /nite the mind with this sign which is a%ailable in the present moment and let the mind flow with e%ery succeeding moment" #s you pay bare attention to it, you will see the sign itself is changing e%ery moment" Keep your mind with the changing moments" #lso notice that your mind can be concentrated only on the present moment" 3his unity of the mind with the present moment is called 'o'entary concentration" #s moments are incessantly passing away one after another, the mind keeps pace with them" )hanging with them, appearing and disappearing with them without clinging to any of them" +f we try to stop the mind at one moment, we end up in frustration because the mind cannot be held fast" +t must keep up with what is happening in the new moment" #s the present moment can be found any moment, e%ery waking moment can be made a concentrated moment" 3o unite the mind with the present moment, we must find something happening in that moment" Howe%er, you cannot focus your mind on e%ery changing moment without a certain degree of concentration to keep pace with the moment" @nce you gain this degree of concentration, you can use it for focusing your attention on anything you e>perienceAAthe rising and falling of your abdomen, the rising and falling of the chest area, the rising and falling of any feeling, or the rising and falling of your breath or thoughts and so on" 3o make any progress in insight meditation you need this kind of momentary concentration" 3hat is all you need for the insight meditation practice because e%erything in your e>perience li%es only for one moment" 9hen you focus this concentrated state of mind on the changes taking place in your mind and body, you will notice that your breath is the physical part and the feeling of breath, consciousness of the feeling and the consciousness of the sign are the mental parts" #s you notice them you can notice that they are changing all the time" 1ou may ha%e %arious types of sensations, other than the feeling of breathing, taking place in your body" 9atch them all o%er your body" Don5t try to create any feeling which is not naturally present in any part of your body" 9hen thought arises notice it, too" #ll you should notice in all these occurrences is the impermanent, unsatisfactory and selfless nature of all your e>periences whether mental or physical"
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#s your mindfulness de%elops, your resentment for the change, your dislike for the unpleasant e>periences, your greet for the pleasant e>periences and the notion of self hood will be replaced by the deeper insight of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness" 3his knowledge of reality in your e>perience helps you to foster a more calm, peaceful and mature attitude towards your life" 1ou will see what you thought in the past to be permanent is changing with such an inconcei%able rapidity that e%en your mind cannot keep up with these changes" omehow you will be able to notice many of the changes" 1ou will see the subtlety of impermanence and the subtlety of selflessness" 3his insight will show you the way to peace, happiness and gi%e you the wisdom to handle your daily problems in life" 9hen the mind is united with the breath flowing all the time, we will naturally be able to focus the mind on the present moment" 9e can notice the feeling arising from contact of breath with the rim of our nostrils" #s the earth element of the air that we breathe in and out touches the earth element of our nostrils, the mind feels the flow of air in and out" 3he warm feeling arises at the nostrils or any other part of the body from the contact of the heat element generated by the breathing process" 3he feeling of impermanence of breath arises when the earth element of flowing breath touches the nostrils" #lthough the water element is present in the breath, the mind cannot feel it" #lso we feel the e>pansion and contraction of our lungs, abdomen and low abdomen, as the fresh air is pumped in and out of the lungs" 3he e>pansion and contraction of the abdomen, lower abdomen and chest are parts of the uni%ersal rhythm" :%erything in the uni%erse has the same rhythm of e>pansion and contraction -ust like our breath and body" #ll of them are rising and falling" Howe%er, our primary concern is the rising and falling phenomena of the breath and minute parts of our minds and bodies" #long with the inhaling breath, we e>perience a small degree of calmness" 3his little degree of tensionAfree calmness turns into tension if we don5t breathe out in a few moments" #s we breathe out this tension is released" #fter breathing out, we e>perience discomfort if we wait too long before ha%ing fresh brought in again" 3his means that e%ery time our lings are full we must breathe out and e%ery time our lungs are empty we must breathe in" #s we breathe in, we e>perience a small degree of calmness, and as we breathe out, we e>perience a small degree of calmness" 9e desire calmness and relief of tension and do not like the tension and feeling resulting from the lack of breath" 9e wish that the calmness would stay longer and the tension disappear more *uickly that it normally does" But neither will the tension go away as fast as we wish not the calmness stay as long as we wish" #nd again we get agitated or irritated, for we desire the calmness to return and stay longer and the tension to go away *uickly and not to return again" Here we see how e%en a small degree of desire for permanency in an impermanent situation causes pain or unhappiness" ince there is no selfAentity to control this situation, we will become more disappointed" Howe%er, if we watch our breathing without desiring calmness and without resenting tension arising from the breathing in and out, but e>perience only the impermanence, the unsatisfactoriness and selflessness of our breath, our mind becomes peaceful and calm" #lso, the mind does not stay all the time with the feeling of breath" +t goes to sounds, memories, emotions, perceptions, consciousness and mental formations as well" 9hen we e>perience these states, we should forget about the feeling of breath and immediately focus our attention on these statesAAone at a time, not all of them at one time" #s they fade away, we let our mind return to the breath which is the home base the mind can return to from *uick or long -ourney to %arious states of mind and body" 9e must remember that all these mental -ourneys are made within the mind itself" :%ery time the mind returns to the breath, it comes back with a deeper insight into impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness" 3he mind becomes more insightful from the impartial and unbiased watching of these occurrences" 3he mind gains insight into the fact that this body, these feelings, %arious states of consciousness and numerous mental formations are to be used only for the purpose of gaining deeper insight into the reality of this mindKbody comple>"
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-ha.ter $

#hat 8o &o #ith >our Bo+y


3he practice of meditation has been going on for se%eral thousand years" 3hat is *uite a bit of time for e>perimentation, and the procedure has been %ery, %ery thoroughly refined" Buddhist practice has always recogniDed that the mind and body are tightly linked and that each influences the other" 3hus there are certain recommended physical practices which will greatly assist you to master your skill" #nd these practices should be followed" Keep in mind, howe%er, that these postures are practice aids" Don5t confuse the two" Meditation does not mean sitting in the lotus position" +t is a mental skill" +t can be practiced anywhere you wish" But these postures will help you learn this skill and they speed your progress and de%elopment" o use them" Genera5 Ru5e, 3he purpose of the %arious postures is threefold" 2irst, they pro%ide a stable feeling in the body" 3his allows you to remo%e your attention from such issues as balance and muscular fatigue, so that you can then center your concentration upon the formal ob-ect of meditation" econd, they promote physical immobility which is then reflected by an immobility of mind" 3his creates a deeply settled and tran*uil concentration" 3hird, they gi%e you the ability to sit for a long period of time without yielding to the meditator5s three main enemiesAApain, muscular tension and falling asleep" 3he most essential thing is to sit with your back straight" 3he spine should be erect with the spinal %ertebrae held like a stack of coins, one on top of the other" 1our head should be held in line with the rest of the spine" #ll of this is done in a rela>ed manner" ;o tiffness" 1ou are not a wooden soldier, and there is no drill sergeant" 3here should be no muscular tension in%ol%ed in keeping the back straight" it light and easy" 3he spine should be like a firm young tree growing out of soft ground" 3he rest of the body -ust hangs from it in a loose, rela>ed manner" 3his is going to re*uire a bit of e>perimentation on your part" 9e generally sit in tight, guarded postures when we are walking or talking and in sprawling postures when we are rela>ing" ;either of those will do" But they are cultural habits and they can be reAlearned" 1our ob-ecti%e is to achie%e a posture in which you can sit for the entire session without mo%ing at all" +n the beginning, you will probably feel a bit odd to sit with the straight back" But you will get used to it" +t takes practice, and an erect posture is %ery important" 3his is what is known in physiology as a position of arousal, and with it goes mental alertness" +f you slouch, you are in%iting drowsiness" 9hat you sit on is e*ually important" 1ou are going to need a chair or a cushion, depending on the posture you choose, and the firmness of the seat must be chosen with some care" 3oo soft a seat can put you right to sleep" 3oo hard can promote pain" -5othing 3he clothes you wear for meditation should be loose and soft" +f they restrict blood flow or put pressure on ner%es, the result will be pain andKor that tingling numbness which we normally refer to as our 5legs going to sleep5" +f you are wearing a belt, loosen it" Don5t wear tight pants or pants made of thick material" !ong skirts are a good choice for women" !oose pants made of thin or elastic material are fine for anybody" oft, flowing robes are the traditional garb in #sia and they come in an enormous %ariety of styles such as sarongs and kimonos" 3ake your shoes off and if your stockings are thick and binding, take them off, too" 8ra+itiona5 Po,ture, 9hen you are sitting on the floor in the traditional #sian manner, you need a cushion to ele%ate your spine" )hoose one that is relati%ely firm and at least three inches thick when compressed" it close to the front edge of the cushion and let your crossed legs rest on the floor in front of you" +f the
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floor is carpeted, that may be enough to protect your shins and ankles from pressure" +f it is not, you will probably need some sort of padding for your legs" # folded blanket will do nicely" Don5t sit all the way back on the cushion" 3his position causes its front edge to press into the underside of your thigh, causing ner%es to pinch" 3he result will be leg pain" 3here are a number of ways you can fold your legs" 9e will list four in ascending order of preference" 1" #merican +ndian style" 1our right foot is tucked under the left knee and left foot is tucked under your right knee" 2" Burmese style" Both of your legs lie flat on the floor from knee to foot" 3hey are parallel with each other and one in front of the other" =" Half lotus" Both knees touch the floor" @ne leg and foot lie flat along the calf of the other leg" '" 2ull lotus" Both knees touch the floor, and your legs are crossed at the calf" 1our left foot rests on the right thigh, and your right foot rests on the left thigh" Both soles turn upward" +n these postures, your hands are cupped one on the other, and they rest on your lap with the palms turned upward" 3he hands lie -ust below the na%el with the bend of each wrist pressed against the thigh" 3his arm position pro%ides firm bracing for the upper body" Don5t tighten your neck muscles" 4ela> your arms" 1our diaphragm is held rela>ed, e>panded to ma>imum fullness" Don5t let tension build up in the stomach area" 1our chin is up" 1our eyes can be open or closed" +f you keep them open, fi> them on the tip of your nose or in the middle distance straight in front" 1ou are not looking at anything" 1ou are -ust putting your eyes in some arbitrary direction where there is nothing in particular to see, so that you can forget about %ision" Don5t strain" Don5t stiffen and don5t be rigid" 4ela>B let the body be natural and supple" !et it hang from the erect spine like a rag doll" Half and full lotus positions are the traditional meditation postures in asia" #nd the full lotus is considered the best" +t is the most solid by far" @nce you are locked into this position, you can be completely immo%able for a %ery long period" ince it re*uires a considerable fle>ibility in the legs, not e%erybody can do it" Besides, the main criterion by which you choose a posture for yourself is not what others say about it" +t is your own comfort" )hoose a position which allows you to sit the longest without pain, without mo%ing" :>periment with different postures" 3he tendons will loosen with practice" #nd then you can work gradually towards the full lotus" ?,ing A -hair itting on the floor may not be feasible for you because of pain or some other reason" ;o problem" 1ou can always use a chair instead" 6ick one that has a le%el seat, a straight back and no arms" +t is best to sit in such a way that your back does not lean against the back of the chair" 3he front of the seat should not dig into the underside of your thighs" 6lace your legs side by side,feet flat on the floor" #s with the traditional postures, place both hands on your lap, cupped one upon the other" Don5t tighten your neck or shoulder muscles, and rela> your arms" 1our eyes can be open or closed" +n all the abo%e postures, remember your ob-ecti%es" 1ou want to achie%e a state of complete physical stillness, yet you don5t want to fall asleep" 4ecall the analogy of the muddy water" 1ou want to promote a totally settled state of the body which will engender a corresponding mental settling" 3here must also be a state of physical alertness which can induce the kind of mental clarity you seek" o e>periment" 1our body is a tool for creating desired mental states" /se it -udiciously"

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-ha.ter (

#hat 8o &o #ith >our Min+


3he meditation we teach is called *n,ight Me+itation" #s we ha%e already said, the %ariety of possible ob-ects of meditation is nearly unlimited, and human beings ha%e used an enormous number down through the ages" :%en within the Vipassana tradition there are %ariances" 3here are meditation teachers who teach their students to follow the breath by watching the rise and fall of the abdomen" @thers recommend focusing attention on the touch of the body against the cushion, or hand against hand, or the feeling of one leg against the other" 3he method we are e>plaining here, howe%er, is considered the most traditional and is probably what Gotama Buddha taught his students" 3he atipatthana utta, the Buddha5s original discourse on mindfulness, specifically says that one must begin by focusing the attention on the breathing and then go on to note all other physical and mental phenomena which arise" 9e sit, watching the air going in and out of our noses" #t first glance, this seems an e>ceedingly odd and useless procedure" Before going on to specific instructions, let us e>amine the reason behind it" 3he first *uestion we might address is why use any focus of attention at allF 9e are, after all, trying to de%elop awareness" 9hy not -ust sit down and be aware of whate%er happens to be present in the mindF +n fact there are meditations of that nature" 3hey are sometimes referred to as unstructured meditation and they are *uite difficult" 3he mind is tricky" 3hought is an inherently complicated procedure" By that we mean we become trapped, wrapped up, and stuck in the thought chain" @ne thought leads to another which leads to another, and another, and another, and so on" 2ifteen minutes later we suddenly wake up and realiDe we spent that whole time stuck in a daydream or se>ual fantasy or a set of worries about our bills or whate%er" 3here is a difference between being aware of a thought and thinking a thought" 3hat difference is %ery subtle" +t is primarily a matter of feeling or te>ture" # thought you are simply aware of with bare attention feels light in te>tureB there is a sense of distance between that thought and the awareness %iewing it" +t arises lightly like a bubble, and it passes away without necessarily gi%ing rise to the ne>t thought in that chain" ;ormal conscious thought is much hea%ier in te>ture" +t is ponderous, commanding, and compulsi%e" +t sucks you in and grabs control of consciousness" By its %ery nature it is obsessional, and it leads straight to the ne>t thought in the chain, apparently with no gap between them" )onscious thought sets up a corresponding tension in the body, such as muscular contraction or a *uickening of the heartbeat" But you won5t feel tension until it grows to actual pain, because normal conscious thought is also greedy" +t grabs all your attention and lea%es none to notice its own effect" 3he difference between being aware of the thought and thinking the thought is %ery real" But it is e>tremely subtle and difficult to see" )oncentration is one of the tools needed to be able to see this difference" Deep concentration has the effect of slowing down the thought process and speeding up the awareness %iewing it" 3he result is the enhanced ability to e>amine the thought process" )oncentration is our microscope for %iewing subtle internal states" 9e use the focus of attention to achie%e oneA pointedness of mind with calm and constantly applied attention" 9ithout a fi>ed reference point you get lost, o%ercome by the ceaseless wa%es of change flowing round and round within the mind" 9e use breath as our focus" +t ser%es as that %ital reference point from which the mind wanders and is drawn back" Distraction cannot be seen as distraction unless there is some central focus to be distracted from" 3hat is the frame of reference against which we can %iew the incessant changes and interruptions that go on all the time as a part of normal thinking" #ncient 6ali te>ts liken meditation to the process of taming a wild elephant" 3he procedure in those days was to tie a newly captured animal to a post with a good strong rope" 9hen you do this the
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elephant is not happy" He screams and tramples, and pulls against the rope for days" 2inally it sinks through his skull that he can5t get away, and he settles down" #t this point you can begin to feed him and to handle him with some measure of safety" :%entually you can dispense with the rope and post altogether, and train your elephant for %arious tasks" ;ow you5%e got a tamed elephant that can be put to useful work" +n this analogy the wild elephant is your wildly acti%e mind, the rope is mindfulness, and the post is our ob-ect of meditationAA breathing" 3he tamed elephant who emerges from this process is a well trained, concentrated mind that can then be used for the e>ceedingly tough -ob of piercing the layers of illusion that obscure reality" Meditation tames the mind" 3he ne>t *uestion we need to address isH 9hy choose breathing as the primary ob-ect of meditationF 9hy not something a bit more interestingF #nswers to this are numerous" # useful ob-ect of meditation should be one that promotes mindfulness" +t should be portable, easily a%ailable and cheap" +t should also be something that will not embroil us in those states of mind from which we are trying to free oursel%es, such as greed, anger and delusion" Breathing satisfies all these criteria and more" Breathing is something common to e%ery human being" 9e all carry it with us where%er we go" +t is always there, constantly a%ailable, ne%er ceasing from birth till death, and it costs nothing" Breathing is a nonAconceptual process, a thing that can be e>perienced directly without a need for thought" 2urthermore, it is a %ery li%ing process, an aspect of life that is in constant change" 3he breath mo%es in cyclesAAinhalation, e>halation, breathing in and breathing out" 3hus it is miniature model of life itself" 3he sensation of breath is subtle, yet it is *uite distinct when you learn to tune into it" +t takes a bit of an effort to find it" 1et anybody can do it" 1ou5%e got to work at it, but not too hard" 2or all these reasons, breathing makes an ideal ob-ect of meditation" Breathing is normally an in%oluntary process, proceeding at its own pace without a conscious will" 1et a single act of will can slow it down or speed it up" Make it long and smooth or short and choppy" 3he balance between in%oluntary breathing and forced manipulation of breath is *uite delicate" #nd there are lessons to be learned here on the nature of will and desire" 3hen, too, that point at the tip of the nostril can be %iewed as a sort of a window between the inner and outer worlds" +t is a ne>us point and energyAtransfer spot where stuff from the outside world mo%es in and becomes a part of what we call 5me5, and where a part of me flows forth to merge with the outside world" 3here are lessons to be learned here about selfA concept and how we form it" Breath is a phenomenon common to all li%ing things" # true e>periential understanding of the process mo%es you closer to other li%ing beings" +t shows you your inherent connectedness with all of life" 2inally, breathing is a presentAtime process" By that we mean it is always occurring in the hereA andAnow" 9e don5t normally li%e in the present, of course" 9e spend most of our time caught up in memories of the past or leaping ahead to the future, full of worries and plans" 3he breath has none of that 5otherAtimeness5" 9hen we truly obser%e the breath, we are automatically placed in the present" 9e are pulled out of the morass of mental images and into a bare e>perience of the hereA andAnow" +n this sense, breath is a li%ing slice of reality" # mindful obser%ation of such a miniature model of life itself leads to insight that are broadly applicable to the rest of our e>perience" 3he first step in using the breath as an ob-ect of meditation is to find it" 9hat you are looking for is the physical, tactile sensation of the air that passes in and out of the nostrils" 3his is usually -ust inside the tip of the nose" But the e>act spot %aries from one person to another, depending on the shape of the nose" 3o find your own point, take a *uick deep breath and notice the point -ust inside the nose or on the upper lip where you ha%e the most distinct sensation of passing air" ;ow e>hale and notice the sensation at the same point" +t is from this point that you will follow the whole passage of breath" @nce you ha%e located your own breath point with clarity, don5t de%iate from that spot" /se this single point in order to keep your attention fi>ed" 9ithout ha%ing selected such a point, you will find yourself mo%ing in and out of the nose, going up and down the windpipe, eternally chasing after the breath which you can ne%er catch because it keeps changing, mo%ing and flowing"
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+f you e%er sawed wood you already know the trick" #s a carpenter, you don5t stand there watching the saw blade going up and down" 1ou will get diDDy" 1ou fi> your attention on the spot where the teeth of the blade dig into the wood" +t is the only way you can saw a straight line" #s a meditator, you focus your attention on that single spot of sensation inside the nose" 2rom this %antage point, you watch the entire mo%ement of breath with clear and collected attention" Make no attempt to control the breath" 3his is not a breathing e>ercise of the sort done in 1oga" 2ocus on the natural and spontaneous mo%ement of the breath" Don5t try to regulate it or emphasiDe it in any way" Most beginners ha%e some trouble in this area" +n order to help themsel%es focus on the sensation, they unconsciously accentuate their breathing" 3he results is a forced and unnatural effort that actually inhibits concentration rather than helping it" Don5t increase the depth of your breath or its sound" 3his latter point is especially important in group meditation" !oud breathing can be a real annoyance to those around you" ?ust let the breath mo%e naturally, as if you were asleep" !et go and allow the process to go along at its own rhythm" 3his sounds easy, but it is trickier than you think" Do not be discouraged if you find your own will getting in the way" ?ust use that as an opportunity to obser%e the nature of conscious intention" 9atch the delicate interrelation between the breath, the impulse to control the breath and the impulse to cease controlling the breath" 1ou may find it frustrating for a while, but it is highly profitable as a learning e>perience, and it is a passing phase" :%entually, the breathing process will mo%e along under its own steam" #nd you will feel no impulse to manipulate it" #t this point you will ha%e learned a ma-or lesson about your own compulsi%e need to control the uni%erse" Breathing, which seems so mundane and uninteresting at first glance, is actually an enormously comple> and fascinating procedure" +t is full of delicate %ariations, if you look" 3here is inhalation and e>halation, long breath and short breath, deep breath, shallow breath, smooth breath and ragged breath" 3hese categories combine with one another in subtle and intricate ways" @bser%e the breath closely" 4eally study it" 1ou find enormous %ariations and constant cycle of repeated patterns" +t is like a symphony" Don5t obser%e -ust the bare outline of the breath" 3here is more to see here than -ust an inA breath and an outAbreath" :%ery breath has a beginning middle and end" :%ery inhalation goes through a process of birth, growth and death and e%ery e>halation does the same" 3he depth and speed of your breathing changes according to your emotional state, the thought that flows through your mind and the sounds you hear" tudy these phenomena" 1ou will find them fascinating" 3his does not mean, howe%er, that you should be sitting there ha%ing little con%ersations with yourself inside your headH G3here is a short ragged breath and there is a deep long one" + wonder what5s ne>tFG ;o, that is not Vipassana" 3hat is thinking" 1ou will find this sort of thing happening, especially in the beginning" 3his too is a passing phase" imply note the phenomenon and return your attention toward the obser%ation of the sensation of breath" Mental distractions will happen again" But return your attention to your breath again, and again, and again, and again, for as long as it takes until it does not happen anymore" 9hen you first begin this procedure, e>pect to face some difficulties" 1our mind will wander off constantly, darting around like a drunken bumblebee and Dooming off on wild tangents" 3ry not to worry" 3he monkeyAminded phenomenon is well known" +t is something that e%ery ad%anced meditator has had to deal with" 3hey ha%e pushed through it one way or another, and so can you" 9hen it happens, -ust not the fact that you ha%e been thinking, dayAdreaming, worrying, or whate%er" Gently, but firmly, without getting upset or -udging yourself for straying, simply return to the simple physical sensation of the breath" 3hen do it again the ne>t time, and again, an again, and again" omewhere in this process, you will come faceAtoAface with the sudden and shocking realiDation that you are completely craDy" 1our mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pellAmell down the hill, utterly out of control and hopeless" ;o problem" 1ou are not craDier than you were yesterday" +t has always been this way, and you -ust ne%er noticed" 1ou are also no craDier than e%erybody else around you" 3he only real difference is that you ha%e confronted the
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situationB they ha%e not" o they still feel relati%ely comfortable" 3hat does not mean that they are better off" +gnorance may be bliss, but it does not lead to liberation" o don5t let this realiDation unsettle you" +t is a milestone actually, a sigh of real progress" 3he %ery fact that you ha%e looked at the problem straight in the eye means that you are on your way up and out of it" +n the wordless obser%ation of the breath, there are two states to be a%oidedH thinking and sinking" 3he thinking mind manifests most clearly as the monkeyAmind phenomenon we ha%e -ust been discussing" 3he sinking mind is almost the re%erse" #s a general term, sinking mind denotes any dimming of awareness" #t its best, it is sort of a mental %acuum in which there is no thought, no obser%ation of the breath, no awareness of anything" +t is a gap, a formless mental gray area rather like a dreamless sleep" inking mind is a %oid" #%oid it" Vipassana meditation is an acti%e function" )oncentration is a strong, energetic attention to one single item" #wareness is a bright clean alertness" amahdhi and atiAAthese are the two faculties we wish to culti%ate" #nd sinking mind contains neither" #t its worst, it will put you to sleep" :%en at its best it will simply waste your time" 9hen you find you ha%e fallen into a state of sinking mind, -ust note the fact and return your attention to the sensation of breathing" @bser%e the tactile sensation of the inAbreath" 2eel the touch sensation of the outAbreath" Breathe in, breathe out and watch what happens" 9hen you ha%e been doing that for some timeAAperhaps weeks or monthsAAyou will begin to sense the touch as a physical ob-ect" imply continue the processAAbreathe in and breathe out" 9atch what happens" #s your concentration deepens you will ha%e less and less trouble with monkeyAmind" 1our breathing will slow down and you will track it more and more clearly, with fewer and fewer interruptions" 1ou begin to e>perience a state of great calm in which you en-oy complete freedom from those things we call psychic irritants" ;o greed, lust, en%y, -ealousy or hatred" #gitation goes away" 2ear flees" 3hese are beautiful, clear, blissful states of mind" 3hey are temporary, and they will end when meditation ends" 1et e%en these brief e>periences will change your life" 3his is not liberation, but these are stepping stones on the path that leads in that direction" Do not, howe%er, e>pect instant bliss" :%en these stepping stones take time and effort and patience" 3he meditation e>perience is not a competition" 3here is a definite goal" But there is no timetable" 9hat you are doing is digging your way deeper and deeper through the layers of illusion toward realiDation of the supreme truth of e>istence" 3he process itself is fascinating and fulfilling" +t can be en-oyed for its own sake" 3here is no need to rush" #t the end of a wellAdone meditation session you will feel a delightful freshness of mind" +t is peaceful, buoyant, and -oyous energy which you can then apply to the problems of daily li%ing" 3his in itself is reward enough" 3he purpose of meditation is not to deal with problems, howe%er, and problemA sol%ing ability is a fringe benefit and should be regarded as such" +f you place too much emphasis on the problemAsol%ing aspect, you will find your attention turning to those problems during the session sidetracking concentration" Don5t think about your problems during your practice" 6ush them aside %ery gently" 3ake a break from all that worrying and planning" !et your meditation be a complete %acation" 3rust yourself, trust your own ability to deal with these issues later, using the energy and freshness of mind that you built up during your meditation" 3rust yourself this way and it will actually occur" Don5t set goals for yourself that are too high to reach" Be gently with yourself" 1ou are trying to follow your own breathing continuously and without a break" 3hat sounds easy enough, so you will ha%e a tendency at the outset to push yourself to be scrupulous and e>acting" 3his is unrealistic" 3ake time in small units instead" #t the beginning of an inhalation, make the resol%e to follow the breath -ust for the period of that one inhalation" :%en this is not so easy, but at least it can be done" 3hen, at the start of the e>halation, resol%e to follow the breath -ust for that one e>halation, all the way through" 1ou will still fail repeatedly, but keep at it"
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:%ery time you stumble, start o%er" 3ake it one breath at a time" 3his is the le%el of the game where you can actually win" tick at itAAfresh resol%e with e%ery breath cycle, tiny units of time" @bser%e each breath with care and precision, taking it one split second on top of another, with fresh resol%e piled one on top of the other" +n this way, continuous and unbroken awareness will e%entually result" Mindfulness of breathing is a presentAtime awareness" 9hen you are doing it properly, you are aware only of what is occurring in the present" 1ou don5t look back and you don5t look forward" 1ou forget about the last breath, and you don5t anticipate the ne>t one" 9hen the inhalation is -ust beginning, you don5t look ahead to the end of that inhalation" 1ou don5t skip forward to the e>halation which is to follow" 1ou stay right there with what is actually taking place" 3he inhalation is beginning, and that5s what you pay attention toB that and nothing else" 3his meditation is a process of retraining the mind" 3he state you are aiming for is one in which you are totally aware of e%erything that is happening in your own perceptual uni%erse, e>actly the way it happens, e>actly when it is happeningB total, unbroken awareness in the present time" 3his is an incredibly high goal, and not to be reached all at once" +t takes practice, so we start small" 9e start by becoming totally aware of one small unit of time, -ust one single inhalation" #nd, when you succeed, you are on your way to a whole new e>perience of life"

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-ha.ter 8

Structuring >our Me+itation


:%erything up to this point has been theory" ;ow let5s di%e into the actual practice" ?ust how do we go about this thing called meditation" 2irst of all, you need to establish a formal practice schedule, a specific period when you will do Vipassana meditation and nothing else" 9hen you were a baby, you did not know how to walk" omebody went to a lot of trouble to teach you that skill" 3hey dragged you by the arms" 3hey ga%e you lots of encouragement" Made you put one foot in front of the other until you could do it by yourself" 3hose periods of instruction constituted a formal practice in the art of walking" +n meditation, we follow the same basic procedure" 9e set aside a certain time, specifically de%oted to de%eloping this mental skill called mindfulness" 9e de%ote these times e>clusi%ely to that acti%ity, and we structure our en%ironment so there will be a minimum of distraction" 3his is not the easiest skill in the world to learn" 9e ha%e spent our entire life de%eloping mental habits that are really *uite contrary to the ideal of uninterrupted mindfulness" :>tricating oursel%es from those habits re*uires a bit of strategy" #s we said earlier, our minds are like cups of muddy water" 3he ob-ect of meditation is to clarify this sludge so that we can see what is going on in there" 3he best way to do that is -ust let it sit" Gi%e it enough time and it will settle down" 1ou wind up with clear water" +n meditation, we set aside a specific time for this clarifying process" 9hen %iewed from the outside, it looks utterly useless" 9e sit there apparently as producti%e as a stone gargoyle" +nside, howe%er, *uite a bit is happening" 3he mental soup settles down, and we are left with a clarity of mind that prepares us to cope with the upcoming e%ents of our li%es" 3hat does not mean that we ha%e to do anything to force this settling" +t is a natural process that happens by itself" 3he %ery act of sitting still being mindful causes this settling" +n fact, any effort on our part to force this settling is counterproducti%e" 3hat is repression, and it does not work" 3ry to force things out of the mind and you merely add energy to them 1ou may succeed temporarily, but in the long run you will only ha%e made them stronger" 3hey will hide in the unconscious until you are not watching, then they will leap out and lea%e you helpless to fight them off" 3he best way to clarify the mental fluid is to -ust let it settle all by itself" Don5t add any energy to the situation" ?ust mindfully watch the mud swirl, without any in%ol%ement in the process" 3hen, when it settles at last, it will stay settled" 9e e>ert energy in meditation, but not force" @ur only effort is gently, patient mindfulness" 3he meditation period is like a crossAsection of your whole day" :%erything that happens to you is stored away in the mind in some form, mental or emotional" During normal acti%ity, you get so caught up in the press of e%ents that the basic issues with which you are dealing are seldom thoroughly handled" 3hey become buried in the unconscious, where they seethe and foam and fester" 3hen you wonder where all that tension came from" #ll of this material comes forth in one form or another during your meditation" 1ou get a chance to look at it, see it for what it is, and let it go" 9e set up a formal meditation period in order to create a conduci%e en%ironment for this release" 9e reA establish our mindfulness at regular inter%als" 9e withdraw from those e%ents which constantly stimulate the mind" 9e back out of all the acti%ity that prods the emotions" 9e go off to a *uiet place and we sit still, and it all comes bubbling out" 3hen it goes away" 3he net effect is like recharging a battery" Meditation recharges your mindfulness"

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#here 8o Sit 2ind yourself a *uiet place, a secluded place, a place where you will be alone" +t doesn5t ha%e to be some ideal spot in the middle of a forest" 3hat5s nearly impossible for most of us, but it should be a pace where you feel comfortable, and where you won5t be disturbed" +t should also be a place where you won5t feel on display" 1ou want all of your attention free for meditation, not wasted on worries about how you look to others" 3ry to pick a spot that is as *uiet as possible" +t doesn5t ha%e to be a soundproof room, but there are certain noises that are highly distracting, and they should be a%oided" Music and talking are about the worst" 3he mind tends to be sucked in by these sounds in an uncontrollable manner, and there goes your concentration" 3here are certain traditional aids that you can employ to set the proper mood" # darkened room with a candle is nice" +ncense is nice" # little bell to start and end your sessions is nice" 3hese are paraphernalia, though" 3hey pro%ide encouragement to some people, but they are by no means essential to the practice" 1ou will probably find it helpful to sit in the same place each time" # special spot reser%ed for meditation and nothing else is an aid for most people" 1ou soon come to associate that spot with the tran*uility of deep concentration, and that association helps you to reach deep states more *uickly" 3he main thing is to sit in a place that you feel is conducti%e to your own practice" 3hat re*uires a bit of e>perimentation" 3ry se%eral spots until you find one where you feel comfortable" 1ou only need to find a place where you don5t feel selfAconscious, and where you can meditate without undue distraction" Many people find it helpful and supporti%e to sit with a group of other meditators" 3he discipline of regular practice is essential, and most people find it easier to sit regularly if they are bolstered by a commitment to a group sitting schedule" 1ou5%e gi%en your word, and you know you are e>pected" 3hus the 5+5m too busy5 syndrome is cle%erly skirted" 1ou may be able to locate a group of practicing meditators in your area" +t doesn5t matter if they practice a different form of meditation, so long as it5s one of the silent forms" @n the other hand, you also should try to be selfAsufficient in your practice" Don5t rely on the presence of a group as your sole moti%ation to sit" 6roperly done, sitting is a pleasure" /se the group as an aid, not as a crutch" #hen 8o Sit 3he most important rule here is thisH 9hen it comes to sitting, the description of Buddhism as the Middle 9ay applies" Don5t o%erdo it" Don5t underdo it" 3his doesn5t mean you -ust sit whene%er the whim strikes you" +t means you set up a practice schedule and keep to it with a gently, patient tenacity" etting up a schedule acts as an encouragement" +f, howe%er, you find that your schedule has ceased to be an encouragement and become a burden, then something is wrong" Meditation is not a duty, nor an obligation" Meditation is psychological acti%ity" 1ou will be dealing with the raw stuff of feelings and emotions" )onse*uently, it is an acti%ity which is %ery sensiti%e to the attitude with which you approach each session" 9hat you e>pect is what you are most likely to get" 1our practice will therefore go best when you are looking forward to sitting" +f you sit down e>pecting grinding drudgery, that is probably what will occur" o set up a daily pattern that you can li%e with" Make it reasonable" Make it fit with the rest of your life" #nd if it starts to feel like you5re on an uphill treadmill toward liberation, then change something" 2irst thing in the morning is a great time to meditate" 1our mind is fresh then, before you5%e gotten yourself buried in responsibilities" Morning meditation is a fine way to start the day" +t tunes you up and gets you ready to deal with things efficiently" 1ou cruise through the rest of the day -ust a bit more lightly" Be sure you are thoroughly awake, though" 1ou won5t make much progress if you are sitting there nodding off, so get enough sleep" 9ash your face, or shower before you begin" 1ou may want to do a bit of e>ercise beforehand to get the circulation flowing" Do whate%er you need to do in
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order to wake up fully, then sit down to meditate" Do not, howe%er, let yourself get hung up in the day5s acti%ities" +t5s -ust too easy to forget to sit" Make meditation the first ma-or thing you do in the morning" 3he e%ening is another good time for practice" 1our mind is full of all the mental rubbish that you ha%e accumulated during the day, and it is great to get rid of the burden before you sleep" 1our meditation will cleanse and re-u%enate your mind" 4eA establish your mindfulness and your sleep will be real sleep" 9hen you first start meditation, once a day is enough" +f you feel like meditating more, that5s fine, but don5t o%erdo it" 3here5s a burnAout phenomenon we often see in new meditators" 3hey di%e right into the practice fifteen hours a day for a couple of weeks, and then the real world catches up with them" 3hey decide that this meditation business -ust takes too much time" 3oo many sacrifices are re*uired" 3hey ha%en5t got time for all of this" Don5t fall into that trap" Don5t burn yourself out the first week" Make haste slowly" Make your effort consistent and steady" Gi%e yourself time to incorporate the meditation practice into your life, and let your practice grow gradually and gently" #s your interest in meditation grows, you5ll find yourself making more room in your schedule for practice" +t5s a spontaneous phenomenon, and it happens pretty much by itselfAAno force necessary" easoned meditators manage three or four hours of practice a day" 3hey li%e ordinary li%es in the dayAtoAday world, and they still s*ueeDe it all in" #nd they en-oy it" +t comes naturally" Ho! ;ong 8o Sit # similar rule applies hereH it as long as you can, but don5t o%erdo" Most beginners start with twenty or thirty minutes" +nitially, it5s difficult to sit longer than that with profit" 3he posture is unfamiliar to 9esterners, and it takes a bit of time for the body to ad-ust" 3he mental skills are e*ually unfamiliar, and that ad-ustment takes time, too" #s you grow accustomed to procedure, you can e>tend your meditation little by little" 9e recommend that after a year or so of steady practice you should be sitting comfortable for an hour at a time" Here is an important point, thoughH Vipassana meditation is not a form of asceticism" elfA mortification is not the goal" 9e are trying to culti%ate mindfulness, not pain" ome pain is ine%itable, especially in the legs" 9e will thoroughly co%er pain, and how to handle it, in )hapter 1$" 3here are special techni*ues and attitudes which you will learn for dealing with discomfort" 3he point to be made here is thisH 3his is not a grim endurance contest" 1ou don5t need to pro%e anything to anybody" o don5t force yourself to sit with e>cruciating pain -ust to be able to say that you sat for an hour" 3hat is a useless e>ercise in ego" #nd don5t o%erdo it in the beginning" Know your limitations, and don5t condemn yourself for not being able to sit fore%er, like a rock" #s meditation becomes more and more a part of your life, you can e>tend your sessions beyond an hour" #s a general rule, -ust determine what is a comfortable length of time for you at this point in your life" 3hen sit fi%e minutes longer than that" 3here is no hard and fast rule about length of time for sitting" :%en if you ha%e established a firm minimum, there may be days when it is physically impossible for you to sit that long" 3hat doesn5t mean that you should -ust cancel the whole idea for that day" +t5s crucial to sit regularly" :%en ten minutes of meditation can be %ery beneficial" +ncidentally, you decide on the length of your session before you meditate" Don5t do it while you are meditating" +t5s too easy to gi%e in to restlessness that way, and restlessness is one of the main items that we want to learn to mindfully obser%e" o choose a realistic length of time, and then stick to it" 1ou can use a watch to time you sessions, but don5t peek at it e%ery two minutes to see how you are doing" 1our concentration will be completely lost, and agitation will set in" 1ou5ll find your self hoping to get up before the session is o%er" 3hat5s not meditationAAthat5s clock watching" DonBt look at the clock until you think the whole meditation period has passed" #ctually, you don5t need to consult the clock at all, at least not e%ery time you meditate" +n general, you should be sitting for as
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long as you want to sit" 3here is no magic length of time" +t is best, though, to set yourself a minimum length of time" +f you ha%en5t predetermined a minimum, you5ll find yourself prone to short sessions" 1ou5ll bolt e%ery time something unpleasant comes up or whene%er you feel restless" 3hat5s not good" 3hese e>periences are some of the most profitable a meditator can face, but only if you sit through them" 1ou5%e got to learn to obser%e them calmly and clearly" !ook at them mindfully" 9hen you5%e done that enough time, they lose their hold on you" 1ou see them for what they areH -ust impulses, arising and passing away, -ust part of the passing show" 1our life smoothes out beautifully as a conse*uence" 5Discipline5 is a difficult word for most of us" +t con-ures up images of somebody standing o%er you with a stick, telling you that you5re wrong" But selfAdiscipline is different" +t5s the skill of seeing through the hollow shouting of your own impulses and piercing their secret" 3hey ha%e no power o%er you" +t5s all a show, a deception" 1our urges scream and bluster at youB they ca-oleB they coa>B they threatenB but they really carry no stick at all" 1ou gi%e in out of habit" 1ou gi%e in because you ne%er really bother to look beyond the threat" +t is all empty back there" 3here is only one way to learn this lesson, though" 3he words on this page won5t do it" But look within and watch the stuff coming upAA restlessness, an>iety, impatience, painAA -ust watch it come up and don5t get in%ol%ed" Much to your surprise, it will simply go away" +t rises, it passes away" #s simple as that" 3here is another word for 5selfAdiscipline5" +t is 56atience5"

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-ha.ter )

Set ?. @xerci,e,
+n 3hera%ada Buddhist countries, it is traditional to begin each meditation session with the recitation of a certain set of formulas" #n #merican audience is likely to take one glance at these in%ocations and to dismiss them as harmless rituals and nothing more" 3he soAcalled rituals, howe%er, ha%e been de%ised and refined by a set of pragmatic and dedicated men and women, and they ha%e a thoroughly practical purpose" 3hey are therefore worthy of deeper inspection" 3he Buddha was considered contrary in his own day" He was born into an intensely o%erA ritualiDed society, and his ideas appeared thoroughly iconoclastic to the established hierarchy of his own era" @n numerous occasions, he disa%owed the use of rituals for their own sake, and he was *uite adamant about it" 3his does not mean that ritual has no use" +t means that ritual by itself, performed strictly for it5s own sake, will not get you out of the trap" +f you belie%e that mere recitation of words will sa%e you, then you only increase your own dependence on words and concepts" 3his mo%es you away from the wordless perception of reality rather than toward it" 3herefore, the formulae which follow must be practiced with a clear understanding of what they are and why they work" 3hey are not magical incantations" 3hey are psychological cleansing de%ices which re*uire acti%e mental participation in order to be effecti%e" Mumbled words without intention are useless" Vipassana meditation is a delicate psychological acti%ity, and the mental set of the practitioner is crucial to its success" 3he techni*ue works best in an atmosphere of calm, bene%olent confidence" #nd these recitations ha%e been designed to foster those attitudes" )orrectly used, they can act as a helpful tool on the path to liberation" 8he 8hreefo5+ Gui+ance Meditation is a tough -ob" +t is an inherently solitary acti%ity" @ne person battles against enormously powerful forces, part of the %ery structure of the mind doing the meditating" 9hen you really get into it, you will e%entually find yourself confronted with a shocking realiDation" @ne day you will look inside and realiDe the full enormity of what you are actually up against" 9hat you are struggling to pierce looks like a solid wall so tightly knit that not a single ray of light shines through" 1ou find yourself sitting there, staring at this edifice and you say to yourself, G3hatF + am supposed to get past thatF But it5s impossibleI 3hat is all there is" 3hat is the whole world" 3hat is what e%erything means, and that is what + use to define myself and to understand e%erything around me, and if + take that away the whole world will fall apart and + will die" + cannot get through that" + -ust can5t"G +t is a %ery scary feeling, a %ery lonely feeling" 1ou feel like, GHere + am, all alone, trying to punch away something so huge it is beyond conception"G 3o counteract this feeling, it is useful to know that you are not alone" @thers ha%e passed this way before" 3hey ha%e confronted that same barrier, and they ha%e pushed their way through to the light" 3hey ha%e laid out the rules by which the -ob can be done, and they ha%e banded together into a brotherhood for mutual encouragement and support" 3he Bu++ha found his way through this %ery same wall, and after him came many others" He left clear instructions in the form of the &ha''a to guide us along the same path" #nd he founded the Sangha, the brotherhood of monks to preser%e that path and to keep each other on it" 1ou are not alone, and the situation is not hopeless"

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Meditation takes energy" 1ou need courage to confront some pretty difficult mental phenomena and the determination to sit through %arious unpleasant mental states" !aDiness -ust will not ser%e" +n order to pump up your energy for the -ob, repeat the following statements to yourself" 2eel the intention you put into them" Mean what you say" G+ am about to tread the %ery path that has been walked by the Buddha and by his great and holy disciples" #n indolent person cannot follow that path" May my energy pre%ail" May + succeed"G Vipassana meditation is an e>ercise in mindfulness, egoless awareness" +t is a procedure in which the ego will be eradicated by the penetrating gaDe of mindfulness" 3he practitioner begins this process with the ego in full command of mind and body" 3hen, as mindfulness watches the ego function, it penetrates to the roots of the mechanics of ego and e>tinguishes ego piece by piece" 3here is a full blown )atchA22 in all this, howe%er" Mindfulness is egoless awareness" +f we start with ego in full control, how do we put enough mindfulness there at the beginning to get the -ob startedF 3here is always some mindfulness present in any moment" 3he real problem is to gather enough of it to be effecti%e" 3o do this we can use a cle%er tactic" 9e can weaken those aspects of ego which do the most harm, so that mindfulness will ha%e less resistance to o%ercome" Greed and hatred are the prime manifestations of the ego process" 3o the e>tent that grasping and re-ecting are present in the mind, mindfulness will ha%e a %ery rough time" 3he results of this are easy to see" +f you sit down to meditate while you are in the grip of some strong obsessi%e attachment, you will find that you will get nowhere" +f you are all hung up in your latest scheme to make more money, you probably will spend most of your meditation period doing nothing but thinking about it" +f you are in a black fury o%er some recent insult, that will occupy your mind -ust as fully" 3here is only so much time in one day, and your meditation minutes are precious" +t is best not to waste them" 3he 3hera%ada tradition has de%eloped a useful tool which will allow you to remo%e these barriers from your mind at least temporarily, so that you can get on with the -ob of remo%ing their roots permanently" 1ou can use one idea to cancel another" 1ou can balance a negati%e emotion by instilling a positi%e one" Gi%ing is the opposite of greed" Bene%olence is the opposite of hatred" /nderstand clearly nowH 3his is not an attempt to liberate yourself by autohypnosis" 1ou cannot condition :nlightenment" ;ibbana is an unconditioned state" # liberated person will indeed be generous and bene%olent, but not because he has been conditioned to be so" He will be so purely as a manifestation of his own basic nature, which is no longer inhibited by ego" o this is not conditioning" 3his is rather psychological medicine" +f you take this medicine according to directions, it will bring temporary relief from the symptoms of the malady from which you are currently suffering" 3hen you can get to work in earnest on the illness itself" 1ou start out by banishing thoughts of selfAhatred and selfA condemnation" 1ou allow good feelings and good wishes first to flow to yourself, which is relati%ely easy" 3hen you do the same for those people closest to you" Gradually, you work outward from your own circle of intimates until you can direct a flow of those same emotions to your enemies and to all li%ing beings e%erywhere" )orrectly done, this can be a powerful and transformati%e e>ercise in itself"

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#t the beginning of each meditation session, say the following sentences to yourself" 4eally feel the intentionH May + be well, happy and peaceful" May no harm come to me" May no difficulties come to me" May no problems come to me" May + always meet with success" May + also ha%e patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and o%ercome ine%itable difficulties, problems, and failures in life" May my parents be well, happy and peaceful" May no harm come to them" May no difficulties come to them" May no problems come to them" May they always meet with success" May they also ha%e patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and o%ercome ine%itable difficulties, problems, and failures in life" May my teachers be well, happy and peaceful" May no harm come to them" May no difficulties come to them" May no problems come to them" May they always meet with success" May they also ha%e patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and o%ercome ine%itable difficulties, problems, and failures in life" May my relati%es be well, happy and peaceful" May no harm come to them" May no difficulties come to them" May no problems come to them" May they always meet with success" May they also ha%e patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and o%ercome ine%itable difficulties, problems, and failures in life" May my friends be well, happy and peaceful" May no harm come to them" May no difficulties come to them" May no problems come to them" May they always meet with success" May they also ha%e patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and o%ercome ine%itable difficulties, problems, and failures in life" May all indifferent persons be well, happy and peaceful" May no harm come to them" May no difficulties come to them" May no problems come to them" May they always meet with success" May they also ha%e patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and o%ercome ine%itable difficulties, problems, and failures in life" May my enemies be well, happy and peaceful" May no harm come to them" May no difficulties come to them" May no problems come to them" May they always meet with success" May they also ha%e patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and o%ercome ine%itable difficulties, problems, and failures in life" May all li%ing beings be well, happy and peaceful" May no harm come to them" May no difficulties come to them" May no problems come to them" May they always meet with success" May they also ha%e patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and o%ercome ine%itable difficulties, problems, and failures in life" @nce you ha%e completed these recitations, lay aside all your troubles and conflicts for the period of practice" ?ust drop the whole bundle" +f they come back into your meditation later, -ust treat them as what they are, distractions" 3he practice of /ni%ersal !o%ingAKindness is also recommended for bedtime and -ust after arising" +t is said to help you sleep well and to pre%ent nightmares" +t also makes it easier to get up in the morning" #nd it makes you more friendly and open toward e%erybody, friend or foe, human or otherwise" 3he most damaging psychic irritant arising in the mind particularly at the time when the mind is *uiet, is resentment" 1ou may e>perience indignation remembering some incident that caused you psychological and physical pain" 3his e>perience can cause you uneasiness, tension, agitation and worry" 1ou might not be able to go on sitting and e>periencing this state of mind" 3herefore, we strongly recommend that you should start your meditation with generating /ni%ersal !o%ingAKindness" 1ou sometimes may wonder how can we wishH GMay my enemies be well, happy and peaceful" May no harm come to themB may no difficulty come to themB may no problems come to themB may
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they always meet with success" May they also ha%e patience, courage, understanding and determination to meet and o%ercome ine%itable difficulties, problems and failures in lifeGF 1ou must remember that you practice lo%ingAkindness for the purification of your own mind, -ust as you practice meditation for your own attainment of peace and liberation from pain and suffering" #s you practice lo%ingAkindness within yourself, you can beha%e in a most friendly manner without biases, pre-udices, discrimination or hate" 1our noble beha%ior helps you to help others in a most practical manner to reduce their pain and suffering" +t is compassionate people who can help others" )ompassion is a manifestation of lo%ingAkindness in action, for one who does not ha%e lo%ingA kindness cannot help others" ;oble beha%ior means beha%ing in a most friendly and most cordial manner" Beha%ior includes your thought speech and action" +f this triple mode of e>pression of your beha%ior is contradictory, your beha%ior cannot be noble beha%ior" @n the other hand, pragmatically speaking, it is much better to culti%ate the noble thought, GMay all beings be happy mindedG than the thought, G+ hate himG" @ur noble thought will one day e>press itself in noble beha%ior and our spiteful thought in e%il beha%ior" 4emember that your thoughts are transformed into speech and action in order to bring the e>pected result" 3hought translated into action is capable of producing tangible result" 1ou should always speak and do things with mindfulness of lo%ingAkindness" 9hile speaking of lo%ingAkindness, if you act or speak in a diametrically opposite way you will be reproached by the wise" #s mindfulness of lo%ingAkindness de%elops, your thoughts, words and deeds should be gently, pleasant, meaningful, truthful and beneficial to you as well as to others" +f your thoughts, words or deeds cause harm to you, to others or to both, then you must ask yourself whether you are really mindful of lo%ingAkindness" 2or all practical purposes, if all of your enemies are well, happy and peaceful, they would not be your enemies" +f they are free from problems, pain, suffering, affliction, neurosis, psychosis, paranoia, fear, tension, an>iety, etc", they would not be your enemies" 1our practical solution to your enemies is to help them to o%ercome their problems, so you can li%e in peace and happiness" +n fact, if you can, you should fill the minds of all your enemies with lo%ingAkindness and make all of them realiDe the true meaning of peace, so you can li%e in peace and happiness" 3he more they are in neurosis, psychosis, fear, tension, an>iety, etc", the more trouble, pain and suffering they can bring to the world" +f you could con%ert a %icious and wicked person into a holy and saintly indi%idual, you would perform a miracle" !et us culti%ate ade*uate wisdom and lo%ingA kindness within oursel%es to con%ert e%il minds to saintly minds" 9hen you hate somebody you think, G!et him be ugly" !et him lie in pain" !et him ha%e no prosperity" !et him not be right" !et him not be famous" !et him ha%e no friends !et him, after death, reappear in an unhappy state of depra%ation in a bad destination in perdition"G Howe%er, what actually happens is that your own body generates such harmful chemistry that you e>perience pain, increased heart beat, tension, change of facial e>pression, loss of appetite for food, depri%ation of sleep and appear %ery unpleasant to others" 1ou go through the same things you wish for your enemy" #lso you cannot see the truth as it is" 1our mind is like boiling water" @r you are like a patient suffering from -aundice to whom any delicious food tastes bland" imilarly, you cannot appreciate somebody5s appearance, achie%ement, success, etc" #s long as this condition e>ists, you cannot meditate well" 3herefore we recommend %ery strongly that you practice lo%ingA kindness before you start your serious practice of meditation" 4epeat the proceeding passages %ery mindfully and meaningfully" #s you recite these passages, feel true lo%ingAkindness within yourself first and then share it with others, for you cannot share with others what you do not ha%e within yourself" 4emember, though, these are not magic formulas" 3hey don5t work by themsel%es" +f you use them as such, you will simply waste time and energy" But if you truly participate in these statements and in%est them with your own energy, they will ser%e you will" Gi%e them a try" ee for yourself"

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-ha.ter 1%

&ea5ing #ith Prob5e',


1ou are going to run into problems in your meditation" :%erybody does" 6roblems come in all shapes and siDes, and the only thing you can be absolutely certain about is that you will ha%e some" 3he main trick in dealing with obstacles is to adopt the right attitude" Difficulties are an integral part of your practice" 3hey aren5t something to be a%oided" 3hey are something to be used" 3hey pro%ide in%aluable opportunities for learning" 3he reason we are all stuck in life5s mud is that we ceaselessly run from our problems and after our desires" Meditation pro%ides us with a laboratory situation in which we can e>amine this syndrome and de%ise strategies for dealing with it" 3he %arious snags and hassles that arise during meditation are grist for the mill" 3hey are the material on which we work" 3here is no pleasure without some degree of pain" 3here is no pain without some amount of pleasure" !ife is composed of -oys and miseries" 3hey go handAinAhand" Meditation is no e>ception" 1ou will e>perience good times and bad times, ecstasies and frightening times" o don5t be surprised when you hit some e>perience that feels like a brick wall" Don5t think you are special" :%ery seasoned meditator has had his own brick walls" 3hey come up again and again" ?ust e>pect them and be ready to cope" 1our ability to cope with trouble depends upon your attitude" +f you can learn to regard these hassles as opportunities, as chances to de%elop in your practice, you5ll make progress" 1our ability to deal with some issue that arises in meditation will carry o%er into the rest of your life and allow you to smooth out the big issues that really bother you" +f you try to a%oid each piece of nastiness that arises in meditation, you are simply reinforcing the habit that has already made life seem so unbearable at times" +t is essential to learn to confront the less pleasant aspects of e>istence" @ur -ob as meditators is to learn to be patient with oursel%es, to see oursel%es in an unbiased way, complete with all our sorrows and inade*uacies" 9e ha%e to learn to be kind to oursel%es" +n the long run, a%oiding unpleasantness is a %ery unkind thing to do to yourself" 6arado>ically, kindness entails confronting unpleasantness when it arises" @ne popular human strategy for dealing with difficulty is autosuggestionH when something nasty pops up, you con%ince yourself it is pleasant rather than unpleasant" 3he Buddha5s tactic is *uite the re%erse" 4ather than hide it or disguise it, the Buddha5s teaching urges you to e>amine it to death" Buddhism ad%ises you not to implant feelings that you don5t really ha%e or a%oid feelings that you do ha%e" +f you are miserable you are miserableB this is the reality, that is what is happening, so confront that" !ook it s*uare in the eye without flinching" 9hen you are ha%ing a bad time, e>amine the badness, obser%e it mindfully, study the phenomenon and learn its mechanics" 3he way out of a trap is to study the trap itself, learn how it is built" 1ou do this by taking the thing apart piece by piece" 3he trap can5t trap you if it has been taken to pieces" 3he result is freedom" 3his point is essential, but it is one of the least understood aspects of Buddhist philosophy" 3hose who ha%e studied Buddhism superficially are *uick to conclude that it is a pessimistic set of teachings, always harping on unpleasant things like suffering, always urging us to confront the uncomfortable realities of pain, death and illness" Buddhist thinkers do not regard themsel%es as pessimistsAA*uite the opposite, actually" 6ain e>ists in the uni%erseB some measure of it is una%oidable" !earning to deal with it is not pessimism, but a %ery pragmatic form of optimism" How would you deal with the death of your spouseF How would you feel if you lost your mother tomorrowF @r your sister or your closest friendF uppose you lost your -ob, your sa%ings, and the use of your hands, on the same dayB could you face the prospect of spending the rest of your life in a wheelchairF How are you going to cope with the pain of terminal cancer if you contract it, and how will you deal with your own death, when that approachesF 1ou may escape most of these misfortunes, but you won5t escape all of them"
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Most of us lose friends and relati%es at some time during our li%esB all of us get sick now and thenB at the %ery least you are going to die someday" 1ou can suffer through things like that or you can face them openlyAAthe choice is yours" 6ain is ine%itable, suffering is not" 6ain and suffering are two different animals" +f any of these tragedies strike you in your present state of mind, you will suffer" 3he habit patterns that presently control your mind will lock you into that suffering and there will be no escape" # bit of time spent in learning alternati%es to those habit patterns is time willAin%ested" Most human beings spend all their energies de%ising ways to increase their pleasure and decrease their pain" Buddhism does not ad%ise that you cease this acti%ity altogether" Money and security are fine" 6ain should be a%oided where possible" ;obody is telling you to gi%e away all your possessions or seek out needless pain, but Buddhism does ad%ise you to in%est some of your time and energy in learning to deal with unpleasantness, because some pain is una%oidable" 9hen you see a truck bearing down on you, by all means -ump out of the way" But spend some time in meditation, too" !earning to deal with discomfort is the only way you5ll be ready to handle the truck you didn5t see" 6roblems arise in your practice" ome of them will be physical, some will be emotional, and some will be attitudinal" #ll of them are confrontable and each has its own specific response" #ll of them are opportunities to free yourself" Prob5e' 1 Phy,ica5 Pain ;obody likes pain, yet e%erybody has some sometime" +t is one of life5s most common e>periences and is bound to arise in your meditation in one form or another" Handling pain is a twoA stage process" 2irst, get rid of the pain if possible or at least get rid of it as much as possible" 3hen, if some pain lingers, use it as an ab-ect of meditation" 3he first step is physical handling" Maybe the pain is an illness of one sort or another, a headache, fe%er, bruises or whate%er" +n this case, employ standard medical treatments before you sit down to meditateH take your medicine, apply your liniment, do whate%er you ordinarily do" 3hen there are certain pains that are specific to the seated posture" +f you ne%er spend much time sitting crossA legged on the floor, there will be an ad-ustment period" ome discomfort is nearly ine%itable" #ccording to where the pain is, there are specific remedies" +f the pain is in the leg or knees, check you pants" +f they are tight or made of thick material, that could be the problem" 3ry to change it" )heck your cushion, too" +t should be about three inches in height when compressed" +f the pain is around your waist, try loosening your belt" !oosen the waistband of your pants is that is necessary" +f you e>perience pain in your lower back, your posture is probably at fault" louching will ne%er be comfortable, so straighten up" Don5t be tight or rigid, but do keep your spine erect" 6ain in the neck or upper back has se%eral sources" 3he first is improper hand position" 1our hands should be resting comfortably in your lap" Don5t pull them up to your waist" 4ela> your arms and your neck muscles" Don5t let your head droop forward" Keep it up and aligned with the rest of the spine" #fter you ha%e made all these %arious ad-ustments, you may find you still ha%e some lingering pain" +f that is the case, try step two" Make the pain your ob-ect of meditation" Don5t -ump up and down and get e>cited" ?ust obser%e the pain mindfully" 9hen the pain becomes demanding, you will find it pulling your attention off the breath" Don5t fight back" ?ust let your attention slide easily o%er onto the simple sensation" Go into the pain fully" Don5t block the e>perience" :>plore the feeling" Get beyond your a%oiding reaction and go into the pure sensations that lie below that" 1ou will disco%er that there are two things present" 3he first is the simple sensationAApain itself" econd is your resistance to that sensation" 4esistance reaction is partly mental and partly physical" 3he physical part consists of tensing the muscles in and around the painful area" 4ela> those muscles" 3ake them one by one and rela> each one %ery thoroughly" 3his step alone probably diminishes the pain significantly" 3hen go after the
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mental side of the resistance" ?ust as you are tensing physically, you are also tensing psychologically" 1ou are clamping down mentally on the sensation of pain, trying to screen it off and re-ect it from consciousness" 3he re-ection is a wordless, G+ don5t like this feelingG or Ggo awayG attitude" +t is %ery subtle" But it is there, and you can find it if you really look" !ocate it and rela> that, too" 3hat last part is more subtle" 3here are really no human words to describe this action precisely" 3he best way to get a handle on it is by analogy" :>amine what you did to those tight muscles and transfer that same action o%er to the mental sphereB rela> the mind in the same way that you rela> the body" Buddhism recogniDes that the body and mind are tightly linked" 3his is so true that many people will not see this as a twoAstep procedure" 2or them to rela> the body is to rela> the mind and %ice %ersa" 3hese people will e>perience the entire rela>ation, mental and physical, as a single process" +n any case, -ust let go completely till you awareness slows down past that barrier which you yourself erected" +t was a gap, a sense of distance between self and others" +t was a borderline between 5me5 and 5the pain5" Dissol%e that barrier, and separation %anishes" 1ou slow down into that sea of surging sensation and you merge with the pain" 1ou become the pain" 1ou watch its ebb and flow and something surprising happens" +t no longer hurts" uffering is gone" @nly the pain remains, an e>perience, nothing more" 3he 5me5 who was being hurt has gone" 3he result is freedom from pain" 3his is an incremental process" +n the beginning, you can e>pect to succeed with small pains and be defeated by big ones" !ike most of our skills, it grows with practice" 3he more you practice, the bigger the pain you can handle" 6lease understand fully" 3here is no masochism being ad%ocated here" elfA mortification is not the point" 3his is an e>ercise in awareness, not in sadism" +f the pain becomes e>cruciating, go ahead and mo%e, but mo%e slowly and mindfully" @bser%e your mo%ements" ee how it feels to mo%e" 9atch what it does to the pain" 9atch the pain diminish" 3ry not to mo%e too much though" 3he less you mo%e, the easier it is to remain fully mindful" ;ew meditators sometimes say they ha%e trouble remaining mindful when pain is present" 3his difficulty stems from a misunderstanding" 3hese students are concei%ing mindfulness as something distinct from the e>perience of pain" +t is not" Mindfulness ne%er e>ists by itself" +t always has some ob-ect and one ob-ect is as good as another" 6ain is a mental state" 1ou can be mindful of pain -ust as you are mindful of breathing" 3he rules we co%ered in )hapter ' apply to pain -ust as they apply to any other mental state" 1ou must be careful not to reach beyond the sensation and not to fall short of it" Don5t add anything to it, and don5t miss any part of it" Don5t muddy the pure e>perience with concepts or pictures or discursi%e thinking" #nd keep your awareness right in the present time, right with the pain, so that you won5t miss its beginning or its end" 6ain not %iewed in the clear light of mindfulness gi%es rise to emotional reactions like fear, an>iety, or anger" +f it is properly %iewed, we ha%e no such reaction" +t will be -ust sensation, -ust simple energy" @nce you ha%e learned this techni*ue with physical pain, you can then generaliDe it in the rest of your life" 1ou can use it on any unpleasant sensation" 9hat works on pain will work on an>iety or chronic depression" 3his techni*ue is one of life5s most useful and generaliDable skills" +t is patience" Prob5e' 2 ;eg, Going 8o S5ee. +t is %ery common for beginners to ha%e their legs fall asleep or go numb during meditation" 3hey are simply not accustomed to the crossAlegged posture" ome people get %ery an>ious about this" 3hey feel they must get up and mo%e around" # few are completely con%inced that they will get gangrene from lack of circulation" ;umbness in the leg is nothing to worry about" it is caused by ner%eApinch, not by lack of circulation" 1ou can5t damage the tissues of your legs by sitting" o rela>" 9hen your legs fall asleep in meditation, -ust mindfully obser%e the phenomenon" :>amine what it feels like" +t may be sort of uncomfortable, but it is not painful unless you tense up" ?ust stay calm and watch it" +t does not matter if your legs go numb and stay that way for the whole period" #fter you
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ha%e meditated for some time, that numbness gradually will disappear" 1our body simply ad-usts to daily practice" 3hen you can sit for %ery long sessions with no numbness whate%er" Prob5e' 3 <++ Sen,ation, 6eople e>perience all manner of %aried phenomena in meditation" ome people get itches" @thers feel tingling, deep rela>ation, a feeling of lightness or a floating sensation" 1ou may feel yourself growing or shrinking or rising up in the air" Beginners often get *uite e>cited o%er such sensations" #s rela>ation sets in, the ner%ous system simply begins to pass sensory signals more efficiently" !arge amounts of pre%iously blocked sensory data can pour through, gi%ing rise to all manner of uni*ue sensations" +t does not signify anything in particular" +t is -ust sensation" o simply employ the normal techni*ue" 9atch it come up and watch it pass away" Don5t get in%ol%ed" Prob5e' 7 &ro!,ine,, +t is *uite common to e>perience drowsiness during meditation" 1ou become %ery calm and rela>ed" 3hat is e>actly what is supposed to happen" /nfortunately, we ordinarily e>perience this lo%ely state only when we are falling asleep, and we associate it with that process" o naturally, you begin to drift off" 9hen you find this happening, apply your mindfulness to the state of drowsiness itself" Drowsiness has certain definite characteristics" +t does certain things to your thought process" 2ind out what" +t has certain body feelings associated with it" !ocate those" 3his in*uisiti%e awareness is the direct opposite of drowsiness, and will e%aporate it" +f it does not, then you should suspect a physical cause of your sleepiness" earch that out and handle it" +f you ha%e -ust eaten large meal, that could be the cause" +t is best to eat lightly before you meditate" @r wait an hour after a big meal" #nd don5t o%erlook the ob%ious either" +f you ha%e been out loading bricks all day, you are naturally going to be tired" 3he same is true if you only got a few hours sleep the night before" 3ake care of your body5s physical needs" 3hen meditate" Do not gi%e in to sleepiness" tay awake and mindful, for sleep and meditati%e concentration are two diametrically opposite e>periences" 1ou will not gain any new insight from sleep, but only from meditation" +f you are %ery sleepy then take a deep breath and hold it as long as you can" 3hen breathe out slowly" 3ake another deep breath again, hold it as long as you can and breathe out slowly" 4epeat this e>ercise until your body warms up and sleepiness fades away" 3hen return to your breath" Prob5e' 9 *nabi5ity 8o -oncentrate #n o%eracti%e, -umping attention is something that e%erybody e>periences from time to time" +t is generally handled by techni*ues presented in the chapter on distractions" 1ou should also be informed, howe%er, that there are certain e>ternal factors which contribute to this phenomenon" #nd these are best handled by simple ad-ustments in your schedule" Mental images are powerful entities" 3hey can remain in the mind for long periods" #ll of the storytelling arts are direct manipulation of such material, and to the e>tent the writer has done his -ob well, the characters and images presented will ha%e a powerful and lingering effect on the mind" +f you ha%e been to the best mo%ie of the year, the meditation which follows is going to be full of those images" +f you are halfway through the scariest horror no%el you e%er read, your meditation is going to be full of monsters" o switch the order of e%ents" Do your meditation first" 3hen read or go to the mo%ies" #nother influential factor is your own emotional state" +f there is some real conflict in your life, that agitation will carry o%er into meditation" 3ry to resol%e your immediate daily conflicts before meditation when you can" 1our life will run smoother, and you won5t be pondering uselessly in your practice" But don5t use this ad%ice as a way to a%oid meditation" ometimes you can5t resol%e e%ery
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issue before you sit" ?ust go ahead and sit anyway" /se your meditation to let go of all the egocentric attitudes that keep you trapped within your own limited %iewpoint" 1our problems will resol%e much more easily thereafter" #nd then there are those days when it seems that the mind will ne%er rest, but your can5t locate any apparent cause" 4emember the cyclic alternation we spoke of earlier" Meditation goes in cycles" 1ou ha%e good days and you ha%e bad days" Vipassana meditation is primarily an e>ercise in awareness" :mptying the mind is not as important as being mindful of what the mind is doing" +f you are frantic and you can5t do a thing to stop it, -ust obser%e" +t is all you" 3he result will be one more step forward in your -ourney of selfA e>ploration" #bo%e all, don5t get frustrated o%er the nonstop chatter of your mind" 3hat babble is -ust one more thing to be mindful of" Prob5e' $ Bore+o' +t is difficult to imagine anything more inherently boring than sitting still for an hour with nothing to do but feel the air going in and out of your nose" 1ou are going to run into boredom repeatedly in your meditation" :%erybody does" Boredom is a mental state and should be treated as such" # few simple strategies will help you to cope" 8actic A/ Re-e,tab5i,h true 'in+fu5ne,, +f the breath seems an e>ceedingly dull thing to obser%e o%er and o%er, you may rest assured of one thingH 1ou ha%e ceased to obser%e the process with true mindfulness" Mindfulness is ne%er boring" !ook again" Don5t assume that you know what breath is" Don5t take it for granted that you ha%e already seen e%erything there is to see" +f you do, you are conceptualiDing the process" 1ou are not obser%ing its li%ing reality" 9hen you are clearly mindful of breath or indeed anything else, it is ne%er boring" Mindfulness looks at e%erything with the eyes of a child, with the sense of wonder" Mindfulness sees e%ery second as if it were the first and the only second in the uni%erse" o look again" 8actic B/ <b,erve your 'enta5 ,tate !ook at your state of boredom mindfully" 9hat is boredomF 9here is boredomF 9hat does it feel likeF 9hat are its mental componentF Does it ha%e any physical feelingF 9hat does it do to your thought processF 3ake a fresh look at boredom, as if you ha%e ne%er e>perienced that state before" Prob5e' ( =ear tates of fear sometimes arise during meditation for no discernible reason" +t is a common phenomenon, and there can be a number of causes" 1ou may be e>periencing the effect of something repressed long ago" 4emember, thoughts arise first in the unconscious" 3he emotional contents of a thought comple> often leach through into your conscious awareness long before the thought itself surfaces" +f you sit through the fear, the memory itself may bubble up where you can endure it" @r you may be dealing directly with that fear which we all fearH 5fear of the unknown5" #t some point in your meditation career, you will be struck with the seriousness of what you are actually doing" 1ou are tearing down the wall of illusion you ha%e always used to e>plain life to yourself and to shield yourself from the intense flame of reality" 1ou are about to meet ultimate truth face to face" 3hat is scary" But it has to be dealt with e%entually" Go ahead and di%e right in" # third possibilityH the fear that your are feeling may be selfA generated" +t may be arising out of unskillful concentration" 1ou may ha%e set an unconscious program to 5e>amine what comes up"5 3hus when a frightening fantasy arises, concentration locks onto it and the fantasy feeds on the energy of your attention and grows" 3he real problem here is that mindfulness is weak" +f mindfulness was strongly de%eloped, it would notice this switch of attention as soon as it occurred and handle the situation in the usual manner" ;ot matter what the source of your fear, mindfulness is the cure" @bser%e the emotional reactions that come along and know them for what they are" tand aside from
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the process and don5t get in%ol%ed" 3reat the whole dynamic as if you were an interested bystander" Most importantly, don5t fight the situation" Don5t try to repress the memories or the feelings or the fantasies" ?ust step out of the way and let the whole mess bubble up and flow past" +t can5t hurt you" +t is -ust memory" +t is only fantasy" +t is nothing but fear" 9hen you let it run its course in the arena of conscious attention, it won5t sink back into the unconscious" +t won5t come back to haunt you later" +t will be gone for good" Prob5e' 8 Agitation 4estlessness is often a co%erAup for some deeper e>perience taking place in the unconscious" 9e humans are great at repressing things" 4ather than confronting some unpleasant thought we e>perience, we try to bury it" 9e won5t ha%e to deal with the issue" /nfortunately, we usually don5t succeed, at least not fully" 9e hide the thought, but the mental energy we use to co%er it up sits there and boils" 3he result is that sense of uneasiness which we call agitation or restlessness" 3here is nothing you can put your finger on" But you don5t feel at ease" 1ou can5t rela>" 9hen this uncomfortable state arises in mediation, -ust obser%e it" Don5t let it rule you" Don5t -ump up and run off" #nd don5t struggle with it and try to make it go away" ?ust let it be there and watch it closely" 3hen the repressed material will e%entually surface and you will find out what you ha%e been worrying about" 3he unpleasant e>perience that you ha%e been trying to a%oid could be almost anythingH Guilt, greed or problems" +t could be a lowAgrade pain or subtle sickness or approaching illness" 9hate%er it is, let it arise and look at it mindfully" +f you -ust sit still and obser%e your agitation, it will e%entually pass" itting through restlessness is a little breakthrough in your meditation career" +t will teach you much" 1ou will find that agitation is actually a rather superficial mental state" +t is inherently ephemeral" +t comes and it goes" +t has no real grip on you at all" Here again the rest of your life will profit" Prob5e' ) 8rying 8oo Har+ #d%anced meditators are generally found to be pretty -o%ial men and women" 3hey possess that most %aluable of all human treasures, a sense of humor" +t is not the superficial witty repartee of the talk show host" +t is a real sense of humor" 3hey can laugh at their own human failures" 3hey can chuckle at personal disasters" Beginners in meditation are often much too serious for their own good" o laugh a little" +t is important to learn to loosen up in your session, to rela> into your meditation" 1ou need to learn to flow with whate%er happens" 1ou can5t do that if you are tensed and stri%ing, taking it all so %ery, %ery seriously" ;ew meditators are often o%erly eager for results" 3hey are full of enormous and inflated e>pectations" 3hey -ump right in and e>pect incredible results in no time flat" 3hey push" 3hey tense" 3hey sweat and strain, and it is all so terribly, terribly grim and solemn" 3his state of tension is the direct antithesis of mindfulness" o naturally they achie%e little" 3hen they decide that this meditation is not so e>citing after all" +t did not gi%e them what they wanted" 3hey chuck it aside" +t should be pointed out that you learn about meditation only by meditating" 1ou learn what meditation is all about and where it leads only through direct e>perience of the thing itself" 3herefore the beginner does not know where he is headed because he has de%eloped little sense of where his practice is leading" 3he no%ice5s e>pectation is inherently unrealistic and uninformed" #s a newcomer to meditation, he or she would e>pect all the wrong things, and those e>pectations do you no good at all" 3hey get in the way" 3rying too hard leads to rigidity and unhappiness, to guilt and selfAcondemnation" 9hen you are trying too hard, your effort becomes mechanical and that defeats mindfulness before it e%en gets started" 1ou are wellAad%ised to drop all that" Drop your e>pectations and straining" imply
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meditate with a steady and balanced effort" :n-oy your mediation and don5t load yourself down with sweat and struggles" ?ust be mindful" 3he meditation itself will take care of the future" Prob5e' 1% &i,courage'ent 3he direct upshot of pushing too hard is frustration" 1ou are in a state of tension" 1ou get nowhere" 1ou realiDe you are not making the progress you e>pected, so you get discouraged" 1ou feel like a failure" +t is all a %ery natural cycle, but a totally a%oidable one" 3he source is stri%ing after unrealistic e>pectations" ;e%ertheless, it is a common enough syndrome and, in spite of all the best ad%ice, you may find it happening to you" 3here is a solution" +f you find yourself discouraged, -ust obser%e your state of mind clearly" Don5t add anything to it" ?ust watch it" # sense of failure is only another ephemeral emotional reaction" +f you get in%ol%ed, it feeds on your energy and grows" +f you simply stand aside and watch it, it passes away" +f you are discouraged o%er your percei%ed failure in meditation, that is especially easy to deal with" 1ou feel you ha%e failed in your practice" 1ou ha%e failed to be mindful" imply become mindful of that sense of failure" 1ou ha%e -ust reAestablished your mindfulness with that single step" 3he reason for your sense of failure is nothing but memory" 3here is no such thing as failure in meditation" 3here are setbacks and difficulties" But there is no failure unless you gi%e up entirely" :%en if you spend twenty solid years getting nowhere, you can be mindful at any second you choose to do so" +t is your decision" 4egretting is only one more way of being unmindful" 3he instant that you realiDe that you ha%e been unmindful, that realiDation itself is an act of mindfulness" o continue the process" Don5t get sidetracked in an emotional reaction" Prob5e' 11 Re,i,tance 8o Me+itation 3here are times when you don5t feel like meditating" 3he %ery idea seems obno>ious" Missing a single practice session is scarcely important, but it %ery easily becomes a habit" +t is wiser to push on through the resistance" Go sit anyway" @bser%e this feeling of a%ersion" +n most cases it is a passing emotion, a flash in the pan that will e%aporate right in front of your eyes" 2i%e minutes after you sid down it is gone" +n other cases it is due to some sour mood that day, and it lasts longer" till, it does pass" #nd it is better to get rid of it in twenty or thirty minutes of meditation than to carry it around with you and let it ruin the rest of your day" #nother time, resistance may be due to some difficulty you are ha%ing with the practice itself" 1ou may or may not know what that difficulty is" +f the problem is known, handle it by one of the techni*ues gi%en in this book" @nce the problem is gone, resistance will be gone" +f the problem is unknown, then you are going to ha%e to tough it out" ?ust sit through the resistance and obser%e that mindfully" 9hen it has finally run its course, it will pass" 3hen the problem causing it will probably bubble up in its wake, and you can deal with that" +f resistance to meditation is a common feature of your practice, then you should suspect some subtle error in your basic attitude" Meditation is not a ritual conducted in a particular posture" +t is not a painful e>ercise, or period of enforced boredom" #nd it is not some grim, solemn, obligation" Meditation is mindfulness" it is a new way of seeing and it is a form of play" Meditation is your friend" )ome to regard it as such and resistance will wash away like smoke on a summer breeDe" +f you try all these possibilities and the resistance remains, then there may be a problem" 3here can be certain metaphysical snags that a meditator runs into which go far beyond the scope of this book" +t is not common for new meditators to hit these, but it can happen" Don5t gi%e up" Go get help" eek out *ualified teachers of the Vipassana style of meditation and ask them to help you resol%e the situation" uch people e>ist for e>actly that purpose"

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Prob5e' 12 Stu.or or &u55ne,, 9e ha%e already discussed the sinking mind phenomenon" But there is a special route to that state you should watch for" Mental dullness can result as an unwanted byproduct of deepening concentration" #s your rela>ation deepens, muscles loosen and ner%e transmission changes" 3his produces a %ery calm and light feeling in the body" you feel %ery still and somewhat di%orced from the body" this is a %ery pleasant state and at first your concentration is *uite good, nicely centered on the breath" #s it continues, howe%er, the pleasant feeling intensify and they distract your attention from the breath" 1ou start to really en-oy that state and your mindfulness goes way down" 1our attention winds up scattered, drifting listlessly through %ague clouds of bliss" 3he result is a %ery unmindful state, sort of an ecstatic stupor" 3he cure, of course, is mindfulness" Mindfully obser%e these phenomena and they will dissipate" 9hen blissful feelings arise accept them" 3here is no need to a%oid them" Don5t get wrapped up in them" 3hey are physical feelings, so treat them as such" @bser%e feelings as feelings" @bser%e dullness as dullness" 9atch them rise and watch them pass" Don5t get in%ol%ed" 1ou will ha%e problems in meditation" :%erybody does" 1ou can treat them as terrible torments, or as challenges to be o%ercome" +f you regard them as burdens, you suffering will only increase" +f you regard them as opportunities to learn and to grow, your spiritual prospects are unlimited"

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-ha.ter 11

&ea5ing !ith &i,traction, - *


#t some time, e%ery meditator encounters distractions during practice, and methods are needed to deal with them" ome elegant stratagems ha%e been de%ised to get you back on the track more *uickly than trying to push your way through by sheer force of will" )oncentration and mindfulness go handAinAhand" :ach one complements the other" +f either one is weak, the other will e%entually be affected" Bad days are usually characteriDed by poor concentration" 1our mind -ust keeps floating around" 1ou need some method of reestablishing your concentration, e%en in the face of mental ad%ersity" !uckily, you ha%e it" +n fact you can take your choice from a traditional array of practical maneu%ers" Maneuver 1 8i'e Gauging 3his first techni*ue has been co%ered in an earlier chapter" # distraction has pulled you away from the breath, and you suddenly realiDe that you5%e been dayAdreaming" 3he trick is to pull all the way out of whate%er has captured you, to break its hold on you completely so you can go back to the breath with full attention" 1ou do this by gauging the length of time that you were distracted" 3his is not a precise calculation" you don5t need a precise figure, -ust a rough estimate" 1ou can figure it in minutes, or by idea significance" ?ust say to yourself, G@kay, + ha%e been distracted for about two minutesG or G ince the dog started barkingG or G ince + started thinking about money"G 9hen you first start practicing this techni*ue, you will do it by talking to yourself inside your head" @nce the habit is well established, you can drop that, and the action becomes wordless and %ery *uick" 3he whole idea, remember, is to pull out of the distraction and get back to the breath" 1ou pull out of the thought by making it the ob-ect of inspection -ust long enough to glean from it a rough appro>imation of its duration" 3he inter%al itself is not important" @nce you are free of the distraction, drop the whole thing and go back to the breath" Do not get hung up in the estimate" Maneuver 2 &ee. Breath, 9hen your mind is wild and agitated, you can often reAestablish mindfulness with a few *uick deep breaths" 6ull the air in strongly and let it out the same way" 3his increases the sensation inside the nostrils and makes it easier to focus" Make a strong act of will and apply some force to your attention" )oncentration can be forced into growth, remember, so you will probably find your full attention settling nicely back on the breath" Maneuver 3 -ounting )ounting the breaths as they pass is a highly traditional procedure" ome schools of practice teach this acti%ity as their primary tactic" Vipassana uses it as an au>iliary techni*ue for reAestablishing mindfulness and for strengthening concentration" #s we discussed in )hapter C, you can count breaths in a number of different ways" 4emember to keep your attention on the breath" 1ou will probably notice a change after you ha%e done your counting" 3he breath slows down, or it becomes %ery light and refined" 3his is a physiological signal that concentration has become wellAestablished" #t this point, the breath is usually so light or so fast and gentle that you can5t clearly distinguish the inhalation from the e>halation" 3hey seem to blend into each other" 1ou can then count both of them as a single cycle" )ontinue your counting process, but only up to a count of fi%e, co%ering the same fi%eAbreath se*uence, then start o%er" 9hen counting becomes a bother, go on to the ne>t step" Drop the numbers
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and forget about the concepts of inhalation and e>halation" ?ust di%e right in to the pure sensation of breathing" +nhalation blends into e>halation" @ne breath blends into the ne>t in a ne%er ending cycle of pure, smooth flow" Maneuver 7 8he *n-<ut Metho+ 3his is an alternati%e to counting, and it functions in much the manner" ?ust direct your attention to the breath and mentally tag each cycle with the words G+nhalation"""e>halationG or 5+n"""outG" )ontinue the process until you no longer need these concepts, and then throw them away" Maneuver 9 -ance5ing <ne 8hought #ith Another ome thoughts -ust won5t go away" 9e humans are obsessional beings" +t5s one of our biggest problems" 9e tend to lock onto things like se>ual fantasies and worries and ambitions" 9e feed those though comple>es o%er the years of time and gi%e them plenty of e>ercise by playing with them in e%ery spare moment" 3hen when we sit down to meditate, we order them to go away and lea%e us alone" +t is scarcely surprising that they don5t obey" 6ersistent thoughts like these re*uire a direct approach, a fullA scale frontal attack" Buddhist psychology has de%eloped a distinct system of classification" 4ather than di%iding thoughts into classes like 5good5 or 5bad5, Buddhist thinkers prefer to regard them as 5skillful5 %ersus 5unskillful5" #n unskillful thought is on connected with greed, hatred, or delusion" 3hese are the thoughts that the mind most easily builds into obsessions" 3hey are unskillful in the sense that they lead you away from the goal of !iberation" killful thoughts, on the other hand, are those connected with generosity, compassion, and wisdom" 3hey are skillful in the sense that they may be used as specific remedies for unskillful thoughts, and thus can assist you toward !iberation" 1ou cannot condition !iberation" +t is not a state built out of thoughts" ;or can you condition the personal *ualities which !iberation produces" 3houghts of bene%olence can produce a semblance of bene%olence, but it5s not the real item" +t will break down under pressure" 3houghts of compassion produce only superficial compassion" 3herefore, these skillful thoughts will not, in themsel%es, free you from the trap" 3hey are skillful only if applied as antidotes to the poison of unskillful thoughts" 3houghts of generosity can temporarily cancel greed" 3hey kick it under the rug long enough for mindfulness to do its work unhindered" 3hen, when mindfulness has penetrated to the roots of the ego process, greed e%aporates and true generosity arises" 3his principle can be used on a day to day basis in your own meditation" +f a particular sort of obsession is troubling you, you can cancel it out by generating its opposite" Here is an e>ampleH +f you absolutely hate )harlie, and his scowling face keeps popping into your mind, try directing a stream of lo%e and friendliness toward )harlie" 1ou probably will get rid of the immediate mental image" 3hen you can get on with the -ob of meditation" ometimes this tactic alone doesn5t work" 3he obsession is simply too strong" +n this case you5%e got to weaken its hold on you somewhat before you can successfully balance it out" Here is where guilt, one of man5s most misbegotten emotions, finally becomes of some use" 3ake a good strong look at the emotional response you are trying to get rid of" #ctually ponder it" ee how it makes you feel" !ook at what it is doing to your life, your happiness, your health, and your relationships" 3ry to see how it makes you appear to others" !ook at the way it is hindering your progress toward !iberation" 3he 6ali scriptures urge you to do this %ery thoroughly indeed" 3hey ad%ise you to work up the same sense of disgust and humiliation that you would feel if you were forced to walk around with the carcass of a dead and decaying animal tied around your neck" 4eal loathing is what you are after" 3his step may end the problem all by itself" +f it doesn5t, then balance out the lingering remainder of the obsession by once again generating its opposite emotion"
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3houghts of greed co%er e%erything connected with desire, from outright a%arice for material gain, all the way down to a subtle need to be respected as a moral person" 3houghts of hatred run the gamut from petty pee%ishness to murderous rage" Delusion co%ers e%erything from daydreaming through actual hallucinations" Generosity cancels greed" Bene%olence and compassion cancel hatred" 1ou can find a specific antidote for any troubling thought if you -ust think about it a while" Maneuver $ Reca55ing >our Pur.o,e 3here are times when things pop into your mind, apparently at random" 9ords, phrases, or whole sentences -ump up out of the unconscious for no discernible reason" @b-ects appear" 6ictures flash on and off" 3his is an unsettling e>perience" 1our mind feels like a flag flapping in a stiff wind" +t washes back and forth like wa%es in the ocean" #t times like this it is often enough -ust to remember why you are there" 1ou can say to yourself, G+5m not sitting here -ust to waste my time with these thoughts" +5m here to focus my mind on the breath, which is uni%ersal and common to all li%ing beingsG" ometimes your mind will settle down, e%en before you complete this recitation" @ther times you may ha%e to repeat it se%eral times before you refocus on the breath" 3hese techni*ues can be used singly, or in combinations" 6roperly employed, they constitute *uite an effecti%e arsenal for your battle against the monkey mind"

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-ha.ter 12

&ea5ing !ith &i,traction, - **


o there you are meditating beautifully" 1our body is totally immobile, and you mind is totally still" 1ou -ust glide right along following the flow of the breath, in, out, in, out"""calm, serene and concentrated" :%erything is perfect" #nd then, all of a sudden, something totally different pops into your mindH G+ sure wish + had an ice cream cone"G 3hat5s a distraction, ob%iously" 3hat5s not what you are supposed to be doing" 1ou notice that, and you drag yourself back to the breath, back to the smooth flow, in, out, in"""and thenH GDid + e%er pay that gas billFG #nother distraction" 1ou notice that one, and you haul yourself back to the breath" +n, out, in, out, in"""G3hat new science fiction mo%ie is out" Maybe + can go see it 3uesday night" ;o, not 3uesday, got too much to do on 9ednesday" 3hursday5s better"""G #nother distraction" 1ou pull yourself out of that one and back you go to the breath, e>cept that you ne%er *uite get there because before you do that little %oice in your head goes, GMy back is killing me"G #nd on and on it goes, distraction after distraction, seemingly without end" 9hat a bother" But this is what it is all about" 3hese distractions are actually the whole point" 3he key is to learn to deal with these things" !earning to notice them without being trapped in them" 3hat5s what we are here for" 3he mental wandering is unpleasant, to be sure" But it is the normal mode of operation of your mind" Don5t think of it as the enemy" +t is -ust the simple reality" #nd if you want to change something, the first thing you ha%e to do is see it the way it is" 9hen you first sit down to concentrate on the breath, you will be struck by how incredibly busy the mind actually is" +t -umps and -ibbers" +t %eers and bucks" +t chases itself around in constant circles" +t chatters" +t thinks" +t fantasiDes and daydreams" Don5t be upset about that" +t5s natural" 9hen your mind wanders from the sub-ect of meditation, -ust obser%e the distraction mindfully" 9hen we speak of a distraction in +nsight Meditation, we are speaking of any preoccupation that pulls the attention off the breath" 3his brings up a new, ma-or rule for your meditationH 9hen any mental state arises strongly enough to distract you from the ob-ect of meditation, switch your attention to the distraction briefly" Make the distraction a temporary ob-ect of meditation" 6lease not the word temporary" +t5s *uite important" 9e are not ad%ising that you switch horses in midstream" 9e do not e>pect you to adopt a whole new ob-ect of meditation e%ery three seconds" 3he breath will always remain your primary focus" 1ou switch your attention to the distraction only long enough to notice certain specific things about it" 9hat is itF How strong is itF and, how long does it lastF #s soon as you ha%e wordlessly answered these *uestions, you are through with your e>amination of that distraction, and you return your attention to the breath" Here again, please note the operant term, wordlessly" 3hese *uestions are not an in%itation to more mental chatter" 3hat would be mo%ing you in the wrong direction, toward more thinking" 9e want you to mo%e away from thinking, back to a direct, wordless and nonconceptual e>perience of the breath" 3hese *uestions are designed to free you from the distraction and gi%e you insight into its nature, not to get you more thoroughly stuck in it" 3hey will tune you in to what is distracting you and help you get rid of itAAall in one step" Here is the problemH 9hen a distraction, or any mental state, arises in the mind, it blossoms forth first in the unconscious" @nly a moment later does it rise to the conscious mind" 3hat splitAsecond difference is *uite important, because it time enough for grasping to occur" Grasping occurs almost instantaneously, and it takes place first in the unconscious" 3hus, by the time the grasping rises to the le%el of conscious recognition, we ha%e already begun to lock on to it" +t is *uite natural for us to simply continue that process, getting more and more tightly stuck in the distraction as we continue to %iew it" 9e are, by this time, *uite definitely thinking the thought, rather than -ust %iewing it with bare attention" 3he whole se*uence takes place in a flash" 3his presents us with a problem" By the time we become consciously aware of a distraction we are already, in a sense, stuck in it" @ur three *uestions are a cle%er remedy for this particular malady" +n order to answer these *uestions, we must ascertain
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the *uality of the distraction" 3o do that, we must di%orce oursel%es from it, take a mental step back from it, disengage from it, and %iew it ob-ecti%ely" 9e must stop thinking the thought or feeling the feeling in order to %iew it as an ob-ect of inspection" 3his %ery process is an e>ercise in mindfulness, unin%ol%ed, detached awareness" 3he hold of the distraction is thus broken, and mindfulness is back in control" #t this point, mindfulness makes a smooth transition back to its primary focus and we return to the breath" 9hen you first begin to practice this techni*ue, you will probably ha%e to do it with words" 1ou will ask your *uestions in words, and get answers in words" +t won5t be long, howe%er, before you can dispense with the formality of words altogether" @nce the mental habits are in place, you simply note the distraction, note the *ualities of the distraction, and return to the breath" +t5s a totally nonconceptual process, and it5s %ery *uick" 3he distraction itself can be anythingH a sound, a sensation, an emotion, a fantasy, anything at all" 9hate%er it is, don5t try to repress it" Don5t try to force it out of your mind" 3here5s no need for that" ?ust obser%e it mindfully with bare attention" :>amine the distraction wordlessly and it will pass away by itself" 1ou will find your attention drifting effortlessly back to the breath" #nd do not condemn yourself for ha%ing being distracted" Distractions are natural" 3hey come and they go" Despite this piece of sage counsel, you5re going to find yourself condemning anyway" 3hat5s natural too" ?ust obser%e the process of condemnation as another distraction, and then return to the breath" 9atch the se*uence of e%entsH Breathing" Breathing" Distracting thought arises" 2rustration arising o%er the distracting thought" 1ou condemn yourself for being distracted" 1ou notice the self condemnation" 1ou return to the breathing" Breathing" Breathing" +t5s really a %ery natural, smoothA flowing cycle, if you do it correctly" 3he trick, of course, is patience" +f you can learn to obser%e these distractions without getting in%ol%ed, it5s all %ery easy" 1ou -ust glide through the distractions and your attention returns to the breath *uite easily" @f course, the %ery same distraction may pop up a moment later" +f it does, -ust obser%e that mindfully" +f you are dealing with an old, established thought pattern, this can go on happening for *uite a while, sometimes years" Don5t get upset" 3his too is natural" -ust obser%e the distraction and return to the breath" Don5t fight with these distracting thoughts" Don5t strain or struggle" +t5s a waste" :%ery bit of energy that you apply to that resistance goes into the thought comple> and makes it all the stronger" o don5t try to force such thoughts out of your mind" +t5s a battle you can ne%er win" ?ust obser%e the distraction mindfully and, it will e%entually go away" +t5s %ery strange, but the more bare attention you pay to such disturbances, the weaker they get" @bser%e them long enough, and often enough, with bare attention, and they fade away fore%er" 2ight with them and they gain in strength" 9atch them with detachment and they wither" Mindfulness is a function that disarms distractions, in the same way that a munitions e>pert might defuse a bomb" 9eak distractions are disarmed by a single glance" hine the light of awareness on them and they e%aporate instantly, ne%er to return" DeepAseated, habitual thought patterns re*uire constant mindfulness repeatedly applied o%er whate%er time period it takes to break their hold" Distractions are really paper tigers" 3hey ha%e no power of their own" 3hey need to be fed constantly, or else they die" +f you refuse to feed them by your own fear, anger, and greed, they fade" Mindfulness is the most important aspect of meditation" +t is the primary thing that you are trying to culti%ate" o there is really no need at all to struggle against distractions" 3he crucial thing is to be mindful of what is occurring, not to control what is occurring" 4emember, concentration is a tool" +t is secondary to bare attention" 2rom the point of %iew of mindfulness, there is really no such thing as a distraction" 9hate%er arises in the mind is %iewed as -ust one more opportunity to culti%ate mindfulness" Breath, remember, is an arbitrary focus, and it is used as our primary ob-ect of attention" Distractions are used as secondary ob-ects of attention" 3hey are certainly as much a part of reality as breath" +t actually makes rather little difference what the ob-ect of mindfulness is" 1ou can be mindful of the breath, or you can be mindful of the distraction" 1ou can be mindful of the fact that you mind is
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still, and your concentration is strong, or you can be mindful of the fact that your concentration is in ribbons and your mind is in an absolute shambles" +t5s all mindfulness" ?ust maintain that mindfulness and concentration e%entually will follow" 3he purpose of meditation is not to concentrate on the breath, without interruption, fore%er" 3hat by itself would be a useless goal" 3he purpose of meditation is not to achie%e a perfectly still and serene mind" #lthough a lo%ely state, it doesn5t lead to liberation by itself" 3he purpose of meditation is to achie%e uninterrupted mindfulness" Mindfulness, and only mindfulness, produces :nlightenment" Distractions come in all siDes, shapes and fla%ors" Buddhist philosophy has organiDed them into categories" @ne of them is the category of hindrances" 3hey are called hindrances because they block your de%elopment of both components of mediation, mindfulness and concentration" # bit of caution on this termH 3he word 5hindrances5 carries a negati%e connotation, and indeed these are states of mind we want to eradicate" 3hat does not mean, howe%er, that they are to be repressed, a%oided or condemned" !et5s use greed as an e>ample" 9e wish to a%oid prolonging any state of greed that arises, because a continuation of that state leads to bondage and sorrow" 3hat does not mean we try to toss the thought out of the mind when it appears" 9e simply refuse to encourage it to stay" 9e let it come, and we let it go" 9hen greed is first obser%ed with bare attention, no %alue -udgements are made" 9e simply stand back and watch it arise" 3he whole dynamic of greed from start to finish is simply obser%ed in this way" 9e don5t help it, or hinder it, or interfere with it in the slightest" +t stays as long as it stays" #nd we learn as much about it as we can while it is there" 9e watch what greed does" 9e watch how it troubles us, and how it burdens others" 9e notice how it keeps us perpetually unsatisfied, fore%er in a state of unfulfilled longing" 2rom this firstAhand e>perience, we ascertain at a gut le%el that greed is an unskillful way to run your life" 3here is nothing theoretical about this realiDation" #ll of the hindrances are dealt with in the same way, and we will look at them here one by one" &e,ire/ !et us suppose you ha%e been distracted by some nice e>perience in meditation" +t could be pleasant fantasy or a thought of pride" +t might be a feeling of selfAesteem" +t might be a thought of lo%e or e%en the physical sensation of bliss that comes with the meditation e>perience itself" 9hate%er it is, what follows is the state of desire AA desire to obtain whate%er you ha%e been thinking about or desire to prolong the e>perience you are ha%ing" ;o matter what its nature, you should handle desire in the following manner" ;otice the thought or sensation as it arises" ;otice the mental state of desire which accompanies it as a separate thing" ;otice the e>act e>tent or degree of that desire" 3hen notice how long it lasts and when it finally disappears" 9hen you ha%e done that, return your attention to breathing" Aver,ion/ uppose that you ha%e been distracted by some negati%e e>perience" +t could be something you fear or some nagging worry" +t might be guilt or depression or pain" 9hate%er the actual substance of the thought or sensation, you find yourself re-ecting or repressing AA trying to a%oid it, resist it or deny it" 3he handling here is essentially the same" 9atch the arising of the thought or sensation" ;otice the state of re-ection that comes with it" Gauge the e>tent or degree of that re-ection" ee how long it lasts and when it fades away" 3hen return your attention to your breath" ;ethargy/ !ethargy comes in %arious grades and intensities, ranging from slight drowsiness to total torpor" 9e are talking about a mental state here, not a physical one" leepiness or physical fatigue is something *uite different and, in the Buddhist system of classification, it would be categoriDed as a physical feeling" Mental lethargy is closely related to a%ersion in that it is one of the mind5s cle%er little ways of a%oiding those issues it finds unpleasant" !ethargy is a sort of turnAoff of the mental apparatus, a dulling of sensory and cogniti%e acuity" +t is an enforced stupidity pretending to be sleep" 3his can be a tough one to deal with, because its presence is directly contrary to the employment of mindfulness"
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!ethargy is nearly the re%erse of mindfulness" ;e%ertheless, mindfulness is the cure for this hindrance, too, and the handling is the same" ;ote the state of drowsiness when it arises, and note its e>tent or degree" ;ote when it arises, how long it lasts, and when it passes away" 3he only thing special here is the importance of catching the phenomenon early" 1ou ha%e got to get it right at its conception and apply liberal doses of pure awareness right away" +f you let it get a start, its growth probably will out pace your mindfulness power" 9hen lethargy wins, the result is the sinking mind andKor sleep" Agitation/ tates of restlessness and worry are e>pressions of mental agitation" 1our mind keeps darting around, refusing to settle on any one thing" 1ou may keep running o%er and o%er the same issues" But e%en here an unsettled feeling is the predominant component" 3he mind refuses to settle anywhere" +t -umps around constantly" 3he cure for this condition is the same basic se*uence" 4estlessness imparts a certain feeling to consciousness" 1ou might call it a fla%or or te>ture" 9hate%er you call it, that unsettled feeling is there as a definable characteristic" !ook for it" @nce you ha%e spotted it, note how much of it is present" ;ote when it arises" 9atch how long it lasts, and see when it fades away" 3hen return your attention to the breath" &oubt/ Doubt has its own distinct feeling in consciousness" 3he 6ali tests describe it %ery nicely" +t5s the feeling of a man stumbling through a desert and arri%ing at an unmarked crossroad" 9hich road should he takeF 3here is no way to tell" o he -ust stands there %acillating" @ne of the common forms this takes in meditation is an inner dialogue something like thisH G9hat am + doing -ust sitting like thisF #m + really getting anything out of this at allF @hI ure + am" 3his is good for me" 3he book said so" ;o, that is craDy" 3his is a waste of time" ;o, + won5t gi%e up" + said + was going to do this, and + am going to do it" @r am + being -ust stubbornF + don5t know" + -ust don5t know"G Don5t get stuck in this trap" +t is -ust another hindrance" #nother of the mind5s little smoke screens to keep you from doing the most terrible thing in the worldH actually becoming aware of what is happening" 3o handle doubt, simply become aware of this mental state of wa%ering as an ob-ect of inspection" Don5t be trapped in it" Back out of it and look at it" ee how strong it is" ee when it comes and how long it lasts" 3hen watch it fade away, and go back to the breathing" 3his is the general pattern you will use on any distraction that arises" By distraction, remember we mean any mental state that arises to impede your meditation" ome of these are *uite subtle" +t is useful to list some of the possibilities" 3he negati%e states are pretty easy to spotH insecurity, fear, anger, depression, irritation and frustration" )ra%ing and desire are a bit more difficult to spot because they can apply to things we normally regard as %irtuous or noble" 1ou can e>perience the desire to perfect yourself" 1ou can feel cra%ing for greater %irtue" 1ou can e%en de%elop an attachment to the bliss of the meditation e>perience itself" +t is a bit hard to detach yourself from such altruistic feelings" +n the end, though, it is -ust more greed" +t is a desire for gratification and a cle%er way of ignoring the presentAtime reality" 3rickiest of all, howe%er, are those really positi%e mental states that come creeping into your meditation" Happiness, peace, inner contentment, sympathy and compassion for all beings e%erywhere" 3hese mental states are so sweet and so bene%olent that you can scarcely bear to pry yourself loose from them" +t makes you feel like a traitor to mankind" 3here is no need to feel this way" 9e are not ad%ising you to re-ect these states of mind or to become heartless robots" 9e merely want you to see them for what they are" 3hey are mental states" 3hey come and they go" 3hey arise and they pass away" #s you continue your meditation, these states will arise more often" 3he trick is not to become attached to them" ?ust see each one as it comes up" ee what it is, how strong it is and how long it lasts" 3hen watch it drift away" +t is all -ust more of the passing show of your own mental uni%erse" ?ust as breathing comes in stages, so do the mental states" :%ery breath has a beginning, a middle and an end" :%ery mental states has a birth, a growth and a decay" 1ou should stri%e to see
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these stages clearly" 3his is no easy thing to do, howe%er" #s we ha%e already noted, e%ery thought and sensation begins first in the unconscious region of the mind and only later rises to consciousness" 9e generally become aware of such things only after they ha%e arisen in the conscious realm and stayed there for some time" +ndeed we usually become aware of distractions only when they ha%e released their hold on us and are already on their way out" +t is at this point that we are struck with the sudden realiDation that we ha%e been somewhere, dayAdreaming, fantasiDing, or whate%er" Luite ob%iously this is far too late in the chain of e%ents" 9e may call this phenomenon catching the lion by is tail, and it is an unskillful thing to do" !ike confronting a dangerous beast, we must approach mental states headAon" 6atiently, we will learn to recogniDe them as they arise from progressi%ely deeper le%els of our conscious mind" ince mental states arise first in the unconscious, to catch the arising of the mental state, you5%e got to e>tend your awareness down into this unconscious area" 3hat is difficult, because you can5t see what is going on down there, at least not in the same way you see a conscious thought" But you can learn to get a %ague sense of mo%ement and to operate by a sort of mental sense of touch" 3his comes with practice, and the ability is another of the effects of the deep calm of concentration" )oncentration slows down the arising of these mental states and gi%es you time to feel each one arising out of the unconscious e%en before you see it in consciousness" )oncentration helps you to e>tend your awareness down into that boiling darkness where thought and sensation begin" #s your concentration deepens, you gain the ability to see thoughts and sensations arising slowly, like separate bubbles, each distinct and with spaces between them" 3hey bubble up in slow motion out of the unconscious" 3hey stay a while in the conscious mind and then they drift away" 3he application of awareness to mental states is a precision operation" 3his is particularly true of feelings or sensations" +t is %ery easy to o%erreach the sensation" 3hat is, to add something to it abo%e and beyond what is really there" +t is e*ually easy to fall short of sensation, to get part of it but not all" 3he ideal that you are stri%ing for is to e>perience each mental state fully, e>actly the way it is, adding nothing to it and not missing any part of it" !et us use pain in the leg as an e>ample" 9hat is actually there is a pure flowing sensation" +t changes constantly, ne%er the same from one moment to the ne>t" +t mo%es from one location to another, and its intensity surges up and down" 6ain is not a thing" +t is an e%ent" 3here should be no concepts tacked on to it and none associated with it" # pure unobstructed awareness of this e%ent will e>perience it simply as a flowing pattern of energy and nothing more" ;o thought and no re-ection" ?ust energy" :arly on in our practice of meditation, we need to rethink our underlying assumptions regarding conceptualiDation" 2or most of us, we ha%e earned high marks in school and in life for our ability to manipulate mental phenomena AA concepts AA logically" @ur careers, much of our success in e%eryday life, our happy relationships, we %iew as largely the result of our successful manipulation of concepts" +n de%eloping mindfulness, howe%er, we temporarily suspend the conceptualiDation process and focus on the pure nature of mental phenomena" During meditation we are seeking to e>perience the mind at the preAconcept le%el" But the human mind conceptualiDes such occurrences as pain" 1ou find yourself thinking of it as 5the pain5" 3hat is a concept" +t is a label, something added to the sensation itself" 1ou find yourself building a mental image, a picture of the pain, seeing it as a shape" 1ou may see a diagram of the leg with the pain outlined in some lo%ely color" 3his is %ery creati%e and terribly entertaining, but not what we want" 3hose are concepts tacked on to the li%ing reality" Most likely, you will probably find yourself thinkingH G+ ha%e a pain in my leg"G 5+5 is a concept" +t is something e>tra added to the pure e>perience" 9hen you introduce 5+5 into the process, you are building a conceptual gap between the reality and the awareness %iewing that reality" 3houghts such as 5Me5, 5My5 or 5Mine5 ha%e no place in direct awareness" 3hey are e>traneous addenda, and insidious ones at that" 9hen you bring 5me5 into the picture, you are identifying with the pain" 3hat simply adds emphasis to it" +f you lea%e 5+5 out of the
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operation, pain is not painful" +t is -ust a pure surging energy flow" +t can e%en be beautiful" +f you find 5+5 insinuating itself in your e>perience of pain or indeed any other sensation, then -ust obser%e that mindfully" 6ay bare attention to the phenomenon of personal identification with the pain" 3he general idea, howe%er, is almost too simple" 1ou want to really see each sensation, whether it is pain, bliss or boredom" 1ou want to e>perience that thing fully in its natural and unadulterated form" 3here is only one way to do this" 1our timing has to be precise" 1our awareness of each sensation must coordinate e>actly with the arising of that sensation" +f you catch it -ust a bit too late, you miss the beginning" 1ou won5t get all of it" +f you hang on to any sensation past the time when it has memory" 3he thing itself is gone, and by holding onto that memory, you miss the arising of the ne>t sensation" +t is a %ery delicate operation" 1ou5%e got to cruise along right here in present time, picking things up and letting things drop with no delays whatsoe%er" +t takes a %ery light touch" 1our relation to sensation should ne%er be one of past or future but always of the simple and immediate now" 3he human mind seeks to conceptualiDe phenomena, and it has de%eloped a host of cle%er ways to do so" :%ery simple sensation will trigger a burst of conceptual thinking if you gi%e the mind its way" !ets us take hearing, for e>ample" 1ou are sitting in meditation and somebody in the ne>t room drops a dish" 3he sounds strike your ear" +nstantly you see a picture of that other room" 1ou probably see a person dropping a dish, too" +f this a familiar en%ironment, say your own home, you probably will ha%e a =AD technicolor mind mo%ie of who did the dropping and which dish was dropped" 3his whole se*uence presents itself to consciousness instantly" +t -ust -umps out of the unconscious so bright and clear and compelling that it sho%es e%erything else out of sight" 9hat happens to the original sensation, the pure e>perience of hearingF +t got lost in the shuffle, completely o%erwhelmed and forgotten" 9e miss reality" 9e enter a world of fantasy" Here is another e>ampleH 1ou are sitting in meditation and a sound strikes your ear" +t is -ust an indistinct noise, sort of a muffled crunchB it could be anything" 9hat happens ne>t will probably be something like this" G9hat was thatF 9ho did thatF 9here did that come fromF How far away was thatF +s it dangerousFG" #nd on and on you go, getting no answers but your fantasy pro-ection" )onceptualiDation is an insidiously cle%er process +t creeps into you e>perience, and it simply takes o%er" 9hen you hear a sound in meditation, pay bare attention to the e>perience of hearing" 3hat and that only" 9hat is really happening is so utterly simple that we can and do miss it altogether" ound wa%es are striking the ear in a certain uni*ue pattern" 3hose wa%es are being translated into electrical impulses within the brain and those impulses present a sound pattern to consciousness" 3hat is all" ;o pictures" ;o mind mo%ies" ;o concepts" ;o interior dialogues about the *uestion" ?ust noise" 4eality is elegantly simple and unadorned" 9hen you hear a sound, be mindful of the process of hearing" :%erything else is -ust added chatter" Drop it" 3he same rule applies to e%ery sensation, e%ery emotion, e%ery e>perience you may ha%e" !ook closely at your own e>perience" Dig down through the layers of mental bricAaAbrac and see what is really there" 1ou will be amaDed how simple it is, and how beautiful" 3here are times when a number of sensations may arise at once" 1ou might ha%e a thought of fear, a s*ueeDing in the stomach and an aching back and an itch on your left earlobe, all at the same time" Don5t sit there in a *uandary" Don5t keep switching back and forth or wondering what to pick" @ne of them will be strongest" ?ust open yourself up and the most insistent of these phenomena will intrude itself and demand your attention" o gi%e it some attention -ust long enough to see it fade away" 3hen return to your breathing" +f another one intrudes itself, let it in" 9hen it is done, return to the breathing" 3his process can be carried too far, howe%er" Don5t sit there looking for things to be mindful of" Keep your mindfulness on the breath until something else steps in and pulls your attention away" 9hen you feel that happening, don5t fight it" !et you attention flow naturally o%er to the distraction, and keep it there until the distraction e%aporates" 3hen return to breathing" Don5t seek out other physical or
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mental phenomena" ?ust return to breathing" !et them come to you" 3here will be times when you drift off, of course" :%en after long practice you find yourself suddenly waking up, realiDing you ha%e been off the track for some while" Don5t get discouraged" 4ealiDe that you ha%e been off the track for such and such a length of time and go back to the breath" 3here is no need for any negati%e reaction at all" 3he %ery act of realiDing that you ha%e been off the track is an acti%e awareness" +t is an e>ercise of pure mindfulness all by itself" Mindfulness grows by the e>ercise of mindfulness" +t is like e>ercising a muscle" :%ery time you work it, you pump it up -ust a little" 1ou make it a little stronger" 3he %ery fact that you ha%e felt that wakeAup sensation means that you ha%e -ust impro%ed your mindfulness power" 3hat means you win" Mo%e back to the breathing without regret" Howe%er, the regret is a conditioned refle> and it may come along anywayAAanother mental habit" +f you find yourself getting frustrated, feeling discouraged, or condemning yourself, -ust obser%e that with bare attention" +t is -ust another distraction" Gi%e it some attention and watch it fade away, and return to the breath" 3he rules we ha%e -ust re%iewed can and should be applied thoroughly to all of your mental states" 1ou are going to find this an utterly ruthless in-unction" +t is the toughest -ob that you will e%er undertake" 1ou will find yourself relati%ely willing to apply this techni*ue to certain parts of your e>perience, and you will find yourself totally unwilling to use it on the other parts" Meditation is a bit like mental acid" +t eats away slowly at whate%er you put it on" 9e humans are %ery odd beings" 9e like the taste of certain poisons and we stubbornly continue to eat them e%en while they are killing us" 3houghts to which we are attached are poison" 1ou will find yourself *uite eager to dig some thoughts out by the roots while you -ealously guard and cherish certain others" 3hat is the human condition" Vipassana meditation is not a game" )lear awareness is more than a pleasurable pastime" +t is a road up and out of the *uagmire in which we are all stuck, the swamp of our own desires and a%ersions" +t is relati%ely easy to apply awareness to the nastier aspects of your e>istence" @nce you ha%e seen fear and depression e%aporate in the hot, intense beacon of awareness, you want to repeat the process" 3hose are the unpleasant mental states" 3hey hurt" 1ou want to get rid of those things because they bother you" +t is a good deal harder to apply that same process to mental states which you cherish, like patriotism, or parental protecti%eness or true lo%e" But it is -ust as necessary" 6ositi%e attachments hold you in the mud -ust as assuredly as negati%e attachments" 1ou may rise abo%e the mud far enough to breathe a bit more easily if you practice Vipassana meditation with diligence" Vipassana meditation is the road to ;ibbana" #nd from the reports of those who ha%e toiled their way to that lofty goal, it is well worth e%ery effort in%ol%ed"

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Min+fu5ne,, ASatiB
Mindfulness is the :nglish translation of the 6ali word Sati" Sati is an acti%ity" 9hat e>actly is thatF 3here can be no precise answer, at least not in words" 9ords are de%ised by the symbolic le%els of the mind and they describe those realities with which symbolic thinking deals" Mindfulness is preA symbolic" +t is not shackled to logic" ;e%ertheless, Mindfulness can be e>perienced AA rather easily AA and it can be described, as long as you keep in mind that the words are only fingers pointing at the moon" 3hey are not the thing itself" 3he actual e>perience lies beyond the words and abo%e the symbols" Mindfulness could be describes in completely different terms than will be used here and each description could still be correct" Mindfulness is a subtle process that you are using at this %ery moment" 3he fact that this process lies abo%e and beyond words does not make it unrealAA*uite the re%erse" Mindfulness is the reality which gi%es rise to wordsAAthe words that follow are simply pale shadows of reality" o, it is important to understand that e%erything that follows here is analogy" +t is not going to make perfect sense" +t will always remain beyond %erbal logic" But you can e>perience it" 3he meditation techni*ue called Vipassana .insight0 that was introduced by the Buddha about twentyAfi%e centuries ago is a set of mental acti%ities specifically aimed at e>periencing a state of uninterrupted Mindfulness" 9hen you first become aware of something, there is a fleeting instant of pure awareness -ust before you conceptualiDe the thing, before you identify it" 3hat is a stage of Mindfulness" @rdinarily, this stage is %ery short" +t is that flashing split second -ust as you focus your eyes on the thing, -ust as you focus your mind on the thing, -ust before you ob-ectify it, clamp down on it mentally and segregate it from the rest of e>istence" +t takes place -ust before you start thinking about itAAbefore your mind says, G@h, it5s a dog"G 3hat flowing, softAfocused moment of pure awareness is Mindfulness" +n that brief flashing mindAmoment you e>perience a thing as an unAthing" 1ou e>perience a softly flowing moment of pure e>perience that is interlocked with the rest of reality, not separate from it" Mindfulness is %ery much like what you see with your peripheral %ision as opposed to the hard focus of normal or central %ision" 1et this moment of soft, unfocused, awareness contains a %ery deep sort of knowing that is lost as soon as you focus your mind and ob-ectify the ob-ect into a thing" +n the process of ordinary perception, the Mindfulness step is so fleeting as to be unobser%able" 9e ha%e de%eloped the habit of s*uandering our attention on all the remaining steps, focusing on the perception, recogniDing the perception, labeling it, and most of all, getting in%ol%ed in a long string of symbolic thought about it" 3hat original moment of Mindfulness is rapidly passed o%er" +t is the purpose of the abo%e mentioned Vipassana .or insight0 meditation to train us to prolong that moment of awareness" 9hen this Mindfulness is prolonged by using proper techni*ues, you find that this e>perience is profound and it changes your entire %iew of the uni%erse" 3his state of perception has to be learned, howe%er, and it takes regular practice" @nce you learn the techni*ue, you will find that Mindfulness has many interesting aspects" 8he -haracteri,tic, of Min+fu5ne,, Mindfulness is mirror-thought" +t reflects only what is presently happening and in e>actly the way it is happening" 3here are no biases" Mindfulness is non-judgmental observation" +t is that ability of the mind to obser%e without criticism" 9ith this ability, one sees things without condemnation or -udgment" @ne is surprised by nothing" @ne simply takes a balanced interest in things e>actly as they are in their natural states" @ne does not decide and does not -udge" @ne -ust obser%es" 6lease note that when we say G@ne does not decide and does not -udge,G what we mean is that the meditator obser%es e>periences %ery much like a scientist obser%ing an ob-ect under the microscope without any preconcei%ed notions, only to see the
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ob-ect e>actly as it is" +n the same way the meditator notices impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessness" +t is psychologically impossible for us to ob-ecti%ely obser%e what is going on within us if we do not at the same time accept the occurrence of our %arious states of mind" 3his is especially true with unpleasant states of mind" +n order to obser%e our own fear, we must accept the fact that we are afraid" 9e can5t e>amine our own depression without accepting it fully" 3he same is true for irritation and agitation, frustration and all those other uncomfortable emotional states" 1ou can5t e>amine something fully if you are busy reflecting its e>istence" 9hate%er e>perience we may be ha%ing, Mindfulness -ust accepts it" +t is simply another of life5s occurrences, -ust another thing to be aware of" ;o pride, no shame, nothing personal at stakeAAwhat is there, is there" Mindfulness is an impartial watchfulness" +t does not take sides" +t does not get hung up in what is percei%ed" +t -ust percei%es" Mindfulness does not get infatuated with the good mental states" +t does not try to sidestep the bad mental states" 3here is no clinging to the pleasant, no fleeing from the unpleasant" Mindfulness sees all e>periences as e*ual, all thoughts as e*ual, all feelings as e*ual" ;othing is suppressed" ;othing is repressed" Mindfulness does not play fa%orites" Mindfulness is nonconceptual awareness" #nother :nglish term for Sati is 5bare attention5" +t is not thinking" +t does not get in%ol%ed with thought or concepts" +t does not get hung up on ideas or opinions or memories" +t -ust looks" Mindfulness registers e>periences, but it does not compare them" +t does not label them or categoriDe them" +t -ust obser%es e%erything as if it was occurring for the first time" +t is not analysis which is based on reflection and memory" +t is, rather, the direct and immediate e>periencing of whate%er is happening, without the medium of thought" +t comes before thought in the perceptual process" Mindfulness is present time awareness" +t takes place in the here and now" +t is the obser%ance of what is happening right now, in the present moment" +t stays fore%er in the present, surging perpetually on the crest of the ongoing wa%e of passing time" +f you are remembering your secondA grade teacher, that is memory" 9hen you then become aware that you are remembering your secondA grade teacher, that is mindfulness" +f you then conceptualiDe the process and say to yourself, G@h, + am rememberingG, that is thinking" Mindfulness is non-egoistic alertness" +t takes place without reference to self" 9ith Mindfulness one sees all phenomena without references to concepts like 5me5, 5my5 or 5mine5" 2or e>ample, suppose there is pain in your left leg" @rdinary consciousness would say, G+ ha%e a pain"G /sing Mindfulness, one would simply note the sensation as a sensation" @ne would not tack on that e>tra concept 5+5" Mindfulness stops one from adding anything to perception, or subtracting anything from it" @ne does not enhance anything" @ne does not emphasiDe anything" @ne -ust obser%es e>actly what is thereAA without distortion" Mindfulness is goal-less awareness" +n Mindfulness, one does not strain for results" @ne does not try to accomplish anything" 9hen one is mindful, one e>periences reality in the present moment in whate%er form it takes" 3here is nothing to be achie%ed" 3here is only obser%ation" Mindfulness is awareness of change" +t is obser%ing the passing flow of e>perience" +t is watching things as they are changing" it is seeing the birth, growth, and maturity of all phenomena" +t is watching phenomena decay and die" Mindfulness is watching things moment by moment, continuously" +t is obser%ing all phenomenaAAphysical, mental or emotionalAAwhate%er is presently taking place in the mind" @ne -ust sits back and watches the show" Mindfulness is the obser%ance of the basic nature of each passing phenomenon" +t is watching the thing arising and passing away" +t is seeing how that thing makes us feel and how we react to it" +t is obser%ing how it affects others" +n Mindfulness, one is an unbiased obser%er whose sole -ob is to keep track of the constantly passing show of the uni%erse within" Please note that last point. +n Mindfulness, one watches the uni%erse within" 3he meditator who is de%eloping Mindfulness is not concerned with the e>ternal uni%erse" +t is there, but in meditation, one5s field of study is one5s own e>perience, one5s thoughts, one5s feelings, and
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one5s perceptions" +n meditation, one is one5s own laboratory" 3he uni%erse within has an enormous fund of information containing the reflection of the e>ternal world and much more" #n e>amination of this material leads to total freedom" Mindfulness is participatory observation" 3he meditator is both participant and obser%er at one and the same time" +f one watches one5s emotions or physical sensations, one is feeling them at that %ery same moment" Mindfulness is not an intellectual awareness" +t is -ust awareness" 3he mirrorA thought metaphor breaks down here" Mindfulness is ob-ecti%e, but it is not cold or unfeeling" +t is the wakeful e>perience of life, an alert participation in the ongoing process of li%ing" Mindfulness is an extremely difficult concept to define in words AA not because it is comple>, but because it is too simple and open" 3he same problem crops up in e%ery area of human e>perience" 3he most basic concept is always the most difficult to pin down" !ook at a dictionary and you will see a clear e>ample" !ong words generally ha%e concise definitions, but for short basic words like 5the5 and 5is5, definitions can be a page long" #nd in physics, the most difficult functions to describe are the most basicAAthose that deal with the most fundamental realities of *uantum mechanics" Mindfulness is a preA symbolic function" 1ou can play with word symbols all day long and you will ne%er pin it down completely" 9e can ne%er fully e>press what it is" Howe%er, we can say what it does" 8hree =un+a'enta5 Activitie, 3here are three fundamental acti%ities of Mindfulness" 9e can use these acti%ities as functional definitions of the termH 1" Mindfulness reminds us of what we are supposed to be doing 2" +t sees things as they really are =" +t sees the deep nature of all phenomena" !et5s e>amine these definitions in greater detail" Mindfulness reminds you of what you are supposed to be doing" +n meditation, you put your attention on one item" 9hen your mind wanders from this focus, it is Mindfulness that reminds you that your mind is wandering and what you are supposed to be doing" +t is Mindfulness that brings your mind back to the ob-ect of meditation" #ll of this occurs instantaneously and without internal dialogue" Mindfulness is not thinking" 4epeated practice in meditation establishes this function as a mental habit which then carries o%er into the rest of your life" # serious meditator pays bare attention to occurrences all the time, day in, day out, whether formally sitting in meditation or not" 3his is a %ery lofty ideal towards which those who meditate may be working for a period of years or e%en decades" @ur habit of getting stuck in thought is years old, and that habit will hang on in the most tenacious manner" 3he only way out is to be e*ually persistent in the culti%ation of constant Mindfulness" 9hen Mindfulness is present, you will notice when you become stuck in your thought patterns" +t is that %ery noticing which allows you to back out of the thought process and free yourself from it" Mindfulness then returns your attention to its proper focus" +f you are meditating at that moment, then your focus will be the formal ob-ect of meditation" +f your are not in formal meditation, it will be -ust a pure application of bare attention itself, -ust a pure noticing of whate%er comes up without getting in%ol%edAAG#h, this comes up"""and now this, and now this""" and now thisG" Mindfulness is at one and the same time both bare attention itself and the function of reminding us to pay bare attention if we ha%e ceased to do so" Bare attention is noticing" +t reA establishes itself simply by noticing that it has not been present" #s soon as you are noticing that you ha%e not been noticing, then by definition you are noticing and then you are back again to paying bare attention" Mindfulness creates its own distinct feeling in consciousness" +t has a fla%orAAa light, clear, energetic fla%or" )onscious thought is hea%y by comparison, ponderous and picky" But here again, these are -ust words" 1our own practice will show you the difference" 3hen you will probably come up
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with your own words and the words used here will become superfluous" 4emember, practice is the thing" Mindfulness sees things as they really are" Mindfulness adds nothing to perception and it subtracts nothing" +t distorts nothing" +t is bare attention and -ust looks at whate%er comes up" )onscious thought pastes things o%er our e>perience, loads us down with concepts and ideas, immerses us in a churning %orte> of plans and worries, fears and fantasies" 9hen mindful, you don5t play that game" 1ou -ust notice e>actly what arises in the mind, then you notice the ne>t thing" G#h, this"""and this"""and now this"G +t is really %ery simple" Mindfulness sees the true nature of all phenomena" Mindfulness and only Mindfulness can percei%e the three prime characteristics that Buddhism teaches are the deepest truths of e>istence" +n 6ali these three are called Anicca .impermanence0, Du ha .unsatisfactoriness0, and Anatta .selflessnessAAthe absence of a permanent, unchanging, entity that we call oul or elf0" 3hese truths are not present in Buddhist teaching as dogmas demanding blind faith" 3he Buddhists feel that these truths are uni%ersal and selfAe%ident to anyone who cares to in%estigate in a proper way" Mindfulness is the method of in%estigation" Mindfulness alone has the power to re%eal the deepest le%el of reality a%ailable to human obser%ation" #t this le%el of inspection, one sees the followingH .a0 all conditioned things are inherently transitoryB .b0 e%ery worldly thing is, in the end, unsatisfyingB and .c0 there are really no entities that are unchanging or permanent, only processes" Mindfulness works like and electron microscope" 3hat is, it operates on so fine a le%el that one can actually see directly those realities which are at best theoretical constructs to the conscious thought process" Mindfulness actually sees the impermanent character of e%ery perception" +t sees the transitory and passing nature of e%erything that is percei%ed" +t also sees the inherently unsatisfactory nature of all conditioned things" +t sees that there is no sense grabbing onto any of these passing shows" 6eace and happiness cannot be found that way" #nd finally, Mindfulness sees the inherent selflessness of all phenomena" +t sees the way that we ha%e arbitrarily selected a certain bundle of perceptions, chopped them off from the rest of the surging flow of e>perience and then conceptualiDed them as separate, enduring, entities" Mindfulness actually sees these things" +t does not think about them, it sees them directly" 9hen it is fully de%eloped, Mindfulness sees these three attributes of e>istence directly, instantaneously, and without the inter%ening medium of conscious thought" +n fact, e%en the attributes which we -ust co%ered are inherently unified" 3hey don5t really e>ist as separate items" 3hey are purely the result of our struggle to take this fundamentally simple process called Mindfulness and e>press it in the cumbersome and inade*uate thought symbols of the conscious le%el" Mindfulness is a process, but it does not take place in steps" +t is a holistic process that occurs as a unitH you notice your own lack of MindfulnessB and that noticing itself is a result of MindfulnessB and Mindfulness is bare attentionB and bare attention is noticing things e>actly as they are without distortionB and the way they are is impermanent !Anicca" , unsatisfactory !Du ha", and selfless !Anatta"" +t all takes place in the space of a few mindAmoments" 3his does not mean, howe%er, that you will instantly attain liberation .freedom from all human weaknesses0 as a result of your first moment of Mindfulness" !earning to integrate this material into your conscious life is another whole process" #nd learning to prolong this state of Mindfulness is still another" 3hey are -oyous processes, howe%er, and they are well worth the effort" Min+fu5ne,, ASatiB an+ *n,ight A i.a,,anaB Me+itation Mindfulness is the center of Vipassana Meditation and the key to the whole process" +t is both the goal of this meditation and the means to that end" 1ou reach Mindfulness by being e%er more mindful" @ne other 6ali word that is translated into :nglish as Mindfulness is Appamada , which means nonAnegligence or an absence of madness" @ne who attends constantly to what is really going on in one5s mind achie%es the state of ultimate sanity"
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3he 6ali term Sati also bears the connotation of remembering" +t is not memory in the sense of ideas and pictures from the past, but rather clear, direct, wordless knowing of what is and what is not, of what is correct and what is incorrect, of what we are doing and how we should go about it" Mindfulness reminds the meditator to apply his attention to the proper ob-ect at the proper time and to e>ert precisely the amount of energy needed to do the -ob" 9hen this energy is properly applied, the meditator stays constantly in a state of calm and alertness" #s long as this condition is maintained, those mindAstates call GhindrancesG or Gpsychic irritantsG cannot ariseAAthere is no greed, no hatred, no lust or laDiness" But we all are human and we do err" Most of us err repeatedly" Despite honest effort, the meditator lets his Mindfulness slip now and then and he finds himself stuck in some regrettable, but normal, human failure" +t is Mindfulness that notices that change" #nd it is Mindfulness that reminds him to apply the energy re*uired to pull himself out" 3hese slips happen o%er and o%er, but their fre*uency decreases with practice" @nce Mindfulness has pushed these mental defilements aside, more wholesome states of mind can take their place" Hatred makes way for lo%ing kindness, lust is replaced by detachment" +t is Mindfulness which notices this change, too, and which reminds the Vipassana meditator to maintain that e>tra little mental sharpness needed to keep these more desirable states of mind" Mindfulness makes possible the growth of wisdom and compassion" 9ithout Mindfulness they cannot de%elop to full maturity" Deeply buried in the mind, there lies a mental mechanism which accepts what the mind percei%es as beautiful and pleasant e>periences and re-ects those e>periences which are percei%ed as ugly and painful" 3his mechanism gi%es rise to those states of mind which we are training oursel%es to a%oidAAthings like greed, lust, hatred, a%ersion, and -ealousy" 9e choose to a%oid these hindrances, not because they are e%il in the normal sense of the word, but because they are compulsi%eB because they take the mind o%er and capture the attention completelyB because they keep going round and round in tight little circles of thoughtB and because they seal us off from li%ing reality" 3hese hindrances cannot arise when Mindfulness is present" Mindfulness is attention to present time reality, and therefore, directly antithetical to the daDed state of mind which characteriDes impediments" #s meditators, it is only when we let our Mindfulness slip that the deep mechanisms of our mind take o%er AA grasping, clinging and re-ecting" 3hen resistance emerges and obscures our awareness" 9e do not notice that the change is taking place AA we are too busy with a thought of re%enge, or greed, whate%er it may be" 9hile an untrained person will continue in this state indefinitely, a trained meditator will soon realiDe what is happening" +t is Mindfulness that notices the change" +t is Mindfulness that remembers the training recei%ed and that focuses our attention so that the confusion fades away" #nd it is Mindfulness that then attempts to maintain itself indefinitely so that the resistance cannot arise again" 3hus, Mindfulness is the specific antidote for hindrances" +t is both the cure and the pre%enti%e measure" 2ully de%eloped Mindfulness is a state of total nonAattachment and utter absence of clinging to anything in the world" +f we can maintain this state, no other means or de%ice is needed to keep oursel%es free of obstructions, to achie%e liberation from our human weaknesses" Mindfulness is nonA superficial awareness" +t sees things deeply, down below the le%el of concepts and opinions" 3his sort of deep obser%ation leads to total certainty, and complete absence of confusion" +t manifests itself primarily as a constant and unwa%ering attention which ne%er flags and ne%er turns away" 3his pure and unstained in%estigati%e awareness not only holds mental hindrances at bay, it lays bare their %ery mechanism and destroys them" Mindfulness neutraliDes defilements in the mind" 3he result is a mind which remains unstained and in%ulnerable, completely unaffected by the ups and downs of life"

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-ha.ter 17

Min+fu5ne,, er,u, -oncentration


Vipassana meditation is something of a mental balancing act" 1ou are going to be culti%ating two separate *ualities of the mindAAmindfulness and concentration" +deally these two work together as a team" 3hey pull in tandem, so to speak" 3herefore it is important to culti%ate them sideAbyAside and in a balanced manner" +f one of the factors is strengthened at the e>pense of the other, the balance of the mind is lost and meditation impossible" )oncentration and mindfulness are distinctly different functions" 3hey each ha%e their role to play in meditation, and the relationship between them is definite and delicate" )oncentration is often called oneApointedness of mind" +t consists of forcing the mind to remain on one static point" 6lease note the word 2@4):" )oncentration is pretty much a forced type of acti%ity" +t can be de%eloped by force, by sheer unremitting willpower" #nd once de%eloped, it retains some of that forced fla%or" Mindfulness, on the other hand, is a delicate function leading to refined sensibilities" 3hese two are partners in the -ob of meditation" Mindfulness is the sensiti%e one" He notices things" )oncentration pro%ides the power" He keeps the attention pinned down to one item" +deally, mindfulness is in this relationship" Mindfulness picks the ob-ects of attention, and notices when the attention has gone astray" )oncentration does the actual work of holding the attention steady on that chosen ob-ect" +f either of these partners is weak, your meditation goes astray" )oncentration could be defined as that faculty of the mind which focuses single mindedly on one ob-ect without interruption" +t must be emphasiDed that true concentration is a wholesome oneA pointedness of mind" 3hat is, the state is free from greed, hatred and delusion" /nwholesome oneA pointedness is also possible, but it will not lead to liberation" 1ou can be %ery singleAminded in a state of lust" But that gets you nowhere" /ninterrupted focus on something that you hate does not help yo at all" +n fact, such unwholesome concentration is fairly shortAli%ed e%en when it is achie%edAAespecially when it is used to harm others" 3rue concentration itself is free from such contaminants" +t is a state in which the mind is gathered together and thus gains power and intensity" 9e might use the analogy of a lens" 6arallel wa%es of sunlight falling on a piece of paper will do no more than warm the surface" But the same amount of light, when focused through a lens, falls on a single point and the paper bursts into flames" )oncentration is the lens" +t produces the burning intensity necessary to see into the deeper reaches of the mind" Mindfulness selects the ob-ect that the lens will focus on and looks through the lens to see what is there" )oncentration should be regarded as a tool" !ike any tool, it can be used for good or for ill" # sharp knife can be used to create a beautiful car%ing or to harm someone" +t is all up to the one who uses the knife" )oncentration is similar" 6roperly used, it can assist you towards liberation" But it can also be used in the ser%ice of the ego" +t can operate in the framework of achie%ement and competition" 1ou can use concentration to dominate others" 1ou can use it to be selfish" 3he real problem is that concentration alone will not gi%e you a perspecti%e on yourself" +t won5t throw light on the basic problems of selfishness and the nature of suffering" +t can be used to dig down into deep psychological states" But e%en then, the forces of egotism won5t be understood" @nly mindfulness can do that" +f mindfulness is not there to look into the lens and see what has been unco%ered, then it is all for nothing" @nly mindfulness understands" @nly mindfulness brings wisdom" )oncentration has other limitations, too" 4eally deep concentration can only take place under certain specific conditions" Buddhists go to a lot of trouble to build meditation halls and monasteries" 3heir main purpose is to create a physical en%ironment free of distractions in which to learn this skill" ;o noise, no interruptions" ?ust as important, howe%er, is the creation of a distractionAfree emotional en%ironment" 3he de%elopment of concentration will be blocked by the presence of certain mental states which we call the fi%e
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hindrances" 3hey are greed for sensual pleasure, hatred, mental lethargy, restlessness, and mental %acillation" 9e ha%e e>amined these mental states more fully in )hapter 12" # monastery is a controlled en%ironment where this sort of emotional noise is kept to a minimum" ;o members of the opposite se> are allowed to li%e together there" 3herefore, there is less opportunity for lust" ;o possessions are allowed" 3herefore, no ownership s*uabbles and less chance for greed and co%eting" #nother hurdle for concentration should also be mentioned" +n really deep concentration, you get so absorbed in the ob-ect of concentration that you forget all about trifles" !ike your body, for instance, and your identity and e%erything around you" Here again the monastery is a useful con%enience" +t is nice to know that there is somebody to take care of you by watching o%er all the mundane matters of food and physical security" 9ithout such assurance, one hesitates to go as deeply into concentration as one might" Mindfulness, on the other hand, is free from all these drawbacks" Mindfulness is not dependent on any such particular circumstance, physical or otherwise" +t is a pure noticing factor" 3hus it is free to notice whate%er comes upAAlust, hatred, or noise" Mindfulness is not limited by any condition" +t e>ists to some e>tent in e%ery moment, in e%ery circumstance that arises" #lso, mindfulness has no fi>ed ob-ect of focus" +t obser%es change" 3hus it has an unlimited number of ob-ects of attention" +t -ust looks at whate%er is passing through the mind and it does not categoriDe" Distractions and interruptions are noticed with the same amount of attention as the formal ob-ects of meditation" +n a state of pure mindfulness your attention -ust flows along with whate%er changes are taking place in the mind" G hift, shift, shift" ;ow this, now this, and now this"G 1ou can5t de%elop mindfulness by force" #cti%e teeth gritting willpower won5t do you any good at all" #s a matter of fact, it will hinder progress" Mindfulness cannot be culti%ated by struggle" +t grows by realiDing, by letting go, by -ust settling down in the moment and letting yourself get comfortable with whate%er you are e>periencing" 3his does not mean that mindfulness happens all by itself" 2ar from it" :nergy is re*uired" :ffort is re*uired" But this effort is different from force" Mindfulness is culti%ated by a gentle effort, by effortless effort" 3he meditator culti%ates mindfulness by constantly reminding himself in a gentle way to maintain his awareness of whate%er is happening right now" 6ersistence and a light touch are the secrets" Mindfulness is culti%ated by constantly pulling oneself back to a state of awareness, gently, gently, gently" Mindfulness can5t be used in any selfish way, either" +t is nonegoistic alertness" 3here is no 5me5 in a state of pure mindfulness" o there is no self to be selfish" @n the contrary, it is mindfulness which gi%es you the real perspecti%e on yourself" +t allows you to take that crucial mental step backward from your own desires and a%ersions so that you can then look and say, G#h ha, so that5s how + really am"G +n a state of mindfulness, you see yourself e>actly as you are" 1ou see your own selfish beha%ior" 1ou see your own suffering" #nd you see how you create that suffering" 1ou see how you hurt others" 1ou pierce right through the layer of lies that you normally tell yourself and you see what is really there" Mindfulness leads to wisdom" Mindfulness is not trying to achie%e anything" +t is -ust looking" 3herefore, desire and a%ersion are not in%ol%ed" )ompetition and struggle for achie%ement ha%e no place in the process" Mindfulness does not aim at anything" +t -ust sees whate%er is already there" Mindfulness is a broader and larger function than concentration" it is an allAencompassing function" )oncentration is e>clusi%e" +t settles down on one item and ignores e%erything else" Mindfulness is inclusi%e" +t stands back from the focus of attention and watches with a broad focus, *uick to notice any change that occurs" +f you ha%e focused the mind on a stone, concentration will see only the stone" Mindfulness stands back from this process, aware of the stone, aware of the concentration focusing on the stone, aware of the intensity of that focus and instantly aware of the shift of attention when concentration is distracted" +t is mindfulness which notices the distraction which has occurred, and it is mindfulness which redirects the attention to the stone" Mindfulness is more difficult to culti%ate than concentration because it is a deeperAreaching function" )oncentration is merely
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focusing of the mind, rather like a laser beam" +t has the power to burn its way deep into the mind and illuminate what is there" But it does not understand what it sees" Mindfulness can e>amine the mechanics of selfishness and understand what it sees" Mindfulness can pierce the mystery of suffering and the mechanism of discomfort" Mindfulness can make you free" 3here is, howe%er, another )atchA22" Mindfulness does not react to what it sees" +t -ust sees and understands" Mindfulness is the essence of patience" 3herefore, whate%er you see must be simply accepted, acknowledged and dispassionately obser%ed" 3his is not easy, but it is utterly necessary" 9e are ignorant" 9e are selfish and greedy and boastful" 9e lust and we lie" 3hese are facts" Mindfulness means seeing these facts and being patient with oursel%es, accepting oursel%es as we are" 3hat goes against the grain" 9e don5t want to accept" 9e want to deny it" @r change it, or -ustify it" But acceptance is the essence of mindfulness" +f we want to grow in mindfulness we must accept what mindfulness finds" +t may be boredom, irritation, or fear" +t may be weakness, inade*uacy, or faults" 9hate%er it is, that is the way we are" 3hat is what is real" Mindfulness simply accepts whate%er is there" +f you want to grow in mindfulness, patient acceptance is the only route" Mindfulness grows only one wayH by continuous practice of mindfulness, by simply trying to be mindful, and that means being patient" 3he process cannot be forced and it cannot be rushed" +t proceeds at its own pace" )oncentration and mindfulness go handAinAhand in the -ob of meditation" Mindfulness directs the power of concentration" Mindfulness is the manager of the operation" )oncentration furnishes the power by which mindfulness can penetrate into the deepest le%el of the mind" 3heir cooperation results in insight and understanding" 3hese must be culti%ated together in a balanced ratio" ?ust a bit more emphasis is gi%en to mindfulness because mindfulness is the center of meditation" 3he deepest le%els of concentration are not really needed to do the -ob of liberation" till, a balance is essential" 3oo much awareness without calm to balance it will result in a wildly o%er sensitiDed state similar to abusing ! D" 3oo much concentration without a balancing ratio of awareness will result in the 5 tone Buddha5 syndrome" 3he meditator gets so tran*uiliDed that he sits there like a rock" Both of these are to be a%oided" 3he initial stages of mental culti%ation are especially delicate" 3oo much emphasis on mindfulness at this point will actually retard the de%elopment of concentration" 9hen getting started in meditation, one of the first things you will notice is how incredibly acti%e the mind really is" 3he 3hera%ada tradition calls this phenomenon 5monkey mind5" 3he 3ibetan tradition likens it to a waterfall of thought" +f you emphasiDe the awareness function at this point, there will be so much to be aware of that concentration will be impossible" Don5t get discouraged" 3his happens to e%erybody" #nd there is a simple solution" 6ut most of your effort into oneApointedness at the beginning" ?ust keep calling the attention from wandering o%er and o%er again" 3ough it out" 2ull instructions on how to do this are in )hapters ( and 8" # couple of months down the track and you will ha%e de%eloped concentration power" 3hen you can start pumping you energy into mindfulness" Do not, howe%er, go so far with concentration that you find yourself going into a stupor" Mindfulness still is the more important of the two components" +t should be built as soon as you comfortably can do so" Mindfulness pro%ides the needed foundation for the subse*uent de%elopment of deeper concentration" Most blunders in this area of balance will correct themsel%es in time" 4ight concentration de%elops naturally in the wake of strong mindfulness" 3he more you de%elop the noticing factor, the *uicker you will notice the distraction and the *uicker you will pull out of it and return to the formal ob-ect of attention" 3he natural result is increased concentration" #nd as concentration de%elops, it assists the de%elopment of mindfulness" 3he more concentration power you ha%e, the less chance there is of launching off on a long chain of analysis about the distraction" 1ou simply note the distraction and return your attention to where it is supposed to be" 3hus the two factors tend to balance and support each other5s growth *uite naturally" ?ust about the only rule you need to follow at this point is to put your effort on concentration at the beginning,
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until the monkey mind phenomenon has cooled down a bit" #fter that, emphasiDe mindfulness" +f you find yourself getting frantic, emphasiDe concentration" +f you find yourself going into a stupor, emphasiDe mindfulness" @%erall, mindfulness is the one to emphasiDe" Mindfulness guides your de%elopment in meditation because mindfulness has the ability to be aware of itself" +t is mindfulness which will gi%e you a perspecti%e on your practice" Mindfulness will let you know how you are doing" But don5t worry too much about that" 3his is not a race" 1ou are not in competition with anybody, and there is no schedule" @ne of the most difficult things to learn is that mindfulness is not dependent on any emotional or mental state" 9e ha%e certain images of meditation" Meditation is something done in *uiet ca%es by tran*uil people who mo%e slowly" 3hose are training conditions" 3hey are set up to foster concentration and to learn the skill of mindfulness" @nce you ha%e learned that skill, howe%er, you can dispense with the training restrictions, and you should" 1ou don5t need to mo%e at a snail5s pace to be mindful" 1ou don5t e%en need to be calm" 1ou can be mindful while sol%ing problems in intensi%e calculus" 1ou can be mindful in the middle of a football scrimmage" 1ou can e%en be mindful in the midst of a raging fury" Mental and physical acti%ities are no bar to mindfulness" +f you find your mind e>tremely acti%e, then simply obser%e the nature and degree of that acti%ity" +t is -ust a part of the passing show within"

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-ha.ter 19

Me+itation *n @very+ay ;ife


:%ery musician plays scales" 9hen you begin to study the piano, that5s the first thing you learn, and you ne%er stop playing scales" 3he finest concert pianists in the world still play scales" +t5s a basic skill that can5t be allowed to get rusty" :%ery baseball player practices batting" +t5s the first thing you learn in !ittle !eague, and you ne%er stop practicing" :%ery 9orld eries game begins with batting practice" Basic skills must always remain sharp" eated meditation is the arena in which the meditator practices his own fundamental skills" 3he game the meditator is playing is the e>perience of his own life, and the instrument upon which he plays is his own sensory apparatus" :%en the most seasoned meditator continues to practice seated meditation, because it tunes and sharpens the basic mental skills he needs for his particular game" 9e must ne%er forget, howe%er, that seated meditation itself is not the game" +t5s the practice" 3he game in which those basic skills are to be applied is the rest of one5s e>periential e>istence" Meditation that is not applied to daily li%ing is sterile and limited" 3he purpose of Vipassana meditation is nothing less than the radical and permanent transformation of your entire sensory and cogniti%e e>perience" +t is meant to re%olutioniDe the whole of your life e>perience" 3hose periods of seated practice are times set aside for instilling new mental habits" 1ou learn new ways to recei%e and understand sensation" 1ou de%elop new methods of dealing with conscious thought, and new modes of attending to the incessant rush of your own emotions" 3hese new mental beha%iors must be made to carry o%er into the rest of your life" @therwise, meditation remains dry and fruitless, a theoretical segment of your e>istence that is unconnected to all the rest" ome effort to connect these two segments is essential" # certain amount of carryAo%er will take place spontaneously, but the process will be slow and unreliable" 1ou are %ery likely to be left with the feeling that you are getting nowhere and to drop the process as unrewarding" @ne of the most memorable e%ents in your meditation career is the moment when you first realiDe that you are meditation in the midst of some perfectly ordinary acti%ity" 1ou are dri%ing down the freeway or carrying out the trash and it -ust turns on by itself" 3his unplanned outpouring of the skills you ha%e been so carefully fostering is a genuine -oy" +t gi%es you a tiny window on the future" 1ou catch a spontaneous glimpse of what the practice really means" 3he possibility strikes you that this transformation of consciousness could actually become a permanent feature of your e>perience" 1ou realiDe that you could actually spend the rest of your days standing aside from the debilitating clamoring of your own obsessions, no longer frantically hounded by your own needs and greed" 1ou get a tiny taste of what it is like to -ust stand aside and watch it all flow past" +t5s a magic moment" 3hat %ision is liable to remain unfulfilled, howe%er, unless you acti%ely seek to promote the carryAo%er process" 3he most important moment in meditation is the instant you lea%e the cushion" 9hen your practice session is o%er, you can -ump up and drop the whole thing, or you can bring those skills with you into the rest of your acti%ities" +t is crucial for you to understand what meditation is" +t is not some special posture, and it5s not -ust a set of mental e>ercises" Meditation is a culti%ation of mindfulness and the application of that mindfulness once culti%ated" 1ou do not ha%e to sit to meditate" 1ou can meditate while washing the dishes" 1ou can meditate in the shower, or roller skating, or typing letters" Meditation is awareness, and it must be applied to each and e%ery acti%ity of one5s life" 3his isn5t easy" 9e specifically culti%ate awareness through the seated posture in a *uiet place because that5s the easiest situation in which to do so" Meditation in motion is harder" Meditation in the midst of fastA paced noisy acti%ity is harder still" #nd meditation in the midst of intensely egoistic acti%ities like
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romance or arguments is the ultimate challenge" 3he beginner will ha%e his hands full with less stressful acti%ities" 1et the ultimate goal of practice remainsH to build one5s concentration and awareness to a le%el of strength that will remain unwa%ering e%en in the midst of the pressures of life in contemporary society" !ife offers many challenges and the serious meditator is %ery seldom bored" )arrying your meditation into the e%ents of your daily life is not a simple process" 3ry it and you will see" 3hat transition point between the end of your meditation session and the beginning of 5real life5 is a long -ump" +t5s too long for most of us" 9e find our calm and concentration e%aporating within minutes, lea%ing us apparently no better off than before" +n order to bridge this gulf, Buddhists o%er the centuries ha%e de%ised an array of e>ercises aimed at smoothing the transition" 3hey take that -ump and break it down into little steps" :ach step can be practiced by itself" #a5:ing Me+itation @ur e%eryday e>istence is full of motion and acti%ity" itting utterly motionless for hours on end is nearly the opposite of normal e>perience" 3hose states of clarity and tran*uility we foster in the midst of absolute stillness tend to dissol%e as soon as we mo%e" 9e need some transitional e>ercise that will teach us the skill of remaining calm and aware in the midst of motion" 9alking meditation helps us make that transition from static repose to e%eryday life" +t5s meditation in motion, and it is often used as an alternati%e to sitting" 9alking is especially good for those times when you are e>tremely restless" #n hour of walking meditation will often get you through that restless energy and still yield considerable *uantities of clarity" 1ou can then go on to the seated meditation with greater profit" tandard Buddhist practice ad%ocates fre*uent retreats to complement your daily sitting practice" # retreat is a relati%ely long period of time de%oted e>clusi%ely to meditation" @ne or two day retreats are common for lay people" easoned meditators in a monastic situation may spend months at a time doing nothing else" uch practice is rigorous, and it makes siDable demands on both mind and body" /nless you ha%e been at it for se%eral years, there is a limit to how long you can sit and profit" 3en solid hours of the seated posture will produce in most beginners a state of agony that far e>ceeds their concentration powers" # profitable retreat must therefore be conducted with some change of posture and some mo%ement" 3he usual pattern is to intersperse blocks of sitting with blocks of walking meditation" #n hour of each with short breaks between is common" 3o do the walking meditation, you need a pri%ate place with enough space for at least fi%e to ten paces in a straight line" 1ou are going to be walking back and forth %ery slowly, and to the eyes of most 9esterners, you5ll look curious and disconnected from e%eryday life" 3his is not the sort of e>ercise you want to perform on the front lawn where you5ll attract unnecessary attention" )hoose a pri%ate place" 3he physical directions are simple" elect an unobstructed area and start at one end" tand for a minute in an attenti%e position" 1our arms can be held in any way that is comfortable, in front, in back, or at your sides" 3hen while breathing in, lift the heel of one foot" 9hile breathing out, rest that foot on its toes" #gain while breathing in, lift that foot, carry it forward and while breathing out, bring the foot down and touch the floor" 4epeat this for the other foot" 9alk %ery slowly to the opposite end, stand for one minute, then turn around %ery slowly, and stand there for another minute before you walk back" 3hen repeat the process" Keep you head up and you neck rela>ed" Keep your eyes open to maintain balance, but don5t look at anything in particular" 9alk naturally" Maintain the slowest pace that is comfortable, and pay no attention to your surroundings" 9atch out for tensions building up in the body, and release them as soon as you spot them" Don5t make any particular attempt to be graceful" Don5t try to look pretty" 3his is not an athletic e>ercise, or a dance" +t is an e>ercise in awareness" 1our ob-ecti%e is to attain total alertness, heightened sensiti%ity and a full, unblocked e>perience of the motion of walking" 6ut all of your attention on the sensations coming from the feet and legs" 3ry to

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register as much information as possible about each foot as it mo%es" Di%e into the pure sensation of walking, and notice e%ery subtle nuance of the mo%ement" 2eel each indi%idual muscle as it mo%es" :>perience e%ery tiny change in tactile sensation as the feet press against the floor and then lift again" ;otice the way these apparently smooth motions are composed of comple> series of tiny -erks" 3ry to miss nothing" +n order to heighten your sensiti%ity, you can break the mo%ement down into distinct components" :ach foot goes through a lift, a swingB and then a down tread" :ach of these components has a beginning, middle, and end" +n order to tune yourself in to this series of motions, you can start by making e>plicit mental notes of each stage" Make a mental note of Glifting, swinging, coming down, touching floor, pressingG and so on" 3his is a training procedure to familiariDe you with the se*uence of motions and to make sure that you don5t miss any" #s you become more aware of the myriad subtle e%ents going on, you won5t ha%e time for words" 1ou will find yourself immersed in a fluid, unbroken awareness of motion" 3he feet will become your whole uni%erse" +f your mind wanders, note the distraction in the usual way, then return your attention to walking" Don5t look at your feet while you are doing all of this, and don5t walk back and forth watching a mental picture of your feet and legs" Don5t think, -ust feel" 1ou don5t need the concept of feet and you don5t need pictures" ?ust register the sensations as they flow" +n the beginning, you will probably ha%e some difficulties with balance" 1ou are using the leg muscles in a new way, and a learning period is natural" +f frustration arises, -ust note that and let it go" 3he Vipassana walking techni*ue is designed to flood your consciousness with simple sensations, and to do it so thoroughly that all else is pushed aside" 3here is no room for thought and no room for emotion" 3here is no time for grasping, and none for freeDing the acti%ity into a series of concepts" 3here is no need for a sense of self" 3here is only the sweep of tactile and kinesthetic sensation, an endless and e%erAchanging flood of raw e>perience" 9e are learning here to escape into reality, rather than from it" 9hate%er insights we gain are directly applicable to the rest of our notionA filled li%es" Po,ture, 3he goal of our practice is to become fully aware of all facets of our e>perience in an unbroken, momentAtoAmoment flow" Much of what we do and e>perience is completely unconscious in the sense that we do it with little or no attention" @ur minds are on something else entirely" 9e spend most of our time running on automatic pilot, lost in the fog of dayAdreams and preoccupations" @ne of the most fre*uently ignored aspects of our e>istence is our body" 3he technicolor cartoon show inside our head is so alluring that we tend to remo%e all of our attention from the kinesthetic and tactile senses" 3hat information is pouring up the ner%es and into the brain e%ery second, but we ha%e largely sealed it off from consciousness" +t pours into the lower le%els of the mind and it gets no further" Buddhists ha%e de%eloped an e>ercise to open the floodgates and let this material through to consciousness" +t5s another way of making the unconscious conscious" 1our body goes through all kinds of contortions in the course of a single day" 1ou sit and you stand" 1ou walk and lie down" 1ou bend, run, crawl, and sprawl" Meditation teachers urge you to become aware of this constantly ongoing dance" #s you go through your day, spend a few seconds e%ery few minutes to check your posture" Don5t do it in a -udgmental way" 3his is not an e>ercise to correct your posture, or to impro%e you appearance" weep your attention down through the body and feel how you are holding it" Make a silent mental note of 59alking5 or 5 itting5 or 5!ying down5 or 5 tanding5" +t all sounds absurdly simple, but don5t slight this procedure" 3his is a powerful e>ercise" +f you do it thoroughly, if you really instil this mental habit deeply, it can re%olutioniDe your e>perience" +t taps you into a whole new dimension of sensation, and you feel like a blind man whose sight has been restored"

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S5o!-Motion Activity :%ery action you perform is made up of separate components" 3he simple action of tying your shoelaces is made up of a comple> series of subtle motions" Most of these details go unobser%ed" +n order to promote the o%erall habit of mindfulness, you can perform simple acti%ities at %ery low speedAAmaking an effort to pay full attention to e%ery nuance of the act" itting at a table and drinking a cup of tea is one e>ample" 3here is much here to be e>perienced" View your posture as you are sitting and feel the handle of the cup between your fingers" mell the aroma of the tea, notice the placement of the cup, the tea, your arm, and the table" 9atch the intention to raise the arm arise within your mind, feel the arm as it raises, feel the cup against your lips and the li*uid pouring into your mouth" 3aste the tea, then watch the arising of the intention to lower your arm" 3he entire process is fascinating and beautiful, if you attend to it fully, paying detached attention to e%ery sensation and to the flow of thought and emotion" 3his same tactic can be applied to many of your daily acti%ities" +ntentionally slowing down your thoughts, words and mo%ements allows you to penetrate far more deeply into them than you otherwise could" 9hat you find there is utterly astonishing" +n the beginning, it is %ery difficult to keep this deliberately slow pace during most regular acti%ities, but skill grows with time" 6rofound realiDations occur during sitting meditation, but e%en more profound re%elations can take place when we really e>amine our own inner workings in the midst of dayAtoAday acti%ities" 3his is the laboratory where we really start to see the mechanisms of our own emotions and the operations of our passions" Here is where we can truly gauge the reliability of our reasoning, and glimpse the difference between our true moti%es and the armor of pretense that we wear to fool oursel%es and others" 9e will find a great deal of this information surprising, much of it disturbing, but all of it useful" Bare attention brings order into the clutter that collects in those untidy little hidden corners of the mind" #s you achie%e clear comprehension in the midst of life5s ordinary acti%ities, you gain the ability to remain rational and peaceful while you throw the penetrating light of mindfulness into those irrational mental nooks and crannies" 1ou start to see the e>tent to which you are responsible for your own mental suffering" 1ou see your own miseries, fears, and tensions as selfAgenerated" 1ou see the way you cause your own suffering, weakness, and limitations" #nd the more deeply you understand these mental processes, the less hold they ha%e on you"

Breath -oor+ination +n seated meditation, our primary focus is the breath" 3otal concentration on the e%erAchanging breath brings us s*uarely into the present moment" 3he same principle can be used in the midst of mo%ement" 1ou can coordinate the acti%ity in which you are in%ol%ed with your breathing" 3his lends a flowing rhythm to your mo%ement, and it smooths out many of the abrupt transitions" #cti%ity becomes easier to focus on, and mindfulness is increased" 1our awareness thus stays more easily in the present" +deally, meditation should be a 2' hourAaAday practice" 3his is a highly practical suggestion" # state of mindfulness is a state of mental readiness" 3he mind is not burdened with preoccupations or bound in worries" 9hate%er comes up can be dealt with instantly" 9hen you are truly mindful, your ner%ous system has a freshness and resiliency which fosters insight" # problem arises and you simply deal with it, *uickly, efficiently, and with a minimum of fuss" 1ou don5t stand there in a dither, and you don5t run off to a *uiet corner so you can sit down and meditate about it" 1ou simply deal with it" #nd in those rare circumstances when no solution seems possible, you don5t worry about that" 1ou -ust go on to the ne>t thing that needs your attention" 1our intuition becomes a %ery practical faculty"

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Sto5en Mo'ent, 3he concept of wasted time does not e>ist for a serious meditator" !ittle dead spaces during your day can be turned to profit" :%ery spare moment can be used for meditation" itting an>iously in the dentist5s office, meditate on your an>iety" 2eeling irritated while standing in a line at the bank, meditate on irritation" Bored, twiddling you thumbs at the bus stop, meditate on boredom" 3ry to stay alert and aware throughout the day" Be mindful of e>actly what is taking place right now, e%en if it is tedious drudgery" 3ake ad%antage of moments when you are alone" 3ake ad%antage of acti%ities that are largely mechanical" /se e%ery spare second to be mindful" /se all the moments you can"

-oncentration <n A55 Activitie, 1ou should try to maintain mindfulness of e%ery acti%ity and perception through the day, starting with the first perception when you awake, and ending with the last thought before you fall asleep" 3his is an incredibly tall goal to shoot for" Don5t e>pect to be able to achie%e this work soon" ?ust take it slowly and let you abilities grow o%er time" 3he most feasible way to go about the task is to di%ide your day up into chunks" Dedicate a certain inter%al to mindfulness of posture, then e>tend this mindfulness to other simple acti%itiesH eating, washing, dressing, and so forth" ome time during the day, you can set aside 1C minutes or so to practice the obser%ation of specific types of mental statesH pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feelings, for instanceB or the hindrances, or thoughts" 3he specific routine is up to you" 3he idea is to get practice at spotting the %arious items, and to preser%e your state of mindfulness as fully as you can throughout the day" 3ry to achie%e a daily routine in which there is as little difference as possible between seated meditation and the rest of your e>perience" !et the one slide naturally into the other" 1our body is almost ne%er still" 3here is always motion to obser%e" #t the %ery least, there is breathing" 1our mind ne%er stops chattering, e>cept in the %ery deepest states of concentration" 3here is always something coming up to obser%e" +f you seriously apply your meditation, you will ne%er be at a loss for something worthy of your attention" 1our practice must be made to apply to your e%eryday li%ing situation" 3hat is your laboratory" +t pro%ides the trials and challenges you need to make your practice deep and genuine" +t5s the fire that purifies your practice of deception and error, the acid test that shows you when you are getting somewhere and when you are fooling yourself" +f your meditation isn5t helping you to cope with e%eryday conflicts and struggles, then it is shallow" +f your dayAtoAday emotional reactions are not becoming clearer and easier to manage, then you are wasting your time" #nd you ne%er know how you are doing until you actually make that test" 3he practice of mindfulness is supposed to be a uni%ersal practice" 1ou don5t do it sometimes and drop it the rest of the time" 1ou do it all the time" Meditation that is successful only when you are withdrawn in some soundproof i%ory tower is still unde%eloped" +nsight meditation is the practice of momentAtoAmoment mindfulness" 3he meditator learns to pay bare attention to the birth, growth, and decay of all the phenomena of the mind" He turns from none of it, and he lets none of it escape" 3houghts and emotions, acti%ities and desires, the whole show" He watches it all and he watches it continuously" +t matters not whether it is lo%ely or horrid, beautiful or shameful" He sees the way it is and the way it changes" ;o aspect of e>perience is e>cluded or a%oided" +t is a %ery thoroughgoing procedure" +f you are mo%ing through your daily acti%ities and you find yourself in a state of boredom, then meditate on your boredom" 2ind out how it feels, how it works, and what it is composed of" +f you are angry, meditate on the anger" :>plore the mechanics of anger" Don5t run from it" +f you find yourself sitting in the grip of a dark depression, meditate on the depression" +n%estigate depression in a detached and in*uiring way" Don5t flee from it blindly" :>plore the maDe and chart its pathways" 3hat way you will be better able to cope with the ne>t depression that comes along"

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Meditating your way through the ups and downs of daily life is the whole point of Vipassana" 3his kind of practice is e>tremely rigorous and demanding, but it engenders a state of mental fle>ibility that is beyond comparison" # meditator keeps his mind open e%ery second" He is constantly in%estigating life, inspecting his own e>perience, %iewing e>istence in a detached and in*uisiti%e way" 3hus he is constantly open to truth in any form, from any source, and at any time" 3his is the state of mind you need for !iberation" +t is said that one may attain enlightenment at any moment if the mind is kept in a state of meditati%e readiness" 3he tiniest, most ordinary perception can be the stimulusH a %iew of the moon, the cry of a bird, the sound of the wind in the trees" it5s not so important what is percei%ed as the way in which you attend to that perception" 3he state of open readiness is essential" +t could happen to you right now if you are ready" 3he tactile sensation of this book in your fingers could be the cue" 3he sound of these words in your head might be enough" 1ou could attain enlightenment right now, if you are ready"

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-ha.ter 1$

#hat2, *n *t =or >ou


1ou can e>pect certain benefits from your meditation" 3he initial ones are practical, prosaic thingsB the later stages are profoundly transcendent" 3hey run together from the simple to the sublime" 9e will set forth some of them here" 1our own e>perience is all that counts" 3hose things that we called hindrances or defilements are more than -ust unpleasant mental habits" 3hey are the primary manifestations of the ego process itself" 3he ego sense itself is essentially a feeling of separation AA a perception of distance between that which we call me, and that which we call other" 3his perception is held in place only if it is constantly e>ercised, and the hindrances constitute that e>ercise" Greed and lust are attempts to get 5some of that5 for meB hatred and a%ersion are attempts to place greater distance between 5me and that5" #ll the defilements depend upon the perception of a barrier between self and other, and all of them foster this perception e%ery time they are e>ercised" Mindfulness percei%es things deeply and with great clarity" +t brings our attention to the root of the defilements and lays bare their mechanism" +t sees their fruits and their effects upon us" +t cannot be fooled" @nce you ha%e clearly seen what greed really is and what it really does to you and to others, you -ust naturally cease to engage in it" 9hen a child burns his hand on a hot o%en, you don5t ha%e to tell him to pull it backB he does it naturally, without conscious thought and without decision" 3here is a refle> action built into the ner%ous system for -ust that purpose, and it works faster than thought" By the time the child percei%es the sensation of heat and begins to cry, the hand has already been -erked back from the source of pain" Mindfulness works in %ery much the same wayH it is wordless, spontaneous and utterly efficient" )lear mindfulness inhibits the growth of hindrancesB continuous mindfulness e>tinguishes them" 3hus, as genuine mindfulness is built up, the walls of the ego itself are broken down, cra%ing diminishes, defensi%eness and rigidity lessen, you become more open, accepting and fle>ible" 1ou learn to share your lo%ingAkindness" 3raditionally, Buddhists are reluctant to talk about the ultimate nature of human beings" But those who are willing to make descripti%e statements at all usually say that our ultimate essence or Buddha nature is pure, holy and inherently good" 3he only reason that human beings appear otherwise is that their e>perience of that ultimate essence has been hinderedB it has been blocked like water behind a dam" 3he hindrances are the bricks of which the dam is built" #s mindfulness dissol%es the bricks, holes are punched in the dam and compassion and sympathetic -oy come flooding forward" #s meditati%e mindfulness de%elops, your whole e>perience of life changes" 1our e>perience of being ali%e, the %ery sensation of being conscious, becomes lucid and precise, no longer -ust an unnoticed background for your preoccupations" +t becomes a thing consistently percei%ed" :ach passing moment stands out as itselfB the moments no longer blend together in an unnoticed blur" ;othing is glossed o%er or taken for granted, no e>periences labeled as merely 5ordinary5" :%erything looks bright and special" 1ou refrain from categoriDing your e>periences into mental pigeonholes" Descriptions and interpretations are chucked aside and each moment of time is allowed to speak for itself" 1ou actually listen to what it has to say, and you listen as if it were being heard for the %ery first time" 9hen your meditation becomes really powerful, it also becomes constant" 1ou consistently obser%e with bare attention both the breath and e%ery mental phenomenon" 1ou feel increasingly stable, increasingly moored in the stark and simple e>perience of momentAtoAmoment e>istence" @nce your mind is free from thought, it becomes clearly wakeful and at rest in an utterly simple awareness" 3his awareness cannot be described ade*uately" 9ords are not enough" +t can only be e>perienced" Breath ceases to be -ust breathB it is no longer limited to the static and familiar concept you once held" 1ou no longer see it as a succession of -ust inhalations and e>halationsB it is no longer
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some insignificant monotonous e>perience" Breath becomes a li%ing, changing process, something ali%e and fascinating" +t is no longer something that takes place in timeB it is percei%ed as the present moment itself" 3ime is seen as a concept, not an e>perienced reality" 3his is simplified, rudimentary awareness which is stripped of all e>traneous detail" +t is grounded in a li%ing flow of the present, and it is marked by a pronounced sense of reality" 1ou know absolutely that this is real, more real than anything you ha%e e%er e>perienced" @nce you ha%e gained this perception with absolute certainty, you ha%e a fresh %antage point, a new criterion against which to gauge all of your e>perience" #fter this perception, you see clearly those moments when you are participating in bare phenomena alone, and those moments when you are disturbing phenomena with mental attitudes" 1ou watch yourself twisting reality with mental comments, with stale images and personal opinions" 1ou know what you are doing, when you are doing it" 1ou become increasingly sensiti%e to the ways in which you miss the true reality, and you gra%itate towards the simple ob-ecti%e perspecti%e which does not add to or subtract from what is" 1ou become a %ery percepti%e indi%idual" 2rom this %antage point, all is seen with clarity" 3he innumerable acti%ities of mind and body stand out in glaring detail" 1ou mindfully obser%e the incessant rise and fall of breathB you watch an endless stream of bodily sensations and mo%ementsB you scan a rapid succession of thoughts and feelings, and you sense the rhythm that echoes from the steady march of time" #nd in the midst of all this ceaseless mo%ement, there is no watcher, there is only watching" +n this state of perception, nothing remains the same for two consecuti%e moments" :%erything is seen to be in constant transformation" #ll things are born, all things grow old and die" 3here are no e>ceptions" 1ou awaken to the unceasing changes of your own life" 1ou look around and see e%erything in flu>, e%erything, e%erything, e%erything" +t is all rising and falling, intensifying and diminishing, coming into e>istence and passing away" #ll of life, e%ery bit of it from the infinitesimal to the +ndian @cean, is in motion constantly" 1ou percei%e the uni%erse as a great flowing ri%er of e>perience" 1our most cherished possessions are slipping away, and so is your %ery life" 1et this impermanence is no reason for grief" 1ou stand there transfi>ed, staring at this incessant acti%ity, and your response is wondrous -oy" +t5s all mo%ing, dancing and full of life" #s you continue to obser%e these changes and you see how it all fits together, you become aware of the intimate connectedness of all mental, sensory and affecti%e phenomena" 1ou watch one thought leading to another, you see destruction gi%ing rise to emotional reactions and feelings gi%ing rise to more thoughts" #ctions, thoughts, feelings, desires AA you see all of them intimately linked together in a delicate fabric of cause and effect" 1ou watch pleasurable e>periences arise and fall and you see that they ne%er lastB you watch pain come unin%ited and you watch yourself an>iously struggling to throw it offB you see yourself fail" +t all happens o%er and o%er while you stand back *uietly and -ust watch it all work" @ut of this li%ing laboratory itself comes an inner and unassailable conclusion" 1ou see that your life is marked by disappointment and frustration, and you clearly see the source" 3hese reactions arise out of your own inability to get what you want, your fear of losing what you ha%e already gained and your habit of ne%er being satisfied with what you ha%e" 3hese are no longer theoretical concepts AA you ha%e seen these things for yourself and you know that they are real" 1ou percei%e your own fear, your own basic insecurity in the face of life and death" +t is a profound tension that goes all the way down to the root of thought and makes all of life a struggle" 1ou watch yourself an>iously groping about, fearfully grasping for something, anything, to hold onto in the midst of all these shifting sands, and you see that there is nothing to hold onto, nothing that doesn5t change" 1ou see the pain of loss and grief, you watch yourself being forced to ad-ust to painful de%elopments day after day in your own ordinary e>istence" 1ou witness the tensions and conflicts inherent in the %ery process of e%eryday li%ing, and you see how superficial most of your concerns really are" 1ou watch the progress of pain, sickness, old age and death" 1ou learn to mar%el that all these horrible things are not fearful at all" 3hey are simply reality"
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3hrough this intensi%e study of the negati%e aspects of your e>istence, you become deeply ac*uainted with dukkha, the unsatisfactory nature of all e>istence" 1ou begin to percei%e dukkha at all le%els of our human life, from the ob%ious down to the most subtle" 1ou see the way suffering ine%itably follows in the wake of clinging, as soon as you grasp anything, pain ine%itably follows" @nce you become fully ac*uainted with the whole dynamic of desire, you become sensitiDed to it" 1ou see where it rises, when it rises and how it affects you" 1ou watch it operate o%er and o%er, manifesting through e%ery sense channel, taking control of the mind and making consciousness its sla%e" +n the midst of e%ery pleasant e>perience, you watch your own cra%ing and clinging take place" +n the midst of unpleasant e>periences, you watch a %ery powerful resistance take hold" 1ou do not block these phenomena, you -ust watch them, you see them as the %ery stuff of human thought" 1ou search for that thing you call 5me5, but what you find is a physical body and how you ha%e identified your sense of yourself with that bag of skin and bones" 1ou search further and you find all manner of mental phenomena, such as emotions, thought patterns and opinions, and see how you identify the sense of yourself with each of them" 1ou watch yourself becoming possessi%e, protecti%e and defensi%e o%er these pitiful things and you see how craDy that is" 1ou rummage furiously among these %arious items, constantly searching for yourselfAAphysical matter, bodily sensations, feelings and emotionsAAit all keeps whirling round and round as you root through it, peering into e%ery nook and cranny, endlessly hunting for 5me5" 1ou find nothing" +n all that collection of mental hardware in this endless stream of e%erA shifting e>perience all you can find is innumerable impersonal processes which ha%e been caused and conditioned by pre%ious processes" 3here is no static self to be foundB it is all process" 1ou find thoughts but no thinker, you find emotions and desires, but nobody doing them" 3he house itself is empty" 3here is nobody home" 1our whole %iew of self changes at this point" 1ou begin to look upon yourself as if you were a newspaper photograph" 9hen %iewed with the naked eyes, the photograph you see is a definite image" 9hen %iewed through a magnifying glass, it all breaks down into an intricate configuration of dots" imilarly, under the penetrating gaDe of mindfulness, the feeling of self, an 5+5 or 5being5 anything, loses its solidity and dissol%es" 3here comes a point in insight meditation where the three characteristics of e>istenceAAimpermanence, unsatisfactoriness and selflessnessAA come rushing home with conceptA searing force" 1ou %i%idly e>perience the impermanence of life, the suffering nature of human e>istence, and the truth of no self" 1ou e>perience these things so graphically that you suddenly awake to the utter futility of cra%ing, grasping and resistance" +n the clarity and purity of this profound moment, our consciousness is transformed" 3he entity of self e%aporates" #ll that is left is an infinity of interrelated nonApersonal phenomena which are conditioned and e%er changing" )ra%ing is e>tinguished and a great burden is lifted" 3here remains only an effortless flow, without a trace of resistance or tension" 3here remains only peace, and blessed ;ibbana, the uncreated, is realiDed"

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