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J. Goldstein / S.


Working with Desire

Recognize what you can control, and practice letting go of those
things you cant. Ending the futile struggle against inevitable
change releases our energy for more effective and realistic
Practice generosity. Generosity reverses the energy of desire, freeing
us from the endless self-absorption involved in trying to draw
satisfaction inward. Instead, the energetic flow of giving moves
outward, toward others. You may find, ironically, that this natural
outflow yields the greatest satisfaction of all.
Cultivate gratitude. Instead of seeing our lives in terms of what we
arent getting, we can open our hearts with joy to all those things
we continually receive from our world.
Simplify your life. Ask yourself the question, What do I truly need in
order to be happy? The practice of meditation is very helpful in
learning to see what is truly essential to our happiness and what is
simply a web of illusion spun by the force of desire.

Working with Aversion

Shift your focus from your anger to the suffering of the
situationboth your own and that of others. The Buddhist texts
teach that all aggression is a source of pain. Your own angry
response will diminish if you can remember that the others anger
points to a sense of helplessness that keeps him or her from
pursuing a more effective course of action.
Free yourself from the role of avenger. If someone has caused
harm, that person will inevitably sufferthis is the law of karma
(discussed in Session 8). Hatred can never cease by hatred. By
meeting aversion with love, you can cut the cycle of escalating
anger and change the momentum of painful situations.
Practice forgiveness. This is not an abstract, altruistic concept,
but a practical self-help strategy. When your mind is full of anger
and hatred, youre the one whos suffering the most. Forgiving
those who have hurt you releases you from a great burden of
Learn to recognize anger, fear, disappointment, and guilt as
states of aversion. In this way, you can see and understand your
responses in the light of awareness. Although all these forms of
aversion may continue to arise, you can find a place of clarity
where they need no longer control you.
Learn confidence in the power of lovingkindness (Sessions 8
and 11). This isnt a state of weakness or complacency, but a
source of tremendous strength that is more powerful and effective
than anger.
Q: When I practice, I notice some boredomand an even greater fear
of boredom. What should ido?
A: Boredom is actually a form of aversion. When we truly experience
it with the power of mindfulness, we discover that boredom comes
from lack of attention. We dont like whats happening, so we
withdraw our attention, which leads to boredom. If we stay with this
feeling, it becomes a useful signal. We break through to a whole new
level of understanding. By focusing your awareness on boredom as
an object of meditation, you can open your mind and heart to
include the fullness of your experienceincluding your sense of
dissatisfaction and flavorlessness. Then you may find that even the
repetitive sensation of breathing can be an amazingly interesting
and wonderful experience.

Recognize sleepiness as something we experience in

parts of every day. We practice meditation in order to wake up. By
bringing awareness to the state of torpor, you can gain glimpses
into those parts of your world you may be excluding from the
totality of your awareness.
If you find yourself losing interest in your surroundings,
wherever you are, focus on just one thing. Just this sentence. Just
this step. Bring yourself back into the present moment by
becoming mindful of those objects and events that are actually
Surrender. Let your mind be as restless as it wants to,
but stay with it. As with any conditioned phenomenon, the
restlessness will change shape as you watch it.
Recognize doubt as a thought process. It takes form as a
string of words. Drop below the words to your actual experience and
youre likely to encounter the subtle fear and resistance from which
doubt can arise.

Exercises for Working with Emotional States

Emotions are part of the human condition. In vipassana practice,
we dont attempt to eliminate or manipulate them, but rather to
bathe them in the light of awareness so that we can see them for
what they are: passing moods and feelings. Practicing in this way,
we can loosen the influence changing emotional states have on our
behavior and peace of mind. The following exercises will help you
create more space around your emotional experiences. Respond to
at least five of them.

Exercise One
When you scan your inner emotional landscape, what feelings do
you notice? Do you feel happy? Sad? Peaceful? Excited? (Respond

Exercise Two
Choose the feeling that seems strongest and investigate it. What
bodily sensations accompany this feeling? Do you sense a tightness
in your throat or chest? Warmth or pressure in your stomach?
Sensations elsewhere in your body? Describe your experience. (Use
about five minutes to write your answer.)

Exercise Three
What is the energetic nature of the feeling? Does it bring with it a
sense of aloneness or isolation? Does it bring with it a sense of
connection to others? (Use about five minutes to write your answer.)

Exercise Four
Do you notice any resistance to this emotional state? Is there
any condemnation or pushing away associated with it? Do you notice a
tendency to cling to it, wanting it to stay? (Use about five minutes to write
your answer.)

Exercise Five
Choose any emotion that arises during meditation. Notice how it
began and what preceded it. Was there a thought or image that
triggered this particular state? (Use about five minutes to write your

Exercise Six
Most feelings pass or alter in a minute or two. Sometimes they
grow stronger; sometimes they dissolve or change into different
feelings. Anger, for example, may dissolve into sadness, then into
regret, then into resolve. Choose an emotion arising in your sitting
practice and observe what happens to it. (Use about five minutes to
write your answer.)

Exercise Seven
Practice exercises two through six above with at least three
different feelings. Describe your experiences. (Use about ten
minutes to write your answer.)

Getting the Most from Your Meditation

Because it clears away mental obscurations, meditation practice

may make us more keenly aware of suffering in the world. Here are
some suggestions on how to bring your new awareness of pain onto
the path of freedom.

Practice maintaining your awareness of suffering. Were

typically conditioned to brush discomfort under the rug, to trivialize
or ignore the pain in the world, lest it penetrate and wound our
hearts. Developing the discipline of awareness in this difficult area
opens up a realm of insights and choices that arent available to us
When you do something that creates suffering for yourself or
another, acknowledge what youre doing. The pervasive myth that
ignorance is bliss is not supported by Buddhist teaching, which
holds that even a harmful act is mitigated by awareness. When we
cause suffering without understanding what were doing, our
ignorance actually compounds the damage.

Recognize your limits. Awareness is never cultivated through

force. Sometimes you may find yourself backing off from painful
experiences for a while. Practice being gentle with yourself, never
ceasing to watch what happens as you approach and withdraw from
the source of suffering. As with any object of awareness, it will
inevitably change as you work with it.

Exercises for Working with Thoughts and Images

Thoughts and images very often arise in our minds. This is not seen as a
problem, but rather as an opportunity to practice awareness. These
exercises will help you to use the thoughts and images that present
themselves as objects of meditation. Respond to at least five of the

Exercise One
Resolve for five minutes to let your mind appear as a blank screen. Watch
carefully for thoughts to arise. They may come as images, words in the
mind, or both together. Some thoughts may arise as, or with, a feeling or
kinesthetic sense. Describe your experience. (Use about five minutes to
write your answer.)

Exercise Two
Now experiment for five minutes with counting your thoughts. After you
notice and count each thought, wait and watch the blank screen until the
next one arises. Remember to count even the most subtle thoughts (like,
Its so quiet in here). The purpose of this exercise is not to form a
judgment about ourselves or how much (or little) we think, but to observe
the thought process mindfully, without getting lost in each story. Describe
your experience. (Use about five minutes to write your answer.)

Exercise Three
What kinds of thoughts predominate in your mind: words, pictures, those
arising with a kinesthetic sense, or a combination? (Respond briefly.)

Exercise Four
If images are arising, try to note them as seeing. Do they grow brighter,
fade, break apart, move closer together, or stay the same? (Use about five
minutes to write your answer.)

Exercise Five
Can you note particular types of thoughts as planning, remembering,
judging, loving, and so on? (Use about five minutes to write your

Exercise Six
Can you create a compassionate, humorous label for an insistent thought?
We call repetitive thoughts the top-ten tapes, because like songs on the
radio, they play the same themes over and over again. Try labels like: The
Martyr Tape, The I Blew It Again Tape, The Fear of the Dark Tape, The
Great World Teacher Tape, and so on. Be lighthearted with these labels.
We can see our tapes as conditioned forces that dont have to be taken so
seriously. We can greet the repeated forces arising in our minds with
friendliness and an open heart: Oh, its you againThe Mad Scientist
Tape. Hello! Experiment with this technique and describe your
experience. (Use about ten minutes to write your answer.)

Exercise Seven
If a particular thought seems to be returning a lot, expand your field of
attention to notice whatever emotional state may be feeding it. Unseen
feelings are part of what brings thoughts back, again and again. For
example, anxiety often fuels future planning. At first the emotions may be
half hidden or unconscious, but if you pay careful attention, the feelings
will reveal themselves. Use the sensations in the body to help guide the
attention to whatever emotions may be present (noticing tension in the
chest, for instance, may uncover sadness). Begin to note whatever
emotions you see as a way of acknowledging them. Describe what
happens. (Use about ten minutes to write your answer.)

Exercise Eight
If you experience repetitive pain or a difficult mood, expand your field of
attention to the thoughts, stories, or beliefs that may be feeding them.
When were mindful, we may find a subtle level of self-judgment or a
belief about our unworthiness: Im not as good as everyone else. Ill
always be this way. These thoughts can actually help perpetuate the pain
or unhappiness. Observe the effect of thought on the body and emotional
state. (Use about five minutes to write your answer.)

Getting the Most from Your Meditation

Delusion operates in both gross and subtle ways throughout our daily
experience. The following suggestions will support your efforts to
recognize delusion for what it is and to see past it into a more clear
experience of how things are.

Experiment with how it feels to not be attached to opinions. For one day,
resolve to let go of judgments and conclusions. Recognize when your point
of view is not resting on an actual experience but is simply an opinion. Pay
attention to the quality of this day and to the ways in which it differs from
other days.
When you experience confusion, practice stopping what youre doing long
enough to step back and look at the bigger picture. Often our confusion
comes from too narrow a vision. When we can see the context of our
experience, clarity frequently follows.

Question assumptions. A good place to look for unquestioned assumptions

is in clichs, such as the golden years or the painful truth. Ask yourself
whether the years referred to are, in fact, golden; whether the truth in this
case is painful. Explore how such assumptions affect your experience
when you examine them and when they remain unexamined.