Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dharma Talk 005: Practicing Original Mind

When I come across people talking intimately about their meditation practice, there are two things that often stick out to me.

One, they are overly focused on the breath.  The breath is a fine tool for concentration practice, and can be a good fallback if nothing else seems to be going on, but I think it's overdone.  The breath can be a vipassana object, like anything else, but I'm not sure that most people are really experiencing it in that way.  I think most people end up getting a bit focused in, and are simultaneously not paying attention to their full experience.

I tend to model meditation, first and foremost, as practicing our original nature.  Imagine the mind of an infant, perhaps a very peaceful infant, between changes and feedings.  Is a blissed out little baby focused on its breath?  I doubt it.

More likely, the baby is focused on whatever is predominate in it's consciousness at that moment.  (Nonverbally:) ... there are some little sparkly things there ... there are some sounds over that way ... there's a weird sensation.  Just whatever is happening at that moment, whatever is predominate.

To the baby, everything is just happening, just this.  A literally unknown field of awareness in which experiences are arising and passing.  Grok that.

The second thing I notice is that some people seem to be doing quite a bit of intellectualizing, philosophizing, psychologizing - analyzing their thoughts while they are meditating.  They want to "get to the bottom" of things, they want to understand their patterns, they want to learn, they want psychological insight.

In meditation, notice the thoughts, sure.  If you're doing noting, you can note that as thinking or planning or whatever.  My recommendation is that be the end of it.  If you go further, into analysis, that's kind of graspy, right?  Let go of that, just be.  You noticed the thought, move on to whatever is current as opposed to feeding the machinery of thought.

Notice the baby has no analytical thought.  They have no language, no symbolic communication, no real basis for conceptual thought.  Just this.

Pre-verbal, non-conceptual, unprejudiced, bare awareness.

So if you want to do some concentration practice as a separate thing, that's fine, practice on the breath or a kasina object or whatever.  If you want to analyze your thoughts, you can set aside some time for that or work with a therapist or whatever.  But if you want to wake up, my recommendation would be to keep your vipassana sessions pure - practice original mind.  Keep letting go into that original mind.

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