manasikara wrote:Sometimes, however, my worst fears arise, scary as hell (literally), and quite distracting, making me wonder if I should be calming my mind to this degree. I am getting fed up with my practice, I missed meditation for the first time in a month yesterday, because of this disturbing image that my devilish intellect has devised to 'spoil' my peace of mind and happiness. I am scared that if I let go too much, let go of all thinking and just merge into the breath, that the image will likewise become even more vivid and real-looking and scare the hell out of me or even drive me insane. Maybe too much concentration is not right for me at this time.
And then again, maybe using that concentration in a more skilful way will help you to alleviate the frightful visions you have. If, on account of the calm developed, you are able to trace the vision back to the source of its root, you will see the inherent emptiness in it such that you are able to let go of the vision and find one that more aptly entails the kind of reality you would like to inhabit, one that is less disturbing and yet more skilful.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote in an essay on the attributes of emptiness
the following: "Emptiness as an approach to meditation is the most basic of the three kinds of emptiness. In the context of this approach, emptiness means 'empty of disturbance' — or, to put it in other terms, empty of stress. You bring the mind to concentration and then examine your state of concentration in order to detect the presence or absence of subtle disturbance or stress still inherent within that state. When you find a disturbance, you follow it back to the perception — the mental label or act of recognition — on which the concentration is based. Then, you drop that perception in favor of a more refined one, one leading to a state of concentration with less inherent disturbance."
Give that essay a read, especially the section titled Emptiness as an Approach to Meditation
, and see how you think afterward. If you allow the mind to bring in its conditioned prejudices and biases, you allow the mind to control your meditation through the fabrication of your experience. On the other hand, if you can observe this disturbance as it arises and passes away simply on its own terms, neither adding any other perceptions to it nor taking anything away, you would be adopting a more skilful approach to your meditation while at the same time watching the disturbance become reduced to nothing. Thanissaro once again: "By dropping the causes of stress wherever he finds them in his concentration, he ultimately reaches the highest form of emptiness, free from all mental fabrication."
This advice is not inconsistent with the advice given by Ben and the others. The skilful use of equanimity will assist in allowing the mind to carefully deconstruct the stressful images that arise, thus allowing you to see and confirm first hand their inherent emptiness. This realization in itself can be the jumping off point for a more stress-free meditation session.
Give it a try and see how it works.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV