Time for Everyday Thinking in Meditation Posture

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Time for Everyday Thinking in Meditation Posture

Postby dhammapal » Sat Jun 19, 2010 11:35 am

Meditation teachers often say that formal meditation should be training the mind to focus on the breath for example and that there is plenty of time for everyday thinking during the rest of the day. Some say that meditating on the breath will put the mind in good shape to make sound decisions when the off-cushion situations arise, that spending the meditation time thinking things through doesn’t help much. I did find once though that if I had thought a situation through I wouldn't have started an argument after my breath meditation.

Maybe it is a problem with samatha practices. One vipassana teacher said once “Have a good think. Enjoy it!”

I suffer from bipolar disorder, and I think I have racing thoughts (the seconds on my digital watch seem to change quite slowly). Today I sat in my meditation chair for about an hour (I have lots of spare time) reflecting on Majjhima 61 Instructions to Rahula, reflecting on my actions before during and after. I think that MN61 is another “only way” anyway as the Buddha seems to say at the end of the sutta. Sometimes this reflection leads me to the breath anyway, as something that doesn’t cause self-affliction, the affliction of others or both.

So far this is very unstructured: before, during and after what? And how long in to the past or future?

Any ideas on a structure for a reflection practice in combination with a samatha practice?

Thanks / dhammapal.
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Re: Time for Everyday Thinking in Meditation Posture

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Jun 19, 2010 1:22 pm

Relfection is part of the practice especially wise reflection or 'approriate attention' (yonisomanasikara). Reflecting on the four noble truths (sabbbasava sutta) or the dependant origination is mentioned in the suttas. It is also mentioned as a way to develop wisdom (cintamaya pana- wisdom through reflection), along with reading/hearing and wisdom or insight through meditation.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Anupassana is another instance of reflection.

Here are other perhaps even more important things to reflect on:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-subject.html#xyz

However wise reflection should not be confused with samatha as the results of the two are different. The former results in right view, that latter results in samadhi-unification of mind.

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Re: Time for Everyday Thinking in Meditation Posture

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:31 am

Hh Dhammapal,

I'm not completely clear what the question is. Thinking is not necessarily a bad thing, but you can't make much progress in either samatha or vipassana practice if you are lost in thought. It may sometimes be helpful to figure out what is bugging you (for example), in order to get the mind to settle down, but that's a preliminary. Don't confuse it with vipassana.The insight that the Buddha taught is insight into the realities of samsara: anicca, dukkha, anatta, etc, not insight in the sense of how to solve some problem at work or with your relationships, etc. Having said that, I think many of us will have had the experience of sitting on a retreat and suddenly seeing the answer to something that has been bugging us. That's can be really useful, but, again, it's not vipassana...

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Re: Time for Everyday Thinking in Meditation Posture

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Jun 21, 2010 11:47 am

mikenz66 wrote:... many of us will have had the experience of sitting on a retreat and suddenly seeing the answer to something that has been bugging us. That's can be really useful, but, again, it's not vipassana...

Yep, that's a fairly regular experience for me - breath-meditation (and not just on a retreat, I might add) quietens the mind enough that I can see a problem clearly and the answer just pops out of that clarity. But, as you say, it's not meditation. It's an interruption but also an incidental benefit, so I try not to hang on to it but not to resist it either - just accept it and get back to the breath.
:namaste:
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Re: Time for Everyday Thinking in Meditation Posture

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Jun 21, 2010 12:46 pm

Just to add (hopefully not to the confusion!) that wise reflection (yonisomanasikara) form a prior step before performing satipatthana and seems to help some people. This prior step is shown in the 'factors of stream entry' :

1) associating with noble ones
2) listening to the true dhamma (gives rise to Right view)
3) wise reflection (the second cause for the arising of Right view)
4) satipatthana practice ('practice according to the dhamma') (gives rise to inight into phenomena as it really is- yathabhutha nana)


"Friend, there are two conditions for the arising of right view: the voice of another and appropriate attention. These are the two conditions for the arising of right view."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

§ 27. Uttiya: It would be good, lord, if the Blessed One would teach
me the Dhamma in brief so that, having heard the Dhamma from the
Blessed One, I might dwell alone, secluded, heedful, ardent, &
resolute.

The Buddha: In that case, Uttiya, you should purify what is most
basic with regard to skillful mental qualities. And what is the basis
of skillful mental qualities? Well-purified virtue & views made
straight. Then, when your virtue is well-purified and your views made
straight
, in dependence on virtue, established in virtue, you should
develop the four frames of reference... Then, when in dependence on
virtue, relying on virtue, you develop the four frames of reference,
you will go beyond the realm of Death.
— SN 47.16

I'm not saying that this prior step is essential but certainly seems to help. I feel it stops the mind from aimless drifting into nice cosy meditative states because the Right view is already formed (and it directs the mind to the relevant insight). Silavant sutta for example is a good one for what to do wise reflection.

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Re: Time for Everyday Thinking in Meditation Posture

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 21, 2010 9:59 pm

Good points RYB. I certainly am not trying to say that thinking or reflection is bad or useless. I was trying to distinguish it from insight, which you do very well.

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Re: Time for Everyday Thinking in Meditation Posture

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:55 am

Greetings RYB,

Nice quotes - thanks.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Time for Everyday Thinking in Meditation Posture

Postby dhammapal » Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:00 am

Hi Mike,

Good points.

Tonight’s meditation was much more like wordless vipassana after I remembered this quote by Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
The Buddha's teachings on time are interesting in that even though they do talk about time, they don't talk about a beginning point in time. The beginning point for your experience is right here in the present moment. It all comes springing out of right here; so instead of trying trace things back to first causes someplace way back in the past, the Buddha has you look for first causes right here and right now. Dig down deep inside into the area of the mind where intention and attention and perception play against each other, for that's the point from which all things are born.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#sublime


With metta / dhammapal.
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Re: Time for Everyday Thinking in Meditation Posture

Postby Alex123 » Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:00 pm

rowyourboat wrote:Just to add (hopefully not to the confusion!) that wise reflection (yonisomanasikara) form a prior step before performing satipatthana and seems to help some people. This prior step is shown in the 'factors of stream entry' :

1) associating with noble ones
2) listening to the true dhamma (gives rise to Right view)
3) wise reflection (the second cause for the arising of Right view)
4) satipatthana practice ('practice according to the dhamma') (gives rise to inight into phenomena as it really is- yathabhutha nana)
RYB


I'd like to add about step #4:
"Practice Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma" (dhammānudhammappaṭipatti) suttas are:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


In brief, there is focus on anicca,dukkha,anatta and development of Nibbida. IMHO it is a result from wise attention, which itself is a result of listening to true Dhamma.

Now, things are rooted in wise attention. IMHO the steps following it till liberation are what consitutes "practice of dhamma".

wise attention -> joy -> rapture -> tranquility of body -> happiness -> concentration -> seeing as it is -> revulsion -> dispassion -> liberation

Nava yonisomanasikāramūlakā dhammā, yonisomanasikaroto pāmojjaṃ jāyati, pamuditassa pīti jāyati, pītimanassa kāyo passambhati, passaddhakāyo sukhaṃ vedeti, sukhino cittaṃ samādhiyati, samāhite citte yathābhūtaṃ jānāti passati, yathābhūtaṃ jānaṃ passaṃ nibbindati, nibbindaṃ virajjati, virāgā vimuccati. PTS D3.288


In AN11.2 there are interesting passages that say that one factor leads to another, even without an act of will.
For a joyful person, there is no need for an act of will, 'May rapture arise in me.' It is in the nature of things that rapture arises in a joyful person.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Time for Everyday Thinking in Meditation Posture

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:46 am

Hi Alex123

Yes, I think yonisomanasikara leads to satipatthana. Contemplating the five aggregates in this way is not to be done purely conceptually but rather triggered by seeing/noting one of the five aggregates. So for instance if a person sees form (say a chair) then it is possible to contemplate the nature of form (anicca dukkha anatta). This in turn would lead to nibbida. However as it is happening in the present moment it would generate the roots of mindfulness as well. Satipatthana also leads to the development of nibbida.

32 (2) Dispassion
"Bikkhus, these four establishments of mindfulness, when developed and cultivated, lead to utter revulsion (nibbida), to dispassion (viraga), to cessation (nirodha) , to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana.
Mahavagga, satipatthana samyutta, SN

However yonisomanasikara may on it's own have the power to do the trick:

"A virtuous monk, Kotthita my friend, should attend in an appropriate way (yonisomanasikara) to the five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. Which five? Form as a clinging-aggregate, feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as a clinging-aggregate. A virtuous monk should attend in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a dissolution, an emptiness, not-self. For it is possible that a virtuous monk, attending in an appropriate way to these five clinging-aggregates as inconstant... not-self, would realize the fruit of stream-entry."
Silavant sutta SN22_122

Perhaps this happens because as you said, one thing can lead to the next, even without practising higher steps.

It is worthwhile noting in the above sutta that manasikara is clearly 'contemplation' (ie semi-verbal) and not mindfulness, even though it gets translated as 'appropriate attention' which I think is a bit of stretch. I think the Buddha led no stone unturned and used everything which helped to shape the mind to where it needed to go, including verbal thinking/contemplation. Perhaps it is a modern phenomena that we are quitely attached to mindfulness and anything to do with verbal thinking is seen with suspicion. :) I think the Buddha would say '....if it leads to reduction of lobha, dosa, moha, use it!'

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