Thinking too much or not enough?

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Thinking too much or not enough?

Postby MJB » Wed Oct 26, 2011 6:37 am

Greetings. I'm a longtime practitioner of the "relaxation response," ala Dr. Herbert Benson, but have only been applying myself to vipassana (daily sitting/walking and trying to be constantly mindful) for about a year. My primary guide in this has been "Mindfulness in Plain English," assorted online Dharma talks and forums like this.

I'm confused about the role of thought in insight meditation. I know I'm not supposed to get caught up in discursive, compulsive thinking, and that paying bare attention and being aware in the present moment are key. Yet at the same time I'm admonished to practice self-inquiry, be nonjudgmental, meditate on my corpse or interdependence, etc. But mental activities like these require active reflection, and that seems to contradict the idea that "thoughts as just thoughts" and that I should simply just be watching whatever comes up. So it almost seems like there are two distinct aspects to mindfulness meditation: one aspect is the non-activity of just being aware and observing but not getting caught up in whatever happens to be going through my mind at the moment, or focusing on what I'm doing off the cushion, i.e., nonconceptual; and the other aspect is conscious self-examination, reflecting on things like impermanence and actively cultivating compassion, seeing others as teachers, understanding biases, and the like, i.e., conceptual.

When I sit I just sit, focusing on my breath. Is there an entirely different type of sitting that involves active reflection?

Thanks.
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Re: Thinking too much or not enough?

Postby Ben » Wed Oct 26, 2011 7:50 am

Greetings MJB and welcome to Dhamma Wheel.
I recommend you follow the instructions you have been given and focusing on developing your meditation that is in keeping with those instructions. Different teachers have different ways of dealing with thoughts so its best to maintain a consistency of approach by following the instructions from one teacher (or source) rather than mix and match which could just leave you confused or worse.
While maintaining your meditation as per the instructions you have been given, you may wish to read or participate in the discussion on Ven Analayo's masterpiece "Satipatthana: the direct path to realization": viewtopic.php?f=25&t=9941
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Thinking too much or not enough?

Postby chownah » Wed Oct 26, 2011 7:54 am

MJB,
There are different kinds of meditation and a good place to start is to learn about what they are and what they are intended to do....concentration, insight, mindfulness,,,,,
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Re: Thinking too much or not enough?

Postby DarwidHalim » Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:47 am

MJB wrote:Greetings. I'm a longtime practitioner of the "relaxation response," ala Dr. Herbert Benson, but have only been applying myself to vipassana (daily sitting/walking and trying to be constantly mindful) for about a year. My primary guide in this has been "Mindfulness in Plain English," assorted online Dharma talks and forums like this.

I'm confused about the role of thought in insight meditation. I know I'm not supposed to get caught up in discursive, compulsive thinking, and that paying bare attention and being aware in the present moment are key. Yet at the same time I'm admonished to practice self-inquiry, be nonjudgmental, meditate on my corpse or interdependence, etc. But mental activities like these require active reflection, and that seems to contradict the idea that "thoughts as just thoughts" and that I should simply just be watching whatever comes up. So it almost seems like there are two distinct aspects to mindfulness meditation: one aspect is the non-activity of just being aware and observing but not getting caught up in whatever happens to be going through my mind at the moment, or focusing on what I'm doing off the cushion, i.e., nonconceptual; and the other aspect is conscious self-examination, reflecting on things like impermanence and actively cultivating compassion, seeing others as teachers, understanding biases, and the like, i.e., conceptual.

When I sit I just sit, focusing on my breath. Is there an entirely different type of sitting that involves active reflection?

Thanks.


We need to know how we get the special insight (vipassana).

We need to differentiate between thinking and seeing.

If we think in meditation, we also get knowledge. But this knowledge is deluded. Why? It is deluded by our concepts. Oh this is like this. Oh this is like that.

What we need to do is simply seeing. Do nothing. Don't think. But simply seeing. When you just see thing as what it is, you are directly experiencing things as what it is, nakedly, and barely.

Thoughts will arise, but it is no problem. They are problem if you think about it. If you touch them.

Remember this:

The reflection of mirror doesn't know anger, hatred, jealousy, happiness, sadness. The reflection simply reflect whatever they are as what they are. The reflection is untouch by anger, by hatred, by happiness, by anything. Untouch, yet so clear and so bright.

So, it is like that. Simply look at it as what it is.

This seeing will finally bring you very deep.

Don't touch anything. Just passively seeing.

If there is any slight of thinking, your meditation is already out.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Thinking too much or not enough?

Postby MJB » Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:52 am

Ben,

Thanks for the reply. Actually, I have been relying primarily on one source, "Mindfulness in Plain English," but the advice it gives appears contradictory. For example, the author of that book in a chapter emphasizing the value of loving friendliness writes about being in an airport and filling his mind with thoughts of compassion while meditating. Yet, a few pages later when addressing the same topic writes, "if thoughts arise as to how you should be such and such a way, let them go." This is just one example. I know there are different teachers and techniques, and I am trying to educate myself about them. But I'm hoping someone can clarify a point that seems very basic, i.e., is practicing mindfulness in such way that thoughts are essentially disregarded a distinct technique from practicing mindfulness in such a way that certain thoughts/concepts/values (e.g., loving friendliness) are actively cultivated?

Cheers.
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Re: Thinking too much or not enough?

Postby bodom » Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:25 am

MJB wrote:When I sit I just sit, focusing on my breath. Is there an entirely different type of sitting that involves active reflection?


Yes, it is called yoniso manasikara or wise reflection. It is an indispensable part of the practice:

Wise Reflection

The Importance of Wise Reflection in Meditation

http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh463-p.html

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Thinking too much or not enough?

Postby Ben » Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:39 am

Hi MJB,
MJB wrote:Ben,

Thanks for the reply. Actually, I have been relying primarily on one source, "Mindfulness in Plain English," but the advice it gives appears contradictory. For example, the author of that book in a chapter emphasizing the value of loving friendliness writes about being in an airport and filling his mind with thoughts of compassion while meditating. Yet, a few pages later when addressing the same topic writes, "if thoughts arise as to how you should be such and such a way, let them go." This is just one example. I know there are different teachers and techniques, and I am trying to educate myself about them. But I'm hoping someone can clarify a point that seems very basic, i.e., is practicing mindfulness in such way that thoughts are essentially disregarded a distinct technique from practicing mindfulness in such a way that certain thoughts/concepts/values (e.g., loving friendliness) are actively cultivated?

Cheers.


I am not familiar with Bhante G's method but what he appears to be saying is to not place any importance on the thought or thoughts when they arise (within the context of the samatha or vipassana practice that he is teaching). Other vipassana teachers will tell you something similar - keep focus on the mediation object and if other distractions (usually thoughts/emotions), just take note that they have arisen while maintaining clear comprehension of the impermanent characteristic of the meditation object. That is different to Metta Bhavana (meditation on loving kindness) where one generates the mental qualities of loving kindness, equanimity, compassion and sympathetic joy and makes oneself and others objects of those wholesome mental qualities. One usually does so by internally reciting one of a couple of formulas which are derived from the suttas. Another example where one internally recites as part of a meditation object is the recollection of the qualities of the triple gem.
kind regards,

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


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