Monday, December 22, 2008
as I sat
I heard the very
of the rain
drops as they
fell, a very
Sangha, yesterday. Always a joy, to sit in the company of our band of meditators on a Sunday morning. It's a different feel from the lone weekday sits, a common energy generated in that hour of delicious silence.
Afterwards, in our discussion, I picked up a useful piece of guidance, relayed on to us by one of our number from a conversation with our teacher. There are times when the contemplation of an issue becomes an important part of a meditation sit; it's not always just a matter of training the mind to steady its attention on the breath, because we each have hindrances that stand between us and that desired goal. Sometimes it becomes necessary to examine what it is that distracts the mind and prevents us from achieving the serenity and the equanimity we strive for.
At such moments, a focused, thought-ful contemplation is what's needed to help sort things out, to come to an understanding that can release us from the grip of unhelpful patterns of mind activity. Now, I have made a practice of starting right in on that process after my few minutes of metta--sending out goodwill. Not the best way to go about it, says Than Geoff (that's Thanissaro Bhikkhu). Better to prepare the matter for examination before the sit and have it in mind as one goes about the meditation in the normal way, excluding thought where possible and, when the matter at hand comes up, postponing it gently with a simple "Not now," as one redirects the mind's attention to the breath. Then, later, toward the end of meditation only, one can allow the thoughts to surface and explore the associated thoughts and insights them at will.
A fine clarification. What is likely to happen, of course, in following this process, is that the unconscious mind will get to work while the consciousness is observing each movement of the breath. Much of the work, then, will have been done by the time I get around to that contemplation I have determined in advance to be needed, and insights are more likely to follow effortlessly when the moment comes. The hard part of course, as always, is the "Not now," because the mind is a stubborn faculty that delights in going its own way, no matter what I ask of it.