"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

December 2, 2011

When Meditating, Don't Chase the Shadows

"When you sit and meditate, even if you don't gain any intuitive insights, make sure at least that you know this much: When the breath comes in, you know. When it goes out, you know. When it's long, you know. When it's short, you know. Whether it's pleasant or unpleasant, you know.

If you can know this much, you're doing fine. As for the various thoughts and concepts (sanna) that come into the mind, brush them away -- whether they're good or bad, whether they deal with the past or the future. Don't let them interfere with what you're doing — and don't go chasing after them to straighten them out. When a thought of this sort comes passing in, simply let it go passing on. Keep your awareness, unperturbed, in the present.

When we say that the mind goes here or there, it's not really the mind that goes. Only concepts go. Concepts are like shadows of the mind. If the body is still, how will its shadow move? The movement of the body is what causes the shadow to move, and when the shadow moves, how will you catch hold of it? Shadows are hard to catch, hard to shake off, hard to set still.

The awareness that forms the present: That's the true mind.  The awareness that goes chasing after concepts is just a shadow. Real awareness -- 'knowing' — stays in place. It doesn't stand, walk, come, or go.  As for the mind — the awareness that doesn't act in any way coming or going, forward or back — it's quiet and unperturbed. And when the mind is thus its normal, even, undistracted self — i.e., when it doesn't have any shadows — we can rest peacefully. But if the mind is unstable and uncertain, it wavers:

Concepts arise and go flashing out — and we go chasing after them, hoping to drag them back in. The chasing after them is where we go wrong. This is what we have to correct. Tell yourself: Nothing is wrong with your mind. Just watch out for the shadows."

From "The Art of Letting Go" by Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
Translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff)
Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
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