Essential Attitudes for Meditation

“The mind itself is a set of events, and you participate in those events every time you look inward. Meditation is participatory observation: what you are looking at responds to the process of looking. In this case, what you are looking at is you, and what you see depends on how you look. Thus, the process of meditation is extremely delicate, and the result depends absolutely on the state of mind of the meditator. The following attitudes are essential to the success in practice:

1. Don’t expect anything. Just sit back and see what happens. Treat the whole thing as an experiment. Take an active interest in the test itself, but don’t get distracted by your expectations about the results. For that matter, don’t be anxious for any results whatsoever. Let the meditation move along at its own speed and its own directions. Let the meditation teach you. Meditative awareness seeks to see reality exactly as it is. Whether that corresponds to our expectations or not, it does require a temporary suspention of all our preconceptions and ideas. We must store our images, opinions, and interpretations out of the way for the duration of the session. Otherwise we will stumble over them.

2) Don’t strain. Don’t force anything or make grand, exaggerated efforts. Meditation is not aggressive. There is no place or need for violent striving. Just let you effort be relaxed and steady.

3) Don’t rush. There is no hurry, so take your time. Settle yourself on a cushion and sit as though you have the whole day. Anything really valuable takes time to develop. Patience, patience, patience.

4) Don’t cling to anything and don’t reject anything. Let come what comes, and accommodate yourself to that. Whatever it is. If good mental images arise, that is fine. If bad images arise, that’s fine, too. Look on all of it as equal and make yourself comfortable with whatever happens. Don’t fight with what you experience, just observe it all mindfully.

5) Let go. Learn to flow with all the changes that come up. Loosen up and relax.

6) Accept everything that rises. Accept your feelings, even the ones you wish you did not have. Accept your experiences, even ones you hate. Don’t condemn yourself for having human flaws or failings. Learn to see all the phenomena as being perfectly natural and understandable. Try to exercise a disinterested acceptance at all times with respect to everything you experience.

7) Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. You may not be perfect, but you are all you’ve got to work with. The process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are.

8) Investigate yourself. Question everything. Take nothing for granted. Don’t believe anything because it sounds wise and pious and some holy man said it. See for yourself. That does not mean that you should be cynical, imprudent, or irreverent. It means you should be empirical. Subject all the statements to the act or test of your own experience, and let the  results be your guide to truth. Insight meditation evolves out of an inner longing to wake up to what is real and to gain liberating insight into the true structure of existence. The entire practice hinges on this desire to be awake to the truth. Without it, the practice is superficial.

9) View all problems as challenges. Look upon negativities that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow. Don’t run from them, condemn yourself or bury your burden in saintly silence. You have a problem? Great. More grists for the mill. Rejoice, dive in, and investigate.

10) Don’t ponder. You don’t need to figure everything out. This cursive thinking won’t free you from the trap. In meditation the mind is purified naturally by mindfulness, by wordless bare attention. Habitual deliberation is not necessary to eliminate those things that are keeping you in bondage. All that is necessary is a clear, conceptual perception of what they are and how they work. That alone is sufficient to dissolve them. Concepts and reasoning just get in the way. Don’t think. See.

11) Don’t dwell upon contrast. Differences do exist between people but dwelling upon them is a dangerous process. Unless carefully handled, this leads directly to egotism. Ordinary human thinking is full of greed, jealousy, and pride.

The meditator’s job is to cancel this unskillful habit by examining it throughly and then replacing it with another. Rather than noticing the differences between oneself and others, the meditator trains him- or herself to notice the similarities. She centers her attention on those factors that are univeral to all life. Things that will move her closer to others. Then her comparisons, if any, lead to feelings of kinship rather than of estrangement.

Bhante Gunaratana (2015)
Mindfulness in Plain English
20th Anniversary Ed.
Wisdom Publications, p 33-36

 

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