What we do when we meditate

buddhas

“… That’s what we do when we meditate: We step back from all the influences inside our mind — ideas that this is good, that’s bad, you should do this, you shouldn’t do that. You have to stop and really take stock of these things, find a place within where you can be really, really quiet, and then look clearly at these voices to see what they are. Instead of identifying with them, you watch them. You watch to see what they’re coming from, where they’re going, seeing them as part of a causal process. What kind of mind state do they come from, what kind of mind state do they encourage? Are those the kind of mind states you want to identify with?

“This is essentially how the Buddha’s teaching on not-self works: seeing the things that have control over our lives, that have power over our minds, and in the course of the meditation stepping back a bit from them, gaining enough independence from them that we can look at them simply as events and see if we really want to identify with them. As the Buddha pointed out in one of his discourses, you can’t really look at these things as long as you’re identifying with them. You’ve got to step back. This applies not only to ideas in the mind, but also to the body, this form we’re sitting with here. The same principle also applies to feelings of pleasure and pain as they come and go, to perceptions, to thought-constructs, even to our consciousness of things. Meditation gives us a place where we can step back from these things and watch them to see the influence they have over the mind, to decide whether that’s an influence we’d like them to continue having.

“So as we practice it’s important to create this space where you can step back. The quietude and seclusion are important….”

~ Thannisaro Bhikkhu
(Read the full Dhamma Talk
“Rites of Passage”)