Introduction to Mediation
Week 5 - Insight meditation, or 'clear seeing'. Cultivating a
mind that penetrates its own depths. Working with personal material.
The non-expectation meditation we have been practicing so far - for which
we have looked at a number of tools for support and focus - has been primarily
an approach to resting the mind and cultivating tranquil "abiding". You
have been asked not to engage thoughts, but just to notice them, to accept
them without judgement, and to return to the focus of the meditation.
Now we address the question of how to work skillfully with the 'stuff'
that naturally comes up. "Letting go" does not mean ignoring, discounting
or forgetting. Letting go implies loosening our grip on our expectations
and our demands in both ourselves and in others. Part of this meditative
practice, therefore, involves methods for cultivating understanding and
insight -- methods for working skillfully and courageously with our own
natures. Many people have attempted this by analysis - by chewing at problems
or issues in our lives like a dog at a bone. Such an approach tends to
reinforce the habitual patterns we already feel stuck in It is like
continually picking at a scab or pulling up a plant by the roots to see
how it's growing. A gentler and more powerful method is that of contemplative
reflection, cultivating deep and truthful insight without judgement.
The Reflection Process.
Reflection questions can be devised using any material from one's personal
life, or they can be more general. We have already been introduced to the
classic 'four reflections' of precious human birth, cause and effect, impermanence,
and unsatisfactoriness of 'this world' as motivational tools perseverance
in spiritual practice. Other excellent beginning question to work with
Have a pencil and paper handy. Sit comfortably -- preferably in your self-supporting
posture for meditation.
Bring your mind to tranquility.
Drop your reflective question into your mind as though a pebble into a
tranquil pool of water.
Allow thoughts to "bubble up" in response to having "dropped the question"
and write down whatever comes to you -- without censoring. Complete sentences
are not necessary.
Let go of any tendency to anaylyze, problem solve, evaluate, or search
for answers. This is not linear thinking. Nor is it delving or probing.
Reflecting is a spacious willingness to bring to consciousness whatever
is willing to reveal itself at the time. There is a slightly playful (but
not trivial) aspect to this method which is very helpful.
At the point you notice any agitation or distress or even ordinary effort
in this process, stop and return to the basic non-expectation, or mindful,
state until your mind is tranquil once more, and then continue. It does
not matter how many times this remedy is required. Do not attempt to reflect
in a state of grasping or under any sort of tension.
After you have written down what seems to want to come up in an given time
(Twenty minutes does not seem to tax most people at once) then you may
want to be open to patterns in what you have written, or in the general
mood of the words and phrases you have used. These are the trees to the
forest of your answer.
If you reflect regularly on Scriptural or other spiritual and/or philosophical
writings as part of your practice, reflection questions can be derived
from the content of your reading.
What sort of person am I?
What happens when I am caught unawares, or off-guard.
What do I want? (Really want?)
How do I use my energy?
See also Reflective Reading