MJB wrote:Greetings. I'm a longtime practitioner of the "relaxation response," ala Dr. Herbert Benson, but have only been applying myself to vipassana (daily sitting/walking and trying to be constantly mindful) for about a year. My primary guide in this has been "Mindfulness in Plain English," assorted online Dharma talks and forums like this.
I'm confused about the role of thought in insight meditation. I know I'm not supposed to get caught up in discursive, compulsive thinking, and that paying bare attention and being aware in the present moment are key. Yet at the same time I'm admonished to practice self-inquiry, be nonjudgmental, meditate on my corpse or interdependence, etc. But mental activities like these require active reflection, and that seems to contradict the idea that "thoughts as just thoughts" and that I should simply just be watching whatever comes up. So it almost seems like there are two distinct aspects to mindfulness meditation: one aspect is the non-activity of just being aware and observing but not getting caught up in whatever happens to be going through my mind at the moment, or focusing on what I'm doing off the cushion, i.e., nonconceptual; and the other aspect is conscious self-examination, reflecting on things like impermanence and actively cultivating compassion, seeing others as teachers, understanding biases, and the like, i.e., conceptual.
When I sit I just sit, focusing on my breath. Is there an entirely different type of sitting that involves active reflection?
MJB wrote:When I sit I just sit, focusing on my breath. Is there an entirely different type of sitting that involves active reflection?
Thanks for the reply. Actually, I have been relying primarily on one source, "Mindfulness in Plain English," but the advice it gives appears contradictory. For example, the author of that book in a chapter emphasizing the value of loving friendliness writes about being in an airport and filling his mind with thoughts of compassion while meditating. Yet, a few pages later when addressing the same topic writes, "if thoughts arise as to how you should be such and such a way, let them go." This is just one example. I know there are different teachers and techniques, and I am trying to educate myself about them. But I'm hoping someone can clarify a point that seems very basic, i.e., is practicing mindfulness in such way that thoughts are essentially disregarded a distinct technique from practicing mindfulness in such a way that certain thoughts/concepts/values (e.g., loving friendliness) are actively cultivated?
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