Thanks for the interesting discussion. I'm trying not be be too argumentative, though unfortunately that's the nature of such a discussion. I think this topic raises a lot of interesting points that are really important in to practice.
My thoughts exactly. These discussions are how understanding is refined, that's why I even bother, and I think we've been pretty civil.
mikenz66 wrote:My teachers (and others I trust) are adamant that dwelling on that proliferation for any longer than it takes to see that there is thinking happening will get me nowhere: It is not useful to get distracted into thinking about: "Where did that feeling come from?"; "Who am I angry at?"; and so on (unless they are so distracting that I *have* to deal with them to be able to maintain calm and mindfulness).
When it gets down to it, I don't think my view is that
different, at least at the start. On one hand, as for establishing mindfulness and concentration in general
, I do agree that there's no need to get caught up in the flow of the mind. It's preferable not to at first. And when it comes down to the analysis of mental processes, the content is certainly not important, beyond the extent that is is recognized for what it is and nothing more. I've expressed my opinion on this already.
However, when it gets down to dismantling my personal craving and clinging, I actually do find it useful sometimes to actively engage in the content (when the content is stress-related, that is, not all random mental wandering), to find the root cause of it. I do not try to simply engage in mental proliferation, but to analyze the issue in terms of the 4 noble truths and the origination and cessation of stress. I find this very effective.
If I am having a difficult time establishing mindfulness and concentration, I may employ the standard remedy against the hindrances in question, or I may choose to actively engage the hindrance and seek it's cause, so that I can uproot it. It often works, in and out of meditation time. When I find what thing I'm stupidly clinging to and understand the danger of this clinging, it's not so hard to give it up.
By engaging the content of the mind and finding it's source, I gain insight into my own ignorance, clinging, stress, and how to remove it, and a deeper understanding of the four noble truths as they relate to my own mind. I find the understanding gained in this way to me mutually supportive with the practice of satipatthana, contemplation of the aggregates or 3 characteristics or what have you.
So the truth is that the amount of my effort that actually goes into the engaging of mental content is really in the minority. The majority of time, it is simply allowed to float by ungrasped. But for me it does have it's place, and plays a useful part in the larger path to the cessation of dukkha.