Be aware of the touch of your hands, relax your mental grip and observe your attention flicker away from it to your six senses, observing this movement to develop insight into the anatta nature of awareness.
To observe the autonomous nature of the habitual going out of attention anytime anything contacts the six sense fields. This will allow you to see the anatta (not-self) nature of the mind as a sense organ, sensitive to the six sense fields.
In this meditation, you develop sensitivity to the subtle flickering of your attention as your mind reengages with the six sense fields after emerging from jhana.
It is natural for attention to flicker towards sensory experience during the day, but when accompanied by meditative samadhi the very experience of flickering itself can be separated from sensory experience.
The ability to do this is dependent on you allowing your attention to reengage with sensory experience and softening of the desire to control these habitual movements within your mind.
The key is to not take interest in where your attention wanders to, or the movements of attention but rather stay with awareness and the experience of attention flickering away from it. Though this sounds like a paradox it is not.
Criteria: This can be practiced from third or fourth jhana.
1) Emerge from jhana and ground your awareness.
2) Relax the mental grip of your samadhi.
Tip: To develop insight is different to developing samatha, your effort is not towards stopping your attention from wandering, but rather towards noticing when it has wandered. This is a crucial difference to understand if you want to observe anatta: your mind is allowed to wander. This needs to be done if you wish to develop deep understanding of the habitual, autonomous (anatta) nature of your attention and its preferred objects.
3) Take Interest in any Flickering of Attention.
Tip: Each micro flickering has the possibility of sensory engagement and production of sankhara (formations). Treat this like a game, clarifying the precise moment momentum in attention arises. Observe its autonomous nature, how it is happening without your help.
You are ready to progress to Insight 02: The Four Elements when:
Please note that the recording and video for the practicality of instruction uses kaya-gata sati (mindfulness immersed within the body) as a foundation for enquiry for practical reasons rather than access unification or jhana.
Question: So far in my journey with meditation I’ve experienced a stage which was blissful and highly concentrated and loving, a period of several weeks that felt miserable, flu like and dark, I’m assuming the dukka nanas, and then it opened up into where I am now.
Stephen: The insight meditation path first cultivates calm and tranquility, and the pleasant feelings associated with that to increase mental clarity. This increased clarity allows the mind to observe the characteristics of annica (impermanence) and anatta (not-self, autonomous nature) of all experience and experiencing.
As the mind perceives these two characteristics in experience that become primary, and what the experience is, becomes secondary. Also, as the mind sees that it is not in control it becomes uncomfortable with this and produces unpleasant feeling and aversion towards that feeling in a self-perpetuating cycle: this is the experience of meditative dukkha.
The purpose of this dukkha is that it develops aversion in the mind towards that which is anicca and anatta. The mind first struggles and tries to change these experiences causing dukkha to increase, until it finally let's go through cultivating nibidda (disenchantment).
Question continued: My attention is very broad, open and flowy, meditation is often effortless and easy for hours without pain, I feel at peace all the time. However, I have noticed that meditation is making me emotionless and disinterested with previous pleasures such as music and film.
Stephen: This disenchantment flows into all areas of our life, as our mind sees everything as being subject to anicca and anatta. Because of this aversion within the mind, it is no longer able to access what we would have been able to consider pleasurable within life.
Question continued: I just did a 5 day at home retreat and despite finishing it all I want to do is continue meditating, I feel antisocial and unable to connect to people anymore, I’ve tried to do metta but cannot generate it anymore, nor can I generate piti. It’s like I’ve totally flatlined and while not an unpleasant state, it lacks much that is pleasant beyond the overall tranquility.
Stephen: This is because the disenchantment is still aversion based, so your mind is pushing everyone and everything away to defend itself. And since it is based on aversion it cannot let go, and since piti arises as a reflection of a mind that has let go, the conditions for it to arise have ceased, and the mind becomes dry and indifferent due to disenchantment.
And since it is based on aversion it cannot let go, and since piti arises as a reflection of a mind that has let go, the conditions for it to arise have ceased. This process leads to a weakening of defensive patterns within the mind and heart. If these defensive qualities were dominant in you, this means that they were the natural way that you have reacted in your life, then when they weaken there is not necessarily anything to take their place.
This means that because irritation, frustration, anger, desire etc were dominant, wholesome qualities such as loving kindness, compassion, joy, kindness, gratitude, generosity, not being practiced, will naturally be weak in you and will not be strong enough to take the place of the weakened defensive tendencies.
When this happens, the mind becomes dry and indifferent due to disenchantment, and wholesome qualities, including the Enlightenment Factors of joy & tranquility are inaccessible to the mind.
Question continued: I’d like to figure out how to move beyond this and regain some positive emotions as well as my pleasure in some of my main hobbies like music.
Stephen: As disenchantment develops and defensive qualities weaken within the mind, wholesome qualities will not spontaneously arise, they need to be cultivated just like you had to cultivate samadhi and insight during your periods of meditation.
In MIDL we protect against this by always aligning the cultivation of disenchantment with the cultivation of meditative joy. In this way meditators only get brief periods of this dryness and indifference.
Your pleasure in your main hobbies has faded because of a combination of disenchantment based aversion and a weakening of the desire that drove your interest in these and therefore through the interest naturally comes pleasure. It is the mind reapplying attention again and again towards your interests that developed intimacy with them and produced the pleasure in these interests. It seems to be no longer doing that.
How to change this:
3) Curiosity & Meditative Joy:
Read this article on the MIDL website, especially the article on GOSS.
Be curious about and start applying this formula during daily mindfulness of breathing and daily life:
Focus your daily meditation on cultivating meditative joy by learning what it means to access the pleasure of letting go first in relaxing your body, then breathing, then mind. Use this framework for your daily mindfulness of breathing, your emphasis is on accessing and cultivating meditative joy. https://midlmeditation.com/meditation-skill-09
Join a like-minded community.
I recommend joining one of my weekly online MIDL meditation classes where you will be with a community that is focused on cultivating the pleasure of letting go and meditation joy. These classes have open discussion about all aspects of the meditative path with this one theme flowing through all of them. Being in contact with this community will help to change the way that your mind is perceiving life. https://midlmeditation.com/meditation-classes
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