Keep your meditation object gently in mind, relax your mental grip and allow your mind to habitually produce thoughts, taking interesting in if you experience them as sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or bodily feeling to observe their autonomous nature and insight into anatta.
To observe the autonomous and impersonal nature of thinking by observing how the mind stimulates one, or a combination of the five sense organs to communicate (produce thought).
This insight not only develops understanding of the illusionary nature of thinking but also understanding that everyone's thought process does not necessary function the same way that ours does.
These inquiries are held more as a question in the mind rather than a thought structure. You can observe thinking processes over a number of days and reflect of these questions after each meditation to clarify your observation.
This is very interesting when done in a group as we develop understanding that everyone does not experience thinking in the same way that we do. it is wonderful for abandoning the thorn of judgement and the expectation that others understand us.
Example: In my own experience I primarily hear thoughts in my head and mouth, taste thoughts in my mouth and feel my thoughts in my body. Over the years the ability to produce a mental image has improved slightly, but it is very fleeting, yet many meditators express that their thoughts are images or movies. I cannot even comprehend this.
Summary: After preparing your attention as per the instructions in Preparing Your Attention for Insight, be aware of the touch of your hands, relax your mental grip and allow your mind to wander and think to answer the below questions.
1. Do you see your thoughts?
Are your thought images or play as a movie? Where are these images located, is it in one location or do they move around? For example, I am not able to see my thoughts, at most I get a flash image that instantly collapses.
2. Do you hear your thoughts?
Is it your voice or someone else? Where are these words located, is it in one location or do they move around? For example, I hear thoughts in my mouth, in the front of my head and outside of my head.
If you also see your thoughts do your movies also contain verbal commentary?
3. Do you smell your thoughts?
This manifestation of thinking seems to be rarer, but still possible. For example, if I think of a rose, or a walk by the seaside, I feel it in my body and I also experience the smell of it. This is a mind created experience that conveys information, so it is also classed as a thought.
4. Do you taste your thoughts?
Hot apple pie, with whipped cream, custard and melting vanilla ice cream. Did you see, hear or taste that desert? I can taste it in my mouth now. I can also feel its texture in my mouth and sitting in my stomach. there are rapidly flashes of images as to what it looks like. I can see, taste and feel this hot apple pie, what about you? How is your mind stimulating your senses to communicate with you?
5) Do you feel your thoughts?
Do you experience mind created feeling of tactile sensations within your body that are separate from the other five senses, yet contain all the information you need to know what is going on? If you do than your mind is producing thought by stimulating your body sense.
For me this is a primary sense, instead of thinking about others I feel my way into them. When working in a warehouse I didn't see where something was in my mind, I mostly thought and 'felt my body going there'. This allowed me to map thousands of items.
6) Are your thoughts experienced as a combination?
When observing thought in groups I observed that there are some meditators that only experience thoughts as one sense, primarily as sight: an image or a movie, or as a sound: voice in their head. Often meditators that see their thoughts cannot hear them, but not always.
Others have a combination of the five senses. What is important to note is that thinking has no set manifestation, and no set location. Observing in this way its mirage like, fleeting and anatta nature is clearly revealed.
Insight: Thinking is simply the mind stimulating one of the five senses to convey information, it is nothing special.
You are ready to progress to Cultivation 07: Insight Into Reality: idappaccayatā 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.
Thinking can appear as any of our five senses but how they appear depends on what sense or senses your mind habitually uses. Everyone's thinking is different in this way and your mind may not use your body sense to bring form to your thoughts, just sight and sound.
When I do these exercises with my students and mention a tasty food, some of them initially taste it, some smell it, and others see it. This is why we should never assume that everyone thinks the way that we do, because they don't.
Even the way that each person’s mind interprets the world is different. It is very interesting to observe.
For you to know a thought is present there must be something that tells you that it is. This something is the experience as the thought 'touches' you. All sense-based experience contains a sensate quality.
As the world touches your body, eyes, ears, nose, and tongue - this touch arises as sensation at these five doors - this sensation is what we experience when we are fully present. The mind door itself is no different, everything that arises within the mind has an associated sensate quality to it that can be felt / experienced - including the thought process itself.
This sensate quality can be observed within two areas: within the mind and also within the body as a reflection of the mind. These two always go hand in hand. If you were thinking angry thoughts for example, you may feel tight, tense, hard, hot, with an energetic upwards moving feeling within your body.
If you observe your mind it will also be tight, tense, hard, hot, with an energetic feeling of moving out towards that which you are angry towards. The mind will also have a quality of stickiness, that the body does not have, as it refuses to let go of this defensive thinking pattern.
Thinking itself does not have any shape, form or location so it borrows and arises as one of the five senses. Thinking arises as a sight, a sound, a smell, a taste, a feeling within the body.
When asked "where do you experience thinking" it is literally just asking where it appears to you at this time, it can be different every time you check in or the same. My students report experiencing the location of thinking in many places within the confines of their body and also in many places external to it.
Thinking has no form or shape, to communicate the mind stimulates and uses the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch sensation to manifest the physicality of thoughts. Not everyone experiences thinking in the same way though it is always through a combination of 1 or more of these five senses. We see, hear, smell, taste and feel as sensations within our body our thoughts / memories.
Through observation we can observe the experience of thinking arising within any of these sense doors and also it is common to experience thinking outside of our physical body - thinking has no specific location.
Of course, if we approach this intellectually and not experientially then the conceptual mind will provide a location and will make thinking appear to be where we think it is - usually in the middle of the head, where we 'think' it should be.
A combination of refining the three mental factors and learning to deeply relax all engagement will make the process of thinking easier to experience. These are training's in just checking in on the pure experience, free from preconceived ideas and concepts of how something should be.
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