Sunday, September 5, 2010

When The Mind Plays Tricks

Doubt Is Bound to Arise During Meditation Practice, and It is Up to Us to Catch It.

Lately, I have been practicing mindfulness of the body with a renewed intensity:
"Furthermore, when going forward & returning, he makes himself fully alert; when looking toward & looking away... when bending & extending his limbs... when carrying his outer cloak, his upper robe & his bowl... when eating, drinking, chewing, & savoring... when urinating & defecating... when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking, & remaining silent, he makes himself fully alert. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body."
~ Kayagatta - Sati Sutta; Thanissaro Bikkhu translation
And, I have noticed something arising in the process.

Thinking mind does not like that I am placing so much attention on 'simple' matters. What is the big deal with noticing each step? Left foot, right foot . . . What is the big deal with noticing each stroke during swim practice? Left arm, right arm . . . What is the big deal with noticing each sip of tea? . . . and each bite taken?  . . . What is the big deal? 

Thinking mind has a strong opinion about this, I noticed.  If  I was not careful, thinking mind would take me down another path, where thoughts about past, present and future rule. 

In the heart, doubt tries to creep in. 

The benefit of right view coupled with mindfulness, soon becomes clear, when wise mind intervenes, countering doubt with faith, and pernicious thoughts with other thoughts, planted before:
Sustained application counteracts skeptical doubt. When we can stay with the subject of meditation and do not become distracted, we gain confidence through the experience that, first of all, it is possible; secondly, that we are able to do it; and thirdly, that the results that accrue are exactly as the Buddha said. Until then, doubt arises again and again in the most insidious ways. Skeptical doubt is the enemy of faith and confidence, and therefore of practice; the mind can provide all sorts of ideas, doubts and excuses - "There must be an easier way," or "I'll try something different," or "I'll find a better teacher or a better monastery," or "There must be something that will really grip me." The mind is a magician: it can produce a rabbit out of any hat.
Skeptical doubt shows itself when we cannot fully immerse ourselves in our present situation.  Skeptical doubt keeps us back, because we are afraid to lose control of self-importance. When we have a little personal experience of the results of the Buddha's teachings, our doubts are counteracted, yet not completely eliminated. At least we no longer feel unsure about practicing meditation. We have experienced results and we have also realized that it makes no difference where we practice, as long as we are steadfast. That, too, is important, because we can search for a perfect place, time, situation, or teacher until the end of our lives and never find any of these because skeptical doubt always intervenes. 
~ When the Iron Eagle Flies: Ayya Khema ~  
How does doubt manifest itself in your practice?


  1. Yeah, Marguerite, Thinking Mind absolutely hates it when I get out of my mind and into my body! Does that mean Thinking Mind and Ego are the same entity? Signs point to yes... XO Kitty

  2. I agree, the last thing the thinking mind wants to do is slow down and concentrate on the body. It's simple yet incredibly difficult. Thoughts, like sleepiness during seated meditation, are the ego's weapons to distract us. I suppose the ego is terrified that we will see its true nature.

    Tough luck, ego!

    --Andre Halaw

  3. Kitty, Andre, thank you for all your wisdom.

    What I find most interesting is the thinking mind's arrogance, when in fact most of our thoughts are pure garbage . . .

    I have learned to consider thoughts with great skepticism. Phenomena to be considered with a grain of salt, always, and needing to pass the scrutiny of wholesome vs. non wholesome filter.

    Deep bow to you both.

  4. To train in attention always causes myself discomfort, which my mind will then explain (or rationalize) by blaming an external cause, with unmistakeable logic. I guess the smarter one is, the more elaborate his blame on the external is. It all makes perfect sense, but it's not the true cause; true cause is aversion of discomfort.

    I have once blame the meditation technique I was following instead of realizing that I could simply be aware of my reactions while meditating. The mind always reacts the same way, so I find it helpful to notice its patterns, even more so when it is toward meditation. Because then I'm free to not react.

    gratitude for your blog

  5. Doubt creeps in on a very regular basis, but I just see it as a friend...'oh, hey there doubt, I see you! How are you today?' I don't like to...although I admit that I can get caught up in my doubts:

    - Is this really working?
    - Am I doing this right?
    - Will I ever achieve peace of mind?

    This is where I think faith comes in as well as a commitment to the practice itself. I think that there's nothing wrong with having expectations with our meditation practice. The thing is, we can't expect something from nothing. This is where the commitment comes in. Do the practice. Be mindful in everyday actions. Continue learning. And finally...remember why we are doing the practice. Many may not know, so it's good to ask the question 'What do I want out of this?'

  6. 'Anonymous', thank you for your wisdom.

    Yes, short view, and long view, both. Micro and macro. Nothing wasted from practice . . . The long view allows one to be prepared, and know when Mara knocks :)

    I too have noticed the power of aversion over my practice.

  7. Nate, thanks for visiting again. Love to witness how you are internalizing Dharma, more and more.

    Deep bow to you.