“Here feeling, thoughts and perceptions are understood as they arise, understood as they remain present, understood as they pass away. It is this way that you exercise clear comprehension. “ (Abbrev from SN 47.35)
Today we are increasingly familiar with popular practices to reduce stress, induce calm and promote wellbeing. They help fix uncomfortable feelings and quieten emotions. What’s often left unsaid and waiting to be explored is how a meditation practice can help us address the underlying cause of feeling out of balance, so we can really change deep seated patterns from a place of understanding and live more easily with what comes along to test us. This path is not so much about getting a quick fix and then needing another, as about an attitude to looking after ourselves through a practice which quietly, gradually and sustainably transforms us towards wholesome experience over time.
The calm we can be looking and hoping for in meditation is just one aspect of practice. Certainly it can give us a mental resting place from the overstimulation we are used to, but importantly it creates space for us to develop the clear comprehension that is vital for the quiet, gradual and sustainable internal transformation we’d find beneficial. When the aspects of calm and clear comprehension are developed together we are giving ourselves the best chance for a natural unfolding of this experience and wisdom.
How does this happen?
As our mind begins to calm we can develop a more subtle awareness around every day experiences. If we are careful we can consciously direct this awareness to observing how aspects of our experience begin, how they persist and how they subsequently fade away. This means paying particular attention to three aspects:
· The first of these is feeling meaning sensation. There is a reflex to sensation which we can learn to recognise as simply pleasant, unpleasant or neither pleasant or unpleasant.
· The second aspect is our thoughts, including images in our mind.
· Lastly our perceptions; the mental process that becomes aware of our experience and identifies through memory.
From this directed awareness the clear comprehension we need to progress can develop and it’s possible to see that all we take personally is actually impermanent. At this stage our meditation practice enables us to begin to address the underlying causes of feeling out of balance in daily life. Each time we meet movements of mind without getting involved, we are guiding our mind to re-balance and re-set to feel steady. It takes a particular kind of effort for this to fall into place with ease and we’ll be exploring what this means another time. When it does, our practice supports us to take the fuel away from the uncomfortable feelings and emotions that drag us down to transform our experience quietly, gradually and sustainably towards the wholesome.