Author Topic: Observation without action  (Read 152 times)

Jsker

  • Member
    • Goenka and Mahasi
Observation without action
« on: August 09, 2017, 05:44:30 AM »
Hi All, hope you're well.

Just felt like sharing a (rather obvious) insight I've had recently with regard to my meditation practice.

After practicing vipassana (Goenka then Mahasi methods) for several years, my practice has deteriorated over the last 12 months or so (both in terms of time and ability to get concentrated - chicken/egg...). I think the deterioration started as I encountered some underlying sadness/depressive tendencies that have been with me a long time, though have never been addressed (or even particularly acknowledged). At this stage I began to vague out a lot during meditation, and be overcome by feelings of sloth and apathy towards my practice. I took this as a natural tendency of my brain to avoid dealing with the issue, and continued practicing, though feeling as though I wasn't getting anywhere - or worse, feeling increased negative emotion (often irritability) later in the day following meditation (though accepting this may be a sign 'things were moving').
Anyhow, it recently occurred to me that for the better part of 12 months I've been observing, but have subsequently been failing to act on any of these observations. An example would be the fact that 'on the mat' I have repeatedly observed relationships between 'precursor' feelings/emotions/thoughts that always occur prior to strong emotions or behaviors that I deem problematic in my life. Although I have been observing this on the mat, I have completely failed to apply these learning's off the mat (e.g. to use this knowledge to curb unhelpful behaviors). This pattern only recently occurred to me, and it struck me as quite a significant flaw in my practice...or perhaps a big step forward in it...perhaps both.

Writing this it seems like quite a trivial realization, though from reading other posts on this forum I wonder if this phenomena (of not applying one's leanings) is relatively common? I know on Goenka retreats it is taught that Dhamma practice naturally leads to greater harmony in one's life, though I wonder if one's approach can be too laid back with respect to this, by that I mean that perhaps active analysis and intervention of one's behavior is a necessary component to achieving greater harmony/acceptance. Sorry if that last thought comes across as a bit garbled. Any thoughts?

Peace  :)

John
Peace out

Quardamon

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    • Teachers were: P.K.K. Mettavihari, Frits Koster, Nel Kliphuis. (In the line of Mahasi Sayadaw)
Re: Observation without action
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2017, 01:30:39 PM »
perhaps active analysis and intervention of one's behavior is a necessary component to achieving greater harmony/acceptance
I suppose so, yes. I would not dare to live without intervention and analysis. Allowing things to happen, and just observe it is a wonderful thing - but it is only part of the game of life.
Let us take this example:

I encountered some underlying sadness/depressive tendencies that have been with me a long time
Beautiful. And then there is the question how to deal with these tendencies. Just sitting and observing is one of the possibilities. Drawing them would be an other. Putting them before you and asking where they come from and what they want, and then what they really need would be still another. And so on. (Also with humans: what they want is often different from what they need. Even sitting and not giving them attention is a possibility: some things grow from attention. So in this last case, you observe not the sadness itself, but how you deal with the sadness.

Enjoy the ride!

Jsker

  • Member
    • Goenka and Mahasi
Re: Observation without action
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2017, 04:25:29 AM »
Thanks Quardamon,
Great advice, I'm sure I'd benefit greatly from taking a more creative approach to my practice. This advice feels quite synergistic with my move away from the Goenka method I had been practicing.
Thank you.
Peace out

Dharmic Tui

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  • Something
    • Some Theravada, some secular
Re: Observation without action
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2017, 09:11:55 AM »
Time is a valuable thing. You should find that over time, just as on the mat, you will see in your day to day life the push and pull of your mind to unpleasant states, and hopefully, engage restraint and acceptance.

Jsker

  • Member
    • Goenka and Mahasi
Re: Observation without action
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2017, 04:57:01 AM »
Beautiful, thanks Dharmic Tui :)
Peace out

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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Re: Observation without action
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2017, 07:36:36 PM »
Anyhow, it recently occurred to me that for the better part of 12 months I've been observing, but have subsequently been failing to act on any of these observations. An example would be the fact that 'on the mat' I have repeatedly observed relationships between 'precursor' feelings/emotions/thoughts that always occur prior to strong emotions or behaviors that I deem problematic in my life. Although I have been observing this on the mat, I have completely failed to apply these learning's off the mat (e.g. to use this knowledge to curb unhelpful behaviors). This pattern only recently occurred to me, and it struck me as quite a significant flaw in my practice...or perhaps a big step forward in it...perhaps both.

Hi John,

Medidation practice is called "practice" for good reason ... it takes us away from our normal routines and allows calm, concentration, insight, wisdom and other fruits of practice to grow. Yet it is still practice.

Putting these fruits of practice into action in your daily life is where you get to see the true fruits of the Dhamma. It seem that you have identified a flaw in your practice and taken a big step forward.

I would guess the sense of "vagueing out", sloth and apathy was your way of not acknowledging and taking steps towards healing the deeper underlying issues that were surfacing. Continued attention could not be sustained without fully facing these issues. And now you chose to reach out and do so. So, however you do that - perhaps using some of the tools Quardamon suggests - and by continuing to sit and be aware of the arising and falling of them, it would seem you have made a choice to deal with the long-standing issues.

Keep up the practice, face up to the underlying causes - and don't forget that practice is practice: it allows us to develop qualities to apply in day to day life.

Warm regards,

Matthew
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