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Unread January 30th, 2006, 11:26 PM
Chate Sivasomboon Chate Sivasomboon is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 5
Default Re: Isn't mindfulness meditation exposure therapy

Healer wrote “ Maybe someone would like to write more about these different states or terms.” OK, I’ll do it.

Calming meditation VS Mindfulness meditation.

The following writing was from what I have learned from many teachers, who are monks or lay people as well as my own experiences in meditation. It might be wrong and not all Theravada meditation practitioners would agree to what I wrote.

There are two types of meditation in Theravada Buddhism: Calming and Mindfulness, which are diagonally opposite. There are forty techniques for practicing calming meditation; for mindfulness meditation, it is based on the teaching of the four foundations of mindfulness and the teaching of mindfulness breathing.

One example of calmness meditation is loving-kindness meditation. When we think of our lover, the mind latches on to the image projection of our lover, automatically accompanied by multiple resonating mind qualities, which are summarily called love (such as sustained attention, excitement, happiness.) So, we raise up the mental projection of our lover in our mind, and resonating mind qualities automatically follows, causing sustention of these mental complexes within the mind. With skillfulness in calming meditation, we can drop the projection of our lover, while the accompanying mind qualities are still being sustained, and actually resonated stronger, with suppression of other incoming perceptions. At this stage, the perceptions of body projection, body sensation and sound may be vanished; only love permeates the entire sphere of our perception and now we can experience love without a lover! It is a very amazing kind of love; love that is completely devoid of anxiety, doubt, anger, or depression. This is the kind of meditation that was recently studied which showed increase in the energy of the EEG gamma wave spectra, if I remember it correctly. We may choose any loving object instead of our lover. This example is for demonstration of the concept of calming meditation: mental projection object + accompanying mind qualities which causes sustention of the complexes -> effortless sustention of the accompanying mind qualities, without paying intense attention to the primary mental projection -> suppression of the incoming perceptions: body & sound perceptions. It is not that exotic; if we reflect on our ordinary happy or fun activities such as when we are glued to reading an exciting fiction or playing something; it is quite similar in the beginning states. For another example, we can raise an image of a colored glass ball in our mind, and try to sustain this image projection. In order to do so, we must give it a lot of practices, make it fun like playing. The practice session must be accompanied by relaxation and happiness, not stressfulness, anger or frustration. (Think about playing; otherwise, the mental projection is hardly be able to sustain.) After a while, the image projection can be more easily sustained, and we will have a sense that we can control this imagery at our will, with accompanying sustained metal qualities: rapture (fun), happiness and pointedness. Similar to the above, for deeper states of meditation, these accompanying mind qualities are becoming more vibrant and self-sustained at ease without much attention being paid to the primary mental object. When the body projection, sensation and sound perception are vanished, this state is called the first rupa-jhana state. There are four rupa-jhana states and other four higher arupa-jhana states. From the first to fourth rupa-jhana states, various dominant mind qualities are successively dropped, with only pointedness remained in the fourth rupa-jhana states. For arupa-jhana states, it is a progression from the rupa-jhana states, which begin by dropping out the primary mental projection object, and instead paying attention to the vast space, which is surrounding our primary mental object. With further induction of higher meditative states, it will progress up to the vast conciousness state, the great voidedness state, etc.

The primary goal of calming meditation in Theravada Buddhism is to assist mindfulness meditation or it must be followed by insight meditation. (See “Culasunnatta sutta”, which is available in English on the Net; the last part of the sutta is an insight meditation within the calming meditation.) The experiences arising in this kind of meditation are just experiences, nothing more than that, and more important, the real jhana states are very difficult to achieve; it is much easier said than done.

For mindfulness meditation, the practice is based on the four foundations of mindfulness teaching (Mahasatipattatana sutta: The bases of mindfulness work), which is divided into four sections: recollection of the body(Kaya), feeling (Vedana), mental phenomena(Citta), and general phenomena(Dhamma), with many subsections within each section. The first two sections contain both calming and mindfulness meditation techniques, depending on a specific subsection. Those of the last two are of mindfulness type only. To understand mindfulness meditation, I would like to make some analogy. Supposed there was a party within a room which had only a single chair at the center, people continually coming in and going out of the room, taking turn sitting on the chair, or hanging around. In calming meditation, we just fixed someone sitting on the chair in this mind room and just fixedly stared at this one until the perceptions of the rest within the room were vanished, with induction of accompanying mind qualities as described above. But for mindfulness, the mind stance is different; there must be a stepping back quality in the mind or a quality of a noninvolved observer (Healer knows it well), and let people take turn sitting on the chair naturally, not fixed the mind vision only to the chair, but opened broadly to those staying around and those coming in and going out. Briefly, it is the practice aiming to lessen the engagement of the central vision of the mind and open more to peripheral mind visions (or noises.) By this way of practice, the mind will slowly build up the quality that enable it to recognize if it is being entangled or engaged into various mental complexes or not. When the mind recognizes that it is entangled, it can be spontaneously reverted back into the broadly-open, non-fixed-staring mode, without an intention. Then we can begin to neutrally and “simply see” our mind movements without being engulfed into the processes. This practice of “simply see” is not easily mastered either, since we are always engaged or entangled with our mental complexes, and we cannot intend to do “simply see”, otherwise we would fall into a fixed staring mind mode, expecting something to happen to see. Breathing meditation and slow moving meditation can be either calming meditation or mindfulness meditation, depending on the mind stance of the practitioners.

The process of “simply see” by itself is self rewarding; it is light (as opposed to dull, heavy), calming, open up for incoming perceptions, with a feeling of neutrality or calming well-being. The mid-term goal of mindfulness practices is to develop this mind state, and to have it occurs as frequently as possible in daily activities. Further spiritual progression will come by itself as we begin to see that any mind state does not last and we cannot control our mind states at will; we cannot sustain a good mind state forever and we cannot totally prevent bad mind states from happening; what we can do is just “simply see”, without an intention to see.

Some can easily directly observe their own mind and they will be able to practice the Citta mindfulness meditation, by following and observing the varying states of the mind such as happiness, calmness, agitation, anger, stupor, sensual desires, or being occupied by thoughts, etc. It can be done by frequent spot check of our own mind state at each moment without an attached comment. Other may begin by practicing the body section first, by “coupling” the mindfulness state with an open perception of the sensation of the body, sensation of body movement or sensation of breathing, without fixed staring or making a mental imagery of body parts. Frequently coming back to open perception of body sensation, body movement sensation or breathing sensation, the mind will be distracted from an engaged mind state that exists at that moment, and skillfulness will be gradually developed until we can “simply see” our mind movements.

These practices must be done by following observation of what already has happened, not by anticipating. Those who are interested may experience this short-lived, open recollection state repeatedly by simply carry on a vibrating alarm clock that can be set to vibrate every 5 minutes and go on doing normal, non-risky activities as usual, or try going to the movie, or shopping malls, etc. The clock will remind you if you have already plunged into various mind states; mainly if you are fixed staring at something or drowned into a flight of thoughts. But beware, your enjoyment of the activities will be ruined, especially for watching a movie. An example of mindfulness practices: supposed we went into the garden and we saw a beautiful flower, most people would know the flower was beautiful if they were not absent-minded. For those who were well verse in seeing their mind, they might recognize the following accompanying mind states: they were staring at the flower with loss of the open mindfulness state; their attention was fixed to the flower; likeness or attraction was arising in their mind; or they were occupied by thoughts related to the flower. After they recognized these states, the mind would be spontaneously reverted into the open mindfulness state. Those who are progressing well on the path may be able to recognize even small ripples of various mind impulses such as minute degrees of attraction or aversion, before they progress into full blown thought-emotion complexes.

I once enrolled into the course: Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s “Mindfulness-based stress reduction and well-being program”, conducted by a psychologist in SF, almost 10 years ago. It followed the teaching four foundations of mindfulness as described above: from body observation in the first week progressing to the observation of mind phenomena late in the course. But at that time I did not get at the concept of “simply see” or had the experience, and just went through the course. Later I went serendipitously into a deep meditative state a few times, and after coming out, had an experience similar to what Healer described. But the deep calming meditation was and still is very difficult for me to get into, so I reverted to pure mindfulness meditation based on one particular body-based subsection (Sampajanya subsection); it is the technique which “couples” the open mindfulness state with ordinary body movements which occur in the entire daily activities. So movements serve as triggers or reminders of the mindfulness state. However, the experience of a detached observer originated from the deep meditative state, very much helped me understand the mindfulness teaching.

Now we can see that in calming or mindfulness meditation, we do not prime ourselves with positive thoughts, and when we encounter a difficult situation, there could be two ways of response: Firstly, plunge ourselves into a calming state, by induction of a claming (semi-)meditative state, such as by paying attention to a few breaths for those are skillful with breathing-based calming meditation techniques, which will be resulting in automatic suppression or attenuation of the incoming senses of agitation and negative thoughts, or secondly, by spontaneously stepping back from the engaged mental state and just be mindful of the evolving events or “simply see”, being detached without thought processes involved, and the perceived mental complex confronting us may be spontaneously dissolved because we no longer feed it with our thoughts.

The mindfulness state can also occur in a dream, especially when a bad dream or a night terror happens, the mind will be automatically reverted back to calming state similar to when Healer encountered his/her own fear in an elevator. I’m not just kidding; I have had it three times, and I woke up just a moment later with calmness. Later I heard a sermon of my teacher saying that those who practice mindfulness well, bad dreams will no longer happened, since they will be able to recognize this intense emotional state even while dreaming. (I think it is very relevant to the study and induction of “lucid” dreaming.)

Cautions: Calming meditation may have negative side effects if not done well; many schizoid mental phenomena may arise, and if not properly handle, it might be devastating. For mindfulness meditation, it is quite safe to do but the progression is rather slow, and it takes many months in order to appreciate changes. The mindfulness meditation was designed 2,500 years ago in order to instill new positive habits that will gradually replace old deep-seated negative habits ( = Anusaya, in Pali word), so it takes a lot of time and commitment. (It take times for our neurons to make new synapses and forming new neural circuits.) And it may not be done while we are working using thought projections; Artists must beware: their intense emotional creative sessions might be interrupted.

Last edited by Chate Sivasomboon; March 8th, 2006 at 07:55 AM. Reason: some typing errors
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