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Lions Roar : May 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2006 52 ing-kindness really ought to become widespread. But if we undertake the practice of metta, we must never lose sight of the unique possibilities offered by vipassana meditation. Basic Instructions for Insight Meditation Posture Any basic sitting posture is all right, whether the legs are crossed or folded. One can be sitting in a chair, but if so, the back should not be supported. The body should be as upright as possible and the eyes should be closed (unless you are drowsy). Primary Object The main object of awareness is the natural breath, as it is. Do not try to control the breath in any way, simply allow it to come and go while closely observing what happens in the area of the abdomen. The rising of the abdomen along with the in-breath, and the falling of the abdomen along with the out- breath, will consist of a variety of sensations and experiences. All of these should be noticed as continuously as possible. Let there be no gaps in your attention. The observation of any object has three parts: 1. Occurrence: attention should arrive quickly, as close to the arising of the object as possible. 2. Labeling and observation: label the rising movement as “rising,” and the falling as “falling.” Observation should be care- ful and diligent, the label gentle and simple. It is not necessary to form elaborate concepts of what is going on. Labeling merely identifies the event and serves to direct the mind toward it. 3. Knowing the nature: in the rising and falling of the ab- domen, one knows the sensations as they are. In the rising, for example, there are likely to be sensations of tension, tight- ness, stiffness, and hardness. There can also be vibration and movement. It is not possible to observe the rising and falling continu- ously for a very long time. Other objects will arise; when they do, it is often recommended to move the attention away from the breath. How to Deal with Other Objects Numerous other objects can be the focus of attention. 1. Eventually the mind wanders. When this happens, shift at- tention to the wandering and take it as a new object. Label it, but do not get attached to the content of the thoughts. This is very important. The thoughts may disappear right away, in which case you return to the rising and falling. The thoughts may also seem great and fascinating, or else horribly absorbing. No matter how thoughts appear, all of them resemble soap bubbles. Try not to jump onto a train of thoughts and get completely lost! If the wandering mind persists and you become thoroughly absorbed and distracted, cut off your involvement in thinking and return to the sensations at the abdomen. Minor or background thinking is to be ignored. 2. Pain will arise in the body. When these sensations be- come predominant, let go of the rising and falling. Label the pain as “pain, pain” and observe it for a while. Label it again. There are four things to be known about physical pain: its quality or characteristic—for example, it may be burning, stabbing, piercing, tearing; its intensity—it may increase, re- main the same, or decrease; its location—it may stay put, van- ish, spread, or move; and its duration—it may last for a short moment or for an entire sitting, or it may blink on and off. Do remember that the purpose of paying attention to pain is to know its nature, not to heal it or make it go away. All the same, sometimes pain will disappear or change under close observation. On the other hand, its intensity may well increase. Any such changes are to be registered. Facing strong pain calls for patience and determination. Don’t change your posture; instead, try to know the pain more deeply. Changing one’s posture weakens concentration. If pain becomes excruciating, though, it is okay to move as long as the change of posture is carried out in full awareness. 3. Loud sound can occur. Label it “hearing” and observe the process of hearing. Notice the volume of the sound and its impact on the ear, and any mental reactions. It is not good to spend too much time on external sounds because this leads to distraction. Do not decide to take sound as a primary object. ➣ page 108