Let go of the noise inside. Let it dissipate.
Come back and enjoy Mother Nature.
Come back and enjoy Mother Nature.
Meditation Lesson 3. Letting Go
Last session I talked about returning to the meditation, and staying with the meditation object.
Returning from what? One of the important features of meditation is the way the mind will tend to wander away from the meditation object, and wander back into the realm of thought. This wandering in thought occurs because our mind is engaged in thinking, involved in thinking.
Indeed, a major reason and purpose of this meditation is : to teach us a very important lesson. This meditation demonstrates how much our minds are involved with thought, engaged in thought. Demonstrates this Dharma quite vividly (1).
This meditation also teaches us about shifting our attention from the busy-ness of thinking to the quiet stability of the meditation object. It teaches us how difficult it can be to shift our attention.
Something prevents us from returning to Peace, and staying with Peace. Something hinders us from abiding in peace, interferes with Being still. We are hanging onto something that disturbs our rest.
So there is something we need to do before we can return to the meditation object, and stay with it. We need to first let go of thought. Consciously and purposefully let go of thinking.
What does this “letting go” actually involve? What are the dynamics of this process?
Looking at words and their meaning. Letting go is an English term. What does it mean literally?
Allow something to pass out of us, helping it to be released from us, so it can dissolve and dissipate. This suggests that letting go is actually a natural process. Suggests letting go will occur easily, provided something does not block or hinder the release. And what is this hindrance or blockage?
It is attachment to thought. This attachment causes the thinking to go on and on. Attachment makes thinking compulsive, attachment perpetuates thought.
The simple antidote to attachment is letting go. In Buddhism they have a storey about attachment and letting go. They used a special monkey trap in remote parts of Thailand. Quite simple, a coconut shell firmly attached to a strong stake in the ground. A slot is cut in the wood, wide enough to admit a monkey’s hand when it’s open, but too narrow if the hand is closed into a fist. Sweet food is placed inside as the bait.
The monkey puts its hand into the trap, grasps at the bait and cannot withdraw. So strong is the attachment that the monkey can be caught by the hunter. Yet all the monkey has to do is let go, and it can escape.
So letting go of thought is very important to meditation, and the success of our meditation. Letting go is a skill that we can cultivate. In fact, it is the first skill we need to cultivate in meditation. The skill of clearing the room of junk, and so create a spaciousness in our mind. Some room to work to build up all we need to build up in meditation and spiritual practice, including peace.
We also need some quiet, so we can better hear and understand the troubles that afflict us in life. The noise of incessant thought is extremely distracting.
So it’s important to train the mind each day. Just take some time to rest, and use this opportunity to learn this fundamental skill to dechatter and declutter the mind. Just let go of disturbance, and be at peace. Let go of all thought, no matter how enticing or alluring or demanding the thought might be. Might seem to be.
Such training in letting go of thought makes the mind strong. It gives us the strength to step out of thoughts that we need to step out of. This skill gives us vital protection against pain driven and pain filled thought. It gives us the power to rise above suffering, and climb back up the ladder to happiness and peace. No longer do we need to be dictated to by our own thoughts. We can become strong enough to take the right path in our own thinking. And so much of our lives begin in thought.
Buddhism has a doctrine called “Dependent Origination” paticcha samuppāda in Pali. A foundational doctrine of the religion.
This outlines a chain or sequence of events in life that cause suffering to recur and perpetuate in our experience. The traditional expression is being “bound to the wheel of suffering”. Interesting choice of words. It implies this wheel or cycle keeps recurring, bringing back the same old problems over and over again, back into our lives.
Twelve steps or events are listed, one being attachment or upadāna in Pali. The Buddha declared that this attachment or upadāna is the weak link in the chain. When we have the strength to break this link, then the whole process falls apart, and the suffering will dissolve. It will not return until the attachment starts up again.
What words do they use the describe this “breaking of attachment” ? (2)
virāga nirodho cāgo paṭinissaggo mutti anālayo.
Thanissaro (3) translates these six words like this –
dissolution, cessation, letting go, renouncing, free from and unattached to.
Meditation Exercise 3.
So let’s stop thinking about meditation and do it instead. You can try these suggestions. For the third lesson in meditation -
- when we remember to return, let go gently, and smoothly
- let go consciously, be aware of the letting go
- consciously observe your mind moving away from thought and
- moving towards the meditation object.
(1) The words vitakka and vichāra from last talk actually mean “engage the mind” or “apply the mind”. This could mean apply the mind to the meditation object. Or it could mean apply the mind to thinking. In fact, the simple dictionary meaning is the latter. The Buddha chose to use these words in a different way, because the untrained mind will normally be engaged in thought instead of the meditation object. The untrained mind is more accustomed to thinking, not meditation.
(2) From a famous Buddhist sutra called “The First Sermon”, listed as Samyutta Nikāya 56.11. Given time, we will eventually explore this sutra; an extraordinary piece of writing.
(3) Bhikkhu Thanissaro is a contemporary Buddhist scholar, famous for his translations of the Buddhist Pali scriptures. His website is www.accesstoinsight
My webpage “Course in Meditation” describes how to
gain the full benefit of these Meditation Lessons