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Day 4
How shall we observe the mind?

Spirit Rock Meditation Center Retreat, April 25-May 9, 2015

Translation from Burmese by Ma Thet and transcription and editing by Douglas McGill

Keep going practicing.

Remember to check your attitude. We are not practicing to get something the way we think it should be or the way we want it to be. If things arise you wish weren't really there. This is not the practice for making those things go away. Just acknowledging what is happening as it is, recognizing what is happening as it is, that is awareness.

The Middle Way is the way of watching what is happening with wisdom. Meaning there is no preference, not seeking something good or pleasant or preferable. Not pushing away what we think is bad or unpleasant or undesirable. All of these are just objects, things to know, nature, their nature.

If we have a judgment that something is good, we attach to it and that's greed. If we think something is bad we resist it, that's aversion. When you are continuously aware, we call that watching, you are watching when you are continuously aware.

In trying to keep our awareness continuous, some of us watch the object closely, we try to ensure that the objects that we know don't disappear, that we don't run out of objects. While another way of trying to keep the awareness continuous is to try and ensure that the awareness doesn't stop. That we are checking to see that it is still present, alert and aware.

If a yogi is able to clearly differentiate object and knowing, clearly tune into their awareness versus the objects, that yogi should stay with the knowing, should take care of the awareness.

If the yogi is concerned with not running out of objects, then the yogi also comes ups against the tendency to like and dislike, to have preferences for which objects he or she would like to observe or have experiences of. But if a yogi is able to know awareness and maintain the awareness by keeping an eye out for whether awareness is still present, that yogi learns to become more and more skillful in understanding how awareness works.

The mind isn't located anywhere, it has no shape, no color, no way for us to perceive it with our physical senses. So how shall we observe the mind? Although there is no place where the mind resides or is, we can know the mind because we can know the mind is doing things.

For example when there is thinking, we can know that thoughts are arising, that thinking is happening. When we consciously think thoughts we can know that this is what the mind is doing, it is thinking through things.

When you pay attention to something, when your are aware of something, the mind's attention is directed to what you are aware of and you can know that, that the mind has directed attention.

When we are aware of a physical sensation we can know that the awareness is present, therefore you know the physical object. But to actually take that awareness as an object, that is a skill that not all of us have, become skillful at.

For those of us who feel our awareness has become pretty continuous, pretty stable, do you feel like the awareness has kind of come into relief? Do you feel like the awareness feels obvious to you? That it's presence is palpable? Something knows, something has this capacity to know, that is the mind.

In our thoughts there is sometimes wrong thought. These wrong thoughts get in the way of practice. They hinder the purity of awareness. But if there is right thought it supports right awareness.

Wrong thoughts means that the motivation for those thoughts is greed or aversion. So those thoughts will bely a preference or a resistance. Those are wrong thoughts. Whereas when there is wisdom, there is Right Understanding, there will be right thought.

Investigation is the process of wisdom in the thinking. Basically the nature of meditation is that wisdom is the goal, and wisdom needs to be invested, needs to be brought into the practice. But when investigating everything too much it can become tiring. Asking questions is really to bring some wisdom into the moment, some discernment. But if there is no wisdom behind the thinking that can be tiring.

When we are told that we can ask questions to investigate it doesn't mean we question things endlessly. If we find that a question interests us, that is enough. We don't need to ask any more questions.

When wisdom begins to work you begin to feel strong, confident, awake, alert, fresh.

A yogi just watching objects alone is not enough. There must also be a recognition of the mind that is doing the work of meditation. The qualities of the mind, like awareness, sati, the stability of mind, samadhi, the wisdom, panna, if they are working together steadily then sloth and torpor do not arise. We don't feel dull and sleepy.

Whatever you do, all the time, know yourself and what you are doing. Always doublecheck: How are you being aware?