“All These Disturbances!”
A reflection on practice by Ariya Baumann
Every now & again we get irritated – just a little bit. It is nothing major, and it does not throw us out of balance. But there is this little contraction when a meditator comes into the meditation hall & is noisier than we think she or he should be. “Can’t you sit down more quietly? Don’t you see that I am deeply meditating?” Then we take a deep breath, realising how silly it is to get upset about this triviality & settle back into our practice. Concentration is getting better & deeper – and then somebody coughs. “How inconsiderate!” the mind comments. Then back to the experience of the breath. Now mindfulness is really picking up, the mind is sharp & clear – and somebody blows the nose. And this blows the mind, “Don’t you know that I was just about to have a really deep experience?!”
Such little disturbances happen all day long & without mindfulness we are very quick to blame these disturbances or the people who caused the disturbance. But we need to remember that nothing & nobody else can make us irritated or upset. Actually, we should be very grateful for these disturbances because they show us where we are stuck: stuck in the idea that insights can only arise when there are no ‘disturbances‘ at all. We assume that the mind & the environment must be in a certain state – whatever this might be – for understanding & insights to happen. With this, we become very selective & exclude many experiences because they do not fit into our idea.
But actually, in vipassana meditation we establish mindfulness in regard to all of the four foundations of mindfulness. In other words, we are aware of bodily sensations, of feeling tones, of thoughts, of mind states or emotions & of everything that presents itself at one of the six sense doors. If we are doing the practice properly, nothing can ‘disturb‘ us. Whenever we get irritated because something has ‘disturbed‘ our meditation, we should immediately detect that holding on is taking place. We hold on to the idea of how the practice should be, how meditators should behave, or how the yogi jobs should be organized. Whenever we think in terms of ‘should‘ or ‘should not,’ a little red light should blink. ‘Should‘ points to the fact that we have formed an idea around something, that we want things to be a certain way – of course, our way! We need to loosen the tight grip around these ideas. The real disturbance is not the cough or the lawn mower. The real disturbance is our attitude to these happenings. The attitude of “this should not be happening” or “this should be done in such & such a way.”
When we notice another little contraction because the carrots are overcooked, then we can lighten up & smile at ourselves. There is no need to blame ourselves for this irritation. If we do so, we would only reinforce our wrong attitude to phenomena that are naturally happening, to phenomena over which we have no absolute control. The art of vipassana meditation is to deal with all experiences in the same way. One object is not better than another. Mindfulness is not discriminating. A so-called ‘disturbance‘ is mind-made: sound is just sound, pain is just pain, heat is just heat, cold is just cold, smell is just smell, silence is just silence …..
Ariya Baumann will be teaching the Three-Week Summer Hermitage Retreat in July 2020.
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