Joseph Goldstein – Mindfulness of thoughts (Loving Knowing Growing program)

This week I would like to share some insights from a program with Joseph Goldstein Loving Knowing Growing – Sounds True I have been practicing on.  Some of his reflections resonated with me and helped me find different ways to approach meditation.

Mindfulness meditation can be perceived as a way of nurturing understanding both the self and awareness.  Who are we? Where are we going?  How can we best tap into consciousness?

Quoting Goldstein: “It is the art of paying attention deeply and carefully in every aspect of our experience” referring to a 10th century Japanese poet, Yzumi Shikibu whose original line is below.

Watching the moon at dawn, solitary, mid-sky, I knew myself completely no part left out

We are all very unique in our being and stories but we share the essence of our mind, body and heart.

One of the benefits of this deep connection with ourselves is that the more we deeply know ourselves, the more we understand reciprocate.

What brings more suffering in our lives and how can we feel freedom?

The very start of this process involves a calm mind and a collection of our attention in order to get the very first insight into meditation. Noticing how often the mind wanders. Anchoring to an object of meditation, when it gets lost. According to Goldstein, it feels like being at the cinema watching movies that constantly change. It is not an experience that is worth taking part in. It can get quite messy and difficult to follow.

As the practice carries on, the mind starts to settle. The thoughts get less demanding. We start feeling our bodies in a faster and more direct way.  We might feel the tension, the pressure that we otherwise do not notice. In particular, as the unpleasant sensations emerge, there strategies we have developed over a lifetime that we can apply. There might be some fear, self- denial. In meditation we learn strategies to deal with these experiences.

Goldstein shares an anecdote of when he was in India. He used to go up the mountains and continue his meditation practice. He once decided to go to Kashmir for a long bus ride to go up to the mountains. He was squeezed into two people on a crowded and smelly bus. How can this be tolerated in 17-18 hours? Staying in the breath.  His mind got drained having to experience avoiding the unpleasant situation of the smell, and all the noise related to the trip.

He suddenly had a mini revelation.  He could let everything in. Opened his mind rather than resisting.

The mind managed to find some freedom while being on this trip. This could be an effective  hint.

Letting in the unpleasant emotions.  As we open up to be open to the discomfort we start to release them.   

The he remembered something. A stabbing pain in the shin bone. Nothing protruding but there was a memory emerging.   He was running into a stone bench while running after a kite (stored memory in the body). I had one myself while during Pilates a couple of times. I recollected a few situations where I was in fly or fight reaction in a physical education lesson at school (perhaps some tension due to some tests back then, when I was a teenager).  

During impatience or discomfort the sensations can be perceived and there is more of  fluid energy system.

Happiness, joy.  

Opening up to a whole set of experiences. Deepening concentration, no longer letting distractions take over.

Groundedness to calm the mind and the sensations are clearer to us, grounding in the body we can observe the different aspects of the experience, the patters. Our patterns of thoughts and emotions.

If we reflect on when we are standing in a line at a supermarket. Notice what happens, the judgements. Or it is a moment of some inner critic dialogue? What we experience is an outcome of what we project and this leads to misperception and inaccuracy.

Saidaupandita, was a demanding teacher for Goldstein. Everything was arising because of this. One day he was on a walking meditation on a meditation retreat.  He saw he is looking out to see Joseph walking. Joseph was unaware of the reason for that. In the end, i was not the master at all but a lamp shade. Often our misperception can misguide. Thoughts come uninvited but through mindfulness we feel the clear distinction being lost and getting the attention back as in a dual situation.

Everything on screen was not happening at all. That is the screen of our mind.

As we become aware that we are thinking, we are stepping out of the movie theatre and realise it was only a thought.

Meditation helps us waking up from the stories of our mind.

When we become aware that we are thinking, then we can ask ourselves the following question:

What is a thought?  (not the content but the nature of it).

Thoughts can be perceived like dictators. They can be very directive. Feeling pushed by our thoughts can make us feel we lose control of our life. Thoughts can be so powerful when we lack awareness.

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