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When we start meditating we need to develop Three Main Mental Factors which will become part of the foundation of our MIDL Mindfulness meditation practice. These mental factors that we are cultivating are Investigation, Mindfulness and Concentration.
1. Investigation (Dhamma Vicaya): Initially is the intentional act of continuous turning of attention towards our meditation object until attention sustains on it; (Pali: Vitakka, Vicara - Applied & sustained attention). Once attention has sustained this changes to Investigation of the Dhammas; The desire to look into, to silently question whatever we are experiencing through the six senses, to develop understanding.
2. Mindfulness (Sati): Continuous remembering of the awareness (Vinanna) of the present experience of reality (Dhamma).
3. Concentration (Samadhi): The result of continuous Mindfulness, unification of awareness, increased steadiness and clarity of awareness (Vinnana)
In terms of MIDL, we are cultivating these Mental Factors with the intention of creating the conditions for Wisdom into the nature of reality to arise. Before we look at these Mental Factors and how they function I think it is first important to understand what the Buddha meant by ‘meditation’.
The Pali word that the Buddha used for ‘meditation’ is Bhavana. Bhavana is a term that means 'developing', 'cultivating'. Bhavana is not about sitting still doing nothing, it is an intelligent activity during which we intentionally cultivate the conditions for certain mental factors to grow and develop.
The process of creating the correct conditions in MIDL can be understood by observing the cultivation of a tree to produce fruit. First we need a healthy seed; we then condition the soil, creating a good foundation for the seed to grow. Next we plant our seed within this soil and add water so that it can start to sprout.
Our task from this time on is not to make the seed grow but rather to apply the right amount of water, right amount of food, light, protect the young tree as it grows from wind, from bugs, from animals. If the conditions are poor the tree will become stunted, imbalanced, it won’t produce fruit. If the conditions are balanced the tree will become strong and in maturity it will produce fruit.
Understanding in this way, the healthy seed is our view. If our view of life is based on separation (defensiveness), and we don’t see the consequences of our actions, then we start with an unhealthy seed and our meditation practice will not develop.
The conditioned soil in which the seed grows is awareness immersed within the sensate quality of our body. The balance of water, food and light is the balance of Investigation, Mindfulness and Concentration.
Investigation waters and quenches the thirst of the heart, it gives rise to understanding. Mindfulness feeds the practice, without Mindfulness our mind will look for food elsewhere and chew on distraction. Concentration increases clarity, it provides the light for Wisdom to grow.
If we have too much water, too much food or too much light our meditation will not grow in a healthy way, it will not produce the fruit of Wisdom. If there is balance between Investigation, Mindfulness and Concentration, then on maturity, Wisdom will arise and when bitten into will have the sweet taste of freedom.
Protection within our meditation practice from wind, from bugs, from animals, comes from the interaction between Mindfulness and Softening. Mental agitation is like the wind, blowing us this way and that, Softening into the agitation protects us.
Negative thoughts are like bugs biting and sucking the life out of us, Softening the frontal lobes of the brain protects us. Attraction and aversion to pleasant and unpleasant feeling are like wild animals tearing us apart mentally and emotionally, Softening into our bodily sensations protects us.
Understanding this analogy lets now understand Investigation, Mindfulness and Concentration in terms of MIDL meditation practice.
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This article was written by Stephen Procter, Meditation Instructor from Meditation in The Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you