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MIDL 23/52: Calming Mental Activity


In MIDL Mindfulness Training 23/52 you learn the skill of abandoning all participation through developing sensitivity to mental activity and softening the desire 'to do'. While the previous training was concerned with deconditioning defensive emotional charge, this training is concerned with not conditioning it in the first place. With practice you will be able be able to bring all mental proliferation and commentary to an end, allowing you to experience the purity of awareness free from content. Submit Your Question

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Link to 52 MIDL Mindfulness Trainings Click Here

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MIDL Mindfulness Training 23/52

Our Twenty-third Training:
MIDL Mindfulness Training 23/52: Calming Mental Activity

1. Develop understanding of the skill of abandoning through mindful non-participation.

2. Learn to disentangle the habitual mind from sense experience.

3. Develop the skill of entering and sustaining Stillness through abandoning.

The Five Hindrances to Meditation:
Attraction, Aversion, Restlessness, Sluggishness & Doubt.

These are not only the hindrances to meditation but also the hindrances to life, you should learn to recognise them when they are present - They are not personal - they are just defence mechanisms produced by the immune system of your mind.

In the previous mindfulness trainings you developed your skill in self observation and abandoning through Softening your relationship towards the feeling tone present within your mind, be that pleasant or unpleasant. If your habitual tendencies of attraction or resistance are still high then it is skilful to learn how to temporarily suppress the five hindrances in order to develop a basis of concentration. MIDL 23 is concerned with the hindrance of Attraction & Aversion. MIDL 24 is concerned with the hindrance of Restlessness. MIDL 25 is concerned with the hindrance of Mental Sluggishness. The hindrance of doubt only dissolves when you experience the complete path and awareness turns towards Nibbana.

Once you have the hindrances under control, rebalancing the mind, then abandon these suppression techniques and instead start observing the Five Hindrances turning them instead into the Five Characteristics of Distraction.

Basic Instruction:
Meditation is practiced in a seated position.

The Four Stages:
1. Ground awareness within your body and experience the flow of your breath.

2. Practice MIDL Mindfulness of Breathing to create your Viewing Platform.

3. Gradually abandon all effort through observing awareness interact with your six senses.

4. Soften the effort to hear, the effort to feel, the effort to think, the effort to be aware and the effort to give up effort.

Practice daily for 1 week by grounding awareness within your body then bringing awareness to the experience of your whole body as it breathes so that the full length of the expansion of the in-breath and deflation of the out-breath become clear to you. Open your awareness to anything that arises within the field of your six senses, allow yourself to deeply experience it. Observe your minds interaction with any experience that arises within the field of your six senses and soften into the effort behind that interaction. Cultivate the arising of Stillness through abandonment of participation and observe its affect on attraction and aversion.

1. Weaken the minds entanglement with the past.

2. Weakens the minds entanglement with the future.

3. Teaches the mind safety within the present experience.

4. Develops understanding of the four satipatthanas: body, feeling, mind, dhamma’s.

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Do We Ignore Thinking?

Your Question: Softening into non mental activity is an interesting concept. As I am learning I’m trying to understand what the idea of softening here means. Does it mean to ignore or to dull the thought processes or does it mean something different to everyone?

Stephen Procter: Softening in this case means to observe and relax any participation in the thought process. We neither ignore or dull the thought process, we allow the fire to burn, through softening into participation we no longer add fuel to the fire and in turn the fire burns itself out.

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Mind Keeps Thinking?

Your Question: Another excellent one. I think I can let go of mental activity a bit better after doing these meditations - although my mind has a tendency to start thinking about the process of thinking!

Stephen Procter: Yes, thinking is an autonomous function of the mind. Allow it to think but soften your relationship towards it, this will allow the fire to burn itself out.

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Avoid Negative Directions

Your Question: I do wish negative directions were avoided as they create a feeling of confusion and can bring the Law of Reverse Effect into play. Overall, another great step.

Stephen Procter: In MIDL any mental activity that arises is to be calmed, including the feeling of mental confusion or aversion towards the directions given in the guidance. These both arise due to your relationship towards what is being heard rather then the words that are being said which are created through the perception of your own mind. Observing and Softening into your relationship towards all experience calms this mental activity and creates the path for wisdom to arise.

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Background Commentary

Your Question: I can't get rid of the witness in my head telling me that I'm not thinking, but I've always had this going on. Still great though, thanks for doing these.

Stephen Procter: You do not need to get rid of the witness in your head, it is just a defensive mechanism within your mind doing its job - narrating about the world to protect you. Actually it is your interest in this commentary and identification with it that keeps it going. Allow it to run, learn to relax your relationship to it, take not interest in what it says. Observe how this commentator comes and goes, of its own accord, observe its impermanent and impersonal nature. Observe how you have no control over this witness, that it is not you, it is just another experience that arises and ceases when the conditions are right.

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Building Foundation

Your Question: I found this difficult to do, how can I improve my meditation?

Stephen Procter: The skill of Calming Mental Activity used here is based on developing two of the three MIDL Pillars: Flexible Attention and Softening Into (The result being the Third of Allowing Stillness).

Flexible Attention is developed by grounding awareness within your meditation object and relaxing your mental grip, allowing your attention to move; allowing the mind to wander. The actual training is to observe your mind wandering, creating, judging, thinking etc without getting lost within it. Staying on the horses back as it were. This skill develops the ability to observe subtitles of movement within the mind and its interaction with the six senses.

Softening Into is the skill of deeply relaxing mental engagement with all experience that arises through the six senses. For the skill of calming mental activity to develop this Softening Into skill needs to be refined and matured. If these two skills have not been developed and refined enough then the skill of calming mental activity will be very difficult.

Through focussing on the developing the two skills of Flexible Attention and Softening Into you will create a firm foundation, allowing you to calm the activity of your mind. The tools for refining these skills are found within the previous trainings. I recommend returning to MIDL Mindfulness Training 1/52 with the intention to train the Flexible Attention skill, and MIDL Mindfulness Trainings 3 - 5/52 to develop your skill in Softening Into experience.

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