In MIDL Mindfulness Meditation Training 2/52 you develop the skill of one-pointed and open awareness by precise movement of awareness through your body. The three points that you cycle awareness through to train its focus are: Your body sitting, the touch of your fingers and then the experience of your five senses. while observing any habitual shifts of attention away from it. Awareness has the function of being able to zoom in on one experience or to open to the experience of all six senses, It is important as an MIDL meditator to develop the ability to focus this zoom function through systematic training.
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MIDL Mindfulness Training 2/52: Focusing Your Awareness
1. Continue to develop the grounding of awareness within the sensate quality of our body as a foundation for meditation.
2. Cultivate the ability to smoothly change the focus of awareness from awareness of all six senses to one-pointed attention on one aspect of experience.
Gently change the focus of awareness between different grounding points from wide to narrow and back out to wide again dwelling in each focus point before moving to the next.
Practice daily for 1 week, always play with how little effort you can put into holding each grounding point and your minds relationship towards the change in the focus of awareness. Take interest in the habitual focusing of your awareness, the collapsing of mindfulness, the periods of knowing and unknowing.
1. Develop initial investigation, mindfulness and momentary concentration.
2. Develop flexibility of attention in the smooth transition of awareness.
3. Foundation for MIDL mindfulness of breathing.
Your Question: Is this what you mean by relaxing into the experience: Not judging it? Being patient, loving and accepting towards whatever is happening, and trying not to push our own agenda?
Stephen Procter: Yes the gentleness of your approach is very good. As long as it leads to softness, openness and clarity within you then it is the right path.
You Asked: Another question: Does the internal voice always narrate and does everyone hear this loud and clear?
Reply: From my own experience and working with hundreds of people yes, everyone has a background commentating, judging, liking and disliking pushing away and clinging onto. I call this voice the commentator, to me it is the judge, jury and executioner of the world and where our sense of self arises from. When observed we can see that this commentator is not us, but rather the limited, habitual patterns of the Survival Mind, trying to protect itself.
You Asked: When maintaining an open awareness of the body sense doors, can we train to open up and be able to notice multiple sense doors at the same time or or is this not something the mind is capable of?
Reply: It is possible to hold an open awareness of all senses by grounding awareness in this sense field and letting the sense experience to come into you. Or you can allow the mind to go out to the sense experience and observe awareness bouncing between all the senses individually. At a heightened concentration we just see each sense experience arise and cease instantly.
You Asked: Being aware of awareness itself: Is this something that should be developed further through any specific training? Or is this something that develops on its own?
Reply: Being aware of being aware is something that we should cultivate intentionally. it is the whole point of having a meditation object and necessary for the deepening of the meditation practice. it is not the objects that arise within the mind that are important but rather the mind that is doing the observing and the quality of the lens that it is looking through.
Your Question: Could you clarify how to do this MIDL 2/52 and its purpose? I feel that I don't quite understand what I am doing and found it difficult to be openly aware.
Stephen Procter: MIDL Mindfulness Training 2/52 is the second mindfulness training concerned with the 'grounding of awareness. While MIDL 1/52 grounds awareness within the sensate quality of our body, MIDL 2/52 is concerned with grounding within the observing awareness itself. Simply we are moving from observing sensations within our body to observing the awareness of them. As we do this we will start to notice that awareness itself has the ability to focus, it can focus closely in on one thing or be open to all our senses.
Within this range of focus in most meditators a deficiency can be observed in the tendency of the mind to prefer one type of focus of awareness over another. Since the MIDL meditator is concerned with developing flexibility of attention it is beneficial to train the ability to freely adjust the focus of awareness from wide to narrow so that the full range is comfortable.
This is trained in a very simple way by first being aware of being aware of all our senses and grounding within them, then bringing awareness to our body as it sits and grounding within it, then bringing awareness to the touch of two fingers and grounding awareness within it. We then slowly cycle through these three levels of focus to decondition any habituation within the mind towards one tendency or another.
You Asked: Moving awareness was a challenge between these three points, it is hard to let go of my fingers touching to focus more broadly. Mind seems to prefer the smaller things, so my attention kept moving around to each of them in turn. It was hard to zoom out and take it all in at once and easier to observe one point.
Reply: Wonderful, there is much to learn here.
Notice the habituation of your attention, take interest in it. Your mind habitually wants to zoom in on one thing and has trouble being aware of many things - fantastic - now you are learning about yourself; about the mind that you view the world through. The nature of this attention will also explain the nature of your personality. This can manifest in daily life as obsessive attention. On the other hand inability to focus on one thing and always wide in awareness tends to lead to an inability to stay with one thing in daily life and continuous doubt.
Awareness is like sight.
Imagine if you moved around through the world and your sight would only zoom in on individual things; you had no peripheral vision, no ability to see the bigger picture. If this was the case you would not be able to move through the world within banging into things, you would crash if you were driving a car or your mind would endlessly be agitated as it rapidly moved from one individual object to another. Do you crash into things in your relationship to life?
This range of focus of awareness is different for all of us, for some people wide awareness is easy and one-pointed awareness is difficult, for others one-pointed is easy and wide is difficult, others side somewhere in the middle. We will see this clearly as the community shares their experience (I hope you all will as it is beneficial to seeing patterns).
We all have strengths and weaknesses in this area, this is part of the problem. In MIDL 2/52 we are learning the skill of smooth focus of awareness, not becoming habitual or stuck within this range from narrow to wide. As we do this we also start to develop understanding of the impersonal and habitual nature of our mind, of the factors that make up attention, how they are balanced and their relationship towards resistances within our heart.
Your Question: I find it difficult to move on because in MIDL 1/52 training my mind was wandering so much I feel un-prepared to move along to MIDL 2/52 after 1 week. What should I do?
Stephen Procter: Your minds wandering is none of your business, why are you trying to make it do something else other then what it is doing. If your sense of peace is based on what your mind is or is not doing then this peace will be fragile because your mind is not under your control. It will let you down.
Instead allow your mind to wander if it wants to, but observe this wandering and observe its habitual and impersonal nature until this is very clear to you. Do this until you deeply understand "this thinking is not me". When you realize through observation that you are not your thoughts, then its antics will not bother you, you will understand that your mind is none of your business. Ironically when you give up the fight your mind will stop fighting itself and feel safe and the immune system of your mind will turn off by itself, everything will settle down including the obsessive thinking.
You Asked: This difficulty in moving on mimics a thought pattern I have in daily life about having to have all of my ducks in a row before starting the next thing.
Reply: This obsessiveness to control your experience is also not you, it is an autonomous defense mechanism of your mind. I call it part of the immune system of your mind. Your minds immune system is turned on because it is scared of giving up control, this is the delusion. Keep observing this fear, observe the desire to control everything and Soften into the desire to follow it.
You Asked: I was meditating early morning when the grandfather clock in our living room started ringing. I let the sound come into me and was aware that my whole body reacted to each chime. I observed a habitual thought pattern and softened into it this changing my relationship. Is this how I meditate?
Reply: This is good MIDL practice, keep observing and Softening Into these relationships.
Your Question: During this meditation I noticed I had a strong aversion to distractions and I felt a “perfect” meditation would be without any. I started relaxing and softening into distractions. Is this the correct way?
Stephen Procter: Try Softening into your relationship towards what you are experiencing rather then the experience itself. Also see if you can notice that a distraction is only a distraction if you think it is not what should be happening now. In reality what is happening now is always what should be happening now, this resistance is coming from a fear of letting go of control.
You Asked: When I started opening up to the sense doors, I felt exposed. There seemed to be an aversion to opening up the senses. Why is this?
Reply: Again this is that fear of letting go of control, your mind feels exposed when confronted with the impermanent and uncontrollable nature of sense experience. This is where you should Soften, Soften Into your relationship towards this experience.
You Asked: During this meditation I then started noticing my belly had tightened and my breathing had moved to my chest. It was shorter and shallower. interesting! Then several additional anxious thoughts flooded my mind and then the shorter, faster breathing provided a fertile ground for the other anxious thoughts to move in. Very interesting.
Reply: Yes, this is part of mindfulness of breathing in MIDL. Not developing one-pointed concentration on the breath but observing the relationship between your breath and state of mind. This relationship is a reliable and predictable process that will lead to the cultivation of Wisdom and clarification of the path. When we move onto MIDL Mindfulness Training 3/52 you will develop a higher sensitivity of mindfulness of breathing in daily life and learn how to turn off this anxious response. This will allow you to use your sensitivity to changes in your breathing patterns to observe habitual resistance and Soften your participation towards it, creating 'gaps' in the pattern in order to decondition the habitual process.
Your Question: From what you've said, I understand that sensations in the body are reflections of the mind. So if you just notice and feel the sensations and emotions in the body, does that then clear and release them from both the body and the mind? And the busy mind is focusing on the thoughts giving them fuel? So if you can put your awareness in the body and have that distance from the mind, it stops giving the mind fuel? I have noticed the lower down in the body I focus my attention, the calmer my mind becomes! I always thought this was to do with grounding the energy downwards- any thoughts on this?
You asked: “I understand that sensations in the body are reflections of the mind.”
Reply: The body’s role as a sense organ is to reflect touch. Some sensations arise in the body through the five senses to reflect the touch of the world. Some sensations arise in the body to reflect the touch of the mind.
You asked: “So if you just notice and feel the sensations and emotions in the body, does that then clear and release them from both the body and the mind?”
Reply: It is not a matter of releasing them; this thinking is coming from aversion, as if they shouldn’t be there. They are doing what they are meant to do. It is always a matter of relationship, of relaxing our relationship towards what is being experienced. This relationship is one of attraction or aversion. It is through deconditioning habitual attraction and aversion within the mind that this comes to an end, not by trying to make something be different to how it is.
You asked: “And the busy mind is focusing on the thoughts giving them fuel?”
Reply: Where awareness sits energy goes.
You asked: “So if you can put your awareness in the body and have that distance from the mind, it stops giving the mind fuel?”
Reply: Thinking needs participation to continue, it needs awareness to immerse within it. Like a fire that is no longer being fed it will consume the fuel and go out by itself. Immersing awareness within the experience of the body removes the fuel. The problem is that being attentive to thinking and identifying with it as ‘my thoughts’ is habitual, this is part of delusion. Wisdom brings this identification to an end.
You asked: “I have noticed the lower down in the body I focus my attention, the calmer my mind becomes! I always thought this was to do with grounding the energy downwards- any thoughts on this?”
Reply: Where awareness sits energy goes. This is my experience also. Notice that the first training in MIDL Mindfulness Training 1/52 is not mindfulness of breathing but rather Grounding Your Awareness? In MIDL our first step is to learn the skill of grounding awareness within the body, withdrawing the fuel for the habitual mind, and observing any habitual movements of awareness away from this grounding.
Your Question: What do you mean by moving my attention during this meditation? Also I can not always feel the sensations you describe.
Stephen Procter: The word 'attention' is being used as a meditation language to describe three functions of awareness.
When I use the word 'attention' it means:
1."The focusing of awareness to one point."
2. "The clarity of awareness of the sensate quality (sensations) at that point."
3. "The movement of the focus of awareness between experiences whether intentional or unintentional."
To get the most out of this exercise focus on:
1. intentionally moving and placing your awareness on one point within your body and holding it there for the desired time.
2. Mentally 'feeling' any sensations at that point.
3. Observing every time your awareness shifts from the chosen point within your body, acknowledge this movement of attention and bringing it back. Your description of experiencing many sensations is a sign that this aspect of your attention is being trained.
Do not be too concerned if you can not feel the breathing or sensations in a particular area, guided meditations need to be generic. Whatever you experience is correct, there is no need to try to experience something that is not yet present to you.