This morning I led an online Drop-In class set up to help those interested in mindfulness and wisdom practice (sati-panna) keep going in-between retreats. It’s always a challenge to take mindfulness off the cushion and keep the wisdom/right view perspective active so it can notice wrong views and how we are relating to experiences.
The class was centred around learning to maintain awareness while ‘seeing’ is happening. After the meditation I invited observations on how the led practice had been. One of the more experienced practitioners noted how ‘loaded’ the objects in her field of vision had seemed. I asked her to expand a little and she commented that several things seen reminded her of tasks to do, of actions to complete and increased a sense of pressure and busyness in the mind. Other objects provoked memories and associations going back years.
My partner, who was in the meditation, finds it hard to switch off the DIY mode of looking when meditating with eyes open, and affirmed his attention tended to be snagged by a bit of wall that needs replastering, or a light fitting needing replacing.
Often what surrounds us – and particularly when we’re practicing on-line from our own homes – are things that hold deep significance for us. In the room where I was sitting this morning are objects I’ve personally selected because of their beauty (a new lampshade), or been given (a mobile of shells made by a loved one), or they’ve been inherited and are full of resonance (my father-in-law’s pink comfy armchairs) and sometimes the sadness of loss.
Because we are often unused to ‘seeing’ in awareness the objects surroundings us are not seen as practice ‘objects’ but as ‘objects of attachment’. We relate not to the process of ‘seeing’ but of what those objects mean to ‘me’. Even so-called neutral things like the sofa in our sitting room has a flavour of this because – in this instance – of the satisfaction of getting it on ‘Freecycle’ and saving it from landfill. There is attachment to personally doing something seen to be of benefit rather than buying a brand new one.
Think then, how it is with people. When we look at each other, we look with the full complement of ideas and feelings of our history and associations for good or ill. Our memories, particularly of the connections and well-being between us keep our relationships deeply human, but also seen through our deeply conditioned minds. Our inability to look afresh compromises being able to see our friend, husband, neighbour as they are, not as we are. Seeing with awareness allows both the relative human level and the more absolute wisdom level to be known.
What my friend was noticing in the class this morning was how the mind was relating to each object seen – how it was weighted with concepts and ideas that the mind attaches to. In noticing the relationship to objects we see how the mind is affected by them with such things as liking or disliking, task orientated ‘doing mind’ or how the object feeds a sense of self.
We learn a lot about what the mind is doing quite naturally. And when we see this relationship with awareness there is less identification and less attachment. It becomes very interesting to see how the mind takes ownership of even the most neutral seeming objects in our homes.
In doing so we ‘take a load off’; we lighten the burden of association and proliferation in the moment. We allow the mind to simply ‘know’ what’s presenting itself through the senses. And this brings joy to the mind and appreciation for awareness and wisdom simply doing their jobs.