Insight Meditation Workshop
by Ven. Pannyavaro
The Art of Attention
The practice of insight meditation revolves around the art of meditative attention. Its basic tool is ‘bare’ or primary attention which uncovers or lays bare things as they really are. In this way, a non-reactive, unconditioned awareness is acquired that leads to insight knowledge.
The basic tool in meditative attention is the practice of ‘bare’ attention. It is the ‘primary’ attention that sees through the ‘content’ mind to the underlying processes. In laying bare the reality of mind/body phenomena, bare attention reveals their salient characteristics without interfering with them. The art of ‘bare’ attention is to register the predominant object in your experience as it arises, without preference. That is, noting the changing phenomenon without reaction – be it sensation, sound, thought or a mind-state. However, if there is a reaction during the observation, as is natural for the untrained mind, then that too must be noted. The practice of bare attention is used in conjunction with the ‘four spheres of attention’.
Four Spheres of Attention:
These spheres of attention are frames of reference to guide the attention in the investigation to the four areas of the body/mind experience in the present moment context. They are based on instructions given by the Buddha as the Four Establishments of Awareness or Mindfulness:
Awareness of the Body
This is experiencing the body through its primary elements,(earth, air,fire and water) that is, hardness, softness, temperature, fluidity and movement within the body. Together with awareness of the four body postures: sitting, standing, walking and lying-down as well as movements and actions in daily activities.
Awareness of the Feelings or Sensations
Is noting the feeling quality as either pleasant, unpleasant or neutral while being careful to differentiate the primary or bare feeling from the emotional elaboration or story.
Awareness of the Consciousness and the State of Mind
The awareness of consciousness is the ‘knowing’ of anything – for example, a physical sensation and the knowing of it. Also particular attention is paid to the mind-states, for example – happiness, sadness, agitation, and noticing their arising and passing away or impermanent nature.
Awareness of the Mental Content
This is not analysing or classifying mental events, but using the attention to passively register the ‘things of the mind’: thoughts, ideas, concepts, as a witness without any commentary. It is not the intention to stop the thinking, but to see the nature of thought.