Living Meditation, Living Insight by Dr Thynn Thynn
Dynamics of Meditation
M: What really scares me about meditation is the idea of becoming completely without thought, completely mindless.
Thynn: Let me clarify your usage of “mindless” and “completely without thought.” Mindless in your context would mean that the mind is totally absent, without any consciousness, a vacuum. This is not possible. Without consciousness we would be dead. “Completely without thought” means consciousness exists, but no thoughts are present. This is possible in meditation, but only under certain conditions. In some forms of sitting meditation it is possible to reach a state where the mind is absolutely quiet, one-pointed and absorbed in itself. This is called jhanic samadhi. In this meditative state, the person cannot function.
M: I don’t think I could be completely without thought. It sounds like I would become like a zombie.
It is only a temporary state, which one comes out of. But we have been talking about another way of meditating, a way that sidesteps the problems of jhanic samadhi. If you practice mindfulness in everyday life as you have experienced just now, you do not go through absorptive states.
M: It sounds like daily-life meditation is a more active process than I had thought. How does the mindfulness process relate to this kind of meditation?
Let’s be clear. The process is active whether one is in formal meditation or in a daily-life situation. In the sitting practice, although the body is stationary, the mind is actively watching; it is mindful of the body or the mind. Meditation is a mental discipline that ultimately leads the mind to a purified state.
M: In daily-life meditation, is the mind actively watching itself through a state of no thought?
Yes. When your mindfulness is at its peak, you can experience states where thoughts fall away. But the no-thought state lasts for only a split second. You experience a heightened awareness that is one-pointed as well as absolutely quiet. This momentary one-pointedness of the mind is called khanika samadhi. Although it is not as prolonged as the samadhi states in sitting meditation, khanika samadhi has the same intensity and quality. In khanika samadhi, thoughts fall away and the mind arrives at its purest state.
M: If thoughts fall away, does it mean that no “I” exists in that moment?
Yes, but only momentarily.
M: If no “I” exists in that moment, what does exist? What happens in that moment of no thought?
When split-second samadhi occurs, in that moment there is no thought, but only an absolutely pure and heightened consciousness. It is at that moment that pañña or insight awareness arises. The person experiences pure vision, ditthi visuddhi. In Pali, ditthi means view and visuddhi means purity. So, it means pure vision.
Although this experience may be brief, it is timeless and infinite; it is a moment of transformation. It is the moment when the “I” and “mine” resolve. After that moment of no thought, pure vision is followed by thought, but the thoughts, emotions and actions are not in the old habitual routine. In the moment of an absolutely still and quiet mind, pure vision (pañña or insight), love and compassion arise from our inner depths. Subsequent thoughts and actions are tempered with love and compassion.
You see, meditation does not make you into an inert, unthinking, unfeeling person, my dear. In fact, meditation brings out the best in you – love, warmth and sensitivity to all beings.
The practice of mindfulness, whether within the sitting meditation or in this daily-life meditation, is an active, ongoing process. In the sitting practice, although the body is stationary, the mind is actively watching and mindful of the body or the mind. Likewise, in meditation in daily life, the mind is actively watching itself regardless of posture and time. The mental discipline involved in each form is what is most crucial and ultimately leads the mind to its purified state. It is not the postures that lead to enlightenment, though postures are useful in helping the mind to quiet itself. If you understand this clearly, you can meditate anywhere and anytime.