Week 3 Theme
Mindfulness practice isn’t meant to eliminate thinking but rather to help us know what we’re thinking when we’re thinking it, just as we want to know what we’re feeling when we’re feeling it. It allows us to watch our thoughts, see how one thought leads to the next, decide if we’re heading down an unhealthy path, and, if so, let go and change directions. We can rest in the awareness of the thought, in the compassion we extend to ourselves if the thought makes us uncomfortable, and in the balance and good sense we summon as we decide whether and how to act on the thought.
Working with emotions during our meditation sessions sharpens our ability to recognize a feeling just as it begins, not fifteen consequential actions later. We can then go on to develop a more balanced relationship with it—neither letting it overwhelm us so we lash out rashly, nor ignoring it because we’re afraid or ashamed of it. In this way, the practice of mindfulness allows us to see our lives more clearly and honestly. And the clearer our vision—the more firsthand information we have about ourselves and the world— the better able we are to make good decisions, and the less fragmented we feel.
Week 3 Virtual Gathering
The Week 3 Virtual Gathering has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.
Sharon’s Blog Post
Welcome to week three!
This week we are going to focus on mindfulness of the mind: thoughts and emotions. These objects of mindfulness can be more subtle and fleeting, as is especially the case with thoughts. Whether thoughts or emotions, we tend to identify with them a lot. As much as we identify our true selves with our bodies, we tend to do that a lot more with our minds. We might hit an elbow and say “My elbow hurts” but we are unlikely to say, “I am a sore elbow.” But if we experience sadness, guilt, anger, we are much more likely to build a whole self image around that, “I am such an angry person and I always will be.”
Our goal is not to wipe out thoughts and emotions, not even very negative or painful ones. We couldn’t succeed at that even if we tried. Our goal is to establish a more spacious relationship to them, so that we are empowered. We have a choice in that space: for example, “Do I really want to send this exact email?” if we have no space, we have pressed send even before we recognize we are angry.
I once received a wonderful piece of advice from my meditation teacher Munindra-ji. I went to him very upset about something—I’m not quite sure I even remember what. I just wanted someone to talk to. In response, he looked at me very calmly and asked, “Why are you so upset about the thoughts coming up in your mind? Did you invite them? Did you say, ‘At 3:15 I’d like to be filled with self-judgment?’”
Written down, these questions seem facetious or even sarcastic—but Munindra-ji was being earnest. We can blame ourselves so harshly (as I was doing) for things we cannot control, rather than being empowered by what we can control – how we relate to those thoughts that have arisen in our minds. He was urging me towards letting go of blaming myself and picking up the transformation
The work is to not fall into and be dominated by every thought and emotion that arises, and also not to push against them and dislike or fear what we are feeling or thinking. Mindfulness avoids both of these extremes. Instead we can have a balanced and interested relationship towards all that arises. We can have more compassion for ourselves with more negative or painful states, and actually notice and enjoy more pleasant states, instead of being so distracted we hardly take them in and appreciate them.
If at any time it feels too ephemeral or ungrounded, it’s perfectly fine to go back to mindfulness of the body. It’s not regressive to do so. We’re just trying to cover the scope of where mindfulness can touch and improve our lives.
- Day 15 • Mental Notation Meditation 8 Minutes
- Day 16 • Meditation on Positive Emotions 9 Minutes
- Day 17 • Meditation on Difficult Emotions 9 Minutes
- Day 18 • Meditation on Working with Thoughts 6 Minutes
- Day 19 • Meditation on Working with Challenges 11 Minutes
- Day 20 • Meditation on Changing Emotions 6 Minutes
- Day 21 • Landscape of Experience Meditation 7 Minutes