The next two forces in the mind have tremendously deep roots; they are very powerfully conditioned in us. As you study them, you’ll see how much they influence you both in your meditation practice and in your life. When you understand these two forces clearly, you see that not only do they obstruct the development of concentration and wisdom, but are in some fundamental way two of the root causes of suffering in our lives.

Aversion, a mind-state that often looms large in our lives, manifests in a variety of ways. Feelings of anger, hatred, fear, sorrow, ill will, annoyance, irritation or a judging mind all arise when we come into contact with something that’s unpleasant.

Just as the untrained mind becomes entranced by pleasant feelings, we become dissatisfied with, angry at, or fearful of unpleasant ones. When we’re not mindful of unpleasant experiences — in the body, in the mind,  or in our environment — aversion arises. 

Before you begin studying aversion, reflect on aversion in your life and practice. Aversion, ill-will, anger, fear, irritation... How do these manifest? What is your relationship to them? Do they rule you, frighten you, empower you? Identify the triggers and your responses.

Aversion to pain and discomfort

Aversion is easy observe in relationship to physical pain and discomfort. After sitting some time, the body might start to feel uncomfortable.

What’s your first reaction to pain? Is it the same for discomfort?

Generally, we don’t like pain. It’s a rare person who when the pain comes says, “Oh good, a chance to explore pain.”  So when pain arises, we can begin to notice the strategies we use for dealing with it. It might be a kind of self-pity, or fear, or just plain dislike. 

On a more subtle level aversion works when we’re opening to the pain, we’re softening into it, but we’re still interpreting it in certain ways.

Are you practicing in order for something to happen? Does your mindfulness have an agenda?

Our concepts condition our experience.

Our concepts about experience often condition the experience itself, although we’re not aware of it. I thought I was being mindful of the energy block I experienced, but the concept of block already contains desire and aversion, something that shouldn’t be there, something to be changed into something else.  Even though I thought I was being mindful, it was mindfulness with an agenda and not true bare attention to what was happening. 

Mindfulness is the mirror-like quality of the mind, which simply knows what is present. In the context of meditation, there was tightness, pressure, pulling — those were the sensations that were present.  If I had really been mindful, there simply would have been that mirror-like awareness knowing tightness, knowing pressure, knowing pulling, without any preference for one sensation rather than another.  This is an example of how the concepts we use to understand our experience can often condition how we’re relating to the experience.



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Your Weary Mind

Sloth & Torpor
Letting Go