2022-03-10 Satipaṭṭhāna (41) Knowing the Expanded Mind
4:05AM Mar 11, 2022
We are now continuing to talk about the third foundation of mindfulness. I would like to point out that in the second, third and fourth, each of them, as the description of the practice unfolds, there is a shift. I like to think of each of these three as being progressive, or describing a journey that the meditator takes.
In the second foundation, one begins by becoming aware of the feeling tone of experience – pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. As we settle in and become more familiar with it, more sensitive, we are able to distinguish between pleasant things of the flesh and those that are not of the flesh. That which is part of the sensual world of mind and body, and those that are more spiritual in nature. We are making a shift, a journey from one into the other as we deepen the practice.
In the third foundation, we begin by becoming aware of a mind that is accompanied with greed, hate and delusion. There is a journey from that state of mind, into what can be called more meditative or spiritual states of mind. That is what the last four pairs of mind states are. This journey from these mind states, which are characterized by greed, hatred and delusion, has an intermediate, stepping stone. That is the fourth one of the eight pairs.
The fourth one is a scattered mind or a contracted mind. When the mind is not caught up in greed, hatred and delusion anymore, it is sometimes a little bit lost. Greed, hate and delusion always have some focus of attention – some concern, something that we want, something we do not want, something we are confused about. The degree to which we are focused on this object of thought, this object of concern, limits the mind. In the language of the Buddha, it is a limitation for awareness, for the mind. The mind becomes smaller, contracted. Its scope sometimes becomes very narrow. We can feel the mind gets tight and narrow, preoccupied with something.
It can even feel pleasant – a lot of good energy, or strong, compelling energy, habit energy – around desires, aversions, and delusion. The mind goes into it like into a black hole, where a strong gravitational pull pulls us in. It can feel so natural, so normal, that we do not realize the impact it has on us. We do not realize so easily, that there is another whole option.
When the mind is no longer focused on objects, in this narrow, constricted, or forceful way, the mind can go through a transition. It is a bit confused, not quite sure what to focus on, or what to do. It is like when desires, aversions, and delusions are like caffeine – they keep us energized. When we stop taking that caffeine, the mind goes through a period of adjustment. In that period of adjustment the mind does not have a particular object that it is concerned with, but the mind has not developed its capacity for settled, concentrated presence.
The mind then can get scattered. It jumps around, looking for something to be concerned with, but with not enough focus to settle on anything – the mind becomes scattered. Or the mind becomes shrunken – it sinks in on itself. Sloth and torpor set in – with giving up or deflation. Without greed, hate and delusion, sometimes deflation, sometimes scatteredness, or restlessness of the mind can happen.
We keep practicing. It can feel like things are going backwards because our mind is all scattered, jumping around, or more deflated and shrunken. But it can actually be a transition time. We have to go through it – to be patient with it, willing to breathe with it, aware of it. Then at some point, some of the fruits of practice come into play. The first one, it says in this third foundation, "One knows, an expanded mind as an expanded mind. And one knows a non-expanded mind as a non-expanded mind." "Mahācitta" could also mean "big mind." One knows a big mind.
In the earlier exercises one knows a mind accompanied by desire as a mind accompanied by desire, accompanied by aversion as accompanied by aversion. The mindfulness shows us, or creates a wider context of the mind to be aware of desires and aversions, so the desire and aversion do not take over fully. Desire and aversion are just part of the mind – a big influence, a big part. In this transition, after the contracted or restless mind, there comes a time when the mind starts feeling expansive, open, wide, large. The mind and awareness become more closely linked – rather than overlapping or coterminous.
Now we can almost talk as if they were synonyms – that awareness and mind become almost the same. Awareness becomes broad and expansive, and can include everything. With the idea of inclusive awareness, an open mind, an open set of perceptions – everything that happens, is allowed to appear in its own time, in the field of perception, in the world of what we perceive. We are not for or against our experience.
There is not a preference for one thing over another. The preference is not for the object of attention, not for the thing that we are aware of – but the preference is to rest in this wider, calm awareness. Awareness that can receive, know, and perceive things in a relaxed way.
In the language of the Buddha, when we are too concerned with some purpose, then the mind is limited by that purpose. If we are not constricted by a purpose, or if the purpose, in a sense, is to relax and open up, then the mind is not limited anymore. It is not bounded. It is not contracted. It is not tight and narrow. It becomes broader and wider.
It may be like the feeling if you are inside a small, little cabin for a long time and you're claustrophobic – and then you go out into the wide, open fields. Open space, maybe high in the mountains with a great vista. There is an expansive feeling that arises. Certainly the vista is expansive. But something opens up in the mind, in the heart, that makes it like a breath of fresh air. The mind takes on a kind of expansiveness.
You do not have to go out to a great vista point, to see a great view, to feel the mind become expansive. Even with the eyes closed, the mind becomes quite expansive, quite large, because it is its nature to be that way. This is how it is. Awareness is consciousness when it is not being channeled into a particular direction, not held and contracted, or being used to focus on a particular thought, concern, desire, or aversion. To be able to drop the limitations in the mind, the contractions of the mind. That is why in a calm meditative state, for many people, the mind begins to feel expansive, large, peaceful, or broad.
Here we begin this journey now into more spiritual states or dharma states. Whereas greed, hate and delusion, those mind states, are not particularly dharmic, not dharmic at all.
The awareness that can include everything, and be broad enough, is dharmic. Kind of paradoxically or ironically, it can also include the presence of greed, hate, and delusion. Nothing is outside. The difference is that the mind is not contracted or focused on greed, hate, or delusion. The mind just knows when it is there, but in this wide field. It is just one thing among many. We are not identified with it. We are not prioritizing it. We are not bothered by it, or caught in its grip.
This idea of the mind that is not caught by anything – that does not stop for anything, does not get involved with anything, or entangled with anything. The mind is able to allow things to arise and pass. To be there, when they are there, but without being for or against. That begins a feeling of a mind that is whole, a holistic mind.
This is one of the great delights and pleasures of meditation, starting to feel more and more whole. That we feel whole. Our whole sense of beingness feels more holistic. We come into our wholeness, rather than the contractedness, or the narrowness of particular preoccupations and concerns.
In how to make that transition from desire and aversion to this expanded state, it really helps if we no longer are convinced – not us, but maybe our mind – not convinced that what is important is to pursue desires. Or that what is important is to be involved in aversion. What is important is to be constantly preoccupied with our delusions, thoughts, or confusion about things. We feel how that limits us.
To begin relaxing, softening, and opening, until we feel like everything is included. All of who we are has a place. All of who we are has a respected place in awareness and consciousness.
This is a game changer for people who do meditation. Over time we begin realizing we are actually much better off in this peaceful state than in the desire state, the wanting state, or the aversive state.
If you have half an hour free in the evening, and you have a common desire you get pulled into, but instead of that you go meditate or go for a walk. Do something that allows you to tap into this expanded state, you might find that it is much more pleasant, much more satisfying in the long run.
We will continue tomorrow on this third foundation, these dharma states that open up in the last four exercises.
I want to make an announcement. IMC now has started a fundraising drive to support refugees who are fleeing Ukraine – now there are supposed to be close to 2 million or so. The organization that we are supporting is Save the Children, for a number of reasons. One, there is a bit of a personal connection to that. They are one of the highest rated charities, I think, in the world. They have been around for 100 years. They are involved on the ground in some of the refugee camps and reception centers, on the borders of Ukraine, offering care for some of the most vulnerable people, the children and families.
If you would like to donate to this fund, all the money you give to IMC for this purpose, will go to Save the Children. The way to do it is that in the What's New section, (on the homepage of IMC's website, bottom right), there is a notice about fundraising for Ukraine. The donate button there is specific for IMC to know it is for Ukraine. Maybe tomorrow, I will post it here on the YouTube Chat as well.
We are raising money through Monday. We did this for Haiti after the earthquake last August, and we raised $30,000, which was quite impressive. Maybe we can do something similar, maybe even more, to provide support for this tremendous need in Eastern Europe. Thank you all and I look forward to our time together tomorrow.