Relationship of Mindfulness-practices and Insight-practices

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  steve mareno 3 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #41771


    Good morning. I am unclear about the difference between mindfulness-practices and insight-practices and how the two are related to one another or work together in ones meditation and life.
    Thank you,

  • #41773
    Jennifer Hawkins
    Jennifer Hawkins

    Hi SuZen

    I’m not sure this will post properly, but this short video by Robert Wright helped me to consider “different” general categories of meditation:

    Robert Wright Meditation Video

    Here’s an excerpt from the transcription just in case:

    so, for example Tibetan Buddhists, when they meditate, often do a lot of visualizing of images.
    You know Zen Buddhists may meditate on these koans these you know, these cryptic or paradoxical sayings or question, questions. And sometimes Zen, Zen Buddhists actually meditate, do meditate with their eyes open, sitting down, kind of looking at a wall or something. In Vipassana meditation, which is particularly common in Southeast Asia, there’s a lot of emphasis on observing the workings of your mind. So there, there are a lot of different traditions, there are stereotypes about the people who practice the traditions, so, I heard once you know, Tibetan meditation is for artists. Zen is for poets, Vipassana is for psychologists.
    But I do think ultimately these traditions have more in common than they have differences among them. I think for example, observing your own mind is to some extent something that winds up happening in almost any tradition.
    Even if it is a more explicit goal in Vipassana meditation and in general I have found in talking to people from different traditions. When I talk to really serious meditators, by which I mean people who have meditated a lot more than I have. I, I find that they’re talking the, the same language. When they’re talking about the most profound experiences they’ve had they tend to be grounded in, in Buddhist doctrine related to the Buddhist teaching. So I think maybe more useful than covering all the varieties of meditation associated with Buddhist traditions Is to look at two basic kinds of meditation. Both of which are often found within a single tradition and these are the two types that are pointed to by those final factors in the eightfold path that we looked at in the previous segment that is right mindfulness In right concentration. Those are two kinds of mediation. Now concentration meditation involves focusing on something very intently. It could be a mantra, could be your breath, your breathing. Could be a visual image and you, you focus on it very single-mindedly. Get absorbed in it. And this kind of meditation is said to bring great serenity, even bliss. And in fact, I can attest to the bliss. one, one thing that happened during my first meditation retreat was like day four or day five I was focused on my breath.

    Anyways, terminology shifts, but many types of meditation can fall into two very broad categories – mindfulness (where you are observing whatever is there) and concentration (where you kind of “fight” more against mind wandering to focus on something specific). This said, this dichotomy is more about convenience when speaking about types of meditation more than anything else. Mindfulness requires concentration and concentration requires mindfulness. Both are involved to some degree or other in pretty much any kind of meditation. This dichotomy, in actuality, is a kind of a false dichotomy. There’s no clear line between different types or an argument that, for example, there’s a mindfulness completely devoid of concentration. It’s more of discussion tool for techniques that place more emphasis on one part of meditation than the other.

    I hope that makes senses and helps somewhat.

  • #41781


    Thank you Jennifer. You hit the problem on the head when you said there is a lot of shifting terminology. Not only are the terms used to describe aspects of the meditative practice but they have become associated with different Meditation Movements as well. There have been disagreements about how these are related to each other from even the earliest days.The amount of conflicting information is overwhelming.

  • #41790
    Michael Finley
    Michael Finley

    I’ve always liked the story about the Zen master who encountered a hermit at a ferry crossing. The hermit was concerned that he probably wasn’t pronouncing certain terms correctly, or meditating in the proper fashion. The master, politely but somewhat condescendingly, corrected the hermit’s errors. But as the ferry pulled away, the hermit remembered another question — and pursued the master, walking on the water to catch up with the ferry. The moral, of course, is that the terminology and rules about “proper” practice aren’t really necessary to achieve results.

  • #41804


    Funnily enough, I was going to ask a similar question about what the difference is between concentration and insight meditation. After meditating for 20 years I’m often still not sure which one I’m doing!

    your comment makes sense to me, Jennifer. These discussions among secular buddhists really help me clarify what I’m doing as I try to apply techniques which have been formally classified and categorised by religious institutions over millenia.

  • #41805


    I think I finally have the answer to the point I was trying to get at by asking this question. Any time one reads the suttas these two terms are always used in close proximity to each other and though they are different things the two seem to work seamlessly together. (for example in MN118 Anapanasati Sutta or Mindfulness of Breathing) In very simple terms the mindfulness calms one’s mind to allow it to open to insight.
    The problem with the terms is that when all of this came to the West it didn’t come as one neat package. It was brought by different groups that for a long time had come to develop their own practices that focused on just one or the other. In some cases these groups claimed that they had the “TRUTH”. So, now we have entire movements called Mindfulness or Insight and Others and their use of the terms has kind of morphed away from the original use of the Pali terms found in the suttas. I even found explanations of the internet that said the two terms were essentially the same thing and they are not.
    One can practice mindfulness but insight is a state of realization. But the more insight one has the deeper the insight might go.They actually seem to inform one another.
    I really appreciate the comments that have been made to help me get a better grasp on this topic. I have no doubt that this is much bigger that what I just said.

    Any comments?

  • #42494

    steve mareno

    There are a number of things that I don’t agree with on Robert Wright’s ideas. It sounds like he doesn’t understand Zen very well. The whole passage that Jennifer posted reeks of a sort of superiority. He obviously thinks that his chosen form of meditation is best, and his statement that koans are cryptic or paradoxical sayings or questions is far off the mark as well.

    There also seems to also be a general misunderstanding of what mindfulness is and is not. Mindfulness is a secular movement in the US (could be in other countries too, I don’t know) that is currently being used in the medical professions, either in physical or mental disciplines, to help someone become calmer and more in the here and now. Nothing at all wrong w/ that, but it is not Buddhist meditation. It is totally divorced from the eightfold path and all other basic Buddhist teachings.

    Awareness meditation is practiced to wake up. Becoming enlightened is a phrase that is full of traps, but most Buddhists understand what waking up is. We wake up from our daily ego run delusions and illusions and have a flash/insight into actual reality that is not filtered through “us”. To quote an old Buddhist teacher, there is no such thing as enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity. Not to say one form of meditation is better or worse than the other because I don’t know, but it seems to me that if someone “wakes up” then there is no need for insight as that awakening IS insight into reality. So whatever works is good.

    There’s an awful lot of reliance on sutras on this forum, something that strikes me as peculiar, especially on a forum that calls itself secular. Those writings are very suspect. They were written down from memory many, many years after allegedly hearing someone called the Buddha speak, and then translated one, two, three times or more into English. Now that is not really valid. No one knows what was really said, as many of the words and terms are literally untranslatable into a Western language, even if you accept that these monks remembered long passages verbatim, something that sounds totally impossible. Religions rely on written words to herd their followers into one way of looking at things, one way of thinking, and one way of acting. I don’t know why anyone here would want any part of religious doctrines.

    When I have practiced mindfulness, which is simply awareness meditation whilst out and about in the world (I follow my breath, but you could count your breath or do it various other ways), I found that the things and people that usually annoyed me didn’t anymore. “Me” was not operating, so “me” was not there to be annoyed. I also found that cause and effect were instantaneous, so time as we know it (which is really an illusion. In reality everything is happening at once, one moment after another) was not as I knew it. It was quite an experience and I should do it more often, but it requires a lot of attention and discipline.

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