By now, in meditation, you may be seeing that focusing on the breath increases concentration, and noticing whatever arises to interrupt your concentration increases your mindfulness. In other words, meditation is a win-win situation. Either you are practicing and experiencing concentration or you are increasing mindfulness. There is no bad meditation!
We are continuing on that path, as well as noticing impermanence, as we explore what Buddha called the Five Aggregates:
- Perception & Memory
- Mental Formations
Explorations of these aggregates are profound, so we are going to spend a couple of weeks on them. I found that while you can explore each of these individually, there is logical overlap. So, this week we are going to take the first two, feeling and body. My previous investigations were startling, fascinating, and absolutely eye-opening. I’m looking forward to exploring these again with you.
What Buddha Said
“And what is feeling? These six are classes of feeling: feeling born from eye-contact, feeling born from ear-contact, feeling born from nose-contact, feeling born from tongue-contact, feeling born from body-contact, feeling born from intellect-contact. This is called feeling.”
“Now, a feeling of pleasure is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. A feeling of pain is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. A feeling of neither pleasure nor pain is inconstant, fabricated, dependent on conditions, subject to passing away, dissolution, fading, and cessation. Having sensed a feeling of pleasure as ‘my self,’ then with the cessation of one’s very own feeling of pleasure, ‘my self’ has perished. Having sensed a feeling of pain as ‘my self,’ then with the cessation of one’s very own feeling of pain, ‘my self’ has perished. Having sensed a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain as ‘my self,’ then with the cessation of one’s very own feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, ‘my self’ has perished.”
Question What Buddha Said
Feelings arise through our senses as we come in contact with the world. We’ll concentrate this week on the body and feelings. In the paragraphs above, the Buddha is referring to feeling tone. When we experience a feeling, or sensation, its from something in the world coming in contact with one of our senses and is accompanied by a quality of pleasure, displeasure, or neutrality, neither pleasure or pain. In our busy, everyday lives, we tend to react to the feeling tone and take that to be some kind of truth. We either cling to pleasure by wanting it to last longer, or we try to push it away, essentially clinging to it through aversion. Neutral reactions are often ignored, or give rise to boredom, and a search for pleasure.
Let’s explore the nature of feeling tone by concentrating in meditation on the body. Questions to consider while doing so are: Is this sensation or feeling permanent? If the sensation is pleasant, can you detect clinging, a wish for the pleasant feeling to continue? If the feeling is displeasure, is there a feeling of wanting it to go away, an aversion? Can you notice feeling that are without pleasure or pain? What is your reaction? Is there a feeling of “self” of me or mine in your reactions, in the feeling tones of the body? What is the feeling tone of the senses, such as taste, smell, or sound?
- Once seated and comfortable, close your eyes and bring your attention to your breathing. Breathe in and out naturally. Follow the breath in and out. Allow your attention to notice the body as you breath in and out.
- This week instead of keeping your concentration on your breath, move your attention to the top of your head, slowing moving it down your body, noticing as you go what the feeling tone for each body part is. Don’t forget the feeling tone in your mouth, nose, throat, etc!
- Is the feeling tone at the top of your head pleasant, unpleasant, neutral? Is there a feeling of me or mine? Is your head YOU?
- Pay special attention to feeling tones of pleasure or pain, displeasure. Let your concentration to settle there? Do you find you want to move your attention away from displeasure or pain? If you keep your attention on that area, what changes occur? What is the feeling of me, or my displeasure? Is this permanent?
- Continue moving your attention up and down the body, noticing how feeling tone may change over time, asking is this body part ME? Is this feeling tone impermanent?
- What happens to any feelings of clinging or aversion when you simply keep your attention on it? Does pleasure turn to one of neutrality? Or do you continue to linger on the pleasure?
- Are feeling tones you? Does emotion arise with sharp pain, discomfort, or physical pleasure?
- Notice feelings of me, or mine concerning the body. What body parts are permanent? What parts of your body define who you are? Can any of them be said to be YOU? If you lost an arm or a leg would you still be you?
- If sounds arise, notice if they are pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral? If sounds persists, does the feeling tone change?
- How has your body feeling tone changed from the beginning of the meditation to the end?
- Whenever your attention veers off the above, simply notice what distracted you and return to your body examination, the feeling tones that you can notice.
- When you come across neutral feeling tones, how long can you keep your attention there? What do you notice about neutrality?
- Moving meditation can be done through walking, yoga, tai chi, or simply moving your body in a designated, safe area.
- Bring your awareness to the top of your head and bring it slowly down to your neck, shoulders, arms, torso, hips, legs, and feet. Notice any sensations, lack of sensations, etc. Take your time doing this.
- Begin your movements in your preferred form. Pay attention to how each muscle feels as you move. Notice your breath, in and out. Keep your movements small and deliberate, your attention on your body, as you move your arms or legs. Notice how muscles contract and release. Is there tension in your body anywhere? Can you relax the muscles you are not using?
- Now, keeping your attention on your body, notice the feeling tone in your feet. Is there pleasure, discomfort, or do they feel neutral?
- What are the feeling tones in your mouth, throat, sounds you may hear?
- Move your attention up your legs, to your torso, checking every part’s feeling tone. Are these body parts yours? Is there a feeling of mine, or me?
- Do you have complete control over every body part, every movement? Does your body define who you are?
- How does the feeling tone of each body change as you go through your movements? Do you feel aversion to discomfort? Is there frustration?
- When movements are sure and fluid, do you have a feeling of, I’m doing this well? Is there a feeling of me and of success?
- If your movements are unsure or unbalanced, is there a feeling of I’m not doing this right? Feelings of me?
- Which of your body parts are permanent and unchanging? Is your body who you you are? If it changes, will you still be you?
- Do feeling of aversion or clinging arise with certain movements or body positions?
- If your mind wanders off of feeling tones, simply note what took your observations away, then return to a body part with strong feeling tone, and repeat the above.
- If sounds or aroma’s arise, what is the feeling tone of those?
Bringing Meditation into Daily Living
Throughout the day be mindful of when you feel pleasure, displeasure, or neutrality in the body. Stop every now and then, and do a body scan, noticing the feeling tone in various body parts. Are there also feelings of me or mine? Are any of these feeling tones permanent? Do you cling to feelings of pleasure? Do they ever become neutral? Do you tend to ignore feelings of neutrality? How mindful are you of your body as you go through your day? Can you put your full concentration on your body as you walk from one place to another, noticing your movements? When you pay attention to your body, do you notice feeling tones? Do you have emotional reactions to new aches and pains?
What are the feelings tones for what you see? What are the feeling tones for what you taste, what you smell? How do feeling tones change simply by paying attention to them?
Notice throughout the day when feelings of aversion or the desire to cling to pleasure arise. What happens when you feel aversion? What happens when you cling to pleasure? Can you see the impermanence of both of these? If you can, what do you notice?
Are any feeling tones that come from sight, smell, touch, the body itself permanent? Which of these do you tend to want to make last, to feel aversion to? How does seeing them for what they are change your perceptions of them?
Meditate daily and then explore your daily experience with the questions above. I’ll be interested in reading about your explorations, and what you discover!
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