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Bare Attention and Its Uses

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Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
12/23/12 10:15 AM
Ian And:

P R E F A C E


Several years ago I posted the following in another forum both to inspire and to help other practitioners to begin understanding the original teachings as they were first taught as I had come to understand them from my own study and practice. The practice of paying "bare attention" to phenomena in the manner herein prescribed in relation to the practice of satipatthana was a practice that I personally found to be of great benefit. I wondered at the time why it wasn't more often taught. You be the judge.


This extract should provide a better idea of the comprehensiveness and thoroughness with which the method of satipatthana practice attempts to engage the diligent practitioner. Though its practice is far reaching and may seem at first glance to be a vastly more complicated practice as its main highlights here seem to indicate, if broken down into the practice and the attainment of the abilities to be able to practice it properly, once one obtains those abilities its practice will be considerably easier.

One of those abilities is the ability to observe phenomena with what is known as "bare attention." I first came upon this concept and term in a book by Nyanaponika Thera, The Heart of Buddhist Meditation. In this book, Nyanaponika breaks down the method he was taught by Mahasi Sayadaw in the mid-1950s after attending the Sixth Buddhist Council held back then. The present extract ends with a mention of "bare attention," and I intend to follow-up this post with another taking a more in-depth look at bare attention. The purpose of bare attention is to assist the mind in ending mental proliferation and fabrication and thus to allow the practitioner to remain undistracted and unperturbed on the object of observation without extraneous data interfering in the process of recognizing "things as they are". Developing this ability is crucial to being able to use the instruction in satipatthana (and parenthetically sampajanna or comprehensive recognition) to its fullest extent in order to apply the "direct path to realization" in one's practice.

Ian And:
The following excerpts are taken from Nyanaponika Thera's book The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, first published in the late 1950s. These cover his ideas on "bare attention" and its general application in practice. The present post covers the first half of these excerpts. A succeeding post will cover the second half of the excerpts. I have lighly edited these extracts for better transition between paragraphs at natural breaking points in the text in order to gather them together into one piece. For the most part, these are Nyanaponika's own words and ideas.


Bare Attention

Between the two factors of Mindfulness and Clear Comprehension, it is Mindfulness, in its specific aspect of Bare Attention, that provides the key to the distinctive method of Satipatthana, and accompanies the systematic practice of it, from the very beginning to the achievement of its highest goal. So, just what is Bare Attention and how does it work in conjunction with this method of Satipatthana?

Bare Attention is the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us, at the successive moments of perception. It is called "bare" because it attends to just the bare facts of a perception as presented either through the five physical senses or through the mind which, in Buddhist thought, constitutes the sixth sense. When attending to that sixfold sense impression, attention or mindfulness is kept to a bare registering of facts observed, without reacting to them by deed, speech, or by mental comment which may be one of self-reference (like, dislike, etc.), judgement or reflection. If during the time, short or long, given to the practice of Bare Attention, any such comments arise in one's mind, they themselves are made objects of Bare Attention, and are neither repudiated nor pursued, but are dismissed, after a brief mental note has been made of them.

Every effort of worth requires thoroughness if it is to achieve its purpose. This is particularly so if the work is as lofty and arduous as that mapped out by the Buddha in the Noble Eightfold Path, which leads to the extinction of suffering. Among the eight factors of that Path, it is Right Mindfulness that represents the indispensable element of thoroughness. It is obvious that the practice of Right Mindfulness itself will have to employ thoroughness of procedure to the highest extent. The absence or neglect of it would be just the opposite of a quality deserving the name of Mindfulness, and would deprive the method of its chances for success. Just as detrimental consequences must result from an unstable and carelessly laid foundation, so the blessings of a solid and reliable one will extend far into the future.

Therefore, Right Mindfulness starts at the beginning. In employing the method of Bare Attention, it goes back to the seed state of things. Applied to the activity of mind this means observation reverts to the very first phase of the process of perception when mind is in a purely receptive state, and when attention is restricted to a bare noticing of the object. That phase is of very short and hardly perceptible duration, and it furnishes a superficial, incomplete, and often faulty picture of the object. It is the task of the next perceptual phase to correct and to supplement that first impression, but this is not always done. Often the first impression is taken for granted, and even new distortions, characteristic of the more complex mental functions of the second state, are added.

Here starts the work of Bare Attention, being a deliberate cultivation and strengthening of that first receptive state of mind, giving it a longer chance to fulfill its important task in the process of cognition. Bare Attention proves the thoroughness of its procedure by cleansing and preparing the ground carefully for all subsequent mental processes. By that cleansing function, it serves the high purpose of the entire method set forth in the Discourse: "for the purification of beings. . .", which in the Commentary is explained as the purification, or cleansing, of mind.

Obtaining the Bare Object

Bare attention consists in a bare and exact registering of the object. This is not as easy a task as it may appear, since it is not what we normally do, except when engaged in disinterested investigation. Normally we are not concerned with a disinterested knowledge of "things as they truly are", but with handling and judging them from the viewpoint of our self-interest, which may be wide or narrow, noble or low. We tack labels to the things which form our physical and mental universe, and these labels mostly show clearly the impress of our self-interest and our limited vision. It is such an assemblage of labels in which we generally live and which determines our actions and reactions.

Hence the attitude of Bare Attention — bare of labels — will open us to a new world. We will learn that whereas we first believed ourselves to be dealing with a single object presented by a single act of perception, there is in fact a whole series of different physical and mental processes presented by corresponding acts of perception following each other in quick succession. We will also notice how rarely we are aware of a bare or pure object without the addition of subjective judgements, which spoil the pureness of the object. We may see something as beautiful or ugly, pleasant or unpleasant, useful, useless, or harmful. If it concerns a living being, there will also enter into it the preconceived notion that: "This is a personality, an ego, just like myself," which connotes substance and hence individuality to the person. We won't see them as a consciousness living inside a body like we are, but rather as a substantial being set before our path which we must somehow deal with.

In that condition of mind (i.e. closely intertwined with subjective additions) the perception will sink into the store house of memory. When recalled, by associative thinking, memory will exert its distorting influence on not only present perceptions but also those which occur in regard to similar objects in the future, as well as on the judgements, decisions, moods, etc., connected with them. The task of Bare Attention then becomes to eliminate all those additions from the object proper which is in the field of perception. These additions may be considered later singly if wanted, but the initial object of perception has to be kept free from them. This will demand persistent practice during which the attention, gradually growing in its keenness, will filter out first the grosser and then the ever subtler admixtures until only the bare object remains. In the beginning this process may take an act of will in order to break our mental habits of making choices. But as we become more adept, having trained ourself to mentally slow down and stop ourself from making snap judgements etc., our mental habit changes to one of Bare Attention from one of instant reaction, and the effort involved on our part will become less and less as this new habit is reinforced through our subsequent behavior.

The Threefold Value of Bare Attention

Bare Attention has the same threefold value as attributed earlier to Right Mindfulness, that is, it will prove a great and efficient helper in knowing, shaping and liberating the mind.

The Value of Bare Attention for Knowing the Mind.

Mind is the very element in and through which we live, yet it is what is most elusive and mysterious. Bare Attention, by first attending to the basic facts of the mental processes, is capable of shedding light on mind's mysterious darkness, and of obtaining a firm hold on its elusive flow. The systematic practice of Mindfulness, starting with Bare Attention, will furnish all that knowledge about the mind which is essential for practical purposes, i.e. for the mastery, the development, and the final liberation of mind. But even beyond this, when once clear awareness and comprehension have been firmly established in a limited but vital sector of the mind's expanse, the light will gradually and naturally spread, and will reach even distant and obscure corners of the mind's realm which hitherto had been inaccessible. This will be due mainly to the fact that the instrument of that search for knowledge will have undergone a radical change: the searching mind itself will have gained in lucidity and penetrative strength.

"Only things well examined by Mindfulness can be understood by Wisdom, but not confused ones," said one commentator to the Sutras. A specimen of research that is to be examined with the help of a microscope has first to be carefully prepared, cleaned, freed from extraneous matter, and firmly kept under the lens. In a similar way, the "bare object" to be examined by wisdom is prepared by Bare Attention. It cleans the object of investigation from the impurities of prejudice and passion; it frees it from alien admixtures and from points of view not pertaining to it; it holds it firmly before the eye of Wisdom by slowing down the transition from the receptive to the active phase of the perceptual or cognitive process, thus giving a vastly improved chance for close and dispassionate investigation.

This preliminary work of Bare Attention is of importance not only for the analytical aspect, i.e. the dissecting and discriminating function of mind by which the elements of the object's make-up are revealed. It is also of great assistance to the equally important synthesis aspect — for finding out the object's connections with and relations to other things, its interaction with them, its conditioned and conditioning nature. Many of these will escape notice if there is not a sufficiently long period of Bare Attention. As a maxim of great importance and of varied application, also to practical matters, it should be kept in mind that the relations between things can be reliably ascertained only if first the single members of that relationship have been carefully examined in their various aspects which are pointers to diverse connections. Insufficient analytic preparation is a frequent source of error in the synthetic part of philosophical systems and scientific theories. It is just this preparation that is carefully attended to and remedied by the method of Bare Attention.

Bare Attention first allows things to speak for themselves, without interruption by final verdicts pronounced too hastily. Bare Attention gives them a chance to finish their speaking, and one will thus get to learn that they have much to say about themselves, which formerly was mostly ignored by rashness or was drown in the inner and outer noise in which ordinary man normally lives. Because Bare Attention sees things without the narrowing and leveling effect of habitual judgements, it sees them ever anew, as if for the first time; therefore it will happen with progressive frequency that things will have something new and worth while to reveal. Patient pausing in such an attitude of Bare Attention will open wide horizons to one's understanding obtaining, in a seemingly effortless way, results which were denied to the strained efforts of an impatient intellect. Owing to a rash or habitual limiting, labeling, misjudging, and mishandling of things, important sources of knowledge often remain closed. This attitude of Bare Attention will, by persistent practice, prove to be a rich source of knowledge and inspiration.

When practicing Bare Attention, the first powerful impact on the observer's mind will probably be the direct confrontation with the ever-present fact of Change. In terms of the Dharma, it is the first of the three Characteristics of Existence: Impermanence (anicca). The incessant sequence of individual births and deaths of the events observed by Bare Attention will become an experience of growing force and will have decisive consequences on the meditative progress. From that same experience of momentary change, the direct awareness of the other two Characteristics of Life will emerge in due course, i.e. of suffering (dissatisfaction; dukkha) and Impersonality (Not-Self; anatta).

Though the fact of Change is commonly admitted, at least to a certain extent, people in ordinary life will generally become conscious of it only when it challenges them fairly vehemently, in either a pleasant or, mostly, unpleasant way. The practice of Bare Attention, however, will bring it forcibly home that Change is always with us; that even in a minute fraction of time the frequency of occurring changes is beyond our ability to fully comprehend it. Probably for the first time it will strike us — not only intellectually but touching our whole being — in what kind of world we are actually living. Coming face to face with Change, as experienced in our own body and mind, we have now started "to see things as they really are." And this refers particularly to the "things of the mind." Mind cannot be understood without knowing it as a flux and remaining aware of that fact in all investigations devoted to the knowledge of mind. To show the fact as well as the nature of Change in mental processes is a fundamental contribution of the practice of Bare Attention to mind-knowledge. The fact of Change will contribute to it in a negative way, by excluding any static view of the mind, assuming permanent entities, fixed qualities, etc. The insight into the nature of Change will be a contribution in a positive way, by supplying a wealth of detailed information on the dynamic nature of the mental processes.

In the light of Bare Attention focused on sense perception, the distinctive character of material and mental processes, their inter-relation and alternating occurrence as well as the basic objectifying function of mind will gain in clarity.

After the practice of Bare Attention has resulted in a certain width and depth of experience in its dealings with mental events, it will become an immediate certainty to the meditator that "mind is nothing beyond its cognizing function." Nowhere, behind or within that function, can any individual agent or abiding entity be detected. By way of one's own direct experience, one will thus have arrived at the great truth of No-Soul or Impersonality (anatta), showing that all existence is void of an abiding personality (self, soul, or over-self) or any abiding substance of any description. Bare Attention will, in addition, supply surprising as well as helpful information about the workings of one's own mind: the mechanism of one's emotions and passions, the reliability of one's reasoning power, one's true and pretended motives, and many other aspects of mental life. Clear light will fall on one's weak and strong points as well, and of some of them one will become aware for the first time.

Thus, this method of Bare Attention, so helpful to mind-knowledge and, through it, to world-knowledge, is analogous with the procedure and attitude of the true scientist and scholar: clear definition of subject-matter and terms; unprejudiced receptivity for the instruction that comes out of the things themselves; exclusion, or at least reduction, of the subjective factor in judgement; deferring of judgement until a careful examination of facts has been made. Thus the Buddha has in some quarters been favorably compared with a super-scientist or spiritual super-scientist, and we begin, at least in a small way, to understand the immense complexity of his vast intellect and why he is so revered by those who have come to know and understand his Dharma.

Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
12/23/12 10:30 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:
These are the second half of the extracts taken from Nyanaponika's book The Heart of Buddhist Meditation. These extracts contain suggestions about how bare attention can be of practical benefit in our daily lives, assisting us in alleviating unnecessary suffering and anguish.



The Value of Bare Attention for Shaping the Mind

The greater part of man-made suffering in the world comes not so much from deliberate wickedness as from ignorance, heedlessness, thoughtlessness, rashness, and lack of self-control. Very often a single moment of mindfulness or wise reflection would have prevented a far-reaching sequence of misery or guilt. By pausing before an action, in a habitual attitude of Bare Attention, one will be able to seize that decisive but brief moment when mind has not yet settled upon a definite course of action or a definite attitude, but is still open to receive skillful directions. The next moment may change the situation fully, giving final supremacy to tainted impulses and misjudgments from within, or harmful influences from without. Bare Attention slows down, or even stops, the transition from thought to action, allowing more time for coming to a mature decision. Such slowing down is of vital importance as long as unprofitable, harmful or evil words and deeds possess an all too strong spontaneity of occurrence, i.e. as long as they appear as immediate reactions to events or thoughts, without giving to the inner brakes of wisdom, self-control and common sense a chance to operate. Acquiring the habit of slowing down will prove an effective weapon against rashness in words and deeds. By learning, through Bare Attention, to pause, to slow down and to stop, the plasticity and receptivity of the mind will grow considerably, because reactions of an undesirable nature will no longer occur automatically, with the same frequency as before. When the supremacy of these habitual reactions, which are so often left unopposed and unquestioned, is regularly challenged, they will gradually lose their power.

Bare Attention will also allow us time for the reflection whether, in a given situation, activity by deed, word, or mental application is necessary or advisable at all. There is often too great an inclination for unnecessary interference, and this becomes another avoidable cause of much suffering and superfluous entanglement. When acquainted with the peace of mind bestowed by the attitude of Bare Attention, one will be less tempted to rush into action or to interfere in other people's affairs. If, in that way, complications and conflicts of all kinds are lessened, the endeavor to shape the mind will meet with less resistance.

In regard to these two points mentioned last (rashness and interference), the practical advice is in brief: to look well before leaping, to give the mind a chance to take a longer and longer view of things, to curb the urge for "action at any cost."

Bare Attention is concerned only with the present. It teaches what so many have forgotten: to live with full awareness in the Here and Now. It teaches us to face the present without trying to escape into thoughts about the past or the future. Past and future are, for average consciousness, not objects of observation, but of reflection. And, in ordinary life, the past and the future are taken but rarely as objects of truly wise reflection, but are mostly just objects of day-dreaming and vain imaginings which are the main foes of Right Mindfulness, Right Understanding, and Right Action. Bare Attention, keeping faithful to its post of observation, watches calmly and without attachment the unceasing march of time: it waits quietly for the things of the future to appear before its eyes, thus to turn into present objects and to vanish again into the past. How much energy has been wasted by useless thoughts of the past: by longing idly for bygone days, by vain regrets and repentance, and by the senseless and garrulous repetition, in word or thought, of all the banalities of the past. Of equal futility is much of the thought given to the future: vain hopes, fantastic plans and empty dreams, ungrounded fears and useless worries. All this is again a cause of avoidable sorrow and disappointment which can be eliminated by Bare Attention.

Right Mindfulness cuts man loose from the fetters of the past which he foolishly tries even to re-enforce by looking back to it too frequently, with eyes of longing, resentment, or regret. Right Mindfulness stops man from chaining himself even now, through the imaginations of his fears and hopes, to anticipated events of the future. Thus Right Mindfulness restores to man a freedom that is to be found in the present.

Thoughts of the past and the future are the main material of day-dreaming which by its tough and sticky substance of endlessly repetitive character crowds the narrow space of present consciousness, giving no chance for its shaping, making it still more shapeless and slack. These futile day-dreams are the chief obstacle to concentration. A sure way to exclude them is to turn the mind resolutely to the bare observation of any object close at hand, whenever there is no necessity or impulse for any particular purposive thought or action, and when, consequently, a mental vacuum is threatening that, otherwise, is quickly invaded by day-dreams. If they have entered already, one need only make these day-dreams themselves objects of close observation in order to deprive them of their mind-diluting power, and finally disperse them. This is an example of the effective method of transforming disturbances of meditation into objects of meditation of which more will be spoken about later.

Bare Attention brings order into the untidy corners of the mind. It shows up the numerous vague and fragmentary perceptions, unfinished lines of thought, confused ideas, stifled emotions, etc., which are daily passing through the mind. Taken singly, these vain consumers of mental activity are weak and powerless, but by their accumulation they will gradually impair the efficiency of mental functions. Since these thought-fragments are mostly allowed to sink into the subconsciousness without being properly attended to, they will naturally affect the basic structure of character, dispositions, and tendencies. They will gradually reduce the range and lucidity of consciousness in general, as well as its plasticity, i.e. its capacity of being shaped, transformed, and developed.

The unflattering self-knowledge gathered through introspective Bare Attention about the squalid and disreputable quarters of our own mind will rouse an inner resistance to a state of affairs whereby clarity and order are turned into untidiness, and the precious metal of the mind into dross. By the pressure of that repugnance the earnest application to the practice of the Way of Mindfulness will increase, and the excessive squandering of mental energy will gradually come under control. It is the automatic tidying function of Bare Attention that serves here for the shaping of mind.

Bare Attention, directed toward our own mind, will supply that candid information about it which is indispensable for success in its shaping. By turning full attention to our thoughts as they arise, we shall get a better knowledge of our weak and our strong points, i.e. of our deficiencies and our capacities. Self-deception about the former and ignorance of the latter make self-education impossible.

By the skill attained through Bare Attention to call bad or harmful things at once by their names, one will take the first step toward their elimination. If one is clearly aware, e.g. in the Contemplation of the State of Mind: "There is a lustful thought," or, in the Contemplation of Mental Contents: "In me is now the hindrance of agitation", this simple habit of making such express statements will produce an inner resistance to those qualities which will make itself felt increasingly. This dispassionate and brief form of mere "registering" will often prove more effective than a mustering of will, emotion, or reason, which frequently only provokes antagonistic forces of the mind to stiffer resistance.

Our positive qualities, too, will of course be focused more clearly, and those which are either weak or not duly noticed will get their chance, and develop to full bloom and fruition. Untapped resources of energy and knowledge will come into the open, and capacities will be revealed which were hitherto unknown to oneself. All this will strengthen the self-confidence which is so important for inner progress. In these and other ways the simple and non-coercive method of Bare Attention proves a most efficacious helper in shaping the mind.

The Value of Bare Attention for Liberating the Mind

Let us consider for a moment the advantages of an experiment in Bare Attention in which the experimenter tries to keep as well as he can to an attitude of Bare Attention toward people, the inanimate environment, and the various happenings of the day. What might such an experiment yield? By doing so one might notice how much more harmoniously such days are passed as compared with those when he gave in to the slightest stimulus for interfering by deed, word, emotion, or thought. As if protected by an invisible armor against the banalities and urgent entreaties of the outer world, one might walk through such days serenely and content, with an exhilarating feeling of ease and freedom. It is as though, from the unpleasant closeness of a hustling and noisy crowd, one has escaped to the silence and seclusion of a hilltop and, with a sigh of relief, is looking down on the noise and bustle below. It is the peace and happiness of detachment which will thus be experienced. By stepping back from things and men, one's attitude toward them may even become friendlier, because those tensions will be lacking which so often arise from interfering, desire, aversion, or other forms of self-reference. Life may become a good deal easier, and one's inner and outer world more spacious. In addition, we may notice that the world goes on quite well without our earlier amount of interference, and that we ourselves are all the better for such a restraint. How many entanglements will not be avoided, and how many problems will not solve themselves without our contribution. Herein Bare Attention shows visibly the benefit of abstaining from karmic action, be it good or evil; that is, from a world-building or sorrow-creating activity. Bare Attention schools us in the art of letting go, weans us from busy-ness and from habitual interfering.

The inner distance from things, men, and from ourselves, as obtained temporarily and partially by Bare Attention, shows us, by our own experience, the possibility of finally winning perfect detachment and the happiness resulting from it. It bestows upon us the confidence that such temporary stepping aside may well become one day a complete stepping out of this world of suffering. It gives a kind of foretaste, or at least an idea, of the highest liberty, the "holiness during a lifetime" that has been alluded to by the words: "In the world, but not of the world."

For achieving that highest, and final, liberation of mind, Bare Attention forges the principal tool — that highest of penetration of truth which, in the Dhamma, is called Insight (vipassana). This, and only this, is the ultimate purpose of the method described here, and it is the highest form of its mind-liberating function.

Insight is the direct and penetrative realization of the Three Characteristics of Existence, i.e. Impermanence, Suffering, and Impersonality. It is not a mere intellectual appreciation or conceptual knowledge of these truths, but an indisputable and unshakable personal experience of them, obtained and matured through repeated meditative confrontation with the facts underlying those truths. It is the intrinsic nature of Insight that produces a growing detachment and an increasing freedom from craving, culminating in the final deliverance of the mind from all that causes its enslavement to the world of suffering.

That direct confrontation with actuality, which is to mature into Insight, is obtained by the practice of Bare Attention, and of Satipatthana in general. Even its casual application in routine life will show its liberating influence on mind, and, if persistently applied, it will create a mental background helpful to the strict and systematic practice.

It is the nature of Insight to be free from Desire, Aversion, and Delusion, and to see clearly all things of the inner and outer world as "bare phenomena" (suddha-dhamma), i.e. as impersonal processes. Just that is characteristic also of the attitude of Bare Attention, and therefore the practice of it will make for a gradual acclimatization to the high altitudes of perfect Insight and final Deliverance.

This high goal of perfect detachment and insight may still be very distant to the beginner on the Path, but owing to his own kindred experiences during the practice of Bare Attention it will not be completely foreign to him. To such a disciple the goal will have, even now, a certain intimate familiarity and thereby a positive power of attraction which it could not possess if it had remained to him a mere abstract notion without anything corresponding to it in his own inner experience. To him who has entered the Way of Mindfulness, the goal may appear like the contours of a high mountain range at the distant horizon; and these outlines will gradually assume a friendly familiarity for the wanderer who gazes at them while plodding his toilsome way that is still so far from these exalted summits. Though the chief attention of the person must needs be given to the often dull piece of road under his feet, to the various obstacles and confusing turns of his path, it will be of no small importance that, from time to time, his eyes turn to the summits of his goal as they appear on the horizon of his experience. They will keep before the eyes of his mind the true direction of his journey, helping him to retrace his steps when he has gone astray. They will give new vigor to his tired feet, new courage to his mind, and hope which often might fail him were the sight of the mountains always blocked, or if he had only heard or read about them. They will also remind him not to forget, with all the little joys on the way, the glory of those summits waiting for him on the horizon.

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
12/23/12 10:42 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Excellent post, Ian.

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
12/24/12 5:48 AM as a reply to Change A..
Thanks Ian.

I actually have this book but gave up reading it once I realised that it looked like he'd be talking a lot about Mahasi noting (which I don't do).

Even after reading all this though Im still unclear on what the technique actually is. Is it just "not reacting". How does this work in meditation and in daily life?

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
12/24/12 6:29 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
Is it just "not reacting".


The second paragraph of the extract, the one that begins "Bare Attention is the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens," is the one that defines the essence of it.

As for "not reacting," we have to take a closer look at the nature of that "not reacting."

If "not reacting" is what happens by itself, then it's bare attention.

If a sensory experience happens, then a reaction to it occurs, such as analyzing, or thinking the experience shouldn't be there, then it's not bare attention. But if a sensory experience happens, then a reaction to it, and if the reaction itself is held in full awareness, then it is bare attention.

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
12/24/12 10:14 AM as a reply to Derek Cameron.
Marvellous. Thanks Derek.

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
12/24/12 11:47 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
Even after reading all this though Im still unclear on what the technique actually is. Is it just "not reacting". How does this work in meditation and in daily life?

Hello Bagpuss,

You ask a very good question. One which no doubt has likely troubled other readers attempting to understand the process of dependent co-arising. What Nyanaponika is talking about is this very process of dependent co-arising as it takes place in real time in the mind of the observer.

It is this process that allows the mind to associate identity to an object which in turn can trigger a reaction in the observer who then identifies the object with a pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral event or identity that it has experienced in the past, thus eliciting a response of like, dislike, or neutrality toward the object, without seeing or realizing the object for what it is in its bare essence. In undergoing this process, the mind's prejudices and biases toward the object are brought to the fore (in the form of proliferative thought), which then becomes the triggering mechanism for the reactive response based upon the mind's assignment of a false identity (and likely a false reality) to the object in question.

A careful reading and reflection on the material will reveal the answer to your question. Perhaps you went past some words or ideas whose definitions you weren't sure of (weren't able to identify and corroborate through your own experience), and this caused confusion (and non-recognition) in the mind. It is a common enough happenstance to a reader who goes past a word they don't have a definition for, causing comprehension to shut down at that point. Or perhaps you read too quickly, thinking that you understood but did not, because you weren't attending to the essential meaning of the passage in an effort to corroborate it with your experience and thus trigger comprehension.

The purpose of bare attention is to assist the mind in ending mental proliferation and fabrication and thus to allow the practitioner to remain undistracted and unperturbed on the object of observation without extraneous data interfering in the process of recognizing "things as they are". Developing this ability is crucial to being able to use the instruction in satipatthana (and parenthetically sampajanna or comprehensive recognition) to its fullest extent in order to apply the "direct path to realization" in one's practice.

Bare Attention is the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us, at the successive moments of perception. It is called "bare" because it attends to just the bare facts of a perception as presented either through the five physical senses or through the mind....When attending to that sixfold sense impression, attention or mindfulness is kept to a bare registering of facts observed, without reacting to them by deed, speech, or by mental comment which may be one of self-reference (like, dislike, etc.), judgement or reflection. If during the time, short or long, given to the practice of Bare Attention, any such comments arise in one's mind, they themselves are made objects of Bare Attention, and are neither repudiated nor pursued, but are dismissed, after a brief mental note has been made of them.


When you have a prejudice or bias about something, that prejudice colors your perception of the object it is applied to. For example, lets say that you had a particularly bad run-in with a law enforcement officer. He treated you badly, did not listen to your explanation or whatever, and seemed to lord it over you. Now the mind has formed an impression about law enforcement officers; this is how they are: rude, arrogant, tyrannical.

The next time you run into another law enforcement officer, you notice that your palms become sweaty and you become anxious, remembering back to your previous experience with a law enforcement officer. The mind super-imposes the previous experience onto the present event. That previous experience prejudices your response to the present event. Your reactive mind instinctively harkens back to the first incident with an officer, and you begin proliferating thoughts, constructing a preconceived perception about this event. In other words, the mind begins to jump to conclusions without any evidence to back up the conclusion it is jumping to.

What "bare attention" aims to help you overcome is this process of "jumping to conclusions." The process of "jumping to conclusions" based upon an inner bias toward an object is a graphic demonstration of dependent co-arising, taking place in REAL TIME within the mind!

What the practice of "bare attention" aims to have you accomplish is to recognize this process taking place in the mind so that you can preempt it in order to allow the present event to form and take place. It may very well be that this new officer will not act in the same way that the previous officer acted. In other words, one needs to take each incident as a totally new experience, and not allow prejudice to color one's perceptions or reactions.

In the context of the present example, which is based upon a practical experience, bare attention allows the mind to take a step back before jumping to any conclusions and taking any actions which might prejudice the outcome of an event.

Bare attention consists in a bare and exact registering of the object. This is not as easy a task as it may appear, since it is not what we normally do, except when engaged in disinterested investigation. Normally we are not concerned with a disinterested knowledge of "things as they truly are", but with handling and judging them from the viewpoint of our self-interest, which may be wide or narrow, noble or low. We tack labels to the things which form our physical and mental universe, and these labels mostly show clearly the impress of our self-interest and our limited vision. It is such an assemblage of labels in which we generally live and which determines our actions and reactions.


Now, do the above and below quotations begin to make more sense to you?

Hence the attitude of Bare Attention — bare of labels will open us to a new world. We will learn that whereas we first believed ourselves to be dealing with a single object presented by a single act of perception, there is in fact a whole series of different physical and mental processes presented by corresponding acts of perception following each other in quick succession. We will also notice how rarely we are aware of a bare or pure object without the addition of subjective judgements, which spoil the pureness of the object. We may see something as beautiful or ugly, pleasant or unpleasant, useful, useless, or harmful. If it concerns a living being, there will also enter into it the preconceived notion that: "This is a personality, an ego, just like myself," which connotes substance and hence individuality to the person. We won't see them as a consciousness living inside a body like we are, but rather as a substantial being set before our path which we must somehow deal with.


Bare attention acts as a gate keeper of the mind, allowing in only that bare, undiluted information which will help us to form a true picture of what is! Of "things as they truly are." Without prejudgment or prejudice to get in the way to color our perception of whatever object we are observing.

When you can see these processes taking place in the mind as they are occurring (by assistance of the practice of mindfulness), you are able to practice "bare attention" in order to preempt and "walk back" the pre-conceived notions attempting to invade and color our thinking about an object of observation.

Go back and reread that first post again (s l o w l y) and see if you aren't able to make more sense of it.

Bagpuss The Gnome:
I actually have this book but gave up reading it once I realised that it looked like he'd be talking a lot about Mahasi noting (which I don't do).

I posit that you gave up your reading too soon. Keep an open mind, and read the whole thing again and use the parts that make sense to you.

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
12/25/12 3:13 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Thanks Ian,

Your entries are really helpful to me in setting up and guiding my practice.

I am new to noting and trying to make it a normal part of my day. So as far a I understand this, Bare Attention is like thoughtful noting where instead of just noting a sensation or phenomena, it is watched and in the watching, the phenomena itself is teased apart from the mind's biases in the form of reactions, emotions, biases, judgements etc and thus bare attention is applied and works to diminish the impact on the awareness of the mind's perception of reality in place of reality as it truly is? If this is the case, I can see how powerful this as a practice really would be.

Thanks

Rod

emoticon

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
12/25/12 10:02 AM as a reply to Rod C.
Rod C:
...Bare Attention is like thoughtful noting where instead of just noting a sensation or phenomena, it is watched and in the watching, the phenomena itself is teased apart from the mind's biases in the form of reactions, emotions, biases, judgements etc and thus bare attention is applied and works to diminish the impact on the awareness of the mind's perception of reality in place of reality as it truly is...

Yes, if you wish to think of it in this way.

Although I personally wouldn't view it in this way (though I know what you are saying) because bare attention has more to do with "equanimity toward formations" than it does with the practice of noting as people have come to be familiar with and as it is normally taught. Bare attention strives to provide the observer with just the bare facts about a phenomenon so that the mind can deal with "things as they actually are," rather than with a mental formation (in the form of a bias or prejudice) created in the mind which represents a delusion in regard to what IS. In regard to what is actually the case or reality. It seeks to bring to a halt to that mental proliferation which attempts to hijack one's view of true reality.

One might say that "bare attention" seeks to deconstruct, if you will, delusion before it has a chance to take hold of the mind. In other words, if the mind goes ahead and constructs a delusive view of what it is observing, then it's already "made up its mind," so to speak, about what it is observing, rather than to watch the object and let whatever reality it presents unfold.

One caveat is: that one needs to be mindful of information whose source is the intuition. Just as seeing an iron frying pan placed over a roaring fire one would be hesitant to pick up the frying pan without some protection from being burned, one needs to heed common sense and one's own intuitive knowledge base to avoid being burned in certain circumstances. And this points back to mindfulness (sati) in its capacity of "recollection." The Pali word sati is derived from the Pali word sarati which means "to remember, recollect, bear in mind, call to mind, think of, be mindful of."

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/4/13 1:53 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian that's marvellous! Thanks so much for explaining it for me. Really appreciated emoticon

I understand the concept fully now I think. But I do have a couple of questions:

Reading this passage,
attention or mindfulness is kept to a bare registering of facts observed, without reacting to them by deed, speech, or by mental comment which may be one of self-reference (like, dislike, etc.), judgement or reflection. If during the time, short or long, given to the practice of Bare Attention, any such comments arise in one's mind, they themselves are made objects of Bare Attention, and are neither repudiated nor pursued, but are dismissed, after a brief mental note has been made of them.


How does this fit with the three flavours of vedana? If I have tension in the head, it is "unpleasant", rather than "neutral" or "pleasant". But that "unpleasantness" is surely my own judgement. The bare object is "sensation" right? How in this instance is that handled for example?

Also, is bare attention a practice that can be done effectively both on and off the cushion? In theory I can imagine someone abusing me in the street and just seeing it as "man shouting and waving arms about" but it would be mostly an act of willpower to not react... Similarly with pain (or pleasure) in meditation should they be simply observed as sensations free from vedana (kind of rephrasing my above question i guess..).

Great stuff.

Thanks Ian,

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/4/13 11:55 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:

I understand the concept fully now I think.

I'm not buying it, Bagpuss. I don't think you've understood a word that anyone in this thread has explained. Because if you had, you wouldn't have asked the questions you've asked.

I suggest you go back to the very first post and re-read it s l o w l y, sentence by sentence, not progressing from one sentence until the previous one was understood and digested. The answers to your questions are in that first post! You just didn't GET IT! (Or you weren't paying attention, which is even worse.) And no amount of my further attempt to explain it is going to help you with that. This one is all on your shoulders.

Sit in a quiet place, undisturbed by outside influences, and focus your concentration and re-read slowly every sentence in that first post. Think about what you're reading, don't just gobble it up like it was last night's apple pie. Sit and savor each sentence until you fully understand what is being communicated. Relate it to your experience. Then go onto the next sentence.

Bagpuss The Gnome:
But I do have a couple of questions:
Reading this passage,
attention or mindfulness is kept to a bare registering of facts observed, without reacting to them by deed, speech, or by mental comment which may be one of self-reference (like, dislike, etc.), judgement or reflection. If during the time, short or long, given to the practice of Bare Attention, any such comments arise in one's mind, they themselves are made objects of Bare Attention, and are neither repudiated nor pursued, but are dismissed, after a brief mental note has been made of them.


How does this fit with the three flavours of vedana? If I have tension in the head, it is "unpleasant", rather than "neutral" or "pleasant". But that "unpleasantness" is surely my own judgement. The bare object is "sensation" right? How in this instance is that handled for example?

Yes, the object of bare attention is the sensation, and your reaction to that object ("unpleasant") is what you are attempting to filter out of the experience. By filtering out "unpleasant," the sensation is just a "tension in the head." Period! See?

"If during the time, short or long, given to the practice of Bare Attention, any such comments arise in one's mind, they themselves are made objects of Bare Attention, and are neither repudiated nor pursued, but are dismissed, after a brief mental note has been made of them."

When you don't filter that out, through proliferation of thought, it can grow to become not only a "tension in the head," but a "tension in MY head." And: "I don't like this tension in MY head." And: "I wish this tension would GO AWAY." And: on and on to who knows what's next. Are you beginning to get the picture, yet?

In the second paragraph underneath the Preface of the first post, there is this statement: "The purpose of bare attention is to assist the mind in ending mental proliferation and fabrication and thus to allow the practitioner to remain undistracted and unperturbed on the object of observation without extraneous data interfering in the process of recognizing 'things as they are'."

Now do you understand that statement?

Bare attention reduces the object of observation to its "bare essence," in other words. Removing all extraneous commentary, so that the mind doesn't become distracted by focusing on and proliferating discursive thought about the commentary. All that discursive thought is CAUSING DUKKHA!!! In addition to being distracting.

Bagpuss The Gnome:

Also, is bare attention a practice that can be done effectively both on and off the cushion?

Of course it is. That is its whole purpose. But then, you should already KNOW that, now shouldn't you.

If I could reach my hand across the POND I'd smack you on the back of the head. emoticon

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/6/13 3:16 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Sorry Ian, I probably wasn't making my question as clear as it could be. Let me try again...

I understand that the essence of Bare Attention is BA = (Obj - Baggage) and that insight is to be found in how the mind loads on that baggage.

What I find a little confusing is how this relates to vedana. Can you have BA of vedana? Or is vedana considered to be the baggage? If something is unpleasant, pleasant or neutral then it is the mind that decides which of the three it is right? So does the practice of BA mean observing the object before a "feeling tone" is mentally assigned? I think it does, but then what of the vedana itself?

Perhaps my understanding of vedana is lacking...

[scuttles to the back of the class and holds breath...]

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/7/13 11:40 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
I probably wasn't making my question as clear as it could be. Let me try again...

What I find a little confusing is how this relates to vedana. Can you have BA of vedana? Or is vedana considered to be the baggage? If something is unpleasant, pleasant or neutral then it is the mind that decides which of the three it is right?

What about the following is it (from my last post) that you do NOT understand?

Ian And:
Yes, the object of bare attention is the sensation, and your reaction to that object ("unpleasant") is what you are attempting to filter out of the experience. By filtering out "unpleasant," the sensation is just a "tension in the head." Period! See?

In other words, yes, vedana is considered to be the baggage. I thought that was clear from the original statement.

Bagpuss The Gnome:

So does the practice of BA mean observing the object before a "feeling tone" is mentally assigned? I think it does, but then what of the vedana itself?

Perhaps my understanding of vedana is lacking...

That's where you would be wrong. Right?

It is your understanding of the correct way to use "bare attention" that is lacking. . . . It sounds, from your way of "thinking" about this, like you're trying to have your cake and, at the same time, stab yourself with the knife used to cut it. What I'm (and by implication, Nyanaponika is) attempting to do is to take the knife out of your hand before you stab yourself.

The feeling tone is noted and then DROPPED, as per Nyanaponika's instruction: "If during the time, short or long, given to the practice of Bare Attention, any such comments arise in one's mind, they themselves are made objects of Bare Attention, and are neither repudiated nor pursued, but are dismissed, after a brief mental note has been made of them."

For example, within the context of an intense negative encounter with another person, the noting and dropping of the feeling tone is used to short circuit one's impulsive reaction to the negative encounter so that no unwholesome deed by word or physical action (or thought) might be executed. This would give the person time to assess the situation further before allowing it to blow up into an altercation of some kind (for example).

Or is there some other context that you have in mind?

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/10/13 4:16 PM as a reply to Ian And.
The feeling tone is noted and then DROPPED, as per Nyanaponika's instruction: "If during the time, short or long, given to the practice of Bare Attention, any such comments arise in one's mind, they themselves are made objects of Bare Attention, and are neither repudiated nor pursued, but are dismissed, after a brief mental note has been made of them."


Right. Then I did understand it right. Not sure why I seem to have this hangup on vedana - something to do with the way the mind thinks about the four foundations (surely you can't DROP vedana!?!) but you've patiently nailed the point home and I am in your debt as usual.

Many thanks Ian,

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/10/13 11:17 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
The feeling tone is noted and then DROPPED, as per Nyanaponika's instruction: "If during the time, short or long, given to the practice of Bare Attention, any such comments arise in one's mind, they themselves are made objects of Bare Attention, and are neither repudiated nor pursued, but are dismissed, after a brief mental note has been made of them."


Right. Then I did understand it right. Not sure why I seem to have this hangup on vedana - something to do with the way the mind thinks about the four foundations (surely you can't DROP vedana!?!) but you've patiently nailed the point home and I am in your debt as usual.

Many thanks Ian,


I think it's dropping the clinging thoughts about liking or disliking something that gives relief. Sensations will happen anyways but I guess quoting from Lawrence of Arabia "the tricking is not minding that it hurts".

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/10/13 11:31 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:
Bagpuss The Gnome:
The feeling tone is noted and then DROPPED, as per Nyanaponika's instruction: "If during the time, short or long, given to the practice of Bare Attention, any such comments arise in one's mind, they themselves are made objects of Bare Attention, and are neither repudiated nor pursued, but are dismissed, after a brief mental note has been made of them."


Right. Then I did understand it right. Not sure why I seem to have this hangup on vedana - something to do with the way the mind thinks about the four foundations (surely you can't DROP vedana!?!) but you've patiently nailed the point home and I am in your debt as usual.

Many thanks Ian,


I think it's dropping the clinging thoughts about liking or disliking something that gives relief. Sensations will happen anyways but I guess quoting from Lawrence of Arabia "the trick is not minding that it hurts".

Thank you, Richard. That's an elegant way of stating it. :Applause:

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/10/13 11:43 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I think it's dropping the clinging thoughts about liking or disliking something that gives relief. Sensations will happen anyways but I guess quoting from Lawrence of Arabia "the tricking is not minding that it hurts".


+1

I'm finding that connecting directly with the craving mechanism at play and realizing that it is causing suffering almost instantly
reaches a non-fashioning like stage..but this is just a 1 day old finding and pretty unstable as of now...more experimentation to follow.

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/11/13 2:19 AM as a reply to Shashank Dixit.
Added to Best of the DhO in the wiki. Good stuff.

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/15/13 4:10 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
a wise old master once said in regard to thoughts, leave the front door open, leave the back door open, but do not invite them to stay for tea emoticon

dont recall where that came from but it stuck with me

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/28/13 3:24 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Since reading Thanissaro's criticism I've wondered more about this topic, so here are some sources I've come across. Any thoughts on Bhikku Bodhi or Thanissaro's criticism is welcome.

Rupert Gethin - Definitions of mindfulness (briefly mentioned)
http://www.scribd.com/doc/99110733/On-Some-Definitions-of-Mindfulness-CB-Gethin-2011
"Nyanaponika’s understanding of mindfulness as bare attention appears to have been widely influential. And while he may have been careful to present it as merely an elementary aspect of the practice of mindfulness and to distinguish it from a fuller understanding of mindfulness proper—right mindfulness as a constituent of the eightfold path—there has sometimes been a tendency for those who have written on mindfulness subsequently to assimilate it to ‘bare attention’."


Alayno - Satipatthana (briefly mentioned)
This "bare attention" aspect of sati has an intriguing potential, since it is capable of leading to a "de-automatization" of mental mechanisms.[70] Through bare sati one is able to see things just as they are, unadulterated by habitual reactions and projections. By bringing the perceptual process into the full light of awareness, one becomes conscious of automatic and habitual responses to perceptual data. Full awareness of these automatic responses is the necessary preliminary step to changing detrimental mental habits. [next paragraph] Sati as bare attention is particularly relevant to restraint at the sense doors (indriya samvara). [p. 58]


Bhikku Bodhi - What does mindfulness really mean (several pages on topic, was student of Nyanaponika, critical of Mindfulness in Plain English, Nyanaponika)
http://www.scribd.com/doc/76138448/What-Does-Mindfulness-Really-Mean-CB-Bodhi-2011
"When, however, it is considered in the light of canonical sources, it is hard to see ‘bare attention’ as a valid
theoretical description of mindfulness applicable to all its modalities. As I showed earlier, mindfulness is a versatile mental quality that can be developed in a variety of ways. While certain methods emphasize a type of awareness that might be pragmatically described as ‘bare attention,’ in the full spectrum of Buddhist meditation techniques this is only one among a number of alternative ways to cultivate mindfulness ..."


Thanissaro - right mindfulness (dhammatalks.org - chapter 4, criticism of/quotes from Mindfulness in Plain English, Joseph Goldstein)
"For the past several decades, a growing flood of books, articles, and teachings has advanced two theories about the practice of mindfulness (sati). The first is that the Buddha employed the term mindfulness to mean bare attention: a state of pure receptivity—non-reactive, non-judging, non-interfering—toward physical and mental phenomena as they make contact at the six senses. The second theory is that the cultivation of bare attention can, on its own, bring about the goal of Buddhist practice: freedom from suffering and stress. In the past few years, this flood of literature has reached the stage where even in non-Buddhist circles these theories have become the common, unquestioned interpretation of what mindfulness is and how it’s best developed. The premise of this book is that these two theories are highly questionable and—for anyone hoping to realize the end of suffering—seriously misleading."

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/2/14 9:21 PM as a reply to Nick K.
How does bare attention relate to the practice of noting? Are they substitutes, complements? It seems like in noting you are making more judgements about things ( in order to come up with a word) whereas in bare awareness you are just perceiving them, is this correct?

On a side note, every time I try noting after a few minutes I drop down to bare awareness because it seems more direct. Is noting meant as a gateway to bare awareness?

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/2/14 10:32 PM as a reply to Jason Snyder.
Noting is a feedback loop to keep you honest about your consistency in mindfulness and it's good to use to notice subtle areas you might be trying to ignore. By looking for elements of the 4 foundations of mindfulness in your noting practice you are more likely to notice what's there than if you just started with bare awareness and didn't know what to look for. Of course you could figure out everything the Buddha learned by yourself but what are the chances you would see that much detail?

Sometimes noting slower while noticing more detail is better than too much fast conceptual noting. I'm more into bare awareness now but still use noting here and there where needed (new things I didn't notice before).

What I usually do now is just look at what the thoughts and narratives are doing to me. Asking the questions "what did that thought do to my body?", "why think about this now?", "is the peace still here?" or "how is this thinking affecting my choice?" This is zeroing in on the mental habits that are influencing you constantly. Usually it's influencing you to do the same things you've done before whether they are healthy or not and they are always perceiving/conceptualizing or objectifying something to like or dislike. Asking the questions would only be the beginning and eventually you can just silently notice whether there is stress present or not, because it's all registering in your body anyway. Verbalizing isn't necessary to ask these questions so it's another feedback loop to check in to what's happening instead of drifting.

When you let go of the narratives the mental silence and relief of stress should be compared to when you're daydreaming about likes and dislikes, or even when you're fabricating a concentration state. You'll eventually get really good at noticing when the stress is just about to start and then you just drop the narratives and get on with your main goals. Try doing something difficult and notice how stressed the mind gets and try to let go of whatever mental narratives are happening until you feel better and just continue with your tasks. Notice the real difference between tiredness and aversion. Eg. if you're exercising and thinking about complaining thoughts compared to having a quiescence of mind you will likely stop sooner before your body is actually tired.

Notice that the intention to pay attention has a little stress in it. Notice how thoughts are trying to experience things that aren't actually happening. There's always a chemical payoff to these narratives like a little drug addict that wants more serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin etc. Notice how resting in the now doesn't need much pushing/striving/intentions because consciousness is already noticing experience. A person doesn't need to screw-up their face and furrow their brow to concentrate. Keep relaxing tension in the body as it arises because it always does (especially after stressful thoughts).

As the brain sees how it's stressing itself out the brain will gradually want to stay in the moment. That's what most of the mental shifts are: which is the brain bit by bit resting in the now instead of "resting" in mental narrative. Resting in mental stories always hurts more (cortisol). The amygdala always gives you a carrot (happy chemicals) and a stick (sad chemicals) and unfortunately because the carrot is impermanent and subject to outside conditions we end up getting more of the stick. Let go of the carrot and the stick (within reason of course) and you'll have more peace.

Notice when stress is there and when it isn't there and what makes the difference (perception of likes and dislikes). Try and get on with your life as per usual while still checking in to see what can be mentally let go of, so the peacefulness you had experienced before returns and remains more consistent in your life. Sometimes going into a concentration jhana and enjoying the rest and then seeing the benefits fade will help because you can see the types of thoughts that made it fade to the point of needing to get back to the jhana, which is another form of stress because it's just another carrot that disappeared. Letting go in the long run is less stressful than pushing for a jhana and it also lets those mental habits that bother you weaken so the impulses will fade and be less of a problem. Concentration just blocks them temporarily. It's like trying to forget a bad mental habit on purpose.

Make sense?

RE: Bare Attention and Its Uses
Answer
1/2/14 11:03 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Yes, thank you!

I have been experiencing a lot of stress, anxiety, and aversion in my practice recently, so this advice was particularly salient.