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This question was prompted by Mindfulness while Studying or Listening to Dhamma Talks


On page 31 of Good Questions, Good Answers it says,

Explain what insight meditation is

During insight meditation a person just tries to be aware of whatever happens to them without thinking about it or reacting to it.

What is the purpose of that

Usually we react to our experience by liking or disliking it or by letting it trigger thoughts, daydreams or memories. All these reactions distort or obscure our experience so that we fail to understand it properly. By developing a non-reactive awareness we begin to see why we think, speak and act the way we do.

Is "without thinking about or reacting to" experience, deliberately counter-productive?

Is it counter-productive, in scenarios when you should be trying to:

  • Learn something new (learning something is presumably trying to allow yourself to be affected, to "produce" a change in the knowledge you have)?
  • Create something new (e.g. if you're making or writing something for your work/livelihood)?

Wouldn't it be better to be absorbed in or by the experience, to absorb the experience, in these scenarios?

I fear it's counter-productive:

  • Because it's intended to be (counter-productive)
  • Because it's an addition (of some kind of awareness to the mind-state) and therefore a distraction
  • Because having reaction (i.e. effect on your own knowledge) is the purpose or goal when learning
  • Because having reaction (e.g. thoughts like "this is good or not good") are the tool when creating
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The statement:

"By developing a non-reactive awareness we begin to see why we think, speak and act the way we do"

When there is awareness, there is mindfulness and clear comprehension of the situation, which is, the thinking, speaking and acting, which continues the way it is because it is conditioned; but because there is this clear comprehension, there is this "pause", "space" to breathe before we commit to the thinking, speaking and acting, allowing the mind to depart from the conditioning.

It is just like a mother watching over the child, doing her thing and only making the child more aware of what she is doing, so she contemplates before doing anything. The mother (awareness, sati-sampajanna) is one thing, the child (mind, vinnana) is another, eventually.

In the beginning of the practice, awarenes is patchy; and the thing that interrupts thoughts in the mind is not the awareness itself but the thought to re-establish awareness again and the act of re-establishing this awareness. So in the beginning these interruptions are distracting but soon they are reduced depending on one's progress.

One can learn, create and be absorbed with the awareness attending, and that learning, creating and absorbing is much more intense and wholesome.

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