XX’s Response about Conventional Wisdom and Insight
A good place to “place” the mind is right at the co-arising of sensations and feeling. You can tune into how there seems to be a dimension of reaction that seems to infuse sensations, but they can be teased apart. These are very basic reactions, along the lines of wanting to have (greed), wanting to avoid (hatred), and covering over with thought/fantasy (delusion). These are the energies of the “self” that we believe in and try to protect. The bigger/true self is aware of it all and doesn’t need protecting.
As a thought-problem: Imagine being in equanimity, where there isn’t much sense of the self: anything can arise and it doesn’t seem to disturb equanimity. Now imagine dark night, when the same sorts of sensations put us into a tail spin. What is different? The reactivity of dark night – grabbing to anything that seems to offer release, pushing away anything that seems to hurt, fantasying about alternative experiences that would fix things once and for all.
When things are tough, just stay with sensations as they are arising, no need to take on a huge awareness challenge when things are tough. But when things are a little open and inquiry/introspection can happen, take a look at how sensations arise and the mind reacts with a basic feeling: desire (greed), ill will (hatred), ignoring (delusion).
I keep using different words for GHD to give you a sense of this subtle energy of self. Greed, hatred, and delusion — while the source of our problems — are actually little impulses at the level of sensation. It’s only later that thinking becomes really solid and story-like that GHD become overt human behavioral problems.
By the way, the formal description of what I’m describing is inquiry into [the 12 links of] dependent origination (With Contact as condition, [the link of] Feeling arises) or looking at “Vendana.”
So, right now you’re probably feeling, how am I going to do all of this? Concentration practice, plus noting practice, plus introspection into vendana? Second path is a big confusion and is really specific to the meditator. Do what makes sense to you… and also know that everyone is confused during pretty much all of second path. So if a particular practice seems to make sense, go with that.
A while ago, we would talk about how a meditator starts creating a tool box as they go through the four paths. Unfortunately, in second path you are creating a lot of tools while you’re going through a lot of material. It’s disconcerting, but oh well!
Hope this helps.
Just another note: don’t be afraid to look for the “hurt” that is pretty much always under “anger.” Anger tends to go to defensiveness, fear, uncertainty, and then hurt. The hurt has the most wisdom in it, unfortunately. It’s a tough place to go, but that’s when things really open up. There can be a lot of crying in second path, too.