Questions from around the world on the MIDL Mindfulness Meditation System.
46/52: Mindful Smelling
47/52: Mindful Tasting
48/52: Mindful Touching
49/52: Mindful Knowing pt 1
50/52: Mindful Knowing pt 2
51-52: MIDL Viewing Platform
Your Question: Why do we observe our five senses during meditation, wouldn't it be more productive to be mindful of our breathing? Can you explain?
Stephen Procter: The five sense doors are the doorway between our awareness and the world. The world that we know can only be experienced through five doorways: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
These five doors are always present. The experience of the doors are always right here, right now. Any of these five doors can be used during seated mindfulness meditation, and they can also equally be used during everyday life.
Because these five doors can only be experienced right now, the experience of them is an anchor, a reference point, to the present. While the mind travels between three different realities - the reality of the past, the reality of the present, and the reality of the future -
the experience of our body and the experience of the five sense doors can only be experienced in the present.
So using them during formal meditation training and for mindfulness in everyday life - literally coming to your senses - will anchor you in the present, anchor you in reality, protect you from the ups and downs in life, and provide an anchor for training the mind.
During meditation for example you can the sense door of smell as an anchor. Because smell is always present, you can use incense or oil to bring you into presence. you begin your meditation by being aware of that sense of smell - without commentary, without thinking about it. While holding presence within your body, it anchors your awareness, it holds you right here right now. And it dissolves past and future.
Your Question: Could you explain how to get the most benefit out of eating mindfully while meditating and explain the basic method behind it? thanks.
Stephen Procter: When observing the sense door of taste always observe it in two parts.
The first part is based on mindfulness of texture, which has an elemental quality to it. Texture appears as a range of:
The second part is based on mindfulness of flavour. Flavour and texture can be experienced separately and it is the two together that create the individual experience of eating different things.
Focusing in on these different elemental qualities when eating, separates the flavour from the texture of the food. This enables you to be able to see and observe how your mind creates the flavour and overlays it on top of texture. With mindful observing it is possible notice how the flavour permeates, floats on the texture of the food. Seeing the transitory and illusionary nature of flavour, lowers our desire towards it.
To take this to a higher level, a deeper level of understanding, the progress of mindfulness of eating, is to notice any feeling of pleasantness or unpleasantness that is present with that food type. This pleasantness or unpleasantness is called Vedana.
Notice how when there is a pleasant feeling, this pleasant mental overlay on the experience of eating, the desire will arise in you to have more. To experience more. To taste more. Notice if there is an unpleasantness associated with the food, the desire will arise in you to not have more. to not experience more. To get away from that food.
When you notice the desire, the pull towards, or the pull away, start to notice the elemental quality of that desire.
Break up both the physical and mental experiences into their elemental qualities.
Whenever you notice the desire to have more of the pleasantness, more of the taste, place your awareness on that desire and gently soften, relax into it. Use slow, gentle breaths and soften into, relax into that desire. When you do this, notice what happens when you soften into the desire.
Notice what happens to the pleasantness or unpleasantness. When these dissolve, does the flavour change or does the flavour vanish? Do you just have the texture in the food?
To develop wisdom. To gain understanding into both the mind and its interaction with the world, this is a line of inquiry to bring into eating. Be playful with this in everyday life. During normal life you can hold it in a general way in particular if you have problems with certain foods that problem being that you like this and don't like that. Or you can also use it at specified times. You can also set a time aside to experiment with different foods. Either watching the mind create a food: taste, flavour or desire when no food is present or notice how your mind creates it on a food while you are eating it.
Have fun investigating
Your Question: I am told by many teachers to be aware of touch, but other then developing concentration I still can't see if it has deeper benefits. Could you explain how to get the most benefit being mindful of the feeling of touch during meditation and why and how it develops understanding?
Stephen Procter: Through mindfully observing the sense of touch you will start to notice that your body or the actual function of your body is to listen to the world. You start to notice that your body
is not experienced as tall or short, fat or thin, attractive or unattractive, black or white, healthy or unhealthy, sexy or unsexy, well-dressed or not well-dressed.
Our body´s function is not to be any of these things - these are all creations within the mind, what is known as the conceptual world. this world is not based on reality. Through observing you start to notice that the body´s function is to listen to the world. That your body is your biggest external sense organ.
Your body is no different to your eyes, which are sensitive to light, your ears which are sensitive to sound, your nose which is sensitive to smell, your tongue which is sensitive to taste and your body is sensitive to touch. As the world touches you your body responds and it reflects this sense of touch within your body. And this sense of touch arises as sensations.
The sense of touch covers all the other senses. Your body is the biggest sense organ and it is constantly listening to the world around you as the world touches you. Your body also is touched by the sixth sense door, the mind. When the mind touches the body the body responds. And it responds in the only way it knows how to: it responds through creating sensations.
So when your mind tightens and it touches the body, the body reflects this tightness. When your mind is anxious, it touches the body and the body responds with anxious feelings, anxious sensations arising in the body. If the mind is angry, if the mind is sad, if the mind is lonely,
it touches the body and the body responds. If the mind is happy, loving or kind, it touches the body and the body also responds. It also responds with soft, relaxed, gentle sensations.
What you experience in your body, all the sensations in your body, are the sensations of touch.
As a meditator learn to carry this experience of touch, this mindfulness of your body, and be aware of when it is a world touching you, or when it is a mind touching the body. And understand all of them within them self as just a sense of touch. From this observation understanding will arise and develop into wisdom that will have a profound effect on your life and the way that your mind perceives the world.