Opening to the uncharted

erez's picture

Average: 4.3 (4 votes)

Goenka's Vipassana claims that all mental phenomena (emotions, feelings, thoughts etc.) are mapped to (or rather actually are) body sensations. It is argued that the mental phenomena themselves are merely artificial representations of the crude sensations, representations created in the mental symbolic level.

Consequently it is suggested by the Vipassana doctrine to observe body sensations instead of "getting lost" and "be drifted" in the futile trial to observe a chaos of mental objects and phenomena. According to the Vipassana, one should scan his body for body sensations while staying aloof (neither developing desire nor aversion towards the sensations and not favoring one sensation over the other) - upon encounter with a sensation he/she should observe the sensation, fully accept it no matter how painful or uncomfortable it is and then move on (not dwell in it).

That is true. It works like a charm.

I would like to suggest another explanation to the efficiency of the method above and consequently apply it to other meditations and fields of our daily life: when we are attentive to mental phenomena such as emotions, we almost completely tend to search for the familiar, for the emotions that we have already encountered in the past (and consequently recognized, registered and then gave names to). This limits the scope of emotions we can be aware to and consequently process. Though in the process of tracing body sensations we are also prone, to some extent, to unnoticeably favor the familiar sensations, we are much more open to the unfamiliar, to the uncharted. Sensations are more crude, are simpler and thus familiarity is less critical for the functioning of our observing mind.

Bottom line: In Vipassana or in any other type of observation-based meditation as well as in daily life, make sure you are not limiting yourself to the familiar, make sure you are always open to the discovery of the uncharted, the unfamiliar, that which has not been mapped, categorized and given name yet. It includes new thoughts, new emotions and new sensations but also completely new types of mental phenomena which might not necessarily be classified as emotions, thoughts or sensations but such whose types are undefined yet, those which we sometimes refer to using the generic terms of energy, vibe etc.

Think of yourself as a Star Trek's star ship Enterprise on a special mission to explore yourself:

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds and uncharted civilizations; to seek out new life; to boldly go where no man has gone before.

happy together's picture

how to open to the unknown?

This is a very good and important observation! It is easy to notice now when you have this observation in mind that unknowingly we are limiting ourselves in meditation and in daily life to the known familiar patterns of form.

My question is how can I open myself to the unknown? How can I assure that Unknowingly I am not limiting my awareness to known familiar patterns?

I think there is a lot of space here for self deceit.

happy together | Fri, 05/01/2009 - 09:41
Phroggy's picture


Agreed. Very important to be aware of bodily sensations, but we're missing something if we ignore the thoughts that bring about those sensations and the thoughts that occur in response to those sensations. The thoughts are not in any way separate from those sensations, and so you could spend a lot of time observing, cataloging and trying to accept such feelings without noticing how mind creates and feeds these feelings continually.

One important thing to notice is that bodily sensations, even if it is physical pain, are sensations only until mind assigns a value, forms an attachment and responds accordingly. What you THINK about the feeling determines whether it passes or remains.

Also, mind is only equiped to perceive movement, and so all thoughts and feelings are noticed only as they arise, and if they are not continually reinforced, they naturally fade very quickly. You cannot hold a thought in your mind or a feeling in your body without recreating it over and over. If this is not noticed, we unconsciously become victims of our own thoughts and feelings.

Phroggy | Fri, 05/01/2009 - 20:03