Nobo Komagata: Meditation

There were two major events that motivated me to start meditating seriously: first, becoming a father in 2005; second, hip fracture in 2008. Meditation was certainly helpful to cope with psychological and other challenges during these years. Starting with the so-called the modern Vipassana approach, I eventually shifted toward my own approach, stimulated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu's recent book. Thanissaro Bhikku emphasizes the active aspect of (right) mindfulness as taught in the original Buddhist context (rather than passively attending to the present moment).

When I first read Right Mindfulness by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2012), I was not really comfortable. That was because the book challenges the popular notion of mindfulness as present moment awareness without judgment (or "bare attention"). However, as I gain more understanding and realized that the limitations of my past meditation practice may well be associated with the limitations of this popular notion of mindfulness (even though there surely are many benefits). Now, this book along with some other articles/books is shifting my practice in a subtle way. Properly situated within the original Buddhist context, right mindfulness is to begin with a good understanding of the problem (e.g., suffering) and the underlying mechanisms (e.g., dependent origination), make appropriate efforts, and develop a meditative state (e.g., right concentration+mindfulness) that would let us recondition and then uncondition our minds. Probably, it's not that some other teachers are saying different things. However, in my opinion, Thanissaro makes this point most explicitly and vigorously. While exploring the idea, I came up with the following metaphor. Bare attention (by itself) is like chasing a mouse wherever it goes; while better than not chasing, we will never really be able to get hold of it. On the other hand, if we were actively engaged in the whole mental process of the mouse including its understanding and intention, we would know where it goes; we would no longer need to "chase" it. Here is another one. Bare attention (by itself) is like practicing catching balls, instead of practicing hitting balls, in order to hit a home run. Surely, practicing catching balls does have certain benefits. We could still learn the nature of a home run; this would be impossible if we had never known baseball. But to hit a home run, we need to actually practice hitting. My recent development has been written as an essay (Right Mindfulness through Diagrams). There is no doubt that my understanding and practice will still evolve as time goes.

I was also thinking about the relevance of mindfulness to several other areas, including psychology and education. For example, the connection between non-attachment (as pursued in Buddhism) and attachment (as analyzed in psychology) has been written up as an essay (Attachment and Non-attachment). The connection between non-attachment/mindfulness and education has been discussed in several of my essays: e.g., Teaching is Overrated. Good Teachers Don't Teach, Education as a "Buying" Process, Why Don't We Start from Students' Problems?.