‘Just watch your mind’
Very many teachers of Buddhism are now teaching people as they see all their ‘stuff coming up’ to ‘just watch their mind, accept and let go’. This is a good teaching if we realise that what we are watching is our karma coming up. Then we can keep moving forward but also be noting it all as the results of our actions of body and mind, past and present, seeing it all as feedback and altering our course accordingly.
Where we can go wrong is:
1. If we see what is arising as our minds, not our karma and try to fix it all. Then we will have a hard job fixing the past. In a sense the practice of ‘just watching’ is a good remedy or balance to the fixing that can become endless therapy but it can be hard not to try to get rid of unpleasant feelings - after all that is natural enough. The answer is simple in theory but not so easy in practice. If we have enough patience we can we bring together the element of just watching or rather acceptance and skilful action of one kind or another to alleviate our suffering in the present.
2. If we do not make the discrimination between what is old karma and what is the active mind in the present we can:
a) become the passive watcher and miss the opportunity to steer things in a good direction in the present
b) fail to realise that we are already doing something to contribute to the karma that is arising through the way we are watching. As we passively watch we can then fall into the illusion that the watcher is somehow beyond, already enlightened even and we overestimate our minds, selling ourselves short of the highest goal. In the truly enlightened mind we are not watching our suffering, there is no suffering arising.
What helps is if we also at times hold an object in our formal meditation – we meditate in a more active way. We use the mantra ‘Buddho’ for example. This helps us to clearly see the difference between the two sources of thought – what we are thinking in the present (our mantra) and the flow of karma, our automatic pilot as it were, that comes to interrupt us. In the active, untrained mind feeling and perception, past and present, get mixed up with each other. As we practise formal meditation past and present separate out.
3. If we watch the mind and not the body then the mind can lack feeling and also neglect the purely physical part of our existence as human beings. Also, can we just watch the body if it falls down or do we fall down with it?