When we have the conditions to dedicate ourselves to meditation and study, we can do well developing our practice. If, however, we cannot learn to protect our mindfulness our path will be a manic one of gain and loss. A healthier practice is to develop our mindfulness in good conditions and then seek to protect and maintain it through challenging situations. This, in addition to the solitary practise, is the second way to strengthen our minds.
As we develop our practise further, toward samādhi, more refined states can give us the impression of being somehow concrete and stable in and of themselves (as being an 'energy' or 'our true nature') but this is not the case. In this sense the brightness and space of samādhi can be deluding. These states are a manifestation of emptiness – not something but an absence of something. We can need to think like this, talk about our experience like this, to change our perception of the results of our practice, or we will be heading in the wrong direction, towards spiritual materialism and not toward freedom.
Ultimately all our states of mind, without exception, arise and are sustained by a perception. So it is wisdom, stable, liberating perception, that protects the mind.
When, over time, we discover the vulnerable nature of refined states, instead of looking to stabilise them with wisdom we can try to do so in other (dysfunctional) ways. Typically we can shut ourselves away and just end up worrying about the next time we have to go out! There are also many more subtle dysfunctional ways arising from a lack of understanding of the mind. For example we can find ourselves defending the brightness of the mind against the darkness of others. The brightness of our mind is effected by our own dark side but not directly by that of others. When we start to see the darkness of the impure mind, we can falsely see that we are directly effected by the impure thoughts of others, we can take this darkness to be poisoning us without the other person saying a word. The darkness of others' minds is not a threat, it cannot effect us directly but only if we share or are affected by the unwholesome perceptions that are at its source, not through some mysterious dark energy. All states of mind arise from perception. If we see the suffering of such darkness we will be moved to compassion. Compassion is not poison.
What we will also discover is that not all negative thoughts are dark. Some wise thoughts are negative but take the mind even brighter as it lets go of attachment. The distinction we have to make is between wholesome and unwholesome, skilful or unskilful rather than between positive or negative. Wholesome or skilful thoughts are that which lead to a more peaceful happy mind – the happiness of peace being the happiest happiness of all. A mind that is reliant on being positive to be happy is a mind that is relying on the world. If we have an inner happiness we can see both the positive and negative things of the world equally.
This distinction of wholesome or unwholesome will be made for us once we start to be able to see the brightness or darkness of the heart or 'citta' directly. There are very many surprises here for the practitioner discovering what is truly a spiritual path and what is not. It is important to realise that we then have a different value system. Sexual desire for example darkens the mind. It is not that we think that there is something wrong with sex but that we come to enjoy and value the bright mind more highly. Until we can see like this for ourselves (this is quite late on in the path) we are reliant on faith and the guidance of others further on in the path.
I offer this for your reflection