Messing up your medications

All the answers we need are already within us
If we make the right effort
Eventually all questions would be seen through
If we make the wrong effort
Ever would the answers drift away
Ever would the questions loom in size
Never would we be satisfied
When I first read of the terms "applied thought" and "sustained thought" from a website talking about states of concentration in meditation, I was rather confused. Why make the distinction between the two? Even after lectures and talks that have touched on the topic, I still felt,
"Applied thought just comes before sustained thought. After applied thought has achieved its momentary purpose of bringing the attention to the object, it shouldn’t have anymore use, isn’t it? Sustained thought would take over. Why then does the first stable level of concentration require both to be present? Why would such a momentary even as applying thought be considered separately? Why not just consider it as initiating sustained thought?"
In the night just passed, I was practising walking meditation when I suddenly had an idea what it might mean.
When we focus our attention on our feet,
"Left, right, left, right,…"
first we apply our thoughts to it. Then we try to sustain our mindfulness of the walking.
"…left, right, left, right,…"
as always it happens in meditation, the mind drifts away, even during walking, to other things. How can that be so if I already claim to be putting effort into sustaining mindfulness of the walking?
The answer comes from bringing the mind back to the walking.
"LEFT, RIGHT, left, right, left, right,…"
Then I suddenly realised.
It all fits together.
Viccicka, or loosely translated as "applied thought", is not quite as momentary as I assumed it to be. As obvious from our meditation experience, viccicka (or bringing our mind back to the object) can be used to tame restlessness of the mind. When the mind runs off, we tug it gently back with viccicka.
While in this manner, viccicka can be seen as an active quality. Vittaka, or "sustained thought" (I never liked english translations) is conversely seen as something more passive. Therefore they are subtly but definitely different.
One of my (and for most of us as well) most common problems in meditation is a restless mind that drifts off to something else. Sometimes I wonder why, for, as mentioned above, I am pretty certain I am still mindful of the object, at least in the background of my attention, but the thoughts keep drifting in. By re-applying my attention, I can bring my full mindfulness back to the object. In actual fact, if I continually sustain this applied attention, the drifting and background thoughts should have no chance to enter. Therefore restlessness would be fully countered.
The other frequent problem that I have is sleepiness. Bhante Cittara said that my sleepiness indicates that there is a teeny weeny little bit of concentration achieved, but not enough energy. Now I know what it means. I probably have applied thought, but the sustenance factor that is needed is not strong, hence I drift off to sleep once my mind is calm but there is nothing to sustain it.
Applied thought is therefore an "active" factor that counters restlessness, while sustained thought is a passive factor that nourishes the mind to sustain it. Both are combinations of mindfulness and energy; applied thought is effort to return to mindfulness while sustained thought is mindfulness that provides energy. Hence sustained thought should fully counter sleepiness. Applied and sustained thought are not merely just following each other; both are constantly needed. Continual applied thought keeps the mind on the object while sustained thought supports the mind. Like the left and right hands holding a basketball before a shot.
Somewhere I have read that the five hindrances in meditation
1. Restlessness, and worry
2. Sleepiness, sloth and torpour
3. Skeptical doubt
4. Ill will
5. Sensual desire
are each countered by five factors for stable levels of concentration. Which, then, corresponds to which? I think I have already solved two above.
Sometimes when we meditate, anger at a past incident, dislike, detest or even hatred for someone, or displeasure at even perhaps our current state: non-progress in meditation, pain or itch, may arise. I seem to remember that such ill will is countered by the factor of sukha. Sukha can be translated as happiness, or perhaps zest. From what I can remember of the first time such a a feeling was obvious during meditation, there was a feeling of almost pleasure, more than gladness, probably enjoyment, that spontaneously arose. Logically I reflect that in such a state, ill will cannot possibly be concurrenly present.
Another factor quite close in meaning to sukha is piti, loosely translated as bliss or *oy. Some people have problems meditating as, in the midst of practice, they arise doubts in themselves, their potential to achieve, the capability of the teacher, or whether the method can really help them. If they were to experience just some of the "bliss" or "joy" during their meditation, such doubt would instantly evaporate, for they would have tasted just a tiny lick of the calmness that is promised.
Lastly, we often crave for food, our favourite past time, perhaps sexual desires, or perhaps just that urge to scratch and relieve ourselves of that annoying itch. This craving can be countered by ekagatta, a single-pointed attention on the meditation object in mind. That is the purpose of the meditation object that is assigned.
Am I right about the above? The only way to find out is to search out those particular references that assingn a factor to counter each hindrance.
But with these reflections in mind, somehow I am sure my meditation can improve 😀

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