The purpose of our meditation practice is to train our mind to look at experience in a different way than usual. To not get sucked up in it.
To accomplish this, we look at features of experience to which we aren't used to paying attention, like impermanence and unsatisfactoriness. And if we hunt for a permanent core (a self) in the experience, we can't find it!
These are the three Dhamma gates into liberating the mind. By stepping through one gate, you step through all three because they are just three facets of the same insight. Depending on our character, one of the gates is more meaningful to us.
Emotions are just energy arising and ceasing, just like waves on the ocean. They are going to end. The best thing is to befriend ourself, including whatever emotions are arising. And we carry on with the necessities of life, despite whatever emotion is arising. We develop a capacity to hang in there with difficult emotions, knowing they are going to pass.
Distortions are not objective. They are affected by experience. There are four distortions of perception and they occur on three levels of intensity.
1. Seeing what is impermanent as permanent.
2. Seeing what is painful as pleasant.
3. Seeing what is not a self as a self.
4. Seeing what is not beautiful as beautiful. Rectify with meditations such as body parts, the elements or the corpse meditations.
The Three Levels of Intensity:
1. Level of perception: The distortion is rectified immediately, by looking more closely eg. we see a thin, long object on the ground and we jump because we think it's a snake. But, after looking closely, we see it is just a stick.
2. Level of thinking/mind: The distortion kicks off a thinking process from past trauma eg. we see the stick, think it's a snake, realize it isn't a snake, but thoughts about our fear of snakes triggers fear. We go home because we can no longer enjoy our walk in nature. This is papanca, proliferation.
3. Level of View, not allowing new information to come in: We have such a phobia of snakes, that we don't go anywhere for fear of meeting a snake.
Mundane Right View: understanding that if we are generous that this will have a meritorious impact on our situation.
Supra-mundane Right View: understanding that suffering comes from attachment.
Ayya emphasized how important it is to pay attention to endings as well as beginnings.
If we pay attention to the aspects of experience that we usually ignore, we will have a more complete perception of reality. This leads to insight.
When the mind is not under the sway of any of the hindrances, it is a taste of Nibbana (Awakening). Savour these moments so the mind wants to go back there.
Seven Factors of Awakening Retreat with Ayya Santacitta June 2019