Right Attitude (Yoniso Manasikara)
Being relaxed and aware is essential but it is also very important to have the right attitude, the right frame of mind. What does having the right attitude mean? Having the right attitude is a way of looking at things that makes you content, comfortable, and feel at ease with whatever you are experiencing. Wrong ideas, wrong information, or ignorance of the defilements affect your attitude.
We all have wrong attitudes; we cannot help having them. So do not try to have the right attitude, try to recognize if you have the wrong or the right attitude instead. It is important to be aware when you have right attitudes, but it is even more important to recognize and investigate your wrong attitudes. Try to understand your wrong attitudes; find out how they affect your practice, and see how they make you feel. So watch yourself and keep checking to see what state of mind you are practising with.
Right attitude allows you to accept, acknowledge, and observe whatever is happening – whether pleasant or unpleasant – in a relaxed and alert way. You have to accept and watch both good and bad experiences. Every experience, whether good or bad, gives you a learning opportunity to notice whether the mind accepts things the way they are, or whether it likes, dislikes, reacts, or judges.
Liking something means you desire it, disliking something means you have an aversion to it. Desire and aversion are defilements that arise out of ignorance – ignorance or delusion is a defilement too. So do not try to create anything; trying to create something is greed. Do not reject what is happening; rejecting what is happening is aversion. Not knowing that something is happening or has stopped happening is delusion.
You are not trying to make things turn out the way you want them to happen. You are trying to know what is happening as it is. Thinking things should be this way or that, wanting this or that to happen or not to happen is expectation. Expectations create anxiety and can lead to aversion. It is important that you become aware of your attitudes!
It is a wrong attitude to judge the practice and become dissatisfied with the way it is going. The dissatisfaction either arises from the idea that things are not the way we think they should be, from a desire that they should be different, or from ignorance of what right practice is. These attitudes close the mind and hinder the practice. Try to recognize dissatisfaction, to fully accept it, and to watch it very alertly. During this process of observation and exploration of the experience of dissatisfaction, its causes could become clear. Understanding the causes will dissolve the dissatisfaction and will help you to recognize them if they come up again. You will see more and more clearly the harm dissatisfaction causes to the mind and the body. You will become more mindful of your judgmental attitudes and gradually abandon them. In this way you are developing skills in dealing with defilements.
Wrong attitudes are caused by delusion. We all have them in our minds. All wrong attitudes are the defilements craving and aversion or any of their relatives such as elation, sadness, or worry. Not accepting defilements will only strengthen them. The defilements hinder your progress in meditation and prevent you from living your life fully. They also prevent you from finding true peace and freedom. Don’t look down on the defilements; they will laugh at you!
Look out for the defilements. Get to know the defilements that arise in your mind. Observe and try to understand them. Do not attach to them, reject, or ignore them, and do not identify with them. As you stop attaching to or identifying with the defilements their strength will slowly diminish. You have to keep double checking to see what attitude you are meditating with.
Always bear in mind that mindfulness meditation is a learning process during which you get to know the mind and body relationship. Just be natural and simple; there is no need to slow down unnaturally. You simply want to see things as they are.
There is no need to make an effort to concentrate. Concentration will naturally grow with practice. Our objective is to become more and more mindful. The more continuous your mindfulness is, the sharper and more receptive the mind becomes.
Don’t forget: the object is not really important; the observing mind that is working in the background to be aware is of real importance. If the observing is done with the right attitude, any object is the right object. Do you have the right attitude?”