When my partner and I visited the tranquil and beautiful Chuang-Yen Monastery in Carmel, NY in January of this year, we picked up a copy of Mindfulness in Plain English (1991) by the Venerable H. Gunaratana Mahathera, which was printed and donated for free distribution by The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation. I picked it up this morning for the first time, having had a few minutes’ leisure to enjoy a little reading and reflective time, and this passage on noticing the rising and falling away of sensations during meditation (p. 137) struck my notice. I am grateful to be reminded today of the “delicate operation” of just noticing the full course of sensations:
You want to really see each sensation, whether it is pain, bliss, or boredom. You want to experience that thing fully in its natural and unadulterated form. There is only one way to do this. Your timing has to be precise. Your awareness of each sensation must coordinate exactly with the arising of that sensation. If you catch it just a little bit too late, you miss the beginning. You won’t get all of it. If you hang on to any sensation past the time when it has faded away, then what you are holding onto is a memory. The thing itself is gone, and by holding onto that memory, you miss the arising of the next sensation. It is a very delicate operation. You’ve got to cruise along right here in the present time, picking things up and letting things drop with no delays whatsoever. Your relation to sensation should never be one of past or future but always of the simple and immediate now.
Just noticing the full course of each sensation and thought-formation as it arises, abides for a while, and then dissipates into something else helps one refrain from judging it and provides more evidence of the impermanence and emptiness of all sensations and thoughts. All sensations and thoughts are empty of a separate existence, as they arise from something else and transform into something else.