Dukkha, tragic vision and the unconscious: their relevance for insight meditation practice

by Winton Higgins

— presented to the annual meeting of the Insight Teachers Council of Australia, 28–30 August, 2009

 

‘Allowing’ or non-formulaic mindfulness meditation, such as recollective awareness – the alternatives to technique-driven, mind-training meditation – delves into the unconscious mind.

It can bring up to sharp awareness wells of suffering that stem from loss and trauma, often in the distant past.

When this happens, we can see that the experience of dukkha (suffering) goes well beyond the day-to-day discomforts, irritations and frustrations that arise in formulaic meditation and that can be explained (away) as the effects of our greed, hatred and delusion.

These deeper experiences confront us with our human condition as vulnerable, mortal, but conscious beings.

They are spiritually significant, but how are we as westerners to understand them and grow with them?

In addition to deploying dharmic concepts, we can bring two vital wisdom traditions of our own to bear on them – the tragic vision since the ancient Greek tragedians; and psychoanalytic theory, especially as it elucidates the mourning process.

These deeper meditation experiences can thus lead us to full human flourishing.

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