Discernment to be really effective has to come from within, has to be your discernment. There’s no way it’s going to be your discernment unless you’re willing to put in the time to watch, to learn, to experiment. So be patient with the practice.
This doesn’t mean if things aren’t going well you just let them not go well. But it means having the persistence to keep coming back. If one approach isn’t working, you try another. If that doesn’t work, try another with the realization that some approaches are going to take time to show their results.
When you do start getting results, stick with them for a while to learn what they have to show. Just think: how did the Buddha, himself, discover the Dharma? He watched. He observed. He tested. And watched again. He didn’t come to snap judgments. He watched what the mind had to show him…
The ways of the mind are there to show what it’s doing: how the mind causes itself suffering, how it can stop causing itself suffering. If you watch, it’s there to see. The help you get from outside is simply directing your attention and helping you focus your questions. But the answers come from watching the mind on what it’s doing on its own. As you nudge it into a certain state, watch what it does in that state. And then when that develops, watch what it does as it develops.
Sometimes you may have to watch it again and again and again to really know what’s going on, to really know what all the variables are. Because when insight comes, it comes many times in unexpected ways. You don’t get to see the unexpected if you have a lot of expectations shaping what you’re doing.
This is why the Buddha paid so much attention to describing the Path and was a lot less specific in describing the goal. He talks about the approaches you take to give rise to insight, but the actual nature of the insight, itself, is something you’re going to have to find out for yourself. It’s not simply a matter of confirming what the Buddha said. Even his instructions on insight are not telling you what you’re going to see. He says this is how you look. As for what you see, when you look in that way, that’s something you have to find out for yourself.
This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the talk, Patience, September 10, 2004.