Instructions for How to Explore

ฐานิสสโร ภิกขุ

Instructions for How to Explore

We often believe that our emotions are a given, that they’re purely visceral, that they come prior to our thoughts; but that’s not necessarily so.

A lot of unspoken or poorly articulated attitudes have gotten buried in our minds — a lot of unskillful habits of dealing with pain, say, that come from way back when. Those are the things that fuel our emotions around pain. They also fuel our emotions around pleasure.

As we create this new framework, though, we’ll start stirring up some of those attitudes and calling them into question: “Who is this ‘me’ that’s been devouring the pleasure and then suddenly finds itself devouring pain? Who is this consumer? And is it just consuming or is it also producing the pain, producing the pleasure?” Start questioning these attitudes to get a clearer sense of what’s actually going on.

In this way you’re not trying to clone enlightenment and you’re not trying to suppress your emotions. You’re just learning how to deal with your emotions in a more intelligent way. And that way the meditation, instead of making you dumber, actually makes you more perceptive, more intelligent, better able to see relationships.

It’s not a matter of suppression. It’s not a matter of pretending that you’re awakened when you’re not. You’re just learning to be very frank about what’s actually going on by learning to question your assumptions of what seems to be obvious about what’s going on.

So the meditation is not a process of programming you to have a certain sort of personality or certain sort of demeanor. It’s not teaching you to clone anything. It’s a series of instructions for how to explore. Instead of piling more denial on top of the denial already there in the mind, you’re learning how to peel it away and not to be afraid of it, not to be afraid of what you’re going to find as you peel it away, because you’ve got your tools to deal with whatever comes up.

This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the Dhamma Talks Section, Meditation Series book, Meditations 3, “Suppressed Emotions” (Also in audio format at, “Suppressed Emotions, December 11, 2004.)