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Right concentration then right mindfulness

by Denis Wallez (@DenisWallez)
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Many people learn about meditation, and the usual results are that many people find it inspiring but won't stick with it, that some will stick with it but will try to instrumentalise it (to get a particular benefit, e.g. stress reduction) and as a result will only get minimal results (which may, or not, include the benefit they were initially seeking), and that a few longer-term practitioners do achieve good progress, and yet still face hurdles even after a few years, and don't really know how to get out of the learning plateau!

I'd like to address a potential cause (among others) for the plateau: vipassanā (insight meditation) without samatha (calm-abiding, via single-pointed concentration).


Insight meditation mostly is tied to “seeing reality as it is” leading to wisdom and Liberation… According to some teachers, notably in the Theravāda tradition but also in e.g. Tsongkhapa's lamrim chenmo, it's actually the main door to Liberation1.

Insight meditation sometimes takes an analytical form, rather than a solely observational form… This is when one seeks to “see without bias” by actively dismantling biases, flaws, barriers. Ideally, this is still without the usual layer of ‘concepts’, so it's like noticing something and asking “what is this?” (with ‘this’ referring a lot more to one's perception / reaction than to a supposedly-external stimulus) but gradually getting rid of the words to just embody the question mark, the curiosity, the “paying attention to the phenomenon” —without commenting / discoursing about it, but also keeping in mind potential biases and somehow monitoring if such biases appear.


However, by a combination of habits, tastes, preference for vipassanā, or even a theoretical ‘view’ that vipassanā is more important, more straight-froward, more direct than samatha for Liberation, etc., some people end up fac

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