Here is an brilliant excerpt from a talk by master meditation teacher Shinzen Young, discussing a difference between psychotherapy (where we completely deal with one memory percolating up from the subconscious at a time) and insight meditation (where we slowly bring awareness and openness to the whole mind, conscious and subconscious):

The Western world tends to, because of the influence of psychotherapy, have a notion that the way you deal with the subconscious is by content – you get a particular memory, you get a particular “something”. And that is certainly one way that you deal with the subconscious.  And sometimes when we meditate, most of you have probably experienced like something just welling up from your biography out of nowhere, it just percolates up to the surface. So, it can happen in meditation that content from the deep mind that needs to be processed does come up to the surface.

However, far more important than that is what I call the “trickle-down theory” of dealing with the subconscious. Basically, the Western paradigm, I call it the “dredge up paradigm” – you sort of reach back in there, dredge up something that’s a problem, bring it up to the surface and observe it – that’s classical depth psychology, from the West. So, my metaphor, or my language, for that is “dredge up.”

By in large, in vipassana, we don’t really do that – although psychotherapy might be a good adjunct, because it does specializing in that.  However, what we do do in vipassana, is that we are pouring clarity and equanimity into the surface of consciousness.  And, it’s like, if you imagine that you have this lake at night, and you’re shining a flashlight on the lake, the surface of the lake gets brighter – but then just below the surface the part that was semi-dark gets marginally brighter – and some photons, some light particles, make it down all the way to the bottom of the lake.  Now, we can’t see the bottom of the lake, but it does actually get brighter because we’re shining this flashlight on the surface. And those few photons of enhanced brightness deep down there give the subconscious what it needs to untie its own knots.  And I call that the trickle-down theory, as opposed to the dredge up theory.


And the dredge up theory works in just one or two spots, and brings specific content.  The trickle-down theory works for the entire volume of the subconscious, the entire thing at once, you’ve got clarity and equanimity trickling down.  And on the surface you actually seldom know what’s being processed, but you know it is being processed, because your life is changing.  So that’s quite a different paradigm for working with the deep mind.

The “deepest mind” is the same as “mind of nature” – it’s just clouds and rivers of pure energy.  We contact it through the emphasis on watching the mind’s content flowing and vanishing – and that’s how you get to the *truly* non-conceptual.

If the system did not reach the deepest level, then I wouldn’t teach it.  And, actually what we’re doing is not only going down to the deepest level, we’re actually working through the intermediate levels.  The goal is actually that the Surface and the Source touch, without anything in between.   And that’s called non-dual awareness, or enlightenment in daily life – it’s living Nirvana.  And so the way you so the works that intermediate material by just giving it what it needs to work itself through, actually.  And so then, at some point, ordinary awareness and the deepest part of our being are the same thing – ordinary awareness is just resting on the Face of God.

Leave a Reply