Final notes on the talk on Feeling-tone (Vadana), Wat Yannawa 2008:
By stepping back from feelings of liking and disliking distance is gained from them, and one is not chased around trying to get plaesure and avoid pain as a direct stimulous-response mechanism. You maintain mindfulness. As with all mind factors, when you observe what is really happening rather than what you think is happening, insight arises.
One common insight is that 99.9% of your experience is neutral. Peaceful and nothing to report. The feeling in your toes, the shirt on your back. The sound of the birds or air-conditioner. Practically everything you cna put your attention on in the present moment is neutral. When felt, neutral feeling is kind of pleasant. Yet you spend 99.9% of your time, energy and thought on the few things in life that you really like/dislike. This vedana really is a hook and bait that catches your attention, and drags you in. Life takes on a differetn hue when you look at it as almost all peaceful. Liking and disliking take on a different hue when you see just how much of your mental energy is consumed with the things you are attracted to or from.
Another insight is that everything can be seen from a positive or negative angle. Practically every experience can be seen as pleasant or unpleasant depending on your angle of approach. The teaching goes; there is the beautiful aspect of all things – if there were not there would not be the desire for them. There is the ugly aspect of all things, and there is the release aspect of all things. This means that you can shift your liking/disliking according to what is wise. If you are in a negative mind state because of being stuck in the traffic, you can use the time to meditate or take a rest. You can enjoy it if you are willing to. When you are in a negative state regarding another person, you can reflect on their good qualities, and shift your feeling-tone.
Similarly when you like something too much, and are caught up in desire or lust for it, you can reflect on the negative aspect in order to break your attachment. Monks are taught to do this – to reflect on the impure nature of the human body, with its hair and skin that needs constant cleaning. The idea is to break attachment to lust. Reflection on Death is a tool to break complacency. You can shift your liking/disliking around depending on what is wise rather than being chained to chasing the pleasant.
The final insight, is the endless chain of like, like, like, dislike, want, want, don’t want, like, need, want, dislike …. every second the mind jumps around from one thing to another. If you are attentive you lose track of what you like and don’t like due to the endless chain of vedana that jolts you around every second. There is great value in watching the process, as you quickly grow tired of it, and seek something that is stable. This is where the teaching on impermanence changes from being something learned to something known in meditation. Nothing is still. By watching, the aspiration arises to be still, and then meditation becomes much more easy. It is no longer about trying to disentangle from your desires and environment, but one of appreciating the peace and the silence that lie in the background of every mindstate.