SuttaCentral

Memory from the Past (Current Life)

(Edited to comply with the rule of not discussing personal practice)

Hi everyone, I hope you are all doing well.

Sometimes distressing thoughts regarding events from the past come up in a person’s meditation. What advice is there in the suttas to deal with them? [@faujidoc1 Thank you for the phrasing suggestion.]

Thank you :four_leaf_clover:

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The standard EBT stance on these memories of past events seems to be that you better not dwell too much on them. Well, that is easier said than done.

On another angle, nevertheless, sometimes these are challenging memories because they trigger some sort of remorse or anxiety.

To that point, the message found in AN10.2 can be of help. Moreover, some interesting dots may be connected by reflecting on AN10.61 and SN12.23

The perfected ones, arahants, do attain to a special sort of memory of the past, which extends to countless past lives, see Iti99. But that is useful in a very different context.

It is noteworthy that this forum is not a space to discuss publicly matters pertaining to practice, as per previous discussions linked below. :anjal:

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Assuming you are referring to a past incident of this life, what you have experienced is what almost all living beings do. That is grasping the five aggregates of experience. In SN 56.11, the Buddha’s first discourse, he said that grasping the five aggregates in brief is suffering. So, no wonder you had momentary suffering when the thought of that past incident arose in your mind which BTW is another experience.
So the answer is simple on surface though hard when it comes to practice. And it is non grasping or letting go because when we grasp we identify ourselves with that incident as “I”. Briefly, the Buddha’s advice here is to practise radical attention, mindfulness and clear comprehension so that what you grasp does not end up as a hindrance to awakening.- AN 10.61.
With Metta

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Thanks to @Gabriel_L for sharing links to the Forum policies on not displaying details of our personal practice and on not giving personal advice in the public forum.

Thank you also to those who are following through by continuing the discussion here in general terms. :pray:

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Within the Anapanasati sutta there is a special beginners version of the four foundations of mindfulness, the aim of which, repeated throughout, is to “subdue greed and distress with reference to the world.” It is particularly emphasized under the fourth foundation, where meditation on impermanence is the main subject. This tells us that knowledge of impermanence will cause distancing from worldly matters. Such knowledge is achieved by recognizing the foulness of the body and developing the brahma-viharas as social attitudes. This prepares and provides the skills for gradual distancing from the world.

So greed and distress with reference to the world are universal obstacles in beginner’s meditation, but as detachment from conventional reality progresses those thoughts assume ever-diminishing power, whether they be greed for the desire temperament, or distress for the anger.

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Investigate, Understand, Develop.

Step 1 : Recognize … this is Dukkha.

SN38.14
Reverend, there are these three forms of suffering. The suffering inherent in painful feeling; the suffering inherent in conditions; and the suffering inherent in perishing. These are the three forms of suffering.

Step 2 : Investigate … there is a cause of this Dukkha… and it lies in one’s craving for maintaining the ‘optimal’ level of sense stimulation, the desire for things to come into existence or continue existing, the desire for things to disappear or not come into existence… All rooted in Ego and that sense of “ME & MINE”.

MN13
what is the gratification, what is the danger, and what is the escape in the case of sensual pleasures? What is the gratification, what is the danger, and what is the escape in the case of material form? What is the gratification, what is the danger, and what is the escape in the case of feelings?

But everything is Impermanent, attachment to what is impermanent is the source of Dukkha, none of these things or conditions have any permanent essence which can be held onto or controlled… they are all dependently originated… subject to multiple causes and conditions outside of any control, lasting while those conditions permit and disappearing when the underlying conditions change…there really is no one and no thing in charge!

SN12.17
With ignorance as condition, volitional formations come to be; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.

Step 3 : Having completely understood the cause of this Dukkha, experience its ending.

AN6.63
And what is the cessation of suffering? When craving ceases, suffering ceases.

Step 4 : Develop the skills to be able to deal with Dukkha and to prevent its arising… to let go of craving and experience the peace of Nibbana… ie. Know and develop the Eight Fold Path!

Arv19
what is the noble eightfold path?

It is as follows:

  1. Right view,
  2. right thought,
  3. right speech,
  4. right action,
  5. right livelihood,
  6. right endeavour,
  7. right mindfulness,
  8. right concentration.

:slightly_smiling_face:

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Hi Punna, it sounds like you’ve been through a challenging time; it’s probably a good thing! Feel free to message me if you’d like to discuss this some more.

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Thank you everyone for sending these replies. :slightly_smiling_face:

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In regards to specific tips you could use while meditating, MN20 provides five strategies along with helpful metaphors. I often rely on this.

We also had a discussion on this topic on Discourse here: When should we discourage choiceless awareness?

In regards to lay readings, if your experience involves any type of traumatic event, there is a book called “Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing” by David A. Treleaven. I’ve skimmed the book and have added it to my reading list, but wanted to share it with you as a consideration.

You are on an important journey. I often take solace in the fact that this is a gradual path, that we don’t need to have the expectation that we should transform overnight, and that the teachings and sangha offer a wealth of guidance and support which have withstood a 2500 years test of time. That being said, it is always helpful to engage with therapists if you feel you are not making progress or your past experiences are very difficult to process.

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Thank you @ngoonera :pray: