As we progress with our practice, we may discover that there are moments, or even long periods of peaceful concentration. And these moments may occur even outside of formal meditation; we may be focused on a work task, a family task, even a beautiful song or a cup of tea. When such states are present, however briefly, what shatters them? What gives rise to reactivity when we are otherwise so content? During this week’s Sangha, Payton explored this question and the interplay of focus and distraction. How can we find a middle way?

Payton began the gathering by reading an excerpt from a book by Sayadaw U Tejaniya called Dhamma Everywhere (you can read the whole book at

The Pendulum

I was sitting in meditation and listening to Sayadawgyi (the late Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw) giving a Dhamma discourse nearby. Suddenly, I saw this very calm mind change in intensity. The mind that had been quite calm before was now agitated. How did this happen? How did this anger come about suddenly when the mind was so peaceful just moments ago?

The mind was now interested in knowing, so it backed up a bit and began to ask questions. What is happening inside? This interest to know and right thinking (sammā-saṅkappa) changed the path of the mind from anger towards Dhamma.

Without this right thinking, the mind would have continued along the path of anger and aversion, still believing anger was an appropriate response for the situation.

Did I cut off the anger through other means? No. The mind was interested to know the truth and because of that, it just lightly and gently watched the anger running its own course. The anger was happening on its own.

What was happening in the mind? It was listening to sounds from two different sides. There was Sayadawgyi’s voice on one side and people talking on the other side. I was aware of the different objects and the mind going back and forth between the two. The mind wasn’t focused only on one thing; it knew a lot of things simultaneously and saw where the attention was going as well.

I then saw this aversion! On the one side, I wanted to hear Sayadawgyi but couldn’t hear him well. I also saw the mind talking about the situation and looking for trouble: “How can these people come and talk around here when they’ve come here for the Dhamma?” Feelings came up as much as this mind continued to talk.

The observing mind saw everything that was going on in the mind. Can you see how expansive the field of view was at this point? After it saw the mind going back and forth between these two sides a couple of times, it saw the dissatisfaction. It was because the mind couldn’t get what it wanted, which was to hear Sayadawgyi’s discourse. There was this realization at that moment. And in that moment, the mind did not favor one object or another but just remained in the middle. It saw the suffering and just died down. I could just take sound as sound.

What did I realize at that moment? The mind had taken one kind of sound, the sounds of Sayadawgyi’s discourse as good, favorable sounds, whereas the sounds of other people talking as bad, unwanted sounds!

I realized then that if there is greediness for something 30 degrees to one side of a pendulum, there will be just as much of a 30 degree swing toward dissatisfaction to the other side of the pendulum if it can’t get that something.

Sayadaw U Tejaniya –

Payton played excerpts from two talks. The first was by Nathan Glyde and is available in full here (there’s a meditation included so the actual talk starts about halfway through):

The second talk was by Shaila Catherine and is available here:

A third talk that was not played, but is related, is by Ajahn Amaro and is available here: