These questions relate to Martine Batchelor's Week 3 video, "Mental Habits," from her Tricycle Retreat, Break Your Addictive Patterns.
1. Isn't "creatively engaging" experience trying to manipulate experience? Isn't the teaching to just let the experience happen. Also, if obsessions return and return, isn't just letting them happen and watching them, rather than making them go away, the right way to engage them?
It depends what effect the obsessions have on the person who has them. If you keep thinking 'I must hit this guy, I must hit him'. It is likely that at some point you might end up doing it, which might not be the best thing to do.
It depends on what kind of practice and framework you have. If you follow a practice, which tells you to let things happen and watch them and if this works for you, then possibly that is best for you. The Buddha was a pragmatist and very creative but maybe you are not necessarily interested in references to the Buddha.
Personally the meditation helped me to see the repetitive nature of my thoughts and how by reducing myself to my thoughts I created suffering for myself and others. I would see the creativity not as manipulating anything but that the meditation by dissolving the fixation give us more space to look at ourselves and the world in a more creative way. It is the same as an artist, he or she can just repeat the same formula again and again and it could be nice and useful. Or they just let go of certain fixed ideas on how to create and throw ideas or images into their being and then something new, fresh, appropriate and creative might emerge.
2. Dear Martine,
With the repetitions of thought, where does this come from? Couldn't analysis help us with this, rather than meditation? I know some say meditation is harmful during depressive episodes, but perhaps depression and obsession are quite different. Thank you for this retreat.
You have the function of thought, that is as human being we can think in different ways. Sometimes because a certain way has been useful at a certain time we keep doing it even when we might not need to do it anymore. Or we might have certain tendencies, which might be more likely to emerge in certain conditions.
It is essential to see that there are three levels of repetition --intense, habitual and light. The light level is human and ordinary and easier to deal with. The habitual we can start to recognise in meditation and see its repetitive nature, which might help us to recognise that we might not need to do it as much since we do it already enough. The intense level is more difficult because it is so intense we have then the feeling that it will last forever even if it does not and is due to specific circumstances.
Analysis could also help as long as it does not become repetitive and start to fix you again or associate with certain patterns and intensify them. When is analysis clarifying and when does it become fixing and repetitive?
I would not recommend necessarily going on a silent retreat during a depressive episode. But one could easily do 10mn of metta meditation a day or body scanning or listening to sounds and observing one's breath as long as we do not go into judging the meditation, which then might feed the negative thoughts. Walking meditation in nature could be helpful, being aware of the sounds and colour and our body as we walk.
Depression can come from a low mood but also illness or lack of energy or a certain tendency to negative thinking or be physiological. Obsessive thoughts generally happen when something has happened which has shocked us positively or negatively and we cannot stop thinking about it. Depression is more specific and obsession is more general unless one has obsession compulsion disorder.