In Meditation on Perception Bhante Gunaratana teaches us how meditation can be used to heal our bodies and minds. He says that we can expect a range of positive results from engaging in meditation on perception: "On the everyday level, cultivating mindfulness can help us overcome disturbing mental attitudes, such as anger, greed, and jealousy, and increase positive and healthy feelings, such as patience, loving-friendliness, and peace of mind. Through engaging in mindfulness meditation, we can become more impartial and objective observers of what is taking place within our minds and in the world around us and, for this reason, can more easily sidestep situations that might lead to anxiety and unhappiness.”

In the Girimananda Sutta the Buddha advises a sick monk to reflect on ten perceptions:

"On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapindika’s Park. Now on that occasion the Venerable Girimananda was sick, afflicted, and gravely ill. Then the Venerable Ananda approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to him: “Bhante, the Venerable Girimananda is sick, afflicted, and gravely ill. It would be good if the Blessed One would visit him out of compassion."

"If, Ananda, you visit the bhikkhu Girimananda and speak to him about ten perceptions, it is possible that on hearing about them his affliction will immediately subside. What are the ten? (1) The perception of impermanence, (2) the perception of nonself, (3) the perception of unattractiveness, (4) the perception of danger, (5) the perception of abandoning, (6) the perception of dispassion, (7) the perception of cessation, (8) the perception of nondelight in the entire world, (9) the perception of impermanence in all conditioned phenomena, and (10) mindfulness of breathing."  (Translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi)


The first healing perception is that the five aggregates—form, feeling or sensation, perception, thought or mental formations, and consciousness—are impermanent, always and inevitably changing. As Bhante says in Meditation on Perception, even the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who famously said, “you cannot step into the same river twice,” saw that everything was impermanent. Bhante goes on to explain that according to the Buddha’s teaching, not only is it impossible for a person to step into the same river twice, but the same person cannot step into a river twice. Introducing the first healing meditation Bhante Gunaratana says, “Impermanent things continue to be impermanent whether we attain enlightenment or not. Nothing stops a thing’s impermanent nature, which would exist whether or not the Buddhas had come into existence. Enlightenment ends suffering because enlightened beings do not lust for or take delight in things that are in every moment changing or passing away. Our suffering will also end when we give up our attachment to impermanent things.”

Here is how we can practice this first healing meditation on the impermanent nature of the aggregates:

1. Begin each meditation by practicing mindfulness of breathing.

2. Having calmed the body and mind, turn your attention to the perceptions of the six kinds of sensory objects: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and mental objects.

3. For instance, listen to the sounds of birds. Notice that some make loud and annoying sounds, and others make sweet and attractive sounds. Listen also to the sounds made by humans. Just like the birds, some make loud and annoying sounds. Others make soft and agreeable sounds. 

4. As we listen, we notice that whatever sound we hear is always changing. When we listen to sounds mindfully—without anger, greed, or delusion— all we hear is change and impermanence.

5. Next, turn your attention to the sense of smell, after that the sense of touch,  and then sight.

6. Now we notice that everything we perceive is changing. There is no particular order for things to arise. While being aware of a sound, we suddenly become aware of the impermanence of a feeling, or a thought, or of consciousness itself. We allow the mind to experience these changes in whatever order they arise. No matter what object the mind becomes aware of, we notice impermanence in that object. We don’t have to force ourselves to see it. Impermanence is right there, very clearly marked. Everything we perceive is clearly marked with impermanence.

7. Similarly, all kinds of feelings—pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral— that arise from the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body are changing all the time.

8. When thoughts arise—wholesome, unwholesome, or neutral— we pay total mindful attention to them. All we notice in them is change.

9. Underneath all changes is the breath, and it is also changing. The feeling of the breath, the perception of breath, the attention to breath, the intention to pay attention to breath, and the awareness of breath—they are all changing, without any power that can stop the change. Nothing can prevent the change of anything. We don’t do anything to cause this changing process. It happens by itself.

10. Then we realize that change is the nature of all the forms, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness of everyone and everything in the universe. They all change constantly. With this understanding we breathe. We feel that we are breathing with the rest of the world, which experiences the changes the same way that we do. Noticing these changes without greed, hatred, and delusion is our practice of mindfulness. We realize that the breath, feeling, perception, attention, intention, all kinds of thoughts, and consciousness are there to help us to gain insight into the reality of impermanence. 

Please see Bhante G’s new book Meditation on Perception for more detailed instructions on this healing meditation.

HEALING MEDITATION 2 | Mind is Also Changing

As we watch the changing nature of our experiences, we notice that the mind does not remain static when it becomes aware of the changes in conditioned things. We discover that the mind also changes when it notices changes in other things. In other words, our awareness of impermanence is also impermanent.

1. To experience the mind’s changes experientially, follow the steps given above for meditating on the impermanence of the six sensory objects.

2. This time, focus not on the changes in the objects of perception, but on the changes in the mind that is perceiving these objects.

3. Notice clearly how often the mind alters its perceptual focus, switching instantaneously from external to internal objects.

4. Notice that the mind, along with everything else that exists, is engaged in constant and unstoppable change.

When mindfulness and concentration are stable and work together as a team, we notice countless subtle changes taking place simultaneously in our mind and body. Deep mindfulness becomes aware of the slightest change and sheds light on this change. Strong concentration coupled with mindfulness focuses the mind so that we can see the workings of impermanence clearly.

Please see Bhante G’s new book Meditation on Perception for more detailed instructions on this healing meditation.

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