What About Neutral?

Running Time: 1:37

In the other videos for week 2 I’ve talked a lot about our habitual reactions to pleasant and unpleasant sensations, but I haven’t yet said much about our reactions to sensations which are neither pleasant nor unpleasant, neutral in other words.

The reason for this is that neutral is actually a pretty tricky thing to observe directly. It’s a bit like looking at a really dim star at night. When you look directly at it, you can’t see it. If you look a bit to the side of the star, then you can just make it out in your peripheral vision.

Neutral is similar. It’s most easily observed by noticing the absence of pleasant and unpleasant.

Our habitual reaction to neutral is generally to space out, to get bored and to go looking for something that’s more interesting, something pleasant or even unpleasant.

One of the interesting things about neutral sensations is that they seem to last much longer than pleasant or unpleasant sensations. Despite this, they are still impermanent, and you should see if you can verify this for yourself.

Because neutral sensations can be quite tricky to work with, I consider them to be more suitable as objects for advanced practice. For the 30 Days of Mindfulness program, we’ll be spending the majority of our time observing and working with the more easily noticed pleasant and unpleasant hedonic tones. That being said, it’s definitely worth your while to try to notice when neutral is present, because it really sharpens your ability to precisely observe the presence and absence of pleasant and unpleasant.

So, feel free to give it a try and post about what you discover in the Facebook Group.