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the Overview of Shinzen Young's Five Ways article

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Forum: Overview of Shinzen Young's Five Ways

c4chaos wrote up a great summary of shinzen's stuff, the discussion of which should go here (thanks somanythoughts for pointing it out)

[Edit by tomo: article now appears below, but missing hyperlinks so check http://www.shinzen.org/]


Overview of Shinzen Young's Five Ways
Introduction

I've been dabbling with meditation for more than a decade now. I've tried different Buddhist practices and sat with different groups but I never felt deep interest and connection with any of the groups and teachers I tried. I figured it was probably due to my introverted personality, skeptical nature, resistance to submit to a tradition, or maybe because I haven't found the right teacher yet?

I was attracted to Dharma Overground precisely because it reflected the qualities I'm looking for a meditation teacher: a no nonsense, hardcore, secular approach to dharma and practice. I find these qualities to be present with Shinzen Young. So it's no surprise to me that a number of members here at Dharma Overground also resonate with Shinzen's style of teaching. I find his approach to be very pragmatic, clear, concise, secular, and very scientific. He inspired me to take a formal dedicated practice using his strategy as the main foundation.

Btw, who is Shinzen Young?

Shinzen Young is a professional meditation teacher who is best known for his "Science of Enlightenment" audio series (see my review here). He is an ordained monk in the Shingon (Japanese Vajrayana) tradition. He also studied under the oldest living Zen Master, Joshu Sasaki Roshi. However, Shinzen presents himself as a vipassana (or mindfulness) meditation teacher. In short, Shinzen has a background in the three main Buddhist traditions (Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana). One of his missions is to integrate various meditation techniques, not only in the Buddhist traditions, but also across the board of different traditions. He calls his integrated techniques, "Five Ways."

The Five Ways - A Contemporary Toolkit for Classical Enlightenment

The Five Ways is comprised of five core practices: focus in, focus out, focus on rest, focus on change, and focus on positive. Each core practice represents a meditation tradition. Each is a technique in itself. Think of the Five Ways like a dim sum meal. The practices can be mixed and matched depending on the preference, mood, and temperament of the practitioner.

Below is a short description of each core practice. For details click on the link and it will take you to the PDF documentation for each technique.

Focus In ~ This is based on the original insight of the Buddha. Use this to keep track of your subjective experience in terms of visual thoughts (“Images”), mental conversations (“Talk”) and emotional-type body sensations (“Feel”).

Focus Out ~ Use this to anchor yourself in the present moment by focusing on external vision (“Sight”), external hearing (“Sound”) and physical-type body sensations (“Touch”). This is based on a practice commonly given to new monks in Zen temples, allowing them to remain in a meditative state while effectively performing their daily tasks.

Focus on Rest ~ This technique represents a contemporary reworking of the classical absorption (jhâna) practices of early Buddhism.Use this to learn to detect and enjoy naturally occurring restful states such as physical relaxation, mental blank, emotional peace and quiet moments in your head.

Focus on Change (or Impermanence) ~ Use this technique to focus your attention on how things change and when they arise and vanish. By noticing the very moment when things vanish, your attention is directed to the Source from which they arise. This leads to the classical experience of “Cessation” referred to by the mystics of the world as True Self, No Self, Nothingness and so forth.

Focus on Positive ~ Use this technique to actively create positive Images and Talk. These then prime the pump for pleasant emotional Feel—joy, interest, enthusiasm, love, friendliness, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness and so forth. You then use your concentration power to spread that pleasant Feel over your whole body and then radiate it beyond your body out to the people and objects around you..

(Note: You can also watch and listen to Shinzen's overview of the Five Ways in this video and this audio interview.)

A key ingredient to the Five Ways is Shinzen's unique implementation of noting meditation. See How to Note and Label.

At first it seems that Shinzen’s methodology is very complicated and technical. And yes, it is technical and it requires a small learning curve to get familiar with Shinzen’s lingo (see Getting the Lingo). However, once you’ve learned the terminology and method, you’ll appreciate the simplicity, clarity, and conciseness of Shinzen’s teachings. In fact, he’s the most clear and articulate dharma teacher I’ve ever encountered. But don’t just take my word for it. You can find it out for yourself by giving it a try.

My Algorithmic Implementation of the Five Ways

Below is my implementation of Shinzen's approach. Take note, however, that this is not necessarily how Shinzen would teach it to beginners. In his retreats Shinzen would take the time to clearly explain each of the core practice and the noting method involved. For example, Shinzen would explain how to do focus in, and how to note and label, then guide the students in the meditation session.

(Note: If you want to get an idea of how Shinzen conducts his retreats, check out the audios at Sierra Retreats).

In my case, instead of picking just one practice I make use of three core practices every session. I’ve discovered that these three techniques are very effective for my temperament and personality.

Here’s the sequence. I do 1.25 hours of sitting per session. Then I basically go through Step 1 to Step 3 and repeat the sequence until meditation session is over.

Step 1: Focus Out - I focus on the sensations of the breath. I note the sensation of the “rising” and “falling” of the abdomen. When attention wanders I note it and then gently go back to noting the sensation of the rising and falling. Sooner or later awareness shifts or deepens.

If I feel a sense of deep relaxation, I proceed to Step 2.

If I feel a sense of vibrations or waves, I proceed to Step 3.

Step 2: Focus on Rest - I focus on the restful sensations of the body and note it as “relaxed.” I then place some attention on the darkness/brightness in front of my closed eyes and note it as “blank.” I alternate between noting “relaxed” and “blank.” Then I let go… Sooner or later awareness shifts or deepens.

If concentration is poor and keeps wavering, I go back to Step 1.

If I feel a sense of vibrations or waves, I proceed to Step 3.

Step 3: Focus on Change - I focus on the vibratory/wave sensations. I note it as “flow”, “expansion”, “contraction”, and “gone.” From here I just let go, ride out and surrender to the vibratory sensations while noting it as best as I can. Sooner or later awareness shifts and the vibratory sensations disappear.

If concentration is poor and keeps wavering, I go back to Step 1.

If I feel a sense of deep relaxation, I proceed to Step 2.

That’s it. Simple as pie emoticon

I then conclude every practice session by putting my hands together, bowing, and saying “Thank You” to the Divine to express my deep gratitude for the opportunity to practice and to be alive.

I hope you find this information useful.

Shinzen's #1 fan emoticon
~C4Chaos

P.S. For more details on Shinzen's approach, philosophy, and teaching style, check out this Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/expandcontract

RE: the Overview of Shinzen Young's Five Ways article
Answer
5/27/09 5:44 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
Wow, shinzen does have a knack for describing meditation technology in precise terms.

Within keeping to his paradigm, if one wanted to find a simple formula for working towards and experiencing a path moment for example (or cessation in his terminology, or nibbana)

it could be along the lines of:

level of application + degree of mindfulness + equanimity + 'focus on change' = path

1.)level of application: sheer determination, effort, momentum, faith, perseverance, etc
2.)degree of mindfulness: paying attention to objects, and actions performed throughout the day: such as walking, exercise, eating or anything outside the scope of work, education and social interaction
3.)equanimity: not having a preference for any particular experience, full acceptance of the experience presenting itself
4.)shinzen's technique, or straight vipassana or kenneth's “dry insight technique for attaining path”

RE: the Overview of Shinzen Young's Five Ways article
Answer
10/5/09 9:47 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
Bump because I moved it from the migration category, with c4chaos' original wiki article, and I did not want it to get immediately buried.