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Seeking Mahasi Technique advice

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Seeking Mahasi Technique advice
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1/6/19 11:44 PM
Hi all,
 
I have practised Goenka style insight meditation for 18 years and, as an experiment this year, I am switching to Mahasi style noting meditation method as explained in Mahasi Sayadaw’s Practical Insight Meditation Booklet: http://www.aimwell.org/Practical%20Insight%20Meditation.pdf
 
My question is…
In Goenka style insight meditation (Vipassana giving all importance to bodily sensations) the theory is that as we practice meditation we are burning off a stock of accumulated Sankara’s (mental conditioning) & eventually, sufficient stock is “burnt off” to the point that stream entry occurs as a result of fulfilling the 7 factors sufficiently. (Goenka’s explanation of the process)
 
In Mahasi noting, as per the instructions described in the practical insight meditation booklet, will this practice also result in a “burning off of a stock of accumulated Sankara’s” or instead, is it the result of insight itself that leads to purification of the mind? In other words what are the mechanics of how Mahsai Method purifies the mind of mental conditioning?
 
Please note:
-Later this year I intent to sit a 26 Day course at Wat Ram Peong in Chang Mai however, I wanted to give this technique at trial at home for a few months.
 
-(If it's relevant to my question above I have had extensive experience in Goenka style including spending 18 consecutive months living at a meditation Centre. Thus I feel able to experiment with a different style of insight meditation without going on retreat).
 
Many thanks!
U Ba Fin
 
 
 

RE: Seeking Mahasi Technique advice
Answer
1/7/19 4:35 AM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
Hi U Ba Fin,

This might not be a very satisfying answer and somebody else might come along with a response you like better, but I think awakening is fundamentally mysterious and it really can't be understood. Sure, we make up stories and we can retrospectively describe the processes of individuals, and we can even describe and understand some of the mechanics of the techniques, but as to how all of it actually works... The more years go by, the more of a mystery it seems to me.

However, Mahasi vipassana does seem to result in stream entry/insight when some people really practice it well and I've been a fan myself. Not knowing exactly how it works doesn't seem to get in the way of it working. I never paid much attention to the theory and just tried to stay at the sensate level which worked out well for me. Since you've already read Practical Insight Meditation you might check out Daniel's chapter on insight in MCTB2 for more info.

RE: Seeking Mahasi Technique advice
Answer
1/7/19 6:51 AM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
U Ba Fin:
In Mahasi noting, as per the instructions described in the practical insight meditation booklet, will this practice also result in a “burning off of a stock of accumulated Sankara’s” or instead, is it the result of insight itself that leads to purification of the mind? In other words what are the mechanics of how Mahsai Method purifies the mind of mental conditioning? 

Here's the key to the entire universe of meditation and psychology and yoga: when you put your awareness on something you would otherwise normally avoid, the mind's intelligence figures out how to release or "purify" the discomfort. And the body/mind will non-verbally know or have an "insight" into how to release the discomfort. Purification and insight arise together.

A longer explanation, skip to the bottom for the short answer:

If you are doing yoga and stretching the body and encounter tightness, then you simply hold the position and put your awareness on the tightness. In time, the body will realize that it is not in danger and will _slightly_ relax. So the tightness has been "purified" and the body will "know" that it can move into that extended position. There is a limit of course on what you can do in a day and consistent practice is necessary to make further progress.

If you are in psychotherapy and encounter a resistance or defensive reaction, then you simply put your attention on the thoughts and feelings of it. Other associated thougths and feelings will show up and you welcome those too. You continue to hold the sense of resisting or defensiveness in attention and eventually it becomes clear that this habit is based on something in the past, something that you now see clearly, and you are safe and can let go of that resistance, you don't need to defend yourself. So the defensive mechanism is "purified" and the mind has an "insight" into the nature of mind. Of course, there is only so much progress you can make in a day, but it can be amazing how lifelong problems can be seen through in a short time, but only if you continue therapy until you reach that goal.

If you are in meditation, using whatever meditation method, and encounter any form of dukka and hold it in awareness, then all of the above things will happen of course --- you will release body knots and psychological complexes --- but it has the potential to also include much more subtle releases related to fundamental clinging/identity. Regardless, the mechanism is the same whether by body scanning or noting or other methods: if you put your mind on ill will/dukka the natural intelligence of the mind will see the discomfort involved with clinging, aversion, or indifference and the mind itself will "release" the ill will/dukka. In meditation, progress can happen very quickly and very deeply, because it is working with the very primal aspects of clinging, aversion, or indifference which is the base of all our problems. All meditations "purify" the mind of these three poisons and give us "insights" into the nature of mind.

So many different meditation traditions and many different therapeutic methods all have the same basic core: if you put your awareness on something, the natural intelligence of the mind will try to find the least-stressful way of relating to it, whether it is in body, psychology, or deep mind.


So long story short: yes you will get the same purifications and insights using mahasi technique as goenka technique. You are completely free to use one or the other or both. Meditation techniques are all tools for helping us put our attention on things we would rather avoid and to keep us directly experiencing the ill will/dukka until the mind instinctually figures out how to release dukka. 


Hope this helps in some way!

RE: Seeking Mahasi Technique advice
Answer
1/8/19 10:34 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Sure, we make up stories and we can retrospectively describe the processes of individuals, and we can even describe and understand some of the mechanics of the techniques, but as to how all of it actually works... The more years go by, the more of a mystery it seems to me.
 
I couldn't agree more Andromeda, I tend to take a Meta-Rational approach to using any system (especially in the Dhamma world). At best these systems and explanations can only point to something. I think it's healthy to use rational systems with the mindset that you're willing to drop any attachment/fixation to them at any moment/when new information comes to light.

RE: Seeking Mahasi Technique advice
Answer
1/8/19 10:39 PM as a reply to shargrol.
So long story short: yes you will get the same purifications and insights using mahasi technique as goenka technique. 

So far my experiments seem to suggest Mahasi noting is giving me a 360 degree perspective of the mind/body sensate field whereas Goenka method focuses (at least initially) on physical sensation & reaction (but not so much on mind & habitually identifying with thoughts).
 
So it seems my experiment already showing some value! emoticon
 

RE: Seeking Mahasi Technique advice
Answer
1/9/19 3:07 AM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
I also made the switch to noting after years in the Goenka tradition to great effect . I also found the “mind” and the habitual thought loops were finally addressed via noting. The sweeping method in my experience lacked this awareness of much of the mental phenomena that caused me to get spaced out, bored, mental proliferating and wandering here and there. 


http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2011/01/yogi-toolbox-noting-part-1-nicks.html?m=1

RE: Seeking Mahasi Technique advice
Answer
1/9/19 6:06 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Agreed.

The great thing about noting is it can be done free form or you can choose to spend some time on any of the categories of mind objects that maybe escape normal awareness. It can be useful for formally spend time narrowing the notes to just one of the four categories of mind objects and see how clearly we see them:1) body sensations, 2) urges (greed, aversion, indifference), 3) emotions, 4) categories of thoughts (planning thoughts, comparing thoughts, judgement thoughts, etc.)

RE: Seeking Mahasi Technique advice
Answer
1/9/19 9:10 AM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
Hi, for me the big mistake in the Goenka tradition is there is the idea or atleast a lot of people assume that there is an "I" doing the scan and this makes a barrier to get the most profund insights. Is like the mind is "controlling/observing" the body.

Mahasi Noting works directly with what arise in the consciousness, is direct awareness of it. At first if you are new in the practice is good to noting with labeling words internally but when you are improving and your concentration and focus is good enough you just see directly without need to label.

You observe all the phenomena mental or physical arrasing and pasing away observing the 3 characteristics inherent of all sensations,this is the most important part of the practice. Take your time to understand what they are and how to see them cleary, MCTB2 is a good book for that.

Also the retreat system is a bit diferent. Please dont underestimate walking meditation. Walking meditation is the best tool you have to make a bridge in to daily awerness/practices and if you are in retreat if you start neglecting your walkings meditation probably you will waste your retreat.

So my advice is to put the same intention and consistency that you put in the sitting sessions. Some ppl go to retreat an thing that walking meditation is break time but really this is a mistake and will hurt they retreat practice and insight develop. As you know in the goenka retrats you go deeper and deeper hour after and hour and you start gaining momentum that substain your practice, is like putting layers one after an other, here is the same but you are doing sitting and walking, it's more kind approach but you really have to go deep in the walking.

Maybe if you start doing your walking meditation and you have thoughts like : "this sux, I dont have the same concentration when Im sitting, this is not worth it". Then instead of reacting to this mental penomena you can just note "complaning, complaning, complaning".

Are there only thoughts complaning? or maybe there are also some sensations or emotions around that complaning? Can I feel them? Where they are exactly, more up, more down? more lelt, more in or more out? These sensations are always the same or they are like a vibration a wave changing? What is the exact quality of these emotions and feelings? they feel good or bad? They have more heat or more cold? etc...

You can do this type of research without saying any word/thought internally, just observing, just seeing.

Hope this is helpfull, have a nice retreat emoticon !!

RE: Seeking Mahasi Technique advice
Answer
1/9/19 11:33 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
I also made the switch to noting after years in the Goenka tradition to great effect . I also found the “mind” and the habitual thought loops were finally addressed via noting. The sweeping method in my experience lacked this awareness of much of the mental phenomena that caused me to get spaced out, bored, mental proliferating and wandering here and there. 
http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2011/01/yogi-toolbox-noting-part-1-nicks.html?m=1

I found that after many years of sweeping I was kind of on (mechanical) autopilot, and noticed often (especially after reading MCTB ) that my mind wasn't really cultivating increasingly refined sensate awareness. Since I started using Noting, & a couple of Joseph Goldstein guided meditation which focus on each of the senses individually, insight has started to reach a new level.
 
I am grateful for the benefits of Goenka but I am seeking different angles to insight. 
 
I am well aware of Hamilton project blog - it was actually where I first heard about MCTB, prompting me to read the book, prompting me to come here, prompting me to trial Noting technique! emoticon

RE: Seeking Mahasi Technique advice
Answer
1/9/19 11:33 PM as a reply to Jordi.
Hi, for me the big mistake in the Goenka tradition is there is the idea or atleast a lot of people assume that there is an "I" doing the scan and this makes a barrier to get the most profund insights. Is like the mind is "controlling/observing" the body.

Very much agree and see what you're saying here Jordi. I found that as soon as I started trying Noting I noticed that:
  1. scanning the body implies the delusion of “my” body
  2. scanning the body subtly reinforces the concept of an “I” 
  3. that I privileged certain sensations in the sensate field as “my sensations” & other sensations as “the World” and that such a distinction is arbitrary & based solely on my own conditioned sense of self.
I don’t seek to say negative things about Goenka tradition - it's a great way to get established, I just feel I need other techniques to get awakened!
Walking meditation is the best tool you have to make a bridge in to daily awerness/practices and if you are in retreat if you start
neglecting your walkings meditation probably you will waste your retreat.

So my advice is to put the same intention and consistency that you put in the sitting sessions


One of the side-effects of putting intense focus on sitting meditation is that the meditator (aka me until I realised the error) starts to get into the delusion that meditation only happens on the mat. As soon as I got over this idea, my focus went much more intense into trying to cultivate constant mindfulness during all daily activities.