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Vipassana: Noting/Mahasi Style

Benefits of noting before stream entry?

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What are the benefits of noting prior to stream entry? In theory it seems to increase mindfulness and equanimity. Does it also help with being more kind to others? After lengthy sits (1-1.5h) I noticed that the feeling of metta is much more accessible and I’m more likely to act on it as well. Any other benefits? 

Awakening is definitely the goal but I would want to be an all around better person as well. 


Extra question: ideally I would like to do samatha meditation since it seems more stable and more enjoyable but I’m really shitty at concentration and noting is much easier for me. After stream entry samatha practices are much easier right? That’s why people can get to jhanas easily after.SE?
In theory samatha meditation 

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/12/19 7:56 AM as a reply to shen k s.
shen k s:
What are the benefits of noting prior to stream entry? In theory it seems to increase mindfulness and equanimity. Does it also help with being more kind to others? After lengthy sits (1-1.5h) I noticed that the feeling of metta is much more accessible and I’m more likely to act on it as well. Any other benefits? 

Awakening is definitely the goal but I would want to be an all around better person as well. 


Extra question: ideally I would like to do samatha meditation since it seems more stable and more enjoyable but I’m really shitty at concentration and noting is much easier for me. After stream entry samatha practices are much easier right? That’s why people can get to jhanas easily after.SE?
In theory samatha meditation 

Noting helps increase the rate/bandwidth at which you experience reality, in a sense. With this heightened perception, one's morality lens naturaly becomes sharper. You are able to perceive the suffering in yourself and others with more clarity and in turn, interact with others more skillfully.

I can relate as one not naturally inclined with concentration skills. Noting practice / investigation was much more fruitful in the beginning. After SE, jhana access and concentration does improve but in no way makes one instantly exceptional at samatha. In my experience, concentration continues to be an area that needs work. 

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/12/19 7:39 PM as a reply to Nick O.
How much sitting practice is recommended per day to reach A&P assuming that one notes or is generally aware throughout the day? I’m doing 45m-1h, is that sufficient? 

I have noticed the increased bandwidth or at least feeling more naturally mindful at random instances throughout the day. This is cool. 

Its interesting what you say about samatha. I always thought it improves a lot after equanimity and/or SE.

What do you think about bringing joy into the Mahasi practice? I was thinking to try and note whatever arises as I’ve been doing but try to note and incline the mind more torwards the positive emotions/feelings in my body. Is this counter productive? I’m worried about the dark night and want some cushion when shit hits the fan. However, it’s so difficult for me to do TMI or Anapanasati so I’m going with noting but am still a bit worried. I’ve read that metta helps a lot so I may do that. But given the time I spend doing noting i think it would be beneficial to spend at least some of the time developing both sati and samatha. 

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/12/19 9:42 PM as a reply to shen k s.
How much sitting practice is recommended per day to reach A&P assuming that one notes or is generally aware throughout the day? I’m doing 45m-1h, is that sufficient? 

That depends on the individual. Some people hit the A&P with little to no meditation. Others take years. The general consensus I'd say is to practice at least an hour a day with one or more 7-10+ day retreats a year. Just one retreat can really get things moving. Also remember that quality of meditation is more important than length of sits.

I have noticed the increased bandwidth or at least feeling more naturally mindful at random instances throughout the day. This is cool. 

Great! A lot of people really underestimate good and steady off-cushion practice.

Its interesting what you say about samatha. I always thought it improves a lot after equanimity and/or SE.

It definitely does improve and I don't think I really understood how the jhanas worked or "looked like from the inside", so to speak, until after SE. SE, however, exposes more problems to solve than solutions.

What do you think about bringing joy into the Mahasi practice? 

Yes! With all the emphasis on the technical aspects of investigation in insight meditation, I believe joy is often overlooked. Things progressed quickly for a while after a teacher insisted that I enjoy my practice. Just don't be surprised when the time comes that joy doesn't arrise. Nurture it when it is available to you but don't depend on it.

I’m worried about the dark night and want some cushion when shit hits the fan. However, it’s so difficult for me to do TMI or Anapanasati so I’m going with noting but am still a bit worried. I’ve read that metta helps a lot so I may do that. But given the time I spend doing noting i think it would be beneficial to spend at least some of the time developing both sati and samatha.

One can worry about how to prepare to progress through difficult stages but at the end of the day I believe one just needs to set out on the journey with the tools and skills that come natural. You are going to investigate and navigate the path through your suffering in your own way. Work on your concentration and Metta, but remember there's no guarantee that the dark night is going to give you trouble.  

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/13/19 3:12 AM as a reply to shen k s.

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/13/19 3:53 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick, continuing on the joy and noting...

When I do metta, I say I am happy and my mind inclined toward all the happy things in my experience (the fan blowing on my skin, the coolness of the in breath, the relaxation feeling of the out breath), then I say I’m at ease and my mind inclined toward a feeling of ease, may I feel grateful and my mind inclined toward the joyful things in my experience and there’s grateful undertones in the background.

I thought I could do a meditation that’s a mixture of vipassana and the method mentioned above. Since I can incline my mind toward happiness, it notices the things that bring joy in my conscious experience. I’m not necessarily blissing out, but there’s definitely, at the very least, I mild feeling of joy that’s continual if I keep the intention there. It definitely feels like a noting practice since my mind keeps moving and stays present but the difference is that it stays for the on the things that make me happy. 

I don’t understand fully all the technical details of Mahasi noting on how it brings about SE. but I’m wondering if this technique will actually help. I’m thinking that Mahasi noting is maybe 95% sati, 5% samatha; concentration practices ate like 97% samatha, 3% sati; and the method I just described is like 40% sati, 60% samatha. I guess I’m trying to see if this technique is worth doing. I know that Mahasi has been proven but it does seem so dry and ruthless. My mind is definitely more on the half glass full side so a lot of my Mahasi sits is noting tension and stress in my chest. Granted I feel a lot more equanimity towards it but still isnt very fun. Even after the sits I can feel very cranky. If that’s what it takes I’m willing but would like to smoothen it a little. 

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/13/19 7:18 AM as a reply to shen k s.
shen k s:

I know that Mahasi has been proven but it does seem so dry and ruthless. My mind is definitely more on the half glass full side so a lot of my Mahasi sits is noting tension and stress in my chest. Granted I feel a lot more equanimity towards it but still isnt very fun. Even after the sits I can feel very cranky. If that’s what it takes I’m willing but would like to smoothen it a little. 
Oh yes, Mahasi can rub you raw, especially in the nanas pre-A&P. The 3C's nana is actually always more difficult for me than any of the dark night stages. It is quite normal to finish sits feeling agitated or burned out on the way to A&P. Just use your best judgment on how hard to push. You have the right mindset in trying to bring balance with other gentler practices.

One practice that I found useful during this stage was to locate the feeling of "self" or "I" or "me" in the body which was usually some tension in the abdomen. Turning that into the meditation object the tension would slowly unravel and lose its density. This doesn't work for everyone but you may want to give it a shot.    

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/13/19 8:08 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Thanks. I checked it out. It was nice hearing everything ppl liked about the technique. Was on the fence about the technique and now I feel more confident going forward. If you don’t mind... Could you talk a bit about your dark night experience? Was it bearable? Did it affect school/work? Also, having hit SE, would u do it again with the Mahasi technique or would you opt for TMI or a more samatha route?

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/13/19 8:20 AM as a reply to shen k s.
And specifically: Fire Kasina? FK does seem to hold out hope of cruising above the dukkha ñanas compared with noting. Or is that an oversimplification?

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/13/19 8:23 AM as a reply to JohnM.
Interesting to note that upon following up the above links there was a subsequent link to Nikolai's own FK experience. http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2010/12/nicks-current-candle-flame-kasina.html

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/13/19 9:23 AM as a reply to shen k s.
This description of basic mental noting is really useful and highlights why it is a good practice.


https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/13127171


IME, the more you practice noting (during formal meditation and off cushion in daily life), the more you become aware of your programmed habit patterns and reactions to things. With more awareness, you can begin to choose how you outwardly respond to things so as to create better outcomes (like not flying off the handle if a coworker makes you angry). Eventually, the reactive patterns and habits begin to attenuate a bit and so it is easier to act appropriately in the face of difficult emotions, but your mileage may vary. Noting alone won't turn you into a perfectly kind being, and those aspects of maturity, psychology, and human interaction can be considered different axes of developement in which awareness certainly plays a role.

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/14/19 1:57 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Awesome response ty! I like reading your practice log btw...

If you don’t mind... Could you talk a bit about your dark night experience? Was it bearable? Did it affect school/work? Also, having hit SE, would u do it again with the Mahasi technique or would you opt for TMI or a more samatha route?

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/14/19 1:58 PM as a reply to shen k s.
So I've really gotten into meditation because I have had an 'existential crisis' for years. My conventional life is pretty good (career, relationships, hobbies, health, wealth, etc.), but it never felt like enough or that it was satisfying. There was a constant itch that I couldn't scratch, just always in the background. As I started reading more dharma books, I eventually came across forums in which people were claiming real levels of awakening and that anyone could do it with good practice. It was very empowering and down-to-earth.

In my situation, it is similar to having a leaky faucet: if the faucet is leaking, it can't (and shouldn't) be ignored depending on how leaky the faucet is. I had to address this issue and am still addressing it today. I am grateful that I have some tools and understandings though, and it's all due to talking to others (who generously give their time and support) and reading and practicing well.

So yeah, my 'dark night' (which calling it a 'dark night' would definitely be dramatic in my case) was bearable. I still functioned in school and work and socially albeit with some angst (maybe a tad more angst than many of my close friends). Are there times when it sucks? Absolutely, but life is a bumpy ride anyway and I don't really know how much I can attribute to my spiritual development.



As far as Stream Entry: I am not entirely sure that I got it. My samatha skills didn't increase all that much and I still haven't had any experience resembling the descriptions of jhanas (even 'lite' ones). Comparing notes with advanced practitioners, they often think it was an A&P event. The review period afterwards, well, it wasn't clear at all and I had no repeat fruitions. On the other hand, much of my existential angst was wiped out. Difficult emotions are really only a 'problem' if I am not mindful or if I am actively indulging in them. I'd say I am naturally more present to my life (70-80% of the time) vs. college (where I'd be lost in thought 70% of the time). So there were changes, but it doesn't seem to function quite like SE so it probably wasn't.

In any case, it doesn't matter too much what happened to me a year ago. Practice has a way of making life better anyway. I've heard some practitioners describe SE as like getting a back-pack to put all of your tools into, and these tools are the ones you pick up along the way as you make your way through the Path of Insight. So, during practice, you're always working on and using these tools, but SE sort of locks them in (to some extent) and consolidates them. The important point here is that you know how to use (and are actively using) the tools: that is the key to progress.  

I started with TMI, but switched to noting. I find noting to be portable, it keeps me honest about what I am experiencing, it keeps me objective, and it can be fun. I find that I can reach states of calm even when using (slow) noting. I'm not here to sell you on any technique as all genuine vipassana techniques are valid and using different techniques at different times can also be appropriate (TMI on cushion, noting off cushion for example). Experiment and see what works for you. Noting is my main practice at the moment, supplimented by breath meditation and Fire Kasina if I am feeling adventurous.

I hope you find a technique that works for you! The best advice in this situation is to choose the technique that you enjoy doing the most as it will keep you practicing and daily practice is really the most important thing. There are many ways up the mountain emoticon  



  

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/15/19 11:01 AM as a reply to shen k s.
Hey Shen k s, I just wanted to chime in because I have asked my self a lot of these questions before just letting the process do its thing and letting the dark night just unfold. Before what I believe to be stream entry I was really scared of the dark night and reading Kenneth Folk's and Daniel Ingrams books on the insight stages juast made it worse becuase the descriptions scared the crap out of me but after going through the first one and not knowing it until after getting into eq it got a lot easier. Also going back and reading the books again i noticed little parts about how some people move through it just fine. My brain was wired up to see all the scary stuff and believe it. I also found a teacher about 6 months into to goenka style and then really cranking the game up with noting. I was noting for three months and i was a wreck with no concentration ( I had had concentraion before but stopped doing it for a while). When I say wreck it wasnt to bad becuase I wasnt harming people or deppresion and anxiety werent kikcing my ass. It was just living real raw and having a magnifiying glass on the tremendous mind changes going on. Noting practice cleared my head up up like nothing else ever did. I could see and think so clearly it was freaky. But when I got a teacher she had me doing concentration and noting. I woould do 30 concentration and 10 noting and did that for a long time till getting into good concentration and practice taking off. Also at one point I was told by my teacher that i might have to do an hour to get into eq. So i bumped it up and have stayed around an hour since. Now I do 10 to 15 concentraion and then noting and near the end of the hour doing some inquiry practice. Im afraid of the dark night some times but it comes and goes like all else. The big kicker for me this last go around is seeing nanas clearly and having the 3c's kick my ass but I kind of liked it because of the fast and super intense shaking and vibrations. Near the end of the 3c's I just want out but it stll not to bad. The big thing Is I have some friends I talk to or see every week that are on the same path and I have a teacher which leads th way so to say. 
I like what Hibiscus Kid said about 'noting wont turn you into a perfectly kind being'. So true. I try to change everything through sitting practice but there is so much more to do. Like daily walking around in life practice, helping others, being a good friend brother son, whatever. I have missed all kinds of stuff trying to just sit through and it doesnt alway work.
By the way after what I believe to be stream entry a lot of things opened up. I could see more of the nanas, better concentration with less concentraion practice, less negative self talk and way more compassion. Also that could be just because I have been practicing for a while. One more thing is I had practiced mantra meditation, counting meditation and some I Am meditation for 5 and a half year and never got access concentration until I reading in Daniels book about going at concentraion like a rabid dog. My friend also told me if I got access concentration he would teach me Goenka. I had it in a couple of weeks. I believed I could because others had done it. Anway Shen I just wanted  reach out. I liked what you said about having shitty concentration skills. We all do before we get good ones and them loose them again. HaHaHa

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/15/19 7:52 PM as a reply to Dustin.
Thanks for the response. I like hearing the different perspectives on dark night. Can you expand a bit about things you’ve mentioned?

1) when you say, “It was just living real raw and having a magnifiying glass on the tremendous mind changes going on,” can you say more about it? Did it affect your work/school performance? Why did this ‘wreck you,’ was this terrifying/scary/nerve wracking/anxiety producing? 

2) also, can you you say more about how “noting cleared your head up like nothing ever did. You could see and think so clearly it was freaky.” was this a permanent change that persists till this day? Or was it a phase that came and went? 

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/15/19 9:29 PM as a reply to shen k s.
1) when you say, “It was just living real raw and having a magnifiying glass on the tremendous mind changes going on,” can you say more about it? Did it affect your work/school performance? Why did this ‘wreck you,’ was this terrifying/scary/nerve wracking/anxiety producing? 

Feeling raw was like having a weird anxiety with little fear and obsession about practice and life and second guessing my practice and the path and teaching. Like fear I was on the wrong path or I would go to far and become a monk or shouldn’t I be praying to God or Jesus and other weird thoughts. Raw feeling like not sleeping for a day or two or being really dehydrated. No real effect to work or personal life. (Also I have dealt with anxiety and fear for a lot of years so I was use to it. 

2) also, can you you say more about how “noting cleared your head up like nothing ever did. You could see and think so clearly it was freaky.” was this a permanent change that persists till this day? Or was it a phase that came and went?

The practice cleared up my loud obsessive head. There came some time when I realized I was having less thoughts. Like seeing a muddy glass of water turn clear. May be hard to get across to someone but instead of being a prisoner to my mind I could now see my thoughts and that gives time to decide on the next action I take. Also I lost a lot of social anxiety that I use to have. And the anxiety I have now is mostly in bodily sensations. I been treated for anxiety disorder, trauma and depression in the past and this path has given me freedom I never had. But beware that I could be one of a few that had this much effect on with trauma and anxiety disorder and also I have been on some kind of spiritual path for almost a decade. It was like vipassana brought it all together. Ive heard of people not having these kind of effect on anxiety and trauma. Also I have had a really good support group to walk me through. Are the changes permanent? Have been for a few months. That’s not to say I don’t get obsessive with life get me tough like losing my job and having a disc tear in my low back but I sure don’t suffer like I use to. Everybody’s path is different but for me I have going one with some power behind it and seen result through a lot of people.

RE: Benefits of noting before stream entry?
Answer
6/15/19 9:46 PM as a reply to Dustin.
Also I think concentration practice was the key I was missing in the raw parts of the practice. And just to be clear life can still suck sometimes and going through insight stages and life shit can bring up some fear and wild thoughts. I’m not cured of anything. I still do stupid shit like eat really unhealthy somedays, cuss people in traffic and piss people off and get resentful and spend to much money on crap I don’t need. That’s just to say that it’s not a cure all. There is a lot of other work to do. I got way better results with a really good teacher.
I have friends who have gotten good results without a teacher.No one can say how your path will be. No one know what will take place on this path.