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Vipassana: Noting/Mahasi Style

How to begin practicing Insight?

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How to begin practicing Insight?
Answer
8/17/19 8:14 AM
Hello,

I have recently developed a stable access concentration and after some reading found it would be wise to begin practicing insight meditation, so I have been reading up on that. I've read the section of MCTB called The Three Characteristics and this was a good introduction, however I found it a little confusing. I've also read the PDF on Mahasi noting and started practicing that, essentially just noting the in and out breath around the abdomen and then noting anything else that came into my awareness. I do like this practice, and did find that I was starting to perceive the sensations as impermanent just like Daniel says, but only slightly.

What I am wondering is what the best insight practice for a beginner at this stage would be? And, how does noting actually develop into insight, does one need to study the three characteristics to perceive them, or does the insight naturally develop from noting in this way? Are there some links or websites I could read that would help me to begin this practice?

I would appreciate any help here. Thank you.

RE: How to begin practicing Insight?
Answer
8/17/19 8:49 AM as a reply to Matt 0983.
There is an abundance of resources on the internet. I often listen to dharma talks on youtube. You can use different keywords to search for what you are interested in. I warmly recommend Bhante Gunaratana, for instance. You can find entire courses. Shinzen Young, Ayya Khema and Culadasa are other options. The more dharma talks you watch, the more suggestions show up in the app. If you have wireless headphones, you can easily listen while you do the dishes or go shopping too.

Mahasi noting is well suited for many beginners. I find that it has a natural progression to it that is helpful for becoming increasingly aware of how one’s mind works. From there, the three characteristics get more and more obvious. Impermanence may be easiest to start with. All of them can be understood through the other ones as they are all connected.

RE: How to begin practicing Insight?
Answer
8/17/19 9:26 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
There is an abundance of resources on the internet. I often listen to dharma talks on youtube. You can use different keywords to search for what you are interested in. I warmly recommend Bhante Gunaratana, for instance. You can find entire courses. Shinzen Young, Ayya Khema and Culadasa are other options. The more dharma talks you watch, the more suggestions show up in the app. If you have wireless headphones, you can easily listen while you do the dishes or go shopping too.

Mahasi noting is well suited for many beginners. I find that it has a natural progression to it that is helpful for becoming increasingly aware of how one’s mind works. From there, the three characteristics get more and more obvious. Impermanence may be easiest to start with. All of them can be understood through the other ones as they are all connected.

Great, that does answer my questions. Thanks for your reply.

RE: How to begin practicing Insight?
Answer
8/19/19 11:13 PM as a reply to Matt 0983.
So I have been practicing Mahasi noting everyday and what I am doing is like I said, focusing and noting the in and out breath at the abdomen, and then noting anything else that I find comes into my awareness, such as sounds, thoughts, different pressures in the body etc. What I essentially do is to focus on guiding my attention back to the abdomen breathing after I note. Sometimes my mind gets a bit hung up on these sensations and I can find myself noting certain sensations very quickly, over and over again for a period of time, but I just stick with it and my mind starts to settle after a while.

Last night I was practicing and I got to a point where I was very focused, and the only thing I was noting was the in and out breath at my abdomen, absolutely nothing else was coming into my awareness. So it felt very much like I was just doing a concentration practice anyway. I wanted to ask if this is normal for insight practice and to make sure that practicing like this will still lead to insight into the three characteristics?

RE: How to begin practicing Insight?
Answer
8/19/19 11:06 PM as a reply to Matt 0983.
If you are worried about that, it might be a good idea to do some noting off cushion. There should be plenty of intentions and thoughts and feelings and reactions to note in daily life, I assume. I find that Mahasi noting is great for that. On the cushion I sometimes did more Shinzen Young style noting, focusing on specific types of objects such as impermanence (noting ”gone”). Someone who has worked more systematically with Mahasi noting can probably give you advice for how to adapt Mahasi noting to your needs.

RE: How to begin practicing Insight?
Answer
8/20/19 1:28 PM as a reply to Matt 0983.
Hi Matt, insight practice is an awesome journey.

I think you are on the good track for what you report. Insight (vipassana/observation) and samatha (concentration) can go togheter, some people point that they should go togheter. In the end noting is a mantra that use present moment awerness to jump to note to another note and build concentration moment after moment. So if you can focus on your breath uninterruptedly that is a good sign of good concentration!

What is important in Vipassana is be able to observe accurate what you are experiencing in this proces you will start "breaking walls" of perception and going layer after layer of what we identify ourself as "self/me/I".

For exemple you are on your meditation very deep concentrated on your breath, you are doing great, but then maybe a thought of doubt arrise: "I'm doing this correctly?", and maybe later you start to worry about your practice, if you are doing good or bad. And all this proces is very ME (no-self). I can't put distance and observe as just something that arise and vanish like I can do with the breath ( impermanence), I see the breath come in and come out, I saw that the breath is not me but with this type of thoughts I got "trapped" and identify and condicionate my practice, and maybe I start to over-think and worry about my practice (suffering)...but at the same time this is process is part of the practice.

So its important to be aware of the mental process as if it was just a sensation that arise and vanish observing how identifyed you are of these thoughts, emotions, sensations. Is like the russian dolls, you go deeper and deeper on your observation.

I like to see vipassana practice as my inner laboratory. Where I can observe and analyize phenomena. At frist for exemple observing the breath maybe we just observe the idea of concept of breath, but the breath is made of very little parts and has very specific sensations that triggers other sensations. And every breath is diferent and unique from the last breath and the next breath. 


At 1, we just see breath, breath in, breath out. But if I deep my awerness on it I can start seeing the little sensations that makes breath perceptible as breath and not another sensation, the game is going more accurate on the observation proces and the same time keep observing the 3 characteristic of it.

Suffering

Is the breath pleasent or unpleasent? Maybe the last time you have a wonderfull time with your breath and now you feel that the breath doesnt flow, get stuck or you feel you are controling the breath and you didnt like it, maybe you feel the breath very mechanic... Can I see how the mind reacts to the object with aversion ( dont like )? What is aversion? What is aversion made of? 

Or maybe the breath feels really good, and not just that these good sensations spread throughout your body..so again. What is plesure? What is this kind of plesure? is more cold, warm or electrical? Can I feel, observe it deeply? How I feel when this sensations disapper, I try to recreate them, forcing to arrise again? I see myself clinning? Is this good sensations conditioning how my practice is going? 

Impermanence



Can I observe this little sensations arrise and passing away on their own? (impermanence ). This is just seeing it, is effortless, seeing it again and again and again...observing the start, middle and end. All the body and the mind is a constant process change and dissolution.

No-Self

If we are foucsing on the breath, maybe we can say..Who is breathing? I am breathing? Or there is just breathing? Is breathing mine? Im in control of it? Just to put some exemples...

Note that I land a lot of questions but this is not something you resolve with a inner talk is something that has to be seen, not cognitize. Is just suggestions to explore. We put breath as an exemple but you can apply this to everything, sensations, emotions, thoughts, 5 sense etc

A good goal to "achive" is an openess to feel and observe everything that arrise with equanimity.


Hope that helps in a some way, have fun with your practice and dont forget to do some metta emoticon!