non-formal meditation

thumbnail
adam gregory greene, modified 10 Years ago.

non-formal meditation

Posts: 105 Join Date: 2/19/11 Recent Posts
Hello, I'm a pretty new Buddhist, I have been doing anapanasati about an hour a day, learning about theory, following the 8 precepts and trying to be Buddhisty for the last 2 weeks. But now I'm wondering, should I be doing more? I once heard about monks who would do breath-counting stuff constantly, while doing all things.

My question is basically, what should my practice look like during mundane activities like dish-washing or showering or walking? Should I be constantly practicing anapanasati? trying to see the three characteristics? anything else? thanks emoticon
thumbnail
Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: non-formal meditation

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Hey Adam,

It depends on what your aim is with this, if you're identifying yourself as being a Buddhist then you'll probably find that most Western dharma forums, online and elsewhere, will discourage the sort of practice and talk which we discuss here since it's very much technique and goal orientated, and the goal of enlightenment is considered to be entirely possible.

If you're doing anapanasati for an hour a day then you're concentration will continue to improve. Are you familiar with terms like "access concentration" and jhana?

Breath counting is a concentration practice, samatha, seeing the Three Characteristics is insight practice, vipassana. They're two very different beasts, concentration is essential to insight practice and is worthwhile to practice on its own so it's up to you and depends on what you're goal is. Practicing anapanasati constantly is a bit of a tall order, sticking to consistent and accurate practice will do you more good in the long run rather than diving in and setting yourself goals which, for a variety of reasons, will be incredibly difficult to attain. How would you eat an elephant?

On the DhO, the majority of us are focused on insight practice with the aim of attaining Arahatship, although several of the people on here have already done so and/or are exploring other areas. I wouldn't worry too much about stories regarding monks and their abilities, that's what these guys do all the time because they don't have to deal with the real-world, families, bills and jobs like most Western practitioners.

Advice? Ask yourself why you're following the teachings of the Buddha. Do you wish to attain enlightenment? Is it a religious thing for you and you'd prefer to follow what's going on in mainstream Buddhism in the West?

The "hardcore dharma" movement and people who openly discuss attainments, practice and the teachings of the Buddha in the way it's done here, over at KFDh and places like Buddhist Geeks, or The Hamilton Project are not generally very well accepted by most Western Buddhists.

You'll soon see for yourself and make your own decisions but, to sum all of this rambling up, you either want to get enlightened or you want to follow the dogma. Good luck with whatever you choose and I hope that you end suffering in this lifetime.
thumbnail
adam gregory greene, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: non-formal meditation

Posts: 105 Join Date: 2/19/11 Recent Posts
Thanks, for your response, I believe I entered the first jhana today and it has given a new fervor and motivation to my practice, I meditated for about 5 hours today but that's only because it is saturday and I have the time. What I really wanted to know was what do I do when I can't be formally meditating, when I'm doing any given mundane activity. My goal of course being arahantship.
thumbnail
Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: non-formal meditation

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
I believe I entered the first jhana today


Could you describe the sensations observed which lead to you believe this?

What I really wanted to know was what do I do when I can't be formally meditating, when I'm doing any given mundane activity.


Nice to know we're on the same page here, I wasn't sure if you were maybe just dabbling in Buddhism but, if you've got 4th path as your goal, then you're in the right place!

I formally sit for one hour each night, but I informally note throughout the day and also practice mindfulness, concentration and open awareness. There's no end to the possibilities when it comes to noting during "mundane activity" as sensation is present in every moment which is what we're observing during vipassana.

Suggestions? Noting can be done at any time but getting used to it in a formal context will help you avoid inaccuracy. Practice is the best advice, however vague that may seem, and getting yourself into a regular practice routine will help build momentum. Have you read Daniel Ingram's book yet? If not, either buy a copy or check out the free online version available on this site as it will almost certainly answer many of your questions.

If you're looking for actual techniques then it all just boils down to two things: Insight and concentration. If you're getting to 1st jhana then your concentration is more than sufficient to allow you to begin insight practice, which is the way to 4th path. Begin with following the sensations of the "in" and "out" of the breath at the anapanasati spot, or the "rising" and "falling" of the abdomen with the breath.

Hopefully that's of some use to you, for using these techniques in specific contexts I can only recommend doing what works for you. The most important thing is that you're noting sensation as it arises and passes, if you can stay at a sensate level then you'll get along fine. Ask plenty of questions if you need to, post a practice report and let everyone see what's happening during your practice sessions, join in and get enlightened!
thumbnail
adam gregory greene, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: non-formal meditation

Posts: 105 Join Date: 2/19/11 Recent Posts
I'm pretty sure about the first jhana, rapture, effortless full awareness of body in in-breath and out-breath.

so noting is when you mentally describe your experience? I'm reading the book online and I'm gathering that you just constantly give one word descriptions of your experience. Honestly this seems pointless, if your trying to develop insight into the three characteristics, why not just carefully observe the six sense media with strong moment-moment awareness? without the words.

thanks for responding, I'll try a half hour of noting right now to see what its like. I should try to get access concentration then go into it right?
thumbnail
Beoman Claudiu Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: non-formal meditation

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
adam gregory greene:
so noting is when you mentally describe your experience? I'm reading the book online and I'm gathering that you just constantly give one word descriptions of your experience. Honestly this seems pointless, if your trying to develop insight into the three characteristics, why not just carefully observe the six sense media with strong moment-moment awareness? without the words.

If you can do that, great, go for it. If you find that even for a few seconds at a time you're not carefully observing them, but your mind has wandered, then noting might be for you. noting just helps to keep your mind focused and on track, and it's great for subtle sensations (e.g., space, boredom, restlessness).

What I really wanted to know was what do I do when I can't be formally meditating, when I'm doing any given mundane activity. My goal of course being arahantship.

Carefully observe the six sense media with strong moment-moment awareness, with or without the words.

thanks for responding, I'll try a half hour of noting right now to see what its like. I should try to get access concentration then go into it right?

yea for sure, though you get access concentration in the process of noting anyway, but starting off w/ jhana is always good.
thumbnail
Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: non-formal meditation

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
I'm pretty sure about the first jhana, rapture, effortless full awareness of body in in-breath and out-breath.

The effortless aspect sounds more like 2nd jhana, either way you appear to be "doing it right". Nice!

so noting is when you mentally describe your experience? I'm reading the book online and I'm gathering that you just constantly give one word descriptions of your experience. Honestly this seems pointless, if your trying to develop insight into the three characteristics, why not just carefully observe the six sense media with strong moment-moment awareness? without the words.


Pointless you say? Unless you've practiced vipassana before, or happen to have a natural ability to accurately, clearly and consistently observe and label each and every sensation which arises and passes, then you may find that you'll regret saying that. If you be at bare sensory awareness on a moment to moment basis without verbally, or mentally noting then more power to you! Let us know how it works out for you.

I'll try a half hour of noting right now to see what its like. I should try to get access concentration then go into it right?


Like Claudiu says, access concentration isn't necessary but having at least 1st jhana will help. Don't stress about it, it'll all fall into place as you go. I don't mean to sound patronising, I'm posting with the idea that you're totally new to vipassana but please correct me if I'm wrong, but don't run before you can walk with this stuff. You'll run for hours on the same spot and never move, but a few slow and careful steps will get you moving from the word go.

Best of luck and you're more than welcome!
thumbnail
adam gregory greene, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: non-formal meditation

Posts: 105 Join Date: 2/19/11 Recent Posts
I didn't mean to belittle your technique at all, I was really just wondering what the use of the noting was, but I get it, its just to keep you on track. so yes, thanks. Tommy, do you practice jhana along with noting? it seems tough to go between the two techniques, in one your conceptualizing the sensation as a whole and in the other your doing the exact opposite. I'm seeing so much benefit from jhana practice, I'm definitely able to enter first jhana now, so I'm definitely keeping that up. What is generally used as insight practice for jhana practitioners? sorry for my many questions I'm very new.
thumbnail
Beoman Claudiu Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: non-formal meditation

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
adam gregory greene:
I didn't mean to belittle your technique at all, I was really just wondering what the use of the noting was, but I get it, its just to keep you on track.

Also it is helpful for identifying subtle sensations like boredom, indifference, etc.

adam gregory greene:
it seems tough to go between the two techniques, in one your conceptualizing the sensation as a whole and in the other your doing the exact opposite.

Yea that'll happen at first. As you get better at jhana, and get to later jhanas, they kind of maintain themselves, so that'll free you up to investigate the qualities of those jhanas since you won't be trying to actively maintain them.

adam gregory greene:
I'm seeing so much benefit from jhana practice, I'm definitely able to enter first jhana now, so I'm definitely keeping that up. What is generally used as insight practice for jhana practitioners?

at some point you decide you have enough concentration, then you just start doing noting. you can go to whatever jhana you can reach and then start noting there. maybe the jhana will maintain, maybe it'll drop out. for me i've even entered jhana while noting. the two go hand-in-hand pretty well. but i think you would just focus on the 3 characteristics of those qualities that make up whatever jhana you're in, be it tranquility, equanimity, one-pointedness, piti, sukha, nothingness, etc.
thumbnail
Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: non-formal meditation

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Don't worry yourself mate, I didn't think you were belittling anything at all. It's just that I know that the idea of vipassana sounds really simple and obvious, and it is, but when you put it into practice you begin to see how transient and, at first, imperceptible bare sensation really is. There's only so much you can say about it, experience will demonstrate more than words can express.

In my own practice, an ideal setup would be getting to 4th jhana, equanimous and spacious, and noting from there. That's just my own ideal, real-life varies and the majority of my meditations begin with establishing access concentration and into 1st jhana before vipassana begins. Establishing mindfulness before you sit down to meditate is something I now consider essential to good practice, tarin greco gave me that advice when I started on here and every day I see it proven true, I'm sure Claudiu would agree.

The apparent conflicts between vipassana and samatha, insight and concentration, become complimentary once you get into it. I know what you mean though, one thing to remember though is that concentration, according to my own understanding, experience based on practice and the words of those more experienced than myself, doesn't lead to fundamental insight into the three characteristics. Vipassana shows you how solidity is an illusion built up from sensations being observed by another sensation we've learned to call "I", it's easy to conceptualize and philosophize about it but this technique, along with the practice of morality and concentration, allows the direct experience of "it", which isn't an it. Or a not. Or a thing, for that matter. emoticon

Benefit from jhana practice? Good show! Note "benefits" and what sensations those are made up of, what's experiencing these sensations, what the hell's going on here, who are you and why are you calling me?!? emoticon

What is generally used as insight practice for jhana practitioners?

Can you maybe phrase that slightly differently?

From what you've said I'd suggest this, which is just an opinion and may be totally wrong so I stand to be corrected: You can practice jhana. You can practice insight. You can practice insight in jhana, but not jhana in insight.

Basically insight means nothing gets solidified, it's there, it's gone, that's it. Insight moves in cycles, in stages, it doesn't stop. Samatha means concentration getting solidified and becoming a state, it remains static but can be examined and seen as being temporary, unsatisfying, and not self, and so it is noted as bare sensations which is.....drum roll.....insight practice!

So you can practice concentration and then apply insight, break it down and see it as it is. Beyond 4th jhana this becomes slightly different as there's an element of noting, kinda like keeping a balloon in the air is how it "feels" to me, involved from that point but that's a different story. Again, I stand to be corrected as this is just me rattling my gums.

sorry for my many questions I'm very new

If I find you apologizing for asking questions again, or for being new, I will hunt you down and repeatedly kick you in the scrotum. emoticon Don't worry about it, you'll see that this is one of the most practical, helpful and honest communities, Dharma or otherwise, that you'll ever come across. I like helping in whatever way I can according to my current abilities, I'm no expert and would always encourage you to explore these things further, through research, asking questions, and practice as multiple opinions will be more useful than one persons interpretation.

Apologies if my previous response came off as being in any way aggressive or standoffish, I was just joking about you saying that noting seemed pointless 'cause you'll quickly see why it's so useful and how effective something so incredibly simple can be, but how bizarrely complex you can end up making it for yourself by over-thinking. Really, it's incredible the stunts that the self will pull to cling on to some "thing" so just stay with whatever happens and don't get caught up in what's going on "in" thoughts, the content, the little movies, loops and slide-shows.

Anyway, keep us posted on what's happening and keep asking questions if you have them, you'll probably find many have been asked already so check the search function too. There's a Doc Martin boot with your name on it here... ; ) emoticon

Breadcrumb