Message Boards Message Boards

Dealing with the Dark Night

Attending to impermanence breaks up suffering?

Toggle
Clarifying this post has been a bit of a struggle. Please let me know of any parts which don't yet make sense...

I've started reading MCBT, and I have been playing with the investigation of impermanence it recommends early on. Lately in my practice I have been experiencing very stable, very unpleasant emotional disturbances, so I started there. I am finding that simply breaking out the physical and mental components of the sensation of such a disturbance leads to its ending, a huge relief, because I am used to resting in the experience of these disturbances for very long periods. I tend to get suspicious when things get this easy. If what I'm doing sounds to anyone like repression or any other corruption of the practice, I would be glad to learn about it.

I've been doing something called the "primary practice" for a few years. It involves attending to the physical and mental sensations of the moment, opening to them with the four immeasurables, and resting in the dissolution which results from holding the question "What is experiencing this?" I've made some good progress with this, but the past year or so has been really slow, painful and desperate. The main issue has been the stability of the suffering I have encountered: feelings of desperation, anger, etc., would seem to last for minutes. Basically, I have been working with these disturbances for months until I get to a point where I can rest in the experience of them even when they arise in strife-filled contexts of my daily life. Now this impermanence-investigation thing (really just a physical vs mental thing, at this stage... I don't yet have a good feel for how the mental component is papering over the gaps in the experience...) seems to be bringing the disturbances to a halt almost instantly.

I have a related question about the practice of noting. Ingram describes concentrating on the sensation from his two index fingers, and noting from which one the sensation is currently coming. When I do this, I can see myself switching attention from sensation in one finger to the other. That is, there seems to be a volitional aspect to the switching, which seems out of place, and gives me the impression that I am making the whole thing up. I have a similar impression of casting about for sensations to attend to when I attempt to do more broad noting. I'd be grateful to hear from anyone with more experience in this practice if I'm on the wrong track.

RE: Attending to impermanence breaks up suffering?
Answer
2/28/11 4:58 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
Lately in my practice I have been experiencing very stable, very unpleasant emotional disturbances, so I started there. I am finding that simply breaking out the physical and mental components of the sensation of such a disturbance leads to its ending, a huge relief, because I am used to resting in the experience of these disturbances for very long periods. I tend to get suspicious when things get this easy. If what I'm doing sounds to anyone like repression or any other corruption of the practice, I would be glad to learn about it.


Don't worry. Are you feeling less suffering from these practices? I assume it's a yes. What you're describing here sounds very much like what Kenneth Folks talks about as "direct perception". There's nothing wrong with letting yourself feel good, it's not as if you're doing a shitload of drugs and avoiding reality, you're actively engaged with it and perceiving it without the usual perceptual filters. What's wrong with that?

Even if it's not this "direct perception" I'm talking about here, you're still actively engaging with the sensations which make up reality. You're still practicing so stop over-thinking and give yourself a break from this suspicion from time to time, it's great to be able to get some healthy skepticism but there's a point when it become an impediment unless you can see it as it is.

I've been doing something called the "primary practice" for a few years. It involves attending to the physical and mental sensations of the moment, opening to them with the four immeasurables, and resting in the dissolution which results from holding the question "What is experiencing this?" I've made some good progress with this, but the past year or so has been really slow, painful and desperate. The main issue has been the stability of the suffering I have encountered: feelings of desperation, anger, etc., would seem to last for minutes. Basically, I have been working with these disturbances for months until I get to a point where I can rest in the experience of them even when they arise in strife-filled contexts of my daily life. Now this impermanence-investigation thing (really just a physical vs mental thing, at this stage... I don't yet have a good feel for how the mental component is papering over the gaps in the experience...) seems to be bringing the disturbances to a halt almost instantly.


To answer this part simply. I have no idea what this practice is. emoticon You need to learn that there's a time and a place for dealing with the content of your thoughts, but insight isn't it. In vipassana you're only noting the thought itself, the general feeling-tone of it, the shape of it, what colour it is, you're objectifying the thought itself, the content don't mean shit in this practice unless you're looking to observe the Three Characteristics in each sensation which makes up that content, which is no mean feat! Bear this in "mind".

I have a related question about the practice of noting. Ingram describes concentrating on the sensation from his two index fingers, and noting from which one the sensation is currently coming. When I do this, I can see myself switching attention from sensation in one finger to the other. That is, there seems to be a volitional aspect to the switching, which seems out of place, and gives me the impression that I am making the whole thing up. I have a similar impression of casting about for sensations to attend to when I attempt to do more broad noting. I'd be grateful to hear from anyone with more experience in this practice if I'm on the wrong track.


Right, I'll tell you what's going wrong here. You're "thinking" and not noting. That's all.

Instead of getting into a thought, which is very comfortable 'cause it's what we're used to doing, just be aware of "thinking", if you're doubting the practice note "doubting, doubting", if you don't believe me note "disbelief, disbelief", you're getting skeptical and thinking "this guy's a fucking idiot" so note "skeptical, skeptical". emoticon It's that simple.

You're getting too heavily involved in the process of thinking, if you stick to a decent routine of practice then you'll begin to see, not just intellectually, how mind and body can be observed as seperate from the self, how a cause leads to an effect, how phenomena arise and pass in a predictable, observable and universal way, and so on and so forth. After the A&P things get weird and unpleasant but that's a different discussion.

Hopefully that's of some use to you.

RE: Attending to impermanence breaks up suffering?
Answer
2/28/11 6:30 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Thanks for the encouragement, Tommy.