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Long meditations without moving

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Long meditations without moving
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10/20/09 7:54 PM
I've heard about doing meditations where the practitioner is tied into the asana for 6 hours or more so they can't move. Does anyone recommend this or know the benefits of it?

RE: Long meditations without moving
Answer
10/20/09 9:24 PM as a reply to Jack Ford.
I've never heard of it.
There are certainly retreats in which the mediators are encouraged to not move for the 40 to 60 minutes of each sitting. That's pretty common I think.
But what you are describing sounds dangerous and kind of odd.
Where did you hear about it?
The weirdest thing I've heard about recently is from a Tibetan Buddhist named Reggie Ray who will go into a completely dark room for huge amounts of time (he can take up any posture and move if he wants) and after a while apparently the sort of sensory deprivation will cause intense experiences, especially in his case the reliving of past "traumas." I guess that's not weird, exactly, just extreme.

RE: Long meditations without moving
Answer
10/20/09 10:10 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Hi Mike,

Yeah the longest I've done is 60 minutes at the S.N. Goenka retreats. I haven't done longer myself I'd just heard from some other practitioners that they'd done these longer periods of time with their own teachers. One of them who also does internal martial arts would stand in postures for up to 6 hours sometimes but from his explanation this had different goals from Buddhist meditation.

From the Goenka retreats the sits without moving I figure are about getting the mind to let go of attachment to the pain but I'm curious about what other ideas on this would be.

RE: Long meditations without moving
Answer
10/27/09 10:36 AM as a reply to Jack Ford.
Jack Ford:
I've heard about doing meditations where the practitioner is tied into the asana for 6 hours or more so they can't move. Does anyone recommend this or know the benefits of it?


In some forms of vajrayana meditation, people use 'meditation belts' to support themselves during sitting. Because some of these are very relaxed forms of meditation, I think practitioners might do them for hours. There are quite a few images of people sitting like this - it might look like the person is tied in, but in fact the belt is simply a support. Don't know if this is what you're referring to, or if there is yet another form of meditation in which people are indeed tied in.

These are very specific meditations - the methods and purpose are usually taught directly from teachers to students.

Susan

RE: Long meditations without moving
Answer
10/27/09 10:58 AM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Mike Monson:
I've never heard of it.
There are certainly retreats in which the mediators are encouraged to not move for the 40 to 60 minutes of each sitting. That's pretty common I think.
But what you are describing sounds dangerous and kind of odd.
Where did you hear about it?
The weirdest thing I've heard about recently is from a Tibetan Buddhist named Reggie Ray who will go into a completely dark room for huge amounts of time (he can take up any posture and move if he wants) and after a while apparently the sort of sensory deprivation will cause intense experiences, especially in his case the reliving of past "traumas." I guess that's not weird, exactly, just extreme.


Hi Mike -
There is a traditional Tibetan form of meditation called 'dark retreat.' It's considered a very advanced practice, and like many forms of vajrayana retreat, it can continue for very long periods of time - months. I think Reggie's take on it is quite personal - but also exemplifies the sort of stuff it can dredge up.

Wikipedia has a nice article about it.

Susan

RE: Long meditations without moving
Answer
10/28/09 2:04 AM as a reply to Susan Law.
What are you trying to accomplish or prove with a long sit?

Longest sit I ever did without moving: 4.5 hours, done during the early A&P phase, when such things are easier and pain is less and posture is good and energy strong. Did it help? I don't think so. Did I get stream entry with much shorter sits? Yep.

It is difficult to do good vipassana for that long at a stretch, though samatha practitioners can sometimes sit that long with less of a problem.

More specifics about what practices you are doing and what your goals are would be helpful.

RE: Long meditations without moving
Answer
10/28/09 3:26 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
What are you trying to accomplish or prove with a long sit?

Longest sit I ever did without moving: 4.5 hours, done during the early A&P phase, when such things are easier and pain is less and posture is good and energy strong. Did it help? I don't think so. Did I get stream entry with much shorter sits? Yep.

It is difficult to do good vipassana for that long at a stretch, though samatha practitioners can sometimes sit that long with less of a problem.

More specifics about what practices you are doing and what your goals are would be helpful.


The point of the belt is to make sitting easier and more comfortable - and this does make it easier to sit longer. For many practices, movement is not prohibited - just not done unless necessary. There are exceptions - for example, in some cases, meditators are told to keep their eyes open - not even to blink. The length of the sit has to do with the particular practice. The point is not specifically to sit for a long time, but to do a certain complex visualization, &/or recite x number of mantra and so on. There's a huge variety, as you no doubt know.

The process in this type of meditation is very different from that of vipassana or samatha forms of sitting - I think it's hard to compare them in a simple way. I can say from my own experience that several hours of visualization and mantra can pass very quickly. It does seem that the law of diminishing returns eventually kicks in - but when it does so varies with the practice, I think. On the other hand, people who are beginning some of the more advanced Dzogchen practices that involve quiet meditation (resting in awareness - etc.) are often instructed to do it very frequently but for only a few minutes at a time, because beginners usually cannot sustain this awareness for long. Then they are encouraged to gradually extend the amount of time -

As for me - I don't do long sits - but I feel that's a failure on my part. The practices I do at this point involve mantra and visualization - and always end in recognition of emptiness. My goal - enlightenment, or to know what's real, or to see what's beyond the reality I've constructed.

RE: Long meditations without moving
Answer
10/29/09 8:47 AM as a reply to Jack Ford.
Jack Ford:
Hi Mike,

Yeah the longest I've done is 60 minutes at the S.N. Goenka retreats. I haven't done longer myself I'd just heard from some other practitioners that they'd done these longer periods of time with their own teachers. One of them who also does internal martial arts would stand in postures for up to 6 hours sometimes but from his explanation this had different goals from Buddhist meditation.

From the Goenka retreats the sits without moving I figure are about getting the mind to let go of attachment to the pain but I'm curious about what other ideas on this would be.


hi jack,

i tried being an endurance yogi (rationale: 'maybe it will help me, through some mysterious process that is not just wishful thinking, get enlightened') for a while and got pretty good at it: the longest i ever went in one go was 6.5 hours (i stopped because my mind had become too fatigued to continue with good attention - either samatha or vipassana) and i have to say that all that stuff took me through a variety of really interesting territory, slowing my blood to a sludge and making my senses really heightened.. though i can't also say i learnt anything from it that helped me get stream entry, for which gunning directly was a better use of meditation time.

physical pain often triggers feeling-felt aversion, yes, and putting yourself in situations where you are forced to encounter those feelings. everyday life, however, is pretty good at providing such situations already and if the intent to make the most of those is there, then the technique of coercing yourself (or empowering others to coerce you) to sit through a lot of physical pain for that purpose is superfluous.

there is another point to be made though, and that is the point that sitting still, alert and sensitive, with high-powered attention, can induce some pretty useful changes in the body, and can cause bodily re-alignment, often causing long-term (chronic) injuries and illnesses to go away (i speak first-hand, of the experiences of several others i personally know, and from what i have read and heard others speak about). that re-alignment, as its happening, can be physically painful.

another good thing about sitting long (though not epic long) periods: learning to develop relaxation, tranquility and bliss: meditator incentives that can develop into equanimity and sensate clarity (very useful things).

tarin