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Questions on Subtleties of Mahasi Technique

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Hello!  Blessings to you all!

A few questions for all you Mahasi devotees out there!

On the grounding object (usually the rising and falling of the abdomen):
If something arises for me (often a tension in the solar plexus), I will shift and use this as the grounding object rather than the abdomen.  I do find it helps the insight practice to go deeper.  I then try to shift "grounding focus" back to the abdomen gradually so as to remain faithful to the technique.  What are your thoughts on this?


On "re-noting":  How often will you "re-note" a sensation that you've already noted, but that again enters awareness?  IE, if I feel tingling in my hands and note it, then return to the abdomen, would you "re-note" it when you're again aware of it?  Or not, as it has already been noted?  So far, I have "re-noted" in some cases, but not others, depending on how prominent the sensation is within awareness.

Thank you All!

RE: Questions on Subtleties of Mahasi Technique
Answer
7/5/20 3:27 PM as a reply to Ryan Adams.
Hi!  Great questions!

Typically when awareness is drawn away to a secondary object, return to the primary object after a small number of notes.  So, supposing I was noting at approximately a 1/second pace, I might note 'rising, rising, pain, pain, rising, falling falling...' etc.  The reason for this is that the sensations in the grounding object are neutral and kind of boring.  The set of secondary objects intense enough to draw the concentration away tend to be less boring, either pleasantly or unpleasantly.  Thoughts are perennially seductive, as are various pains or energies in the body etc etc.  So while it's true that sticking attention to a secondary object might "go deeper" because it's more interesting, over time you'll find that this leads to too much questing around for sensations of interest and time would be better spent going for more speed and precision in the grounding object.  Speed, precision and repetition in the grounding object gets you to the A&P fast.

Re "re-noting."  Pretty much always do it.  The assumption of vipassana practice is that each moment arises and passes away independently of all other moments.  From this point of view, it doesn't matter at all if you've noted pain in your leg 35 times in the past 8 minutes or once.  If there's a moment where the awareness is drawn to pain (or anything else), note it!

RE: Questions on Subtleties of Mahasi Technique
Answer
7/6/20 2:59 PM as a reply to Ben Sulsky.
Hi Ben, that's a really interesting answer (re: primary and secondary noting object) and something I'd like to ask you more about. In your answer, I recognise my tendency to note and stay with objects that hold my interest (i.e. difficult/pleasant feelings or emotions) as opposed to those that are more neutral like the breath. My rationale has been that if I'm more interested in such things, it'll be easier to stay focused and aware (as opposed to getting lost in thought), which seems to make good sense?

However, I have sometimes wondered if I should pay more attention to neutral sensations (like the primary object) as you point out. One practice I tried recently was based on Shargrol's noting advice, to spend 10 minutes noting bodily sensations, 10 on thoughts, 10 on feelings and 10 on urges (attraction/aversion) before sitting more openly and noting whatever arises. This process has helped me to see that my noting was somewhat lobsided and biased to what intersted me but I still feel the tendency to go to where I'm drawn (which led me crossing the A&P a good while back and which is probably why I have kept the tendency).

You seem to advocate against that and to return to the primary object as much as possible? I would be very interested to hear any more ideas you have on the subject and on why it is valuable. My sense is that you're on to something (becuase I feel resistance).

Thanks

RE: Questions on Subtleties of Mahasi Technique
Answer
7/6/20 3:46 PM as a reply to Nick Green.
Hi Nick,


I sorta geared my answer to someone working with the pre vipassana / A&P stages.  I think it's crucial to have very structured practice during these phases.

I stuck with the primary object very narrowly all the way to equanimity.  This was mostly because practice during the DN was very unpleasant, and a clear goal to stay with the sensations of the abdomen seemed like a life raft.  It's likely that in the DN sensations will creep in from the periphery in ways that might surprise you, and it's good to note them.  For example I might have characterized sensations in the DN as harsh or tight, and practice as difficult (and might have described difficult emotions, doubt, etc), but really the narrow sensations in the abdomen are pretty neutral, so I suppose the feeling of harshness was creeping in from the periphery, and this is fine/expected.  Over time these nanas will sort of move along.  It helps to surrender to them and to keep up reasonably good technique in the face of adversity.

I also found concentration practices before insight "work" helped me stay with the difficult parts of this DN.  Metta practice would probably be fine too... I just found that cold vipassana practice made me feel too crazy and my attention would become so fragmented good practice was difficult.  Concentration first seemed to help that issue a lot, and made my vipassana practice at this time much more manageable.

The practice shargrol recommends is extremely likely to work as well or better than what I'm saying so long as you're confident you're post A&P.  But I figured I'd share my experience.

Cheers,
Ben

RE: Questions on Subtleties of Mahasi Technique
Answer
7/6/20 4:12 PM as a reply to Ben Sulsky.
Hi Ben,

That makes good sense (regarding pre A&P stages). Yes, I'm post A&P and in the DN/equanimity shuttle (as I call it). Shargrol's advice has revealed some hidden tendencies in me, aluded to in my first post, which seems a good thing to explore. However, it does feel confusing at times, which might reflect general DN malaise as much as anything else. Thumbs up for metta practice as well, I often find it helps reset a contraction or, more likely, my aversion to it, making things seem generally less bothersome.

Best wishes, Nick

RE: Questions on Subtleties of Mahasi Technique
Answer
7/6/20 4:24 PM as a reply to Ben Sulsky.
Ben Sulsky:
Hi!  Great questions!

Typically when awareness is drawn away to a secondary object, return to the primary object after a small number of notes.  So, supposing I was noting at approximately a 1/second pace, I might note 'rising, rising, pain, pain, rising, falling falling...' etc.  The reason for this is that the sensations in the grounding object are neutral and kind of boring.  The set of secondary objects intense enough to draw the concentration away tend to be less boring, either pleasantly or unpleasantly.  Thoughts are perennially seductive, as are various pains or energies in the body etc etc.  So while it's true that sticking attention to a secondary object might "go deeper" because it's more interesting, over time you'll find that this leads to too much questing around for sensations of interest and time would be better spent going for more speed and precision in the grounding object.  Speed, precision and repetition in the grounding object gets you to the A&P fast.

Re "re-noting."  Pretty much always do it.  The assumption of vipassana practice is that each moment arises and passes away independently of all other moments.  From this point of view, it doesn't matter at all if you've noted pain in your leg 35 times in the past 8 minutes or once.  If there's a moment where the awareness is drawn to pain (or anything else), note it!
There is an unusual set of beats that when heard as separate blur into one. You could hear it on the ending of Tool's song Opiate or Bruce Springstreen's E Street Shuffle ending. It basically notes in the same way when you are trying to cross the A&P. Try to get into a rythem with your noting and then when all seems completely out of control, in addition to your rising, pain, falling then you can add an extra note if you like "out of control" or "spontaneous" Really all this will give you is a freedom from temporary pain by going to a higher jhana. Insights can best be described as "better not try this at home." I am not aware how this will get you to stream entry if that is what you are aiming for.

Edit. Sayadaw U. Pandita says that you should pick the low hanging fruit first. I fully appreciate this but don't have a clue if this will bring you what you are looking for or not. 

Book cited, On the Path to Freedom.

RE: Questions on Subtleties of Mahasi Technique
Answer
7/7/20 11:23 AM as a reply to A. DIetrich Ringle.
I want to read more of Mahasi Sayadaw insert name here.