Hoping for general advice

Ram Subramanian, modified 1 Year ago at 10/27/20 4:27 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/27/20 4:27 AM

Hoping for general advice

Posts: 13 Join Date: 8/13/15 Recent Posts
Hi all,

I've been on this forum off and on in the past, and I've gotten some good suggestions here. I'm posting this now because I feel very stuck and I wanted to get a little advice about where I might be, whether or not that matters, and how to move forward.

I won't post my whole history here; suffice it to say I have been meditating for a long time with little "progress," but I recently became very serious about a focused Mahasi-style practice. For about a year now I've been doing intense noting practice every morning. For the last couple of months, my practice has become very regimented: I sit down, focus on the breath for twenty minutes, then note whatever comes into consciousness for about thirty-five minutes, then do five minutes of metta before I get up and go about my life. I continue noting whatever comes up during the day whenever I have a bit of free mental capacity for it, which has become fairly frequent (probably about fifteen to twenty solid minutes out of every hour of the day, at a conservative estimate).

Here's how my sit went this morning, as a typical example: I watched the breath and, although I didn't get up to access concentration (which I'm fairly sure I've never experienced), my mind did get nicely quiet to help me get through the noting portion. I kept my noting to the six senses, just trying to catch every sensation as it came up and vanished. I was frequently distracted by thoughts, but never for more than a second or two; the noting never stopped. I felt a sense of searching for some insight, which I noted, at which point it disappeared, only to reappear several times later. Gradually, I started to really feel how each of these sensations was just happening on its own with no help from "me." Thinking about it now, I'm not 100% sure whether that was happening on the level of capital-I-Insight or if it was an intellectual understanding, but at the time it seemed that I felt it rather than just thinking about it. As the time went on, I started feeling a powerful sense of frustration, a sense of this I-thing happening after each sensation and a strong desire for that I-thing to stop. I felt a weird physical energy moving up my spine, which was very unpleasant, and I couldn't wait for the session to end. I feel that toward the end of every session, but today was the first time in months that I felt compelled to give in to the sensation and stop the clock a bit early (only twenty seconds, as it turned out, but early nonetheless).

So, with all the usual caveats of how difficult it is to diagnose online, how map obsession can be harmful rather than helpful, to just keep noting my way through, etc.: what does this sound like to people? For years I've been feeling like I hadn't reached A&P yet and that had to be my next goal, but a recent thread on here talking about how quickly most people reach A&P made me consider that I might have crossed without realizing it years ago and been in low-key dukkha ever since. My philosophy so far has been to avoid trying to find anything specific, try to see what's really there, and don't stop noting no matter what, and it's served me pretty well -- is there anything I need to know or do besides that right now?

Thanks everyone for taking the time to look at this and think about it. I'm very grateful to be part of this community, and I have wondered more than once what could have been if I'd had a community like this when I was a kid just trying to figure all this stuff out on my own.
Papa Che Dusko, modified 1 Year ago at 10/27/20 7:11 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/27/20 7:11 AM

RE: Hoping for general advice

Posts: 2459 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
"try to see what's really there, and don't stop noting no matter what"

I think you are doing great. I would suggest cutting out the first part of the breath sit and instead also do Noting. I think minimum 45 minutes of noting practice per sit will do good. Ending with Metta is probably ok but add extra time for that. Do not cut your 45 minutes noting time short. 

Instead of the breathing meditation you can just start by calming the body with each in and outbreath for 10-20 seconds. Just this to collect yourself a bit. You can even do 2 counts to 10. That should settle you in nicely and then Noting for 45 minutes (or longer if you so choose). 

Generally speaking if you had a fase in your practice where you just loved sitting and very often and you thought of meditation being the best thing in life, chances are that was the A&P. 

As this stuff is cycling it's a bit like chasing your own tail. Stop chasing tail and instead Accept ALL that restlessness and aversion or misery or disqust, fear or else. Sit with it with utter acceptance even if it feels like Hell. 

Ingram keeps repeating that word Acceptance throughout his book constantly. For a very good reason I'm sure. Also he mentions keep noting without laps in mindfulness. These two things are worth remembering often. 

Also try to up your practice to 2 times a day 45-60 minutes each sit of pure noting 1-2 sensation a second. This is especially good when in the Dukkha Nanas. 

Don't worry about "seeing insight". Insight can be subtle or Wow. Either way good stuff. Also when it happens it's more like a sudden unexpected slap in your face emoticon You just laugh or cry or nothing at all , and carry on noting. All experience, including Insight is transient and gets locked into the memory prison. We can talk about it but it's not It anymore emoticon it's gone, gone, gone. The only real Treasure is that very momentary act of Satipatthana, that seeing of object arising-passing (hence not-self, unsatisfactory and utterly impermanent). 

I hope my words are not causing more confusion emoticon 
Best wishes to you! 

Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 10/28/20 12:02 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/27/20 11:23 PM

RE: Hoping for general advice

Posts: 1190 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Ram Subramanian:
Hi all,

I've been on this forum off and on in the past, and I've gotten some good suggestions here. I'm posting this now because I feel very stuck and I wanted to get a little advice about where I might be, whether or not that matters, and how to move forward.

I have some general advice, very general advice, it's also unconventional advice. Not everything I say may apply to your situation but there are lots of readers on this forum, so I hope you don't mind.

Many people will tell you that you have to stick with one pracice to get results. The problem with that advice is there are many different types of practices and many different types of people, and finding the right practice for the right person should not be left to chance. Why invest years in a practice you don't like when there are so many others you may never experience that might work better for you.

Meditation is a life long process, so there is no reason to rush, why not spend time looking around at other forms?

I also believe meditation should make you feel better today, not just at some unspecified date in the future - because for some people, particularly if they are in the wrong practice, that future day will never come.

Meditation can allow unpleasant memories and thoughts and emotions to rise to the surface of consciousness and insights can turn your world view upside down so that is to be expected. But I don't believe long lasting dark nights are inveitable and you have to break through them to find equanimity. If you are in a long funk, I think it's more likely you are doing the wrong type of meditation for you, or you are doing the technique wrong, or you have issues that are unrelated to meditation that need a different type of solution.

So my advice is if you are not feeling good about your practice to try something else. 

Even if you want to stick with what you are doing now, there is no reason  you can't try something different once in a whlie instead or in an extra session.

How will you know what you are missing if you never try?

No one teacher can expose you to every variation and  type of practice. Buddha tried two teachers and then struck out on his own. Shinzen Young teaches five different forms of meditation. So if someone wanted to explore different types of practice looking at his teachings would be a good place to start. His methods can produce a gradual awakening as well as a more conventional cessation/fruition. I prefer the gradual approach because I don't have any faith in mystical involuntary discontinuous events like cessation/fruition or realizations.

From reading this forum I've noticed that different people describe the effects of practice differently, what I think that means is that if you get locked into one practice you may not get the full benefits of what Buddha taught. He taught both samatha and vipassana, and he taught sitting meditaiton and mindfulnes in daily life. I believe having a rich multifold practice will enrich your experience and produce better results over the long term.

I think it is best to always keep looking and trying new things, even after you have settled on a practice. There are differnt techniques that work best for you for sitting, or walking, or relaxing lying down, or for other tasks in daily life. The more techniques you try the more situations you will find ways to practice in. 

And there are subtle variations and nuances in how to understand or practice any type of meditaiton and the more different styles  you are exposed to the better you will be able to get the nuances of your own style right.

I've tried many different practices, I feel I know which ones to use in different life situaitons I find myself in, and I am still always trying new things and integrating them into what I do, or not using them if I find they don't work for me.

Try to notice if something improves your well-being if it does, use it, if it doesn't, if it makes you tense, or you feel suppressed, or uncomfortable try something else.
Ram Subramanian, modified 1 Year ago at 11/3/20 3:09 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/3/20 3:09 AM

RE: Hoping for general advice

Posts: 13 Join Date: 8/13/15 Recent Posts
Thanks everyone for this advice. I've implemented some of the suggestions (focus on noting for the whole session and get in two sessions a day) with great results. Jim, I appreciate your suggestions and I hope someone else benefits from it. I have already spent years donig exactly what you suggest, trying different methods, and that's how I ended up here in the first place.

Today's session was typical in many ways, so I'll quickly describe it here: I did a full hour of just straight noting, trying to "see" every sensation as it came and went. At first I felt a kind of inability to get ahold of the sensations, as if my noting faculty couldn't get a grip on things. It felt like many things were slipping through my grasp as I tried to perceive them. I noted those thoughts of frustration and kept going. As I continued, I started to really see how each sensation was discrete from the others, how each was gone as soon as it appeared, and how they were all very annoying. I had a distinct feeling of wanting peace, away from all these tiresome sensations. As usual, these feelings were accompanied by powerful and quite unpleasant feelings of energy moving up and down my back accompanied by strange shivers and tensions. In the last five minutes, I relaxed and did nothing to transition to life, and I had a sudden feeling of being fine with everything. I saw the pains in my body and the thoughts of wanting to stop meditation as things which seemed "out there" and easy to accept. They were still painful and unpleasant, but I was fine with it. When the bell went off, I felt like I could have kept going much longer, but of course I had to get up and get ready for work.

As soon as I finished and stood up, I felt like the "state" I had been in was gone. I do feel that I've made progress, though, and I was able to see things quite clearly for a while.
shargrol, modified 1 Year ago at 11/3/20 5:49 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/3/20 5:49 AM

RE: Hoping for general advice

Posts: 1793 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
That seems like a good session to me.