Binary Noting

Robin Woods, modified 4 Months ago.

Binary Noting

Posts: 158 Join Date: 5/28/12 Recent Posts
Does anyone know how Kenneth Folk’s binary noting (noting quiet/noise) whenever there aren’t or are thoughts present helps move you along the path of insight if it doesn’t involve perceiving the three characteristics?
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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Binary Noting

Posts: 474 Join Date: 9/24/19 Recent Posts
The practice is specifically suggested for for mid-equanimity when working with slippery thought, but I've found it useful for quieting my mind when normal concentration techniques aren't working.

BTW, not all techniques need to be specifically about the three characteristics to move you towards insight. These are just concepts to describe experience and those particular concepts work for some people and not for others.  Personally, I spend essentially zero time thinking about the three characteristics in practice and I seem to be progressing just fine.

In the end, the only way to know if it works for you is to try it out.
Robin Woods, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Binary Noting

Posts: 158 Join Date: 5/28/12 Recent Posts
thanks for this. Yeah - I've never really 'looked into' the 3C's either and seem to have gotten along fine.....

What's your current practice if you don't mind me asking? 
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Tommy M, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Binary Noting

Posts: 116 Join Date: 12/1/20 Recent Posts
...not all techniques need to be specifically about the three characteristics to move you towards insight. These are just concepts to describe experience and those particular concepts work for some people and not for others.

I have to respectfully disagree here, and I'll explain why.

The Three Characteristics aren't "just concepts to describe experience"; they are the very nature of samsaric experience itself. If you're not paying attention to anicca, anatta and dukkha as the very qualities of samsara then you're not practicing vipassana.

Sure, not all techniques place the same importance on the Three Characteristics as vipassana does, but it would be more helpful to those reading this if you were clearer on which techniques you're talking about, e.g. samatha, which doesn't incline the mind towards seeing these characteristics clearly.

To understand the actuality of the Four Noble Truths, one needs to understand the actuality of the Dharma Seals. This is not debatable.

Personally, I spend essentially zero time thinking about the three characteristics in practice and I seem to be progressing just fine.

If you're able to enter into Knowledge of the Arising & Passing Away, then you've most certainly paid attention to the Three Characteristics, because you've passed through 3rd ñana (Knowledge of the Three Characteristics) to get there. To suggest that they're not important or just some sort of skillful means is to miss the point entirely.

Again, this is meant as respectful disagreement based on experience, and not as an attack on anyone or their practice. I'm a huge advocate for pragmatism and doing what works for you, but if you're practicing vipassana without attention to the anicca, anatta and dukkha then you're not practicing vipassana at all.
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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Binary Noting

Posts: 474 Join Date: 9/24/19 Recent Posts
You're probably right. I'm sure I am aware of those characteristics on some level, or things wouldn't be cooking. I'm sure I will be much more aware of them as my practice continues.

That being said, I don't intentionally focus on the 3C's in practice. It may help others to do so, but trying to use them to inform my practice mostly just trips me up. 

My practice currently is a mix of what my teacher refers to as "Mahayana vipassana", straight noting, and noting vedana. I might do a brief body scan or concentration on breath to start. The Mahayana vipassana involves progressing through a sequence of awareness on the body, sound, mind and then pure awareness, then repeating in a loop. 
Robin Woods, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Binary Noting

Posts: 158 Join Date: 5/28/12 Recent Posts
But the basic noting instructions don't really mention the 3c's do they? Only that one note 'tingling,' 'sound,' 'pressure' etc

For instance, KF's three-speed instructions don't mention them.

I'm definitely way beyond stream entry and I've never really 'inclined my mind' towards them - but have just noted. 

That said, certain experiences - like an itch - embody all 3 so clearly it's screamingly obvious...
Georg S, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Binary Noting

Posts: 25 Join Date: 12/8/19 Recent Posts
It seems you see the 3c's more as a technique than as a "natural law". Gravity is there too, but can you describe gravity intellectual? Yes of course you can, but you have to experience gravity to really know what gravity is. It's the same with the 3c's. The 3c's are (forming) your experience, whether you are aware of them or not. There are techniques which are pointing more directly on the 3c's than others, but that doesnt mean that they arent "there". And if you think the binary noting does not involve the 3c's, look closer. Everytime you notice silence, sound, sound, silence you experience impermanence. Everytime you catched yourself being carried away by thoughts instead of paying attention you have been aware of nonself/no control. Same with dhukka. And then the funny thing about that is, that you only cought one aspect of the 3cs and you might think, oh yes, i experienced anicca. Thats true, but there is also the rest of them still being present, but not in the range of your awareness. All the vipassana- techniques in my understanding are an attempt to "convert" the analog signal (3cs) into a digital (binary) one. All to get a glimpse on how reality works. The more experienced you are as a meditator the more signals you are able to sample at a specific timeframe. And at some point no analog-digital converter is necessary because you are experiencing the experience directly, free from concepts and that is called vipassana I guess. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
Robin Woods, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Binary Noting

Posts: 158 Join Date: 5/28/12 Recent Posts
Georg S:
It seems you see the 3c's more as a technique than as a "natural law". Gravity is there too, but can you describe gravity intellectual? Yes of course you can, but you have to experience gravity to really know what gravity is. It's the same with the 3c's. The 3c's are (forming) your experience, whether you are aware of them or not. There are techniques which are pointing more directly on the 3c's than others, but that doesnt mean that they arent "there". And if you think the binary noting does not involve the 3c's, look closer. Everytime you notice silence, sound, sound, silence you experience impermanence. Everytime you catched yourself being carried away by thoughts instead of paying attention you have been aware of nonself/no control. Same with dhukka. And then the funny thing about that is, that you only cought one aspect of the 3cs and you might think, oh yes, i experienced anicca. Thats true, but there is also the rest of them still being present, but not in the range of your awareness. All the vipassana- techniques in my understanding are an attempt to "convert" the analog signal (3cs) into a digital (binary) one. All to get a glimpse on how reality works. The more experienced you are as a meditator the more signals you are able to sample at a specific timeframe. 

Great answer - kinda what I was hoping for -thanks! 
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J W, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Binary Noting

Posts: 386 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
Well, wouldn't you say there is some aspect of looking at the 3C's which is implicit in any noting practice?  In the Dan Ingram/Mahasi style noting, it's focused on the impermanence of sensations, Burbea describes it from more of an anatta POV (sensations as separate from "I").  With binary noting there is the idea of allowing/not allowing sensations based on how they feel, so there's an aspect of dukkha there?  Or it could be any combination of the three, with the 3C's being dependently arising phenomena after all.

I just don't see how you would do any noting without investigating the 3C's in some way... maybe that's the exact point you're making.
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Balint Pinczes, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Binary Noting

Posts: 43 Join Date: 8/3/18 Recent Posts
Hi Robin, 

this is not a direct answer to your question, but rather the description of a variation on the technique in the hope that it might be useful for some. (In the end, albeit indirectly, I think it still is relevant and hope to spell out how below.)

I have recently picked up a technique introduced by Shinzen Young on the Brightmind app and I have really come to like it. 

Instead of going binary, Shinzen proposes using a 0 to 3 scale. (What follows is how I do it now and is a bit different from the original presentation, but the basic idea is still the same I guess.)

Note "3" for thoughts that are clearly audible/linguistic/verbal, such as recurring thoughts etc. (Phrases that you could actually "quote" or write down on a piece of paper or translate into another language.)
Note "2" for proto-thoughts, semi-thoughts, thoughts that are kind of or almost but not really audible/linguistic/verbal/quotable, or are similar but more like whispered or shadow-like or cobweb-like, thought-seeds etc. (Also: beginnings of thoughts, unfinished half-phrases, words or concepts not forming full sentences or utterances.) 
Note "1" for mental noise that is clearly below the verbal level.
Note "0" for mental silence.

You could obviously change the gradation (eg., use a 3- or 5-point scale), or introduce verbal instead of numeric labels if that works better for you. 

For me, there really seems to be an interesting dynamic when working with the slippery slopes on both sides of level "2". As far as the 3C-s are concerned, I feel this part of the technique clearly makes me more aware (or potentially more aware) of impermanence (thoughts not being solid, robust, enduring), and somewhat more aware (potentially at least, like "in the mood") of no-self (thoughts not being me or mine or controlled by me). (Dukkha lingers on there in the background as well...)

(You can also abstract away from "hearing" (mental talk) and apply a related approach with the visual field, bodily sensations, mental states etc.)
Robin Woods, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Binary Noting

Posts: 158 Join Date: 5/28/12 Recent Posts
Good ol' Shinzen!

Thanks for this - I'd not come across this before. I've actually saved your message as an email to myself so will make this the focus of my practice for a while! 

Thanks again
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Brandon Dayton, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Binary Noting

Posts: 474 Join Date: 9/24/19 Recent Posts
That's interesting. I do something similar with the technique. Numbers are a bit too abstract to me, but I have divided things up into "thought" "no thought" and "noise/pre-thought/urge to think".