RE: Off-cushion practice?

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Niels Lyngsø, modified 1 Month ago.

Off-cushion practice?

Posts: 313 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
The last three or four weeks, I have been thinking more and more about getting a solid and consistent off-cushion practice as a supplement to my two daily hours of sitting meditation. My thoughts about this seem to be running in circles, so I decided to put them out here – to seek advice.

Background: I have been in the Equanimity Nana (pre SE) for almost a year, and the last couple of months things seem to have stagnated (if you want more details on what I experience, check my log).

Several times a day, the thought comes: Maybe I should do some off-cushion practice to get things moving again? Then comes the counter-thought: No, that’s striving, that’s an expression of grasping for SE, just continue sitting two hours a day, and whenever the body-mind system is ready, the cessation will happen, so don’t put more pressure on yourself, it will just be counter-productive. And then comes the counter-counter-thought: The counter-thought is an expression of aversion – why do I have aversion towards off-cushion practice, why is it that I am not already doing it, I do consider myself to be a serious and dedicated practioner, is there a fear somewhere that I don’t see clearly?

And when I am thinking (following the first thought and the counter-counter-thought) that I should do off-cushion practice, well, then there is a new set of thoughts concerning which kind of off-cushion practice I should do. My daily work is quite demanding intellectual work (reading, writing, translating), so it would be hard to practice there, maybe apart from either aiming for peripheral breath awareness or have a bell ring every now and then to remind me to be mindful. The rest of the time, when I’m doing practical stuff (I live alone and don’t have much social interaction), there are basically three ways to go, as I see it:
     1) Either just try to be broadly mindful about everything going on in experience, maybe having a bell (on the phone) ringing every two or three minutes in the beginning to remind me.
     2) Have some sort of ancor, the breath, the feet when walking, the hands when using hands, or …?
     3) Some form of noting, maybe combined with the breath: one note on every outbreath, noting whatever is most prominent in experience. This seems like the most hard-core solution.

I think it is important that the off-cushion practice – if I chose to do one – is fun, so that it doesn’t feel like striving.

Any suggestions, comments, recommendations?
shargrol, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Off-cushion practice?

Posts: 1529 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
I guess you could use downtime, when you're not cognitively working on something, to explore and get used to trusting the natural intelligence of the mind...

You could notice how awareness is already aware and that awareness requires no effort. Just get used to the notion. "I can't make awareness happen and I can't make it go away. The body-mind is already aware"

You could notice how mindfulness of the present moment is the only protection that exists. Just get used to that notion. "What would protect me now from external threats? Only mindfulness of the present. What would protect men now from inner pyschological threats? Only mindfulness of the present."

You could notice how --- in the same way the body can breathe itself -- attention can direct itself. Just get used to that notion. "Look at how my attention seems to know where to go in order to walk, wash, eat... Attention is already attending..."

This sort of stuff is usally done in fairly small doses though, it can sometimes be surprising exhausting to radically allow in this way. But it seens kuje ut might be good suooirt practice for a allowing a sitting practice to carry you to nibbana..

But maybe not, too. I basically worked all day, took the train back home, ate dinner, did a bunch of housework, got clean, sat for my normal pre-sleep sit and meditated on the thought stream, got daydreamy and notice how i was watching my mind watch the mind and then there was not even nothing which was intersting and I went to bed. No specialy practice during the day. Also absolutely no clue what to do while sitting except sit and watch experience arise and allow mind to center and relax and notice where the mind went by itself.

So who knows? It probably really doesn't matter what you decide emoticon  Nibbans might happen during a sit, might happen during a walk, might happen during a poop, might happen when you notice that smiling smiles itself emoticon
Martin, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Off-cushion practice?

Posts: 263 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
I've taken to counting breaths. I will count fifty breaths between tasks at work, or 100 when I sit down on the sofa in the evening. Yesterday I counted every breath on the drive home. Oddly, it came to an even 600 breaths (300 if you count in+out as 1). A few weeks ago I was noting footfalls as I ran (right, right, right). But this is really just hedonistic/adversive on my part because I really do not like listening to internal dialogs about views, which is the radio station stuck in my head these days. I'm interested to hear about what you end up playing with. 
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Ni Nurta, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Off-cushion practice?

Posts: 619 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
I have better idea: practice having the kind of experience/mind you actually want to have.
Tim Farrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Off-cushion practice?

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Ni Nurta
I have better idea: practice having the kind of experience/mind you actually want to have.


This sounds to me like a formula for dreariness, at best. The unsatisfactoriness of trying to implement our existentially inadequate state of the art desires is the first two noble truths. 
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Ni Nurta, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Off-cushion practice?

Posts: 619 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Tim Farrington
Ni Nurta
I have better idea: practice having the kind of experience/mind you actually want to have.

This sounds to me like a formula for dreariness, at best. The unsatisfactoriness of trying to implement our existentially inadequate state of the art desires is the first two noble truths. 

Imho your worries are unwarranted. I tested this practice idea on myself and it works. It takes a lot of time to figure stuff out but if it didn't I wouldn't call it a "practice".

Let me say it like this: when you have idea, even very vague, and try to figure out what it is and what to do with it then this is always a valid practice.
shargrol, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Off-cushion practice?

Posts: 1529 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
To some extent it can be useful to "behave as if you already had SE. act right now what you think SE would enact." Usually this means not changing much but being much less of a neurotic mess about "when am I going to get SE?". emoticon
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Off-cushion practice?

Posts: 190 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
My practice has always been centered on breathing. I've found that it fits in seamlessly into daily life. The first tetrad of mindfulness of breathing is simple: follow the breath clearly so that you know if your breath is shallow or deep (diaphragmatic breathing), allow this awareness to extend to the whole body ( breathing moves the energy through the body), calm any tension sensed. Other than that carry on with normal activity. Above all, Let Go, as shargrol mentioned. The gift wiil come. 
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Brandon Dayton, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Off-cushion practice?

Posts: 451 Join Date: 9/24/19 Recent Posts
It's great to get an update! Interesting to see where your mind is right now.

An off-cushion practice that is not directly about moving closer to Stream Entery might be interesting. Something to just cultivate well-being or positive mind states maybe. 

I've been doing noting vedana off-cushion, where I bias the noting of pleasant sensations. This seems to be a good fit for activities like hiking, yard work or chores. Not sure how it would work with something that took more concentration, like writing. 

Another that might be nice fit is one I read from Kenneth Folk where you just ask if energy is expanding or contracting at any particlar moment. Also a nice fit for anything involving movement. I often do it when I'm rocking my baby to sleep, for some reason.

The other one that I seem to do spontaneously as I am working (either making art or writing) is to just hone in on the sense of quiet and emptiness before I start and let the activity kind of sit in the middle of the sea of quiet. Sometimes the emptiness of the activity itself becomes clear, but I often get absorbed in the work as well and lose the sense of openness. It's interesting as many of the hindrances crop up during work and I can work with them within that context as well.

Just a bunch of ideas. Maybe it can help spark something. I think the creative and intuitive aspect of meditation can really be one of the funnest parts.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Off-cushion practice?

Posts: 1506 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Niels, a couple of weeks ago you said:

What is this little part of me that cannot just relax and enjoy the ride down the frosty and sun glittering slope? Still striving, I guess. Still craving that silly merit badge (SE) in order to believe that I am actually okay ...

Maybe SE for you involves accepting that you don't actually need SE to prove that you are okay ... you are okay as you already are.
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Niels Lyngsø, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Off-cushion practice?

Posts: 313 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
Thank you all for your responses.

I have not intentionally made any decision, but the funny thing is that I have become more mindfull off-cushsion than I was before posting. I become aware of my breath more often, my body sensations, become aware of being aware of whatever. Now and then, I notice how attention moves around all by itself, now and then, I remember that being mindful of the present moment is the only protection against outer anner inner threats. Etc.

So all your advice has – without me doing anything – just implemented iself in my body-mind, that currently seems to be trying all the suggestions out in some randomly shifting order. So now I don't worry about that anymore. At least for the time being. It seems to take care of itself emoticon

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