Perceptual Meditation Practices

Arnold Sicily, modified 1 Year ago at 7/7/22 10:37 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/5/22 4:03 AM

Perceptual Meditation Practices

Posts: 3 Join Date: 7/5/22 Recent Posts
Hi,

I was wondering if anyone knew of any perceptual meditation exercises?
What I mean by this, are exercises that focus on extending one's scope of attention, careful examination & removing assumptions.
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Dream Walker, modified 1 Year ago at 7/15/22 8:53 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/15/22 8:53 AM

RE: Perceptual Meditation Practices

Posts: 1659 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Arnold Sicily Hi, I was wondering if anyone knew of any perceptual meditation exercises? What I mean by this, are exercises that focus on extending one's scope of attention, careful examination & removing assumptions.
Check out this post -

A Framework of Awakening

It might be useful or not. check out 3rd path stuff. Some of the practices can be done before 3rd path though it is a lot easier when you are post 2nd path.
Good luck,
​​​​​​​~D
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Noah D, modified 1 Year ago at 7/15/22 7:28 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/15/22 7:28 PM

RE: Perceptual Meditation Practices

Posts: 1211 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
+1 to DWs great map. Also the books Seeing That Frees & Time Space Knowledge contain what you describe.
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 7/17/22 10:35 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/17/22 9:36 PM

RE: Perceptual Meditation Practices

Posts: 1647 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
In my opinion the Anapanasati Sutta (meditation) and Satipatthana Sutta (mindfulness) are sufficient.

Meditate on the breath and practice mindfulness in daily life, and every time you notice any mental activity: thoughts, emotions, impulses, sensations, or ideas of self, notice how it arises and fades (dependent origination and impermanence) and notice if there is suffering in it (dukkha) or if there are ideas of self (as a good person or a bad person, smart, not smart, old, young, healthy ,ill, winner loser, parent, child, proud, humble, student, employee, boss, etc etc) fading as the mental activity fades (anatta).

This way you study dependent origination and the three characteristics in a very practical effective way.

The assumptions you are removing are assumptions of a constant continuous separate self and the assumptions that thoughts, emotions, impulses, sensations, and ideas of self, are "you" or "yours" and that they are real things you should believe in. 

But this removing of assumptions happens somewhat unconsciously, the solution is not really at the intellectual level, so you don't really need to think about dependent origination or the three characteristics unless it interests you - just watch the activity of the mind - that is all that is required. Consciously what seems to happen is that watching the mind allows emotions to arise freely into consciousness, many of which might have been suppressed. As you first become aware of these emotions, you see they cause suffering but you can't let go. But in time as you observe these emotions again and again, and as you learn not to push them away or change your focus of attention away from them, as you learn to let them flow freely without interfering with them, you learn more and more about the subtlties surrounding them, how they arise, how they fade, other thoughts, emotions, impulses, ideas of self they are masking etc.  And eventually you see that in fact you are actually making these unpleasant emotions (dukkha) through a deliberate act of will. You might think, "Why am I doing this, it is only making me unhappy." It's like you were trying to tolerate something unpleasant until finally you had enough and you would not tolerate it any more. (The study of dependent origination and the three characteristics, consciously or unconsciously has now borne fruit. The "self" is not worth defending, thoughts, emotions, impulses etc. are not "mine".) At that point it becomes possible to just stop doing that which creates the dukkha and without suppressing anything. The strongest emotions are the hardest to let go of so this process will start with simple things and extend over a period of time taking longer for the more complicated emotions. It happens gradually. Progress occurs through almost imperceptable increments. What you do notice is that over time more and more things which used to bother you not longer do, or they bother you less and less.

It is not always useful to make things unnecessarily complicated:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.063.than.html

"It's just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a brahman, a merchant, or a worker.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me... until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short... until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored... until I know his home village, town, or city... until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow... until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated... until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird... until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.' He would say, 'I won't have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.' The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him.
Arnold Sicily, modified 1 Year ago at 7/23/22 5:17 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/23/22 5:17 AM

RE: Perceptual Meditation Practices

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Thanks everyone for your replies. I'll look into these resources & try to get back to you on what I've found.

By the way Jim, what do you mean by the 3 characteristics?
I'm actually quite new to meditation, though I've had some successful experience with it in the past. I've meditated for about a month at a time over the years, on just a few occasions. Every time it has been of immense help to me & I got a glimpse of what it's like to simply 'be an observer'. I plan to start meditating daily again.

Also, in response to your example:
I agree. Everything & anything is as simple as it is understood.
If a man fixates his attention, makes assumptions or does not carefully examine, he does not progress in understanding & consequently makes mistakes.
For example, the man with the arrow wound fixated his attention on the type of treatment but did not expand his attention to the time he has to reach a decision. He lacked understanding of the problem because of this fixation. Importantly, this reveals the importance of finding relevant information, as opposed to simply focusing on the quantity of information. Understanding is reached through relevant information.
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 7/23/22 4:26 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/23/22 2:41 PM

RE: Perceptual Meditation Practices

Posts: 1647 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Arnold Sicily
...
By the way Jim, what do you mean by the 3 characteristics?
...


You can look it up to get a second opinion, my way of explaining it is that all things have three characteristics, impermanence, not-self, and dukkha, for this reason it is wise not to become attached to anything.

​​​​​​​Impermanence means everything changes and or comes to an end so if you become attached to anything you will be disappointed. Not-self means there is nothing you can find that constitutes a continuous, constant unchanging self - so don't be attached to any self concepts because they are not continuous or constant, you will be disappointed when they change - your idea of being smart will make you unhappy the next time you do something dumb and your self concept changes from "I'm smart" to "I'm dumb". Dukkha means that all things have some aspect that causes suffering. If you don't like it the suffering aspect is obvious, if you like it then the suffering will come from not having it or fear of losing it.

If you examine your experience of moment to moment existence identifying the three characteristics in all things it will help you to become non-attached - to let go of craving - to suffer less.

In practice I tend to just focus seeing the three characteristics in mental activity, because that is where suffering originates, in the mind. All thoughts, emotions, impulses, sensory input, senses of self are impermanent, not-self, and dukkha. Mental activity arises and fades, it is impermanent, it arises into consciousness from where? unconscious processes? you don't really control it is is not yours it is not you it is not-self. A lot of it is worry or regret craving, aversion, mental anguish, etc it is dukkha.

As a practical matter I watch my mind and notice when unpleasant emotions arise, noticing I didn't ask for them they just arise (not-self), they arise and fade are impermanent, and they are unpleasant, they are dukkha. Then I try to let go (without suppressing anything). Letting go for minor issues can sometimes be easy, you just recognize you are feeling an unpleasant emotion and it is not necessary and you can just stop. For bigger issues it can be hard to let go, in those cases relaxing can help, for some things you can just find the tension in your mind and body and just relax and you let go. For bigger issues you might need to do relaxation exercises to let go. Doing relaxation exercises (which are actually just relaxing forms of meditation) can help you develop "relaxation power" increasing your ability to relax in more and more difficult situations as you learn the skill of relaxing.

Being non-attached is not numb or nihilistic. It is like ordinary consciousness when you are not thinking or feeling any attachment, craving or aversion. It could mean you are happy, or unhappy, or neither happy nor unhappy. Some unpleasant emotions are not caused by thinking they can have purely biological, biochemical, causes and these might exist independent of any attachment. But in general being non-attached gives you the opportunity to feel a lot better than otherwise because a lot of suffering doesn't happen the way it used to.

Some people like to understand things from a theoretical point of view. I'm like that, I like to understand how something works if I am going to trust it. Other people just want a simple practice and for them I would just say to do the relaxation exercises as meditation and then in daily life try to be relaxed and mindful (mindfulness = being aware of what you are doing while you are doing it,) and notice the activity of your mind. In trying to be relaxed one will naturally notice unwanted unpleasant emotions arising, (unpleasant=dukkha, arising and fading=impermenance, unwanted=not-self) without really having to think about or understand all the technical details.
Arnold Sicily, modified 1 Year ago at 7/24/22 9:40 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/24/22 9:40 AM

RE: Perceptual Meditation Practices

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Thanks for the explanation Jim. Whilst experiences & the contents of observation change, it seems certain principles don't. For example, there is love, impermanence, forgiveness, the 'observational' 0-dimensional self. It is about finding these constants in a sense, the principles that shape our lives & what we experience. But they also say that "change is the only constant", which presupposes freedom (change) to infinite degrees (change in change in change in change in change... ad infinitum). This is why perhaps a more accurate & less paradoxical statement would be something like: "understanding is freedom", so far that understanding is concerned with truth - not to say that there is 'the truth' but rather that truth exists.
As understanding is freedom & a meditation that trains these aspects of perception trains the ability to progress in understanding, through this I believe one will find ultimate freedom in their life (or equivalently, ultimate truth) - enlightenment.
These constant principles I believe are merely aspects of freedom/truth/love (all equivalent), in my opinion.

I hope my philosophy isn't too confusing; I'm still searching, but I hope it reveals some of my process in thinking.
These rules of perception are 'outward seeing' (expanding scope of attention), 'inward seeing' (careful examination) & 'reflective seeing' (removing assumptions). "Reflective" may be the wrong word.
Do you know some literature on these ideas of 'seeing' with regards to meditation, perhaps?
Martin, modified 1 Year ago at 7/24/22 12:17 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/24/22 12:17 PM

RE: Perceptual Meditation Practices

Posts: 775 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Noah already mentioned it, but I'll add a +1 for "Seeing That Frees" by Rob Burbea (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25172403-seeing-that-frees) which is one of the only books that deals with these questions in a nuts and bolts way, theory + corresponding practice exercises. 

By the way, Noah, I have queued up Time Space Knowledge. I hadn't heard of it, and I am looking forward to reading it, so thanks for the tip!
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Year ago at 7/24/22 12:55 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/24/22 12:55 PM

RE: Perceptual Meditation Practices

Posts: 1647 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Arnold Sicily
...

These rules of perception are 'outward seeing' (expanding scope of attention), 'inward seeing' (careful examination) & 'reflective seeing' (removing assumptions). "Reflective" may be the wrong word.
Do you know some literature on these ideas of 'seeing' with regards to meditation, perhaps?


I don't know if this is what you are looking for but Shinzen Young teaches a kind of unified mindfulness that tries to encomapss all meditation traditions. He has a form of noting where you just note see, hear and feel. But you can add outward or inward to that: see out, hear out, feel out, for external perceptions, and see in, hear in, and feel in for inward perceptions.

There is a free e-book on this by one of his students which is available from multiple sources on the internet:
A Guide to Unified Mindfulness by Julianna Raye

You can find out more about Shinzen Young by searching on the internet.

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