Mahasi vipassana - severe responses of body and mind

James Nickson, modified 1 Year ago at 7/14/22 6:09 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/14/22 5:26 AM

Mahasi vipassana - severe responses of body and mind

Posts: 3 Join Date: 7/14/22 Recent Posts
Hi there,

I am curious on your view regarding my severe responses of body and the mind while sitting the mahasi style vipassana.
With severe responses I refer to emotions blowing up to the fullest - punching the air out of anger, crying out of sadness, moving weirdly out of paranoia.. shaking due to rapture.. you get the idea. It is a detached movement I can observe, that the body lives out without 'me' taken proper control over it.
Now, these emotions clearly develop out of fine sensations. At some point when they reach a strong level an intention comes in to release these emotions by acting out of them. It is possible for me to note this intention and thereby stop the living out of the emotions through severe responses all together. However, it seems as though it feels better to live them out. There seems to be more relieve after the emotion is gone if I have lived it out. Clearly, living it out appears to be unskilful and increases the suffering in itself. It is a weird relationship.

Based on that I have two questions:

1) Is it better for purification to let the emotion be fully lived out or to note the intention and let it pass early on.
2) Is this a very mahasi specific phenomenon of experiencing severe emotions? My other friends from other traditions seem not to experience those all too much.. at least not to this extent.

Thanks so much for your help! Appreciate it!
Adi Vader, modified 1 Year ago at 7/14/22 7:28 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/14/22 7:27 AM

RE: Mahasi vipassana - severe responses of body and mind

Posts: 240 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
Answering your questions, along with some advice, please see if it makes sense to you:

1. In meditation the objective is to build a viewing platform/grounding object and simply objectify any and everything that arises which pulls us away fromm the grounding object. In the Mahasi technique the viewing platform is the rising and falling of the abdomen. We establish mindfulness of the rising and falling of the abdomen and when an 'object' arises that pulls the mind away from the grounding object - we track it till it subsides - acknowledging its existence using a mentally created verbal label. This labeling moves on to 'noting' - a mentally created and acknowledged pause - and that has to move on to simply being with / tracking the object simply acknowledging it and knowing it for what it is - this is called Yoniso Manasekara. The verbal label and the artificially created and acknowledged pause is supposed to help objectify the thing that has pulled attention to it. So when emotion arises - label emotion, note emotion, simply be with and track emotion till it disappears. Skill naturally increases from labeling to noting to yoniso manasekara. This is the core of the Mahasi technique. This for some people is problematic when emotional content arises which is too strong to be simply mindful of. Some degree of Shamatha or calm abiding practice done in parallel to the mahasi technique may help. What may also help is to learn a skill called 'softening into' taught in a system called MIDL .... relax mind and body when tracking object, track objects on the outbreath piggy backing on the relaxation of the diaghphragm and concomitant relaxation in the mind, track objects and physically sigh at them, track objects while dropping intentions of acting on them.

2. Every system of practice that involves establishing mindfulness in one of the four foundations of mindfulness will lead to phenomena arising of this nature. For different people this may happen with different severity at different points in their practice. In the quiscence of a meditation session a mosquito bite on the elbow may be accompanied with a tremendous amount of irritation setting off what is called prapancha or proliferation resulting in many irritable memories of the past also arising or scenarios of the future also arising. This is grist for the mill. When in meditation through the tracking of objects the mind starts to engage and track the gross and unique characteristics of objects and then starts to engage with the subtle and ubiquitous characteristics. Sound - sound - sound becomes loud - shrill - soft .. becomes start - middle - end becomes arising - dancing around - passing away. Same for every other object and every other sense door. This is the mind becoming sensitive to the mark of anitya - impermenance/unreliability. This naturally leads to the mind experience and tracking fear, misery, disgust, desperation to end. This territory is called the dukkha nana. It happens at a very high skill level and at that skill level the yogi knows what actually caused it. So there is dukkha but there is also the nana or knowledge of what it is and why it came about and how to let go of it. If this  smartness is absent then it is only dukkha ... it is not dukkha nana. So if you are getting these wild emotions then to simply keep doing that which you are doing is a bad idea. Try and do shamatha practice in parallel, try and learn softening into and incorporate it into your noting practice.

​​​​​​​Hope this helps.
James Nickson, modified 1 Year ago at 7/14/22 8:30 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/14/22 8:30 AM

RE: Mahasi vipassana - severe responses of body and mind

Posts: 3 Join Date: 7/14/22 Recent Posts
Thank you so much for your advice!! I understand that continuing with these severe emotions does not serve the purpose - note taken. Hence applying those suggestions which you have suggested - will do!!&nbsp;<br /><br />Potentially you could also provide a bit guidance on the following thought:<br />I notice how the emotion arises and I notice the intention to i.e. punch the air arising as I sit with mindfulness. I am able to bypass it by simply noting and tightening for a brief moment in time. Doing so will ensure that the strong emotion and hence the strong response does not occur. I'm unsure if its good practise to 'tighten' at that point in time or if that would simply be avoidance of the intention. By tightening I simply mean spotting the intention and not letting the mind continue its path. It's as though I would put a road block for a moment.. idk how to phrase it in words properly but I hope that this gets the message accross.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> 
Adi Vader, modified 1 Year ago at 7/14/22 8:57 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/14/22 8:57 AM

RE: Mahasi vipassana - severe responses of body and mind

Posts: 240 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
Hi the general direction of practice should go from the Yang to include the Yin, from the masculine to include the feminine.

We sling attention around in order to find and track objects
We permit objects to 'self select' by pulling attention to them
We learn to expand and contract reshape attention to turn it into a bidirectional arrow the forward arrow pointed at the object, the backward arrow pointed at the mind to understand precedents and consequents

All of this is very very 'Yangish'. It involves learning how to Do.

But when attention lands on an object the citta or the heart-mind gets involved and gets agitated and starts to construct a story. The job then is not to clamp down on this story creation but to soften it, to relax the mind in and around this story initially and then the withdraw participation from the very mechanism that creates this story. Perception engages with an object , we soothe affect / citta, and then the mano or the intellect or the cognitive mind learns the characteristics that are revealed through persistent observation/tracking of objects..

This initial soothing of the citta, softening into the object while tracking it moves on to putting down and withdrawing participation in the citta's latent tendencies to create harsh positions - I fucking love this object, I fucking hate this object. This is the very meat and potatoes of insight practice.

This  soothing, softening etc is very  'Yinish'. It involves learning how to Not DO.

When you say 'tightening' or not letting the mind continue on the path - it doesnt seem very Yinish.
James Nickson, modified 1 Year ago at 7/14/22 10:16 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 7/14/22 10:16 AM

RE: Mahasi vipassana - severe responses of body and mind

Posts: 3 Join Date: 7/14/22 Recent Posts
You helped me a lot! Much appreciated!!