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equanimity practice
Answer
11/26/11 12:18 PM
I have some concrete questions for people who know about the equanimity stage:

-should focus be narrow or open?
-should i go to the objects or let the objects come to me?
-should i focus more in "being equanimous" rather than the two questions above?
-is equanimity a "state of being", meaning that the mind enters a frequency and a way of relating to the objects? is it something that is cultivated and i can train to turn into that mode ? (which also means that the sate is a "conditioned one")
-should i focus as fast as possible searching for sensations or note just in a broad sense (because also specifying the word to note and realizing exactly what it is takes time so that occupies space of awareness and the stream of phenomena).
-if i try to not interfere with whats going on i tend to get distant from the phenomena and therefore they are less sharp, its more kind of a vague flow with some inputs from the senses.
-My sitting lately is focusing a lot on how the mind behaves and more kind of "psychological stuff" rather than phenomena: Example there is a lot of noting like: rejection, intention, searching, expectation, enthusiasm, approaching, distancing, fearing. should i go back to phenomena or is ok if i stay in this area of noting?
-If i go closer to the object there is a strong "sucking energy" into the object. it feels very much like something pulling the awareness to mix to be with the objects. this brings more sharpness of the quality of the phenomena but also i get more trapped in it and have less "space" not to react.
-Sometimes my practice tends to become very "energy-like", just general vibrations, vibrations, vibrations. the body is a little bit lost, but its not "cerebral" sitting, although almost all is occurring from the chest up. Sometimes there is nothing much going on, just a soft flow of vibrations. what should i do in these cases? just note "vibration" vibrations", drop the noting?
-finally my practice is very varied right now. i tend not to want to "do" anything and just let whatever arises arise and just note or explore any state. that means that sometimes it may be more narrow and sometimes more broad focus, for example. sometimes very inward and sometimes very spacious. also, i have days where i cant concentrate at all, im completely spaced out. yesterday i sat for 5 hours and i was "there" maybe, with luck, only one. but then sometimes i get really into the practice...

comments? suggestions? questions? responses?

RE: equanimity practice
Answer
11/26/11 1:39 PM as a reply to paia rauten.
I have a feeling my advice is not what you're looking for, but I'll offer it anyway...

Practice regularly, unless you don't want to for some reason.
Follow whatever interests you in the moment.
Don't worry about doing it perfectly.
Don't worry about whether your thinking, or not thinking, or getting off track, or staying on track.
Whatever happens is fine. (Ooh! I bet some people reading this just threw up in their mouth a little bit.)

It's time to start feeling your way through this stuff, rather than applying some kind of optimal technique.

It's time to trust in the process.

-Jackson

RE: equanimity practice
Answer
11/26/11 4:42 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Jackson Wilshire:
I have a feeling my advice is not what you're looking for, but I'll offer it anyway...
(Ooh! I bet some people reading this just threw up in their mouth a little bit.)

Practice regularly, unless you don't want to for some reason.
Follow whatever interests you in the moment.
Don't worry about doing it perfectly.
Don't worry about whether your thinking, or not thinking, or getting off track, or staying on track.
Whatever happens is fine.
It's time to start feeling your way through this stuff, rather than applying some kind of optimal technique.

It's time to trust in the process.

-Jackson


I dont think its suuuuch an annoying post to threw up... emoticon

still, i come from several years of zen practice. and i found myself stuck. I totally agree with what you say but I also believe that is very very useful to know how the mind works, know the operating system.
"following whatever interest one has in the moment" may end up in laziness, indulgent, and looping in the same place for long, unless you investigate whats going on there.
I would really like to "stick" to your advices but i really saw many zen peers getting stuck for ages because of it, they are too flexible to justify whatever its going on in their premises.
i guess i have to admit im not an advanced practitioner, and for the moment, i have to see how things operate.

im very grateful that you answered anyway, and rather than throwing up, its a delightful drink! emoticon

RE: equanimity practice
Answer
11/26/11 11:42 PM as a reply to paia rauten.
paia rauten:
I have some concrete questions for people who know about the equanimity stage:

-should focus be narrow or open?

the focus should be as open as possible without sacrificing the continuity of attention. should your continuity of attention start to falter, the focus should naturally narrow to the point that enables you to practise continuously again.


paia rauten:

-should i go to the objects or let the objects come to me?

whether you go to the objects or let the objects come to you, the fact is that there is contact with objects. so long as this contact is noted/noticed, the details of what goes where or comes to where do not matter, as these are merely all (made up of) sensations to be noted.


paia rauten:

-should i focus more in "being equanimous" rather than the two questions above?

whatever you happen to focus more or less on, if you are paying continuous attention to what presents in an open, inclusive, and refined way, then you will naturally be equanimous.


paia rauten:

-is equanimity a "state of being", meaning that the mind enters a frequency and a way of relating to the objects? is it something that is cultivated and i can train to turn into that mode ? (which also means that the sate is a "conditioned one")

yes.. and (for the purpose of insight practice) the way to cultivate that state, and tune into that mode, is by noting/noticing the general character of the sensations manifesting here and now.


paia rauten:

-should i focus as fast as possible searching for sensations or note just in a broad sense (because also specifying the word to note and realizing exactly what it is takes time so that occupies space of awareness and the stream of phenomena).

if you are capable of paying unfalteringly continuous precise attention while noting non-verbally - without using words - then do so.

if you are unable to do so, then default to noting with words, either continuously, or occasionally, however happens to work for you, with the immediate goal being to pay very alert attention to the sensations that present, continuously and without getting lost in the content.

near the top of the 'recent posts' page is a 'sticky' thread entitled, 'the hierarchy of vipassana practice'. its original post addresses the sorts of concerns you have and i recommend reading it.


paia rauten:

-if i try to not interfere with whats going on i tend to get distant from the phenomena and therefore they are less sharp, its more kind of a vague flow with some inputs from the senses.

the distance from the phenomena is made of sensations, what is 'less sharp' is made of sensations, a vague flow is made of sensations, inputs from the senses are made of sensations.

if you are noting/noticing the sensations which present in any of these experiences, you are doing insight practice. if you are not noting/noticing the sensations, you are getting lost in the content, and any questions you have about the right way to practice are essentially questions about what the right way to get lost in content is.


paia rauten:

-My sitting lately is focusing a lot on how the mind behaves and more kind of "psychological stuff" rather than phenomena: Example there is a lot of noting like: rejection, intention, searching, expectation, enthusiasm, approaching, distancing, fearing. should i go back to phenomena or is ok if i stay in this area of noting?

rejection is made of sensations, intention is made of sensations, searching is made of sensations, expectation is made of sensations, enthusiasm is made of sensations, approaching is made of sensations, distancing is made of sensations, fearing is made of sensations. notice it directly: all of this *is* phenomena.


paia rauten:

-If i go closer to the object there is a strong "sucking energy" into the object. it feels very much like something pulling the awareness to mix to be with the objects. this brings more sharpness of the quality of the phenomena but also i get more trapped in it and have less "space" not to react.

the 'sucking energy' is made of sensations, awareness mixing with objects is made of sensations, sharpness of the quality of phenomena is made of sensations. further, fascination with 'sucking energy' is made of sensations, fascination with the relationship between awareness and objects is made of sensations, fascination with the quality of phenomena is made of sensations. rolling in this phenomena ignorantly, rather than noticing it for what it is, is being trapped already.


paia rauten:

-Sometimes my practice tends to become very "energy-like", just general vibrations, vibrations, vibrations. the body is a little bit lost, but its not "cerebral" sitting, although almost all is occurring from the chest up. Sometimes there is nothing much going on, just a soft flow of vibrations. what should i do in these cases? just note "vibration" vibrations", drop the noting?

vibrations are generally a good object for practice, as perceiving them clearly requires concentration and paying continuous attention strengthens concentration even more. thus, when vibrations are predominant, and nothing much else is going on, it is fine to drop the noting and plunge into the vibrations, so long as the continuity of attention is maintained. in other words, if attention is dropping out, or you're starting to get lost in content again, switch back to noting. in the final analysis, it is not the object that is of central importance (i.e. vibrations vs. anything else), nor even the style of practice (i.e. verbal noting vs. perceiving vibrations); rather, what is of central importance is that total attention is paid to the conditions that present here and now.


paia rauten:

-finally my practice is very varied right now. i tend not to want to "do" anything and just let whatever arises arise and just note or explore any state. that means that sometimes it may be more narrow and sometimes more broad focus, for example. sometimes very inward and sometimes very spacious. also, i have days where i cant concentrate at all, im completely spaced out. yesterday i sat for 5 hours and i was "there" maybe, with luck, only one. but then sometimes i get really into the practice...

if you sat for five hours but were only paying attention during one, then not only did you waste four hours, but you probably wasted the other hour as well, because whatever you were doing during the four hours you weren't paying attention, you were probably also losing the precious momentum gained during the other hour. rather than repeat this exercise in futility, i recommend that you 1- start noting the spacing out really, really hard - do not give spacing out even a second to set in, and 2- learn to switch up the sitting with walking. at a mahasi retreat centre, the protocol is to alternate between one hour walking and one hour sitting sessions, unless the teacher (abbot or whomever) instructs otherwise, and sticking strictly to this schedule prevents the sort of inattentive excess you describe. if you can't pay attention while sitting, then sitting is the biggest hindrance to your practice and you should get off your cushion and go somewhere where you can pay attention.


paia rauten:

comments? suggestions? questions? responses?

when you switch postures, be sure to note the (sensations that make up the) transition just as carefully as you would note anything you pay attention to while sitting or walking.

tarin

RE: equanimity practice
Answer
11/26/11 8:05 PM as a reply to paia rauten.
Jackson's advice is spot on, even from a technical standpoint this stage is very natural and normal feeling so there's a lot to be said for keeping it organic, just gently investigating whatever presents itself but not becoming complacent or inactive. Based on your descriptions though, I'm not entirely sure you're in Equanimity yet, as in the 4th vipassana jhana, 11th ñana, Knowledge of Equanimity of Formations, and not because I don't trust what you're saying but because it's easy to mix up states and stages if you're not familiar with the maps. Anyway, back to the pragmatic stuff...

-should focus be narrow or open?

The focus of attention will change as you move through the various stages, just keep it natural and stick to paying attention, constantly returning to the breath and this question will be answered for you.

If you're actually in Equanimity right now then the focus will be wide and almost panoramic, objects will present themselves without effort but you may find yourself almost daydreaming at times. Remain attentive, turn the attention to what is still seen to be observing this experience as it happens.

-should i go to the objects or let the objects come to me?

Again, it depends whereabouts you are if you're using the maps of insight. Objects are always presenting themselves for inspection and as long as you're paying attention this won't be an issue.

-should i focus more in "being equanimous" rather than the two questions above?

Equanimity, as an affective feeling, will arise naturally when you get to that stage, however it's useful to cultivate this at any stage of practice. To be equanimous is to be open and accepting of what's happening right now, neither clinging nor avoiding, just coolly observing the arising and passing of phenomena.

-should i focus as fast as possible searching for sensations or note just in a broad sense (because also specifying the word to note and realizing exactly what it is takes time so that occupies space of awareness and the stream of phenomena).

I'm assuming then that you're doing Mahasi-style noting?

Precision and consistency is what makes for good practice, it's possible to note dozens of sensations in a second or two but to really see their entire arising and passing away is what leads to deeper insight. Again, depending on where you're at in map terms it's possible to (almost) effortlessly and accurately note at crazy speeds, at which point silently noting is obviously more sensible, but at other times everything may seem very sluggish with only the tail end of sensations being noticed.

Note what you notice, there are times when you can go for one particular set of sensations and dismantle them down to individual vibrations, but as a general rule I just went for straight up noting of what arises in awareness unless I was looking for insight into something specific. Just to emphasize the point here, go for precise and accurate noting at a rate which is comfortable for you until you get some more skill, fast noting is very useful but not if it's at the expense of being able to observe the 3C's.

-if i try to not interfere with whats going on i tend to get distant from the phenomena and therefore they are less sharp, its more kind of a vague flow with some inputs from the senses.

The breath is the way forward. It sounds like you're just drifting off a bit, stay with the breath and keep on bringing the attention back whenever things become less clear. There are points along the way where that vagueness is natural, such as the early stages of Dark Night and the transition into Equanimity but just stay attentive, stay present and don't wander off on mental tangents.

-My sitting lately is focusing a lot on how the mind behaves and more kind of "psychological stuff" rather than phenomena: Example there is a lot of noting like: rejection, intention, searching, expectation, enthusiasm, approaching, distancing, fearing. should i go back to phenomena or is ok if i stay in this area of noting?

Could be Dark Night territory, but could also be earlier stages. Either way the advice is the same, don't get caught up in content, note the sensations, not it's contents and if you do decide to note it's contents them remember that it's all just more transient, empty phenomena. Do not get caught up in psychological stuff, this is what most people end up doing until they learn a solid technique and, while potentially useful for gaining insight into real life issues, it's not required to make progress.

-If i go closer to the object there is a strong "sucking energy" into the object. it feels very much like something pulling the awareness to mix to be with the objects. this brings more sharpness of the quality of the phenomena but also i get more trapped in it and have less "space" not to react.

Note this "sucking", "pulling", "sharpness" and anything else that appears. Don't fight with it, you might find it hard to catch the arising of objects but this "pulling" you mention sounds like what I would associate with being caught up in the ending of a sensation. In this case, observe this and see how everything you can note will do exactly the same thing.

-Sometimes my practice tends to become very "energy-like", just general vibrations, vibrations, vibrations. the body is a little bit lost, but its not "cerebral" sitting, although almost all is occurring from the chest up. Sometimes there is nothing much going on, just a soft flow of vibrations. what should i do in these cases? just note "vibration" vibrations", drop the noting?

Sounds like early-Equanimity. This is pretty much a matter of concentration and observation now, if you're getting this far then you're well on your way to getting 1st path if you can continue your investigations in the way you've been doing already.

[quote-finally my practice is very varied right now. i tend not to want to "do" anything and just let whatever arises arise and just note or explore any state. that means that sometimes it may be more narrow and sometimes more broad focus, for example. sometimes very inward and sometimes very spacious. also, i have days where i cant concentrate at all, im completely spaced out. yesterday i sat for 5 hours and i was "there" maybe, with luck, only one. but then sometimes i get really into the practice...
Sounds pretty natural to me, each sit can be very different and this is what's exciting and fun about practice. Ride these waves, note what happens and learn. If your descriptions right now are anything to go by it's only a matter of time until you get stream entry.

Keep investigating those sensations which still imply that there is a "you" there to be doing the observing, watch how it works and how it's not exempt from the pattern of arising and passing away. Don't go at it like a madman, just gently observe, pay attention and maintain the focus in a very natural and open way.

Hope that's of some use to you.

RE: equanimity practice
Answer
11/27/11 8:18 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
First of all, this is f^&%$ awesome! thank you very much for taking this time to kick my butt and help me with my practice!

Terin:

By what you say, I see that the main thing is continuity of attention. Is that correct? In relationship to that, I find myself in “attention gaps”. That means that very, very quickly, there are constant “fade outs”, as if everything shut off and turned on. That is very quickly and seems to be the ground, when not very attentive, of spacing out, thinking, etc. where more into the practice is like a blink, with the possibility of something new to arise. But I have to keep practicing…

"near the top of the 'recent posts' page is a 'sticky' thread entitled, 'the hierarchy of vipassana practice'. its original post addresses the sorts of concerns you have and i recommend reading it."

Ive read the post that you linked, it was very useful thanks.

-should i focus as fast as possible searching for sensations or note just in a broad sense (because also specifying the word to note and realizing exactly what it is takes time so that occupies space of awareness and the stream of phenomena).

"if you are capable of paying unfalteringly continuous precise attention while noting non-verbally - without using words - then do so.

if you are unable to do so, then default to noting with words, either continuously, or occasionally, however happens to work for you, with the immediate goal being to pay very alert attention to the sensations that present, continuously and without getting lost in the content".


Ok.
Just as an clarification for you and Tommy. I don’t note loudly. My question had to do with the fact that the moment of noting something internally becomes at that moment the object of attention, and that for now that tends to bring some speediness because after the awareness being at the noting, there is a moment that the mind is like: now what? (this is too very fast) and this then becomes a whole issue of investigation too (noting what’s the “behavior” going on there: anxiety, searching, waiting, nothing).
At the same time I find that noting keeps me from “fighting” with the experience (and being caught and stuck and feed that fight even if im aware of it). Anyway, I have to keep noting/practicing…


"if you are noting/noticing the sensations which present in any of these experiences, you are doing insight practice. if you are not noting/noticing the sensations, you are getting lost in the content, and any questions you have about the right way to practice are essentially questions about what the right way to get lost in content is".

yes, im noting the sensations.

"rejection is made of sensations, intention is made of sensations, searching is made of sensations, expectation is made of sensations, enthusiasm is made of sensations, approaching is made of sensations, distancing is made of sensations, fearing is made of sensations. notice it directly: all of this *is* phenomena".

I agree. I was, once again asking in terms of defining the object and was surprised (noted too) that there was a lot of attention going towards those areas that in a dualistic sense seems to be how we relate/react to what arises. At the same time, working with noting this things directly…….


Tommy:

"I'm not entirely sure you're in Equanimity yet, as in the 4th vipassana jhana, 11th ñana, Knowledge of Equanimity of Formations, and not because I don't trust what you're saying but because it's easy to mix up states and stages if you're not familiar with the maps".

I actually don’t know either! I think Im pretty much in the DN, but im trying to move forward and so that’s why I make these questions. In the meantime, im trying to get more familiar with the map and the noting technique.

"Note what you notice, there are times when you can go for one particular set of sensations and dismantle them down to individual vibrations, but as a general rule I just went for straight up noting of what arises in awareness unless I was looking for insight into something specific. Just to emphasize the point here, go for precise and accurate noting at a rate which is comfortable for you until you get some more skill, fast noting is very useful but not if it's at the expense of being able to observe the 3C's".
Yes. ive been mainly noticing what arises. I have also been trying to dismantle some things which ill detailed at the end as part of my further questions.

"The breath is the way forward. It sounds like you're just drifting off a bit, stay with the breath and keep on bringing the attention back whenever things become less clear. There are points along the way where that vagueness is natural, such as the early stages of Dark Night and the transition into Equanimity but just stay attentive, stay present and don't wander off on mental tangents".

I know what you mean. in this case im talking about something more open, kind of looking at the forest instead of the tree, where you see more of the whole picture and/but less of the details of the tree. I was sharing this also as something I usually notice while “noting” and that in dropping the noting there is more…mmm… clarity, or sharpness. I really don’t mind each in the sense that right now everything is kind of “juicy” or “interesting” or “worth” (and noted) so its not that I want one over the other. But still, I wanted to ask to not get off track.

"Note this "sucking", "pulling", "sharpness" and anything else that appears. Don't fight with it, you might find it hard to catch the arising of objects but this "pulling" you mention sounds like what I would associate with being caught up in the ending of a sensation. In this case, observe this and see how everything you can note will do exactly the same thing".
Yes, exactly. thank you

"Could be Dark Night territory, but could also be earlier stages. Either way the advice is the same, don't get caught up in content, note the sensations, not it's contents and if you do decide to note it's contents them remember that it's all just more transient, empty phenomena. Do not get caught up in psychological stuff, this is what most people end up doing until they learn a solid technique and, while potentially useful for gaining insight into real life issues, it's not required to make progress.
Maybe I wasn’t clear with this. it’s not that im thinking about how I usually relate to things in this or that way, and how in my life is…etc etc. Its seeing how, in the dualistic perspective that im at now, the relationship with what arises is. its noting when there is a “searching” for sensations, “excitement” because of x sensation, “fighting/rejecting” because of y, “watching”, “seeing”…"


So, as I was writing above, generally I just note what arises. But having entered into (what I believe is) a DN in a VERY harsh way, there was something of “my basic being” (I put it in this words because I don’t have another clear word to name it) that changed a lot. Although there is a part of “me” that seems to be equanimous and permitting the “space” for ease to arise. (and which before the DN, this “state of being” did effectively had a “word” on how things arose), for a long time now I have been feeling an almost constant shitty vibration that rises into more developed states of mind (like fear, anxiety, etc).If I approach this sensations, its just vibrations, If I try to approach the state of being, it’s a sense of tension. where does the f&^*&^% adding of the sense of “unpleasantness” comes from?!?! I guess this is what we are aiming at. And im not philosophizing or talking (only) off the cushion here. Im talking about a blind spot in my practice. There is a staying with the sensations, there is a turning the flashlight to the observer. there is a touching the tension and its vibrations. how does “pleasure” “disgust” or whatever fits in the storyline? and not as a thought but as a feeling. Im struck with this whole “being” thing. Because when there is a neutral input such as a car passing by, and a sense of subtle fear arises, and I see it arise, it seems to arise out of nowhere. how is it that arises “fear” and not “joy”, and how is it that arises anything at all out of that “neutral” input. and then I turn towards the sense of being, and don’t find other than tension and vibrations (that at the moment of being inquired don’t have much of a “being” in their forehead).
yeap, ill have to keep noting/practicing.

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH.
im gonna (un)load with some more practice until my next set of questions!