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Concentration

Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread

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Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 12/23/11 1:21 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 12/23/11 12:10 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 12/23/11 12:10 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 12/23/11 9:09 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread End in Sight 12/23/11 8:35 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 12/24/11 3:26 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Nikolai . 12/24/11 7:50 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 12/26/11 11:16 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread End in Sight 12/27/11 9:08 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 12/27/11 12:03 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread End in Sight 12/27/11 5:03 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 12/27/11 9:13 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread . Jake . 12/27/11 9:01 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 12/29/11 11:14 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 12/29/11 11:03 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread . Jake . 12/29/11 1:52 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Bjorn Hjelte 12/30/11 1:05 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 12/30/11 5:08 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/2/12 3:48 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/7/12 5:48 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Christian Vlad 1/7/12 11:05 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/7/12 2:23 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Bjorn Hjelte 1/8/12 7:11 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/8/12 2:07 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Jane Laurel Carrington 1/8/12 7:28 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/8/12 9:32 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread End in Sight 1/10/12 10:04 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/10/12 11:11 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/10/12 11:35 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Nick K 1/10/12 9:45 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread End in Sight 1/11/12 11:10 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/11/12 4:25 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Christian Vlad 1/11/12 5:45 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/12/12 5:45 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/12/12 12:54 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/12/12 6:48 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread End in Sight 1/12/12 8:41 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/12/12 8:52 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Nick K 1/12/12 11:51 PM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/15/12 11:39 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Alan Smithee 1/31/13 4:19 AM
RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread Richard Zen 12/1/14 5:09 PM
Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/23/11 1:21 PM
I have decided to start a practice thread.

My ultimate goal is to develop my concentration to at least a 1st level jhana, then apply that concentration to a vipassana insight meditation practice (with the end goal being stream entry, minimum).

I have been advised and informed that I could begin vipassana now, that I have already developed my concentration to a point where it would be productive to do so, that even dry vipassana can be very productive, and that concentration can develop in the course of vipassana practice -- but I feel compelled to develop my concentration. Perhaps it is all the statements by such folks as Stephen Snyder, Tina Rasmussen, Shaila Catherine, Ajahn Brahm, etc., that concentration after 1st jhana has been achieved can be a major boon for insight practices. I'd like to at least give it a shot.

Here is my basic situation. My goal is to practicing at least twice a day for an hour (or so) each. Obviously I will try to remain flexible with this, for if I get into an incredibly concentrated groove, I may not want to call it quits just because the hour it up...

I have one semester of classes left before I finish my MA in English. I start those classes again in mid January, and it will inevitably be a major distraction from a practice standpoint, but I am going to try and not let it halt my practice. School has been the major focus of my life for close to twelve years. It has also meant little to no time for spiritual practice, but my education may soon be over, which means I will have a major hole to fill, which I plan to fill with spiritual practice.

I am living with my partner whom I love dearly. We don't have any children as yet, but children (or at least a child) will eventually be a reality in our lives. This will probably happen in three or four or five -- but not more than five -- years. I am looking forward to starting a family but this will draw untold focus and energy when it happens so I am going to try to focus on my spiritual goals as much as possible now while I still have an open window (post graduate school, pre family). That being said, I am certainly going to try to persist in my spiritual practice after the child, but I want to use my time as productively now as possible.

Also, I will eventually obtain a job in the field for which I have been trained -- secondary education. When this happens I will have to focus an enormous amount of energy towards my new career, but again, I am going to try and make sure it doesn't derail my practice. All this won't happen, however, until August 2012 at the earliest (or perhaps later based on how the economy recovers, etc).

My partner has already consented and given her blessing to my attending a 10 day retreat per year. There is also a local Zen temple which holds a 3 day retreat per year I could easily attend. With my current job I don't see how I could attend anything longer than a 2 week retreat. If money is short, I could also just rent a motel room and attempt to have my own 2 week retreat, but it would be great to actually go to a retreat center with teachers, etc.

To give a little background on my practice, my father and uncle were both shikantaza practitioners who were fairly active at a Zen temple in Evanston Illinois. I was taught how to do shikantaza fairly young, and I've meditated sporadically and not very consistently using this method until a few years ago. Eventually I came upon a book titled Zen Training: Methods and Philosophy by Kazuki Sekida in which Sekida details some altered states he'd achieved in meditation. This was the first time I'd ever been exposed to the idea that it was possible for something to happen from a phenomenological standpoint during meditation. In the Soto flavored tradition to which I was exposed, it was just about "sitting," and nothing more. Zazen is the beginning and end of practice, just "being," etc and so on. I became interested in what these altered states could be and began an investigation and discovered samadhi and vipassana.

I've never formally been trained in these methods. All I know I've learned from books such as Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel Ingram, The Experience of Samadi by Richard Shankman, Focused and Fearless as well as Wisdom Deep and Wide by Shaila Catherine, The Meditator's Atlas by Matthew Flickman, Practicing the Jhanas by Stephen Snyder and Tina Rasmussen, Bliss and Beyond by Ajahn Brahm, Who is My Self by Ayya Khema, etc. all of which I have read at least parts of. I live near Chicago so I could probably find a teacher somewhere on Craig's List, which is something I may consider at some point. I know a number of folks in the yoga teaching scene, and they may be able to point me in some productive directions.

I have a zafu and a zabuton. I don't currently attend meditation sessions at any local temples. Once about a year ago I went to the Zen temple in Evanston, but didn't feel quite right doing concentration meditation when they are obviously focused on shinkantaza. I think there may be an ethical thing problem there, but that is perhaps open for discussion. There is a place called The Science of Spirituality Center right near my apartment, but they clearly aren't Buddhist, and perhaps come from some place incompatible with my current focus and approach, so I've been somewhat reticent to see if I could practice there. I am look into it more at some point. There are other temples in or near Chicago, and if anyone has any ideas or suggestions regarding a place I could go which would be compatible with my Theravada, MCToB, Burmese-style meditation approach, give me a shout out.

That is all I can think of for now. I will try to update often, even if it seems like nothing has happened, or no progress has been made (which will probably be most of the posts). My current goal is to stick with concentration for about a year and see what I can develop. This is flexible, of course, and I may be inspired (based on progress) to stick with it longer, or I may be inspired to switch at some point before that to vipassana (but not for a stretch).

I just started regular concentration practice roughly around 12/09/2011. Some stuff has happened since then -- which I described in a few other threads -- so I will cut and paste those details over onto this thread for continuity sake. I have had numerous thoughts, questions, and experiences since then and I will try to post those soon-ish.

I have the best intentions to develop my practice and skills, gain concentration, and eventually insight. As my partner has often pointed out, I can be quit the tenacious bastard so I hope to be up to the challenge I am setting out for myself. It is my hope that you can come with me on this journey, and occasionally guide and redirect me when needed. As I can learn from you, perhaps others in turn can eventually learn from my experience. If I stick with it long enough, then we might eventually have a thread which details a journey from beginner to stream enterer (or beyond). That would be pretty amazing!

Thanks to anyone who takes the time to read this thread, think about it, and/or responds to it...

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/23/11 12:10 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
This is a repost from 12/16

My meditation has gone well so far, I believe. I am focusing on the breath in the general vicinity of the nostrils. When I start it often takes about ten minutes to settle the mind. Even then I occassionally drift into a dream fantasy, of nod off, or have a thought zip through my mind, but to a lesser degree. Then I am pretty focused for about twenty, thirty minutes and then I start to notice the pain in my leg and/or foot and I wonder if the alarm is going to go off any second. It then gets harder to focus until I decide to stop. I am thinking about switching my meditation session to 45 minutes until I am rocking it solid without thoughts and discomfort, and then switching to an hour (in a week or two).

As I focus on my breath, sometimes a few things seem to happen: 1) sometimes the breath seems to become louder and more noticeable, and it sounds rougher, and I've assumed that this was because my concentration was coming to focus more directly on the breath; 2) sometimes I see lights and cloudy substances, which I KNOW isn't a nimitta, but it is hard to get my mind to not wish for it to be a weak nimitta (I have to practice not wanting a nimitta); 3) a few times I've gotten the sensation of prickles on my scalp, like my scalp was crawling, and then in my mind it has felt like I've emerged into a more open space, such that my mind felt more like a cave as opposed to a block of stone. It has seemed at those times that less thoughts managed to penetrate into my mind, or at least they were more easily held at bay. It is hard to say how long these states lasted. About ten minutes? I have also learned to turn off the heater because the blower is in a closet in the loft and when that thing goes off it really throws off your concentration. I don't know if this was a mild case of access concentration. I don't want to read too much into it, but it also used to happen sometimes back when I was doing samadhi a few years ago. It is light, but it does feel like a stronger concentrated state. I would like to be able to get into this each time I meditate. We shall see. Too much desire, however, will probably thwart me so I want to play it cool, so to speak, and not get too excited about slight changes in consiousness or slight, purple webs that appear before my eyes.

A few other notes. I recently read an article which suggested that the emphasis on a light nimitta has been exagerated, and that it is perhaps equally likely to have a feeling, or sensate nimitta -- such as a feeling like cotton, etc. I know I am nowhere close to getting a nimitta but just having read the article has helped allow me to stop looking for lights. The article also said that some traditions suggest not focusing AT ALL on the nimitta, which has helped me try to keep my awareness solely on the breath.

Once I had a second or two of pleasure wash over me. Was it a jhana factor? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. Just keep focusing on the breath...

I have wavered between trying to imagine the breath as pleasurable and delightful, which some people have suggested as helpful, or just focusing on the breath as regular, which others have recommended. Generally I just focus on the breath and don't try to imagine it is seductive or overly intriguing.

Also, I have a nostril issue. I now have a cat (my girlfriend's) living with me to which I am mildly allergic. It means that my nostrils are in a near constant half state of congestion. Not dripping, just stuffed. I purchased nasal spray and it works wonders at clearing my completely, but I don't want to become overly dependent on it by using it every day. I wonder if from time to time it might not be possible to switch my focus on my breath at the lips of the mouth, or do I have to pick one site and use it from now until forever...This situation is unresolved.

That is about all I have to report at this time! Thanks for reading.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/23/11 12:10 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
This is a repost from 12/19.

Something definitely happened during my practice today.

I was doing samadhi meditation. I decided to try counting, which , for some reason, I never liked the ideas before, but thought I'd give it a shot. Counting 1-10, then back down from 10-1, focusing on the breah just in front of the nostrils the whole time as well. I was surprised that I was often unable to make it through 10, let alone back down to 1. I did this for about half an hour, counting all the while, but also focusing on my breath. I also started the practice of "noting" the intrusive thoughts, labeling them, which I've never done before. It was the Ron Crouch page, which finally inspired me to try counting, and also, to "note" intrusive thoughts and sensations http://alohadharma.wordpress.com/how-to-meditate/

Anyway, around the half hour mark I suddenly started getting these flashing purple clouds in front of my eye (which were closed), and it felt like my head opened up into a cave (instead of being the usual block of stone -- solid feeling), then it felt like a vice was gently squeezing my temples and forehead, I got washes of tingles and pleasurable feelings in my body and head (brief though). It felt like my face got very tight -- that is the best way I can describe it -- like the skin got pulled tight. And my lips started trembling against my will, literally shaking, mostly the top lip. I noticed that particularly on the out breath, the breath felt nice, pleasurable. I was then able to quite easily count 1-10 and then back down from 10-1. At one point I got another wash of pleasurable feeling, and my heart started palipitating, again, against my will. I feel like the palpitations kind of chased the pleasurable feeling away. Then, I kind of stabilized into the tight faced, lip trembling, cavern headed, easy to count 1-10 and then 10-1 zone. I was actually doing this in bed next to my sleeping girlfriend. She woke up at this point and started talking to me, so I opened my eyes and responded. It wasn't like I "poofed" out of this head-space, though. It continued and lingered to a certain extent, even with my eyes open. I decided to continue meditating with a focus on the breath, counting, with my eyes open (which I don't usually do), and I was able to easily count up to 10 and then back down again to 1. No purple clouds, though, with the eyes open. After having stopped focusing on the breath and counting, I felt like I could have just sat there, focusing on nothing, for a while. After walking around and doing stuff, the feeling left after about ten minutes.

I should note that I've had similar kinds of experiences when I was doing this type of meditation a year or two back. This felt stronger, however, with the lip trembling and head vice-y stuff. I think the counting and noting helped, and I was surprised it happened in bed with my girlfriend sort of flopping around and the cat on my lap...

In summary: In my samadhi meditative practice (the breath), I have recently been experiencing a sensation of squeezing in the temple area and/or forehead, a feeling of a tightness in the face, once or twice I experienced a trembling in the lips, once I had a wave of pleasure which caused heart palpitations (which I feel chased the pleasure away), and a feeling of openess in my head/mind (like I am in a cave).

Is this "access concentration?" I know isn't jhana, but it certainly seems to be a more intense form of concentration, as it is much easier for me to focus on the breath when I have the head squeezies, and even after I open my eyes and stop meditating I can maintain this concentration for a little bit (ten minutes or so). I can easily count from 1-10 and then from 10-1 when I am in this "zone."

It is getting easier for me to induce this during meditation, but it occurs at different levels of strength, and I don't always get the pleasure waves, or heart palpitations, but I do get the better focus, and almost always the head squeezies.

The breath seems more pleasurable when this happens as well, but it isn't rapturous or anything. I also get a thin cloud of purple, which I wonder if it is a really weak nimitta. Usually I can induce this in about 30 minutes.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/23/11 9:09 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I started a meditation notebook today. It is one of those composition notebooks with the black cover. I will use the notebook to take notes regarding my meditation observations, questions, thoughts, or research. I'll bring it everywhere I go so that if an idea occurs to me, or whatever, I can write it down immediately (or if I'm meditating, shortly thereafter) so I don't forget things.

My meditation concentration has never been as strong as it was when I "snapped" into what I thought might have been "access concentration" last weekend. I have been able to develop concentration, but I've never "snapped" into it with the sudden jolt as I did last weekend, nor have I gotten to the same level of focus.

I wonder if "snapping" into access concentration always happens so suddenly or with such a seeming "leap," or was that the result of a first time kind of thing. I sometimes wonder if it might be like someone learning to drive stick shift, whereby they jerk and jolt into the next gear until they learn to do it more slowly and gradually. What has been other people's experience? Gradual increases in concentration or sudden snaps/jolts into high levels? Generally I do manage to work up some decent (stronger than typical) concentration, and I get a sensation of squeezing in my temples and forehead, etc., which is promising. It is helpful that I get head squeezies when my concentration increases so that I can tell if I am making progress and/or am in a concentrated state, but I wonder if this will stop happening at some point.

I have noted that striving and/or monitoring is increasingly a factor in my meditation. After that fairly spectacularly leap into access concentration, when I meditate I now struggle with thoughts of "Am I getting close again" or "Are my concentration symptoms increasing," etc. I realize that when I made access concentration, I was totally relaxed and not expecting ANYTHING to happen. I must begin to just chill the fuck out and not expect anything to happen and just follow the breath, etc.

I am trying to figure out a counting method that works well and/or that I really like. When I made access concentration I had tried a counting method which I'd never done before. I simply counted IN-OUT 1,IN-OUT 2, up until 10, and then back down again, IN-OUT 9, IN-OUT 8, etc. I have noticed that counting in this manner doesn't focus me quite the same way it used to. I tried a method of IN 1, OUT 2, up to 10, then back down again, then up to 9, then back down, then up to 8, etc. This seems a little better because I have to be on my toes to some extent to make sure I don't lose track but at the same time it can be a little distracting from the breath. I could do method #2 but count IN-OUT 1, IN-OUT 2, but that is a little slow and my mind wanders. Anyway, this is work in progress. If someone has a counting method they particularly like, please recommend it.

My stuffed up nose was a series distraction today. It is hard to focus on the breath and relax when you can barely breath. After I took a shower to go to work, I realized my nose was much clearer. Instead of meditating before I shower I am going to try meditating after I shower and see if it helps. The cat sleeps on the bed and that probably accounts for the major stuffage in the mornings.

I've also wondered about the difference between the terms samadhi and samatha. I don't want to look like an idiot by using the wrong term in the wrong context, but as yet still don't know. So far I've just keep calling the type of meditation I've been doing samadhi, or samadhi concentration...

Also, I am also struggling with the question of whether to meditate in bed or on the zafu. It was while in bed that I snapped into access concentration. Obviously, comfort is best in bed, and sitting up in bed means that pain isn't a concern. However, I sometimes get sleepy in bed, and my mind can wonder, and perhaps the ramrod straight seated position on a zafu would take care of that. I can usually make it about half an hour or forty minutes before I start getting leg pain or butt pain which distracts me. I think I am going to try meditating on the zafu more often to help with energy and focus. However, during my evening meditation I will probably stay in bed since I rarely get to see my girlfriend and when I get home she likes me to be near her. She goes to bed early (around 10 or 11pm) so I just sit there when she sleeps. That being said, my evening sits are the least productive because I often get very sleepy even after pounding some tea or coffee. Perhaps I should just wait until she'd passed out and then go sit on the zafu. We'll see...

I make attempts to focus on the anapana spot whenever possible. When I am walking somewhere, when I am driving (not a completely terrific idea, but what can you do? Probably not as bad as texting...), when standing in a line or waiting for something, etc. I have noticed that I sometimes get the head squeezy feeling as a result, even off the cushion. I have gotten the temple squeezies now sometimes just reading or doing something unrelated to meditation. Is my concentration increasing generally?

Another question I have seriously considered is where to focus my eyes during meditation. Now, my eyes are closed, but that doesn't mean you aren't sort of still looking at stuff. I have waffled between focusing my eyes on where the anapana spot is -- meaning, focusing my eyes downwards towards the bottom of the nose (almost as if I am trying to "see" the anapana spot or "see" the breath) or should I focus my eyes into the middle distance, so to speak, where the clouds and lights sort of waft around. Sometimes it seems like I get better results looking at the anapana spot and sometimes looking into the distance seems to increase concentration...

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/23/11 8:35 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
Also, I am also struggling with the question of whether to meditate in bed or on the zafu. It was while in bed that I snapped into access concentration. Obviously, comfort is best in bed, and sitting up in bed means that pain isn't a concern. However, I sometimes get sleepy in bed, and my mind can wonder, and perhaps the ramrod straight seated position on a zafu would take care of that. I can usually make it about half an hour or forty minutes before I start getting leg pain or butt pain which distracts me. I think I am going to try meditating on the zafu more often to help with energy and focus. However, during my evening meditation I will probably stay in bed since I rarely get to see my girlfriend and when I get home she likes me to be near her. She goes to bed early (around 10 or 11pm) so I just sit there when she sleeps. That being said, my evening sits are the least productive because I often get very sleepy even after pounding some tea or coffee. Perhaps I should just wait until she'd passed out and then go sit on the zafu. We'll see...


Apart from issues of pain, one thing you could try is meditating in bed when you're restless and meditating on the cushion when you have low energy.

Some general things that you should keep in mind, given your goal of "maximal" jhana...if you focus on something, only focus on a simple sense-experience (e.g. breath at the anapana spot, pleasure, etc.). Do not ever pay attention to the feeling of focus, the feeling of effortlessness, the feeling of being in access concentration, the feeling of the mind being "stuck" to the object, the feeling of head tension, etc. If those things come up, ignore them completely.

Apart from that...at this point in your practice, just putting in time will make a difference in your concentration, so regardless of the details, just keep sitting regularly. (Your idea of paying attention to the anapana spot while up and about is a good one too.)

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/24/11 3:26 AM as a reply to End in Sight.
In B. Alan Wallace's The Attention Revolution, he writes that "Psychologists have found that the time generally needed to acquire expertise in a variety of high-level skills is five to ten thousand hours of training [...] This is roughly the degree of commitment required to progress along the entire path to the achievement of shamatha" (66).

If one were to practice about two and a half hours a day, this would take about ten years.

Would it be worth it to achieve jhana?

Yes.

If someone told me that if I practiced for two and a half hours a day for ten years and then I'd have the ability to access the jhanas, you better believe I'd do it.

No one is going to tell me this, but I am going to do it anyway.

And if it happens sooner than ten years...bonus.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/24/11 7:50 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
In B. Alan Wallace's The Attention Revolution, he writes that "Psychologists have found that the time generally needed to acquire expertise in a variety of high-level skills is five to ten thousand hours of training [...] This is roughly the degree of commitment required to progress along the entire path to the achievement of shamatha" (66).

If one were to practice about two and a half hours a day, this would take about ten years.

Would it be worth it to achieve jhana?

Yes.

If someone told me that if I practiced for two and a half hours a day for ten years and then I'd have the ability to access the jhanas, you better believe I'd do it.

No one is going to tell me this, but I am going to do it anyway.

And if it happens sooner than ten years...bonus.



It is probably true that someone meditating that long will have good concentrations skills. But it's complete bollox in my opinion and very inhibiting to believe that it will be like that for everyone. It could take someone much, much less time with a dedicated practice to reach a deep version of the 1st jhana and beyond IF one knows exactly what to cultivate. To say one can't do that implants in one the belief that one can't. The thought of not being able to do it till after 10,000 hours of practice will raise its ugly little head every time one thinks of practicing and it will condition effort, and momentum, and energy, and the whole way of approaching practice.

Fair enough, in 10,000 hours of practice , one will have reached some level of concentration. But I'm pretty adamant it can be done much quicker if one puts aside such ideas/beliefs/views. These tend to condition how we practice and how long it might take. Beliefs are locked in thought loop patterns that condition our experience for good or bad. Question anything that stands in the way of/inhibits an effective and fast progressing practice.

One of the fastest ways to up one's concentration is to use a kasina object. Putting aside all the extra vissudhimagga commentary nimitta stuff, one simply stares at the kasina object and contemplates a secondary object along with it.This secondary object can be any characteristic of the kasina. It's colour, shape etc. I talk of one method I used myself for quick progress here. This will make it so that there is much less space for the mind to wander and get distracted by the 5 hindrances. With the extra job of paying attention to a secondary object/objective, the brain's capacity is filled up. If one just stares at an object like the breath or kasina object, there is more chance for the mind to space out, get lost in thought, etc. The breath is the perfect kasina object as it can be taken with you wherever you go. Thus the Buddha taught it as a technique to liberation.

Notice how he gives a secondary object/objective along with observing the incoming and outgoing breath in the sutta below. How does one get to 1st jhana and beyond? By cultivating the factors that compound together to fabricate 1st jhana and beyond. The 1st jhana has piti (rapture), sukkha (affective happiness), vittaka (directed thought) and vicara (sustained thought). Notice below that these very factors are constantly cultivated in the anapana sutta. The secondary object/objective is what the flow of mind is directed to along with having the anchor object of the incoming and outgoing breath. If one knows fully well that these factors can be cultivated like so, then 10,000 hours can go screw themselves.

If one practices to the TEE the following instructions in the order they are given, taking notice of the secondary object/objective along with observing the breath, one will sequentially develop the very factors that lead to subduing the hindrances via allowing the factors of the 1st jhana to develop. From there, one can then move to cultivating the jhanas beyond as well. This does not have to take so long. What needs to be understood is the sequence one develops the concentrating mind as well as the need to uproot any 'belief' or 'view' that stands in the way.

"[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[2] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

"[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.' [7] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.'[4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.' [8] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'

"[9] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.' [10] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in satisfying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out satisfying the mind.' [11] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in steadying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out steadying the mind.' [12] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in releasing the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out releasing the mind.'[5]

"[13] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on inconstancy.' [14] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on dispassion [literally, fading].' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on dispassion.' [15] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on cessation.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on cessation.' [16] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on relinquishment.'

Anapanasatisutta


EDIT: Notice the 1st step is to observe the incoming and outgoing breath contemplating its length at the same time. One is not simply staring at the breath but taking on board a secondary object/objective, knowing the length of the breath. Experiment with just staring at the breath VERSUS staring at it but also contemplating the length of it each time it goes in and out. Notice a difference?

One is 'directing thought' (directing to what? length of breath, rapture, calming fabrications etc), which is a 1st jhana factor. Eventually in becomes 'sustained thought', another 1st jhana factor. Notice that piti (rapture) is eventually a secondary object. It is also a 1st jhana factor. Piti will lead to affective happiness (sukkha) arising. Another 1st jhana factor. Doing this sequence in order will develop the very factors that compound together to give rise to 1st jhana.

If one practices sequentially, giving enough time to first get good at observing the length of the breath then moving onto the next instruction of becoming sensitive to the entire body (and then onto the following instructions sequentially) one will develop the exact skills neccessary to cultivate the very factors that give give rise to the 1st jhana and beyond.

EDIT: MERRY CHRISTMAS!!


RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/26/11 11:16 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
Alan Smithee:
In B. Alan Wallace's The Attention Revolution, he writes that "Psychologists have found that the time generally needed to acquire expertise in a variety of high-level skills is five to ten thousand hours of training [...] This is roughly the degree of commitment required to progress along the entire path to the achievement of shamatha" (66).

If one were to practice about two and a half hours a day, this would take about ten years.

Would it be worth it to achieve jhana?

Yes.

If someone told me that if I practiced for two and a half hours a day for ten years and then I'd have the ability to access the jhanas, you better believe I'd do it.

No one is going to tell me this, but I am going to do it anyway.

And if it happens sooner than ten years...bonus.



It is probably true that someone meditating that long will have good concentrations skills. But it's complete bollox in my opinion and very inhibiting to believe that it will be like that for everyone. It could take someone much, much less time with a dedicated practice to reach a deep version of the 1st jhana and beyond IF one knows exactly what to cultivate. To say one can't do that implants in one the belief that one can't. The thought of not being able to do it till after 10,000 hours of practice will raise its ugly little head every time one thinks of practicing and it will condition effort, and momentum, and energy, and the whole way of approaching practice.

Fair enough, in 10,000 hours of practice , one will have reached some level of concentration. But I'm pretty adamant it can be done much quicker if one puts aside such ideas/beliefs/views. These tend to condition how we practice and how long it might take. Beliefs are locked in thought loop patterns that condition our experience for good or bad. Question anything that stands in the way of/inhibits an effective and fast progressing practice.

One of the fastest ways to up one's concentration is to use a kasina object. Putting aside all the extra vissudhimagga commentary nimitta stuff, one simply stares at the kasina object and contemplates a secondary object along with it.This secondary object can be any characteristic of the kasina. It's colour, shape etc. I talk of one method I used myself for quick progress here. This will make it so that there is much less space for the mind to wander and get distracted by the 5 hindrances. With the extra job of paying attention to a secondary object/objective, the brain's capacity is filled up. If one just stares at an object like the breath or kasina object, there is more chance for the mind to space out, get lost in thought, etc. The breath is the perfect kasina object as it can be taken with you wherever you go. Thus the Buddha taught it as a technique to liberation.

Notice how he gives a secondary object/objective along with observing the incoming and outgoing breath in the sutta below. How does one get to 1st jhana and beyond? By cultivating the factors that compound together to fabricate 1st jhana and beyond. The 1st jhana has piti (rapture), sukkha (affective happiness), vittaka (directed thought) and vicara (sustained thought). Notice below that these very factors are constantly cultivated in the anapana sutta. The secondary object/objective is what the flow of mind is directed to along with having the anchor object of the incoming and outgoing breath. If one knows fully well that these factors can be cultivated like so, then 10,000 hours can go screw themselves.

If one practices to the TEE the following instructions in the order they are given, taking notice of the secondary object/objective along with observing the breath, one will sequentially develop the very factors that lead to subduing the hindrances via allowing the factors of the 1st jhana to develop. From there, one can then move to cultivating the jhanas beyond as well. This does not have to take so long. What needs to be understood is the sequence one develops the concentrating mind as well as the need to uproot any 'belief' or 'view' that stands in the way.

"[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[2] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

"[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.' [7] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.'[4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.' [8] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'

"[9] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.' [10] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in satisfying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out satisfying the mind.' [11] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in steadying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out steadying the mind.' [12] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in releasing the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out releasing the mind.'[5]

"[13] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on inconstancy.' [14] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on dispassion [literally, fading].' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on dispassion.' [15] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on cessation.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on cessation.' [16] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on relinquishment.'

Anapanasatisutta


EDIT: Notice the 1st step is to observe the incoming and outgoing breath contemplating its length at the same time. One is not simply staring at the breath but taking on board a secondary object/objective, knowing the length of the breath. Experiment with just staring at the breath VERSUS staring at it but also contemplating the length of it each time it goes in and out. Notice a difference?

One is 'directing thought' (directing to what? length of breath, rapture, calming fabrications etc), which is a 1st jhana factor. Eventually in becomes 'sustained thought', another 1st jhana factor. Notice that piti (rapture) is eventually a secondary object. It is also a 1st jhana factor. Piti will lead to affective happiness (sukkha) arising. Another 1st jhana factor. Doing this sequence in order will develop the very factors that compound together to give rise to 1st jhana.

If one practices sequentially, giving enough time to first get good at observing the length of the breath then moving onto the next instruction of becoming sensitive to the entire body (and then onto the following instructions sequentially) one will develop the exact skills neccessary to cultivate the very factors that give give rise to the 1st jhana and beyond.

EDIT: MERRY CHRISTMAS!!



@Nikolia: Regarding the use of a "double" focused meditation, I think you really gave me a good clue here. When I had my semi-spectacular leap into what I think was "access concentration" a few weeks back it was the very first time I'd had tried counting in addition to focusing on my breath. Perhaps it was this double focus which produced the results they did. Since then, the counting and the focus on the breath has not produced a similar level of concentration, perhaps because counting has lost its "novelty" to my concentration and/or focus. Thanks for the advice and I will continue to consider what you've shared.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/27/11 9:08 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
The 1st jhana has piti (rapture), sukkha (affective happiness), vittaka (directed thought) and vicara (sustained thought).


I would suggest that the most productive way of thinking about piti and sukha is that they are simply two physical sensations, which are pleasant, and which have no further qualities, though other things (vibratory stuff, tingly stuff, desire-fulfillment stuff) are often associated with them.

Here is Leigh Brasington's simplified guess about the neuroscience of these two phenomena: http://www.leighb.com/jhananeuro.htm

It helps to recognize that 1) the sensations are one thing, and 2) the complicated machinery of the mind involved in reward-acquisition (etc.) which comes to bear on those sensations (generating entirely new experiences in the process) is another thing.

An alternative translation for piti is "joy" and this captures it a bit better than "rapture". In my opinion the words that capture the flavor of the sensations best (in an non-technical way) are something like

piti = happiness
sukha = pleasure

To the extent that one think of piti and sukha as simple sensations that are non-vibratory, non-tingly, non-desire-fulfillment-related, one will be better at cultivating them, and cultivating jhana in general.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/27/11 12:03 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
End in Sight:
Nikolai .:
The 1st jhana has piti (rapture), sukkha (affective happiness), vittaka (directed thought) and vicara (sustained thought).


I would suggest that the most productive way of thinking about piti and sukha is that they are simply two physical sensations, which are pleasant, and which have no further qualities, though other things (vibratory stuff, tingly stuff, desire-fulfillment stuff) are often associated with them.

Here is Leigh Brasington's simplified guess about the neuroscience of these two phenomena: http://www.leighb.com/jhananeuro.htm

It helps to recognize that 1) the sensations are one thing, and 2) the complicated machinery of the mind involved in reward-acquisition (etc.) which comes to bear on those sensations (generating entirely new experiences in the process) is another thing.

An alternative translation for piti is "joy" and this captures it a bit better than "rapture". In my opinion the words that capture the flavor of the sensations best (in an non-technical way) are something like

piti = happiness
sukha = pleasure

To the extent that one think of piti and sukha as simple sensations that are non-vibratory, non-tingly, non-desire-fulfillment-related, one will be better at cultivating them, and cultivating jhana in general.


Yes I have noticed a good deal of variation in the words used to described piti and sukha, and they are not often differentiated in ways that are entirely clear. Here are some of what I've read in my meditation manuals:

piti = rapture, delight, pleasure, joy
sukha = contentment, happiness, bliss

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/27/11 5:03 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Of interest (though it has dubious practical value), the Visuddhimagga classifies sukha as "feeling" (vedana) and piti as "fabrication" (sankhara).

Also of interest, and perhaps related to the above...piti is one of the factors of enlightenment, but sukha is not (although sukha always comes with piti as far as I have see, the reverse is clearly not true, as in e.g. 3rd jhana).

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/27/11 9:13 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
Today I was able to arrange my schedule such that I had a three hour block in which I was able to practice my meditation. It is amazing how much longer I am able to meditate using an object of concentration (in my case the breath) than when I was simply doing shinkantaza. Nothing "spectacular" came to pass, but I feel like it was time well spent. I wish I could practice three hours every day. I am going to try and meditate for a couple of hours together each day as opposed to splitting them up. I feel like I get much more out of the "chunks" of meditation. That being said I will also continue to meditate throughout the day for little periods so aso to facilitate consistency and practice. Meditating with my eyes closed has pitfalls in that I occassionally zone out completely (hard to remain "bright" for three hours) due to the association the brain has with closed eyes and sleep. Perhaps I should meditate on the zafu more often instead of sitting on the bed with pillows behind my back. I really let my posture get slouchy and I let my head droop (I can hear my Zen teachers groan and reprimanding me on my posture) but I've worked up a hypothesis that sitting on the pillow is more "unusual" than a bed or chair and may make concentration harder. I may switch it up from time to time and sit on the zafu to increase energy, especially if I find I am zoning out. My mind was really spinning today and it took about 45 to an hour just to settle it down. I eventually got into a pretty decent concentrated state. At one point I realized that both my hands were numb (from the way they were positioned) and I haven't noticed. No major shifts in conscousness though, and nothing sudden. I'm considering meditating from time to time with my eyes open to keep me bright and awake. I am also vaguely considering meditating occasionally with a kasina, but I don't want to jump from technique to technique just because I'm not having "overnight" success with jhanas (I realize these things can take a while -- I'm giving myself a year before I switch to vipasanna); but, if there really are other techinques which can boost concentration and help develop it, I don't want to neglect them. The thing is that most of my books simply suggest following the breath and don't suggest kasina use until after jhanas have already been developed via focusing on the breath. I think I am basically going to stick with focusing on my breath but utilize kasinas from time to time 1) if I get sleepy, but 2) also to experiement with it to see if it builds some good and strong concentration states. It did notice and was fascinated by the fact that when I concentrated on a candle, my breath was MUCH more varied -- long breaths, short breaths, big big gaps in between breaths, etc -- whereas when I concentrated solely on the breath (with or without counting) my breath is also impossible to make "natural," meaning, it is consistent and repetitive. I have also had strong head squeezies throughout the day after my three hour meditation, which I believe signifies the persistence of some degree of concentration.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/27/11 9:01 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
did notice and was fascinated by the fact that when I concentrated on a candle, my breath was MUCH more varied -- long breaths, short breaths, big big gaps in between breaths, etc -- whereas when I concentrated solely on the breath (with or without counting) my breath is also impossible to make "natural," meaning, it is consistent and repetitive.


That IS interesting and perhaps it speaks to some presuppositions about "concentration" and what concentration is?

On another note, you might really enjoy checking this out:

http://dharmatreasure.com/writings/

The "Meditation Manual for Tranquility and Insight" is great.

-Jake

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/29/11 11:14 AM as a reply to . Jake ..
Mr. Jake *:
Alan Smithee:
did notice and was fascinated by the fact that when I concentrated on a candle, my breath was MUCH more varied -- long breaths, short breaths, big big gaps in between breaths, etc -- whereas when I concentrated solely on the breath (with or without counting) my breath is also impossible to make "natural," meaning, it is consistent and repetitive.


That IS interesting and perhaps it speaks to some presuppositions about "concentration" and what concentration is?

On another note, you might really enjoy checking this out:

http://dharmatreasure.com/writings/

The "Meditation Manual for Tranquility and Insight" is great.

-Jake


Thank you for turning me onto the Meditation Manual by Upasaka Culadasa. I read it over numerous times and realized it had some similarities to Alan Wallace's The Attention Revolution, and made the connection that both Wallace and Culadasa were working from Kamalasila's stages of meditative development. I'd read Wallace's book and hadn't really liked it, and had put it aside. I was turned off by numerous things, such as his contention that success could take tens of decades, or at least full time meditations in prolonged retreats. Also, I was bothered that his whole book focused exclusively on pre-jhanic states, and I found his map and the explantion of the map confusing and muddled.

After reading Culadasa's manual, I felt very differently about Kamalasila's map. Culadasa explicated the various stages using clearer, more lucid language and terminology. With Wallace I couldn't always tell the stages apart very well. With Culadasa, it was quite clear. Also, Culadasa clarified and streamlined the map by doing such things as only having gross and subtle "distraction" and strong and subtle "dullness," whereas Wallace had the three levels of coarse, medium, and subtle "excitation" and coarse, medium, and subtle "laxity."

Also, Culadasa's notes and explanations were also of great value. For instance, I figured out that when I had experienced what I had thought was "access concentration" a few weeks back, it was more precisely stage 7 on the map. Also, Culadasa is quite clear that spontaneous leaps to more advanced levels are quite common: "The occasional, periodic, or even frequent occurrence of a meditative experience corresponding to any of the stages, including advanced stages, is common. The point of practice, however, should be mastery, such that a particular stage can be arrived at easily and consistently. It is not unusual for a beginner to experience stage 4 or even 7, but it is not repeatable, so is therefore without significance except that it makes the meditator aware of what they are capable of." Now I know exactly what happened and I don't have to wonder why I am not meditating at the level I spontaneously did that one morning.

Also, he made many points I hadn't heard before, such as the fact that movement through the stages tends to accelerate as one climbs: "The rate of advancement through subsequent stages tends to accelerate. Though it may seem to take a long time to completely overcome mind wandering and enter stage 4, because so much of the training appropriate to that stage has already been taking place, the meditator will be able to move much more quickly from stage 4 to stage 5 then they could from stage 3 to stage 4, and that same acceleration continues in the later stages."

I now find the stages immensly useful. It is terrific to have the pre-jhanic stages worked out in detail instead of just having pre-jhana and post-jhana kind of thing. Now I have a variety of stages and levels to work through and I know much more precisely what I am trying to do, and how to do it, and what comes next, than I did before.

I made myself a worksheet based on Culadasa's "preparation for practice" sheet which I plan to use before and after each meditation session. A little OCD, I know, but I find these kinds of things useful. I also went through and took extensive notes on Culadasa's manual, and added notes from Wallace's book, to create a tight little pamphlet to help guide me on the path. One of the problems with meditation manuals is how wordy they can be. They can be excessively wordy! Now don't get me wrong I love to read. I am a British/American literature major with a love of philosophy for shit's sake, but it seems to me that many meditaiton manuals are just stuffed with filler and yammering. Shaila Catherine's Focused and Fearless is a perfect example of this. I find it practically worthless (her Wisdom Deep and Wide is MUCH better). I even find The Attention Revolution filled with fluff, whereby I have to sift through pages and pages just to get to a useful nugget. I really like Practicing the Jhanas by Stephen Snyder and Tina Rasmussen because it is condensed and tight as hell. MCToB is the exception to the rule, as it is wonderfully wordy.

For anyone interested, here is my worksheet and also my current notes based on Culadasa and Wallace's works...


Meditation Log


Date: _________ Length of Sit: ___________

Stage Majority of Meditation Was Spent In: ________


“Breathing in a long breath, he knows he breathes in a long breath, breathing out a long breath, he knows he breaths out a long breath.

“Breathing in a short breath, he knows he breaths in a short breath, breathing out a short breath, he knows he breaths out a short breath.”
~The Anapanasatti Sutta

Pre Meditation

1) Review reasons for meditating – motivations and purposes.

2) Decide what hope to accomplish/work on in this session.

3) Remind self of difficulties and distractions most likely to encounter. What going to do to contend with them?

4) Resolve to practice diligently for entire meditation session.

Post Meditation

5) Remind self to be satisfied with whatever you accomplished.

6) Review Sit.
a) Observations and thoughts?
b) Did you accomplish goal(s)?
c) What went well?
d) What didn't do so well?
e) What would you like to work on next time?

Notes:
















Kamalasila's Stages of Progress in Samadhi Meditative Training
(aka Upasaka Culadasa's Ten Levels of Mastery)

1) Establish a practice.

2) Interrupted continuity of attention to the meditation object.
[Long periods of mind wandering compared with relatively short periods of attention to meditation object. When sustained attention lasts minutes verses wandering lasting seconds, when focus on object is noticeably longer than time it has been forgotten, then Stage 3].

3) Extended continuity of attention to the meditation object.
[This stage has been mastered when attention to meditation object is rarely if ever lost, either to mind wandering or sleeping.]

4) Uninterrupted continuity of attention to the meditation object.
[This stage has been mastered when thoughts and emotions [severe distraction] that arise and pass away no longer have the ability to displace the meditation object as primary focus of attention. Vigorousness of intention to observe every detail of meditative object overcomes severe dullness – thus the Meditator can clearly discern whether each breath is longer or shorter than those which preceded it. When severe distraction is overcome it tends to slip into severe dullness. Primary challenge is finding balance between distraction and dullness.]

5) Sustaining full-minded awareness.
[Freedom from severe dullness. Also, the ability to keep subtle distractions from turning into severe distractions. When meditator, having succeeded in overcoming severe distractions, is able to sustain a high level of awareness without slipping into severe dullness for remainder of session, then mastery of fifth level has been achieved. Primary challenge is keeping dullness from diminishing vividness and intensity of meditative object.]

6) Subduing subtle distraction.
[There is a virtual but not total absence of subtle distractions. Awareness of sounds, bodily sensations, and internal mental states is only intermittently present. Exclusive focus can be said to have been attained.]

7) Single-pointed attention to the meditation object and pacifying the mind.
[Effort is no longer required to sustain attention and mindful awareness. Attention can be readily shifted from one object to another without disturbing the quality of concentration and awareness. This is called mental pliancy – the mind has been tamed. There are often bizarre and strongly distracting sensations and bodily movements at this stage. There can be intermittent periods of joy and contentment as well.]

8) The compliant mind and pacifying the senses.
[Mental pliancy is accompanied by meditative joy, a pleasurable feeling in the body, and contentment. The goal of this stage is the complete pacification of the six senses such that the intrusion of external stimuli is even further diminished, and the unusual sensory phenomenon that are peculiar to this stage cease to be of a disturbing nature. Also, breath becomes very subtle. The ears perceive only inner sound, eyes perceive only inner light, body becomes suffused with comfort and pleasure and is free of discomfort, and mental state is joyful. Can sit for hours without discomfort, dullness, or distraction. This is called physical pliancy.]

9) Physical pliancy and meditative joy.
[This stage is characterized by mental and physical pliancy, physical pleasure, a joyful state of mind, and great happiness. The goal of this stage is to become so familiar with the condition of mental and physical pliancy, and with the joyfulness and pleasure and altered perceptions that are its concomitants, that the initial excitement subside and is replaced by tranquility and equanimity. When the meditator can consistently invoke mental and physical pliancy, and when these pliancies are accompanied by profound and imperturbable tranquility and equanimity, the ninth stage has been mastered. ]

10) Stability of attention and awareness persisting beyond the sitting practice.
[With this quality of concentration, mindful awareness, joy, tranquility, and equanimity, the mind is at the threshold of, and has immediate access to, the jhanas and productive insight practice.]

Notes on Stages:

Severe (aka gross or course) Distraction (aka excitation): Involuntary thoughts occupy the center of attention, while the meditative object is displaced to the periphery.

Subtle Distraction: The meditative object remains at the center of attention, but involuntary thoughts emerge at the periphery of attention.

Severe (aka gross or course) Dullness (aka laxity): The meditative object has little vividness.

Subtle Dullness: The meditative object appears vividly, but the attention is slightly slack.

By using “noting” [aka introspective awareness], we can develop a mechanism that informs us when the mind has wandered and redirects full attention to the meditation object (Stage 2).

Uses a kind of “premptive” noting to keep the mind focused on the meditative object as opposed to using it only after the mind has already wandered (Stage 3).

Vigilance in the moment, and attention to the quality of awareness overcomes every sort of dullness and distraction, thus creating conditions for exclusive, single-pointed attention to meditative object (Stages 4-6).

Continued guard against distraction and dullness conditions the mind to sustain concentration and awareness effortlessly (Stage 7).

Mental and physical pliancy, contentment and joy are the conditioned result of effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration (Stage 8).

Simply abiding in the state of meditative joy creates familiarity necessary for profound tranquility and equanimity to arise (Stage 9).

The occasional, periodic, or even frequent occurrence of a meditative experience corresponding to any of the stages, including advanced stages, is common. The point of practice, however, should be mastery, such that a particular stage can be arrived at easily and consistently. It is not unusual for a beginner to experience stage 4 or even 7, but it is not repeatable, so is therefore without significance except that it makes the meditator aware of what they are capable of.

The rate of advancement through subsequent stages tends to accelerate. Though it may seem to take a long time to completely overcome mind wandering and enter stage 4, because so much of the training appropriate to that stage has already been taking place, the meditator will be able to move much more quickly from stage 4 to stage 5 then they could from stage 3 to stage 4, and that same acceleration continues in the later stages.

What we do in practice more than anything else is simply create specific conditions, and then the practice will unfold on its own in a highly predictable way as a result of those conditions.

There really are people who have advanced through all ten stages in less than a year, using the methods described here, and others who have done so in three years or less – based on a regular daily sitting practice of 1 to 2 hours per day plus some ancillary practices suggested here, and supplemented by shorter or longer meditation retreats, but without extended retreats lasting for months or years. So please be assured that it is possible for at least some householders to succeed within a few months of years of regular, diligent daily mediation with occasional longer periods of practice.

Four Milestone Achievements

Uninterrupted continuity of attention to the mediation object. Meditator no longer a novice.


Sustained single-pointed attention to the meditation object, with exclusive focus. Meditator has achieved mastery of skilled concentration.


Effortless stability to the attention, also known as mental pliancy, the compliant mind. Meditator has developed first stage of Adept.


Stability of attention and mindful awareness are fully developed, accompanied by meditative joy, tranquility, and equanimity, qualities which persist between meditation sessions. Meditator has developed concentration of Adept.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/29/11 11:03 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Upasaka Culadasa also explained quite nicely (in the link below) that such feelings as (and he literally refered to this) a sensation of a crawling scalp, and/or tremors in the face or body, amongst other energy shifts (which I've experienced at numerous points), as precursors of piti. This was a helpful clarification. I have found a number of these Q+As very interesting and useful and clarifying
http://dharmatreasure.com/question-answer/piti-joy/

Regarding practice, I was very lucky to have had three hours to meditate today. I had a couple of goals. 1) to breathe normally, and not breathe mechanically in and out like I had been, and 2) to actually sit, and not meditate with my legs prone out before me on the bed (I still meditated on the bed, but I sat on the bed [with a pillow behind my back and the wall]). Both went pretty well. I had to get up and stretch about every hour, but I did not suffer any kind of leg-pocolypse.Also, I did managed to breath more normally. On a side note, I have been using nasal decongenstion spray to making breathing easier and clearer due to an allegry to my girfriend's cat. I don't want to get addicted so after using it for about a week I am going cold turkey. Rebound stuffiness is sure to occur. I am going to try some saline solution and see if that helps. Being congested and wanting to meditate is really annoying.

Also, I'm through with counting. It lost its effectiveness after the first couple sessions of using it. My mind has learned how to count but also have discursive thoughts in the background yammering on while counting also promotes laxity regarding the meditative object (the breathe). Plus, I am not going to use a kasina or try meditating on two things at once, etc. The sole object of my meditation for the time being is going to be the breathe while at the same time one of the focuses of my development will be the mechanism of "noting" when I have (or am about to) slip into distraction, when I am suffering from dullness, etc. So, just the breathe and the monitoring noting mechanism with a focus on developing clarity and brightness of the object.

On a side but kinda semi-related note, I was reading Jack Kornfield's The Path With Heart to my girlfriend the other night when something kinda weird happened. I've never read that book, but I'm familiar with Jack and I've listened to numerous of his lectures. My girlfriend has been developing some degree of interest in meditation but at this point mostly for the purposes of controlling negative thoughts and/or the monkey mind. I thought as a total beginner, some mindfullness might be good (shinkantaza), then perhaps some "noting" techinques, perhaps even some metta would all be good. I noticed that The Path With Heart has all of these things, plus with Jack's psychotheraputic bent, I figured the book would be perfect. Well, I read her the preface, and then started reading her Chapter 1 -- Did I Love Well, and I started to get overwhelmed by the power of what Jack was writing and explaining, and his thoughts on compassion started to get unbearably powerful and resonated powerfully, and then I just couldn't take it anymore and I started crying like in a significant way (which sort of surprised my girlfriend and freaked her out a bit [not that I am mister insensitive or am afraid to show my emotions or anything {the opposite} but my reaction was sudden and pretty big]). I am not trying to suggest a connection between my reaction and my practice. I simply think that Jack's words are incredibly powerful and the dharma he is explicating cuts EXTREMELY deep and his exposition is simple and direct yet is like a diamond which cuts through bullshit and even though I haven't gotten further than chapter 1, I think perhaps this book is a masterpiece. Just a side note...

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/29/11 1:52 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I'm really glad you like the meditation manual :-) I agree that it's very well done; I get the impression that he really knows what he's talking about.

Another interesting thing Culadasa mentions in reference to the map explicated in this manual (although, I can't recall if he talks about this IN this manual or somewhere else...) is that, according to him, you can experience jhanna from pretty much any level of pre-jhannic concentration, his idea being, the further you stably are in these ten levels of pre-jhannic concentration, the deeper the jhanna subsequently entered, which really ties together the various different interpretations of what is "real" jhanna among different contemporary and classical sources. I believe he categorizes the depth of jhanna with a fourfold schema.

--Jake

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/30/11 1:05 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Hey! I'm also practicing in similar way like you. I found some nice tips when I read through your thread here. It inspired me to read Culadasas stuff. I have read it before, about 6 months ago but now when I read it again I realized many new things. He really describes these 10 stages well, it's very helpful. Can more information be found about the Kamalasila stages somewhere else? Well you mentioned the book by Wallace that you didn't like so much. but besides that? I would also be interested to know if there are any other person who made a description of the meditationprogress similar to the Kamasila stages.
I'm gonna read more on Culadasas webpage to find more info and on the yahoo group. I'll maybe stop by here and see how you progress.

Good luck to you! An thanks for sharing your experiences!

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/30/11 5:08 PM as a reply to Bjorn Hjelte.
Bjorn Hjelte:
Hey! I'm also practicing in similar way like you. I found some nice tips when I read through your thread here. It inspired me to read Culadasas stuff. I have read it before, about 6 months ago but now when I read it again I realized many new things. He really describes these 10 stages well, it's very helpful. Can more information be found about the Kamalasila stages somewhere else? Well you mentioned the book by Wallace that you didn't like so much. but besides that? I would also be interested to know if there are any other person who made a description of the meditationprogress similar to the Kamasila stages.
I'm gonna read more on Culadasas webpage to find more info and on the yahoo group. I'll maybe stop by here and see how you progress.

Good luck to you! An thanks for sharing your experiences!


I have, as yet, to really find any other sources and/or books which use the Kamalasila stages in a way as useful as Culadasas does. Of course, I haven't been focused on them or looking for them consciously until recently, so there may very well be other things out there I just haven't discovered. I would really recommend watching some of his videos, listening to his Q+As, and listening to his lectures as well. They are basically exactly the kinds of discussions and tips and teachings for the practice I am currently doing so I am very happy.

I found Culadasas's text very helpful, and you may want to check out Wallace's book, but there are differences in the the representation and lanuage which Wallace uses, but it is also fairly detailed. If you get it and don't like it, then you're out ten bucks. No big whup. Or you could get it from the library.

Here is a fairly epic discussion of Kamalasila, but in the end it becomes more so about the pros and cons of Wallace's book, on the Dharma Overground site. Really worth a read...
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/94403

I HIGHLY recommend you read Culadasas's text on jhanas called Jhanas and Mindfullness. It was also extremely informative and helped me understand -- for the first time -- the differences between vipassana jhanas and samadhi jhanas, as well as what he calls ultra lite, lite, light, and hard jhanas. He uses the stages to described the jhanas as well. http://dharmatreasure.com/writings/

Keep me updated on your practice! I just discovered that sniffing vinegar and/or an onions can open the nasal passage if they get clogged, so I can continue to meditate even on days when allergies are flaring up.

We can succeed if we are vigilant and dedicated to our practice. The best to you!

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/2/12 3:48 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Well Constant Readers (yes, I stole that from Stephen King), I have not posted details of my practice lately because I became addicted to a drug...nasal spray! Due to allergies I picked up some nasal decongestant and used it every day for about three weeks (it is recommended not to use it for more than three days). I started to realize that the periods between sprays was getting shorter and shorter as my sinuses would start getting terribly stuffed up. I threw the spray out and went cold turkey. As a result I had what people call "rebound stuffiness" for about four or five days whereby my head felt like it was filled with poured concrete. My sinuses were completely and totally blocked. By day five I started to panic wondering if I was in fact over the rebound stuffiness by now feeling the full effects of my girlfriend's cat. I started to fear that I was going to be unable to practice breath focused meditation at the nostrils because I was unable to even remotely breath through my nose. It was pretty awful. I tried doing breath meditation at the mouth but realized there were disadvantages to this techinque in that the lips would get dried out and become a distraction, the quality of the sensations would differ based on whether the lips were pursed or slack or agape, the sensations changed because the positions of the lips tended to change over time, etc. I was really unhappy with focusing on the breath at the lips. I considered focusing on the breath at the belly but was disconcerted that not many samadhi teachers tended to recommend it (not at least in the books I own...), and I was also put off by the fact that all this time I have been practicing with the focus at the nostrils and didn't want to start over from scratch by focusing on the breath at a completely different spot. By New Year's Day, however, my nose was much clearer and I was able to practice again, to my enormous relief. The experience really showed me how important meditation practice had become in my life. I am grateful beyond the telling of it to be simply able to breath through my nose to practice. I still have stuffiness, but even if my nose is three quarters blocked I can still practice! I am back and just about to meditate for a few hours. We should all be grateful for the opportunity just to be able to breath and I feel great compassion for those suffering from asthma and allergies or other situations and/or conditions which makes practice, as well as basic breathing, difficult or impossible. JUST SAY NO TO NASAL DECONGESTION SPRAYS!!

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/7/12 5:48 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
This is ridiculous but I have segued from cat allergies and nasal decongestion spray rebound stuffiness into a cold which means I have been congested for over a week. It has also meant that my anapana practice has been less productive and not very consistent. This whole episode has bascially pissed me off as it is crazy that my whole practice should be held hostage to the state of my sinuses but that is indeed what seems to have taken place. I am just now finishing MCToB, I've been reading some texts by Mahasi Sayadaw, Ken Folk, and various posts on the Hamilton Project website, and I am considering 1) switching from focusing on the breath at the nostrils to focusing on the breath at the belly, and 2) switching to vipassana noting practice. Here's the thing, though: I don't want to pussy out on my samadhi practice. I originally wanted to dedicate at least a year to the practice before switching to vipassana mediation but a few issues have made me reconsider: 1) a number of texts I've read have stated that for numerous individuals the samadhi jhanas can develop in the course of doing vipassana mediation, 2) some folks have suggested that obtaining stream entry makes acquiring the samadhi jhanas easier, 3) vipassana mediation wouldn't be affected by a stuffy nose, and 4) this year I have the opportunity to go on a few retreats, and I want to make those experiences as productive as possible. I was able to arrange to have two weeks of vacation back to back, then I have to go back to work, but then I have another vacation the week after that. So basically I will have three weeks relatively close together. It seems that if I use that time wisely I might be able to make some serious inroads into insight, as opposed to the real possibility of practicing samadhi meditation for three weeks and getting nowhere. In three weeks I'd probably be able to accomplish a number of the vipassana nanas.

In another post Daniel had to this say to me about jhanas and samadhi and vipassana. Basically, he was suggesting I start rocking some insight practice...

"I personally had really bad samatha skills until I had stream entry, but I learned to note early on and could do it well on retreat once I had some practice with it.

That said, I crossed the A&P (which is second vipassana jhana territory) in daily life without any formal meditation training at all a good number of time before I learned much at all about meditation, so what does that tell you?

Be very careful about what you call first jhana. If you adopt some very hard, high, samatha-heavy standard, you will likely shoot yourself in the foot trying to get that, when long before you ever attained that, you could have rocked out some serious insight.

Remember, Mind and Body is first jhana territory (the vipassana aspect), and plenty of people can get to that quite easily. When I say you must attain the first jhana to do vipassana, that is what I am talking about."


Here is another issue, though. I could attend a S.N. Goenka retreat in Illinois. Should I A) go and learn and practice the method of scanning, or emoticon go and ignore the teachings and just practice Mahasi style noting even though they ask you not to utilize methods other than S.N. Goenka's. Would it be horribly unethical to go there and then just do my own thing? Or do they make it really hard for you to ignore the S.N. Goenka teachings and practice something else? I could also just rent a room somewhere and sit in there and meditate for 13 days straight and skip the formal retreat thing. On the third week I could attend a 6 day Hollow Bones Zen retreat, which, judging from the Buddhist Geeks podcast, sounds really interesting and kind of wild. Or I could skip that as well and just rent a room somewhere and practice Mahasi style noting. Ah, I am wracked with questions and possible paths...

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/7/12 11:05 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I think we are basically in the same situation here. I am heavily pondering if I am doing the right thing by just doing pure concentration practice. But then again, I have tried Mahasi Noting once or twice, and felt some kind of aversion to it. All this verbalization and repetition (even if it's just in the mind) seemed kind of "annoying" to me. Not sure if this is the right way to go about insight practice (for me, not in general!). But since you might not have these same prejudices against the noting practice, I think you certainly cannot go wrong by just giving it a try.

Btw, why are you not just doing the solo-retreat at home? Too much noise, distractions?
I will be having a week off at the end of February, and plan on doing something similar, really cracking out the 24/7 practice (although I have not even decided on any technique yet, but I can always fall back on the good old anapanasati if nothing else comes up until then.)

Anyways, hope you will get rid of those stupid nose problems, sounds really annoying and obstructing to any serious practice. Not sure I could do this at the stomach, the area seems just pretty large. Still better than not trying anything, of course.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/7/12 2:23 PM as a reply to Christian Vlad.
My sinuses are a little better today (cold going away, I suppose...), but I am still considering focusing on the breath at the belly because, frankly, Mahasi Sayadaw recommends it, and he is clearly a dude a lot of folks around here respect bigtime, and I get the sense these are folks who have made some serious insight progress, so I respect their opinions.



For instance he writes in "Satipatthana Vipassana Insight through Mindfulnesss" that a "simpler and easier form of the exercise for a beginner is this: With every breath there occurs in the abdomen a rising-falling movement. A beginner should start with the exercise of noting this movement. This rising-falling movement is easy to observe because it is coarse and
therefore more suitable for the beginner. As in schools where simple lessons are easy to learn, so also is the practice of vipassana meditation. A beginner will find it easier to develop concentration and knowledge with a simple and easy exercise."

As the first step and cornerstone of his noting practice, Mahasi Sayadaw instructs in "Practical Insight Meditation" to Try to keep your mind (but not your eyes) on the abdomen. You will thereby come to know the movements of rising and falling of it. If these movements are not clear to you in the beginning, then place both hands on the abdomen to feel these rising and falling movements. After a short time the upward movement of exhalation will become clear. Then make a mental note of rising for the upward movement, falling for the downward movement. Your mental note of each movement must be made while it occurs. From this exercise you learn the actual manner of the upward and downward movements of the abdomen. You are not concerned with the form of the abdomen. What you actually perceive is the bodily sensation of pressure caused by the heaving movement of the abdomen. So do not dwell on the form of the abdomen but proceed with the exercise. For the beginner it is a very effective method of developing the faculties of attention, concentration of mind and insight in contemplation. As practice progresses, the manner of the movements will be clearer. The ability to know each successive occurrence of the mental and physical processes at each of the six sense organs is acquired only when insight contemplation is fully developed. Since you are only a beginner whose attentiveness and power of concentration are still weak, you may find it difficult to keep the mind on each successive rising movement and falling movement as it occurs. In view of this difficulty, you may be inclined to think, "I just don't know how to keep my mind on each of these movement." Then simply remember that this is a learning process. The rising and falling movements of the abdomen are always present and therefore there is no need to look for them. Actually it is easy for a beginner to keep his or her mind on these two simple movements. Continue with this exercise in full awareness of the abdomen's rising and falling movements. Never verbally repeat the words, rising, falling, and do not think of rising and falling as words. Be aware only of the actual process of the rising and falling movements of the abdomen. Avoid deep or rapid breathing for the purpose of making the abdominal movements more distinct, because this procedure causes fatigue that interferes with the practice. Just be totally aware of the movements of rising and falling as they occur in the course of normal breathing."

Another highly recommended practitioner around here is Ken Folk, and on his website under "basic meditation instruction," he suggests focusing on the breath at the belly: Sit comfortably cross-legged on the ground or in a chair. Become aware of your breathing. You are breathing in and out. Do not control or manipulate the breath; it was doing fine before you sat down and it will continue until your death without your active participation. Notice that when you breathe in, your abdomen rises. When you breathe out, your abdomen falls. This is the basic nature of the breath; it's a cycle. Let your mind synchronize with this simple cycle of rising and falling. As the abdomen rises, make a silent mental note to yourself, "rising." As the abdomen falls, note "falling." The mental note should be concurrent with the event. You'll have to say it slowly to make the note take the same amount of time as the action: "riiiiiiiisiiiiiiing, falllllllllliiiiing."

"Continue in this way, letting your mind settle into the simple act of breathing. Become aware of the sensations associated with the rising and falling of the abdomen. Don't strain, just notice what is there. Maybe your clothing is rubbing against your skin. You may feel softness or warmth. Or you may feel expansion, contraction, tightness, hardness, heat, cold, tingling, itching, etc.There is no right answer; whatever you feel is what you feel. Your job is simply to become aware of what is happening in your experience. If you are able to notice the sensations while maintaining the mental note, "Rising, Falling," do that. This is the preferred method. In this technique, concentration (samadhi) and investigation (vipassana) are being developed together. Progress is made by keeping these two aspects in balance. If your concentration outstrips your investigation, you will get dull. If your investigation overwhelms your concentration, you will become agitated. See if you can maintain the rise and fall of the abdomen as your primary object of awareness, while continuing to note "rising, falling." If you are unable to maintain the focus on the sensations of the rising and falling of the abdomen, you can move your attention to whatever is predominant in your awareness, as detailed below. However, keep in mind that eventually you would like to be able to stay with the rise and fall without being called away, noticing sensations as they occur, but using the rise and fall as an anchor, and noting "rising, falling." Your ability to stay with the abdomen as your primary object will be an indicator of progress over time."

I have become aware that many of the intructions I have read which instruct to focus on the breath at the nostrils come from the tradition of Pak Auk Sayadaw, and, good or bad, he is just one line of thought in this matter.

On another thread, an individual suggested that focusing on the breath at the belly is recommended by Mahasi Sayadaw because it may be supieror to focusing at the nostrils (in Mahasi Sayadaw's opinion). He wrote: "mahasi sayadaw taught his students (who, over the decades, numbered in the thousands) to anchor their minds to the rise and fall of the abdomen while doing noting practice, but also allowed those who preferred to focus on their breath at their nostrils to do so. the reason he gave for teaching the breath at the abdomen was that it was a coarse, easily perceptible area, whereas the breath at the nostrils sometimes became too refined for meditators to detect changes thereat.. and without being able to perceive those motions, meditators would not be able to investigate well. as he had (and his tradition's students have) a very good track record for teaching people to get to stream entry[1], and as jhana[2] is required to reach this point, then it can be said without any doubt that focusing on the breath at the belly can work very well to form a basis for jhana."

Regarding the issue of doing a retreat at home, I think that is basically a fine idea, except 1) I live with my girlfriend, and it would probably be impossible to do super intense insight practices with her watching Star Wars in the next room or playing with the cat, etc., and 2) there are too many temptations to jack around in the apartment (that is where I keep my books, dvds, etc.). I know some folks who are writers and sometimes when they want to get serious work done they rent a room somewhere, leave all their shit behind, and just go and do their thing in isolation. I was thinking I would do something similar with a mini-retreat. At the same time, though, I may get a lot out of going to a S.N. Goenka 10 day retreat and following the instructions to learn sweeping, and I may get a lot out of going and just doing noting. The Hollow Bones thing is pretty wild and I think I'd just like to experience that to see what the deal is (koan work, ego deconstruction, etc). But a part of me thinks, although it wouldn't be as "fun," it might be more productive to skip the Goenka and Hollow Bones thing and just rent a room and do it up. That being said, that kind of retreat would require a lot of discipline and until one tries it it is hard to say if 'd go rent the room and then bugger off in one day or something. Perhaps the reinforcement of the sangha would be helpful and productive.

Regarding the practice of noting, Daniel Ingram in MCToB swears by it, Ken Folk swears by it, tons of people around here swear by it -- and so when I transition to vipassana I am going to do it. That being said, I don't think you have to "verbally" note. Also, it probably takes some time to get used to it. You could start "small" until you get used to noting by incorporating a small degree of noting into your samatha practice. Here is what the Aloha Dharma website recommends regarding building concentration: "To concentrate the mind watch the breath go in and out at one spot (you pick the spot – I watch it at the upper lip or at the tip of the nose, but you can watch it at the abdomen or anywhere), and count 10 breaths. If you can count ten breaths without getting lost, then you are building concentration pretty well, but if you are a beginner then a lot of thoughts will pop up and distract you. You may even lose count of the breaths. No problem. Just go back to 1 and start counting back up to 10. No one needs to know but you, and it is certainly not a competition, so don’t worry about it. If you notice a thought popping up but haven’t lost count, make a brief note in your mind of what the thought is. Give it a label, such as 'memory' or 'planning' or 'fantasy.' As soon as you give it a label just get right back to counting. By giving it a label you are taking away the thought’s power to pull you into a story and get you off-track in the meditation, so practice labeling often! You will need it in the next part of the meditation.

"Continue with the counting meditation until you can count up to 10 breaths without losing track, and once you have done so then continue from 10 back to 1. This practice helps to increase your mindfulness of what is occurring in the present moment by giving you instant feedback if you are being unmindful (you’ll forget what number you’re on). This practice also builds concentration by helping you to focus on one thing: the breath. Once you have been able to go up to 10 and back down to 1 several times without losing track of what number you are on, then you have sufficient concentration to begin Vipassana. (This is a bit of an arbitrary cut-off. Each person’s need for concentration practice will be a little different and I highly recommend getting with a teacher to work these things out)."


http://alohadharma.wordpress.com/how-to-meditate/

Regarding my course of action of whether to continue samatha or transition into vipassana, I recently purchased the book Beyond Mindfullness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, where he gives samatha jhana instruction. I am going to give it a read and see what I think...

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/8/12 7:11 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Interesting questions you have. I would also like to know more about this...

Regarding where to focus, I'm not sure. I've been to two Goenka retreats and as you may know there the focus is on the nostrils area. The last half year or so I changed to focus on the abdomen instead, and now recently I have switched back to the nostrils. I would guess that you can choose whatever you like, it's maybe not such a big deal. I did however get good results when I switched to focus on the nostrils about two weeks ago, but I can't say for sure that the results were due to my change of focus. There could be other factors as well that just brings progress to my practice in general. I need to investigate it more for myself.

Noting is something I've practiced from time to time. I learned this first from the teacher Shinzen Young who I believe was inspired by Mahasi Sayadaws method. I sometimes get confused when I read about noting because some teachers like Shinzen makes a distinction between "note" and "label". "note" is when you recognize and focus on what you experience and then you can choose if you like to make a "label" which means that you say to yourself what you experience, either out loud or just quiet in your head. I really recommend Shinzens stuff. He seems to have a broad knowledge of meditation practices and I like his scientific approach. He uses very clear and precise language to describe the various aspects of meditation. It was very useful for me to learn from Shinzen to see that even though there are many different traditions and methods they have a lot in common and in the end lead to very similar results. His system which he calls 5 ways have been useful for me to understand also how other meditationmethods work.

Right now I think my plan will be to mainly pracitce Upasaka Culadasas teaching for samatha and also some with Shinzen Young for vipassana and just to get his general insights into things. I plan to go to a longer retreat in the future, perhaps it will be Mahasi Sayadaw retreat. Before that I might also do a self-retreat soon because I will not have a job by the end of the month unless I find something new. There will in any case be a lot of time for me to practice.

Funny that you purchased Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English because I have also done that together with The Attention Revolution by Alan Wallace. It will take a couple of days before I get them though.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/8/12 2:07 PM as a reply to Bjorn Hjelte.
Bjorn Hjelte:
Interesting questions you have. I would also like to know more about this...

Regarding where to focus, I'm not sure. I've been to two Goenka retreats and as you may know there the focus is on the nostrils area. The last half year or so I changed to focus on the abdomen instead, and now recently I have switched back to the nostrils. I would guess that you can choose whatever you like, it's maybe not such a big deal. I did however get good results when I switched to focus on the nostrils about two weeks ago, but I can't say for sure that the results were due to my change of focus. There could be other factors as well that just brings progress to my practice in general. I need to investigate it more for myself.

Noting is something I've practiced from time to time. I learned this first from the teacher Shinzen Young who I believe was inspired by Mahasi Sayadaws method. I sometimes get confused when I read about noting because some teachers like Shinzen makes a distinction between "note" and "label". "note" is when you recognize and focus on what you experience and then you can choose if you like to make a "label" which means that you say to yourself what you experience, either out loud or just quiet in your head. I really recommend Shinzens stuff. He seems to have a broad knowledge of meditation practices and I like his scientific approach. He uses very clear and precise language to describe the various aspects of meditation. It was very useful for me to learn from Shinzen to see that even though there are many different traditions and methods they have a lot in common and in the end lead to very similar results. His system which he calls 5 ways have been useful for me to understand also how other meditationmethods work.

Right now I think my plan will be to mainly pracitce Upasaka Culadasas teaching for samatha and also some with Shinzen Young for vipassana and just to get his general insights into things. I plan to go to a longer retreat in the future, perhaps it will be Mahasi Sayadaw retreat. Before that I might also do a self-retreat soon because I will not have a job by the end of the month unless I find something new. There will in any case be a lot of time for me to practice.

Funny that you purchased Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English because I have also done that together with The Attention Revolution by Alan Wallace. It will take a couple of days before I get them though.


I find Kamalasila's stages of progress in samadhi meditative training (which is developed by Upasaka Culadasa as the Ten Levels of Mastery) to be very useful for guaging realistically where I am in terms of progress/mastery. I really like what Culadasa does with it, and, as you know, Wallace utilizes the stages as well. I am looking forward to Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English as well.

I am not sure that I want to "give up" on samadhi practice, but I would at least like to begin practicing noting so that when I get my three (total) weeks of vacation in June, I can perhaps use it to do insight (since momentum is so important in insight practice). One thing that was recommended by Ron Crouch on his website is to (when doing samadhi practice) use "noting" to signify when the mind has slipped into fantasy, memory, distraction, etc., or when sensation intrude upon the focus on the breath. Of course, this is not like vipassana noting -- which is designed to deconstruct the object of focus into its pulse components -- but uses noting to help solidify the central focus on its object. I would like to get some noting practice in so that I am relatively competent so that I can perhaps made some moderate progress in insight when on a retreat (whether solitary or at a center).

Did you find the Goenka retreats useful and productice? I am trying to decide whether to do a solitary Mahasi noting retreat (keep in mind I really have no expience in this method, so I will be trying to teach myself) or going to a Goenka 10 and learning scanning. I then have to go back to work for a week, and then I have a third week off (which I could use as a solitary retreat or go to a Zen Hollow Bones retreat, which, to be honest, looks really fun, but clearly isn't vipassana, and therefore I'm not sure what I'd get out of it in terms of progress, but it might certainly be an interesting experience, etc).

Anyway...

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/8/12 7:28 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
You might want to check out the Twin Cities Vipassana Collective page http://www.tcvc.info/retreats.htm ; there's a retreat coming up at the end of this month that still has room. It's in Minnesota, but that's at least not on the other side of the planet for you.

I am a big fan of noting as well. It sounds miserably cumbersome, but actually it grows on you after awhile, and it's taken me places. Like you, I began thinking I'd devote a lot of time to samatha before switching to insight, but after about five months or so started noting. I took a lot longer just getting off the ground than you seem to have done, however. The only thing I wonder about with the "dry insight" approach is the severity of the Dark Night. Mine has been and continues to be pretty awful, off and on.

For the sinuses, I suggest you ask your doctor for a nasal emollient called Ponaris. It's harmless and nonaddictive (unlike the nasal sprays--I was worried about you and not surprised by your ordeal), but more effective than the saline sprays. I live with a bunch of cockatiels whom I would grieve over for years if I had to give up, so I am familiar with these problems.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/8/12 9:32 PM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
Jane Laurel Carrington:
You might want to check out the Twin Cities Vipassana Collective page http://www.tcvc.info/retreats.htm ; there's a retreat coming up at the end of this month that still has room. It's in Minnesota, but that's at least not on the other side of the planet for you.

I am a big fan of noting as well. It sounds miserably cumbersome, but actually it grows on you after awhile, and it's taken me places. Like you, I began thinking I'd devote a lot of time to samatha before switching to insight, but after about five months or so started noting. I took a lot longer just getting off the ground than you seem to have done, however. The only thing I wonder about with the "dry insight" approach is the severity of the Dark Night. Mine has been and continues to be pretty awful, off and on.

For the sinuses, I suggest you ask your doctor for a nasal emollient called Ponaris. It's harmless and nonaddictive (unlike the nasal sprays--I was worried about you and not surprised by your ordeal), but more effective than the saline sprays. I live with a bunch of cockatiels whom I would grieve over for years if I had to give up, so I am familiar with these problems.


Thanks for the retreat offer, but I have work and I have one more semester of classes. My job forced us to give our vacation dates the first week of January, so I picked dates when there is a Goenka 10 retreat, and a 6 day Hollow Bones Zen retreat.

Thanks for the Ponaris suggestion! I did some research online when I was rebounding and heard several mentions of a spray which can be prescribed which aren't addictive. The next time I go to the doctor I am actually going to ask about this. I am due for a general check up, which, even with my enormous copay, is basically covered so I am probably going to go sooner than later...

I have had terrible cat allergies my whole live but met the love of my life and as it turned out she had a lil' kitty named Charlotte. I used to be so allergic to cats I'd never go to someone's house who had one and I used to joke that if "Heaven had cats, I'd have to turn around and go to hell." My love and desire to live with my sweetheart was powerful enough for me to accept the challenge of living with lil' Charlotte Somtimes. I bought one of the best Heppa air filters I could find and we do a full apartment cleaning each weekend, with the changing of sheets, vacuming, etc. Charlotte loves me to death and jumps onto my lap every time I sit and at night she crawls onto my stomach and stays there until morning. The first night I slept over at my girfriend's apartment we kept the cat out of the room and she cried and scratched all night so we squashed that idea fast. Over time I ceased getting hives (and if I did I'd just take an antihistimine), and luckily I don't have asthma and my lungs don't weeze anymore but as winter has come we don't have the windows open all the time so dander is starting to build up and my sinuses have started to be more affected. After the rebound stuffiness I went straight into a cold but as of yesterday my sinuses were finally better and today I am actually breathing through both nostrils again!

I really quite enjoy samadhi practice but I'd like to begin practicing noting and beginning some insight practice. I had a feeling that getting noting down to where I can note up to "five sensations a second" (as Dan suggests) could take some time and practice, and so I'd like to get started. That and the fact that many people have suggested that progress in insight greatly helps one's concentration, to where the samadhi jhanas are almost a byproduct of success in insight.

I start my classes in one week, and this is going to throw my whole world into a whirlwind and a flux. My goal is to finish Dan's book MCToB, most of what Ken Folk has on his website, + read Practical Insight Meditation and The Progress of Insight by Mahasi Sayadaw before I start reading and writing about Tristram Shandy, Moll Flanders, and Clarissa. Plus, I'd like to figure out whether I am going to start hardcore noting, continue samatha, or do both (since, with classes starting and whatnot, I need to be decisive and use my time wisely so I want to read up on noting now and then make a determination before I'm running around like a lunatic). Plus, I am going to receive and read "Beyond Mindfulness" this week as well.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/10/12 10:04 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
I originally wanted to dedicate at least a year to the practice before switching to vipassana mediation but a few issues have made me reconsider: 1) a number of texts I've read have stated that for numerous individuals the samadhi jhanas can develop in the course of doing vipassana mediation,


You are very unlikely to wander into the jhanas (as described by writers such as Ajahn Brahm) in the course of noting-style vipassana, but it is true that you can attain MCTB-style jhanas that way.

2) some folks have suggested that obtaining stream entry makes acquiring the samadhi jhanas easier,


To relate this to a previous conversation we had...the more purification, the less sensual desire and other gross defilements there are, the easier it will be to attain the kind of jhana that you have mentioned wanting to attain.

In addition, MCTB 1st path makes MCTB jhanas much easier to reach.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/10/12 11:11 AM as a reply to End in Sight.
With less than a week to go before I start my classes, I am trying to pound out a bunch of theoretical texts to help direct my practice as I move forward. I finished MCToB -- which I largely hadn't read, for I had been focusing on concentration practices and wanted to wait to read about insight practices, but a cold took me off the cushion for about a week so I started to read MCToB again -- and I found that the book just got better and better as it went. It is not that the early sections suck and the later sections were better, it was just that as one reads through the text, the larger picture starts to come together, and a larger conception of the possibilities of practice really comes together. There was a tip I once heard about comprehending the philosopher Hegel which sort of applies to this book, which was that "You really can't understand Hegel until you've read every single book he's ever written, and then read them all a second time." You only really "get" MCToB after reading the whole book, then going back and rereading it, bringing the knowledge you've gained from the latter sections back to the earlier sections.

The section titled Models of the Stages of Enlightenment is incredible, and I really can't think of any comparable approach in another text to really detailing and defining what enlightenment is and what people perceive it to be and the discrepancy between those two things. I can't state enough how much I appreciate the analytical nature of it, which is basically perfect for my sensibility, and helped clarify a whole shit-ton of things which -- in a rationalist, materialist like myself -- had remained incredibly fuzzy and murky up to that point. I don't see how anyone interested in or writing about enlightenment could do so without reference to this section of Dan's book. It is that good and that important. I really see Dan's book as a step forward into bringing spiritual practice into the modern age, with an emphasis on reality testing, which I think is a major contribution to the field. If other's are doing something similar work, I'd like to know about it. Perhaps Alan Wallace, or Rick Hanson. There ARE others, but not a whole lot. But I get the sense there is a movement in that direction, which I think will be very positive for spiritual practice.

The section called "More on the Mushroom Factor" was also very power in its discussion of the need for transparency regarding teachers, and also a need to create some kind of gold standard for teachers, so that good ones get support, and people can find the teachers that can best help them. I also went back at finishing the book and reread the section on the Three Characteristics, as this is clearly a topic of vast importance. I am also reading through some interesting theoretical stuff which Ron Crouch has on his website (under the heading "The Path") where he writes some interesting speculative work on how the various stages of the path of insight correlate to a growing sensitivity to various parts of a sensation "wave": meaning, stages 1-3 correspond with the arising of a sensation, stage 4 with the crest of the wave, stages 5-10 with the falling away of the wave, stage 11 with the tail end of the wave, and the rest of the stages taking place after the sensation has "fallen away." This is an extremely interesting way of describing and conceptualizing the stages of insight and it has put them into a very comprehensible and understandable framework. Again, this kind of theory really helps one understand what they are doing and/or trying to do, and I think theory like this is very useful for practitioners.

My goal over the next few days is to read the bulk of the material Ken Folk has on his site, and then also The Stages of Insight and also The Progress of Insight by Mahasi Sayadaw. I'm not sure I will have time before classes start, but I'd also like to read In This Very Life by Sayādaw U Pandita. I am thinking that I would like to begin insight practice. It is not that I have lost interest in concentration, but that path of insight just seems like it is the way to go.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/10/12 11:35 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I took some notes on "noting" and the Three Characteristics as a guide to get started with some insight practice. I took material from Dan's book, from Ken's website, from Ron Crouch's website, and the wiki on this site and put some of the core theory and explanations and exercises together in one (for me) handy bunch. For anyone interested, here it is...

The Core Teachings

NOTING

NOTING By Dan Ingram
There is an exercise that you might find helpful called “Noting,” and it has its origins in the Pali Canon in Sutta #111, One by One as They Occurred, of The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (very worthwhile reading). It is used primarily in the Mahasi Sayadaw insight tradition from Burma, though related exercises are found in various Zen traditions, notably Soto Zen and Korean Chan, and probably in Tibetan Hinayana traditions as well.

The practice is this: make a quiet, mental one-word note of whatever you experience in each moment. Try to stay with the sensations of breathing, noting these quickly as “rising” (as many times as the sensations of the breath rising are experienced) and then “falling” in the same way. This could also be considered fundamental insight practice instructions. When the mind wanders, notes might include “thinking,” “feeling,” “pressure,” “tension,” “wandering,” “anticipating,” “seeing,” “hearing,” “cold,” “hot,” “pain,” “pleasure,” etc. Note these sensations one by one as they occur and then return to the sensations of breathing. Here are some valuable tips for successful noting. Don’t get too neurotic about whether or not you have exactly the correct word for what arises. The noting should be as consistent and continuous as possible, perhaps one to five times per second. Speed and an ability to keep noting no matter what arises are very important. Anything that derails your noting practice deserves aggressive and fearless noting the next time it arises. Note honestly and precisely. So long as you note whatever arises, you know that you were mindful of it. What the sensations are doesn't matter one bit from the point of view of noting practice. What is important is that you know what they are.

The Buddha gave his analogies names, and I have named this one “The Analogy of Shootin’ Aliens.” In this analogy the aliens are all of the little sensations that make up our experience. Shooting them is paying attention to them and seeing their true nature, perhaps with the aid of noting practice (like a gun with laser sight on it). The aliens shooting us is what happens when we do not see their true nature, as they become a hindrance, binding us on the wheel of suffering for the duration of our inability to shoot them. Some may even take us out of the game (cause us stop practicing entirely). The aliens that take multiple hits to kill are our big issues, those things that are difficult for us to break into their composite sensations. Being penalized for shooting wastefully is what can happen if we note sensations that we didn’t actually experience because we fell into repetitive, imprecise, mantra-like noting habits.

Further, the speed, precision and playful attitude required for video games is exactly like the feel of well-done insight practices. This is exactly the sort of dedication and passion that helps with insight practices. When our mindfulness and investigation are on hair trigger, being aware of every little sensation that arises and passes, we are bound to win sooner or later. The motto, “Note first, ask questions later,” is just so helpful if we are to keep practicing precisely without getting lost in the stories. “Note ‘em all, and let God sort ‘em out!” Where the Analogy of Shootin’ Aliens breaks down is that all these aliens want is attention and acceptance. They come to us so that we will greet them clearly and openly, but if we fail to do this they can get very troublesome. Their little alien hearts are being broken when we don’t get to know them as they are, so who can blame them when they get mischievous and try to trick us into paying more attention to them by causing trouble. Sure, it’s a bit childish of them, but we don’t always get to meet mature and well-adjusted aliens. Thus, rather than killing our aliens by shooting them, we give them what they want by noticing or noting them. We don’t invite the pretty ones to stay with us forever, nor do we ignore the boring aliens. We don’t kick the ugly ones from our door either. Like a politician on the campaign trail, we extend a hand to all, say, “Hello!” and then quickly do this for lots of others. When we meet them, greet them, get to know, accept and even love them, they go away happy. I realize that I’ve just gone from being excessively violent to being excessively sentimental, but somewhere in there is what insight practices are all about.

I recommend that the foundation of your practice be investigation of the Three Characteristics of the sensations that make up your reality. If you find it too complicated to try to investigate all Three Characteristics at once, then I recommend quick and precise investigation of impermanence. If this seems too difficult, I have found the simple practice of noting very quickly to be more than sufficiently powerful for gaining clear and direct insights into the true nature of thing. Should you find that the numerous instructions and avenues of inquiry I present to be too confusing, remember this paragraph and stick to these simple but profound practices. “When in doubt, note it out!”

NOTING by Ken Folk

Detailed Noting
When doing noting practice, preferably aloud, you have to decide whether to do a very detailed noting or a more sparse or skeletal noting. A skeletal noting technique, for example, would be to just choose from these six notes: seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, and thinking.

Detailed noting, however, is better than skeletal noting. That's because detailed noting "uses up" the available processing power of your mind, and that is exactly what you want to do. If you are noting in a way that requires all of your attention, your mind will not wander and you will not suffer. It's that simple. If, on the other hand, you use a noting technique that only requires 30% of the processing power of your mind, what are you going to do with the other 70%? You're going to suffer! Try it and see! :-)

Here is a systematic way to use your own mind to best advantage in waking up:

1) Note body sensations, e.g., pressure, coolness, warmth, tightness, stretching.

2) Note "pairs" (body sensations + feeling tone), e.g., "pressure-neutral, coolness-pleasant, itching-unpleasant."

3) Note "triplets" (body sensations + feeling tone + mind-state), e.g., "pressure-neutral-investigation; coolness-pleasant-contentment; itching-unpleasant-aversion."

If doubt arises, note "doubt." If speculation arises, note "speculation." If comparing arises, note "comparing." Everything goes in the hopper. There is no such thing as a hindrance. Whatever arises, including distraction, agitation, anger, doubt, etc. can be noted. Co-opt your enemies. You will find that that scariest monsters in your mind can be allies in your own awakening as soon as you note them.

You do not have to be concentrated to note. Note "agitation, dullness, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, doubt, anger, distrust, frustration, exasperation, confusion, fear, self-loathing, judging."

You don't have to figure this out in advance. Every moment that you spend making love to ideas is a moment you could have been noting. Imagine a surfer who thinks he has to understand wave theory before he gets in the water. Just get in there and surf!

Basic Meditation Instructions
Sit comfortably cross-legged on the ground or in a chair. Become aware of your breathing. You are breathing in and out. Do not control or manipulate the breath; it was doing fine before you sat down and it will continue until your death without your active participation. Notice that when you breathe in, your abdomen rises. When you breathe out, your abdomen falls. This is the basic nature of the breath; it's a cycle. Let your mind synchronize with this simple cycle of rising and falling. As the abdomen rises, make a silent mental note to yourself, "rising." As the abdomen falls, note "falling." The mental note should be concurrent with the event. You'll have to say it slowly to make the note take the same amount of time as the action: "riiiiiiiisiiiiiiing, falllllllllliiiiing."

Continue in this way, letting your mind settle into the simple act of breathing. Become aware of the sensations associated with the rising and falling of the abdomen. Don't strain, just notice what is there. Maybe your clothing is rubbing against your skin. You may feel softness or warmth. Or you may feel expansion, contraction, tightness, hardness, heat, cold, tingling, itching, etc. There is no right answer; whatever you feel is what you feel. Your job is simply to become aware of what is happening in your experience. If you are able to notice the sensations while maintaining the mental note, "Rising, Falling," do that. This is the preferred method. In this technique, concentration (samadhi) and investigation (vipassana) are being developed together. Progress is made by keeping these two aspects in balance. If your concentration outstrips your investigation, you will get dull. If your investigation overwhelms your concentration, you will become agitated. See if you can maintain the rise and fall of the abdomen as your primary object of awareness, while continuing to note "rising, falling." If you are unable to maintain the focus on the sensations of the rising and falling of the abdomen, you can move your attention to whatever is predominant in your awareness, as detailed below. However, keep in mind that eventually you would like to be able to stay with the rise and fall without being called away, noticing sensations as they occur, but using the rise and fall as an anchor, and noting "rising, falling." Your ability to stay with the abdomen as your primary object will be an indicator of progress over time.

Ron Crouch – You do not have to keep the mind on the breath, so let it wander, but use the breath as an anchor object and return to it periodically.

All of these things can be objectified and transformed into meditation objects that the mind simply watches without getting caught up in them. This is the essence of Vipassana: you objectify whatever you experience in the moment, watch it dispassionately, and don’t get caught up in it. By doing this, the awareness that is doing the watching becomes “disembedded” as my teacher describes it. As disembedding happens you begin to experience liberation from all the things that the body and mind are normally caught up in.

Be a scientist. Take a real interest in the fine detail of your experience, as though you were a engaged in a scientific study. Start a notebook of your experiences. After a sitting, write down as much detail as you can remember about the sensations that arose in the body. What was the sensation and what happened to it? Here is the format:

I noted "rising, falling." I felt warmth, softness, expansion, coolness, and contraction. I was distracted from the primary object (the rise and fall of the abdomen) by a pain in my leg. I moved my attention to the pain, which then became the object of meditation. I noted "pain, pain." The pain changed to burning. I noted "burning, burning." The burning disappeared and was replaced by stinging. I noted "stinging, stinging." The stinging broke up into tingling. I noted "tingling, tingling." The tingling broke up into vibrations. I noted "vibrating, vibrating."

This is how you deconstruct an apparently solid object into its constituent parts. Don't strain to see something that isn't there; just see what is there and DARE it to stay the same. It will not. It cannot. Be there to catch it when it changes.

This is a procedure. Think of it as algebra. You cannot skip steps and obtain the results. Apply the formula and you will get the "right answer." (There is no right answer. You are doing it right if you are seeing clearly. Vipassana means "seeing clearly.")

If you can name it, you know you are contacting it. This is the true value of noting; it keeps you honest. If you are noting, you are doing vipassana. You cannot note without doing vipassana. That does not mean hypnotize yourself into noting "rising, falling," and pretend that you are awake, mind you. You have to know something about the object. Go ahead and note "rising, falling," but know that you are experiencing coldness, warmth, softness, hardness, stinging, burning, aching, pulsing, throbbing, or whatever it is. Noting (knowing clearly what you are experiencing and naming it) is biofeedback.

As a general rule, note until things become very subtle. At that point I would let go of noting as it is unnecessary and can disturb subtle states of concentration.

Walking Meditation

Formal walking meditation is just one step away from awareness during daily life activities, so I love the utilitarian aspect of it. I walk fast, I walk in the woods, I stop, I squat down, I stand still, I stare off into space... what I rarely do, though, is pay attention to my feet. I do breath-counting 1-10, starting over when I get lost, or I notice the breath at the mouth and nostrils, or I play with putting the locus of awareness outside the body, and watching as from above; I love walking meditation.

The walking can be done outside, preferably when few people are around, or it can be done in your own living room. You just need 15 feet or so to pace back and forth. Walk at whatever speed is comfortable for you. Stop and start whenever you feel like it. Follow your gut, there are no rules.
Ron Crouch – The Nature of “practice”
When we sit in meditation we are building up skills that we will use all day long. During a period of sitting meditation you are practicing concentration and practicing Vipassana, but when you get up from meditation you are no longer practicing them – you’re using them. Noting seems awkward at first and you are likely to only do it during sitting meditation, but the goal is to note your experiences throughout your day, to be more mindful, more aware and awake, during each moment of our lives. This transition, from practicing the technique “on the cushion” to using the technique “off the cushion”, is an important turning point for a meditator. When this begins to happen, first with great effort, then with more and more ease, the effect of the meditation becomes very powerful. One makes swift progress along the path, and soon insights begin to arise during wakeful moments throughout the day. If you have managed to take your sitting practice and use the skills in daily life, you are well on your way to waking up.

Three Characteristics
Impermanence
Unsatisfactoriness
No-Self

The Three Characteristics are the stuff from which ultimate insight at all levels comes, pure and simple. The big message here is: drop the stories, find a physical object like the breath or body or pain or pleasure or whatever, and look into the Three Characteristics precisely and consistently! Drop to the level of bare sensations!

IMPERMANENCE
All things are impermanent. This is one of the most fundamental teachings of the Buddha and the second to last sentence he uttered before he died: “All phenomena are impermanent!”

The vast majority of what you usually think of as making up your universe doesn’t exist the vast majority of the time, from a pure sensate point of view. I mean that sensations arise out of nothing, do their thing, and vanish utterly. Gone. Utterly gone. Then the next sensation arises, does its thing, and disappears completely.

Reality vibrates, pulses, appears as discrete particles, is like TV snow, the frames of a movie, a shower of vanishing flower petals, or however you want to say it. Just look into your actual experience, especially something nice and physical like the motion and sensations of the breath in the abdomen, the sensations of the tips of the fingers, the lips, the bridge of the nose, or whatever. Instant by instant try to know when the actual physical sensations are there and when they aren't.

Two kinds of sensations: physical and mental. Being clear about exactly when the physical
sensations are there will begin to clarify their slippery counterpart that helps create the illusion of continuity or solidity: flickering mental impressions. By physical sensations I mean the five senses of touch, taste, hearing, seeing, and smelling. Coming directly after a physical sensation arises and passes is a separate pulse of reality that is the mental knowing of that physical sensation, here referred to as “consciousness” (as contrasted with “awareness”). This mental impression of a previous sensation (“consciousness” in Buddhist parlance) is like an echo, a resonance. The mind takes a crude impression of the object, and that is what we can think about, remember and process.

Each one of these arises and vanishes completely before the other begins, so it is extremely possible to sort out which is which with a stable mind dedicated to consistent precision and to not being lost in stories. This means that the instant you have experienced something, you know that it isn't there any more, and whatever is there is a new sensation that will be gone in an instant. The whole goal is to experience impermanence directly, i.e. things flickering.

How fast are things vibrating? How many sensations arise and vanish each second? This is exactly what you are trying to experience. Begin by assuming that we are talking about one to ten times per second in the beginning. This is not actually that fast. Try tapping five to ten times per second on a table or something. There are faster and slower vibrations that may show up, some very fast (maybe up to forty times per second) and some very slow (that are actually made up of faster vibrations), but let's just say that one to ten times per second can sometimes be a useful guideline in the beginning.

Don't worry if things look or feel solid sometimes. Just be with the solidity clearly and precisely, but not too tightly, and it can start to show its impermanence. It is also worth noting here that the frequency or rate of these vibrations may change often, either getting faster or slower, and that it is really worth trying to see clearly the beginning and ending of each vibration or pulse of reality. These are actually at least two different sensations! It is also useful to check out exactly what happens at the bottom, middle, and top of the breath if you are using the breath as an object, and to examine if the frequency stays stable or changes in each phase of the breath.

One last thing about vibrations: looking into vibrations can be a lot like any other sport. It can be thought of the way we might think of surfing or playing tennis, and this sort of game-like attitude can actually help a lot. We're “out to bust some vibrations!” as a friend of mine enthusiastically put it. You don't know quite what the next return or wave is going to be like, so pay attention, keep the mind on the pulse of the sensations of your world just as you would on the wave or ball, and keep playing! I highly recommend this sort of speed in practice not only because that is how fast we have to perceive reality in order to awaken, but also because trying to experience one to ten sensations per second is challenging and engaging. Because it is challenging and engaging, we will be less prone to getting lost in thoughts rather than doing insight practices.

If you can perceive one sensation per second, try for two. If you can perceive two unique sensations per second, try to perceive four. Keep increasing your perceptual threshold in this way until the illusion of continuity that binds you on the wheel of suffering shatters. In short, when doing insight practices, constantly work to perceive sensations arise and pass as quickly and accurately as you possibly can.

Exercise #1
In one of these exercises, I sit quietly in a quiet place, close my eyes, put one hand on each knee, and concentrate just on my two index fingers. Basic dharma theory tells me that it is definitely not possible to perceive both fingers simultaneously, so with this knowledge I try to see in each instant which one of the two finger’s physical sensations are being perceived. Once the mind has speeded up a bit and yet become more stable, I try to perceive the arising and passing of each of these sensations. I may do this for half an hour or an hour, just staying with the sensations in my two fingers and perceiving when each sensation is and isn’t there. I have found this to be a very useful practice for developing concentration and debunking the illusion of continuity.

Exercise #2
You can pick any two aspects of your experience for this exercise, be they physical or mental. I generally use my fingers only because through experimentation I have found that it is easy for me to perceive the sensations that make them up. In another related exercise, I do the same sort of thing, sitting quietly in a quiet place with my eyes closed, but instead I concentrate on the sensations of the front and back of my head. With the knowledge that the illusion of a separate perceiver is partially supported by one impermanent sensation incorrectly seeming to perceive another impermanent sensation which it follows, such as the sensations in the back of the head incorrectly seeming to perceive the sensations of the front of the head which they follow, I try to be really clear about these sensations and when they are and aren’t there. I try to be clear if the sensations in the head are from the front or the back of the head in each instant, and then try to experience clearly the beginning and ending of each individual sensation.

Exercise #3
In another exercise, which is quite common to many meditation traditions, I sit quietly in a quiet place, close my eyes, and concentrate on the breath. More than just concentrating on it, I know that the sensations that make up the concept “breath” are each impermanent, lasting only an instant. With this knowledge, I try to see how many individual times in each part of the breath I can perceive the sensations that make up the breath. During the in-breath I try to experience it as many times as possible, and try to be quite precise about exactly when the in-breath begins and ends. More than this, I try to perceive exactly and precisely when each sensation of motion or physicality of the breath arises and passes. I then do the same for the out-breath, paying particular attention to the exact end of the out-breath and then the beginning of the new in-breath. In the last exercise, I take on the thoughts directly. I know that the sensations that make up thoughts can reveal the truth of the Three Characteristics to me, so I have no fear of them; instead I regard them as more glorious opportunities for insight.

Exercise #4
Again, sitting quietly in a quiet place with my eyes closed, I turn the mind to the thought stream. However, rather than paying attention to the content like I usually do, I pay attention to the ultimate nature of the numerous sensations that make up thoughts: impermanence. I may even make the thoughts in my head more and more intense just to get a good look at them. If my thoughts are somewhat auditory, I begin by trying to perceive each syllable of the current thought and then each syllable’s beginning and ending. If they are somewhat visual, I try to perceive every instant in which a mental image presents itself. If they seem somewhat physical, such as the memory of a movement or feeling, I try to perceive exactly how long each little sensation of this memory lasts. This sort of investigation can actually be fairly easy to do and yet is quite powerful. When I am done with this exercise, I return to physical objects and their arising and passing. However, I have found taking on the sensations that make up thoughts to be another very useful exercise for developing concentration and penetrating the illusion of continuity. It doesn’t matter if they are “good thoughts” or “bad thoughts,” as all mental sensations are also dripping with ultimate truth that is just waiting to be discovered.

Suffering or Unsatisfactoriness
The suffering caused by continually trying to prop up the illusion of duality is fundamental suffering. This definition of suffering is the one that is most useful for insight practices, i.e. the illusion of an “I” and thus that everything else is “not I.” This is the illusion of duality, and the illusion of duality is inherently painful.

Investigate your experience and see if you can be open to that fundamental, non-story based aspect of your bare experience that is somehow unsettling, unpleasant, or unsatisfactory. It can be found to some degree in every instant regardless of whether it is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

Exercise
My favorite exercise for examining suffering is to sit in a quite place with my eyes closed and examine the physical sensations that make up any sort of desire, be it desire to get something, get away from something or just tune out and go to sleep. At a rate of one to ten times per second, I try to experience exactly how I know that I wish to do something other than simply face my current experience as it is. Moment to moment, I try to find those little uncomfortable urges and tensions that try to prod my mind into fantasizing about past or future or stopping my meditation entirely. I turn on sensations of the desire to get results, turn on the pains and unsettling sensations that make my mind contract, turn on the boredom that is usually aversion to suffering in disguise, turn on the sensations of restlessness that try to get me to stop meditating. Anything with fear or judgment in it is my bread and butter for that meditation period. Any sensation that smacks of grandiosity or self-loathing is welcomed as a
source of wisdom. A half hour to an hour of this sort of consistent investigation of suffering is also quite a workout.

Looking into unsatisfactoriness may not sound as concrete as the thing about vibrations, but I assure you it is. Even the most pleasant sensations have a tinge of unsatisfactoriness to them, so look for it at the level of bare experience. Pain is a gold mine for this.


No-Self
Emptiness, for all its mysterious sounding connotations, just means that reality is empty of a permanent, separate self. The emphasis here absolutely must be on the words “permanent” and “separate.” It doesn't mean that reality is not there, or that all of this is illusion! Solidity is an illusion, permanence is an illusion, that the watcher is a separate thing is an illusion, but all of this isn't an illusion.

There also seems to be something that is frequently called “the watcher,” that which seems to be observing all this, and perhaps this is really the “I” in question. It seems to sometimes be our eyes, but sometimes not, sometimes it seems to be images in our head and sometimes something that is separate from them and yet watching the images in our head. Sometimes it seems to be our body, but sometimes it seems to be watching our body. This odd sense of an unfindable watcher to which all of this is happening yet which is seemingly separate from all that is happening, which sometimes seems in control of “us” and yet which sometimes seems at the mercy of reality: what is it really?

“If you are observing it, then it isn't you by definition!” Notice that the whole of reality seems to be observed. The hints don't get any better than this. Here are three more points of theory that are very useful for insight practices and one’s attempts to understand what is meant by no-self:
1. There are absolutely no sensations that can observe other sensations! (Notice that reality is made entirely of sensations.)
2. There are no special sensations that are uniquely in control of other sensations.
3. There are no sensations that are fundamentally split off from other sensations occurring at that moment.

The big, practical trick to understanding egolessness is to tune into the fact that sensations arise on their own in a natural causal fashion, even the intentions to do things. This is a formal practice instruction. Thoughts, the breath, and all of our experience don't quite seem to be in our control, do they? That's it! Know this moment to moment. Don't struggle too much with reality, except to break the bad habits of being lost in stories, poor concentration, and a lack of understanding of the Three Characteristics. Allow vibrations to show themselves and tune into the sense that you don't have to struggle for them to arise. Reality just continues to change on its own. That's really it. Investigate this again and again until you get it. Notice that this applies to each and every sensation that you experience.

If when meditating you can perceive the arising and passing of phenomena clearly and consistently, that is enough effort, so allow this to show itself naturally and surrender to it. Once you can tell what is mind and what is body, that's for the most part enough. So don't make stories, but know this: things come and go, they don't satisfy, and they ain't you. That is the truth. It is just that simple. If you can just not get to caught up in the content and know these simple, basic and obvious truths moment to moment, some other wordless and profound understanding may arise on its own.

A useful teaching is conceptualizing reality as six sense doors: touch, taste, seeing, hearing, smelling, and thought. It may seem odd to consider thought as a sense door, but this is actually much more reasonable than the assumption that thoughts are an “us” or “ours” or in complete control. Just treat thoughts as more sensations coming in which must be understood to be impermanent, unsatisfactory and not self. In this strangely useful framework, there are not even ears, eyes, skin, a nose, a tongue, or a mind. There are just sensations with various qualities, some of which may imply these things for an instant. Bare experience is just dancing, flickering color, form, energy and space, basically, and the knowledge of these (which is not as fundamentally different from them as you might suspect). Try to stay close to that level when you practice, the level of the simple, direct, obvious, literal.

One more little carrot: it is rightly said that to deeply understand any two of the characteristics simultaneously is to understand the third, and this understanding is sufficient to cause immediate first awakening.

Recommended Retreat Schedule

4:30 awaken
5:00 walk
6:00 sit
7:00 breakfast
7:30 walk
8:00 sit
9:00 walk
10:00 sit
11:00 walk
12:00 lunch, shower, rest, sit, etc.
13:00 walk
14:00 sit
15:00 walk
16:00 sit
17:00 walk
18:00 sit
19:00 walk
20:00 sit
21:00 walk
22:00 sit
22:30 recline

Retreat Reminders

1. Don't indulge in your crap!
2. When in doubt or struggling: note/hit and accept pain.
3. If you have a question, the answer is in the Three Characteristics.
4. Be mindful during transitions between activities.
5. Analysis is not the same as practice.
6. Practice at all times when awake.
7. Stick to the schedule.
8. Remember how precious these moments are and how much the Dark Night sucks.
9. When alone, practice just as hard; this is for you.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/10/12 9:45 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Neat, I'll be keeping an eye on this thread. You expresses thoughts well and see your thinking as going though many of the same paths I went though not long ago so interesting to see where you'll end up. Hopefully not dismayed too many different views and sort of giving it up and stagnating at the 3rd stage "Extended continuity of attention to the meditation object" like myself heh.

You mentioned Mahasi, and seem to be on to noting, so here you go, top 6 or so should give a good notion where he is coming from:
http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Mahasi/mahasi.html

Of course mentioning Mahasi I should give you a somewhat opposite perspective as well:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/onetool.html
Personally when (if) I start a regular practice up again, I think I'll try to keep it simple and probably closest to something Buddha taught in Anapanasati Sutta, more of an insight and concentration hand-by-hand approach:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/11/12 11:10 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
The section titled Models of the Stages of Enlightenment is incredible, and I really can't think of any comparable approach in another text to really detailing and defining what enlightenment is and what people perceive it to be and the discrepancy between those two things.


As you (may) know, this section of MCTB is fairly controversial.

Perhaps the most accurate thing to say about it is that, if you practice in accordance with MCTB, at the point when you attain MCTB 4th path, you are likely to find that the various models of enlightenment described in that chapter do not speak to your experience.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/11/12 4:25 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
As I'm trying to refine and clarify my thinking about how noting practice is actually done, I've taken a few more notes on the specifics of methods. Feel free to give me any additional tips/pointers which you feel may be helpful...


Noting Notes


The noting should be done as consistently and continuously as possible, perhaps one to five times per second.


Definitions

Noting: To notice something and then focus on it intently (but gently!), until it vanishes.

Labeling: To think or say a word or phrase that describes what you are noting.


Broad Categories of What to Note/Label

Body Sensations
Eyes: lights, swirls, blackness, etc.
Ears: sound, ringing, bird, horn, etc.
Taste: bitterness, sweetness, etc.
Touch: pressure, coolness, warmth, tightness, itch, etc.
Smell: fart, food, car exhaust, fresh cool breeze, etc.

Feeling Tones: pleasant, unpleasant. neutral

Mind-States: intention, memory, wandering, dullness, sleepiness, fantasy, dream, horniness, joy, anger, restlessness, investigation, judging, excitement, paranoia, etc.

Actions: lifting, lowering, rising, falling, standing, shifting, etc.


Noting/Labeling Combinations

1) Note body sensations solely, e.g., pressure, coolness, warmth, tightness, stretching.

2) Note "pairs" (body sensations + feeling tone), e.g., "pressure-neutral, coolness-pleasant, itching-unpleasant."

3) Note "triplets" (body sensations + feeling tone + mind-state), e.g., "pressure-neutral-investigation; coolness-pleasant-contentment; itching-unpleasant-aversion."


Two Relationships to Breath

A) Try to stay with the sensations of the breath, but when the mind wanders then note honestly and precisely, aggresively and fearlessly.

b) You do not have to keep the mind on the breath, so let it wander, but use the breath as an anchor object and return to it periodically.


Options

1) Speak label out loud (strong voice, normal voice, sub-vocal whispering/mouthing),

2) Think label (but don't speak), and

3) Note pulse/sensation/whatever but don't label it.


As one progresses, one may begin to perceive things very rapidly. In this case you can:

A) Label clusters of pulses/sensations/whatevers (instead of hitting them individually),

emoticon Switch to generalized noting (“tap” them), or

C) Drop noting entirely and just be with bare vibrations or flickering sensations until one needs to note again to stay present/grounded in sensate reality.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/11/12 5:45 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I have to say that I really like what you put together there (and that coming from someone who said he doesn't like noting).
It actually is very wells structured, pragmatic, and makes a lot of sense overall. I might even give this a shot myself again borrowing that "battleplan" of yours (if you don't mind emoticon).

Are you planning on putting this right into heavy action (i.e. going with real intense long noting sessions from the start), or easing into it a little more slowly with shorter "practice sits" before it gets really serious?

Noting 5 things per second still sounds kind of unbelievable to me, but I guess once it "takes off", it might just happen by itself somehow.

I am really looking forward reading about your progress with this as you start doing this hardcore. Hope you will keep us posted about your experiences!

GL
Christian

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/12/12 5:45 AM as a reply to Christian Vlad.
Christian Vlad:
I have to say that I really like what you put together there (and that coming from someone who said he doesn't like noting).
It actually is very wells structured, pragmatic, and makes a lot of sense overall. I might even give this a shot myself again borrowing that "battleplan" of yours (if you don't mind emoticon).

Are you planning on putting this right into heavy action (i.e. going with real intense long noting sessions from the start), or easing into it a little more slowly with shorter "practice sits" before it gets really serious?

Noting 5 things per second still sounds kind of unbelievable to me, but I guess once it "takes off", it might just happen by itself somehow.

I am really looking forward reading about your progress with this as you start doing this hardcore. Hope you will keep us posted about your experiences!

GL
Christian


I have made the decision to switch from a daily practice of samadhi meditation to insight. The primary reason is that in the course of doing insight practice, by all accounts, one's concentration skills simultaneously develop. Also, as I have been told numerous times on this site, it is not necessary to have developed hard jhanas in order to begin insight practice. In fact, Dan told this to me himself on another thread, so I am making the switch.

Chris -- By all means use whatever I post which helps you in your own practice. That is why I'm posting it! I have gained a lot from what other folks have posted on forums or websites, and my thread is any attempt to keep track of my thoughts and conceptualizations and tactics as they develop, deviate, and change.

I plan to begin by practicing an hour or two a day. If I can practice with two hours together, that would be best (although with classes, and epic homework, this may be hard). I think it would be counterproductive to leap into epic sessions right off the bat because I have the feeling that it takes a little time to get used to noting practice. For instance, the reason I wrote out the above sheets of basic noting techinques is because I need to keep in mind the various "types" of sensation categories (e.g. body, mind, feeling tones, actions) so I can get used to semi-accurately labeling them. There will be a bunch of time wasted at first trying to figure out "how" and "what" to label things, and it will take a little time to develop a fluidity of technique which will allow me to develop concentration, etc., so I can eventually just focus on the sensations, thoughts, etc. I imagine it is like learning to driving a manual transmission car. At first you have to spent a lot of time trying to remember which pedal does what, what the gears are, what combination of actions need to be performed to make the bitch move. After a while, you can stop focusing on the process and just "do it" then focus exclusively to what is happening on the road (a skunk ran in front of you, there is a stop sign ahead, etc). There will be a period of practice before one stops "looking at the finger" and starts "looking at what the finger is pointing at," to quote Bruce Lee (God I love Enter the Dragon).

To be frank, one of my concerns has been that I'd cross the A+P, enter Dark Night, and then screw up my last semester of school (or my job hunt after graduation). But, I honestly think that this is perhaps over estimating the progress I'll make in my lay capacity, and, although I plan on practicing two hours a day, I still think the lag time of getting used to noting/labeling, and being off retreat, will mean I probably won't cross the A+P before the first week of May (graduation). And, hopefully even if I did, I'd handle it skillfully. I've been through a lot of craziness in my life, and a goodly chunk of it while going to school (since friggin' '00), so it is my hope that I'd play it cool and seal the school deal before I shit my pants and start rolling in it or whatever. I have two weeks off in June, and then I go back to work, and then I have a third week off the following week, so my game plan is basically to get my techinques up to snuff, and then possibly do a ten day retreat (either Goenka or a private, hotel-roomy retreat) and then try to bust some stages at that point, go back to work, see where I am at, and then possibly do another week. I have no idea how my girlfriend is going to handle this. She has said that she is cool with this, but I will have to seriously work some stuff out not to worry about her being lonely or whatever while I'm gone. I'd have to arrange for her friends to visit her every day or something. I'd miss her too, but hopefully I'd be so busy noting and ripping into altered states of luminous transcendence that the time would fly by (unless, of course, I got stuck in Dark Night the whole time in which case I'd marinade in my misery and psychosis while writhing in my paranoid fever sweats), and I'd get by just fine. Anyway, lonely girlfriend or not, that is the plan. I'm developing a pet idea that if I don't go to the Goenka retreat (which I very well may), I might be able to have a two week "in house" retreat, meaning, I have a loft in the apartment, and, I could just stay up there meditating for two weeks. My girlfriend would therefore be physically near me the whole time, and at the end of the night I could come down and crash next to her, in which she could snuggle up to me or whatever, but there would be a vow of silence, and a vow of celibacy until the in house retreat was over. I'd have to ask her to be relatively quite for two weeks. I'm not sure how well this would work. It probably wouldn't. But it might. I might just be better off going to a retreat center somewhere. Anyway, we'll see...

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/12/12 12:54 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
By the way I just found this and it is super super great! Dan Ingram (on another thread) posted his equivalent of Kamalasila's Stages of Progress, but for vipassana practice. I am just moving it here for convenience sake...

1) Not trying to practice, lost in one's stuff, spacing out, mindfulness weak.

2) Mindfulness weak, lost in one's stuff, but at least attempting some technique at times, even if one can't actually do it. People spend whole retreats at this level, unfortunately.

3) Able to actually practice and follow basic instructions somewhat, such as noting, body scanning, or whatever you are trying to do. I'll go non-technique specific here, as this is a guide to the essence of the thing. Basically any technique or object or posture that moves you up this hierarchy and keeps you there is what matters, and nothing about the specifics of what you are paying attention to or how you are trying to pay attention to it is important so long as it serves that fundamental goal.

4) Able to actually do a specific vipassana technique or set of techniques well with few interruptions.

5) Able to actually do that with no interruptions.

6) To be able to directly perceive the Three Characteristics of objects in the center of attention consistently and directly whether or not one is using a more specific technique or not. In short, if you can do this, at that time and for however long that lasts, whether or not you use a more formal technique is irrelevant.

7) To be able to directly and continuously perceive the sensations that make up the coarse background components also in that same light of strong, direct vipassana awareness, meaning direct comprehension of the Three Characteristics of not only the foreground objects, but things like rapture, equanimity, fear, doubt, frustration, analysis, expectation and other sensations in the periphery, as well as other objects as they arise, such as thoughts and the component sensations of feelings as well as the primary object or objects, assuming one is even using primary objects at this point, which is not necessary.

8) To be able to do #7 very well and then add core processes such as the sensations that seem to make up attention itself, intention itself, memory itself, questioning, effort, surrender, subtle fear, space, consciousness, and everything that seems to be Subject or Observer or Self all the way through the skull, neck, chest, abdomen and all of space such that nothing is excluded from this comprehensive, cutting, piercing, instantly comprehending clarity that is synchronized with all phenomena or just about to be.

9) Able to do #8 naturally, effortlessly and clearly due to one's diligent efforts to write that wiring on the mind as one's new baseline default mode of perception.

10) We are back where we started: one comprehends simultaneously two of the Three Characteristics of one's entire sense field completely including, space, consciousness, and everything else in that volume as an integrated whole and so attain to Change of Lineage, Path and Fruition. That's what you are shooting for if you are going for stream entry at least, and it even works well for the sort of continuous complete mindfulness that brings on higher paths.

Keeping this hierarchy in mind, many questions are answered either directly or with small amounts of additional information.

Q: Does it matter what object I use?
A: Only if that object at that moment in time helps you at least stay above the lower few levels of the hierarchy and hopefully progress up them.

Q: Does it matter if my concentration is really focused or broad?
A: As all you have to do is comprehend the Three Characteristics of one's sum total reality for 3 moments, you only need really limited objects if you haven't gotten automatically fluent enough with other objects to attain to Conformity Knowledge on them. By way of example: if you can get your attention focused exclusively on the breath and comprehend the sensations that make it and the attention focussing apparatus, as that is all there is, that's all you need to understand. If you can't get it that focussed but have attained through diligent work a natural fluency in a wider array of other sensations, then broader attention will do you just fine.

Q: Does it matter what technique I use?
A: I would say scramble up the hierarchy however you can using any object you can and whatever dose it takes to get there, changing objects, focuses, techniques, postures, or whatever other factors need to be changed if those help you rise higher and stay there. This is the pragmatists approach to vipassana rather than the dogmatic traditionalists approach to vipassana. If a dogmatic and traditional approach gets you up the hierarchy, there is no conflict between these at all. If your dogmatic and traditional approach is not working at that moment, sit, walking period, hour, month, or year, try switching things around, preferably with the help of good guidance if available, to see what does get you up a notch.

Q: When should I stop noting and just pay attention?
A: You can definitely stop when at that particular time you are at stage #6 or higher, but you could also continue so long as it didn't slow you down or restrict your ability to comprehend whatever arises in its rich and comprehensive entirety.

Q: Which technique is better: Noting, Body Scanning, Zen Koan Training, or what?
A: Whatever at that time helps you progress or at least stabilize above the bottom levels of that hierarchy. Note: techniques take time to learn, so continuous abandoning of one poorly-learned technique for another poorly-learned technique is unlikely to do much of anything good, but if you have learned a few techniques well, they anything that works goes. One should realize that this is for most people a very dynamic and non-linear progression, with many risings and fallings up the ranks of the hierarchy, and learning how to shift focus or approach at the right time is a learned skill that requires constant vigilance and practice, but having the basic goals in mind should help guide you.

For instance, say one had decided to use noting practice, and had gotten to stage 2, Cause and Effect, with steady, slow noting, but then bad back pain began to derail one's attempts at noting in stage three, Three Characterisics, during which time one fell back to poor practice. One might reflect: "Ah, I am no longer able to do slow noting, at least I should try to do slow noting, and perhaps choose a different posture that wasn't so painful for a time in a mindful way."

Or, one might have been doing noting up through the Three Characteristics stage, but then began to notice energetic phenomena, heat and kundalini stuff show up that was too fast to note, at which point one might think, "Ah, I was really good at blasting through the A&P using more Goenka-style body scanning on a previous retreat and know how to do that, maybe I will give that a try, as it worked well before."

Or, one might have been rockin' it in the A&P by rapidly and directly perceiving fast vibrations and tingling interference patterns, but when one got to Dissolution notice that one's practice was completely derailed and one was just spacing out. One might reflect, "Ah, whereas before I was rockin' it in the A&P, now my practice has fallen to the bottom of the barrel, and perhaps attempting to do slow noting and build back up to more direct methods when I can would be better than floundering." Good plan.

Or, one might be high up in Equanimity and yet not be able to land a Fruition. One might ask oneself, "What core process, subtle background or foreground sensations, or other patterns of experience are not yet brought into the clear light in the way I have done for so many objects?" In this way, one sees what one is missing and, having learned to see those objects naturally also, lands it.

Working thus, one gets a sense of how one may adjust one's practice to accommodate what is happening and keep one riding the waves of changes that vipassana in all its forms can throw at one.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/12/12 6:48 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I posted this elsewhere but I am also going to post this question here...

I am a little confused by #s 4 and 5.

#4 says "Able to actually do a specific vipassana technique or set of techniques well with few interruptions," and #5 says "Able to actually do that with no interruptions."

Now, if I am doing noting practice, and I'm focusing on the breath, I don't want to exclusively focus on the breath to the exclusion of all other things, otherwise I'd be doing samadhi meditation, so I want to kind of "look around" mentally for the sensations which are occuring in elsewhere in my mind and body as well, right?

So what would constitute an "interruption" in this case? I guess totally zoning out into a fantasy and losing the primary object (breath) as well as the entire field of mindfullness (sensations in body and mind). But you do want to be open to all experiences and sensations as they occur, right?

How tightly should one focus on the breath (exclusive focus) and/or how wide/panoramic should the field of awareness go to be successful in noting/insight practice? If I go "hunting" for sensations, I can find them. Is that what I want to be doing?

Should I be focusing hard on the breath trying to break it down into pulses/sensations, or should I use the breath as a concentration anchor and make my focus wide and open to all sensations as they occur, where ever they occur?

Then I also have some questions about the vipassana jhanas.

1) You can't hit mind and body, cause and effect, and the three charactersics, without first entering the first vipassana jhana. Is that correct?

2) Is the first vipassana jhana characterized as containing all the same jhana factors as its "hard" samatha jhana counterpart, but in lighter, lesser quantities? So, for instance, the first vipassana jhana should contain bliss (piti), happiness, etc., but it won't be as crazily blissful as the 1st samatha jhana. Is that right?

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/12/12 8:41 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
2) Is the first vipassana jhana characterized as containing all the same jhana factors as its "hard" samatha jhana counterpart, but in lighter, lesser quantities? So, for instance, the first vipassana jhana should contain bliss (piti), happiness, etc., but it won't be as crazily blissful as the 1st samatha jhana. Is that right?


Not really. The most striking counterexample to the general correspondence you're wondering about is the 3rd vipassana jhana (corresponding to the dark night)...dukkha, not sukha. (Even the dissolution nana, the least "bad" nana of the dark night, tends not to contain sukha.)

The 1st vipassana jhana can be fairly unpleasant at times (during the 3Cs nana especially). As for whether M&B nana contains the jhana factors in any appreciable amount...it seems to me that it will if your concentration is good, and it won't if it isn't

The 4th vipassana jhana is more similar to a concentration state, and the 2nd, while not a concentration state, does tend to contain the jhana factors corresponding to 2nd samatha jhana.

In general, the "vipassana jhana" model doesn't give you any more information about things than the nana model (= the progress of insight) does. My understanding is that it was created as a way to relate what the suttas say (that one proceeds through jhanas 1-4) with what one experiences when doing noting-style vipassana (that one proceeds through the progress of insight). So, if you understand the nanas, the vipassana jhana thing doesn't add much / anything.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/12/12 8:52 AM as a reply to End in Sight.
End in Sight:
Alan Smithee:
2) Is the first vipassana jhana characterized as containing all the same jhana factors as its "hard" samatha jhana counterpart, but in lighter, lesser quantities? So, for instance, the first vipassana jhana should contain bliss (piti), happiness, etc., but it won't be as crazily blissful as the 1st samatha jhana. Is that right?


Not really. The most striking counterexample to the general correspondence you're wondering about is the 3rd vipassana jhana (corresponding to the dark night)...dukkha, not sukha. (Even the dissolution nana, the least "bad" nana of the dark night, tends not to contain sukha.)

The 1st vipassana jhana can be fairly unpleasant at times (during the 3Cs nana especially). As for whether M&B nana contains the jhana factors in any appreciable amount...it seems to me that it will if your concentration is good, and it won't if it isn't

The 4th vipassana jhana is more similar to a concentration state, and the 2nd, while not a concentration state, does tend to contain the jhana factors corresponding to 2nd samatha jhana.

In general, the "vipassana jhana" model doesn't give you any more information about things than the nana model (= the progress of insight) does. My understanding is that it was created as a way to relate what the suttas say (that one proceeds through jhanas 1-4) with what one experiences when doing noting-style vipassana (that one proceeds through the progress of insight). So, if you understand the nanas, the vipassana jhana thing doesn't add much / anything.


Huh. Thanks!

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/12/12 11:51 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1) Difference between 4-5
Those stages seem a bit co-opted from the samatha stages, so I'd suggest 4-5 relate more to calming down than clear seeing.
Having stronger force mindfulness, continual mindfulness vs spotty. Having a calm enough mind that it does not go on tangents or space out and interfear practice. Think "observing whatever occurs" rather than "looking around ".

See U Pandita on basic instructions and returning from wandering:
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pandita/html/morality.html#Instructions

2)U Pandita on Vipassanā Jhānas:
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pesala/Pandita/html/jhanas.html
U Pandita talks about access to vipassana jhana vs completion. Access requires insight into mind and matter. Completion is three characteristics.

But, there is some disagreement on how much concentration is necessary. Mahasi Sayadaw does not seem to talk about jhanas, and seems to say momentary concentration (ordinary everyday level, aka khanika samadhi) is fine for bare insight (sukkha-vipassana and suddha-vipassanā-yānika, vs samatha-yānika). Anther example, Pa Auk Sayadaw wrote do anapansati to jhana or 4elements mediation at least to threshold/neighborhood/access concentation (upacara-
samadhi) before insight. U Pandita seems balanced in terms of samatha/vipassana (samatha-yanika) though he seems to have more-or-less same noting style as Mahasi.

Some U Pandita quotes: "Generally, instructed people step by step, beginning with morality, progressing through the right view of kamma and concentration, before he began with insight practice."
"According to the fourfold way of reckoning, which admits of four levels of jhāna, the first jhāna possesses five factors which
we will describe below. All of them are important in vipassanā practice."
"At this point in the practice, there begins to be a strong presence of all five factors of the first jhāna, discussed above.
Aiming and impinging, vitakka and vicāra, have strengthened. Concentration, rapture and comfort join them. The first
vipassanā jhāna is said to be complete, and vipassanā ñāṇa or vipassanā insight knowledge can begin to arise."

edit-Mahasi seems to say momentary=access, in strengh, ability to suppress hinderances. Thanissaro used same word "momentary" to mean ordinary. For Mahasi it is "momentary unification of mind" from object to object. I found an additional level, preliminary/preperation concentration (parikamma samadhi), which they probalby consider ordinary. Might be fair to say question on #5 above is somewhere around "momentary unification of mind".

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
1/15/12 11:39 AM as a reply to Nick K.
I lost my phone and the heat stopped working. Ugh. Nevertheless, I've been giving the ol' noting practice a shot. It takes some time to get used to, and it is hard to know if you are doing it right. Samadhi mediation is easy. You just follow the breath and if your mind wandered, bad, if not, good. With noting there is a lot more freedom to note around, and I'm not sure how much I should be noting stuff which forces itself into my field of awareness, or noting stuff based on my own volition. I usually start by trying to get into a semiconcentrated state by focusing on the breath to the exclusion of other phenomenon, usually counting 1-10 then back 10-1 a few times. Then I begin noting basically whatever strikes me. Sometimes things impinge themselves forcefully into my sense of awareness (a sound, an itch, etc), though mostly I just let my attention rove around and perhaps I'll become aware of my foot and note stuff related to it and other times I'll experience sensations in my elbow and I'll note that or my mind will wander and I'll note that. I try to note the sensation, whether it was pleasant or unpleasant or neutral, and whether or not I had any particular thoughts in response to the sensation and feeling-tone (for instance, sensation *itch*, feeling tone *unpleasant*, thought *damn, how am I going to scratch there without getting stink finger..., *mind wandered*, etc.).

I suppose the key is to develop concentration while doing this. My goal, therefore, is to try and be in a state of hyperaware mindfulness, and note in my disorganized, non-systematic way (I understand that in Goenka, there is a process of first the head, then the neck, then the...etc., but what I am doing is much more spontaneous, whether right or wrong), and keeping doing this day after day until I see if I can get into the "zone," which I suppose would be the first vipasanna jhana. At that point, directing my attention on sensation field will result in more nuances results (perhaps at that point stuff would get more pulse-y, or vibrate-y). Therefore, I'm going to try and not worry too much about "what" areas I am focusing on, as opposed to trying to develop a good clean all around mindful awareness and then see what effect this has on the object of my focus (the breath, a pain, etc.). I would guess that just watching the sensations rise and pass away is practing trying to see the characteristic of imperminence, and seeing how the sensations and thoughts and feeling tones seem to happen independent of my will is practicing seeing no-self, and seeing how these sensations/feeling-tone/thoughts can be unpleasant is practice seeing suffering.

I imagine that the practice of noting serves two functions: 1) it draws your attention to the rising and passing away of sensations and their independent nature and how these things cause tension (which is practice seeing the Three Characteristics), and 2) it develops good present moment awareness -- mindfulness -- by bringing you right into the "now."

Goenka (which I've never done) appears more systematic, noting more "spontaneous," Goenka just focuses on the body, and noting focuses on the mind AND body. I like structure and the idea of a systematic approach is appealing, but I am not thrilled about the idea that thoughts and feeling notes are ignored.

On a side note, I just found out about Actual Freedom and PCEs, like, a week ago. I was ignorant of the whole "controversy" or whatever, until just recently. I'm not really interested in all that. I do, however, have a lot of questions regarding how PCEs, and Actual Freedom itself, may or may not have been cause for revision of the major claims and hypothesis found in MCToB -- which, by the way, I just finished about two few weeks ago. I thought that the chapter called Models of Enlightenment was absolutely incredible, but it perhaps needs revision now based on the supression of affect (and other things? Actions?) which is produced by a PCE (limited action models are for-real-ies). If anyone has any thoughts they'd like to share about how folks at the Dharma Overground have integrated (or not) the discovery of PCE cultivation into the theoretical framework of MCToB, and what implications it has had, I'd be very interested to hear it.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
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1/31/13 4:19 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
For those interested, at this juncture [01/31/2013] I've abandoned a strictly samatha-style practice in favor of vipassana. I have a new practice thread over in the Practice Logs section titled Alan Smithee's [enter catchy title here] Practice Notes. I've concluded that, for my purposes, it makes more sense and it has been more productive to develop concentration side by side with an insight practice.

RE: Alan Smithee Samadhi Practice Thread
Answer
12/1/14 5:09 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I couldn't find your name on the reply for the messages but I tried to copy and paste it and send it anyways. If it didn't work then this is my reply:
I couldn't recommend it higher. It goes through much of what is in his talks but everything is in one book. It has square parts in the narrative with instructions and you'll find MORE instructions that help you get unstuck from lower levels. It shows how weak the 3 C's are practiced and how intermediate people get stuck thinking they got it and how to develop the 3C's better and even how to mix them together. Then it goes into more advanced instructions than the 3C's that take you to the Advaita Vedanta enlightenment (which to me is the "mirror" consciousness). After this it goes to more advanced practices including how to see clinging within perception of time, space and the insight practice as well. It also explains dependent origination better and how counter-intuitive it is.