Message Boards Message Boards

Toggle
So open I'm drowning
distractions mental sensations noting openness
Answer
12/4/09 2:32 PM
Hi all,

I lurk more than I post. I used to post on the old Wetpaint site as "wildlings". But that's all to the side.

In June-July I completed a 21 day vipassana retreat in northern Thailand, which taught Mahasi noting (with some variations that I've mostly dispensed with).

I practise between one and three times per day, walking and sitting for 20-30 minutes each per session, with an additional five minutes of standing at the start of every session. I experience a lot of disparate sensations during my practice, scatter-gun-like. The way these sensations occur to me is something like the following:


A B C
x | |
| x |
| x |
x | |
| x |
| | x
x | |
| | x
x | |
x | |
| x |

(etc)


Most descriptions I have read sound very different to this. They make the occurrence of each sensation sound sequential, with each sensation coming to a stately passing away before the arising of the next.

For me, whenever a sensation arises, my attention doesn't so much switch to it as expand to include it; it then oscillates from one sensation to the other, back and forth. Then a third crops up, at which point it cycles through them. Eventually some of the earlier sensations will cease and drop out of the cycle. This timeslicing makes it hard to notice the cessation. I try not to deliberately control the cycling although I detect a semi-conscious choice at times, which I also note.

The expansion to include each successive sensation is quite a lovely, encompassing feeling, like progressively opening up to the sensations that make up life in the present. Even conventionally unpleasant sensations like a neighbour's chainsaw or television lose their bite in these times of peaceful expansion. I note the openness.

Although this is quite a pleasant experience, I worry about the precision of my noting -- with such breadth of sensation, it's hard to notice the finer detail of each and every one, especially when they're coming thick and fast (10-20hz if I'm warmed up). Am I right to worry about this? I could open out LESS, and solidify on one at a time, thereby increasing concentration and stability?

Regardless, the secondary problem of being so open arises -- mental sensations. I've got touch happening, maybe cycling in multiple body parts at once, I've got sounds incorporated and tumbling over the bodily sensations so rapidly they almost seem to be co-occurring to my awareness. Smells, check. Taste, check.

(I call this "chording" internally and for lack of a better term.)

At some point, I start to encompass thoughts and mental sensations and here I get stuck. Really stuck.

Often the sensations involve exhilaration and self-congratulation at being so fundamentally open and free of anxiety. I try to note these off, but I'm slow to recognise them and often get caught up in content for a good five or ten seconds. This leads to questions and doubts, which I again am slow to recognise and note off. Often I notice some sort of interpretive faculty that renders experience into words, yammering away at such speed that I have trouble noting it along with everything else. When I do manage to grab hold of it, I fall down a recursive spiral of noting that I'm rendering into words the act of noting that I'm rendering into words the act of noting...

Around ten or twenty seconds later this blast of mental sensations burns itself out and I'm left, exhausted and confused, which I note. Drifting, drifting, confused, confused, sleepy, sleepy ... eventually I come back to rising, falling, rising, falling, ... itching, itching, hearing, hearing, hearing opening, open out open open ... BLAM mental sensations again. And the cycle continues ...

With mental sensations, I note at the level of "planning", "counting", "remembering', "reflecting", "fear", "doubt" etc, but I can't note them any more clearly than that and as I have said emotional content seems to get me caught. Nor can I ascertain how fast I am noting them. I doubt it's more than once per second. Are there specific techniques for dealing with mental sensations that could help? Should I perhaps deliberately filter them out to retain concentration?

Before sitting, I walk. While walking, I do not experience the same flurry of sensations (physical or mental); this is because I deliberately filter them out and stabilise on the feet. I could walk while noting sounds or sensations in arms, torso etc (and indeed sometimes I do this) but in general I have found that doing a concentrated walking practice is a nice complement and warm-up to the insight of sitting.

Many thanks for being here,

Jules

RE: So open I'm drowning
Answer
12/4/09 7:05 PM as a reply to Luckee Simpleton.
Hi Jules,
You appear to be very passionate about your practice and very committed and diligent. I've been told over a million synaptic events occur within the brain every second and all over the body. It is not possible to note them all. You already appear to have attained a high level of noting ability and pushing for further capacity may cause you to burn out. Once you get to that level where you realise you can't catch all of the vibration or movement, simply switch over to broad sensate awareness. You can perfectly well attend to the vibrating as a raw field experience and you can work with the field to progress. The first time I crossed the A&P the whole body electrified simultaneously. Single 'point noting' of the event was impossible as it was a pan body event which I attended to as a sensed field experience. Have a go and see what happens. Doing this also takes the psychological pressure off too, which is what you are also looking to do. Hope this helps.
Paul

RE: So open I'm drowning
Answer
12/7/09 3:43 AM as a reply to Paul Hurley.
Hi Paul, thanks for your reply. I've read about using the entire sense field as an object, but didn't quite realise that it might be helpful/necessary for my current practice. I've been applying your advice for the last few days and results are promising. At least the doubts are lessened and that does take a lot of psychological pressure off, as you suggested. One thing I have noticed is that impermanence is less obvious to me when I take the sense field as object. There is always something happening ... I detect wavering, pulsing shifts in the field, as individual sensations fade or are raised to my awareness, but no cessation as such. The field, while not constantly the same, is constantly there.

But whatever. I feel unstuck, for which I'm very grateful. Thanks!

Jules

RE: So open I'm drowning
Answer
12/8/09 10:28 PM as a reply to Luckee Simpleton.
Hey there!
So I completely relate. I see the same phenomenon. Here's something else I come up with too. Try this and see if it happens to you, cause this is what I see:

I can at most notice maybe 6-7 objects at once. So from what you described it seems to me like you could hold up to 7 before you forget old ones, and by definition you wouldn't be able to remember what you forgot. To show why I think you can only notice 7 objects, try this: say you are looking at a forest with hundreds of trees. You might take in the whole background as just one object and the middle ground as an object and then also notice how several branches of one try make two or three more objects.

To make this easier to see, what if you are looking at these hundreds of trees and you move sideways while looking at them. All the background will move at the same speed, and all the middle ground moves at a different but constant speed, and the objects in front move at a certain speed.

So instead of seeing trees moving at hundreds of subtly different speeds, you see the basic 6-7 speeds. Interesting, no? You can also look at some arrangement of items and only see 7 objects in your awareness, although there are more than 7 objects in front of you. Your awareness might jump between all the objects, but only 7 are present at one time..

Also, on a more subtle note, see if you can take yourself as an object in what your noticing. Can you notice exactly between what objects the split between "this" and "that" is?

Anyways, I just thought this was very interesting. Make of it what you will emoticon

RE: So open I'm drowning
Answer
12/8/09 10:32 PM as a reply to J S S.
So maybe an experienced mediator can tell me if these "objects" I'm mentioning are the same thing as formations? That would be interesting. You definitely need to be aware of space in order to tell these objects apart.