physical focus, goenka's practice and mine

Jesse Cooper Levy, modified 8 Years ago.

physical focus, goenka's practice and mine

Posts: 68 Join Date: 2/4/12 Recent Posts
Hey Siblings,

I have created this curriculum for myself, and have certain concerns about it. Basically, I'm interested in exploring purely physical phenomena this year, and in later years jumping to practices of mental and emotional content.

I suppose I view concentration and insight as a continuum, based on how narrow you're focus is. But something that scares me, after talking with another meditator, is the idea that I may actually be resisting insights by seeking to do concentration based work.

Is this so? And if so, am I needlessly extending the time I spend suffering before awakening, not to mention suffering on the mat?

When I have a thought, what should I do? Write now, I'm attempting 6=5, ie. reducing mental content to the senses they correspond to. For instance...

Anapana, inner monologue, note hearing, monologue stops abruptly, ecco of the monologue is heard (not necessarily NOTED in such a direct way), attention brought back to anapana.

Is there a faster way?

I'm bought to sit another SN Goenka course, so I suppose I'm getting caught up in that, and trying to justify my own manner of noting to his. What IS his method anyhow? I think it's

SCAN (which I think is concentration in it's own right), NOTE "the mind has wondered", SCAN

Is this too simplistic?

bless,
jess
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fivebells ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: physical focus, goenka's practice and mine

Posts: 566 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Starting with physical sensations can be helpful because they are often relatively concrete and stable, and their physical structure makes them a good basis for gradually expanding the field of awareness (as in Goenka: start with this small area and expand out.) However, spending an entire year on them seems excessive, at least with respect to the usual goals of insight meditation. What effects do you hope to achieve with this approach?

In the end you'll want to include all of it, the mental and emotional too. (Again, at least w.r.t. the usual goals.) I would worry that I was excluding some aspect of my experience, if I was only focusing on one of the three. They can all provide places for Mara to hide.
Jesse Cooper Levy, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: physical focus, goenka's practice and mine

Posts: 68 Join Date: 2/4/12 Recent Posts
@Fivebells,

thanks for the thoughts. Gotta give some more thoughts to my goals. What do you think though about, if I'm spending a significant amount of time at a goenka school, my focus will be body, and how to cope with that.

Can you expound upon your thoughts on mara? Sounds helpful?

-J
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fivebells ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: physical focus, goenka's practice and mine

Posts: 566 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Attention to the body should come first and be the first resort, because most obstructions will express in some sort of physical sensation if they're ignored long enough, and anyway if you're practicing with an experienced teacher, of course follow their advice, not someone on the internet. But for instance, I have had problems in the past with extremely painful physical sensations which kept coming up until I understood the emotional/mental basis for them, and which were released by holding the associated emotions and mental activity in awareness. If I had been excluding emotions and thoughts from awareness so that I could practice with the purely physical, it would have been a real struggle. In principle you can go all the way with just physical awareness, but it was never going to work that way for me because I didn't (still don't) have the power I would need to open to the physical pain I was experiencing. If you run into problems like this and your teacher is inflexible about sticking to the physical, you might want to consider working with someone from a tradition with a broader range of practices (but after the 10-day, if you can get through it. emoticon)

I was just using "Mara" as high-falutin' language for the tendency to be carried off by conditioning which has arisen from a cherished self concept.
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Nikolai ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: physical focus, goenka's practice and mine

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
Jesse Cooper Levy:
Hey Siblings,

I have created this curriculum for myself, and have certain concerns about it. Basically, I'm interested in exploring purely physical phenomena this year, and in later years jumping to practices of mental and emotional content.


Why not both at the same time? Progress wont then be relegated to 'later years'. Is your current mindset conducive to awakening this year?

I suppose I view concentration and insight as a continuum, based on how narrow you're focus is. But something that scares me, after talking with another meditator, is the idea that I may actually be resisting insights by seeking to do concentration based work.


You mean the narrower your focus the more insight? Well, this may be the case at some times but I wouldn't rely on such a means of viewing concentration and insight. Notice in the anapana sati sutta that the buddha instructs one to become aware of the entire body with the inbreath and outbreath. One is concentrating the mind via the Buddha's instructions but is the focus narrow?

"[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.'



Is this so? And if so, am I needlessly extending the time I spend suffering before awakening, not to mention suffering on the mat? When I have a thought, what should I do? Write now, I'm attempting 6=5, ie. reducing mental content to the senses they correspond to. For instance... Anapana, inner monologue, note hearing, monologue stops abruptly, ecco of the monologue is heard (not necessarily NOTED in such a direct way), attention brought back to anapana.


This is simple enough.

Is there a faster way?


Depends on the state of the mind, and depends on the yogi's way of practicing and their mindset. One could gently mentally label the 'inner monologue' as 'wandering' or 'self-narrative' and then allow the mind to return to the object of meditation. That is enough.

I'm bought to sit another SN Goenka course, so I suppose I'm getting caught up in that, and trying to justify my own manner of noting to his. What IS his method anyhow? I think it's


You will learn his method in due time. I advise following his instructions to the tee. But when the mind wanders, gets pulled into those inner monologues, the incessant self-narratives, simply note all of that as 'wandering' or 'self-narratives', or 'not paying attention', and then gently return back to the techniques that Goenka teaches.

SCAN (which I think is concentration in it's own right), NOTE "the mind has wondered", SCAN


If done appropriately and with sustained attention, it can concentrate the mind quite well. The self-narratives which pull the mind away from scanning are what interrupt that flow. So simply recognising their arising and if needed, a mental note to re-enforce the recognizing and letting go of them, will allow the mind to return again and again to the 'scanning'.

Don't over think it. Don't judge the techniques as too slow or this or that or whatever till AFTER the course. If the techniques Goenka introduces are followed to the tee, and the right amount of dedication and persistence is cultivated, then fast progress can occur.
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Thom W, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: physical focus, goenka's practice and mine

Posts: 63 Join Date: 12/31/10 Recent Posts
From an article by John Wren-Lewis on his awakening...

"In the meantime, however, I’m very concerned that all the seekers I come across accept as a law of the spiritual universe that they have to be content with years, perhaps many reincarnational lifetimes, of hopeful traveling, rewarded at best with what T.S. Eliot called hints and guesses(7) of the eternity-conscious state, whereas I see that state as the natural human birthright."

(full article here)

If you really think it will take you years to awaken, it will probably take you years to awaken. If you think it is hard, it will be hard. Until we learn to deprogramme ourselves a little, what we assume / believe about the path creates the path for us, sometimes to a rather surprising extent.

As well as dedicated and passionate and high-aiming practice for awakening (be it vipassana or whatever equivalent) I recommend reading material that helps us become more aware of how our beliefs about practice shape practice. And indeed, how our beliefs about life shape life. Our fervent belief that there is an "out there" and an "in here" filters information into this duality, and we would bet our lives on this being "true".

Dedicated vipassana practice (done well) will progressively dispel this illusion, but I recommend complementing insight practice with other powerful material which helps us soften rather unhelpful filters in the way we process and subsequently view our experiences and ourselves.

Try this book, by Robert Anton Wilson, as well as nailing a Goenka 10 day - Nik's advice is excellent. Follow the instructions TO THE TEE and note when you get carried away, immediately coming back to the instructions.

Prometheus Rising download

It's quite a romp...enjoy, and practice well

Thom
Jesse Cooper Levy, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: physical focus, goenka's practice and mine

Posts: 68 Join Date: 2/4/12 Recent Posts
I want to thank everyone for you're comments. I love this sangha so much for it's honesty, dedication, and compassion.

@Nikolai, I sort of meant the reverse of what you'd taken from my insight/concentration continuum. I mean, rather, that I suspect insight meditation is simply a broadening of the focus of concentration, and concentration the restriction of insight work.

One of the main things I'm wondering here is, is it alright to do goenka's work STRAIGHT UP. I've taken one of his courses again, it was MAD HARD once my emotional stuff started coming up. When it does this again, I'm going to have a tendency, from this site, daniels book, and a friends advice, to want to switch into noting mode, hopefully, with the breath, or scanning, still being my desired* focus.

I'm currently reading this Hamilton Project piece stream entry at a ten dayer


But I'm not so into mixing and matching. And I also don't get that we have to actually think "anicca" or 1 of the characteristics.
I dunno. I see it like, I want to be accepting of experiences as they are, and the thought of impermanence to me seems contrary to being present with experiences. I get that it's the same basic idea, but do I really have to tell every experience that it's impermanent to get enlightened? I don't think every tradition does this, though I think they all include surrendering to present experience. Thoughts?


(*oh crap. that can't be good)


@Thorn W
You raise some interesting points, but I'm not sure it's that simple. I only know so much of Wilson's work, but come out of one of his schools of thinking (chaos magick) and, to quote another chaote, phil hine, "it's very easy for people to get flippant about belief." There's a chaos magician I know who seems to think that one of the biggest questions of magick is when should you think different vrs when should you act different. I'm sure there's a ton of faulty thinking in my practice, but I'm not sure a year curriculum is inherently problematic just in that it assumes I'll be meditating for a couple years. Another way of phrasing my questions is are:

I intend to do Goenka's practice for the next year. (well, that and Liber MMM) I may even spend a few months at the shelburne falls Goenka center. Could adhering to these practices slow down my progress to awakening? What should I do with all the &$(#^ed thoughts that spring up.


I hope this was all said respectfully and with an open ear.

bless,
jess
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Nikolai ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: physical focus, goenka's practice and mine

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
Jesse Cooper Levy:

But I'm not so into mixing and matching. And I also don't get that we have to actually think "anicca" or 1 of the characteristics.
I dunno. I see it like, I want to be accepting of experiences as they are, and the thought of impermanence to me seems contrary to being present with experiences. I get that it's the same basic idea, but do I really have to tell every experience that it's impermanent to get enlightened? I don't think every tradition does this, though I think they all include surrendering to present experience. Thoughts?



Don't 'think' about annica. Period. Just watch the sensations and allow that characteristic to show itself naturally. Thinking about annica is not actually witnessing it in real time. Simple keep scanning and watching sensations as they arise and pass, shift about, move, disappear, re-appear, increase in intensity, decrease in intensity, seem gross, seem subtle, somewhere in between, unpleasant then pleasant then unpleasant then neutral then unpleasant and so on and on. All of THIS is annica presenting. This is being with and recognizing experiences 'as they are'. You simply pay attention with this notion in the forefront of the mind as it is seen in realtime. This doesn't mean thinking about it. It just means 'paying attention' to that aspect of experience.

The fact that there is no 'you' doing any of this, not having any say in the arising and passing, the shifting, moving, disappearing, re-appearing, increasing in intensity, decreasing in intensity, seeming gross, seeming subtle, seeming somewhere in between, unpleasant then pleasant then neutral and so on and on, THIS can also be another way of paying attention to sensations.

It isn't really thinking, it is simply paying attention to these two characteristics as they present themselves. Simply paying attention to the fact that the sensations don't stay still, they shift about, change, are so impermanent in nature, and that this moving about, changing impermanence is not in your control.

Simply pay attention to the sensations with either of these two notions in mind. Don't think about it, let the sensations SHOW you these two characteristics. And when you see them clearly, then dukkha, the third characteristic will become much much clearer.

Doing this non-stop will lead to big realizations about this mind/body organism with its sensations, thoughts, images, and so on. Dispassion for the grasping at impermanent and impersonal phenomena will gain a firm base to be cultivated from. Renunciation of those habits that lead to misery, the grasping at an illusory self, giving rise to an illusory felt sense of self, the moods/manifestations of an illusory self, the grasping at the continued existence of an illusory self, all of this will begin to seem like so much dukkha when seen through the lens of the 3 C's. And the dispassion for the grasping that gives rise to it all will start to take root. And from there, the path to the freedom from the fabricationse of the illusory selfing processs will become clearer.

Seeing continuously the 3 C's in phenomena leads to dispassion and renunciation and freedom from the grasping that leads to fabrications of misery (the incessant self narratives, the selfing processes). They are tools to simply 'let go' of the hot stone (the self narratives leaping from grasping). There are other ways to let go of the hot stone but within the Goenka tradition, where you will be spending much of your time, the 3 C's are the means. To the tee!

Nick

Edited x 3
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Thom W, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: physical focus, goenka's practice and mine

Posts: 63 Join Date: 12/31/10 Recent Posts
Hey Jess,

Great response, perhaps my reply was a little glib. It was a slightly knee-jerk invitation to reflect on your assumptions about how long things take. On reflection, I think the year's "curriculum" is a wonderful idea, as long as you don't let it condition your assumptions about what is possible with really really good insight practice. However, calling it a curriculum rather smacks of the assumption you know what's gonna happen...

Creating an assumed schedule of what you will be paying attention to and when could hugely restrict the organic nature of how insight practice naturally matures. It's a real danger that if you think you are in a stage of practice in which you don't gain insight into mental and emotional phenomena then this will shut you down to precisely this.

The reality is that sensate (as opposed to "physical" which is arbitrary and unhelpful as a category) phenomena are the basis of all emotional and mental content, but don't take my word for it, practice well with as few assumptions as possible, and what needs to become clear will become clear.

In other words, "you" don't decide what type of insights you will get, insight arises with good practice. If "you" start assuming what "you" will be learning and when, "you" get in the way of dispelling the illusion of "you" which is pretty much the entire point of practicing.

Paying attention to sensate reality (scanning / noting / feeling etc) will organically and naturally give you insight into emotions as they arise, how they are compounded etc.

In summary, my main point is that doing insight practices really really well to the best of your ability, *coupled with* as few assumptions as possible about the results and "curriculum" would be a sensible way to go. I mentioned Wilson's work as it can be a fun way to realise how much we are conditioning ourselves to experience all the time. I don't recommend mixing practices, or traditions *at all* to the best of your ability. Of course, coming out of one tradition (chaos magick) into another one naturally gives you certain skills, habits, conceptuals contexts etc which condition the way you work, but stick to the practices as best you can, period.

If it's really, truly the case that the only assumption from the curriculum is that you'll be meditation for a few years, great. Is it really?

Trust the Goenka approach, it works.

Cheers,

Thom
Jesse Cooper Levy, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: physical focus, goenka's practice and mine

Posts: 68 Join Date: 2/4/12 Recent Posts
Nikolia, infinitely helpful. If I can stay with sensate experience and just as a bi-product realize their impermanence, then I'm all set, in theory.

Thom. (Sorry for the mispelling, i read "rm" earlier.) I think I dig your point about senate vs. physical. I also hear what you're saying about my curriculum, schedule, initiation, what have you. I think there are a lot of other assumptions inherent in it. It just seems that I'm hearing a lot of people say not to avoid mental contents but that it's okay to stick with Goenka. I may be missing the moral here, unless it's to not "avoid" mental, and emotional phenomena, even if that's not the focus. In which case, I kinda get the moral, but I'm shotty at the application of it.

I guess I'm getting scared because, without hard rules of how to deal with phenomena, I may get wishy washy at the retreat: Noting some mental contents, sometimes just noting "wandering", sometimes delving in, sometimes avoiding. All these questions are for me to have an attack strategy on retreat. Cause I'm not sure if it's OK (?) to switch up my approach when it gets tough. I'm a wishy washy kinda guy, in theory, so I wanna figure out how to proceed without talking to my roommates, singing by the lake, and screaming about how I wanna go home this time.

Is noting supposed to be a survival kit on retreat, that I pull out once the dark night hits, and then go back to scanning? Am I asking everyone the same questions 329572547 times?

Thank you all!

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