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Vipassana: Noting/Mahasi Style

How fast can noting be done by a beginner?

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I have a question about vipassana. Now before everyone hits "reply" and copies and pastes the phrase, "You're doing it right as long as you're observing sensations," my question isn't about whether or not my practice will do anything. My question is about how effective the practice is.

For a beginner, I think my mind goes kind of fast. (That's not bragging because it causes lots of problems for me in trying to be organized and focused. I wish my mind were calmer. If the normal person's mind is like a monkey, my mind is like a caffeinated toddler monkey bouncing off the walls-- err, trees.) Whenever I try to observe sensations as quickly as I can, I usually end up in a situation where I'm verbally noting something like breathing or touch so quickly that it just becomes a rapid fire "DaDaDaDaDaDa."

This verbal pattern starts to go on autopilot, so I switch my object of observation from the breathing or touch to the fast verbal sounds, and I can non-verbally notice each Beep or Da. This should work, because it's a mental formation and that's one of the four bases of mindfulness, right?

This link will show you what I mean. If you click "start dreamachine" and click "Slower" until it says 5 Hz, then click "Start," then I could verbally note and nonverbally observe both the light and then the dark part of each cycle. Once it gets up to around 7 Hz then I'm forced to drop all conceptual thought of each flicker and I have to just nonconceptually observe it. BUT, I don't know how to observe sensations this quickly when they don't actually flicker. Like, I couldn't just nonverbally note my breathing this fast because I wouldn't know that I had observed each sensation. There wouldn't be enough time for me to see a sensation and then know that I had seen it, and then notice again. It would just turn into either concentration practice, or some kind of formless Zen "just observe" meditation. I'm sure "just observe" meditations work fine, but I want to do vipassana because I'm more sure that vipassana works fine.

I guess I haven't yet phrased anything as a question here. Really, I'm looking more for someone to point out something that they saw wrong with the way I was approaching the meditation. But I can certainly throw out some questions too!
Regarding the way I described myself noticing myself going DaDaDaDaDaDa at a fast rate, is that an effective practice?
Would setting the Dreamachine at around 8Hz and nonconceptually noticing every flicker be a better practice, or about the same, or would it be bad for insight?
And on an unrelated note, would the Dreamachine work as an object for concentration practice?

Much appreciated in advance!

RE: How fast can noting be done by a beginner?
hz dream machine
Answer
1/20/10 6:33 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
Hello:

The mind is very fast, most do not notice this right away. I generally have used the breathe (the rising and falling of the abdomen) as a base object. Yes, allowing your attention to move faster with noting "da, da, dat" that is effective. Also helpful to notice: what is arising and what is passing, -noticing impermanence as synchronization occurs more.

I have not tried the dream machine, interesting option though.

Thank you for your practice, Constance

RE: How fast can noting be done by a beginner?
Answer
1/20/10 6:53 PM as a reply to Constance Casey.
Constance Casey:
Hello:

The mind is very fast, most do not notice this right away. I generally have used the breathe (the rising and falling of the abdomen) as a base object. Yes, allowing your attention to move faster with noting "da, da, dat" that is effective. Also helpful to notice: what is arising and what is passing, -noticing impermanence as synchronization occurs more.

I have not tried the dream machine, interesting option though.

Thank you for your practice, Constance


Forgive me, J Adam.
Constance, could you expound a little more on "synchonization?" Thanks.

RE: How fast can noting be done by a beginner?
Answer
1/20/10 7:09 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Synchronization: when the moment of seeing and the noting are being struck at the time of seeing, and this is being done continuously, with balanced effort and tension.

RE: How fast can noting be done by a beginner?
Answer
1/21/10 11:46 AM as a reply to Constance Casey.
Constance Casey:
Synchronization: when the moment of seeing and the noting are being struck at the time of seeing, and this is being done continuously, with balanced effort and tension.


Thanks, Constance. That sounds like one definiton for "staying in the present."

What role does this "synchronization" play in insight progress? I have a hunch that it may be a prerequisite for more advanced stages.

Sorry again, J Adam. Though I hope these questions and answers relate to your original questions.

RE: How fast can noting be done by a beginner?
Answer
1/21/10 3:24 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
No apologies are necessary! Any expounding on the topic is helpful to me.

I think "synchronization" might describe how I feel when either:
-I'm nonconceptually observing the dreamachine flickering just fast enough to avoid verbal thought, but not so fast that it requires tension.
-I have the "flicker" in my actual visual sense, outside of using the dreamachine, and I simply notice each arising and passing of a visual sensation. I bet that probably works better than the dreamachine.