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Experiments in Noting

Experiments in Noting
Answer
7/5/12 4:47 AM
After toying with the idea for some time I finally decided to give some practice time to noting. I've been mostly doing anapanasati for the past couple of months with some body-scanning also. My retreat experience is as a Goenka student so I've been somewhat averse to the idea of verbalising anything. I've also been doing this for about a year and a half and have reached equanimity on a number of occasions without attaining stream entry.

After some conversations with Tarver I've taken up the Shinzen Young Five Ways practice. I hope to gain some continuity of practice Im just not managing with breath and sensations alone as well as add a more explicit insight element to my jhana practice.

I'd appreciate pointers and discussion too emoticon

Focus Out
Answer
7/5/12 4:49 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
I walked the dogs for an hour today continuously noting "sight", "sound" and "touch". What I immediately noticed about this was that it had much the same effect as when I just cycle though the senses as I walk but with the added benefit of staying on track more easily.

I probably had some discursive thought pull me away just 3 or 4 times during the whole hour and it was noted as "talk" (ive not read these instructions yet, but that seems fairly obvious) and let go of.

I've found noting out hard to do with to many distractions though. The kids were getting ready for school when I got back and my wife talked to me, the news was on the radio - i read some DhO ---noting out was not nearly as easy!

I'll be reading through the whole instructions over the next couple of days so hopefully i'll figure something out but in the meantime general awareness of sensations seems a simpler way to stay in the present during such periods of time.

Focus on Change
Answer
7/5/12 5:00 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
I started doing this last night with "Noting Gone". This is hard, but seemed doable. On Tarver's advice I switched to focus on positive space this morning (rather than negative) and was really pleased to discover when I read the instructions that there was a specific practice for noting expansion and contraction. This is great. In my anapanasati practice there is an awful lot of expansion and contraction going on so this seems a good fit.

This is a really simple practice, except for when noting "both". I had to note both a lot, but it got easier. Again the noting kept discursive thought well under control (not that it's too bad really, I haven't had that kind of difficulty in practice for quite some time).

Over the course of an hour I continually noted "expansion, expansion, expansion" then "gone" then "contraction, contraction, contraction", "gone". Near the end there was a period of expansion that just seemed to never end. I've had that experience before but the noting helped me stay focused on it rather than get excited or start describing it verbally. It got extremely intense, but in a sustainable way. Kept feeling like it would "burst" but it never did. Eventually it was "gone" and a long, slow contraction ensued.

All in all an interesting hour indeed...

Noting and Jhana
Answer
7/6/12 2:36 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
When I practiced focusing on change (expansion/contraction) last night I realised that labelling was superfluous to requirement if one was in jhana...

As I moved up to 3rd jhana I naturally focused on the expansion aspect of experience in the context of whole body awareness. Labelling this experience seems to add unnecessary overhead.

It seems that the greatest benefit can be had during daily life as a way to stay mindful rather than in a formal sit where jhana is used to traverse the vipassana-jhanas. (though i have high hopes for its usefulness when i hit equanimity next)

Does this resonate with anyone else?

RE: Noting and Jhana
Answer
7/6/12 9:47 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
When I practiced focusing on change (expansion/contraction) last night I realised that labelling was superfluous to requirement if one was in jhana...

As I moved up to 3rd jhana I naturally focused on the expansion aspect of experience in the context of whole body awareness. Labelling this experience seems to add unnecessary overhead.

It seems that the greatest benefit can be had during daily life as a way to stay mindful rather than in a formal sit where jhana is used to traverse the vipassana-jhanas. (though i have high hopes for its usefulness when i hit equanimity next)

Does this resonate with anyone else?


BTG, It does. My various forays into noting were never successful. I never got past the clunky stage. One thing that became apparent while trying to note while dark nighting was that the actual note was occurring after the actual phenomenon was done and gone in a way that really made the clunkiness stand out. I clunkiness is the mental equivalent of stumbling around a room walking into the furniture.

But putting all that aside, cultivating jhana does help to create the conditions for more effective just sitting and looking, and walking around doing choicless awareness. I've starting doing inquiry, something I'd never tried before, and it's a good platform for that as well. I've been using "from where does the 'I' arise", which is a Gary Weber rephrasing of the rather archaic Ramana-speak "Whence am I?", a question which the intellect doesn't have a comeback for.

Eric

RE: Noting and Jhana
Answer
7/6/12 12:16 PM as a reply to Eric B.
Ah, Eric! Great to hear your experience of this. Our paths have some common elements!

Re "clunky". I totally get that. I hadn't really put it together but I have noticed that sometimes Im noting like 1.5secs AFTER the event! And yes, in the DN stages.

Eric:
But putting all that aside, cultivating jhana does help to create the conditions for more effective just sitting and looking, and walking around doing choicless awareness.


Right. You may find what I just said to Katy in email interesting. I think it relates to this quite well.

Me:

I've found that noting "touch, sight, sound" when walking around is useful IF attention to the senses is getting diverted by internal talk. At first I thought I didn't need to do the "Focus In" practice (image, talk, feel) as i am highly unvisual and don't experience much internal talk anymore. After some practice though, I've stared to find that doing this the other way round may be even more effective. Pay attention to the senses, note "talk,image,feel" when the mind gets pulled away. It suits my "anti-verbalisation" bent a little better.

The same thing appears to work well with my anapanasati and body scanning practices. Don't note the sensations (i've already trained fairly intensively on that) but do note when the mind is pulled away. It keeps verbalisation to a very effective minimum. I need to practice this a bit more to really judge its worth though.

In summary: It seems that for me noting is most effective as way to stay present in my favoured practices. At least so far. I still suspect it may come in very useful in noting mind states, aggregates, hindrances et al in equanimity.


Eric:

I've starting doing inquiry, something I'd never tried before, and it's a good platform for that as well.


hehe! I've been thinking about this for a little while also. Not done any serious work with it but often find myself asking "who is walking?", "who is eating?" etc. Doesn't seem to get me anywhere though...

ADDED: Re "highly unvisual" --the noting of image/talk/feel has made me realise that where once I thought i pretty much NEVER experienced visual images, this is not true at all. I've been noticing a LOT of it. Not sure if I've just been missing these things, or if something in my practice has made them start to happen....

RE: Noting and Jhana
Answer
7/6/12 12:55 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:

In summary: It seems that for me noting is most effective as way to stay present in my favoured practices. At least so far. I still suspect it may come in very useful in noting mind states, aggregates, hindrances et al in equanimity.


It's mostly been my experience as well. The labeling part of the noting practice is helpful in staying with the practice and in coming back to it. At some point, though, it seemed like I was paying too much attention to the note and not enough to the experience so I started to experiment with just noticing the experience and dropping the labeling part. I found that practice to be very helpful (although in retrospect I know that I could have avoided many periods of distraction if I had kept up the labeling).