eye movement

B B, modified 9 Years ago at 9/14/12 9:02 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/14/12 9:02 AM

eye movement

Posts: 69 Join Date: 9/14/12 Recent Posts
My question: should I try to keep my eyes still when noting? I find I tend to visualise and move my eyes in the general direction of my noting to better focus on the sensations, but I suspect it's best to keep one's eyes still for concentration to develop.

Background: I've been practicing anapanasati for almost 3 years. Once I could reach the 4th jhana regularly I'd hoped to post something on this site about all the various ways you can incorrectly practice this form of meditation - I'm starting to feel like an expert on it xD. Recently, I decided to switch to vipassana though, as I feel I've finally hit a dead end with samatha. This came when I became convinced I had all the ingredients right - the mindfulness, the mind "inclined to abandoning", the consistency, the sense of the breath as continuous and steady... I've filled several A4 pages with notes on technique - but I could still never get anywhere near being able to induce enough pleasurable sensations in access concentration to start the "positive feedback reinforcement loop", although at times I've felt like I've reached the second or even third jhana without the pleasure. I put this down to the DN - though I don't remember crossing the A&P, if the symptoms of the DN are a desire to do nothing but meditate, and an inability to enjoy normal forms of entertainment, beautiful sunsets, expensive food, computer games, making out with hot girls, and also a kind of unusual sensitivity to physical sensations and a kind of flu-like tenderness all the time, then I'm definitely qualified.

I'd also like to express enormous gratitude to Daniel Ingram for creating the DhO, and all its wonderful participants, whose many fascinating posts I've been reading for the past 7 months or so. Despite my life being unusually difficult in some ways (mainly due to being a DNer), I feel, having discovered this site and found myself on a path in life that seems to be (I am determined) heading inexorably towards at least SE, that I am in fact one of the very, very fortunate few.
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Fitter Stoke, modified 9 Years ago at 9/14/12 9:22 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/14/12 9:22 AM

RE: eye movement

Posts: 487 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
I would not worry about eye position. If you notice seeing, note "seeing". If you notice physical eye position, "feeling". If you notice your eyes move, note "feeling". If you notice a desire to move your eyes somewhere, note "desiring" or "intending". If you notice the eyes focusing on something, note "attention" or "focusing". Etc.
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago at 9/14/12 12:22 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/14/12 12:21 PM

RE: eye movement

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Hey BB, welcome to the DhO.

My question: should I try to keep my eyes still when noting? I find I tend to visualise and move my eyes in the general direction of my noting to better focus on the sensations, but I suspect it's best to keep one's eyes still for concentration to develop.

Don't worry about it, the eyes move into certain positions during jhanic states and will tend to move around during insight practice depending on which ñana you're in. Just notice what's going on at the bare sensate level, don't overthink it.

I've filled several A4 pages with notes on technique - but I could still never get anywhere near being able to induce enough pleasurable sensations in access concentration to start the "positive feedback reinforcement loop", although at times I've felt like I've reached the second or even third jhana without the pleasure.

You're hitting access concentration but it seems you might be going wrong by trying to induce those pleasurable sensations, it's not required and could well be what's preventing you from getting any further. Also, it sounds like you're too busy over-analyzing your practice while practicing, looking for certain sensations or trying to make things happen is another cause for distraction, especially when you don't actually know what those sensations are supposed to feel like. I'd drop any ideas that you've gotten past access concentration, you might have gotten into a very light 1st jhana but definitely not 2nd or 3rd based on what you've described here.

I put this down to the DN - though I don't remember crossing the A&P, if the symptoms of the DN are a desire to do nothing but meditate, and an inability to enjoy normal forms of entertainment, beautiful sunsets, expensive food, computer games, making out with hot girls, and also a kind of unusual sensitivity to physical sensations and a kind of flu-like tenderness all the time, then I'm definitely qualified.

You probably haven't actually crossed the A&P at all, to be honest; what you describe here is typical of 3rd ñana, Knowledge of The Three Characteristics which tends to be more physical and coarse than Dark Night. As for the desire to do nothing but meditate, it's quite the opposite once you hit Dark Night and a strong aversion to formal practice is quite normal.

Don't get hung up in identifying your whereabouts in terms of the Progress of Insight, a solid practice and high levels of attentiveness will show you far more than your position on a map. Don't get me wrong, the maps are very, very useful but they can be a hindrance if you're spending your time trying to figure out where you are, rather than just paying attention to what's happening right here and now.
B B, modified 9 Years ago at 9/15/12 7:37 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/15/12 7:37 AM

RE: eye movement

Posts: 69 Join Date: 9/14/12 Recent Posts
Thank you both for the replies, but Tommy I must say that was just the kind of comprehensive reply I was hoping for! Although I had kind of integrated 'being a DNer' into my identity over the past few months, I'm inclined to agree with you that I'm more likely at the Three Characteristics stage, which is obviously a slightly uncomfortable thing to have to admit but also a relief. And because of it I think I'll now make the most of being below the A&P and focus on samatha until I can vipassanize with relative ease. Tbh, returning to vipassana over the past few days had begun to remind me of the slightly traumatizing 10-day Goenka retreat I did where I worked exceptionally hard but didn't really improve much at the technique at all (despite gaining some insights all the same) - I don't think I have the patience for the pace I seem to naturally improve at.

Your points about over-analyzing while meditating and over-eagerness to make things happen are also spot-on. Uncannily so! Did I even give you enough information to draw such accurate conclusions?? Your point about not even trying to induce pleasurable sensations seems to contradict the advice of other members of this site though, and Leigh Brasington. I suspect I was making too much of a conscious attempt to do so and too early in - impatience seems to be my no. 1 problem. I think in future I'll try to ensure my attempt at appreciating the 'beautiful breath' is just a very subtle and barely conscious one, but waiting for the mind to notice it on its own seems to be crossing into hard jhana territory and something I don't think I have the time to invest in doing.

Any further comments will be much appreciated!
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago at 9/15/12 11:35 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/15/12 11:35 AM

RE: eye movement

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
I'm inclined to agree with you that I'm more likely at the Three Characteristics stage, which is obviously a slightly uncomfortable thing to have to admit but also a relief.

It's great that you're able to do this, the ability be honest with yourself is essential and will stand you in good stead. Look at what it is that seems to feel discomfort at the idea of not having 'got' something or somewhere, the sensations that make up that feeling can be very informative.

And because of it I think I'll now make the most of being below the A&P and focus on samatha until I can vipassanize with relative ease. Tbh, returning to vipassana over the past few days had begun to remind me of the slightly traumatizing 10-day Goenka retreat I did where I worked exceptionally hard but didn't really improve much at the technique at all (despite gaining some insights all the same) - I don't think I have the patience for the pace I seem to naturally improve at.

Do whatever works for you, finding a good balance between samatha and vipassana, e.g. doing 30 minutes of concentration followed by 30 minutes exclusively doing insight practice, will help strengthen your practice. Developing that mental stability is always good and can be really useful when you're feeling a bit raw or drained, but experiential insight into the true nature of things is what leads to progress.

If you're noticing those same unpleasant sensations as you noticed while on retreat, don't try to avoid them or change them, they're just side-effects of the process and should be treated the same as any other sensation: Investigate them as bare sensation, and don't get caught up in the content, emotionally or psychologically, or be pulled to and fro by memories of what happened before.

Your points about over-analyzing while meditating and over-eagerness to make things happen are also spot-on. Uncannily so! Did I even give you enough information to draw such accurate conclusions??

One of the good things about this site is that most of us have been pretty hardcore meditators for a long time and have learned a million ways not to make progress. emoticon Whether it's thinking you're completely enlightened, or mistaking one ñana for another, we've all fucked up along the way at some point and, due to that, it makes it easier to see when someone else is doing something which, from your own experience, you know doesn't help practice in any way.

Your point about not even trying to induce pleasurable sensations seems to contradict the advice of other members of this site though, and Leigh Brasington.

I was using "induce" in the sense of consciously trying to cause those sensation to arise, but I can see how that could have been misinterpreted. Simply staying with the breath as consistently as possible is what induces those pleasurable sensations, I was trying to point out that there's no conscious effort on your part to cause this to happen. I've written an article here which might help a bit, and hopefully clarify some of the practical aspects somewhat.

I think in future I'll try to ensure my attempt at appreciating the 'beautiful breath' is just a very subtle and barely conscious one, but waiting for the mind to notice it on its own seems to be crossing into hard jhana territory and something I don't think I have the time to invest in doing.

Recognize that breathing just happens, how you don't actually need to anything to cause breathing to happen and how any ideas that you do are just that: ideas, thoughts, mental objects with no objective existence. That in itself is miraculous and can cultivate a sense of wonder which is conducive to the arising of piti and sukha, so try openly accepting whatever comes up and just be present.

Any better?
Change A, modified 9 Years ago at 9/15/12 12:05 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/15/12 12:05 PM

RE: eye movement

Posts: 791 Join Date: 5/24/10 Recent Posts
B B:
My question: should I try to keep my eyes still when noting? I find I tend to visualise and move my eyes in the general direction of my noting to better focus on the sensations, but I suspect it's best to keep one's eyes still for concentration to develop.


Used to happen with my eyes as well. Went away on its own after further practicing.
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 9 Years ago at 9/15/12 10:16 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/15/12 10:16 PM

RE: eye movement

Posts: 3231 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Glad you like the place. It is an amazing bunch, isn't it! I am often amazed that I get to hang out with them. What rare company!

I agree, as plenty said above, very stage dependent: don't worry about it, just keep going.