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Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond

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This book has me puzzled compared to others I am reading including, Knowing and Seeing by Pa-Auk Tawya Sayadaw, Satipatthana The Direct Path to Realization by Analayo, and others.

Ajahn Brahm states directly that you cannot work on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness without Samatha Jhana. I do not see that in other books that I am reading. This weekend I found myself bouncing around (not in one meditation but from the morning to the evening) between Brahm's method and Vipasana. This is a bad idea as it does not lead to anything consistent in my practice.

1. I would like to have some opinions about whether you should work on the FFM's prior to 1st Samatha Jhana.
2. I read that when you go into Samatha Jhana for the first time you may not come out of it for 12 hours or more; up to 24 hours. I think that is holding me back because I worry about my everyday life, like actually making it to work, not making my wife think I've died or totally lost it (one story has a guy being taken to the hospital and doctors trying to revive him, is this even possible?). I actually find this very humorous, my wife may go ahead and just have me embalmed and collect the insurance money (not really...? I hope!)
3. Is it better to work on Vipassana at home and Samatha during retreat? Which in my case would probably mean never working on Samatha emoticon. An answer to number 2 would help answer this question.

I have been near what I think is 1st Samatha Jhana due to the fact of the arising of very weak "visual" namitas and some of what Brahm calls the useless namita's. Is it possible to have jhana that has a physical manifestation? A few weeks ago I was working on vibrations and it seemed that I had a physically manifested jhana. The vibrations accelerated and flooded up my spine leaving me with a profound sense of bliss and peace that lasted for most of the day. At first I thought this was another A & P event but now I am not sure.

I'm sure a teacher would help me greatly. A couple reasons I do not have one is 1st, a total lack of money and B. I live in Atlanta and have not found a group that actually teaches Theravada Jhana.

Thanks,
Darrin

One more thing to mention: Everything I write does tend to be questions about practice. I appreciate everyone's input and I realize this could be annoying to some.

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
9/24/12 3:16 PM as a reply to Darrin Rice.
I took a retreat course with Leigh Brasington this past summer that cleared a lot of questions for me. What he says is there's a huge difference in the way various people understand jhana. The suttas describe jhana in a more open ended way than do the commentaries like the Visudimagga, for example. You might want to check out Richard Shankman's book on Samadhi for a really in-depth look at this question.

The upshot is, you don't even need first jhana to do insight, but jhana is valuable and worth pursuing. Also, there are varying levels of absorption in jhana, and what Ajahn Brahm is describing is way out on the extreme edge. You can enter jhana and still have thoughts popping in and out, and you can be intentional about moving from one jhana to another, and can easily move out of it. So don't let these reports scare you. To get to anything like that level you'd need to be on retreat for a very long time.

I recommend Shankman's book, and Leigh Brasington's website http://www.leighb.com/. Leigh believes it's hard to get even a less strenuous version of jhana without a dedicated retreat, but people on this forum have in fact done so. How you approach your practice is up to you. I spent about six months doing samatha and got a version of 1st jhana before turning to vipassana. Good luck.

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
9/25/12 1:56 AM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
3. Is it better to work on Vipassana at home and Samatha during retreat? Which in my case would probably mean never working on Samatha . An answer to number 2 would help answer this question.


Other way around if you must separate them.

Brahm's book is really good, but (as you have already started to do) it needs the context of a wider knowledge/reading list. He's a bit "my way is the only way" and as has been pointed out even in the books foreword (by Jack Kornfield) this is most definitely not the case. His teachings also go against the teachings of his own teacher, Ajahn Chah (I don't have the specific details to hand but I think Ian And talks about this in his sticky Jhana thread).

As for jhana vs vipassana --try to put this dilemma to one side in favour of gaining just enough concentration to do vipassana. Your samadhi will develop in tandem and at some point when you have gained enough insight it will leap forward. OR... you could take the samatha-vipassana route with anapanasati and develop both at the same time.

I like the last option, but I've only been doing it since I gained enough momentum with pure vipassana for my samadhi to become stronger.

Good luck.

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
9/25/12 10:23 AM as a reply to Darrin Rice.
Ajahn Brahm's perspective on the paths and on insight practice is very controversial. It's easier if you see it as a definition issue. He defines extremely hard, multi-hour jhanas, complete with visual nimittas as "jhanas". As mentioned above, other people use the word differently.

I've found, like many people, that it's vastly easier to get deep and nearly automatic jhanas as a side effect of getting paths from noting practice. If you consistently note for two hours a day, you'll be doing enough practice to get the first path and eventually the second. You'll get jhanas 5 to 8 during the review ñana after you attain 1st path. It's quite likely that you'll also get them earlier, but it's possible to not recognize them. You'll get much deeper, clearer, longer-lasting and completely automatic jhanas once you get to 2nd path. At that point it will be hard for you not to experience jhanas after a few minutes of concentration. When I use the word "automatic" to describe jhanas, I mean that it's not just effortless, but that the jhanas simply arise on their own. That's what I'm experiencing in my practice at the moment.

Since you feel the vibrations, you've definitely passed the A&P and thus have enough concentration to do this. As long as you note out loud, you can't really get sidetracked while noting. You don't need to get stronger continuous absorption-style concentration, you need to accumulate hours of noticing physical and mental sensations. As long as you're doing the technique correctly, it's just a numbers game of accumulating sufficient hours of practice. Honestly, that's all there is to it.

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
9/26/12 1:16 AM as a reply to Darrin Rice.
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/3549147

Greetings Darren, I'm currently writing an essay on how I think Jhana fits into Vipassana. This deals with some of the relevant confusion regarding usage of term, between the Vipassana and the Samatha traditions of Buddhism. Ajahn Brahm is dogmatically for the need to develop Jhana before you can attain stream-entry. But his map of the jhanas conforms to the understanding of how they develop withn the suttas and commentaries and within the maps if the development of jhana within the jhana bases traditions. Check out my discussion on 'High Equanimity and Access Concentration are at the same level of Samadhi' the link a bove should be good to connect to that thread.

Your Main confusion is that these 2 traditions have very different terminology for Jhana and Vipassana Jhana.
kind regards Neem.

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
9/26/12 6:00 PM as a reply to Darrin Rice.
Jhana can be finicky and fragile in a way. When you are a monk this is no problem as you don't have any disturbances but as a lay practioner... I would say pure Vipassana is much more optimal. Jhana will come naturally as you progress in insight.

"3. Is it better to work on Vipassana at home and Samatha during retreat? Which in my case would probably mean never working on Samatha emoticon."


I hope this isn't true! I hope you go to retreat sometime. Nothing progresses you faster.

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
10/1/12 1:35 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Jigme Sengye:

Since you feel the vibrations, you've definitely passed the A&P and thus have enough concentration to do this. As long as you note out loud, you can't really get sidetracked while noting. You don't need to get stronger continuous absorption-style concentration, you need to accumulate hours of noticing physical and mental sensations. As long as you're doing the technique correctly, it's just a numbers game of accumulating sufficient hours of practice. Honestly, that's all there is to it.


Can you please explain the above. Is this 2 hours on the cushion or throughout your normal day? I have been noting but not out loud. I do this during my regular activities as well as on the cushion but it would be a bit strange to co-workers, friends and family if I went around saying out loud things like "up, out, down" when I'm walking. emoticon

You say "As long as you're doing the technique correctly, it's just a numbers game of accumulating sufficient hours of practice."
Could you explain the context and how to do the technique correctly as you see it?

Thanks

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
10/2/12 12:28 PM as a reply to Darrin Rice.
Darrin Rice:
Jigme Sengye:

Since you feel the vibrations, you've definitely passed the A&P and thus have enough concentration to do this. As long as you note out loud, you can't really get sidetracked while noting. You don't need to get stronger continuous absorption-style concentration, you need to accumulate hours of noticing physical and mental sensations. As long as you're doing the technique correctly, it's just a numbers game of accumulating sufficient hours of practice. Honestly, that's all there is to it.


Can you please explain the above. Is this 2 hours on the cushion or throughout your normal day? I have been noting but not out loud. I do this during my regular activities as well as on the cushion but it would be a bit strange to co-workers, friends and family if I went around saying out loud things like "up, out, down" when I'm walking. emoticon


I meant 2 hours a day of formal meditation time. In other words, "on the cushion", if you like sitting on a cushion. The metric was pointed out to me by Kenneth Folk. I've tested it and found it to be true, at least for my own practice.

I've recently given up sitting on the floor. I find it hard on my back. I have exercises to fix this that have to be done every day, but I haven't done them enough. The main cause of my back problems is sitting in an office, not meditation. I've found meditating while sitting on a chair to be a simple solution to the problem. There's less energy accumulation, but I find this irrelevant to vipassana practice. The lack of back pain and the novelty of my legs not going numb from sitting on a cushion on the floor has made it a lot easier to do much longer sits. Sitting for 3 or 4 hours on end, when I have the time, is torture on the floor and quite pleasant on a chair.

It doesn't really matter if you sit for an hour in the morning and then an hour at night or do it all at one time. I try to sit for 2 back-to-back 1 hour sessions every night. I basically just get up to reset my alarm after the first hour and go back to sitting for another hour. When I manage this consistently, I see consistent progress that I can identify on the progress of insight map. It's OK to occasionally have shorter sessions when you can't manage that much on a any particular day and just make up the time on the weekends.


You say "As long as you're doing the technique correctly, it's just a numbers game of accumulating sufficient hours of practice."
Could you explain the context and how to do the technique correctly as you see it?

Thanks


Basically, as long as you meditate enough per day, you will move forward on the map, going from ñana to ñana until you get to the first path. Also, by "meditation", I mean noting. I don't know what the metrics are for a different style of meditation, like samatha, Goenka-style body sweeping vipassana, qigong or something else. Quality of meditation is an issue. Looking at your "Where the Heck am I?" thread, you seem to have good reason to think you're in the dukha ñanas. When I'm at that part of the map, I tend to not spend much time in the fear, misery, disgust or desire for delivery ñanas. That stuff goes by fast. I've tended to get stuck bouncing between Re-observation, which includes all of the dukha ñanas together and equanimity. One problem of the dukha ñanas is that they're a negative lens on everything (I'm sure you already know that), including the practice. Basically, your intuition lies to you. One way to get past this is to have objectively measurable performance criteria. If you note out loud once a second for the entire hour, no matter how much your intuition tells you that your practice sucks, the fact is that you are managing to pull off a feat of mindfulness that a person who is truly distracted would not be able to pull off. If you consistently manage to do that for two sessions of sitting a day for a few months, you'll not only get past Re-observation, you'll also get past the equanimity ñana and get the first path. It's worth it.

Regarding silent noting, it's certainly more relaxing, but it also allows for distractions. It's OK to note silently if you're feeling you're getting more and more absorbed into some sort of jhana or if you feel that you're just not missing a beat.

Regarding correct technique, everyone ends up developing their own tricks and custom noting techniques, but the bulk of what I was doing up until a few weeks ago was based on the "first gear" part of the article on the first page of http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/ . The way I do that mostly resembles "triplet noting" and other varieties of detailed noting as described here: http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.ca/2011/02/yogi-toolbox-detailed-noting.html . I also tend to note eye posture as a means of tracking attention (I start looking down when I'm distracted) and how absorbed I am. Is it clear from the articles how to note that way?

Out of curiosity, since we're the topic, how do you note?

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
10/16/12 1:15 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Sorry it has been so long in answering this post. Recently started a new job.

"Out of curiosity, since we're the topic, how do you note?"

I have been doing it silently and mostly during the day while performing tasks that do not take all of my concentration. I try to be detailed, i.e. use short descriptive words like "work" instead of just "thinking". I have been focused on vibrations in my sitting more than noting. At one point I would note when a distraction comes up and then go back to vibrations. This seems to be very effective and may have pushed me in equanimity a while back. Truth be told, lately (the last month) I have been jumping around trying to find what "works" for me. I'm starting to realize that I should just pick something and stick with it if I want to make progress.

Question: Daniel talks about "busting out some vibrations" in his book and that he spent years doing just that. Will that focus lead to fruition or am I headed down a path that is only about rapture and equanimity?

While I am doing this I see that these sensations are; impermanent, unsatisfactory and not self as they come an go. As I said, it seems that I have made progress this way.

Thank you very much for your comments! They are very helpful.

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
10/22/12 2:52 AM as a reply to Darrin Rice.
Question: Daniel talks about "busting out some vibrations" in his book and that he spent years doing just that. Will that focus lead to fruition or am I headed down a path that is only about rapture and equanimity?


Seeing vibrations will eventually lead to EQ, then Hight EQ and then fruition.
And noting distractions during the process and then coming back to vibrations seems to me a very good idea...

Good luck!

Metta

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
10/23/12 6:03 PM as a reply to Darrin Rice.
Darrin Rice:
Sorry it has been so long in answering this post. Recently started a new job.

No worries. Congratulations on the new job.



Question: Daniel talks about "busting out some vibrations" in his book and that he spent years doing just that. Will that focus lead to fruition or am I headed down a path that is only about rapture and equanimity?


It will and you'll still get raptures along the way, lots of them. Are you getting into rapture at the moment? Could you describe it? Ultimately, noting is just a set of training wheels for moment-to-moment concentration, in other words, the style of concentration that isn't fully absorbed trance. If there's any space for noticing of any kind (by noting or just paying attention), even while in deep rapture, trance, jhana or even a daydream, you'll move forward towards the 1st path.

I transitioned from a qigong practice to vipassana after I'd been in reobservation for a while, so I felt energetic sensations quite intensely. All physical sensations, including pain, were turning vibratory. Vibrations were 90% of what I was noting. There was a point where the vibrations were just too fast to note, so I just paid attention to them. I also tried Daniel's "dat dat dat" fast noting technique, but I find it hypnotic and stressful to stay aware of. I noted a lot more things more recently just before getting 2nd path and I found that helped quite a bit.

One surprising thing about equanimity is that I've found it quite boring. It's nice after you're out of reobservation, but there's a sense of "let's move on, already!" Other people have also pointed this out and posted threads about it. The muted emotions interfere with the feedback loop of getting an emotional kick out of meditation. The experience makes it clear that the motivation of meditating to get trancy special effects won't work in this stage (though I was getting into jhanic trances, I just didn't care about that or much of anything else). I also found it very dreamy (both on way to 1st path and on the way to 2nd). I had a lot daydreams while in meditating in equanimity despite trying to meditate on a narrow focus. The mind wants to expand at this point and will do so regardless of what your preconceptions are of how you "should" meditate. Ironically, it is uncontrollable and unsatisfactory, even when it is being controllable and satisfactory by not being unpleasant.

As part of losing the sense of getting concentrated from noting or noticing, there can be a sense that basically noting isn't working. It feels like there's no traction and everything is turning into a daydream or mental chit-chat despite your best efforts, or you zone out into really dreamy jhanas. For me when noting at this stage, I could note all 4 foundations of mindfulness effortlessly (using triplet or quad noting) while sitting and essentially reflexively (from having done it so much during the previous stage) without feeling that I was really paying attention and have mental space left over for mental wandering. While the lack of traction is a mental illusion, it's also a sign that it's time to innovate and do new interesting things with the technique. If you find yourself in that situation, try to find some new variation on your existing technique any time any boredom, dissatisfaction or emotional unpleasantness shows up and try the new technique along with your usual techniques until there's no traction to it and it becomes automatic and then come up with another new trick, and so on. This will dramatically improve the technical side of your practice. That matters. It's also more fun. The emotional changes are part of the same dissolution process that has gotten you this far and will keep on breaking down sensations and emotions until that last bit comes off and you get the first path. You're just one ñana away (and not even the whole ñana). You are going to get it.

If you're mostly paying attention to vibrations, is it because you find the vibrations pleasant or interesting? What's your emotional reaction to the sensations you're tracking at any given time? The ironic thing about things like vibrations that are basically pure change is that it's a bit like tracking things that don't change at all. After a while the fascination wears off (and it will in order to get your equanimity to the point that you get the path moment). You might find it interesting or rewarding to also notice those immediate emotional reactions. Also, are there other emotions that are going on at the same time that don't seem to be reactions to your main object of concentration? Are there thoughts, daydreams, and plans going on? What causes them? There's nothing wrong with these, the meditation will inevitably produce them as your focus widens, and they're worth noticing or noting.

Is your perceived quality of focus constant, or does it flag or improve and then change again? Do you have a means of tracking that? You might find some physical sign of attention, like eye posture or physical posture. I found (and this was initially pointed out to me by Kenneth Folk) that I start looking down when I'm noting paying attention and I look straight forward or up when I am more present (or I feel more present, since I can't objectively evaluate anything). I would note this by saying "looking down", "looking forward", "looking up". This is always interspersed with noting of other stuff. The back, the neck can also slump. I'm sure you've noticed it. It's useful to catch it, not just to always be alert, but also because the patterns of it are interesting.

Despite being in equanimity, I still found I had anxiety, though much less than before. I found it useful to note that and also to note acceptance of this and other unpleasant sensations. I've that there's almost always something pleasant to note in situations when something is bugging me. One thing to keep in mind is that the whole situation is ridiculous and inherently quite funny. You could do alot worse than noting or noticing the humor of your situation whether in a pleasant or unpleasant meditative state.

I'm mentioning and suggesting these tricks and developing your own because at this point a really narrow focused technique will break down. It has to, courtesy of the 3 characteristics (and if it doesn't, that's very interesting and worth really putting to the test). This is why people end up doing choiceless awareness techniques where they're basically noting everything possible. You mentioned "Truth be told, lately (the last month) I have been jumping around trying to find what "works" for me. I'm starting to realize that I should just pick something and stick with it if I want to make progress. " You do need to do that, but don't lose that innovative spirit and the curiosity. Sticking to one technique ends up changing into simply the way you naturally approach meditation, as you internalize the perspective of that technique, but getting traction while in equanimity pushes the technique past its limits, to the point where you have to apply it to more stuff than you realized there was to apply it to.


While I am doing this I see that these sensations are; impermanent, unsatisfactory and not self as they come an go. As I said, it seems that I have made progress this way.

Thank you very much for your comments! They are very helpful.


My pleasure. About "not self", one thing that really helped me was being told that one way of seeing "not self" from a usable vipassana perspective is to see a sensation as "uncontrollable". It's basically a more useful translation of "anatta" for vipassana purposes. It's the lack of control (thus making it not "you") of any one sensation that leads into the other two characteristics, if you want to see it from the anatta angle. Since you're getting all these vibrations, and since you've been through the mess of the dukkha ñanas messing with your mind, I'm sure the lack of control is obvious to you.

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
10/27/12 7:37 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Jigme said:

Is your perceived quality of focus constant, or does it flag or improve and then change again? Do you have a means of tracking that? You might find some physical sign of attention, like eye posture or physical posture. I found (and this was initially pointed out to me by Kenneth Folk) that I start looking down when I'm noting paying attention and I look straight forward or up when I am more present (or I feel more present, since I can't objectively evaluate anything). I would note this by saying "looking down", "looking forward", "looking up". This is always interspersed with noting of other stuff. The back, the neck can also slump. I'm sure you've noticed it. It's useful to catch it, not just to always be alert, but also because the patterns of it are interesting.



I have been meditating with my eyes closed. Does the above mean that you are meditation with your eyes open? When I was doing shikantaza I would keep my eyes open but I actually feel like I make better progress with them closed. I realize that the best way to meditate is what works for me but my OCD screams at me to make sure I'm doing it "right".

Also, recently I have been experiencing a sense of apprehension prior to meditation that has actually kept me from meditating at times. I hit equanimity and suddenly meditation became great and still is, but now I am finding it hard to sit down. Does not make sense. Any comment about this?

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
10/29/12 11:31 AM as a reply to Darrin Rice.
Darrin Rice:



I have been meditating with my eyes closed. Does the above mean that you are meditation with your eyes open?


I switch between eyes open and eyes closed. Sometimes I feel drowsy and meditate with eyes open. Also, sometimes I feel a need to increase focus and momentum by staring at a spot on a wall as a sort kasina practice without an actual kasina. It gets me into the 1st jhana very easily. I can then distinguish the other jhana as I progress into them by the area of visual focus, which keeps on expanding and getting less focused. Towards the 5th jhana, I tend to want to close my eyes again. I tend not to deliberately get into anything other than the 1st jhana, I just focus and let the whole thing expand (and then contract back, expand again, etc...). I sometimes also do the visual focus thing with eyes closed or just observe the strobing closed eye visuals.

I generally continue to note while doing the 1st jhana in this way, though not always. I care about noting while in jhanas 1 to 3, less in the 4th (it depends) and generally not at all in the 5th. Currently when doing doing this sort of practice, I tend to get into the 5th really quickly, so I tend not to do much noting, unless I'm getting mental chatter, which tells me that the mind has extra processing power left over for noting at that moment. Basically, the noting helps me get going and I've been dropping it progressively as the jhanas get more pronounced and going back to it as I've been getting more used to these mental states.

This all sounds like samatha, but as far as I'm concerned, it's what vipassana is producing at the moment.

A lot of energetic stuff also happens when I do this. I tend to use the 3rd eye point (I'm used to the Chinese terminology, so in other words, the yintang point) as point of focus, throughout any sort of jhanic focus. When I'm staring at a point on a wall, I both focus on that point and focus on the yintang, which tends to remain the case at least in the four four jhanas. The yintang again becomes a focus in the 6th (sort of, it's hard to characterize, since the way immaterial jhanas happen for me is changing a great deal at the moment). I find it hard to figure out what exactly is going in the 7th and 8th, though it's becoming a bit clearer. Easy and clear access to the 7th and 8th is new to me. Before the 2nd path, those two were states where I had no idea what was going on and where my mind felt like it had been partly turned off and then shortly after turned off some more.

I can do immaterial jhanas with eyes open, though I just find it more comfortable with eyes closed. This stuff is going to come up for you if it hasn't already. Are you going into recognizable jhanas? Frequently, I don't bother with any sort of eye focus, or even any effort, the mind just latches onto and gets absorbed into the energetic sensations at the yintang and goes into jhana and I let it do its thing while observing it. There are also other points that get "lit up" as a result of doing this. This is basically a very simplified and vipassanized way of doing my favorite section of my old qigong practice (the Shen Zheng Gong). Among other things it involved alternating between open eye and closed eye meditation at the yintang and a point above it on the top of the head (the xingmen point) for energy accumulation, circulation and jhanic focus.

None of that really matters for vipassana purposes and someone else may well have very different energetic patterns (and I've only described part of mine). I no longer really care about doing qigong, since I'm focused on doing a choiceless awareness noting practice that at the moment happens to mostly produce jhanas. Eye focus just happens to be the way that my system gets into jhanas 1 through 4. Also, since I did my qiqong practice for a few years, by the time I got to vipassana and stopped doing deliberate energy manipulation and just did noting, my body just kept up the old energy patterns anyway while I was doing vipassana. I think this is essentially because the qigong practice I was doing was a deliberate way of cultivating energetic patterns that develop that way anyway. There are plenty of threads on this forum and the KFD forum about doing jhanas through eye focus and getting absorbed on the 3rd eye by people who have only done noting practice.

You were previously mentioning vibrations. What sort of vibratory phenomena do you get? How are you tracking it? Also, when you use the term "vibrations", is that your catch-all term for "energetic" sensations or are there other energetic sensations that come up that aren't covered by that?


When I was doing shikantaza I would keep my eyes open but I actually feel like I make better progress with them closed. I realize that the best way to meditate is what works for me but my OCD screams at me to make sure I'm doing it "right".


The OCD sounds like a very useful thing to do noting on. I've gotten that, too. It's what kept me from meditating on a chair for the longest time, despite lower back pain. One of the lessons of vipassana is to just stop believing what the sensations produce and just treat everything as value-free data. It's easier to do that in equanimity. Can you describe the OCD mental and physical sensations and break them down into parts? Are there unpleasant physical sensations that go with the obsessive compulsive mental sensations? Since this may be a product of (or just exacerbated by) the dukkha ñanas, do you find that it stops when you feel you get into equanimity? Can you tell from the contrast what changes when the unpleasant emotions drop away (do they?), and is there an accompanying change in physical sensations?

About the eyes open, eyes closed meditation, what makes eyes closed better for you? Is it a focus thing, does it feel more jhanic, trancy or rapturous, are there strobing closed-eye visual patterns? Is there a change in the sense of space and the width of focus? What happens if you test what your OCD is telling you, but trying eyes open and then switching to eyes closed during the same meditation? Also, are you meditating with your eyes half open, or wide open? Are you staring at a focus? If not deliberately, do you find yourself staring at a spot anyway (this also happens for me with eyes closed)? Do the area and width of visual focus change, especially as you find yourself getting into equanimity? Alternatively, are they fixed? Do the physical and mental sensations change at all? As you get into equanimity, do you ever find yourself focusing more within an expanded headspace, rather than the body?

One interesting thing is that because of all the things that are happening, it's possible to do several different mini-meditations on different focuses, as the focuses arise on their own and draw attention to themselves by standing out or by seeming interesting. Examples of these are my eye focus meditations (the method for doing jhanas, the eyes up, the forward or down attention-checking meditation I was mentioning in my last post, and the noticing of closed eye strobing flicker rate), the focus on vibrations you were mentioning, checking on mood and its relationship to pleasant or unpleasant physical sensations, like tension or muscular relaxation, the desire to open or close the eyes, checking on posture and many other focuses that may come up. Focus shifts, it's interesting to make use of that.

FWIW, the "standard" way of doing vipassana that the Burmese monks teach is eyes closed. I think the Mahayana traditions all do eyes open and the Theravada traditions do eyes closed (except for most kasina meditations). In my very brief stint in zen, I was taught to focus with eyes half open, the Tibetans had me practice with eyes open, the Burmese Sayadaws taught vipassana with eyes closed, Kenneth Folk was flexible, but assumed eyes closed and both of my qigong teachers had me do mostly eyes closed, but alternating with eyes open for specific exercises, such as the one I've described above.


Also, recently I have been experiencing a sense of apprehension prior to meditation that has actually kept me from meditating at times. I hit equanimity and suddenly meditation became great and still is, but now I am finding it hard to sit down. Does not make sense. Any comment about this?


The apprehension sounds like the fear part of reobservation. Is it that you always sit at the same time every day? It could be that your mind is ramping into meditative gear right before or when you usually sit. Since reobservation is right before equanimity, it sounds like you're transitioning out of it, to more fully get into equanimity. You'll be in it essentially all the time, soon enough. How about treating the apprehension as a sign that you've actually started meditating, regardless of posture and do whatever noticing or noting practice you like best to deal with this when sitting?

Also, what sensations make equanimity great, exactly?

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
11/1/12 11:18 AM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Have you tried doing a few minutes of metta? It might help when the apprehension hits.

RE: Ajahn Brahm's book "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond
Answer
4/1/13 1:11 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Jigme Sengye:
Have you tried doing a few minutes of metta? It might help when the apprehension hits.


Hi Jigme,
I wanted to follow up on this and let you know that I did start doing a few minutes of Metta at the beginning of meditation. It really starts the time off with the correct focus. Thanks for the suggestion.