Message Boards Message Boards

Vipassana: Noting/Mahasi Style

Noting the Ends of Sensations

Toggle
Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/12/12 12:37 AM
Numerous times I have heard people mention that noting the "end" of a sensation was a particularly useful/helpful in gaining insight; however, I rarely hear examples of what this looks like, how it is done, etc., just that people do it.

In my experience I've noted gross sensations and subtle sensations. Examples of gross sensations would be an itch, a feeling of anticipation, an image flashing in the mind, a feeling tone [pleasant, unpleasant, neutral], etc. Examples of subtle sensations would be the little pulses/vibrations/popping/fizzing which comprise/make-up the larger gross sensations, such as the ones mentioned above.

What would be some examples of noting the end of gross and subtle sensations? What does this look like, etc.?

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/12/12 8:44 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
> Here's < some related material from Shinzen Young. Maybe it helps.

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/12/12 9:39 AM as a reply to -- Timus --.
-- Timus --:
> Here's < some related material from Shinzen Young. Maybe it helps.


Timus - Thanks! Shinzen Young is definitely addressing the technique I asked about, that is for sure. He even mentions Dark Night here, which is interesting. He even discusses a number of reasons why meditators might want to look for "the Gone" besides simply wanting to work their way up the stages of insight leading to non-dual knowledge. I like that he also brings up this practice in regards to exploring the matter of "the sense of self," which is something I've been looking into in my practice.

It is my understanding of the theory of the path of insight is that the farther along the path you get the more "tuned" you get to noticing the endings of sensations. Ron Crouch hypothesized that some of the unpleasantness of Dark Night can be attributed to being in a place where one is constantly starting to get tuned into the back-ends of sensations, which creates a feeling/impression that one is behind/slow/missing stuff/etc.

Alas, not a lot of concrete examples of what this technique looks like when noting, for instance, gross and subtle sensations, but still a great article.

Here is what I perceive to be most interesting/useful for my own purposes...

What if I were only allowed to teach one focus technique and no other? Which technique would I pick? Hard choice. But I think it would be the technique I call “Just Note Gone.” Here’s why (and how).

Here are his basic instructions:

How.
Here are the basic Instructions:
Whenever all or part of a sensory experience suddenly disappears note that. By note I mean clearly acknowledge when you detect the transition point between all of it being present and at least some of it no longer being present.
If you wish, you can use a mental label to help you note. The label for any such sudden ending is “Gone.”
If nothing vanishes for a while, that’s fine. Just hang out until something does. If you start worrying about the fact that nothing is ending, note each time that thought ends. That’s a “Gone.” If you have a lot of mental sentences, you’ll have a lot of mental periods – full stops, Gones!

Why.
Most people are aware of the moment when a sensory event starts but seldom aware of the moment when it vanishes. We are instantly drawn to a new sound, or new sight, or a new body sensation but seldom notice when the previous sound, sight, or body sensation disappears. This is natural because each new arising represents what we need to deal with in the next moment. But to always be aware of sensory arisings and hardly ever be aware of sensory passings creates an unbalanced view of the nature of sensory experience.
There is only a finite amount of real estate available in consciousness at any given instant. Each arising somewhere causes a passing somewhere else.

Figure-Ground Reversal
As you become more sensitive to detecting Gone, you may come to a place where you note it so frequently that Goneness itself becomes an object of high concentration. The gaps between the “Gones” get shorter and shorter until a figure-ground reversal takes place. Gone becomes the abiding ground. Self and world become fleeting figures. Needless to say, experiencing something like this will have a huge impact on how you relate to aging and death.
People sometimes ask me why I don’t make breath the centerpiece of meditation, as many teachers do. There seems to be a general impression that the ultimate goal of mindfulness practice is to be able to stay focused on the breath. I sometimes jokingly parody that notion with the slogan “Real meditators are able to come back to the breath.” If you insist that I give you something to always come back to, I would say “Real meditators are able to come back to Gone.”

Self-Inquiry
Where things go to is where they come from. There are many ways to explore the question “Who am I?” One of them is called Self-Inquiry. In that practice, whenever a sense of self arises, you ask “What’s behind this?” “Where did this come from?”
Another way to answer that question is to watch where things go to (i.e., Note Gone). Both approaches can be effective. The very beginning of what’s about to be can be found at the very end of what just was.

The Dark Night
Are there any possible negative effects from working with vanishing and the related themes of Emptiness and No-Self? Occasionally there can be. In extreme cases, the sense of Goneness, Emptiness and No-Self may be so intense that it creates disorientation, terror, paralysis, aversion, hopelessness and so forth. Unpleasant reactions such as these are well documented in the classical literature of contemplation both East and West. In the West, it is sometimes referred to as “The Dark Night of the Soul.” In the East, it is sometimes referred to as “The Pit of the Void” or as “the unpleasant side of bhanga” (dissolution).

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/12/12 9:38 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I've just realized that I actually had an older version of the article in mind (the title was "Return to the Source"). Unfortunately, it seems unavailable on Shinzen Youngs website at the moment. Since it is more focused on the practical aspects and your question seems to be pointing in that direction, I can give you a link to my dropbox: > here <.

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/12/12 9:41 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
What would be some examples of noting the end of gross and subtle sensations? What does this look like, etc.?

Here are some examples: Focus your attention on something that you can see, like the computer screen in front of you or whatever. Now, simply close your eyes. Notice that your entire visual field collapses. Not quite, as this could also be described as a transition from gross objects like discreet visual images to subtle objects like the "greyscale blank" of the back of the eyelids, but pretty clearly a whole class of phenomena -- the external, visual world -- just went "gone". Open your eyes and the subtle ends, replaced again by the gross. Now, using this as a template, attune yourself to similar transitions that you did not apparently "cause" (as in the example, by deliberately closing your eyes) or which happen in other sensory modalities, such as physical sensations "ending" -- or transitioning onto something other than what they used to be -- or sounds coming to an end. Traffic sounds are excellent for this sort of practice; as vehicles recede, there is a point at which the sensation of the the sound of them passes below the threshold of perceptibility; and the same with the end of bird chirps if you are in the woods. Also, visual objects passing out of peripheral vision as you walk down the street. Likewise, if you are doing systematic body scanning (Goenka / U Ba Kin style) and "moving" down your arm, where did the last sensation of the elbow "go to" when you next started to attend to your forearm? Well, catching the "gone" of it without bringing it back again is a great training for having a light touch, so to speak, with your awareness. You can infer that this must be happening all the time, but noticing it is the practice.

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/12/12 10:02 AM as a reply to -- Timus --.
-- Timus --:
I've just realized that I actually had an older version of the article in mind (the title was "Return to the Source"). Unfortunately, it seems unavailable on Shinzen Youngs website at the moment. Since it is more focused on the practical aspects and your question seems to be pointing in that direction, I can give you a link to my dropbox: > here <.


Got it! Thanks man, seriously. I'll read it over and made some comments.

Side Note: I love that he starts with some mathematical theory to discuss the importance of "zero." Lately I have also been reading Alain Badiou's Being and Event -- which raises set theory to ontology -- and there is a lot of discussion of the empty set, aka void, and I'd been wondering about how set theory or Badiou's ontology might gibe with the discoveries of insight meditation. Badiou valorizes the Multiple above all else, claiming that there is no One. Meditators use the term "non-dual" a lot, but my impression is less that all things are unitive [solidity is an illusion] but that all phenomenon is multiple, and this seems to be supported by such cornerstone's of Buddhist dogma as dependent origination, the aggregates of mind, etc. End side note.

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/12/12 10:25 AM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :
Alan Smithee:
What would be some examples of noting the end of gross and subtle sensations? What does this look like, etc.?

Here are some examples: Focus your attention on something that you can see, like the computer screen in front of you or whatever. Now, simply close your eyes. Notice that your entire visual field collapses. Not quite, as this could also be described as a transition from gross objects like discreet visual images to subtle objects like the "greyscale blank" of the back of the eyelids, but pretty clearly a whole class of phenomena -- the external, visual world -- just went "gone". Open your eyes and the subtle ends, replaced again by the gross. Now, using this as a template, attune yourself to similar transitions that you did not apparently "cause" (as in the example, by deliberately closing your eyes) or which happen in other sensory modalities, such as physical sensations "ending" -- or transitioning onto something other than what they used to be -- or sounds coming to an end. Traffic sounds are excellent for this sort of practice; as vehicles recede, there is a point at which the sensation of the the sound of them passes below the threshold of perceptibility; and the same with the end of bird chirps if you are in the woods. Also, visual objects passing out of peripheral vision as you walk down the street. Likewise, if you are doing systematic body scanning (Goenka / U Ba Kin style) and "moving" down your arm, where did the last sensation of the elbow "go to" when you next started to attend to your forearm? Well, catching the "gone" of it without bringing it back again is a great training for having a light touch, so to speak, with your awareness. You can infer that this must be happening all the time, but noticing it is the practice.


Okay, this makes sense. I guess one of the primary thoughts/questions is that, at a certain point, phenomenon aka sensations get very subtle and appear to be nothing more that bubbles or blips or pulses. When folks talk about noting the ends of sensations I was wondering if they were looking for the bottom of the pulse, or the end of the wave, so to speak, and that THIS, noting the ends of blips/pulses/waves/etc., was primarily what was meant by noting the ends of sensations, that noting the ends of sensations was really a practice which can only really be performed in High Equanimity or something, when the concentration is at an extremely high level. But the impression I'm getting is that noting the ends of sensations, or "the gone," is something which is productively done at all levels of the process, so to speak. It means looking for the end of really gross sensations in addition to really fine, subtle sensations. Am I on the right track?

In the second Shinzen Young article he seems to address the above question in a number of ways...

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/12/12 10:28 AM as a reply to -- Timus --.
-- Timus --:
I've just realized that I actually had an older version of the article in mind (the title was "Return to the Source"). Unfortunately, it seems unavailable on Shinzen Youngs website at the moment. Since it is more focused on the practical aspects and your question seems to be pointing in that direction, I can give you a link to my dropbox: > here <.


Where does this guy get off making things so down-to-earth and simple? Bastard.

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/12/12 10:32 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
...It means looking for the end of really gross sensations in addition to really fine, subtle sensations. Am I on the right track?

Yes, as far as I have used this. The fact that "gone" is detectable from the grossest to the subtlest (perceptible) sensations, and that it is conceptually extremely simple and easy to know what I am looking for, makes it a robust practice. I used it a lot earlier this year, and check in with it periodically still. Shinzen has described Fruitions to me as essentially "one big Gone", when I asked him about that recently, and my impression is that he seems to think that practising this at any level develops attentional skills which eventually point to some [my judgement here] mystical-shmystical transcendent reality that he calls "The Source", and I can't quite make out whether that is an inference or an experience. I do know, however, that the practice of "Just note Gone" has greatly accentuated my appreciation of anicca at an experiential level. The temporality of seeing phenomena as about-to-be-Gone, freshly Gone, and Gone-so-what-am-I-even-referring-to? really locks in the concept of impermanence.

There is also the whole question of the absence of phenomena disappearing as a result of their arising, and so when noting Gone negative space starts to become tangible in really interesting ways.

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/12/12 8:31 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I would emphasize that gones are restful. emoticon

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/13/12 8:56 AM as a reply to -- Timus --.
-- Timus --:
I've just realized that I actually had an older version of the article in mind (the title was "Return to the Source"). Unfortunately, it seems unavailable on Shinzen Youngs website at the moment. Since it is more focused on the practical aspects and your question seems to be pointing in that direction, I can give you a link to my dropbox: > here <.


I followed his noting instructions during this morning's sit.

What I found was that I rose pretty smoothly through the ñanas with a barely noticeable dark night. After the energetic, pinpoint precision of A&P, there was a general feeling like the bottom falling out, and the bubble of experience just gradually widened. More "gones" started showing up, to the point where they were just about balanced out with positive sensations. Body parts felt really far apart, body felt like it was floating, but I wasn't paying so much attention to that stuff as I was to just catching the ends of things.

Once it got up into equanimity ñana, the appearances of sensations seemed nearly identical with their cessations, to the point where I wasn't sure anymore whether I was noting an appearance or its cessation. So I had to stop and just observe the whole thing, which at this point was a gently buzzing, blooming confusion, but with a lot of alertness thrown in. I rolled my eyes up into my head and seemed to experience some anicca fruitions (though it's sometimes hard to tell when those show up, because they're so quick).

I was drawn to this practice, because he said it goes to the same place that self-inquiry goes. I'm not so sure of that. At least during this sit, it just went up through the ñanas. Self-inquiry seems to bring about a more rigpa-like experience. I was also curious to see what would happen if one were using the noting technique, not to note objects, but rather to note no-thing. I didn't notice any difference except that it was maybe more restful and less edgy than just noting sensations.

I'll play with it more and see what subsequent sits are like.

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/13/12 8:57 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:
I would emphasize that gones are restful. emoticon


Agreed. My sit was more gentle, more blissed-out than I'm used to having with the noting technique.

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/13/12 10:16 PM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
Fitter Stoke:
Richard Zen:
I would emphasize that gones are restful. emoticon


Agreed. My sit was more gentle, more blissed-out than I'm used to having with the noting technique.


It's because it's a subtle reminder that when things pass away on their own you don't have to cling to them so the "self-liberating" part is more obvious. It's almost like the brain can't believe something right in front of them is that good. emoticon

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/14/12 6:04 PM as a reply to -- Timus --.
-- Timus --:
I've just realized that I actually had an older version of the article in mind (the title was "Return to the Source"). Unfortunately, it seems unavailable on Shinzen Youngs website at the moment. Since it is more focused on the practical aspects and your question seems to be pointing in that direction, I can give you a link to my dropbox: > here <.


Excellent thread!

I read and try it today, what a surprise! I started a noting practice just a few day ago, following Daniel's advise to watch A&P of sensations on both index fingers, and let the process speed up. It was not difficult to acknowledge even up to 8 itches & tinglings per second, but the passing part of the equation eluded me. I was seeing the passing just as a new sensation replacing the current one.

But today, after reading Shinzen Young's article, by focusing at the moment each (gross) sensation passes away, I found that after it passes, the "patch" of skin / body goes away too. Seems like I was trying to speed up the process too early, not allowing the dropping of the sensation to occur, just replacing it with something new. That the arising is the yang side, and the passing away the yin side, boths sides should be seen before jumping into another sensation.

After 1-3 seconds the gone patch of body emerges again, but the impression I've got is that what the mind is doing off sit is filling the "gone moments" with past sensations, probably something alike to afterimages. It also made me remember that babies with up to 6 months old drop attention to an object once it is hidden from them, like if it were gone not hidden.

Am I on the right track?

RE: Noting the Ends of Sensations
Answer
12/14/12 7:01 PM as a reply to PP.
Pablo . P:
-- Timus --:
I've just realized that I actually had an older version of the article in mind (the title was "Return to the Source"). Unfortunately, it seems unavailable on Shinzen Youngs website at the moment. Since it is more focused on the practical aspects and your question seems to be pointing in that direction, I can give you a link to my dropbox: > here <.


Excellent thread!

I read and try it today, what a surprise! I started a noting practice just a few day ago, following Daniel's advise to watch A&P of sensations on both index fingers, and let the process speed up. It was not difficult to acknowledge even up to 8 itches & tinglings per second, but the passing part of the equation eluded me. I was seeing the passing just as a new sensation replacing the current one.

But today, after reading Shinzen Young's article, by focusing at the moment each (gross) sensation passes away, I found that after it passes, the "patch" of skin / body goes away too. Seems like I was trying to speed up the process too early, not allowing the dropping of the sensation to occur, just replacing it with something new. That the arising is the yang side, and the passing away the yin side, boths sides should be seen before jumping into another sensation.

After 1-3 seconds the gone patch of body emerges again, but the impression I've got is that what the mind is doing off sit is filling the "gone moments" with past sensations, probably something alike to afterimages. It also made me remember that babies with up to 6 months old drop attention to an object once it is hidden from them, like if it were gone not hidden.

Am I on the right track?


Sure are, dude. Keep it up.