Questions about "Noting"

Maher K, modified 8 Years ago.

Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/11/13 Recent Posts
Hello Everyone,

I've just stumbled upon this site because I have been looking for people to talk too about my life and experiences from an "awakened" point of view, and it certainly seems that I have found the right place! I've just recently started using this noting technique, and I find it very useful for keeping track of you thoughts. My question is about noting and goes out to others who have tried Shinzen's noting method. Although, anyone who has tried Vipassana in general would be able to comment on this. My questions is specifically about when to do it. Do you only note when you're sitting during meditation, or do you try to note throughout the day during your daily activities, or both? I find it difficult to note my thoughts when I'm doing something that takes up a majority of my attention (such as writing this post) or reading a book. Although, when I'm just walking around or doing something that doesn't take too much attention, I can more easily keep track of thoughts that arise. I'd love to hear about other people's experiences with noting.
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 Tarver , modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 262 Join Date: 2/3/10 Recent Posts
Welcome to the DhO!

Noting is "formally" done in practice, but there are many forms of practice. Practising when sitting is, well, good practice. The idea is not only to develop the skill (and of course do it) but also the capacity. Shinzen speaks of "starting on a dime" and "practice in life" in order to strengthen the "attentional skill-set" of concentration, clarity, and equanimity. Funny, I have been working out at the gym on the rowing machine and participating in another forum talking about strength vs fitness, speed vs power, and the like, and how subtly different approaches will train different aspects of physical fitness. Similarly here: noting out loud a restricted range of experience (say, just mental images, or just physical sensations) in stillness and sustaining that for a period of time will develop one kind of strength (or endurance... or whatever metaphor you like) whereas noting, say, just the endings of sounds while walking down the street will develop another aspect of one's overall spiritual fitness. It all depends what you are training for, so to speak, to say nothing of where you happen to have talent, motivation, interest, and opportunity. Shinzen's system is flexible to a fault, so you can be exquisitely precise in what you are setting out to do, and then be able to tell if you are "on" or "off". For example, I have had much fun (and some success) in setting micro-goals for noting practice out and about, like "I will note all sights and sounds until I get home and touch my doorknob" when I am still half an hour away from home. Sometimes I actually find that easier than practice in stillness. Noting inner phenomena is trickier "in life" than on the cushion until there is some good reserve of concentration available, much like a certain degree of cardiovascular fitness is required before one can really discuss the finer points of maintaining a high pace of physical exertion. I would say, practice anywhere, any way, and any time you can and you are sure to improve! You can sometimes do endurance training, other times intervals; in other words some long sits of strong determination, other times shorter bursts of intense concentration... the brain is not a muscle, but it is trainable.

Also, technical point, Shinzen distinguishes "noting" from "labelling" and what I am talking about here would be Shinzen's "labelling", but which common usage here on Dho and elsewhere would call simply "noting".
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Richard Zen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 1629 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
The above is good advice but I would also recommend doing noting without labels later in your practice and try to notice thoughts like they are sensations. It's good to just be aware of things as they are without labeling to rest from too much restlessness during noting. You also don't want to create a sense of self that is noting another self. But noting is great when you get lazy and lose the consistency. Look to not what the thoughts mean but the experience of them. Make sure you don't block thoughts with noting but let them arise and pass away. Noting things arise and pass away completely is very important in developing the understanding of the three characteristics. When you note, also make sure you notice the pain and when it naturally subsides when discursive thought naturally passes away. Enjoy the automatic senses.

Some more tips on vipassana:

Hierarchy of vipassana practice

Have fun!
Maher K, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/11/13 Recent Posts
The above is good advice but I would also recommend doing noting without labels later in your practice and try to notice thoughts like they are sensations. It's good to just be aware of things as they are without labeling to rest from too much restlessness during noting. You also don't want to create a sense of self that is noting another self. But noting is great when you get lazy and lose the consistency. Look to not what the thoughts mean but the experience of them. Make sure you don't block thoughts with noting but let them arise and pass away. Noting things arise and pass away completely is very important in developing the understanding of the three characteristics. When you note, also make sure you notice the pain and when it naturally subsides when discursive thought naturally passes away. Enjoy the automatic senses.


Yeah, I've definitely realized that noting can lead to the creation of another sense of self specifically for that purpose. I use it more like a tool you described to try and be mindful when I'm lazy and not necessarily in a mindful state. It kind of kicks me into being more conscious and having a higher level of awareness. I think I've experienced that noting can block thoughts, although I'm not really sure. A lot of the time, once I start noting, thoughts tend to "drop away" shortly after I label them. Is it normal for thoughts to subside as soon as you bring your attention to them? I can definitely understand what you mean by focusing on the experiencing of the thoughts themselves as opposed to their meaning. When you look into meaning, it just creates more thoughts and more pain lol. What do you think about simple labels for certain types of thinking? (ie fantasies, memories, etc.)

I've been practicing mindfulness techniques on this great little website I found, and one of them is to "feel" your entire body from the inside and see if you can determine where certain types of thoughts can cause tension in your body. I've so far had success in realizing that anytime I think about someone in a "romantic" way or have a fantasy about them, I definitely feel pain in my heart area. When I try to intellectualize too much or feel superior to others I feel this "lump" of hollowness throughout my entire abdomen. Whenever I have any sort of anxiety related thoughts or am worried about something, my body reacts by shivering. Also, I've linked anger to a tightening of the sides of the mouth and jaw area. Have you guys experienced anything similar to this? It's so great to have someone to talk to about this kind of stuff! It's very hard to find people on similar paths in my daily life. Thanks a lot for all your help and input!
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Richard Zen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 1629 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
I would agree with Tarver on peeling back what is a sense of self when noting. You can use what works for you. I would use "Feel In", "Hear In", "See in" in the Shinzen way to see what the self is made of but I would also note "urge" to do, "striving" to pay "attention" (meaning forcing your attention). All that stuff is subtle pain. Make it as smooth as you can so your practice and daily life practice is less and less mechanical or forced. I'm still working on this stuff and noting without labels and noting with labels is something I don't abandon completely. Noting "gones" according to Shinzen is supposed to lead to stream entry.

In terms of noting I think trying to look at the arising and passing away of phenomenon without a label just so you can be there for the entire change is valuable. Noting with "ta, ta, ta" or subtler notes can help to not interfere with the less gross objects you're examining. It's good to the "do nothing" Shikatanza practice which also according to Shinzen leads to stream entry. With this you can let yourself get lost in thoughts and let go of them and watch the sensations in your head and the tensions arise and go away. The relief comes on it's own when tensions naturally subside when obsessive thoughts are let go of. Also having a ready stance in your meditation where you just welcome to all phenomenon including unpleasant experiences is a good attitude.
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Fitter Stoke, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 487 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Maher K:
I find it difficult to note my thoughts when I'm doing something that takes up a majority of my attention (such as writing this post) or reading a book. Although, when I'm just walking around or doing something that doesn't take too much attention, I can more easily keep track of thoughts that arise.


If you're engaged in an activity that is not conducive to mental labeling, see if you can maintain an awareness of the body breathing. Can you have a conversation with someone while maintaining a peripheral awareness of the body as a whole? Even better: can you make the body breathing the center point but maintain the conversation on the periphery?

Experiment with this throughout the day, and keep notes on this practice just as you would your formal sitting practice.
Maher K, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/11/13 Recent Posts
Fitter Stoke:


If you're engaged in an activity that is not conducive to mental labeling, see if you can maintain an awareness of the body breathing. Can you have a conversation with someone while maintaining a peripheral awareness of the body as a whole? Even better: can you make the body breathing the center point but maintain the conversation on the periphery?

Experiment with this throughout the day, and keep notes on this practice just as you would your formal sitting practice.


I've been practicing mindfulness techniques from this website here: http://mindfulnessclasses.com/ As I said in my previous posts, one of the exercises is to maintain awareness of your entire body and the sensations that arise in it throughout your daily activities and interactions with people. It is similar to the self-remembering of Gurdijeff, if anyone is familiar with that. I can maintain awareness of the body as a whole while doing other things, including conversations with other people, but I have yet to try making my breathing the center of attention while doing other activities. Does this require more "effort" than just being aware of your entire body and the sensations that arise?
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 Tarver , modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 262 Join Date: 2/3/10 Recent Posts
Technical tip: DhO doesn't make links into links unless you manually use the link button, but some browsers auto-link URL's so it may not be obvious to you viewing your own posts.

Shinzen has suggested coming back to Gone, not the breath, as a best practice.

I would call the meaning of thoughts a "Feel In" phenomenon, and the experience of thoughts either "See In" or "Hear In". Untangle those, and you are golden.
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Richard Zen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 1629 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
If you include thoughts to be aware of then the effort shouldn't be as much. Too much effort could be just plain Jane repression of thoughts. As you practice to let go of useless thoughts you'll get better over time and feel the shifts in your mind when skills develop. I think Daniel says it well:

Obviously there is a bit of a paradox here relating to effort and surrender. In many ways it is at the heart of the spiritual life. There is a lot of advice available on this point, but in terms of insight meditation practice I would say this: If when meditating you can perceive the arising and passing of phenomena clearly and consistently, that is enough effort, so allow this to show itself naturally and surrender to it.
Mo sa gra, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 22 Join Date: 1/2/13 Recent Posts
Newby asking for clarification here.

When I read Daniel's discussion of noting I thought he was advocating a quick (sometimes very quick) noticing or labeling of a thought, distraction, sensation, whatever. The point is turning one's focus back to the breath or alternate focus point ASAP with little or no attention being paid to the new phenomena.

When I read Shinzen, he seems to be advocating turning one's full attention to the phenomena that are arising, then letting them fade before coming back to the chosen focus point. I'm talking about #2 below from his manual, focusing intently on the sensory event. I'm guessing either technique is appropriate for a particular meditator at different times. As a newby, I find both challenging.

Best,

Curt

<<Noting In a Nutshell
A period of noting practice typically consists of a rhythmic sequence of acts of noting. Each act of
noting typically consists of two parts:
1. You clearly acknowledge the presence of a sensory event.
2. You focus intently on that sensory event.
During the acknowledging, you have the option but not the requirement to label the event you have
acknowledged. To label means to think or say a word or phrase that describes the sensory event you
are noting.
The relationship between mindfulness noting and labeling is as follows:
• Labeling is designed to facilitate noting.
• Noting is designed to facilitate mindfulness.>>
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 Tarver , modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 262 Join Date: 2/3/10 Recent Posts
Mo sa gra:
Newby asking for clarification here.
When I read Daniel's discussion of noting ...
When I read Shinzen...


I have never met Daniel Ingram, but I have watched several hours of video of him speaking to a group. I have spent many hours with Shinzen. The temperaments of these two men are clearly very different. Ingram has a high-energy extroverted intensity. Shinzen is not so much introverted as pensive and calculating as he interacts with others. The suggestions that each make for noting must have at least something to do with what each has found works for them, which, I am guessing here, has in turn something to do simply with their personal styles. Ingram wants to go fast, wolf it down, get to the prize. Shinzen wants to chew it over, taste every bite, enjoy the meal.

I think that whether one goes fast or slow, the key thing about noting is asserting one's experience because noting is an act of speech; others seem to think that this is either not true or not relevant and the practice works for them anyway -- sometimes fast, other times slow. Find what seems to work for you, do it, and watch your understanding of what you are doing and why start to shift.
Mo sa gra, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 22 Join Date: 1/2/13 Recent Posts
Really appreciate the thoughtful reply. I have done a lot more reading since I made that post on 1/31, starting to sink in that there is no cookie-cutter approach. Seems like there are as many opinions regarding meditation as there are meditators.

I'm planning on doing the simple focus on the breath techniques along with my own version of noting that I've been doing. Rapidly puts me into a bliss state. Planning on finding a teacher within 3-4 months to deepen my practice.

Thanks again.

Curt Welling
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 Tarver , modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Questions about "Noting"

Posts: 262 Join Date: 2/3/10 Recent Posts
Mo sa gra:
Seems like there are as many opinions regarding meditation as there are meditators.

Yeah, and if you want to amuse yourself by watching the number of opinions actually exceed the number of meditators, try introducing the topic of the exact nature of consciousness. emoticon

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