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Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...

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Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... Ufuk C. 5/1/13 11:59 PM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... Jane Laurel Carrington 5/2/13 10:47 AM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... fivebells . 5/2/13 12:12 PM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... Ufuk C. 5/3/13 8:17 AM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... fivebells . 5/3/13 12:40 PM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... Ufuk C. 5/4/13 8:47 AM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 5/4/13 11:04 AM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 5/4/13 12:24 PM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... fivebells . 5/4/13 12:51 PM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... Ufuk C. 5/5/13 11:28 AM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... fivebells . 5/5/13 5:41 PM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... Ufuk C. 5/6/13 11:19 AM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... Ufuk C. 5/6/13 1:55 PM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... fivebells . 5/6/13 2:05 PM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 5/3/13 11:05 PM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... Ben H 5/9/13 7:37 PM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... Ufuk C. 5/17/13 1:41 PM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... Nikolai . 5/18/13 12:06 AM
RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress... Ufuk C. 5/18/13 7:57 AM
Hello everyone! I feel fortunate to find this website…

I have been reading the posts and Daniel’s book for some time. I am somewhat a newbie and now far away from any decent teacher, I felt like this is the best place to look for some advice. I will try to explain my situation as specific as I can. Any advice or further questions are much appreciated. Thank you.


These are the things that got me into meditation:

1. I have ear ringing problem caused by a huge explosion last year. The physical pain rarely interferes with my meditation, but the mental reaction and suffering (usually remembering the good old “silent” days) is a big issue.

2. I can’t stop being in a rush. Usually because of having strong aversion to ear ringing and desire to neutralize my mental suffering. So, my inner speech is quite high and getting a calm mind is a tough job for me.

3. I am prone to self-guilt, self-pity and worry (defects from childhood).

4. I am a perfectionist, seeking for the best of everything and quite often getting in mental turbulance in case of “failure” (which made me quite successful in my job and very miserable in life!)

5. To sum all up, I feel worn out and tired just for being alive.


This is my meditation experience so far:

I went to Thailand, had 2x10 days anapanasati retreat in Wat Suan Mokkh with teachings of Ajahn Buddhadasa, a 10 day vipassana retreat in Wat Kow Tahm (which I mostly practiced anapana anyway) and finally a 10 day Goenka retreat, all in 3,5 months span.

I found the Goenka method beneficial even in the short run (I remember crying with joy during metta sessions). But I somehow decided to stick with anapana, using Buddhadasa's method. I wanted to at least get into access concentration (which I couldn’t), see that something’s really working, and have the necessary fuel to go on. Also I had doubts with Goenka method; is it really as effective as “advertised” by himself, and how far can I go using it?..


This is what my practice is like in my 5. Month:

I practice 1-2 hours every day. Each meditation session usually starts with sloth or struggle to sit. I can get a decent concentration where I would hardly feel my breath anymore. Not true silence, but just bubbling thoughts on background... Then the thought stream gets rapid, visions from “good old days” and the tension of staying focused just pushes me out of concentration. This cycle usually takes 40-60 minutes. If I am excited, in a bad mood etc, I have a 30 mins of vague concentration and usually end my session with frustration.

So… I am thinking about going back to square one and start again with vipassana to settle down my mind, have some equanimity and reduce my inner speech. This, in my opinion, may also improve my concentration.

What is your opinions about all these? If you think I should go with vipassana, would you recommend Goenka? (At least I attended to a retreat and know the stuff), or Mahasi method as Daniel refers to so often? (I have the books for it)

Or do you think I’m just chickening out? Not giving concentration a decent try?

Thanks for your patience at least for reading emoticon

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/2/13 10:47 AM as a reply to Ufuk C..
I don't think you'd be chickening out at all by working more with vipassana. On the advice of some skilled yogis over at Kenneth Folk Dharma I did just that myself, after pursuing concentration practice for a number of months, and have never regretted it. It doesn't have to be a case of either/or; you can continue to practice concentration, but I think devoting more time to insight might be beneficial for you. It sounds, from your description, as if your concentration isn't as bad as you think it is. Sometimes we push for an unattainable ideal starting out. Shutting down the noise is unattainable, but learning to deal with it skillfully is something you can accomplish.

I don't have experience with the Goenka method; what I've done is Mahasi noting. If you've practiced the Goenka method and feel you know it, then by all means keep it up. I'll let others advise you in more detail. All the best to you, Laurel

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/2/13 12:12 PM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Utku C.:
...do you think I’m just chickening out? Not giving concentration a decent try?


Actually, trying to do insight practice without a stable base of concentration is very courageous, but not in a good way.

Can you describe how you've been doing anapana?

From "the thought stream gets rapid, visions from “good old days” and the tension of staying focused just pushes me out of concentration," it sounds like you are struggling with anger about the damage you suffered in the explosion. If that's the case, metta practice is probably a good place to go when that happens. Have you tried that?

If you definitely want to do insight practice now, it would be a good idea to keep the insight sessions short, and sandwich it between periods of longer concentration practice. That will give you a better chance at stable attention during the insight session, and reduce the risk of the disturbance leaking into the rest of your life.

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/3/13 8:17 AM as a reply to fivebells ..
Jane, thank you for your reply emoticon

fivebells .:

Can you describe how you've been doing anapana?


I'm practicing according to Buddhadasa's method. Every session starts with 10-15 mins of regulated slow and deep breaths (prana exercise), then short breaths for a couple of minutes, actively seeing the contitioning between body & breath, and then letting the breath flow free. For the first 25-30 mins I follow the breath from the nosetip to navel and back. When feel that I do the following with a decent continuity, I switch to watching the breath at the nosetip and stay there as the breath gets more and more subtle...

fivebells .:

...If that's the case, metta practice is probably a good place to go when that happens. Have you tried that?


Yes I am trying to do metta sessions (generally guided ones) half an hour a day, or finish my sessions with a 15 mins metta. For now it does not seem to work, but I have faith on it.

fivebells .:

If you definitely want to do insight practice now, it would be a good idea to keep the insight sessions short, and sandwich it between periods of longer concentration practice. That will give you a better chance at stable attention during the insight session, and reduce the risk of the disturbance leaking into the rest of your life.


So do you think vipassana is not a good idea at the beginning, or are you considering my situation? (I was thinking about thousands of people attending to goenka or mahasi courses every month and if this is a risky option to start...)

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/3/13 12:40 PM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Utku C.:
I'm practicing according to Buddhadasa's method.


Thanks for this reference. I love anapanasati, and I love Buddhadasa, so it is exciting to learn that he wrote a book on the topic.
How are you working with the material in lectures three and four, particularly the material from "FIVE SKILLFUL TRICKS" through to "THE CONCENTRATION METHOD?"

Utku C.:
Yes I am trying to do metta sessions (generally guided ones) half an hour a day, or finish my sessions with a 15 mins metta. For now it does not seem to work, but I have faith on it.


Do you mean you're not feeling feelings of good will during the metta exercises, or that it's not effective in mitigating the disturbing emotions you described?

You might try starting your sessions with metta. I find that helpful. Also, switching to metta as soon as you notice the anger arising would be more effective than doing metta in separate, scheduled sessions. I do this a lot, then go back to my regularly scheduled programming when the anger is released.

Utku C.:
So do you think vipassana is not a good idea at the beginning, or are you considering my situation? (I was thinking about thousands of people attending to goenka or mahasi courses every month and if this is a risky option to start...)


"Insight" is an overloaded term. "D Z" has a good post about this, which should clear things up for you.

There is insight in the sense of Burmese "Insight Meditation," which refers more to the emphasis on insight in these schools, and there is insight in the sense of the Three Trainings. I meant the latter sense. Both Mahasi and Goenka start with concentration in the sense I meant.

I was also considering your situation. If you've got disturbing emotions like that during meditation, concentration is a good place to start. Once you've developed concentration to the point where those emotions are no longer disturbing your meditation, then insight is a sensible thing to do.

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/3/13 11:05 PM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Hi Utku,

In addition to some of the points already made, I would like to add that some of what you experience with meditation would very likely happen almost no matter who you are and what your history is.

Like this:
Each meditation session usually starts with sloth or struggle to sit.

and this:

To sum all up, I feel worn out and tired just for being alive.


and this

I am thinking about going back to square one



I'll add that I think one thing that happens in between equanimity and the so-called stream-entry release is such a wearing down of expectation through lack of release, lack of answers, lack of break-through that the mind just gives up on meditation. Poof. "I quit". But all that practice you do is making meditation a habit. So when the mind finally just gives up on this whole "enlightenment" thing, it will meditate anyway, out of shear habit.

Now -- finally having dropped expectations and disappointment, the mind can experience THAT kind of meditation: the kind naturally happening without expectation and anticipation. Suddenly, meditation -- both as its process and its consequence -- can happen suddenly just at breakfast.

Then feeling something special in the mind around something routine (such as may be a very fortunate routine breakfast) can re-invgorate the mind to expect things from meditation and that expectation re-creates an obstacle in the mind. So, again, a person can get tired, fed-up, disappointed in meditation and life --- and these feelings can be the rich, fortunate cause for the mind again stopping its expectations and stopping its constant hoping for prizes of meditation --- and then meditation, again, can start to show its wonderful process suddenly in unexpected ways/times/places.

So getting worn out through effort and non-reward seems to be a predictable part of the process for many people, me included. emoticon

I wish you good luck and friendly perseverance. It helps very much to adhere oneself to common ethical disciplines during this time, like "The Golden Rule" and kindness to oneself (e.g., metta already mentioned in another reply).

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/4/13 8:47 AM as a reply to fivebells ..
katy steger:

I wish you good luck and friendly perseverance. It helps very much to adhere oneself to common ethical disciplines during this time, like "The Golden Rule" and kindness to oneself...


Hi Katy. Letting go is a big deal in almost everyone's practice I guess. Since we're brought up in goal-oriented cultures, that became our basic instinct. As I write my feelings and thoughts here, I also started to see things a bit clearer about some of the obstacles and how nearly everyone have their share of them. Thank you for your advise.

fivebells .:

How are you working with the material in lectures three and four, particularly the material from "FIVE SKILLFUL TRICKS" through to "THE CONCENTRATION METHOD?"


For the 5 skillful tricks, I would be using the "chasing" method right from the beginning, to the step of calming the breath. This step is also when the meditation starts. When I feel my chasing is in a flow without major disturbance, I would switch to "guarding" and stay at my nosetip. For the "seeing the mental image" step, I have never seen a nimitta. (In the discourses at Wat Suan Mokkh, Tan Dhammavidu advises not to give much importance to nimittas and he claims that roughly 50% of the meditators will go into access concentration without seeing one)

LECTURE FOUR has a prerequisite of reaching at least to access concentration, because the meditator would take the feelings of piti/sukha as a meditation object and try to calm down piti in particular. So, that is beyond my practice for now...

fivebells .:

There is insight in the sense of Burmese "Insight Meditation," which refers more to the emphasis on insight in these schools, and there is insight in the sense of the Three Trainings. I meant the latter sense. Both Mahasi and Goenka start with concentration in the sense I meant.


To clear things out, I can develop enough concentration to properly apply Goenka's body sweeping method. I have trouble when it comes to concentration practice and as the inner speech and frustration carries on in my daily life, I cannot feel a change both in terms of my practice and my mental reactions.

That was the reason I was thinking about switching to Goenka or Mahasi method as it might be more useful at this point.

In his book, Daniel has two seemingly opposing claims for that. On one chapter he says "if you don't have the concentration (I believe he mentions about access concentration), you ain't got squat" and on another chapter he says "some meditators may find vipassana practice more beneficial as a start". That's also my dilemma...

Actually I would love to hear from some seasoned Goenka practitioners about their experiences, particularly about becoming more equanimous and reducing inner speech, coming to some balance in daily life etc. Anyone?..

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/4/13 11:04 AM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Actually I would love to hear from some seasoned Goenka practitioners about their experiences, particularly about becoming more equanimous and reducing inner speech, coming to some balance in daily life etc. Anyone?..
You might PM Tarver. If I remember correctly, he has assisted Goenka retreats.


Hi Katy. Letting go is a big deal in almost everyone's practice I guess. Since we're brought up in goal-oriented cultures, that became our basic instinct.
This part I don't know about. Sometimes when I hear four-year olds start to say, "I know already" I wonder how much goal-orientedness is a naturally arising aspect of our species (like growing taller with age) and how much could be culture and reaction to culture. I incline towards our goal-orientation being natural, arising from an instinctual aspect of information gathering, and those being aspects what would then naturally show up societally as a broader product of our individual selves. To look at our two-year old stage in development, it seems obvious that we are naturally absorbent information-getters and have an excellent capacity for study and fascination.

So I think after years and years of gathering information, should we turn to a meditative practice of just watching ourselves quietly-- or some aspect of our selves like the breath, then it can take several months of practicing just this listening before the information-gathering-and-assertion mind can wind down and let listening-watching just happen.

So if I take an example from my life -- just the memory of laying on the ground and looking up at the sky as a kid. Laying there looking up at the sky and clouds, sometimes there would be an almost alarmed feeling and sometimes just wondrous feeling. I suppose words could say it as, "What am I?" But it was just a feeling, so a good bit of that phrase misses the point and can from a mental concept that is not at all related to the jolt of feeling. Anyway, as an adult with a number of decades under her belt, it takes some time for the verbal-conceptual component of the mind to recede naturally and let other aspect of mind be experienced.

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/4/13 12:24 PM as a reply to Ufuk C..
To clear things out, I can develop enough concentration to properly apply Goenka's body sweeping method. I have trouble when it comes to concentration practice and as the inner speech and frustration carries on in my daily life, I cannot feel a change both in terms of my practice and my mental reactions.

That was the reason I was thinking about switching to Goenka or Mahasi method as it might be more useful at this point.

In his book, Daniel has two seemingly opposing claims for that. On one chapter he says "if you don't have the concentration (I believe he mentions about access concentration), you ain't got squat" and on another chapter he says "some meditators may find vipassana practice more beneficial as a start". That's also my dilemma...


I have no Goenka experience, but I have some experience with above.

Basically, to me, it's totally natural to have "trouble when it comes to concentration practice" and "inner speech and frustration" and not feeling "a change both in terms of my practice and my mental reactions".

So I read that you can do a basic body sweep. That's been useful to your start, I think.

Why? My experience is that at some point the mind decides that whatever inner speech is happening is like a scratched LP, repeating and repeating, "Oh, those thoughts and some variation of those thoughts are always happening, so they'll be there when I stop 'meditating', too".

At that point, when the mind naturally feels it's ok to stop paying close attention to the repetition of similar thought patterns, the mind can start to value focusing itself on one object.

Have you ever ridden a train and stood between the cars and watched the rails under the train? Here I think the mind really quickly says, "Wow! This is cool" and stops its inner speech naturally for little while. I think this is like watching a campfire or fire in the home fireplace as well, or watching a stream or light on a lake or small river ripples. The mind simply likes that kind of attention better than giving attention to its own repeating-style thoughts. So here natural concentration exists and occurs.

Do you experience this sort of concentration?

If so, single-point meditation is like this. Anapanasati is like this: like being in the hammock of one's breath, back and forth, in and out.

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/4/13 12:51 PM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Utku C.:
For the 5 skillful tricks, I would be using the "chasing" method right from the beginning, to the step of calming the breath. This step is also when the meditation starts. When I feel my chasing is in a flow without major disturbance, I would switch to "guarding" and stay at my nosetip. For the "seeing the mental image" step, I have never seen a nimitta. (In the discourses at Wat Suan Mokkh, Tan Dhammavidu advises not to give much importance to nimittas and he claims that roughly 50% of the meditators will go into access concentration without seeing one)

LECTURE FOUR has a prerequisite of reaching at least to access concentration, because the meditator would take the feelings of piti/sukha as a meditation object and try to calm down piti in particular. So, that is beyond my practice for now...


I have a few suggestions about this. Firstly, it is natural to approach the anapanasati instructions as a linear progression, and they are probably quite effective as such for many people. However, they don't have to be interpreted this way, and it is often quite productive to jump between them as circumstances demand. For instance:

In these ways, the four explanations offer some important insights into understanding the sixteen steps. In particular, they show that the sixteen steps don’t necessarily follow a straight linear sequence. Instead, each tetrad can serve as an object of focus simultaneously with any of the other tetrads. As you practice breath meditation, you can remain focused on the second, third, or fourth tetrad while continuing to remain focused on the breath. For example, there are times when you find it most helpful to focus on how the breath is giving rise to feelings of rapture and pleasure; to the way these feelings (as mental fabrications, along with the perceptions you’re employing around the breath) are influencing the mind; and to how you can calm that influence. This would be an example of focusing on the second tetrad while simultaneously remaining focused on the first. At other times, you’ll find it more useful to see which ways the mind is in or out of balance—too sluggish, for instance, or too scattered—and then use the breath to bring it more into balance. This would be an example of focusing on the third tetrad while still focused on the first. And at other times, you will want to observe how you can develop the dispassion that will enable you to let go of any external preoccupations that threaten to pull you away from the breath. This would turn attention to the fourth tetrad while staying focused on the first.

Right Mindfulness, p. 76



For the development of access concentration, it can be very useful to attend to the pleasurable sensations which are already there. They are easy to concentrate on, concentrating on them tends to increase the experience of the pleasure, and this is positive reinforcement for the pleasure. Thus, a positive feedback loop can take you straight into jhana in this way. Also, it's much more enjoyable to rest attention on sensations associated with pleasure than on the disturbing emotions you've been struggling with, so it naturally inclines the mind towards peace.

To implement this, I suggest beginning with a body scan to survey which physical area leads to the greatest sense of ease and comfort for the breath when you rest attention there. Whatever region that ends up being, try using that as your "guard" place.

Lastly, I agree with Tan Dhammavidu that spontaneous apparition of nimittas are relatively unimportant. However, as Buddhadasa notes, nimittas are mental fabrications, and are to be consciously manipulated. There is thus no harm in consciously choosing to visualize and manipulate an appropriate nimitta, and it can be quite productive to do so. I tend to visualize breathing through the chosen "guard" region and spreading the sense of ease, comfort and pleasure from there to other parts of the body. It's particularly productive to imagine spreading the sense of ease to regions of physical tension associated with disturbing thoughts and emotions.

Roughly this approach is outlined in Thanissaro's talk "Using Meditation to Deal With Pain, Illness & Death."


Utku C.:
In his book, Daniel has two seemingly opposing claims for that. On one chapter he says "if you don't have the concentration (I believe he mentions about access concentration), you ain't got squat" and on another chapter he says "some meditators may find vipassana practice more beneficial as a start". That's also my dilemma...


If you have the concentration to do a full body scan, that is more than sufficient for the method I've outlined.

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/5/13 11:28 AM as a reply to fivebells ..
fivebells, first of all thank you for the valuable sources you've mentioned!

fivebells .:
I have a few suggestions about this. Firstly, it is natural to approach the anapanasati instructions as a linear progression, and they are probably quite effective as such for many people. However, they don't have to be interpreted this way, and it is often quite productive to jump between them as circumstances demand.


I will read The Right Mindfulness book from cover to cover to digest this suggestion. Buddhadasa strongly gives importance to linear progression (you can notice he underlines this over and over again in the book). The only exemption is "the shortcut method" given in Appendix C , although you can feel his regret about suggesting this in the title "shortcut for ORDINARY people" emoticon

Anyway, his shortcut method aims to understand 3 characteristics via anapanasati if we don't have the perseverance to go deeper, which reminds me such vipassana methods like Goenka have also the same initial goal. But in any way, for Buddhadasa, the prerequisite of access concentration stays the same while other methods don't require that much concentration.

I will read the book and try to understand Thanissaro's suggestions. Thanks again for that.

fivebells .:
I agree with Tan Dhammavidu that spontaneous apparition of nimittas are relatively unimportant. However, as Buddhadasa notes, nimittas are mental fabrications, and are to be consciously manipulated. There is thus no harm in consciously choosing to visualize and manipulate an appropriate nimitta, and it can be quite productive to do so.


Actually he seems to be quite angry with that part of the book emoticon He spends several years stuck on that stage because at a certain point he just waits for a nimitta to arise. When he finally gives up, his first access concentration happens quite easily and unexpectedly after 20 mins of prana breathing (15secs per in/out breath). So he states that expecting to see nimittas can trick your mind, since they sound quite magical to beginners compared to "boring and ordinary" breath.

fivebells .:
For the development of access concentration, it can be very useful to attend to the pleasurable sensations which are already there. They are easy to concentrate on, concentrating on them tends to increase the experience of the pleasure, and this is positive reinforcement for the pleasure. Thus, a positive feedback loop can take you straight into jhana in this way.


You are right on the spot, I must say that, other than some subtle calm and peaceful feeling, I can't feel any pleasurable sensations towards the breath. And that calm feeling starts to mix with the struggle to deepen the concentration after about 40-45 mins. Maybe I should stay in that calmness more and more to feel it, make it grow. Maybe I am expecting too much for 5 months...

katy steger:

I think this is like watching a campfire or fire in the home fireplace as well, or watching a stream or light on a lake or small river ripples. The mind simply likes that kind of attention better than giving attention to its own repeating-style thoughts. So here natural concentration exists and occurs.

Do you experience this sort of concentration?


Actually, no emoticon It's a habit pattern for a self-judgemental mind to repeat the thought cycle infinitely. It's some kind of a punishment. In lots of discourses this condition is named as wrong concentration. I'm trying to revert that energy into right concentration. That is again why I'm considering vipassana for some time (and metta for all the time). Understanding the 3 characteristics deeper might relatively set me free from that false self, so there will be no self to judge. It seems like a faster way, I might be wrong. I will PM Tarver as you suggested. Thank you!

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/5/13 5:41 PM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Utku C.:
fivebells, first of all thank you for the valuable sources you've mentioned!


No problem, it's always a pleasure to share what I've learned and hear it may prove helpful.

Utku C.:
I will read The Right Mindfulness book from cover to cover to digest this suggestion.


It's an excellent book with a lot of solid advice for experienced meditators. It's worth noting that he wrote the book with a bit of an agenda which probably isn't relevant to you: the idea of mindfulness as a sort of passive, mysterious activity of attention, rather than simply keeping something in mind as a part of an active process of observing and shaping the causal relationships between mental phenomena. From that perspective, the core of the book is Chapter 4, which is an extended argument against the passive approach, and the rest of the book is supporting material. I think chapter 4 is fairly useless and unskillful, because it caused a fair bit of justifiable annoyance when it first came out. However, if you read the book for the "supporting material" like chapter 6, it is a treasure trove of good meditation advice. I would just skip chapter 4 (though I agree with its overall theme.)

Utku C.:
Actually he seems to be quite angry with that part of the book emoticon He spends several years stuck on that stage because at a certain point he just waits for a nimitta to arise. When he finally gives up, his first access concentration happens quite easily and unexpectedly after 20 mins of prana breathing (15secs per in/out breath). So he states that expecting to see nimittas can trick your mind, since they sound quite magical to beginners compared to "boring and ordinary" breath.


Which book is this? Sounds like an interesting account.

Utku C.:
You are right on the spot, I must say that, other than some subtle calm and peaceful feeling, I can't feel any pleasurable sensations towards the breath. And that calm feeling starts to mix with the struggle to deepen the concentration after about 40-45 mins. Maybe I should stay in that calmness more and more to feel it, make it grow. Maybe I am expecting too much for 5 months...


I've found it more helpful to attend to the physical sensations associated with the calm and peaceful feelings, rather than the feelings themselves.

Utku C.:
It's a habit pattern for a self-judgemental mind to repeat the thought cycle infinitely. It's some kind of a punishment. In lots of discourses this condition is named as wrong concentration.


For me, this kind of thought pattern is screaming "Do metta!!!" You might give it a try and see what the effect is.

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/6/13 11:19 AM as a reply to fivebells ..
fivebells .:
Which book is this? Sounds like an interesting account.


The quotes are from his discourses at Suan Mokkh monastery, but you can find his recorded lectures here. Recordings are very bad in quality but i think it will be well worth the listener's time. Besides from being a fine meditator, Dhammavidu has a wast amount of knowledge about Buddhist philosophy and his unique way of storytelling, wit, dark sense of humor and sincerity always left me begging for more.

Reminds me of Mark Knopfler for some reason...

He just vanishes in the mist when he doesn't give lectures and he doesn't attend to daily interviews anymore. That was really a big loss for hungry meditators like me.

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/6/13 1:55 PM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Anyways, all your advises are much appreciated fivebells. Thanks again...

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/6/13 2:05 PM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Utku C.:
The quotes are from his discourses at Suan Mokkh monastery, but you can find his recorded lectures here. Recordings are very bad in quality but i think it will be well worth the listener's time.


Thanks, Utku. Looks interesting.

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/9/13 7:37 PM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Hey Utku,

When I first started practicing I had some similar beliefs to you - I thought that I should develop concentration before really attempting Vipassana. I stumbled for a long time doing anapana meditation, trying to develop better concentration, and avoiding insight practice. The first time I did the noting technique it was an incredible experience. I kept at it, and within a week I had my A&P event. I wasn't too regular with it, but the noting technique was a game changer to me - it allows you to develop concentration and insight at the same time by noting your distractions. I found that with noting practice, I was easily able to achieve access concentration, and even the first few jhanas. After getting a bit more experience with the states of concentration achieved through insight practice, I was able to go back and have a lot more success with classical shamatha techniques like anapana. That said, I'm curious if you've tried using objects other than the breath? I personally had a lot of success with staring at a candle flame, then using the afterimage as a kasina. Also, an interesting one is using the ringing in your ears as an object of focus - might be a bit intense for you, but maybe worth a shot.

Also, to answer your questions about Goenka - I did a 10 day retreat after about a year of practice with the noting method, and... I got stream entry on the retreat. I'm not sure if it was the retreat environment (I'd never been on one before), the continuous practice, or the Goenka method, but the states I was able to access using his method were very similar to the ones I have accessed using Mahasi noting. So I would answer that yes, the technique works. There are a few forum members here who have gotten pretty far with it - if I recall correctly Nikolai got stream entry at a Goenka retreat, and I believe it was Stef who said she got 4th path using a slightly modified scanning technique.

To summarize, no I don't think you're chickening out by not giving concentration a decent try... it sounds more like maybe you're not giving insight a decent try! I'd recommend trying out the noting technique for a few sits and see if you like it more than Goenka. And then stick with whichever technique you like better for a while and see what happens.

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
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5/17/13 1:41 PM as a reply to Ben H.
Hello Ben!

Sorry for the late response, I had a long journey without an internet connection.

I must say that your experiences really excited me! Not only because of the similar difficulties we had, but also the dramatic boost that you had experienced by changing your technique. It seems that you had tried the one that was just right for your conditions. I start to realize that accessing to different concentration states can be done via many different ways.

I assume that you have never had a retreat experience until you went to a Goenka course? That would mean that you started practicing Mahasi method by reading the online stuff and books, right? This is also an encouraging point, since the practice is not necessarily bound to retreat conditions. In my opinion, Anapana usually needs a more controlled environment if you are not a seasoned meditator.

So in short, I will try the Mahasi method straight away.

I have tried some kasina meditation but it was right after the accident (under extreme stress) and I was mislead by an inexperienced meditator. So I quit just within a couple of days. I have been reading books including kasina techniques recently but never tried again. I think no need to be too rigid with anapana and try a couple more things before settling on one technique... During my post-retreat experiences, it was always like "everyone is sticking to anapana, so why can't I..." kind of feeling which may have become a hindrance on its own.

For the ear ringing, I was advised a technique from Ajahn Sumedho. I just bought his book named "Sound of Silence". Haven't started it yet but I was told that in the book he teaches how to change the ear ringing from a great annoyance to a blessing. So, your suggestion is right. I am just acting wary because sometimes the ringing sound overwhelms me even when I am not focused on it. It may require some more balance and equanimity before trying, will see...

All in all, your advises were really helpful. Million thanks!

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
Answer
5/18/13 12:06 AM as a reply to Ben H.
Ben H:
So I would answer that yes, the technique works. There are a few forum members here who have gotten pretty far with it - if I recall correctly Nikolai got stream entry at a Goenka retreat, and I believe it was Stef who said she got 4th path using a slightly modified scanning technique.


I got the infamous first blip/cessation(1st path as talked of in Mahasi circles) on a goenka retreat but i did not follow the instructions. I did noting like this only. Though 8 years of sweeping the body may have been a good base to jump from.

Nick

RE: Seeking some advice in high doubt and stress...
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5/18/13 7:57 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Hello Nick. Thank you for your tiny link that opened to a vast amount of shared experience. I read them all, including the discussions and the links you've given in between the lines. Very helpful stuff! Thanks again.

I have one more question about the noting method. My ear ringing is continuous, and so it is during my meditation sessions. While applying the Goenka method, I was able to bypass the ringing when I passed the head section and going through the lower parts of the body, simply because my attention was not on my ears anymore. In the same manner while practicing anapana, with concentration of the in and out breath, again I was able to bypass the ringing sensation...

In my first try of the Mahasi noting, I felt like geting stuck in noting the ringing sound over and over in a loop, since it usually becomes the predominant sensation when sitting in a quiet and tranquil environment. I read the instructions again but couldn't be sure if I should just ignore it after noting and return to the anchor point (the breath)?