Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

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Piers Mackeown, modified 7 Years ago.

Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 116 Join Date: 12/7/10 Recent Posts
I'd like a bit of advice with regard to experiences whilst sitting on retreat and since I came off it 3 weeks ago...

I've divided into two parts as they relate to differing aspects:

Part A - I was sitting today, and observing the r+f (rising/falling) of my abdomen. [I used to only observe breath at the area above upper lip for several years. Never thought I'd get used to it at abdomen. But now, after 5+month reatreat Mahasi style, if I try at my nostrils, due to irregular breathing patterns + other phenomena (explained below) it now seems easier to just continue with r+f. [Which is fine by me, U Tejaniya says that whichever object is chosen is not that important].

I'll try and describe some of my "usual" experiences. Either one or both tend to predominate in any given sitting:

1) The breath repeatedly stops. When this happens, it can last anywhere from just briefly, or sometimes up to perhaps 1 minute + 15 secs. This happened often (longer pauses) whilst on retreat. Now it can still be 30 - 60 secs. It seems a bit prosaic to just observe "sitting/touching" during these pauses.If I'm noting"sitting" I'm just observing an overall awareness of the sense of the body being there in sitting med. or "touching" the feeling of contact with the cushion. I don't feel like I gain any kind of insight into the nature of the 3 characteristics (anicca/dukkha/anatta).
So, I've taken to a more Goenka style sweeping of the surface of the body from top to bottom, whilst just noting a generic "feeling, feeling, feeling" of the bodily sensation when nothing else more specific comes to my attention. Then reverting back to r+f when the breath returns. Although, I've still yet to get a sense of the 3 characteristics this way either (yet?), it does seem a more "comfortable" way of spending my time - or perhaps "productive" is a better word.

One other thing, it's more usual for the breath to speed up to the point it's too fast to note r+f and then suddenly stop (although it does sometimes stop at other times). When this happens, the point of stopping is also usually accompanied by an involuntary "shake" or "shiver" or a "jolt". Which I note.

[Perhaps, I'm not understanding what it means to perceive the 3 characteristics. Intellectually, it's very easy to see that various phenomena are impermanent and the cause of suffering. The no-self bit is more difficult to see, maybe.]

2) Today however, the breath wasn't stopping much, in fact only in the first 10 mins did it stop. Thereafter it repeatedly became faster and faster (again, too fast to note r+f), and this was accompanied by really wild "shaking" & other bodily movements. Now, I was intentionally trying to stop the shaking and swaying etc. This is because whilst on retreat, at one stage the process became so violent, it was dangerous and the Sayadaw said I had to come out of it, as I was becoming attached to the phenomenon. Actually, not true, I don't think, as I wasn't aware that I should "stop" the process. I was simply intently noting it. That leads me to another question, unanswered in another post - why, if the technique is to note whatever is predominating your experience, was this aspect unable to be "tackled" through noting alone? Instead, the advice was to stop it intentionally though any means, from simply straightening up the back (this usually works, but sometimes only for a second, before the movements start up again) to opening the eyes, or getting up and walking for 5 mins and then sitting again. Tried all that, but the wind element keeps coming back.
Another Sayadaw at MBMC, also gave me the same advice and told me to stop it (he had also seen it with other "Yogis" before he mentioned) and said it always looked "ugly" to an observer. Which I thought was a curious thing to say because "ugly" or not, I'm not intentionally creating it. It is just happening.

So, my point is that this experience has been going on for about 3 months now, with not signs of abating. I'm not sure what else to do about it as I seem to be "stuck" there. Is it just something I should accept and carry on, although, I can't seem to see the 3 characteristics in amongst all this breathing very fast and body shaking etc.?

I'm still in quite close proximity to the retreat, finishing it about 3 weeks ago, and since then have really only been sitting 1 hour a day often preceded by an hour of walking. So, I was a bit taken aback by the return of such wild physical phenomena as today. It's not that uncommon to also get more sedate swaying. Which I also try to stop if it continues too much.


Part B - For years, I sat Goenka courses, often in excruciating pain (which I thought was beneficial, as I was trying to be equanimous with it). Later I learned that some students + teachers who had been practicing for decades (serious "old" students) in the tradition had developed knee problems later in life. Partly because of this, but also because of observing some other "old" students who had taken to using knee support cushions, I decided to stop "torturing" myself needlessly and follow suit. So, whilst on the Mahasi retreat for 5 months I continued this, and as a consequence was in little or no pain if sitting just an hour which is what I did most of the time. It took 1+1/2 - 2 hours to start feeling quite uncomfortable. At BHL where I spent majority of retreat time, I didn't think to much about this. Nothing was said to me (to not use the knee supports) and also, it was not frowned upon if you wanted to sit in a chair from time to time (several yogis did this, including myself, but usually only if I was extremely exhausted). If I sat for 6 or 7 hours in a day, sometimes none, or at most 2 hours would be in the chair.

However, I began to question myself, as to the wisdom of using knee supports, because afterall, pain is a part of dhamma just as much as pleasure, so thought it might actually be beneficial to sit without. But I didn't think of this till the last week or so.

When I went to MBMC, for just a week, the current abbot - Sayadaw U Pannananda - who is very strict and has a very different teaching style to what I'd experienced at BHL took a dim view of using chairs. He told me that if the mind is strong you will be able to overcome all kinds of difficulties. If it is weak it will lead you astray. He was also telling me that I should aim to sit on just one cushion at most (I was using two). He then went on to talk about how the Buddha would just sit in the forest without any cushion at all. It's a this point that I was wondering if this approach was the right one to have towards some westerners who are not that naturally flexible (like myself). I've done plenty of yoga in my time, and never even come close to sitting 1/2 lotus. Forget the full monty. Out of the question. I just sit regular crossed legs ie one leg resting on the other, not "Burmese Style" which I find uncomfortable. Also, I think the Buddha, like many Asians was probably naturally adept at sitting in Lotus.
Needless to say, Sayadaw U Pannananda, is against the use of knee supports (which I'd stopped using by the time I got there anyhow). He gave me opposite advice to the Sayadow Jotika at BHL (not to be confused with another U Jotika, who is more well known, apparently). He said, that if pain arose to stay with it and note it continuously for however long it lasted.
Sayadaw Jotika on the other hand said, to note it x3, x5, x7, x10, x15 (in between observing r+f) and if it still persisted beyond that to totally ignore it and concentrate on r+f which would help you build up very good concentration (to ignore the pain and focus on r+f in this way).

Any comments about these approaches? Also, any thoughts about use of props - be they chairs or cushions. Should you/shouldn't you? Does it matter? Is it just personal preference?

Thanks, Piers
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fivebells ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 566 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Sorry to hear that you're going through this, Piers, sounds unpleasant.

With respect to the three characteristics, there is nothing to see that you're not already seeing. Simply emphasize awareness of anything in your experience which supports the idea that what you're experiencing is dukkha, anatta, anicca. The role of the three characteristics is not to teach you an ontological fact about existence, it is a perceptual tool to help you let go of aggregates you're attached to.

With respect to noting being inadequate to release of the shaking, it's best to be practical and use whatever works to settle the mind down so that you can see clearly. The same goes for pain. No need to be masochistic. You sound very ardent in your practice, and that is excellent. If you apply that ardency to settling the mind down and then watching its movements very closely, you are likely to make fast progress.

At the basis of all of your confusion is a lack of understanding of your own role in creating these experiences. It is quite likely that the Sayadaw was correct in inferring that you were attached to the shaking in some way, for instance. You may find it useful to study dependent origination.
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Piers Mackeown, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 116 Join Date: 12/7/10 Recent Posts
Thanks fivebells for those links. It's kind of unpleasant (the shaking) because it seems to be "out of my hands". We humans always like to try and control things don't we?
During retreat, initially, it got quite frightening, because I'd never experienced anything like it before. But now, after some time, it's not quite so scary (a little today, because again it was quite wild).
However, you're quite right, thinking about it now. In some ways there is an attachment. The attachment seems to be that "something" is happening in "my meditation practice" which prior to going on retreat had been absent... Drifting along on a sea of stagnation for quite a time. So, having this stuff, is preferable, to the mind, or to my mind at any rate than not having anything at all (seemingly).
Any other comments from from you or anyone else, still appreciated.
Thanks.
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Ian And, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 784 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Oh, my, my, Piers. Part of the problem you face is that "too many cooks can spoil the broth." If you know what I mean. It can be a difficult problem to address, especially when one is inexperienced and is relying on the experience of others to guide him. At some point, you kind of have to let your conscience (intuition) be your guide, and figure things out for yourself, especially when you are receiving conflicting advice.

While there may have been some very good reasons for the two Sayadaws providing you with the advice they gave, sometimes you have to take a step back and have a look at it for yourself, and figure out what makes sense to you.
Piers Mackeown:
I'd like a bit of advice with regard to experiences whilst sitting on retreat and since I came off it 3 weeks ago...

One other thing, it's more usual for the breath to speed up to the point it's too fast to note r+f and then suddenly stop (although it does sometimes stop at other times). When this happens, the point of stopping is also usually accompanied by an involuntary "shake" or "shiver" or a "jolt". Which I note.

2) Today however, the breath wasn't stopping much, in fact only in the first 10 mins did it stop. Thereafter it repeatedly became faster and faster (again, too fast to note r+f), and this was accompanied by really wild "shaking" & other bodily movements. Now, I was intentionally trying to stop the shaking and swaying etc.

Another Sayadaw at MBMC, also gave me the same advice and told me to stop it (he had also seen it with other "Yogis" before he mentioned) and said it always looked "ugly" to an observer. Which I thought was a curious thing to say because "ugly" or not, I'm not intentionally creating it. It is just happening.

So, my point is that this experience has been going on for about 3 months now, with no signs of abating. I'm not sure what else to do about it as I seem to be "stuck" there. Is it just something I should accept and carry on, although, I can't seem to see the 3 characteristics in amongst all this breathing very fast and body shaking etc.?

I'm still in quite close proximity to the retreat, finishing it about 3 weeks ago, and since then have really only been sitting 1 hour a day often preceded by an hour of walking. So, I was a bit taken aback by the return of such wild physical phenomena as today. It's not that uncommon to also get more sedate swaying. Which I also try to stop if it continues too much.

The breath slowing down to a stop is not unusual. This usually occurs when the mind is becoming more and more tranquil and calm, and can be a precursor to absorption concentration states. Yet, for you to experience the speeding up of the breath and the violent shaking or jolt when the breath stops seems to be something that is being manipulated unconsciously. The most beneficial antidote for this would be to increase mindfulness and clear comprehension (sati-sampajanna), which would be analogous to the instruction you were given: that you should consciously (as much as possible) halt the shaking and rest in the calm.

I've experience the "sedate swaying" that you speak of. It was not very distracting and eventually stopped on its own; however, I was not above stopping it consciously if push came to shove and it became a distraction. Neither should you be.

Piers Mackeown:

When I went to MBMC, for just a week, the current abbot - Sayadaw U Pannananda - who is very strict and has a very different teaching style to what I'd experienced at BHL took a dim view of using chairs. He told me that if the mind is strong you will be able to overcome all kinds of difficulties. If it is weak it will lead you astray.

He was also telling me that I should aim to sit on just one cushion at most (I was using two). He then went on to talk about how the Buddha would just sit in the forest without any cushion at all.

It's a this point that I was wondering if this approach was the right one to have towards some westerners who are not that naturally flexible (like myself). I've done plenty of yoga in my time, and never even come close to sitting 1/2 lotus. Forget the full monty. Out of the question. I just sit regular crossed legs ie one leg resting on the other, not "Burmese Style" which I find uncomfortable. Also, I think the Buddha, like many Asians was probably naturally adept at sitting in Lotus.

Needless to say, Sayadaw U Pannananda, is against the use of knee supports (which I'd stopped using by the time I got there anyhow). He gave me opposite advice to the Sayadow Jotika at BHL. He said, that if pain arose to stay with it and note it continuously for however long it lasted.

While it may be nice to be able to sit cross-legged (lotus, half-lotus or whatever) like the Buddha while meditating, it is not mandatory by any means. And yes, such a sitting position can be used by various teachers as a training tool in an effort to get the student to learn something about enduring and handling physical pain; yet at some point this approach can become one of diminishing returns as far as the student is concerned, and it is up to the teacher or guide to know when that is (when this occurs) and to adjust his advice accordingly.

That is, when the teacher is not a dedicated teacher for the student (i.e. one who is the regular or chosen teacher and which the student can easily return to from time to time when practice questions arise), he should explain these things to the student so that the student has the information he needs in order to make a determination how to handle a situation when he doesn't have contact with the teacher. Most guides one meets in a retreat setting are only in one's life for the duration of the time that the retreat lasts (i.e. they are not a dedicated teacher for the student), unlike a dedicated teacher with whom one meets regularly during the duration of one's practice.

One cushion or two doesn't make any difference when push comes to shove. Your ability to reach deeper and deeper states of mental calm and solitude is what counts with regard to inducing moments of realization and awakening. That's the main thing that a meditation guide needs to be focused on assisting you to attain.

Piers Mackeown:

Sayadaw Jotika on the other hand said, to note it x3, x5, x7, x10, x15 (in between observing r+f) and if it still persisted beyond that to totally ignore it and concentrate on r+f which would help you build up very good concentration (to ignore the pain and focus on r+f in this way).

This actually sounds like sound advice. Of course, the optimum outcome would have been for the shaking to cease so that you could get back to simply observing the rising and falling without the distraction of the shaking.

Piers Mackeown:

Any comments about these approaches? Also, any thoughts about use of props - be they chairs or cushions. Should you/shouldn't you? Does it matter? Is it just personal preference?

Use whatever props you need to use in order to achieve a calm and tranquil state necessary for insight contemplation. The calm and tranquil mind should be your focus to achieve – not whether or not you are sitting in a chair or using two cushions for more comfort.

In general, I agree with what fivebells wrote:

fivebells:
With respect to noting being inadequate to release of the shaking, it's best to be practical and use whatever works to settle the mind down so that you can see clearly. The same goes for pain. No need to be masochistic.

You sound very ardent in your practice, and that is excellent. If you apply that ardency to settling the mind down and then watching its movements very closely, you are likely to make fast progress.

At the basis of all of your confusion is a lack of understanding of your own role in creating these experiences.
It is quite likely that the Sayadaw was correct in inferring that you were attached to the shaking in some way, for instance. You may find it useful to study dependent origination.
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Piers Mackeown, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 116 Join Date: 12/7/10 Recent Posts
Wow. First off Ian, I just want to thank you for taking so much time and trouble to answer my queries, both here and a few days ago on another post. I think it's fair to say that I'm experiencing a bit of information overload!! Which is definitely of my own making! emoticon So, I'm not complaining, as I'm becoming a bit too fond of delving in to the DhO archive. Probably because I've felt a bit starved of any input whilst on retreat for so long. Plus I have a bit of time on my hands right now. Anyhow, I need to digest a lot of this info, and intend to respond soon. Perhaps after a good nights sleep!
Plus thanks to anyone else out there who's trying to "steer this ship" in the right direction!
Cheers, Piers.
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Piers Mackeown, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 116 Join Date: 12/7/10 Recent Posts
Ian And:
"too many cooks can spoil the broth." If you know what I mean. It can be a difficult problem to address, especially when one is inexperienced and is relying on the experience of others to guide him. At some point, you kind of have to let your conscience (intuition) be your guide, and figure things out for yourself, especially when you are receiving conflicting advice.


You are right about that. I think that until I start to develop my own insights that will often be the case. A state of uncertainty. What I liked about the Goenka courses (to begin with) was that his instructions are explicit and there can be no mis-interpretation as to what he is instructing. IMHO anyway. However, when it doesn't give the desired results. Expected results, after years of toiling, then you start to look around...

And realize that there are a multitude of traditions/systems/techniques on "offer" out there, all purporting to lead you to the "promised land". And most of them probably have worked to one degree or another with someone or another. Just not everyone, all the time.

Please, someone out there correct me if I'm wrong on this next point: Did not the Buddha give varying instructions depending on the character or temperament of who he was teaching? Obviously, he had the ability to see this exceptionally well, whereas even very accomplished teachers these days (both in their meditation and teaching abilities) perhaps cannot do likewise.

Ian And:

That is, when the teacher is not a dedicated teacher for the student (i.e. one who is the regular or chosen teacher and which the student can easily return to from time to time when practice questions arise), he should explain these things to the student so that the student has the information he needs in order to make a determination how to handle a situation when he doesn't have contact with the teacher. Most guides one meets in a retreat setting are only in one's life for the duration of the time that the retreat lasts (i.e. they are not a dedicated teacher for the student), unlike a dedicated teacher with whom one meets regularly during the duration of one's practice.


As the old saying goes "when the pupil is ready the teacher is there". Maybe I'm just not ready yet.... But I'll keep on plugging away in the hope that I may not need a dedicated teacher in order to cross the line (SE) or because if I wait until one comes along I might die beforehand.

Ian And:

One cushion or two doesn't make any difference when push comes to shove. Your ability to reach deeper and deeper states of mental calm and solitude is what counts with regard to inducing moments of realization and awakening. That's the main thing that a meditation guide needs to be focused on assisting you to attain.


Yes.

Ian And:

In general, I agree with what fivebells wrote:

fivebells:
With respect to noting being inadequate to release of the shaking, it's best to be practical and use whatever works to settle the mind down so that you can see clearly. The same goes for pain. No need to be masochistic.

You sound very ardent in your practice, and that is excellent. If you apply that ardency to settling the mind down and then watching its movements very closely, you are likely to make fast progress.

At the basis of all of your confusion is a lack of understanding of your own role in creating these experiences.
It is quite likely that the Sayadaw was correct in inferring that you were attached to the shaking in some way, for instance. You may find it useful to study dependent origination.


It's that bit "your own role in creating these experiences" I find difficult to come to terms with at the moment. Especially, as you suggest, it is coming from the subconcious.
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fivebells ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 566 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Piers Mackeown:
It's that bit "your own role in creating these experiences" I find difficult to come to terms with at the moment. Especially, as you suggest, it is coming from the subconcious.


With the sedate swaying you mentioned in the OP, as your body reaches the furthest extent of a sway, note the intention to slow it down, to start swaying back in the other direction. Same thing as you reach the balance point: note the intention to continue the sway past the balance point.

If you can't see the intention, stop the swaying at these points, and study the internal friction this causes.
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Ian And, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 784 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Piers,

With regard to the following:
Piers Mackeown:

It's that bit "your own role in creating these experiences" I find difficult to come to terms with at the moment. Especially, as you suggest, it is coming from the subconscious.


Your reply is not unexpected. Fivebells, once again, had a good response.

To it I would only add that when you are able to begin seeing the motions (actions and interplay) of the mind more acutely in real time (meaning in the present moment, as it is occurring), will be when the subconscious becomes conscious for you. It is only SUBconscious because you are not yet able to see (be aware of) this movement as it is occurring. It slips by your notice, either because it occurred too quickly, the mind was distracted by something else, or the mind's alertness was dulled. All I can really say is be patient and diligent in your practice and things will begin to gel. Focus on developing your concentration and mindfulness. But most especially mindfulness. Those are the key components to being able to see subconscious movement as it is occurring.

There comes a point at which you begin to "hear yourself think," you suddenly become aware of the subliminal thought streaming through the mind. As fivebells says, you see the intention, which then gives you the power to change it. Even in those moments when you think you aren't paying attention, these movements are still there and able to be seen, and as your mindfulness grows and develops you will begin to see more and more of these kinds of "subconscious" movements. And then you will KNOW the role you play in creating your experience.

Piers Mackeown:

IanAnd:

"too many cooks can spoil the broth."

You are right about that. I think that until I start to develop my own insights that will often be the case. A state of uncertainty.


This reply is also par for the course. It took me a while before I began to have more confidence in my own discernment. (I was always questioning myself and observations. That was a good thing overall because it kept me humble and searching for a valid reason to trust what I was discerning. Being overly confident can be a curse in the same way that too little can be. Because with too much confidence, one can tend to jump too soon to faulty conclusions because he missed something! And then later, he learns he made a mistake.)

As you're developing that confidence in your discernment, don't forget to pay attention to your intuition as it can oftentimes play a corroborative role in getting you to trust your discernment. And use common sense. When something isn't working, mix it up, make some changes and experiment. Considered (i.e. thoughtful) changes and experimentation, that is. This seems to be what you are currently doing by looking into Daniel's MCTB.

Piers Mackeown:

What I liked about the Goenka courses (to begin with) was that his instructions are explicit and there can be no mis-interpretation as to what he is instructing. IMHO anyway. However, when it doesn't give the desired results. Expected results, after years of toiling, then you start to look around...


The impression I'm getting about Goenka (from many people who have practiced using his instruction) is that his course is structured as a kind of "one size fits all" program. Some people have had what they've decided is good success from this and are satisfied, while others have gotten to the "end of the road" and thought: "Is that all there is? I was expecting more!" I suppose it is an individual phenomenon as to which way one ends up.

His training, though, does lay a good foundation for a person like yourself who finds himself needing more in terms of individual assistance in getting over the speed bumps on the way toward a successful practice. And you've got that foundation; I can see it in your replies.

Piers Mackeown:

Did not the Buddha give varying instructions depending on the character or temperament of who he was teaching? Obviously, he had the ability to see this exceptionally well, whereas even very accomplished teachers these days (both in their meditation and teaching abilities) perhaps cannot do likewise.


It may also be that they were not trained (or did not train themselves) to be able to see these things. You have to be a very good listener to be able to develop that kind of insight. It's not that difficult; it just takes time and practice. The man who first taught me had that kind of ability. It's one of the things I focused on while I was under his tutelage. (Of course, you don't know that because you never met him, and you, for all intents and purposes, don't know me.)

Piers Mackeown:

As the old saying goes "when the pupil is ready the teacher is there". Maybe I'm just not ready yet....


There's that uncertainty again, raising its ugly head. Yet, have you stopped to consider the reverse? Perhaps you are ready, and you're just not looking in the right places? Maybe you're seeing the great and vast forest, but are missing the individual trees standing before your eyes (metaphorically speaking) right in front of you?

Piers Mackeown:

But I'll keep on plugging away in the hope that I may not need a dedicated teacher in order to cross the line (SE) or because if I wait until one comes along I might die beforehand.


If that's the only line you wish to cross, that's relatively easy. Yet it seems like an awfully low height to aspire to, when you are capable of going the total distance!

What makes you think you haven't already achieved at least stream entry? Whose definition of this have you been influenced by? Have you read any of the discourses of the Buddha? What did he have to say about this achievement as it is found in his recorded talks? As I recall, he had three criteria for becoming one of his students. And those three criteria could very easily have been translated into an undying gratitude and respect for the Dhamma that he taught, and hence, entry into the stream.

Anyone who sees the truth about not-self (or "without self" as the Pali word is literally translated) even without being continuously aware of it, who sees the frivolity of adhering to religious rites and rituals that are not aimed at making inward changes in the person, and who has developed a confidence in the Buddha and what he had to teach (letting go of doubt), could, in MHO, consider themselves to have reach entry onto the path toward the deathless. (When this occurred with me, I knew there was nothing in this world that would hold me back from completing this journey. I experienced samvega and pasada.)

The only person who can say for certain whether or not this (SE) is true for oneself is ONESELF. So, what say you? (Rhetorical question: you don't have to reply publicly. It is for you to know. Others may find out if they get to know you. It's really no one's business but one's own.)

Think about these things, and see what you come up with.

In peace,
Ian
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Piers Mackeown, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 116 Join Date: 12/7/10 Recent Posts
Thanks again for all your responses. Can't give a fuller reply at this time. Hope to soonish but on the road for a while.
@ Ian And: I notice that your replies leave me with an uneasy feeling (which can only be a good thing I might add). Something else to investigate/explore (both the feeling and the suggestions you offer).
Regards, Piers
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Fitter Stoke, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 489 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Ian And:
What makes you think you haven't already achieved at least stream entry? Whose definition of this have you been influenced by? Have you read any of the discourses of the Buddha? What did he have to say about this achievement as it is found in his recorded talks? As I recall, he had three criteria for becoming one of his students. And those three criteria could very easily have been translated into an undying gratitude and respect for the Dhamma that he taught, and hence, entry into the stream.


Ian, what do you make of this passage from the Samyutta Nikaya?

Nakhasikha Sutta:
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery. Then the Blessed One, picking up a little bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monks, "What do you think, monks? Which is greater: the little bit of dust I have picked up with the tip of my fingernail, or the great earth?"

"The great earth is far greater, lord. The little bit of dust the Blessed One has picked up with the tip of his fingernail is next to nothing. It's not a hundredth, a thousandth, a one hundred-thousandth — this little bit of dust the Blessed One has picked up with the tip of his fingernail — when compared with the great earth."

"In the same way, monks, for a disciple of the noble ones who is consummate in view, an individual who has broken through [to stream-entry], the suffering & stress that is totally ended & extinguished is far greater. That which remains in the state of having at most seven remaining lifetimes is next to nothing: it's not a hundredth, a thousandth, a one hundred-thousandth, when compared with the previous mass of suffering. That's how great the benefit is of breaking through to the Dhamma, monks. That's how great the benefit is of obtaining the Dhamma eye."


What's Gotama on to here? Is suffering so much less because now there won't be as many lives left to live? Or should one expect to feel a mountain move off one's shoulders in this life once one has entered the stream?
Matthew Horn, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 119 Join Date: 1/30/13 Recent Posts
"That which remains in the state of having at most seven remaining lifetimes is next to nothing: it's not a hundredth, a thousandth, a one hundred-thousandth, when compared with the previous mass of suffering."

Emphasis mine. The passage itself seems pretty clear: for a stream-enterer, having maximum seven fortunate rebirths left means there's much less suffering ahead than what's been suffered in innumerable past lives.
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Ian And, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

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Fitter Stoke:

Ian, what do you make of this passage from the Samyutta Nikaya?

Nakhasikha Sutta:
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery. Then the Blessed One, picking up a little bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monks, "What do you think, monks? Which is greater: the little bit of dust I have picked up with the tip of my fingernail, or the great earth?"

"The great earth is far greater, lord. The little bit of dust the Blessed One has picked up with the tip of his fingernail is next to nothing. It's not a hundredth, a thousandth, a one hundred-thousandth — this little bit of dust the Blessed One has picked up with the tip of his fingernail — when compared with the great earth."

"In the same way, monks, for a disciple of the noble ones who is consummate in view, an individual who has broken through [to stream-entry], the suffering & stress that is totally ended & extinguished is far greater. That which remains in the state of having at most seven remaining lifetimes is next to nothing: it's not a hundredth, a thousandth, a one hundred-thousandth, when compared with the previous mass of suffering. That's how great the benefit is of breaking through to the Dhamma, monks. That's how great the benefit is of obtaining the Dhamma eye."


What's Gotama on to here? Is suffering so much less because now there won't be as many lives left to live? Or should one expect to feel a mountain move off one's shoulders in this life once one has entered the stream?

Hi Fitter,

First, it would be nice if, in the future, when quoting from the Nikayas from an online version, that you provide a link to that sutta for others to explore.

Fitter: "Is suffering so much less because now there won't be as many lives left to live?" That's a bit too literal an interpretation, even for you. While it may make rational sense, it seems to neglect to take into account the obvious depth of vision and insight that Gotama had with regard to being able to see things from several different standpoints. So, I wouldn't totally rule it out. But rather would supplement it.

Fitter: "Or should one expect to feel a mountain move off one's shoulders in this life once one has entered the stream?" First, expectations can come back to bite one in the arse! This is not a good way to view things, and therefore it is a habit that one might want to seriously look into dropping.

Insight into the truth of the Dhamma itself is enough of an incentive for the beginning practitioner to encourage him to continue down a path the end of which he can see as a result of the light he has already realized. The references in the quotation to "breaking through to the Dhamma" and "obtaining the Dhamma eye" seem to point toward this interpretation more strongly, don't you think. In other words, while the aspiring practitioner may not at the moment know exactly how to go about lifting the burden from his shoulders, he does see that there is a way to do so, and is relieved to learn such. That knowledge should inspire him to move forward with his practice with a purposefulness and a sense of urgency that, perhaps, he previously did not have.

Does that adequately address your question?
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Fitter Stoke, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 489 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Ian And:
In other words, while the aspiring practitioner may not at the moment know exactly how to go about lifting the burden from his shoulders, he does see that there is a way to do so, and is relieved to learn such. That knowledge should inspire him to move forward with his practice with a purposefulness and a sense of urgency that, perhaps, he previously did not have.

Does that adequately address your question?


Yes. Thank you.
Matthew Horn, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 119 Join Date: 1/30/13 Recent Posts
Ian And:

Fitter: "Is suffering so much less because now there won't be as many lives left to live?" That's a bit too literal an interpretation, even for you. While it may make rational sense, it seems to neglect to take into account the obvious depth of vision and insight that Gotama had with regard to being able to see things from several different standpoints. So, I wouldn't totally rule it out. But rather would supplement it.


This is awesome, thanks Ian.
Tomas T Ortiz, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 12 Join Date: 3/14/13 Recent Posts
Hey Piers,

I just wanted to weigh in, here.

On the point of sitting lotus I would say YOUR INSTINCT WAS ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. Sitting lotus is not more or less holy than any other posture. It is, by and large, a cultural artifact. In fact, much of Buddhism, and every religion for that matter, is really a collection of cultural artifacts.

Anyone telling you what the Buddha did or didn't do with absolute certainty has never thought about the fact that everything we know about the Buddha was written second hand.

When it comes to meditating,I think the only kind of posture that may be truly non-conducive to practice is one which might induce sleep. Even that isn't necessarily the case as lying down is an acceptable position, though it is not easy in practice.

I promise you that sitting in a chair can only help your practice. People, and especially westerners, find sitting Indian style hard. It's EXTREMELY PAINFUL. Now a Japanese person might have a better time with this because they don't use furniture like us, but that is a different cultural context.

When you're doing Vipassana PAIN IS IMPORTANT, of course. You need to meditate on pain to understand that your pain is not YOU. You observe the pain, see it for what it is and gain insight. If you have manageable pain then observing it can be quite doable. You see it and realize that it's a just a signal that arise in the body.

Sitting in a chair will get quite painful in retreat setting as you rightfully pointed out. But it will be manageable! Sitting Indian style will not be manageable.

But if your pain is so insanely intense (the kind that comes from sitting Indian style) that your mind is glued on it, this isn't helping anyone, especially you. And I think it will hurt your practice.

That was theoretical and now let me get into personal experience. I attended a 10 day Vipassana retreat. During that retreat, everyone but myself and a 70ish year old woman chose to sit on the cushions like all those Buddha statues. What happened? I inadvertently blasted in the A&P on day 4-5, with basically no prior meditation experience. When I experience back pain. I was able to really examine it and gain concentration on it.

What happened to everyone else on this 60+ people retreat? Almost nothing. They complained the whole time about their excruciating pain. To be honest, I'd probably have done the same if I was forced to sit Lotus for 80 hours.

Also on the shaking thing, I've experienced similar. In fact, it happens all the time when I meditate. I've been told similar things. I'm attached to it. It's subconscious. It's just the wind. But I think one thing to be careful about is someone who has never experienced a phenomena telling what it is.

For me, I choose to tread lightly and be careful. But that's just my attitude.

Jeff
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Fitter Stoke, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Violent shaking & other stuff. Advice/Guidance Sought Please.

Posts: 489 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Piers Mackeown:
When I went to MBMC, for just a week, the current abbot - Sayadaw U Pannananda - who is very strict and has a very different teaching style to what I'd experienced at BHL took a dim view of using chairs. He told me that if the mind is strong you will be able to overcome all kinds of difficulties. If it is weak it will lead you astray. He was also telling me that I should aim to sit on just one cushion at most (I was using two). He then went on to talk about how the Buddha would just sit in the forest without any cushion at all.


Just wanted to jump in here and say that if the Buddha was sitting without the aid of a cushion or a log to elevate his pelvis, he was assuredly sitting in a full lotus position, as anything short of this would be unable to support his spine for long periods of time.

This isn't a question of mind over matter. It's physiology and mechanics. If you don't have the ability to sit full lotus - and most westerners, accustomed as they are to sitting in chairs from a young age, just do not have the range of motion in their hips to sit full lotus - you have to elevate the pelvis with either a cushion or a log or a stack of books to put the spine into a stable position. Otherwise you're going to have to squeeze the shit out of your lumbar spine, which is unsustainable for more than a few minutes.

I know about this, because sitting is something I've struggled with for awhile now. It's not as easy as stretching more or just challenging yourself to sit for longer periods. Most of us have really short hip flexors from sitting in chairs so much, and if you want to avoid doing damage to yourself, it's worth being gentle and not taking experiments too far. Emphasizing good posture is understandable; being a posture Nazi is not.

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