RE: What to do with unpleasant sensations during practice. DN?

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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: What to do with unpleasant sensations during practice. DN?

Posts: 1635 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
This doesn't sound like the dark night. It sounds like you're having too many ideas about what you want to get out of meditation while you're actually meditating.

I would practice relaxing all the of the muscles you can on your body at the beginning of the meditation. This will help the mind to relax. When the mind is agitated the body will tense and when that happens again just keep relaxing it. Try not to hyperventilate or manipulate the breath in any way. You want to watch the breath for it's own sake. No goals except to have one pointedness and sustaining. Don't furrow your brow or manipulate the muscles into tension. Just nonchalantly bring the mind back to the object when it wanders. Having an aversion to the mind wandering is something you need to let go of.

The experience you had 6 years before was probably access concentration or the 1st jhana.

The dark night is when you have dispassion towards zeal for the things you're attracted to. You get disenchanted because you see the stress hormones released when what you want can't be permanently attained and permanently satisfying. The brain is conditioned by what it does most often and if modern people like to day-dream about shopping, alcohol, drugs, arguments, revenge, etc then it will repeatedly do this until you interrupt it and decondition it. Concentration states are temporary relief.

Also before the dark night is a period called the A & P when you start noticing the vibrations in your senses and the 3 characteristics. This comes not from one-pointed concentration but a mindfulness practice that can include any experience. Noting is a good way to trigger this when you're beginning. This is often pleasant and explosive with energy. The disenchantment happens when the unpleasant aspects of the 3 characteristics are now apparent.

Make sense?
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: What to do with unpleasant sensations during practice. DN?

Posts: 1635 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Some of that sounds like the dark night but the only way through that is to equanimity with more practice. You'll know this when the mind is very quiet and can handle irritating sensations and reactions with ease and tranquility. If you feel noting is hard then try and continue noting so you get better at it. Then include word labels for the 4 foundations of mindfulness so that more is included in the noting.

You can note "doubt" and "confusion" as well. If you don't know what to note then note "confusion". The noting is not supposed to go as fast as the experience. The noting is a feedback loop to remind you to keep with the experience. You can do a Shikantaza practice and stay with bare awareness if you want and go back and forth between the two. The goal is to include more experiences as sensations which should not be ruminated on. Rumination causes the mental stress. Even the intention to pay attention has a sensation. Just intending to pay attention can have an aversion to it by trying to force the attention in a particular angle. You can feel it in the head.

Here's some noting tips and how to avoid certain traps:

Gil Fronsdal - Noting

I would recommend getting into the 7 factors of awakening and learn to balance out your energy. More concentration and tranquility when agitated and in anger. More investigation of experience and abandoning of irritating thoughts when sluggish.

It's important to zero in on the thinking and to treat it as the sensations they are and not a self. Thinking is just thinking. Notice how effortlessly the knowing part of your mind (consciousness/awareness) senses thinking. The chemicals released from thinking cause craving or aversion depending on the thinking which in turn cause clinging (which is elaborating on why you like or dislike a perception) and then action occurs.

Sometimes just emptying your mind of as many thoughts as you can and just staying perceptionless (not reacting to differences in experience, including thoughts), can teach you how perception feels and how it works. The brain wants to take sense data, memories, thoughts and create objects out of them and then decide "is this good or bad for me?"

Perception = "This sucks!" Clinging = "This sucks because, because, because..." ad infinitum. As you relinquish the clinging habit over time it becomes weaker and then the perception reacts less and then consciousness weakens. In daily life you probably won't get that far but you can weaken the reactivity perception has on you and reduce the stress.
Gerry V, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: What to do with unpleasant sensations during practice. DN?

Posts: 131 Join Date: 3/19/14 Recent Posts
Thank you so much for this. It took me a few days to digest what you said in the post.

I was having a really tough day that day and I was just embarassed of my post for some reason and deleted them shorly after.

I really like the advice on the choiceless awareness. I've been practicing that whenever my mind is too agitated instead of concentrating on the breath and just letting whatever pops up be noticed with bare attention. I think personally, I'm not sure how it is for others, but whenever I'm agitated and do breathing concentration I can't help but control the breath. It's like my breath wants to stay at the out portion of itself, but I get scared that I'll pass out or something else if I just let it hang there and I tend to breathe in manually, I'm not sure if that's normal with others, but it happens to me. Choiceless awareness has been a great alternative to concentration for sure.

I'm not sure what the 4 foundations of mindfulness are, but I'll research that along with the 7 factors of enlightenment tonight after schoolwork.

I've also started noting when things get foggy, and it's a hard transition compared to just bare attention to sensation, but I am incorporating it more often in my sits.

Anywho, I appreciate your advice. Thank you emoticon
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: What to do with unpleasant sensations during practice. DN?

Posts: 1635 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Gerry V:
Anywho, I appreciate your advice. Thank you emoticon


No problem. Just keep practicing with subtlety, relaxation, enjoyment, and relief of stormy perceptions and thoughts. Make the mind like a quiet place to relax in and then take that with you where you go.

Boy what happened to the beginning part of the thread? LOL!
Gerry V, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: What to do with unpleasant sensations during practice. DN?

Posts: 131 Join Date: 3/19/14 Recent Posts
LOL. Idk man, I just got really embarrassed for some reason for the way I came across. I was in a state of panic at the moment of writing it and I felt I didn't articulate what I was trying to say well, so I deleted it. Wish I could take it back but oh well, I'm learning. Lol

Also, I've been noting more often, and at a faster rate. I note any physical sensation as "sensation" or if it's pulsing I'll say pulse, or if it's pain I'll say pain. I've also noticed that I can actually note thoughts of intention, and investigation and curiosity, as well as worry and fear, and I note them accordingly.

I researched a bit on the 4 foundations of mindfulness and the 7 factors of enlightenment and I have a question on the 4 foundations of mindfulness. I think I understand what the mindfulness of body is, I think I understand the mindfulness of feelings which are basically sensations in the body, I think I understand the mindfulness of mind, which I think is thoughts, intentions, curiosity, fear, anger. I'm curious as to what the mindfulness of mental phenomena entails. Correct me if I'm wrong in any of these foundations, I feel like a complete noob, but I'm curious to know if these things will become more apparent as my practice gets better?

And as for practice length, do you recommend multiple shorter sessions throughout the day, or longer sessions for less frequency? I feel as if shorter sessions multiple times a day seems to be better, but my sessions are starting to increase in time so I'm curious if that might be better for progress. I also try and note when I can throughout daily life, although I'm not sure if that's going to help progress or just sort of ingrain the habit of noting.
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: What to do with unpleasant sensations during practice. DN?

Posts: 1635 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Gerry V:
LOL. Idk man, I just got really embarrassed for some reason for the way I came across. I was in a state of panic at the moment of writing it and I felt I didn't articulate what I was trying to say well, so I deleted it. Wish I could take it back but oh well, I'm learning. Lol

Also, I've been noting more often, and at a faster rate. I note any physical sensation as "sensation" or if it's pulsing I'll say pulse, or if it's pain I'll say pain. I've also noticed that I can actually note thoughts of intention, and investigation and curiosity, as well as worry and fear, and I note them accordingly.

I researched a bit on the 4 foundations of mindfulness and the 7 factors of enlightenment and I have a question on the 4 foundations of mindfulness. I think I understand what the mindfulness of body is, I think I understand the mindfulness of feelings which are basically sensations in the body, I think I understand the mindfulness of mind, which I think is thoughts, intentions, curiosity, fear, anger. I'm curious as to what the mindfulness of mental phenomena entails. Correct me if I'm wrong in any of these foundations, I feel like a complete noob, but I'm curious to know if these things will become more apparent as my practice gets better?

And as for practice length, do you recommend multiple shorter sessions throughout the day, or longer sessions for less frequency? I feel as if shorter sessions multiple times a day seems to be better, but my sessions are starting to increase in time so I'm curious if that might be better for progress. I also try and note when I can throughout daily life, although I'm not sure if that's going to help progress or just sort of ingrain the habit of noting.


The last foundation has to do with hindrances and the fetters.

5 hindrances:

Sensory desire (kāmacchanda): the particular type of wanting that seeks for happiness through the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and physical feeling.
Ill-will (vyāpāda; also spelled byāpāda): all kinds of thought related to wanting to reject, feelings of hostility, resentment, hatred and bitterness.
Sloth-torpor (thīna-middha): heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression.
Restlessness-worry (uddhacca-kukkucca): the inability to calm the mind.
Doubt (vicikicchā): lack of conviction or trust.


The above are where the mind gets stuck in ruminations. Are you aware "I am caught in ___________ hindrance". You would let go of the thoughts that built up to it.

5 aggregates:

Matter
Feelings
Perceptions
Volitional Formations
Consciousness

I would recommend reading The 4 foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English as a beginner book and then read Analayo's two books to get more depth and answers. The last foundation includes a lot. Volitional Formations are complicated because they can be translated differently. You want to study dependent arising to get that. I personally look at volitional formations as intentions and actions that condition habits (kamma).

Fetters:

sensual lust (Pali: kāma-rāga)
anger (paṭigha)
conceit (māna)
views (diṭṭhi)
doubt (vicikicchā)
attachment to rites and rituals (sīlabbata-parāmāsa)
lust for existence (bhava-rāga)
jealousy (issā)
greed (macchariya)
ignorance (avijjā).


You want to be aware of the fetters and relinquish the thoughts related to them.

Basically don't cling/ruminate about things and there will be less stress.

For practice I would note throughout the day and develop concentration at work (where you simply just be with the work and relinquish mental distraction over and over again), and have long sittings if you can. Longer sittings can yield more concentration and clarity to see insight into how stress occurs. Noting throughout the day will help you keep clinging and reacting at bay during real life which is a better experience than being secluded on a retreat.

Remember the reading is just a reminder of what you're looking for in the practice but will not replace the practice. Keeping in mind the 7 factors of awakening while you're investigating "dhammas" will keep you from getting to bogged down in details of the 52 volitional formations etc. emoticon With energy especially you're constantly interrupting useless thought trains and ruminations and recovering from their effects. You develop tranquillity if you're angry by letting go of the train of thought and following the breath. You develop investigation and mindfulness and joy to release you from "tiredness" and balancing the canoe is how I look at how the 7 factors of awakening are like. Abandoning old thinking patterns is like deconditioning those old habits and you can then recondition what you want to develop.

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