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"stuff" vs. "practice"

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"stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/17/14 4:41 PM
Alright Dharma Dan, I've got some shit I want to challenge you on.

                An oft repeated point in your book is about the clear delineation between content and direct experience.  That is, what we think about our experience really has nothing to do with our experience of our experience, and no amount of rumination on the content will take us beyond the world of "this and that."  While the essence of this point should not be lost, something about the way you drive it home rubs me the wrong way. 

                To quote from your book, "It takes about two seconds of someone asking a meditation teacher for advice on their emotional stuff for the teacher to realize that this person is interested in working on conventional happiness and is not interested in learning insight practices."

                This reeks of a kind of arrogance and dismissal of people's experience.  That somehow if they are not expressing their experience in the framework that you consider to be "real practice," then they aren’t serious or don't have a vow for awakening. I want to stress how destructive it feels to me to make such judgments about people and their practice, it introduces a kind of shame and fear into practice and subtly undermines the natural connection and movement towards practice.
 
                Additionally, such a view contradicts the deeper understanding brought forth later in your discussion of the importance of investigating the question, “why am I doing all this?” and that “the core motivation for all of this never changes.”  It seems to view the content of a person’s life as existing in opposition to awakening, rather than allowing it to be a dharma gate. 
 
Imagine the scene: a student comes in to interview with a teacher and says, “I keep stressing out and thinking about something that happened with my girlfriend.  She told me that I need to be clear about why I am in this relationship and what I really want from it.”  The teacher thinks to him/herself “Ugh, this person really isn’t interested in awakening” and basically tells the person to drop it and start doing “real” practice.  I will almost guarantee that this student will leave the interaction with some subtle sense that something was “off,” that they weren’t really met right where they were at (though I doubt many people would be clear about this feeling, especially if it meant that their “enlightened teacher” was not seeing clearly).  It seems to me that any teacher who actually deserves to be called a teacher would see the huge dharma potential in such a question and help the student connect with the koan that is begging to be brought out by this particular predicament. 
 
Okay, all this said, I understand that you have seen many students of dharma potential caught in the noise of their mind, thinking that was practice, and do retreat after retreat to no avail.  My experience, however, has been of seeing (and experiencing) students become ruled by “shoulds” about their practice, losing trust in their own wisdom and genuine vow for awakening, having practice become associated with fear and shame, of teachers undermining the connection to practice and one’s internal compass, rather than supporting it.

Looking forward to your and other’s wisdom,

G-boss

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/17/14 7:53 PM as a reply to Garrett E.
I appreciate the spirit of your post and would like to offer my thoughts (content) to the discussion emoticon.  I think that you and Dan make some good points and each of them has validity and neither are the entire story.  That is the rub with thoughts and content, they have validity, but they are not the entire story. They are symbols or metaphor of reality, as apposed to directly experiencing reality itself. That does not mean they don't have value in dharma practice but in my experience they are easy to get lost in and distract from practice.  The concept of a tree doesn't grasp the sensate experience of a tree.  It is symbolic and useful for communication but Its not going to help me penetrate the three characteristics of the sensate experience of a tree by investigating the symbol/thought/concept/metaphor of a tree, although as you pointed out maybe it will if Koan practice is used.  So, you like the stories and fantasies, huh? Me too emoticon

metta,

Drew

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/17/14 10:43 PM as a reply to Garrett E.
There are any number of ways to go about massaging your "stuff," and no end to the amount of people that'll humour you in doing so. Want to probe your stuff? Try therapy. Want to hone your stuff? Check out some self-help books. Want to escape your stuff? Drugs, alcohol, and videogames are reliable enough.

The problem with "meeting people where they're at" is that sometimes they're just in the wrong place altogether. Which -- if they're approaching insight meditation from the perspective of wanting to endlessly fondle and rearrange their content -- they certainly are. Compassion ain't always kind, but at least MCTB has the decency to rip the band-aid off quickly.

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/17/14 11:51 PM as a reply to Garrett E.
Wouldn't it strike you as odd when you would tell your math teacher that you can't do the equations, because you're stressed because your girlfriend had an issue with you? Would you consider it strange if he/she graded your math test because of that story? Maybe you could't try the test when you feel a bit better..

When training something, you should train. Doesn't seen that strange to me.So you want to meditate?  follow the instructions.. Thinking about your girl? try again.. Thinking about stuff. Ok take a breath and try again..

Want to solve the stuff between you and your girlfriend? stop meditation now and talk to her...
when settled and still want to meditate? take a breath and follow the instruction.

WIth Love
Eelco

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/18/14 1:12 AM as a reply to Garrett E.
Garrett E:
My experience, however, has been of seeing (and experiencing)
students become ruled by “shoulds” about their practice,
losing trust in their own wisdom
and genuine vow for awakening,
having practice become associated with fear and shame,
of teachers undermining the connection to practice
and one’s internal compass, rather than supporting it.
Could you perhaps explain what you mean by these things and offer solutions to these perceived problems?
Thanks,
~D

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/18/14 10:21 AM as a reply to Garrett E.
 To quote from your book, "It takes about two seconds of someone asking a meditation teacher for advice on their emotional stuff for the teacher to realize that this person is interested in working on conventional happiness and is not interested in learning insight practices."

                This reeks of a kind of arrogance and dismissal of people's experience.  That somehow if they are not expressing their experience in the framework that you consider to be "real practice," then they aren’t serious or don't have a vow for awakening. I want to stress how destructive it feels to me to make such judgments about people and their practice, it introduces a kind of shame and fear into practice and subtly undermines the natural connection and movement towards practice.  

This reminds of a joke.

A polish guy enters a store and asks the guy behind the counter, if he's got some Polish bread, some polish sausage and maybe some of that great polish fermented cabbage...

The guy says..lemme guess, you're polish right?  Yeah! How'd ya know?

Because this is an auto parts store.

...

Ok a bad joke, but the point is that a meditation teacher teaches meditation and a group therapy session sings Kumbaya.

meant with good intentions especially to you polish friends out there.

tom

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/18/14 2:36 PM as a reply to Garrett E.

Imagine the scene: a student comes in to interview with a teacher and says, “I keep stressing out and thinking about something that happened with my girlfriend.  She told me that I need to be clear about why I am in this relationship and what I really want from it.”  The teacher thinks to him/herself “Ugh, this person really isn’t interested in awakening” and basically tells the person to drop it and start doing “real” practice.  I will almost guarantee that this student will leave the interaction with some subtle sense that something was “off,” that they weren’t really met right where they were at (though I doubt many people would be clear about this feeling, especially if it meant that their “enlightened teacher” was not seeing clearly).  It seems to me that any teacher who actually deserves to be called a teacher would see the huge dharma potential in such a question and help the student connect with the koan that is begging to be brought out by this particular predicament.  


Or s.th. even more practical, like this: "Just note 'girlfriend, girlfriend', then she will be gone soon enough"

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/18/14 7:36 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:
Or s.th. even more practical, like this: "Just note 'girlfriend, girlfriend', then she will be gone soon enough"

Heheh... hope you meant that to be as funny as it is...

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/18/14 11:29 PM as a reply to John Wilde.
John Wilde:
bernd the broter:
Or s.th. even more practical, like this: "Just note 'girlfriend, girlfriend', then she will be gone soon enough"

Heheh... hope you meant that to be as funny as it is...


RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/19/14 7:55 AM as a reply to Garrett E.
I like your example Garrett.

For me, the whole stuff/practice distinction is entirely a pragmatic pointer to help folks stop ruminating and chewing things over, for shifting the focus from 'content' to the nature of how content presences.

But there seems to be a natural stage in there where one effects that shift and suddenly one is fascinated by the presencing of experience and tunes out the content.

Mature practice, integration, is for me about seeing content presencing so to speak, without distinguishing between contents (whether ordinary or far out) and their open, impermanent presencing. At this point I have found that further progress really depends on being able to encounter all the stuff of ones life, particularly the stuff that really pushes my buttons, and learning to see it clearly, to disentangle these knotted aspects of my psyche. And this work can't happen in the stage when one is focused on the presencing to the exclusion of the content; that stage is going to be naturally prone to spiritually bypassing. But the point of integration work is to extend and deepen the region of clarity in everyday life. To bring that into relationships and the full human experience.

Also, for me, those 'three stages' of being obsessed by content, then by empty impermanent presencing, and then learning to be truly free in a grounded connected way are very fractally. It doesn't have to be a linear thing at all. In fact I'd say I've been doing all three of those things since before stream entry so....

Also, I love the notion that experience itself and the situations of life we find ourselves in can be koan-like. That's so true. That's a wonderful gate for entering into awakeness. It reminds me of Dogen's 'Genjokoan' which if I remember correctly is pointing to life-as-koan. Folks who are really working hard at seeing all phenomena as empty impermanent presencing aren't going to grok what you are saying any more than folks who are obsessed with content are going to get MCTB though emoticon

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/20/14 2:35 AM as a reply to Garrett E.
Dear Garrett,

I am not trying to be dismissive or arrogant or make needless judgements, but I am trying to delineate insight practice from other things, such as psychotherapy, and MCTB goes to great lengths to make this point.

If the instructions of insight practice were something like, "Make a mental note about each category of sensations as they arise, such as feeling, thinking, seeing, hearing, etc.", and something took that to mean, "Spend your time on the cusion worried about your girlfriend", then there is something to be said for helping people try to see how those instructions are different. Do you see the difference?

It is reasonable to try to get people to follow the instructions and to understand them. Further, that perhaps 80-90% of Westerners on most "insight" meditation retreats actually can't hear and follow instructions as simple as, "Notice the sensations that make up experience arise and vanish regardless of what they are," or, "Make a quiet, simple mental note about sensations as they arise", would seem to warrant something compensatory for such a truly extraordinary situation, particularly that these are people who often had managed to follow other simple instructions in order to get the jobs that got them their Priuses and organic vegetables.

The fear and shame are also unique aspects of Western culture, things that MCTB goes out of its way to try to counter, such as by saying not to beat yourself up about things, not to be hard on yourself, but instead try to follow basic instructions and make it fun and very interesting.

I make no apologies at all for trying to clarify these essential practice points.

As someone mentioned in the analogy about learning math which also appears in MCTB: how well would this fly in any other type of class? Imagine if I was studying guitar and the teacher told me to practice a C Major scale and instead I said that I spent the time worrying about my girlfriend,

or if I was studying automechanics and the teacher said to disassemble the front end of the car and instead I spent the time worrying about my girlfriend,

or if I was trying to learn how to do karate and instead of doing my kata I spent the time standing there in the dojo worrying about my girlfriend,

or if I was trying to learn how to sail a boat and instead spent the time sitting on the shore worrying about my girlfriend:

in each case, you would be forced to come to the conclusion that the I had something pretty wrong with me, in that I either couldn't follow simple instructions, or I didn't care about the topic and only came there to worry about my girlfriend, or some combination of both, but regardless you might consider me to be a pretty terrible student and profoundly distracted and, in fact, nearly incapacitated by my worrying about my girlfriend.

This is the same.

By pointing out that people spend entire retreats not following very simple instructions and being basically incapacitated by their neurotic preoccupations, I am not doing anything stranger than that.

This is a skill. There are very simple instructions. You practice by following those caveman-simple instructions. If you are so wrapped up in something else that you can't do that, you probably should seek some sort of help for your degree of dysfunction. It is that simple.

That we as a culture have so many people who are so profoundly preoccupied with our neurotic crap that we can't follow the very basic instructions of insight practices is really sad and scary, but that doesn't change the basic points made above.

Why would you try to rationalize that people who come to a class and don't even follow the basic instructions aren't doing something wrong? It is a strange thing to think. Would you think it about any other situation, such as those above?

Imagine if every day you told your teachers in school, "I am sorry, I can't pay any attention to anything you say, can't do the lessons you assign to me, can't answer questions about the lesson plan, can't do my homework, and can't be expected to take the tests, as I am so worried about my girlfriend." Do you see how totally dysfunctional that is? It is the same with vipassana practice, just like all those other totally ordinary learning situations.

This is not arrogance. This is simple common sense, common sense that applies to basically any other class you would take to learn any other teachable skill.

What is so hard to understand about this?

Daniel

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
6/20/14 1:40 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks for the thoughtful responses everyone.  I'm about to head out to sesshin, so I won't have the chance to offer any reply for another week.

Garrett

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
11/19/14 9:49 PM as a reply to Garrett E.
Life IS Dharma. 

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
11/19/14 10:50 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
This thread is interesting, so I'll respond even though it's old. emoticon

The Math class analogy is a false comparison.  People go to Math class to study math.  People meditate to get rid of stress.  If a person is stressing out about their girlfriend, then that's perfectly relevant.  At the very least, the teacher should be able to explain how these caveman simple instructions will eventually fix this girlfriend preoccupation.

Maybe the problem is that the method doesn't actually get rid of stress, it just does something else that most people don't really care about.

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
11/20/14 9:15 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:

As someone mentioned in the analogy about learning math which also appears in MCTB: how well would this fly in any other type of class? Imagine if I was studying guitar and the teacher told me to practice a C Major scale and instead I said that I spent the time worrying about my girlfriend,

or if I was studying automechanics and the teacher said to disassemble the front end of the car and instead I spent the time worrying about my girlfriend,

or if I was trying to learn how to do karate and instead of doing my kata I spent the time standing there in the dojo worrying about my girlfriend,

or if I was trying to learn how to sail a boat and instead spent the time sitting on the shore worrying about my girlfriend:

in each case, you would be forced to come to the conclusion that the I had something pretty wrong with me, in that I either couldn't follow simple instructions, or I didn't care about the topic and only came there to worry about my girlfriend, or some combination of both, but regardless you might consider me to be a pretty terrible student and profoundly distracted and, in fact, nearly incapacitated by my worrying about my girlfriend.

LOL! I shouldn't be laughing because this is how unenlightened people are but it is funny. I think the reason meditation is different is that it's supposed to deal with our neurotic stuff but our habit of manipulation and repression is being triggered so learning meditation is more difficult than karate because we aren't looking outward anymore. Meditation is subtle and everything about concept is that reading is the same as doing (which it isn't) and if we are meditating we are doing it well or badly which triggers neurotic crap about how we aren't good at meditating yada, yada, yada...

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
12/7/14 9:04 AM as a reply to Garrett E.
Found this older thread and decided there is something I can add. 

A year ago my mother was diagnosed with an illness that required her to move to assisted living. She did not want to do this. I was in the position of having to make decisions for her, and be on the receiving end of her rage. I'll spare the details, except to say that I went into a grief spiral, and my practice took a nosedive. I logged in about it and talked about it with my teacher. I received two significant bits of advice that were directly relevant to my crisis and to my practice. The first was to notice the stories, and turn them off. The stories were something along the line of "If only I had been more attentive," and then the opposite story, "why is she doing this to me? I've been a good daughter, I don't deserve this." Either line of thinking would prompt renewed tears and grief, which then prompted further repetitions of stories. 

The other advice was to notice what was going on in the body. What I noticed was a hole punched into the center of my chest. I could hardly breathe. And then the insight: so this is what grief feels like. We're not talking of the minute instantaneous insight of vipassana practice, but an insight nonetheless. 

I think we need to distinguish between emotions and neurotic crap. The stories are neurotic crap. They lead nowhere and give no insight, other than the perpetuation of a focus on oneself. But grief is an emotion. It is our response to a significant loss. The stories, painful as they are, are a way to cushion oneself from the depth of that feeling and that loss by focusing on the self. Once I confronted grief in its rawness, I went through it. So if I were a teacher and a student came to me with ruminations about his girlfriend, I would give him both kinds of advice: notice the stories, and notice the sensations in the body. 

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
12/7/14 9:38 AM as a reply to Garrett E.
Garrett E:
      Imagine the scene: a student comes in to interview with a teacher and says, “I keep stressing out and thinking about something that happened with my girlfriend.  She told me that I need to be clear about why I am in this relationship and what I really want from it.”  The teacher thinks to him/herself “Ugh, this person really isn’t interested in awakening” and basically tells the person to drop it and start doing “real” practice.  I will almost guarantee that this student will leave the interaction with some subtle sense that something was “off,” that they weren’t really met right where they were at (though I doubt many people would be clear about this feeling, especially if it meant that their “enlightened teacher” was not seeing clearly).  It seems to me that any teacher who actually deserves to be called a teacher would see the huge dharma potential in such a question and help the student connect with the koan that is begging to be broughtout by this particular predicament.
If the teacher were teaching vipassana, they would not "basically tell the person to drop it and start doing 'real' practice."  This is obviously too aggressive and unproductive for the practice.  The teacher would say something like, "You are getting wrapped up in concepts.  You want to focus on bare sensations.  If an image of your girlfriend pops into your head, note "thought".  If an image of your girfriend pops into your head and is accompanined by a feeling tone, note "pleasant," "unpleasant," or "neutral."  If you have a feeling of weight or constriction, note it.  If you are shaking because of anger or sadness, note "shaking." If tears role down your face, note how it feels, for instance "cold" or "wet." If the tears go into your mouth, note how it tastes, for instance, "salty."  This process follows the vipassana method, whereas sitting and just thinking about the girlfriend, ruminating about the girlfriend, fantasizing about the girlfriend, being lost in content, does not.  Do you note the difference?       

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
12/7/14 2:35 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Hey Alan, I think you did a very good job describing the difference... This isn't directly linked to what you posted, but it made me think about it: do you think that there is some value to noticing the conglomerated content in the same way that one notices "bare sensations"?

It seems to me from my practice that no matter how much I focus on "salty, cold, wet" I am always going to be peripherally aware of "I am crying." And to the extent that I exclude "I am crying" and focus on "salty, cold, wet" I am perpetuating dissociation and aversion.

It seems like being aware of "I am crying, I am sad" with the wisdom to know that it's impermanent and it isn't my fault may lead to something more powerful than being aware of salty cold wet. Maybe this is a matter of two different axes of development though. Sometimes I wonder if MCTB style practice can lean too far towards breaking things down to bare sensation... because noticing the impermanence and not-self-ness and instability of the conglomerations themselves can lead to its own insight. The 'conglmorated' phenomena like "my girlfriend" and "me being an emotional wreck" usually have more emotional weight to them and noticing the 3 Cs in their components doesn't alleviate the emotional weight of the conglomerations themselves.

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
12/7/14 5:24 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
Hey Alan, I think you did a very good job describing the difference... This isn't directly linked to what you posted, but it made me think about it: do you think that there is some value to noticing the conglomerated content in the same way that one notices "bare sensations"?

It seems to me from my practice that no matter how much I focus on "salty, cold, wet" I am always going to be peripherally aware of "I am crying." And to the extent that I exclude "I am crying" and focus on "salty, cold, wet" I am perpetuating dissociation and aversion.

It seems like being aware of "I am crying, I am sad" with the wisdom to know that it's impermanent and it isn't my fault may lead to something more powerful than being aware of salty cold wet. Maybe this is a matter of two different axes of development though. Sometimes I wonder if MCTB style practice can lean too far towards breaking things down to bare sensation... because noticing the impermanence and not-self-ness and instability of the conglomerations themselves can lead to its own insight. The 'conglmorated' phenomena like "my girlfriend" and "me being an emotional wreck" usually have more emotional weight to them and noticing the 3 Cs in their components doesn't alleviate the emotional weight of the conglomerations themselves.
Well, there are a fair number of vipassana practioners I've encountered who practice something called Four-Foundations noting.  This comes from the Satipatthana Sutta, I believe.  It is also a style I practice.  But admittedly, when I practice, I switch between scanning, tapping-style noting, Four-Foundations noting, shinkantaza "mindfulness", and anapana nostril breath stuff. 

So, in this, you notice -- focus on a phenomenon intently (but gently!), until it vanishes -- and label it -- think or say a word or phrase that describes what you are noticing.

You note (or label) body sensations, feeling tones, mind-states, and objects of mind .  Now, everyone does this differently, and perhaps even defines the Four-Foundations a bit differently, but this is where I'm at.

Here are some examples of the types of things I'd include under the catergories.  As you can see, if you have a thought about your girlfriend, you can note it as memory, fantasy, judging, narrativizing, dream, planning, etc.  Then, you can note an emotional state, such as craving, sadness, aversion, guilt, etc.  

Some people will try to note all four.  For instance, "fantasy, guilt, tightness, unpleasant."  You realize that you'd been fantasizing about your relationship, so you note that.  You realize that the fantasy is floating in a sea of guilt, so you note that.  You realize that you have a tightness in your jaw, so you note that.  You realize that the tightness is indicative of badness, so you note the feeling tone as unpleasant.

It has been stated that it is okay to have a thought, as long as you "note" it, and don't get "lost" in the content.   

Sensations
Ears: hearing, listening
Nose: smelling
Taste: tasting
Eyes: seeing, observing, light, dark, color , flickering, pulsing
Touch: pressure, contraction, tightness, release, warmth, cold, dry, wet, itch, pinch, tingling, throbbing, crawling, twitch, vibration, pulsation, “sensation”
 
Feeling Tones:
pleasant
unpleasant
neutral

Mind-States [aka emotions]:
happy
calm
equanimous
spacious
dukkha
dull
sleep
anxious
startled
noticing
craving
averse


Objects of Mind [aka thoughts]:
theorizing
narrativising
speculating
questioning
judging
planning
fantasizing
memory
image
dream
anticipating
intending
dukkha
chattering

 

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
12/7/14 5:27 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I've been told that it really doesn't matter if you note fast or slow, detailed [Four Foundations] or non-detailed , silent or verbal, as long as you are noting, staying present moment aware, and not getting "lost" in content.  

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
12/7/14 7:40 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Jake:
For me, the whole stuff/practice distinction is entirely a pragmatic pointer to help folks stop ruminating and chewing things over, for shifting the focus from 'content' to the nature of how content presences. 

But there seems to be a natural stage in there where one effects that shift and suddenly one is fascinated by the presencing of experience and tunes out the content. 

Mature practice, integration, is for me about seeing content presencing so to speak, without distinguishing between contents (whether ordinary or far out) and their open, impermanent presencing. . . .  And this work can't happen in the stage when one is focused on the presencing to the exclusion of the content; that stage is going to be naturally prone to spiritually bypassing.

I agree with Jake here: The extent to which looking at content can be helpful or unhelpful seems to depend on where one is, how experienced already with insight meditation.

Jake:
Also, for me, those 'three stages' of being obsessed by content, then by empty impermanent presencing, and then learning to be truly free in a grounded connected way are very fractally. It doesn't have to be a linear thing at all. In fact I'd say I've been doing all three of those things since before stream entry so.... 

I also agree with this statement, perhaps even more so than the first since I'm nowhere near an integration stage metalevel-wise. There are actually minor shifts within major shifts, after all. It is often interesting and productive, I find, to take difficult emotional states and the therefore attendent avoidance of, or recoiling from, them head on--and not even by seeing them break down into vibrations, pulses, or phenomena empty of inherent existence, but just as they are--ugly, shameful, embarrassing, whatever. I guess this being fully present to content would be working with suffering as such.

The difference between this, however, and merely self-indulgent and habitual contraction into story-based emotional defenses and self-protection is precisely what I think MCTB is addressing (and what MCTB2 even more subtly addresses). As Laurel says, it is important to notice the stories and even to lean into them rather then merely emeshing with them to project their self-defensive shadow sides.

There was a certain nun at the Tibetan center I used to attend. I loved her because she was mean as hell, lol! I could get about a sentence and a half of one of my content story-excuses out, and she would cut me off, with "That's a story. Drop that story. Right now. I mean it!" She was a great teacher, and really kind at the bedrock bottom of her harshness. I miss her, come to think of it.

RE: "stuff" vs. "practice"
Answer
12/7/14 9:40 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Hi,

I used to use the Mahasi noting technique. With the Mahasi noting technique, I always ended up in thinking "there, I noticed something, what was that? Was it a tickle? No, more like an itch"... etc. The problem is that the technique gives you no systematic guidance into what the notes should be. So in a way, the notes tend to inject a kind of hidden content into the practice because you need to identify what you are sensing. You can of course be more general but there is no systematic guidance given as to how to do it.

Now, I use Shinzen Young's Basic Mindfulness technique. With Basic Mindfulness, you have the following:

1) Three sensory modes: seeing, hearing, feeling
2) Two directions: in, out
3) Three temporal durations: singleton, flow, and gone (when something disappears)

So it's relatively easy to do a note without injecting any content. You just have to locate the sensation on the three different axes. Some people get confused by "Feel Out" being any bodily sensation while "Feel In" is an emotional sensation and there are a couple other subtilties but in general, I find it much simpler to do noting with Basic Mindfulness than with other techniques I've tried.