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Notes on noting

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Notes on noting
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7/29/14 4:25 AM
Thought I'd start a practice log to aid in motivation and understanding.

Practice will be Mahasi style noting, seated and walking plus informal times during day.

28/07 Day 1

Sitting for 35 mins:

started observing rising and falling of abdomen, then expanded out.  This felt more clumsy than it sounds.  I used too many different words and spent too long thinking of accurate terminology, but hit a nice stride towards the end.

Observations:
-random images/memories pop into the mind seemingly unbidded, and will trigger a stream of feelings and accompanying thoughts.  
-the mind likes to control experience and organise it neatly.
analysis and judging is almost constant


29/07  Day 2

walking 5 mins
sitting 40 mins

informal practice during morning.

Fewer words, more emphasis on attending to experience.  

Observations:
-labelling thoughts is an effective way of defusing them, (obvious).  I became a content observer for periods as opposed to someone trying to control their inner dialogue.
-judging of experience, (including judging of others) has an implied self-reference point.  It is a comparison between perceived self and something external.  It is motivated often by fear, anxiety or the need for validation and security.  

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
7/30/14 1:29 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
30/07

35 mins sitting

vocab getting better - fewer words makes for better emphasis on  actually observing.

sounds-sensations-thinking-feeling-urge-judging were main ones.



Agin it is noted that images can appear from the slightest - at times imperceptible - triggers, and along with them will be an associated stream of thoughts, feelings and urges.  The interplay between conditions is apparent.

Informal noting throughout the day yesterday brought into focus how most experiences contain some kind of judgement and comparison between events or people as they are and an undeveloped sense of disatisfaction or disapproval.  How things are vs how things 'should be'.  The essence of grasping.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
7/31/14 1:17 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
31/07

5 mins walking
40 mins sitting


sensations and sounds dominated first part, then sleepiness, which brought with it random thinking streams and strange urges and sensations.  Livened up a bit towards the end, and sensations and feelings became dominant focus.  Experienced quite intense rush of energy at probably around the 35 min mark - bodily-based but rising up into the head.  Felt like I was 20 years younger coming up on a pill!

Yesterday I experienced a lot of negative feelings and anxiety at work.  I theorise that my previous concentration practices and mantram use had kept these at bay, but I'm looking squarely at them now which produced an unpleasant few hours.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/1/14 4:54 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
01/08

40 mins sitting

further refined the vocabulary: sensation-sounds-urges-evaluation-thoughts-memory-feelings

Evaluation accompanies nearly every other experience.  This is not always verbal, but the subtext is generally 'what does this mean?  How does this relate to me?  What do I appear like as a result of this?'

At times the labelling naturally dropped off. Not entirely sure if this is desirable or not, or even if this was just a mark of laziness during the practice.  Same strange physical sensations as yesterday, and a periodic feeling of heat in the body, despite tpday being as cool as it has been for about 2 months.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/2/14 1:32 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
02/08

5 mins walking
40 mins sitting


A bit of a distracted practice.  An idea I like is that you cannot force mindfulness/meditation/whatever to arise, you merely nurture the conditions for it as you would a plant and then watch it grow.  Well last night I ate shitty food and drank shitty beer so this morning I felt sluggish and irate.

Tried using the non verbal noting as recommended elsewhere - just using a sound ('dat') to note each event to avoid getting bogged down thinking about the language.  It felt good at times, but then descended into just mindless repetition so I reverted to the words from yesterday.

The first impression of this practice is that it really hammers home the interplay of conditions in everything, which in turn aludes to the 3 marks of existence, to use a Buddhistic phrase.  Informal practice during the day is where practical benefit appears to come though - deffusing thoughts and feelings etc.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/4/14 11:34 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
yesterday was 20 mins sitting.

this morning, 35 mins sitting.  I've downloaded a free pdf of instructions on Mahasi noting from the founder, and spotted he suggests utilising the breath as an anchor.  This felt ok, but after a time mindfulness seemed to lessen and the noting became mechanical.  I;m still finding my feet with this, but even at this early stage I am finding some beneficial effects, in terms of noticing and detaching myself from internal phenomena.

As a side note, I spent a lot of the weekend engaged in worrying about a side issue, and how to approach it.  A lot of this is essentially concerned with how to present 'myself' - what image I want to engender.  It's also about becoming something other than I am currently.  Don't need to elaborate on the details...

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/4/14 1:09 PM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
Hugh Fox:
Tried using the non verbal noting as recommended elsewhere - just using a sound ('dat') to note each event to avoid getting bogged down thinking about the language.  It felt good at times, but then descended into just mindless repetition so I reverted to the words from yesterday.


From my experience, it's the rate of sensations that determines whether full words, syllables, or simple noticing works best. There is a sweet spot, but that sweet spot is a moving target.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/5/14 3:10 AM as a reply to John M..
John M.:
Hugh Fox:
Tried using the non verbal noting as recommended elsewhere - just using a sound ('dat') to note each event to avoid getting bogged down thinking about the language.  It felt good at times, but then descended into just mindless repetition so I reverted to the words from yesterday.


From my experience, it's the rate of sensations that determines whether full words, syllables, or simple noticing works best. There is a sweet spot, but that sweet spot is a moving target.

Yes!  That's articulated what I have been experiencing, thanks - always good to have your observations validated by someone with more experience.

today

40 mins sitting
5 mins walking


Used the obseration of rising and falling of breath as an anchor again as per the book instructions.  This feels different to the faster non-focused observations.  Mindfulness of other experiences is there, but the noting is slower and sometimes almost like a summary of the past few moments - e.g. rising-falling-thinking, thinking....  When in fact 'thinking' is actually a sequence of 'memory-feelings-judging-planning-thinking'.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/6/14 1:38 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
06/08

35 mins sitting

Hitting a nice pattern now with regards to how to approach the noting.  This may take some weeks to knock all the rough corners off, but I was happy that today the approach seemed to 'work'...

Listened to a UG Krishnamurti talk at the gym.  An interesting point from it, (paraphrased) "the answer lies in ceasing to ask the question..."

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/8/14 11:47 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
45 mins sitting yesterday, 35 mins today.

Todays practice was marked by quite big rushes of energy, near continuous twitching and feelings of anticipation/excitement/arousal, (not sexual arousal btw!).

I also felt very very calm throughout yesterday and today, even though they contained some normally adrenaline/anxiety inducing situations - eg presenting to people at work, working in some extreme situations.  All very interesting.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/9/14 6:44 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
sat 90 feet in the air on a small platform yesterday, and the thought and adjoining feeling arose that there is no division between the thoughts and the thinker.  The content of experience and the experiencer aren't seperate.  I think I have always assumed they are and that the goal is to arrive at a deep appreciation of this seperation and an experience of being the 'witness'.  I think my concept of the 'witness' was way too sharply defined and 'seperate'.  
All good.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/12/14 3:58 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
wont update on a daily basis as it doesn't really add too much value to my practice, but will update at least weekly.
At the moment, in practical terms my main 'issue' is how to structure my noting.  I have played with 2 broad approaches - the first being the Sayadaw (spelling?) one where you use the breath as an anchor from which to observe experience, the second being from Stephen Heyes where you simply note phenomena using 6 or 7 simple terms; sensation-sounds-feeling-urges-judgement-planning-memory etc

The former is a nice relaxing experience, but the latter seems to produce a greater level of mindfulness.  With both however, there comes a point where the urge to note seems to go and I sit in something approaching choiceless awareness.  This is also quite pleasant, though 'pleasant' is not necessarily a goal.  

My practices at the moment are characterised by a lot of physical sensations and urges - urges to laugh, urges to shout out or move explosively.  Strange, because I have had a sitting practice established for a few years now.  No idea where these experiences lie in any 'maps', nor am I necessarily interested in chasing these marker posts. Happy just to keep notes on the journey...

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/15/14 6:12 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
Had a strange week - very up & down in terms of mood.  Some very bleak points for no apparent reason, and a loss of 'self-discipline' at times.  Practiced each day though.  Past two days have been quite mechanical, but from previous practices I know that you can't always force depth or profundity - most of the time you just need to punch the clock and do your time.
Trying to incorporate informal noting during periods in the day too to further refine the method and embed the experience.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/17/14 1:55 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
I notice that most of my thoughts and mental impressions are accompanied by some kind of judgement - a comparison of 'self' vs 'other'.  Mindfulness during the day is a continuing battle at the moment though.  I know busy-ness should be no barrier, but the conditioning of being distracted is a tough mould to break.



Seeing is the essence of freedom.....

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/18/14 2:07 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
Have finally settled on the Stephen Heyes version of noting.  Using the breath as the focus of insight seems to generate a lot of tension and becomes a bit mechanical.  The noting without a focus just sits better with me, and seems to bring home both the interconnectedness and impermanence of experiential phenomena.

Also picked up Daniel's book.  Something else for me to compare my practice to and get neurotic over...

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/19/14 1:26 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
Experiencing doubts about the practice today.  The simple noting method I use on the morning sitting is quite effective at defusing thoughts, feelings, sounds etc, but I am not sure it is giving any insight into the 3 marks or doing anything else that it is supposed to!
Will just be aware of this for now and see how the next few days go.

Have also started using period before sleep for some reclining practice.  I use the breath as the focal point for insight here.  It is a supplementary session, so I'm not that bothered if I fall asleep during it....

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/19/14 8:53 PM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
Bump Bump Bump!

There are two things that I have found to be un-notable. A. A traditional blackout fruition. B. Something else (I might call it a god spark, a wrathful unknowing) - this latter thing I have encountered twice with increased clarity the second time.

Please acknowledge. Roger that.

I understand that a lot of this is word games. So if you have to be cryptic I understand.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/24/14 2:43 PM as a reply to Sleeping Buddha Syndrome.
Adam; not sure what you mean mate...  Sorry!

Anyway, have continued with my daily practice.  Lots of strange urges, impulses and physical sensations have dominated most practices.  On one occasion this week the urge to laugh was very strong and for no obvious reason, (i.e. I hadn't started daydreaming about funny episodes etc), and on others I have had some very strong 'energetic' sensations moving through the body.  Interesting enough.

The body senses things - itching, heat, cold, tension, warmth, twitches etc
The ears hear things
The mind thinks things.  It judges things, tells stories and tries to organise and plan.  This is its strong suite and that's what it likes doing.
All of the above drift in and out of my attention over the course of a practice.
Another point that occurs to me; the mind is essentially bored.  It invents shit and chases experience to ward off tedium.  Sometimes this manifests in external activities, sometimes it is just mindless day dreaming or fantasy.  It likes having stuff going on.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
8/30/14 11:56 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
Been in an absolutely foul mood all week.  Lots of anger, boredom, frustration and desire arising.  This then seemed to just vanish after this morning's practice.  
Am adding in some informal noting out loud practices during the day, which seems to be a good addition.  A tutorial by Ken Folk has helped clarify some of my earlier doubts and questions about the nature of the practice too.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
9/1/14 2:23 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
Feel like I'm just 'hanging in' a bit with practice at the moment.  Am on 2 weeks leave, and have a steady stream of guests and social events which are making for a more chaotic time than usual.  The informal noting is becoming habit though, and useful.

Strangely though, of late my mind has felt more restless and uncontrolled than it has for years.  Veering between bouts of giddiness and quite dark depressive mind-sets.

One a practical note, the use of Ken Folk's division of labels is OK but needs refining for me.  

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
9/2/14 3:06 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
did a walking practice this morning due to prcticalities of having guests in the house.  Was actually quite good - I want to try and incorporate this into my regular practice, as I think it will help with transitioning to noting during everyday activities.

Planning, organising, judging and controlling are heroin to the mind.  It loves that shit.  My main problem is not seeing through this regularly enough and therefore living through this perspective.

Incorporating informal noting through the day is my goal for sept.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
9/2/14 7:18 PM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
Hello, Hugh, kind regards.

I enjoy reading your "notes on noting" -- at first I read it as "notes on nothing"  :-)

Eager to see how you resolve the dual emotions you have been experiencing.  At least you do not let the affairs of life keep you away from handling affairs of the mind.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
9/6/14 3:40 AM as a reply to Colleen Peltomaa.
Hi Colleen, thanks for your comments - nice to see someone else reads my inane ramblings!  Notes on nothing is probably more apt...  Hope your are well.

Visitors now left, and although I managed to 'hang in' with regards to practice I'm now looking forward to a period of more focused practice.  The vocabulary is getting refined now, but I still switch between freestyle noting as per Ken Folk & Stephen Heyes and noting using the breath as an anchor as per Mahasi.

When done well, I prefer the former, but there are days when my mind is too distracted for this to work well.  Today I used the Mahasi approach and had a pretty 'deep' sitting practice.  One of the things I am really noticing is the mind's constant desire to control experience - providing analysis, commentary and seeking to organise it into a conceptual framework.  Letting go of this, or more accurately just observing it functioning (noting it) seems likely to be my main project in the immediate future.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
9/11/14 3:21 PM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
the twitching and rushes of energy have been almost difficult to control during this week's sittings.  I have also had a 'buzzed' feeling most days, like a kid on christmas eve.  Odd, and quite pleasant!

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
9/11/14 4:02 PM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
Well, I couldn't help but pick up on you saying "...to control..", "...to organize..".    I view to control as a positive life goal that can go sour and become compulsive and at the expense of complementary interactions.   What I mean is that for myself it has deteriorated into non-life goals such as "to enslave", to tyrannize, etc.   Of course anything that we would not wish to experience ourselves is "bad".    :-)

I love reading your practice posts and always have this good visualization that all these compulsions -- with continued sitting -- will come out in the wash, to use an idiom.   I like that you see when you are sitting that your mind is not you.  This has been a great turnaround for me.

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
9/18/14 1:19 PM as a reply to Colleen Peltomaa.
thank you again for commenting on these notes.  I agree that the talent mind has for organising and controlling can be a 'good' thing in the right circumstances.  The problem is when it believes it can control and organise everything!
Practice this week has been consistent and enjoyable.  I have taken to calming myself with a few minutes controlled breathing, (a 4/8 pranayama breath thing) because the energy during the sitting was getting silly!  I was twitching and spasming the whole time!

Off the cushion, I have felt quite destabilised though.  Acting in a far less cautious and conserative manner than what I normally would.  This energy has sometimes been welcome, sometimes not.  In one specific circumstance it has lead me to act in a way that are contrary to my everyday values which I will probably regret at some point.....

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
10/11/14 3:32 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
well, practice has been consistent and the time is increasing now with generally 40 mins sitting and then 10 mins walking.  I may look at breaking this up a bit differently to maintain concentration; sometimes my mind gets lost in content after a bit of sitting, so maybe inserting the walking in the middle may beat this.

My own mental states of late have been dominated by negative thoughts and feelings and a feeling of remoteness from things I value - like family and work and friends etc.  I'm sure many factors contribute to this, but on the cushion I plan on adding in a short metta-bhavana practice to try and integrate some 'heart' stuff into all the insight practice.  It's all well and good having insights and understanding but you need to live in the world too...

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
10/11/14 5:59 AM as a reply to Hugh Fox.
Good morning, Hugh.   My time stamp says you posted this at 4:32 am.  A great way to start the day.

I have been likewise feeling rather flat and realized it could be the result of systematically killing my thirst for sensation coupled with not quite enough metta or creative visualization.  

Could it be that the things we used to "get off on" just don't do it for us quite the same way?   Why, I can't even get up a good craving for chocolate anymore since I did some insight into it -- took it apart I did.  

However, when I go into thankfulness, that has certainly increased and expanded to being thankful for my whole life -- with tears still streaming down my cheek.   It also finally occurred to me to ask my "astralized" mom for forgiveness, when I kept thinking she should be anytime now asking me for forgiveness.  Relationships are starting to become more important than the diminishing love of the quest for sensational desires.  I actually have a scaled chart of sensations that is being checked off.

"How does life seem to you now?" is one of my self-enquiry questions when I feel funky.

I am demanding of my sit time that I get this funky feeling resolved -- or else I would question my practice, I suppose as you are.

kind regards,
colleen

RE: Notes on noting
Answer
10/11/14 1:10 PM as a reply to Colleen Peltomaa.
thanks again for replying - I appreciate the comments....  Our time zones must be different though!  I was still fast asleep at 4.30 am - probably wrote this at 8.30 or thereabouts - weekend lie-in.

Yes, you may be right that I have analysed the enjoyment out of things.  Unfortunately at the moment this isn't just for previously harmless vices like chocolate, (or the local beer from the micro-brewery down the lane in my case) but also family life and pretty much everything that makes life meaningful.  I hope this is a temporary glitch, and some more emotionally-based practices may sort me out!

The "how does life seem to you now..." question is what I needed to hear. I can get sucked into things sometimes.  This brings me back to what's important. To be honest, right now it seems like a lot of hassle to get over and done with.  Time for some changes methinks....

Hope you are well & best wishes