An interesting discovery re: concentration always leading up the maps

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bill of the wandering mind, modified 7 Years ago at 10/18/14 11:59 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/18/14 11:59 AM

An interesting discovery re: concentration always leading up the maps

Posts: 131 Join Date: 4/14/11 Recent Posts
I would like some feedback on something I just noticed today in sitting:

In the past (especially post A&P) I have never been able to concentrate reliably in a way that leads to stronger concentration, without zipping up the maps (and my 3rd and 6-10 nanas tend to be extemely rough - even my A&P is rough for some reason nowdays)

- So the issue for me tends to be then that I get stuck somewhere in the DN, everything gets sticky, etc and I never seem to be able to make progress or disembed from any of those states long enough to get up to 11th nana. My gut feeling is that either I need an x day retreat with solid noting or I need to build concentration before 'using it up' so to speak. So far I have been cyling between building up some unification of mind then blowing it all on insight, which seems to allow for progress but in a very slow way... 

So I continue to try to discover how this mind works, how I can use it more skillfully.

What I discovered today, and would like to know if this is true for anyone else (or if they noticed it) - is that when I have been 'concentrating' I push into the object/raw sensations too hard and also tend to allow the self, or the feeling/belief of 'me focusing on that' fade away and of course what happens is things get rough, itchy/burny/ then neck movements/contractions/shaking then eventually go non-dual and superfast (A&P) - and then on from there in a typical maps pattern. (although it is extremely painful to do it that way for some reason)

What I found is that I could keep myself from going that way(up the maps) and charge up the concentration better if I did NOT allow the feeling/belief of 'I am focusing on that' to slip away while doing it...

Does that make sense then? First Jhana/access still incudes the nonverbal duality while second and by association A&P drops it? 

If thats the case then the reason I have been unable to concentrate for so long is that I am either allowing the duality to slip away or pushing it away enough to go in that direction. I will experiment with this more of course but does that seem to jive with other people's experience?


Thanks
J Adam G, modified 7 Years ago at 10/28/14 10:31 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/28/14 10:31 AM

RE: An interesting discovery re: concentration always leading up the maps

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
This is a paradoxical thing many of us run into at one point or another.

The way to handle it is to feel into the paradox. No running -- the fact that you're confused as hell by this thing means it's directly linked to your cutting edge in practice.

Do a concentration practice on the sensations associated with this paradox. What sensations are there in the body when this is going on? What about the feeling tone? What about thoughts? What about intentions? What about desires and cravings?

Some stuff will happen. I won't script you into expecting a specific set of things -- you'll already have your own expectations and adding mine to the mix will only muddy the waters even more. In fact, your expectations are why this paradox is messing with you. If you didn't expect something that this experience is challenging, there would be no dissonance.

Lean into the dissonance and really know what it feels like. The stuff will happen, then it'll settle down into a calmer state. At this point, feel free to go back to a more vipassana-like practice and deconstruct the sensations you were just concentrating on a few minutes ago.
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CJMacie, modified 7 Years ago at 10/29/14 2:21 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/29/14 2:21 AM

RE: An interesting discovery re: concentration always leading up the maps

Posts: 856 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
bill of the wandering mind
...
What I found is that I could keep myself from going that way (up the maps) and charge up the concentration better if I did NOT allow the feeling/belief of 'I am focusing on that' to slip away while doing it...

Does that make sense then? First Jhana/access still incudes the nonverbal duality while second and by association A&P drops it? 


In classical terms, 1st Jhana has vitakka-vicara -- look at it, look at it... stick with it, stick with it... Which drops out in 2nd Jhana and further, because the mind is then able to automatically, so to speak, remain at one with the object.

If thats the case then the reason I have been unable to concentrate for so long is that I am either allowing the duality to slip away or pushing it away enough to go in that direction. I will experiment with this more of course but does that seem to jive with other people's experience?

Any kind of "pushing" could break absorption; maintaining jhana and moving to higher levels (depths) is more associated with further  'letting-go'.  Dropping the explicit directional focus (vitakka-vicara) before the mind is firmly enough rooted in the object could allow the absorption to wilt away.

In practice I've noticed how both these happen. The second -- relaxing the letting-go (there's another level of paradox) before it's established enough to maintain absorption -- happens more often, more of a problem (not a general statement, just in my experience).
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CJMacie, modified 7 Years ago at 10/29/14 2:28 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/29/14 2:28 AM

RE: An interesting discovery re: concentration always leading up the maps

Posts: 856 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
[quote=J Adam G]...
Do a concentration practice on the sensations associated with this paradox. What sensations are there in the body when this is going on? What about the feeling tone? What about thoughts? What about intentions? What about desires and cravings?


Just curious -- what sort of concentration do you use to watch and distinguish all these different and changing aspects of sensations? Do you call it khanika (momentary) concentration? or other term?

... it'll settle down into a calmer state. At this point, feel free to go back to a more vipassana-like practice and deconstruct the sensations you were just concentrating on a few minutes ago.


What you termed concentration above does seem already a sort of vipassana. What is different about 'deconstructing sensations' in this 'more vipassana-like practice'?

(I'm not familiar with the terms used in this way; maybe you could detail it a bit to help me understand.)
J Adam G, modified 7 Years ago at 10/29/14 9:22 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/29/14 9:16 AM

RE: An interesting discovery re: concentration always leading up the maps

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
Chris J Macie :
[quote=J Adam G]...
Do a concentration practice on the sensations associated with this paradox. What sensations are there in the body when this is going on? What about the feeling tone? What about thoughts? What about intentions? What about desires and cravings?


Just curious -- what sort of concentration do you use to watch and distinguish all these different and changing aspects of sensations? Do you call it khanika (momentary) concentration? or other term?


I don't really use too much Pali in my own thoughts about things, except when there simply isn't a good English word. As far as I'm concerned, in meditation the definition of "concentration" is that the mind becomes calm and peaceful, and as a result of that, it more steadily rests with certain percepts rather than jumping around wildly. I don't mean to go into Visuddhimagga-esque classifications of samadhi -- I'm simply saying "rest with these sensations for a while without doing anything to change them" which is a very distinctive change from the normal monkey-mind consciousness which wanders aimlessly, obsessed by some sensations and dodging others.

So if your mind is staying with sensations rather than jumping around, I call that "concentration", whether or not other things are present (like insight or hindrances).

... it'll settle down into a calmer state. At this point, feel free to go back to a more vipassana-like practice and deconstruct the sensations you were just concentrating on a few minutes ago.

What you termed concentration above does seem already a sort of vipassana. What is different about 'deconstructing sensations' in this 'more vipassana-like practice'?

(I'm not familiar with the terms used in this way; maybe you could detail it a bit to help me understand.)


Yes, I'll clarify. Here at the DhO, people often use "concentration" to mean "pure shamatha practice" as in "intentionally NOT having insights into things". However, when I personally use it, I simply mean the meditation factor where your mind settles onto objects in a restful fashion instead of jumping around from one shiny object to the next, as in the monkey mind example above.

When I say vipassana, I mean when you notice how sensations change from moment to moment, can't really be controlled, and are never 100% fully satisfactory. In other words, the three characteristics. Even if you didn't sit down intending to notice these things, that doesn't matter. Vipassana means "seeing through things" in the sense of "seeing clearly" and if you're seeing the 3 characteristics clearly, you are literally "vipassana-ing." The more you intend for your practice to contain this element, and the more curiosity you have about the nature of mind, and the more specific techniques you use to promote this process (e.g. noting), the stronger the vipassana element of a practice will become.

Now, in a pure shamatha practice one would actively dodge those realizations to avoid disrupting the calm and pleasant stability. But your practice already includes elements of both shamatha (stability) and vipassana (noticing the truth). So for this sort of practice, you don't want to dodge anything. You're steadying the mind on these sensations AND understanding what they're really like.

So my advice is that when you're experiencing a challenging paradox, I first suggest that you focus on stabilizing the mind further. Paradoxes often make us feel uncomfortable and that creates a desire to avoid them. But there's really nothing that bad about the paradox itself -- it's really your cognitive dissonance that creates the discomfort. Your interpretation of the situation. So lean into those sensations. Have some curiosity about them. Curiosity and open-mindedness are antidotes to the hindrances of doubt and anxiety about the meditation process itself. By applying these antidotes, it will be easier for the mind to chill out and settle down on the feelings associated with your wondering and uncertainty.

Like everything else, these are just sensations. You can develop the skill of settling your mind more calmly on them, which is shamatha, and also the skill of understanding them more completely, which is vipassana.

I suggest using both to complement the other, because this is a skillful way to cover the weaknesses of each style with the strengths of the other. Concentration can be so calming you fall asleep, and vipassana can be so upsetting you lose the motivation to meditate. Vipassana can also wake up a concentration practice by adding some clarity and alertness, and concentration can take the edge off vipassana's at times violating and painful experiences by helping you let go of aversion and craving, and just sit with the sensations in a kind, compassionate, equanimous way.

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