Message Boards Message Boards

Motivation and Results

Great variation in performance - is it normal?

Toggle
Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 1/31/15 12:16 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Not Tao 1/31/15 1:08 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? C P M 1/31/15 3:58 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/1/15 1:27 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Not Tao 2/1/15 2:39 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/1/15 3:12 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Not Tao 2/1/15 5:01 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/2/15 1:40 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Ian And 2/1/15 1:01 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/1/15 1:37 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? water drop 2/2/15 2:28 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/1/15 4:36 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pejn . 2/2/15 7:35 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Ian And 2/2/15 12:46 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/2/15 3:02 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Matt 2/2/15 10:34 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/3/15 11:18 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Matt 2/3/15 1:50 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/3/15 2:57 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Matt 2/3/15 10:27 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/4/15 8:13 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Matt 2/4/15 9:13 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Ian And 2/4/15 1:00 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/4/15 11:45 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Ian And 2/6/15 12:16 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/7/15 5:36 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Ian And 2/7/15 11:20 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/8/15 3:51 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Ian And 2/8/15 11:47 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/8/15 3:23 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Ian And 2/8/15 8:51 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/9/15 1:58 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Ian And 2/9/15 10:45 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/10/15 9:00 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Ian And 2/10/15 9:45 PM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/11/15 6:22 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Connie Dobbs 2/11/15 6:56 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/11/15 7:31 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Ian And 2/11/15 9:17 AM
RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal? Pål 2/11/15 11:35 AM
When I lift weights I can almost always see that I'm making progress from session to session, because I can lift heavier or do more reps in an exercise compared to the last time I performed it. Only rarely I hit plateaus where I lift the same weight at the same number of reps as last time. So weight training is very predictable to me and it is easy to see if I'm doing it right. I do lifting sessions of about an hour 1-4 times a week.

However, when it comes to meditation practice, it's much harder to see whether I'm making progress or not. Sometimes it feels like concentration is pretty good with fewer thoughts than in a "normal state of mind", but I slip from the task of aknowledging the breath now and then. Mostly there are lots of random thoughts but I am aware of (the sensations of) each breath cycle. Sometimes my breath awareness sucks and there is lots of thinking at the same time. So it's very hard to see is I'm making progress or not. I sit for about 15-50 mins a day, divided into 1-4 sessions.

I've never hit jhana. Did some kind of experimental homebrew scanning+mantraisch technique loosely based on Thanissaro Bhikkhu's interpretation of the suttas, AYP and my own experience all summer and autumn but changed to focusing on air and pressure sensations around and inside the nose this winter. The former practice led to lots of spontaneous movements and sometimes weird pleasurable breathing patterns but the new style of practice only rarely leads to that and is generally more calming than energizing. 

But I've no idea where I am and if I'm at all close to jhana (which is my main goal right now) or any other kind of progress on the path. Are sitting sessions supposed to be this unpredictable and performance this varying, or is that a sign that I'm doing something wrong? The only thing that has felt like a breakthrough I've had was when I first started getting random arm movents, but that was in early autumn, with my old method.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
1/31/15 1:08 PM as a reply to Pål.
Yes, it's not going to be like lifting weights.  It's going to be very weird and lots of odd things will happen, and then stop happening, and you're going to spend a lot of time wondering if what you're doing is right or not.  When aiming for jhana, you can measure progress by how easy it is to maintain awareness on something (in your case here, the breath) and how willing you are to accept negativity and drop focus on it.

I would say that, if you are still thinking during most of your practice sessions, you still need a lot more concentration.  As you can see from your long daily practice now, it's not something that's just going to happen.  You're going to need to expend more effort to concentrate, I would guess.  Maybe take a day every week and spend the whole day practicing - sit 5 or 6 times for 30 minutes of formal meditation, then spend the rest of your time being very mindful, paying close attention with moment to moment awareness

I've found that concentration will never hinder progress, so if I feel stuck and don't know what to do, I fall back on concentration, because the increased awareness will help me discover what I'm really holding on to and what I'm doing to block myself up.

Once you hit jhana and see how it works, it becomes a lot easier to whittle the practice down to what is necessary - like just dropping into jhana without much real effort.  But you will need concentration to get there.

Also, don't skip the rest of the Buddha's teachings.  The whole path is there to support jhana.  Kindness leads to concentration and acceptance.  Acceptance leads to kindness and concentration.  Concentration leads to acceptance and kindness.  All three are perfected in samadhi - or, the perfection of all three is samadhi.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
1/31/15 3:58 PM as a reply to Pål.
It's interesting that we both do strength training, so we have the advantage to be able to compare the development of strength training to meditation development.  I think pursuing a discipline like strength training can provide a good basis for pursuing meditation.  Both require persistent effort to make progress.  You often have to push against the natural tendency to say to yourself “maybe I won't bother today”.

I've had the good fortune to be able to pursue a number of activities seriously.  I've spent over a decade practicing marshal arts, many years on and off doing strength training, many years practicing yoga, along with the academic/professional pursuits of math/physics and software development.

As you say, progress in strength training is very easy to measure.  You can keep a log and see how much more weight you are lifting from one month to the next.  Progress is usually fairly linear at the start, but that changes at an intermediate level.  After a couple of years of training you can achieve spectacular benefits compared to where you started.  The benefits are clear and obvious even from the perspective of walking to your desk in the office, your body moves in a way that seems much more effortless and agile.

In a similar way, advancement in martial arts is very clear.  When you walk into a Dojo for the first time, and see advanced students practicing, you can't help but think “there is no way I will ever be that good”.  But after persistent and diligent practice, you advance.  Many styles carefully grade and advance students with colored belts.  You can also compete in tournaments to test your skills against others.  After a number of years (I would say five years or so), you are now at a point where you are now the advanced student, having achieved the skills that seemed impossible at the beginning.

The progress of development is pretty much the same for everybody.  You start with who you are, and you advance.  There will be an average time for progress, some will take more time, some will take less. It's interesting to see that in all fields that you participate in, you will occasionally encounter individuals who fall in the top percentile of natural abilities that allow them to progress quicker than the norm. But the advancement of mastery for individuals possessing rare natural abilities is still measured in years.

I consider all these pursuits for myself, experiments on my body and mind.

So, having practiced other things, I've started practicing meditation over five years ago. What I can say so far in this experiment, is that progress in my meditation is much slower than other pursuits, and much more difficult to measure.  At the same time, it has been powerfully transformative.  Lately, I've started thinking of the metaphor of a glacier.  A glacier seems slow moving, without much happening, but at the same time, it is reworking and destroying the current landscape in one of the most powerful ways possible.

I got started meditating by just reading “Mindfulness in Plain English”.  A some point I read the Buddha said, something along the lines of “don't believe me that it works, try it out and see”.  I liked that.  Maybe I took that philosophy too far (especially at the beginning), so my way of looking was “it's all bullshit unless I experience it myself”. For example, sometime later I read Gunaratana's subsequent book, “Beyond Mindfulness In Plain English”, and I remember thinking, “wow, this is a bunch of crap. How can he write something like this after doing such a good job with his other book?”.  It was just that, at that time, I never experienced any Jhana's myself, so I couldn't personally verify what he was talking about. This could have one or two years after I started meditation.

So, I've mentioned before in answer to one of your other questions in another thread, that I didn't start hitting the jhana's consistently until after three years if practice.  I wanted to mention my experience to offset the expectation that you seem to have that you need to “get to jhana's”.  The impression I get from reading about other peoples experience is that their progress in meditation is much faster.  I can report how things worked out for me. I'm likely average in natural meditation ability.  

It wasn't clear to me at the beginning that “meditation was working” over the months and years, but in fact it was: in a powerful but gentle way.  It's getting hard to remember, but I found it relaxing at the beginning, so that kept me at it.  I also now know that it doesn't matter if and when you enter jhana's.  Someone on another thread put it nicely and said something along the lines of “your job is to show up on the cushion, and then things will unfold as they do”.

It can be difficult to measure progress in meditation.  For me the ultimate gauge is how well you navigate your daily life.  Getting punched in the face in a Karate tournament is clear feedback that perhaps you need to practice some more.  The feedback in daily life for meditation may not be as obvious.  Progress takes a while and is definitely not linear.  Progress such as developing jhana's or moving along the path of insight is also a helpful indicator, but from what I can see, how meditation is impacting your life is a better indicator.

You've been researching and collecting a lot of information, and this can be helpful.  I would suggest giving your practice time to unfold.  Also, since you are doing a concentration practice, it may be helpful to slowly increase your sitting times. It takes a while to get “in the groove”, and you might not be giving yourself at chance to get there in the first place.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/1/15 1:01 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:

However, when it comes to meditation practice, it's much harder to see whether I'm making progress or not.

Sometimes it feels like concentration is pretty good with fewer thoughts than in a "normal state of mind", but I slip from the task of acknowledging the breath now and then. Mostly there are lots of random thoughts but I am aware of (the sensations of) each breath cycle.

What you describe is pretty much par for the course. A phase of the practice that most practitioners experience, so don't beat yourself up over it. However, it's good that you are still "aware of the sensations of each breath cycle." This is something (a foundation) that can be built upon.

What you really need (and what most who post here need) is a structure to your practice that you can agree with and feel good about pursuing. And I'm speaking about personal guidance from someone with experience who has been down the path and reached the end. If you are attempting to accomplish this all on your own, it can be a very frustrating and lonely path to pursue without someone who can advise you as to when you are pursuing a wrong path and who can help you get back on the right path.

Pål:

Sometimes my breath awareness sucks and there is lots of thinking at the same time.

So it's very hard to see is I'm making progress or not. I sit for about 15-50 mins a day, divided into 1-4 sessions.

I've never hit jhana.

But I've no idea where I am and if I'm at all close to jhana (which is my main goal right now) or any other kind of progress on the path.

From this description, it seems to suggest that your average meditation session is about 15 minutes. While an advanced practitioner may be able to "get away with" that little amount of time per session, someone wanting to advance might consider that upping that time period to at the very least 30 minutes a session might provide one with a better opportunity to begin experiencing palpable progress. And keep seeking to increase that time, from 30 to 45 minutes, then to 60 minutes per session. At 60 minutes per session you are providing the mind with a real challenge to maintain concentration, awareness, and mindfulness. Also, this is where opportunities to drop down into dhyana will pickup. For someone who only practices on average 15 min. per session, dhyana is a more difficult goal to achieve, than for someone whose practices average 60 min. per session.

Proliferation of thought during a session can be either a hindrance to progress, or it can be turned into a tool for making progress. It all depends upon how one is being taught to deal with these occurrences when they arise. Sometimes it can help one to be more at ease if they pursue their thoughts during contemplation in order to remove everyday anxiety by realizing a solution to a problem so that the mind is then free to gain concentration upon an object pertaining to the Dhamma.

Dhyana is but a tool to help the practitioner develop their level of concentration. Most people likely won't realize the truth of that statement until, with practice and maturity, they realize it through experience.

When one is able to get to that point in a session when they feel at ease, they can focus on calming all thought to the point of the cessation of all extraneous thought that is not focused upon what they wish to accomplish in that session. In other words, once that point is reached, that is, once "concern for the world and worldly things" reaches cessation, then one can turn one's attention toward the teachings of the Dhamma. In doing this, one allows for the entrance of insight regarding "things as they are." In other words, one can make the observation, for example, that "all phenomena are without self. Including the phenomenon that I consider [or that my mind considers] to be 'myself'."

Pål:

Are sitting sessions supposed to be this unpredictable and performance this varying, or is that a sign that I'm doing something wrong?

It all depends upon what it is one is seeking to gain from their practice and how one views the Dhamma taught by Gotama. That said, you aren't necessarily doing anything wrong, except not making this a hardcore pursuit of your own awakening. In other words, one benefits from an experience in proportion to the effort they put into achieving it.

Not Tao has some good suggestions.
Not Tao:
I would say that, if you are still thinking during most of your practice sessions, you still need a lot more concentration. As you can see from your long daily practice now, it's not something that's just going to happen. You're going to need to expend more effort to concentrate, I would guess.

Maybe take a day every week and spend the whole day practicing - ... then spend the rest of your time being very mindful, paying close attention with moment to moment awareness.

I've found that concentration will never hinder progress, so if I feel stuck and don't know what to do, I fall back on concentration, because the increased awareness will help me discover what I'm really holding on to and what I'm doing to block myself up.

Once you hit jhana and see how it works, it becomes a lot easier to whittle the practice down to what is necessary - like just dropping into jhana without much real effort. But you will need concentration to get there.

Also, don't skip the rest of the Buddha's teachings. The whole path is there to support jhana [which can help lead one to insight into the Dhamma]. Kindness leads to concentration and acceptance. Acceptance leads to kindness and concentration. Concentration leads to acceptance and kindness. All three are perfected in samadhi - or, the perfection of all three is samadhi.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/1/15 1:27 PM as a reply to C P M.
Thanks guys!

I think my natural skill in meditation is really bad but my natural inclination towards both investigation and spirituality might make up for that a little. 

@Not Tao
yes I probably should do "intensives" more often. The time when the muscle twitches that had been going on for months developed into arm movements was when I did two 20-40 min sits in a row. Hopefully I'll hit jhana when I go to my forst retreat which will probably be Goenka this summer.
It's interesting how you talk about the third (/first actually) training as acceptance. How is right view and right intention acceptance?


"And what, monks, is right view? Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the stopping of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the stopping of stress: This, monks, is called right view.

"And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve.


@CPM
I needed that motivation boost, thanks!
Actually I've been into martial arts too, but I quit since I thought lifting was more fun. I wasn't disciplined enough to keep both up haha  
btw, do you ever experience an automatic expansion of awareness, so that attention includes the entire physical body, when doing Gunaratanas method? He teaches nostril attention, right?

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/1/15 1:37 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Thanks! 
How do I find an enlightened teacher who isn't a cult leader? And how should I avoid my parents getting suspicious about it? I'm a teenager and still living at home...

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/1/15 2:39 PM as a reply to Pål.
The second noble truth is that stress is caused by craving.  Craving, in turn, is the result of ignorance.  Ignorance, then, is the cause of formations (or volition/will-to-change/fabrication), and further, ignorance is ignorance of the four noble truths!  So, to put it all together, when a person does not understand the cause of their suffering (attachment to something that is changing and slipping away) they are ignorant of this cause.  This ignorance causes them to continue to hold on to impermanent things, jumping from object to object, looking for relief.

The goal that the Buddha points to is to drop the need to fabricate - to drop all desire or need to create a new existance to escape the current existance.  He points out that this fabrication, itself, is the cause of suffering, not the suchness of the current moment that has caused the impulse to fabricate.  It isn't the moment itself that isstressful, it's the desire to escape that causes suffering.  I like to frame all of this as acceptance in terms of the method (it makes the most sense to me that way, anyway).  Someone who has completely accepted the current moment as it is has no need to look forward to the next moment or back to a previous moment.  This also seems to sum up the experience of jhana to me.  It is a temporary escape from judging, labeling, and organizing experience.

Now, seeing that this, itself, is more pleasant that anything else, you are drawn towards renunciation.  Material and "worldly" things become less important.  Jhana starts to leak out into eveything you do. The Buddha said that someone who practices jhana is a "body-witness" - or someone who has seen first hand that renunciation and withdrawal lead to peace of mind and freedom from stress.  Jhana is still a fabrication, but it's a fabrication that leads toward less fabricating.  As skill in jhana progresses, a person fabricates less and less until there is no longer a need to fabricate - there is nothing left to cling to and no experience is seen as better than another.

Something else I wanted to mention too: when you begin to establish concentration, it happens in fits and starts.  Remember that discussion you started about "sati" being a word for "remember"?  You can see sati revving up in real time each time you suddenly rememeber to pay attention to the breath.  If you know that this is what you're looking for, you can start to see steady progress from the very beginning as this remembering happens more and more frequently with a more powerful returning factor.  After a bit there is a tipping point where this awareness begins to comes back very large and open each time, and this is when jhana starts to quicken.  Think of it like a pushing a swing.  You push a little towards awareness, you swing back away from it, you push again and go a little higher, then you swing back again.  Once you can make it all the way up over the top of the swing, you can just keep going in one direction, around and around.  Thus is when the rapture starts.  But that rapture isn't anything new, it's that very same awareness that keeps kicking in, it's just steady enough to keep going, like a constant remembering.

EDIT: Also wanted to say not to get discouraged.  You undoubtedly have better concentration now than you did before just because you are practicing every day.  It might be hard to spot initially, but it IS happening.  Most of this stuff came out of the blue for me, and I only made much sense of it in retrospect.  It's more likely that you will suddenly experience jhana than slowly slide into it, I think.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/1/15 3:12 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
All of this makes a lot of sense. But then, what would be the point of that sabba kaya patisamvedi instruction and why is it mentioned before the jhana factors of piti  and sukha in the anapanasati/dipa/arittha/etc. suttas?

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/2/15 2:28 PM as a reply to Pål.
I think you can even ask here for a good teacher near you - you dont have to give a spesific address but

in what country do you live ?

A late edit : i think monastics can be great teachers but for example i know in sweden there is a dhammakaya branch which is very cultish and has from what i read bad concepts and distortion of buddhim and corrupt leadership -  you can google search places and add to the search words like "criticizm" or "scam"  and in general read a lot about the organization and how it runs 

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/1/15 4:36 PM as a reply to water drop.
Sweden. We've got lots of vikings and mooses, but no arahants as far as I know. Well there are a few monks in some suburb to Stockholm I think, a Goenka movement and a few other sitting groups, but I doubt there is anything hard core that is easy to get in touch with. 

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/1/15 5:01 PM as a reply to Pål.
End of the day, I don't know, Pal. emoticon It's very important to relax physical aversion, though. The body seems to be the most present and immediate source of aversion when trying to concentrate. Paying attention to the breath helps calm down mental fabrication, then relaxing the body helps calm down physical fabrication.

You know, I find it much easier to practice after taking a shower, haha. I've been standing for a while, and the warm water gets rid of tensions, so sitting still isn't a challenge. There isn't much bodily fabrication to relax.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/2/15 1:40 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
That is the part of the words of the Buddha that gets on my nerves.

In the suttas the Buddha and his crew seem to meditate after lunch mostly. This yoga thing, that you shouldn't eat before meditation, the Buddha didn't seem to agree with. Might be for the same reason you meditate after showering. 

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/2/15 7:35 AM as a reply to Pål.
Hi Pål, where in Sweden do you live?
If you are close to Stockholm chances are good you can find support. 

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/2/15 12:46 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
Thanks! 
How do I find an enlightened teacher who isn't a cult leader?

To adequately address this question would take a lengthy treatise at the very least. Something which, at the moment, I do not have the time nor the inclination for providing a detailed delineation.

The short answer is: follow your intuition, and check into the background of anyone who you might have a tendency to want to follow. Just make sure that they square up with your understanding of the Dhamma as it was taught by Gotama.

However, this brings up another matter. What is the Dhamma (i.e. what source may one reliably use to ascertain what Gotama most probably taught)? My educated opinion about this is just precisely that, my opinion (based upon 34 years of practice and study and experience).

That being stated, I can tell you from first hand experience that you will not go wrong if you follow the recommendations posted in the following thread: Essential Books from Theravadin Resources. @ http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1296955

If you can find no one to help guide you, just reading and endeavoring to understand the discourses alone will go a long way toward educating you about the Dhamma that Gotama taught. Not only can it be inspiring, if you will seek to ferret out the intent of each instruction, you will learn from first hand experience of following that instruction the uncanny accuracy of Gotama's teaching. I recommend staying with the Pali Canon discourses and not looking into Mahayana documentation until after you have a better understanding of the Pali Canon. As a matter of fact, you may, as a consequence of educating yourself in the Pali Canon, simply disregard the Mahayana documentation altogether, as I have done.

Pål:

And how should I avoid my parents getting suspicious about it? I'm a teenager and still living at home...

Ahh, I see. In that case, do not involve your parents in your private matters.

You may have to wait until you are of lawful age before you can seek to find such instructor on your own. At any rate, do not let anyone hinder your interest in wanting to learn more about the doctrine of truth taught by Gotama.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/2/15 3:02 PM as a reply to Ian And.
One problem is that no tradition that I know of square up with my understanding of / cunfusion about the Dhamma as thaught by Gotama (= the pali suttas) I've read a lot and get stuck on imåortant details now and then. I come up with questions that the traditions have totally different views about, but no satisfying answers.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/2/15 10:34 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
One problem is that no tradition that I know of square up with my understanding of / cunfusion about the Dhamma as thaught by Gotama (= the pali suttas) I've read a lot and get stuck on imåortant details now and then. I come up with questions that the traditions have totally different views about, but no satisfying answers.


Disclaimer: I've only been into this for 13 months.

One Goenka 10 day retreat blew my socks off, made it easy for me to sit for 60 minutes.  If you go on retreat, give it every ounce of determination you have and it will rocket your forward in your practice.

Since then I sit for 30-60 minutes, once or twice a day, fitted in around my daily life.  That schedule has made it possible to make significant progress.  (I'm still not enlightened. emoticon )  Even thought I ended up moving away from Goenka's tradition, it still did great things for me.

I wish I got  into this when I was a teenager. emoticon

I have not read much (MCTB mainly), but solid *sitting* practice has made a huge difference in my life experience.  I think practice *just works* if you give it the time.

Matt

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/3/15 11:18 AM as a reply to Matt.
You think practice just works? What do you mean by practice? And what do you mean by works?

I hear so many different opinions about Goenka, I think I'll go there and see what it is since it's so cheap.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/3/15 1:50 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
You think practice just works? What do you mean by practice? And what do you mean by works?

I hear so many different opinions about Goenka, I think I'll go there and see what it is since it's so cheap.

I say 'just works' because I didn't know anything about meditation or buddhism, I went to a Goenka 10-day, followed directions as best as I could and got results.  Sitting changed me, without really needing to know what was supposed to happen.

By 'practice' I mean sitting and focusing equanimous attention on present moment bodily sensations, with as little as possible thought about buddhism or anything else.

By 'works', I mean I had dramatic and motivating physical experiences, gained the ability to sit for 60 minutes or more and deeply held 'realizations' that were validating of the effort and improved my experience of daily life since then.

After the retreat I found (somewhat disconcertingly) that my experience of the world had changed.  Since then, things have evolved such that I don't have many questions about the value of the transformations.

Perhaps most importantly, I came away motivated to read about WTF happend to me, and practice more every day, to good effect.

Everybody is different of course, so your experience may vary.  I was motivated and dedicated as I could be (which incidentally does not mean that I was able to follow all of his instructions, even though I worked pretty hard)

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/3/15 2:57 PM as a reply to Matt.
"...and deeply held 'realizations' that were validating of the effort and improved my experience of daily life since then."

cool. Could you tell more about these? emoticon I already knew people get weird physical experiences (I've had very light ones) but what about these "realizations"? 

What I have against Goenka tradition, without having practiced it, is mainly that they say that, as a meditation technique, Anapanasati alone doesn't lead to enlightenment. This is against the suttas and either shows that they are underestimating Anapanasati or that their version of anapanasati is flawed and not like the one thaught by Gotama. 

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/3/15 10:27 PM as a reply to Pål.
Having read about vipassana practice, my 'realizations' are as one would hope:

The main one is easy to believe: impermanence.  So many supposedly solid sensations/experiences come up in the sit and go, even ones you never would have thought were temporary.  In the context of a long sit, it becomes second nature, that anything that comes will go eventually.  This expectation, or the thought of that expectation transfers well to real life.

Suffering: it pops up all over the place in life, in ways I never realized.  Now I have better insight into that truth, and off-cushion experiences lead to less suffering.  For example, the sound of motorcycles used to lead me into a series of unpleasant mental/emotional states.  About 6 months after my retreat and subsequent practice, I was sitting, some motorcycles roared by and the old unpleasant chain of sensations started up.  But they nipped themselves in the bud, were interrupted by the thought, "ah, so this is voluntary suffering!".

No-self: I don't have a visceral clue at how sitting did this, but I'm much harder to rile now, people/things poking at me seem to be poking at thin air.  I'm not saying I'm a blissed out noble one, but I am saying that a year of practice seems to have been a great choice.

About Goenka: his 10-day program really did a number on me, really put me 'on the map' of insight.  I don't actually think his body scanning technique is the best way for me now, having spend time and energy on a more MCTB'ish approach.

Let me stress, I believe realizations come only from actual experience. Reading and talking do not produce deep transformation.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/4/15 8:13 AM as a reply to Matt.
Ok, so the standard stuff. How do you feel  about the statement made by the Buddha that both "I have a self" and "I have no self" are false claims?

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/4/15 9:13 AM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
Ok, so the standard stuff. How do you feel  about the statement made by the Buddha that both "I have a self" and "I have no self" are false claims?

A conundrum designed to make us sit and figure it out for ourselves. emoticon

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/4/15 1:00 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
One problem is that no tradition that I know of square up with my understanding of / confusion about the Dhamma as taught by Gotama (= the pali suttas) I've read a lot and get stuck on important details now and then. I come up with questions that the traditions have totally different views about, but no satisfying answers.

Yes, I can sympathize.

Lacking a personal guide, you have to become comfortable with certain commentators on the Dhamma before you can begin to ferret out answers that make sense to you regarding questions you have about the practice or the teachings. That is why I proposed the link to the Essential Books. The authors and translators of those books are people I have come to trust in their ability to accurately help me to define the true intent of the meaning found in the discourses. You may also find them to be trustworthy for your own edification. Nyanaponika Thera, Narada Thera, Bhikkhu Nanananda, Bhikkhu Analayo, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Thanissaro Bhikkhu as well as many more, are all trusted sources for information about the Dhamma. The footnotes in those published translations of the Majjhima, the Digha, and the Samyutta Nikayas are invaluable to help a questioning practitioner find answers to practical issues they find confusing.

Failing that, you can always ask questions in the forum regarding difficulties you come across in comprehending passages from the discourses.

I also had the advantage of having been a monk for seven years in a contemplative Western order, which helped tremendously in my ability to distinguish between what was BS and what was authentic about the teaching. That together with my own innate ability for reasoned thinking is what I used as a guide. As long as you stay away from metaphysical explanations for things, you should be able to recognize the validity of phenomena (and explanations of such) based on your own direct experiences.

Be warned, though, that your impression of a phenomenon (i.e., how you think about it or define it in your mind) may change with time and added experience. In other words, you may come to see it from a different (and perhaps more accurate) angle in the future than the one you accept at present. Just keep an open mind until something proves itself to you over and over again, enough so that you can say "this is true" and "something other" is not. 

There is nothing mysterious about what Gotama had to teach. He taught with an "open palm" meaning that what he taught was never esoteric. He hid nothing from those who sought him out to teach them.

I hope that helps.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/4/15 11:45 PM as a reply to Ian And.
"...Nyanaponika Thera, Narada Thera, Bhikkhu Nanananda, Bhikkhu Analayo, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Thanissaro Bhikkhu..."

These guys don't agree with each other on how the Buddha thought people should meditate. And that is pretty much the only thing in the suttas I care about right now. 

"Failing that, you can always ask questions in the forum regarding difficulties you come across in comprehending passages from the discourses."

I do, a lot. Could try again:
What does "sabba kaya patisamvedi" mean in practice? Most of the monks you mentioned above give completely different answers to this, which makes their methods of meditation different. 
I've seen: "experiencing...
•...the entire (physichal) body" (Thanissaro, Analayo)
•...the whole body/process of breathing" (most)
•...all bodies (breath, physichal and mind bodies)" (Buddhadasa)

The intepretetation changes the meditation. It probably matters which one is correct, or the Buddha wouldn't have given that instruction and just said "focus on the breath and do nothing else". 

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/6/15 12:16 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:

I do, a lot. Could try again:
What does "sabba kaya patisamvedi" mean in practice? Most of the monks you mentioned above give completely different answers to this, which makes their methods of meditation different. 
I've seen: "experiencing...
•...the entire (physical) body" (Thanissaro, Analayo)
•...the whole body/process of breathing" (most)
•...all bodies (breath, physical and mind bodies)" (Buddhadasa)

The intepretetation changes the meditation. It probably matters which one is correct, or the Buddha wouldn't have given that instruction and just said "focus on the breath and do nothing else". 

Okay, the reason for the difference in interpretation in this example is that this is an instance of designing the instruction around the needs of the individual practitioner. Gotama did the same thing (you can find instances of such in the discourses) when he wanted to help a practitioner achieve something that he wasn't able to achieve using one set of instructions. In cases like this, the instruction can be fluid in order to fit the needs of the practitioner. In other words, if a practitioner finds it difficult to achieve a certain effect using one instruction, he can try another in order to achieve that same effect.

The example that you gave is a perfect example of this. And in many instances, it is just a matter of the method that the instructor prefers to promote due to his own personal preference at the expense of his student. A good instructor or guide will watch carefully how his student acts and reacts to the instruction, and then custom-design a method that is more conducive for the student to achieve the desired effect.

The way I interpreted this when I was undergoing the training was to use "the whole breath body" instruction as an object in order to help facilitate a dhyana state. It turned out that that method happened to work well for me. For someone else, they might prefer paying attention to the whole physical body or both the breath body and the physical body in order to achieve a pleasant sensation that could be focused upon in order to more easily enter into a dhyana state of meditation while practicing samatha calming.

Therefore, try one method. If it doesn't work, then try the other to see if it is more conducive to your ability to achieve the desired effect.

It is little examples like this which is why a person benefits from personal instruction from a qualified guide or instructor. One's practice doesn't get hung up on trifles.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/7/15 5:36 PM as a reply to Ian And.
So you think that the Buddha conciously gave unclear instructions so that they would be able to be interpreted in many different ways? I think that sounds a little far fetched, since there aren't mant different kinds of anapana instructions in the suttas.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/7/15 11:20 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
So you think that the Buddha conciously gave unclear instructions so that they would be able to be interpreted in many different ways? I think that sounds a little far fetched, since there aren't mant different kinds of anapana instructions in the suttas.

Is that how you interpreted what I wrote? If so, you couldn't be more wrong.

Gotama gauged each individual by his own capabilities. He designed different instructions for different types of individuals. (There is a discourse in the Nikayas that describes this very penchant of his.) Whatever worked for the individual is how he would instruct them. Individual guidance for specific areas of their practice that they were having trouble performing.

There is nothing mentioned in my response about "different kinds of anapana instructions." You're the one who is bringing that up, not I.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/8/15 3:51 AM as a reply to Ian And.
most of my misunderstandings here are because I'm not a native english speaker, sorry.

Still, what does individualized instructions have to do with the meaning of sabba kaya patisamvedi? It sounds like you think several interpretations of it could be right, but the Buddha must have meant one thing by it. I'm really confused, but that could just be another language problem...

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/8/15 11:47 AM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
most of my misunderstandings here are because I'm not a native english speaker, sorry.
Still, what does individualized instructions have to do with the meaning of sabba kaya patisamvedi?

Okay. You are technically correct. So, let's just agree that the meaning of the phrase is "experiencing the whole body" and leave it at that. How one defines or interprets what body is being referenced, then, becomes a matter of choice for the guide and the practitioner who is attempting to achieve the goal of "experiencing the whole body."

Ideally, then, according to Thanissaro's approach (which I wholeheartedly endorse if one is able to achieve it), one would be paying close attention to both the physical body and the body of the breath in attempting to calm the mind and achieve greater concentration of the physical body. Thanissaro makes a very good argument for this interpretation of the instruction. And there is nothing wrong with this approach. For some people this works very well. They are able to follow it and achieve the desired effect.

But what happens if you are not able to make it work for you? What do you do then? Do you become frustrated and give up? Not if you wish to experience the peace of mind that Gotama taught. So, how do you reconcile the contradiction for a student who admits: "I can't follow this instruction, and yet this is what Gotama taught." He taught this to be done in a certain way. Yet, it is the height of arrogance to say to a student (and Gotama knows this) "if you cannot practice in this way, you are out of luck in achieving the peace of mind that I teach." He would never say that to a student. What he would do is to figure out another way for the student to be able to achieve the desired effect, perhaps using a slight variation on the instruction, recognizing that all people are different in their capabilities, and that they may respond differently to a different method of instruction.

All I'm saying is: meditation instruction such as this, within the stated context, is malleable (capable of being changed, molded; adaptable). If the student places mental restrictions on his practice that he is not able to achieve (believing that it has to be only this way), then he is hurting only himself. One must be able to adapt the instruction to fit one's needs. And that is the job of a qualified guide or instructor to make sure the student doesn't dig himself into that kind of negative hole in his thinking.

Individualized instruction has to do with the individual's ability to carry out the instruction and to achieve the desired effect. In this instance, the desired effect is to deepen concentration levels and to improve the level of calmness of the mind to the point that it can begin to easily enter into a dhyaha meditative state. So, now we have a goal associated with the instruction: improve concentration and calm the mind.

With that goal in mind, then, as a student practitioner without a guide, you would need to experiment with the instruction. Pick an instruction and try to follow it. Make an effort to follow one method and see how is goes. Practice that method for six or eight or twelve weeks or longer, just to give yourself an opportunity to see if you are able to perform it. If you find that after much practice you are able to achieve the goal of the method and are able to strengthen concentration and calm the mind enough that it allows you to enter into dhyana mediation, then fine. Continue with your practice.

Otherwise, try another option such as the ones mentioned here

Stick with Thanissaro's method as it is the closest to what Gotama intended his students to follow. Thanissaro makes very good points about its interpretation which are in line with what the discourses suggest. All I'm saying is: don't limit yourself to just that interpretation if need be. Be flexible in your approach. 

For myself, I found just following the body of the breath (becoming aware of each in-breath and out-breath through its three phases of beginning, middle and end) to be conducive to my ability to deepen concentration and to calm the mind. At the time, I wasn't aware of Thanissaro's interpretation; I followed what made sense to me at the moment, and it worked! So, all I'm saying is, as a practitioner without an instructor, keep an open mind about these things, that's all. And learn to follow your intuition. Learn to trust your intuition to help guide you along the path.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/8/15 3:23 PM as a reply to Ian And.
But why would the Buddha use one word to convey different messages dependent on the different listeners? If I was the Buddha and that was my goal, I would have reformulated the instruction.

The questions below are not rethorical:

So you too think experiencing the whole body means being aware of the whole process? The first two instructions of Anapanasati are about discerning the length of the breath. THEN comes sabba kaya patisamvedi. How can you discern the length of the breath without experiemcing it's beginning middle and end? Is the Buddha just reformulating what he just said when he says the instruction about experiencing the body? If the anapana instructions are steps in a chronological order, I think that each step probably is a new one. 

If thr excercise of anapanasati was only about developing concentration then I guess it would have been enough just to be in the now and focus on the breath. But in the Arittha sutta, the monk Arittha tells the Buddha that that's how he practices anapanasati and the Buddha answers that  it's ok but not enough, and then proceeds to give him the standard long instructions. I find that sutta kind of confusing because I thought all you need to attain jhana is concentrated present moment awareness, but according to the Buddha, there is more to it than that...

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/8/15 8:51 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
But why would the Buddha use one word to convey different messages dependent on the different listeners?

You're making this way harder than it needs to be. I'm sorry, but the communication barrier is too insurmountable for me to get across to you what you need to comprehend about what I'm saying. I've already explained this to you twice before, and you still do not comprehend or accept what I'm saying. For me to try saying any more would only be more confusing for you in your present state of confusion.

I will say one thing about the Ananpanasati Sutta. It is not necessarily meant to be practiced verbatim and consecutively, one event following the other all at once in one sitting. It is a compendium of practice suggestions that can be taken one step at a time, one sitting at a time, but not all together. And this is especially true for beginners like yourself.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/9/15 1:58 PM as a reply to Ian And.
That's what I suspected, that the Anapanasati instructions aren't meant to be chronological steps. Thanissaro Bhikkhu puts it that way though...

Any comments on the Arittha sutta? emoticon What was Arittha doing wrong in his practice? That sutta changed my view on anapanasati. 

Could you please read it? It's very short:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn54/sn54.006.than.html

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/9/15 10:45 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
That's what I suspected, that the Anapanasati instructions aren't meant to be chronological steps. Thanissaro Bhikkhu puts it that way though...

Any comments on the Arittha sutta? emoticonWhat was Arittha doing wrong in his practice? That sutta changed my view on anapanasati. 

Could you please read it? It's very short:

I went back to my edition of the The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya published by Wisdom Publications to see the translation there by Bhikkhu Bodhi as I trust his translations and word choice more than I trust Thanissaro's. Although, to be fair, there are times when Thanissaro's translations have added insight that Bodhi's neglected to add. And that is the case in this instance. Yet, in this case, if one were to read this sutta alone, without referring back to the suttas that surround it, one might come away with an imprecise impression of its meaning and intent. When read in context with the surrounding suttas, this one, in the same way that the surrounding ones do, talks about how one is to attain the fruit of arahantship. So, this is the context in which one should read the Arittha Sutta. It is for this reason that I recommend to serious students that they find a way to obtain the set of Wisdom Publication discourses as there is much to be gleaned from reading them in context as well as from the footnotes that helps to clarify the meaning and intent of the translated discourses. 

In this instance, Arittha wasn't doing anything wrong. What he admitted to doing was exactly what Gotama had instructed. And what Gotama instructed him to do further was to take his practice to an even higher level than he had already taken it so as to induce the achievement of arahantship. You learn this in the footnote that Bodhi places in his translation after Gotama says: "But as to how mindfulness of in-&-out breathing is brought in detail to its culmination, listen and pay close attention. I will speak."[294]

Footnote:
294 "The commentary says that Aritta had explained his own (attainment of) the nonreturner's path [because he spoke obliquely of the eradication of the five lower fetters], but the Buddha explained [to him] the insight practice to gain the path of arahantship."

When Thanissaro talks about "fabrications" he is speaking about the impressions (either bodily or mental impressions) that enter the mind. If you watch how your mind is perceiving these impressions, you will begin to see how the mind works to influence whether or not you "like" or "dislike" (vedana) a phenomenon, and what causes you to feel one way as opposed to another. "Bodily fabrications" are those impression that originate with the body; mental fabrications are those, such as perception and feeling (vedana) that originate within the mind. Fabrication in the context that Thanissaro is speaking about means "something that the mind constructs or makes up as a result of its impression of the phenomenon." What Gotama attempts to get his students to strive for is relinquishment for the "feeling" that is brought up in the mind regarding liking or disliking. Relinquishment and equanimity toward all impermanent things, to see them for what they are: impermanent, without self, and dukkha (or dissatisfying).

Just that, relinquishment and equanimity toward all (mental) formations, is nibbana!

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/10/15 9:00 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Yes I should probably start reading the nikayas as books.

Where does Arittha speak of the eradication of the five lower fetters? 
Is all of the instructions the Buddha gives Arittha further steps? If Arittha was a non-returner, does the sutta say that one can attain paths 1-3 just by focusing on the breath as ones only meditation practice, and that the standard 16-step model (what follows after "ever mindful he breathes in, ever mindful he breathes out" is only necessary to attain the last path? Do you think, like for example Ajahn Brahm does, that "just focusing on the breath" = steps 1-4 (first tetrad)?

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/10/15 9:45 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:

Where does Arittha speak of the eradication of the five lower fetters? 

Didn't you notice that Bodhi's comment mentioned that he spoke "obliquely" of the eradication of the five lower fetters. "Obliquely" meaning by implication.

I don't have the Thanissaro translation before me at the moment, but in Bodhi's translation it mentions Arittha as saying: "I have abandoned sensual desire for past sensual pleasures, venerable sir, I have gotten rid of sensual desire for future sensual pleasures, and I have thoroughly dispelled perceptions of aversion towards things internally and externally. Just mindful I breath in, mindful I breath out. It is in this way, venerable sir, that I develop mindfulness of breathing."

His mentioning of having "abandoned sensual desire for past sensual pleasures" and having "gotten rid of sensual desire for future sensual pleasures" is a sideways reference to release from greed for sensuous lust, the fourth fetter. Having "dispelled perceptions of aversion towards things internally and externally" is an indication of having let go of hatred and ill will, the fifth fetter. In other words, he is able to "perceive things as they actually are" and remain relatively unperturbed by them. One presumes that he has already overcome self-delusion, doubt, and clinging to rituals, the first three fetters, and that therefore he has attained to the path of the non-returner.

Pål:

Is all of the instructions the Buddha gives Arittha further steps?

Yes. The following are the key steps mentioned in the sutta toward realization of arahantship as stated in the Arittha Sutta. These include the distruction or relinquishment of the five higher fetters or of greed for Fine Material Existence, for Immaterial Existence, for self-conceit, for restlessness (or agitation, excitement, flurry), and for ignorance (with regard to the Four Noble Truths). Obviously, accomplishing these goals will take most practitioners some time. Rarely does it happen all at once, unless the practitioner is paying very close attention to every phenomenon that strikes the mind-psyche mechanism and is able to view them with complete equanimity. It is possible to get there, but it may take a bit of time and effort.

He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.'[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.' [8] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'

He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.' [10] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in satisfying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out satisfying the mind.' [11] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in steadying the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out steadying the mind.' [12] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in releasing the mind.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out releasing the mind.'

He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on inconstancy.' [14] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on dispassion.'[7] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on dispassion.' [15] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on cessation.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on cessation.' [16] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on relinquishment.'

"It is in this way, Arittha, that mindfulness of in-and out breathing is brought in detail to its culmination."

Not only toward the breath, but toward all other phenomena that one may encounter, like seeing a dead body, or watching someone get beat up, or the birth of a calf. One trains the mind to "let go" of its attachment to "like and dislike," in terms of the affective emotions that accompany exposure to such phenomena such that one is able to remain equanimous with regard to (mental and physical) formations in the mind which arise in one's field of perception.

Pål:

If Arittha was a non-returner, does the sutta say that one can attain paths 1-3 just by focusing on the breath as ones only meditation practice, and that the standard 16-step model (what follows after "ever mindful he breathes in, ever mindful he breathes out" is only necessary to attain the last path?

What the Anapanasati Sutta itself points out in miniature, so to speak, is that one can use that practice alone, mindfulness of breathing or anapanasati, while also using the 16-step 4-tetrad model of insight practice that is also described there in order to achieve all four paths. Yet, this can be a bit misleading if one is unable to imagine how this can be done.

In describing it this way, Gotama is speaking from the standpoint of already having accomplished that and is looking back upon the practice of anapanasati and speaking about how one can use the practice of mindfulness of breathing to accomplish the whole path. What isn't stated is all the work he had to do to get there.

As far as the Arittha Sutta is concerned, sections [5] through [16] in Thanissaro's translation describe the last three tetrads of the Anapanasati Sutta. And it was this instruction that Gotama was endeavoring to impart to Arittha, letting him know what was needed to complete the path.

If, when reading the suttas, you can think about the characters described there as being real people seeking to end their misery or dissatisfaction with life using the methodology that Gotama was teaching, it helps you to be able to understand the real life journey and hardships in practice that took place in order to complete the path. In other words, don't think of the people described there as being larger than life characters, but rather try to relate to them like you would your own friends and acquaintances, and try to keep that reality in front of you while you endeavor to understand the meaning and intent of what is being said in the discourses. If you do that, it will bring the discourses alive for you, and you will get that much more out of reading and contemplating them.

Pål:

Do you think, like for example Ajahn Brahm does, that "just focusing on the breath" = steps 1-4 (first tetrad)?

This is a little misleading, unless you understand that what Ajahn Brahm is referring to is an actual realization or fruition attainment (in the practitioner's mind and psyche) of those first for steps of the first tetrad. In other words, just focusing on the breath alone is not going to cut it unless one is also practicing insight at the same time. Insight realization (otherwise known as a "path fruition" in this context) involves an internal psychological change in the person such that the person does not react to phenomena in the same way that they did before. It means that an affective (that is, "arising from affects or feelings, emotions"; or in Dhamma talk, the aggregate of vedana pleasant/liking verses unpleasant/disliking) modification has taken place within the practitioner's psyche so that he is no longer overly bothered emotionally one way or the other by specific phenomena as it arises. He is endeavoring to attain to equanimity toward formations (both physical and mental formations) therefore not causing himself stress and/or anxiety.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/11/15 6:22 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Thanks, I hope I've gotten this right.

Are you saying Arittha was already doing first tetrad, he just put it in other words when describing his practice in the beginning of the sutta? And then the Buddha helps him further by instructing him in all of the steps/tetrads, so that Arittha would then practice what he already did+steps 5-16 too? 

I didn't really get the last thing about attaining frution on each step but I guess that's over my level right now anyway. 

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/11/15 6:56 AM as a reply to Pål.
I would just like to quickly but in and out and say thank you both for debating on this issue. I find it of great value as I'm also trying to establish a firm practice based on Anapanasati.

Thanks Ian &  Pal. Much appreciated.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/11/15 7:31 AM as a reply to Connie Dobbs.
I wouldn't call it debating. Rather: me being curious, confused and dogmatic and Ian trying to help me despite that haha

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/11/15 9:17 AM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
Thanks, I hope I've gotten this right.

Are you saying Arittha was already doing first tetrad, he just put it in other words when describing his practice in the beginning of the sutta? And then the Buddha helps him further by instructing him in all of the steps/tetrads, so that Arittha would then practice what he already did+steps 5-16 too?

The short answer is yes. And I'll leave it at that.  

Pål:

I didn't really get the last thing about attaining frution on each step but I guess that's over my level right now anyway. 

"Fruition" is just another word (the way I'm using it here) for the "aahh-hah" moment of realization and the integration of the truth of the Dhamma into one's mental and emotional atmosphere. And yes, the closer you get to the attainment of fruition or realization, the more real and palpable it will become for you.

RE: Great variation in performance - is it normal?
Answer
2/11/15 11:35 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Ok if that's true then sabba kaya most probably means the entire process of breathing. Which is weird, since I don't get it how you can be aware of the lentgh of the breath without following the entire process of  it => the Buddha is just repeating his instruction of following the breath carefully with attention when he tells one to sabba kaya patisamvedi as it it basicaly the same instruction as knowing the length of the breath. Repetition is the mother of knowledge I guess. 

Sooo my conclusion is that the first tetrad is basicly just watching the breath sensations carefully. That's nice since that's what I'm doing in my practice right now.

Ok I thought you meant fruition as in path attainment.