Question about Shinzen's noting technique

baddul, modified 5 Years ago.

Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 7 Join Date: 10/19/14 Recent Posts
I'm beginning my meditation practice and had two questions.

I sit with my eyes closed and use Shinzen's version of Mahasi-style noting (i.e. select one of 3 sense categories (hear, feel, see) AND one of 2 locations (inside, or outside)): I attend to all physical sensations in the body (therefore labeled "Feel Out"; by contrast, "Feel In" would be emotional sensations, "See In" would be mental imagery, etc.). 

However, I notice that I have a LOT of mental imagery that comes up either immediately before or immediately after I've noted a physical sensation. The image is usually related to the body part where the sensation arises. 

I therefore feel that my mind is "directing" my attention a lot: An image of my arm will arise and a split-second later I'll note a sensation there. Or, I'll note my stomach rise as I inhale, and simultaneously an image of a rising belly will form in my mind. I note at about 1 sensation/second and there's continuous mental imagery playing in my head. 

So I have two questions: 

1. Do I simply note the image and carry on?
2. Do I do something to drop imagery somehow? (Mahasi Sayadaw's Practical Insight Meditation seems to suggestmental imagery ought to be dropped).  

Thanks!
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svmonk, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 392 Join Date: 8/23/14 Recent Posts
I've practiced with Shinzen for about 3 and a half years, and the advice I've usually heard him give in these situations is that what you do depends on the intention you established at the beginning of the practice. If, for example, you establish the intention to just note "Feel Out", then you would ignore the mental imagry as a distraction. On the other hand, if you are free float noting among all categories, then you would note the mental imagry as "See In".

You might want to send him email if you have any specific questions. His email address is on his Web page. My experience is that he usually gets back to you, though it might take a while if he is travelling, leadng a retreat, or otherwise busy.
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tom moylan, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
howdy,
i do that same practice with similar noting but thought it was my own invention..drat!

that you are seeing the difference between internal image and external image (same for sound etc.) is enough.  that is actually a very good and important distinction which shows you just one way we stich this illusion of self and other together to create the false duality.

continually prying those sensations apart IS the work.  you don't want to manipulate your experience..just observe it again and again and again for all of the sense doors.

the images are dropped continually and new ones arise continually.  noting and letting go, noting and letting go.  mindfulness is always riding that wave of continually arising and passing away of ALL of thos sensations.
Mark, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 550 Join Date: 7/24/14 Recent Posts
Hi,

Noting all 6 at the same time seems a tough way to start. Perhaps spend some time just noting one combination e.g. feel out. I assume you are also aware of the None and Gone notes - it is easier to get these in if the experiences to note are restricted.

My experience is that those reactions will calm down pretty soon. The "monkey mind" is full on at the beginning, completely normal. Before I started noting I was doing anapana sati, the meditation on in-and-out breathing. That built up some concentration ability and the monkey mind calmed down. In Shinzen's system something similar would be expansion and contraction noting focused on the breath.

Are you also participating in the monthly teleconference ? There is at least one "beginner" session each month. I started participating in those late last year.
baddul, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 7 Join Date: 10/19/14 Recent Posts
Svmonk, Tom, Mark -- thank you all for your responses!

So it seems like you guys are suggesting that, for now, I simply note "Feel Out" and note the images as a distraction ("Wandering", perhaps?). And that over time this monkey mind will calm down? 

Mark -- I've thought about joining the monthly teleconferences. Are they helpful? Are the other facilitators as good as Shinzen? What's your experience been like the past year? 
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Noah Starbuck, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
I would also suggest that the very sense that you are getting distracted can be broken down with notes.  So try noting the inner narrative as "hear in" when you begin to remember the pattern of distraction, and "feel in" when you sense aversion to it in the emotional body.
baddul, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 7 Join Date: 10/19/14 Recent Posts
Noah:
I would also suggest that the very sense that you are getting distracted can be broken down with notes.  So try noting the inner narrative as "hear in" when you begin to remember the pattern of distraction, and "feel in" when you sense aversion to it in the emotional body.

I see. How would I stop getting overwhelmed by noting that many different sensations though?

In other words, for a beginner what's the optimal trade-off between precision (how clearly one is able to note a given sensation) vs. accuracy (how many of the arising feelings one is able to note). 

Eventually I think people can note almost all sensations that are arising with pin-point precision, but in the begnning I'm finding this to be very hard. So should I try to be precise (and note only one), or try to note all (and precision will go up with time)? 

I'm willing to work VERY HARD at this, but I just want to make sure I'm doing the proper training. 

Thank you for answering!
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svmonk, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 392 Join Date: 8/23/14 Recent Posts
If you have dedicated a practice session to a specific sense direction, like "Feel in", what you want is to clearly identify the sensation with a note and then to let your awareness sink in and experience it. If something else comes up, ignore it, don't even label it as a distraction. This helps to develop concentration. When the sensation disappears, you note "Feel gone". When there is no "Feel in" happening, you note "Feel rest" even if something else arises. This develops concentration.

If you have dedicated a practice session to a free float, then you track all sensations with notes like the above and only note rest when there is nothing happening as "All rest". Like for example:

- <itching arises in left toe>
- Note: "Feel out" -> direct awareness to fully experiencing itching
- Thought arises "My left toe is itching"
- Note: "Hear in" -> direct awareness to fully experiencing the thought
- Sensation subsides
- Note: "All rest" -> experience what its like not to have anything going on

The monthly teleconferences (technically called the Home Practice Program) are incredibly helpful for learning the technique, and they are quite reasonably priced ($20 for a four hour session). The facilitators are all very well trained. Shinzen also has a book on his website, I think it is called "5 Ways to Know Yourself", that you can download for free.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
I have to second everything svmonk has said, as he is highly familiar with the system and I am not.  I have not worked one-on-one with shinzen.  I did a weekend retreat with him in nyc 3 weeks ago that was amazing and culminated in me getting to converse with him briefly at a group-dinner after the workshop.

I personally favor a "free-float" technique because that is what I have worked very hard on in my daily life.  This doesn't develop concentration well and probably wouldn't work for a lot of people.

It also probably matters where you are in the cycle of insight.  Do you have any idea of this?
Mark, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 550 Join Date: 7/24/14 Recent Posts
baddul:
Svmonk, Tom, Mark -- thank you all for your responses!

So it seems like you guys are suggesting that, for now, I simply note "Feel Out" and note the images as a distraction ("Wandering", perhaps?). And that over time this monkey mind will calm down? 

Mark -- I've thought about joining the monthly teleconferences. Are they helpful? Are the other facilitators as good as Shinzen? What's your experience been like the past year? 

Hi baddul,

The teleconferences are very helpful. It was a real surprise to me but it is actually Shinzen who has led most of them. Even the introductory sessions! So you get a chance to ask him questions directly. It is really an exceptional program.

The other facilitators that have replaced Shinzen when he was not available are equally as good in explaining the basic techniques. Maybe the more advanced sessions would be best with Shinzen - I don't know. Shinzen's techniques seem to have been designed by him with transmission by other teachers in mind.

If you are going to try noting a single aspect e.g. feel out then only note feel out. When you notice that you have been distracted gently bring attention back to observing for feel out. Pretty soon you will get better at noting feel out and be kept busy emoticon I found that noting "none" when there is no feel out can help to maintain attention. Even if you are aware of other sensations you can note none in regards to feel out, if it is not present. Noting none is part of Shinzen's technique. The action of noting tends to minimize periods of distraction.


 
baddul, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 7 Join Date: 10/19/14 Recent Posts
Guys thank you SO MUCH for the detailed instructions and advice. I will do as you suggest for several months until I have much more stable concentration, and then begin to branch out my noting. 

Noah - My practice is not very advanced yet, so I'm at the beginning cycle of insight. 
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Abingdon ., modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Question about Shinzen's noting technique

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I don't have much to add beyond what's been said. However there is one thing that hasn't been explicitly mentioned is that there is the option of exclusive vs inclusive noting.

Exclusive means that if you begin your session with the intention of noting only e.g. "feel out", that you ignore any other mode (sense domain: see/hear/feel) or theme (in or out). If e.g. "hear in" arises, you simply allow it to exist in the background of your awareness but you do not attend to it.

You could choose to note multiple themes/modalities, but in exclusive noting it will always be only one at a time. Any others that arise you allow to "do their thing" in the background without attending to them.

If you begin your session with the intention of doing inclusive noting you will note multiple themes/modalities either singly or in combination -- say you choose "feel out" and "see in", you can have 3 possibilities of notes: 1. feel out, 2. see in, 3. feel out AND see in (I'd probably note that as "both" but I don't think I've heard him do so). (Actually, there are 3 more -- each gone independently and both gone. And then there are the restful states. It gets complicated quickly. ;-)

I find inclusive noting extremely challenging!

Within the last year or so he has been playing with a simplified system which ignores the theme and focuses only on the mode. Instead of "feel in" and "feel out", just note "feel"; instead of "see in" and "see out", just note "see" etc.

Definitely do some Home Practice sessions. Well worth the time!

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