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Vipassana: Noting/Mahasi Style

Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..

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Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Jinxed P 10/19/15 11:40 AM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Marek Mark 10/19/15 12:28 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Jinxed P 10/19/15 12:33 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Marek Mark 10/19/15 4:44 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. CJMacie 10/20/15 7:19 AM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. tom moylan 10/20/15 9:07 AM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Jinxed P 10/20/15 10:36 AM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Marek Mark 10/20/15 11:56 AM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Jinxed P 10/20/15 1:49 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Marek Mark 10/20/15 10:08 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. CJMacie 10/22/15 7:42 AM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. CJMacie 10/22/15 7:35 AM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. CJMacie 10/21/15 8:30 AM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. tom moylan 10/21/15 9:14 AM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. CJMacie 10/22/15 7:46 AM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Marek Mark 10/20/15 12:01 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. tom moylan 10/19/15 12:46 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Jinxed P 10/19/15 1:40 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Scott Kinney 10/19/15 2:46 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Marek Mark 10/19/15 4:56 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. tom moylan 10/19/15 5:28 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Nikolai . 10/19/15 2:50 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Mike H. 10/19/15 2:57 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. Jason Snyder 10/20/15 6:12 PM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. CJMacie 10/22/15 7:18 AM
RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi.. CJMacie 10/23/15 6:18 AM
I have always thought that when people did 'noting' practice around here they silently said a word to themselves in there head, for instance..'thinking'.  In the MTCB, Daniel says
The practice is this: make a quiet, mental one-word note of whatever you experience in each moment. Try to stay with the sensations of breathing, nothing these quickly as "rising" ...




But after reading Mahasi's original writings I'm not so sure this is what he wanted.

In Practical Insight Meditation he says :
Continue with this exercise in full awareness of the abdomen's rising and falling movements. Never verbally repeat the words, rising, falling, and do not think of rising and falling as words.

On the occurrence of the upward movement of the abdomen, the mental note of "rising" should be made, and on the downward movement of the abdomen, the mental note of "falling" should be made. The mental notation of these terms should not be vocalized. In vipassana meditation, it is more important to know the object than to know it by a term or name. It is therefore necessary for the disciple to make every effort to be mindful of the movement of rising from its beginning to its end and that of falling from its beginning to its end, as if these movements are actually seen with the eyes. As soon as rising occurs, there should be the knowing mind close to the movement, as in the case of a stone hitting a wall. The movement of rising as it occurs and the mind knowing it must come together on every occasion. Similarly, the movement of falling as it occurs and the mind knowing it must come together on every occasion.


Thoughts?

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/19/15 12:28 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
I have never used noting technique with success. I have experienced all my insight i.e. Mind and Body, Cause and Effect, Three Characteristics and A&P, using Anapanasati and Choiceless Awarness (and mix of both) just like Bhante Gunaratana tought in "Mindfulness in Plain English".

Now i'm struggling with meditation. I enter Jhanas occasionaly but can't get much insight...

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/19/15 12:33 PM as a reply to Marek Mark.
Marek Mark:
I have never used noting technique with success. I have experienced all my insight i.e. Mind and Body, Cause and Effect, Three Characteristics and A&P, using Anapanasati and Choiceless Awarness (and mix of both) just like Bhante Gunaratana tought in "Mindfulness in Plain English".

Now i'm struggling with meditation. I enter Jhanas occasionaly but can't get much insight...


What is the technique you are using from "Mindfulness in Plain English"? From my reading of it is, it is actually very similar to Mahasi noting, just without using the verbal label, so what Mahasi may have meant all along..

Or perhaps I read or misremembered Bhante G wrong,...

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/19/15 12:46 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
noting has worked very very well for me.  there are different phases of the practice where the mental label is apparent, and other times when it becomes less so.

the purpose is to give mindfullness an anchor and when done correctly the labe is given no emphasis other than a means to bring one back to the presenting sensations of the chosen object.

it is just a technique to encourage mindfulness or sati.  it is a way of staying at a meta level, not being sucked into thought proliferation.  not vocalizing means not saying it aloud, but that too is a technique which has been used by some very successfully.

my take is to find which works best for you.  experiment.  are you moving through the nanas?  are you "staying above the fray" of labels leading to thoughts and then to other thoughts?

while the definitions might be slightly different, the development of mindfullness is possible either way.

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/19/15 1:40 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
Oh, I'm a pragmatist, and if labeling works , then it works, I'm just looking for clarification as to what Mahasi meant by 'noting.' Did he mean repeating a word in your head or not?

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/19/15 2:46 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
My understanding of noting, and how I've used it, has been to use a single word to identify stuff that has taken my attention away from my primary object, the breath.  So, when watching the breath, I don't use "rising", "falling", etc.  There have been 2 exceptions to that. One was when I was expanding my view of the breath to include that pauses at the end of both the in breath and outbreath. So, for a couple of sessions I said "rising, resting, falling, resting", and then I didn't need to anymore. The second was a very tough sitting session where I was very scattered and having a hard time, so I noted the breath (rising, resting, falling, resting) as an anchor for my attention.

My noting has changed somewhat over time. When not sitting, just in walking around daily life, noting comes in handy to catch previously unconscious reflex behaviors, noting the "hook" as Pema Chodron might say, hopefully in time to not bite down on it.  In sitting meditation, noting has become faster, and less necessary. Fewer things are shouldering aside the primary object, when they do, there's just a quick blip of recognition that's the non-verbalized noting.

In the Practical Guide to Insight Meditation, Mahasi has instructions for lots and lots of noting in every day life. Which is useful for some amount of time; it helps you catch 'unconscious' movements/gestures/thoughts, etc, and it also helps start your view of the three characteristics. (and by that I only mean, you are sneakily training the thought that the "you" that is turning the page of the newspaper can't be the same "you" that is noting 'turning, turning'.)

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/19/15 2:50 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Jinxed P:


But after reading Mahasi's original writings I'm not so sure this is what he wanted.

In Practical Insight Meditation he says :
Continue with this exercise in full awareness of the abdomen's rising and falling movements. Never verbally repeat the words, rising, falling, and do not think of rising and falling as words.

On the occurrence of the upward movement of the abdomen, the mental note of "rising" should be made, and on the downward movement of the abdomen, the mental note of "falling" should be made. The mental notation of these terms should not be vocalized. In vipassana meditation, it is more important to know the object than to know it by a term or name. It is therefore necessary for the disciple to make every effort to be mindful of the movement of rising from its beginning to its end and that of falling from its beginning to its end, as if these movements are actually seen with the eyes. As soon as rising occurs, there should be the knowing mind close to the movement, as in the case of a stone hitting a wall. The movement of rising as it occurs and the mind knowing it must come together on every occasion. Similarly, the movement of falling as it occurs and the mind knowing it must come together on every occasion.


Thoughts?

When you note something, you don't "know" what you are noting before you note it? 

If that is the case , then noting has probably become mechanical and the noticing that should always precede the labeling of an 'object' needs to be established again and again and again. Noting should proivde a positve feedback loop for the ongoing knowing of whatever is taking centrestage.

3 cents

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/19/15 2:57 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
hello,

if i understand you question correctly, you are really pointing out some lack of clarity in that translation.  here are my thoughts on this:

i read that Mahasi Sayadaw manual (granted, a translation) as saying never do noting out loud.  I get that from "Never verbally . . .".  I would suggest that the translation is slightly vague on that point.

you also emphasize a phrase about not thinking of rising, falling "as words."  I would just take that as a direction to stay focused on the primary meditative object.  you should have the noting going on but shouldn't be primarily focused on the words you are using.

hope that helps.  because i read the translation in this manner, i don't think that anything Ingram et al would say about noting is really contradicting Mahasi's instructions there.

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/19/15 4:44 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Jinxed P:
What is the technique you are using from "Mindfulness in Plain English"? From my reading of it is, it is actually very similar to Mahasi noting, just without using the verbal label, so what Mahasi may have meant all along..

Or perhaps I read or misremembered Bhante G wrong,...

Bhante Gunaratana teaches how to mindfully notice and observe bare sensations from start to end until they vanish. He puts much emphasis on proper attitude, i.e. be patient and relaxed, be curious, don't expect anything, accept everything what happens as it is, observe reality as it is, be honest with yourself.

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/19/15 4:56 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:
it is a way of staying at a meta level, not being sucked into thought proliferation.
It is exactly opposite of what noting does for me. It makes me think about sensations and I tend to start noticing notes and thoughts about sensations, not a bare sensation. How long one should practice noting technique to be able to use it properly?

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/19/15 5:28 PM as a reply to Marek Mark.
howdy MM,
there are a lot of people for whom noting just aint thier thing.  the objectivity that noting helps me achieve is an important aspect of what i understand mindfulness to be and to function.  lately i have been going back to counting the exhalations to 21, something i leatrned from sharma rinpoche many moons ago before his passing.  it turned out to be an excellent technique for me too and allowed a slightly different path into the nana ladder.  so mix it up a little, try different things. perhaps that will help.

tom

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/20/15 7:19 AM as a reply to Marek Mark.
Marek Mark:
I have never used noting technique with success. I have experienced all my insight i.e. Mind and Body, Cause and Effect, Three Characteristics and A&P, using Anapanasati and
Choiceless Awarness (and mix of both) just like Bhante Gunaratana tought in "Mindfulness in Plain English".

"Choiceless awareness" doesn't show up in that book. Your 2nd post is closer:
"Bhante Gunaratana teaches how to mindfully notice and observe bare sensations from start to end until they vanish."

The term Gunaratana uses is "bare attention" (30+ times), and on page 83 (in a PDF version, from Bodhinet, 1994) he makes clear:
"
Mindfulness is nonconceptual awareness. Another English term for Sati is 'bare attention'."

And, on pages 85-88, he spells it out in Dhamma terms:
"There are three fundamental activities of Mindfulness. … (1) Mindfulness reminds us of what we are supposed to be doing; (2) it sees things as they really are; and (3) it sees the deep nature of all phenomena... [explaining each in detail]"

As clear from the title and introduction, he's using a s/w simplified approach to reach American readers. That's tricky, as in general popular 'dharma' teaching, more so over the years, the related term "bare awareness" (and especially "choiceless awareness") has come into wide usage, representing a much watered-down version of "mindfulness".

It all goes back to about 1954 when Ven. Nyanaponika Thera (of Sri Lankan lineage but then training with Mahasi) started using the term "bare", borrowing from a (then) relatively esoteric Abhidhamma schema analyzing the process of cognition as a series of micro-steps in rapid succession, each taking milleseconds: briefly, idling awareness is shaken by some sensation; turns to it; receives it (here as "bare"); then "perceives" it in terms of associating it with conditioned meanings; labels it; processes it for a couple of steps (generating kamma (karma)); and then "registers" it (storing it, as conditioned).

Bhikku Bodhi (a student of Nyanaponika's) has reported that years later, Nyanaponika said that the way people were widely using "bare awareness" was not at all what he originally meant.

Gunaratana's "bare attention" refers to mindfulness attempting to observe the process of consciousness at another level ("meta level" was mentioned), and distinguishing sensate input from more the elaborate conditioned proliferation of normal, uncultivated consciousness. Something of the original meaning lies in that, since when practiced carefully, over time the mind will begin to recognize the conditionality implicit in even what seems "bare", and with more accomplished insight, will become able to separate the true bareness of sensation from the conditioning that interprets it – and that's a release, a liberation.

tom moylan
expressed nicely how 'noting' is supposed to function in mindfulness practice, and brought out the important point that the Mahasi method (and Burmese style practices in general), is a specialized form of practice that doesn't work for everyone. For instance, Thai lineage teachers (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Ajahn Chah, Ven. Sujato, to name some that are well-known) teach a distinctly different route of practice / cultivation. Gunaratana stems from a Sri Lanka lineage, yet another branch of present-day Theravada. (It's said that once Mahasi Sayadaw was stoned – pelted with rocks, not 'high' – by Sri Lankan Buddhists who thought his system was a distortion of Buddhism; at least it seems it didn't work for them. That isn't to say that Gunaratana falls into that camp. Likewise Bhikkhu Bodhi, who also trained in Sri Lanka.).

As a footnote, in a thread I threw out here yesterday ("Classical Inspiration"), a passage from the beginning of the Visudhimagga (section 6 in the second post there) mentions that there several different forms of practice 'paths' that all can lead to 'purification' (nibbana) – not only strict insight (the 1st one mentioned), but also (2) by "jhana and understanding", (3) by "deeds (kamma)", (4) by "virtue", or (5) by the "Foundations of Mindfulness".

So it may well be some other teaching than strict Mahasi / MCTB method may work better in your case.

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/20/15 9:07 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
wow.  great analysis.  one thing i noticed in reading gunaratana's fine work is how he uses the english word "feelings" as a synonym for "sensations" (pp33 on the following link) .  this differs from analyo's interpretation of "feelings" as the positive, negative or neutral acceptance of raw sensorial input. i like analyo here.

perhaps the copy differs though as i read gunaratana's work from http://holybooks.lichtenbergpress.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/Mindfulness-in-plain-English.pdf?351736 and it seems there are different editions.

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/20/15 10:36 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris,

What is your interpretation of how Bhante G would like us to practice vipassana? Like the actual practice. I've read "Mindfulness in Plain English", I've skimmed "Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English" , I've even gone on retreat with him (although it was a metta retreat), and I am still not completely sure as to his method of vipassana. It is confusing for me as he doesn't separate samatha and vipassana,

From what I can best make of it, he teaches mindfulness of breathing, and whenever a distraction comes up, notice it long enough to know their impermancence and then return to the breath.

Eventually it seems he wants you to practice jhana, and from jhana investigate the 3 c's.

Is that your interpretation of his basic instructions?

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/20/15 11:56 AM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Jinxed P:
From what I can best make of it, he teaches mindfulness of breathing, and whenever a distraction comes up, notice it long enough to know their impermancence and then return to the breath.
This is exactly how I practice, but sometimes I just let my attention flow with experience - and this is what I call Choiceless Awareness but maybe I should call it Momentary Concentration. It happens especially in 'a second jhana territory'. I practice mindfulness of breathing whenever my concentration is weak.

I remember a day when I was practicing this way, observing a bare sensation of pain in my leg, and suddenly the pain sensation exploded to many smaller, impermanent sensations including separate sensations of pain, suffering and 'me'. I stopped suffer from that pain immediately. I couldn't say "my leg hurts" anymore. There were only separate, dancing sensations. It was like breaking illusion. Insight into no-self.

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/20/15 12:01 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris J Macie:
So it may well be some other teaching than strict Mahasi / MCTB method may work better in your case.
I think I will stick with this bare attention technique.

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/20/15 1:49 PM as a reply to Marek Mark.
Marek Mark:
Jinxed P:
From what I can best make of it, he teaches mindfulness of breathing, and whenever a distraction comes up, notice it long enough to know their impermancence and then return to the breath.
This is exactly how I practice, but sometimes I just let my attention flow with experience - and this is what I call Choiceless Awareness but maybe I should call it Momentary Concentration. It happens especially in 'a second jhana territory'. I practice mindfulness of breathing whenever my concentration is weak.

I remember a day when I was practicing this way, observing a bare sensation of pain in my leg, and suddenly the pain sensation exploded to many smaller, impermanent sensations including separate sensations of pain, suffering and 'me'. I stopped suffer from that pain immediately. I couldn't say "my leg hurts" anymore. There were only separate, dancing sensations. It was like breaking illusion. Insight into no-self.

A difficulty I have with this type of meditation is that when a distraction  comes up, especially some sort of physical feeling, like a pain in the knee and I turn my attention to it. It doesn't just go away, I could then focus on that pain, often for many minutes, perhaps even the whole session. I guess I could break up that pain into smaller moments, and watch the impermanence of those..however, my point being that many bodily sensations seem to stay with me for a while if I choose to focus on them, and I'm not sure when I should be going back to the breath if they aren't disappearing on their own?

How do you do it?

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/20/15 6:12 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
I see it as a continuum. Using labels for me is only good if I am really distracted, i.e., not present with my moment to moment experience. However, noting has the unfortunate side effect of adding a conceptual layer on top of the bare "moment of knowing" and reifying phenomon, e.g. overlaying a filter of "itch" or "hearing" or "anger" to a perception. Ultimately we want to see that the "objects" that we notice are "empty of inherent existence" which is impossible or at least very difficult if we are labeling IMO. 

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/20/15 10:08 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Jinxed P:

A difficulty I have with this type of meditation is that when a distraction  comes up, especially some sort of physical feeling, like a pain in the knee and I turn my attention to it. It doesn't just go away, I could then focus on that pain, often for many minutes, perhaps even the whole session. I guess I could break up that pain into smaller moments, and watch the impermanence of those..however, my point being that many bodily sensations seem to stay with me for a while if I choose to focus on them, and I'm not sure when I should be going back to the breath if they aren't disappearing on their own?

How do you do it?

1 - Try to perceive changes in the intensity of the pain. There are ever changing qualities of sensations. If you look closely at sensation, it never stay the same. It is morphing, changing, pulsing etc.
2 - Don't wish it to go away. Just observe things as they really are.
3 - If you wish it to go away, then notice it and try to distinguish between sensations of a bare pain and sensations of 'me suffering'. They are totally different sensations. It is very common that suffering goes away and what remains is a bare sensation of pain.
4. There is no need to go back to the breath. Pain, hearing, thoughts, craving etc - all objects are equally good to watch.
5. Don't try to percive an illusion. Just observe things as they really are. Seeing through the illusion of self comes gradually and naturally as your mindfulness and dispassion strenghten.

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/21/15 8:30 AM as a reply to Jinxed P.
re: Jinxed P (10/20/15 10:36 AM as a reply to Chris J Macie.)

"What is your interpretation of how Bhante G would like us to practice vipassana? … I am still not completely sure as to his method of vipassana. It is confusing for me as he doesn't separate samatha and vipassana,
… Eventually it seems he wants you to practice jhana, and from jhana investigate the 3 c's.
… Is that your interpretation of his basic instructions?"


Honestly, I haven't read those books cover to cover, or tried to practice according to them. (Some other book I read closely, impressed with Guranatana's explanation how to "establish", rather than just know about the "7 Factors of Enlightenment".)

I do recognize, I think, his style, as resembling that of Thanissaro Bhikku (Than-Geof), in that he for sure "doesn't separate samatha and vipassana", any more than they are separated in the sutta-s. That is, in the sutta-s (I once searched, from Bhikku Bodhi's indeces, all uses of 'vipassana' and 'samatha/samadhi') the term 'vipassana' NEVER occurs except paired with 'samadhi'. Ven. Sujato's approach (also from a Thai forest lineage, though different than Than-Goef's) also emphasizes a closely intertwined practice of insight and concentration.

As Than-Geof (and his Thai teachers) taught, the Buddha presented preeminently not detailed methods, but rather heuristics by which to constantly evaluate and progress through the training using several roughly sketched methods. And the heuristic could be described as a) learning to better and better observe, and b) to better and better calm, clear the mind to be able to better observe – and two (a+b) have to be done intertwined, back and forth. For instance, only when well-concentrated can the mind more closely penetrate the world of it's constant activity, reactivity; but an essential object of observation is the mind itself in states of deep concentration, states that progressively approximate the non-activity, non-reactivity of nibbana.

There's a paradox here, and it's sort of recursive.*

What is to be observed (and ultimately seen-through) is how the mind tangles itself in delusional concepts, which are largely analytical distinctions (e.g. the process of reductionism). And the ironic paradox is that this includes distinctions like that between insight and concentration. The recursion lies in overly engaging in such distinctions to the point of further trapping the mind in conceptualization. Insight and concentration are like two sides of a single coin, two views not two things, two ways of viewing an integral practice of mental training.

Not that the later Theravadan commentarial tradition didn't discuss, analyze insight and concentration separately, but the analysis was not practice instruction. The Visudhimagga is an encyclopedic catalog of all the possibilities and details of understanding (from the sutta-s and other canonical texts) virtue, concentration and wisdom. It's set out in an articifial (didactic) logical path that is systemized to look like: do 1 (with umptine sub-phases), then do 2 (also subdivided), then 3, etc. -- like the path to becoming an Eagle Boy Scout, or a university curriculum leading to a degree. Similarly the famous Maha-Sattipatthana sutta (the bible of BurmeseTheravada) – an exhausive catalog of the modes and sub-steps of mindfulness.

In reading both the Visudhimagga and the Maha-Sattipatthana (e.g. through Ven. Analayo's two detailed books), one finds again and again, that from this or that particular method of practice or sub-step, IT'S POSSIBLE TO GO DIRECTLY TO AWAKENING. It's not like, well, you haven't taken this or that prerequisite course yet – no degree until you do; nice try but no banana!.

Now, in the 19th- to 21st-century confrontation and mixing-in, mixing-it-up with Western culture and it's mental biases, that analytical, algorithmic approach got emphasized, even dominant in some modern traditions. Yet another historically conditioned thicket, tangle of views and interpretations.

All this is viewpoint conditioned by my own inclinations. While I can revel in systematic analysis (having some academic background), when it comes to practice, I feel more at home out in the forest with the Thai monks, far away from the crowded cities where, for instance, official, highly organized and regulated, even dogmatic Burmese style formalities dominate.

* Many here with 'geek' backgrounds will recognize the idea of 'recursion'. The pure definition, I think, is mathematical, but to get the sense here's a famous joke:
"There are two kinds of people in the world: (1) there are those who believe that there are two kinds of people in the world, and (2) there are those who don't."
Maybe one could call it 'self-defining', as in the earliest AI computer language LISP, which is purely recursive, in fact often implemented, "written" in itself.

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/21/15 9:14 AM as a reply to Jinxed P.
one point of his method which i have NEVER had success with is his emphasis on "nimitta".  after a (undefined) deeper state of concentration is reached, the sign should arise and then be taken as object.  pretty jhanic stuff if you ask me , although it is proferred in an insight context.

in any case, while i have had literally thousands of experiences which "could theorhetically" be nimitta, i have never been able to stabilize attention on those mental formations in a substantive way.  perhaps just a quirk of my mind body or perhaps the result of millions of lives spent as an egocentric sense-addict. :-)

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/22/15 7:18 AM as a reply to Jinxed P.
After writing all that in my last post, I went back to the OP to check that it wasn't going way off topic. Looking more closely at the quotation from Mahasi's Practical Insight Meditation:
On the occurrence of the upward movement of the abdomen, the mental note of "rising" ... of "falling" should be made. The mental notation of these terms should not be vocalized. In vipassana meditation, it is more important to know the object than to know it by a term or name. It is therefore necessary for the disciple to make every effort to be mindful of the movement ... as if these movements are actually seen with the eyes. As soon as rising occurs, there should be the knowing mind close to the movement, as in the case of a stone hitting a wall. The movement ... and the mind knowing it must come together on every occasion. ....

"Know","as if seen with the eyes" sounds like the sense of "observation" as I used earlier (having learned that use of the term from Ven. U. Jagara in a retreat about 4 months ago). The knowing mind close to the movement like a stone hitting a wall, the mind touching the object – so close and direct that any verbalization would suck the mental energy in a different direction, towards conceptualizing and away from direct contact; hence "not to be vocalized"

Daniel's ( MCTB ) choice of "mental one-word note" is, technically, misleading. It's more the case of allowing perception to recognize ("note") at that moment what it's observing – a pre-verbal mental movement of object awareness, but keeping that from spilling over into the naming phase of perception, which pulls it away from the observing. Know the object, but not "by a name" – the "by a…" signals that jump of attention from observing to concept. So, forget the "one-word" part. And reinterpret the "note" part as not in the sense of a written note, words put to paper.

I just looked up the etymology of the English word "note". Very interesting. It goes back to past participle notus of a Latin verb noscere – to (begin to) know; going further back to the Greek gnosis (and still deeper to a similar Proto-Indo-European root), meaning direct experiential knowledge. The word Gnosis is famous from its usage by the early Christian mystical tradition (the"gnostics"), as direct, "mystical" knowing, vs conceptually knowing. "Mystical" means "hidden", not overt as in named and conceptually grasped (and thereby distanced from the direct experience). Something closely related to this sense of gnosis is what I think Mahasi is pointing to.

One of the first Than-Geof recorded talks I ever listened to (and re-listened-to many times) was titled "Warrior Knowledge". In the Buddha's day (according to Than-Geof) there was "scribe knowledge" – obviously verbal, conceptual, from reading, thinking – contrasted with "warrior knowledge" – from doing, directly in the thick of experience. The term "direct knowledge", as we know, is at the heart of Buddha's teaching (and a central topic in the Visudhimagga).

Actually, I'd never read that Mahasi passage so closely, but now recognize something of his genius there. I've read a lot in his great Treatise of Vipassana, where I was overwhelmed by his grasp, understanding, and explanations of the sutta-s, and the commentaries, and the sub-commentaries. But I'd never noticed how clever he was being in the beginner-level instructional writings. Live and learn.



RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/22/15 7:35 AM as a reply to Marek Mark.
Jinxed P:
From what I can best make of it, he teaches mindfulness of breathing, and whenever a distraction comes up, notice it long enough to know their impermancence and then return to the breath.

Extrapolating from what I've learned from Than-Geof (which I believe is virtually the same teaching, and which I use simply because I've studied, practiced it extensively), this is exactly right, will lead in the right direction. Just do it,do it,…

According to Than-Geof (and what I find), the breath is an ideal anchor object (it's always available, it's your friend) to steady the mind. There's a transitory factor. At times the mind is not inclined to be that steady (distractions abound), so carefully observe them, without letting them take over (lead off into trains of poliferation, usually triggered by some sort of I/me/mine-ness). That's leaning into the vipassana side of the coin. At other times, the mind holds well, the steadiness deepens into calm, peace, that grows, feels great. That's leaning into the samadhi side of the coin. There's something to be said for going with those natural, transitory leanings. (But it's not to say that other methods wouldn't be valid that might encourage some form of more determined intent on the vipassana or samadhi side. Each evaluates for him/herself.)

The basic practice remains the same: trying to hold steady and carefully observing whatever phenomena arises, including the presence of this or that momentary leaning. The trick is that over time, unexpected things happen, most notably a sense of increased strength and skill. (Just like practicing piano or whatever.) Observing this also really helps build motivation.

Marek Mark:
This is exactly how I practice, but sometimes I just let my attention flow with experience - and this is what I call
Choiceless Awareness but maybe I should call it Momentary Concentration. It happens especially in 'a second jhana territory'. I practice mindfulness of breathing whenever my concentration is weak.

Avoid (IMO) "choiceless awareness", as that term has become overly associated with s/w shallow ideas about practice, in that it devalues theelement of intent that's a part of proper mindfulness. "Momentary Concentration" is a better framework, though it's variously interpreted. (1) Ayya Khema (and others) uses the term for a lesser, more day-to-day form of concentration, like that of a musician, a brain-surgeon, a safe-cracker, etc. On the other hand (2), Mahasi Sayadaw uses this term in a much stronger sense, which he also calls "Vipassana Samadhi", and appears to consider it as a core advanced practice in his system*, equivalent in depth and strength to hardcore jhana samadhi practice (the two different forms being appropriate to different people according to their individual temperments, paramis).

* It may be that the term "vipassana jhana", which I have not found Mahasi himself using in his writings, is used by interpreters of his system to mean the something like vipassana samadhi. Note that these matters are not dealt with in Mahasi's more popular, introductory, instructional writings. It's treated in detail in his huge, rather advanced masterwork – The Vipassana Treatise, available on-line in a 1984 English translation, and currently being re-edited into a more readable form for publication in the West.

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/22/15 7:42 AM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Marek Mark:
A difficulty I have with this type of meditation is that when a distraction  comes up, especially some sort of physical feeling, like a pain in the knee and I turn my attention to it. It doesn't just go away...


At some point, the best course of action is to shift position or something (maybe time for a bit of walking meditation) to reduce the pain (allow circulation, the blockage of which is pain). Than-Geof makes this point strongly: unless you have that kind of advanced skill (4th stage hard jhana) that can absolutely anesthetize sensation (which even isn't advisable to use if there's some potentially damaging nerve or blood blockage). For earlier stages of training (most of us), important, according to Than-Geof, to first get the body "into position to meditate", comfortable and open to breathing energy throughout. The mind / nervous system is care taker of the organism; if the body is distressed, the mind must attend to that and hasn't the leisure to "get into position to meditate", i.e. secluded, free from unnecessary care, worry.

That is to say, I would suggest adding this last point to Marek Mark's  excellent list answering "How do you do it?" Not to second-guess Marek Mark's practice, but his may be more advanced in it, or not have painful physical conditions /issues like others may.

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/22/15 7:46 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:
one point of his method which i have NEVER had success with is his emphasis on "nimitta".  after a (undefined) deeper state of concentration is reached, the sign should arise and then be taken as object.  pretty jhanic stuff if you ask me , although it is proferred in an insight context.

In my opinion and experience, this is an area not to get too hung-up on – as in "should arise". "Nimitta" is a very subtle experience in the early stages, and cannot be forced. It develops on its own, and as one gets better at using the peaceful, calm phases of practice. Careful observation, pressing onward, will eventually notice as the object transforms, on it's own, into a mental counterpart phenomenon, often visual but not necessarily. Counter-productive to feel any compulsion or try too hard in this area. It happens when it happens, and then plays it's role in exploring further calm and insight.


in any case, while i have had literally thousands of experiences which "could theoretically" be nimitta, i have never been able to stabilize attention on those mental formations in a substantive way.  perhaps just a quirk of my mind body or perhaps the result of millions of lives spent as an egocentric sense-addict. :-)

As above. Reliable stability, a skill, grows at it's own pace. Doubting and bringing "oneself" into it destabilizes as it draws attention, energy away from moving forward with insight / observation; sucks energy into a spiral that tries to "stabilize" around that self, which has no stable, durable basis (though highly utilitarian in daily life).

RE: Are We All 'Noting' Incorrectly? On using words and Mahasi..
Answer
10/23/15 6:18 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Further thoughts on that issue of MCTB mentioning noting using a "mental one-word note" --

I recalled that that's also how it's taught by the monks at Tathagata Meditation Center (San Jose, California), in the intro 1-hour instructions at every weekend retreat. (They are of the Mahasi lineage via U. Pandita and U. Silananda.)

They say to note "walking, walking,...", "thinking, thinking...", "itching, itching,..." etc., while at some point also mentioning trying to be non-verbal about it.

I suspect the problem is that one has to do something like that for beginners, who very likely will have little idea of what it means to focus direct attention on (relatively) bare experience. The one-word noting (usually a present participle) usage is an accessible entry point for about anyone -- that step of naming, labelling with a concept, is so fundamental to normal conditioning (at least in the West). The new element also being introduced is the mindfulness / meta-awareness aspect, which people will also be familiar with, but not in the manner of applying it so rigorously and continuously. People might recognize it as similar to being "self-conscious", but here it's framed in an impersonal way.

So the fact that the point of it all is to cultivate in the direction of gnostic / Buddhist "direct knowledge" makes sense only when one already knows (conceptually AND experientially) a lot more about.

As it stands, that teaching technique (Mahasi, and, for that matter, MCTB too) is in fact s/w unbalanced, skewed towards those tempermentally inclined to the vipassana side of practice, and offering little to those who might more easily be lured, motivated by some form of the samadhi aspect.

I just found, started reading Ajahn Lee's teachings on meditation, particularly on jhana-s, in Than-Geof's translation. This I find much more balanced, almost constantly using insight and concentration aspects interacting together. I will try to fit that into an imminent roll-out of my analysis of Leigh Brasington's new book -- i.e. his interpretation of jhana practice that is emphatically, often polemically, opposed to the traditional (Visudhimagga-like) approach. The Thai-forest / Ajahns Lee and Thanissaro approach offers an excellent alternative (a "middle way") that can help take some of the edge off the inveterate battling between the jhana-lite the the hard-jhana fans (when they get fanatic about it).