Starting line paranoia

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Adam Lawrence, modified 4 Years ago.

Starting line paranoia

Posts: 6 Join Date: 3/3/16 Recent Posts
From the first jhana there are basically three things a meditator can do. They can either get stuck there (I know someone who spent some twenty years cultivating the first jhana in their daily practice and thinking this was insight practice), they can progress to the second jhana, or they can investigate the first jhana and thus begin the progress of insight.

First off, I have done quite a bit of reading around and I have always found reading very difficult, despite doing quite a lot of it! I am also listening to the audiobook. Of particular interest thus far have been these: trouble getting started, on noting, again on noting, and more on noting! I haven't finished MCTB yet. I am on page 191 (Part 3, Section 24, 6. Fear). If you think my questions are silly, please don't think that I'm not doing my homework. I'm working pretty hard here!

My objective: To explore as much of the map as I can. Because I'm curious.

Context: starting line paranoia... I suspect I'm quite a paranoid person... 'suspect' being the operative word, of course! I sit down. I begin. And I concentrate on my breathing. Then I wonder if I'm doing it all wrong and whether I have to go back to the book again and establish, once and for all, whether or not I should begin with noting (an insight practice). I think I've established that it doesn't really matter. But doesn't noting also pertain to concentration? This is my current mental model of the "Insight Vs. Concentration", thus far:
  • In concentration practice, I note: breath, breath... then... in, out, in out... followed gradually by the many beginning, middle and end stages of each in and out, none of which need be verbalised but rather simply observed. Then... eventually... jhana 1, baby!
  • In insight practice, I note: keyboard, finger tips, press, humming noise, hunger... but try to keep it all within my field of direct experience... then gradually speed up until verbalising is a hindrance to speed... then just something like ta, ta, ta or tap finger, tap finger, tap finger. Once you're in the zone, notice mind and body, cause and effect and the three characteristics
The above passage from MCTB seems to indicate to me that one focuses on concentration FIRST and THEN moves on to insight meditation shortly thereafter.

My questions:
  • How do insight, concentration and noting fit together in terms of practice?
  • Do I start with concentration practice and worry about insight practice (and therefore noting) later?
  • Do I always begin with concentration?
  • Do I simply choose between one and the other? Insight on odd days and concentration on even days, for example?
  • Why doesn't the map, which is covered in arrows, have a "Start here!" arrow?!
Best regards,

Adam
Robert, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Starting line paranoia

Posts: 100 Join Date: 5/8/15 Recent Posts
Adam Lawrence:


5. Why doesn't the map, which is covered in arrows, have a "Start here!" arrow?!

Maybe there are many but they look like lines because they point to where the practitioner is assumed to be. Turn the arrow towards the subject that is aware of it and it looks like a line, "I". But the place where this I-arrow points to, is there a practitioner to be found there?

Start here.
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Adam Lawrence, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Starting line paranoia

Posts: 6 Join Date: 3/3/16 Recent Posts
Robert:
Adam Lawrence:


5. Why doesn't the map, which is covered in arrows, have a "Start here!" arrow?!

Maybe there are many but they look like lines because they point to where the practitioner is assumed to be. Turn the arrow towards the subject that is aware of it and it looks like a line, "I". But the place where this I-arrow points to, is there a practitioner to be found there?

Start here.
Ha! I laugh! But what is "I"? Hmmm. Beer...
Robert, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Starting line paranoia

Posts: 100 Join Date: 5/8/15 Recent Posts
Adam Lawrence:

Ha! I laugh! But what is "I"? Hmmm. Beer...


"I" is the arrow that is supposed to point within. From where experience and the assumed separate experiencer is experienced. For most people the arrow points outwards though, to phenomena that comes and goes. The physical body is also already something "outside", it's also phenomenal. I'd also ask "what is that one who is trying to get somewhere?", "Can it be me if it comes and goes, isn't stable, and there seems to be a constant awareness of it?", "Mustn't awareness be there first for anything phenomenal to occur as an experience?", "Anything that fluctuates, moves, is seen, heard, tasted, thought about comes and goes. And is there something, something stable, which doesn't come and go but which witnesses all these things, even the thought "I am the witness"?" etc.

edit

I read this post again just now and noticed the sloppy language that was used. I didn't mean to imply that there is a some "thing" that witnesses and that it could be spotted out. Those questions above are just meant to loosen the fixation on the thoughts, mental images and bodily sensations a bit. There can be a release of the bodily contraction and then that ever present "isness" is self evident. In a way it's self evident already. And it's not that the character can make anything happen actually.

The character is thoughts appearing and creating a sense of "me in time" and there is an underlying contraction which is the sense of "me here in space". Wow, cool I've never seen it like this but it kinda makes sense. Thoughts appearing create the sense of time and the energetic contractions in the body create the sense of being a center in space.. But those two aspects go together. They're co-dependent.
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Adam Lawrence, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Starting line paranoia

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Robert:
The character is thoughts appearing and creating a sense of "me in time" and there is an underlying contraction which is the sense of "me here in space". Wow, cool I've never seen it like this but it kinda makes sense.

Heya, Robert! Thank you for putting so much time into writing on this thread. Given that I'm very much a beginner, I still sometimes imagine myself as a fly on the wall watching the idiot on the cushion! It's difficult enough just concentrating on my breath because there just seems to be too much going on! I wear a blindfold but the birds and the city just seem to get really loud and surprisingly distracting! It's difficult to get my head round some of what you've written though I like to think that, after some more dabbling and transitioning to insight meditation, it'll become clearer to me.
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tom moylan, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Starting line paranoia (Answer)

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hi adam,
in concentration, one does not do noting.  jhana means "absorption" and the point is to focus on the sensations, especially the pleasant ones, and FEEEEL them deeply and everywhere in yur body that you can.  progressing through the jhanas is accomplished by becoming dissillusioned with the current state and looking towards more subtle energetic feelings and sensations.

your description of vipassana is good.  keeping a little objectivity and staying present, not being sucked into mental proliferation is the way to go.

vipassana and jhana practice are intertwined and interpenetrating.  in jhana you need some vipassana and in vipassana you need some calm stillness. in jhana your mind is focused on specific tasks, that focus and direction is the vipassana, or wisdom aspect.  in vipassana practice, getting enough calm to see past the waves and into the depth of how our experience is stitched together is essential.

buddha described them in many ways but one description is that they are like two yoked oxen which cannot be separated but together get the job done.
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Adam Lawrence, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Starting line paranoia

Posts: 6 Join Date: 3/3/16 Recent Posts
tom moylan:
buddha described them in many ways but one description is that they are like two yoked oxen which cannot be separated but together get the job done.
Thank you, Tom! You've cleared up a lot of confusion!

I stumbled upon something else today that I hadn't previously noticed. And I do feel like a bit of an idiot for not having noticed it earlier... ahem... MCTB has an index! The above post plus rereading Section 2 in The Fundamentals has put me back on track.

I'm only left wondering... why the Hell isn't Access Concentration on the map?! I strongly believe that even us utterly unpracticed simpletons deserve a place on the map! But Daniel Ingram did write a 350+ page compendium on how to explore the dharma and he did then make it freely available to all. So he's off the hook.
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Noah, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Starting line paranoia

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Hi Adam,

You're a highly analytical type, which I personally relate to.  This post was one of my first questions on the DhO.  What has worked for me is to do whatever it takes to not obsess about the meditation technique, and instead to just do it, in high volume, over time.  Specifically, I ended up deciding on low-quality but constant, noting in daily life.  My point is to find a method that works for you, after intellectually/conceptually "figuring it out."  Find maps and models that inspire you and help you mentally organize your practice, and then find a technique that acts as a vehicle to take you through that territory.  That might be more concentration-based or more insight-based; either way, it will be a useful, gradual brain training.  
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Adam Lawrence, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Starting line paranoia

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From your 2014 post...
Noah:
...it feels like I have to choose between focusing on the voice in my head which notes vs the actual phenomenon being observed.
Thank you, Noah! Had I stumbled across this earlier post, I may not have written my own! I don't have enough time to give the whole thread proper attention now but I definitely will later.
Noah:
...find a technique that acts as a vehicle to take you through that territory.  That might be more concentration-based or more insight-based; either way, it will be a useful, gradual brain training.
Daniel Ingram wrote that he was a "one technique freak" for the best part of five years and I found that very comforting when I first came across it (i.e.: I do not have to arduously commit all of this to my long term memory)! For now, I am still settling on a posture (knee problems) but seem to be making progress. I'm wearing a blindfold to limit distraction. And I'm concentrating on either my breath or a flame for 20 minute periods. On the insight side of things, I'm trying to foster noting as a new "walking down the road" habit. Instead of listening to music or audiobooks or whatever, I just walk down the road and try to note stuff for a while in the hope of developing more fluency with style of practice. Thus far, it has felt clunky and awkward! But alas! I haven't even been at this for a week!
James, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Starting line paranoia

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Just wanted to point out that saying "I suspect that I'm quite a paranoid person" is what makes you paranoid, and not "the fact that you are paranoid." It's really ironic for you to say "I suspect." Because "I suspect" is the definition of paranoia.
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Adam Lawrence, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Starting line paranoia

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James:
It's really ironic for you to say "I suspect." Because "I suspect" is the definition of paranoia.
Indeed!

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