Noting speed

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Chris O, modified 5 Years ago at 11/5/16 1:26 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/5/16 1:20 PM

Noting speed

Posts: 54 Join Date: 10/8/16 Recent Posts
Before I knew about the Mahasi method or started to read MCTB, I would do noting for persistent thoughts and feelings that came up during concentration practice. By this I mean I would note things like "memory" or "planning" or "itching" if I realized I was experiencing any of that instead of the breath. So this might just be a something like 10 or 20 notes a minute in the beginning, with notes becoming less frequent the more concentrated I got. Even though I wasn't doing insight practice, it proved useful: the illumination phenomena of access concentration would brighten/increase the more I employed noting.

Now that I'm about half-way through MCTB, I see that for true insight practice, something like once a second to 10 times a second is recommended as a reasonable speed goal. I can note almost once a second for 10 or 15 minutes straight if I really try (it's exhausting), but I don't understand how one could note 10 times per second, for example. Sometimes I get vibrations that could easily be 10 or more times a second, but I don't understand how I can even think of a label that many times in a second.

Let me give an example of what I mean. Let's say I'm on a park bench watching some dogs play. Over one second, I see and hear them play, and notice the warmth of the sun. Am I really supposed to be able to enunciate something like "seeing seeing seeing warmth warmth barking barking breeze seeing breeze" in my head over the course of one second? Is that really what is meant by rapid or speedy noting?
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Noah D, modified 5 Years ago at 11/5/16 5:28 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/5/16 5:27 PM

RE: Noting speed

Posts: 1198 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
In short, no.

It might be helpful to think of those metrics as inspiring ideals that some meditators can reach in some stages.  Mostly people are noting a lot slower than that.  I've heard Shinzen advise one every 2 to 3 seconds, to give some context.  The higher the speed of a note, the more likely someone is dropping mental labels entirely and just "tapping" with their mind.  I used to watch leaves falling in autumn and mentally repeat "blip, blip, blip, blip" for every discrete visual frame I could note.
Marty G, modified 5 Years ago at 11/5/16 7:44 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/5/16 7:29 PM

RE: Noting speed

Posts: 95 Join Date: 9/3/16 Recent Posts
http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/yogi-toolbox-fast-noting.html

That link will be helpful and covers much of what you are curious about.

From my point of view, it seems to be an unnatural and mind/brain altering process if you do it as these exponents suggest. There is no way you can hammer the brain with that level of intensity and not get 'effects'. You would have to ask why you would do such an extreme practice. You could use chemical, mantra, trance or other means to do the same. You will get altered states of brain and mind. Not necessarily an 'enlightening experience' but definitely a changed level of perception. This does not seem to have much to do with Buddha's teaching, not that that is an issue( I'm not a Buddhist) just mentioned in passing. There are meditation technicians and the outcomes they teach are naturally  mechanical in nature. Basically you could have vastly expanded brain/mind states and still be as 'thick as a brick'. Some of the hindu trance yogis have this quality, deep samadhi and no wisdom (not using the Buddhist defination of wisdom) whatsoever. Of course I may be wrong, give it a good shake and let us know the outcome.

Edit ( meaning of " thick as a brick" ) for the non-brits/ aussies



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Chris O, modified 5 Years ago at 11/5/16 8:11 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/5/16 8:08 PM

RE: Noting speed

Posts: 54 Join Date: 10/8/16 Recent Posts
Noah D:
In short, no.

It might be helpful to think of those metrics as inspiring ideals that some meditators can reach in some stages.  Mostly people are noting a lot slower than that.  I've heard Shinzen advise one every 2 to 3 seconds, to give some context.  The higher the speed of a note, the more likely someone is dropping mental labels entirely and just "tapping" with their mind.  I used to watch leaves falling in autumn and mentally repeat "blip, blip, blip, blip" for every discrete visual frame I could note.

Thanks for chiming in, Noah. IMHO, it's a little confusing in the book (granted, haven't finished it yet) because there's an emphasis on precision and accuracey, which seems to suggest high specificity is paramount... but as you point out, something like "blip" or "bleep" or other one-syllable onamonapia is the only way I can see to keep up! If noticing the instances of content passing through awareness is more important than identifying the type content passing through, it makes sense to shorten and the labels. I'll play around and see how it goes.

Marty G:
http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/yogi-toolbox-fast-noting.html

That link will be helpful and covers much of what you are curious about.

From my point of view, it seems to be an unnatural and mind/brain altering process if you do it as these exponents suggest. There is no way you can hammer the brain with that level of intensity and not get 'effects'. You would have to ask why you would do such an extreme practice. You could use chemical, mantra, trance or other means to do the same. You will get altered states of brain and mind. Not necessarily an 'enlightening experience' but definitely a changed level of perception. This does not seem to have much to do with Buddha's teaching, not that that is an issue( I'm not a Buddhist) just mentioned in passing. There are meditation technicians and the outcomes they teach are naturally  mechanical in nature. Basically you could have vastly expanded brain/mind states and still be as 'thick as a brick'. Some of the hindu trance yogis have this quality, deep samadhi and no wisdom (not using the Buddhist defination of wisdom) whatsoever. Of course I may be wrong, give it a good shake and let us know the outcome.

Edit ( meaning of " thick as a brick" ) for the non-brits/ aussies


Marty, if I understand you correctly, you sound skeptical altogether of the mind effort involved in noting. It does seem counter-intuitive to use the mind so seemingly actively, doesn't it?

For me personally, I'm optimistic about the possibility of this being useful for me. Here's why: I was stuck in an airport yesterday when I really tried to note as quickly as possible, as suggested in the aliens shooter game. What I found is that after a few minutes, I started getting the same kundalini/piti spinal vibrations I typically start to feel when I arrive at access concentration during anapanasati.

In other words, in just two or three minutes of quick noting, my nervous system responded the same way it does after 15 or 20 minutes of breathing concentration practice. Plus, I was in a busy airport--a place I wouldn't be able to do anapanasati concentration. For me, that's enough to suggest that I may be a good candidate for this technique.
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Dream Walker, modified 5 Years ago at 11/9/16 11:51 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/9/16 11:51 AM

RE: Noting speed

Posts: 1448 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Chris O:
If noticing the instances of content passing through awareness is more important than identifying the type content passing through, it makes sense to shorten and the labels. I'll play around and see how it goes.

Noticing is being present with what is happening in the moment. You're training meta-cognition to keep track of the experience and are not being sucked into the experience but watching it closely.

Noting is an after the fact "hack" that keeps you on task by labelling what you just noticed such that you don’t get sucked into the experience. Noting is a wonderful hack that works really well and is useful thru many of the Nanas. It is also something that should be put aside when you don't need it. Test this in each Nana and you will learn when you can stop noting and just notice instead while keeping on track.

I used 4 words in my noting practice -

1. Thinking
2. Hearing
3. Seeing
4. Feeling

On very rare occasions I would smell and taste, but not often enough to worry about.
These four words cover 99% of our meditative experience and I didn’t need to waste time searching for the "right" word.
Say the words silently to yourself.

Noticing the current experience with all the curiosity you have is the key to moving up the nanas. Its not a grit your teeth process, but more like a game that is endlessly entertaining and pleasant. Have fun and play with it as it is your meditation. You want to get real close up to your sensations, very intimate, curiosity, awe, clarity, fall into experience, don’t let things get dull in trying to mindlessly pound stuff out (unless that’s all you can do). Anything that seems to be permanent, feels like "you", or satisfies ....dig into it and see what those things are like.

Speed of noticing is not necessarily a indicator of good practice. Noticing very very carefully and fully what is happening in the moment is the most important thing, making a verbal note afterwards is just a hack to keep you on track when you need such things. Depth vs speed....they both play a part but selecting one over the other is imbalanced and will hinder optimal progress. Though play with speed and keep tweaking it to find the most effective rate multiple times per sit....things change and you should change with it.
Good luck,
~D
shargrol, modified 5 Years ago at 11/9/16 1:44 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/9/16 1:44 PM

RE: Noting speed

Posts: 1791 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Well said DW!
Andreas Thef, modified 5 Years ago at 11/10/16 12:44 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/10/16 12:44 PM

RE: Noting speed

Posts: 152 Join Date: 2/11/13 Recent Posts
Yes, that is very helpful. Thank you, Dream Walker.
Marty G, modified 5 Years ago at 11/10/16 3:55 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/10/16 3:53 PM

RE: Noting speed

Posts: 95 Join Date: 9/3/16 Recent Posts
Marty, if I understand you correctly, you sound skeptical altogether of the mind effort involved in noting. It does seem counter-intuitive to use the mind so seemingly actively, doesn't it?

Hi Chris I have no problem with noting, just pointing out that if you use it in a high speed very aggressive manner, it's less likely to be based in insight or intelligence and more mantric or blunt or based in the effects of repetition rather than conscious intelligence. I can't see any point in noting sensory input other than to distort senses into an altered state. It's the altered state that is valued. The 'weirdness' is just that, weirdness or distortions you create by mechanical meditation action.

I find the real utility of noting is in noting obsessions and repetitive patterns. Here is an example: I have developed over time a constant tendency to treat any little bodily change as a potential medical problem. A dread arises; a certainty of particularly cancer (with some reason, via genetics and past smoking) is going to be the case. If I see this pattern, as merely obsessive repetition, and note "medical problem" a distance arises between the pattern and its fearful response and an ease and humor (even) replace it. I doubt that the Burmese masters would see in any value in this, but to me this is an intelligent and effective use of noting.This probably sounds like a lecture, just do what works for you, it's all trial and error after all (well, much of it).

All the best, Marty.
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Chris O, modified 5 Years ago at 11/10/16 3:57 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/10/16 3:53 PM

RE: Noting speed

Posts: 54 Join Date: 10/8/16 Recent Posts
Dream Walker:
Chris O:
If noticing the instances of content passing through awareness is more important than identifying the type content passing through, it makes sense to shorten and the labels. I'll play around and see how it goes.

Noticing is being present with what is happening in the moment. You're training meta-cognition to keep track of the experience and are not being sucked into the experience but watching it closely.

Noting is an after the fact "hack" that keeps you on task by labelling what you just noticed such that you don’t get sucked into the experience. Noting is a wonderful hack that works really well and is useful thru many of the Nanas. It is also something that should be put aside when you don't need it. Test this in each Nana and you will learn when you can stop noting and just notice instead while keeping on track.

I used 4 words in my noting practice -

1. Thinking
2. Hearing
3. Seeing
4. Feeling

On very rare occasions I would smell and taste, but not often enough to worry about.
These four words cover 99% of our meditative experience and I didn’t need to waste time searching for the "right" word.
Say the words silently to yourself.

Noticing the current experience with all the curiosity you have is the key to moving up the nanas. Its not a grit your teeth process, but more like a game that is endlessly entertaining and pleasant. Have fun and play with it as it is your meditation. You want to get real close up to your sensations, very intimate, curiosity, awe, clarity, fall into experience, don’t let things get dull in trying to mindlessly pound stuff out (unless that’s all you can do). Anything that seems to be permanent, feels like "you", or satisfies ....dig into it and see what those things are like.

Speed of noticing is not necessarily a indicator of good practice. Noticing very very carefully and fully what is happening in the moment is the most important thing, making a verbal note afterwards is just a hack to keep you on track when you need such things. Depth vs speed....they both play a part but selecting one over the other is imbalanced and will hinder optimal progress. Though play with speed and keep tweaking it to find the most effective rate multiple times per sit....things change and you should change with it.
Good luck,
~D
Thanks, Dream Walker!

Your description of noting aligns with my experience. When I first started meditating and tried noting, it felt like unnecessary mental noise that complicated the meditative process. As I practiced more, I noticed thoughts become much quicker, fleeting, and diffuse. Their wispier form made them harder to identify, allowing them to sneak in unnoticed before seizing full control over attention. This is when I added noting back in and found it extraordinarily useful at times. When I added them back in, that's the same list I focused on: "thinking," "hearing," "seeing," and "feeling." Occasionally I'll spontaneously use "remembering" or "imagining" instead of "thinking," however; as well as "itching" or "pain" instead of "feeling." Now, in whatever stage of insight I'm in, I'm finding them generally less useful, although am careful to use them whenever a sensation causes me to lose the object of meditation. 

I'm curious about the applicability of noting to specific practices. For example, I have two separate daily practices: 60 - 90 minutes of concentration, and 60 minutes of choiceless awareness/simple mindfulness. For concentration, I watch the breath. What I'm wondering is, is this a good strategy...

For concentration, I keep noting limited as you've described. I only use it to note anything that causes me to miss a portion of the breath, to make sure I don't "follow" it. If I'm aware of something in peripheral awareness but do not feel like it's captured my attention and distracted me away from the breath, I don't note it. 

For choiceless awareness, because I have no object of meditation, I note anything and everything. Every single sensation that crosses my attention or I am aware of existing in peripheral awareness is called out using one of the six sense door labels. The point here is to have the highest granularity of my sensation experience possible.

Given your description of noting, I wondering if my noting practice for choiceless awareness makes sense. Because I have no formal training in Mahasi or noting, I'm wondering if it makes sense to use noting in this way for meditation when no specific object of meditation is held. If I understand you correctly, I suspect your answer would simply be something like, "If you find it help." Yeah? Just looking for an indicator whether this practice sounds reasonable or not--whether it's worth continuing with dedicated time.
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Dream Walker, modified 5 Years ago at 11/10/16 10:19 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/10/16 10:19 PM

RE: Noting speed

Posts: 1448 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Chris O.:
I'm curious about the applicability of noting to specific practices. For example, I have two separate daily practices: 60 - 90 minutes of concentration, and 60 minutes of choiceless awareness/simple mindfulness. For concentration, I watch the breath. What I'm wondering is, is this a good strategy...
If you find it helpful

By the way, if you close one nostril to really focus in on the sensations of air moving then it can get you more sensitive to it, same as going outside where it is cooler to get tuned into it.
Tip 2 - make the focus on the breathing more continious to get better jhana. No in and out, just constant sensations...
Chris O.:
For concentration, I keep noting limited as you've described. I only use it to note anything that causes me to miss a portion of the breath, to make sure I don't "follow" it. If I'm aware of something in peripheral awareness but do not feel like it's captured my attention and distracted me away from the breath, I don't note it. 
If you find it helpful

By the way, as soon as you notice that you have moved off the breath and gotten lost for a moment, your noticing means you are already back. Why waste time noting? Get back to your breath already, anything else is just spending more time NOT getting concentrated.
Chris O.:
For choiceless awareness, because I have no object of meditation, I note anything and everything. Every single sensation that crosses my attention or I am aware of existing in peripheral awareness is called out using one of the six sense door labels. The point here is to have the highest granularity of my sensation experience possible.
If you find it helpful

By the way, your attention is moving from object of meditation to object of meditation. The present time attention, focused on something within a sense door.
You are noticing that. The "knowing" that you are on task vs lost in thought is the awareness portion. If you are taking this knowing as object then you are focusing on an awareness practice. 
Working with attention is vipassana and leads to first path...
Notice the object then note....repeat
Chris O.:
Given your description of noting, I wondering if my noting practice for choiceless awareness makes sense. Because I have no formal training in Mahasi or noting, I'm wondering if it makes sense to use noting in this way for meditation when no specific object of meditation is held. If I understand you correctly, I suspect your answer would simply be something like, "If you find it help." Yeah? Just looking for an indicator whether this practice sounds reasonable or not--whether it's worth continuing with dedicated time.
If you find it helpful

There is always an object of meditation, especially if it is nothingness or emptyness.
Notice the object then note....repeat

good luck,
~D
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Nikolai , modified 5 Years ago at 11/14/16 1:33 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/14/16 1:31 PM

RE: Noting speed

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
Marty G:
http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/yogi-toolbox-fast-noting.html

That link will be helpful and covers much of what you are curious about.

From my point of view, it seems to be an unnatural and mind/brain altering process if you do it as these exponents suggest. There is no way you can hammer the brain with that level of intensity and not get 'effects'. You would have to ask why you would do such an extreme practice. You could use chemical, mantra, trance or other means to do the same. You will get altered states of brain and mind. Not necessarily an 'enlightening experience' but definitely a changed level of perception. This does not seem to have much to do with Buddha's teaching, not that that is an issue( I'm not a Buddhist) just mentioned in passing. There are meditation technicians and the outcomes they teach are naturally  mechanical in nature. Basically you could have vastly expanded brain/mind states and still be as 'thick as a brick'. Some of the hindu trance yogis have this quality, deep samadhi and no wisdom (not using the Buddhist defination of wisdom) whatsoever. Of course I may be wrong, give it a good shake and let us know the outcome.

Edit ( meaning of " thick as a brick" ) for the non-brits/ aussies





An alternative approach to the linked one above:

http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/yogi-toolbox-detailed-noting.html

Nick
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CJMacie, modified 5 Years ago at 11/17/16 6:24 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/17/16 6:17 AM

RE: Noting speed

Posts: 856 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
Chris O.:
...what is meant by rapid or speedy noting?

Here's a perspective on this topic from Buddhist Theravada practice and theory, in particular Abhdhamma and its interpretation by modern Burmese traditions – e.g. of the Pa Auk Sayadaw and the Mahasi Sayadaw.

First, the "noting" technique, in the teaching the Mahasi Sayadaw, refers to vipassana "knowing" of every sensate phenomena (to use MCTB language). Attaching verbal labels is sort of using bicycle training wheels attached, a crutch taught at the very beginning, but to be abandoned as soon as possible. (Mahasi is very clear about this; and the beginning instructions, say, at Tatagatha Meditation Center, San Jose, from Burmese monks are to drop the verbal labels as soon as possible.) The purpose, as mentioned in posts above, is to break the pattern of the mind wandering around in its own random fabrications, and get it to watch, study the sensation+mental perception apparatus that's going on all the time, even when the mind is off elsewhere. When highly developed, it is a true "gnosis", or penetrating and full experiential understanding of what's "really" going on in conscious life. (Note, so to speak, that the words "note", "know", "notice", etc. all go back to the Greek words and roots as in "gnosis".)

The issue of how fast, how often to experience a "knowing" moment has to do with first gaining proficiency with the skill, but then, more essentially, with using it to approach, and eventually match the speed at which the mind itself is functioning. From abhidhamma deconstruction of the microstructure mental process, as well as contemporary neuro-science, the quantum of mental experience is somewhat in the range of milleseconds. It's known (in current scientific estimation) that neurological events happen in chunks of a couple of ms, and as abdhidhamma (and Mahasi teachers, among others note), each bare sensate moment (sort of like contact, or impingement – in abdhidhamma terms, a "cognitive series", or "cognitive process") consists of a series of such minimal events, and is immediately followed by a mental moment-series that mirrors, interprets, or "knows" the bare sensation series. The (vipassana) experiential quantum consists of two cognitive series. So a single cognitive series, having ca. 10-17 micro moments, takes place in, say, 30-40 ms, and the double series – contact and"knowing" – in the range of say 60-80 ms; that would be about 15 times / second each double series, or 30 times per individual series.

Daniel Ingram, in MTCB (or maybe it was in the sketches for MCTB-2 aired here last year) has written that the "vibrations", or "pulsations" of phenomena can be experienced, slowly at first, but then with practice, at say 10-15 hz (cycles per second) and more, and even up to about 40 hz. That is effectively a "sampling rate" in the same range as the (above) anaylsis.

(My numbers, all from memory here, maybe slightly off, but I think in the ballpark.)

So, if the (conscious) mind is working at the rate of (to use a middle figure) 30 events/second, the end-goal rate of vipassana "knowing" (think of it as "noting", if you will, or "noticing", or "seeing") would be to exactly see and know what the mind does, "in real time" (to borrow a word from computerdom), namely at the same rate as the mind's own working. When the mind is known in this ultimate detail, then "cultivation" can work with it, alter it at the level of "ultimate reality".

By this interpretation then, the rate of "noting" is not a matter of a speed contest, or virtuosity, but rather tracking, "knowing" what is going on up to the same rate as it's actually happening.

This all may or may not pertain to various "pragmatic" interpretations or uses of "noting', but I believe that much of pragmatic theory goes back to Mahasi training, and Abhidhamma & Visuddhimagga traditions. It does provide a well-fitting rationale for, at least, what I've seen of Daniel's system.

btw. In, say, the Visuddhimagga, and teachings of the Pa Auk Sayadaw, there are mentions of astronomical numbers of mental events – millions, even billions per second. One may recognize this in the assertions of some critics who cite these numbers to ridicule the traditional sources. But:
1) It's not often noted that it was common practice, in ancient texts (here Pali, and I know also in Chinese urtexts) to use mythically large numbers as a way of expressing simply large quantities – not to be taken, as the modern scientific (and historically naïve) mind might, literally.
2) It's also known (again, current neuro-science*) that, in addition to the single focal consciousness focus on the present object, there are hundreds of other neurological processes going on at the same time, at various distances further or nearer to the "surface" of the conscious focal point. And also it's conceivable that the abhidhamma analysts / authorswere able to detect some sense of that going on. (Various scientific studies have confirmed that "yogis" and other adept types are capable of achieving mental and physiological perception and control of areas of the "autonomic nervous system", i.e. neurological processes thought to be totally "unconscious".)

Taking numbers as above – i.e. microcycles in a few ms, series in 10s of ms, etc. – and multiplying by hundreds of parallel "subconscious" events in the same time frames, it's possible to postulate that the human mind (in its "association" with the neurological events in the brain) is capable of at least 100,000s of events per second.

* The "neuro-science" I refer to comes largely from Antonio Damasio (e.g. "Self Comes to
Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain
", 2010), but is confirmed in other sources as well.