Message Boards Message Boards

Vipassana: Noting/Mahasi Style

Physical vs mental vs mental sensations

Toggle
So, I've been stuck in equanimity for quite awhile and have been trying to explore my present moment experience in greater depth to see what I might be missing. I have this perception seemingly of two different types of categories for mental sensations, and I'm curious if I'm off base or not.

The first category includes mental impressions/memories of the five senses. These mental sensations seem to have definite starting and stopping points. It's fairly easy to see their impermance and changingness moment-to-moment, although they are a bit more subtle and wispy than physical sensations. These include verbal thoughts, visual thoughts, the memory of touch/taste/smell, etc. 

The second category includes urges, desire/aversion, and attitudes. These are not really sensations in the same way as the other category, but there is the sense that it is there. I can find starting or stopping points only with the help of accompanying phsyical sensations, and seeing moment-to-moment impermance is more difficult. The mental experiences in this category seem to be directly tied to physical sensations - for exampl, when I am first aware of the urge to do something based on a set of physical sensations in the chest, but there is the mental urge behind it. When I am able to recognize the mental desire/aversion/attitude behind the physical sensation, typically the physical sensations dissipate quickly. It's like finding the root of the thing. Although, I can't see these mental attitudes as sensations per se - either they are too subtle or I don't know where to look. It's more like I know it's there, and then when it's not there the mind is just neutral and somewhat spacious.

Is my interpretation of these experiences skewed? Or, is there already terminology for this that I didn't realize what it was referring to? Or am I just creating something that isn't there?

RE: Physical vs mental vs mental sensations
Answer
4/3/17 2:36 AM as a reply to John B.
I would look at things a bit different: go wide, spacious, notice the movement of space and what is in it, the movement of attention itself, the wide shifting of perspective as it moves around and as the things that make up perspective move around.

While one can go micro in Equanimity, I would go macro, wide, big, about just the movement of this whole thing, in broad terms, all the way through, fluxing, shifting, presenting, disappearing, but broadly.

RE: Physical vs mental vs mental sensations
Answer
4/3/17 12:01 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks Daniel, I appreciate the reply. The idea is to look at the big picture then? The way I know how to do this, is to choose one or two of the senses and see the big things moving through, trying not to get caught up in the details, but still recognizing there are lots of little changes happening within the big picture. I've been trying to figure out how to go wide, but I get caught up when seeing attention move itself and trying to pick out sensations I have associated with me or mine.

I'm starting to get the general idea, but unsure if I need to try and be inclusive of all the five senses, or just be more gentle with it and let whatever in my attention that happens to come in. In your description I get the sense of a completeness, observing everything somehow, along with awareness/perspective itself. I think I can at least try and bring that feeling into my practice, even if I'm unsure of how exactly to do it.

RE: Physical vs mental vs mental sensations
Answer
4/3/17 10:15 PM as a reply to John B.
One way to go wide is to 

notice the sensations of breath
after several minutes, include the sensations of the body around the breath
(include them like two hands on the piano playing the same song -- not two hands fighting to be heard. Making music.)

after several minutes, include the sounds of hearing
(again sensations and sounds now make a rich, single field of experience, they are not in conflict, they are making wholeness)

after several minutes, add sights (either closed eyes or open eyes)

marvel at how everything is happening, creating a rich alive experience

dwell in that rich experience of being alive

if thoughts, doubts, resistances, unconfortableness arises -- include that too in the rich alive experience

Feel free to smile and feel simple joy. Include that in the rich alive experience.

And feel free to be amazed by what is happening and curious about how all of this comes to be.

RE: Physical vs mental vs mental sensations
Answer
4/3/17 10:32 PM as a reply to shargrol.
I recall you mentioning this technique to me before, and I'm definitely growing in my capacity to do it. Sometimes after adding in a third sense it's like my capacity for adding any more information reaches it's limit and one of the senses gets left out, but after practicing it now for awhile that capacity is slowly growing. Also, I've noticed when I focus on what you call 'the wholeness,' or similarities between sensations in the senses, that it makes it easier to accomodate all of the information coming in. I'll keep playing around with it, adding the intention of joy and recognizing aliveness/richness.

RE: Physical vs mental vs mental sensations
Answer
4/7/17 4:00 AM as a reply to John B.
[...] to see what I might be missing.

I remember being stuck in equanimity and always asking: What the hell am I missing? I have to find the 3C's, where are they? The retreat teacher then told me: You don't have to find the 3C's, they are the characteristics of reality, they are there all the time.
I guess that's the principle of equanimity: to accept all the sensations and stop looking for something, that's what finally enables switching into fruition.
And I agree, seeing the bigger picture of sensations and attention helps a lot.

RE: Physical vs mental vs mental sensations
Answer
4/7/17 6:43 AM as a reply to streamsurfer.
streamsurfer:
[...] to see what I might be missing.

...I guess that's the principle of equanimity: to accept all the sensations and stop looking for something, that's what finally enables switching into fruition. 

Well said!

RE: Physical vs mental vs mental sensations
Answer
4/7/17 12:25 PM as a reply to streamsurfer.
Thanks streamsurfer, I'm slowly learning the lesson of stopping the constant search and switching into the receptive/acceptance mode. I guess it's been challenging because searching/purposeful observation combined with a fair amount of acceptance has gotten me to this point, but now the emphasis towards acceptance/openness needs to be so much greater. Not only that, but I've been used to alternatng between attention in specific areas of the body and then the body as a whole, and now I'm getting used to widening to other senses, space, and really to anything in awareness.

Part of me wonders why such a dramatic shift is needed in technique but also is partly intuitive as I've seen how wider attention in the past has helped me with calming the mind and with progressing along certain parts of the cycle of insight.

Announcements Announcements