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Can noting and/or labeling be harmful for Insight Practice?

Executive Summary: I feel like “noting/labeling” is artificial and breaks my equanimity and concentration during Insight Practice.
 
Taking sounds and auditory phenomena as an example (although this could maybe apply to most/all phenomena)…  I really noticed sounds on the cushion today during Insight practice.  I felt that the auditory phenomena/sounds were an unbroken stream of continuity.  Thus there was no time where the label “hear/hearing” would not apply during Insight Practice. Consequently, I did not know when to apply a label, and any label I applied felt like an artificial and arbitrary boundary; like I was detaching or abstracting one bit of sound from the unbroken stream of all continuous sounds /silences. 
 
For example:
If the song Stairway to Heaven was to come on my radio – Should I note it once as “hear” at the beginning of the song and then simply listen to the song? Should I note the Intro as “hear”, then the chorus as “hear”, and then the final guitar solo as “hear”? Should I note each distinct musical chord from the guitar during the guitar solo as “hear”?  Should I note each different vibration within each distinct musical chord from the guitar during the guitar solo as “hear”? (as you can see, I seem to be getting into the problem of infinite regress)
 
It seems that the labelling/noting is detracting from the actual experience of whatever is arising in the moment.  Am I missing something?  I’m sure this isn’t the first time someone has posed this question, but I couldn’t find another example that seemed to really apply to what I experienced today…  Again, I am extremely grateful for any help you might be able to provide. 

RE: Can noting and/or labeling be harmful for Insight Practice?
Answer
11/21/17 9:55 PM as a reply to Kyle Flannery.
The whole business of Anapanasati which consists of what some labels separately as Samatha & Vipassana is about:

Firstly, building concentration, either on 1 object/concept or xx objects/concepts to reach Access Concentration: the point where things become abnormal, it could be trance-like, out-of-the-ordinary things start to happen, like sensing out-of-the-ordinary vibrations, mental images or silence turning into a high-pitch drone, etc. IF you have not gotten to this weird place, it is best to focus on building this, which optimally is done by analyzing what happens internally, like the breath and not hopping around to external disturbances.

Silence or a non-disruptive (insects/traffic) background is required for beginners. This means the radio, TV, quarrelling neighbours will largely prevent you from getting to Access Concentration. You must not be analyzing the sound, you do not hear a meow and go: Black cat, 2 years old, female, hungry, not very horny... Same for seeing if your eyes are open, in seeing only the seen, ie. colours/light seen. Not: The bored me sees a tree with some brown and green leaves, and wait! There is a bird!

It seems like what you should be doing now, is trying to stick your focus on the breath as long as you can and if you are distracted, note any distractions and return to the breath...

Does this help? emoticon

RE: Can noting and/or labeling be harmful for Insight Practice?
Answer
11/21/17 10:06 PM as a reply to Kyle Flannery.
Kyle Flannery:
Executive Summary: I feel like “noting/labeling” is artificial and breaks my equanimity and concentration during Insight Practice.
 
Taking sounds and auditory phenomena as an example (although this could maybe apply to most/all phenomena)…  I really noticed sounds on the cushion today during Insight practice.  I felt that the auditory phenomena/sounds were an unbroken stream of continuity.  Thus there was no time where the label “hear/hearing” would not apply during Insight Practice. Consequently, I did not know when to apply a label, and any label I applied felt like an artificial and arbitrary boundary; like I was detaching or abstracting one bit of sound from the unbroken stream of all continuous sounds /silences. 
 
For example:
If the song Stairway to Heaven was to come on my radio – Should I note it once as “hear” at the beginning of the song and then simply listen to the song? Should I note the Intro as “hear”, then the chorus as “hear”, and then the final guitar solo as “hear”? Should I note each distinct musical chord from the guitar during the guitar solo as “hear”?  Should I note each different vibration within each distinct musical chord from the guitar during the guitar solo as “hear”? (as you can see, I seem to be getting into the problem of infinite regress)
 
It seems that the labelling/noting is detracting from the actual experience of whatever is arising in the moment.  Am I missing something?  I’m sure this isn’t the first time someone has posed this question, but I couldn’t find another example that seemed to really apply to what I experienced today…  Again, I am extremely grateful for any help you might be able to provide. 
It sounds to me like, in the example you mentioned, that you were carried away by the music and were not aware of anything else going on around you, that you were living in a sort of artifical place where the only thing going on in the universe is music.  In my Humble Opinion, that is an example of an untrained mind living unconciously inside a fabricated world, assisted in that fabrication by something interesting going on.  Which is fine if you like listening to music or you're getting something valuable from the music, but there's no insight going on there, it's just being distracted from everything else by the music.

I have a thought: the idea is to 'look' more closely at your experience for those things that are just as present as the music but that you are not aware of.  For example, some part of the song might remind you of something, awareness of which would lead to the note 'remembering'.  Similarly there might be a discursive thought about the band or Heaven, awareness of such would lead to the note 'thinking'.

Along another line: maybe the discomfort of posture flickers into existance and you adjust it a little in response to the discomfort.  Noticed, you would note 'pain' or somesuch, then 'urge to move'.

Or, maybe you have little thoughts along the way like 'noting is clearly a bad idea'?  Note 'thinking'.

Or, you like equinimity and when you realize you're not in equanimity, note 'disapointment'.

Reading back over this, I think to ask: were you doing Insight practice with the radio on?  What does 'insight practice' mean to you?

Are you actually doing concentration practrice and were using sound as an object?

RE: Can noting and/or labeling be harmful for Insight Practice?
Answer
11/22/17 8:06 AM as a reply to Matt.
... that is an example of an untrained mind living unconciously inside a fabricated world, assisted in that fabrication by something interesting going on.  

I know what you're saying here, Matthew, but doesn't this sentence describe every moment of our experience? The only difference is whether we realize it's all a fabrication or not, but there is no essential, undeniable "real" world to be found anywhere.

RE: Can noting and/or labeling be harmful for Insight Practice?
Answer
11/22/17 10:35 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Thanks for all the answers and thoughts! 

Yilun Ong, It does help very much. I think I may try to work on Access Concentration with breath-focused Samatha before jumping into the more "Mahasi-style" Noting.  Thanks... I clearly have some more reading, studying, and practicing to do.

Matthew,  I like you're thought where you suggest "...the idea is to 'look' more closely at your experience for those things that are just as present as the music but that you are not aware of."... This makes sense to me. Maybe through looking more closely I could begin to peel back layers of fabricated conceptual reality and start experiencing a deeper sense of raw sensational reality. (of course, maybe I misinterpreted you, or maybe I am just speaking in mumbo-jumbo)... In response to your questions at the end - I was attempting to practice Insight Practice according to the teachings in the short book Practical Vipassana Meditation Exercises  by  The Venerable Mahāsi Sayādaw, specifically where he teaches the following "Every time one sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, or thinks, one should make a note of the fact. However, in the beginning of one’s practice, one cannot make a note all of these events. One should, therefore, begin with noting those events which are conspicuous and easily perceivable."... When I was practicing this teaching I didn't have the radio on (that was just an analogy I was trying to make). I was actually sitting in a (mostly) quiet bedroom in my house trying to note everything. But it was too overwhelming to note everything because I felt I had an infinite number of experiences to note every second.  I felt like I would simultaneously have a thought, itch, sound, sensation of pressure in my butt, visual sensation of the back of my eyelids, memory, etc. all co-arising at the exact same time.  So it felt arbitrary to note one experience and ignore the other co-arising experiences. This was the purpose of the analogy - just like when multiple musical notes are occuring at the same time during a song, I was having multiple notable sensations co-occuring at a speed where it felt impossible to note them all.  Thus it felt arbitrary and I didn't know how to pick which sensations to note.  All of the sensations arising felt conspicuous and easily perceivable, there were just too many and the distinctions between them felt arbitrary... Does this help to answer your question?... Next time I try the Mahasi-style noting I will plan to look more closely for the things that are just as present as everything else but that I am not aware of.  Again, thanks for your thoughts and time!

P.S. It's cool living in a period of history where we can have conversations like this over vast distances of time and space.

RE: Can noting and/or labeling be harmful for Insight Practice?
Answer
11/22/17 1:01 PM as a reply to Kyle Flannery.
Kyle Flannery:
...
Matthew,  I like you're thought where you suggest "...the idea is to 'look' more closely at your experience for those things that are just as present as the music but that you are not aware of."... This makes sense to me. Maybe through looking more closely I could begin to peel back layers of fabricated conceptual reality and start experiencing a deeper sense of raw sensational reality. (of course, maybe I misinterpreted you, or maybe I am just speaking in mumbo-jumbo)... In response to your questions at the end - I was attempting to practice Insight Practice according to the teachings in the short book Practical Vipassana Meditation Exercises  by  The Venerable Mahāsi Sayādaw, specifically where he teaches the following "Every time one sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, or thinks, one should make a note of the fact. However, in the beginning of one’s practice, one cannot make a note all of these events. One should, therefore, begin with noting those events which are conspicuous and easily perceivable."... When I was practicing this teaching I didn't have the radio on (that was just an analogy I was trying to make). I was actually sitting in a (mostly) quiet bedroom in my house trying to note everything. But it was too overwhelming to note everything because I felt I had an infinite number of experiences to note every second.  I felt like I would simultaneously have a thought, itch, sound, sensation of pressure in my butt, visual sensation of the back of my eyelids, memory, etc. all co-arising at the exact same time.  So it felt arbitrary to note one experience and ignore the other co-arising experiences. This was the purpose of the analogy - just like when multiple musical notes are occuring at the same time during a song, I was having multiple notable sensations co-occuring at a speed where it felt impossible to note them all.  Thus it felt arbitrary and I didn't know how to pick which sensations to note.  All of the sensations arising felt conspicuous and easily perceivable, there were just too many and the distinctions between them felt arbitrary... Does this help to answer your question?... Next time I try the Mahasi-style noting I will plan to look more closely for the things that are just as present as everything else but that I am not aware of.  Again, thanks for your thoughts and time!
OK, you just surpased my threshold for thinking I obviously know what is just the right thing to say emoticon  Perhaps others chime in with a response to what you just wrote.  Whatever advise promotes more investigation of present moment experinece is the best.  Actual, regular sustained practice will show new things.

That said, it sounds like you have access to the senses, that your macro-brain is not actually blocking all of that stuff with conceptual fluff or fixation on some particular thing.  That sounds good, you have a good tool, attention, to use.  To be Vipassana-ish about it, you're seeing the impernanent nature of experience.  You could also use that tool to investigate the dissatisfying nature of existence, or the sensations of self that are naturally present.

RE: Can noting and/or labeling be harmful for Insight Practice?
Answer
11/22/17 1:30 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
... that is an example of an untrained mind living unconciously inside a fabricated world, assisted in that fabrication by something interesting going on.  

I know what you're saying here, Matthew, but doesn't this sentence describe every moment of our experience? The only difference is whether we realize it's all a fabrication or not, but there is no essential, undeniable "real" world to be found anywhere.
You know more about this than I do Chris, I think.

My line of thought is: what frame of mind promotes benificial practice?  What practice promotes realization?

I'm in the gymnasium school of practice: get on the machine, put in the time, things change for the better, whether or not you can describe what is happening in the machine or in the body as you pump the iron. I don't think this frame of mind is all we need, or is a good frame of mind for all times, so viva la diversity of posts!

RE: Can noting and/or labeling be harmful for Insight Practice?
Answer
11/22/17 2:32 PM as a reply to Kyle Flannery.
When you're experiencing so many sensations that you don't have time to mentally note them, then you can drop the labels and just "bare note" them, perceiving each one as clear as you can (e.g. Each note of the guitar, each strike of part of the drum kit, the sensations in your body in between each of those, the thoughts popping in and out and how attention and awareness move throughout of all of that etc).
That's beyond the stage of having a single uniform experience of sound, or of only being able to slice the music up into its compositional parts of verse/chorus