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shamatha on cicadas?

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shamatha on cicadas? Emory Smith 5/7/09 12:44 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Florian 5/7/09 1:16 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Emory Smith 5/7/09 4:17 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Florian 5/7/09 7:12 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Trent S. H. 5/7/09 12:38 PM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Ed clay vannoy 5/7/09 2:30 PM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Florian 5/7/09 5:57 PM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Emory Smith 5/7/09 8:54 PM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Trent S. H. 5/8/09 2:08 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? tarin greco 5/9/09 2:58 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Emory Smith 5/9/09 3:31 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? tarin greco 5/9/09 3:36 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Glenn Klein 5/9/09 3:38 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Emory Smith 5/9/09 5:11 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Florian 5/9/09 7:21 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Emory Smith 5/9/09 11:15 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? tarin greco 5/9/09 12:55 PM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Trent S. H. 5/9/09 6:12 PM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Trent S. H. 5/9/09 6:22 PM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Ed clay vannoy 5/9/09 8:01 PM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Emory Smith 5/10/09 12:09 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Emory Smith 5/10/09 12:16 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Emory Smith 5/10/09 12:28 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Trent S. H. 5/10/09 4:09 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Wet Paint 5/10/09 6:42 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Florian 5/10/09 7:22 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Wet Paint 5/10/09 8:33 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Emory Smith 5/10/09 9:05 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Emory Smith 5/10/09 9:21 AM
RE: shamatha on cicadas? Wet Paint 5/10/09 9:35 AM
shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/7/09 12:44 AM
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

ive been meditating (mostly shamatha) for about a year. until recently, i had always used the breath (sensation at tip of nose) as my object. about a month ago, i began to notice a ringing sound in my ears. at first i heard it only during meditation, but its gotten louder and louder to the point where i can now hear it clearly even while taking a shower. im now using this sound instead of the breath as my abject and finding it very effective.

best way i can describe it is that its like the chirping/humming of thousands of cicadas (like florida in evening during summer). and with strong concentration, i can isolate a single voice and sort-of "zoom in" on it. when i get close enough, it turns out not to be one cicada, but more like a bush full of cicadas that were all singing together "fourier-style" and the sound breaks up into a number of more subtle component sounds. i choose one and zoom in and it happens all over again. the process is very demanding at first (a few seconds of lost focus and i slip back to the previous level) but it gets easier at each new level until at a certain point i almost cant let go of the sound. best thing is the ease with which i can hold the sound between sessions (something i could never do with the breath for more than a couple minutes after leaving the cushion).

anyway, was wondering whether others have used this sort of aural phenomenon as a meditation object. i know the choice of object is fairly arbitrary, but is there any reason to prefer the breath? like, are the sounds going to diminish at some point in the future? or will using them delay the appearance of a nimitta (which i understand to be associated with the breath specifically)?

ps - hello and thanks to everyone for this great resource ... this is my first post but ive been reading for some time and have found lots of great advice!

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/7/09 1:16 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Hi Emory,

Yes, that sound is familiar to me.

There's actually an old thread here on the Dharma Overground, which might interest you:

http://dharmaoverground.wetpaint.com/thread/1192961/"Nada"+sound

The sound is my primary meditation object for both the samatha and vipassana sides of the spectrum.

Nice to have you here. Great profile, btw.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/7/09 4:17 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
perfect, thank you! (sorry, im sure i searched for "nada" a couple times, but i didnt get nada for results ...)

great thread. love your descriptions of the rumbling and the subtle helicopter.

one other question ... do you give any preference to right or left side? ive read in a number of nada-related discussions on other sites that its best to focus on sounds in the center or to the right of center in the "sound field" but to avoid going left. just wondering if there were any rational or practical considerations to support this bias?

-emory

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/7/09 7:12 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Hi Emory,
Now that you're mentioning it: at times, there arises a kind of "left-right" thing with a noticeable membrane-like border ballooning up, somehow sectioning off the left ("that side"), and with awareness ("this side") to the right. It is not a visual experience, but it is space-like. "Membrane" is the closest it comes to in quality. I always thought this left-right preference was idiosyncratic with me, maybe because I'm right-handed. Actually, I never thought about it much, and certainly didn't bring it into connection with the sound, as this experience has arisen in breath meditation (where the sound was noticeable, however) as well.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/7/09 12:38 PM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Hey fellas,

As far as insight practice with sound goes, it might be useful to remember that the center is empty. This is not to say that each of us may have a propensity which favors one direction over another, but that from an insight point of view, the sense of space and direction is a compounded phenomenon.

Penetration of these subtle implied phenomena is crucial for dissolving the center. Emory's original post states "..i can isolate a single voice and sort-of "zoom in" on it. when i get close enough..." and this is an important hint toward seeing through the center point. Ask yourself these questions when you're doing that practice: What goes missing when I "zoom in?" Did the vibration you zoomed in on actually suddenly become the center of attention; and does this imply that the center is arbitrary? Where is the implied center and does that center make sense in regard to this experience? Am I trying to make this sound happen "to me?" Can I through sheer force of will, stop the sound from occurring within my awareness? If no, why not?

Couple of other things. Try oscillating back and forth between sounds which appear to be on "that side" vs. "this side" or "in front" and "behind." Do these fundamentally feel different at all? What does that imply? Lastly, turn some music on and look around the room. Ask yourself "does the entire field of my vision seem to "have" sound?

Just some fun stuff to think about! Sorry that this diverged from title of the original post; I thought it worthy of bringing up because a lot of the discussion actually sounds more like insight work than shamatha!

Trent

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/7/09 2:30 PM as a reply to Emory Smith.
I don't know, but I am guessing that this goes back to the ancient belief that the left hand side is impure and the right hand side is pure. The ancient Greeks and Romans, the Laws of Manu and the Vedas, and all the cultures that were influenced by them have this core belief. Toilet customs, which hand to eat with or touch others with, the proper way to circumnambulate a temple or Buddhist statue (clockwise, with the right hand in and the dirty left hand out), all are influenced by this.

Whether that means anything to you in your practice is up to you, in my opinion.

Ed

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/7/09 5:57 PM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Thanks, Trent, good stuff!

Cheers,
Florian

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/7/09 8:54 PM as a reply to Emory Smith.
trent, i think were talking about two different "centers". theres the arbitrary, relative center of whichever voice i choose to focus on -- this does indeed seem to dissolve when sufficiently magnified by attention. but the whole process takes place in a sort of 3-d sound field where each voice seems closer to either the right ear or the left ear, relative to an absolute center (or "membrane" as florian put it) which is literally the middle of the head. my question was more about the latter ... kind of like: "when watching the breath, is it better to choose a spot on the right nostril than on the left nostril?" though it sounds pretty silly in that context.

anyway, my perspective is quite in line with what ed describes, thats its a cultural thing (as opposed to having basis in some fundamental asymmetry between hemispheres of the brain, subtle energy channels, etc) ... guess i was just seeking some consensus in that.

so eds answer is what i was looking for, but trents is more practical (and more in line with the original post; i think it was i who diverged). cool to be able to ask a potentially theoretical/metaphysical question and get concrete practice advice ... seems like its often the other way around in other forums ive read emoticon

-emory

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/8/09 2:08 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Emory,

I think I understand what you're saying. If a sound on the right-hand side of the room happens, the volume will be louder in my right ear as opposed to my left; thus, I derive the sound's source point and, in a way, that the sound occurred on my right-hand side. Phenomena like this are very tricky sensations which reinforce the knot of sensations which constitute a center/self. Just be sure that you don't forget to explore this territory extensively rather than ignoring it by writing it off with this or similar explanation. I did that exact same thing with the exact same group of phenomena!

The sense of center is a very complex phenomena composed of many parts; those moving parts are not fundamentally the problem, nor do the sensations which knot together to create it ever actually disappear. They're just understood in a different way. My point is that this example is a good case to see how the sensations which compose a center are completely logical and no problem, and at the same time can be reinforcing the dualistic center which creates fundamental suffering. Because we see the logical side, we accidentally overlook the dualistic center and the self remains. This is a very very subtle experiential understanding that you do not want to overlook!

Florian, Thank you also.

Trent

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/9/09 2:58 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
to what trent said, i'd like to add: ps there is no centre, the membrane is something different every time and not always there, and left/right sensations depend on each other, just like successive moments that arise are distinguished from each other*. this can be seen clearly and experientially!

(*insight practice standard)

pps hope that was helpful

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/9/09 3:31 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
trent,

ok, i think i get it ... youre talking about the subject not the object, yes? as the "empty center"? sorry, i totally misunderstood before.

i definitely have not yet experienced the dissolution of that center (ie me as the observer) through meditation. i think i know what you mean though, as i have experienced a sort of "centerlessness" in other contexts ... where its not just the absence of above and below, in front and behind, but the much more fundamental (and somewhat unsettling) absence of up and down, forward and backward.

anyway, not sure my practice is yet to the point where i can really "explore this territory extensively" as you suggest, but i will keep it in mind ... definitely dont want to be reinforcing any fundamental suffering emoticon

-emory

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/9/09 3:36 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
what's the difference?

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/9/09 3:38 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
The sound you're describing appears to be fairly common for meditators and is something I experience myself. When I asked my meditation teacher about it (Dan Brown) he told me it's called the "ur" sound, but he wouldn't elaborate, reminding me that it's only a construction of mind and therefore a potential obscuration to awakened mind should I become preoccupied or identified with it. Since in my experience it comes and goes to some degree, it's not a reliable meditation object for shamata practice for me.

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/9/09 5:11 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
well, perhaps at a certain level of realization there isnt a difference ... but im speaking from the perspective of a "dualistic self" here, so bear with me ... emoticon

dissolution of "object center" is pretty unremarkable. would be like magnifying a tiny particle, say an atom, and discovering that when you look close enough its really just empty space in the middle. dissolution of "subject center" is more elusive i think, but it entails an aspect of self-reference (or maybe "observer awareness" would be a better term). like events are unfolding, and each event is being observed, but its just a process and you cant really discern an observer or even a "point of view" from which the observation is taking place.

in my experience, the former is simply a product of attention ... if you look/listen long and hard enough, you can "see the space between the lines"/"hear the gaps between the notes". but the latter is tricky and the observation process much more elusive (having something to do with self-reference or awareness of awareness). and perhaps they lead to one another at a sufficient depth (my few brief encounters with the latter have been by way of the former), but i think you can definitely have object dissolution without dissolving the sense of self.

am i making any sense here?

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/9/09 7:21 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
@Kameshvar - there are many names for this experience, it seems. There are entire religions devoted to conceptualizing it. I use it as an object for meditation, and it's taken me to hard Jhana states as well as deeply into the equanimity ├▒ana. I perceive it continuously and clearly, except in very noisy surroundings, but it's not irritating. YMMV, of course.

@Emory - I went looking for the "subject center" of sound a few months ago. I knew that it couldn't be found, but I wanted to find out why. To make it short, I realized, "oh, that's just the place where the hearing is", it literally struck me like that - but to write it down makes it sound kind of bland and common sense. Try it, if you haven't. Or try to disprove some other bit of received Dhamma wisdom. Nobody will be angry if you do, and it's guaranteed to be revealing.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/9/09 11:15 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
ha! wow, you guys keep pulling the rug out from under me!

i get it ... thank you florian for spelling it out. and sorry tarin for my babbling reply to your more concise articulation. does it work this way with all the senses??

ok, back to playing around with this ...

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/9/09 12:55 PM as a reply to Emory Smith.
lol you lost me there again but im glad you've figured something out.

what i was wondering with my question was whats more fundamental and unsettling about 'up and down' and 'forward and backward' than 'above and below' and 'in front and behind' (i couldnt quite see the differences) ... and why is it their absences that matter?

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/9/09 6:12 PM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Yo.

I got a bit lost as well, so I'm not exactly sure what either of you are pointing at in particular. Florian's advice to "check and see" for yourself is crucial, though. We often say "ah-ha, I got it" to the same damn fundamental insight day after day until we just can't "get it" better, haha.

Try "seeing" through just one sense at a time, even if just an intellectual exercise.

If you focus on sight, there are visuals. If touch, there is feeling. If hearing, there are sounds. If thinking, there are thoughts.

Focusing on "just sounds," there are no thoughts, visions or feelings. With no thoughts, visions or feelings, the sound does not happen to me-- they are just happening. Focusing on "just visuals," there are no thoughts, sounds or feelings. With no thoughts, sounds or feelings, the visuals do not happen to me-- they are just happening. Focusing on "just feelings," there are no thoughts, sounds or visuals. With no thoughts, sounds or visuals, the feelings do not happen to me-- they are just happening.

Much of what constitutes the center is a "knot" of these sensory perceptions. Each sense reinforces others in a different way. For example, "the Trent that sees the world" is a tangle of feelings, thoughts and visions. I feel my eyes move, my lids blink, I see a flower and a thought arises: "ahh, a flower." There is feeling of the eyes, there is vision of the flower, and there is the thought "ahh, a flower;" but where in this illustration is there a fundamental center of perception?

(cont...)

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/9/09 6:22 PM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Further, some pieces of the knot are a bigger pain in the ass than others, at least insofar as I encountered them. Thoughts, as Daniel points out in MCTB, are an arbitrarily labeled experience. If you pay close attention, thoughts can only be vision or sound. The problem, it seems, is that we habitually think of thoughts as some sort of "special" sense, and they are seemingly more ephemeral than the sense they "are." Nevertheless, a vision is a vision and a sound a sound, irregardless of whether or not it is segmented out and labeled a thought. My point is that thoughts can be an extremely tricky part of divorcing the perceptual knots which create a sense of center.

Lastly, if I dissect the vibratory phenomena of each sense field, are they not the same suchness? Uh oh!

Well, that's enough ranting from me. Hopefully useful for someone, somewhere!

Trent

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/9/09 8:01 PM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Very nicely put, Trent.

Ed

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/10/09 12:09 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
yeah, its like ...

just be careful not to dig yourself into a hole.
hang on, im digging.
thats what im saying. you might not want to do that.
hang on, im digging.
uhm, dude ...youre digging yourself into a hole.
just a minute, almost done.
*CRACK* with florians zenmaster stick over emorys head.
good god ... did i dig this hole?

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/10/09 12:16 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
yes, should be added to automatically appended to each post.

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/10/09 12:28 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
right, seems like "one at a time" is really the key. as soon as i have two or more (not just with senses themselves but also perceptions within a single sense, like two different sounds), i start putting myself somewhere in the middle.

ok, back to work (im breaking my own rules here getting on computer before minimum time on cushion). just wanted to say thanks, though ... good stuff.

-emory

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/10/09 4:09 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
This made me laugh really hard, haha. Good luck to you man.

Trent

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/10/09 6:42 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Author: JamesAlexander

These sounds you guys are talking about, it's not by any chance what's known as tinnitus? I often hear this high pitched sound when it's very quite around me. Anyhow, after reading this thread I started to pay closer attention to this phenomena during shamata and i discovered to my surprise that the sound was not continuous, but consisted of many short pulses. Focusing on this really peeked my concentration level.

I also tried combining focusing on the sound in between counting my breath. More precisely in the time/space right after exhaling. I often find myself "falling of" at just this point, but focusing on the sound kept me "locked on target". Has anyone else tried this or other ways of filling in the gaps? I heard Gil Fronsdal speaking about counting 1 to 10 and going through the alphabet simultaneously in between. I think the purpose was to "fill in" the foreground and the background of the attentional field...

...by the way, I've noticed a new commentary theme during my sitting: "damn I gotta post something about this on dharma overground"... LOL

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/10/09 7:22 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Hi James,

Tinnitus - not so straight-forward, I think. The definition of tinnitus doesn't seem to be that clear-cut, and to involve a sizeable subjective component. In my case, I can tune in to the sound at will, it's not annoying, it doesn't interfere with my hearing.

"Filling the gaps" in order not to lose the breath sensation, for concentration? There are many ways; in a recent thread, the touch sensation of sitting was mentioned, or whole body awareness - cool idea to use the sound, to look for the breath in the sound.

Then there's the (insight) practice of just acknowledging the ending of things. So if you are acutely aware of the end of the in- or out-breath, maybe it would be a natural insight practice for you.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/10/09 8:33 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Author: JamesAlexander

Ok, it's probably not the same phenomena, however it serves the same purpose I suppose? I'll try focusing on the "ending of things" this evening. Sounds like a good method.

Thanks for responding Florian

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/10/09 9:05 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
hello james,

thats my strategy precisely. find a voice that is pulsing, and try to "reflect" every single pulse. i say "reflect" rather than "hear" because it is a very active listening process ... somewhat like playing tennis against one of those machines that shooting tennis balls at you almost faster than you hit them back.

the key for me is just to *not miss a single pulse*, and if i can reflect every one for a certain threshold time (usually just past the point of "attentional exhaustion"), i sort of "lock in" on the rhythm it and it becomes easy. then a host of new subtler voices will rise up behind it from which i choose one thats pulsing just a bit faster than the first and do the same thing over again. by the time i get in a few levels deep, the pulses are coming so fast (more like a whir at this point) that theres no room for thoughts or anything else ... once i attain this kind of "whirring" attention, i can point it at other things (like the breath) and see them much more "densely" (gaps are fewer and shorter).

-emory

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/10/09 9:21 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
i would be willing to bet that it is ... i thought it was tinnitus (the medical condition) at first too, but like florian said it doesnt interfere with hearing and its only there when you listen to it. more info here: http://www.aypsite.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=3556 or google for "meditation induced tinnitus".

also, if youre in a noisy environment (or even a not-so-noisy one), i find earplugs to be a tremendous help. especially if i dont take them out between sessions ... i can practically go all day without losing the sound.

RE: shamatha on cicadas?
Answer
5/10/09 9:35 AM as a reply to Emory Smith.
Author: JamesAlexander

Well, I know people who have tinnitus and they seem to have much more trouble with the sound than I do. It's more like...oh there's that sound again. It's very easy to get in touch with the sound/pulse using earplugs. I suddenly realized, because I've slept with earplugs for 4 years (snoring girlfriend haha) and I often hear the sound before going to sleep. It just never occurred to me that you could use it as an object for attentional training.

*not miss a single pulse* - I like this idea. I'll try tuning inti this next session...

Thanks emory!