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Confusion about meditation strategies

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Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/27/18 12:38 PM
This post is probably way too confusing. When I meditate, there is some uncertainty in my mind about something, and I am trying really hard to put it into words. I'm trying to make sense of a few things:

- It seems like the strategy I need to use changes depending on the situation.
- It seems like it's often a problem that I change my strategy depending on the situation.

Situation 1: (up to and through A&P?)
- My mind is relatively calm.
- I have the sense that my attention is in one place at a time, and attention seems to stay on an object for at least a few seconds.
- I generally feel like I can control my attention.

Strategy 1: ("use the breath to dissolve other objects")
- Focus on the breath.
- When my attention is grabbed by a distraction, stay with the distraction, and gradually allow awareness of the breath to creep back in.

Strategies that don't seem to work:
- Try to keep the attention on the breath: since the breath is not a solid object, and other things do intrude at times, attempting to block them out only seems to increase the level of identification with phenomena.

Situation 2: (Dark Night?)
- Attention seems to jump around rapidly, many times per second.
- I can perceive very subtle details, but seem to lack control over attention.
- There is a sense of agitation, and at times it feels like I am barely holding on.

Strategy 2: ("allow the definition of 'the breath' to include anything else that might pop into awareness")
- Focus on the breath.
- When distractions appear, just wait for the attention to settle back on the breath, no matter how long it takes (it often takes 20 minutes or more to really have the sense that "I am here with the breath again").

Strategies that don't seem to work:
- Strategy 1
- "Ride the suffering": Try to feel the suffering. Try to let my attention find it and settle on it. This seems to just create more of it.

Situation 3: (Equanimity?)
- Attention seems to cover broad areas simultaneously.
- There is generally the sense that "I am aware of everything", but every once in a while, I become aware of an oscillation between "here" and "there".

Strategy 3: ("ride the waves")
- Focus on the breath.
- Wait for an oscillation to appear.
- When an oscillation appears, let myself focus on it until it disappears or I lose interest, and then go back to the breath.

Strategies that don't seem to work:
- "Kick up dust": Hunt around for oscillations, even if none present themselves. This sends me back to Situation 2.

Strategies 1, 2 and 3 feel radically different to me, as I am doing them. I am starting to question this. Is it possible that they are all different ways of describing the same thing, and what is different is that the context is changing?

Strategy 2 feels like the opposite of Strategy 1, because it feels like I am completely giving up any sense of control of the attention. But, it seems to work because it eventually gets me to Situation 3.

Strategy 3 feels like the opposite of Strategy 2, because I am deliberately latching on to unpleasant sensations. Strategy 3 is different from Strategy 1, because there is the idea that I am waiting for tensions to resolve themselves, rather than trying to incorporate them into the breath. But, it seems to work because the tensions generally do resolve themselves, and I notice this happening (my eye movements become simpler, some part of my body stops swaying, a thought pattern disappears, etc.)

What I would love is to find some way to unify all of these into one strategy, so that I don't feel like I am constantly analyzing where I am, and trying to choose a strategy accordingly.

For instance, I could say "the strategy is simply to keep the attention on the breath, and whenever anything else appears, gently return back to the breath." This seems to be a strategy that many accomplished meditators follow. Is it possible that this is just an over-simplified way of describing what I am outlining? Is it possible that I am just needlessly complicating things?

So, what are the goals?

It seems to me that the goal is basically to sharpen the attention to the finest resolution possible, so that the finest phenomena can be perceived.

It seems that this is another way of stating that the goal is to perceive the three characteristics of everything:
1. Everything vibrates
2. There are interference patterns throughout all of my awareness
3. The sensations of "me" are just more sensations like all the rest of them, and they vibrate, and interference can be perceived between them and anything else.

This, however, does not in any way involve "stabilizing the attention" on a single object. Is the point to actual develop awareness of the breath, or is awareness of the breath *only* a tool to help sharpen the attention?

There is a tension in my mind: I often feel like I am in a state of greater awareness (which feels like a good thing), but at the same time feel like I have less awareness of the breath (which makes me think I'm just kidding myself)

There is another tension: I then ask the question: is it possible that I actually *do* have greater awareness of the breath, but since I am in a state of having less language, I don't really see it that way? Is it possible that I am constantly "checking" to see that my meditation is going well, and that this checking is causing unnecessary angst?

There are other strategies that seem to work at times:
- Deliberately trying to find interference patterns, by asking certain questions (e.g., "is this sensation pleasant or unpleasant"?)
- Trying to hold the attention on an object for an extended period of time, in order to increase the probability of noticing something interesting.
- Trying to zoom in to subtler sensations.
- Deliberately moving the attention around the body.
- Trying to hold the entire body in awareness at once.

If someone asks me, "how do I do vipassana meditation?", is it correct to say "You just do whatever it takes to get better at perceiving the discrete nature of reality. It's an art you will have to practice and eventually do completely 'by feel', but here are some exercises to get you started..."?

Perhaps the real question: Is the reason I can't seem to get past Equanimity that I am doing something wrong, or that I just need to practice more?

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/27/18 3:17 PM as a reply to spatial.
Okay, so.... other folks will come along and no doubt recommend detailed tactical actions for you to use to address all that detailed stuff you typed in your comment/request. My version of what you need to do would be what you said in your last paragraph:

"You just do whatever it takes to get better at perceiving the discrete nature of reality. It's an art you will have to practice and eventually do completely 'by feel', but here are some exercises to get you started..."?

The bottom line here and the key to getting beyond equanimity is being able to see the moment by moment nature of the process of perception - how all the stuff coming from your senses is put together by your mind to produce what you experience.

Is the reason I can't seem to get past Equanimity that I am doing something wrong, or that I just need to practice more?
 
You seem to be able to do what you need to do to get to the next step. I'd say keep practicing and noticing, especially, the process of the arising and the passing away of objects. What's going on there? Is there a noticeable step by step process you can discern? In what order does the process occur? Does it vary in the order or is it always the same?

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/28/18 6:01 AM as a reply to spatial.
There is a tension in my mind: I often feel like I am in a state of greater awareness (which feels like a good thing), but at the same time feel like I have less awareness of the breath (which makes me think I'm just kidding myself)

Sorry for this hugely long reply.

This is familiar to me. When I attempt to follow Culadasa's breath meditation instructions--essentially, know precisely when the in-breath begins, follow it to the pause and know the pause completely, know precisely when the out-breath begins, follow it to the pause and know the pause completely. Further, notice at least two sensations (like coolness, movement or pressure) on the in-breath and one on the out-breath, and then also notice the relative lengths of all of these different 'parts' of the breath, it immediately becomes clear to me that, often, even when I think attention is on the breath pretty well, in fact not very much attention is being paid at all, relative to the precision and continuity suggested by these instructions.

I've heard of meditators with decades of experience going on retreats in, say, Burma and then being instructed, each time they do an interview with the teacher, to describe something new about the breath at the bare sensate level. It doesn't matter that they're veteran meditators; the teacher wants them to pay close enough attention to really learn something new.  

So one question I have: Is 'greater awareness' that feels good actually dullness?

When I do take a stab at ramping up the precision of attention per the instructions above, and when I also try to balance this with a sense of 'allowing everything else,' it seems, at times, to lead to a dramatic improvement in ... I don't know how to describe it. I want to use the word 'concentration,' but what I'm really talking about is a sense of much-greater energy in the brain, I guess.

If I'm interpreting him correctly, Culadasa suggests that the energy level of our ordinary, waking state of consciousness is too low to perceive with the kind of precision that Chris is talking about. His instructions seem to be about mindfulness as Sayadaw U Pandita described it--"maximum observing power." But in Culadasa's framework, it's supposed to be balanced: stable attention capable of picking up on somatosensory inputs (in this case, at the nostrils) at a high resolution, balanced with open, soft, allowing awareness of everything else.

Anyway, the complexity of the Culadasa system is creating a lot of doubts for me. I'm still working with it. As per usual, I seem to be in the remedial camp.

I'm going to see if I can use Chris' Theory of Everything without abandoning TMI prematurely.

It's funny, I've been thinking a lot lately about meditation as a context-dependent art. I brought a Culadasa recording to our dharma group and a seasoned practitioner was essentially rolling his eyes throughout (he was reacting to the mind-moments model and other highly abstract ideas). "I'm from the school of keep it simple," he said. "Ultimately, we have to drop all of these kinds of models."

How could anyone disagree?

On the other hand, when does "keep it simple" really translate to: "Raze to the ground any ideas that are unfamiliar to you or unconnected to your own practice history"? Hmmm...  

 


RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/28/18 1:17 PM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
Tashi Tharpa:
This is familiar to me. When I attempt to follow Culadasa's breath meditation instructions--essentially, know precisely when the in-breath begins, follow it to the pause and know the pause completely, know precisely when the out-breath begins, follow it to the pause and know the pause completely. Further, notice at least two sensations (like coolness, movement or pressure) on the in-breath and one on the out-breath, and then also notice the relative lengths of all of these different 'parts' of the breath, it immediately becomes clear to me that, often, even when I think attention is on the breath pretty well, in fact not very much attention is being paid at all, relative to the precision and continuity suggested by these instructions.



So, a lot of what was fueling my uncertainty is the way Culadasa apparently describes the process as one of getting better and better at staying on a single object.

I skimmed through more of the book to try to get a better understanding of what he is really saying. I think the Sixth Interlude is worth looking at. He describes a lot of distractions that don't even come up until Stage 7, so it seems reasonable that if one is consistently getting derailed by these distractions and doesn't understand what they are, it might feel like one has not progressed past the earlier stages at all.

I think the book seems good, but maybe the complexity makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly where you are? I think this is kinda what my original post was about: given that stages seem to go back and forth rapidly, is it possible to choose a single simple strategy that will work no matter which stage I happen to find myself in at any given moment? I feel like there must be a way. For example, even though driving my car to some destination is a complex task that involves many different decisions depending on what exactly is occurring moment-to-moment, a strategy of "just follow the directions given by the GPS" is actually a pretty good one.

Of course, some people are completely allergic to intellectualization of any kind. When people tell me "I think you're over-thinking it", I just reply, "I think you're under-thinking it", and that seems to shut them up...

As an aside:

Apparently, most people have relatively calm minds, have reasonably coherent thoughts that present themselves as complete sentences, and have a good understanding of whatever single emotion they are experiencing at any given time. They can do meditation exercises like "every time you have a thought, place it on a cloud and watch it float through the sky". Maybe it works for some of them, I don't know.

Because that is society's narrative of how the mind works, I tried to fit into that mold, and for most of my life just completely ignored any experiences that didn't fit. When I started meditating seriously and really decided to actually pay attention to what was really actually happening, one of the first things I noticed was that I don't generally have words or images in my head. I have very quick flashes of *something*, that occur quite frequently, and by the time I put them on a cloud, I have already forgotten what they were, because 20 more have cropped up in the meantime.

So, I am thinking that it might be a good idea to take with a grain of salt meditation instructions that are aimed at beginners, because they might be assuming a very different subjective reality than the one I have always experienced (many people, upon experiencing 10 moments of the breath over the course of a minute, would be perfectly content saying "Yes, I was aware of the breath for the whole minute."). I would love to sit down with one of these authors and really grill them on what they are actually trying to get at...

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/28/18 1:23 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:

The bottom line here and the key to getting beyond equanimity is being able to see the moment by moment nature of the process of perception - how all the stuff coming from your senses is put together by your mind to produce what you experience.

Is the reason I can't seem to get past Equanimity that I am doing something wrong, or that I just need to practice more?
 
You seem to be able to do what you need to do to get to the next step. I'd say keep practicing and noticing, especially, the process of the arising and the passing away of objects. What's going on there? Is there a noticeable step by step process you can discern? In what order does the process occur? Does it vary in the order or is it always the same?

Thank you, Chris. I think I am probably just looking for reassurance emoticon

I feel like I am at a place where I need to rely on my intuition to progress. The object is just to notice what is. The whole ideal of being able to focus on a single object for an extended period of time is just a distraction, right? That's not the goal of insight. The objects aren't real, anyway. The only reason concentration is of any use in insight meditation is because it makes it harder for the mind to jump around randomly and thus driving you crazy, right?

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/28/18 1:41 PM as a reply to spatial.
Right!

emoticon

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/28/18 3:09 PM as a reply to spatial.
Hi spatial,
I resonate a lot with what you wrote but I no longer experience confusion about what to do. I am also using TMI as a guide, but I use it very loosely now. What I discovered is that there are a few meditation strategies that should be applied depending on what the mind is doing:

- relaxation
- open awareness / noting
- concentration
- inquiry (contemplation of the 3Cs)

For me, the first month of using TMI was basically learning how and when to apply each strategy. The strategies I listed are basically in order of how they should be applied, but the mind will start doing different things throughout each meditation session so I typically have to go back and work my way back up to inquiry.

The basic series goes something like this:
1) Relax away any expectations, confusion, or doubt. Fully relax.
2) Note sounds and senations until the mind is somewhat calm.
3) Focus attention on the breath until the mind is focused.
4) Inquire when the mind become curious about the arising and passing away of phenomena

(Wash, rinse, repeat)

I came to this formula while keeping a journal of each meditation session. If you aren't keeping a journal you might want to give it a shot. Just be patient, and keep experimenting until you find what works for you. Keep us posted on your progress.

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/28/18 5:01 PM as a reply to spatial.

"So a lot of what was fueling my uncertainty is the way Culadasa apparently describes the process as one of getting better and better at staying on a single object."

Yes. And actually, I do think this is possible. The ‘following and connecting’ instructions, or the Burmese teachers asking students to ‘tell me something totally new about the breath,’ are kind of pointing to the truth of this: You can pay more attention, more continuously and with more precision and clarity, than you might think. I can see the benefits of stability of attention. Being able to listen to silence, really tune into it, without drifting off and away, would be a good thing. 
 
I’ve had a few sits where I wasn’t just kind of paying attention to the breath in a vague, ambient, tranquilizing way but was more there. It makes a difference. 
 
I guess the TMI hypothesis here is that you (1) stabilize attention so that it is no longer weakened by perpetual, serious scattering and (2) learn how to balance this with a very strong peripheral/introspective/extrospective awareness that enables to you be mindful “before the word,” prior to the label. 
 
You’re supposed to see the drowsiness or whatever the sensory pattern or object is as it starts to emerge rather than labeling it “sleepiness” after the fact as a kind of echo. That kind of makes sense to me. It reminds me of Sayadaw U Tejaniya clapping his hands—clap!—and saying “Note that!” His point is that the clapping has already passed; the clap was too fast to note in the classic, rote way in real time (noticing of course, being something else). 
 
So this seems like a practice that is intended to ramp up both stability of attention and effortless, ambient noticing. But all of this is in the realm of theory for me. I seem to have had some glimpses of what it’s about here and there but am not a true believer. 
 
“I think the Sixth Interlude is worth looking at. He describes a lot of distractions that don't even come up until Stage 7, so it seems reasonable that if one is consistently getting derailed by these distractions and doesn't understand what they are, it might feel like one has not progressed past the earlier stages at all.”

[...]

“I am thinking that it might be a good idea to take with a grain of salt meditation instructions that are aimed at beginners, because they might be assuming a very different subjective reality than the one I have always experienced (many people, upon experiencing 10 moments of the breath over the course of a minute, would be perfectly content saying "Yes, I was aware of the breath for the whole minute.")
 
I’ll take a look the Sixth Interlude. Yeah, one tricky thing here is, what if the meditator has been practicing for 20 years? How does that affect the way these TMI stages are set up? 
 
I hate starting down a path of exploration and giving up on it prematurely, moving on to the next dharma gate du jour. I’ll keep at it with TMI but it’s certainly triggering some red flags. For example, he seems to believe that mindfulness practice will cure all psychological and emotional problems. Nobody has believed that for 30 or 40 years, right? 
 
The stages also seem a bit dubious. 
Of course, they're just signposts, to be held lightly, etc., but the practice instructions actually do vary in Culadasa’s method based on where you are. So you kind of have to know where you are, which ain’t great for me because I tend to not do well with dharma diagnosis. 
 
So I can see why you're looking for a simple strategy that will work no matter where you are. Maybe that exists. Or maybe meditation is more about the art of adjustments—balancing the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, etc. 

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/28/18 5:10 PM as a reply to ivory.
ivory:

The basic series goes something like this:
1) Relax away any expectations, confusion, or doubt. Fully relax.
2) Note sounds and senations until the mind is somewhat calm.
3) Focus attention on the breath until the mind is focused.
4) Inquire when the mind become curious about the arising and passing away of phenomena

(Wash, rinse, repeat)

I came to this formula while keeping a journal of each meditation session. If you aren't keeping a journal you might want to give it a shot. Just be patient, and keep experimenting until you find what works for you. Keep us posted on your progress.
This is good. 
I like your point about journaling--and actually looking at, learning from and responding to what you see in those journals. 

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/29/18 5:39 AM as a reply to spatial.
Relevant? Seems like the suggestion here is that automaticity eventually kicks in, eliminating the need for conscious adjustments. But still stage-dependent in this view...

https://abhayakara.fugue.com/blog/2018/6/23/checking-in-in-meditation

Checking in in meditation

When you are learning to meditate, part of the process is learning to work with what is happening, rather than just doing some practice.   What is happening will tell you what you have to do.

So for example, in Stage Four of the TMI stages, your goal is to cultivate introspective awareness.  But let's think about this in the context of what is happening in Stage Four. In Stage Four, your attention is generally on the breath, and you almost never forget the breath or sink into mind-wandering.

What can happen in stage four is that you allow attention to dominate, and awareness to collapse, and this leads to dullness. What can also happen is that you allow attention to follow distractions that come up, and this leads to gross distraction.It's important to understand that in stage four, your goal is not to completely overcome dullness, nor to completely overcome distraction. Don't set that as a goal. Your goal is to learn to notice dullness when it starts to progress, and to notice subtle distractions before they turn into gross distractions.

What allows you to develop introspective awareness is these two obstacles: distraction and dullness. You are trying to learn to notice something more subtle than forgetting or mind wandering. The trying to learn is what produces the result.So your job in stage four is not to understand what introspective awareness is and turn that understanding into introspective awareness. It is to do the thing that produces introspective awareness. Introspective awareness is a result—it isn't the practice. Once you have introspective awareness working well enough to overcome gross distraction and progressive dullness, then you can use it as a tool, but right now it's a result.

So your task is to just sit there and be a target for the two obstacles. And then to notice the obstacles coming up. You just keep doing this. There are lots of techniques that you can use to make yourself a target, and to notice. Noticing is really just remembering that you wanted to do X, and noticing that you are instead doing Y. So you have to have an X that you want to do, and then you can notice that you aren't doing it. So e.g. connecting and following.

One of the practices in stage four is called checking in.  Checking in is the process of periodically stopping the meditation and looking to see what was just happening.

At first this can be like driving a car, and you stop the car, get out, and look around.   Very disruptive.   But as you do it more and more, you start to be able to treat it more like glancing in the rear-view mirror—something you do every so often, sort of automatically, that doesn't take a lot of effort and doesn't feel like a major interruption—just a little blip.Eventually this little blip drops away, and you are left with introspective awareness: an awareness that is independent of attention, that just knows what is going on in attention.   

And when what is going on in attention doesn't match what is intended, then it makes an adjustment, without ever becoming a distraction.

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/29/18 6:20 AM as a reply to spatial.
There is a tension in my mind: I often feel like I am in a state of greater awareness (which feels like a good thing), but at the same time feel like I have less awareness of the breath (which makes me think I'm just kidding myself)

There is another tension: I then ask the question: is it possible that I actually *do* have greater awareness of the breath, but since I am in a state of having less language, I don't really see it that way? Is it possible that I am constantly "checking" to see that my meditation is going well, and that this checking is causing unnecessary angst?

Yes, at some point in equanimity (what you've described as the "state of having less language") meditation changes significantly as the languaging part of the mind relaxes. Without the confines of language, the sensations of the breath become more subtle, and the boundaries between breath and not-breath start to fade. Try going along with this and see what happens, letting go of the need for the breath to be a distinct seperate thing. Similarly "checking", also can become less language-based, and become just mindfulness and intention, with minimal elaboration.

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/29/18 6:56 AM as a reply to spatial.
To be honest, when I first looked at your post I went a little cross-eyed and internally went something like "wall of text noooooooo!" and was glad plenty of other people were responding with solid suggestions emoticon

Just a thought, not sure if this will help you or not--it sounds like you are doing the right things. But that wanting to map everything out, put it all into words, where does that come from? It sounds uncomfortable, like there is tension right there. Can you follow it to its source? Where does the impulse to put things on a map come from?

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/29/18 7:08 AM as a reply to spatial.
I feel the need to address this from spatial:

The whole ideal of being able to focus on a single object for an extended period of time is just a distraction, right? That's not the goal of insight. The objects aren't real, anyway. The only reason concentration is of any use in insight meditation is because it makes it harder for the mind to jump around randomly and thus driving you crazy, right?

A longer answer than I gave the other day, more for me to lay these thoughts out than for anyone else:

The overall purpose of the process we're engaged in is to awaken. To follow a vipassana practice means that we engage in an investigation - how does the mind work? Where does "suffering" come from? Can we eliminate suffering and, if we can't actually do that, can we discover enough about its causes to effectively eliminate suffering's ability to "ruin our lives?"

There are stages to the investigation, and at first, we have to learn how to deal with the nature of mind. This means learning its capabilities and foibles. If we're going to use the mind to investigate the mind we have to get past its foibles and learn to use its capabilities. This means changing life-long habits developed unthinkingly. This is a difficult process. There are surprises that crop up. The mind is not actually what we thought it was. It does things we didn't realize it was doing. At a minimum, this can be disconcerting. It can also be a major freakout.

Yet we have to learn how to use mind effectively in order to get on with the overall purpose - to awaken. Once we get past the surprises and the freakout the investigation part of the process can kick in. What we've been talking about in this topic is getting past the surprises and the freakout. I suspect that's a lot of what Culadasa's book is aimed at helping people do. People get stuck in this phase of the process, and they tend to get stuck in one of two ways:

1. The freakout scares them and thus ruins their motivation
2. Among the seemingly endless instructions about process people just give up out of frustration or boredom

So my advice to you, spatial, was to point out that you are, from my observations, ready to move past this first phase and on to the overall goal. In the vipassana investigation process, this means seeing the reality of the mind's work - the arising and passing away of objects. I don't mean the A&P event. I mean seeing in real time how the mind creates experience.

At the end of all this "stuff" we're doing, experience is all we have. It's literally everything. Ergo, seeing how it works is awakening.


RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/29/18 7:50 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
At the end of all this "stuff" we're doing, experience is all we have. It's literally everything. Ergo, seeing how it works is awakening.

So Chris, if you imagine an outward-focused practice, you could do something like this: 
Go outside and sit in a chair about 10 feet from a tree. Sit up straight. Stare at the tree in a relaxed way, with the eyes still. Gaze at the tree and listen, listen, listen to the silence of the ambient environment--not just the sounds, but the silence beneath. Watch, watch, watch. 

Eventually, you get to a place where you are seeing the tree in a way that is prior to conceptualization. It ceases to be a tree and is instead a shimmering, vivid, field, possibly even breaking up and skittering around. Your perception literally changes. You have seen how constructed a world is in which a person walks by the tree and says "Oh, what a pretty maple. I wonder how old it is? That knot on there kind of looks like a face."

Continue and there is kind of a foreground-background reversal. The tree and the landscape and the 'outer' world suddenly seem to be all there is.

So is vispassana really about taking precisely this type of approach but applying it to the 'inner' world?  

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/29/18 11:37 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
So is vispassana really about taking precisely this type of approach but applying it to the 'inner' world?  

My short answer -- there is no difference. Outer vs inner matters not. There are only objects and their arising and passing. You can do vipassana investigation with any sensed object. That said, you do need to see the process the mind pursues from sensed "thing" to recognition to naming to ideation and so forth. That could be called "looking inward." 

I'll try to type in a longer answer later when I have more time.

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/29/18 3:00 PM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
Eventually, you get to a place where you are seeing the tree in a way that is prior to conceptualization. It ceases to be a tree and is instead a shimmering, vivid, field, possibly even breaking up and skittering around. Your perception literally changes. You have seen how constructed a world is in which a person walks by the tree and says "Oh, what a pretty maple. I wonder how old it is? That knot on there kind of looks like a face."


This makes me think of The Matrix  emoticon

I have good news and bad news. The bad news: there's no change in the way things appear. They aren't shimmering or look like anything other than what they've always appeared to be. The good news: we can know how those normal, everyday appearances are constructed.

We're not changing the physical makeup of how our bodies and brains work. We will always process information according to our anatomy, chemistry and physics, so we see, hear, touch, taste, etc. what we've always seen, heard, touched, tasted. What's different is that through dedicated observation and investigation we've somehow uncovered a deeply felt, grokked, knowledge (wisdom, in Buddhist terms) of how a high pitched tweeting noise becomes a "bird" when we hear a chirp. How a passing car becomes "car" when we see its shape, see how it moves, or hear certain sounds of air moving around a certain shape and of tires on pavement. A certain assemblage of brown vertical shapes and green wiggly things becomes "trees." I'm oversimplifying, but you get the idea. We can even see tiny fragments of these things if we pay close enough attention so that the smaller pieces have pieces, and those pieces have pieces, and so on in a kind of fractal hierarchy of sense objects.

For some reason a purely intellectual understanding of this process doesn't carry enough weight with our pscyhe and in our mind to make a material difference in our approach to experience, yet repetition and observing the process over and over and over again somehow does. For me, the answer to the "how and how the heck does that momentous transition happen" question is a mystery, but it does work thanks to the universe, which has somehow given human beings this wonderful capability.





RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/29/18 9:26 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thanks for the reply, Chris. I need to put on my Nikes and "Just do it!"

RE: Confusion about meditation strategies
Answer
8/30/18 12:38 AM as a reply to spatial.
Great thread!
For what it’s worth, when I’ve had confusion about my practice, there were two things that I liked:
1. to notice the confusion, investigate it, see when it happens, what causes it etc. etc.
2. getting confirmation that what I was doing was good, and maybe a couple of extra tips from the good people like those you might find here.