To Begin From the Beginning

thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

To Begin From the Beginning

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Hoosten
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

Hello all,

I introduced myself at length on another thread, but suffice it to say I'm new to DhO & Vipassana practice. I've sat zazen daily for a couple of years but am interested in trying something new. I've read Daniel's book and Practical Inisght Meditation and am trying to focus on noting practice for the moment. On the advice of a couple of other posters I thought it would be a good idea to start a thread for practical questions & answers for newcomers to the Insight methodology like myself.

Forgive the indulgence, but for the sake of making my current practice point clear, I'll quote myself--

"I did a little bit of shamatha before bed last night, following the suggestion I've read elsewhere on DhO of "breathing in with the entire body, breathing out with the entire body." Almost immediately I noted pleasing & calming sensations throughout the whole body, and it was very easy and enjoyable for me to stay with the breath. While staying with the breath (with my eyes closed) I saw a coupe of flashes akin to a camera flash. I noted these, and when I shifted my attention to the field of vision they seemed to stop. They only seemed to occur while I was focused on the breath, but they were a rather surprising distraction to say the least."

This was Tuesday night, and since then I seem to be able to access these pleasant feelings at will with simple "full body breathing."

(cont'd)
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: To Begin From the Beginning

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Hoosten

(cont'd from above)

Last night I was sitting and noting the breaths. My noting has gotten faster now, not quite to the point of Daniel's wordless *blips*--but I'm clearly noticing and marking each sensation of the breath, and there are several distinct sensations per inhalation. While making an effort to note each individual sensation of the breath a few interesting things began happening: my awareness expanded and suddenly between noting breaths I was perceiving and noting individual sensations at my extremities. My notes began to sound more like

"rising-finger-foot-rising-backhead-rising-rightknee-rising...fallingfallingfallingfalling"

While this was going on I also began to notice a strange intermittent pulsing in my forehead. When I pointed the mind at it to investigate further it stopped. It only seemed to appear while I was focused on noting sensations throughout the body. I also became very conscious of an irregular pulsing in the chest--perhaps only the heartbeat, but then why intermittent?--which like the forehead pulsatoins seemed to disappear the moment I turned my focus to it.

I suppose what I'm hoping for, in this thread and on DhO in general, is guidance and the old canard of Dharma diagnosis--for myself and hopefully other newcomers--where more experienced practitioners think it appropriate.

My apologies for my verboseness. I only seek clarity emoticon

Justin
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: To Begin From the Beginning

Posts: 59 Join Date: 9/9/09 Recent Posts
Hi Justin.
It sounds like we're in very similar situations--I'm also just starting to experiment with shamatha practice as outlined by Daniel, having formerly worked with a very open approach based on trying to rest in 'choiceless awareness.'

I'm doing 1-2 hours a day. Very noticeable increase in concentration. Also some light flashes. Please continue with the posts. They will indeed be valuable to those of us who are just beginning with this practice.
Joel
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: To Begin From the Beginning

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Hoosten

Afternoon Sitting Report--

Unable to slip into 'full body bliss' despite more than one attempt. As my hands sit in the cosmic mudra, thumbs meeting above the fingers, I feel a pulse that seems to come from between my thumbs. Between the pulses I'm sensing a space between my thumbs that may or may not actually be there. That is to say--this pulse seems to be strong enough to seem to push my thumbs apart!

I notice a set of thoughts arise, so as per advice elsewhere I attempt to interrogate the content. In retrospect I think my mistake here comes in investigating the content itself rather than the stuff of which the content is made. I'm asking "who is this [person of whom I am thinking]" rather than "where does he come from?" Does this seem correct?

For whatever reason I soon find myself down the rabbit hole of daydreaming. Due to lack of sleep last night I spend the last 10 minutes of my sit fighting off the desire to nap. In the last 5 minutes, noting frustration at having to fight off sleepI make a grab for a drum in my field of vision and attempt kasina practice for a few minutes in a facile attempt to get some mileage out of my alloted sitting time.

Not my most successful afternoon of investigation, but it seems to me that the inability to access the full body pleasure & the pulsing between the thumbs is noteworthy.

Does anyone have thoughts or advice given the results of this sitting?
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: To Begin From the Beginning

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Hoosten

Joel,

I envy your discipline when it comes to making that kind of time for your practice. I'm fooling myself when I say I don't have the time, but I have great difficulty with restlessness when I approach even 30 minutes at a time. I'd love to hear about some of your experiences as well.

Justin
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: To Begin From the Beginning

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Sup,

Welcome to the DhO dude. The important thing is to test approaches and tweak based on feedback. It's practically impossible for us to guess what approach is best for you, as everyone is different in this regard. With that in mind, here's an approach that may be worth giving a shot. Just another alternative to the other suggestions.

Try doing 15-20 minutes of samatha jhana work and with the rest of your time, hit the insight. There are a lot of reasons why this approach works well.

The approach also helps a lot with restlessness, and you'll probably find that you'll be able to sit a bit longer. That said, don't take it to be a bad thing if you're a forever-restless practitioner. I very rarely sat for more than an hour, and typically only for half an hour at a time. The function that time plays in progress is actually very minor. You're finding the proper causal trigger for the effect that you desire, that's it. You may find those triggers quickly, or it may take a long time. Test, analyze, and recalibrate; loop until no-self remains.

Word,
Trent
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: To Begin From the Beginning

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
justin,

its possible to investigate pulses or flashes without looking 'directly' at them, which is actually what you're doing already when you notice them happening in the periphery of your attention. in fact, its one of the skills you're probably gonna need to develop more in order to navigate the entire territory up to stream-entry, so take the opportunity to investigate in this way where you can get it (though its not that you're gonna have any shortage of these opportunities later..).

when the peripheral pulsations/vibrations/flashes happen, notice them exactly as and how they happen, the 'direction' of your mind as it happens, how everything is exactly as it is in this moment. or notice how a peripheral vibration happens, then the 'direction' of the mind moves, and then the vibration isnt found where it moves to anymore.. exactly as it happens in the moment. yes, there is a hidden joke, but it can be anti-climactic.. hence, keep practising, but consider yourself warned ^_^

tarin
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: To Begin From the Beginning

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Hoosten

Hi all,

Today's sitting report follows.

Began with 15 minutes of shamatha. A few minutes of counting deep breathing to steady the mind & clear away clutter, then very easy to travel with the breath from the tip of the nose to the mudra and back again. Attempts at 'full body breathing' to access bliss meet limited success, as I can feel the sparks of bliss but they keep sputtering out. Sounds in my peripheral attention (the a/c starting, an ice cream truck in the distance) seem to be entering my entire consciousness with my breaths. I'm aware of these distinct--awarenesses? I'm not sure what to call them as they aren't thoughts or sensations per se--while maintaining focus on the breath. There are peripheral vibrations which I notice but don't zero-in on (as per Tarin's advice on 'peripheral investigation' and as I'm still in my "shamatha time.") The first timer rings and I move on to vipassana practice.

In the second half of my sitting I try to follow & note sensations as they ricochet throughout the body, but I'm becoming aware of them faster than I can note them. I'm not sure if I should be trying to follow & focus on them all simultaneously or zeroing in on one or a few in particular, but suddenly I feel overwhelmed by the sheer multiplicity of phenomenal sensations, like I'm in a loud crowded room not sure which--if any--conversation to focus on. Then the timer rings again and I feel I haven't been sitting long enough.

So much for restlessness!
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: To Begin From the Beginning

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Hoosten

As a corollary:

I was just on my lunch break and, with 3 minutes to go on my break & having just read a few really terrific sets of instructions on jhana access, I wanted to see if I could dive right in. And I did. I pulled up the full body bliss of the 1st jhana, then as per the instructions I inclined the mind toward the emotional component of the bliss and I think pushed through to the 2nd jhana. I'm just sort of shocked that--after having struggled to get to the 1st jhana earlier today for a full half hour--I was able to blow past it and into what seemed to be the emotional bliss of 2 so quickly. My timer rang, I stood up, and it stayed with me for the rest of the night.

I may well be mistaken or overstating, but based on my little studies of the maps I think I really did push through to 2 very quickly. I'm a little bit proud of myself. Is that ok? emoticon
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: To Begin From the Beginning

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Hoosten

And by "very quickly" I mean from sit-down to access, didn't mean to make any implications about my progress on the path.
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: To Begin From the Beginning

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: kevin_stanley

Your description of so-much-all-at-once during noting matches my experience well. I can't yet note fast enough to catch everything, and noting with words is problematic for two reasons: 1) forming words in my mind, although faster than speaking them, still takes time and the sensations keep coming and coming, and 2) I simply don't know what to call some of them. So at the moment I'm thinking "that" at the difficult-to-categorize ones, and I can feel that shifting into a wordless (and faster) way of just kind of "tapping" each sensation with my attention, taptaptaptap.

But...it still seems like there's too much! I'm wondering how (if?) that resolves. I can imagine getting faster, but it's difficult at the moment to imagine getting fast _enough_. I can imagine the flow of sensations slowing as I become more settled. I can also (kind of) imagine integrating sets of simultaneous or seemingly connected sensations into a single multifaceted experience--kind of an attentional chunking--and noting that...but that seems like the opposite of the "break-it-down" Vipassana approach. Anyway, on I go...