Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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Florian, modified 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 2:14 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 2:09 AM

Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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In the "Arahat Rigpa thing" thread, John Finley wrote something which I think merits its own thread:

John Finley:
The open, honest, anti-mushroom culture gave wings to my practice and I feel like I made good progress while the original DhO was intact and functioning well.

Then, for reasons I still don't fully understand, the wheels came off and suddenly, what seemed for me such a clear path forward has now become a trail riddled with twists, bifurcations and choices that I don't feel prepared to make. The rift created multiple communities, each with differing approaches for navigating the Path and reaching arahatship. The result for me personally, in trying to follow the conversations and advice on this and Kenneth's new site has been an exercise in confusion and frustration.

I'll be the first to admit it: I don't have a frigging clue what I'm doing now. I've gone from pure vipassana practice to kasina/concentration/vipassana/just-sitting-with-it/walking/whatever mode and things in between. My concentration is flagging, my motivation is drying up and I am just about to the point of rolling up the mat and saying F&#@ it all (fully understanding that I'm likely still in Dark Night territory, so it's natural to some degree for me to feel like this in any event).


(Let's not talk about the reasons for "the wheels coming off" the original DhO here: the other thread is suitable for that worthwhile discussion.)

The sentences I emphasized in the quoted section express an experience I know quite well: my practice seems to be stagnating, I try new stuff, that doesn't do anything immediately obvious either, I try another thing, again, nothing much happens... I was like that before I read MCTB, and on and off since. Like John writes, part of it is the territory, that sentiment of being lost among choices and being forced to make them. I think that's actually the insight to be made in this situation: that we can't choose not to chose. But insights are sometimes fiddly things, and getting a point intellectually is not the same as having the corresponding insight.

So, how do you DhOers go about this particular one? Did you try all choices, until they all sucked? Did you stick to one technique, one framework, out of brute stubbornness even if it seemed pointless (which is what I generally do when stuck, even if it lacks in elegance?)

Cheers,
Florian
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John Finley, modified 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 7:34 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 7:34 AM

RE: Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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Thanks, Florian, I didn't intend to hijack the OP; this is a better way of addressing my concerns.

I'd like to add that after thinking about what I said I realized that part of what is going on with me is a classic case of "clinging". I was in a good situation and I didn't want it to change.

I'm open to the possibility that things may actually improve as a result of change and I'll commit to do whatever I can to contribute positively in all venues of this community whenever I am able.

Growing pains, I suppose.

Thanks again,

John
Trent , modified 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 8:07 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 8:07 AM

RE: Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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Florian & John,

Do you feel that the confusion in choice is due to looking for ('external') validation, credibility, consensus, etc. for which way is "best" or which way is "most traveled" or which way is "safest" or which way is "quickest" or which way is "most compassionate?" Or, are you relying upon you own ('internal') feedback mechanisms in terms of: what helps me see suffering more clearly, what helps me identify no-self more clearly, what helps me identify impermanence more clearly, what increases my confidence, and what makes more sense to me and aligns with my personal idiosyncrasies?

I pose this both as a question and (possible) answer.

Best,
Trent
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Tom O, modified 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 10:00 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 10:00 AM

RE: Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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Trenton Hoag:

Do you feel that the confusion in choice is due to looking for ('external') validation, credibility, consensus, etc. for which way is "best" or which way is "most traveled" or which way is "safest" or which way is "quickest" or which way is "most compassionate?" Or, are you relying upon you own ('internal') feedback mechanisms in terms of: what helps me see suffering more clearly, what helps me identify no-self more clearly, what helps me identify impermanence more clearly, what increases my confidence, and what makes more sense to me and aligns with my personal idiosyncrasies?


I'll give you my answer to that one: external validation! Sure, it is no doubt "right" to find the path yourself, figure things out, yadda yadda. But I look at DhO, MCTB, commentaries by arahats, as vital inputs to save time, suffering, and all the rest. Daniel wrote MCTB to be the dharma book he wished he had and so, by definition, he has created external validation for the rest of us. I think as we newbies struggle along, it makes a huge difference to have kind wisdom passed (kindly) our way.

I am not looking for gurus, by the way, but I certainly welcome a mentor or two. And like Florian, I am a bit dizzy with the options.
Trent , modified 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 11:23 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 11:05 AM

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I'll give you my answer to that one: external validation! ... I am a bit dizzy with the options.


That is fair enough. The options presented need not be-- at the core of the issue-- as numerous or complex as to necessitate 'dizziness." The path boils down to three core concepts that you'll indubitably recognize: suffering, impermanence, no-self. Seeing any of these clearly enough will allow the enlightenment style insights to bubble forth. Further, understanding the relationships between each of those-- such as the relationship between impermanence and no-self-- is also par for the course.

It does not necessarily matter what causes these to be recognized clearly enough for 'liberation' to take place. You may understand no-self simply by reflecting on how you perceive sounds in a causal relationship while watching TV, or you may notice impermanence in a new way while doing formal Vipassana. Technique wise, these communities are presenting people mostly with Vipassana (which focuses primarily on impermanence) and Non-dual approaches (which focuses primarily on no-self). It doesn't matter which one you choose-- other than whether it jibes well with you-- because they're all hitting at the same thing. Said another way: because the 3 characteristics are all interrelated, it does not necessarily matter which one you understand the most of, or why, or when, or how. Though there are some exceptions, I will leave those on the sidelines.

A good approach to all of this is to just read MCTB, read a topical chapter such as no-self, and then highlight what doesn't make sense. Then, sit down with a technique of choice, and try to solve the previously highlighted confusion.

In regard to Enlightenment (and thus ignoring other paths such as Actual Freedom), this is all it will ever boil down to. Everything worth a look/experiment is going to-- in some way-- reference the 3 characteristics. If you see something in your experience, or read something in a book, that talks about them and something does not make sense: experiment until you reconcile the problem (whether to disprove/disregard it [perhaps temporarily], or to confirm it).

[Edit; Addition] And so, the external validation should only be needed insofar as to learn the details of the techniques or to find pointers to said "things that don't make sense." Or to discuss things that don't make sense, or to be steered back on track if you should accidentally falter. Everything else falls squarely on your shoulders. With that said, everything needed for attaining Arahatship is readily available in abundance in MCTB alone, but you may of course find other resources useful. I mention this specifically because, if you have read MCTB, your search for external help need not continue on. Comparing that fact with your personal approach is a good check to see if you are frittering away your time hunting for short-cuts rather than rolling up your sleeves.

Helpful?
Trent
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Florian, modified 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 1:29 PM
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RE: Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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Trenton Hoag:
Florian & John,

Do you feel that the confusion in choice is due to looking for ('external') validation, credibility, consensus, etc. for which way is "best" or which way is "most traveled" or which way is "safest" or which way is "quickest" or which way is "most compassionate?" Or, are you relying upon you own ('internal') feedback mechanisms in terms of: what helps me see suffering more clearly, what helps me identify no-self more clearly, what helps me identify impermanence more clearly, what increases my confidence, and what makes more sense to me and aligns with my personal idiosyncrasies?

I pose this both as a question and (possible) answer.


Heh, all of those, but with emphasis on more clarity and confidence.

I know how to do it, I know I'm doing it, and currently there's a "wearing it down" thing happening, and one of the erosives at work is actually in the looking at all the options on display.

Thanks, Trent!

Cheers,
Florian
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John Finley, modified 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 1:31 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 1:31 PM

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Very helpful, Trent, thank you.

So, directly experiencing and understanding any one of the 3Cs will lead to Path and ultimately, to enlightenment? Or am I over-simplifying what you said?

If that's it, that seems simple enough - just pick one and place all of your effort and focus on that?
Trent , modified 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 2:13 PM
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No problem, you are both very welcome.

John, I hesitate to hang my hat on that statement as an exclusive rule. But, from what I've experienced, from what I've heard others speak of, and from the theoretical standpoint...I think that is correct.

Personally I really did not know anything about "suffering" or "impermanence" in the Buddhist sense until reading MCTB sometime mid-to-late second path. I intimately understood no-self, however, via Ramana Maharshi's straight forward teachings. After reading MCTB, it became evident that I was accidentally doing Vipassana quite a lot, and accidentally noticing suffering. I mention this as an example so as to say: I technically did not understand suffering or impermanence at all until quite a ways down the path, but my understanding of no-self, coupled with my gung-ho attitude allowed that progress. I imagine that understanding the other characteristics would yield something similar.

When it comes to progress, there are many factors at play other than one's intellectual understanding. A lot of this boils down to a point that is not stressed nearly enough by teachers (in the pragmatic sense), alluded to above when I mentioned my 'gung-ho attitude,' progress without much understanding, etc. I don't have time to write another book right now, but the a central point I try to stress is this: the affective self (one's "heart") plays a central role in one's enlightenment progress. Even a tiny bit of intellectual understanding will go a very long way if one wants "it" bad enough. I mention this because many practitioners allude to feeling burned out, and feeling burned out *CAN* be a bad sign here. You gotta want it, and feel that you want it, and know that you want it, with every bit of your 'Being;' at least more so than any other feeling such as: fear, hesitation, doubt, boredom, and so on. Sometimes it will feel like you're slogging through a battlefield with blind eyes, and that sucks. But the alternative is to sit down and wait for 'external' help (spoken to in the previous posts), which sucks even more because you'll get no where. No one but you is going to move your proverbial legs down the path.

Best,
Trent
Martin Potter, modified 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 2:48 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 2:43 PM

RE: Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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*Disclaimer: Just my opinion, I'm not sure about anything I've written and are just my thoughts at this point in time (which will probably be different tomorrow ;) Obviously it's in conflict with what a lot of successful practitioners here say.*


I think it might be even simpler than that. If you are simply aware in the present moment for long periods of time you will make progress. The 3Cs are just descriptions of how reality already is, it's not something you need to impose. Whether you are aware in a focused investigative way or a natural pleasant way doesn't matter. If you simply live while in a state of awareness you progress. For me, practise is more of a dropping away of investigation, dropping the exploitation of sensations towards a goal, i.e. trying to get something out of sensations - instead of just listening to music and being alive and in the moment you find yourself trying to *use* those sensations to 'see' impermanence etc. in order to get enlightened, but they are already impermanent and if you are in a state of alert attention you see that automatically. If you just forget about meditation and simply be aware then the struggle of greed falls away and time and reality flow.

I think this is especially true after stream entry, when awareness becomes pretty much automatic. Even when I'm drunk my cognitive abilities and bodily reactions are observably slower and sluggish, but awareness stays just as brightly over the field.

This isn't an argument for or against rigpa as I don't know what that is, personally I use 'direct path' books simply to deepen the subtlety and non-identification of awareness and to approach this thing from multiple angles. I think we have a lot of room to be creative and that all the practises which involve being aware will work.


Feel free to speak up in disagreement
- Martin
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Tom O, modified 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 3:47 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 10/22/09 3:47 PM

RE: Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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Thanks, Trent, for your always reasonable replies. You continue to be one of my favourite contributors here (even if my posts sound really, really pissy in reply).

I had a bunch of stuff here that I have now redacted -- [note to Tarin: I guess I can do a bit of mindfulness off-cushion!] -- and will just say that it was MCTB that got me here in the first place, so maybe it is time to re-read it, regroup, and just ignore the duking out going on at levels way above my head.
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Julius P0pp, modified 12 Years ago at 10/24/09 4:18 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 10/24/09 4:12 AM

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Florian "Monkeymind" Weps:

I know how to do it, I know I'm doing it, and currently there's a "wearing it down" thing happening, and one of the erosives at work is actually in the looking at all the options on display.

Yeah, that's suffering in its purest form, isn't it? The desperation of wasting time.
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John Finley, modified 12 Years ago at 10/24/09 7:31 AM
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Yeah, that's suffering in its purest form, isn't it? The desperation of wasting time.


Nail.

Head.
Abdou Abed, modified 12 Years ago at 10/28/09 9:11 AM
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RE: Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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I explored a few teachings and each time I try to settle on one of them and go a bit deeper into it, I find myself doubting. Is this teaching leading me anyway or is it just a waste of time. While doing this I already ‘wasted’ many valuable years.

Recently, I stumbled on Daniel’s book and found it very clear and instructive. Then, I went on the DhO and found some of the discussions about his differences of view with his old friend Kenneth. Then, I went on Kenneth’s website and read most of what is there.

Results: I am now full of doubt.

Ok, I understand that different traditions will have different views and defend their territories. But one of the many things that draw me to this community is that it wasn’t supposed to defend any ‘territory’.

So, I thought that when the teaching become independent of traditions, we can find a unified ‘core’, a ‘hard core’, ‘a hard shell’. We can find a minimum on which all major traditions agree, stripped of ‘the folklore’. And these guys (Daniel & Kenneth & the other arahats on theses forums) are doing a great job giving us just this ‘hard core’.

This is why all these profound disagreements about the practice and the final goal are so disappointing. My question is:

How to overcome this creeping doubt? Can Daniel or Kenneth or both tell the rest of us what they agree on, and what is the importance of what they disagree on? A sort of “Idiots” proof core of the teachings for beginners to stick on. Then they can debate all the finer points without planting seeds of doubt in the heads of those still standing on shaky ground.

Salam (Peace)
Abdou
Trent , modified 12 Years ago at 10/28/09 10:16 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 10/28/09 10:14 AM

RE: Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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Abdou Abed:
How to overcome this creeping doubt?


Hi.

Ah, the "paradox of choice." I think it's worth noting that most of the differences of opinion around here in regard to "what gets it done" are typically over relatively esoteric points. In other words, Kenneth and Dan probably agree on far more than they disagree on, especially when stripped down to "the core" you speak of.

As I stated above, helping one to experimentally understand the Three Characteristics is the unifying core to all Enlightenment practice that leads to transformation of perception. With that in mind, read what people are offering and see what appeals most to you. What helps you understand the three characteristics more both intellectually and in experiment? What seems more fun? What seems more interesting? What seems more sensible to your own proclivities?

Lastly, you may want to recognize that doubt is fear in a clever disguise. With that in mind, check in with the fact that there isn't much to fear in regard to the Dharma as long as you keep your wits about you and don't go wandering down the trail of blind faith. You can test out any of these techniques/teachings safely and soundly, so long as you're the gatekeeper of your own interpretations and have the confidence to step away from something that seems nutty, out of place, irrational, etc.

Trent
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Tom O, modified 12 Years ago at 10/29/09 8:43 AM
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Trent H.:

As I stated above, helping one to experimentally understand the Three Characteristics is the unifying core to all Enlightenment practice that leads to transformation of perception. With that in mind, read what people are offering and see what appeals most to you. What helps you understand the three characteristics more both intellectually and in experiment? What seems more fun? What seems more interesting? What seems more sensible to your own proclivities?


Is that really true? What about Zen practice, which seems altogether different? And the "who am I" (or "Witness") practices? Neither seem to be related to the three characteristics and these, in particular, are ones that are always nagging at me. I am content with my current choice, but choices are still there that appear (to me) fundamentally different in focus and practice.
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tarin greco, modified 12 Years ago at 10/29/09 9:54 AM
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Tom Otvos:
Trent H.:

As I stated above, helping one to experimentally understand the Three Characteristics is the unifying core to all Enlightenment practice that leads to transformation of perception. With that in mind, read what people are offering and see what appeals most to you. What helps you understand the three characteristics more both intellectually and in experiment? What seems more fun? What seems more interesting? What seems more sensible to your own proclivities?


Is that really true? What about Zen practice, which seems altogether different? And the "who am I" (or "Witness") practices? Neither seem to be related to the three characteristics and these, in particular, are ones that are always nagging at me. I am content with my current choice, but choices are still there that appear (to me) fundamentally different in focus and practice.


hi tom,

dunno bout 'zen practice' (can you be more specific?) but 'who am i?' practice is essentially honing in on no-self characteristic - seeing that there is, within 'conditioned experience', no 'prime mover' or fundamental cause anywhere in phenomenality. investigating 'who am i?' thoroughly will cause path-moment.

tarin
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 12 Years ago at 11/1/09 2:00 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/1/09 2:00 AM

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Dear All,

I am sorry for any complexities the perennial discussions and differences that Kenneth and I voice are causing. I am quite certain that neither of us wish to have that effect.

As to what we agree on, there is much. We both got to stream entry and second path using very similar methods (basically straight up Mahasi Sayadaw stuff), and we both got the basic jhanas following standard prescriptions. There is some debate about exactly what happened next and how it happened, but get into that territory first, and then perhaps you will appreciate some of the complexities between us as we attempt to describe our practices and advocate for what we think is best.

Actually, we have started our own secret little discussion forum and wiki for just the two of us to try to resolve some of our differences and discrepancies so as to keep the shrapnel and fallout from injuring others and thus try to rebuild some more pronounced front of coherence so as to avoid these sorts of valid complaints.
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Antonio Ramírez, modified 12 Years ago at 11/1/09 12:24 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/1/09 12:24 PM

RE: Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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This is probably implicit in Trent's reply but I think it's worth saying.

Abdou Abed:

How to overcome this creeping doubt?


What is that doubt made of? What sensations tell you "there is doubt"? In other words: how do you know in a given moment that you are experiencing doubt?

I used to get kind of annoyed when someone replied in this vein to me in the old DhO because it sounds like a cop-out and a dismissal of your concerns. But if you take these questions literally and use them in your practice, you can use doubt itself to move things forward.
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Constance Casey, modified 12 Years ago at 11/1/09 5:36 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/1/09 5:36 PM

RE: Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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Hello Darma brothers:
I like what is being said in response to this thread so far, - true. So, I just wanted to support the above by sharing:
please pick a method that is simple, feels good to you and stay with it.

During the heavy practice period I did almost no reading. I had read Daniel's book twice and realized the real learning was going to happen on the cushion, so I upped the time spent there. Some can have doubt on a method and be overly involved in other things. When I was in Outward Bound, all they ever said was, "Just Do It", - so that was my mantra.

This doubt or overwhelm may be reflected and reinforced in your life in a myriad of other ways. I don't know.
If I felt tempted to cruise the internet or look at another book, I just sat instead, and got to retreats. I canceled all subscriptions to magazines; stopped a variety of outside activities, this also provided clarity for the practice.

sincerely, Constance
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Eric Alan Hansen, modified 12 Years ago at 11/5/09 6:05 AM
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Daniel: Thanks I was just wondering that. Uncanny. almost like my mind was being read.

My basic "Dilemma" right now is getting the hell up the mountain from First Hut. I'm out of the hut and moving up the trail either way. Any advice is greatly appreciated

p e a c e

h a n s e n
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Eric Alan Hansen, modified 12 Years ago at 11/6/09 4:50 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/6/09 4:50 AM

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Thank You, Constance,
That is very nicely worded. "heavy practice period" is a great concept too, not quite "home retreat" but it shares some features with retreat, no reading, writing, or excess verbal internet - also the case on a retreat too. This sets good parameters. I am going to do this Nov 8 - 25 actually, with Nov 13-24 being the intensive section.
p e a c e
h a n s e n
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 12 Years ago at 11/16/09 4:57 AM
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Follow up:

Kenneth's and my attempt to reconcile some of our core differences has simply fizzled, unsure why, but I will work to try to resolve some of our core issues if possible.
J Adam G, modified 12 Years ago at 11/18/09 1:44 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 11/18/09 1:44 PM

RE: Lost in the Dharma Candy Store

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Antonio Ramirez:

What is that doubt made of? What sensations tell you "there is doubt"? In other words: how do you know in a given moment that you are experiencing doubt?

I used to get kind of annoyed when someone replied in this vein to me in the old DhO because it sounds like a cop-out and a dismissal of your concerns. But if you take these questions literally and use them in your practice, you can use doubt itself to move things forward.


Agreed! This kind of investigation is seriously good stuff. Anyone out there who hasn't really seen any results in insight practice yet can probably experience insight into Mind and Body quickly by looking at what actually makes up "doubt" or "attention" or "feeling good" or "feeling bad," etc.

For another interesting thing, observe really carefully what happens when you move a body part. The thought of moving, the desire to move, the willed intention to move, and the actual movement (which seems to require an involuntary decision to carry out the voluntarily planned movement) are all separate. This is separate from watching the sensations of moving -- this is watching the mind processes that occur during movement, not watching any of the sensations associated with the 5 classical senses during movement. Watching the sensations of the 5 classical senses is certainly a very valid mindfulness practice for insight too, but really, we're all human here and sometimes the breath becomes intolerably boring. What do you do? Get curious about what boredom really is. And by "get curious" I mean "generate curiosity" in the sense that a brahma-vihara meditator might "generate metta" or "generate karuna" via whatever method they like. Be mindful while this happens, and eventually the curiosity will replace the boredom itself and then you can investigate what makes up the feeling of curiosity.

I don't think satipatthana is a "pick the one you like the most." It seems like more of a "try each of these for at least a little while, and know that any of them is useful for insight."

I hope that this discussion of how many things you can choose to observe with mindfulness doesn't further your problem of being lost in the candy store. Just pick one and go with it, because you won't be wrong. Satipatthana is also not "multiple choice" because all four are correct!

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