Body Sweeping Meditation

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby dhamma_newb » Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:33 pm

It makes no difference how we manage to concentrate, just so long as we do. Then we can truthfully say, "I am meditating." Until then, all we can say is we are using a meditation method. This distinction is hardly ever made, though it is clearly pointed out by the Buddha.

Some people come to it through the "sweeping exercise," particularly if they use the fan method. If done correctly, it may bring enough concentration to arouse a very pleasant sensation. If that should be the case, then we stop the sweeping right then and there and put our attention on the delightful sensation. Then, as we have heard from the Buddha, we enlarge the sensation so that it is experienced throughout the body." - from Who Is My Self? by Ayya Khema


I've done short body scans as preparation for sitting meditations but never knew that body scans were meditations in and of themselves. I searched for a guided meditation by Ayya Khema's student Leigh Brasington and found this Guided Body Sweep Meditation.

It's 45 minutes long and it gives you just enough time to bring awareness to each part of the body. I found the meditation quite good and when I was done I was filled with positive energy. Any feedback from those experienced in these types of meditations?

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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby reflection » Fri Feb 10, 2012 3:23 pm

Once did a retreat that had its focus on body meditation. I can say it is a very good meditation method and can certainly bring nice results.

have fun!
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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby daverupa » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:10 pm

My first exposure to this sort of method was via the relaxation response instructions such as those described here. This was the foundation of a meditation process developed by Dr. Glenn Morris, after which one might take the Japanese godai element system and employ it in a physical manner (what/how do I experience as earth{-y}, what/how do I experience as water{-y}, etc.), or take each of the five physical senses in turn and make information from that sense an awareness priority for a week or so. (The other side of that coin was a meditation called the Secret Smile, a combined Kundalini/Taoist approach to energy development. Here, physical acuity was taught as a support for developing energetic & mental acuity.)

These sorts of practices support clear comprehension, in my experience.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby David2 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:24 pm

Hi dhamma_newb,

if you like body-sweeping meditation, you could consider attending a 10-day retreat in the goenka tradition.
After 3 and a half days of anapana you do 6 and a half days of body sweeping on these retreats.

However, in the goenka tradition the technique is different from the technique that Ayya Khema teaches.

it may bring enough concentration to arouse a very pleasant sensation. If that should be the case, then we stop the sweeping right then and there and put our attention on the delightful sensation.


That part of the technique explained by Ayya Khema is totally different to the Goenka technique, because in the Goenka technique you never make a difference between pleasant and unpleasant sensations, you never stop the sweeping because of pleasant sensations. One of the most important reasons is that you practice not to follow your cravings for pleasant sensations, so you don't make the craving stronger.
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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby Chi » Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:21 pm

Here is my experience, however limited it may be:

As one starts progressing in meditation, his awareness becomes sharper and sharper. He is able to focus on more objects at once, if he so chooses. The body sweeping method is mentioned in the Satipatthana Sutta:

"Experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe in," thus one trains oneself. "Experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe out," thus one trains oneself. "Calming the activity of the body, I shall breathe in," thus one trains oneself. "Calming the activity of the body, I shall breathe out," thus one trains oneself. --Satipatthana Sutta

At the beginning, it may be helpful to focus on one part of the body at a time. However, as the body begins to dissolves into mere sensations, these sensations start flowing into one another. There starts to be little distinction between this body part and that body part.

I am not sure if this answers your question, but my advice is to sit as much as possible, and go to as many retreats as possible, so that you can actually experience the dissolution of the body.

Also, regarding the pleasant sensations: the gradual dissolution of the body WILL BE pleasant (at first). There will be much joy and happiness when the body starts dissolving. HOWEVER, the more one clings onto these sensations, the more miserable he will be in the following stages of insight.

So the lesson is: cling not to any sensations, whether they be pleasant or unpleasant. Cling not to any of the mental states and thoughts that are associated with these sensations, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant they may be.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby dhamma_newb » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:42 pm

Thank you for your responses. I was wondering if any of you who commented are familiar with Ayya Khema and her student Leigh Brasington's teachings. They teach the jhanas and the way they teach the jhanas is to focus on pleasant sensations that arise after a period of focused concentration, so this specific technique is different from a strictly vipassana type body scan.
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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:25 pm

dhamma_newb wrote:Thank you for your responses. I was wondering if any of you who commented are familiar with Ayya Khema and her student Leigh Brasington's teachings. They teach the jhanas and the way they teach the jhanas is to focus on pleasant sensations that arise after a period of focused concentration, so this specific technique is different from a strictly vipassana type body scan.


I'm not very familiar but it's sounds like what they are teaching is very different from what Goenka teaches.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby daverupa » Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:51 pm

dhamma_newb wrote:Thank you for your responses. I was wondering if any of you who commented are familiar with Ayya Khema and her student Leigh Brasington's teachings. They teach the jhanas and the way they teach the jhanas is to focus on pleasant sensations that arise after a period of focused concentration, so this specific technique is different from a strictly vipassana type body scan.


Hmm... that sounds like focusing on piti or sukha from the second tetrad of anapanasati. But as for jhana:

SN 48.10 wrote:And what is the faculty of concentration? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, making it his object to let go, attains concentration, attains singleness of mind. Quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, he enters & remains in the first jhana...


(I see this as related to tetrad iv of anapanasati:

He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on relinquishment.'


This seems, rather neatly, to connect the final instructions on sammasati with the beginning instructions on sammasamadhi.)
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 10, 2012 7:56 pm

Hmm, I assumed that the teachers who instructed students to focus on the arising of pleasant feelings saw this as somehow related to the development of the piti and sukha jhana factors. I don't know enough about such approaches to say any more, but perhaps someone out there can clarify.

:anjali:
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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:37 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hmm, I assumed that the teachers who instructed students to focus on the arising of pleasant feelings saw this as somehow related to the development of the piti and sukha jhana factors. I don't know enough about such approaches to say any more, but perhaps someone out there can clarify.


From what I understand from teachers like Shaila Catherine one should fully experience piti and sukha without clinging and grasping if one wants to progress to jhana, clinging and grasping puts the kibosh on progress, so in this respect it's not much different from vipassana.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby reflection » Fri Feb 10, 2012 9:49 pm

Certain happy/pleasant feelings in the mind during meditation are the results of letting go. Focussing on those may take the mind to deeper states.

Not to sure about the pleasant feeling in the body, though. Of course, these can and will arise and can even last for days, but I don't think focussing on these will get the mind much deeper (ala jhana). Anyway, it's never bad if you don't cling to it.
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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby dhamma_newb » Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:18 pm

Thanks again for your responses everyone. If you care to check it out, here's an interview Richard Shankman did with Leigh Brasington where he speaks about the jhanas.

I believe Shaila Catherine teaches Pa Auk Sayadaw's methods which are Visuddhimagga based. Ayya Khema and Leigh Brasington teach the jhanas a different way from Pa Auk Sayadaw, based more on the Suttas than the Visuddhimaga I think. I guess bringing up the jhanas will sometimes end up in confusion since most don't even agree on what they are, but I believe there is a thread on the forum specifically for the jhana debate.

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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby Chi » Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:25 pm

This is from my personal experience:

Joy and happiness naturally arise when the mind becomes purified. When most of the coarse hatred and greed are out of the system, even if it is temporary, naturally pleasant mental and physical sensations arise.

Now, one cannot force these feelings out. If one stays equanimous with these sensations and mental states, more calm sets in naturally. Joy and happiness then become more of a background thing rather than being the overwhelming force in the mind. When one notes joy as "joy, joy" or "rapture, rapture," they can then be seen as impermanent like everything else.

Or, you could get absorbed in these mental states, but this is then not Vipassana. One of my teachers at a recent retreat told me that effort and concentration must be balanced always, and that these highly absorbed states were not optimal. He seemed pretty darn peaceful and happy, so I do my best not to get absorbed in these states, no matter how pleasurable.
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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby Brizzy » Sat Feb 11, 2012 5:02 am

dhamma_newb wrote:Thank you for your responses. I was wondering if any of you who commented are familiar with Ayya Khema and her student Leigh Brasington's teachings. They teach the jhanas and the way they teach the jhanas is to focus on pleasant sensations that arise after a period of focused concentration, so this specific technique is different from a strictly vipassana type body scan.


The way the sweeping meditation is taught is certainly different from teacher to teacher. I personally follow the anapana method of training oneself to feel the 'whole body', which could be interpreted as body sweeping. There are certain elements either missing or added to the various techniques that are out there. Some traditions emphasise discernment and cultivation in regard to meditative factors like joy, whilst other traditions teach that one should regard all arisen bodily/mental occurrences with equanimity and try not to intentionally cultivate those arising occurrences one way or the other. Another way that the way the meditation can be different is regards to how much one pointed concentration is emphasised in some traditions and how a 'looser' more overall concentration is emphasised in others. The bottom line is that it is just a method. More important than the method is the attitude/view/approach/emphasis that one utilises in its execution. Having said that, I personally believe that an awareness of the whole body is an intrinsic aspect of the Buddha's teaching.

Metta

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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Feb 11, 2012 5:06 am

Greetings,

Another guided body-scan file for anyone interested, this time from Malcolm Huxter...

http://www.buddhanet.net/mp3/huxter/hux ... 20scan.mp3

From memory, this one is about 20 minutes long.

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If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Body Sweeping Meditation

Postby dhamma_newb » Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:25 am

Thanks Retro, I like Malcolm Huxter's meditations. His guided Loving-Kindness meditation actually brought me to tears!!!
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