beginner's progress

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beginner's progress

Postby octathlon » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:43 am

I'm just a beginning meditator even though I've attempted it various times over the years. But this time, over the last six weeks or so is the first time in my life I feel like I am making some kind of progress in ability to concentrate. Since I have no teacher I would appreciate any feedback here.

The technique I am using is, focus just on following the breath until that is becoming calm and focused, then expand my awareness to include the entire body while continuing to focus on the breath, and letting the body relax.
When thoughts arise I just note them and continue on the breath, when sounds intrude I just note them, when feelings arise in the body I observe them until they pass away and go back to the breath. At this point I am meditating 45 minutes most days, but some days maybe only 20 minutes.

Here is my experience from tonight--(maybe it's meaningless and silly, I have no idea so I'm asking :rolleye: )
Tonight I was having more thoughts arise than usual about all kinds of things that had happened today. But, that finally settled down and tonight was the first time a thought/image arose that I successfully observed its direct effect on body sensation. Until this it has been random thoughts and random body sensations at random times. This time, an image arose of a hamburger and the thought of eating a hamburger (no idea why, it's been quite a while since I've eaten one, maybe from reading the debate about meat-eating on this forum? :) ). At that moment tension arose in my left side, lower back and left leg whereas before that, my whole body was very relaxed. I realized that the image and thought were linked to that sensation. I have been reading that we are supposed to observe the effect of thoughts on the body, so I hope this is what happened and I am on the right track?
:embarassed:
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Reductor » Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:23 am

octathlon wrote: At that moment tension arose in my left side, lower back and left leg whereas before that, my whole body was very relaxed. I realized that the image and thought were linked to that sensation. I have been reading that we are supposed to observe the effect of thoughts on the body, so I hope this is what happened and I am on the right track?
:embarassed:


Yes, I think you're on the right track. You'll have to keep practicing though. You've just noted contact all the way to becoming and birth, if you take DO as a description of a single event rather than just inter life.

That's my opinion.

The mind registering "I would like to eat that, I'm hungry" is craving/clinging and becoming, the tension is birth, as resultant aggregates from this chain of events becomes outwardly manifest.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Anicca » Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:51 am

Howdy octathlon!
octathlon wrote:Since I have no teacher I would appreciate any feedback here
Find a congenial teacher's set of instructions online or hardcopy and stick with that one teacher - i've never seen mixing instruction sets as a recommendation. Whoever you choose - give 'em some time - it can be a very gradual process.

Having said that - here is some Ajaan Lee - "Keeping the Breath in Mind " - that may be applicable:
Once you've learned to put your breath in order, it's as if you have everyone in your home in order. The incidentals of breath meditation are like people outside your home — in other words, guests. Once the people in your home are well-behaved, your guests will have to fall in line.

The "guests" here are the signs (nimitta) and vagrant breaths that will tend to pass within the range of the breath you are dealing with: the various signs that arise from the breath and may appear as images — bright lights, people, animals, yourself, others; or as sounds — the voices of people, some you recognize and others you don't. In some cases the signs appear as smells — either fragrant or else foul like a corpse. Sometimes the in-breath can make you feel so full throughout the body that you have no sense of hunger or thirst. Sometimes the breath can send warm, hot, cold, or tingling sensations through the body. Sometimes it can cause things that never occurred to you before to spring suddenly to mind.

All of these things are classed as guests. Before you go receiving guests, you should put your breath and mind into good order, making them stable and secure. In receiving these guests, you first have to bring them under your control. If you can't control them, don't have anything to do with them. They might lead you astray. But if you can put them through their paces, they can be of use to you later on.

To put them through their paces means to change them at will, through the power of thought (patibhaga nimitta) — making them small, large, sending them far away, bringing them up close, making them appear and disappear, sending them outside, bringing them in. Only then will you be able to use them in training the mind.


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Re: beginner's progress

Postby octathlon » Wed Jul 14, 2010 12:38 pm

Thanks, thereductor
The mind registering "I would like to eat that, I'm hungry" is craving/clinging and becoming, the tension is birth, as resultant aggregates from this chain of events becomes outwardly manifest.
Seems like I didn't notice any emotional reaction like wanting it or feeling hungry, possibly a little aversion; I wasn't able to catch the emotional feeling, but I was happy to catch the physical sensation.


Anicca, thank you. I am trying to keep it simple so far, but the quote you posted looks very interesting. I will read that link tonight after work.

:smile:
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Reductor » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:44 pm

octathlon wrote:Thanks, thereductor
The mind registering "I would like to eat that, I'm hungry" is craving/clinging and becoming, the tension is birth, as resultant aggregates from this chain of events becomes outwardly manifest.
Seems like I didn't notice any emotional reaction like wanting it or feeling hungry, possibly a little aversion; I wasn't able to catch the emotional feeling, but I was happy to catch the physical sensation.



The interchange from contact through to birth is very rapid and can be subtle. Feeling is not necessarily pronounced, and the craving is not always greed orientated but may be aversive. Keep at it. Have fun.

Oh, and feeling doesn't refer to emotion, it refers to a subjective discrimination of something into good, bad and neutral. It can be a physical sensation or a mental sensation (ie, joy, anger, etc).

Anicca, thank you. I am trying to keep it simple so far, but the quote you posted looks very interesting. I will read that link tonight after work.

:smile:


Thanks for the Lee reference. Any time is Lee time. :anjali:
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: beginner's progress

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Jul 14, 2010 9:08 pm

Anicca wrote:Howdy octathlon!
octathlon wrote:Since I have no teacher I would appreciate any feedback here
Find a congenial teacher's set of instructions online or hardcopy and stick with that one teacher - i've never seen mixing instruction sets as a recommendation. Whoever you choose - give 'em some time - it can be a very gradual process.

Having said that - here is some Ajaan Lee - "Keeping the Breath in Mind " - that may be applicable:
Once you've learned to put your breath in order, it's as if you have everyone in your home in order. The incidentals of breath meditation are like people outside your home — in other words, guests. Once the people in your home are well-behaved, your guests will have to fall in line.

The "guests" here are the signs (nimitta) and vagrant breaths that will tend to pass within the range of the breath you are dealing with: the various signs that arise from the breath and may appear as images — bright lights, people, animals, yourself, others; or as sounds — the voices of people, some you recognize and others you don't. In some cases the signs appear as smells — either fragrant or else foul like a corpse. Sometimes the in-breath can make you feel so full throughout the body that you have no sense of hunger or thirst. Sometimes the breath can send warm, hot, cold, or tingling sensations through the body. Sometimes it can cause things that never occurred to you before to spring suddenly to mind.

All of these things are classed as guests. Before you go receiving guests, you should put your breath and mind into good order, making them stable and secure. In receiving these guests, you first have to bring them under your control. If you can't control them, don't have anything to do with them. They might lead you astray. But if you can put them through their paces, they can be of use to you later on.

To put them through their paces means to change them at will, through the power of thought (patibhaga nimitta) — making them small, large, sending them far away, bringing them up close, making them appear and disappear, sending them outside, bringing them in. Only then will you be able to use them in training the mind.


Metta

this is good advice, and if you don't have a teacher a good place to get teachings since his tradition extends to ajahn Thanissaro who has a gazillion talks online you can listen to and lots of stuff to read as well.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby lojong1 » Wed Jul 28, 2010 12:42 am

octathlon wrote:I'm just a beginning meditator...
The technique I am using is...
Here is my experience from tonight--...
...on the right track?
:embarassed:


I'm no pro, with only a little upacara-samadhi under my belt, but I can feedback.
While using the 1st anapana tetrad to develop calm concentration and see where it leads, I find that any effort to shrink, enlarge, or move my range of attention away from the bare instructions is disturbing.
A teacher claiming experience of four jhanas recently said that the anapanasati sutta(I don't know what you are using) laid out an automatic progression right through every tetrad. I'm working in the first, and it looks true.
[If/when/either] breathing in/out long, I know it.
[If/when/or] breathing in/out short, I know it (I choose duration, though depth also seems to work).
The occasional shift between long and short breaths is automatic, observation of which gives the taste of training, beginning automatically with instruction 3: "experiencing sabba-kaaya, I shall breathe in/out."
Without making much effort beyond sitting and staying with the breath, there comes an experience of bodily-breath-movement-unification that fits the sutta descriptions well enough for me.

In the last instruction of the 1st tetrad, sabba-kaaya turns into kaaya-sankhaara. Buddha says that "the breath is a kaaya" and also that "breath is a kaaya-sankhaara," and I say that there MUST be a difference between the two if early transliterations of the sutta were not corrupt.
Experientially, there is a subtle and automatic shift between "experiencing sabba-kaaya" and "calming (having calmed?) kaaya-sankhaara" that has me thinking the object is the same, only my perspective has changed-- like I'm still focusing on the same body-movement-breathing, and simple observation has changed a function in the system.
I'll continue to explore this automatic progression thing until it feels like a dead-end. Poking around in the abhidhammasangaha might help too?

Are you on the right track? Samatha is a good preparation for vipassana, as you've already seen. I don't want to switch tracks too much in the beginning.
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby AdvaitaJ » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:43 am

Octathlon,

I see you've already received a lot of good advice but I'd like to add a recommendation to try some of the guided meditation sessions available on http://www.audiodharma.org/. I especially like those provided by Andrea Fella. I don't have a "formal" teacher but I have spent many, many hours listening to talks by Gil Fronsdal and Andrea Fella at IMC. It was, and is, a great help for me.

Regards: Jim

[Edited to correct the URL]
Last edited by AdvaitaJ on Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby octathlon » Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:41 am

Hi Jim,

Thanks very much, I will check them out! :thanks:

:smile:

edit: I found the site at http://www.audiodharma.org/
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby lojong1 » Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:17 am

octathlon wrote:When feelings arise in the body I observe them until they pass away and go back to the breath.

Why? Who gave this advice?
Unnecessary changing of the object of attention like this during samatha [anapanasati?] meditation seems odd to me so, so I wonder what the purpose could be.
Last edited by lojong1 on Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Kenshou » Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:38 am

There does not necessarily need to be such a hard distinction between what we call samatha and vipassana.
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby lojong1 » Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:41 am

Kenshou wrote:There does not necessarily need to be such a hard distinction between what we call samatha and vipassana.

I hear ya.
This looks like more of a 'continuously pulled away' situation than 'skillful placement'.
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Rui Sousa » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:08 am

lojong1 wrote:
octathlon wrote:When feelings arise in the body I observe them until they pass away and go back to the breath.

Why? Who gave this advice?
Unnecessary changing of the object of attention like this during samatha [anapanasati?] meditation seems odd to me so, so I wonder what the purpose could be.


I don't think changing object of attention necessarily creates much of a disturbance.
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:13 am

Rui Sousa wrote:
lojong1 wrote:
octathlon wrote:When feelings arise in the body I observe them until they pass away and go back to the breath.

Why? Who gave this advice?
Unnecessary changing of the object of attention like this during samatha [anapanasati?] meditation seems odd to me so, so I wonder what the purpose could be.


I don't think changing object of attention necessarily creates much of a disturbance.

lojong seems to be interested in deeper samatha states where as octathlon has never stated that this is what he is after. I've also been taught (in a gil fronsdale class on insight meditation) that if some pain or noise or whatever comes around that is just so pressing you can't stay with the original meditation object then it's better to just switch to that object till it goes away.
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby PeterB » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:14 am

lojong1 wrote:
octathlon wrote:When feelings arise in the body I observe them until they pass away and go back to the breath.

Why? Who gave this advice?
Unnecessary changing of the object of attention like this during samatha [anapanasati?] meditation seems odd to me so, so I wonder what the purpose could be.

This ( with full instruction ) is actually standard advice in several of the approaches to Theravadin Vipassana.
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby octathlon » Wed Aug 04, 2010 11:42 pm

PeterB wrote:This ( with full instruction ) is actually standard advice in several of the approaches to Theravadin Vipassana.

I am using the book Mindfulness in Plain English for the procedures. It states that it is Vipassana, and seems to be a combination of samatha and vipassana. Unfortunately there is no place where the instructions are clearly summarized. It seems to skip around, talking about one aspect for a page or two, then another aspect for a while, then back to the first, then on to a third. But I've tried to keep it simple for now, as I described in my first post.

jscuperstar wrote:lojong seems to be interested in deeper samatha states where as octathlon has never stated that this is what he is after.

("she" :smile: ). All I'm after with my meditation at this point is to develop right mindfulness and right concentration as part of following the noble eightfold path. :meditate: It is actually helping me with some of the other parts as well, though!

Thanks to everyone for the comments. :smile:
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Aug 05, 2010 11:19 am

octathlon wrote:All I'm after with my meditation at this point is to develop right mindfulness and right concentration as part of following the noble eightfold path. :meditate: It is actually helping me with some of the other parts as well, though!

It will do that - every aspect of the 8FP helps and reinforces every other one.
It is often said that you can't develop right concentration without a base of sila (right speech, action and livelihood), but your meditation will also help your mindfulness of everyday actions and therefore support your sila.
It's a win-win scenario. :smile:
:namaste:
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby PeterB » Thu Aug 05, 2010 12:00 pm

octathlon wrote:
PeterB wrote:This ( with full instruction ) is actually standard advice in several of the approaches to Theravadin Vipassana.

I am using the book Mindfulness in Plain English for the procedures. It states that it is Vipassana, and seems to be a combination of samatha and vipassana. Unfortunately there is no place where the instructions are clearly summarized. It seems to skip around, talking about one aspect for a page or two, then another aspect for a while, then back to the first, then on to a third. But I've tried to keep it simple for now, as I described in my first post.

jscuperstar wrote:lojong seems to be interested in deeper samatha states where as octathlon has never stated that this is what he is after.

("she" :smile: ). All I'm after with my meditation at this point is to develop right mindfulness and right concentration as part of following the noble eightfold path. :meditate: It is actually helping me with some of the other parts as well, though!

Thanks to everyone for the comments. :smile:

I would urge you octhathlon to attend a retreat and get hands-on instruction.
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby PeterB » Thu Aug 05, 2010 4:14 pm

I am writing not to be divisive, but to be encouraging.
I have thought about the point I am about to make quite a lot in the last week or so.
I think that there are two main groups of people among the members. Far more important than whether they favour the Mahayana or Theravada, more important than whether they favour Samantha or Vipassana. Jhana or non Jhana..Goenka or Mahasi..is whether they attend regular retreats, even if they are day retreats.
I maintain that it is fairly easy to ascertain within a few postings those that do and those that dont.
It is not that all those who do all agree on all points, far from it. But there is a quantitative difference between the posts , questions and responses of those that have and those that have not.
I am not posting this as an invitation to a parlour game..but to urge those who have not attended retreats to do so. It will make all the difference ...really.
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Reductor » Thu Aug 05, 2010 5:55 pm

PeterB wrote:... But there is a quantitative difference between the posts , questions and responses of those that have and those that have not...


May I inquire what the quantitative difference is?

The only thing I've noticed time and again is that those that partake of regular retreats more often recommend it. As to questions and advice, I find that the regular-ness of a member's retreats hasn't proven a reliable indicator of their helpfulness on this forum.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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