beginner's progress

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
PeterB
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 06, 2010 7:49 am

I dont want to make a song and dance about this view thereductor, and I most certainly dont want to create an us and them. I would just urge all members who have not done so to do retreats. Then we will all be in the club.
There is no single factor likely to deepen practice which compares. I.M.O.

Kenshou
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Kenshou » Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:38 am

If your posts are any sort of measuring stick the distinguishing feature about the posts of those who go on retreats is that they like to tell other people to do retreats all the time. :tongue:

I'm joking. But really, I would contend that while of course periods of intense practice are great and there is no reason to talk against them, there is no special "Retreat-Ñāṇa" and there's a wide spectrum of practice situations, habits, and types that you just can't really generalize about. A person might do occasional retreats, another person might not do full retreats but meet frequently with teachers and practice well in between, the fact that one individual has the word "retreat" on their resume makes no difference.

PeterB
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:54 am

Well sorry to be retreat bore. But they actually do separate the wo/men from the cyber Buddhists.
You are free to differ of course.
And if you do differ , just differ. If you tell me you are joking I will suspect passive aggression. Insincere smiley follows. :smile:

Kenshou
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Kenshou » Fri Aug 06, 2010 9:12 am

First part is sarcasm, I'd be silly to suggest that you're really so one-dimensional. You aren't.

Use smileys and appear passive-aggresive, type neutrally and run the risk of seeming gruff. Can't win. Okay. I'll go with the second style.

The main place where I differ is on the issue of just how much generalization is acceptable. No doubt that doing frequent retreats is great. But there's a lot of room along the spectrum of practice and I'm doubtful that the word "retreat" is the pivotal thing in judging what is best.
Last edited by Kenshou on Fri Aug 06, 2010 9:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

PeterB
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 06, 2010 9:19 am

Its pretty much the bees knees. Depending on whose running it and whether we are ready for it.
Lets put it another way. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has attended a number of retreats, say three minimum, who did not think that it had a major impact on their practice.......


:popcorn: ( I swore that I would never use that smiley. What am I like... :? )

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octathlon
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby octathlon » Fri Aug 06, 2010 12:33 pm

Hi PeterB,

I have no doubt that you are right about retreats. :) I've already been looking to see where I might be able to attend one, when circumstances permit. In the meantime I'm trying to do as best as I can, and I hope it's OK to ask beginner's silly questions here. If not, why not make a sub-forum for us, so the advanced people can avoid our posts if they don't like to read them. I did put the word "beginner" in my title which could be taken as a warning.

:smile:

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Re: beginner's progress

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 06, 2010 1:10 pm

Of course its OK to ask any question you need to ask octathlon. Its more than OK..its vital. Keep asking them.

:anjali:

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Reductor
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Reductor » Fri Aug 06, 2010 4:04 pm

PeterB wrote:I dont want to make a song and dance about this view thereductor, and I most certainly dont want to create an us and them. I would just urge all members who have not done so to do retreats. Then we will all be in the club.
There is no single factor likely to deepen practice which compares. I.M.O.


Isn't that just what you've done here?

If you had kept the thrust of your post to "retreats are great, I suggest everyone does them as they strengthen practice regardless of factors x,y, and z" then I doubt that anyone would have anything negative to say. Instead you broadly label the members of this forum, dividing us up into two parts with one being elevated above the other based on a single factor. Where is the value of this?

You obliquely cast doubt on all of us that don't attend retreats regularly, which belies the value of our posts on this forum. Whereas you, who I assume attends retreats regularly, seldom venture in answering a post with anything more than 'get a teacher'. Not always helpful for the many of us that are unable to do so without severely compromising the rest of our lives.
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 PeterB » Fri Aug 06, 2010 4:18 pm

" compromising the rest of our lives thereductor " ?

When I first encountered Buddhadhamma I was a penniless student and there was only one place in the whole of the UK where one could learn Vipassana. I was sufficiently motivated . I trekked, hitched, and got there frequently.
Other people made their way there from Germany, Austria, France,and Spain. There was no social support for practising Buddhadhamma in a western context back then. Quite the reverse.
I assure you that I will continue to respond to many posts asking for details about the mechanics of meditation with " get a teacher". I make no apologies for it. I am frequently dismayed by attempts to coach inquirers in meditation online. I think it would be better to just give dana and help out around the neighborhood until people are in a position to attend retreats,even if only once a year.

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Reductor
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Reductor » Fri Aug 06, 2010 4:41 pm

PeterB wrote:" compromising the rest of our lives thereductor " ?

When I first encountered Buddhadhamma I was a penniless student and there was only one place in the whole of the UK where one could learn Vipassana. I was sufficiently motivated .
Other people made their way there from Germany, Austria, France,and Spain. There was no social support for practising Buddhadhamma in a western context back then. Quite the reverse.


If I were a mere penniless student, you can bet your backside I'd be ordained.

However, I am father of two young children to whom I attend while my wife works. Far from the ideal situation for one that would take off for one or two weeks, at the cost of thousands. Simply traveling to the nearest city with a substantial Buddhist population costs a pretty penny, Peter. Even doing that much is beyond my capacity at this time.

But what is well within my capacity is the study of the canon and earnest meditation. I think that my posts reflect care and consideration for the practice, and personal progress. If that is insufficient to put them on level with your retreat enhanced ones, then so be it.

So, to clarify, I do not begrudge your enthusiasm for retreats and personal contact with teachers. What I do not appreciate is the backhanded attitude you seem to have toward those that practice in difficult situations not similar to your own.
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


PeterB
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 06, 2010 4:44 pm

I have told this story before, and its true.
I had been attempting to meditate on my own for some time.
I went to see a teacher . During the group meditation he walked behind me and with one push of his hand "solved " a problem that I had been hampered by for some time..without a word.
No amount of reading would have done. Trial and error had not done it. No amount of forum discussion would have done it had it then been available. This is hands-on stuff, or leave it alone, imo.

I continued to do retreats when I was father to 4 young children and with a wife who had not returned to work full time. It can be done.

Kenshou
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby Kenshou » Fri Aug 06, 2010 11:43 pm

It's possible to meet with teachers outside of a formal retreat environment. Your story shows how a prod in the right direction from a good teacher can be great, but it doesn't really say anything about retreats.

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octathlon
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby octathlon » Sat Aug 07, 2010 12:15 am

Thanks, PeterB and all. I am going to look for opportunities for retreats (looks likely) and/or a teacher (probably not likely). In the meantime, I do have more questions... but only one needs to be asked right now:

I have read here on the forum that (in the absence of a teacher of our own) we should pick a certain book/teacher's method and stick with it. So I have decided to do that with the techniques given in Mindfulness in Plain English, because this book has been recommended here, and it offers a lot of description and advice that I can refer back to as I go along.
:reading:
Before I started reading this book I was using the rising and falling of the abdomen to watch the breath and maintaining concentration pretty well. The book, however, says to use the point where the breath enters the nostrils. I have been trying this the last week and having much more trouble maintaining my concentration, I think mostly because it is so difficult to actually feel anything there unless I deliberately breathe more strongly. Otherwise I can't seem to detect it there and it's as if I have nothing to focus on, so my mind quickly drifts off. :juggling: :zzz:

My question (finally!) is how to deal with that-- could I follow the techniques but substitute using the rising/falling instead of the nostrils, or would that be straying too far from the technique, OR anyone have advice on making it easier to detect the breath at the nostrils? right now I'm guessing I should keep trying with the nostrils for a while longer and see if I get better at it, and if it just doesn't work, go back to the abdomen.

:anjali:

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Re: beginner's progress

Postby lojong1 » Sat Aug 07, 2010 1:29 am

octathlon wrote: My question (finally!) is how to deal with that-- could I follow the techniques but substitute using the rising/falling instead of the nostrils, or would that be straying too far from the technique, OR anyone have advice on making it easier to detect the breath at the nostrils?


Bhante Gunaratana in 'Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness,' published nine years after 'Mindfulness in Plain English':
"Most people notice the breath easily at the rims of the nostrils; however, some may prefer to focus on the sensation of the breath touching the upper lip, or in the nose, or in the sinus area, depending on their facial structure. Having chosen a place of focus, simply notice the feeling of breath going in and out."

Mindfulness in Plain English, p.69:
"When your mind is wild and agitated, you can often re-establish mindfulness with a few quick deep breaths. Pull the air in strongly and let it out the same way. This increases the sensation inside the nostrils and makes it easier to focus. Make a strong act of will and apply some force to your attention. Concentration can be forced into growth, remember, so you will probably find your full attention settling nicely back on the breath."

You may have a subtle doubt after switching techniques. Know that the purpose is the same, and it can be done because there IS sensation there, and the technique has worked for others, using both locations.

Mindfulness...p.77:
"To handle doubt, simply become aware of this mental state of wavering as an object of inspection. Don't be trapped in it. Back out of it and look at it. See how strong it is. See when it comes and how long it lasts. Then watch it fade away, and go back to the breathing.
This is the general pattern you will use on any distraction that arises. By distraction, remember we mean any mental state that arises to impede your meditation [this is why I questioned your practice of going from the breath to body sensations until they pass away, because they are always going to be there]. Some of these are quite subtle."

Mindfulness...p.73:
"When we speak of a distraction in Insight Meditation, we are speaking of any preoccupation that pulls the attention off the breath. This brings up a new, major rule for your meditation: When any mental state arises strongly enough to distract you from the object of meditation, switch your attention to the distraction briefly. Make the distraction a temporary object of meditation. Please note the word temporary. It's quite important. We are not advising that you switch horses in midstream. We do not expect you to adopt a whole new object of meditation every three seconds. The breath will always remain your primary focus."
So stay focused on the breath without being a wuss and screaming "distraction" every time you notice you can still feel your legs.

Other tips for relocating the nostril location: touch it with a finger;
stop the breath and notice what the area feels like, then puff a little air out; if it feels the same, then it feels the same, no big deal--you still know you are breathing, right?

Bhante G is still alive, heading the Bhavana Society in West Virginia
http://www.bhavanasociety.org/
Maybe you could e-mail him with questions if they are not answered on their website?
I like the dude! I was thinking of heading down there myself sometime.

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octathlon
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Re: beginner's progress

Postby octathlon » Sat Aug 07, 2010 2:06 am

Thanks for taking the time to post those tips, lojong. :) I've seen a couple of them. I will keep trying as I don't think I've given it a fair test yet. The first one, about trying different areas like in the nose or sinus, is a very good idea.

:smile:


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