Taking Notes After 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.
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Taking Notes After Meditation

Postby andre9999 » Mon Jan 24, 2011 6:25 pm

I've noticed in a lot (all?) of the information about retreats it is said that students an encouraged to not take notes after meditation. What is the reason for that, and are those generally the instructions for a daily practice as well?

I ask because some of the things that have come up in my meditation lately seem to be important for further investigation, but I either forget them in the midst of daily life or not remember the details.


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Re: Taking Notes After Meditation

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Jan 24, 2011 6:34 pm

If they were important then you wouldn't forget them.

Meditation practise is usually seen as an intuitive process and rather than encouraging learning on the conceptual level learning on the intuitive level is encouraged.

If you take notes then the risk is you'll just be reinforcing the self narrative and you'll be approaching your meditation on the conceptual level rather than the intuitive level, and you'll spend too much time looking at what happened before rather than what's happening now.

I know of one teacher who does encourage reflecting after each meditation how it went, I'm not sure if taking notes are part of that, you could google Jason Siff to find out more.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Re: Taking Notes After Meditation

Postby farmer » Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:14 pm

If I remember correctly, in one of Ajahn Thanissaro dhamma talks, he says it is a mistake to put a leash and collar on your insights so you can take them home with you. Sometimes, the first insight opens the door to a second, more important one, and you can miss the second if you are trying to translate the first into words for a journal.

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Re: Taking Notes After Meditation

Postby zavk » Tue Jan 25, 2011 4:27 am

I don't do this myself, but I've been curious about this too in the past. I suppose it wouldn't be advisable to try to 'force' your thoughts and attempt to write them out in details. But I wonder if a kind of journal might be helpful, whereby you simply write general impressions that come to you. Maybe you could note the state of your mind or something like that. Over time, that could help you observe the patterns in your day-to-day life. i.e. what conditions were present that allowed you to be more settled or what conditions were present that caused more agitation.

But as the others have suggested, trying to pinpoint and analyze in details what arose in your mind during the session may not be the best approach. When I stay at the hermitage, if certain thoughts about the dhamma or whatever comes to me after meditation I would just write it down on a notepad--just a line or a phrase or two--I don't attempt to write long tracts of analysis or anything like that! I would then come back to what I've written later in the day or whenever. Sometimes what I've written helps me to clarify my understanding, sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't I just throw it out.
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Re: Taking Notes After Meditation

Postby salmon » Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:03 am

My first teacher also did not encourage notes taking. My subsequent teacher did. The danger about note taking, in the form of keeping a diary of every single sitting, is that the imaginative mind will try to come up with new things every time, or the mind will try to value add to what actually happened. That said, there are also advantages to keeping notes.

For a period of time, I didn't have easy access to my teacher. I'd only see him once or twice a year when I made the trip to Thailand. Sometimes, the visions/disturbances/obstructions/hindrances would be hitting me fast and furiously. So, I started scribbling notes on pieces of paper. Later on, I compiled them into a little notebook. When I had the chance to visit my teacher, I'd go through the notebook with him and he'll strike off the unimportant ones and explain the important ones. Of coz, in the beginning, I'd write alot...and most of it is nonsense that my imaginative mind had value added in. Much later, I'd read back to what I wrote, and laugh at how my ego inflated so many points. The important thing is to keep it as a notebook. Meaning, don't analyze. If you see "a ball of light", just write "a ball of light" and don't write "a ball of light which I think is energy".

What I found useful about keeping a notebook is that writing it down stopped me from constantly thinking about it. The other thing is that sometimes another insight that comes up months or years later, is actually the answer to a previous question that I had jotted down.

In a nutshell, it's not for everyone, but I feel that if you wanna keep a notebook, you need to be very mindful, objective and discipline about it.
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