Observing bodily sensations

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Observing bodily sensations

Postby alfa » Tue Apr 05, 2011 5:49 pm

Namaste,

I understand that observing bodily sensations is central to vip. meditation. What exactly are we to do? Do we just sit down and observe, what if no sensation comes about and instead our minds start chatting because there's nothing to observe?

Alfa
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Re: Observing bodily sensations

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Apr 05, 2011 7:25 pm

You are always going to have some sensation in your body, for example, the feeling of your behind touching the cushion or chair. The main idea is to notice that the sensations go away or change. The "insight" part of it connects to the "triple gem":

1. Annicca ( impermanence )
2. Anatta ( nobody and no thing has an "essence" or a "self" )
3. Dukha ( unsatisfactory feelings ranging from unsatisfactory -> suffering )

Buddhists believe that these are 3 root truths of life and that if a person learns to see these 3 things all over life, for him, herself that s/he will be "liberated" from "dukha" ( suffering ).

The idea behind vipassana bhavanna ( insight meditation ) is to train you to see things in these terms.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Observing bodily sensations

Postby Ben » Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:53 pm

Namaste alfa

Sensation is always present irregardless if we can perceive them or not.
If you have the time, I suggest you attend a ten-day course. The course is structured as a gradual training and it will help you to learn a valuable practice as well as develop some depth of experience. What you do during a ten-day course is practice sila (morality) develop samadhi (samatha-version of anapana-sati) and then move on to observing sensation (vedananupassana). On the last day you then learn Metta-Bhavana (Loving kindness).
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Observing bodily sensations

Postby Bodha8 » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:35 pm

Hello Alpha,

As our mind quiets down due to mindful meditation. We begin to experience both mental and physical, comfortable and uncomfortable feelings. They are there and you will find them. At first just merely observe and sit with them a while. You can then use antidotes to offset certain feelings. Anger for example can be offset by loving kindness as it is not possible to feel anger or hatred while feeling compassion. It is like trying to deliver a punch while your open hand is extended for a hand shake. You can only do one or the other at a time.

With some quiet thought you will come up with antidotes for other uncomfortable emotions. It is just as important to be aware of comfortable (pleasant) emotions as well. Joy would be an obvious one. Just sit with pleasant feelings and enjoy them for what they are. There are some very good on-line meditation courses that you can become involved with as not everyone has the time for a 10 day retreat. And you can take advantage of them immediately.

Try MindfulnessOnline@yahoogroups.com it is a course run by a doctor out of the University of Hawaii, that might help.

With Metta

alfa wrote:Namaste,

I understand that observing bodily sensations is central to vip. meditation. What exactly are we to do? Do we just sit down and observe, what if no sensation comes about and instead our minds start chatting because there's nothing to observe?

Alfa
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Re: Observing bodily sensations

Postby buddhajunkie » Thu Jul 07, 2011 11:11 pm

alfa wrote: Do we just sit down and observe, what if no sensation comes about and instead our minds start chatting because there's nothing to observe?
Alfa


It's nice to see the relationship between the mind chatter and the bodily sensations. In fact, next time you check your email or facebook, be mindful of the body. You will likely pick up some reactions. You'll get better at feeling body sensations with practice.

Also, what Jhana4 said is good.


Bodha8 wrote: We begin to experience both mental and physical, comfortable and uncomfortable feelings.

With some quiet thought you will come up with antidotes for other uncomfortable emotions.


We should clarify that there's a difference between "bodily sensations", "feelings", and "emotions."

When practicing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness I think it is important to understand those distinctions. Thus, there are:

1. Body sensations
2. "Feelings" of pleasant, unpleasant or neither. ("Vedana")
3. "Mind states" such as desire and aversion.

"Emotions", are understood to be merely composites of these three things, and it is helpful to see them as such.
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Re: Observing bodily sensations

Postby Ben » Thu Jul 07, 2011 11:16 pm

buddhajunkie wrote:We should clarify that there's a difference between "bodily sensations", "feelings", and "emotions."

When practicing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness I think it is important to understand those distinctions. Thus, there are:

1. Body sensations
2. "Feelings" of pleasant, unpleasant or neither. ("Vedana")
3. "Mind states" such as desire and aversion.

"Emotions", are understood to be merely composites of these three things, and it is helpful to see them as such.


Do you have any support for the above or is it just your own conjecture?
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Observing bodily sensations

Postby buddhajunkie » Fri Jul 08, 2011 3:53 am

Ben wrote:
buddhajunkie wrote:We should clarify that there's a difference between "bodily sensations", "feelings", and "emotions."

When practicing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness I think it is important to understand those distinctions. Thus, there are:

1. Body sensations
2. "Feelings" of pleasant, unpleasant or neither. ("Vedana")
3. "Mind states" such as desire and aversion.

"Emotions", are understood to be merely composites of these three things, and it is helpful to see them as such.


Do you have any support for the above or is it just your own conjecture?



This is what I heard when listening to the online lectures from the Insight Meditation Center, teachers Gil Fronsdal and Andrea Fella. However, I don't know which of their many podcasts they discussed this.

It is also my own conjecture based on the treatment (or lack thereof) of emotions in the Four Foundation suttas, and Matthew Flickstein's presentation of the Path of the Purification ("Swallowing the River Ganges", as well as my experiences while meditating. The goal is to deconstruct certain phenomena into these basic building blocks of body, feelings and mind states.


To be clear, I am not saying that emotions don't exist, but rather that it is useful to view the emotions as things that are composed of bodily sensations, feelings, and mind.
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Re: Observing bodily sensations

Postby Ben » Fri Jul 08, 2011 4:06 am

Thanks, that is useful clarification.

buddhajunkie wrote:To be clear, I am not saying that emotions don't exist, but rather that it is useful to view the emotions as things that are composed of bodily sensations, feelings, and mind.


Indeed, this is my understanding and experience. Emotions are composed and I think more properly categorized as sankhara. During insight practice one can deconstruct emotions and observe the salient characteristics of their components.
kind regards

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
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