Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby Awarewolf » Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:29 am

I literally mean my physical head, not my mind. Maybe a strange first post, but on top of working through Teganiya (spelling?)'s style of teaching, I feel I've gotten a better grasp of what vipassana is all about. But on top of working with awareness through the day, I'd like to add in a few short session of focused awareness on my head. Reasons may vary but I feel like is a very unconscious section of my body with regards to awareness and this makes me feel clear. I've also been experiencing pretty severe hair thinning/loss for a 19 year old and have big bags under my eyes due to large amounts of stress lately tied with anxiety.. I feel like some awareness can help me with these physical issues.

How should I go about learning to acquire strong awareness for a certain point/part of the body?

And as a side question, what is the point of a seated formal vipassana meditation when we should be focused on continuing awareness throughout the day?

Thanks :)
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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:50 am

Awarewolf wrote:And as a side question, what is the point of a seated formal vipassana meditation when we should be focused on continuing awareness throughout the day?

Thanks :)

Seated formal vipassana is to daily mindfulness as a shovel (or more accurately, an earth-moving tractor) is to a teaspoon; while being mindful of daily activities is very helpful to keep us oriented and in focus, formal anapanasati or satipatthana allows us to develop far greater amounts of concentration, which in turn allows for the development of insight free from hindrances that cannot be subdued during regular life.

To put it in another way in terms of physical fitness, a mindful daily life is like walking to work or taking the stairs in that it's valuable to get the heart pumping and such but you're not going to do much except prevent more fat from building up. If you really want to burn off the fat, you need to do real, calorie-burning exercise, which in this case would be the formal sitting meditation. They work together, progress in each area reinforcing the other. Just like you can't expect to be super healthy if you exercise once a day but sit around on the couch for the other 23 hours, we can't expect to make progress if we meditate on the cushion and then go into daily life without a strong determination to be mindful. However, just focusing on mindful daily life, while it prevents in large part the addition of new defilements, cannot remove our already-existent delusion, greed, and anger. Much like physical health, where you need to have an active, fit lifestyle punctuated with regular exercise in order to truly slim down and stay healthy, our meditation practice requires deep, penetrating wisdom developed through conscious exploration of the mind, buttressed by compassionate and wise periods of mindful reflection on daily life.

Does that make sense?
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby daverupa » Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:51 am

The head is a wild place for tension, in my experience. The jaw, the facial muscles, the sinus fascia...

When doing anapanasati, these percepts can be lumped together in the third step of the first tetrad, and one can then release the whole thing, which has a relaxing effect.

Anyway, one does sati-sampajanna daily; the sati part of that is satipatthana, and anapanasati is simply a seated, intensive satipatthana practice. It's all related, so I'd not focus on body parts per se, but only as within satipatthana.
    "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: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby Awarewolf » Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:22 am

I see, so LY, you're saying that the progress in insight is much greater achieved through formal practice, but also that these insights will pierce very fully (as in known wisdom, which doesn't require much effort to remember and apply) into our lives and the way we act?
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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby Awarewolf » Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:27 am

And Dave, would this third step be breathing inwards as you gain awareness of the face, then on the exhale let it go and just feel the breathe? I just tried this for a couple seconds and it felt very nice
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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:36 am

Awarewolf wrote:I see, so LY, you're saying that the progress in insight is much greater achieved through formal practice, but also that these insights will pierce very fully (as in known wisdom, which doesn't require much effort to remember and apply) into our lives and the way we act?

Definitely. During formal meditation, one can develop very deep concentration, which allows for even stronger mindfulness, as well as rapture, joy, and happiness, to emerge.

It seems like you are coming from a Burmese Vipassana style of meditation, which is in no way bad! However, it has been my experience that some who practice in this way can put far too much emphasis on moment-to-moment mindfulness and end up neglecting formal sitting; many who come from my tradition, the Thai Forest tradition, make the opposite mistake, chasing after deep states of calm without caring much at all for sustained practice during the day. It's a balancing act in which one reinforces the other, so please do not neglect either!
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby cooran » Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:41 am

Awarewolf wrote:I literally mean my physical head, not my mind. Maybe a strange first post, but on top of working through Teganiya (spelling?)'s style of teaching,....


I think you are referring to the Teachings of Sayadaw U Tejiyana?
http://sayadawutejaniya.org/

with metta
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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:15 am

Hi LY,
LonesomeYogurt wrote:It seems like you are coming from a Burmese Vipassana style of meditation, which is in no way bad! However, it has been my experience that some who practice in this way can put far too much emphasis on moment-to-moment mindfulness and end up neglecting formal sitting;

I'm consfused. This seems quite contrary to my experience with Mahasi-style practice or U Ban Kihn/Goenka practice, which involve a lot of formal sitting (and walking in the case of Mahasi-style) with the aim of developing at least access-concentration level samadhi.

:anjali:
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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby Mr Man » Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:37 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi LY,
LonesomeYogurt wrote:It seems like you are coming from a Burmese Vipassana style of meditation, which is in no way bad! However, it has been my experience that some who practice in this way can put far too much emphasis on moment-to-moment mindfulness and end up neglecting formal sitting;

I'm consfused. This seems quite contrary to my experience with Mahasi-style practice or U Ban Kihn/Goenka practice, which involve a lot of formal sitting (and walking in the case of Mahasi-style) with the aim of developing at least access-concentration level samadhi.


With reference to U Ba Khin; this quote from "The Essentials of Buddha Dhamma in Meditative Practice" http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/khin/wheel231.html would seem to suport Mike's opinion:

"So it would be wise for him to follow the motto of work while you work, play while you play. There is no need for him to be activating the experience of Anicca all the time. It should suffice if this could be confined to a regular period, or periods, set apart in the day or night for the purpose."

:anjali:
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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby daverupa » Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:40 am

Awarewolf wrote:And Dave, would this third step be breathing inwards as you gain awareness of the face, then on the exhale let it go and just feel the breathe? I just tried this for a couple seconds and it felt very nice


In anapanasati, the instructions are duplicated for in-breathing and out-breathing, so I tend to sit on each step while the graft takes, as it were. In & out gain awareness of the face, in and out let go.

Now, gaining awareness of the face is just one part of what I see in the third instruction: "all bodies" strikes me as including the breathing matrix, the face and head, posture - the whole shebang. The fourth step is for calming involvement with that entirety; it just so happens that localized relaxation is a side effect of this general approach.

It's possible to employ targeted relaxation aimed at specific body parts, but I don't see this in the instructions per se - it might be part of the strategy of how one goes about the third step, but it's important not to miss the forest for the trees.

:heart:
    "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: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby Awarewolf » Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:21 pm

I'll definitely have to balance the two better. But this leads me to wonder, this deeper progress attained through formal practice, would you say this is due to the long periods of time spent sitting? Or Is it simply because one is expected to practice formally in a place with no distractions?

Finding a quiet place free of distractions Is tough right now, maybe that's why I've been somewhat avoiding it.
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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby Awarewolf » Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:34 pm

Yes Sayadaw U Tejiyana was who I meant. His ebooks were very helpful to read!
When one practices vipassana, is it best to simply stay with an object, and simply notice when it changes, then once the other object disappears return to the primary? These are the basic instructions I got from Goldstein. Or do you immediately come back to the primary once you notice it's gone?
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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Jan 04, 2013 6:04 pm

Awarewolf wrote:I'll definitely have to balance the two better. But this leads me to wonder, this deeper progress attained through formal practice, would you say this is due to the long periods of time spent sitting? Or Is it simply because one is expected to practice formally in a place with no distractions?

Finding a quiet place free of distractions Is tough right now, maybe that's why I've been somewhat avoiding it.

It mainly has to do with the amount of concentration you develop when formally sitting. The mind is like a cup of muddy water; when it is stirred up with thinking and activity during daily life, the defilements are hard to pick out, but when the cup is set down and calmed, the pollutants settle to the bottom and can be seen easily. I would encourage you to try developing samadhi as well as sati - I think you'll be surprised at how strong your insights can become when you take the time to still your mind and realize the power of concentration!
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:51 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:I would encourage you to try developing samadhi as well as sati - I think you'll be surprised at how strong your insights can become when you take the time to still your mind and realize the power of concentration!

That, of course, is what the Mahasi approach does. In an oversimplified way, the "primary object" (breath/abdomen/motion of feet/whatever) builds up concentration, the secondary objects that then inevitably arise can be seen much more clearly.

This approach can build up the jhana factors to a high level (not classical jhana, which involves focussing on stable conceptual objects). Classically, such practice should lead at least to access concentration:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamma%E1%B ... and_jhanas

I mention this simply to counter what I see as a mistaken impression that such approaches are not intended to develop strong concentration. This may be the case for some teachers, in some circumstances (e.g. not on retreats). However, my experience, and that of many people much more experienced than I am, is that the development of samadhi is certainly stressed if one does any serious retreat work. Without good samadhi, the whole thing would be pointless. In the classical commentaries, and the Burmese expositions, access concentration is said to be essential for any significant progress in insight. "Dry insight" in the commentaries means insight with access concentration, not insight without samadhi, which is not possible.

:anjali:
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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby Awarewolf » Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:49 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:It mainly has to do with the amount of concentration you develop when formally sitting. The mind is like a cup of muddy water; when it is stirred up with thinking and activity during daily life, the defilements are hard to pick out, but when the cup is set down and calmed, the pollutants settle to the bottom and can be seen easily. I would encourage you to try developing samadhi as well as sati - I think you'll be surprised at how strong your insights can become when you take the time to still your mind and realize the power of concentration!


Okay samadhi as well as insight? For it to be samatha don't you need to focus on mental objects that are unchanging? This is difficult for me, but if it could be done with a sense door that would be easier (concentrating on a certain sound etc.)
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Re: Increasing bodily awareness of my head

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Jan 05, 2013 1:43 am

Meditation is not going to help you with hairloss and bags under the eyes. Vipassana meditation will help you to accept that everything changes including your body and to accept it and so not suffer over it.

If you are practising Sayadaw U Teganiya style you shouldn't be taking anything specific in the body as your object, rather you should open up to be aware of everything you are really experiencing, but rather than jumping from object to object you should take the process of awareness itself as the primary object.

I wouldn't recommend using the head as a primary object anyway, most of us are far to identified with what goes on in our head with most of the sense doors being located there, as one teacher put it we kind of have a view that our body is just there to stop our neck dragging along the ground. Anapanasati can be problematic for many people as it can cause extra tension in the head for example.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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