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Vipassana questions - Dhamma Wheel

Vipassana questions

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible.
adamposey
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Vipassana questions

Postby adamposey » Sat Oct 17, 2009 4:22 pm

Hello all!

I've decided that today is the day to begin my journey into vipassana meditation and, despite the reading I've been doing, I have some questions, mostly about what I'm supposed to be doing. In Mindfulness in Plain English it's written that I should be paying mindful attention to whatever thoughts are cropping up in my head, emotions, etc., but not contributing to them. I understand this much, but the book also says I should be paying attention to my breath.

In the past when attempting to meditate I have focused almost exclusively on the breath, and very little emotion or thought crops up. If something does, I immediately return to my breath without giving the distraction my attention, for fear of losing my breath. Apparently this is wrong.

Could someone explain to me, roughly, how I am supposed to keep in touch with my breath while paying attention to whatever is cropping up in my mind?

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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Oct 17, 2009 4:39 pm

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adamposey
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby adamposey » Sat Oct 17, 2009 4:50 pm

Well, I note that I'm no longer focused on the breath. I'll catch myself slipping into, say, a daydream, or wondering how many minutes I've been meditating, and struggling with thoughts of looking at my timer. Once those thoughts hit I'll realize I'm no longer on my breath and abruptly return my attention to it.

I feel like I'm not practicing mindfulness, but concentration. It should also be noted that I really don't seem to experience the things that I read/heard that I would like emotions, thoughts of past and future, etc., So I feel as though I must be approaching it incorrectly.

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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Oct 17, 2009 5:19 pm

Hi,
my advice would be to simply watchthe breath, don't worry about anything else!

what should or shouldn' come up isn't mportant, what is important is that you don't have expectations. inmy experiance itis the expectations which are the worst thing to bring to the practice, everythig else that should or shouldn't happen wll either happen or not, if it does, it do if not then no point giving it any attenion.

The breath is there so use that to start with, develop that aspect then move on from there.

Hope you well


He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

adamposey
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby adamposey » Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:28 pm

You're right, but how can I know I'm performing the meditation properly if whatever's happening doesn't reflect the expected results?

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catmoon
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby catmoon » Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:39 pm


adamposey
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby adamposey » Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:57 pm


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Cittasanto
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Oct 17, 2009 7:28 pm



He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

adamposey
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby adamposey » Sat Oct 17, 2009 7:31 pm

That's a fair response. I'll begin that process today, then.

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Ben
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:51 pm

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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catmoon
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby catmoon » Sun Oct 18, 2009 12:33 am


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mikenz66
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 18, 2009 1:20 am


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catmoon
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby catmoon » Sun Oct 18, 2009 1:31 am

This raises a question. When going from minding breath to sensation at the nostrils to the next object of focus, are the previous objects then abandoned or do you try to keep 'em all going at once?

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Ben
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby Ben » Sun Oct 18, 2009 1:38 am

Hi Mike
I don't know the Mahasi technique very well so here are my impressions of what I think you are referring to and how it differs (or how I perceive it to be different to what I am referring to).
Frm what you are describing it sounds like you are adverting awarenes from breath to non-breath sensation and then back again. Whereas, what I am referring to is maintaining unobstructed awareness on the breath while also maintaining the same degree of awareness on another object, say, non-breath sensation, thought, mental state.
kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Ben
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby Ben » Sun Oct 18, 2009 1:43 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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mikenz66
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 18, 2009 1:45 am


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christopher:::
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby christopher::: » Sun Oct 18, 2009 3:54 am

hi all...

good observations here.

concerning posture- adam, i agree with catmoon that pillows off a couch can work. when i travel i dont bring my zafu so i've improvised with lots of things- several folded towels or a too-firm pillow in hotels, folded blankets, couch cushions, etc...

getting at least 5~8 cm under your butt is crucial to finding that balance where sitting becomes effortless and comfortable. i sat flat with no cushion for about 5 years, it was terrible. the day i bought a zafu seated meditation became MUCH easier, enjoyable even....

You can also place a wider cushion, soft carpet or folded towels in a big square under the zafu/cushioning so the knees can rest comfortably...

concerning attention- i agree with mike, our minds naturally keep moving around. its very hard to control, and since we are supposed to relax and observe one doesn't want to become over controlling....

if you work with a teacher or have specific guidelines to follow the approach is often to focus on one thing at a time. but i think the purpose there is not to only stay with that one frame but to become familiar with it. That's the insight aspect, i think... Over time we become more aware of how our minds work, how reactiveness happens, how objective conditions are perceived, then evaluated as "good/pleasant" or "bad/unpleasant" then a feeling arises of aversion or attraction, sometimes along (or followed by) an emotion & associated thoughts, etc... til finally we take some form of habitual action...

You can read this or be told it by a teacher but our practice is to spend months and then years observing carefully within ourselves, to gain deeper insight into how this works, so that gradually we can detach from habitual patterns, stop reacting to our environments, emotions and inner assessments, resting instead in a calmer and wiser state of mind.

I'm new to vispassana though, so hopefully some of the advanced practitioners here will correct any errors in this description, above....

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

adamposey
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby adamposey » Sun Oct 18, 2009 4:14 am

I sat down today and, with the assistance of a pillow folded to give me support on the hips, meditated for about 25 minutes or so. I had one major interruption and so I started all over again (urgent phone call). This time I attempted to keep an awareness of my breath by basically never completely leaving it, like the breath was the tether that kept my mind from running completely wild. And then when something would crop up (which in this case stuff DID crop up and I'll get to that) I would dedicate my attention to trying to just kind of letting it be-and recognizing it and what it was doing—but never leaving the breath.

I noticed a couple things that actually did occur this time whilst I was meditating. Physical sensations and mental images, strong ones. The physical sensations would be in the form of an itch, or a pulling sensation in my right knee. Once I acknowledge them and allowed them to do their work while I just watched them, they would fade and dissipate. The pulling in my knee would come back, and the itching wouldn't go away entirely but rather I would just no longer have the urge to acknowledge it by scratching. It was like it didn't bother me anymore even though it was still there.

The mental images that popped up were interesting. I've been playing this video game a lot recently and I actually found my mind returning to the game and focusing on it. I also found my mind returning to a book I had read a few hours earlier. And, perhaps most interestingly, I kept getting a strong visual (almost like a portrait) of a female friend of mine. I didn't observe any strong lustful feeling associated with the image, but it did make me feel more tense and energetic. It bothered me that it seemed that "watching it" didn't help it to fade. Perhaps I'm not skillful enough to deal with these sorts of things yet. I wasn't able to get rid of any of them permanently, they kept coming back, but I assume that's part of the process.

I also became aware of time repeatedly. I caught my mind wondering how much time was left before I needed to start preparing for work, and it would encourage me to break from my meditation to look at my timer. Thankfully I didn't, but it was so interesting to watch my mind just kind of..I want to say "run amok". Hopefully as I progress I will learn to deal with these images and sensations.

Also, someone asked what kinds of results I was after, these were the results. When last I attempted to meditate like this there was almost nothing to note. I feel I may have unskillfully slipped into just having a blank mind unoccupied with anything. This time there were sensations and artifacts to deal with, things to watch, etc. I took that as an indication that at least I was doing something correctly.

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catmoon
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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby catmoon » Sun Oct 18, 2009 6:56 am

The situation reminds of learning to ride a bicycle. One fiddles about and struggles for a while, it seems no progress is being made, then suddenly the new rider is up and moving away. (With a few wobbles of course).

Sounds to me like things are coming along nicely. Don't get too preoccupied with watching mental activity. The idea is to spend the minimum possible amount of time on it and return to focus. You can always cogitate about what came up after the meditation.

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Re: Vipassana questions

Postby Sanghamitta » Sun Oct 18, 2009 8:19 am

In my view the role of a teacher is far greater than simply issuing instructions. For many of us, possibly most of us, a teacher is essential. I think many of us would have seen people after the initial rush of enthusiasm hit a plateau and stay there for months or years without the guidance of a teacher to steer us through the various emotional and other obstacles that arise, and which need an objective view that by definition we cant do for ourselves. If there is no possibility of a teachers guidance right now, which would be unusual unless you live in an incredibly remote place, then go slowly until there is. There is always the option of Samatha until hands on Vipassana instruction is a possibility. Samatha is no less a practice than Vipassana but many find that it raises fewer psychological issues in the wider sense. At least that is a view I have heard from those I know who practice both, and has been my own experience.

:namaste:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.


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