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Author Topic: How should I proceed with my practice?  (Read 382 times)

LoneWolf

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How should I proceed with my practice?
« on: April 21, 2017, 05:25:08 AM »
Hello Brothers and Sisters,

This is my first post! I'm so happy to be part of a community of meditators with the goal of helping each other in our practice!

To give some background, I'm in my early twenties. I've completed one Vipassana Retreat (S.N. Goenka). I meditated about 2 hours a day after the retreat for about four months, then about one hour a week, and just recently restarted daily meditation.

Right now, I am at a period of my life where a lot of changes are about to happen, and I will need to be present and calm. While I believe the process of Vipassana (body scan) to be very important, I don't know if it is right for me at this time in my life. It makes me more aware of my anxiety, and I find it harder to accomplish the many tasks that give me anxiety which I need to do.

I want to return to the body-scan method when the time is right, but was thinking of focusing more on anapanasati to give me calmness to deal with my duties with the world, many which are coming up. Is this a healthy outlook? As I understand Vipassana, it is being with reality, and anxiety is the reality of my body...so should not I be experiencing it?

Would you say anapanasati is a good grounding meditation for anxiety? In fact, I'm not even sure if it has improved my peace. But I know it has helped me retain focus during my body scans, which have made me aware of my lack of peace. Hope I am making sense...any advice would be appreciated.

With Love.

Matthew

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2017, 05:55:17 AM »
Welcome to the forum.

Anapana can help, however, what you were taught on the Goenka course isn't Anapana.

Read the Anapanasati Sutta at accesstoinsight.org to get a full idea of why, or if you want a practice suited to your goals and temperament try the Shamatha instructions on the homepage.
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LoneWolf

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2017, 07:08:35 AM »
Hi Mathew,

Thanks for your response! I read the Shamatha instructions on the homepage. I'm not quite sure what the difference is between that method and Goenka's, could you elaborate? Is it that in Goenka's method you only pay attention to the sensations of breath, whereas in this method you pay attention to the sensations with also the intent to calm the body?

With Love.

Matthew

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2017, 04:22:25 PM »
LoneWolf,

...
I read the Shamatha instructions on the homepage. I'm not quite sure what the difference is between that method and Goenka's, could you elaborate? Is it that in Goenka's method you only pay attention to the sensations of breath, whereas in this method you pay attention to the sensations with also the intent to calm the body?
...

In Goenka school Anapana is taught as paying attention to the area between lips and nose or tip of nose. The Anapansati Sutta is very clear:

Quote
He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

The relevant part of the instruction linked on the homepage is this:

Quote
i) Breathing and Relaxing.

Breathe in paying attention to bodily sensations as you breathe and calming the body as you breathe. Breathe out paying attention to bodily sensations and calming the body as you breathe.

Notes: Do not intellectualise where you pay attention to or try to "follow the path of the breath in the body" or any other such thing - these are fabrications. Pay attention to the actual sensations in your body, wherever they are. Do not interfere with the natural breathing pattern, just pay attention to the sensations in the body as you breathe.

The difference is profound. In Goenka's "Anapana" there is a strong use of force to develop a concentrated state of mind. This is contrary to the Buddha's instruction to calm the body but also it misses the instruction to "breathe .. sensitive to the entire body". It limits the ability to go deep into meditation in a calm and accepting manner.

This "sensitive to the entire body" is exactly what it says: every part of the body, the places where the air touches you as you breathe, the movement of the abdomen in and out, expansion of the chest, subtle movements in the legs, arms etc ... The meditator is gaining intimate knowledge of the body and anchoring attention in the physicality of the breathing process. There is much less force used. Concentration develops often more slowly but is deeper as the forced concentration of "nose meditation" blocks out phenomena that would usually arise and be dealt with through the practice. In effect it traps them in the subconscious - keeping habit rather than letting go of habit.

Again from the Shamatha instruction:

Quote
iii) Always return to the sensations in the body as you breathe and calming the body as you breathe.

Notes: Thoughts will occur. You will suffer "follow-through" thinking so notice when it has happened and your mind has wandered from the sensations in the body as you breathe and calming the body as you breathe, then return the focus of the mind to those sensations and calming the body. When you notice you have got caught in a "train of thoughts", you can, at the beginning, make a mental note of this if you wish: just say "thinking" to yourself in your mind. It is not encouraged to do this for an extended period as it will be a new habit, but for some beginners it helps to "kick-start" the practice.

This returning of the attention to the bodily sensations and calming the body is the first stage of training in calm-abiding meditation. If you force quiet on your mind and avoid this stage you will never progress beyond a mild hypnotic calming trance. This trance can bring peace and relief yet it will not deeply change the way your bodymind works.

Only by repeatedly failing to keep the attention on the sensations in the body as you breathe and calm the body, then by noticing/becoming aware you have done so, and then gently (and without self-criticism - just another form of follow-on thinking), returning the attention to those sensations and calming will you train yourself in the first skill in concentration: maintaining the focus on an object (the bodily sensations).

Kindly,

Matthew
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Laurent

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2017, 05:48:06 PM »
Don't be a scripture fundamentalist.
You are the sectarian here.

You are talking about what you don't know, once more. Unless the fact that when one begin to debate with you, you stop because you say it is "distraction". But you don't find any distraction in bashing all other approaches in meditation because they are not conform to what you are sure you have understood.

So, you say that Goenka teach to be aware of a short area of breath and that it is in contradiction with the suttas.
The sutta only says that you have to be aware, and does not precise that you should be aware of a short area, it is true. But it neither precises the opposite. This is why it always have been a source of sterile opposition between those who want to practice on a short area to increase focus and those who want to observe bodily sensations relative to respiration to relax. You are right to do what you think is good as well as you are right to believe this is the absolute truth.

In buddhism, you never condemn other people beliefs when they are good for them, you should aven recognize benefits in other traditions and accept that some people are in different degrees of knowledge.
The buddha taught:

Of course you are uncertain, Kalamas. Of course you are in doubt. When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty is born. So in this case, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering' — then you should abandon them.

You also reproach Goenka to teach a method which is not to observe all the body, when you should have heard now many times that he does teach to observe all body parts. You are observing part by part or whole the body, it is not a huge difference, although you believe this.

All teachers have their own methods that work wonderfully for them and some of their students, so they want to apply it to all other people.
Ajahn Brahm is a student from Ajahn Chah, and Ajahn Chah teaches to focus on a mantra to bring concentration. So, what about the purity of Brahm's technique? You think Ajahn Brahm is the new Buddha? Is he fully enlghtened?

It is to understand the purposes and objectives of a technique more than strictly insist on the formal description of the technique, which may so become a ritual.

So, one more time... Goenka teaches to focus on a short area of respiration in order to be able to observe sensations over the body part by part.This is in conformity with the instructions of buddha to observe breath, feeling sensations and calming the body (you don't know by experience that observing sensations part by part, does calm the body as well than observing all sensations in one time)
We have noticed that you don't like this and you use suttas to prove this, when we can prove the opposite with the same suttas, only an interpretation and oriented traduction could definitely prove your words, not the pali sutta itself.

You are not an enlighted one, you are not able to legislate on those questions, you are not Buddha.
If you want to be in total accordance with the dhamma and the sutta:

"Whereas some brahmans and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to debates such as these — 'You understand this doctrine and discipline? I'm the one who understands this doctrine and discipline. How could you understand this doctrine and discipline? You're practicing wrongly. I'm practicing rightly. I'm being consistent. You're not. What should be said first you said last. What should be said last you said first. What you took so long to think out has been refuted. Your doctrine has been overthrown. You're defeated. Go and try to salvage your doctrine; extricate yourself if you can!' — he abstains from debates such as these. This, too, is part of his virtue.
Samaññaphala Sutta

Metta.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 06:43:03 PM by Laurent »
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LoneWolf

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2017, 09:19:08 PM »
Hi Mathew,

I see the difference now. In Goenka's method we were concentrating on the breath with respect to senesations above the upper lip and below the nostril. In this method it is sensations from the breath on the whole body.

Hi Laurent,

I see both of your points. He obviously is giving advice after doing a Goenka retreat, so he is saying what came from his experience. It is not like he would give advice like this never having gone to a Goenka retreat. But I also see your point and think you are right to state it.

Let us all recognize that Vipassana is to bring us together, not create divisions.
Love to all.

LoneWolf

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2017, 09:25:29 PM »
Laurent, brother I'd also be keen to get your opinion on my question!  :)

Matthew

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2017, 10:36:13 PM »
I see the difference now. In Goenka's method we were concentrating on the breath with respect to senesations above the upper lip and below the nostril. In this method it is sensations from the breath on the whole body.

Yes, this is what the Buddha taught to do - breathe .. sensitive to the entire body.

Quote from: Laurent
But it neither precises the opposite.

Yes it does. It proposes exactly the opposite:

Quote
He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

Source: Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of Breathing" (MN 118), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html


Quote from: Laurent
This is why it always have been a source of sterile opposition between those who want to practice on a short area to increase focus and those who want to observe bodily sensations relative to respiration to relax.

It has not always been so. Only for a relatively short time and from sources that were not enlightened masters.

Quote from: Laurent
Don't be a scripture fundamentalist.

I'm not, my "fundamentalism", as you call it, is empiricist, pragmatic and experiential. Yours is fundamentalist, however. You are a Goenka-fundamentalist, convinced his way cannot be wrong - when the fruits of it are poor, inconsistent, send many people a bit crazy, some people bat-shit crazy, and a tiny percentage of students manage to maintain the practice as taught: because it doesn't work.

Quote from: Laurent
In buddhism, you never condemn other people beliefs when they are good for them ...

That is an interesting view. It's very "touchy feely" and "new-agey". Very warm and cosy. And mistaken.

I did not condemn any belief. I just point out that they are mistaken and lead to a dead-end. In Buddhism there is no place for "belief" in the way you use the word. There is a place for "faith" in the sense that faith means "confidence": having heard the teachings, or even explored them a bit, one has the faith (confidence) to continue the exploration of the Buddha's teachings.

Quote from: Laurent
... you should aven recognize benefits in other traditions and accept that some people are in different degrees of knowledge.

So do you recognise the benefits of Pureland Buddhism? Do you value Pureland Buddhism? If so you may as well go and join the Catholic Church - the two have more in common than either of them have with the teachings of the Buddha. Again, an interesting yet mistaken superstition.

Quote from: Laurent
So, one more time... Goenka ... blah blah blah ... insert standard instructions from 20 year old recording of Goenka here .. blah blah blah

Fundamentalist. It doesn't matter how many times you spout the party line, sadly you are still mistaken.

Quote from: Laurent
"Whereas some brahmans and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to debates such as these — 'You understand this doctrine and discipline? I'm the one who understands this doctrine and discipline. How could you understand this doctrine and discipline? You're practicing wrongly. I'm practicing rightly. I'm being consistent. You're not. What should be said first you said last. What should be said last you said first. What you took so long to think out has been refuted. Your doctrine has been overthrown. You're defeated. Go and try to salvage your doctrine; extricate yourself if you can!' — he abstains from debates such as these. This, too, is part of his virtue.

To not challenge falsity is to not follow the Dhamma. No, I am not enlightened, I am not a Buddha at this moment in time. But I am also not mistaken about these issues.
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Middleway

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2017, 12:58:20 AM »
Right now, I am at a period of my life where a lot of changes are about to happen, and I will need to be present and calm. While I believe the process of Vipassana (body scan) to be very important, I don't know if it is right for me at this time in my life. It makes me more aware of my anxiety, and I find it harder to accomplish the many tasks that give me anxiety which I need to do.

Getting anxious about the upcoming changes is quite natural. This anxiety will be there and will affect you whether are not you are aware of it. Avoiding it will only increase and prolong your suffering. So, if the process of body scan makes you aware of your anxiety, I would say that's a good thing. After you complete your routine body scan, spend a few extra minutes just observing and feeling your anxiety. Ask yourself what is the source of this anxiety.

The thought process goes something like this:

What if the new job I am taking up does not work out for me?
What if the new employer lets me go because they decide I am not a good fit for the position?
Will I be able to find another job?
In the meantime, how am I going to pay for my living?
Etc.....

Observe yourself asking those questions in your mind. I suggest you write them down. Then try to answer them as though you are providing answers to a friend in that situation. When you go through this process, you will quickly realize the anxiety arises out of your insecurity. Then, ask your self, what is the source of your insecurity. Perhaps, you will realize that your lack of control on the external environment that causes you feel insecure. Then contemplate on that fact. You will quickly come to realization that you cannot control anything that is external. Then what to do with the lack of control? Accepting it is the best way to handle it (you don't have another choice anyways!).

Most of our anxieties are related to the fact that we cannot control external factors. We should then turn inward and figure out how to deal with it. There in lies the answer and solution.

I suggest you try the instructions on this forum website for 3 months and see if it helpful. It calms you down and lets you contemplate (as I described above) in a dispassionate way. If this does not work for you, then try another method that may suit you more. You have to start diving into this river called samsara and start going with the flow with minimal resistance. I found this tip very useful and I wish I had known this when I was in my twenties.

Also, change is a good thing. Imagine watching the same movie everyday for the rest of your life. Good luck!

Warm regards,

Middleway



Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Laurent

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2017, 10:48:48 AM »
Laurent, brother I'd also be keen to get your opinion on my question!  :)

HelloLonewolf

You should follow the advertisement of Middleway, try one other technique, see the results and continue with the practice you feel better.

Matthew,

I am not a fundamentalist about Goenka's teaching, i don't condemn other techniques,you do. I am very interested by the technique you suggest, i practice it sometimes but i find it bring me less joy and energy, it tends to make me dull with sometimes "highs" (jhanas?). I don't condemn this, i find this very very interesting but i find some other techniques are worthy of interest too.
Goenka is just my preferred one for the moment, i feel a lot of energy and joy with this practise.
Although i have my opinion about other schools of thoughts, i don't allow me to condemn something. I don't condemn Pureland buddhism because i think it can be a good beginning to move closer to the Dhamma, to develop good intentions. Also you should consider that a Goenka course is often a way to have a very good first contact with buddhist meditation. Catholic can be a good thing in some aspects, Jesus taught Sila and some people can improve their behaviour by being catholic. What is really dangerous is not to practice those religions, but being conviced that it is the Truth. This is what i call "fundamentalism".
What i regard as very important is the personal understanding of what meditation is in a buddhist sense. In my opinion, we can understand what is meditation by reading Suttas, while practising regularly one technique (So, Lonewolf i advise you to read Suttas as well).
Not only Suttas related to meditation technique, that are anyway quite imprecise (you can regard that in both Satipatthana and Anapanasati Sutta, some other techniques are evoked), but Suttas that speak about the essence of Dhamma (for example Mulapariyaya, Dhatuvibhanga).
I think it is very important to understand the view of Buddha, to cultivate right view, more than having the right technique.
I could quote the Vittakasanthana which brings some corrections to this Ananapanasati obsession. Read this Sutta and tell me if you find it concording with your instructions of Anapana (or Goenka's Vipassana too). Techniques are techniques, they are rafts to the other shore, to paraphrase the Buddha.
But i will not fight with you, i realize this is useless and it is not a good idea anyway to bring tensions in this forum, i will let you continue your personal crusade and will participate in this forum in a constructive way.

Metta.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2017, 11:09:31 AM by Laurent »
Ideologies are either a mistake or a hoax!

LoneWolf

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2017, 04:54:30 PM »
Thank you Middleway for an excellent response! Very thorough and I will follow your advice about following my thought process and writing it down.  :)

Laurent -- Interesting point that Jesus taught Sila. While I am not a Christian, two things about the religion have been so profound I have gotten chills.

1. "God made man in his image" What an elusive way to describe the nature of consciousness!

2. The story of Jesus' crucifixion ("Forgive them father, they know not what they do"). Through Vipassana we learn we really "know not what we do". For example, when one is angry, it is the thought that causes them to suffer, right then and there. The real victim of anger is oneself, not the object of the anger. It took me a while to understand this, perhaps too long. This is how I began to understand karma (not necessarily if you hurt someone, someone will hurt you). But the imprinting you create in yourself is real. Also, what a lesson on compassion.

Matthew

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2017, 03:46:52 PM »
Quote from: Laurent
I am not a fundamentalist about Goenka's teaching, i don't condemn other techniques,you do. I am very interested by the technique you suggest, i practice it sometimes but i find it bring me less joy and energy, it tends to make me dull with sometimes "highs" (jhanas?)

Laurent,

If mixing techniques you will not find the core of this practice easy to establish. It takes time to transition from one technique to another and find the right balance. With regards to the dull nature you describe experiencing this can be down to a few possibilities. Firstly you are used to forced concentration, so finding the balance between calming and awareness is a transition. Secondly if your body leans forward the diaphragm cannot breathe so easily and this can induce sleepiness. Lastly I would suggest changing where you look. Usually looking at the floor about 2M in front of you is about right. If the practice is making you dull you can lift the gaze a little, and if the practice becomes too loose you can lower the gaze. Eyes open and relaxed.

A full immersion in this practice for a couple of weeks should iron out any initial kinks given you have a base of practice to start from.

Metta,

Matthew
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Laurent

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2017, 04:16:40 PM »
Thank you for advices, Matthew.
I think i see the similarities and the differences between both the techniques.
In goenka's method, the instruction is to observe while in this anapana method, it is more passive, just being aware, maintaining awareness, developping awareness, then mind is about to still.
It does not really seem difficult to switch from the first to the second, but a retreat period should clearly help.

Metta

 
Ideologies are either a mistake or a hoax!

Matthew

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Re: How should I proceed with my practice?
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2017, 11:35:00 PM »
Thank you for advices, Matthew.
In goenka's method, the instruction is to observe while in this anapana method, it is more passive, just being aware, maintaining awareness, developping awareness, then mind is about to still.

No, in this Goenak method it is much more active, using force to contain awareness to the small area during anapana. It is the opposite of your understanding, In the calm-abiding method there is less force and therefore more passivity, more accepting things as they are.
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