Author Topic: The relationship between thoughts and sensations  (Read 5983 times)

anders

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The relationship between thoughts and sensations
« on: November 20, 2007, 12:07:44 PM »
(I posted a similar thread in the old forum, but as I see this topic as fundamental to Vipassana meditation I would like to start a new one here. I hope you don't mind.)

Those of you who have taken a ten day Goenka course, know that there is a strong focus on body scans. The meditator is encouraged to go through his body systematically, in order to become aware of whatever sensations he might have in his body at a specific time.

1 Is any thought that may arise in the mind bound to lead to a sensation in the body? And vice versa, is any sensation that may arise in the body bound to lead to a thought in the mind?

2 By paying attention to our sensations, are we indirectly observing our thoughts?

3 Is it possible to directly observe our thoughts without paying attention to our sensations?

Thanks for reading!
« Last Edit: November 20, 2007, 12:12:32 PM by anders »

Flipasso

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Re: The relationship between thoughts and sensations
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2007, 09:37:54 PM »
I started doing thought observation then moved towards sensation so I'll answer you questions from my point of view.

1 - I believe thought occurs first rather then sensation. But I think that out there, there are some psychological studies that prove the opposite "emotion takes place first".

2 - Probably because I first started observing thoughts whenever I observe sensations I notice the big thoughts behind it.

3 - I guess you can observe thoughts without even noticing the sensations. My first experiences with thought observation showed me so.

BTW: Do you guys somehow correlate sensations with emotions? I don't think that every sensation has an emotion but some of them at least do right?

Matthew

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Re: The relationship between thoughts and sensations
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2007, 09:53:20 PM »
BTW: Do you guys somehow correlate sensations with emotions? I don't think that every sensation has an emotion but some of them at least do right?

I find emotions all begin to manifest in the body. Specifically in the gut. Hence the common expression "gut feeling".
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Matthew

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Re: The relationship between thoughts and sensations
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2007, 10:04:01 PM »
(I posted a similar thread in the old forum, but as I see this topic as fundamental to Vipassana meditation I would like to start a new one here. I hope you don't mind.)

Those of you who have taken a ten day Goenka course, know that there is a strong focus on body scans. The meditator is encouraged to go through his body systematically, in order to become aware of whatever sensations he might have in his body at a specific time.

1 Is any thought that may arise in the mind bound to lead to a sensation in the body? And vice versa, is any sensation that may arise in the body bound to lead to a thought in the mind?

2 By paying attention to our sensations, are we indirectly observing our thoughts?

3 Is it possible to directly observe our thoughts without paying attention to our sensations?

Thanks for reading!

1 No. It depends on the level of Samadhi of the practitioner.

2. No we are paying attention to thoughts when doing so and sensations when doing so. always aware of both, even. And yes, sometimes the connections and pathways between them.

3. Yes.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

mettajoey

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Re: The relationship between thoughts and sensations
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2007, 11:10:05 PM »
My opinion with respect to everyone else's:

1. Yes, I believe that many thoughts are generated organically by the body.  Our bodies come from millions of years of evolution long before we had "consciousness" and are often far better at directing our minds what to do than the causes and conditions of environment.
Conversely, our minds also have a direct link to our bodies and can direct flight or fight responses, create fear and many other emotions.
My belief is that meditation, especially Vipassana, works to connect these two aspects of mind and body and establish a more complete and functional human being.  Understanding and knowing where the different thoughts and feelings come from and the appropriate response, I believe, is a key goal of Vipassana meditation.

2.  Yes.  Our sensations are the physical "memory" of our thoughts, feelings and emotions - and also, the bodies link to the autonomic nervous system which takes care of homeostasis, digestion and etc.  Observing sensations reconnects the mind and bodies communication  and also serve as tangible reminders of our history and experiences.  Ever encounter a smell that brings back a flood of memories?

3.  Yes, and I wish I would quit doing it!   ;D
« Last Edit: November 20, 2007, 11:13:16 PM by silentflute »
The best type of meditation is the one that you'll do

Paul

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Re: The relationship between thoughts and sensations
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2007, 06:56:47 AM »
My belief is that meditation, especially Vipassana, works to connect these two aspects of mind and body and establish a more complete and functional human being.  Understanding and knowing where the different thoughts and feelings come from and the appropriate response, I believe, is a key goal of Vipassana meditation.

A few weeks back a Native American Indian came to our town to talk about their spirituality and philosophy.  He said that where he comes from there is a prediction, in the form of a painting that shows a complete human body walking along a very long road on one side, and a human body with the head not attached but floating above the body walking along a much shorter road on the other side.  He explained it that if we get to a point where our minds are separate from our bodies, no longer in contact with our bodies and thus the physical world, mankind's pathway will not go very far into the future.  I think most of us (who think about the future) feel that way.

I have the same feeling as you about Vipassana and in fact any form of mindfulness, it recreates the lost link between our thoughts and bodies and therefore through to the physical world.  I sincerely hope that we're part of a movement where our (our as in mankind's) heads are coming back into contact with our bodies.

Matthew

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Re: The relationship between thoughts and sensations
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2007, 07:25:13 AM »
In Shamatha the object of meditation can be the breath - this is the most common and very effective as it joins body and mind at the same time as calming the mind.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

anders

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Re: The relationship between thoughts and sensations
« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2007, 11:07:28 AM »
Thank you all for your replies!


2. No we are paying attention to thoughts when doing so and sensations when doing so. always aware of both, even. And yes, sometimes the connections and pathways between them.
Matthew

Matthew, are you doing body scans similar to the ones used in the Goenka tradition? The reason I ask this is that as far as I am concerned there is no room in these scans to pay attention to thoughts; you are simply instructed to move your attention through the sensations in your body, and that is it. Whenever a thought comes you are asked to just let it pass.

Am I making myself clear? I guess what I am trying to say is that to me there seems to be a subtle difference between actively trying to be mindful about your sensations and thoughts. Such a procedure would include going through the sensations of the body AND making room for thought observations at some point. The Goenka routine, however, is strictly limited to sensations and only attends to thoughts if/when they happen to come up.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: The relationship between thoughts and sensations
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2007, 04:50:28 PM »
Thank you all for your replies!


2. No we are paying attention to thoughts when doing so and sensations when doing so. always aware of both, even. And yes, sometimes the connections and pathways between them.
Matthew

Matthew, are you doing body scans similar to the ones used in the Goenka tradition? The reason I ask this is that as far as I am concerned there is no room in these scans to pay attention to thoughts; you are simply instructed to move your attention through the sensations in your body, and that is it. Whenever a thought comes you are asked to just let it pass.

you can't let it pass unless you notice it - are aware of it.

Am I making myself clear? I guess what I am trying to say is that to me there seems to be a subtle difference between actively trying to be mindful about your sensations and thoughts. Such a procedure would include going through the sensations of the body AND making room for thought observations at some point. The Goenka routine, however, is strictly limited to sensations and only attends to thoughts if/when they happen to come up.

Being actively mindful is dangerously close to fabrication. I contemplate mindfulness to be an attentive yet relaxed state until one focusses on particularities. When one focusses on the body one cannot shut the mind out completely. And when focussing on the body one will not be able to stop thought. There is the ongoing need to be aware of and notice thoughts without attaching to them.

If mindfulness of body is at the expense of mindfulness of mind it poses a risk of becoming a form of hypnosis to block thought - a common obstacle.

And, no, I don't do body scans in the Goenka tradition. I may be doing so in about 17 days if I go ahead on the ten day course I am booked on for next week. I am unsure if my health is up to it.

In the Dhamma,

:)
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

kidnovice

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Re: The relationship between thoughts and sensations
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2010, 01:06:25 AM »
Quote
The reason I ask this is that as far as I am concerned there is no room in these scans to pay attention to thoughts; you are simply instructed to move your attention through the sensations in your body, and that is it. Whenever a thought comes, you are asked to just let it pass.

Although this is a an old thread, I wanted to suggest that awareness of thoughts is very much compatible with body scanning. Of course, I wouldn't recommend it if you are still getting the hang of the technique. It takes alot of time (and practice) to skillfully and effortless engage in the scanning. For example, it is easy to get caught in the trap of putting in too much effort because the technique involves so much mental dexterity.

Likewise, it can seem like it requires all your attention to engage in the body scan with awareness and equanimity. To some extent, this is helpful. In fact, one aspect of the "body-scan" is that it functions as a powerful concentration practice in which the mind learns to treat any part of the body as an object of concentration. Just as you might train the mind to stay fixed on the breath (to the exclusion of thoughts, or other sensations, etc.), you learn to keep the mind fixed on pretty much any part of the body you wish. Thoughts arise, and you learn to let them rapidly dissolve. This has many benefits. However, I think that when you experience this "concentration-aspect" of the body-scan, it is easy to believe that you can't observe thoughts at the same time.

Yet, you can. As the body scanning becomes more intuitive and "effortless," it becomes possible to observe thoughts simultaneously with sensations, and to see the profound relationship between thoughts, bodily sensations (especially the subtle variety), and the "emotional color" of your awareness.  I am finding that understanding this relationship is a powerful starting point for deep insight into clinging.
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

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