Some questions

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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rolling_boulder
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Some questions

Post by rolling_boulder » Thu Mar 26, 2015 6:41 pm

Hello,

I am sure that many questions of this nature appear on this board, so please humor me...
I have been practicing for about a year and a half now, fairly inconsistently.

A hindrance I've recently run into is the thought:
"I don't even know if I'm doing this right. If I'm not doing it right, why bother?"

I am aware of the Buddha's instructions to Rahula on the good results of right action.
And I have certainly encountered some good effects of the meditation.

However it would increase my confidence to ask these questions because I don't have a teacher so I must rely on online communities for now.

So, for my questions:

1. In the satthipathana Sutta, the Buddha outlines many, many things to be aware of (i.e. Breathing in short, breathing in long, bodily processes, I am made of skin, fat, organs, etc....) Am I supposed to be aware of all these things simultaneously? That seems to me a bit of a tall order. Maybe I should train so that I am able to bear all these perceptions in mind at once? But aren't I supposed to be developing "one-pointedness" of mind?

Should it be a sequential order of awarenesses? (I.e. focus the meditation, one step at a time, in the order outlined in the sutta.) While this is possible I think it's very possible that the order might have been messed up over the course of history.

Or should each of the steps in the sutta simply be viewed as useful perceptions, each of which may be used as neccesary?

2. Thanissaro Bhikku's "energy" perception.

That is, the process of tuning to the mind to the "flow of breath energy throughout the body."
This is just a tool, right? In other words, I could use other perceptions, but this one happens to be a useful one because it makes mindfulness of the entire body more congenial?

3. Movement and postures.

I usually use half-lotus with a small cushion under my spine. Sometimes it gets really uncomfortable and I feel like I have to move. Should I fight this urge, or just move? I've heard conflicting accounts.

4. "Just noting" vs "Working with the Breath."

I've heard some teachers say that meditation involves just noting the breath processes in the body. Meanwhile, Thanissaro says while this is good, it is not enough: the breath should be "worked on" constantly to make it more comfortable and still.

Are both methods valid? I like the latter method because it's more encouraging.

5. Reliance on guided meditations. A bad thing?

I almost always use a guided meditation when I sit to practice. Should I wean myself off of this habit?

The guided meditations are useful to me because they help bring me back to the breath when I veer off course. But maybe I need more self-reliance.


Thanks for your help.
RB
The world is swept away. It does not endure...
The world is without shelter, without protector...
The world is without ownership. One has to pass on, leaving everything behind...
The world is insufficient, insatiable, a slave to craving.

Bakmoon
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Re: Some questions

Post by Bakmoon » Thu Mar 26, 2015 7:08 pm

rolling_boulder wrote:1. In the satthipathana Sutta, the Buddha outlines many, many things to be aware of (i.e. Breathing in short, breathing in long, bodily processes, I am made of skin, fat, organs, etc....) Am I supposed to be aware of all these things simultaneously? That seems to me a bit of a tall order. Maybe I should train so that I am able to bear all these perceptions in mind at once? But aren't I supposed to be developing "one-pointedness" of mind?
No, each of these items listed are intended as fully fledged meditation subjects in themselves. You pick one and practice it.
rolling_boulder wrote: 2. Thanissaro Bhikku's "energy" perception.

That is, the process of tuning to the mind to the "flow of breath energy throughout the body."
This is just a tool, right? In other words, I could use other perceptions, but this one happens to be a useful one because it makes mindfulness of the entire body more congenial?
I think that's a good way of understanding his instructions.
rolling_boulder wrote: 3. Movement and postures.

I usually use half-lotus with a small cushion under my spine. Sometimes it gets really uncomfortable and I feel like I have to move. Should I fight this urge, or just move? I've heard conflicting accounts.
If you feel any pain in the knees, you should definitely move them because it can be a sign of strain on the knees, and that can lead to injury. Apart from that I would recommend simply being mindful of the discomfort. Or sit on a chair. Sitting on a chair is just as good as sitting on the floor.
rolling_boulder wrote: 4. "Just noting" vs "Working with the Breath."

I've heard some teachers say that meditation involves just noting the breath processes in the body. Meanwhile, Thanissaro says while this is good, it is not enough: the breath should be "worked on" constantly to make it more comfortable and still.

Are both methods valid? I like the latter method because it's more encouraging.
Noting is the practice of the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition of meditation, and Ajahn Thanissaro comes from a branch of the Thai Forest tradition. If you are practicing Anapanasati according to the instructions of Ajahn Thanissaro, just do what he says and don't worry about noting. If you want to follow the Mahasi Sawadaw tradition, then just follow the instructions of that tradition.

I think both methods are good, but mixing them together isn't a good idea.
rolling_boulder wrote: 5. Reliance on guided meditations. A bad thing?

I almost always use a guided meditation when I sit to practice. Should I wean myself off of this habit?

The guided meditations are useful to me because they help bring me back to the breath when I veer off course. But maybe I need more self-reliance.


Thanks for your help.
RB
I think it's a problem if you use them all the time. If you know the instructions, then after a while you should be able to do it on your own. Don't worry that you won't know what to do. You can learn quite a lot from mistakes and whatnot in my experience.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

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Anders
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Re: Some questions

Post by Anders » Thu Mar 26, 2015 10:27 pm

rolling_boulder wrote:I usually use half-lotus with a small cushion under my spine. Sometimes it gets really uncomfortable and I feel like I have to move. Should I fight this urge, or just move? I've heard conflicting accounts.
It really depends on what kind of pain. Some are transitory, others warning signs.

If your posture is not quite right, odds are good its the latter (generally, knee pain = red flag). I'd suggest any practitioner really to check with a yoga teacher on posture. They are generally better informed on the physical details. For westerners struggling to get into lotus, this can matter a lot.

Generally, the mistakes people tend to make are:

Underestimate how relaxed the body should be in lotus (the point of perfect full lotus really is that you can relax all muscles and remain in a solid and balanced upright position as the body rests on its skeletal frame),
that proper posture has much less lordosis than most think
and that the flexing happens by opening the hips and by bending at the knee.

Those three are a potent cocktail for messing up your body and in general for sitting uncomfortably.

The lotus is actually used because it is the most pleasant and relaxed position whilst remaining upright, balanced and firm. Don't just focus on upright and firm.

rolling_boulder
Posts: 222
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:01 am

Re: Some questions

Post by rolling_boulder » Thu Mar 26, 2015 11:58 pm

Thanks for your answers, Bakmoon.
Anders wrote:...(the point of perfect full lotus really is that you can relax all muscles and remain in a solid and balanced upright position as the body rests on its skeletal frame)...
Wow, never knew this about the lotus position! So that's the point of it.


Another quick question. When I pick one thing to focus on, as Bakmoon suggested, should I always use that perception and develop skill with it? Is "perception" the right word?

Thanks All
RB
The world is swept away. It does not endure...
The world is without shelter, without protector...
The world is without ownership. One has to pass on, leaving everything behind...
The world is insufficient, insatiable, a slave to craving.

jnak
Posts: 63
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2014 8:49 pm

Re: Some questions

Post by jnak » Sat Mar 28, 2015 4:07 pm

Here is a recent talk by Thanissaro Bhikkhu that might bear on your questions regarding perceptions.

http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/y201 ... cation.mp3
"...I'm not much of an expert when it comes to the texts. I've simply learned a few parts, and put them into practice." Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo

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Anders
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Re: Some questions

Post by Anders » Sun Mar 29, 2015 4:20 pm

Anders wrote:and that the flexing happens by opening the hips and by bending at the knee.
Pretty crucial typo here. Should say:

"and that the flexing happens by opening the hips and NOT by bending at the knee."

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