Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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lostitude
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Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by lostitude » Sat Sep 10, 2016 9:38 am

Hello,

In his book 'A meditator's handbook', Ajahn Brahm introduces a basic method of meditation divided in four steps.
The first one is 'present-moment awareness' which is about letting go of past and future and focusing on the present moment. I have practised it for a few weeks and now feel like moving to the second step.
It is called 'SILENT present-moment awareness' and the addition made here, compared with the first step, is that one must focus on the present moment with no inner commentary.

So here is my question: should I try to avoid verbal commentary alone, or should I also try to get rid of wordless thoughts?
By that I mean the thoughts that cross your mind without necessarily giving rise to words and sentences. Like, instead of having the little voice saying "my neighbour is being very noisy', you have this very thought crossing your mind with no words attached to it. The same thing that happens to you in the face of imminent danger, when lots of thoughts cross your mind in a split-second, which is of course too short to formulate any sentence. The more it goes, the more I get the impressison that most of our thinking is actually wordless, or is it a false impression?

The distinction between those two sorts of thinking is problematic for me, because just getting rid of the words seems easy, but at least in my case it is also very easy to be daydreaming with no words at all and have the illusion (if it is one) that I'm making headway in my meditation because it is 'silent'.

So I'm not sure what to aim for.

Thanks!

lostitude
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by lostitude » Thu Sep 29, 2016 8:16 pm

I hope the absence of any answer is not due to my poor English... 100 readers and no one seems to have the same issue! scary... :toilet:

santa100
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by santa100 » Fri Sep 30, 2016 1:18 am

lostitude wrote:By that I mean the thoughts that cross your mind without necessarily giving rise to words and sentences. Like, instead of having the little voice saying "my neighbour is being very noisy', you have this very thought crossing your mind with no words attached to it.
The highlighted part is the culprit. Try to drop any identification of "I", "my", "myself" and the distracted thoughts will naturally go away. Seeing yourself, your loved ones, your neighbor, etc. at the barest level, that we're all just the Five Aggregates. So next time, if the thought "my neighbour" pops up, try to see what "my" really is, and what "neighbour" really is. They really are nothing but the Five Aggregates.

Caodemarte
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by Caodemarte » Fri Sep 30, 2016 1:47 am

We are all waiting for a good strong answer!

For a weak answer I would suggest not trying to suppress any kind of thought, but just return to the moment again and again.

lostitude
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by lostitude » Fri Sep 30, 2016 11:07 am

santa100 wrote:
lostitude wrote:By that I mean the thoughts that cross your mind without necessarily giving rise to words and sentences. Like, instead of having the little voice saying "my neighbour is being very noisy', you have this very thought crossing your mind with no words attached to it.
The highlighted part is the culprit. Try to drop any identification of "I", "my", "myself" and the distracted thoughts will naturally go away. Seeing yourself, your loved ones, your neighbor, etc. at the barest level, that we're all just the Five Aggregates. So next time, if the thought "my neighbour" pops up, try to see what "my" really is, and what "neighbour" really is. They really are nothing but the Five Aggregates.
Thank you!
But the 'my' doesn't appear in my toughts... I just had to use it here because I'm using words do describe this example. I could have written 'someone in the building is being noisy' to the same effect, the words are not there when the thought appears. What I'm talking about are wordless thoughts or concepts and how to treat them.

lostitude
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by lostitude » Fri Sep 30, 2016 11:09 am

Caodemarte wrote:We are all waiting for a good strong answer!

For a weak answer I would suggest not trying to suppress any kind of thought, but just return to the moment again and again.
Thank you! So you can confirm that such thoughts are not supposed to happen, ideally?

Caodemarte
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by Caodemarte » Fri Sep 30, 2016 1:27 pm

Thoughts of all kinds happen to you and to me and most, if not all, of the world. The goal is not to become thoughtless or dead or unconscious. Those are just more temporary states.

Thoughts arise and pass away. If I worry about what they are supposed to be or do or not be or do, I would just have more endless thoughts to worry about and chase down. I would just return to the task at hand again and again. If distractions are too insistent then observe them completely. Be fully aware of that moment of distraction. Keep returning to observation.

santa100
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by santa100 » Sat Oct 01, 2016 1:21 am

lostitude wrote:But the 'my' doesn't appear in my toughts... I just had to use it here because I'm using words do describe this example. I could have written 'someone in the building is being noisy' to the same effect, the words are not there when the thought appears. What I'm talking about are wordless thoughts or concepts and how to treat them.
If the sense of 'I', 'my', 'myself' didn't appear in your thoughts then you would've already been at a very advanced stage of meditation, if not already attained enlightenment... :smile: The notion of 'someone' whether in words or in thoughts still indicates the presence of an underlying self-identification process.
Ud 1.10 wrote:Then, Bāhiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bāhiya, there is no you in connection with that. When there is no you in connection with that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."

SarathW
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by SarathW » Sat Oct 01, 2016 5:04 am

Hi Lostitude
Instead worrying about what Ajahn Brahm said, try to follow the Jhana as per Sutta.
This is how the process works.
1- When you sit for the first time your mind is wondered around wholesome and unwholesome thoughts. (external thoughts)
2- Then make an effort to think only about wholesome thoughts (Brhma Vihara etc) (Samma Vayama) (still external)
3- Then move to internal wholsome thoughts (Samma Sati). In this regards Satipatthana is great importance
4- Move away from wholesome thoughts and keep concentration on your meditation object. (breath)
5- When Nimitta appears you you are in the first Jhana but you still have Vitakka, Vicara, piti, Sukaha and Ekagata in a momentary basis.

To answer you question if you are thinking about your neighbour, you are still in number one and two.
This matter is discussed bya very experienced monk in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately it is in Sinhalease language.

http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=27932
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

lostitude
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by lostitude » Sat Oct 01, 2016 3:30 pm

Thank you. I must admit your answers are not clear to me because they don't really seem to correspond to what I was talking about, and I get the feeling that my questions have not been clearly understood either (probably because I've encountered this issue in the context of a very specific exercise recommended by Ajahn Brahm and most answers seem to describe a different stage of practice). But I am not sure how to clarify the issue, so I'll leave it at that for now, and thank you all for your responses.

damaci
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by damaci » Tue Oct 04, 2016 2:36 am

Yes, "silent" here means complete silence. You will not be able to proceed without dealing with inner commentary. However, you need to make sure that you do not have any aversion vis-a-vis the thoughts. For that you need to have a nice dose of metta (which is good will and kindness) with you as you do anapanasati. This good will and kindness should be directed against the thoughts as they arise. You need to have the mentality that it is in the nature of the thoughts to arise. They are not enemies to crush or kill. Be gentle when you realize them arising in your mind, and kindly put them aside. Return to the breath and enjoy the sensation of the breath coming in and out. As the enjoyment rises, the mind will naturally get interested in this enjoyment more than the thoughts in the background. So, you proceed like that.

pegembara
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by pegembara » Tue Oct 04, 2016 4:40 am

lostitude wrote:Hello,

So here is my question: should I try to avoid verbal commentary alone, or should I also try to get rid of wordless thoughts?
By that I mean the thoughts that cross your mind without necessarily giving rise to words and sentences. Like, instead of having the little voice saying "my neighbour is being very noisy', you have this very thought crossing your mind with no words attached to it. The same thing that happens to you in the face of imminent danger, when lots of thoughts cross your mind in a split-second, which is of course too short to formulate any sentence. The more it goes, the more I get the impressison that most of our thinking is actually wordless, or is it a false impression?

The distinction between those two sorts of thinking is problematic for me, because just getting rid of the words seems easy, but at least in my case it is also very easy to be daydreaming with no words at all and have the illusion (if it is one) that I'm making headway in my meditation because it is 'silent'.

So I'm not sure what to aim for.

Thanks!
You can't get rid of thinking or thoughts. That's the essence of anatta - the non controllable nature of conditioned things. You can only be aware of their arising and passing away. Hopefully you eventually reach a "silent mind".

1st notice the spaces between thoughts.
When spaces become substantial, then note thoughts between spaces.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

lostitude
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by lostitude » Tue Oct 04, 2016 10:39 am

Thank you!
But how does this awareness manifest itself? Isn't it a thought?

damaci
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by damaci » Wed Oct 05, 2016 1:36 am

No, awareness is just knowing. Consider this: when you hit your toe on a stone, you are aware of the painful sensation but you do not necessarily think. Thinking is not really necessary for the awareness.
In anapanasati, you gradually move from the mindfulness of the body (breath is a "body", so you are aware of the entire body of breath in the third stage of the first tetrad for example , according to the classification in the Anapanasati Sutta), to mindfulness of feeling in the second tetrad etc. In fact, the exact order of the tetrads follows the scheme in the Satipatthana Sutta (from body to feelings to mind to mind-objects). For the second tetrad to arise (that is the enjoyment of the breath concentrating and creating rapture and deep pleasure), the thoughts need to be significantly calmed down already (Consider this: You cannot truly enjoy things if you keep thinking about them. You need to experience them).
However the thoughts will not be really subside until you steady the mind and release it (this coincides with the arising of the nimitta, which is often a visual sign -but not necessarily, sometimes nimitta is a sharp sound for example-). Awareness continues throughout, but you cannot think much really at this stage. So, it happens like that.
The Key is this: First, you need to let yourself enjoy the meditation. It is a nice pleasure and Buddha advised people to enjoy it as it happens. So, do not pay much attention to people claiming that enjoying meditation is an attachment etc. Buddha meditated his entire life, was he attached? Second, as you meditate you need to have metta towards yourself and your thoughts. Do not try to subdues them. They will subdue on their own. And, third, this is crucial, you need to be in a state of mind of no "wanting" and no "expectations" as you meditate. Just observe it and enjoy it as it happens.

lostitude
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by lostitude » Fri Oct 07, 2016 11:01 am

damaci wrote:No, awareness is just knowing. Consider this: when you hit your toe on a stone, you are aware of the painful sensation but you do not necessarily think. Thinking is not really necessary for the awareness.
In anapanasati, you gradually move from the mindfulness of the body (breath is a "body", so you are aware of the entire body of breath in the third stage of the first tetrad for example , according to the classification in the Anapanasati Sutta), to mindfulness of feeling in the second tetrad etc. In fact, the exact order of the tetrads follows the scheme in the Satipatthana Sutta (from body to feelings to mind to mind-objects). For the second tetrad to arise (that is the enjoyment of the breath concentrating and creating rapture and deep pleasure), the thoughts need to be significantly calmed down already (Consider this: You cannot truly enjoy things if you keep thinking about them. You need to experience them).
However the thoughts will not be really subside until you steady the mind and release it (this coincides with the arising of the nimitta, which is often a visual sign -but not necessarily, sometimes nimitta is a sharp sound for example-). Awareness continues throughout, but you cannot think much really at this stage. So, it happens like that.
The Key is this: First, you need to let yourself enjoy the meditation. It is a nice pleasure and Buddha advised people to enjoy it as it happens. So, do not pay much attention to people claiming that enjoying meditation is an attachment etc. Buddha meditated his entire life, was he attached? Second, as you meditate you need to have metta towards yourself and your thoughts. Do not try to subdues them. They will subdue on their own. And, third, this is crucial, you need to be in a state of mind of no "wanting" and no "expectations" as you meditate. Just observe it and enjoy it as it happens.
Thank you damaci, that's very helpful! Can I also ask if the wish to die/disappear/dissolve into nothing (while meditating) can help? I sometimes try it and it does have a certain effect, but I can't tell if it's going in the right direction.

Thanks

damaci
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by damaci » Sat Oct 08, 2016 5:35 am

No. If you do that then you end up in what the Chan masters call "the ghost cave in the mountain of darkness". In other words, you end up in a numb state of mind which is very close to sleep (but with awareness), and no matter how much time you spend there in that ghost cave, you will not proceed further (it is not a bad state really, it is just not useful).

Look, it is not very complicated really: Do not want being, do not want non-being. Meditation has nothing to do with desires. If there is even a tiny bit of desire for anything (including wholesome and nice things) during the meditation, it just does not work. This may sound a bit weird, but I call this the dharma's way of defending itself against the intruders. They all want it, and that is exactly why they will not get it.

Instead try this: Sit like a child, with complete innocence; and just let it go. Let go of your controlling mind. That is it in a nutshell. Relax your muscles and relax the tension in the body. Breathe naturally, and do not try to control the breath or try to make it short or long. Your body already knows how to breathe. You just follow the breath however it is and enjoy it.

ieee23
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by ieee23 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 3:45 pm

Hi lostitude,

I've experimented with Ajahn Brahm's method for several years. I've gotten to the second stage "the beautiful breath" many, many times. I haven't gotten too far past that, just some bliss.

The bottom line with his method is that you do not try to do anything. You set the stage for the process and let the brain run through the process on its own while you are passive and watch.

You just stay there and be aware.

Thoughts running through your mind will eventually settle down on their own, giving you present moment awareness. From there present moment awareness will go into the beautiful breath on its own, and from to other stages, on their own.

The thing about this method is that it can take more time than starting off following the breath and making some effort to do so. You are letting the mind empty itself out, at its own pace.

There isn't always room for that when you have been working a few 10 hour days back to back, you are stressed, and your mind is full of anxious, angry, etc thoughts and you need to relax after a long day and go to sleep.

I rotate methods depending on where my mind is starting off.

The states of mind produced by Brahm's technqiues, at least in the begining, are beautiful and worth the time/experimentation.
Last edited by ieee23 on Sat Oct 15, 2016 3:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind. - MN 19

lostitude
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Re: Stage 2 of Ajahn Brahm's meditation guide

Post by lostitude » Fri Oct 14, 2016 5:09 pm

Thank you both for your answers :)

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