Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mental Noting During Meditation, a Double Edge Sword?

Just found this gem, from Marie Turco, on Twitter:

@mvturco i set out to see. I realize that i see what can be, not necessarily what is. i see color, angles, lines not walls, ceilings and tiles.

I was reminded of a story from Sylvia Boorstein, I read a while ago, in which her teacher asked her to let go of mental noting, and be instead with direct experience, unmediated by words. While noting can be an extremely useful tool towards moment to moment mindfulness, it is not without dangers. I saw for myself, during this morning's meditation:

Sitting, basking in gentle acceptance of now, I feel at one with each breath. Body, relaxed. Love feeling. Liking, not holding on. Sound erupts. Loud, of leaf blower. Gardener is back. Image of gardener outside. Leaf blower stops. Silence. Liking, again not clinging. Grateful for ease with breath, and body. Gentle, rhythmic sound comes in. Of rake. Gardener raking the leaves. Rake against sidewalk. Insight. Layer of thoughts on top of pure sounds. Gardener, leaf blower, rake, not part of now. Rather, results of thinking mind. Another sound, very close. From cleaning lady taking vacuum cleaner out of closet. Associations ensue, of similar times before. With resulting anticipation of future noise, from vacuuming, and possibility of feelings, from hearing vacuum. Thinking, naming mind at work again, making it harder for self to stay present. Surprise from silence. Breathing, that's all. For a while. Then noting familiar pain. Pain. Word itself causes retraction in body, and aversion in heart. Insight. To stay away from naming experience as pain. How about neutral? A thing in my side. Relaxing, breathing into tingling, sharpness, soon turns into tickling, interesting, pleasure, intense, dancing, alive . . . Thing dissolving. Attention back on the breath.

Realizing the difficulty of bare attention, and the power of words, no matter how well intentioned, to get in the way. At same time, thinking is also very much a part of awareness, and insight. Both points, noted . . .

9 comments:

  1. Nice. I like how your practice seems to make a subtle shift here, from noting (words) to both noting and word-less awareness. Like the Heart Sutra says, all dharmas (including all words) are just forms of emptiness, designiations we choose to make within our empty awareness.

    Keep up the good work, I am enjoying your descriptions very much. And thanks so much for sharing!

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  2. Thank you Ian. I just stopped by your blog. Very much loved today's visual essay on 'Severed Head' . . . You may appreciate Franke James blog.

    I appreciate you noticing shift from words to words and word-less awareness. Feels very big inside. Your seeing is a great gift.

    With much gratitude,

    marguerite

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  3. "Visual Essays", I like... Thanks for the recommendation.

    "Big inside" is good, happy to offer what I can.

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  4. 'visual essay' is a word from Franke, actually! love how images can transcend words, often . . .

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  5. I've worked with naming, noting during meditation periods off and on. Sometimes, it seems very helpful in terms of cut through repeating thought patterns - worry, planning, anger-centered rants. Other times, I find I'm almost anticipating the next occurrence of the pattern, which certainly isn't very present-centered.

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  6. Thank you Nathan. This is helpful, and validates what has been happening as of late in my practice.

    Just commented on your latest post, by the way!

    Deep bow,

    marguerite

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  7. Hi Marguerite,

    I have had a love/hate thing going on with noting, and have all but dropped the labelling part of it. My notes are now more mental nods, acknowledging something without going through the effort of finding the right word for it. It helps to stay disengaged with whatever I was noting, as well as increases the speed with which you can note things.

    The exception was when I found I was really getting trapped in one or two mind loops. That is when I explicitly and precisely labelled it, to underline to myself that I was getting trapped again and again in this "thing". Eventually, I stopped getting trapped.

    -- tomo

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  8. Tom, you and Nathan, and Ian, seem all to be in agreement . . . I am finding this practical discussion about details of practice extremely valuable. Thank you so much for the gift of your knowledge.

    Deep bow,

    marguerite

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