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TOPIC: The Practice of Non-preference

The Practice of Non-preference 21 Nov 2014 14:49 #96216

This morning I have been thinking about the article called “The Practice of Nonpreference”: www.tricycle.com/practice/practice-nonpreference. Once or twice a month I do a 2-3 hour sit without moving. Everything is fine until approximately the 1-½ hour mark when an intense pain starts in my leg. I can talk a good game in how to deal with this but I’m not so good in actuality.

I do practice non-preference everyday in my meditation sessions. No problem and no struggle on minor phenomena. It might be that my daily practice will build up my capacity over time to deal with more intense pain.

The point of not moving to alleviate the pain is to mirror those occasions when I can’t do anything to turn the pain off. Some things I have tried are to watch the pain as an object of meditation, see the aversion to it, its change, the story if any, etc., if they arise. This doesn’t work for me. It remains a struggle against reality.

I was talking to someone after a sangha meeting about this and they suggested taking a pain reliever before our meeting. I responded that way I wouldn’t learn anything. My objective in all this is to stop the struggle not the pain.

Jack
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The Practice of Non-preference 21 Nov 2014 15:47 #96218

I love the stories of the saints who undertook unpleasant mortifications. Even popular St. Teresa of Avila had a "pillow" which was a chunk of wood (like a piece of a railroad tie). She slept on it as a penance on behalf of others who were suffering. There was a desert father era monk who slept in a hollow tree and lined the hollow with thorns, including the part above his head, so that if he moved too much he would get pricked.

Since I'm super chatty lately and always delighted to encounter a fellow minor masochist, I'll offer a couple observations:
-tolerance of pain does seem to increase over time.
-caring about whether you can tolerate more pain or not seems to decrease over time.
-the body was made with a damage-prevention system (sense of pain) that is beautifully designed and very effective
-it's always useful to be or become aware of ones oddball hangups, family karma, interests that are actually arising from unresolved aversions or anxieties and so forth
-sometimes teachings like "non-preference" can have a hidden side, in which we discover not preferring to feel OR not feel pain; not preferring to be the kind of person who will or won't die gracefully; not preferring to be or not be able to sit for x number of hours in x position, and so on.
-which doesn't mean we do or don't do a particular practice, just that the relationship to it is likely to change very much over time, and that is sometimes really the "secret" point of the practice.
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The Practice of Non-preference 21 Nov 2014 17:30 #96226

On retreat I found there are two different pains...pain you can dissolve and it goes away and pain you can dissolve but then returns. The latter is because you are damaging the body and if you refuse to hear it then perhaps you should investigate why damaging your body seems useful. Ego?
~D
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The Practice of Non-preference 06 Dec 2015 06:54 #101538

Once a month for the last year I have been doing a "Strong Determination Sit" where I sit for 2 hours without moving. Dealing with the physical pain has been most interesting. Both Culadasa and Shinzen Young have mentioned the worth of this type of sits. Shinzen Young says almost all enlightened yogis have done these and is the fastest way to enlightenment. This is traditional enlightenment not technical enlightenment. See for Shinzen's talk on this. He describes a point where he says he freaks out during these sits and gives tips on how to deal with the pain. One tip he presents is to both focus in on the pain and focus out on the whole body at the same time. I try to deconstruct the suffering especially noticing my resistance. Anyone else have some techniques they use? I have one of these sits scheduled for tonight.
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The Practice of Non-preference 06 Dec 2015 13:46 #101542

At an IMS retreat where we did this, the teacher guided us through deconstructing techniques. In retrospect that seems extremely valuable for getting into the territory but somewhat manipulative.

At zen retreats where they get more into this I picked up as many as 3 approaches:
- using the pain as a concentration object
- one was allowing the pain sensations but in context of all sensations.
- become one with the pain by abandoning separation. This seemed the least manipulative.

A striking thing was that sitting through (surrendering to) a lot of difficult pain, which could sound punishing, could result in touchingly gentle, compassionate and unified feelings with the body.

I used to be able to tell the difference pretty well between damaging and non-injurious pain, and it seemed like keeping a good posture was an important piece. I've actually missed this practice, it seems like nowdays it's risky to sit too long, turns out to be damaging. Good luck! Interested to hear how it goes.
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The Practice of Non-preference 06 Dec 2015 16:22 #101543

I'm not a big fan of this style of practice, but it's worth trying at least for the experience of having done it. I agree Jack, when things get tough the main method is to see difference between resistance and the discomfort.

In general, longer sits are good for seeing new territory, but I would recommend doing it while allowing very very very slow adjustments in sitting position. In these gentler long sits, the main practice method is to see the difference between pleasurable sensations, uncomfortable sensations, and neutral sensations and the desires of attraction, aversion, and indifference by looking at the point of experience. These long sits are very good for distinguishing sensations from desire.
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The Practice of Non-preference 07 Dec 2015 08:40 #101549

Shargrol: For me, any movement including small movements would be against what I am trying to do. Yes, seeing small moments of joy and peace among those moments of discomfort is valuable.

Kacchapa: Thanks for responding.
"At zen retreats where they get more into this I picked up as many as 3 approaches:
"- using the pain as a concentration object" I do that at times and find it interesting and helpful.
"- one was allowing the pain sensations but in context of all sensations." I have started to do that.i.e., keeping both the pain and other body sensations in awareness at the same time. It helps.
"- become one with the pain by abandoning separation." This seems to happen when I put my attention on resistance. The resistance goes away along with separation.

Lately I have at times both on and off the cushion become aware of the stillness/pure awareness/peace that surrounds phenomena that arises. Last night during my 2 hour sit without moving, this would come up at times. There was the pain and there was the stillness/awareness/peace surrounding it. It helped dissipate the pain.
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