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TOPIC: A non-insight related practice: what do you think?

A non-insight related practice: what do you think? 15 Nov 2013 18:16 #16446

I was talking with my friend today, who I admire for a feat of self transformation over the years and the pace at which he lives, and the conversation revealed what seems to be an almost practice-like thing he has been doing regarding negative mindstates (probably positive ones too), which is succinctly, trying to feel them in a different way, playing with the feeling, drawing it out into the limbs, or in into the gut, or with more of a heaviness, or a lightness, or whathaveyou.

What do you guys think about that as a practice?
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A non-insight related practice: what do you think? 15 Nov 2013 19:06 #16449

Bump and more info - he said through his experience this exercise taps into the minds ability to triumph against adversity via the will.
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A non-insight related practice: what do you think? 15 Nov 2013 19:23 #16450

I tend to value practices that seem to me most likely to lead to insight (or at least serve as crutches or props to help a person aim in that direction): practices that cultivate softness, gentleness, gratitude, humility, surrender, generosity, kindness, and aim us in the direction of recognizing we are NOT masters of our lives, but tiny moving parts in a vast and amazing universe. Good practice, from my current point of view, revolves around a humble acceptance of who we are, acknowledging our imperfection, weakness and quirks, and recognizing that we are truly loved just as we are. That we don't need to be heroes or hot shots, strong, powerful or cool to compensate for our feelings of inadequacy, but can instead surrender our broken selves to God, and realize that in the wholeness of relationship with Him, we are utterly loved and utterly worthy. Which can also be reframed as "be with things just as they are." Which is so simple, yet so challenging that people spend a lot of energy trying to do anything BUT be with things just as they are, because just as they are seems rather shitty. But it's not. If you observe it carefully, and over time, as basic practices like noting, just sitting, and even some forms of prayer are designed to encourage.

So for those reasons it doesn't seem to me a useful or interesting practice, but your mileage may vary (greatly).
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A non-insight related practice: what do you think? 15 Nov 2013 21:08 #16453

Regardless of the stated aim of the practice, looking into the way negative mind states manifest in the body, and practice ways of changing one by changing the other, is not that much different from some of the breath meditations taught in the early buddhist canon.

I think it's possible to use that practice to get through the first few stages of the progress of insight (or at least the first two - Mind & Body and Cause & Effect). If you hit the A&P and passed though to dark night territory, you'd likely get stuck there if your goal was to "control" and or otherwise willfully change your experience in some way.
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A non-insight related practice: what do you think? 15 Nov 2013 21:13 #16454

I forgot to add...

As an adjunct to insight practice, I don't know how helpful this kind of practice would be. It could potentially derail some of what you're working toward, depending on where you're at. For those who have yet to progress very far, this wouldn't be such a bad thing. It's better than being completely submerged and meshed with one's chaotic experience. Surrender isn't always the best option, either. *Broken Record Alert!* It just depends on where you're at.
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A non-insight related practice: what do you think? 16 Nov 2013 06:08 #16459

The problem I have seen, Jackson, with some kinds of practices that people take on to feel more control, power, will, authority etc. is that *usually* that is based on feeling weak, vulnerable, etc. and is used in an overly compensatory way, so that it adds layers of thickness to the fortress of defensiveness that (should the person ever wish to wake up) need to be taken down. And if there's years of practice at avoiding, fortressing, defending, manipulating etc on a gross level, it can be quite difficult to even start unpacking those habits.

This particular practice doesn't seem to have both feet in that bucket, but it's leaning in that direction. (As you point out, the part about observing feelings can be rather vipassana like, if it's not being too manipulative.)

Plenty of people cope with feeling unworthy, boring, sad, lonely, weak, small, etc through healthier strategies, such as talk therapy, healthy religious devotion (since unhealthy religious devotion can be used as a fortressing mechanism), self-acceptance, metta-type practice etc.

But, since you study this stuff, I'd be interested in whether you find there are good strategies for coping with a feeling of vulnerability or weakness that don't end up being unhealthy overcompensations, yet are fairly widely available and easy to apply?
Last Edit: 16 Nov 2013 06:35 by Ona Kiser.
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A non-insight related practice: what do you think? 16 Nov 2013 07:03 #16461

It seems like I used to do something very similar (a long time ago), taking more intense and difficult sensations, emotions, and moods and spreading them across my body, using that to both neutralize them and energize myself. It probably is more of a self-development practice than an insight practice.

Insight tends to come from the "where did this come from?" and "where did this go?" investigation. The practice above is more about "how is it here?"
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A non-insight related practice: what do you think? 16 Nov 2013 10:40 #16464

Ona, in terms of counseling, I think what you're saying is only true in some cases. Some people are genuinely absorbed in negative states cemented by thoughts/beliefs of helplessness. Getting a handle on one's sense of agency in life, and then having some "corrective experiences" (i.e. seeing that they CAN have SOME influence on how things turn out) can be tremendously empowering. I don't think many treatment plans would work without the client actually believing they had some influence over the way things might turn out.

The flip side of this can be dangerous, though, as you pointed out. Some people tend to flip flop between extremes, which can lead them to burn out on the agency side of the coin very quickly. That's why regular counseling can provide a context for appropriate feedback on the process.

Even in terms of insight practices, I agree that it's better to take on a more receptive approach, as opposed to a directive one. Nevertheless, the directive approach can lead to insights into the first few stages of insight, and fairly quickly. It's powerful to see how intention shapes perception in real time. But it can be hard to let go of a process that worked in the very recent past, which is why letting go of control is so important post-A&P.

I think it's okay to take a directive approach in the beginning, and for a teacher to make such an approach available as an option for their students, with one BIG caveat: the teacher should be clear that this will only work for so long. Maybe it should not be considered a "first line" practice, but rather as a potential (yet imperfect) fix for getting out of a really sticky spot, or even for cases when the first stages of insight just aren't showing up. Active manipulation of experience is pretty good for developing lower levels of concentration, which might be needed to get the insight ball rolling.
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A non-insight related practice: what do you think? 16 Nov 2013 11:12 #16465

An example of skillfully manipulating experience (specifically, the breath) for the sake of developing concentration can be found in Ajaan Lee's "Method 2" from his book, Keeping the Breath in Mind - www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html#method2

I think this is a helpful method to learn, even after first path. I didn't learn it until well after that. The only problem I have with it is that my mind has become so accustomed to allowing certain states to dissolve that this method will often launch me into an A&P as soon as some pleasant jhana factors start showing up with some intensity.

If one can already stay with their preferred object of meditation, or do fairly consistent noting, this method probably wouldn't be needed to get one going on the progress of insight.
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