To note, or not to note, that is the question

When sitting in meditation, doing Mahasi Sayadaw style insight meditation, I understand I’m supposed to mentally watch the rising and falling of the abdomen when breathing, noting “rising” and “falling”, and note anything else that arises. However, the question is: Do I note every single little thing? Do I note extremely vague, barely existent little fragmented half thoughts that are in the background, and don’t at all draw one away from the rising and falling of the abdomen? And so on? Or do I note only what significantly impacts my meditation?

I reason that a conclusion on this can be drawn from Practical Insight Meditation, by Mahasi Sayadaw. For example, on page 13, the Venerable writes:

Did you happen to hear the sound of a voice? Did you listen to it? If
so make the mental note of hearing, listening, and having
done so, revert to rising and falling.

Hence, my conclusion is that a little background fragmented half thought, and similar things, need not be noted, but only ones that are significant.

If not, and even the tiniest, barely existent, and unformed background thing must be noted, what of an occasional particularly fuzzy meditation session where there are constant little vague background thoughts? Is this session just a constant blur of noting those little thoughts?

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Dear Zans,

I haven’t read in depth about the Mahasi method. But I have heard some opposite ideas which are different from the methods of modern Mahasi teachers (who may or may not be following the original method).

If my memory is correct,

From Pa auk and IIT circles:

  • No one can do vipassana on the Current moment. Because a Citta can’t see itself. When one contemplate a moment, it has already been the past.

From IIT circles:

  • Vipassana is investigating/ contemplating/ inferencing and understanding the nature of Realities(World).

  • Attention is a support for it but it is not Vipassana.

  • It is not always necessary to contemplate the present moment, in order it to be a Vipassana. Sometimes Vipassana can be about a lengthy present, a Past event, an imagined event …etc.

  • Vipassana means seeing the two types of Characteristics of Realities along with Causality.

    1. Individual characteristic (hardness …etc) of each realities.

    2. Causality (Kamma citta …etc in Patisambhidamagga, Paticcasamuppada process, and also Patthana method if possible)

    3. Common characteristics (impermanence, suffering and non-self)

  • It is not necessary to watch each and every small details of the obeject, but to understand the nature of it according to the above 3 ways.

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The Mahāsi Sayādaw’s Discourse on the Mālukyaputta Sutta shows how to note thoughts that crop up during meditation.

Apply the same principle to sounds, feelings, and other secondary objects. Just note them, without getting involved in them, then return to the primary object of the rising and falling movements of the abdomen.

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Thank you Venerable. Every time I go to Aimwell, I get an error message.

This page isn’t working If the problem continues, contact the site owner.

Found this on a Vipassana site:

These instructions are drawn from the vipassana traditions of Mahasi Sayadaw and Chao Khun Bhavanapirama Thera

When should you deliberately focus on a secondary object? If a secondary object makes only a faint impression on the periphery of your awareness and does not strongly hook your attention, ignore it and continue observing the primary meditation object. In that case, of course, you don’t need to label the secondary object with a mental note.

But if a secondary object hooks your attention and pulls it away, or if it causes desire or aversion to appear, you should focus on the secondary object for a moment or two, labeling it with a mental note. After that, drop it and resume watching the primary meditation object. Only observe one thing at a time.

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No. Never. While noting on a prevailing feeling, one should not try to note this and that, and become restless. It’s ok to keep noting just rising and falling feeling, ignore everything else. It’s good to train in very quiet room because sound is always a problem for meditators.
If sound or itch prevails, note it because it is much stronger feeling than the rise and fall feeling. But never to be busy.

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There is something wrong with your browser. It doesn’t allow you to visit “insecure” sites with an http:// address. Try Vivaldi or Firefox.

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Thank you.

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Thank you Venerable, I tried 4 different browsers: Firefox, Webroot’s browser, Microsoft Edge, and Google. It worked only on Webroot’s browser on my phone.

BTW if someone can read Burmese, read this: Redirecting...

From Mahasi Sayadaw & Buddha Sasana facebook

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If it breaks your concentration, it need be noted, e.g. sound of something falls, the purpose is to prevent the mind from being distracted by it by triggering mindfulness.

If it does not break your concentration, it does not need to be noted, e.g. white noise like the sound of a fan.

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Continuous Mindfulness of a simple here and now truth like the breath is going in, the breath is going out, the gaps in between allows for the detaching from tendencies to crave and ignore. While doing so, something arises that hooks the attention.

The act of noting is simply an act of detaching. As soon as one has stopped identifying with the arisen distraction and detached one returns to training continuous mindfulness of the object of meditation, the breath as it is in the here and now.