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  1. Dear Everyone I have some questions regarding Samatha Meditation and Anapanasati meditation, what are the similarities and differences between them? Does the practice of Anapanasati lead to Samatha ("tranquility of the mind", or "mind-calmness")? Are both intertwined conceptually? Does either practice lead to a similar outcome? Does anyone know of any resources for Samatha practice (I am interested)? I am currently reading Practical Insight Meditation by Mahási Sayádaw which has lead to some clarification. Lately I have decided to take a step back from Vipassana meditation and prioritize more on relaxation meditation (Yoga Nidra) daily and maintain an Anapanasati practice. Yet I'm a bit confused and seeking some clarity on the topic. I often believe that I just over analyzing the process which is common with me. Any thoughts, insights, or advice from those who encountered the similar issues would be kindly appreciated. Kind Regards Rui
  2. Kit suggested that I started a new thread on tinnitus, extracing postings from my earlier thread on Body Awareness. So here it is. Most of what is here will have been removed from the earlier thread to avoid duplication, but some will remain to keep continuity. Jim: Here’s my essay on the differences between what I call the natural approach, and the biological approach, using tinnitus as an example. Its needs to be long, but we all know we need to get away from the sound-bite culture, so I am sure you will bear with me – and even read to the end. Kit: “Let me illustrate my thesis by mentioning that I have severe tinnitus (to the extent of being functionally deaf in my L ear) but this is not any kind of problem for me (I have been a meditator for 30-odd years, and awareness and relaxation a special focus). In other words, my mind de-emphasises what could otherwise be maddening. The same techniques can be useful in all similar problems.” Jim: First, some background. It is now clear that the great majority of cases of tinnitus are due to denervation hypersensitivity – i.e., when deprived of its normal input, the central nervous system generates its own activity instead. Therefore although Kit has suggested the tinnitus made him deaf in the left ear, I suggest the causation was probably the other way round. There was probably some earlier hearing loss (maybe so little that it was not noticed), and the tinnitus developed as a result. The hearing loss then progressed further, so appeared to be the result, not the cause, of the tinnitus. The second point I want to make about tinnitus is that many people find it very ANNOYING. It is like those sounds that may not matter to us at first (neighbours’ music, dripping taps, etc) but after a bit they get on our wick, and can become overwhelming. Part of this response is our feeling that the sound SHOULD NOT HAPPEN – but we are helpless in doing anything about it. And it does not need to be very loud for this to happen. In the “natural” approach, this annoyance reaction, which drives the very negative effects of tinnitus, is uncoupled, by meditation or other techniques. The sound remains present, but has become neutral in its effects. This is clearly the method that Kit has used. The advantages of this method are that it needs no equipment or specialist medical input, and the methods developed can be applied to a wide range of situations. Very valuable indeed! Until recently, this was the only approach available. Indeed, when I first developed my own tinnitus a decade or two ago, and went to a friend who was an ENT surgeon for an assessment, and his response was “Just put up with it. I can put up with mine and it doesn’t trouble me.” So it was clearly OK for him. The trouble is, this does not work for many people. It did not work for me, much as I would have liked it to. And when people are told to fix something themselves, when they have come for help and clearly cannot fix themselves, then this can lead to despair, increased stress, and a worsening of their symptoms in a vicious spiral downwards. Tinnitus is sometimes described as so stressful that it leads people to suicide, though the statistics show this only happens in those who are also facing a lot of other stressors at the same time. Luckily I knew therapy was available, and went straight round the corner to the next clinic and got it. This is called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. For anyone reading this, who has tinnitus, this is what you should be putting into Google to find a practitioner. The logic, backed by data from animal experiments, is that every time we let tinnitus annoy us, the neural connections between the auditory pathways and the parts of the brain that signal annoyance get strengthened. Every time we have tinnitus and it does not annoy us, the connections get weakened. The basis of tinnitus retraining therapy is (among other things) to play a sound through headphones that sounds rather like the tinnitus, but not quite, at roughly comparable loudness, so we can hear both at once. The sound through the headphones does not annoy us, because we can control it if we want, and by directing our attention to that sound rather than the tinnitus, the neural pathways connecting the tinnitus to the annoyance parts of the brain get weakened. The result is that though we can often still hear the tinnitus once the headphones are removed, it does not annoy us any more. And because the neural pathways are getting weakened, the tinnitus might disappear completely – or, as commonly happens, come back briefly (and not annoyingly) only when our attention is drawn to it (by someone talking about tinnitus, for instance). My guess is that Kit used meditation and other techniques to achieve the same uncoupling. Many people however need help to achieve this. The next stage of my own tinnitus journey happened a year or so ago, when my hearing loss (probably as a result of ageing) progressed further, and under this extra challenge, the tinnitus returned. But I was already using the tinnitus retraining techniques on my own as a routine. How could I deal with this new challenge? Here I turned to my scientific training (and I was also inspired I should add by an article in the Weekend Australian that you might have seen, about an American called Moskowitz who conquered his own chronic pain through visualisations - this is also described in “The Brains Way of Healing” by Norman Doidge). It is known that if an area of the brain is deprived of its normal input, neural connections from adjacent areas will invade and initiate their own activity (actually, the connections are probably there all along, but their activity is normally suppressed). In hearing, this means that if a part of the brain that normally responds to signals at say 8 kHz is no longer getting an input, neurones responding to say 6 kHz, will end up activating the area (much of the pioneering work on this was done at Monash). So with the guidance of my audiogram, which showed a steeply rising hearing loss at 8 kHz, I made up a stimulus with its energy concentrated just below this frequency, using the free sound editing program Audacity. I took some music (rather repetitive guitar music) speeded it up so it sounded like a twittering (so it would be meaningless but have temporal fluctuations that would keep the system stimulated), shifted it in frequency and then filtered it, so all the energy was all in the 6 – 8 kHz band, and put it as a loop on my ipod and listened at a level just above detection threshold. I put it on to fall asleep at night, and lo and behold, the tinnitus went very quickly. So this showed how an increased understanding of the physiology could make a cure when other methods had failed. There are a few interesting points I can make now. One is that when I first heard my new auditory stimulus, I felt “YES”! Somehow I felt very welcoming towards it. It was though the sound was an old friend, that I had been wanting to hear all along, and had been missing. I suggest that at long last neurones that had been deprived of stimulation were getting some, and this produced a welcoming emotional response. Similar reactions have been noted by others when their aberrant neural inputs have been corrected. Second point – why can tinnitus be so very annoying? This may seem no-brainer, but once the question is posed, you realise, why is it so different from the other sounds that we hear all the time that do not annoy us? The reason comes down to the neurophysiology. The auditory system, like all other sensory systems, has different components. We have the specific system, which I can liken to a motorway. It is fast and efficient and its job is to get the signals analysed precisely and quickly so that they can be acted on cognitively with minimal delay. But the motorway pathways are surrounded by other pathways, more like country lanes. They are slower, meander, and connect with lots of other pathways (and to other sensory modalities as well). They also preferentially connect to the emotional systems, including attention and arousal which also means annoyance. For reasons peculiar to their cell biology, these pathways seem particularly sensitive to the loss of normal input, and so become particularly hyperactive when deprived. So any stimulus that does get in, will drive the “annoyance” response particularly strongly. This is why tinnitus can be so annoying. Finally, do these findings suggest a drug treatment, so we can just pop a pill and forget about it? (no more hard work!) While animal studies have suggested drugs that might be useful, none in practice have turned out to be particularly effective, or without too many drawbacks. But it is quite likely that one day these studies will show an effective drug treatment. So in summary how do I compare the “natural” and “biological” approaches? The natural approach is simple, low tech, and can potentially be applied to many different situations. However it takes time and discipline and not many people it seems can achieve it. The biological approach needs input from professionals, and costs money, but is usually very effective, even for people for whom the natural approach has failed completely. And one can use it to derive variants (as I did) to deal with situations of varying difficulty. But both approaches have the same underlying logic (almost, anyway - my second approach was doing something different). One could say that the biological approach uses targeted baby steps, devised as a result of understanding the biology, to achieve the same result as the purely natural approach, and that the desired outcome is more easily achievable by a wider range of people. Finally – and here I am going into deep water and may regret it. But why can some people make the natural approach work and others not? Clearly, practice and discipline come into it. But as well as that, there may be some underlying biological variables that we do not know about. My ENT surgeon implied that there was not an issue – dealing with tinnitus came naturally to him. He is (or was then) a nice, calm, social, well adjusted person who could stand a lot of stress – just what is needed in a surgeon who has to perform very delicate and sometimes life-threatening operations for hours on end (life-threatening when they do intracranial surgery). Very different from a scientist like me who has chosen another path, because it suited my own very different basic temperament. Is this a factor? I don’t know. However we do tend to make moral judgements about peoples’ responses to these situations, when in fact it may be driven by basic differences in biology (types of neurotransmitter enzymes inherited for instance). As for a lit review on tinnitus, which Kit mentioned, a little book called "An Introduction to the Phyisology of Hearing" by one James O. Pickles has a few pages on it, though it is not at an introductory level (my little joke - when I was starting to study science, all the most advanced books seemed to be called "An Introduction to..." - implying now you're getting onto the REAL stuff). Jim. Kit: I would love to read your book; I just tried to order it from Amazon, but an error message was returned "we cannot ship to your nominated address". WTF? Jim: First, some background. It is now clear that the great majority of cases of tinnitus are due to denervation hypersensitivity – i.e., when deprived of its normal input, the central nervous system generates its own activity instead. Therefore although Kit has suggested the tinnitus made him deaf in the left ear, I suggest the causation was probably the other way round. There was probably some earlier hearing loss (maybe so little that it was not noticed), and the tinnitus developed as a result. The hearing loss then progressed further, so appeared to be the result, not the cause, of the tinnitus. Kit: This very likely is true and I was going to make exactly the same point about plantar fasciitis: removing what I consider to be the necessary stimulation from one's feet by insulating them from the environment (shoes) is the cause: the brain/neural system needs this information, and 'looks harder' for it by turning up the volume on the signal from the plantar fascia. Hypersensitivity of the plantar fascia is the result. I wonder how much of EDS might be explained by similar mechanisms, and whether the Mast cell activation syndrome difference is the result of this, rather than the cause? Yes please to starting a tinnitus thread, and cut and paste from the threads above. Re. my L ear: I think that both processes proceeded; in the sense that the loudness of the tinnitus increased as well as the deafness increased. One of the reasons I have not had my hearing tested for so many years is that I think the hearing aid technology that does allow one to hear better does not change the tinnitus. The retraining therapy you mention is of interest to me; perhaps we can talk about this some time. (End of extract) Jim.
  3. Hello all, My previous attempts at letting go and allowing emotions to pass almost always result in suppression. Example: I would get mildly annoyed at something at my mother would ask of me and instead of my usual outburst and gruffness I would attempt to change my response to the situation by changing my behaviour. The result was always that several minutes later I would be even more angry than before. Example 2: Sensitivity to noise. In the lying meditations, there are many examples of "letting a sound pass through the body and not leaving a trace" yet my attempts to do so result in an even stronger response than if I completely ignored the instruction. I currently have hyper sensitivity to noise when attempting to sleep and any medium loud sound will provoke an anxiety response in my body which makes it incredibly difficult to sleep. My current strategy is to distract myself enough with one of the recorded lying meditations to cause me to fall asleep so that the anxiety response is temporary rather than recurring through the night. Having tried allowing and letting go and being not only unsuccessful but even negative, I guess the first step would be how do I recognise that I'm suppressing? Then the next step would be, how do I actually let go? Sai
  4. I enjoy listening to music during my flexibility/mobility/stretching/limbering/etc. sessions, which can amount to 2hrs long per day. It's the one thing that changes from workout to workout, and helps keep me motivated to do the same exercises every day. From listening to the coffee shop conversations, awareness is highly touted, and is considered the primary focus. Do you listen to music during your sessions? Is listening to music a "distraction", hindering my cultivation of awareness? Thanks, Alex
  5. Hi everyone, new member here. I've been redirected to this forum from the Facebook page of ST, I already knew this community and the reason why I didn't come here in the first place is because my issue has more to do with meditation than stretching. Or at least that was what I initially thought: I've read the “start here” section and know I think this could be the right place to ask for help. This may be a long post and I'm not a native English speaker, so please be patient and forgive grammar/syntax errors. Near the end of 2012 my path of self-improvement made me discover contemplative practices and by the start of 2013 I had established a daily sitting meditation practice. Being an anxious person, I immediately noticed a great improvement of life-quality and I felt such relieved that I thought I had found the Sacred Graal. I kept the habit and gradually lengthened the duration of mi sits to 30 minutes, in the meantime I was reading a lot about the topic, as well as asking question on Reddit when I happened to face challenges. I did not have a teacher, at the time, but I felt I was progressing because my mind was becoming clearer every day and my body relaxation was improving too. 1.5 years ago there was a big turning point: a Reddit user, a complete stranger, became to me something close to a teacher; his suggestions were really on spot and the practice began to truly transform me. I was practicing two times a day, every day, for 30 minutes each: one session of Vipassanā and one session of Samatha. What do I mean when I say “transformation”? Well, you have to know that since the beginning of my Path I've had troubles with posture. I sat in a chair, with my butt slightly elevated by a folded blanket and, although that was the only situation I could meditate in, I never felt really balanced and occasionally my spine would even collapse; those issues could make my practice really uncomfortable, but then again, I saw discomfort as a tool. All of that changed during one sit: I was practicing Samatha, putting all of my attention on the breath passing under the nostrils, and for some reason I was putting quite a lot of effort in the task. Suddenly the bell rang to announce the end of the practice and then something happened: I let go of all the tensions in my body and the activity of watching the breath became truly effortless for the first time. In all of the following sits I brought the same quality of mind, as a result my concentration deepened as well as my relaxation. My posture suddenly wasn't a problem anymore, my whole body was perceived as something far away: when I was watching the breath, there was only the breath. Vipassanā practice also improved a lot because of my laser-like focus combined with muscle relaxation, I was able to dismantle every sensation into tiny vibrations; it was amazing. For the first time I was deeply enjoying every session, to the point I started to sneak in micro-meditations from time to time; 10 minutes of Samatha were able to rest my body-mind a lot more than 1h of sleep. Those qualities weren't present only during formal sits: my daily life improved on so many levels. I was calmer, happier, more compassionate, my mind was clearer and negative events had less hold on me. One day I reached my peak: during a 10 minutes Samatha session I felt pure joy rushing to my chest at every inhalation, while my head was becoming lighter; I'm now prone to believe I was near the state some folks call “jhana”. The most amazing thing was the aftermath, though: I was happy, I felt my body light like 20+ years of emotional baggage were suddenly lifted from my shoulders, my voice was deeper and I could see beauty everywhere. Those sensations lasted for six hours or so, until I went to bed. I replicated the same experience during the following session, but unfortunately things then got a lot worse. I don't really know the cause, although I suspect it has to do with stress linked to some unfortunate events, the fact is is started feeling tension all over my face while meditating. Usually observing with equanimity is enough to soften every kind of tension, but that time didn't work. Those pressures made almost impossible for me to effectively focus on my breath, so I started to worried and wishing them to go away…of course the only result was they got worse. I lost my laser-like concentration, I lost my relaxation, I lost a lot of fruits of my practice. I still meditate everyday at the best of my abilities, but I feel stuck in a vicious circle. That hindrance appeared a little more than a year ago and I've been tried to figure out what happened ever since. I immediately understood the problem was somewhere in my body, so I signed for a yoga course (best decision ever) and I discovered the main issues was in my neck-jaw: I have a lot of tensions there; oddly enough, I've always somatized stress in my stomach, but for some reason the pattern has changed now. My researches made me aware of my postural problems and now I'm trying to fix them, hoping that will help with my practice. I've anterior pelvic tilt, and my head is leaning forward, I also have tight pectorals and tight scalenes (despite the weak neck flexors). Kit videos on YouTube and Vimeo have been really useful to address the tension in my body and I'm extremely thankful for them, I now stretch daily my hip flexors and my neck-jaw with great relief. That partly helps to improve my meditation sessions, but I still have way too much troubles, although not as many as one year ago. I've also started meditating on the floor (burmese style), but with erratic results despite stretching my muscle as Kit explained in a dedicated video on Vimeo. I think I'll try a kneeling position with a meditation bench. I've also come to terms with my ego by admitting I cannot consider myself more than an “amateur(ish) meditator”, so I got back to the basis: now I just do one session a day of Samatha, trying to apply the technique instructions at my best. Despite what may seem (or at least seems to me) a complete failure, I think I've learned something. During the time when my practice was smooth I used to think focus provided relaxation, but now I'm realizing it's not quite like that: relaxation is the basis to allow the development of a steady focus, that increased concentration will bring further relaxation into the body and this will allow the focus to become even stronger; moreover a tense body is linked to a busy mind, although I'm not sure what comes first. In short: I need to relax my body and I need meditation tips. I don't have someone to ask this questions anymore, so I'm "begging" help here. I've written a lot, so it's better to end here, but I can provide further information if needed. Thanks for your time.
  6. I will be trekking in Nepal for a few months so I will have a lot of down time to read. My list in no specific order for now is: The Bhagavad Gita Tao Te Ching Romance of the Three Kingdoms Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal The Man Without Qualities The Reenchantment of the World The Story of My Experiments With Truth Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai The Analects Shen Gong and Nei Dan in Da Xuan https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/45663958-spencer-currie This is my full list of my books as well on goodreads if anyone else uses the site and wants to share their profile. I probably will not be able to read all these, but it's a good start. I have looked through the recommended reading section and there is just too many books. Does anyone have any specific recommendations based upon this list? EDIT: Accidentally didn't post this in the Recommended reading section.
  7. I started this book based upon a recommendation from Craig. It only took me two days to finish so that might mean something. It feels like a book that will need to be looked back upon as I progress in my Shen Gong and Nei Dan, but as it states practice is the most important part. I wanted to give it an initial review of my thought while reading it to see what else everyone found while reading the book. For me while reading I was doing a bit of reflection on my past training and trying to analyze the training based upon the principles in the book. I found it very interesting to look back at when I was training Olympic Weightlifting very heavily. Usually about 20-30 hours a week for over a year with no breaks. I was able to do this because at the time I had a lot of Excess Jing. Or at least it felt that way, because I was never really tired during that period. This was without any conscious Jing accumulation. Maybe I have a lot of Jing from my parents or I feel as though I was getting enough from other areas of my life. During that time I was sleeping very well and almost never has a night with less then 8 hours and I was eating a Paleo diet which is very close to the Daoist diet mentioned in the book. On top of that without ever thinking about it after a lift I would sit and focus on my breath between lifts so maybe I was accumulating some Jing there as well. This as a bit of speculation and I have started the specific exercises in the book so it will be interesting to see if the feeling is the same. Along with the energy for me weightlifting was my meditation. I am not a get psyched lifter. I find that style very wasteful and the results I believe speak for themselves. In the world of Olympic Weightlifting the people who are the most calm before the lift tend to be the strongest. They are wasting less of their Jing and allowing themselves to give it all to the lift. This is speculation and maybe a greater understanding of the principles might change that, but it's something I emulated while training. This can be related to Nei Gong and doing the motion without thought. I wish I could find the actual story, but it goes like this. There was a female Russian weigtlifter who was one of the best in the world. In practice she would be able to lift weights that were the highest in the world, but as soon as she got into competition came she would miss all her lifts and weightlifters call it bomb out. The coach was trying all he could to fix this but it kept happening. Because of her lack of success in competition the Russians were thinking about sending another lifter to what may have been the world championship. They decided because she was still making huge lifts in practice to send her. She goes out for the snatch Session and misses her first lift. The coach is trying to tell her to think about practice and to do it like practice. She is getting frustrated with herself and her next attempt and she misses it again. At this point she is really upset and cannot figure out what is going wrong. Her coach is again trying to give her ques to think about but she's just getting more upset. I believe at this point they have to make an increase in weight to give her more time and so she still has a chance in the competition. She's trying to think about the lift and how to do it and is really mad at not getting the other attempts. She then gets called to lift and goes up and makes the lift. The coach is amazed and is trying to figure out how she was able to. She made it looks easy. As she comes off the platform her coach asks her. How did you make the lift? What were you thinking? She replies... Nothing. I think the anxiety and other factors forced her into Nei Gong and she was able to go to that subconscious from her countless other hours of Wei Gong training the leads to this subconscious. Within my weightlifting training you do practice Wei Gong and Nei Gong with different sessions. In weightlifting Nei Gong the focus is less on the breath but more on the senses and sensations. You're trying to feel where the bar is in space, where the weight distribution is, where your body position is. This may not be the true Nei Gong because it seems to be more breath focused, but because of the lack of breath in the movement you must focus on other aspects of the lift. Along with that I found that looking back I would use a form of Nei Dan in between lifts. It was by no means as perfect and would be very clouded with though, but remembering the best days I had after a lift I would sit and ficus on calming my breath and keeping that my focus after making a lift. With this I would be back to lifting much quicker. While compared to a really bad day of lifting there would be too much commenting during this time and the recovery time would be much longer. Focusing on the breath was near impossible on these days. Using the book as a reflection has shown where the biggest holes in my training are. Like most people it is within the mind in practicing Shen Gong and to a little lesser extent Nei Dan. Today I started 30 minutes of Shen Gong and 30 minutes of Nei Dan so I hope to update this and give a review after practicing for some time. I won't be weighlifting for at least a few months so it will be interesting to see what differences I may notice in my training once I go back. Along with that as I reread sections as needed to evolve my practice I may have different interpretations or maybe my initial interpretations are wrong and if so let me know.
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