Vipassana Meditation (Part 3)

part 1
part 2

This covers my first Vipassana-like meditation, as described in chapter 5.

 Chapter 5



Seeing with wisdom means seeing things within the framework of our body/mind complex without prejudices or biases springing from our greed, hatred and delusion. Ordinarily when we watch the working of our mind/body complex, we tend to hide or ignore things which are not pleasant to us and to hold onto things which are pleasant. This is because our minds are generally influenced by our desires, resentment and delusion. Our ego, self or opinions get in our way and color our judgment.


When we mindfully watch our bodily sensations, we should not confuse them with mental formations, for bodily sensations can arise without anything to do with the mind. For instance, we sit comfortably. After a while, there can arise some uncomfortable feeling on our back or in our legs. Our mind immediately experiences that discomfort and forms numerous thoughts around the feeling.

Agreed. Whatever I pay attention to, prompts thoughts.

At that point, without trying to confuse the feeling with the mental formations, we should isolate the feeling as feeling and watch it mindfully. Feeling is one of the seven universal mental factors.


The other six are contact, perception, mental formations, concentration, life force, and awareness.

meaningless mumbo jumbo to me. needs explanation.

At another time, we may have a certain emotion such as, resentment, fear, or lust. Then we should watch the emotion exactly as it is without trying to confuse it with anything else. When we bundle our form, feeling, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness up into one and try to watch all of them as feeling, we get confused, as we will not be able to see the source of feeling. If we simply dwell upon the feeling alone, ignoring other mental factors, our realization of truth becomes very difficult.


We want to gain the insight into the experience of impermanence to over come our resentment;

huh? more undefined nonsense.

our deeper knowledge of unhappiness overcomes our greed which causes our unhappiness;

I’ll stop being greedy if I realize it’s causing my unhappiness. He appears to be claiming that I don’t even realize when I’m unhappy. It’s true that I sometimes don’t think at all about how I feel.

our realization of selflessness overcomes ignorance arising from the notion of self.

nonsense. ‘selflessness’ hasn’t even been defined. I have no idea what it is. For me, the ‘notion of self’ is just a fact. I’m a machine, distinct from other objects.

We should see the mind and body separately first. Having comprehended them separately, we should see their essential interconnectedness.

If they’re not separable, then why try to understand them in isolation? It only makes sense to think about “mind” because we can’t scan and model all the physical details of our own brain (and definitely not others’).

As our insight becomes sharp, we become more and more aware of the fact that all the aggregates are cooperating to work together. None can exist without the other. We can see the real meaning of the famous metaphor of the blind man who has a healthy body to walk and the disabled person who has very good eyes to see. Neither of them alone can do much for himself. But when the disabled person climbs on the shoulders of the blind man, together they can travel and achieve their goals easily. Similarly, the body alone can do nothing for itself. It is like a log unable to move or do anything by itself except to become a subject of impermanence, decay and death. The mind itself can do nothing without the support of the body. When we mindfully watch both body and mind, we can see how many wonderful things they do together.

My mind already coordinates quite well with my body. I’m not seeing any useful concrete advice, or evidence of advanced skill on the part of the uathor.

As long as we are sitting in one place we may gain some degree of mindfulness. Going to a retreat and spending several days or several months watching our feelings, perceptions, countless thoughts and various states of consciousness may make us eventually calm and peaceful.

Maybe. I wonder if I’ll ever try this.

Normally we do not have that much time to spend in one place meditating all the time. Therefore, we should find a way to apply our mindfulness to our daily life in order for us to be able to handle daily unforeseeable eventualities.


What we face every day is unpredictable. Things happen due to multiple causes and conditions,


as we are living in a conditional and impermanent world.

huh? zero descriptive value.

Mindfulness is our emergency kit, readily available at our service at any time. When we face a situation where we feel indignation, if we mindfully investigate our own mind, we will discover bitter truths in ourselves. That is we are selfish; we are egocentric; we are attached to our ego; we hold on to our opinions; we think we are right and everybody else is wrong; we are prejudices; we are biased; and at the bottom of all of this, we do not really love ourselves.

I agree that in being frustrated when interacting with others, I can be saddened by the person I seem to be. If “ego” means “delusional self-beliefs”, then I agree that we should try not to defend it. If “egocentric” means “not having a clear picture of, or really caring about, what’s going on in others’ heads”, then I agree that this causes us to miscalculate. That I’m selfish is not a problem; I’m not going to give up trying to win just because it’s sometimes frustrating.

This discovery, though bitter, is a most rewarding experience. And in the long run, this discovery delivers us from deeply rooted psychological and spiritual suffering.

Just knowing something about my nature doesn’t necessarily free me from my nature.

Mindfulness practice is the practice of one hundred percent honesty with ourselves.

This sounds like my style. But I also allow myself to be optimistic (when calculating the exact odds of success is too much work), or else I’ll never try anything hard. It can be valid to sacrifice precision at times, as long as the downside risk is roughly accounted for.

When we watch our own mind and body, we notice certain things that are unpleasant to realize. As we do not like them, we try to reject them. What are the things we do not like?


We do not like to detach ourselves from loved ones or to live with unloved ones.

Nor should we.

We include not only people, places and material things into our likes and dislikes, but opinions, ideas, beliefs and decisions as well.

Yes, I feel pleased and displeased to varying degrees by everything in my mind.

We do not like what naturally happens to us. We do not like, for instance, growing old, becoming sick, becoming weak or showing our age, for we have a great desire to preserve our appearance.

As is wise.

We do not like someone pointing out our faults, for we take great pride in ourselves.

Except in the company of those I know value me fairly, it’s true that I will irrationally defend myself because of status instinct. And probably I should, or else lose out to those who do. Nobody else is going to represent me in this way.

We do not like someone to be wiser than we are, for we are deluded about ourselves.

I love it, when they are on my side.

These are but a few examples of our personal experience of greed, hatred and ignorance.

When greed, hatred and ignorance reveal themselves in our daily lives, we use our mindfulness to track them down and comprehend their roots. The root of each of these mental states in within ourselves. If we do not, for instance, have the root of hatred, nobody can make us angry, for it is the root of our anger that reacts to somebody’s actions or words or behavior.

Even if it’s possible, why would I want to be incapable of anger?

If we are mindful, we will diligently use our wisdom to look into our own mind. If we do not have hatred in us we will not be concerned when someone points out our shortcomings. Rather, we will be thankful to the person who draws our attention to our faults. We have to be extremely wise and mindful to thank the person who explicates our faults so we will be able to tread the upward path toward improving ourselves. We all have blind spots. The other person is our mirror for us to see our faults with wisdom. We should consider the person who shows our shortcomings as one who excavates a hidden treasure in us that we were unaware of. It is by knowing the existence of our deficiencies that we can improve ourselves. Improving ourselves is the unswerving path to the perfection which is our goal in life. Only by overcoming weaknesses can we cultivate noble qualities hidden deep down in our subconscious mind. Before we try to surmount our defects, we should what they are.

1. are they correct? if so, believe it.
2. are they harming your status?
2a. then defuse it by thanking them and acting unconcerned for status (even if they’re wrong)
2b. fight their claim (even if they’re right)

If we are sick, we must find out the cause of our sickness. Only then can we get treatment. If we pretend that we do not have sickness even though we are suffering, we will never get treatment. Similarly, if we think that we don’t have these faults, we will never clear our spiritual path. If we are blind to our own flaws, we need someone to point them out to us. When they point out our faults, we should be grateful to them like the Venerable Sariputta, who said: “Even if a seven-year-old novice monk points out my mistakes, I will accept them with utmost respect for him.”

Easy, if he never happened to agree with anyone’s claim that he made a mistake.

Ven. Sariputta was an Arahant who was one hundred percent mindful and had no fault in him.

Useless information.

One who speaks with resentment cannot be mindful and is unable to express himself clearly. One who feels hurt while listening to harsh language may lose his mindfulness and not hear what the other person is really saying. We should speak mindfully and listen mindfully to be benefitted by talking and listening.

I thought being mindful was just being aware of your feelings and 100% self-honest. So I could feel resentful and know it - even know why I feel resentful - and still be mindful. I could also communicate clearly while choosing to be harsh, but it’s true that I should expect my target to bristle.

When we listen and talk mindfully, our minds are free from greed, selfishness, hatred and delusion.

If this is a substantive claim, I don’t understand it. I don’t see why my mind is free from such things just because I perceive them honestly and clearly.

Our goal is to reach the perfection of all the noble and wholesome qualities latent in our subconscious mind. This goal has five elements to it: Purification of mind, overcoming sorrow and lamentation, overcoming pain and grief, treading the right path leading to attainment of eternal peace, and attaining happiness by following that path.

I’ll summarize this as “reducing delusional beliefs, and freedom from the full weight of negative feelings”. I don’t think being fully content in the worst of external circumstances is really possible.

Once you sit, do not change the position again until the end of the time you determined at the beginning. Suppose you change your original position because it is uncomfortable, and assume another position. What happens after a while is that the new position becomes uncomfortable. Then you want another and after a while, it too becomes uncomfortable. So you may go on shifting, moving, changing one position to another the whole time you are on your mediation cushion and you may not gain a deep and meaningful level of concentration. Therefore, do not change your original position, no matter how painful it is.

Seems like bad advice.

 If you have never meditated before, sit motionless not longer than twenty minutes.


 if you keep quiet without moving you body, focusing your entire undivided attention on the subject of your meditation, your mind settles down and begins to experience the bliss of meditation.

I just tried 10 minutes after reading this far. I ended my meditation 5 seconds before the timer rang (my brain knows what 10 minutes is?).

I don’t avoid thoughts while meditating; I just try to not get emotionally agitated. Worries, plans, dissatisfactions, and concerns that came to mind had simple and easily reached explanations. My thoughts definitely don’t need fixing. When my temper/defensiveness is aroused, I definitely become combative and rash, but that doesn’t affect me normally, and I’m not so sure that it’s a terrible thing.

I felt good. I adjusted my position until I was comfortable, then remained for about 9 minutes. I heard people talking nearby, but that doesn’t distract me. I’ll do it again. I like being awake and free of significant distractions, so my thoughts are slower and less reactive. I’ve meditated in yoga class, but that context is somewhat distracting (I’m excessively conscious of how my body feels, and the fact that I’m in a class).

Aside from rest and quiet-thinking-time, I can see meditation as a possible emotional self-regulation practice - maybe similar to what you’d get by practicing controling some biofeedback indicator. I do feel something that could be described as being aware of different parts of my mind, especially the difference between what comes from my body’s senses and what comes (mostly) unprompted by them. I don’t feel any super bliss or “self is an illusion”.

I don’t feel transformed. Just relaxed. If I were more tired, a 10 minutes nap would probably be more relaxing. But I have more specific and pleasant memories of a meditation experience than a nap (where I sometimes remember a few disjointed seconds of sleep-thought).

Also, instead of paying attention to my breath as a fixed point as was recommended, I took something more abstract - my mortality. I think that’s the ultimate in true perspective.

To prepare for this attainment, we should keep our mind in the present moment. The present moment is changing so fast that the casual observer does not seem to notice its existence at all. Every moment is a moment of events and no moment passes by without noticing events taking place in that moment. Therefore, the moment we try to pay bare attention to is the present moment. Our mind goes through a series of events like a series of pictures passing through a projector. Some of these pictures are coming from our past experiences and others are our imaginations of things that we plan to do in the future.

The mind can never be focused without a mental object. Therefore we must give our mind an object which is readily available every present moment. What is present every moment is our breath. The mind does not have to make a great effort to find the breath, for every moment the breath is flowing in and out through our nostrils. As our practice of insight meditation is taking place every waking moment, our mind finds it very easy to focus itself on the breath, for it is more conspicuous and constant than any other object.

To get the bliss, focus on how you feel. That seems to be their recipe. Definitely a potential feedback loop. I didn’t do this. I just paid attention to my thoughts/feelings and didn’t spend more than a moment thinking about the referent of any one thought. Mostly I just thought about the thought itself, how it made me feel, and why I was having it (in simple, broad terms).

I’ll try this physical-present-focus-bliss recipe next time.

After sitting in the manner explained earlier and having shared your loving-kindness with everybody

I assume this means to remember a generalized love for all the people you can love. I don’t think it was defined earlier.

take three deep breaths. After taking three deep breaths, breathe normally, letting your breath flow in and out freely, effortlessly and begin focusing your attention on the rims of your nostrils. Simply notice the feeling of breath going in and out. When one inhalation is complete and before exhaling begins, there is a brief pause. Notice it and notice the beginning of exhaling. When the exhalation is complete, there is another brief pause before inhaling begins. Notice this brief pause, too. This means that there are two brief pauses of breath–one at the end of inhaling, and the other at the end of exhaling. The two pauses occur in such a brief moment you may not be aware of their occurrence. But when you are mindful, you can notice them.

Do not verbalize or conceptualize anything. Simply notice the in-coming and out-going breath without saying, “I breathe in”, or “I breathe out.” When you focus your attention on the breath ignore any thought, memory, sound, smell, taste, etc., and focus your attention exclusively on the breath, nothing else.

sound easy

In spite of your concerted effort to keep the mind on your breathing, the mind may wander away. It may go to past experiences and suddenly you may find yourself remembering places you’ve visited, people you met, friends not seen for a long time, a book you read long ago, the taste of food you ate yesterday, and so on. As soon as you notice that you mind is no longer on your breath, mindfully bring it back to it and anchor it there.

I don’t generally have this problem, except a few times a year when I’m insomniac.

However, in a few moments you may be caught up again thinking how to pay your bills, to make a telephone call to you friend, write a letter to someone, do your laundry, buy your groceries, go to a party, plan your next vacation, and so forth.

I do have such thoughts simmering below conscious notice (usually I’m too focused on my immediate task, but in meditating, they can pop up). It would be nice to temporarily disable them, as useful as they generally are.

 As soon as you notice that your mind is not on your subject, bring it back mindfully. Following are some suggestions to help you gain the concentration necessary for the practice of mindfulness.

I don’t see what the hurry is. I’d rather understand why my mind is on the subject, then return to neutral. After all, I want honesty, insight, and clear thinking.

1. Counting

In a situation like this, counting may help. The purpose of counting is simply to focus the mind on the breath. Once you mind is focused on the breath, give up counting. This is a device for gaining concentration. There are numerous ways of counting. Any counting should be done mentally.


2. Connecting

After inhaling do not wait to notice the brief pause before exhaling but connect the inhaling and exhaling, so you can notice both inhaling and exhaling as one continuous breath.

3. Fixing

After joining inhaling and exhaling, fix your mind on the point where you feel you inhaling and exhaling breath touching. Inhale and exhale as on single breath moving in and out touching or rubbing the rims of your nostrils.

redundant w/ 2. of course you’re supposed to pay attention to how you feel in the moment.

4. Focus you mind like a carpenter

A carpenter draws a straight line on a board and that he wants to cut. Then he cuts the board with his handsaw along the straight line he drew. He does not look at the teeth of his saw as they move in and out of the board. Rather he focuses his entire attention on the line he drew so he can cut the board straight. Similarly keep your mind straight on the point where you feel the breath at the rims of your nostrils.


5. Make you mind like a gate-keeper

A gate-keeper does not take into account any detail of the people entering a house. All he does is notice people entering the house and leaving the house through the gate. Similarly, when you concentrate you should not take into account any detail of your experiences. Simply notice the feeling of your inhaling and exhaling breath as it goes in and out right at the rims of your nostrils.


As you continue your practice you mind and body becomes so light that you may feel as if you are floating in the air or on water. You may even feel that your body is springing up into the sky. When the grossness of your in-and-out breathing has ceased, subtle in-and-out breathing arises. This very subtle breath is your objective focus of the mind. This is the sign of concentration. This first appearance of a sign-object will be replaced by more and more subtle sign-object.

I guess you probably can form several levels of concepts in your brain for the various subjective noticing-breathing colors

But the breath becomes subtler and subtler as the sign develops. Because of this subtlety, you may not notice the presence of your breath. Don’t get disappointed thinking that you lost your breath or that nothing is happening to your meditation practice. Don’t worry. Be mindful and determined to bring your feeling of breath back to the rims of your nostrils.

I disagree. You should do nothing. Maybe his recommendation is more likely to bring you the physical bliss, but if you want insight, I don’t see why you should obsess over a fixed point.

This is the time you should practice more vigorously, balancing your energy, faith, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom.

mumbo jumbo

As you keep your mind focused on the rims of your nostrils, you will be able to notice the sign of the development of meditation. You will feel the pleasant sensation of sign. Different meditators feel this differently. It will be like a star, or a peg made of heartwood, or a long string, or a wreath of flowers, or a puff of smoke, or a cob-web, or a film of cloud, or a lotus flower, or the disc of the moon or the disc of the sun.

Your spirit animal! I wonder how common such an association is, if not encouraged. Definitely I can close my eyes and at will recall visual imagery almost as in a dream.

Earlier in your practice you had inhaling and exhaling as objects of meditation. Now you have the sign as the third object of meditation. When you focus your mind on this third object, your mind reaches a stage of concentration sufficient for your practice of insight meditation. This sign is strongly present at the rims of the nostrils. Master it and gain full control of it so that whenever you want, it should be available. Unite the mind with this sign which is available in the present moment and let the mind flow with every succeeding moment. As you pay bare attention to it, you will see the sign itself is changing every moment.

It seems like he wants me to allow visual imagery to happen, and to not fix it to a single form. Good, that would be boring and maybe dangerous, like monitor burn-in :-)



Although I’ve tried meditation before, and will try it again, I recommend not reading “Mindfulness in Plain English”. It’s too much poor rhetoric, and doesn’t at all live up to its grand promises. I will say that imagining being part of some “set of other people who’ve lived through exactly this emotional experience” is more soothing than I expected, so I appreciate Mindfulness and other books for recommending it.

Gurus are mostly full of it. Don’t bother listening until you see evidence that they and their subjects are doing subtantially better than placebo. But if you like, go ahead and pick the placebo with the least costs. Maybe a life with no placebos at all is unnecessarily hard. After all, your skeptical purity is nothing to be proud of once you die (an inspiring example for others to live by? who cares - you’re dead).