There is a form of insight meditation which in the past didn’t do much for me, but now makes more sense.
Notice whatever comes up in your awareness, and label it sensation, smell/taste, sound, sight or thought.
Effects of noticing simple categories
Noticing these simple categories seems to have several effects.
The main one is to allow each of these experiences to separate and live their own life. Specifically, they are liberated from stories about them, and the stories are liberated from being believed in.
In my case, the main relief comes from allowing sensations to separate from stories about them. And I also see that what I often label emotion is really a combination of sensation and thought.
I can see that each of these – sensations, thoughts and so on – are already separate. The only difference is in noticing that they already are, and allowing the stories to fall away. I also see that none of these are really separate, and that this separating out is just a tool – for finding a sense of ease with it all.
Practice and daily life
I take some time out to notice this more clearly, in between daily tasks and also before falling asleep. I may scan each category and see what I find there, or just allow things to come up in awareness and then label them.
And in daily life, I may notice the categories and the dynamics between them as things happen.
For instance, I was at the dentist yesterday and noticed stories arising about pain, I noticed a resistance to the pain and so on. Seeing this, I went back a few steps in the series of cascading effects, and saw that what was really happening was just a sensation and then thoughts about this sensation. Just seeing this allowed attention to stay with the simple sensation, allowing the stories about it to fall away or at least not go very far.
Without noticing the dynamics of this habitual sensation/thought connection, the stories arise, seem very real and important, and build upon themselves. It is pain, I shouldn’t be in pain, pain is uncomfortable, I don’t want to be uncomfortable, how can I avoid this pain, and so on.
When there is a noticing of sensation as a simple sensation and thoughts as just thoughts, the attachment to these stories seem to fall away. Maybe a first or second generation thought comes up, with not much substance to them, and the third and fourth and so on generation thoughts may not arise at all.
The drama and struggle is taken out of the situation. There is just utter simplicity and ease. Just being with whatever arising, with less or no need to attach to or push them away. As if attaching to or pushing away was possible in the first place.
There is a quieting down. There is clarity. Simplicity. And engagement as well, when that comes up.
I also see the tendency to use an informal and less thought through language when talking about these things.
Some examples of what seems more aligned with my current experience…
Sensations are already liberated from thoughts about them, and thoughts are already liberated from beliefs in them. There is only a pretending that they are not. And it seems that it has never been any different.
Also, what I often call resistance is really just a conglomerate of shifting attention, sensations and thoughts. When I don’t see it as a tenuous (really nonexisting) conglomerate, it seems very real, powerful and substantial. It can seem as a real problem, something to deal with.
Yet, when it is seen as just a tenuous conglomerate – or really as not existing at all – then the components fall (in our experience of them) into their own space. The connections among them are revealed as not real, as having not existed in the first place. When the connections are seen as not real, then the question just becomes – what was the problem? The sense of drama and struggle resolves and dissolves, and reveals the clarity that was always there.
Nothing needs to change, apart from the noticing. Nothing can really change, apart from the noticing. Before the noticing, there is drama, struggle and a sense of a very substantial and real problem. After the noticing, this is all seen as only an appearance. There is just ease, clarity and simplicity.