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Mindfulness: The Practices

By Frank Simons

The Meditation Center presents the Tricycle retreat series What Is Mindfulness? “Part 2, Mindfulness: The Practices,” by Shinzen Young at 5:30pm, Thursday, October 22, at the Center, Callejón Blanco 4.

Film Meditation
Mindfulness: The Practices
By Shinzen Young
Thu, Oct 22, 5:30pm
Meditation Center
Callejón Blanco 4
Free, donations accepted
415 111 0644

A student asked Shinzen to elaborate regarding application of the practices. First, it’s important to distinguish “noting” from “labeling.”  Labeling is the words or phrases that accompany noting. As I choose to define it, noting is a rhythm of clear acknowledging and intent focusing. Using a word or a phrase (i.e., thinking to oneself or speaking a label) is merely an option, not an intrinsic of the noting process.

Secondly, it is true that sometimes people find the mental labeling to be effortful and agitating. It creates a lot of conceptual thought, tends to separate one from the thing observed, and makes it difficult to feel like you’re “going deep.” However, it’s important to realize that this is merely an initial effect that goes away with time. A useful analogy would be learning how to drive a car. At first, learning to drive is very effortful and agitating, and you have to be constantly thinking in order to do it. However, at some point, the skill becomes internalized and you’re able to process all that complex information and make all those complex decisions on autopilot. You get into the car and driving just happens. Acquiring noting skills follows a similar growth curve.

Finally, it’s important to realize that what noting really does is increase one’s sensory resolution power ( It’s not about making conceptual distinctions; it’s about making perceptual distinctions, such as being able to pick up subtler and more fleeting aspects of visual, auditory, and somatic experience.

To sum it up, the problems around noting cease to be problems when you’re clear about three things:

First, labeling and noting are not the same thing.

Second, even if labeling initially causes those negative effects, they tend to go away with time (One needs to distinguish between the initial experience of mental labeling—which is commonly problematic—and what the mental labeling eventually becomes once skill has developed).

Thirdly, one needs to understand that conceptual distinction is not the same thing as perceptual resolution.

Shinzen is known for his innovative “interactive, algorithmic approach” to mindfulness, a system specifically designed for use in pain management, recovery support, and as an adjunct to psychotherapy. He leads meditation retreats throughout North America and has helped establish numerous mindfulness centers and programs. He also consults widely on meditation-related research, in both the clinical and the basic science domains.

He often says, “My life’s passion lies in exploring what may arise from the cross-fertilization of the best of the East with the best of the West.” There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video. Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.


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