Contemporary Noting Techniques
Mahasi noting technique has inspired various contemporary meditation teachers, who have created their own alterations. Below you may find the most popular ones.
Kenneth Folk’s Detailed (Freestyle) Noting
The following text is an excerpt from the article about Kenneth Folk’s technique:
When doing noting practice, preferably aloud, you have to decide whether to do a very detailed noting or a more sparse or skeletal noting. A skeletal noting technique, for example, would be to just choose from these six notes: seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, and thinking.
Detailed noting, however, is better than skeletal noting. That’s because detailed noting “uses up” the available processing power of your mind, and that is exactly what you want to do. If you are noting in a way that requires all of your attention, your mind will not wander and you will not suffer. It’s that simple. If, on the other hand, you use a noting technique that only requires 30% of the processing power of your mind, what are you going to do with the other 70%? You’re going to suffer! Try it and see!
Instructions from Kenneth Folk’s “3 Speed Transmission” framework texts
The following text is an excerpt from an older text by Kenneth Folk regarding his 3 Speed Transmission Framework:
What would I say if I had just five minutes to give comprehensive instructions for awakening?
You are unenlightened to the extent that you are embedded in your experience. You think that your experience is you. You must dis-embed. Do that by taking each aspect of experience as object (looking at it and recognizing it) in a systematic way. Then, surrender entirely.
Do these practices, exactly as written:
Objectify body sensations. If you can name them, you aren’t embedded there. Notice sensations and note to yourself: “Pressure, tightness, tension, release, coolness, warmth, softness, hardness, tingling, itching, burning, stinging, pulsing, throbbing, seeing, tasting, smelling, hearing.” If I am looking at something it is not “I”.
Objectify feeling-tone. Are sensations pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral? If you can sit there for five minutes and note pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral every few seconds, you are not embedded at that layer of mind.
Objectify mind states. Investigation, curiosity, happiness, anxiety, amusement, sadness, joy, anger, frustration, annoyance, irritation, aversion, desire, disgust, fear, worry, calm, embarrassment, shame, self-pity, compassion, love, contentment, dullness, sleepiness, bliss, exhilaration, triumph, self-loathing. Name them and be free of them. These mind states are not “you;” we know this because if there is a “you” it is the one who is looking, not what is being looked at. Below, we will challenge the notion that there is any “you” at all.
Objectify thoughts. Categorize them: planning thought, anticipating thought, worrying thought, imaging thought, remembering thought, rehearsing thought, scenario spinning thought, fantasy thought, self-recrimination thought. Come up with your own vocabulary and see your thoughts as though they belong to someone else. The content of your thoughts is not relevant except to the extent that it helps you to label and therefore objectify them.
- Noting Body Sensations
- Noting Thoughts
- Noting Pleasant & Unpleasant
- Noting Mind States
- Freestyle Noting Meditation (a combination of all four categories)
Vincent Horn’s Videos on the 4 Categories
In the following series of videos, Vincent Horn, a Pragmatic Dharma teacher and student of Kenneth Folk (among others), gives his own explanation and instructions on each one of the 4 categories (foundations of mindfulness):
- The Four Categories of Experience
- The 1st Category: Body Sensations
- The 2nd Category: Charge
- The 3rd Category: Mind States
- The 4th Category: Thoughts
- Sliding Between Mind States & Thoughts
Daniel Ingram’s Fast Noting
Excerpts from Nicolai Halay’s article on thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com:
In his book, Mastering the Core Teachings of Buddha, Daniel Ingram gave an analogy for his style of noting called “shooting aliens”. Essentially it is a very fast style of noting that could entail noting as fast as once or twice per second or even more. I would note up to 3 times per second. When passing through specific stages of insight, I began to note with what Daniel Ingram called “mental taps” like “dat, dat”. I would often mentally tap a phenomenon that had been noticed with the mental note “hm, hm”. This way, I could notice and note a lot distinct phenomena of mind or body per second. This would be very stage specific when the mind felt like it had sped up and was able to register more phenomena than usual. In my experience, the 4th, 5th and 11th stage of insight would usually entail noting very fast like this.
He goes on to describe how “the speed, precision and playful attitude required for video games is exactly like the feel of well-done insight practices. If you watch some kid playing a fast alien-shooting game, you will notice that they are really going for it. They are shooting very fast and definitely not thinking about anything but doing that. This is exactly the sort of dedication and passion that helps with insight practices.”
Having this analogy of “shooting aliens” gave the sense that I had to always be alert for anything that presented itself to awareness in each and every moment. Whatever it was, I needed to notice then note it without pause. Over time, this style seemed to heighten my sensitivity to all the mental and physical phenomena that arose to take centre stage in the moment. I felt like a cowboy with his six shooters always at the ready, on alert for any trouble.
Daniel Ingram explains that “when our mindfulness and investigation are on hair trigger, being aware of every little sensation that arises and passes, we are bound to win sooner or later. The motto, “Note first, ask questions later,” is just so helpful if we are to keep practicing precisely without getting lost in the stories.”