4 Step transition and attention/awareness

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Black Ghost 1 year, 11 months ago.

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    Black Ghost

    Hello everyone – first post here after picking up a copy of TMI a few weeks ago. It’s interesting reading and I’ve read lots of posts on the forum here. I’ve been practicing for around 3 years but have had a lapse of not doing any the past few months so I’ve gone through a fair bit of the book by now and am trying to do 3×40 minute sessions a day currently. I have a couple of things I’m unsure how best to approach when doing the 4 Step transition to the meditation object.

    1. It mentions in step 3 (p51):
    “If you want to perceive them more clearly, try imagining that you’re looking at the place where the sensations are occurring”. In the same paragraph it goes on to say (p52) “Nor should you visualize the area in your mind.” I’m unsure as to whether it’s ok to visualize the area of the sensation being observed. I haven’t done a great deal of body sensation work previously but when I do I find I need to have some sort mental picture of the area of the body in order to focus on the sensations there.

    2. I find my attention is generally drawn more to sounds than body sensations – when doing step 1 of the transition, I have open awareness and I’m mostly noticing outdoor background sounds. I then move through steps 2 to 4, trying to have the various bodily sensations in attention. When sounds from outside come and go I can notice them being in awareness (in the background) and sometimes they come to the forefront (attention) briefly until they pass or I move the attention back to the body.

    The thing I’m unsure about is due to me moving house recently and having a very busy road not too far away, there is a constant sound of traffic. Sometimes the traffic noise is just in awareness but frequently my mind seems drawn to this constant noise more than body sensations and I feel like I am continually dragging my attention back to the body. I’m unsure how I should work with this – I hope my understanding of attention and awareness is correct.

    If anyone has some advice or experience in dealing with these questions I’d be very grateful.


    Michael Dunn

    Hello, Huw

    I’m glad to hear you moving through the book’s instructions and having it invigorate your practice again. Regarding your questions:

    1) I think what Culadasa is saying here is that sensations are not visual, so don’t create a visual image of them. Sensations are physical, so bring your attention to these areas of the body, and not to the visualizations which are occurring elsewhere, like the brain. There is also further instruction here that the sensations to place attention on are breath-related sensations, as such, there is a rising and a passing to these, that will not occur to a visual image of the area.

    2) I have also used sound in step 1, and later throughout the practice, to establish peripheral awareness. If your attention is going to sound instead of the object of meditation, I would say you have a distraction towards the sounds, so you can practice bringing the mind back joyfully to the object. That’s all, just note that attention is moving to sound, and with that, you will create introspective awareness, then return to the meditation object. Sound can remain in awareness, the background, and as you notice sounds becoming more prominent, try to let them be, and they will go. Practice this over time and you will develop sustained attention.

    Dharma Treasure teacher-in-training


    Black Ghost

    Thanks for the reply Michael. It’s strange that I already feel I ‘know’ the answers to these and other issues that come up but I guess there is lots of doubt mixed up with it all so the remedies (ie to simply follow the instructions) to the issues often don’t seems so clear.

    I’ve also noticed that the during the initial few weeks of doing this practice, the levels of attention both during the practice and general mindfulness immediately after were higher than the last week or so. It’s as if the newness of it kept the mind more interested, which has faded as time has gone on. Again, I know the advice will be just to keep practicing but it’s such things that can bring up doubt and frustration – I know I should just recognise these without feeding them but knowing that is often much easier said than done when the mind seems to want to ruminate on these and other hindrances.




    Three 40 minute practices per day is diligence. So happy for you that you have found the book, and are working through the exercises.

    In regards to your question about what may seem like contradictory advice, I went through a phase where my mind did visualize the meditation object. I use the sensations of the breath at the abdomen, and for awhile, I “saw” a balloon. Eventually, with enough diligence, and understanding to tune into the actual sensations, as opposed to the mind’s visualization of them, it passed, and my mind now mostly just registers the sensations. It just took time, and intention.

    I would set an intention for a sit, and a few times it was to actually note the sensations as opposed to my mind’s visualizations.

    I agree with Michael regarding your second question. Although it may seem repetitive, repetition pays off. Joyfully notice that your attention has changed to the traffic noise. I even said something to myself like: “Atta girl, good job” for awhile, when noticing the mind had wandered away from the meditation object. And know that the mind doing this is very normal in the early stages. And every time you note it, you will be building introspective awareness.

    Eventually, your mind will notice an “urge” to move from the meditation object to a sensations or thought, and that’s really cool.

    About how to keep your practice fresh, since you report that the initial mindfulness and attention off the cushion has faded, Culadasa suggests adding walking meditation from the get go. There are instructions in the Appendix.

    And maybe choose one activity each day that you decide to do mindfully (with full attention on what you are doing). Early on, I chose brushing my teeth.

    Welcome to our group.

    Mary, teacher in training


    Black Ghost

    Thanks for the information Mary, It’s useful. I haven’t read the appendices yet but will do – I know it will be good to add those practices, I’ve not done them regularly enough the past few years.

    I had another question regarding noise if anyone could help. I have some tinnitus – it’s not too bad and I only notice this high-pitched sound some of the time. When I do notice it while sitting, it usually grabs most of my attention instead of whichever meditation object I’m using. I know that the advice is often to use it, the tinnitus sound, as the meditation object. I’ve been reluctant to do this though as I’m worried it will cause me to notice this sound even more than usual. I’m pretty sure I have it most of the time but I guess I’m used to it and don’t notice it too often – then when I do, I can hear it for days at a time. One of the times this happened was when a teacher taught a ‘nada sound’ practice in which I could just hear the tinnitus during the practice session, and again for the next week or so.

    Something similar would be when moving through the 4 step transition, I may not notice the breath sensations in the nose until I move to step 4. After I’ve been focussing on it for a while and I choose to step back to awareness of all body sensations or open awareness, I then often still have the sensations in the nose being the main thing that comes to attention, as my mind had previously been focussing on it. This is why I’m unsure about focussing on the tinnitus – at the moment I just try to keep going back to the meditation object without pushing the sound away but I’m not sure which approach to take with it.



    I began my meditation practice with a facilitator named Nicholas Grabovac, who is in the list of certified teachers on this website. We began by using something called “noting” practice.
    I would need to find the old audio, video and practice suggestions to be completely specific, but the gist is this:
    There are five tangible senses: seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling.
    Early on, as I sat, and as I walked, I would name whichever sense I was currently experiencing, whether in attention or in peripheral awareness. “Seeing”, “Hearing”, “Tasting”, “Feeling”, “Smelling”.
    By noting them, it was easier to move them to peripheral awareness, over time.
    I found that I was especially drawn to sounds and tactile sensations as distractions.
    And there is a howling dog and a moderate traffic noise where I live.
    Whenever my attention would find itself drawn to sounds, I would say to myself “hearing”.
    I became aware of a mild tinnitus. It lost it’s ability to take over my attention by my simply “noting” it. “Hearing”.

    There are so many ways to make your practice your own, and I am sharing ways I made my practice my own.
    I practiced a lot of noting, and also learned, over time, to hold the tinnitus in peripheral awareness.
    For instance, as I write this, I am noting my refrigerator compressor going. It’s in peripheral awareness. So, is the tactile sense of my fingers touching the keyboard.

    What is in attention is watching the words appear on the screen.

    A way to experience attention and peripheral awareness in everyday life is while driving a car. If you have a car, notice that your attention is on the driving itself, and that many things along the road and even inside the car, are in peripheral awareness.

    Mary, teacher in training


    Black Ghost

    Thanks Mary – it’s interesting to hear how others deal with these things and their practices. When I’ve tried noting previously, I usually find it can bring more attention to some things being noted. With something like tinnitus or constant noise, I think I’d be doing it so often that it puts me more in thinking mode and cause more distraction. With the tinnitus, when it’s louder than usual I really notice it at first, then usually I notice it less as the days go by – I’ll see how it goes just continuing to notice it and let it come and go in awareness/attention and see what happens.

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