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I've looked around here for things related to this but keep coming up dry...

As is fairly common these days, I've been tracking/logging a lot of different things over the past several years such as my diet, exercise, certain specific activities or actions taken etc.

I'm curious to hear opinions/advice and if anyone is aware of any references in the suttas on the topic of tracking and logging each time you sit & the duration of the sit. Particularly when establishing or modifying a habit, I've found logging to be extremely helpful --> but at times the idea of logging my sits also seems counter to the teachings and especially counter to "just being."

Are there any references in the canon or other teachings that might point to or be a helpful guide in this area?

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    I have no sources to quote so I don't want to make this an answer, but what I have found is that metrics that chart meaningful progress are hard to come by. They are often best used as a tool to help identify and avoid paths that do not lead where you want to go, but it is hard to find metrics which actually direct you towards the right path. There is always a happy medium between the two, with enough metrics to avoid undesirable paths, but not so many that they obscure the right path. This balance varies from person to person, so it is reasonable to assume your balance will differ from others – Cort Ammon Sep 14 '15 at 19:51
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    (Also worth noting is that it is reasonable to expect your own balance to change over time, as you change and your environment changes around you.) – Cort Ammon Sep 14 '15 at 19:53
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Nava Sutta

towards the end of the sutta, Buddha talked about daily progress of Dharma development. My take on it, it is hard to track quantifiable progress daily. You just know. Though the sutta talks about effluents in general, it might be applicable to meditation as well.

Just as when a carpenter or carpenter's apprentice sees the marks of his fingers or thumb on the handle of his adze but does not know, 'Today my adze handle wore down this much, or yesterday it wore down that much, or the day before yesterday it wore down this much,' still he knows it is worn through when it is worn through. In the same way, when a monk dwells devoting himself to development, he does not know, 'Today my effluents wore down this much, or yesterday they wore down that much, or the day before yesterday they wore down this much,' still he knows they are worn through when they are worn through.


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It is unrealistic to project a quantified mindset onto early Buddhists. They didn't have paper to write on. They didn't have writing. Without writing, math must have been rather limited, let alone mathematical thinking. Later on, Buddhist universities developed logic, which is a sort of propositional math. There were whole manuals for Buddhist logic exercises. In Mahayana, there are sutras with chapters that discuss powers of 10 and extremely large numbers (Avatamsaka is one).

My personal thoughts on the matter

I recently started using beeminder.com to track my meditation. I give my self a point a day for meditating. If I'm derailed on my goal, I pay a small fine.

The most measurable things are going to be inputs, e.g. minutes meditating. The outputs might be measurable using techniques of modern psychologists, by say by writing 20 similar questions that elicit if you are exhibiting this or that quality. Adding up the "yes"es is a score of the outputs of contemplation. Even in psychology, these metrics are controversial as to if they really measure what they purport to measure.

Measurable Practices

In the universe of all Buddhist practices, some are more measurable that others (keep in mind, I'm not promoting any of these, just making a comment on what Buddhist broadly defined do that is quantifiable)

  1. Chanting- # of matra repetitions. Chanting is noisy meditation, usually counted with mala beads.
  2. Prostrations- # of prostrations. Prostrations are like meditation, but with constant motion
  3. Infractions of precepts - Even early Buddhists were expected to list their infractions at Uposotha.
  4. Meditation time. I know monks used to use incense sticks as timers, so they'd meditate for n incense sticks.
  5. Meritable acts. In Mahayana texts there are many rhetorical flourishes that involve merit accounting, such as "you can transfer 1/8 of the merit of a good act to your deceased kin.", or the merit of doing this is more than the merit of doing that (i.e. a measure that is rankable) The math geek in me wishes they'd fully developed the system, but AFAIK, it wasn't a fully developed system. It sort of reminds me of the Boy Scouts effort to do one good deed a day. Vajrayana also has many practices that are done n times, with merit accruing for each, such as turning prayer wheels, making flags, etc.
  • Minutes spent meditating is what I've been tracking too - along with periodic journal entries on various qualitative experiences, just as something to reflect on later. The idea of tracking the general progression of my own mindfulness wasn't as much the aim for me, but I can see how that was the take away from my question. Good answers all around. – Ejoso Sep 15 '15 at 17:41

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