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When practicing mindfulness and labelling for example if I'm making my bed can I note "making bed" or of I'm driving note "driving" or is it meant to be more specific? Because a lot of the time I can't think what it is I'm doing. Seems to be too many things at once so I end up thinking too hard about what I'm doing kind of thing.

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I quote from "Chapter Six: Daily Life" of Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu's online book "How to Meditate":

Once one has put aside activities that interfere with clarity of mind, one can begin to incorporate meditative awareness into ordinary life. There are two ways in which one can meditate on ordinary experience, and they should be practiced together, as follows.

The first method is to focus one’s attention on the body, since it is the most clearly evident aspect of experience. As in formal meditation, the body is always available for observation, and thus serves as a convenient means of creating clear awareness of reality in daily life. Since the body is generally in one of four postures – walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, one can simply become aware of one’s posture as a meditation object to bring about clarity of mind.

When walking, for example, one can note either “walking, walking, walking, walking” or “left, right, left, right” as one moves each foot. When standing still, one can focus on the standing position and note “standing, standing”; when sitting, “sitting, sitting” and when lying down, “lying, lying”. In this way, one can develop clarity of mind at any time even when not practicing formal meditation.

Further, one can apply the same technique to any small movement of the body – for instance when bending or stretching the limbs, one can note “bending” or “stretching”. When moving the limbs, “moving”. When turning, “turning”, and so on. Every activity can become a meditation practice in this way; when brushing one’s teeth, “brushing”; when chewing or swallowing food, “chewing, chewing”, “swallowing, swallowing” and so on.

When cooking, cleaning, exercising, showering, changing clothes, even on the toilet, one can be mindful of the movements of the body involved, creating clear awareness of reality at all times. This is the first method by which one can and should incorporate the meditation practice directly into ordinary life.

The second method is the acknowledgement of the senses – seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling. Ordinary sensory experience tends to give rise to either liking or disliking; it therefore becomes a cause for addiction or aversion and ultimately suffering when it is not in line with one’s partialities. In order to keep the mind clear and impartial, one should always try to create clear awareness at the moment of sensory experience, rather than allowing the mind to judge the experience according to its habitual tendencies. When seeing, therefore, one should know it simply as seeing, reminding oneself “seeing, seeing”.

When hearing a sound, one should likewise note “hearing, hearing”. When smelling pleasant or unpleasant odours, “smelling, smelling”. When tasting food or drink, instead of becoming addicted to or repulsed by the taste, one should note “tasting, tasting”. When feelings arise in the body, hot or cold, hard or soft, and so on, one should note “feeling, feeling” or “hot”, “cold”, and so on.

Practicing in this way, one will be able to receive the full spectrum of experience without compartmentalizing reality into categories of “good”, “bad”, “me”, “mine”, “us”, “them”, and so on. As a result, true peace, happiness and freedom from suffering is possible at all times, in all situations. Once one understands the true nature of reality, the mind will cease to react to the objects of the sense as other than what they truly are and be free from all addiction and aversion, just as a flying bird is free from any need for a perch on which to cling.

This then is a basic guide to practice meditation in daily life, incorporating the meditation practice directly into one’s life even when not formally meditating. Beyond these two methods, one can also apply any of the objects discussed in the first chapter – pain, thoughts, or the emotions. The techniques discussed in this chapter should be thought of as an additional means of making the meditation practice a continuous experience whereby one is learning about oneself and about reality at all times.

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When we read about Buddhism in books, we may hear an idea, such as "mindfulness", but because we don't know how it works, we may start doing something without really understanding what we're doing and why. All beginners are prone to this, I did this too. Everyone goes through this.

The goal of mindfulness is not to become super-mega-aware. Paying deliberate attention to things will not give you mental superpowers. The goal of mindfulness is to change one's sloppy habits that are connected with weak, negative, lustful, aggressive, egoistic, self-beating, and other pathological mindstates. So basically, the idea of mindfulness is, instead of acting impulsively like an untrained puppy, we try to pay attention to what we are doing and act like the Buddha, with wisdom and grace - including physical, verbal, and mental acts. That's the point.

Now, sometimes labeling is taught as part of meditation. Here is why. When teachers explain meditation to beginner-level students, they start with something very simple. For example they say, "try counting your breaths on fingers and see how long you can go without getting distracted". Or they would say, "try labeling things that happen in your subjective experience". Stuff like that.

It does not mean that counting breath or labeling stuff is meditation. It is just the simplest way for teachers to turn the student's direction into phenomenological mode - so they can start looking at their experience as subjective experience, and not at its objective content.

The purpose of meditation is the same as the purpose of Buddhist practice in general (SN 49.1):

  • non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
  • abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.
  • arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.
  • maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen.

On beginner level we should focus on removing the coarse "unskillful qualities" and generating coarse "skillful qualities" using coarse methods, and as we get better we proceed to more and more subtle stuff.

So in the very-very beginning you can start with simple tricks like counting breath and labeling things. But as soon as you got the point, you should move to "real" meditation, which is what I quoted above.

No need to label things. Just notice your state of mind. Notice your thoughts and emotions and try to see which of them are "skillful" (good, healthy, useful) and which are "unskillful" (useless, sick, pathological). Practice like this for a while, stopping the bad and generating the good.

Then on next level, look at these very thoughts that are looking at your thoughts and are deciding whether they are good or bad. See which of these second-level thoughts are healthy and which are sick. Fix whatever is wrong.

Keep going up like this as it gets more and more subtle. Then at some point very-very far down the road all unhealthy mindstates are solved and the only issue that's left is this habit of categorizing mindstates as good vs. bad and constantly trying to improve it. Then you abandon even this habit, and since everything else is solved already, that's how you reach Nirvana. This is the proper gradual approach to meditation. Same exact approach applies to your practice in post-meditation and to mindfulness.

No need to try and notice everything and label everything. That's impossible. Focus on whatever is the biggest (most obvious, most coarse) problem at any given time. Solve them one at a time.

  • Labeling things is just a reminder. When you label things or what you are doing, your attention directly and naturally goes to the thing that you label. For example you say "walking" attention directly goes to the feet and the movement of walking. If the attention doesn't go there then you can easily train yourself to develop that habit. There is actually an Arahant who teaches this method so this method certainly effective and works. But what the meditation teachers generally doesn't say is that at some point you must completely let go of any methods and stop the effort mode in mindfulness – Murathan1 Jan 30 at 18:08
  • But the meditator generally doesn't reach that level quickly unless the meditator is doing intensive meditation for long periods of time. So I think labeling can be very helpful for everyone until they reach to that advanced level. – Murathan1 Jan 30 at 18:11
  • In my opinion, labeling is very dangerous when you practice it for too long. It fixates your mind on the simplistic concepts, instead of paying full attention to the (ineffable) real experience in all its infinite nuances and complexity. If you understand that it's only a reminder, that's fine. But people take it too seriously as this guy who asked the question, and try to label everything. Then they start asking, how specific should the labels be? See what I mean? It leads one down the wrong path of conceptual proliferation. – Andrei Volkov Jan 30 at 18:31
  • I think the only way to understand the "spiritual" things is to experience it. I started my path after reading Eckhart Tolle's books and I didn't use labeling for many years. And it helped me a lot. Then I used labeling and did meditation for long periods of time and did mindfulness practise in daily life with labeling that also helped me a lot. I respect everyone's opinion in this subject but I think experience is the only way to understand the root of the spiritual things. But I think that If anyone has a doubt about it then he/she musn't use it. – Murathan1 Jan 30 at 18:47
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    But again, ıf anyone has a doubt about the method he or she mustn't use it. You have certainly good intentions because you think that this method can lead people to the wrong direction(conceptualisation). I am not really fan of any methods and I think that at some point we must learn the "being" rather than doing". These were just an opinion of a person who lives in a complete Non-Spiritual environment but has the desire to be a monk in a Buddhist country in the future :) Have a nice afternoon(or evening) there :) – Murathan1 Jan 30 at 19:02
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The specified topic "making bed", is for checking the current situation of the practitioner. The practitioner specifies the current situation to analysis it and to look for the proper solutions that matched with the topic.

What are the proper solutions for the making bed practitioner?

  1. Realize the current situation, making bed, state.
  2. Finish the making bed event in time.
  3. Realize the schedule of events.
  4. Concentrate the breath to avoid the unwholesome events, out of the necessary and wholesome event on the schedule.

When the practitioner practices the above analysis proficiently, whole processes above are going to run automatically in time without any conflict.

Above is just the example event and solutions. The practitioner can find more solution in The path of purification Chapter 1,2,3,4, and 8, MN. MahāsatipaṭṭhānaSutta's Commentary.

If the practitioner doesn't want to use so much time to study the text above, the attained-jhāna Tipiṭaka Memorizer teacher, who is Ariya, is required because he can make the specific course syllabus for each practitioner in his head. By this way, the practitioner doesn't study the Pāli by himself.

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I think it is better to use simple and short words. Like doing, eating, swallowing, walking, sitting, seeing, hearing, tasting, drinking, feeling, driving, putting, holding, making, pain, joy, calm etc.. If you forget to note time to time, or have confusion of what you're doing, or what to call to what you're doing that's a very normal thing and don't think that something is wrong in the practise. Noting is an effective technique of mindfulness that keep you move forward quickly.

Like Andrei Volkov mentioned in another topic, mindfulness will become spontaneous when you move forward in the Buddhist path. https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/26254

There are many gifts in keeping the mindfulness practise with effort and skillness. One of that gifts is spontaneity. So the mindfulness techniques(which are tools) that we use to get that gift can be different. But they all lead us to the same place.

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You keep claiming that mindfulness has something to do with labeling. That's incorrect.

Even though you don't like the suttas, here is quote from a sutta showing what sati and sampajana means:

“And how, bhikkhus, is a bhikkhu mindful? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu dwells contemplating the body in the body … feelings in feelings … mind in mind … phenomena in phenomena, ardent, clearly comprehending, mindful, having removed covetousness and displeasure in regard to the world. It is in this way, bhikkhus, that a bhikkhu is mindful.

“And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu exercise clear comprehension? Here, bhikkhus, for a bhikkhu feelings are understood as they arise, understood as they remain present, understood as they pass away. Thoughts are understood as they arise, understood as they remain present, understood as they pass away. Perceptions are understood as they arise, understood as they remain present, understood as they pass away. It is in this way, bhikkhus, that a bhikkhu exercises clear comprehension. https://suttacentral.net/sn47.35/en/bodhi

if you do something else than that, you are not good at sati sampjana.

  • Removed harsh language, on another user's request. – Andrei Volkov Jan 30 at 16:44
  • The Buddhist practices that I have learnt which are in alignment with Mahasi Sayadaws teachings, Thai forest, and also western teachers such as Joseph Goldstein, Jack kornfield etc all teach labelling/noting. So not sure why you're claiming it to be incorrect. I'm not here to argue about who's right and who's wrong. Just how to do what I'm doing already better. There are many sects amongst modern religions all claiming different things and all claiming only their way is correct. I prefer to follow my intuition and what resonates with me and that is what I'm continuing to do. – Arturia Feb 3 at 6:06

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