Meditation Journal

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Adam Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

Meditation Journal

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
Hey Everyone,

I have heard it said that a meditation journal is an invaluable tool in furthering one's practice.

I thought about keeping a text document on my computer or using a notebook, but it strikes me that keeping a journal here would be doubly useful to me, as any of you are free to read about my experiences and comment.

Also, my notes might be of some use to other DhO users.

If this goes against any level of forum etiquette that I am somehow unaware of, please let me know. I don't predict that will be the case, however. I dunno, just seems like a great idea to me.

Likewise, if this thread belongs in a different category I will gladly move it. I'm thinking that placing it here in "Dharma Diagnostic Clinic" will encourage others to help me identify/classify my experiences.

Off I go . . .
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Adam Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
Today's first meditation was in a loud, crowded coffee shop during lunch. I tried some mindful eating as well as bare awareness meditation.

Mindful eating just consisted of using my actions during lunch as a meditation object. When my mind wandered I would simply bring it back to the task at hand (in this case eating a roast beef sandwich with roasted onions and mozzarella cheese and au jus dipping sauce . . .mmm). I was surprised and encouraged by my ability to recognize the stark difference between the periods of distraction/mindlessless (eating, sitting there lost in thought) and dedicated mindfulness. Perhaps I'm using this metaphor too liberally here, but it did feel as if mindfulness in some way shook me "awake" into my experience, as if casual, mindless experience were somehow unconscious in a very real way.

Perhaps more interesting was the sense of embodiment I felt when playing with short periods of bare awareness (I am not 100% sure that what I was doing was technically bare awareness meditation. I need to do more reading on this. However, I seem to remember reading that the process is similar to what I am about to describe). Bare awareness consisted of running through my consciousness, so to speak, and ticking off the different sensations coming through the six sense doors. As in, okay, hearing, yes, there are people talking, police sirens, etc. Feeling, okay I feel my body. Tasting, mmm, this is a delicious sandwich. Seeing, there are colors, shapes, etc. in my visual field - etc. etc. etc. - you get the idea. I would do this and then use these sensations as my meditation object. Or, more accurately, I would use the constantly shifting info feed coming from all 6 sense doors as my meditation object, returning to the "feed" whenever I lapsed into mindlessness.

This put me in a place that has become somewhat familiar to me. I'd be very grateful to hear some comments from anyone who might be able to place this experience. When I do this kind of meditation I can really feel myself sort of "sit" in this kind of locationless control room or something, where I am able to "view" the incoming information from all six sense doors in a sort of rotating scan of attention. Yes, it sounds weird. It's very subtle but very profound. I'm doing it right now, actually, as I type. I can "get it" fairly easily due to practice. It is very difficult to describe, but it's almost as if, despite the obvious differences between the various types of information coming in through my sense doors, they are all ostensibly made of the same "stuff." Sort of similar to the way that .mp3 files and .mov files contain different media, yet both are comprised of 1's and 0's. Something like that. I'm getting a little precious with my description here, I realize that, but not at the cost of an honest attempt at conveying my own read on the whole thing. Seeing the information from my senses in this way somehow "takes me out of space." That is what is most profound about it. It is the realization that I cannot be these sensations, as I would not be able to observe them. And, since one of these sensations is the sense of my body, then I am not my body. Since I am not my body, I am somehow now physical. If I am not physical, then I somehow have no mass. If I have no mass, I am not in space. And yet, I feel as if I am "somewhere" observing all this.

This experience has given me some great insight into the difference between content and bare sensations. Whatever the different sense information streams share in their constitution is the barest element of sensation when it "arrives" at this place.

I realize my writing is a little bit convoluted. I hope to develop clarity as I continue writing.
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Adam Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
I recognize that I should continue to work on my discipline in sitting for meditation. It is just too easy for me to let a day go by without sitting.

I wonder if gaining some insight into my slight aversion might help me to increase my sitting time. On the other hand, maybe I just need to increase my energy through continued practice. In other words, maybe I just need to sit more to increase my motivation to sit more.

I am at a place in concentration meditation where I can achieve access concentration with general consistency about 10 minutes after sitting down. I have found (and discussed in my first post on this site) that using a mix of vipassana (specifically noting practice) and concentration in the same meditation session help me to achieve better results. A particular sessions (or period of a session) will be dedicated expressely to either concentration or insight, but here and there a little bit of noting helps me with getting over distractions (by directly noting them) and therefore furthers my concentration work and vice versa (using breath concentration to help me focus during vipassana work).

Using this intuitive "recipe" for overcoming distractions has helped me to achieve access concentration, an attainment that I am encouraged by.

Access concentration: Feeling of general lightness in the body. Increased pressure in the head, neck area. Waves of very obvious bliss/rapture. "Sweetness" of air coming through my nose, almost fragrant, somehow more substantial and recognizable as an object. Extreme shortening of the time it takes to enter a noticeably altered state. Within seconds I can feel my experience of reality shifting. VERY obvious. First is the lightness in the body, following by pressure in the neck area and waves of pleasure coming from the heart chakra. Subtle increase in brightness of the visual field. Seeming expansion of visual field. Intense mental quiet. Ability to focus on the breath for 10-20 minutes without distraction (seems that mental fatigue is the main factor in falling into content after this period of time).

In MCTB Daniel writes that I will know access concentration when I have it. I would say that I am 90% certain that what I am experiencing is access concentration, although I am pretty sure I have some work to do before it is stable and fully-developed.

My task in insight is to perceive the vibrations that everyone is talking about. I can't "see" them yet.

My task in concentration is to solidify access concentration in preparation for 1st Jhana, which I suspect might be just around the corner.

My task in morality is to devote myself to AT LEAST 1 hour of meditation per day.
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tarin greco, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
Adam Frisoli:
I recognize that I should continue to work on my discipline in sitting for meditation. It is just too easy for me to let a day go by without sitting.

I wonder if gaining some insight into my slight aversion might help me to increase my sitting time. On the other hand, maybe I just need to increase my energy through continued practice. In other words, maybe I just need to sit more to increase my motivation to sit more.


also, maybe you could find something immediately enjoyable about sitting.


Adam Frisoli:

I am at a place in concentration meditation where I can achieve access concentration with general consistency about 10 minutes after sitting down. I have found (and discussed in my first post on this site) that using a mix of vipassana (specifically noting practice) and concentration in the same meditation session help me to achieve better results. A particular sessions (or period of a session) will be dedicated expressely to either concentration or insight, but here and there a little bit of noting helps me with getting over distractions (by directly noting them) and therefore furthers my concentration work and vice versa (using breath concentration to help me focus during vipassana work).


skillful improvisation.. good job. this is exactly the sort of thing that will get you far on your own, which is the only way you can get really far.


Adam Frisoli:

Access concentration: Feeling of general lightness in the body. Increased pressure in the head, neck area. Waves of very obvious bliss/rapture. "Sweetness" of air coming through my nose, almost fragrant, somehow more substantial and recognizable as an object. Extreme shortening of the time it takes to enter a noticeably altered state. Within seconds I can feel my experience of reality shifting. VERY obvious. First is the lightness in the body, following by pressure in the neck area and waves of pleasure coming from the heart chakra. Subtle increase in brightness of the visual field. Seeming expansion of visual field. Intense mental quiet. Ability to focus on the breath for 10-20 minutes without distraction (seems that mental fatigue is the main factor in falling into content after this period of time).

In MCTB Daniel writes that I will know access concentration when I have it. I would say that I am 90% certain that what I am experiencing is access concentration, although I am pretty sure I have some work to do before it is stable and fully-developed.


i'll leave it to Ian And to chime in on the topic of 'access concentration vs jhana', which he does so well, but the way things seem to be going for you, i don't think it should be a matter of concern right now. just keep practising and see for yourself how things develop.


Adam Frisoli:

My task in insight is to perceive the vibrations that everyone is talking about. I can't "see" them yet.


i think you may have better luck 'feeling' them in a bodily way, so keep tuned into that.

continue as you're doing and they'll likely show up soon enough.

tarin
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Adam Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
tarin greco:

also, maybe you could find something immediately enjoyable about sitting.


Absolutely. I really like Daniel's idea of having a playful attitude towards sitting, like playing a game, as in his "Shootin' Aliens" analogy. I really like that analogy after thinking it over. Especially likening persistent "issues" to larger aliens. Something that frustrates me is dealing with things over and over. Recognizing that these are just bigger foes that will take more shots to vanquish makes a lot of sense.

That attitude of playfulness coupled with a firm reminder to myself that waves of pleasure, exquisite silence, bliss etc. are inherently enjoyable will help me to get down to business I suspect. Thanks for the suggestion.

tarin greco:


skillful improvisation.. good job. this is exactly the sort of thing that will get you far on your own, which is the only way you can get really far.


Thanks for the encouragement, Tarin. It just occurred to me that a great benefit of posting here is that I can have more confidence in improvisation knowing that I can run my experiments by you guys for comment and direction.

tarin greco:

i'll leave it to Ian And to chime in on the topic of 'access concentration vs jhana', which he does so well, but the way things seem to be going for you, i don't think it should be a matter of concern right now. just keep practising and see for yourself how things develop.


Will do. Look forward to hearing from Ian And on this. I'll browse through his threads in the meantime.

tarin greco:

i think you may have better luck 'feeling' them in a bodily way, so keep tuned into that.

continue as you're doing and they'll likely show up soon enough.


This is something I hadn't considered. I will definitely be on the look out for them in my body.

Thanks a lot for the insight, Tarin.

Best,

Adam
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tarin greco, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
Adam Frisoli:
tarin greco:

also, maybe you could find something immediately enjoyable about sitting.


Absolutely. I really like Daniel's idea of having a playful attitude towards sitting, like playing a game, as in his "Shootin' Aliens" analogy. I really like that analogy after thinking it over. Especially likening persistent "issues" to larger aliens. Something that frustrates me is dealing with things over and over. Recognizing that these are just bigger foes that will take more shots to vanquish makes a lot of sense.


so long as there is a real sense of fun in the abandoning of existence, you will have the incentive to keep learning.



Adam Frisoli:

tarin greco:


skillful improvisation.. good job. this is exactly the sort of thing that will get you far on your own, which is the only way you can get really far.


Thanks for the encouragement, Tarin. It just occurred to me that a great benefit of posting here is that I can have more confidence in improvisation knowing that I can run my experiments by you guys for comment and direction.


that is indeed a great benefit, and you may have a useful fellowship[1] here.. but even so, you are still entirely on your own. you oughtn't trust our (that is, anyone here's) commentary and directions ... nor the commentaries and directions of anyone else, for that matter. for to either trust or mistrust is to exist in a relationship that undermines the endeavour to reach the end of unhappiness, for here, to trust is to trust the status quo of being insecure, and to mistrust is to be cynical about the endeavour to find security and freedom.

as long as you persist in trusting or mistrusting in such a manner, you will be subject to the sense of being and becoming. as long as you are subject to the sense of being and becoming, you will be subject to blind error (which is the operation of the sense of being). as long as you are subject to blind error (which is the operation of the sense of being), you will not know the actual causes for things. as long as you do not know the actual causes for things, you will not see what is causing unhappiness, and you will not know that it is desire. as long as you do not see what causes desire, you will not know that it is a blindness to what is actual. as long as you do not see that the cause of desire is a blindness to what is actual, you will remain blind.

but as long as you don't persist in trusting and mistrusting in such a manner, you will not be subject to the sense of being and becoming. as long as you are not subject to the sense of being and becoming, you will not be subject to blind error (caused by the operating of being). as long as you are not subject to blind error (caused by the operation of being), you will see the actual causes for things. when you see the actual causes for things, you will see what causes unhappiness, and you will know that it is desire. when you see what causes desire, you will know that it is a blindness to what is actual. and when you know that the cause of desire is a blindness to what is actual, you will be blind no longer.

when you are no longer blind to what is actual, you will no longer be desirous. and when you are no longer desirous, you will no longer be unhappy. when you are no longer unhappy, you will know the actual causes of things. when you know the actual causes of things, you will not be subject to blinded error. when you are not subject to blinded error, you will not trust or mistrust... for you will not be insecure... and you will not need to search for security and freedom.

your own sincerity in determining - and being committed to - your best judgement will go so much farther than any trusted teacher could prop you up or than you could travel as a trusting student ... and will prevent you from erring in ways that being a mistrusting student could cause or that a teacher could be felt to have ought to have prevented. to exist in such relationships is to undermine the endeavour to reach the end of unhappiness. conversely, to not exist in such relationships is to have the requisite autonomy to endeavour thus successfully.

tarin

[1]
fel·low·ship
The companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms.
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Adam Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
tarin greco:


that is indeed a great benefit, and you may have a useful fellowship[1] here.. but even so, you are still entirely on your own. you oughtn't trust our (that is, anyone here's) commentary and directions ... nor the commentaries and directions of anyone else, for that matter. for to either trust or mistrust is to exist in a relationship that undermines the endeavour to reach the end of unhappiness, for here, to trust is to trust the status quo of being insecure, and to mistrust is to be cynical about the endeavour to find security and freedom.


I understand what you're saying here, Tarin, and I will take it to heart. I am aware of a tendency to fall back on old patterns of dependency.


tarin greco:


as long as you persist in trusting or mistrusting in such a manner, you will be subject to the sense of being and becoming. as long as you are subject to the sense of being and becoming, you will be subject to blind error (which is the operation of the sense of being). as long as you are subject to blind error (which is the operation of the sense of being), you will not know the actual causes for things. as long as you do not know the actual causes for things, you will not see what is causing unhappiness, and you will not know that it is desire. as long as you do not see what causes desire, you will not know that it is a blindness to what is actual. as long as you do not see that the cause of desire is a blindness to what is actual, you will remain blind.

but as long as you don't persist in trusting and mistrusting in such a manner, you will not be subject to the sense of being and becoming. as long as you are not subject to the sense of being and becoming, you will not be subject to blind error (caused by the operating of being). as long as you are not subject to blind error (caused by the operation of being), you will see the actual causes for things. when you see the actual causes for things, you will see what causes unhappiness, and you will know that it is desire. when you see what causes desire, you will know that it is a blindness to what is actual. and when you know that the cause of desire is a blindness to what is actual, you will be blind no longer.

when you are no longer blind to what is actual, you will no longer be desirous. and when you are no longer desirous, you will no longer be unhappy. when you are no longer unhappy, you will know the actual causes of things. when you know the actual causes of things, you will not be subject to blinded error. when you are not subject to blinded error, you will not trust or mistrust... for you will not be insecure... and you will not need to search for security and freedom.


These words are very profound and warrant continued reflection. I think doing so will be very helpful to me. Trust in a teacher suggests in a way that am I in a vulnerable or even desperate situation that I am powerless to escape on my own. Why would I need trust unless I am somehow fundamentally reliant on the agent being trusted? This is really sinking in for me right now. Thanks.

Adam

PS - It does occur to me that trusting this advice to abandon trust as you prescribe is in itself an act of trust. Thus I am faced with an irreconcilable paradox. Pragmatically, of course, I understand your point and think it is not only valid but important.
Trent H., modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 361 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Adam Frisoli:

PS - It does occur to me that trusting this advice to abandon trust as you prescribe is in itself an act of trust. Thus I am faced with an irreconcilable paradox. Pragmatically, of course, I understand your point and think it is not only valid but important.


By understanding the point, one does not need the affective & blind redundancy of trust or distrust; the understanding itself allows one to stand alone with one's convictions.

Trent
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Adam Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
Well said, Trent.
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Ian And, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Adam Frisoli:

Access concentration: Feeling of general lightness in the body. Increased pressure in the head, neck area. Waves of very obvious bliss/rapture. "Sweetness" of air coming through my nose, almost fragrant, somehow more substantial and recognizable as an object. Extreme shortening of the time it takes to enter a noticeably altered state. Within seconds I can feel my experience of reality shifting. VERY obvious. First is the lightness in the body, following by pressure in the neck area and waves of pleasure coming from the heart chakra. Subtle increase in brightness of the visual field. Seeming expansion of visual field. Intense mental quiet. Ability to focus on the breath for 10-20 minutes without distraction (seems that mental fatigue is the main factor in falling into content after this period of time).

In MCTB Daniel writes that I will know access concentration when I have it. I would say that I am 90% certain that what I am experiencing is access concentration, although I am pretty sure I have some work to do before it is stable and fully-developed.

My task in concentration is to solidify access concentration in preparation for 1st Jhana, which I suspect might be just around the corner.

Hello Adam,

It sounds as though you are doing very well with this. If you have the ability to focus on the breath for 2 minutes or more without distraction, I generally consider that to be enough for "access" (upacara) concentration (samadhi). That you are able to maintain this for 10-20 minutes without distraction is fantastic. From there, it's just a matter of averting the mind toward a deeper, absorbed concentration on the meditation object (such as the breath) in order to reach the first jhana. This can occur within a matter of seconds after reaching "access concentration." It all depends upon the experience of the practitioner. The first few times around, though, it may take some time to get comfortable with how to enter absorption. In other words, you may be questioning, "Am I there yet?" But don't worry. Once you feel the pleasantness of the experience it should be unmistakable.

There are a few other threads that I've posted in which you might find helpful to read through:

to attain first jhana on unity of present object?

good idea to try to reach first jhana?


What's the difference between Access Concentration and the 1st Jhana


Am I in jhanas?

Enjoy.

In peace,
Ian
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Adam Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
Hi Ian,

Thanks very much for you response.

I will continue to focus on the breath and report back here. I do feel that I am achieving access concentration, but the 1st jhana has not been as easy to access as a "matter of seconds." However, it makes sense to me that you are referring to a more experienced meditator than myself getting there in such a short amount of time, so I will be patient and continue practicing.

Last night I sat down to do samatha meditation in this way and found it very difficult to enter access concentration. I realized that I had just stuffed myself with a big meal (I had just come back from a yoga class and had not eaten lunch - was starving!).

I know that one of the 8 precepts is that a buddhist monk will not eat after noon. Am I right in guessing that this has to do with facilitating deeper meditation? Also, the connection between fasting in general and spiritual work comes to mind . . .

Basically, what I'm asking is if you think the feast had anything to do with the poor meditation session (I suspect yes!). If this is the case, what is a good standard? Not eating for an hour beforehand? 2 hours?

Any advice is, as usually, infinitely appreciated.

Best,

Adam
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Ian And, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Adam Frisoli:

Last night I sat down to do samatha meditation in this way and found it very difficult to enter access concentration. I realized that I had just stuffed myself with a big meal (I had just come back from a yoga class and had not eaten lunch - was starving!).

I know that one of the 8 precepts is that a buddhist monk will not eat after noon. Am I right in guessing that this has to do with facilitating deeper meditation? Also, the connection between fasting in general and spiritual work comes to mind . . .

Basically, what I'm asking is if you think the feast had anything to do with the poor meditation session (I suspect yes!). If this is the case, what is a good standard? Not eating for an hour beforehand? 2 hours?

Generally speaking, one should not attempt to meditate just after having eaten a meal. Giving the meal one hour to digest is prudent and most recommended; two hours is better, although if circumstances get in the way of this, one hour is just fine. Now, this may not hold for having eaten something like a piece of fruit (an apple or banana) which has a tendency to digest rather quickly (25 minutes for the apple and 40 minutes for the banana). I've eaten a banana and then immediately began to meditate without any bad effects at all. You can test these things out for yourself to find out what your personal limitations are.

The comment about Buddhists monks not eating after noon is for basic monastic training purposes and as a practice for disciplining the mind in mindfulness. This is not something that lay practitioners (householders) need be concerned with. It is interesting to note that the Buddha lifted this requirement for arahants, saying that they could have a small meal in the evening if they wanted. So, basically, the requirement is active during training toward realization for the monks. Also, the Buddha was not always so strict about this requirement, having given in on occasion and allowed monks who protested this practice to eat a small amount in the evenings. So, practice common sense when coming across these anecdotes.
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Eran G, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 182 Join Date: 1/5/10 Recent Posts
I find that eating too much definitely gets in the way of my practice. Feeling stuffed because I'm full means I can't sit comfortably. Feeling lethargic because my energy is focused on digestion means I'm prone to being sleepy. This has actually been helpful for me in eating moderate size meals and generally feeling better.

as for the monks' precept I was told it's there for a different reason. Buddhist monks cannot cook for themselves, cant eat past noon and have limits on keeping food thst wasnt eaten. As a result a monk is pretty much required to go on alms round in order to get food. This means that the monk has to be in touch with the community surrounding him. So monks are more likely to be helpful to the community, teach dharma, etc. and also see the interconnection between themselves and the wide world around them.
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Adam Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
Eran, interesting point about monastics and their dependency leading to community involvement. Had never thought about it that way.

Ian, thanks for the input. I've started to schedule my meditation sessions around meal times.

Also, thank you for the links to your jhana threads. They were very helpful.

I also found this link very helpful. I found it here on the DhO "links" page:
http://www.leighb.com/jhana3.htm

In her articles here experienced jhana practitioner Leigh Brasington describes how to enter the jhanas. She instructs one to focus on the pleasant sensations arising out of access concentration once that state is reached in order to facilitate entering first jhana. I also encountered this same instruction in MCTB today as I continued my re-read of it.

I had read something different in Snyder and Rasmussen's "Practicing the Jhanas."

Today I tried the new method. I felt waves of pleasure coming from my lower back once access concentration was reached and immediately turned my focus to them.

I did not enter 1st jhana completely, but I had a sense of it. I experienced a profound shift in concentration toward an inner space that created a very noticeable distance between my consciousness and sensations.

I tried again tonight but content got in the way. I have a feeling that I am going to need to focus on morality issues (basically getting my life together in small ways, planning the next few months of my life, accepting my place in the world, you know, that sort of thing) before I am able to proceed effectively. I think this will simply entail, as I said, making plans and getting organized. I don't think I need to solve "the big issue," but I do think I need to pay more attention to everyday reality.

One thing I'd like to start doing is adding a "morality" element to my meditation sessions. There is a certain symmetry in dedicating each of my sessions to all three trainings.

I think it makes sense to start with a brief noting session, 10% of total sit time. (I have found that noting before concentration practice helps me.) After that I could do 30% samatha, 30% vipassana, and 30% sila.

By "sila" meditation I mean those meditations that can be found as "exercises" in a book like Kornfield's "Path With Heart," classic metta meditations and the like. I would also throw in some visualization techniques and intention setting, basically anything that would help prepare my mind for the "real (illusory) world."

I have found these sorts of "meditations" invaluable in the past, particularly visualizations pertaining to self-image (simply imagining myself as a strong, capable person etc.) I sometimes wish that Buddhists put more of an emphasis on this sort of thing, that is, the mind's ability to help us become the person we want to be in the conventional sense, and the way in which a deeper understanding of the mind can help with that.

Anyway, that's my big plan for sitting now. We'll see how it goes.
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Adam Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
(NOTE: INCOMPLETE POST)

Here is a response to a question posed to me by Ian And on another thread:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1003445

After some thought I realized that an inventory of my Buddhist knowledge would be useful for me right now, both as refresher and to identify any holes, as Ian puts it.

I've put it here for organizational purposes.

Ian And:

. . . could you fill us in a bit on the background of your knowledge base of the Dhamma. What teachings do you have a bead on to focus toward realization? For example: the five aggregates, dependent arising, the three characteristics of existence, following the noble eightfold path, sila (virtue), samadhi (concentration), panna (wisdom/insight), or sati (mindfulness)? I ask this because it can be difficult to make suggestions without knowing what your knowledge base is and whether or not there are any holes in it.


First off, I'm not sure what Ian means by "have a bead on to focus toward realization" here. I would venture a guess that he means a level of understanding that has lead to insight realizations along the path.

Five Aggregates:

I had to do a google search for this one. After reading briefly on wikipedia I realized that I learned about the five aggregates as the five "heaps" somewhere along the road.

Form, sensation, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. Hmm . . . Okay, I can see these elements in my own reality to some degree. Form, sure. Sensation, okay. Perception . . . Subtle. Mental Formations . . . also subtle. Consciousness. Hmm . . . It's in here somewhere.

Perception "registers whether an object is recognized or not (wikipedia)." Okay. I think that this makes sense. Is this the mechanism by which sensations are categorized into existing mental formations? As in, I recognize that sound, that is the sound of a "bell." A "bell" is a particular spectrum of matter that my mind has identified as an individual object for convenience' sake.

Mental formations: "all types of mental habits, thoughts, ideas, opinions, prejudices, compulsions, and decisions triggered by an object" Mental formations seems somewhat straightforward to me now that I'm thinking about it. Thinking of these as "ideas" in the broadest sense seems useful to me, although not a perfect descriptor.

Would it be safe to say that the act of Perception connects Form to Mental Formations?

Sensation: As I understand it, this is simply the mechanism of recognizing an object as pleasant, painful, or neutral. I would presume that identifying an object as such would necessitate the involvement of the Mental Formations? For instance, your ideas (mental formations) about a dog (past experiences) determine whether you are attracted (a "dog lover") repelled (had a frightening encounter?) or neutral (could care less). So sensation would be dependent on both Perception and Mental Formations.

Form: As simple as it seems?

Consciousness. I don't really understand consciousness because I find it hard to "look at." Doesn't consciousness do the looking? How can I see consciousness without some kind of "mental mirror?" Don't I need to look back at the "looking" itself?

When I ponder something (as I just was) where does the pondering take place? Where/how does language arise? Why are my thoughts linear? What arranges/orders my thoughts into a coherent, linear progression? My thoughts are mental formations, right? Some thoughts are heard, some seem to be silent or felt in the body. Are these thoughts different or the same? Are feeling thoughts and "auditory" thoughts identical phenomena at different ends of a continuous spectrum of thought?

I would say that my conceptual understanding of the 5 aggregates is perhaps between 30%-50%. I would say that my experience of the 5 aggregates is perhaps around 5%.

(TO BE CONTINUED)
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Adam Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
I had a very interesting and encouraging samatha session last night. I have been making resolutions at the beginning of sits as Daniel recommends in MCTB, but last night I used the three-part format as described: what? why? why is that good? (I'm re-reading MCTB closely with a highlighter right now). My resolution was: "I will focus on the breath in order to achieve access concentration because concentration states purify the mind."

And it worked! Here's what happened:

Access concentration arose last night after struggling with mental fatigue and poor concentration. I used noting practice, standing and walking meditation and some yoga asanas to help get over this hump.

Once I did, things got interesting.

I mentioned on Tuesday that a deep sense of quiet pervaded my mind while in access concentration. Normally this sense of quiet is noticed subtly after it has already arisen. Last night, however, the changed happened suddenly and obviously while I was fully engaged with the breath. It was cool.

It was uncannily similar to the experience of rolling up an open car window while cruising down the highway. It wasn't exactly a pop, it was more of a "woosh!" (thus the analogy). It was quite dramatic, and I was of course very encouraged to really focus for the remainder of the session.

I believe that I then perceived the emergence of the nimitta (2st Landmark) and that it solidified and moved toward the anapatti spot (7th Landmark) in preparation for the emergence of 1st jhana (8th landmark).

I am using the teachings of Pa Auk Sayadaw from the book "Practicing the Jhanas" by Snyder and Rasmussen:

"Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw of Burma is considered by many to be the leading Buddhist jhana teacher alive today. Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Snyder were taught personally by the Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, who has authorized them as the first Western lay people to teach these practices as the Sayadaw taught them. Their book, Practicing the Jhanas, is an accessible and direct experiential account of jhana practice. Their book has been endorsed by the Sayadaw, Joseph Goldstein, Guy Armstrong, Richard Shankman, Rick Hanson, and others, and is published by Shambhala Publications." (From www.jhanasadvice.com)

Of course, I am not certain of this. I have a strong feeling that my diagnosis is correct, but only time and practice will tell.

One thing I love about dharma practice is that no matter the diagnosis, the prescription is almost always the same: Keep practicing.
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Adam Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditation Journal

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
I just had an amazing samatha session.

So much went on.

Access concentration comes relatively easily now, but I recognize how important the proper environment is.

I notice that even something as simple as having cleaned my apartment made a huge difference in my ability to concentrate. The absence of the hum of the AC also made things easier. I can't wait to go on retreat!

Once I attained access concentration I turned my attention to the pleasurable sensations in my body. These initially came from the top of my neck and the rest of my skull, particularly around the eyes. I get the feeling that I am unwillingly crossing my eyes and that the tension caused by the mechanics of doing so is perceived pleasurably. Indeed, when I open my eyes suddenly I find my eyeballs "snapping" back into place. I speculate that this may be caused by my "looking" at the anapatti spot as I put my focus there.

At any rate, the pleasure came and I followed instructions and focused on it. And I felt the absorption arise. My body felt incredibly light and eventually I was unable to feel my hands and feet. The discomfort in my spine subsided.

I don't think that I have reached 1st jhana yet. I say this mainly because I have this sense of continued progression as the absorption grabs me tighter and tighter and also the sense that I have not yet reached the "fruition" of whatever that progression is leading toward. It is simply an intuitive sense that I am about to "pop."

I also sense that the surge of pleasure or rapture that will signify the arising of the 1st jhana is going to come out of the heart chakra. At least, I get the sense that there is significant energy there that wants to release.

So from access concentration brought on through focusing on the breath I have turned my attention to the pleasure arising from that state which provoked a substantial increase in concentration and absorption and an increase in pleasurable sensations. The pleasure is still relatively low-grade, however, nothing mind-blowing or orgasmic. Along with the increased absorption and pleasurable sensations came a sense that something is going to happen, that a wave is building and wants to eventually crash. 1st jhana, or no? I say no.

While in this state I also experimented with investigating the 3 characteristics. It was as simple as considering whatever random thoughts came up in light of impermanence, suffering, and not-self. This little experiment gave me a great little taste of the power of concentration in insight work. Whereas normally the insights gained in this way be interesting, in this state they were observed in a profound light. As an example, take the consideration of the impermanence of life itself. To say to someone "life is short" might normally elicit a far off gaze and a nod, if that. Considering the impermanence of my own life in a concentrative state, on the other hand, led me to experience a visceral sense that I had better hurry up and live! As in, after this meditation session, I ought to do things! I ought to live my life! It was a quietly profound experience and one that I can imagine one would benefit from repeating.

I plan to apply for the work retreat program at the Forest Refuge at the Insight Meditation Society. I will aim to go there around the end of October. Apparently there is not internet there, so I will get a keyboard for my iphone to communicate with you guys.

Does anyone have any tips for applying for the work retreat program? Have any of you done it? Do you know if AT&T gets service up there?