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Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project

Okay, so I will give this a try to help myself be more grounded and aware and maybe see patterns that I might otherwise ignore, running around in circles. I will allow myself to do this in a playful and not necessarily systematic way, to take away some pressure. These notes may include reflections outside of my formal practice as well, and even outside my informal practice, as long as I’m explicit about it. After all, I want my practice to benefit my off cushion life, which is not necessarily all about awakening. I do have other responsibilities.

So, today I tried a guided meditation by Rob Burbea on connecting with one’s energy body. It is part of a recorded reatreat material on the path to the imaginal. This is exactly the sort of thing that I had decided to avoid because that door seemed to be closed to me. Oddly enough, my practice kept pointing to it, and people in another community kept pointing it out to me. Yesterday I realized that I have been repressing my imagination for the sake of survival, but that is no longer necessary, and it’s still alive somewhere beneath all these layers of adjustement. This is a link to the talk in which the guided meditation is embedded:

https://media.dharmaseed.org/cache/DS/20150807-Rob_Burbea-GAIA-energy_body_instructions_1-31525.mp3

I sat down on the cushion and followed the instructions. I have had a few days with some disconnection with my body making my practice more superficial and my yoga less in synch. On the other hand I have come into some other kind of synch, with solutions to problems being dropped at my feet, more or less. The advice to check out this recorded retreat was one example of that, because this was exactly what I needed right now: a way to get back in my body while simultaneously opening up to a more imaginative realm.

First I had some trouble finding the right posture. I took some time to adjust it, because that was recommended in the directions. I accepted that I had that level of distraction and didn’t feel particularly bothered by it. Soon enough, the posture adjusted itself as I found concentration in the imagining practice. It does that from time to time, kind of falls into place on its own volition when I surrender to the buzzing feelings in my hands or other body parts.

I missed a few details in the beginning of the instructions because of my distraction, but I came back to it and felt that I knew what he was talking about, roughly, so I just went with what felt right at the time. He repeated them shortly thereafter and they corresponded with what I had been doing: trying to shift my attention not to parts of my body, but to the whole of it and some space around it. I don’t know how this is supposed to be done, but I have had perceptions of dropping into such a state before, so I went with that. It’s not a very centered attention, more like a widening, and more of letting go than intentional effort. I noticed that the feet were most difficult to include in that notion of the energy body (they are also very stiff, physically; I’m working on that), but at some point I also noticed my right foot heating up.

I think it was somewhere in the beginning of this imagining part that I felt resistence. My body was signalling that there wasn’t enough air. I instantly knew that was resistence. I check my lungs every week because I’m undergoing a hyposensibilization treatment, and my breathing is fine, and I know from experience that my breathing can be very light for a long time and even stop for a moment without any problem. I also recently read a paper where Leigh Brasington said that the breath gets very light before one enters the jhanas. Therefore I just noted the heart raising and the impulse to grasp for air and trusted that it would be OK. I think that was when the first shift in posture came about by itself. That actually made the breathing easier, and I felt a lightness.

There were breathing exercises. I was supposed to imagine the breath coming in and out from different points of departure. First it was in the belly. That was easy in the posture I had come into, and I felt calm. I don’t remember the details very well now (I had to go to the hospital before I was finished making these notes), but I remember that the different points of departure for the breathing made a noticable difference. Whereas the belly was calm, the crown of the head had an energetic feeling to it. There were some blockages resulting in resistence, don’t remember where. I think one of them was in my head, manifesting as a a slight pressure. When I let go of it, the posture adjusted itself on its own volition again. It felt like layers of blockages being released. Breathing along the spine was flowing energy throughout the body. Somewhere along the line my eyelids started flickering and the left part of my upper lip started twitching. These are familiar movements to me. It happens when I get into a more trans like state. I had shiverings all over my body and felt blissful.

There was one exercise involving color. That was difficult for me. Visualization is difficult for me. Most of these exercises could be done by way of kinestetic imagining, but the color exercise wasn’t my thing at this point in time.

At one point I was supposed to make a decicion as to what exercise to return to. That made me hesitate. I don’t remember now what I chose. I know that I picked one of the breathing exercises. I think it was the one departing from the crown of the head. I was able to maintain the concentration despite the hesitation. In the end of the session the instructions told me to open my eyes, and so I did. The flavour of concentration remained. When the guided meditation stopped and the talk continued, I decided to stay in this mode while listening. In doing so, the words and the sounds were more immediate and gave shivering and other energetic sensations. The phone rang in the middle of that. For a brief moment I was annoyed, but then I thought that it is quite possible, after all, to remain concentration while interacting. So I took the phone call. It was from the Swedish Medical Products Agency. I had reported adverse effects of a birth control product and they needed to ask a few questions. I answered the questions and we wished each other a merry christmas. After the call I sat down on the cushion again and continued listening. The shiverings were still there and I felt very relaxed and almost a bit tipsy. I felt the need to start swaying back and forth a bit, so I did. After a while I noticed that my head was also tilting back and forth in a way that together with the swaying of my upper body back and forth made my chin make circles in the air. My breathing was synchronized with this movement. I continued with this for a while. Then I lay down in baby pose and breathed into my lower back. I felt safe.

Afterwards I felt a bit shaky, but in a good way. Something had been released.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
Answer
12/20/18 10:07 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
I've heard such good things about Rob Burbea's The Seeing That Frees and so it's been sitting on my coffee table for months along with piles of other unread books. I'll get to it eventually...

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/20/18 11:21 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
There are recordings and/or transcripts from retreats as well. Lots of lots of resources.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/20/18 11:28 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
I recommend a thorough reading of "The Seeing That Frees" first so that you can get some idea of the objectives Rob is aiming you at. This is like looking at a map before you start a long journey. Then go back and do his recommended practice exercises.

JMHO.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/20/18 12:34 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
By the way, I'm really happy to see you've started your own topic/practice log. This will anchor you here and allow you to express your views and for you and the rest of us to follow your progress more coherently!

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/20/18 1:36 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I started with listening to a long introductory talk where he explained his aims quite thoroughly. Then I listened to the talk that introduced this guided meditation. After that I did the meditation.

I will read the book, though.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/20/18 1:41 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
By the way, I'm really happy to see you've started your own topic/practice log. This will anchor you here and allow you to express your views and for you and the rest of us to follow your progress more coherently!


Thank you! I hope I will be able to maintain this log. It took quite some time to find the words. I appreciate the opportunity to get some feedback and correction when needed from meditators with more experience.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/20/18 4:49 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
I have decided that if I experiment with other traditions than the kind of insight meditation I usually practice, that is outside the curriculum and thus doesn’t count on its own. I have set up a minimum for my ordinary practice to 20 minutes per day. I usually do more than that, but I find that it is good to have a minimum that allows me to succeed even when conditions are less favorable. Earlier today I have already done the Rob Burbea meditation and 75 minutes of Hatha Yoga and I’m tired, so I chose to do 20 minutes.

I decided to do only one technique for the whole session, namely ”note everything” according to Shinzen Young’s system but with a slight modification that fits my way of perceicing and processing things better. This was the first time I tried that solution. It worked. It solved the problems that I used to have with my kinesthetic way of thinking not really fitting into the system. I also tried spoken labels for the first time. That wasn’t something I had planned. I usually note in a silent way. I probably felt that I needed the extra help with my focus. It did help. When I was about to space out a couple of times, I heard that there were no labels being said, and I quickly found something to note.

That shifting feeling in my spine together with my posture correcting itself on its own volition happened a few times.

My visual imagination seems indeed to subtly wake up. There were mental images popping up. That is new. They seemed rather arbitrary. Sometimes I couldn’t make out what they were. There were some symbols, I believe. Unknown ones. And an hour glass? Some other things that I have already forgotten. Mental images of things that I heard. Orange color; that may be due to the fact that we were supposed to imagine breathing in orange on the yoga class, which I found difficult at the time. The long curly hair belonging to R (visual image accompanied by and follwing the mental smell sensation and the mental physical sensation). I heard inner talk to, which I usually don’t very often. There were a lot of positive feelings, often due to sounds that I heard (my son and my cats), but also bliss coming out of the practice and occasional appreciative thoughts. There were some minor negative feelings as well, such as faint compulsive impulses to tic, but mindfulness has taught me that if I welcome the sensations resulting from me not ticcing, they are actually not unpleasant, and they are very transient Some sounds startled me briefly. A lot of flow (pulsating waves, buzzing vibrations) and rest (felt and seen). The noted sensations were in a broader range than what has been common up til now. Most of the time there were a couple of notions per second, I believe. I felt relaxed.

The chosen technique worked well insofar as it kept me active and in focus without stressing me out. Some rather loud noices and my cat climbing onto me did not take away my focus or tingling sensations. There were a couple of instances, maybe a few, where I was close to spacing out because I was so relaxed, but I remembered noting rest then. There were a few instances where I forgot the words, rendering spokel labels difficult. I found them, though, after brief moments of confusion. I accepted the fact that words don’t always come easy to me and took interest in that fact. This could perhaps be explored more closely. I think I was more relaxed on those occasions, maybe close to sleep but nut dozing off. I didn’t feel tired, but there was a dreamlike flavor to it.

There were lightness.

I feel very relaxed now. Time to go to sleep.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
Answer
12/20/18 10:20 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Good to see you are doing this, Linda. I'll be following along. Looks like you are already getting some good comments and guidance.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/21/18 1:51 AM as a reply to Milo.
Thank you! I appreciate it.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/21/18 6:19 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Hi Linda! If you're interested in reading Seeing That Frees a few of us have been discussing it over on the /r/streamentry community:

https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/comments/8k2ril/community_seeing_that_frees_discussion_parts_1/

We've just finished the last chapter, but there are summaries, notes and discussions which might help you along.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/21/18 1:12 PM as a reply to Lewis James.
Thankyou Lewis! That may come in handy.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/21/18 4:47 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
I forgot to mention some details from my energy body meditation. At one point I had the feeling that my hands were directed towards me instead of from me. Then I felt that there were two of me, sitting in front of each other, mirroring each other. The hand thing reappeared later as well, after the phone call that had disrupted the experience.

Today has been hectic. I’m sitting on a train now. I was starting to have some motion sickness, in spite of the medication I took to prevent it, but then I remembered that I’m supposed to be mindful of whatever arises not only on the cushion, so I started concentrating with a wide focus, instead of resisting the impressions, and wow, that really makes a difference.

I think I have found a way to turn on that kind of concentration. I hope it sticks and lets itself be applied in a variety of situations. I’ll have to practice. It’s difficult to explain what I do. It’s like learning how to control the inner muscles of your ears to open and and close something in there. You just know what to do.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/21/18 2:32 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
 It’s like learning how to control the inner muscles of your ears to open and and close something in there. You just know what to do.

That's a good analogy. Tuning attention requires subtlety, not too much effort nor too little. I like to think of it as holding a bird in your hand: too tight and you crush its delicate bones, but too loose and it flies away. There has to be a brightly aware but relaxed sensitivity and responsiveness.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/21/18 3:59 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Yeah, holding a bird feels about right.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/21/18 4:49 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
I’m not at home, but seeing a partner that I hadn’t seen for six weeks, and it’s his birthday, so I meditated for only 20 minutes this night. I used ”noting everything”, which made it easy to find and keep focus.

Maybe I’m too happy to awaken? There is no suffering in my meditation, no angst, no drama. I just tune into things and feel good. The pulsating waviness has become very reliable. It turns up almost immediately. I have noticed that it comes together with the purple swirls on my black screen forming a circle. That is a wellknown pattern by now. I have seen that purple circle before, during sex. The waves come and go, though, and so do the swirls and circles and all other tingles and buzzes. I trust them to come back, and they do. In the meantime I note other sensations.

There were golden brightness mixed in with the purple, almost like sun.

At a certain stage I was wordless again. I know how to recognize and distinguish sensations from each other, but the words are not there.

When I opened my eyes after the session it felt like I just had great sex. The same goofy smile and the same softness of the world and the same sense of things not being quite solid but pulsating. I took a moment to cherish the feeling and merge with the pulsating. I circled my spine a bit and released some pleasant shivers.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/22/18 3:23 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
This night I meditated in my dream, practicing the method of noting everything. I don’t remember much of it, but I remember that mental images were part of it. In my daily life I also find it easier than before to access visual memory. That is a welcome change.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
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12/22/18 8:16 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Maybe I’m too happy to awaken? There is no suffering in my meditation, no angst, no drama. I just tune into things and feel good.

There's nothing wrong with feeling good but it seems that's not satisfying to you. Maybe you should do vipassana. Investigate that which arises, whatever it might be.

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
Answer
12/22/18 11:21 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Maybe I’m too happy to awaken? There is no suffering in my meditation, no angst, no drama. I just tune into things and feel good.

There's nothing wrong with feeling good but it seems that's not satisfying to you. Maybe you should do vipassana. Investigate that which arises, whatever it might be.



Maybe it isn’t satisfying me. Yeah, true. I get the feeling that there must be something more to it than this. If pleasant shivers were my goal, I might as well take some pill or have sex.

That’s what I’m trying to do. Shinzen Young’s mindfullness system is mainly based on vipassana, if I’m not mistaken.

I think I’m in a phase of developing reliable access to what has before been my top performance, and perhaps that is a good opportunite to really explore what is happening. I’m not really sure what to do, though. Of cource it is impermanent. Neurotransmitters eventually run out. Even if they didn’t, (apart from the fact that neverending pleasant shivers would pretty soon be boring, and apart from the fact that the transient character of the sensations is exactly what makes them a rapture), climate change and oppression cannot and should not be ignored. Escaping into blissful states isn’t going to solve anything in the long run, and trying to fool oneself that it is will build up anxiety, wich means that it’s not satisfactory. But that’s obvious. I suppose there are more subtle qualities to detect? As for the part of not being me or mine, I don’t really understand. Why would I believe that it were personal in the first place? There is no me in this. I thought that was the point? To temporarily dissolve what is ”me”, to let go of it for a while? Isn’t that what draws some people to it and repells others who have a stronger need of being in control? So what is it that I’m supposed to do? There is nothing there to discover except for sensations that come and go, increase and decrease, move around, spread or narrow down, flicker in and out of attention, entail different flavours depending on deepness of concentration and degrees of clinging/resisting vs equanimity, etc., is it?

RE: Polly Ester’s practice log - a pilot project
Answer
12/22/18 11:05 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Are you still reading MCTB2? There is a path to awakening presented in the book that you might be interested in.