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diary of demoxenos

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diary of demoxenos
Answer
3/28/19 1:26 PM
just a little bit about me to get the ball rolling.

have been practicing for about two years. very much a beginner. i currently do a group sit once a week for about 45 minutes and then pepper in shorter sits during the week. i generally work on noting practice and metta. i don't currently follow a particular tradition. i started with shambhala and against the stream, now i sit with sf dharma collective.

i started meditating in part to address my reactivity and create connection more easily. over time i've become interested in stream entry and focusing efforts around achieving it. i'm currently most interested in the mystical and biofeedback. 

i created this account for two reasons. first, i heard Daniel on Deconstructing Yourself and he is very excited about fire kasina, so i thought i would try it for fun. my guess is there are not many beginners trying it out in their living room like i am so my notes here might be entertaining if nothing else. second, i like keeping a diary for accountability purposes and my hope is it might give me some sense of progress over time. i've found it hard to recognize progress in practice so far, even though i have some basic sense that it's happening.

things that have inspired me in my practice: investing in relationship with my significant other, relationship with my parents as they age, a spiritual experience with ayahuasca, books: Wake Up to Your Life, Seeing that Frees, everything by Thich Nhat Hanh.

3.27.19 – first try with fire kasina
Answer
3/28/19 1:31 PM as a reply to Demoxenos.
i listened to the podcast with michael and daniel and he gave a little bit of detail about the fire kasina practice so i thought i'd try it for fun.

i lit a tea candle and put it on the desk in the living room. it was mid-day. i stared at the flame for a couple of minutes. then i closed my eyes. i felt them dart around under the closed eyelids. i wasn't getting much in the way of imagery so i opened my eyes and tried again. more fluttering, no imagery.

i moved the candle up higher on the table by putting some boxes under it. now it was at throat level. i scooched up closer, maybe half an arms length. i really took in the shape of the flame, like a crescent, or a cuticle. and then there was sort of a third leg to the flame, there were the two ends of the crescent and then a third end, much less stable, and as it moved around the whole shape of the flame changed, sometimes it looked like a crescent, other times like a full moon, and then sometimes the flame even seemed to flip upside down or invert.

i closed my eyes and this time i felt a kind of heat. and i also felt something like a big red sun engulfing my field of vision. i felt relaxed and didn't feel like i was summoning the image. this lasted about 20 seconds and then faded from view. it actually kind of set, it went down. then a saw a few lights flickering, like a light show at a casino, or pips on a die moving around, or the mondrian painting broadway boogie woogie.



this passed after a minute or two and the images faded away and i stopped. i did not feel that i'd really made much headway.

next time i'd like to try the practice in the dark. i will also read a bit more to understand the practice better and what i should do when the images faded away, which they did very quickly.

RE: 3.27.19
Answer
3/28/19 2:24 PM as a reply to Demoxenos.
Hello Demoxenos,

Fire Kasina is quite a bit of fun and is great for developing both concentration and insight into the 3 Characteristics.

If I may make a suggestion: In my experience, using a tea candle to get an effective after image can be difficult. The flame is usually quite small and not very bright compared to other candles. My personal favorite is to use a "dinner candle" as the melted wax doesn't inhibit the flame as with tea candles or candles with large cross sectional diameters. I'd suggest investing in some taller, thin candles that have a diameter of 1 to 1.5 inches as this can create a really lovely flame that is easy to work with. If the tea candle is working for you, then feel free to ignore this suggestion.

There are also good resources on the Fire Kasina website (www.firekasina.org). I'd suggest starting with the Q&A audio sessions from Denman Island: https://firekasina.org/diaries/denman-island-2018/. Many logistics are discussed in the first 10 minutes and then the technical meditation discussions come there-after.

Good luck on your practice! I look forward to your reports!

3.30.19 – visual (un)clarity
Answer
3/30/19 9:59 PM as a reply to Demoxenos.
after the first try with the fire kasina i've been paying more attention to what's going on in my visual field. trying to describe what i'm seeing and actually playing with the seeing sense door. it's mostly... boring? but sometimes i find there's an interesting after-effect when i bring attention back to body or sound. like, what's the body or sound equivalent to this fuzzy ambient blackish stuff?

also recognizing how hard it is to summon mental images in various practices that require it. all the same i get by. like i might fail to bring up a clear visual image of a kitten, but all the same i can get sweet cuddly feelings toward it. normally i sort of just skip the visual image and go straight to emotion but last couple of sessions i've paid attention to what i am seeing. it's not like there's no visual image at all.

for example the other day i was doing positive feelings towards a colleague and summoning a mental image of us talking 1:1 and connecting. what was i seeing exactly? two fuzzy shapes, no faces, static images, zoomed in snippets of her hair or her eyes, a particular gesture, the color of the couch, etc etc.

RE: RE: 3.27.19
Answer
4/1/19 11:51 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
thank you for the suggestion and for referring me to the Q&A! look forward to posting updates with new light sources. 

4.11.19 - seeing a red dot // some basic questions about the 3 dharma seals
Answer
4/11/19 9:10 AM as a reply to Demoxenos.
Made the mistake of typing a very long entry in this box, then optimsitcally dragged in an image, and poof! my whole entry was lost. It was a very nice entry with lots of poetic turns of phrases. You'll have to believe me, now I'm reverting to bullet points:

- fire kasina with brighter flame
- sat on the ottoman (ok idea)
- didn't meditate before (bad idea, noisy mind, should sit quietly for 5 mins next time)
- 6am, pre sunset, birds chirping in background (very nice)
- saw red dot immediately. relief, good feeling to be "doing it right"
- switched to suspicion that I was just seeing flame through closed eyes
- but this red dot was steady, small, sometimes a circle, sometimes a teardrop, sometimes yellow
- first time, started to flicker out of sight.
- eyelids flickering, eyes squeezed shut. too much effort? but when I relaxed the dot disappeared
- second time, started to fade and "set" into the bottom of my field of vision
- third time, looked more like a falling meteor that never hit earth. eventually faded
- blew out candle with eyes closed and the red dot came back -- then alarm went off
- will try blowing out candle earlier next time, and need to re-read instructions

When I turned off the alarm I noticed a bird had shit on my window.

Lately thoughts and musings have been sort of hanging around with me post-meditation. Nothing particularly insightful or profound, more like the way a provocative movie might leave you chewing on things for a few days. Or come up in your dreams.

The 3 characteristics: dukkha, anicca, anattā. Feeling the imbalance of my awareness, specifically how dukkha seems to come so naturally, and so unavoidably to me. There's a practice in Seeing that Frees: behold any object and say of it: unsatisfactory. Hey, I do that practice all the time!

All 3 characteristics have a sort of ominous ring to them, and yet when taken in combination they mitigate each other. Things are unsatisfactory, but good news: they are also impermanent. Things are unsatisfactory, but good news, they don't have anything to say about "you," they don't coalesce into "who you are."

This last point reminds me of a self-compassion quiz I took online with T. It gives you an overall score and breaks it down into several factors. The 3 negative ones among them are self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification. I don't know if this methodology is any good. But I found those factors to be useful in illustrating the delusions I experience, particularly around anattā. I ranked "high" (bad) on isolation (my problems are only my own, I have nothing in common with others), and over-identification (my problems are me).

Writing this I realize there's a little wonk to my understanding of the 3 characteristics. If confusion about them is what causes suffering (and realization of them is what ends suffering), it doesn't quite fit that one of the characteristics is "suffering." "Awareness of suffering brings about the cessation of suffering" is a little too circular for my liking. 

I wikipedia it. Thich Nhat Hanh says that nirvana is the third dharma seal rather than dukkha. "Nirvana is the extinction of all notions." Maybe:

Things are not permanent
Things are not selves
Things are not

RE: 4.11.19 - seeing a red dot // some basic questions about the 3 dharma s
Answer
4/11/19 10:01 AM as a reply to Demoxenos.
Hi Demoxenos,

Great start with your practice log! I am also a fan of Wake Up to Your Life and the rest of Ken McLeod's work. He sends out a very thoughtful monthly newsletter that you can sign up for on his website, Unfettered Mind, which has tons of free resources on it, in case you didn't know.

It sounds like you are getting off to a great start with the fire kasina practice. No need to blow the candle out, by the way--I've always just let mine burn until the end of the session so I can open my eyes to refresh the afterimage over and over again as needed. In case you weren't aware, in addition to all the other good stuff on the fire kasina website there is a book written on the subject by Daniel Ingram and Shannon Stein.

Best wishes for your practice!

RE: diary of demoxenos
Answer
4/16/19 9:46 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Thank you Andromeda! I do subscribe to Unfettered Mind, which I enjoy very much. He's put out a couple of Q&A podcasts recently too.

I read the book thanks to your link. I found it inspiring, and hopefully I'll reach levels of concentration at which it can become a helpful practical guide too emoticon

4.26.19 – dreams and nightmares
Answer
4/26/19 10:06 PM as a reply to Demoxenos.
Vivid nightmares lately. Last night I dreamed I was in a plane plowing into a mountain, into a building, no no no! As I was dying this consciousness of mine, this collection of things, was returning home somehow, what a relief, yes yes yes!

A nocturnal attainment?

I’ve never been so diligent with my practice and so detached from it. 30 minutes every morning, sometimes fire kasina at night. It feels like ages ago that I had an a-ha moment, or that something clicked, or felt something simple and pure like gratitude, humility.

I read about jhanas and ñanas and feel like they’re describing a different experience than the ones I’m having, I have nowhere to place myself and so have to assume that I’m at Stage 0, or worse that I’m doing it wrong.

I wander zombie-like through a brightly-lit grocery store, seeing spots in front of me and the cheap synth-y music rings in my ears. Are these the effects of meditation? What happened to equanimity?

I don’t know how long I’ve felt like this. Hours, or months.

I’ve been longing for a shamanic retreat, trying to retrieve the memories of the one I did two years ago, wanting something to shake me out of funk, wanting to be opened up to all those feelings that are so accessible and so out of reach.

Wanting, not doing. How do I create the conditions for opening up? Why do I resist it? How do I push through that resistance (this seems important somehow, a touch of violence, of invasion, of piercing).

Metta maybe?

I have been using the Brightmind app and the other day repeated over and over again, I inspire people. I forget what the prompt was. A positive quality I wanted to have maybe. I inspire people. My face scrunched up in pain, at the pathetic, pleading quality to my tone, sort of self-contradicting I inspire people, desperate, knowing it not to be true, wanting it to be true, having a little pity for myself, my face smoothing out to neutral, clean sheets, I inspire people, tone flattening, I inspire people, words losing meaning, I inspire people, a bag of sounds, I inspire people, the bell rings, I inspire people, off to work, feeling a deadness inside...

5.2.19 - do nothing meditation
Answer
5/3/19 5:32 PM as a reply to Demoxenos.
Yesterday "do nothing" meditation with Michael. 55 minutes -- one of my longest sits.

It didn't "feel" like meditation. Partly by design. Let that go.

I really like this one, Michael had led it before once and felt positive effects. I think I needed to "feel good" after one of these sits, I needed some reward, and I got it.

Not just like, pleasurable sensations, although I got those. Also sense of progress, insights, footholds, pitons, whatever.

Several minutes in I started to see myself in the chair from a new perspective, top-down:




Later a small black circle a few inches in front of me and above my forehead. I focused on it, I think the fire kasina has helped my visual concentration with closed eyes, and soon I had the sense of essentially shitting myself out of myself, like shitting outward and upward, almost upside down shitting, and from the perspective of the shit. The hole opened itself up to me and I started to emerge, and the feeling was sort of exhilirating, but then as I experienced the exhiliration the hole shut and the "shit went back in."

Tight sphincter of the mind, constipation, etc.

I didn't feel any spaciousness until the bell rang. My field of vision was wider and I found it very natural not to really fixate on anything... "softness of gaze" realized and not just words.

RE: 5.2.19 - do nothing meditation
Answer
5/4/19 4:00 AM as a reply to Demoxenos.
What a great practice log! I enjoy your way of writing it and illustrating it very much. It makes me happy to read.

9.2.17 — wizard's hut under a full moon
Answer
5/4/19 7:42 PM as a reply to Demoxenos.
These are notes from my shamanic retreat 2 years ago in Bolivia. I'll likely go deeper on specific experiences in future posts. For now I just thought it would be a good idea to record the raw notes here.

Not without hesitation. This was something of a sacred experience, and if you could see the tormented face I'm making as I type "sacred" you'll get some sense of the difficulty. Writing these things out and sharing with others feels almost profane. And yet the thought of any experience being sacred makes me want to... profane it? As if to disprove its existence by destroying it.

Anyway I humbly ask for an extra dose of sensitivity from myself and the reader. Somehow I think if we both make it through all this with kind hearts we'll be just fine. (I'll use this formatting any time I'm editorializing.)

First I saw an eye, at the center of my vision. It appeared and disappeared. It was animal-like. Tendrils or tentacles, undulating underwater, beckoning, sprouting out of themselves. 

(The way "Jesus Cristo" would snap me out of it, as would "Hare Krishna.")

My reaction to the lyrics of some of the icaros (magic songs). The songs played a central role in my experience. 

Some discomfort admitting it but: she was undeniably female, undeniably a goddess, undeniably knew me and loved me more than I knew and loved myself.

"Let the players play!"

That phrase came out of nowhere to me while I was struggling through mental chatter. I was at the very beginning of my meditation practice and didn't have any vocabulary for these things. I remembered what my dad and I used to yell at the TV when we were watching Italian soccer and the ref was getting too involved in the match. Let the players play ref!

Took some time to silence myself even as I was "being introduced to her." Incessant chatter! It was quickly isolated and for that reason seemed even louder. And yet: smaller, weaker, something to laugh at. Tenderly. And I laughed!

The music and the way the palms set off like fireworks. I watched the sparks go up, up, up. And how, head in motion, I perceived the sound differently. I wondered how much I looked like Stevie Wonder. Swaying, smiling in rapture, head tilted up, up, up, throat exposed, vulnerable, ready for the knife. Humility. Gratitude. Submission. These came to me later and came with immense power — probably because (is it possible?) I'd never really felt them before. I hung my head in something like shame. Humility/humiliation!

More of a symbolic gesture than anything. A submissive gesture — doglike I felt. I knew I was safe. When Angela intervened I must have been weeping bitterly. I remember scrunching up my face the first few times the music felt sad, because the music felt sad. But the weeping came and swept me away when — what was the exact feeling? How lucky I was, how beautiful my life was, how good others had been to me (especially teachers: H, P) and how little gratitude I'd shown for it, how much I took for granted, and how I poisoned constantly the intentions of other people, how I'd not shown P the proper respect, how little I trusted anyone and how much I had to be thankful for, I wept and Angela came and put her hand on my chest and her hand on the top of my head and I sat up straight and she whispered in my ear something like You are going to be alright and I smiled and whispered back Yes, because I already was alright, it was as easy as taking off one mask and putting on another. Still I caught myself slipping back into sorrow often, head hanging, face contorting, all beautiful, in fact these were likely the most beautiful moments of all, how I felt 30 years worth of gratitude and humility and regret and shame. I'll do better — did I promise this?

When I write about longing for or missing this experience, I mean for the purity and the overwhelming strength of these feelings. I feel more bashful than ever that they are so out of reach. I want to go back, but can't. So I go forward. In my heart I know it's so easy, embarrassingly effortless. The only thing stopping me is my pride, I don't want to admit it's that easy.

Sometimes I felt sick. The medicine worked its way down my body and when it reached my stomach I held the bowl on my lap and held it out like an offering. I felt apologetic for its emptiness. The way I held it mournfully brought me sad, sadder feelings. It was at once a source of comfort and of sorrow. I became aware of how important my pose was, and how much it connected to how I felt. 




The bulk of the night was overwhelmingly engaging with the female. A female being unlocking in me “female” feelings, or at least vulnerable ones. Submission to the female; doubly feminine. My body would stir and she would command me to sit and stay and I would. Like a dog. Toward the end P played songs in a deeper register that resonated with my belly. I wondered if I would puke. Something about the music called to my masculinity and I made the effort (faltering) to pull myself into a seated, poised, cross-legged position. I felt manly. I felt, frankly, a little like a chieftain. I tugged at my blanket and made myself comfortable. Sometimes I drifted off, I imagined myself as a ram or an ox; tough, reliable, a soldier. This felt quite natural as my identity.

Every once in a while I get in touch with this "native" nobility during my practice. I don't quite know what to do with the tribal connotations that come up. Again, there's a solemnity here that I have to treat with a mix of caution and care. 

One thing that came as a complete surprise to me: once again the music turned sorrowful and I scrunched my face up again to cry and suddenly I was showing her my left eye, offering it meekly like a bird with a broken wing. She magically healed the left eye (left I?) and I suddenly felt as if I could see fully with two eyes for the first time. I marveled at this and joyously winked my right eye shut.

From here the notes turn to my (then) current situation: worried about catching my flight, sorting out logistics, concern about my eyes, mourning the loss of the feeling. I'm skipping most of that...


I take a piss in the cafe bathroom. My eyes look fine.

Absurd to absorb everything I experienced that night as fact (and how telling that I’m compelled to). Unrealistic to hope to be able to switch on that mode at will.

Dangerous to equate the experience with pristine awareness or whatever other phrase you just picked up from McLeod.

All the same, all the same.

A glimpse.

Into what.

Into, if not a real, heightened, and repeatedly accessible point of view (outlook, per McLeod?) then at least a set of experiences, many of which were positive and characterized by heightened sight, smell, touch, hearing, feeling, thought. Not hallucinations but profoundly intimate connections with phenomena inside and outside me...

Remember that morning you took the cab to the airport? Called it from A’s place (wasn’t she pissed at you?) still buzzed from all the drugs the night before, hit the highway as the sun rose, stopped in traffic, got out with the cabbie to see what the hold up was, a motorcyclist had crashed, spreading himself and his bike all over the road.

Still caught your flight — you’d budgeted plenty of time.

RE: 5.2.19 - do nothing meditation
Answer
5/4/19 7:42 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
That's kind of you, I appreciate it emoticon While I haven't gone deep on your log yet I'm in awe of your diligence and the sheer volume of posts. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

RE: 9.2.17 — wizard's hut under a full moon
Answer
5/5/19 12:30 AM as a reply to Demoxenos.
Oh wow. If you haven’t already, please promise me that you will write a book some day.

That part about the healing of the left eye/I and seeing everything with two eyes for the first time feels strangely connected to what terry just wrote in Andromeda’s thread about the changing waters.

RE: 9.2.17 — wizard's hut under a full moon
Answer
5/18/19 11:01 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
such a lovely thing to hear and also a sort of fear of mine! How can I write what's "real," resist the "writer's voice," is that even possible... it's an endless, boring struggle of mine. can't wait to let it go emoticon

5.5.19 — getting what I needed
Answer
5/18/19 11:09 AM as a reply to Demoxenos.
I stayed out very late with D Saturday night. Then woke up early Sunday to go off to H's half-day sit very much longing for connection, still very much in that state of desperate wanting to feel, feel anything other than desperate wanting, which feels so familiar, very dull, very rutlike.

In his opening comments H talked about a man who had been discriminated against at his workplace for being Muslim, he'd been a star at his job for years and then a new boss came in and made his life hell. I felt the tears start to well up. Then H started to describe how, when he goes to his community center every week, it's surrounded by homeless people, and he shared how he noticed the way that label comes into his head every time. Homeless. Homeless encampment. The way the function of the label is to separate him from the experience of those people.

Of course I can't do justice to H's talk or to the effect it had on me but soon I was crying, easy tears of compassion. And relief. Oh yeah, I can feel! 

It's funny — I got what I needed within the first 10 minutes of a half-day sit. This is the exact phrase: "got what I needed." The mystery of setting intention...

The rest of the sit was unremarkable. At some point during walking meditation I felt read to fully mourn all the things I haven't, two big traumas loomed large in my mind, 9/11 and the Holocaust, I felt both in my body in ways I didn't understand, I was ready to go to One World Trade Center, I was ready to go to Auschwitz, I was ready to cry, to Fully Process, I was fantasizing, this wasn't real, this wasn't quite right. I let it go.

H made himself available for check-ins so I checked in. I shared how desperate I'd been for that release, for that piercing truth, how I felt it right away with him, and how could I orient my daily practice to make feeling more available to me? He didn't answer that but instead told me that I was making a mistake, I wish I could remember his exact words, he put it so beautifully. But basically that I was on a false path, he said this very gently and familiarly, like this was a perfectly normal mistake to make, but that I was getting hung up on this crash, this epiphanic onset. "A real Buddha," (paraphrasing) "is very interested in the going away, not the arriving." 

Then he quoted William Blake:
He who binds himself to a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise

The next day T told me her dad was probably dying so I booked a flight and left work early. As I left the office and walked to the train station I was hit by an intense wave of, I don't know what to call it, euphoric awareness? It felt a bit like surfing, and it lasted several hours. I'm not sure how to explain it and it's all very distant now. 

What happened was that I felt very important as I was getting ready to leave work. I told my coworkers there'd been a "family emergency." That "my partner's father gravely ill" etc. etc. At some point I became aware of this self-importance, this Urgency that I was carrying around with me, and I thought, God what an insufferable ass you are. Or something like that. You know, the usual. And then I thought, or maybe I just felt, a relaxation and an easing off of all that. 2 things: first, a gentle demotion of that negative voice as not at all privileged over other sensations. And second, an interest in where all that was coming from, and pretty easily seeing that it was important to me to be known as caring, as showing up for my partner, that I was flooded with purpose because this mattered to me and that's pretty adorable!

(What Nietzsche means by condescension or going under... 

Now am I light, now do I fly; now do I see myself under myself. Now there danceth a God in me.)

This nimble understanding of what was going on inside me continued. The metaphor of a garden. Some plants very tall, very strong. Others are struggling, their leaves are full of holes and covered in rot. Some are just sprouts. Still others invisible. I felt my perception transform completely from judging the plants ("this one is great! this one sucks") to noticing where watering had happened.

Frustrating to write about these moments. The words need more polish but I'm in no state to be polishing them. No better sign of that than the word "polish" itself.

This is what I quickly wrote before taking off:
What moments are these, such clarity, clear waters, crystalline I want to say, I want to talk about pristine awareness, but that’s all a delusion, but ah, I’ve got that delusion in my sights too, and it’s that neverending awareness, whose breadth is almost godlike, that intoxicates.

Nothing escapes him. Least of all that. On repeat, intoxicates, but intoxication is noticed, on repeat.

By the time we were all boarded this feeling, this euphoric awareness, had subsided.

Shit, I forgot to notice the going away

5.18.19 — waves of awareness?
Answer
5/18/19 11:28 AM as a reply to Demoxenos.
Sat on zazen stool for an hour listening to Michael's emptiness meditation. Was surprised at how I didn't feel like I lost much listening on YouTube compared to being there.

30 minutes in my legs started to shake, I was sure I'd have to move, and then somehow they just stopped. Interesting. It came to me that these moments of physical desperation might be signs that something fun was just around the corner, but as soon as I thought it it felt cliched.

Lots of visual activity this time.

I looked down(?) and was surprised to see my hands resting on thighs in high resolution. Were my eyes open? No...

Waves crashing, Inky diffusions. Big black wormholes. Very pleasant. In his guided meditation Michael was describing open awareness. Was this awareness? I kind of was picturing a canvas with thoughts and body sensations being painted on it. But this was more like... more like a screensaver, seemingly running independent from what was going on around me... but then where was the going on happening?