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YCR's Practice Log

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YCR's Practice Log
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7/15/19 5:11 PM
Got interested in meditation when I was 17 and started following whatever basic instructions I could find online. When I was 18 I was introduced to TMI through reddit and crossed the A&P a few months later without understanding what happened or why my concentration suddenly dropped. Spent the next 2 years desperately trying to claw my way back up the elephant path with little success.

Right now I'm sitting on Stage 6 level concentration without the awareness or power of consciousness. Recently picked up Noting. I'm planning to just use what I have to try for Stream-Entry.

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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7/15/19 6:14 PM as a reply to YCR.
Welcome to the Dharma Overground! 

This is place is full of people who have been up and down the progress of insight more times than you can count. This is one of the most valuable resources for stream entry one can find (in my humble opinion). 

I look look forward to reading your experiences! I’m doing noting as well

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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7/20/19 8:04 PM as a reply to YCR.
My concentration seems to match descriptions of Access, without the piti-sukha. Current hypothesis is that the POI is preventing this.

My sleep patterns have been strange. Moving back and forth between waking up naturally with as little as 4.5hrs and as much as 11-12hrs.

A frontier I've been pushing has been to utilize my dreams for psychological and spiritual development. I become lucid on occasion, but I am unable to use them for much. Simply increasing my dream recall has provided me with insight into my psychology. Not sure what to do with any of it, though.

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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7/16/19 12:05 PM as a reply to Travis McKinstry.
Likewise Travis.

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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7/20/19 8:17 PM as a reply to YCR.
I realize I have had a strong proclivity to come at this meditative stuff with a highly commitment-based and idealistic mindset. Really the only things I was concerned with were how many hours I could do in a day and how consistently I could do this, with my only goals being massive and far-off.

I've started learning a bit about proper goal setting. The four cornerstones seem to be:
1. Set explicit, specific, and numerical goals
2. Set difficult but realistic goals
3. Set short-range as well as long-range goals
4. Record and evaluate your progress

I am trying to do this for each facet of the spiritual life (the seven factors, four foundations, POI, etc) rather than being hyper-focused on one aspect and neglecting the others.

This new approach is helping me greatly for developing mindful-awareness. Instead of trying and failing to do something I absolutely cannot do I can just work on what is immediately achievable to me and work my way out from there. I ran into some really amazing and new rapture yesterday from developing myself in this way.

Starting to look forward to practice again.

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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7/26/19 12:31 AM as a reply to YCR.
Difficult day today. Got ran over by psychological issues again. I don't know if it's a meditative thing or what. The TMI crowd always talks about "purifications" and how much better they feel afterwards. I don't get that at all. It just shows up to kick my ass once a week and goes away.

Psychological issues and POI stuff seem to be so heavily conflated. Sometimes I have a general despair at life and my future for no real reason. On retreat I felt the deepest sadness and loss of my life for no reason. Other times it seems to be intellectutally driven; all my hatred and sadness comes up from random intellectual reflection. My values, perceptions and plans swing wildly day to day and hour to hour. I haven't done anything horribly destructive yet but I've gotten close.

I'm also developing some strange function where I just let go and let things run me over. It's like I go "Fuck it. I don't care. I'm so done with trying to fix things. Just come and get me." It feels more like an apathetic submision than equanimity, although they are probably conflated to an extent as well. It is a very freeing feeling though. Some things that used to destroy me I barely care about any more.

Also feeling some strange emotions that I really don't know how to label.

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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7/26/19 6:23 AM as a reply to YCR.
YCR, for better or worse, that sounds pretty normal.

A lot of classic dark night meditators go through exactly the kind of psychological/POI conflation as part of their practice. Just knowing that this can happen is step one and probably the most important step -- so many people are completely lost without knowing it.

The next steps involve really being with those expereiences/nanas and realizing that our mind states appear (at least initially) almost like we get psychological reborn into world where we are sad, angry, despair and it kinda occurs (at first) all at once and almost completely without reason. Although that sounds depressing, it also means that now the meditator can actually "see" the body-mind states AS BODY-MIND STATES --- which means they are somewhat separate from the knowing mind. In other words, without a meditation practice, we would just BE sad, angry, in despair etc. 

The fact that you are noticing a ~weekly cycle and have reached a kind of "fuck it" stage is actually a good sign. At this point, you probably have realized that you can't "fix" or "run away" from these experiences. This is when every classic dark night yogi realizes "I can't go around these states, I have to go through these states". 

The way purifications happen is by somewhat letting go of thoughts about these states and instead really looking at how it shows up in the body. Each time you fully experience a sensation, and urge, a feeling/emotion, there will be a little release --- but not if you are intellectually focused on thoughts about practice or thoughts about the sensation, urge, or feeling/emotion. The idea of progress of insight is when you have the complete knowledge of the nana, then you know how to accept the nana with equanimity and you move through the nana. So if you are very experienced at the Misery nana, when feelings of sadness/misery happen, you don't fight it, you don't run from it, you fully experience it as a body-mind state, and you "as the knower of the state" are not trapped by it, and so even though you are in the nana, you move through it with equanimity. Not an equanimity that is dull and unfeeling, but an equanimity that can go through all the challenging sensations of the nana and yet still feel like you are fundamentally the knower of the nana, not the sad/miserable person.

Therapy does a lot of similar work, which is why therapy and meditation together are perfect for dealing with the dark night stage. Therapy can also help when there is a past-trauma aspect to the dark night. In other words, sometimes there are old experiences of trauma that start being relived when practicing. But pretty much every human being will go through some aspect of dark night/purification because what practice is doing is expanding our maturity and sanity into a new stage, just like we went through when we were kids and growing up, and just like kids, there's a lot of frustration and anger and sadness and complaining etc. as we move through this next stage of development.

For meditation practice, you need to be clear that thinking about things really doesn't help much. Instead, you need to meet sensations at the level of sensations and really feel it. Same thing with primal urges and feelings/emotions. It's when they are experienced directly that the purifications occur. Basically, all of those feelings want to be felt and if they aren't fully felt, they will keep coming up.

For example, what are the sensations and feelings/emotions and thoughts that create "the deepest sadness in my life"? Most importantly, pay attention to the sensations themselves. How does my physical body feel? What sensations make up the feeling?  Where are the sensations located in my body? Are there different sensations located in different places? Do the sensations move or seem to move or flow? Do the intensity of the sensations increase and decrease? 

While you are doing this level of investigation, you might get a dismissive/angry feeling like "this is stupid, I shouldn't have to be doing something this stupid. I shouldn't have to be feeling all these yucky feelings. It's just wrong." And you will probably have all sorts of thoughts about "where am I in practice?" "which nana is this?" "is this really practice or is Shargrol just a bullshitter?" "I've already done this stuff, why do I keep having to do it?' etc. etc. etc.

The important thing is not to spend a lot of time on these feelings. Sure listen to them, notice them, just don't waste too much attention on them. Just notice that you are feeling ill will for the practice and you are having worried thoughts about practice. Totally normal, but just not super helpful. If we could move through this stuff by having emotions and thoughts about it, then everybody in the world would be enlightened because everyone in the world has emotions and thoughts.

So notice "ill will" and notice "worrying about practice" but then return to being curious about the sensations. 

Here's what basically happens in purifications: all of these solid feeling sensations and urges are like sharp rocks in our body-mind, created as part of the normal process of being a feeling human. These sharp rocks grind against us when we experience certain things (specific to each person) in a kind of automatic way. But when we put our attention on the sensations of these sharp rocks, they start getting softer and more rounded. They behave almost like sharp pieces of ice in the sun. They soften and round and get smaller with attention. Many of the sharp rocks wind up melting away, turning into water and then turning into vapor and disappear. It's really amazing. It's what makes practice so incredible. After a year or two of really good practice, we can almost be different people -- not reacting to the stuff that used to make us crazy.

In the long run, what seems to happen is that many many many of the sharp rocks are realized to be not helpful and when they are fully experienced and showered with attention, they melt completely away. What is left behind are sort of the key feelings that we still need to be a human. We will always need some fear, some sadness, some worry in order to stay safe in this crazy world of ours -- so that essential stuff stays. But so much of our needless worry, paranoia, over-reacting, freaking out etc. goes away by meeting our experience at the level of sensation during meditation.

Anyway, my hunch is that you basically already know everything that I've already said, So I guess the only thing I can really add is a statement that "yes, making progress like this really is possible by a normal human! it just take time and sometimes some helpful advice from meditation friends and teachers".


For what it's worth, it can be good to describe the specific challenges you are working in your practice log. Very very specific, like what sensations and urges you are working on, that way people can give you targetted advice.


Hope this helps in some way!

RE: YCR's Practice Log
Answer
7/27/19 7:40 AM as a reply to YCR.
I would take the advice of shargrol very serious. The content of their guidance is what helped me through the Dark Night, especially my several passes through Reobservation. 

But please do report your specific sensations with your more “negative” emotions/aspects of practice. 

RE: YCR's Practice Log
Answer
8/17/19 3:55 AM as a reply to YCR.
Had a pretty powerful a&p last week that kinda killed my progress. Sometimes when I see progress I get all confident and decide to just stop. Something I need to work on.

Noting seems to happen automatically at times. Not sure if this is a good thing. When meditating I often run into bliss over all of my body. Initially I thought this was just dullness but it feels much more deep and refined. It doesn't have that "heavy blanket" feeling. Falling alseep I found myself laying in a profound bliss without even meditating. Really wonderful.

Weird things are happening. Strange visions. While falling asleep I had an "earworm", but it was like I was actually listening to it. Like I was wearing earbuds. It was one of my favourite songs but with a depth and richness and beauty to the sound that is not actually in the song.

Also, thank you Shargrol and Travis, your advice has been game-changing for me.

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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8/17/19 3:52 AM as a reply to YCR.
I've really been slacking with my meditation. I've only been able to manage 1hr a day and inconsistent mindfulness. My vision is flashing to red again during noting. Weird unknowing events too. It's like this path taunts me with false cessations. What a useless meditator I am.

I wonder if it's possible to actually regress on the POI. I've heard the analogies of the jungle path or the sherpa on mt. everest. I know you go up and down the path you forge for yourself constantly, but I don't know if there comes a point where the vines grow back or the path snows over if you don't keep at it.

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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8/13/19 6:33 PM as a reply to YCR.
I wouldn’t say you’re a “useless meditator”. What happens is what happens, I know it might be tough but it’s best to be with what is rather than wishing it was somethign else. That’s how I get to Equanimity anyway. 

I wish you luck on the next part of your adventure and hope, if you do stop meditating, that you’ll come back one day.

I’m not sure what your definition is of “digression” but it seems to me that there is a way to digress on the POI. If you’ve hit SE, probably not. But if you’ve hit the A&P you’ll likely float up and down the path until you get serious again and hit SE.

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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8/17/19 4:17 AM as a reply to YCR.
I think I am going to return to concentration practices. The main thing that made me switch fully to noting was the idea that post a&p, it is an impossibility to develop one-pointed concentration or enter the Jhanas. Going over the second edition of mctb I see that Daniel revied this and said that developing one-pointed concentration in the dukkha nanas is just very difficult. I also didn't know that you could fall back to stages lower than the a&p before you hit stream-entry.

Noting seems like the type of practice you need to do all day with hours of formal sessions to really get stuff done. Concentration seems much more forgiving where one short daily session is good enough for maintenance, even possibly progression. I will be going back to school in a couple weeks so this is big for me. Insight is cool, but concentration is where my passion really lies.

I'm just now discovering the magic of setting resolutions before sessions. It's unbelievable how much better I perform. I think it is absolutely essential for doing concentration work, at least for me.

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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8/24/19 3:39 PM as a reply to YCR.
I think I have been fundamentally misunderstanding my concentration practice. Listening to an interview with Leigh Brasington he mentions that thoughts often appear in access concentration, it's just that they don't pull away your attention from the breath. I was assuming that any thought was at least a subtle distraction, but now I realize the majority are just in my awareness. I realize now it's really not that hard for me to lock my attention onto the breath for extended periods of time.

The bliss/rapture/sukha/other fun stuff doesn't seem to be directly related to my level of concentration. Some days my concentration is better than it has ever been and I feel nothing. Other days I barely have to sit for 2 minutes before my entire body is covered in bliss. I assume this is just POI influence, but I really don't think I'm experienced enough to diagnose myself.

I'm not really sure where to go from here. I'll try to get to first jhana, but piti/sukha is so inconsistent I'm not sure how I will. I'll try Brasington's smiling method.

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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8/25/19 3:56 PM as a reply to YCR.
Sometimes it feels like I almost enter a "reverse jhana" where my entire body is covered in violent energy and it feels like there is a 10lb weight hanging from my solar plexus.

Also, I tried out light bulb kasina practice and it was very interesting. I did a few rounds of it. Generally the afterimage started out as a bright orange/yellow ball, with rough edges, eminating some fine waves that kinda looked like solar wind. Very similar to the sun. After this it would turn to a bright green, then a darker purple ball with a black dot in the middle. When I focused on the black dot the first time there appeared a blinking red light inside it. The second time there slowly appeared a vivid image that is very difficult to describe. It was like a ball of white energy twisting around and emanating smoke. It lasted for a few minutes. By far the most vivid thing I've experienced in my meditation.

I feel really bad for defending Culadasa in the thread yesterday. I know what he did was very wrong and I didn't mean to disrespect anyone. I have a soft spot for him. Discovering his book was a pivotal moment in my life.

RE: YCR's Practice Log
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8/29/19 12:07 PM as a reply to YCR.
Somewhat eventful day yesterday. I had had another a&p. I decided to take my off-cushion breath awareness practice and try to look for the impermanence in it. I developed some strange contractions where I needed to fully breathe out and hold it before breathing in again. Eventually my "stuff" came back in full force and ended with a deep sadness. Instead of going into my head again I observed the emotions and tried to find impermanence in them. After a while of doing this it quickly ended and I felt really amazing. Just riding the bus was a joy. Soon after this I saw clearly how much pain I was causing myself always wanting to have and to be something "over there". It felt like I stepped out of that mindset for a night.

I'm not sure if it was EQ or not. If it was I'm out of it now. My positive feelings may have been scripting.