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Nelb practice log
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8/24/19 10:41 AM
 About me : 22 years old, male, non-native speaker

Practice history : started october 2018, samatha-based practice in tibetan Kagyu's lineage style but very mushy sangha. One thing led to another, I went for a solo retreat in march 2019 to explore noting. Since then, my practice has been an experimental mess. 

Current practice : two hours, the structure is Goenka, and the core is investigation of the 3c

I went on a 10 days Goenka retreat, followed by a 7 days solo retreat and 15 days tibetan buddhism retreat in July.  Here is an account of the Goenka retreat, the coming back home from all that. And then I'll update once a week




    Day 1 - Day 3 : I follow instructions diligently. I quickly come to very subtle sensations and fast vibrations at the triangle zone under the nostrils, before the instructions get to that. However, the mind is going mad. Without strong peripheral awareness, metta and my usual samatha blend of techniques, the way to get focused gets violent and ugly. The mind feels so tight and contracted. Somewhere, mid day 3, strong dullness takes over the field of experience. Despite investigating it and seeing through it, there are some residues at the surface. End of day 3 shows me clearly where I am : the mind is crazy reactive in the background, but the focus got really good & deep. 
             However, as the background is crazy agitated, I deviated mid day 2 from Goenka method & begin to put a watchtower on peripheral awareness, otherwise the concentration is too fragile, a  few minutes, and then loops take over. Then I begun to embody mental phenomenon by going to see sensations and feelings behind the thoughts. I also explored mind-decentralized aspects of experience : doing a samatha-stuff I learnt to go to perceive from the heart, then the gut to ground the mind. Then at some point, I thought Goenka samatha technique was unskillful in this pure form. So I allowed myself to do my stuff when I felt it was more skillful. I went to perceive the space of experience, the mind contractions, and the remaining sense of dualities at the fringe of the vast space I could perceive if I intended to.More tranquility,  and a kind of hypnotic depth, I guess perceived dullness was a part of the mind settling down to allow me to go deeper then, hence what I perceived as residues despite investigation.


Day 4 - 5 
The rest of the retreat is confusing for me cognitively because it all went very fast. I don’t have good knowledge of the maps except the basic structure. This retreat showed me I don’t know much & I’m a young dog, so my practice is so messy. I must learn Practical Insight Meditation and be more precise.Vipassana starts today. Finally… I was so resolved to get the most I could in those few days. It amounted to what I believe crossing the arising and passing away on the morning of the 5th day. Why do I believe so? Lots and lots of sensations and energy, with begining and end perceived very clearly. I also begun to experience reality moment by moment. My mind went like a kid in disneyland doing all kind of stuff, projecting many bodies in all the room, trying to perceive the whole vibrations of the room and turning it upside down, this kind of tricks. I focused it back reminding I came here for insight.  As Goenka is focused on body scan, for a few hours it was mainly a very very fast free flow in the body. The free flow got intensly noisy. It was at times unpleasant and at times pleasant, I didn’t really care. I saw clearly the mindblown, fascinated trap, I did not want to impede progress by falling for that. Then, during the final session of day 5, it felt like the whole flow in the body and the structure of the body itself dissolved. It got very quiet. There was just deep silence in the body, and phenomenon arising were perceived very differently as before this event. It was slower, cleaner.

Day 6-7
                 Waking up day 6, I did not feel good at all. I even automatically did metta and the first jhana a lot in the morning. After lunch, I felt terror as solidified sensations. There was automatic mind reaction of aversion for practice. I reminded myself of Goenka instructions and of the dark night existence. I thought to myself, well this is impermanent, I can observe this with equanimity, many have done so even if it seems superhumane now.  It has ruined my life so far, it’s time for heroic effort. So what I did was to do the body scan, putting a whole body sense in the background and then I stayed for the whole meditation with the solidified sensations, and just investigated the three characteristics. The sensations were dissecated in layers, then I methodically waited for each layer to dissolve in subtler sensations and subtler sensations. I went from terror to fear to the fear dissolving and leaving a subtle persasive sense of discomfort. Then, what happened after that is a bit fuzzy for me, despite I know a lot happened. I felt relieved after the fear dissolved, just wanted to take a break from practice. I slacked. Then there was an acute awareness of the duality in the experiene. I could not escape this shit. So the perspective of getting over with it all got me back to diligent practice.
           Then I felt highly depersonalized. It was hard to practice, I had the impression no one was there to practice. Around the 5pm tea break, a lot of natural reflections on the five skhandas came, there was automatic reflections on the moment by moment arising of the self ot the moment experience, from sensations to consciousnessThen it was weird because those reflections seemed highly useless and just sirens distractions. It felt like a turning point. So after that, I kind of don’t know how to describe it because I don’t know what I did. It felt like I was entranced in very deep states. It felt like the depth of a jhana, but I wasn’t in any samatha jhanas. So I don’t know. First, it seemed there was a feeling of fundamental desynchronisation between phenomenal experience and awareness. Noticing bodily sensations got hard and tenuous. So at this point, the inquiry mainly beared on the background of the whole body sense. It felt as if I was going at a deeper level behind the all the layers already unconvered. Then, it felt natural to shift the focus to the kind of sunyata experience I could access, to melt it down with the waves of impermanence I felt. I thought “it’s going to crack upon reality”, it sounded really fun and I was in a very detached, goofy and weird mood.

Day 8 - Day 9 
And it really sounded like the answer, the answer to what I didn’t know, but with this cool demeanor, I just went for it. I did that day 7 and day 8, mid day 8 the tension really went high because I felt there was a deadline to close the deal, so determination & effort skyrocketed. And it felt close. What happened then is hard to describe. My eyes blinked a lot, the borders of awareness just disappeared without having had the correlated mental consciousness of it. It did not melt or dissolved, it disappeared in an anticlimactic way. Then just nothing, the subtles remaining traces of dualities seemed to have vanished but there was nothing to observe it, so it didn’t even make sense anymore. It just felt like a big resynchronisation.A few hours later, it just felt what needed to be done was done. There was almost relief but I was a bit puzzled, what the fuck was that ? So, I spent my whole day 9 trying to get back to this, as I didn’t know reviewing was a thing, I thought this was delusional and weird. In awe and shocked, I realized I could relive in 1 hour sitting all the phases I went through the retreat, and I kept firm intention to retrospectively extract more detailed retrospective phenomenology from it. But nop. I went through it again but I can’t describe it better than it’s the end of it all without any me to know it is. I read Practical Insight Meditation today, and I was shocked of this review stuff, he describes exactly what I felt compelled to do.I did this several times again in day 9. Then meditation was over because you start speaking day 10. 

What was that ?

So I don’t know at all where I am on the path. I begun meditation october 2018 and  I’m very much a young dog with not a lot of rigor.  Maybe I never crossed stream entry, it’s a real possibility. It’s also a real possibility I crossed stream entry in march after a 15 day retreat. For many reasons. But the main reason is the following : for a full month I had fun sensation deconstruction after sensation deconstruction, day after day, in a deep and powerful way. Ever since, my meditation power has gone way higher when properly geared. Or maybe I crossed it during this retreat.     Doesn’t matter except if knowing would help for practice. Would it ?


I'll update with what changes of perspectives came after the retreat, and showed up strongly during the tibetan retreat.


What now ? 
  • First, post-retreat is so tricky. After the Goenka, the solo went fine. But the tibetan 15 days… Practice felt like playing Russian Roulette on a rollercoaster. And returning back home I’m torned between what I feel like is an obligation to practice because stuff is happening & the desire for a break from the intensity. So I practice, but it’s difficult to make sense of the intensity for now. I feel like I have so much progress to do.
  • So, second, I need to learn by heart a lot of stuff to be better at calibrating practice and moving more skillfully through the territory. Learning by heart, recognizing, going deeper in the direct experience with more precision
  • Third,  this retreat was so fun. Especially smashing the dark night so quickly, retrospectively because I didn’t really appreciate the fun while doing it as you might guess. I’m curious to see what’s there’s ahead. I am also finally comfortable with the weirdly magnetic chemestry I have with practice and the dharma. I came from a very naturalistic, technical formal philosophy background so it was not easy at first to feel at ease with the experiences and shift in understandings. So having feelings of having done something for many lives and finally going back to it to fulfill some kind of stuff was not a feeling I was inclined to listen. From march to today, I begun to fully accept it. This retreat was a confirmation. It feels good, even when it's hellish, and right to follow the path of intense practice and the dharma, 24/24, it feels it’s where life is for me. I realized I'm in love with practice and its artistic/experimental side.
  • Fourth, so I decided to go to Asia to meditate in Vipassana centers, to come back in 6 months, to settle my life and then to go back until why not aharatship someday with intensive practice. I’m so excited! 

Opinion on Goenka technique : 

Goenka technique was nice because I respected it very diligently but I also made all the creative adjustments I felt were necessary. In my opinion, the pure technique would have led me nowhere, it’s way too rigid and unrespectful of the natural flow of experience.  


RE: Nelb practice log
Answer
8/26/19 3:44 PM as a reply to N ELB.
So, how perspectives have shifted since this retreat ? I'll just present in detail the most salient and shifting one. 

  • I had multiple experiences of infinite empty space collapsing in a spacious decentring emergence of impermanence, dukkha & non-self. The bridging point between fabrication and non-fabrication, still fabricated until it bared down to its nakedness. I had no idea the infinite empty space was a form of samatha jhana. Those experiences in the past were not as deep but also it seemed there was a major gap between phenomenal reality and this reality. Now, those experiences expanded to a sort of bridging between the solidity of appearance & this empty reality and there was a juncture point which seemed to bridge those two realms. The juncture point led to deep nondual experiences in which all the fragility, the beauty, the vulnerability & the compassion of the world seemed to be embodied. It had a deep taste of mystery. I work to re-access this experience because it seemed the ephemeral point holding together the formlessness of truth & the groundedness of relative live & phenomenon.
  • Subsequently, there was several experiences of heart-opening spontaneous compassion of very strong magnitude in daily life. Once, at the end of a meal, I felt the whole pain of the blind lady across to me, in a way that radiated in what seemed so vast, and with this shaking of the heart grounded on some kind of empty grounds. The most notable was before a phonecall with my mother, I could hear the vast echoes of her suffering at this juncture point. Subsequently, it led over the following days to compassionate, skillful, firm actions to her benefit.
I wrote the following about this experience :

          I can hear the echoes of this juncture. From this, compassion and emptiness open the doors. All the rest is a trip, a fantasy, the ego driving the spiritual path to its own benefits. The dharma is not a play to be acted upon, the dharma is not a game. The dharma is not about escaping the bare facts of existence. The dharma is naked, raw, barely bearable meeting with this juncture of the relative and the ultimate moment after moment. This sight is less comfortable than just deconstructing myself through the lens of the ultimate to melt dukkha as I’ve experimented with for the last few month. But I believe ultimately this sight, cultivating such a way of seeing and of being, is what feels true to the existence, what feels true in regards to birth, suffering and death. What feels in true in regards of humaneness.

So what now ? I wrote : Awakened engagement will so be the path of experimentation for the next few months.   The path is fucking messy, the path has nothing to do with images, linear models and conventions. Reified awakening is bullshit. All that’s matters is the never ending word to cultivate awakening modes of seeings and being from that place. To go deeper, clearer, steadier, cleaner, more precise, broader, more accurate, more powerful. Full-blown goal of aharatship can meet full-blown goal of boddhisatva in a clear line of work, the right work, the urgent work.

I have to learn about the samatha jhanas to play more skillfuly.  My takeaway from almost 1st year of practice is : tibetan stuff is very powerful, but it never led me to unfabricated, the conjonction of nondual + tibetan teachings + vipassana = right combo. I now need to master more seriously a wet samatha style. So I read With each and every breath, which is a non-cold, non-mechanical & humanly instructed book on samatha. I'll practice from there in the next month, along with metta & play with Michael Tafts nondual guided audio, do some noting to gain momentum for Asia. A mix of balancing/grounding & going back to dive deep.