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Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 10/11/19 7:39 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Chris Marti 10/11/19 7:44 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 10/15/19 4:42 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Zachary 10/11/19 8:51 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 10/18/19 6:59 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 10/22/19 10:41 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 10/30/19 8:29 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 11/4/19 7:35 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Chris Marti 11/4/19 2:55 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 11/5/19 9:12 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 11/4/19 3:16 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 11/20/19 9:15 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 11/20/19 10:52 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 12/13/19 7:42 AM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 1/9/20 8:32 AM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 1/9/20 11:16 AM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 2/4/20 5:39 PM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Brandon Dayton 3/1/20 4:39 PM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 3/27/20 1:24 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Chris Marti 3/27/20 6:56 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 3/29/20 4:34 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Chris Marti 3/29/20 5:16 PM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Chris Marti 3/29/20 11:43 AM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 4/12/20 10:52 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Chris Marti 4/12/20 10:38 AM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Brandon Dayton 4/29/20 8:51 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 4/29/20 11:47 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Chris Marti 4/29/20 10:32 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Brandon Dayton 4/29/20 11:11 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 4/29/20 11:25 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Brandon Dayton 4/29/20 12:24 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Papa Che Dusko 4/12/20 10:50 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Not two, not one 4/13/20 4:19 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 4/13/20 5:24 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 RC 4/13/20 2:15 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Brandon Dayton 4/13/20 2:57 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Olivier 4/13/20 3:56 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Not two, not one 2/4/20 2:32 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 Hibiscus Kid 2/5/20 6:30 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2 ivory 11/5/19 1:02 AM
Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
10/11/19 7:39 AM
I've decided to start a new practice log as I begin to take my life and practice in a different direction.

My old log was filled with complaining, striving, frustration, confusion, etc. I want this log to be focussed less on results and more on the work of developing the mind (and my life). I want it to be a more productive, empowered discussion. My mindset has become one of "Just do the practice and the results will follow" and there is no reason to doubt that - it's simple cause and effect.

This urge to start a new log comes about for a few reasons: The biggest factor is that I went on a 13 day retreat with some monks from a Mahasi lineage in September (TMC in San Jose for those of you who are interested). That retreat was one of the most difficult experiences of my life - I ended up fluctuating between intense anxiety, depression, craving, impatience, exhaustion, lonliness, leg pain, etc. for about 8-10 days straight. I was not emotionally, spiritually, or physically mature enough for that experience. Even now, almost a month later, I am still not back to my emotional baseline. During the retreat, I tried my best to objectify these difficult sensations and mind states, but I still got absolutely rocked by my psychology. It was and still is scary to know just how terribly deep my relative issues seem to go and just how much suffering these can cause when they bubble up. I have taken a break from meditating and am slowly getting back into it. Another issue to note: even after being on retreat for 5 days, I didn't feel like I had developed any sort of concentration like many describe. My mind felt as scattered as it always does and I didn't have the sense that I was 'going deep' into the practice.

Additionally, a tumultuous romantic relationship that started in July came to an end this week. I'm not too bent out of shape about it - it was clear that the connection was falling apart and it had become a drain of time (lots of time) and energy. Maybe I'll feel worse about this in the coming weeks and months, but I feel fine as of right now and accept that it has ended. I also look forward to pouring that extra time and energy into personal projects.

Lately, I've gotten into bullet journaling to get more focussed on 'self improvement' and getting work done. I've been thinking of it less as "self improvement" though (I'm not trying to 'fix' myself) and have conceptualized it as "life improvement". An example: if you learn how to cook better, you will have more fun cooking, you'll eat food that is more delicious, you'll become a more adventurous eater, you can treat others to a lovely meal, you can impress an SO, you can eat healthier, you can spend less money on going out to eat, etc.

So in addition to focussing on hobbies and learning every day, meditation fits into a greater picture of enriching life. A well trained mind can support all sorts of growth and enrich life as a whole. The bullet journal has been helpful in organizing all of this and I've been using it to prioritize my meditation sessions.

As I get back into it, I'll be using TMI as my main practice for a while. I'd like to build a better foundation and incorporate more samatha and enjoyment into my sits (and hopefully be able to carry some samatha off cushion as TMI promises, but I'm skeptical of this claim). I'm working with a teacher as well who will guide me and hopefully I can improve on my concentration skills as I've been meditating for years and the jhanas still elude me. So my biggest goals at the moment: sit daily, and really be diligent during each session. Just come back to the breath again and again. I want it to be simple. I trust that this can make a difference somehow.

Not sure how often I will write here, but thank you for taking the time to read my musings. - Alex

 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
10/11/19 7:44 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
It was and still is scary to know just how terribly deep my relative issues seem to go and just how much suffering these can cause when they bubble up. 

This often surprises all of us, retreat or no retreat. It's not necessarily a "bad" thing, you know. It's part of the process. We have to learn to face up to what we are and how much habit and modeling we bring to our experiences. Hooray for you for getting right back in the saddle!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
10/11/19 8:51 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Great to have you back emoticon

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
10/15/19 4:42 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thank you Chris! I came into contact with a lot of my deep seated beliefs and insecurities. The reason why this bothers me even now: meditation isn't therapy so I am not banking on meditation changing or uprooting the beliefs themselves which have driven my behavior and personality for so long.


Thank you Zachary! For all the support you lent me up to, during, and after the retreat. That phone call came when I was at my lowest and helped to ground me. Always good to hear from someone who can normalize the experience and sympathize - thank you!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
10/18/19 6:59 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I've been sitting 45 minutes most mornings, just trying to be consistent - that's the main goal. Just get the sit in. No need to be heroic. The goal is to make this a daily habit.

I've started introducing a 10 minute sit in the evenings which I will slowly build up in length. For now though, I'll just do 10 minutes and set up a consistent evening practice. 


Practice itself is going well lately. I'm just keeping it simple - rest my attention on the breath sensations at the nose and using meta cognitive awareness as the sort of "quality control" that oversees the various objects that are bubbling up. Awareness is the faculty or quality of 'knowing' from moment to moment.

I'm not so concerned with losing the breath as the object of attention, as long as I am aware of (know that) other objects are popping up. The breath is a convenient anchor.

The breath sensations also are a convenient way to 'cut' chains of thought/mental proliferation. I'm not trying to stop thoughts, but more so just 'inserting' breath sensations in between thoughts to slow the momentum of thought proliferation. Similar to, inserting commas, into a sentence, to create a, pause (see what I did there?).

Sometimes I go into a trance, and that's alright! I just come back to the breath and it feels satisfying. 

There is trust in the process and it feels good to do the work. Life is good!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
10/22/19 10:41 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Just a thought about life stuff and how meditation helps:

Just got out of a relationship 2 weeks ago. Thoughts related to that fact can be painful: a mixture of aversion and fantasy, clinging, missing, loneliness, jealousy, anger, fear, anxiety, the need to improve myself to be a good catch for someone in the future, etc.

I had my first intense brush with depression and anxiety after my first real relationship ended in college. I was a mess. Completely flooded by the emotions listed above and I could barely function. I was a mess for a year.

Compare the end of my first LTR to now: These emotions are still popping up, but I'm not indulging them too much or getting too caught up.

These things can be painful, but no worse than having a slight head cold. Maybe this growth has come about from having been in a few LTRs since then and I understand what a break up is about and what to expect. The meditation skills help me to stay on the sensate level whenever these difficult experiences do arise in the moment.

I am sort of realizing (and I remind myself of this when I get a bit caught up) - "I don't have to feel sorry for myself." It's weird that my initial reaction to these feelings and emotions arising is to indulge them and get sucked into a fantasy that just leads me to feeling sorry for myself. But I don't have to go through that dance.

Now I breathe through the uncomfortable body sensations, emotions and worries and then realize I don't have to carry this burden into each and every room or situation that I find myself in. I can just live. "Here's jealousy arising along with thoughts of what my ex may be up to, yet here I am driving on the highway. I don't have to worry about this now, I am paying attention to the road".

I feel slightly guilty about it because I am not sure if I am avoiding the stuff that needs healing, or if I am doing the right amount of experiencing the unpleasantness and realizing that I don't need to harp on it. The mind creates more problems than it needs to, but the intelligence that guides the spiritual unfolding may need some of this material to do its work. It's really interesting!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
10/30/19 8:29 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I've got a nice little 17 day streak going where I met my 45 minute minimum goal on 15 of those days. I'll be upping it to an hour the next few days and see how it feels - if it's too ambitions, I'll start at 50 minutes instead.

My teacher recommended that I get a more substantial evening practice going, say maybe 30 minutes a night. I'll do 20 each evening and build to 30 in a week. I have a lot of resistence to sitting at night due to the fact that I'd rather focus on my other interests and hobbies and the time and willpower are so limited. It doesn't feel 'productive'. She suggested I do some more open awareness sort of practice centered in the body for starters so I'll try that.

The sits themselves are a mixed bag - sometimes awareness is good (meaning I catch distractions and go back to the breath or hold other objects or hindrances alongside the breath). Sometimes awareness is terrible and the sit is more difficult as a result. I just remind myself that these are the best opportunities for progress and just keep coming back to the breath. Still trying to figure out a good balance between effort and relaxation - tending to be more relaxed than striving which is better than how I operated in the past.

Doubts and impatience have been arising lately, but I'm just sitting or being mindful off cushion anyway. My mind is naturally more and more present/mindful off cushion as the weeks wear on (I gave up on trying to be present at all after the retreat in September) so I take that fact as a promising sign of progress. Just coming back to the breath and the felt sense of my body and emotions and the space/sounds around me, again and again. Not necessarily trying to look for the 3 Characteristics, but really just trying to be at the sensate level when appropriate.

It's all good!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
11/4/19 7:35 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Lots of personal stuff in this post...

Issue:

Trying to get on with my life after this break up. Thoughts about my ex come up again and again and I feel lots of pain in relation to this stuff. I've been coping by trying to 'man up' and improve myself - lifting to gain muscle (and exercise in general), meditating, cutting down on alcohol, investing time in my hobbies, etc. I'm realizing though, that I am not being vulnerable - I basically just cut myself off from thinking about her or feeling what I need to. I want to power through so that she doesn't 'win the break up'. She is a hard worker and, to me, way out of my league. She has more friends than me, is more active socially, is really pretty and bubbly, etc. She's probably gone on dates since we've broken up, and I haven't. Truth be told, I'm quite self concious about all of this and have had trouble admitting it. I'm essentially the loser ex.

If I am totally honest with myself, I miss her. I fell for her pretty hard at the beginning of our relationship. Later on, I realized that we weren't good for eachother in the long run. We were both holding eachother back. She ended it, but I had been planning to end it. It's a funny thing - I feel sorry about the entire situation and miss her, yet I also wanted to end it. There is a polarity in there and it smells like hypocrisy. I miss her and yet wanted to leave her. I think of her and either feel l am missing out on a great human connection, or that I dodged a major bullet.


Root cause(?):

I think most of this stems from a huge inferiority complex I have. I am not sure where it comes from. I think it has something to do with my height (I'm 5'6) and the fact that I was always told to continualy improve myself when I was young. I'm not the manly guy I wish I was - I am awkward in certain social situations, I am quite sensitive emotionally and cry often, I stutter on occasion, I make dumb mistakes at work, I am not super musclar or socially smooth or smart or particularly good in any of my hobbies. I want to be this emotionally unshakeable Renaissance man who makes other people jealous essentially. I want people to meet me and wonder how on earth I do all the stuff that I do with proficiency. I want validation from others in the form of romantic relationships or just sex. I want to be attractive and successful. I don't want to be the loser ex.

Yet I am not any of that. I am ordinary. But lately, 'ordinary' has seemed so refreshing. The concepts I hold about being some perfect version of myself are pretty damaging and holding me back from being happy or even attempting to step out of my comfort zone. On one hand, that drive is getting me to improve myself which is empowering, but there is a lot of mental torture associated with it. The perfect version of myself isn't allowed to mess up and make mistakes. He has to be manly and unshakeable and cool like James Bond. He has to be interesting like Picasso and well rounded like Da Vinci. Yet, the ordinary humanity, the tough emotions, the awkwardness and embarassment I feel are all at odds with this idealized self.

I really want to just live from that ordinary, vulnerable place. I want to be able to be sensitive and emotional. I want to be allowed to be awkward or to make mistakes. To be a bumbling idiot. To come to terms with my humanity even if it is embarrassing. I'm not manly at all, and I shouldn't have to try and fit myself in that box or feel bad when I don't.

It's alright Alex. You're doing fine. You're allowed to miss your ex. You're allowed to be bad at talking to women. You're allowed to lack confidence. You're allowed to feel bad about being short. You're allowed to have an inferiority complex. You're allowed to 'be behind' in life. You're allowed to not be manly. You're allowed to cry. You're allowed to be a hypocrite. 


Practice:

I need to open to holding concepts and ideas that are polarities. I need to be open to feeling like a hypocrite and experiencing cognitive dissonance. I need to be open to being vulnerable and really feel into the emotional pain that comes up. I need to be open to feeling like a bumbling idiot. I need to come to terms with my basic, embarrassing, awkward humanity and learn to love myself.

I'll practice more Metta. I'll practice being more open to experiencing difficult emotions and allowing myself to cry (cultivating acceptance). I've already cried this morning so I'm already teasing something out.

As all this heart centered stuff unfolds, I'd still like to continue with the self improvement (exercise, hobbies, diet, sleep, meditation, etc.), but do so in an ordinary way. Not to be an idealized self, but because these things are healthy for body and mind.

The fact of the matter is, I've been avoiding doing any of this emotional work and trying to get around it. As a result, I've been getting hung up emotionally and held back spiritually.

I'm not okay today but that is okay. Life is good even when it is bad. I'm learning.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
11/4/19 2:55 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
The perfect version of myself isn't allowed to mess up and make mistakes. He has to be manly and unshakeable and cool like James Bond. He has to be interesting like Picasso and well rounded like Da Vinci. Yet, the ordinary humanity, the tough emotions, the awkwardness and embarassment I feel are all at odds with this idealized self.

I'm sorry you're going through this very rough period, but I would ask you to consider that you aren't the "loser ex" at all. I'd say you've already won because this situation is helping you see the folly of what your mind is doing - trying to convince you that you can be unflappable, uber-competent and manly all the time. Think of how much energy that takes! Now you can begin to drop all that and just be human.


RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
11/4/19 3:16 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
”Perfection” is overrated and boring, not to mention rather impossible. Being genuine, like in this post of yours, is awsome. I mean really really awsome. It shows maturity, a far too rare quality. Honestly, I used to believe that you were the kind of person you wish that you were. I am much more impressed now.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
11/5/19 1:02 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hi Hibiscus, sorry to hear what you're going through. I too went through a really tough break up and most of what you said mirrors my experience so I thought I'd chime in. Break ups have a way of exposing up our core beliefs. As a result we tend to fix ourselves because in some way we believe we are broken. It seems you you are onto this dynamic. Regardless, you will get sucked into the drama from time to time as your motives oscillate from healthy to unhealthy as a response to the pain. Totally normal and expected. I ended up doing two years of therapy after my last break up and I'm really glad I did. I'll share what I learned. For self-esteem, the best thing you can do is surround yourself with a group of healthy, loving, empathetic friends. Second, take care of your body. Exercise and healthy food are good ways of showing yourself love. Lastly, don't make too many lifestyle changes at once. When you find yourself trying to build too many habits you can bet that ego is running the show. Realistically, you can really only build one habit at a time. Sounds like you're in new territory now so you are going to be challenged. Remember that this too will pass and that you will emerge a better, stronger, wiser person. Wishing you the best.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
11/5/19 9:12 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thank you for the encouragement Chris! I don't think I'll be able to drop these ideals for a while as they do get me to improve myself. Similar to when I see advanced practitioners discussing how they 'see through' the identity of being a seeker or meditator. It may be helpful at first to take up these identities because it gets us going, but at some point these identities just hold us back like training wheels. I'm not sure when or how I'll realize I can just drop the ideals yet still work to improve my health and wellness and growth.

@Linda: Thank you! You're always so sweet. I'll be leaving this post up although I cringe a bit when reading it. Oh well, honesty can be that way.

@Ivory: I've been to counseling and such before, especially helpful after other break ups. I guess I am just surprised at how difficult it has been. I've matured and grown spiritually since my last few relationships, but I guess I'm always at risk of getting really pulled into suffering. It has been humbling. I'll take your other advice as well.

Thank you for the therapy session you guys.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
11/20/19 9:15 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Metta is just what I needed! I've been practicing for 15-20 minutes at the beginning of my main sit of the day, in the evening for a short sit, and using it off cushion.

When sending Metta to those 'difficult people' in my life, I am instantly put in touch with my feelings, inner boundaries, defense mechanisms and rationalizations and I'm able to hold all of that reactivity/contraction with a sense of care, understanding and openess. I'm even able to cultivate the actual feeling of friendliness towards those who induce those difficult reactions in me (on some days). The sense of calm and ease that it produces at the beginning of the sit is just so lovely.

This has carried over into dealing with difficult sensations that I face - I can hold all experience with Metta (or at least that's the end goal). A lot of my angst and fears related to my self worth are slowly quieting down. I can just be friendly to myself and friendly to others.

I was really stuck the last few weeks, but I think introducing Metta has been allowing for healing, processing, learning, and improving my well being. I hope these changes flow out so that other people may benefit too.

May this practice and exploration benefit all beings! I mean that, honest!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
11/20/19 10:52 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Yay!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
12/13/19 7:42 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Daily practice has been reasonably consistent: I do at least an hour almost every morning. I start with metta (5-15 minutes depending on how I feel) before switching to slow noting. Just trying to be easy when losing awareness and coming back to the moment.  

When feeling inspired, I practice Fire Kasina (30-60 minutes) in the evenings because it's so dark and cold out. The candle flame is really nice. The after image is really lovely and vibrant - shades of green (think northern lights) and then turquoise. Different bands of yellow and red and various outlines on the after image (red and purple or fuchsia). Blue pixels and darkness with plenty of mind wandering when entering the murk. The body really eases its tensions. It can be sort of fun.

Still learning to be accepting of impatience/restlessness on the cushion. Still plenty of doubts about practice and that it will make life better (or that I am a good meditator & headed in the right direction with regards to gaining wisdom/insight because I'd like SE if I'm being honest here). Shining a light on more and more of my unconcious material and making it concious. Becoming more sensitive. Seeing reactivity. Seeing where the mind wants to tune out and protect itself. Learning to be with pain, heart break, difficult emotions, awkwardness, fears and anxieties, boredom and all that in a loving way. More tender and emotional. Sometimes frustrated. Lots of natural gratitude arising.

Really working on learning how to be loving of difficult material (this is the cutting edge of my practice for sure) and not ignorant/unconcious/avoidant - really trying to wake up to it all. Still scratching my head about how to develop that loving attitude towards all that arises - Metta has been helpful, but this ability can definitely be cultivated further.

Things are going well and it feels productive! It feels like coming to terms with being human. A flawed, limited human, but that's okay.   

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
1/6/20 7:12 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Sitting for about an hour a day (sometimes less, sometimes more). Increase in off cushion mindfulness that is sometimes natural (oh! it feels good to be aware!) or sometimes requires a gentle nudge and some effort.

My daily sit starts with a few minutes of Metta and then switches to slow noting. Sometimes (often) get lost in thought or reactivity: come back to the breath/body making minimal fuss. My cutting edge is to develop sensitivity and bring awareness into all states of mind and most activities - not getting lost in my reactivity when it arises.

Making friends with the dukkha nanas - really sitting with and trying to feel the details of shame and embarassment and striving and frustration and sadness and anxiety and angst and anger and avoidance, etc.

Seeing the humor in how many of my 'problems' are just thought loops/fears that the mind replays. It is a bit painful. There is the realization though that the creation of all of these apparent 'problems' is not helping me. Burdens that don't need to be carried. When I look back on the hard times in my life, I often reflect "Why was I so angsty/worried/depressed? It wasn't helpful" and I ask myself the same thing now that I'm in the middle of it. Trying to honor the mind as it heals its wounds and loosens up and learns to 'let go'.

I'm wondering if it would be smart to make a loose resolve to attain Stream Entry this year. Just gently resolve to do it, let it go, and then continue with my consistent, daily, non-heroic practice. My New Year's resolution has been to practice daily so maybe I should stick with that and let the mind figure out where it wants to go from there.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
Answer
1/9/20 8:32 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Had a really difficult sit last night.

Lots of angst. Anxiety about life. Feeling stuck in a shitty routine. Feelings like everything is pointless. Life is pointless. No hope. I'm worthless. I'll never be happy. Trying to escape this mundane life by moving and finding a new career means I'd just be miserable somewhere else. Having goals is just a bandaid to cover up my feelings of lack ('I'll be happy once I achieve this'). Achieving those goals would be akin to tearing off the bandaid and seeing the underlying pointlessness and futility of it all. Awakening to 'this life' seems like it will be a huge let down.

The body was tight. Cool tingles. Reactivity. Twitching limbs. Hollowness. My abdomen was on fire during that last 15 minutes with all the frustration and anger and pettiness and feelings of being 'left behind' and worthless and stupid and disempowered. Thought loops spinning and incredibly sticky. Fear of facing all of this, yet sort of forced to. Tried breathing through it all and patiently noting. Not much acceptance or friendliness towards what was coming up. Doubts about this practice ever making my life better as I seem to just be swimming in shittiness.

The bright side is that I managed to stay with it and sat for the entire hour. I conceptualized it as "reobservation" so I wouldn't take it so peronally, but who knows? Maybe I'm just wired to feel this way.
 
This morning I feel a bit pessimistic as if having a 'negativity hangover'. Why does part of this mind 'want' to be miserable and swim in that difficult content, when there is this other part of the mind that wants to exercise, eat right, invest in hobbies and friendships, meditate and improve life? Why is part of the mind so disempowered by the 'pointlessness' of life when the other side of the mind is excited by the prospect of finding it's own meaning? One side sees lack and pointlessness, the other side sees potential and freedom.

I meditate daily, yet seem no more happy or at peace or saner than anyone I interact with on a daily basis. In fact, I feel more 'broken' or 'angsty' than most people I know. Probably just me projecting. Oh well. I'll just keep putting in the work of sitting daily and see how things change in the coming months/years. Apologies for seeming ranty.     

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1/9/20 8:32 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Heh, classic reobservation rant and the beginnings of "knowledge of" reobservation...

"Why does part of this mind 'want' to be miserable and swim in that difficult content, when there is this other part of the mind that wants to exercise, eat right, invest in hobbies and friendships, meditate and improve life? Why is part of the mind so disempowered by the 'pointlessness' of life when the other side of the mind is excited by the prospect of finding it's own meaning? One side sees lack and pointlessness, the other side sees potential and freedom."

Why indeed?  

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1/9/20 11:16 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Great, I'll take that diagnosis and run (sit) with it!

Thank you, Shargrol!

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1/14/20 6:52 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
My teacher wants me to start developing more concentration so I'll be lengthening my morning sit a bit (10-15 minutes) to concentrate on the breath at the nostrils for 15-30 minutes before switching to noting.

I'm pretty intimidated by concentration practice because I've never been good at it. A few years of practice and I've never really experienced anything jhanic. I've read so many books and articles about the jhanas, yet I've never managed to get there myself.

I would say my meditation sessions are not very 'deep' either. Even on the 13 days of retreat I did in September, I feel like my mindfulness was never any better than if I had simply walked in off the street.

Either I strive too hard and get agitated, or I relax too much and the thoughts just pull me away. Usually just becoming frustrated once the momentum is lost. Even if  I manage to hang with the breath for a while, that's really all it is. Nothing happens. It's boring.

Obviously, I don't have the best attitude towards this, but I'll give it an honest shot in the coming weeks and months.  

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1/16/20 4:59 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Something that changed my approach to concentration was realizing I could generate sincere interest in the thing I was trying to concentrate on, and pleasure in the observation.

Sometimes, the analytical lists of theravadin buddhism, such as the wings to awakening, are useful to contemplate. But sometimes, synthetic notions are more powerful and simpler. 

We could say that you're trying to remove the five hindrances. Or that you're trying to balance the spiritual faculties. But we could also say, using a more phenomenological kind of jargon, that you want to learn to domesticate your interest. The notion of interest actually entails all these analytical categories... You want to stay connected with one thing stably for a long time, get absorbed. One of the strongest ways to achieve that, imo, is to see beauty in what you're observing.

When you're fascinated by a painting, a piece of music, a movie... your attention is usually unflagging, right ? Would you say you're "good" at listening to the music you like ?

So, for instance, if you take the breath as object, you could contemplate what your breath is. It is actually what keeps you alive, something which for you is equivalent to life. It's such a profound part of what your are, that you are labeled after it : you are an animal, a being that breathes (anima means breath or spirit). Your breath, in a way, is your spirit - for the christians and jews, ruah, or pneuma in greek (whence : pneumonia), was the holy spirit, right ? The breath of the universe. In many ways, the breath is universal, it is you connection with the cosmos. You have always been breathing, yet you have rarely acknowledged this.

To me, it's a bit like the sun, always present, always shining, even when we don't see it because, well, the earth is between the sun and us. Yet it shines, and warms us, and keeps us alive. Sometimes there is something between you and the breath but it is always there. Otherwise you would be dead. The analogy goes deeper, because indeed, if there was no sun, you would not be breathing, and if you didn't breathe, you could not see at all anymore. So even when you don't pay attention to it, you haven't lost the connection. There is this level of interdependance, but there is even more depth, because actually, your breath is not your breath, and the sun is not the sun, and they are contained within one another, neither the same nor different, neither nor... Can you perceive the sun in your breathing ?

Maybe that's doesn't resonate at all with you, maybe it does... But you get the idea. You can find a way to really engage with the practice, in a way that feels alive, is what I'm trying to say.

It's possible to look at your breath like you would watch the sun set or rise over the ocean, following the slow movement of the waves, taking in their myriad shimmers. Sense the beauty of it, whatever triggers a true sensitivity and vibrancy in your attention, you could pursue. For instance, when I started to contemplate that the breath was not limited to my nostrils, nor to my abdomen, but actually was running through my body at all times, that, quite litterally, the air that I breathed in a minute ago was now in the blood streaming through my fingers, that the pulse of my heart was actually part of the breathing process, that changed something ; I started to see the depth, the beauty, the mystery and poetry there, and then it was easier to want to look.

Thich Nhat Hahn, as well as Ajahn Brahm's instructions, contain something to that effect - TNH in particular invokes a lot of esthetic, poetic sensitivity. Brahm talks about the "beautiful breath" as a forerunner to jhanas. Of course there's little to none of that in theravadin vipassana, but hey, you're not a burmese monk after all !

What is the point of looking at something boring, seriously ?

And on that note, I will take my own advice and start using it in my practice again ! Thanks for letting this come out ! emoticonemoticon

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1/16/20 5:34 PM as a reply to Olivier.
Hey Olivier,

Thank you for the advice! I'm usually very goal oriented and forget that meditation is as much an art as it is an exercise! I'll reread what you have said and really let it sink in because it is quite helpful emoticon

Michael Taft refers to the breath as 'delicious' and that's an attitude that I have been trying to cultivate. I hope to find that same beauty that TNH and AB describe.

It really is quite a beautiful thing when I consider it - breathing is a shared experience amongst all humans and various species around the planet. It's also how the Buddha practiced meditation; we as practitioners are able to partake in the very same activity. Truly inspiring! 

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1/23/20 7:48 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
This post is related to 'life stuff' - mainly the type of person I'd like to be someday.

I realize that this is totally projection, but sometimes I daydream about how 'Alex the Stream Enterer' would behave and interact with the world. Obviously, SE may not create noticeable changes in personality or subjective experience, but I'd like to think that being able to drop some of 'my baggage' would lead me to become a more functional human.

As a few people have said to me, it's all the work up to SE that changes the mind/brain - not necessarily SE itself. So with the same line of thinking, I can start working to become the person that I think 'Alex the Stream Enterer' would or should be. It's working with all the 'life stuff' up to (and beyond) Stream Entry that will change the habits/personality/attitudes/etc. and not necessarily SE itself.   

So when reactivity comes up, I ask myself, "How would 'Alex the Stream Enterer' ideally handle this?" (Sort of like WWJD?).

So if I want to skip the gym and play videogames all evening, I can ask myself "Would 'Alex the Stream Enterer' go anyway and take care of his body, or would he be avoidant?" Or if it's the end of the day and I feel like watching YouTube instead of doing a 30 minute sit before bed (as I had planned), I can ask myself "Would 'Alex the Stream Enterer' develop his mind or waste his time?" Would I rather drink a bunch of beer on a Friday night, or get to bed at a reasonable time and wake up early and refreshed? Would I rather sulk and be melodramatic about my 'issues' or just tune into the sensations occuring 'now' even if unpleasant? I may not always make the right decision in the end, but at least inserting the question before I mindlessly start acting is a form of progress.

Ideally, taking this attitude over time, I'll learn to gently overcome my unhelpful patterns of avoidance and naturally just do the helpful, productive things that are part of being a well rounded, healthy, functional adult. I realize there is a risk for burn out by trying to be productive all the time (doing too much), but sometimes it's okay to see where we might get burnt-out as that can be a helpful marker of our capability and a good teacher.

Also, I understand that I may just be reifying some ideal self by trying to become 'Alex the Stream Enterer', but at least THAT guy is practicing meditation daily and not shooting himself in the foot as often emoticon

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1/23/20 2:42 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Nice!!!

(And you are probably noticing that moving in this direction leaves you feeling good about yourself which makes you more inspired to move in this direction, etc. It's always some degree of work/intention, but it tends to almost catalyze itself...)

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1/27/20 7:38 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Thank you shargrol! I hope that I can keep it up.



Practice/attitude note:

When talking to my teacher last night, she was very matter-of-fact about me reaching Equanimity in the future. That simple matter-of-factness inspired some confidence in my own practice and made EQ, and eventually SE, seem like real possibilites for me.

I can do this. Every session counts. Every run-in with reactivity can be fuel. I'm doing the work, perfecting the technique, and giving the mind time to learn the lessons that it needs to learn. Others have done it, why not Alex too?

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1/28/20 9:40 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I think I'm starting to understand what "pleasure born of seclusion" means in a practical sense.

It started with reading Daniel's response in this thread (tldr: just follow the instructions on the cushion and stop worrying, gosh darnit!):

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5546622?_19_threadView=flat

And then yesterday I decided to do an hour of Fire Kasina in the evening. During that session, I realized my mind was really worried about something. This topic is something I have been pretty worried about as of late and the mind is trying to find a way to fix what can't be fixed. I keep harping on it because ignoring it seems to be irresponsible which just makes me more worried. The mind keeps bringing it up because it wants to 'heal' but I really think that excuse is the mind rationalizing its addicition to rumination and worry.  

And so my body got tense, the mind started spinning, and then Daniel's advice popped into my head: am I following the instructions? Am I watching the after-image as it changes texture and shapes and color, etc.? No? Well get back to it then! This isn't time to worry about 'Topic'!

Oh man! I only need to be concerned/engaged with following the after-image for this hour! I can take a break from all the rumination and worry!

After that sit, I went to a local Zen group and just hung out with the breath. Any time worry popped up: oh wow, I don't have to engage this! I can just hang out here feeling the breath! It's almost like a guilty little pleasure! I'm giving myself permission to ignore these thought loops for a while! Oh that's nice! 

It seems samatha is more about letting go of all those worries and fantasies and judgements by just chilling with the breath than it is really trying to focus hard. It's gentle. It's giving yourself permission to just enjoy. We don't need to be like Atlas the Greek titan (whoa a connection to the Buddhist realms!), doomed to holding this entire world ('our world') on our shoulders: we can put it all aside and use the breath (or after image) as a sort of shield or closed door to disconnect from it all - to let go for a little while. It feels nice!

So any time I get distracted, I come back to the object and say "Ahhh we don't need to worry about that right now."

And I can do this all day long! Return to the breath - or to the moment! Again, it feels a bit irresponsible - a guilty pleasure of sorts, but I think there are some benefits to experimenting with this. It's not like I'm going to ignore all the specifics of my life that need attention!

I think this will help with my concentration development too which will be helpful! 

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1/31/20 7:16 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Very nice ! Enjoyment ! I think this is a key thing.

Feel free to ignore this, as too much information can be unhelpful, but here is a talk by Rob Burbea called "creative samadhi", which has proved useful and enlightening for me, i'm listening to it again now after a few months and I still find it refreshing : https://dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/26008/

A general
question, which I find that coming back to is imporant, because it is so easy to get side-tracked : if the goal of life is happiness, joy, should happiness depend on external circumstances ? And what specific life circumstances would be ok enough so that happiness would be justified ? Why is it not ok to be happy and joyful right now ?

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2/2/20 4:21 PM as a reply to Olivier.
It's funny, because asking myself those questions at different points throughout the day helps me to take stock of what's going on internally/externally and lightens my mood a bit. Thank you Olivier!

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2/2/20 6:02 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Tentatively going to claim that I'm getting into Equanimity... Or maybe I just caught up on sleep this weekend haaa.

Lately I've been running through cycles and getting intimate with them (both on and off cushion). Understanding how these different stages (nanas?) are manifesting for me personally and not being embedded:

Fear - Thoughts about the future induce dread and anxiety. Sensations are centered around my upper abdomen/diaphragm: heat, constriction, uncomfortable tingling, nausea, etc. I realize what's going on and I'm better about being objective and sitting in the midst of it on a sensate level. 

Misery - Thoughts about the future/anxiety give way to thoughts of hoplessness and depression. The inital feeling I'm hit with after Fear is feeling 'bummed out' which then deepens. Thoughts about whether I'm worthy of love or compansionship, or if life is even worth living (basically suicidal thoughts, but I don't consider myself suicidal). The sensations in the upper abdomen drop down into the stomach. There is a feeling of being hollow -empty/pointless. It's somewhat icy or cold. There is a tingling in the belly too. I can pull myself out of these sad fantasies and stay on the sensate level and be objective about it. This stage moves rather quickly when I don't indulge it! The trap here is that I want to indulge in the thought content because I want to 'heal' my psyche for fear of spiritually bypassing my trauma - this has been extremely insidious and has made me sooooo miserable these last few months! Don't get stuck in content!!!!  

Disgust - Subtle and quick. I think I usually miss this one. It's a fleeting feeling of exasperation at the state of my mind and how pitiful I'm being. Easier to see when I've been stuck in Misery for a while. 

Desire for Deliverance - This one is oddly hopeful. Lots of yearning. Thoughts about how I'm going to focus better at work, make more friends, get in better shape, switch to a plant based diet, plans to meditate more often so I can finally finish this shit, move across the country or move to a new country, plans to focus on myself and my hobbies so I'm more interesting etc. Lots of restlessness - I just want to get up and get to work on my new life! Again, this stage is really about feeling into the restlessness as it manifests in the abdomen. It almost constricts my breathing as my chest cavity tightens. Seeing how excited this organism suddenly is as it is trying to be hopeful until it all comes crashing down in...

Reobservation - Desire for Deliverance ends when I see how all these thoughts are just causing me to become restless and to distract me from the underlying issue: this moment is a bit of a let-down. It's plain. Anti-climactic. Boring. Not glorious in any shape or form. This one "wild, precious, crazy and profound life" is literally just this: me sitting on the floor with my crappy attitude and the sound of traffic outside. Thoughts about how I'm a limited, plain, ordinary human bubble up. Realizing that trying to account for all my limits (the material that came up in Desire for Deliverance) is a pointless errand - this realization means I have no firm ground to stand on and all hope disappears. The time is always 'now'. Awakening is just 'this'. Wow. Awakening is the absolute biggest let down. What am I doing??? I'm never going to be happy! This all sucks!

Equanimity(?) - This hasn't come up in meditation as much yet since it's so fresh - more so in off cushion life. The huge issues that I've been having with my personal life suddenly aren't issues. I'm not interested in indulging the issues - I'm not blatantly ignoring them either. Everything feels ordinary. There's subtle fear about being pulled back into these issues or difficult stages, but for now, I can just sorta hang out. I'm less reactive. Any reactivity is attenuated although it is still present. Who knows? I was still getting impatient on the cushion today, but there was a certain playfulness and experimentation surrounding that fact as opposed to the usual aversion. The session felt shorter than usual. I'd ask myself, "Would I be able to sit like this for a while?" anytime difficulties arose, and the answer was always "yeah, this is fine actually." At this point, it's too early to tell because I've only been feeling this way for 24 hours, but the 36-48 hours preceeding this period were fucking terrible and I was just riding it out: objectively watching body sensations and thought loops. Currently, much of the spiritual angst is gone - a relief. Just ordindary and fine.  

That's all for now. Maybe everything I just described is absolutely wrong - I wouldn't be surprised. I'd be able to laugh it off though! This stuff is sort of funny when it isn't so devastating! emoticon

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2/4/20 5:39 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Maybe not equanimity after all. Maybe it just was catching up on sleep.

Didn't have a chance to sit until this evening because I woke up for a few hours and couldn't get back to bed so I slept in. 

Felt like utter shit after getting home: lonely, depressed, angsty, just everything is wrong. Took a quick nap and then sat for 30 minutes. Leaned in to the physical sensations and caught the thought patterns as best as I could - returning to the body and the breath and noting to stay objective. Sitting in the midst of all this shit and wondering what the point is. This is terrible. 

That 30 minutes felt like "off gassing" all of this miserable angstiness. I feel quite a bit better, but still not quite right in the head. At this point, it feels less like moving forward and more just keeping up with the practice and not letting all this negativity get the best of me. 

Going to sit with the Zen group here in town for the evening. 


EDIT: It's a new day and I feel the exact opposite of yesterday. I feel loved/appreciated, hopeful, super motivated and excited to improve this life. These radical shifts are a tad disorienting haaaaa. I'm going to go sit! 

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2/4/20 2:32 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Maybe developing more jhana practice would be a good support at this stage.

Malcolm (with much metta)

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2/5/20 6:30 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Thank you Malcolm! I've been working on refining my concentration with my teacher for about a month now, but the jhanas still allude me. I have a feel that those are still far off. I have no chill emoticon

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2/5/20 6:40 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I think that I need to put more effort into my off cushion practice.

I've gotten lazy in this area figuring that my daily, formal 60-90 minutes is enough to make progress, but I'm beginning to think that my mind might require more work/effort than that.

The mind is just so addicted to its stories - I think I need to just stay on the straight and narrow to keep myself from suffering needlessly. Noting or returning to the breath/body constantly throughout the day is serving as a helpful life-raft as all of this reactivity and negativity bubble up.

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2/6/20 4:26 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Interesting experience on the way to work today and somewhat similar to the A&P experiences I had on retreat in September.

I was listening to a dharma talk by Joseph Goldstein and he was discussing how reflecting on death and dying inspires us to engage in dharma practice. 

And I'm staring out the windshield driving and the thought arose: "Whatever awareness that is currently 'seeing' out of the window will die one day and that will be that". Then there was a palpable surge of energy in the body as if the organism/mind was trying to digest the lesson. The message felt very close to being understood, but moments later I was back to the usual way of viewing things as if the mind wanted to resist and reject what it was so close to learning. 

Maybe it doesn't mean anything, but the energy surge was definitely visceral. 

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2/6/20 5:16 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Whatever awareness that is currently 'seeing' out of the window will die one day and that will be that". 

Are you sure? emoticon

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2/7/20 7:38 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
And I'm staring out the windshield driving and the thought arose: "Whatever awareness that is currently 'seeing' out of the window will die one day and that will be that". Then there was a palpable surge of energy in the body as if the organism/mind was trying to digest the lesson. The message felt very close to being understood, but moments later I was back to the usual way of viewing things as if the mind wanted to resist and reject what it was so close to learning. 


Question - is that awareness still alive? How long does it live?

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2/7/20 8:50 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
@Zachary: I'm absolutely not sure! ;) This is a tentative assumption based on my current beliefs - subject to change!


@Chris: From my current perspective, awareness is a background container (like a paint canvas) on which experience plays out. If there is no canvas, there is no experience (deep sleep or being completely lost in thought). It is a somewhat stable seeming container, for as long as I orient my mind as an 'observer' of experience. But the container disappears all the time - sorta like a friend who comes by to visit for a bit. Once the friend leaves, do they no longer exist? - This is how I currently view it in 'my' reality.  

Given that people further along than me point out that awareness arises with experience (awareness and experience are not separate), it makes sense that awareness is always arising and passing so it is never really alive or stable in any sense. I believe this is what is meant by luminosity. This is just conjecture on my part though as this is not how I currently understand reality.

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2/7/20 9:00 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
If there is no canvas, there is no experience (deep sleep or being completely lost in thought).

This is something to save for later in your practice  emoticon

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2/19/20 10:55 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
It's funny (and laughably frustrating) how the mind needs to be confronted with the same lesson again and again and again so that we finally get it.

I've known for a while now that I can't make anything happen in meditation - I've been told many many times. I can only set intentions to be present or relax, etc., but I can't force the mind to go through the nanas or make the paths happen. Although I know that I can't force anything, that's not how I practice. I push and I push in trying to 'get through' one thing to 'get to' another. All this pushing to get somewhere, but I have no idea what I'm doing. I don't know how to get anywhere! I'm not in control! And the fact that I can't control it is humbling to say the least, if not discouraging.

That's not the point though. Really it's becoming simple and clear - I don't have to get through or navigate anything which is good news because I don't know where I'm going. It's not my responsibilty to force anything to happen. I am responsible for patiently noting what is going on now - I just need to know 'where' I am in this moment.

Not only is knowing about the maps somewhat distracting, but hearing about certain practitioners and how they can just jump around or slide through nanas flawlessly has given me the sense that I need to be able to do the same. It seems like they have control over the process and that's quite a burden to carry: the ideal to be good at meditation.

So it's just this: this doubt, frustration, breath, mental image, story, planning, pressure, pain, vibration, searching, mapping, hearing, practice thought, contraction, narration, touching, etc... Simple.
So why all the complication? Just note patiently, regularly, with a gentle touch. No force needed... and yet it seems this pushing needs to exhaust itself.

My log is starting to become musings about the most basic instructions emoticon

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3/1/20 7:34 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Having trouble practicing formally lately. The motivation just isn't there. The spiritual crisis is sort of gone at the moment so there is no burning reason to get me sitting (besides knowing that I will backslide if I don't put in the work). So I'm trying to continue as best as I can.

Additionally, what I'm realizing more and more is that this process leads to loosening up around the conceptual identities that I've spent my entire life building and all the personal stories that go along with that. Get lost in stories, realize this, come back to the breath/body and note. Do this all day, every day.

An analogy to how I'm feeling would be akin to getting in an argument with someone. After the argument, most people want to brood about it. They get riled up and create these intricate stories as their defense mechanisms & rationalizations kick in. The 'adult thing' is to admit fault (or forgive someone else's indiscretion) and move on. Most people would say they want to be mature and do the 'adult thing', yet the brooding is addictive. The brooding creates an identity. It's a lot of work to deal with that, but it's the default for most people. Although it's better to do the 'adult thing' and move on, it just doesn't give the same satisfaction/dopamine-rush as brooding. So people don't put in the work associated with doing the 'adult thing'. Because forgiving or apologizing and moving on requires us to let go of a part of ourselves. And this applies to my practice:

I originally got into meditation because of angst. Eventually, I felt like it would be cool to get Stream Entry because that would make me into a more interesting person. If I can't have material status symbols, why not spiritual status symbols? Not everyone can be a Stream Enterer after all. 

But the practice lately has been about doing the 'adult-thing' and sort of letting go of the pettiness and stories and various selves/identities that arise through out the day. I'm starting to think that SE basically just locks that in. I've spent my entire life pursuing different identities, and suddenly I'm not so sure I want to give that up. Is SE really what I want? I thought it was, but only because I was trying to build up an identity around it. Instead of creating the identity of 'Alex the Stream Enterer', it feels more like I'm slowly attenuating all the other selves/identities that make up Alex.

I see this as I lose interest in hobbies that I pursued to make me more interesting. I have less 'fight' in me when it comes to arguments (not that I get into arguments all that often to begin with). It leaves me sort of unsure about what I should do or how to spend my time. Like I want to write music, but then I see how the self that writes music really just wants to create something for attention and this causes stress, etc. The constant need to feel like I'm productive, to create an interesting, attractive self, but all for what? 

It reminds me of a quote from Jessica Graham in her DY interview. She said something along the lines of "You lose everything with awakening, not that I would ask for any of it back..."

Or as Jimi Hendrix sang "And so castles made of sand; melt into the sea, eventually". 

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2/29/20 5:27 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Good stuff.

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3/1/20 4:39 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I really identify with this last post. I've spent so much of my life driven by ambition to create or do something incredible. Something that will make people like me or that will prove that I'm okay and a good person.

After my A&P experience, I felt so much of this evaporate. It's left me in a funny place, since I am finally at a place professionally where I've always wanted to be. I have more opportunity than ever had, and my professional abilities are in a place that would have astounded me when I was younger, but I just don't fill the burning desire to get that golden trophy.

I've mostly just accepted that I just want to work a regular job for now, and I've turned down some good opportunities to do that. Now I'm kinda just sitting at home doing chores while I wait for the right job opportunity. A year ago I probably would have been miserably depressed about this, but I'm feeling much more peace about it now.  

Accepting where I am has been so deeply liberating. It's probably been the best side-effect of the practice. I've felt that same drive to hit SE after crossing the A&P, but I have to keep in mind how good things are right now and stay focused on that whether in my practice or just in life.

Now I have all these things in life that I've learned to do, or am still learning to do and I'm just sitting and waiting to see what will drive me to continue now that I don't have this achey, burning desire to do things to prove my worth. I started Jiu Jitsu two years ago, def. motivated by all the wanting to do big things to look cool. I'm still doing it, but I'm patiently waiting to see if some other quieter, more loving reason becomes apparent for me to continue. I could apply that to four or five different areas of my life. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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3/2/20 11:21 AM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
How the heck do you send a PM BTW?

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3/2/20 12:02 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Hey Brandon,

I just sent you a PM that you can reply to. Just click on the 'Messages' tab on the ribbon under the logo and the message should be in your inbox.

Best,

Alex

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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3/17/20 7:45 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
With all the striving and mapping that I have done in the past (mostly on the cushion), I've come to the point where I am sort of adverse to trying to map anything. A bit adverse to trying to describe my practice & path at all. I was really convinced (for a long time) that I should be able to steer this boat, but that's just led to frustration. At this point, I feel as if all I can do is paddle the boat to move things along, but I don't feel like I can really steer the boat. I'm not in control of the steering. You get me? 

That being said, my intention on the cushion (and in life) has been to catch reactivity earlier so that I'm less thrown off by delusion. Building the wiring necessary to be with desire or aversion without tuning out and mentally proliferating. Usually going back to the felt sense in the body. Being with discomfort in all its forms. It's not glorious, but it feels likes the right direction. Reminds me of something 'curious' (Malcom) mentioned on his own practice log after hitting 4th path (paraphrasing): "It's not what I expected, but everything I was promised". The freedom comes from the recognition and ability to be with difficulty. Difficulty hasn't vanished, but I can be with it to a degree. According to my teacher, eventually this stuff becomes untangled and the automaticity of these reactions comes to an end. For now, I practice. 

Honestly, I feel good lately. I hate to make calls about my own path and what I'm experiencing. My teacher thinks I'm starting to hit low equanimity based on my reports. To me, that's cool. It's a reason to be joyful, but I know the road ahead is uncertain and probabaly long so I'm not really celebrating. Like what is there to celebrate(?): I get impatient or reactive just like non-meditating folk. I'm probably not any more 'chilled out'. It's just that now, I'm sorta gently curious about how all that feels in my body/mind in terms of discomfort/stress/tension. It doesn't make me special or make me necessarily any more 'successful'. I just see stress/tension, and I make a relaxed effort to be with stress/tension.

I still get caught up though. Cravings and aversions abound. Sometimes I play into them, sometimes I resist. Whatevs. It's nice. Things seem to be going well!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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3/21/20 5:52 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
A lot of my motivation to improve myself comes from a place of wanting to be better than others.

This motivation seems antithetical to the goal of the spiritual path.

How will I find the motivation to continue with exercising, abstaining from alcohol, doing well at my job, grooming, social skills, cooking, writing music, meditating, reading, avoiding wasting time with video games/internet, etc. if that competitiveness loosens up?

For instance, I've been making it a point to go to the gym to lift and rock climb to partly build strength and a nice physique. It's so much easier to just go home though and not put in that sort of time and physical effort. Now that the country is on lock down and the gym is closed, I go home and drink instead. I can't get the motivation to refine myself because no one can really see me right now. I've been drinking a tonnnnn this past week or two and I'm not proud of it. The part of me that said "Alex, only a loser goes home and gets drunk every day" has quieted down. I went for months having really cut own, but I'm back to sort of abusing it. And with the first drink, I start shirking all other responsibilities and hobbies and just engage in junk food and junk entertainment. Not good. Never thought of myself as an addict, but I definitely question my relationship to alcohol and how the use of it fits into a larger picture of how I see myself. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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3/21/20 3:13 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hibiscus Kid:
A lot of my motivation to improve myself comes from a place of wanting to be better than others.

This motivation seems antithetical to the goal of the spiritual path.


Not really.  It goes at the end (one of the final five cylons, er, I mean fetters).  But it subsists in a subtle form right until then, as subtle ego or pride. I wouldn't worry about it, in the sense that trying to suppress it is pointless and likely highly counterproductive.  Just try not to let it get out of control.  Noting it, as you are doing, is excellent.

Malcolm  

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3/26/20 7:08 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
What the heck am I supposed to do with my life??? 

On one hand: all these rediculous plans and high hopes and wishes which are just sooo improbable. On the other hand: meh, not sure any of those will make me happy. 

What's right? Being young and not tied down means I have so many options open and so much time: but that leads to procrastination and fear of commiting to any single path. 

Almost like 'awakening' is just something to get out of the way before finally living my life. Yet the thought of even investing in this endevour full time and moving to a retreat center for a short term is only appealing from a "look at me, I'm unique and achieved something" point of view. My last retreat (13 days) kicked my ass and a long term silent deal would probs be hell. 

What's a boy to do? 

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3/26/20 9:32 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Noting restlessness.  Noting striving.  emoticon

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3/26/20 11:38 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Sounds like you're working it out.

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3/27/20 6:45 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hibiscus Kid:
My last retreat (13 days) kicked my ass and a long term silent deal would probs be hell. 

What's a boy to do? 


A 1 day retreat, then a 3 day retreat, then a 5 day retreat, then a 10 day retreat, then a 14 day retreat. emoticon


Don't worry about big plans now except figuring out how you can do a 1 day retreat. Simple.

Life can't be lived all at once. And "our life" really happens when you meet it half way. We are responsible for taking the next step... and then life kinda happens in a way that shocks and surprises us. 

It's important to spend some time truly visualizing what we want. When we visualize, pay attention to the body. A true vision is nourishing, with a little bit of a fearful edge. A fake vision is pure pleasure, like too much sugar. Or a fake vision is all ambition/aggression, like too much coffee and adrenaline. A true vision has heart.

And once you have the vision, figure out "what is the next smallest step I can take?" Focus on that. Don't skip steps. Make it really really simple. Like let's say you want to do a one day home retreat. The first thing you'll need is a place to sit. Tidy up your sitting space --- done! Nothing fancy, but you are now a step closer. 

The tricky thing about vision is that we get too attached to our plans to get there. The purpose of the vision is to help clarify the next step. We can only do the next step in life. This moment, the next step. And if our steps wind up giving us more information about reality (like "a 13 day retreat kicked my ass") then we adjust our next step, rather than clinging to our original plan. "Okay, that was too much, too soon. Gotta build up to that."

Vision, next step, adjust.

We need to take the middle path between lazy and ambitious. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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3/27/20 6:56 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
What's a boy to do? 

It's important to spend some time truly visualizing what we want. When we visualize, pay attention to the body. A true vision is nourishing, with a little bit of a fearful edge. A fake vision is pure pleasure, like too much sugar. Or a fake vision is all ambition/aggression, like too much coffee and adrenaline. A true vision has heart.

Listen to shargrol.

If I were in the midst of a young, single and unattached life like yours I'd find that one thing I most enjoy and love to think about and do. For me, that would be a hard science like physics or astronomy. Then I'd GO FOR IT. I might even build another telescope.

But the current version of me wants to tell you to chill a bit. You have a first world-type problem emoticon

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3/27/20 1:24 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Replying to shargrol as he invested some time into crafting that answer, I'm sure. 

Thank you for the responses everyone! And the advice as well.

I suppose I was feeling a bit angsty/emotional after a few drinks and 'buzzed me' thought the best way to address that angst was to vent on a forum. Probably not skillfull. My apologies. 

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3/29/20 4:34 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Rereading parts of Contemplative Fitness and Kenneth makes Stream Entry sound like a worthwhile and very achievable goal. My teacher has the same attitude. 

I'm clouded by doubts about whether I can achieve the same, yet so many people have done it, why not me?

This doubt has lead me to be less 'single minded' about the goal - I try to invest time into other areas of my life, other hobbies and interests including wasting time with alcohol or pointless entertainment. In essence, I'm trying to do too much - I'm too scattered. I suppose that the benefits of sitting on a cushion are more abstract compared to sitting down and playing an instrumment every day, which is where the doubt seeps in. I feel like a complete beginner every time I sit on the cushion because I'm not in charge of what's going on. If someone asks how guitar lessons are going, I can show them what I've learned - it's something I can 'hang my hat on' as Daniel Ingram says. If someone asks me how meditation has benefitted me, I sorta look down at my feet and say "uhhh, it's subtle, I'm not sure". The other issue, is I've been working on SE for years, but with the constant binging and purging of practice, I don't think I'm any closer than a few years ago. 

I've managed to make an hour of practice a day rather consistent (I have fallen off the wagon in the last two weeks - point is, I can at least do an hour a day and have one so for an extended period). So maybe, for the time, why not experiment with giving up pointless entertainment and some how find a way to get a second hour in every day? Maybe start with 30 minutes in the evening, then 45, then an hour. 

This would be a short term measure to help the process along a bit. I'm not trying to sound like I'm striving too hard. Just finding a way to temporarily put aside less productive activities in favor of more permanent shifts that will lead to a lifetime of well being. I'd still keep up with fitness and socializing and the healthy foundation that I've built.

So the questions I ask are:

What if I stopped frittering time away and did more formal practice? 

Why not me? 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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3/29/20 5:16 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
What does your teacher say about this?

My humble suggestion would be to drop lofty goals and/or comparisons to others in favor of making your practice routine your goal. You can also make the type of practice you do your goal. You can do this, but it takes time. Consistency is your biggest friend.

Just do it.

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3/29/20 11:34 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
She would like me to sit twice a day. When she and I first started working together, she said that 2 hours a day is a good minimum. She is also someone who would do 6 hours a day while working full time: 2 hours in the morning, 1 hour at lunch, and 3 in the evening. So high standards.

I am sure she will be somewhat mift to find out that I've been skipping sessions these last two weeks.

My current routine during the week is to wake up at 5 and sit from 5:30 to 6:30. And then mindfulness as much as possible in daily life and the occasional 30 minute sit in the evening, but that's not really a consistent thing. 

I am trying not to have lofty goals, but goals that are reasonably challenging while still achievable. I guess I just really want to get the benefits that others have gotten an I am doubtful that it will happen for me.

Consistency, not heroics as Kenneth Folk likes to say.... yet he is also someone who gave himself to meditation full-time between his retreats in Asia and IMS or living in a cabin in Alaska, you know?  

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3/29/20 11:43 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Consistency, not heroics as Kenneth Folk likes to say.... yet he is also someone who gave himself to meditation full-time between his retreats in Asia and IMS or living in a cabin in Alaska, you know?  

You have a choice. You can just do this or find fault with every suggestion, or even the whole thing. If you don't like your teacher, find a different one. Kenneth Folk, who was my teacher, does indeed have the history that you mention, but he was a good teacher for me at the time and I never practiced more than two half-hour periods a day. History or not, he knows what he's talking about.

Bottom line (which may sound mean to you) -- cut the crap and just do this. Get going on a regular, consistent basis.

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3/29/20 11:56 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
You've been calling me on my bullshit these last few days - thank you, Chris. You're absolutely right. emoticon

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4/12/20 10:52 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I am thankful for everyone who has contributed advice and answered my questions these last few years. You're all such beautiful people and I'm just really humbled by the fact that I have a space where I can be honest and open about something (spiritual practice) that is such a big part of my life. 

I'm about to get pretty honest: Lately, with being stuck at home and all, I've started drinking a lot. Both my grandfathers were alcoholics from what I understand, and I think I'm on the same sort of trajectory. I took a few months off last year as I was in a relationship with someone who barely drank (she had these IPAs in her fridge for months that she never touched, but I would have drained them in a single night). Now, I am back at it. Almost with a vengance. 

The cravings always hit me in the afternoon and I often just watch the cravings for a few hours before giving in and making a beer run. Then I get drunk, sometimes quite profoundly, to the point where I annoy my roommates as I start banging around in the kitchen late at night for a drunken meal. Or just spurt out stupid incoherent ramblings to them.

I'm honestly not in control, and every time I wake up, I'm anxiety-riddden and filled with regret. I could use that extra time for hobbies or meditation. I could go to bed earlier. One of my favorite quotes is "You'll never regret not drinking". Yet, I drink anyway (and often) and basically regret it every single time.

I've just been sitting in bed since drinking last night. It's a beautiful day outside, and I'm just ruining it by being hungover and miserable for the umpteenth time. Yet, I have the audacity to vent about how I haven't hit stream entry when I'm damaging my brain on a regular basis and wasting time being drunk. I'm sorry that I've wasted your time. You're all such lovely people who are so helpful and earnest and here I am just making an absolute mess of myself and polluting the forum with my negativity and impatience. 

I love you all. Thank you for what you've given me all this time. I apologize for wasting anyone's time as it takes a while to read my musings and then craft an answer. I'm truly blessed. I want to get better. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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4/12/20 10:38 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hey, we love you, too!

Your honesty shows a lot of maturity, Kid. And, dare I say it, biology is not destiny. But... it's very good that you've processed all of the history. Your motives seem clear now, right? We're all stuck in this hell and we all find different ways to cope. This medium is limiting, to say the least, but how can we help you?

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4/12/20 10:50 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
That so sounds like my story emoticon not now but man did I struggle with it in the same fashion. And each time I come to conclusion, just like Neo in the Matrix, that I have been down that road so many times and know well it leads to nothing new emoticon still I went down that road, again and again.

Thats ok. we all have stuff to deal with.

I can only share my view on this and what I think can help a lot in such cases. Im not going into therapy stuff as that is something you alone can decide if you need it or not but practice wise I would suggest to get someone here on forum who is willing to meet with you weekly on Skype to act as a teacher/dhamma friend and focus on practice.

Best would be to get someone you know/assume is fully realised as this will keep you more honest  and respectful of their time spent with you (meaning you will take your practice/time more seriously and focused).

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4/13/20 4:19 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hey, that took a lot of courage.  And confirms beyond anything that nobody has been wasting their time. You know what, three days without alcohol is enough for concentration to improve (convenient small steps, but also true).  But, I think also don't beat yourself up, seeing it clearly is a huge step.

Malcolm

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4/13/20 5:24 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Now that you have written it, it is out in the open and you can't deny it. That's good, because that's an important step in doing something about it. I still believe in you. If you can't stop drinking on your own, get the help that you need. Drinking isn't even a short-term solution after a while, as you may have started to notice. I grew up with alcoholic family members just like you. One of them was my father. It didn't go well for him. You can still turn this around. We are here for you.

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4/13/20 2:15 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hey Hibiscus Kid,


I usually just lurk occasionally but made a throwaway account so I could respond. I have been practicing for a few years, working with a teacher. I also have lived with addiction issues since I was a teen (late twenties now). Not alcohol in my case but the broad strokes are all the same. Just wanted to reply to offer to chat if you feel like it. No problem if not. I just know it can be hard to talk to people in your real life about this stuff and I have some experience with how practice can help, as well as how it can't (stream entry, in and of itself, is no magic fix)


Papa Che's point about going down the same road over and over is a good one. It's taken me over a decade to get it. It's really the same point we learn in practice. You can only bang your head into a wall so many times before we get the message that it hurts. Unfortunately we all, and addicts in particular, tend to be very talented at telling ourselves things like "there's actually no wall", or "that wall hurts other people but I can wear a helmet and be ok", or "yeah ok, that wall hurt me the last 500 times but it's looking pretty soft today, I don't think it will hurt this time". And it's hard because you can even learn the lesson but keep doing it. Then you know exactly what you're doing but can't stop, which is a hard place to be. 


But, I think most people that truly become addicts aren't sounding the alarm as early as you just did. I certainly wasn't. You should give yourself credit for that. Anyway, feel free to send me a PM if you want a sounding board for this stuff

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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4/13/20 2:57 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
So sorry to hear this man. I'd be willing to bet that struggling with compulsions is very universal experience among this group. For me it takes a different form than drinking (procrastination, video games, social media) but you really could be describing a thousand experiences I've passed through before. This isolation shit does not make it any easier. 

At the very least, sharing this stuff is far healthier than suffering in silence. The suffering you are feeling right now matters, is valid and is nothing to be ashamed of. Thanks for having the courage to share it. I wish I had found that type of courage years ago.

You've done much to demonstrate your desire to grow as a human being. You may not be satisfied with the degree of your commitment, but the practice has been happening nonetheless. You've been keeping a log and working with a teacher. Doing 13 days of a hardcorde Mahasi retreat is also no cake walk and shows some major balls. I personally practiced for over 12 years before even realizing that awakening was a real thing! I wish I would have been on the right track sooner, but I also can't ignore the growth I made during that time that prepared me for the path. At least you know where you're headed from the get go.

Sending out much metta and karuna.  Hoping to swap war stories of the journey to Stream Entry and beyond someday.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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4/13/20 3:56 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hi Hibiscus,

I just wanted to confirm the notion that sometimes, you have to run into the same wall until you really can't deny it's going on and then something happens. I'm no specialist, but can share something about me.

I used to smoke a ridiculous amount of cigarettes, for about 8 years (it's not that long, but I was basically smoking the whole time). I used to be renouned for that ^^ at least 20 cigarettes a day, rollies at that, which last a long time.

I also used to drink a lot, partying every week end for quite some time and sometimes doing drugs. I had accidents several times and almost died a couple. I would drink consistently, too, like, for two years I would drink beer every evening, and more often than not get drunk.

When it was time to stop I just did. I'm not saying this to brag or anything like that, but just to give a perspective that's a bit different from the deterministic thing. I know you are suffering from this situation right now, but tell me something : are you actually not having even a bit of fun when drinking ? Are you not entertaining some notions about the fact that this is actually a fun thing which will add something to your life or present situation ? 

Maybe it's not like that for you and I apologize if I'm overstepping.

But I found that this thing I'm mentioning was actually the very central point. 

I didn't have any particular weakness or hereditary thing or whatever story I could have told myself. It's just that I actually thought it was fun, on some levels. I actually thought I liked smoking. If I had really really believed there was no reason to smoke whatsoever... well I would not have continued ! I thought drinking was fun too. 

I stopped when I managed to completely deconstruct the beliefs I had regarding the effect these substances had on me, when it became actually very obvious that there was nothing positive coming out of it. And quitting smoking was very easy. Drinking was even easier. 

I was not an alcoholic nor addicted to smoking. "Beer is not beer, subhuti, that's why they call it beer..." I just actually thought it was adding something to my life, although I didn't know that that was why I was doing it and sometimes was sick of it, and remorseful, etc... It's just that I kept making the same mistake until one day I just saw it through.

The most crucial aspects of the process were : (1) changing my view of myself in relation with those things, and changing my opinion about what these things did (analysis), (2) convince myself utterly that what was going on was simpler than I thought and most importantly (3) destroy all guilt, all shame, all fear and all notions that this was a problem, that I had a problem, that it was bad, etc. etc.

Not saying this works for everyone but it sure happened like that for me. In retrospect, I would say that was just entertaining wrond notions in my body and mind, about myself and about these experiences of drinking and smoking, which were out of sync with how they actually played out and what their impact was. In fact, I don't see all this as a dark thing at all, not really, I think I was just being silly. Nothing dramatic. A foolish young cow thing.

Just my 2cents. You are not bad for doing that.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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4/29/20 11:46 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thank you for the support everyone - I'm embarrassed that I mentioned it at all (at the time I was quite frustrated), but I've been getting it under control. I think there was a bit of a 'culture shock' related to spending all of this time at home and I just needed to find a new level of normalcy. 

Also, given the content that has been coming up in my life/practice, and after talking to my teacher, it is clear that I need to be better about 'doing the practice'. I'm at a point where I can notice when I'm upset or reactive or whatever, but I often forget to investigate or to ground myself in actual felt sensations in the body, urges, emotions. I forget to be objective. I often know that I'm getting caught up and carried away, but I don't do the technique that will help to deprogram my unique patterns. So instead of wallowing in my stuff and proliferating these habits, I'll start to disembbed and deconstruct.  

I've decided to start a new practice log that's more practice focussed and resolve to report on phenomenology during individual sits. 

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4/28/20 5:55 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
 I'm embarrassed that I mentioned it at all (at the time I was quite frustrated)

Don't be embarrassed Kid, be proud for the courage and honesty it takes. Many of us have such problems, but not enough courage and honesty. I had/have several of them, big ones. It's part of this damn life we live.

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4/28/20 8:11 PM as a reply to Siavash.
Thank you Siavash for the comradery and understanding!

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4/29/20 8:51 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Good to have you back!

Why the decision to move the emphasis on your new log just to phenomenology?

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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4/29/20 11:47 AM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Thank you Brandon emoticon 

There are a number of reasons:

1. When I spoke to my teacher this week, I mentioned that this recurring life issue was causing me trouble yet again. I've brought it up to her many times before, and it was clear from her reaction this time around that she was getting frustrated. It's not a therapy session after all. So I figured, instead of being angsty and caught up and venting about it, I'll take her advice and use the technique she has gone over with me (she's gone over it with me a few times at this point). This technique is basically to move from the level of thoughts and conceptualization to the level of emotions and body sensations when hitting hard territory. I'm sure she thinks that I could have moved on from this particular thing had I practiced diligently, but my mind wants to think-it-through to figure it out and fix it which hasn't worked soooo... best just to try her way.

2. Check out Daniel's response in this thread. Basically the tough love/advice that I'm trying to follow:

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5546622

3. When I went on the Mahasi retreat in September, they gave us specific directions for how to report our meditation during the interviews (it had to be quick and to the point - 5 minutes tops). The hand out that I was given just wanted the bare facts and phenomenology of the experiences that arose during sitting and walking. Basically following the formula of 'What is the object? How was the object noted? What was known?' For instance one might say "I noted the breath as 'rising, rising, falling, falling'. Movement of the abdomen, pressure, tension, etc. were known."

4. I can send my teacher a link to that practice log as proof that I'm doing the meditation, how I'm practicing, what is arising, and hopefully she can provide advice based on my reports. Or others on this forum will see the same and be able to make comments.

If I'm honest with myself though, I need to get better about opening to experience and noting it/investigating it properly. Disembedding from it. Doing the experiment and doing it properly. Not letting doubts get in the way. Just do it and see if it makes a difference in the long run. 

Meditation isn't really a conceptual exercise - it's about direct experience. That's what I'd like to report on.  

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Log #2
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4/29/20 10:32 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Meditation isn't really a conceptual exercise - it's about direct experience. That's what I'd like to report on.  

Well said!

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4/29/20 11:11 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
As someone mentioned in the analogy about learning math which also appears in MCTB: how well would this fly in any other type of class? Imagine if I was studying guitar and the teacher told me to practice a C Major scale and instead I said that I spent the time worrying about my girlfriend,

or if I was studying automechanics and the teacher said to disassemble the front end of the car and instead I spent the time worrying about my girlfriend,

or if I was trying to learn how to do karate and instead of doing my kata I spent the time standing there in the dojo worrying about my girlfriend,

or if I was trying to learn how to sail a boat and instead spent the time sitting on the shore worrying about my girlfriend:
Pepe needs to bookmark that one.

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4/29/20 11:25 AM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Yeah, it's a great bit of advice and it makes a good point. It's something I've seen in myself for sure, as well as other practitioners at the local Zen group I sit with on occasion. Complaints about relationships and other life stuff with little discussion about actual practice. Almost like group therapy after an hour of meditation.   

I get a laugh out of imagining someone trying to disassemble a car while complaining to their instructor about their failed relationship. Imagine! 

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Answer
4/29/20 12:24 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I usually get funny looks from the group I sit with when I talk about phenomenology. The discussion is usually everything but what they do when they meditate. I've had a few impromptu discussions before our sessions where we talked about technique that were super interesting. Everyone was doing totally different stuff.