Abingdon's practice notes

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Abingdon ., modified 9 Years ago.

Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Just want to throw some stuff out here. Not sure if this is the correct section or not, but here goes. I'm recording this as much for my own reference as for comments....

First, a little about my practice. I'm pretty sure I first crossed the A&P in about 1987. I've had what I think are several more crossing over the past few years, and I think I can now detect A&P into DN in my sits. I hit a point of great clarity, then become aware of a sense of anxiety which I interpret to be entrance to the DN. After that I seem to transition into the higher shamatha jhanas and maybe equanimity?

Fast forward to today, and for a while now, I've been noting in the following manner. I divide my awareness into the standard six domains -- seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, thinking. Actually, to that I add feeling (in the sense of emotions). When sitting, smelling and tasting virtually never come up (they're "collapsed" -- see below) so I'll not mention them again. I sit and note and label fairly quickly (1-2 noticings per second, though at the faster pace they don't always all get labeled). I've been doing this for 30 min to 1 hr per day, after work.

I mostly move between the seeing (closed-eye visual swirls, though occasionally concrete images), hearing, touching (any somatic sensation), and less frequently thinking. I used to get some joy or bliss arising, but not much any more, and I've never really had any trouble with negative emotions arising during a sit.

As I understand it, in MTDB Daniel states that it's possible to perceive only one sensation at a time. I don't question that, but right now it seems my level of insight is not advanced enough to experience that completely. Rather, I seem to mostly float in seeing/touching/hearing space, with only one of the three predominant at the time. Noting "seeing" means that hearing and touching fall to the background and seeing is in the foreground, noting "hearing" means that seeing and touching fall to the background with hearing to the fore, etc.

As my perceptiveness grows, though, I'm noticing that as I shift from noting one domain to another, say from hearing to seeing, the third (or, really, all the others) fleetingly cease. It's not that there is no touch sensation for example (in other words, touch space is there but empty), but rather the entire touch space collapses into nothingness for the briefest of moments. The entire domain winks out.

I have also found that I can intensify this effect some if rather than just floating from state to state, I nudge my attention in a direction. So if hearing is predominant and I feel myself start to float toward seeing, if I push myself in that direction then both hearing and touching might momentarily collapse. This feels very effortful, though....

Had an interesting sit tonight -- I experienced something I've never experienced before. I set my timer for 45 minutes with bells at 15 and 30 minutes. The sit went very much as I described above. I never felt like I spaced out, although my clarity did come and go a bit. A few times the experience of a domain collapsing was a bit more intense that I'm used to -- usually it's very, very subtle. This time though it was much less so, and I thought at the time that this might be what it feels like at the edge of cessation, almost but not quite falling in. It felt like starting to fall, then yanking myself back.

The sit seemed to go on forever. Normally they go pretty quickly, but I waited and waited for the 30 minute bell. Eventually, the bell rang but it was the 45 minute bell (I knew it was the end bell because the first an last have a different pitch than the intermediate bells). I never heard the 30 minute bell! At least I think that was the one that I missed. The second part of the sit felt longer than the first. And again, I never felt like I spaced out. Never had that happen before!

Anyway, thanks for reading!
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Abingdon ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Short sit tonight. I decided to try something a little different. First, I decided to try to remain in the first samatha jhana during the sit. I did that by using Kenneth's nose-pinch trick. That seemed to bring up a lot of tension/pressure/tightness in my chest, often accompanied by anxiety. I could feel myself wanting to sink deeper into the jhanas but I'd do the nose-pinch thing and pull myself back.

The second thing was to note more slowly, and to abide a moment or two in a sense domain before moving to the next. Rather than free-float, I stayed with one sense until another became compelling enough to move to it. I can't really say that this made a huge difference in the flavor of the sit, but it did make it a little less frenetic. I did feel a little more, what would you say -- decontextualized? -- when the sit was over....
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Abingdon ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Another short sit today. The last few days I've had a aversion to sitting. I want to do it, but I can't quite seem to get to it. This morning I forced myself. Immediately I noticed lots of tension in the body, and lots of restlessness in the mind. I didn't really settle down completely throughout the entire sit, but towards the end I seemed to settle a little....
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Abingdon ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Much better sit tonight. Settled into noting and the mind cooperated. Got into the formless realms in the second half, and the sense of self was very small, whereas the awareness of sensation was very keen. A little of that persisted after I got up and started moving around.
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Abingdon ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Longer sit. I had had had argument with my wife earlier this afternoon so there was agitation when I sat down. Eventually the mind stabilised, but as down I sank into the higher samatha jhanas (I think of them as "deeper", so down) the mind wanted to space out and slip off into oblivion. Hard to stay on course.

Right at the end of the sit, there was a strong feeling like an electric shock all over the body, accompanied by bright green flashing lights inside my closed eyelids. Shortly thereafter the chime rang and I opened my eyes. For a moment it was if I was seeing with new eyes. Not in a "Isn't this wonderous!" sense, but in a "What the @#$& is all this?" sense. As if the brain could not process the sensory impulses. Maybe you could say "Despite eye contact, eye consciousness did not arise." Or perhaps more accurately, "eye contact arose but was nonsensical." Weird, and a little creepy....
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Abingdon ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Longer sits (1 hr) tonight and last. Not really much to report during the sits. I did try to ramp up my labeling speed somewhat. I seem to manage between 1 and 3 per second. I think that during both sits I made it to maybe low equanimity. I say that because, whilst I experience quite a bit of tension and pain in my back and shoulders, it wasn't much of a problem, but more just something else to note."Touch, see, hear, hear, see, touch, pain, touch, see, pain, hear, touch...." There was very slight aversion to the pain some (but not all) of time, so that's why I'm thinking low equanimity. Other than that, the sits were pretty uneventful.

OUT of the sit was a different story. I turned in last night around 10pm. I drifted in and out of light sleep for a while then must have fallen fully asleep. At 11:30 or so the dog woke me up. When I (partially) awoke, I became aware of powerful, harsh, fully-body buzzing. Really, really pronounced. I've never experienced anything like it. I guess because I was still groggy, I just thought, "This is interesting. Which stage did Daniel say this happens in?" and went back to sleep. I looked it up this morning and I'm guessing ñana 9 or 10.

Up til now, I've never really experienced anything that so strongly parallels the description in the book. Before, I've had experiences that were roughly analogous but this was spot on. MTCB: "...the vibrations, which can be quite intense, harsh and irritating by this stage..." That's what I had.

Comments welcome!
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Abingdon ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Difficult sit Saturday -- the mind was quite dull. Today was better. Managed to stay with sensation much better.

There is much aversion to sitting. I still want to sit, but I have difficulty actually doing it.

I've signed up for a retreat in May, so I'm going to try to maintain better discipline about sitting every day.....
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Abingdon ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Haven't been posting but have been sitting -- one hour sits each day.

Most have been pretty uneventful. Did have an interesting itch. A hair fell down on my forehead and started an itch. I looked at the itch with as much concentration as I could and it seemed stable for a while. Then it dissolved in a fizz, like an Alka-Seltzer.

I'm re-re-reading MTCB, esp the bits about the Progress of Insight. It's weird -- I think it's settled that I've crossed the A&P multiple times(not just my own evaluation but others' as well), and I feel like I've touched Equanimity, but I'm having a really hard time reconciling my experiences with the descriptions in MTCB, Mahasi's Progress of Insight, etc. I feel like to make more progress I should really develop more mastery of the early ñanas etc. Or maybe I'm just getting goal oriented and striving. I don't know.....
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
this thread seems lonely so i'll just add a bit. are you looking for particular help in an area? where are you at/what are you aiming for?

if you want help on where you might be in the cycles, you might want to describe what happens during each sit in more detail. if you note, what do you note? if you're just aware, what are you aware of? how does the sit change from beginning to end?
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Abingdon ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Beoman,

Sorry to take a while to reply -- life intervenes.

I guess what help I'm looking for is that whilst I feel like I might be well into an insight cycle (I think I rise to Equanimity, though I probably settle back down into the dukkha ñanas when not practicing), I don't feel like I really get the earlier ñanas. I don't think I completely grok the 3Cs, for example. I understand impermanence in an intellectual sense, and I see granularity in vision, touch, etc, I can't point at anything and say, "That's a vibration!" Daniel states in MTCB that the different ñanas are recognizable by the frequency of vibrations, but I've yet to really see anything about which I can say has a frequency. It's all more like white noise -- randomness without frequency or periodic component. Likewise, I understand suffering intellectually, but I don't feel I've actually seen it directly in sensations.

A typical sit goes like this:
o I start by doing a little dedication of merit to get into the right frame of mind.
o I do one or two body scans, head to feet, to settle into mindfulness.
o I usually start noting as quickly and as accurately as I can. I note free-floating awareness and I typically note modalities rather than specific sensations -- i.e. "touch, touch, sight, hearing, thought, sight, touch, hearing...." instead of "pressure, light, dark, pain, light, birdchirp, clocktick, pressure, pain...."etc. If I'm feeling unfocused and jittery, I will usually abide in each modality for a bit, Shinzen Young-style, rather than go for rapid-fire noting, Daniel Ingram-style. The SY style is less frenetic.
o I sit with my eyes closed, so visual sensations are generally random flashes on a grey background. Usually, as the sit progresses, I will begin to see concentric arcs of yellow-green spread outward like rings around a pebble thrown into still water.
o Often, shortly after this, I will note a subtle sense of anxiety. I think that this indicates that I'm progressing through the A&P & into the dukkha ñanas.
o The anxiety usually passes and I settle into the longest part of the sit, which is usually just noting.
o While noting, I generally float back and forth between the 3rd & 4th samatha jhanas. Sometimes I get farther into the immaterial jhanas and can tend to space out a bit so I tend to try not to stray into that territory very much.
o Sometimes I feel energetic raptures. During my last sit, about 2/3rds through, I felt energy rising that at the time I thought of as feeling like a bush or Christmas tree -- feathery and intricate and fractal. As it rose through my awareness and body, it rotated. Later, during the same sit, another energy sensation rose up -- this one smooth and undulating, like a lava lamp. I try not to get too caught up in these raptures, but on the other hand I feel that if I don't pay attention to them, I am instead suppressing them. I've not found the balance of just letting them arise & pass without interference.

Does this help answer your questions?
Cheers!
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
oo fun stuff, now i can pick apart your descriptions.

Abingdon .:
I guess what help I'm looking for is that whilst I feel like I might be well into an insight cycle (I think I rise to Equanimity, though I probably settle back down into the dukkha ñanas when not practicing), I don't feel like I really get the earlier ñanas. I don't think I completely grok the 3Cs, for example. I understand impermanence in an intellectual sense, and I see granularity in vision, touch, etc, I can't point at anything and say, "That's a vibration!" Daniel states in MTCB that the different ñanas are recognizable by the frequency of vibrations, but I've yet to really see anything about which I can say has a frequency. It's all more like white noise -- randomness without frequency or periodic component. Likewise, I understand suffering intellectually, but I don't feel I've actually seen it directly in sensations.

i know what you mean. i felt the same as, for example, i passed the A&P, yet noticed stuff like cause&effect and mind&body and that confused me cause wasn't i supposed to be 'done' with those insights? (past those stages)

yet if you are past a certain nyana you have grokked it well enough to move on. it's not like you are ignoring the 3Cs - you are observing them with every note you make. and you won't fully grok them until 4th path, or perhaps AF, or perhaps even after those there is still more to learn about them. so don't worry - you can't rush insight =). you move on when you move on, often slower than you like, often more quickly than you'd like.

Abingdon .:
o I sit with my eyes closed, so visual sensations are generally random flashes on a grey background. Usually, as the sit progresses, I will begin to see concentric arcs of yellow-green spread outward like rings around a pebble thrown into still water.

mm is that a pleasant spreading? sounds like 1st or 2nd vipassana jhana. do you get to the point where they stay spread outward without anything in the middle? that would be 3rd vipassana jhana.
Abingdon .:
o Often, shortly after this, I will note a subtle sense of anxiety. I think that this indicates that I'm progressing through the A&P & into the dukkha ñanas.
o The anxiety usually passes and I settle into the longest part of the sit, which is usually just noting.

hanging around in later dukkha nyanas or equanimity.
Abingdon .:
o While noting, I generally float back and forth between the 3rd & 4th samatha jhanas. Sometimes I get farther into the immaterial jhanas and can tend to space out a bit so I tend to try not to stray into that territory very much.
spacing out is an indication of equanimity, which also has immaterial aspects.
Abingdon .:
o Sometimes I feel energetic raptures. During my last sit, about 2/3rds through, I felt energy rising that at the time I thought of as feeling like a bush or Christmas tree -- feathery and intricate and fractal. As it rose through my awareness and body, it rotated. Later, during the same sit, another energy sensation rose up -- this one smooth and undulating, like a lava lamp. I try not to get too caught up in these raptures, but on the other hand I feel that if I don't pay attention to them, I am instead suppressing them. I've not found the balance of just letting them arise & pass without interference.

feathery & intricate & fractal sounds much like A&P. could you focus really intently on all the fractal aspects of it? smooth & undulating sounds pleasant, so probably Dissolution.

hey you said you didn't notice vibrations? what is undulation if not vibration? =).

about the parts I bolded - don't try to avoid territory. e.g. you seem to be avoiding "spacing out" territory, yet that territory could very well be equanimity, in which case the spacing out, what causes it, coming back to it, what's going on in there, and other stuff around there is exactly what you should be investigating, not avoiding! "not getting caught up" is a better way to do it. don't repress/suppress them by trying to make them go away. don't avoid them by ignoring them. and don't excite them by augmenting them. just not(ic)e them arising&passing.

Abingdon .:
Does this help answer your questions?

indeed it does. the more details like this the better one can assess where you're at and provide hints as to what you might be missing.
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Abingdon ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
oo fun stuff, now i can pick apart your descriptions.
i know what you mean. i felt the same as, for example, i passed the A&P, yet noticed stuff like cause&effect and mind&body and that confused me cause wasn't i supposed to be 'done' with those insights? (past those stages)


Exactly!

Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
yet if you are past a certain nyana you have grokked it well enough to move on. it's not like you are ignoring the 3Cs - you are observing them with every note you make. and you won't fully grok them until 4th path, or perhaps AF, or perhaps even after those there is still more to learn about them. so don't worry - you can't rush insight =). you move on when you move on, often slower than you like, often more quickly than you'd like.


Perhaps, but I can't help but feel I'm making progress despite my (lack of) understanding, rather than because of my understanding. ;-)

Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

Abingdon .:
o I sit with my eyes closed, so visual sensations are generally random flashes on a grey background. Usually, as the sit progresses, I will begin to see concentric arcs of yellow-green spread outward like rings around a pebble thrown into still water.

mm is that a pleasant spreading? sounds like 1st or 2nd vipassana jhana. do you get to the point where they stay spread outward without anything in the middle? that would be 3rd vipassana jhana.

I'd say it's neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Rather, it just is. And yes, As I recollect they do reach a point where the "ripples" expand and no new ripples replace them, leaving the center empty (without being pitch black -- usually mottled grey).

Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

Abingdon .:
o Often, shortly after this, I will note a subtle sense of anxiety. I think that this indicates that I'm progressing through the A&P & into the dukkha ñanas.
o The anxiety usually passes and I settle into the longest part of the sit, which is usually just noting.

hanging around in later dukkha nyanas or equanimity.

Kinda what I figured.....

Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

Abingdon .:
o While noting, I generally float back and forth between the 3rd & 4th samatha jhanas. Sometimes I get farther into the immaterial jhanas and can tend to space out a bit so I tend to try not to stray into that territory very much.
spacing out is an indication of equanimity, which also has immaterial aspects.

Ok, that's reassuring!

Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

Abingdon .:
o Sometimes I feel energetic raptures. During my last sit, about 2/3rds through, I felt energy rising that at the time I thought of as feeling like a bush or Christmas tree -- feathery and intricate and fractal. As it rose through my awareness and body, it rotated. Later, during the same sit, another energy sensation rose up -- this one smooth and undulating, like a lava lamp. I try not to get too caught up in these raptures, but on the other hand I feel that if I don't pay attention to them, I am instead suppressing them. I've not found the balance of just letting them arise & pass without interference.

feathery & intricate & fractal sounds much like A&P. could you focus really intently on all the fractal aspects of it? smooth & undulating sounds pleasant, so probably Dissolution.

Can't say that I really tried to focus on it, because I didn't want to get distracted/caught up by it.

Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

hey you said you didn't notice vibrations? what is undulation if not vibration? =).

Well, if it can be called a vibration without being cyclical -- more like a solitary pulse.

Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

about the parts I bolded - don't try to avoid territory. e.g. you seem to be avoiding "spacing out" territory, yet that territory could very well be equanimity, in which case the spacing out, what causes it, coming back to it, what's going on in there, and other stuff around there is exactly what you should be investigating, not avoiding! "not getting caught up" is a better way to do it. don't repress/suppress them by trying to make them go away. don't avoid them by ignoring them. and don't excite them by augmenting them. just not(ic)e them arising&passing.

That's the bit about which I mentioned I have trouble finding balance. I suppose that means I have work to do!

Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

Abingdon .:
Does this help answer your questions?

indeed it does. the more details like this the better one can assess where you're at and provide hints as to what you might be missing.


Thanks for the input! Another issue that I tend to have is remembering the details of a sit afterward, and/or spending too much effort making notes(!) in my head so that I can recall it afterward.....

Cheers!

PS: another thing I meant to mention in the previous post is that lately (last few weeks), off the cushion, I've had a persistent perception of slight pressure between my eyebrows and extending into my right brow. Feels like someone lightly pressing there. I have no idea if that's significant....
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Abingdon's practice notes

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Abingdon .:
Another issue that I tend to have is remembering the details of a sit afterward, and/or spending too much effort making notes(!) in my head so that I can recall it afterward.....

ah i wouldn't try to correct this. i think it's better to not remember your sit too well but have been fully absorbed than spend all your sitting time trying to remember whats going on. that just adds a layer of complexity, and for me it became a habit that i had to consciously break as it was getting in the way of seeing sensations clearly.