My First Practice Report!

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Uma Sarason, modified 10 Years ago.

My First Practice Report!

Posts: 53 Join Date: 12/12/09 Recent Posts
Hi everyone, it was suggested that I start a practice thread to support my practice and invite comments from others. So here goes nothing:

4-18-11 Practice Report

Woke up this morning shaking and feeling terror/fear. This is a pretty common occurrence. It could be related to several changes going on in my life right now, but then again this has been going on for some time. (Maybe it's not important to determine whether various symptoms are physical, energetic, psychological/emotional, etc?)

Sat within a few minutes of waking up. Sat for 1 hour, on my bed leaning back with pillow behind me and pillow under my knees, legs long.



Started meditation a bit short of breath. Worked on not fighting what I was feeling, and within a few minutes my breath slowed and deepened considerably and stayed very slow and deep throughout the whole sit. At one point midway into the sit, after the exhale my breath stopped for several seconds and then my breath was even a bit deeper & longer the rest of the sit.

I started with an overall body tremor/shaking that felt like perhaps the physical equivalent of terror/fear. But also a general low level vibration so I’m not sure what it is. Hard for me to tell shaking from twitching from vibrating etc. My body had a dull achiness all over which is often the case.

I practiced a combination of open relaxing letting things be, with a very gentle noting when thoughts or sensations would distract. It seemed to combine OK. However because I was not doing such intensive noting my mind was still able to drift off sometimes. When my mind would get caught up in thoughts without noting or letting it go I noticed my body tension and pain would increase considerably, so the faster I could catch it, the more I could prevent this from happening.

A few minutes after my breath deepened, my right arm started to shake a lot more than the overall low level shaking, including jerking and moving around. Soon after this I got a stabbing pain in the right side of my head and neck. I worked on relaxing. Then the shaking would rotate around to different body parts. Started getting the pelvic jerking movements back and forth (forward and back). At one point this movement/energy pulled me up from where I had been leaning back, to sitting upright. Then I started to lean/fall forward… sometimes when I am physically moved around I feel like I am going to fall over. So I get confused between not wanting to control anything and not wanting to fall over. So I intentionally leaned back again. (I try as much as possible to not interfere by making volitional movement during sitting).

The rest of the sit was not as violent movements but more twitching and shaking in different body parts including my face, and the eyes would twitch and flutter and look upwards. I hold a lot of tension around my eyes so this was uncomfortable at first but eventually I was able to relax a bit into it and this helped the relaxation in the rest of my head.

When the hour bell rang I still had very deep and slow breathing, a feeling of fear and all over low-level body twitching/shaking/vibrating and I could have continued sitting for a while (still felt pretty comfortable and patient) but decided to start my day.

Thanks for reading and for any observations or insight!!
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Villum (redacted), modified 10 Years ago.

RE: My First Practice Report!

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
First, i am not all that experienced with disciplined meditation, so read my comments with that in mind. Your post did make me think of a few things that might be of use to you, though. Again, they might not, as getting up in the morning and sitting for an hour is a much more disciplined practice than i am capable of at the moment. Very nice going, there emoticon. And good luck with your practice.

Uma:
I practiced a combination of open relaxing letting things be, with a very gentle noting when thoughts or sensations would distract. It seemed to combine OK. However because I was not doing such intensive noting my mind was still able to drift off sometimes. When my mind would get caught up in thoughts without noting or letting it go I noticed my body tension and pain would increase considerably, so the faster I could catch it, the more I could prevent this from happening.


What are you aware of in your open letting things be? Unless i do a lot of setting up, i find that my attention is still mostly on my head-touch, mind, hearing and sight.
I had trouble with the mind drifting a lot too. It seems to me that thoughts can be very "sneaky", and it took me a long time to begin to have them arise without getting caught up in them. I think it helped me to try to be aware(mindful), while working (ie - studying). When i do this, I try to keep my mind relaxed and open enough while still focused on the work. This seems to let me, sometimes, "catch" the impulses to jump away from the work and do something else. In the beginning i would only notice the thoughts/impulses just before i "fell into them" and got seriously distracted from my work, but practice seems to have helped, so i catch the thoughts/impulses earlier, at least when i have the energy and resolve to be mindful while working.
This practice also seems to have helped me not get so distracted while sitting, and (i hope!) might help you too.

The "A Letting go approach to Jhana" post from the hamilton project seems in my own practice, to have some very nice pointers for a more relaxed approach to sitting. Very early days, however.

Uma:
A few minutes after my breath deepened, my right arm started to shake a lot more than the overall low level shaking, including jerking and moving around. Soon after this I got a stabbing pain in the right side of my head and neck. I worked on relaxing. Then the shaking would rotate around to different body parts. Started getting the pelvic jerking movements back and forth (forward and back). At one point this movement/energy pulled me up from where I had been leaning back, to sitting upright. Then I started to lean/fall forward… sometimes when I am physically moved around I feel like I am going to fall over. So I get confused between not wanting to control anything and not wanting to fall over. So I intentionally leaned back again. (I try as much as possible to not interfere by making volitional movement during sitting).


I've experienced some things like you describe here, though mostly in the head, hands and feet. I find that really intensive noting and noticing can "dissolve" the "forces" when they try to jerk my head around. I tried just letting them take me where they will (often to uncomfortable positions), and i really have no idea which approach is best for making progress.

Just yesterday, i tried a much gentler technique for dissolving tensions from the post i linked above, which so far seems to work wonders. Here it is:

The Hamilton Project:
Once the mind sees that subtle tension, it is allowed to relax around it. If you could picture Mother Theresa gently embracing a sick child, that is how you let the mind relax around it. Very gently not pushing nor pulling at the tension. I will then continue to let the mind relax around this tension, allowing it to be there for as long as the tension is there. I will attentively allow the mind to do this until a natural process of letting the tension subside and drop away occurs. There is no manipulation of the tension. Just an acceptance of it and a gentle action of letting it be and letting it go. Like you would an injured bird that you have cared for. You take it outside and place it on the ground and just sit with it till it remembers to use its wings again, and suddenly it flies off into the air. That is the approach.
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Uma Sarason, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: My First Practice Report!

Posts: 53 Join Date: 12/12/09 Recent Posts
Villum (redacted):

What are you aware of in your open letting things be?


It depends... if I am in a lot of pain I often get stuck in the awareness of pain. But sometimes if I can soften and let the pain be there then my awareness can include a lot more as well and sometimes the pain does eventually dissolve.

Unless i do a lot of setting up, i find that my attention is still mostly on my head-touch, mind, hearing and sight.
I had trouble with the mind drifting a lot too. It seems to me that thoughts can be very "sneaky", and it took me a long time to begin to have them arise without getting caught up in them. I think it helped me to try to be aware(mindful), while working (ie - studying). When i do this, I try to keep my mind relaxed and open enough while still focused on the work. This seems to let me, sometimes, "catch" the impulses to jump away from the work and do something else. In the beginning i would only notice the thoughts/impulses just before i "fell into them" and got seriously distracted from my work, but practice seems to have helped, so i catch the thoughts/impulses earlier, at least when i have the energy and resolve to be mindful while working.
This practice also seems to have helped me not get so distracted while sitting, and (i hope!) might help you too.


Thanks for the reminder. I do need to focus more on mindfulness in everyday activities. There is a big gap between my sitting and working for example and so probably being more attentive when working could probably help there not be such a big gap.

The "A Letting go approach to Jhana" post from the hamilton project seems in my own practice, to have some very nice pointers for a more relaxed approach to sitting. Very early days, however.


Thanks, I really like this. It reminds me of the way Vimalaramsi teaches--a very relaxed, open approach to jhanas. Even though I don't study with him now I still got a whole lot from his teachings and have a sense that I do need this type of approach that focuses a lot on relaxing and letting go!!
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: My First Practice Report!

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Grrrreat! I'll offer my two cents worth anyway, but take it with a pinch of salt.... emoticon

Woke up this morning shaking and feeling terror/fear. This is a pretty common occurrence. It could be related to several changes going on in my life right now, but then again this has been going on for some time. (Maybe it's not important to determine whether various symptoms are physical, energetic, psychological/emotional, etc?)

Likely 6th ñana, Knowledge of Fear. Cycling is natural, just be aware of what's happening rather than trying to determine the specifics. Do this after practice, not during. Don't get caught up in psychological stuff if you're doing insight practice, just be aware of what's arising and passing, the specifics don't matter during practice, you can deal with that later.

Started meditation a bit short of breath.

This might sound like a daft question, but did the breath have a sort of shallow, medium-fast paced "huh-huh-huh-huh" like a 4/4 rhythm to it?

Worked on not fighting what I was feeling, and within a few minutes my breath slowed and deepened considerably and stayed very slow and deep throughout the whole sit. At one point midway into the sit, after the exhale my breath stopped for several seconds and then my breath was even a bit deeper & longer the rest of the sit.

Sounds like moving from 1st to 4th ñana here, particularly the change in breath. Any unpleasant sensation during this period? Seems like a smooth transition which suggests to me that you've got some strong skills!

A few minutes after my breath deepened, my right arm started to shake a lot more than the overall low level shaking, including jerking and moving around. Soon after this I got a stabbing pain in the right side of my head and neck. I worked on relaxing. Then the shaking would rotate around to different body parts. Started getting the pelvic jerking movements back and forth (forward and back). At one point this movement/energy pulled me up from where I had been leaning back, to sitting upright. Then I started to lean/fall forward… sometimes when I am physically moved around I feel like I am going to fall over. So I get confused between not wanting to control anything and not wanting to fall over. So I intentionally leaned back again. (I try as much as possible to not interfere by making volitional movement during sitting).

These are called kriyas, it's energetic activity which is common for meditators who've crossed the A&P due to "kundalini" having risen and now circulating the body. It's fine, I got a bit concerned about this sort of thing but learned that it's par for the course when it comes to post-A&P yogis. What you've described sounds very much like what I've experienced in my own practice.

The rest of the sit was not as violent movements but more twitching and shaking in different body parts including my face, and the eyes would twitch and flutter and look upwards. I hold a lot of tension around my eyes so this was uncomfortable at first but eventually I was able to relax a bit into it and this helped the relaxation in the rest of my head.

Dukkha ñanas a.k.a. Dark Night.

When the hour bell rang I still had very deep and slow breathing, a feeling of fear and all over low-level body twitching/shaking/vibrating and I could have continued sitting for a while (still felt pretty comfortable and patient) but decided to start my day.

Back to 6th ñana.

I practiced a combination of open relaxing letting things be, with a very gentle noting when thoughts or sensations would distract. It seemed to combine OK. However because I was not doing such intensive noting my mind was still able to drift off sometimes. When my mind would get caught up in thoughts without noting or letting it go I noticed my body tension and pain would increase considerably, so the faster I could catch it, the more I could prevent this from happening.

Sounds scattered to me, but I'm biased towards vipassana as it's what's worked for me. Just be in that open awareness, the sensory data passes through it and you know that each sensation you observe, whether you're labeling it Mahasi-style or not, is something which is not you, impermanent and unsatisfying. I just find that with noting, even if you need to do it out loud and note one sensation every two seconds or something, you're always present in the moment and there's less chance of drifting off in thoughts. Although if you're catching yourself wandering off on a mental journey then you're already back in the moment because, just by noticing that, you're aware of it and back to where you want to be! There's no way you can loose if you stick to this!

If you want some advice, I'd say that you're on the right track but you need to tweak your technique a bit. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was by tarin greco, he recommended establishing mindfulness before you even sit down (or whatever you do) to meditate, the improvement was remarkable and changed meditation for me. By this, I mean just being aware of what you're doing on a moment to moment basis, just going about your business in the 10-15 minutes before you sit down and paying attention to what's happening e.g. be aware of sensations while walking through the house, making a cup of tea, tidying up or whatever. All you're doing is bringing the mind into the moment but doing this before a sit saves you a whole lot of time spent settling down to meditate.

Hope that was of some use to you, thanks for posting your report!

Metta,
- Tommy
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Uma Sarason, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: My First Practice Report!

Posts: 53 Join Date: 12/12/09 Recent Posts
Tommy M:

Likely 6th ñana, Knowledge of Fear. Cycling is natural, just be aware of what's happening rather than trying to determine the specifics. Do this after practice, not during. Don't get caught up in psychological stuff if you're doing insight practice, just be aware of what's arising and passing, the specifics don't matter during practice, you can deal with that later.


I should understand more about this kind of stuff -- if I am shaking in fear I wonder if it means I am in a certain level of meditation or that I just have an anxiety/panic disorder. I honestly have no idea how I would tell the difference or if it matters.

Started meditation a bit short of breath.

This might sound like a daft question, but did the breath have a sort of shallow, medium-fast paced "huh-huh-huh-huh" like a 4/4 rhythm to it?


You mean like it gets stuck along the way and there are bumps or something? I'm not sure what you mean. I didn't really notice but I can look out for something because it happens often.

Worked on not fighting what I was feeling, and within a few minutes my breath slowed and deepened considerably and stayed very slow and deep throughout the whole sit. At one point midway into the sit, after the exhale my breath stopped for several seconds and then my breath was even a bit deeper & longer the rest of the sit.

Sounds like moving from 1st to 4th ñana here, particularly the change in breath. Any unpleasant sensation during this period? Seems like a smooth transition which suggests to me that you've got some strong skills!


Yes there were unpleasant sensations most of the time. I almost always am aware of unpleasant meditations until I go past a certain whatever depth in my sitting and they dissolve (or i don't react and they fade or however you describe it).

(re: movements) These are called kriyas, it's energetic activity which is common for meditators who've crossed the A&P due to "kundalini" having risen and now circulating the body. It's fine, I got a bit concerned about this sort of thing but learned that it's par for the course when it comes to post-A&P yogis. What you've described sounds very much like what I've experienced in my own practice.


Cool. That's really interesting, I have done some yoga as well, and they talk about it in terms of "kundalini awakening". They talk about a process starting, when you start to get these movements.. that doesn't mean your kundalini is "awakened" but it means you are on the road to it now without turning back! So I wonder if this initial kundalini awakening is parallel to the Buddhist A&P.

Sounds scattered to me, but I'm biased towards vipassana as it's what's worked for me.


Yes I often do feel scattered. But sadly (or not maybe emoticon certain approaches just dead-ended for me.

If you want some advice, I'd say that you're on the right track but you need to tweak your technique a bit. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was by tarin greco, he recommended establishing mindfulness before you even sit down (or whatever you do) to meditate, the improvement was remarkable and changed meditation for me. By this, I mean just being aware of what you're doing on a moment to moment basis, just going about your business in the 10-15 minutes before you sit down and paying attention to what's happening e.g. be aware of sensations while walking through the house, making a cup of tea, tidying up or whatever. All you're doing is bringing the mind into the moment but doing this before a sit saves you a whole lot of time spent settling down to meditate.


There seems to be a theme here of advice so far.. to be more mindful off the cushion. Then maybe it wouldn't be such a huge enormous gigantic chore to reign my scattered mind in every time I start sitting and would be able to get more done during the sit!!

Hope that was of some use to you, thanks for posting your report!


Thanks for the encouragement. And at the very least, posting on this board has already inspired me to have a stronger intent in my practice and to get more disciplined about sitting. Thanks!

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Uma Sarason, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: My First Practice Report!

Posts: 53 Join Date: 12/12/09 Recent Posts
Practice report 4/20

Haven't had time to record all my sits but here is the latest one:

Sat for 1.5 hours this morning. Lots of tension and achiness. Less shaking.

I was able to have a more focused intent without straining and finally able to start doing some metta meditation again. This was really helpful to me, a very gentle object of meditation of well being and I finally got to a place where I wasn't focusing too hard!

Not so much movement but about 2/3 of the way into it there were some involuntary movements and some shaking again. Less dramatic though.

I noticed I was more centered today!
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Uma Sarason, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: My First Practice Report!

Posts: 53 Join Date: 12/12/09 Recent Posts
Hi,

I just wanted to report that I was able to get more deeply relaxed in today's sit than I have in a long time. And then after that more emotion (sadness) is going on throughout the day.

I feel like just presenting my stuckness to this forum and having some conversations, and getting some suggestions, has already really strengthened the intent of my practice and got me more back on track than I've been in a while. Still have plenty to unravel but a bit more focused. I can only hope it continues!

So, thanks everyone!!

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