Pepe's Log (closed, go to #2) - Discussion
Pepe's Log (closed, go to #2)
Background: I hit a big A&P for the first time via a Qigong practice in 2005, then several times during 2012-2014 via Mahasi Noting. Low EQ is the maximum level reached, but soon enough went back to DÑ or 3C-A&P-DÑ. Present Time: Speed-Noting, with ear plugs (too much noise at home and the street) Not a ‘bip’ note but kind of **** <@__ <- * · * x ·· ^ __ O ··> o_ ·*· as an old DhO member amusingly described. Its focus is on the head as central focus and the rest of the body as periphery. I try to gain speed and precision in the Noting, and when I notice that too much tension is generated, I loosen up by breathing, and I go on to do a body-sweeping in the Goenka style, but exclusively in the head. During the first week I tried different things, but then settled in what I described above.
Dec 15/2019: 1 hour. Much more mental-visual and emotional than yesterday, partly because of an family argument that happened today. In order to explore and change, I put more focus on the vibrations and also changed from wide focus to narrow focus, both in the nostrils and in the abdomen. There were also times to stop at some persistent tension in the head.
Dec 16/2019: 1 hour. I tried this time focusing on the abdomen (it came out natural, after doing a Catholic mantra). First the expansion / contraction and pulse occur, then the most diffuse vibration (10 per sec) and then punctures in the periphery (arms and legs). Later (without being fully stabilized), I began to observe tensions in the head, which remain connected to the observation of the abdomen, that is, while below is a 'pure' physical sensation, above (head) there are physical sensations resulting from the tension of observing the sensations below. The focus is on Dukkha, detecting and relaxing tensions and Anicca is in the multiplicity of sensations. Anatta remains to be detected. It is interesting how sometimes, from a sensation, the mind generates a crazy object, which does not correspond to the physical reality under observation.
Dec 19/2019: 1 hour. I made a mix with 50% Anicca and 50% Dukkha focus, sometimes in the whole body and more in the second part only in the face. The interesting thing is that even when I try to maintain speed in Anicca, at some point the mind calms down. There, instead of solidifying that calm and spatiality, I instead tried to detect the remaining Dukkha. For some time I had several consecutive moments of gones (big vanishings), which seemed to be generated as a result of searching for the remaining Dukkha. But it is not clear if it was a repetition of gones instead of deepening concentration or something else. Is this similar to looking for 3C at the exit of the Jhanas? A similar technique I use was to say a long Christian mantra, but without concluding it, leave it unfinished. In that emptied space/silence that was left unfilled with words, I also look for the remaining Dukkha. Sometimes, when I see Anicca stagnant, I focus on the visual.
Dec 20/2019: 1 hour. I did not do a physical stretch or Qigong before the sit. The practice drifted to a Samatha type with some investigation, kind of TMI, although with more focus on dissolving tensions. It was hard for me to find objects in general. Maybe I should have bet fully on the pleasurable sensations that arose in the belly, rather than focusing on the head. I guess with practice I will discern faster where to focus. I looked for yesterday's vanishings, but that had much less effect.
Dec 21/2019: 1 hour. Finally, I printed the Progress of Insight section of the MCTB2. Then while meditating I saw that I went through M&B, C&E and The 3C. In M&B it is noticed that (i) the ‘monkey mind’ is silent; (ii) the difference/relation between certain sensations and then its extension in time, more like echo (tension, vibration, heat) than anything else. In C&E how the mental-visual are triggered (mental impressions) and how an intention triggers a thought. Sometimes I listen to the intention and the thought with a slight offset of 1-2 seconds. In The 3C it is clear how the thoughts pop up, as if they are passing by (not coming from the ‘background’). I tried to observe how I observe those thoughts, to see what is related to Anatta. Since they are not very long (or I don't have much concentration), I don't have much time to see what happens (I don’t see a center where thoughts come from). What does happen is that as a result of this, I can observe the tensions that thoughts trigger. Usually they are in the scalp, but sometimes in the hands also. There are some minor pain in the throat and scapula, postural issues. Not on the legs, I get up and they are fresh, ok, not asleep. Also, my head doesn’t bend backwards, as in other previous practices, a sign that I’m not dozing off. One of the things that I noticed is that there is a moment of transition where I do not accurately observe sensations in a bounded area (eg. breathing), that I must expand the focus to the whole head or head and trunk, in order to maintain a rhythm of sensations per second. That change is comfortable, open practice feels more comfortable than focused.
Dec 22/2019: Less than 1 hour, as I was tired from a long walk back from the park. Even so, two levels of concentration deepening (silence and peripheral) were evident. It was not easy to notice physical sensations, but many thoughts flying, product of fatigue. Though it was easy to feel the warmth in Dantian (lower belly), I didn't focus there so it wouldn't end up being a samatha practice. One thing I observe is that I’m kind of unintentionally alternating days of Vipassana and Samatha practice.
Dec 24/2019: 1 hour. I tried saying ‘attention’ between the end of exhalation and before inhalation, to maintain concentration during the noticing. It worked. I realized that it is a matter of accepting that this type of vipassana generates many more sensations but also more tensions, so I use the exhalations to unload those tensions. Other vipassana methods are less stressful, but eventually lead to lethargy (torpor) or absent-minded, they need a higher level of concentration in order to work. Maybe that's why the SZ’s Gone or Self-Inquiry work best in Equanimity. Another comparative point is that deep down, when doing Noting, the labelling involved many more words (and varied) than just saying ‘attention’. It is like a kind of mantra, without religious connotations.
Dec 25/2019: 1 hour. I continue to apply the ‘attention’ mantra and I see that it works at any moment of the breathing cycle, maybe it is convenient at the end of exhalation. This time also after a while the focus expands towards the periphery, especially the arms, where there are less taps (pinchazos, etc) and more like small bubbling. This time, with 10 minutes left, I removed the ear plugs, and obviously it is more comfortable, less general tension in the head. And I also kept trying to focus on the visual to change a bit and maintain the level of concentration. The most interesting thing arose at the end, when I laid down and I put exclusive focus on the visual. At first, the light was subdivided into concentric circles (strands of light that were modified). Then, at the bottom of these threads of light, a really fast flickering began, which seemed to alternate between a continuous light and blinking. I guess this must be the necessary speed for stream-entry.
Dec 26/2019: 1 hour. Max Speed-Noting -> 15 / sec. I forgot to use ‘attention’. Nevertheless I put effort into observing each sensation in each moment, both the obvious ones (rubbing of the hair, clothes, between hands, pillows, etc.) as the pulses and the bubbling. I relaxed the tension at the expiration. From there I did body-sweeping only in the head. In particular, when I put the focus on the area just above the forehead, there is a very fine bubbling at the base of the spine (also the shoulders ). Kind of activating the Kundalini. In the end, I lie down and take out the plugs and make 5 minutes of vipassana from the threads of light. Both yesterday and today I reached another level of meditation, where everything works quieter. It does not seem to be A&P, because it lacks a high level of noticing. Nor does seems to be EQ because I did not go through DÑ, and the discomfort in the throat seems more than 3C than anything else since it is not accompanied by gloomy images or red colors as years ago. Probably it’s the transition between The 3C and A&P. I still have to end with distractions to be a real A&P. Nervertheless, it is worth adding that during my daily nap, half-asleep I saw 'light rays', a typical symptom of previous A&P. Later at night, it took me more than 2 hours to fall asleep (another A&P symptom) in part because the jhana factors were big on legs and Dantian. Before happening that, an extensive bubbling runned through all the limbs (kind of Qigong type). In the short nap the next day, the where Moire Patterns (another A&P symptom,probably).
Dec 27/2019: 1 hour. Max Speed-Noting -> 10-12 / sec. As I slept very little and could not take a long nap, fatigue was felt. Even so, the Noting worked quickly and with less distractions, recognizing faster thoughts as such. The trick was to quickly apply head-sweeping and then open to the whole body. The bubbling was not as accurate as yesterday nor activated at the base of the column. But I did notice a general vibration, more like a shaking type. I had already felt it on other occasions, but could not distinguish it for what it was. The interesting thing is that although the shaking is fast, the gap between each peak could be distinguished. From time to time (2-3 times per sit), my body naturally accommodates to a less intense and wider Noting. After lying down, in order to see the threads of light I had to put more intension/tension.
Dec 28/2019: 2 hours. Max Speed-Noting -> 10 / sec? Enter to DÑ. The number of observations per second dropped, and many more images began to appear, without the A&P colorfulness, and now colors with textures. But ocher colors have not yet appeared as in previous DÑ. It is possible to observe in the periphery the low bubbling, that at times the gap can be distinguished between end and beginning of the next. While I had an eye on the periphery, I tried to observe the reactions in the center. But I don't remember now how I did it... When the number of observations per second fell, I used Goenka on the head, plus noting the easy sensations to keep some speed. The second hour was a reclined meditation, where I did a body-sweeping through the back and then the trunk and legs. Afterwards, I paid more attention to the jhana factors growing in legs and Dantian.
Dec 29/2019: Less than 1 hour (family interruption). Max Speed-Noting -> about 20 / sec at the beginning of the practice, but without the gaps so clear. What was noted that on top of an extended vibration (starting at legs and then resonating to shoulders & back) there was an ‘Intensity Sin (x) cycle’. Not a doubling of sensations, just higher/lower intensity. Then the speed dropped to 8-10 / sec, but it could have been 4-5/sec if not counting the sensations easy to note. It was more difficult to observe thoughts as objects. There were many images, mostly cartoons. The nice thing is that they were doing something, as if they were short films. There are no stories though, just movements. This has already appeared years ago in other DÑ. I guess it's a non-frightening way of showing me issues that would otherwise generate rejection, fear, etc. There was no red color or ocher tones, nor textured colors.
Dec 31/2019: No meditation today, I’ve been away from home all day.
Jan 01/2020: 50’. Max Speed-Noting 8 / sec. I could continue without ear-plugs all sitting, and as it was short there was no second reclined section. First there was a general vibration in the legs and arms. There was no discomfort in the throat. Then there was a flood of auditory thoughts (there were no images). They were too many but I could observe them without getting stuck in mental loops. At some point I sought to modify the situation by looking for sensations in the head, doing body-sweeping there. There was a very shy energy flow between the crown to a point just before the forehead starts. I tried to breathe from the head, but it didn’t generate more sensations either. I changed and began to observe only the expansion / contraction of the abdomen with the breath, with the intention of releasing tensions with the exhalation. But just by following the breath, it made the stream of thoughts disappear completely. That was a big relief. Then, while following the expansion / contraction of the abdomen, I looked for the vibrations in the legs and arms. Couldn’t find them. Only after searching enough, I observed just a fine (steady) vibration there.
Jan 02/2020: 30 ’+ 90’. Max Speed-Noting 8/sec. In the first sitting, the general vibration immediately arose. But as I looked for sensations in the head, the vibration disappeared. It was quite difficult to find sensations in the head, beyond the obvious ones. It didn't even help to breathe from the head. What came and went was an itching / discomfort in the front bone just below the throat, something typical of previous DÑ. I observed many thoughts, and the best thing about sitting was that I was able to register 2 of the 3 Features: Dukkha and Anatta. In the case of Anicca, I observed few beginnings but always the peaks and endings. This makes me think that vipassana methods that focus only on relaxing / dissolving tensions (or resignifying it as Metta) such as Bhante Vimalaramsi are incomplete. Something similar must happen with Goenka's body-sweeping, if it is not possible to reach the whole-body-sweeping at each breath (because there it do seems more likely to see 3C simultaneously). It would be good to make a map highlighting which Vipassana Jhanas each method is most useful.
The second sitting (90’) I focused on using as a primary object the expansion / contraction of the abdomen, while cultivating and investigating signs of rapture. Soon there were vibrations in legs and arms. I extended it to the whole body, there were no major problems except in the chest and mouth of the stomach, where vibrations appeared only after some minutes, but not at the same level as the rest. Then there was also some vibrations and bubbling at the base of the column. In general, the heat in the lower abdomen grew with my intensity level of focus; it did not reach a point of escape speed. Then the vibration went down to a smaller level, even when I put energy on it. During the sitting, I could see the 3C well in the thoughts, I think it is the first time it happens. And the annoying sensation in the throat disappeared. As it was a different scenario to do vipassana, it was difficult for me to find the balance between energy and tranquility.
After reading in MCTB2 the section of the 7 Factors of Awakening, I see that this method is a complete framework (7AF) for Stream Entry. A much more refined and balanced version than the ‘Shooting Aliens’ of the 3C of the MCTB1. Just for fun, I’ll use its classification for today’s practice: Mindfulness (medium), Investigation (mid-high), Energy (mid-low, unstable), Rapture (mid-low), Tranquility (medium), Concentration (low), Equanimity (mid-low).
Jan 03/2020: 50 ’. Max Speed-Noting 4/sec. It is a very different practice. When I focus on breathing in my belly, pleasant heat grows, vibrations in my legs and rapid pulses at the base of the spine/sacrum. But thoughts and images do not arise, although there are logically intention-thoughts derived from the fact of wanting to investigate. When I investigate the heat, after a while I can find traces of finer vibrations that are more pleasant than the general heat. Then, when I try to observe why no thoughts arise, the mind engages directly with the peripheral (non-bodily) upper space. This is recognized as mentally pleasurable. I see that I was exerting effort and that was somehow rejecting that pleasure from a relaxed, but alert and expanded mind. There, thoughts begin to arise, and I clearly see the 3C. If I want to return to the belly, as a secondary or even primary focus, there is only pleasant heat, but undifferentiated. It is just a warm zone. Then, returning to the spatial / peripheral focus, from time to time the mind spontaneously focused on the ‘center’, near the nostrils. There I observed pleasant sensations of breathing. Thus, that the mind travels 3 different research foci (belly, space, nose), with its own qualities. The ‘center’ needs further investigation.
Jan 04 /2020: 20 ’. I focused on the movement of the belly, and it took some time for the pleasant heat and vibrations to grow in the legs. Quickly though, waking dreams flooded in. I tried to put more intensity in noting, but soon the dreams returned again. On weekends it is more difficult to set time aside from my family, plus I have more physical activity. And although I sleep more, the fatigue of the business week drags me down.
Jan 05/2020: 50 ’. The first 20’s were a repetition of what happened yesterday. So I alternated the focus, first on the head (body-sweeping) and then the nostrils. It didn't help much, though. But the interesting thing is that after the 20’ mark, the head suddenly cleared, the peripheral space became the place to be and I was more alert. Thoughts circulated strongly, but I could observe at least 2 of the 3C.
Jan 07/2020: 50’. This time I tried to start focusing on the nostrils and head, to register more sensations. Didn't have much success in that. When I focused on the abdomen, it was also hard to investigate. Then I focused in space, and there everything settled down. Very quiet. I went back to breathing from the nostrils to notice the small sensations and thoughts. I observed many vanishings, but there were also several distractions.
Jan 08/2020: 20 ’+ 70’. As I had slept only 4 hours, I decided to do a mini-session of lying meditation, assuming that I would immediately fall asleep. But half awake, half asleep, I noticed a strange situation related to breathing (I don't know if inhalation or exhalation): everything I had in front (space, not me) turned from right to left. Obviously, it wasn't fruition. An early-miss, unlikely too. It was interesting that I could recognize the half-sleeping situation.
In the second (long) sitting I cultivated the jhana factors at the beginning from vipassana, and tried to expand the vibrations and pleasant pulsations at the base of the spine. Then the pleasant feeling literally solidified the abdomen like a hot barrel. For a long time, it was really very calm and alert. I had few things left to investigate. I then sought to investigate awareness itself. Later some thoughts distracted me. I could see the 3C, but not constantly, without pause, but rather choppy. When the pleasant feeling solidified, I changed for a body-sweeping at the back, head and front of the torso. I put special emphasis on the chest, an area that I generally avoid so as not to generate annoying pressures that usually derail the practice. There were no major problems, because everything was already quite relaxed.
Jan 09/2020: 60’. At first the typical signs of DÑ returned, with the impossibility of breaking the solidity of sensations in feet and abdomen, and many thoughts (another day with few hours of sleep). Then I put the focus on the nostrils, where I could do more noting but still with many thoughts. The interesting thing is that I put the focus on thoughts, as I had just read today about how thoughts are actually a compound of all the senses. There I saw that my thoughts in general have 3-4 components: (1) auditory; (2) visual; (3) physical; (4) spatial-proprioception. This was very helpful to experience ‘on-line real-time’ how thoughts are composed, and to give continuity and consistency to the practice. In addition, the signals of DÑ disappeared. The other interesting thing is after the bigger vanishings, in general I usually observed the spatial element and mental tranquility. But now I saw that these two things trigger at the same time (or is included in the package) a physical tension, usually near the crown or just below (and behind) the eye cells. Kind of like holding on to the last wood after a shipwreck...
Jan 10/2020: 60’. At first it was difficult to use the abdomen as a focus, but it was easy to do it in the nostrils, which triggered heat in the legs and abdomen. There was more peace of mind than yesterday. As the focus was on observing how the thoughts were composed (their physical sub-parts and spatial location), although I saw one or more of the 3C, there was no precision like in previous sessions. During the day, I could also see (with seconds of delay) the images that are part of the thoughts. Mental impressions too, but not associated with thoughts, but by concentration effect I suppose. So it seems like a good daily practice. In the middle of the sitting I did a body-sweeping on head and trunk, and then briefly I could do a whole-body breathing with small vibrations throughout the body. At some point there was a lot of heat growing from the legs, more vibrations at the base of the spine.
Jan 11/2020: 30’. The initial DÑ sensations in the throat went away quickly. I did not focus on breathing and impermanence, nor on the spatial element. As I had little time, I observed Dukkha, how the body reacts to any sensation or thought, be it pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Thus, I constantly observed tensions. The most interesting ones are after big vanishings, where tension appears somewhere in the head. During the day, I continued to observe the visual images that make up the thoughts.
Jan 12/2020: 70’. In the first few minutes there were vibrations in the lower abdomen, then discomfort in the throat (usual sensations during DÑ). So I took the opportunity to focus on the reactions to Dukkha, as I did yesterday. There were constantly tensions for all three cases. The strangest were for neutral sensations. The most striking were those that arose after vanishings, where I observed auditory thoughts that were accelerating and the pitch was getting sharper, until in a moment it was like I was completely submerged on that climb and pum! all thoughts disappeared and I watched in a quiet and larger space. But as soon as I did a little investigation on the body, I noted tension in the head, either the crown, eyes or cheekbones.
Later, there was a very interesting phase, where on the one hand there were many thoughts and lucid-dreaming (very visual) but there was a clear perception of a background that contained everything, and that was very quiet. This seems to me as a very likely sign of Equanimity. Later, these thoughts and dreams disappeared, so this place got very quiet, where little happened. After a while I decided to try whole-breathing. This time, the breath covered all (though at first the throat and part of the chest did not respond), accompanied by a faint vibration throughout the body.
Jan 14/2020: 70’. I started with unpleasant sensations in the neck-throat and automatic neck adjustments (3C, I suppose). As the noticing did not work, I switched to open space, in which all of this changed. Worked on decomposing thoughts, but I lacked energy to give consistency to the practice. There were those ‘pitch-vanishings’ (thoughts related) and later in open space I observed tensions in the forehead, cheekbones and scalp. But I felt that nothing was happening, that this was not going anywhere, so I opted to try the whole-body breathing. As it worked fine, I focused on observing and enhancing the jhana factors (which grew very slowly).
Jan 15/2020: 90’. I was able to sleep well and I was reading quietly before meditating, very positive conditions for the session. The practice was very interesting, different from what has been happening, a mixture of EQ and DÑ (but samadhi colored). What I discovered during the session is that there are two ‘directions’ for the mind. The first (the most usual) is the one that literally goes forward (even if perceiving a large 3D spatial component). The second direction is not to go forward but to stay in the place (let it be?), as if the cornea were the front border, and expand to the sides (and also backwards). In the first case, it is as if there is a constant extra tension that you are looking for, and although if I start with a wide and calm observation, in the long run the onset of thoughts begins to accelerate (ear-plugs obviously contribute a lot to that). As much as I can deconstruct thoughts into sensations and/or see vedana and the underlying tensions, it's like a roller coaster. In the second case, the observation is relaxed and calm, and also triggers jhana factors in the arms and trunk. There are fewer underlying thoughts and tensions, and I can investigate them better.
In general, during the session there were recurring moments of dropping/gones (let-go) thoughts (the ‘pitch-vanishings’ that I mentioned yesterday). In the second modality, the underlying tensions arose stronger. A novelty is that there were more physical sensations in the chest and upper abdomen, a generally conflictive area. But there were no problems, the sensations disappeared quickly. The interesting thing is that new melodies emerged, some somewhat sad (a novel way of showing DÑ). There was no discomfort in the throat as in the last days.
Jan 16/2020: 50’. It was a practice similar to yesterday, although with few drops / vanishings. With much observation about the composition of thoughts. The correction is perhaps to make only "soft contact" with what I observe, be they physical sensations, auditory thoughts, images or sounds. It doesn't matter if it's ‘forward’, the ‘side / back’, or ‘up / down’. It is like touching slightly the observed. Another thing that was involuntarily begun to do was to observe Anatta according to Daniel's tips. Before and after session, it was a very quiet day. Little reactivity, I could see the time lag between events and emotions.
Jan 17/2020: 30’. Very tired and distracted by the launching of a work project. I tried a simple mindfulness, without great consistency.
Jan 18/2020: 60’. Typical sensations of 3C, such as shaking and some discomfort in the neck. I couldn't speed up enough for A&P or have consistency to lean towards samatha. For 30’ it was a sleepy practice, only in the last 20’ the mind cleared up. I have to define some protocol to take advantage of the session, such as labelling or body-sweeping.
Jan 19/2020: 15’. I could only briefly practice anapasati. The novelty is that instead of investigating the quality of breathing, I observed the tensions arising in the area between the upper lip and the nostrils. Thus, the sensations ceased to be weak and volatile, and showed to be stronger, easier to stay with. It is a topic to investigate.
Jan 21/2020: 30’+ 80’. The short session was a vipassana practice and the long one a samatha one. Actually, I tried to have the ‘flat’ focus (on the cornea) and I found on the edge of the eyelids, where the eyelashes are, a stable and very silent focus, beyond the emergence of loose thoughts and images. From there, I moved towards a more samatha practice, where I observed pleasant fragrances and pleasant heat on hands, arms and legs.
Jan 22/2020: 60’. I kept trying to put the focus on eyelids and eyelash movements, then observe breathing tensions in the nose and abdomen. The stages I went through were difficult to decipher. Little of DÑ and some Low EQ. In the last 15 ’I focused on observing the 3C of thoughts. In short, it is the method that works best for me to investigate 3C, leaving the bodily sensations as constitutive of the thoughts, or as isolated sensations of the background (they pass in front while there are no thoughts, until intentions and other subtle thoughts become more evident).
Jan 23/2020: 50’. It was a very good session! Investigating thoughts is a fruitful practice and it feels natural. From the beginning I focused on observing thoughts (and their mental impressions), intentions and the mind's movement of attention. An important observation is that when I put a lot of energy into capturing each of the arisings, then few or no thoughts arise. I suppose that this modality leads to a samatha type of practice. On the other hand, when I loosen up that energy a lot then many thoughts arise, and I can follow the thought online and more than anything detect the endings.
Thus, the optimal vipassana is to find that balance between a zeal observation and a (very) relaxed observation. The interesting and novel thing is that finding that optimum is fun! It must be the first time in my life that I can say that meditation is fun LOL! I guess this optimum should be variable, depending on the insight stage in which one is.
On a practice level, depending on the level of energy, I can hear/notice each word of auditory thoughts, or in general thoughts I observe how images and words are interspersed. For now I do not detect well the beginnings and endings of each word and images, but the good thing is that it guides me where I should go. Several times it happened that the words had a phaser effect. A couple of times it happened that the words had a strobe effect, where the beginning and end of each word sounded much less than in the middle. Is this a sign that these phenomena arise from and disappear towards "an origin"?
In general, after mental thoughts and impressions, tensions arise between the forehead and the crown.
Jan 25/2020: 60’. I watched beginnings and endings of auditory thoughts, which had images and audio interspersed. Audio impressions too. No phaser or strobing effects. As the level of concentration was not very high, I switched a few times to choiceless awareness, with more focus on impermanence of physical sensations.
Jan 26/2020: 50’. An improvement I found is always to focus on the outer sides of the eyelids edge, and at the same time relax the eye cells. That is, not to change the near-far focus ‘visual’, but always close but at the same time loosening the eyes. This triggers a reduction of about half the intensity of tensions in the chest, throat and scalp. One working hypothesis is that these tensions (when not relaxed) are escalating one over another, so if one observes those small tensions arising, then it is much more difficult for annoying tensions to arise. By following the thoughts, the auditory part varies in volume and spatial centrality/closeness, to the extent that I can observe them as mental objects.
Jan 28/2020: 70’. It was a very quiet session, for long periods with few or no thoughts, which were mostly related to the practice. So I sought to observe intentions and emotions, which were in greater quantity. They were not explicit emotions but more implicit (in chest and throat sensations). As happened yesterday and in other sessions, approximately 70% were dissolved during the first seconds of observation (or relaxation of sight/attention) and the remaining 30% - which no longer bothered - disappeared little by little. As a particular case, I observed a lot of impatience, like I was waiting for some thoughts to work with or to happen something else. But mostly there was tranquility. This impatience was sometimes observed at the physical level as tensions in arms, throat and scalp, and at the auditory level sometimes as melodies (neutral, neither sad nor joyful) or repetitive sounds. I did not observe impatience visually. I also observed "vertical" vibrations (through the trunk and head, rather than in the skin) that had a minimal auditory component. They may simply be vibrations related to blood flow. As there were few thoughts, I tried to observe how the attention moved around the space. I intentionally sought to relax it when attention rested for time "fixed" on an object or view. That triggered quite intense tensions, in an area that goes from the eyebrows to the crown.
Jan 29/2020: 20’+ 20’+ 40’. Just as I imagined, the use of the focus on the edges of the eyelids works for certain situations (ñanas) but not for others. In the first two short sessions, the initial clarity and stability was repeatedly lost in an intermingled flow of intentions, auditory thoughts and a few emotions. I could observe Dukkha, but not accurately Anicca. In the third (longer) session, the initial situation was the same. That's when I asked myself "why is all this mess going on?" The fact of considering it made me automatically give a panoramic look at that flow. Then, everything calmed down and I could see that flow, without precision but without aversion and restlessness. So I decided to have the widest possible look, a 360º view (noticed sensations on the sides of the skull, which I had never observed). Under that modality, I observed that while the background was clear and calm, that flow was between the background and “I”. I wondered why the flow was there. Then noticed that this flow was only part of that background, that everything (background + flow) was space (except "I", which was observing). Later, I noticed that the space also changed. As I writing this, I see that the "I" must also be part of this space, and so changes “there” are also changes “here” ...
Jan 30/2020: 50 ’. At first I focused on observing emotions, and sad visual memories emerged, which aroused sensations in the chest. Later I advanced to observe the thoughts, looking to expand the focus to 360º. It was very difficult to keep in sync with the flow, there was a certain delay. Towards the end, it seemed more like a dream than loose thoughts.
Feb 18/2020: 40’. I repeated yesterday's approach. The variant I tried was that for each visual, physical, auditory or thought-intention sensation, I looked for an echo in the generalized vibration of the abdomen. It is similar to looking for tension in the head for every thought. The idea is to try variants this difficult week (due to family and work issues) to resume the pace and method next week.
Feb 22/2020: 60’. I started again with vipassana. At the beginning it was difficult to observe the beginnings of thoughts, so I focused on stabilizing the mind, observing the remaining tension through breathing or relaxation of tensions in the chest and abdomen. This resulted more in pleasant sensations in the chest (similar to satisfaction, love, etc.) and in the abdomen (non-suffocating heat). After a while, I could observe the beginnings and endings of the thoughts. There I remembered to play a little with the focus of observation: when it is more concentrated the thoughts are few, and when it is broader they are many. I think the key is the fine-tuning of this.
Feb 23/2020: 40’. It was not a good session. I tried samatha, but it worked little. Then I tried the deconstruction of thoughts, but it was hard to stay focused, not to start daydreaming. I even tried noting out loud, but it had little traction.
Feb 25/ 20: 70’. This time I kept the focus on my head all the time. In the flow of thoughts I observed many more visual aspects (attached to the auditory) and little related to the physical aspects. After a while, a kind of ‘helmet’ formed with a density level of ‘tension’ different from the rest. Seen as a whole, it was quite solid. Just focusing on one part, there were physical fluctuations. I researched a little about the edges, without much success. But the cheekbones, eyes, mouth, neck were relaxed. In the ‘helmet’, no energy discharges were fired, as has happened on so many occasions. But it did happen that in the last quarter of the session, a tension grew in the crown. I tried with the 2PF of Katami, to see if by saying aloud ‘I, my, mine’ that would hardened the tension in the crown, but nothing happened.
Feb 26/20: 40’+ 40’. Just when yesterday I was wondering about the lack of energetic sensations… Just at the beginning of today's session I observed that the brow chakra was activated and shortly afterwards cold energy circulated through the skull, from the crown to the forehead. Even weirder was that before, when I woke up, I had a short sad dream, typical of past DÑ. During the session I was attentive to observe Anicca and Dukkha, especially what aspects or ‘attitudes’ (camouflaged aversion) cause me to stop observing what is happening as it is. That is, how I go from a clear and transparent observation to another cloudy one. This practice was not something premeditated. It happened that just before going to meditate, I was watching a video of Paul McCartney telling how he composed Let it Be.
In the second session, the energy flow was reversed, from the brow chakra to the crown. After I straightened the neck posture, the flow went back down. The brow chakra was quite active throughout the session. The idea was to observe it, not deconstruct it. There were no pulses or turns, but some minimal expansion / contraction, but most of all the fluctuation of their perception. The most interesting of both sessions was to observe how the thoughts related to the practice can be 90% unconscious and 10% conscious. That 90% is what obscures the clarity of perception. Sometimes it is not enough to simply see its arising & passing. To prevent the dullness from ending up covering everything, I was attentive to a point in the neck, something below the base of the skull. This ended up generating the observance of three points: the neck, plus the crown plus the brow chakra. A sort of attention triangle formed.
Feb 27/20: 40’+ 70’. Both sessions were very similar. I was careful to keep my neck always upright and that prevented the proto-thoughts to be triggered. What happened then is that I had few elements to investigate. I observed Anicca and Dukkha in tensions, and the sensory components of thoughts. In the last 20’of the last session, I switched to a general Noting (noticing) of everything, starting from the breath and including physical sensations in the rest of the head, and thoughts. At some point in the practice I tried to observe the movement of the eyes (pupils), and this had a great concentration effect, but it did not last long. I could not continue observing that movement. It is an aspect to investigate.
Feb 28/20: 60’. I continued practicing observing the movement of the eyes, and that quickly achieves a certain level of concentration. Soon the eyes move less, so you have to loosen attention to feel subtler sensations. In this way it was a practice where the focus was on following the mind's attention. At the same time I watched the 3C in thoughts and unconscious noise.
Feb 29/20: 60’. The practice was quiet, too quiet. Few thoughts were observed. I tried to loosen the intensity of observation, so that they could emerge. Otherwise, when observing their arising, they already fade away. In one case it happened that I could observe the complete cycle of the bundle of thoughts arising, expanding to the maximum and disappearing completely. I sought to broaden the range of observation to physical sensations in the head and trunk, but everything was calm, there were hardly any energetic points on the head. Nor did it work much to observe the movements of the eyes. But I could do vipassana on the levels of clarity of the mind: even when the mind was silent (no thoughts, no proto-thoughts, just intentions), different levels of clarity could be observed.
Mar 01/20: 40’. A practice with all the classic symptoms of DÑ: (a few) violent images that pass very fast and almost permanent flow of thoughts. But there were no obvious physical discomforts (in the throat or chest). Nevertheless, I did notice some tension in the eyes, something I had not paid attention to in past DÑ. The novelty of the whole situation was that (unconsciously) I lived it peacefully, without a big stress or the urge to find a way out at all costs. Other thing that caught my attention was that at different times of the session I observed the tranquility of the background. Therefore, I tried to expand the focus, but it didn't work out though.
im subbing to it so to follow.
here you say;
". The novelty of the whole situation was that (unconsciously) I lived it peacefully, without a big stress or the urge to find a way out at all costs. Other thing that caught my attention was that at different times of the session I observed the tranquility of the background. Therefore, I tried to expand the focus, but it didn't work out though"
yes, "without the urge to find a way out" is the ingredients called acceptance and just let objects to their thing even if utterly unpleasant. Nice one.
"tried to expand the focus ... it didn't work" apply to this the "without urge" as above and instead note "desire, wanting, failure, thinking, intention, seeing, over there, who is observing, etc"
"Trying to" and engaging with it is Dukkha. Noting the trying and noting the object of desire is Satipatthana. As Chris Marti mentioned someplace else "more Gain, more Pain" as a musician I certainly can relate to it
"less gain, more self-less flow" Try and notice stages which are heavier (DN, 3,C's) and instead of "trying to" maybe apply a constant remembering "acceptance". I like to say "I will allow this Tsunami to crush over me no matter what" and I keep noting unpleasantness and else. Some stages especially DN are-observation have a Purification feel to it, hell-like. Fighting with "skills" will not help here I feel. Utter Acceptance and honest moment to moment noting of all arising-passings is the key to EQ.
When in EQ again try and recognize at a later stage if you can sense Boredom, a Status-Quo like feel about the EQ itself. Keep noting this quality in a relaxed way together with all the other all inclusive stuff which happens anyway.
even if our minds tend to have same patterns/states/stages the karmic load is so unique leading to different perceptions/perspectives/experiences.
Mar 04/20: 40’. Memories and frustrations continued to float. I watched the flow of thoughts, but without investigating. Barely distinguishing the visual aspects of the auditory. It is a bit tiring. When some positive feeling appeared, I tried to stay there for a while. When there were few thoughts, I did a general Noting of physical sensations (whole body).
Mar 05/20: 40’. I used the breath as an anchor, which caused the center (breathing, area near the nose) to be separated from the periphery (the flow of thoughts). From time to time, the focus was strong enough to silence even the proto-thoughts. Even a Nimitta appeared, which quickly went from red to yellow and then to black, and then disappeared. Outside the session, there were symptoms of psychological / emotional purification. I lived it as something purely healing. Emotions ever present, flowing freely.
Mar 06/20: 50’. Peace and tranquility returned to the practice. From the beginning the focus went to the brow chakra, which had some vibration. No annoying sensations were observed in the chest and throat. There was a lot of silence. At times I noticed that I was waiting for something else to happen. At other times it was simply being. The tensions appeared again (more subtle) in the head, associated with intentions and some thoughts. There were also visual phenomena (probably associated with the 1st Jhana): white crescent moons (such as Kipferl croissants) leaving from the center and moving towards the background and finally forming complete circles/rings (a white border and a black center).
Mar 07/20: 20 ’+ 60’. I stopped the first session because I fell asleep twice. In the second session, the first 5 minutes there was discomfort in the throat and chest, and tension in the eyes and head. Then the discomfort disappeared, although the flow of (proto) thoughts fluctuated all the time. Associated with the flow of thoughts there was a ‘tension’ that manifested itself not at the body level but rather at the hearing level. In moments of tranquility the harmonics of the ears sound more precise and simple than when there was a flow of thoughts. There were lights, but less clear than yesterday.
Mar 08/20: 30’. It was a strange and uncomfortable practice, with lots of images (some cartoon type) and few auditory thoughts. When that happens, it is usually the other way around. At times, the space was ‘silent’ (auditory and visual). But recurrently they returned this kind of visual sequences, which more closely resembled a dream. They had no emotional components (except in one case, of fear), but rather they did their thing and disappeared.
Mar 09/20: 60 ’. It was the first time that I clearly observed how I went up and down through the ñanas. In this session I happened at least twice. As at some point those great gones (a la Shinzen) of great inactivity were occurred, I could observe the first signs of the restart of the stream of thoughts.
Mar 10/ 20: 40 ’. It was a short session due to lack of time, it could have lasted much longer. Just like yesterday I was able to clearly observe the sailing through the ñanas. While there was a path that ran from A&P to Low-EQ, there were several short distance ups and downs. At first I observe a mix of physical sensations and thoughts. Then, the discomfort of observing that flow of thoughts in the center and the need for a broader focus. Subsequently, I observed those (already lesser number of) thoughts and what reaction they generated: attraction, rejection or neutrality.
Mar 11/20: 30’. A short, very confusing practice with prior overdose of coronavirus information. It was difficult to concentrate.
Mar 12/ 20: 40’. Through the ñanas ladder, The Three Characteristics stood out in particular, probably because I previously did Qigong (which I had left months ago). Discomfort in abdomen, chest, clavicles and throat. Then a couple of times A&P with energy on the scalp. Subsequently, with the most stable focus, it was equally difficult to register the vedana in the physical and mental sensations.
Mar 14/ 20: 40’. Yesterday I could not practice for family reasons. Today's practice was bad, nothing worked. Beyond the current global context, Saturdays are days with little productive practices if I do not have extra time for a previous nap, due to my work dynamics. At first there were some sensations of temperature (cold), openness and vibration in the head chakras, but later it was very difficult to sustain the Noting, due to the great flow of thoughts.
Mar 15/20: 60’. It started the same as yesterday with typical sensations in the head chakras and also tensions in the area. The whole practice was an alternation between calm and clarity, and getting lost in the flow of thoughts. I tried different techniques and the one that worked best was to observe the tensions and let them relax. One thing that struck me was that the ‘light filaments’ and other lights on the eyelids could be observed continuously (in the manner of a 'do nothing' practice) as long as no thoughts arose. In that case, the focus became more 'distant' and murky.
March 17: 60’. Very similar to yesterday's session, but with a more Metta/jhanic tone in the second half.
March 18: 50’. Another quiet session, which started with metta/gratitude/jhana, a kind of mourning in a positive tone for the death of a close person, after a long illness. In a second part, I observed tensions and the flow of thoughts. While there were no sensations, images and other typical DÑ stuff, I did observe a few gones (a la Shinzen Young) that generally occur in the DÑ/Low-EQ terrain and the quiet subsequent spatiality. Here I observed the concept of arising & passing away but on a more global spectrum, encompassing the entire flow of consciousness, the recurring cycle. On the end, I returned to a practice closer to metta / jhana and the interesting thing is that the attraction of sensations triggers an aversion disguised as a preference for neutrality. Besides, I lack patience to cultivate metta / jhana, obviously there is anxiety too. Regarding the flow of thoughts, I looked at Anatta again with more clarity (and consistency).
March 19: 60’. Before practice, I was thinking about that dislike disguised as preference of neutrality. And I was struck by Spatial's classification of the jhanas (in a recent thread). Also, something I had read about total self-giving / surrender in Christian spirituality. Then, during the session I observed that aversion again and it occurred to me to try something different, to work on Vedana. Instead of 'observing' physical and mental sensations, noticing the 3Cs and relaxing possible tensions, the new practice is to 'let yourself be absorbed' by the sensation, such as falling to the center of the sensation and 'floating' from there, and then observing Anicca and Dukkha on its periphery.
This practice (and the fact that I do 40 'of Qigong before meditating) triggers physical knots (tensions) and energy knots in the head, chest and abdomen, which have a certain duration, they don’t vanish quickly, so it make the practice easier.
March 20: 60’. I continued with what I practiced yesterday. It is especially helpful when it comes to aversive feelings. In general, I stay on (in) each sensation for about 20 seconds to 2 minutes.
I observed that basically this practice what it does is to extend to the physical and energetic sensations what was already happening with the thoughts. When observing the thoughts, they stopped and a space was opened in which I ‘floated’. Now it's a bit the same, except that I don't focus on the last thought but on the flow (thought + mental echoes + physical sensations). The result is more ‘comprehensive’. And this gave me a clue of where to observe Anatta, something I was not able to observe yesterday. The key seems to be 'attention'. This is what happens when the object is ‘detached’, when attention is extended from the center to the periphery.
As a first approximation, it is a practice that combines: (1) vipassana noticing plus observing 3Cs; (2) total immersion (surrender) in the sensation for a time way longer than usual; (3) an immersion that translates into a kind of mimicry with the sensation, which reminds me of the solutions of Zen koans; (4) a practice that imitates / resembles intermittent navigation of the jhanas, as I jump from sensation to sensation.
March 21: 30 ’. Practice interrupted by family issues. Many images, typical of the mind going to sleep.
March 22: 50 ’. Another practice interrupted by family issues. There were also many images (always silent). But unlike yesterday, there were initially energetic sensations triggered by previous Qigong practice.
March 24: 50 ’. It was very difficult to do what I proposed on March 20, I think it is useful only when there is a high level of concentration. So I went back to noticing thoughts and tensions, observing the 3Cs.
March 25: 50 ’. Initially there were quite a few energetic sensations on the scalp. Although I had done Qigong more than 1 hour before meditating, the cumulative effect of the practice is likely to end up coloring (forever?) the meditations. I went back to noticing thoughts, noticing in particular the stresses associated with them. An important insight is that there are tensions as long as the types of thoughts (or intentions) are somehow linked to the self. And the opposite: when the thoughts (those thoughts that ‘circulate’ alone) are not connected to the self, then no tensions are triggered. So it is an important guide to see how I discover Anatta.
Anicca is relatively easier to observe, but I have the feeling that I am not seeing with the necessary depth (or width). The same superficiality of observation occurs with Dukkha, where I have as (maximum) reference an awakening from a nap where it was observed very clearly as a intention generated an attraction, a movement towards that intention was felt.
March 26: 90’. In order to get to Access Concentration, it takes me 20’ if I choose the path of releasing tensions, but less than 1’ simply by observing the arising & passing way of thoughts. The Qigong effect gives an energetic patina to practice throughout the session. Yesterday's insight was seen more clearly: thoughts (images, auditory) and intentions do not generate subsequent tensions in the head, only very rarely were there tensions (and in a very subtle way). Instead, emotions do trigger tensions in the scalp, or discomfort in the throat.
For a few brief minutes, the EQ was very clear and stable. Then fear arose, and that destabilized the practice. Later I recovered, but never with stability.
Regarding Anicca, the focus of observation conditions the cycle of arising & passing of thoughts. Not so in the case of physical sensations, which have their ‘own’ cycle.
March 27: 50’. It was a practice similar to yesterday's (I don't remember the details) but where I focused exclusively on the beginning and end of thoughts. I did not try to relax tensions as a method of practice, but only escort those that occurred naturally.
Later, the type of phenomena was more consistent with A&P, without vibrations (except auditory) but with energy circulation. At the same time, there was a persistent strain on the crown (and sometimes before going down to the forehead). In general, it dissolved simply by putting attention there, but it soon became the maximum bodily sensation. It reminded me of when I tried 2PF. Next time I'm going to check whether relaxing the intentions allows that tension to dissolve.
Another thing I observed is a general tension in the whole head, which was possible to dissolve but only a little.
Apr 1: No practice for family reasons.
Apr 2: 60 ’. I caught a flu, without many of the symptoms compatible with coronavirus. As I was physically down, I put more focus on Metta/Gratitude. It was very relaxing. Many Christian images. Also, in connecting the energetic sensations of the head, which descend to the chest and abdomen. In the last 20 ’I was more attentive to the flow of thoughts, ‘waiting for the next thought ’but also relaxing the attention so that the non-own thoughts could flow without restriction.
Apr 3: 30 ’. Very similar to yesterday. Just to highlight that some mantras always trigger the forehead chakra.
Apr 4: 80 ’. Already a little better from the flu, the session was relaxing. I tried to apply vipassana but it worked more on the samatha side, although always activating the forehead chakra and energy.
Apr 5, 20: The flu got worse, stopped practice (resumed on Apr 9).
Apr / 07/20: -
Apr / 08/20: -
Apr 9: 60 ’. Alive & Kicking! Almost fully recovered from the flu (not coronavirus), so I was able to practice again. As it was several days without practice (although I did continue with Qigong to strengthen health), I thought I should go back to the 'classic' noting / noticing. Returning to this type of practice, I immediately observed how the mind is filtering / superimposing the sensations. And I remembered "in the seen just the seen, in the heard just the heard, in the sensed just the sensed, in the cognized just the cognized." Trying to put this into practice, on the one hand it accelerates the detection of thoughts, and in which there are no new stimuli, I feel / hear a totally different vibration, it is not 'energetic' and superficial, but deep. It is not connected with the breath.
Apr 10: 60 ’. Speed Noticing in the Six Senses, first focusing on Anicca and then Vedana. Vibrations, tensions, sleep nodding, sounds, images, sound vibration (8hz). Very few words, almost none. A couple of times, the spatiality was generated by the passing away of a thought or (high pitch) sound. The last time, for getting tired of so much body jumping from sensation to sensation, and taking a broader observation. I maintained high speed for the entire hour. I missed the calm quality of previous practices, although at times it could be seen as a background.
Apr 11: 60 ’. I kept up the speed for most of the practice. The Stage The Three Characteristics was more recognizable by the involuntary movements, but little and no vibration (except the auditory) and no energy circulating. What was striking was seeing a very sharp and precise image of my (current) face. Towards the end, I slowed down from noticing to standard noting, labelling emotions, intentions, thoughts or anything other than primary physical sensations.
Apr 12: 80 ’. Within a few minutes of starting there was a pixelization of the white-gray-black cloud in front of the eyes. Then there were 3-4 complete images of faces. Later (30’ approx.) and for the rest of the practice only vibrations at 8-10 Hz but in a very soft mode, throughout the body. Only once did I manage to detect something similar to an energetic sensation, since I wanted to check if it was in A&P or Low-EQ. Apparently, as I continued with the QiGong in the days when I stopped meditation for health reasons, it seems that it indirectly maintained the energy level and (along with Noticing All) allowed to return to Low-EQ. Something to check out in the next sessions. Yes there were pleasant sensations in the legs and, moreover, a practice without significant setbacks. The MCTB2 points out that in Low-EQ the 3Cs must be investigated in the sensations of peace, and spatial amplitude.
Apr 14: 40’. Almost nothing worked today. Mental exhaustion. The QiGong practice even worked halfway.
Apr 15: 60’. A very good practice, where perhaps because of a less quantity of thoughts, a key insight emerged. As the hands are one on top of the other, at a certain point, there were only physical sensations in the "external" hand. I looked for whether there was any sensation in the contact between both hands, but there was none. I did not find any, when I usually find sensations anywhere in the body if I put the focus there. Hence, the mental leap is that as long as there are no sensations, that part of the body does not exist. I assume it exists, extrapolating past sensations, but in the present there is none. What I observed in the hands, later I extended it to different parts of the body (legs, parts of the head, back) and the result was the same. It is very likely that some of this I had already read it years ago, but had completely forgotten. An interesting point I read in Seeing That Frees (Rob Burbea) is the need to reiterate these little / big insights every day / week / month as necessary until the mind takes it by default. The insight reminded me of the practice of Vanishings and Shinzen Young's Figure Ground Reversal, a topic I was talking about in a thread in DhO.
Apr 16: 60’. Progression 3C-A&P-DÑ-A&P-DÑ-EQ-DÑ-EQ. Most striking was that many of the typical DÑ elements (images, colors, proliferation of auditory thoughts) were observed with some tranquility. I did not feel the usual frustration and even looked a bit at the content of these thoughts to see what was emerging from the unconscious. At the end of the session, there was more physical and mental silence, but there was not enough time to practice what was observed yesterday.
Apr 17: 70’. In the first part of the practice I did 6SD & 3C throughout the body, with more emphasis on the physical senses and less on the mind. It is difficult to find the balance between intensity and tranquility, because in general I am more at the extremes than in the middle. In the second part, I tried to observe the empty spaces, which are the physical opposite of the place where I observed some physical sensation. It is similar to what Shinzen Young teaches, who says that if there is any arising in one part of the body, then there is always vanishing in another part. It is also similar to Daniel Ingram's Speed Noting, observing the sensations in front and behind the head, knowing that there can only be one sensation at a time. The main difference is that in addition to focusing on the opposite (where sensations are not observed), I observe an entire area (I explore how large that gap is) instead of a point.
Apr 18: 80’. In the first 20 ’ I did Speed Noting (Noticing) all over my body. In the rest of the time I did the Noting of the vanishings and empty spaces, in all parts of the body. On the head it is easier on the sides, eyes, under the jaw. It is very difficult on the crown and inside the skull. Practice works. It gets interesting. Now I have to observe Anicca and Dukkha in the empty spaces: the fluctuation of the edges, and the comparative vedana between the empty and the ‘full’. The Anatta for now is to observe how those gaps collide with the internal map that one has of the structure / distribution of the body. While I always look at one gap at a time (variable in size), I can make a mapping of the gaps (I use the memory of these gaps) and contrast it with the body map.
Apr 19: 70’. This time I started with the Noting of the vanishings and empty spaces and I observed very clearly the passage between two ñanas: Mind & Body (because the most visible vanishings are with the breath) and DÑ. The intermediate ñanas are completely avoided and it quickly leads to Dark Night, from which it is quite difficult to emerge towards EQ, due to the dynamics of this practice. (Shinzen Young cautions that this type of practice leads some yogis to fall into DÑ). Saw that if the observation is focused on the vanishings of the breath (something inevitable by what I mentioned before), during the in-breath a flow of protos-thoughts is triggered. If on the contrary in-breath is observed, thoughts arise in the gap between out-breath and in-breath. It’s possible to skip some vanishings and note them every other out-breaths or the like, but that requires detecting in the meantime vanishings in the visual, auditory, somatic, which is not so easy to achieve.
Hypothesis: The progression in ‘noting vanishings’ is: Noting passings, then Noting “unknown events” in A&P, DÑ and EQ, and finally have [(un)be] a Cessation. I think it is not convenient to practice this method before being in Mid-EQ, since it requires a high level of mental clarity, concentration and equanimity abilities (as defined by Shinzen Young), and that can only be 'guaranteed' back then. Maybe it is useful to speed up the final steps to Stream Entry.
Of course I talk about pre-SE EQ so if you are walking 2nd path ignore what I wrote above as I'm not there yet.
I'm just a beginner trying to have a solid foot in EQ. My fault if my words make me look wiser than what I actually am LOL. Just happened to had a taste in different practices in the past, when health, work and family conditions weren't the appropiate ones for a consistent practice. Little experiental insights here and there, plus some intelectual references as I read many dharma authors.
Regarding speed-up in Mid/High EQ, I meant seeing the gaps between frames (images), between words/syllabels, between out-breath and in-breath, the space between da-da-da-da in vibrations, the void scattered throughout the body. It's something specially pointed by Shinzen Young, but mentioned too by Daniel Ingram and Shargol. For example, Shinzen says that the 'Figure Ground Reversal' ( = SE + qualities of 2nd and 3rd Path) is more likely to happen if you're observing simultaneously fast abrupt vanishings in visual, auditory and somatic phenomena.
"For example, Shinzen says that the 'Figure Ground Reversal' ( = SE + qualities of 2nd and 3rd Path) is more likely to happen if you're observing simultaneously fast abrupt vanishings in visual, auditory and somatic phenomena. "
April 21: 50’. The practice was not very productive. I quickly went through A&P (vibrations in the base of the back, energy points in the head) and DÑ (discomfort in the throat, constant flow of thoughts) and always had a hard time stabilizing the mind. I tried to observe the beginning of the thoughts, it did not work. I tried a mantra, and it barely worked. I tried observing the space and the gaps in the body, and it worked a little better. I tried to fill the gaps with thoughts and something worked. None of this makes much sense ...
April 22: 75’. Because of what happened today, I think yesterday was not really a bad practice, it was an unexpected situation. A similar situation occurred today. The difference is that there was a background calm always present, but thoughts and feelings that had their own dynamics. This time what I tried was to join that “flow”. But although it was possible to observe the gaps between the end and another beginning of physical sensations, it was not possible for the thoughts. A higher level of concentration is missing for this.
At the beginning of the practice there was a situation that is very common to occur, only this time I observed it with some theory under my arm. When closing the eyes, for the first 1-2 minutes it happens that the sight (eyes closed) sees a space (semi-luminous) but that there is no effort to see, just as there is (never) an effort to hear. Unlike other times, I did not try to modify this situation (nor force a concentration nor try to do vipassana) but only to be. By simply being there, this generates only a higher level of concentration. But it was short-lived, because a mixture of fear and anxiety ruined the opportunity. Then the lower dantian was always on / hot. While I could have focused there, deep down I used most of the session to explore options: (1) samatha / jhana; (2) simple mindfulness of physical sensations; (3) flow of thoughts; (4) observe the gaps in the body (this generally shoots energy into the head).
April 23: 60’. This time I was attentive from the beginning to what happens to the eyes. From the start, what I did was let the ‘images’ (the darkness with some lights) come / enter the eyes, instead of ‘going out’ to observe. It is an attitude of acceptance, trying not to force the perception, not doing anything as it happens with the sounds, which simply arrive. There in the eyes I observed the recurring (sometimes almost constant) push-pull of the observation. How attention seeks to 'grab' the observed object, an insight that I observed weeks ago with great clarity but it was a unique experience. This time there was less concentration (less wow factor) but it happened many times during practice. This push-pull of attention is different from vedana (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral), it is as if it were a previous step (check Dependent Origination). One conclusion is that this grasping can include not only physical sensations, emotions and thoughts, but also more subtle things like 'space'. There is a recurring drive to grab hold of space, or of post-thought silences. So the idea is to test if the ‘acceptance’ modifies this modality. I am left wondering if that ‘holding’ is not useful in certain situations, like when practicing 1st jhana.
April 24: 60’. I continued doing this practice. After the first 3-5 minutes of great clarity, I lost it and spent 20 minutes in DÑ. Then the symptoms disappeared very quickly and the rest was EQ. Practicing acceptance / reception as the first focus and vipassana as the second focus makes me have very few thoughts. The concentration is not high, but there is equanimity and clarity / precision in the noticing of the phenomena. This equanimity is like standing on the border between the observer and the observed phenomena. And to stand on the border you have to physically recognize the sensations that are not greed or aversion (working hypothesis).
A method that I improvised at the time helped me a lot to find that point. Loch Kelly mentions that awareness is as effortless as hearing: sounds come, they must only be received. (Shargrol also talks about how awareness is effortless, and which is a key issue in EQ.) This of auditory perception reminded me of my Taijiquan practice, where one practices ting-jing: the ability to 'hear' the own and opponent's imbalances and tensions. So the practice consists of: (1) receiving the phenomena, seeing how the objects ‘come’ towards me, instead of ‘going out looking for them’ with the eyes (the classic exercise of self-inquiry); (2) loosen the entire surface of the body (in parts), which makes the border between the external and internal somewhat variable (which can be done vipassana) and that triggers energy flow; (3) act as if I have 'ears' where I have eyes.
Now I see that a practice I did a couple of weeks ago was going in the same direction, in which I stretched the vision of each eye to cover 180 degrees of vision, but loosening the center. This generated a similar sensation, but there was some tension in expanding peripheral vision. And it was a visual only practice, it did not allow to feel that greed-aversion border in the somatic sensations.
April 25: 70’. I continued with the same practice. This time it did not work so well. I noticed that I was leaning too far toward the reception, and ceasing to observe the spatial. With this fix, it worked better. Another thing I observed was a higher number of abrupt vanishings (Shinzen’s Gone). Unfortunately I was not attentive to labeling these vanishings, whether they were auditory, visual or somatic.
April 26: 45 ’+ 45’. In the first practice I tried to focus on acceptance with choiceless awareness. It was a poor practice in the sense of vipassana, because I constantly lost myself in the content. But to stand out, I counted 8-9 abrupt vanishings. Also, that there were long periods of DÑ (memories and fantasies of modifying the past) and there the acceptance was a healer.
In the second practice I left acceptance in the background (as an add-on) and focused on 6S + 3C. There I quickly reached EQ, where I went to observe the mindstream. In particular, the beginnings and ends of thoughts. From time to time, there was little to observe. This second practice was much calmer.
oh I like this! I just tried it a bit with open eyes and it seems very EQ inviting Nice one! Will use that one tomorrow in my practice and see what it does.
It reminds me of Zen gazing with that wise-guy smile on the face
I am falling into Jhana as of late without really wanting to as I would much rather prefer to plow throgh conscioucness with full on Noting. But as Jhanas are hapening anyway its good to have some stuff to do with them and this could be one such thing.
Still not sure what to do with this Experience? What is there to be seen? What is the insight behind it? Or is it just about getting faster into EQ? Im certainly not interested in gaining some wow experiences. Been there done that nothing to cling to.
It's about the Watcher. But first the job is to blur the somatic distinction of inside and outside (point 2 above) and assist that visually (the ear/eyes thing, point 3). Eventually, the sense of observer can slide along your vertical axis or even go out into space. I spontaneously have had these kind of experiences in a Taijiquan context, but no theoretical background to make sense out of it nor instructions on how to proceed from there.
Check Shargrol's posts: Vision Field and Identification and Inquiries on the Observer. Here I am proudly making use of his compilation
Here is one good one from your friend shargrol ;
Not enough honesty, not enough investigation, not enough acceptance. Meditation basically has three aspects: an honest experience of one's condition and balancing the effort/investigation and the relaxation/acceptance of that condition.
Not enough honesty and it becomes fantasy/spiritual bypassing.
Not enough investigation and it becomes indulgent daydreaming.
Not enough acceptance and it becomes aversive manipulation"
April 27: 60’. In the first part of the practice, I only observed the mindstream. At first there were memories and understandings of past things. Soon annoying sensations in the throat and neck were gone. When Compassion / Metta emerged there were (neutral) vibrations slightly to the right of the center line, at chest height (the tension knots used to be always in the center of the line). There were too (vague) visualizations of Christian images, which have been occurring in almost all meditations in the last month, where the precision of the image, colors, spatial distance, position of the eyes and mouth are related to my inner (changing) feeling about the 7 sins and the 7 virtues.
Looking at the mindstream, I noticed that sometimes proto-thoughts (or the echoes of thoughts) flow literally like a fluid (eg cigarette smoke, water from a stream) but have a non-melodic but flourishing 'sound' (like histrionic american soul singers). Sometimes I can "ride" that flow-sound. Other times what I did was focus on the auditory thoughts of that mindstream. There is clearly the arising and passing away. They are like two modalities: analog and digital.
The funny thing about all this is that ‘riding the flow’ becomes tedious at one point, “I want to get off”, “I got tired of this”. I intuit the insight of this, but that does not mean that I want to step down LOL. The consequence of this is to long for the digital modality, where there are breaks (auditory, spatial amplitude). But there I observe as a second insight that this spatiality-silence is perhaps not something transcendent that was there only be discovered, but perhaps it is a ‘fabrication’. Where this leads to, I think is above my paygrade as for now.
I suppose that it is good for practice to alternate between these two modalities, and that both are valid both at a practical level and at an insight level (unless someone comes with neither / nor… etc).
April 28: 45 ’+ 30’. I continued practice yesterday. The novelty is that the flow of thoughts and the calm peripheral space/container (eg TMI) can be observed at the same time. It was a practice where at times there was little to observe, at other times a well tangled flow.
April 29: 60’. It was a practice that alternated between a lot of calm and a flow of thoughts that at times made me lose myself in the content. At the beginning there were vibrations at the base of the back, then a drop of cold energy through the scalp, pixelation of an image (afterwards the pixels of the 'background' were swept away and only those of the 'front' remained, kind of 3D or layered 2D), later several abrupt vanishings, then some sad images and melodies, then more abrupt vanishings and later very calm (with alternating flow of thoughts). Out of nowhere I had a jolt, like a strong shock of tension when the body goes to sleep but the mind is still attentive, and logically I was more attentive, very calmly.
At times I tried to extend attention to the periphery, because I was concerned that this tranquility was dullness. A curious thing that arose out of chance is breathing from the sphenoids (following the line of the eyebrows), as if I had small lungs that inflated outside. Strangely this generated relaxation and a mental smile (similar to that of smiling with the eyes, but this time not using the eyes, hence the relaxation I suppose) that led me to a pre jhana state.
During the day I had been testing the eyes as if they were ears.
April 30: 60’. It was a similar practice to yesterday. I don't remember the details. The interesting insight was realizing I had equanimity with Equanimity (Now that I remember, Papa Che Dusko pointed me out just that days ago!). That I'm trying to grab/hold on to Equanimity instead of floating or seeing its symptoms with some perspective. Deep down, I see it's finding balance even in something as ethereal as being fair with EQ.
May 01: 75’. It was another practice similar to recent ones. At times very calm, with few thoughts or evident physical sensations that emerged (if I focus on looking for them, I find them). At other times, a confused stream of thoughts but that I can observe without falling. There were no typical A&P elements, but there were DÑ and EQ elements.
In the last practices verbalized questions arose, which is strange because affirmations or answers (without apparent questions) usually appear from time to time. Now these questions appear, like I'm a self-inquiry teacher or a Zen master hahaha. Today instead, I did ask the 'ether' (unconscious) a question: "What is hindering the practice?" After a while, the statement emerged: "fear of others." Food for thought.
During practice I tried to observe if the thoughts / images / memories triggered any physical sensation in the head, but very few arise. This has been happening in recent weeks. Perhaps is it that the type of more choppy thoughts that I observe now do not create challenges to the built Self? At the end of the practice I tried the reverse way: put more focus on the physical sensations and see if this triggers thoughts / views / urges.
May 2: 30’. The first half of practice was observing Dukkha (greed and aversion) over 6S. The second half, anapanasati.
May 04: 60’. First focus was on space and access concentration. Then anapana for 5-10 breaths and then vipassana in 6S with focus alternating between Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta depending on the type of phenomenon I was observing. As in previous sittings, there was alternation between silence / spatiality and flow of thoughts, but less intense than at other times. There were observations on "fear" but without a big or lengthy emotional reaction. In a few moments, it was observed and receded significantly. There were more strains on the head at specific points related to chakras, but no discharge of energy flow. There were also no jhana factors. I noticed that when the phenomenological scene is calm, part of the time I spend thinking about what I am not observing, what insight I am not seeing. When the practice ends, I see that I want to continue, since the sessions are bearable. I feel the need to extend the practice to 90 minutes, but for reasons of family logistics, I am more likely to be able to split it into two 45-minute ones.
May 05: 20’. I slept only 5 hours so it was impossible for me to practice vipassana. I practiced a little anapana.
May 06: 60’. A very quiet practice. In the first 20’ I did anapana, where I used vipassana as a tool to stabilize and deepen attention. The point is to observe what are the captivating sensations, which today were on the outer edge of the nose and part of the upper lip, and later on the lower belly. It takes some time to gain deeper concentration, but it happened.
In the last 40' I have focused on 6S + 3C. As recently happened, if I put enough focus/energy 6S phenomena appear, otherwise they emerge much less, and what is observed is the spatiality and some of its qualities. At some point I became convinced that there is no point in implicitly 'forcing' the 6S but to focus on spatiality. The insight of the day was that there is a quality of 'continuity' (in the sense of continuous vs. discrete) of that spatiality, and that that spatiality and awareness are closely connected. This continuity is easily observed in the gap of the outbreath-inbreath, in the silences after abrupt vanishings or when I put visual focus (with eyes closed) at some distant point.
As a closely related topic, there is the equanimity of Equanimity, because the idea of ‘captivating sensations’ that I used in anapana, I now use it for this spatiality / equanimity. A quality that captivates is precisely that ‘continuity’.
Although this equanimity seems to have partially an ‘artificial’ cause, precisely because it arises from the ‘captivity’ of the qualities and not due to the disappearance of others. The riddle is whether Equanimity is a construction/fabrication or if it is something transcendent.
Another observed point is that greed and aversion are not two opposing forces, but sometimes an aversion to one sense door triggers greed to another sense door (or to another quality of the same sense door). As aversion is a particular topic of mine to investigate, this yin-yang type dynamic is a topic to follow closely in the future.
May 07: 60’. In the first 20 ’anapana + vipassana to find the captivating elements. Pleasant heat in the arms, legs and abdomen, smell of roses (intermittently) and also in some moments of spontaneous smile, drop of "cold" energy from the scalp to the forehead. In the next 40’ I refocused the practice towards vipassana on 6S + 3C, but it was somehow colored by the pre-jhana elements of the previous 20’. There was not as much concentration as yesterday, although sometimes I observed that "continuity" in the silences and spatiality (also the continuity in the observation of the pleasant heat in the body).
May 08: 60’. The original plan was to do the first 20 ’anapana + vipassana to find the captivating elements. But from the first minute (as in other sits) there is absolute silence and ease of observing / sticking to the void / spatiality (more 2D than 3D). This is gradually being lost in about 10'. In the following 10'-15' I return to the anapana + vipassana. The plan for the rest of the practice was vipassana, alternating as object of observation between physical sensations and thoughts. In this section I have been observing patterns in the contents of thoughts (images), which derive from needs to enhance/reinforce the ego. The difference this time is that one of the thoughts (with image) was a farewell to a friend, a farewell that was not experienced as suffering, but as an acceptance of something inevitable. In other words, there are contents that are not reinforcement of the ego, but acceptance of losses. During this section I also had the ability to observe again auditory thoughts in 'analog' format (more like a fluid) and in 'digital' format (with gaps between the words). And when concentration intensified, sounds emerged from inside the body (not ears tones) that have a very fast on-off (ta-ta-ta-ta ...).
At some point in this second section I noticed that I was having trouble positioning myself on spatiality and that I was making too much effort, both for this and for observing the mindstream. There I remembered about finding the balance between samatha and vipassana, and released all effort. In an instant, spatiality returned, and with a certain luminosity. And it was very quiet. I posed the observation there. The insight (important, I guess!) of the practice was to observe a steadiness / regularity in the link between the observer (me) and the observed (spatiality). Days before, I had observed a suspicious "continuity" in spatiality. Today that quality was not in the observed (spatiality) but in the act of observing (spatiality). And since I was constantly observing the act of observing, the insight is that was ‘watching the watcher’. What startled me is that ‘watching the watcher’ is ill defined, that rather is something like ‘watching the qualities of the observing watcher’.
Soak in jhana, soak in spatiality, soak in feelings of continuity. Your mind will probably want to "do something" but notice this is a very subtle aversion and a very subtle fear of giving up control. It can be helpful to "let jhana do the meditation"
Similarly, it's okay and good to be curious and investigate with more of a vipassina mind, but try to do it with about 10% of "you directing the attention" and about 90% of "noticing how attention directs itself". Your vipassinizing mind is well developed by this stage.
As you can see, what you are developing is trust and faith (or, conversely, lack of fear about letting go/having no control). It feels odd after doing so much intentional practice to get here, but there comes a time when you just have to go for the ride. Like riding a horse in nearly complete darkness: the horse with it's big eyes can see in near darkness by the light of the stars and you can't, so you just have to focus on staying balanced in the saddle and trust the horse.
Just like us, the mind likes to look at itself in the mirror So it will naturally get curious about how it hears the hearing, sees the seeing, and watches the watcher.
When auditory thoughts go ta-ta-ta, be very gently curious about not only the "ta" but also the gap between "ta". You can use ta-ta-ta as almost a mantra, just listen to it and allow your mind to join with it.
Most of all, enjoy this very odd stage! How many humans get to experience this stuff in their lives? Statistically, almost none. What an adventure!
May 09: 70’. Most of the situations experienced yesterday reappeared today, but since the slogan was to take the hands off the wheel and let things unfold with minimal personal intervention, those situations were very volatile. In one moment I observed the continuity / steadiness of the spatial, and in the next moment the mindstream overflowed. Then I watched a flow of thoughts grow in the background until it escalated to a point where it leaped into the foreground and at that very moment disappeared completely, leaving a total silence and again a continuity. At other times that steadiness / regularity emerged from hearing the act of hearing. This did not happen with the visual sense, only the auditory. And throughout the practice the pleasant heat in the legs and lower abdomen came and went, although at the end of the practice it was more recurrent and even the heat became too intense and no longer pleasant (although interesting for observation). In this issue of heat, the Cause & Effect connection was very clear.
May 10: 50’. At first I focused on the captivating sensations of breathing and spatiality. I let myself be carried away by the pleasant sensations in my legs and abdomen (and something in my face). This worked intermittently. I would immediately watch as the mind turned attention elsewhere, or triggered thoughts (especially analysis of practice). It loosened again and with a minimum of attention, the pleasant sensations reappeared. The positive is that not only do they return quickly but I also 'intuit' them through other neutral sensations or signs of continuity / inertia (physical / mental).
Later, sound vibrations arose at the base of the back, and then in the head. There I tried to get on the wave of vibration, repeating ta-ta-ta and observing the mini-gaps. I made a lot of 'anticipation' notes. At one point the focus on this became intense enough and there were two consecutive instants of rapid "eye closing" (which were already closed) and something like a minimal push forward. And the concentration intensified more for a time, then it was lost. No cessation, of course. My hypothesis is that, in the absence of base concentration, the mind was heading towards an A & P-like event.
May 11: 70’. There was no momentum of the pleasurable sensations towards the jhana factors. And while a general vibration emerged throughout the body and a deep sound, it did not grow over time either, but rather remained in the background. Yet there were some brief moments of ‘continuity’, but more associated with the 6S. What I did was take the hands off the wheel, follow the horse metaphor, and remain an observer. The insight of the day is that in order to continue riding without the attention being cut off or scattered, it is key that the analysis thoughts about what is happening are reduced to almost zero. It is so deep inside my mental gear to analyze what is observed that I see how I constantly muddy what I observe. It's like a constant on-off between hooking /watching and then unhooking/analyzing. When from time to time I finally get out of the way, a more subtle vipassana occurs: “seeing + observing how I see”, “hearing + observing how I hear”. It is in these moments where this continuity appears, which links these two things. Under this modality, "observing how I think" is not clear from the point of view of experience, beyond that I suppose that it is on the side of observing how the act of vipassana occurs.
The challenging thing is that the horse bucks,and jumps from one direction to the other constantly. So I have a long time to entertain myself ;) .
At some moments I observed the arising & passing of objects (phenomena) in a much clearer way than what had happened to me until now.
May 12: 60’. I usually do before sitting about 40 'of Qigong, and there I already notice what is my energetic, emotional and clarity state in the perception of physical sensations. And what was observed there was a preview of what happened next. It took 30 ’to get to EQ. It is difficult to follow the "awareness trail", the sequence in which the mind jumps from one sense door to another. There are jumps, etc. There I remembered some theory: greed, aversion, indifference must be 'sabotaging' awareness. So I searched to see when they appeared and why. The interesting thing is that both greed and aversion do what is expected of them, but indifference is the great saboteur, because when the mind fails to "draw a pattern" from what it observes, it discards it. And that's when awareness jumps to another sense door.
Strange noises in the right temporal.
May 13: 60’. It was a practice where the first 40 ’were of greater concentration. Unlike the previous two days, this time I was able to sleep 7 hours. The rest factor is key for me, since due to my work schedules I can't sleep 5 hours straight. I observed spatiality, a great mental silence and the on-off of a low vibration (in the head) and with a ta-ta-ta also low. It never occupied the entire space, as it did on May 10. I tried to observe the greed-aversion-indifference, but it was not as effective as yesterday, perhaps because there were fewer thoughts and emotions circulating. But I could see the aversion in attention to staying focused on some element, even when the element was calm, neutral, or pleasant. In the last 20’ the concentration was lost a little. There were times when the attention from the vibration shifted to the third eye, where I stayed for a while.
Tensions in the eye sockets are always an attempt to force something or grab something. There is a smart move to "turn" the eyes into ears, and to a lesser degree "lengthen" the eye cavities towards the center of the head. Also, since I use earplugs - since my street is very noisy - any facial tension is magnified and the pulse in the ears begins to beat, so it is a quick alert that makes me regain attention and calm.
May 14: 70’. Choiceless awareness does not work from the start, I must first set a minimum of concentration /centering. In part, I did this by looking at the post-breath gap, which generates a certain ‘continuity’ of the observation I spoke about earlier. The other part of the solution was to re-observe the mindflow, without a vedana analysis, but only the arising & passing away. The mindstream is mostly auditory (few images) and is generally triggered by specific points in the breathing cycle. In the middle of the out-breath thoughts arise, and at some (variable) moment of the in-breath, and quite a bit in the gap out / in-breath.
The insight of the day is that these thoughts not only do not trigger new thoughts, nor do they generate disgust reactions as those thoughts are observed by their constituent components. Simply put, if an auditory thought is heard as a melody of words, or as loose, concatenated words, then the observer does not identify with what is observed, he lets it pass. This also generates a higher level of concentration.
This insight arose because before I had read before an hypothesis of Steph S in his log, where he stated that each sense door has its awareness system built-in, and therefore Awareness is only a combo of these subsystems (something implicit within Culadasa's TMI) . This triggered the question of whether thoughts (the 6th sense door) have their own system of awareness, which would end in a recursive loop. The experiential conclusion was that thoughts are a bundle of the other 5 sense doors. Thoughts cannot be self-perceived, but only through physical sensations.
May 15: 60’. These thoughts that arise as loose words (sounds) also arise (trigger) later images, which last a minimum fraction of a second. Today's practice had an unusual situation, as a series of images, thoughts and physical sensations typical of DN happened, but this was observed without affecting or hooking me. As if DN floated past EQ. It’s something similar I felt in the days following May 10th, as if A&P occurred content within EQ. An hypothesis is that after an 'unknown event' (which had elements of A&P), I returned to transit A&P and DN but contained within EQ (or conversely, not within EQ, but with a significant patina of equanimity).
May 16: 60’. From a strong DN to an ‘unknown event’ all in the same session !! An hour before meditating I took acetaminophen (paracetamol) to ease a headache. And just before meditating I had the bad idea of not skipping the Qigong practice, which immediately woke up a knot in the pit of my stomach, which bothered me during the first 30' of the session. These first 30’ were complicated, with constant “pain” in that area, an exuberant mindstream and a pulse in the ears. At some point I observed that it is the analytical mind that generated this proliferation of thoughts, and not the emotions (beyond the knot in the stomach). So the move was to cut whenever analytical thoughts appeared. Before long, the mind calmed down and was preponderantly observing single thoughts (single words). Even so, I did not feel comfortable with this situation and I focused on spatiality (which had just emerged) and with this procedure, these individual words went increasingly spread over time. This triggered greater degrees of concentration. At the same time a general vibration was felt again and soon after a kind of sound / vibration in the center. I refocused my attention on this, with a certain degree of intensity. At one point, attention shifted to the other side and a "brief drop" was triggered (with a kind of reverse delay sound/sensation). I came back instantly. For a moment there was spatiality, but then the analytical mind jumped to the front, to understand what had happened. There was nothing special after this. Then I tried to repeat this sequence a couple of times, but there was too much "anticipation" in my mind to resume the practice.
May 17: 80’. This time I avoided doing Qigong before meditating, to check if this practiced was the trigger of DN elements. During meditation there were no typical DN physical sensations, emotions, or thoughts. At first I did observe some unpleasant sensations in the pit of my stomach, but more as if it were ‘transparent’, which did not hinder mentally descending (scanning mode) to the lower belly.
It took about 15-20' to stabilize the mind. Then I focused in detecting actions / intentions in order to analyze the mindstream. In general, this happened when the thoughts were already flowing, not in the beginning. Mindstream is a mix of auditory thoughts and images. There were three varieties. The first variety is "words of analysis”. Even when "I" stopped analyzing the mindstream that had occurred, these loose words began to emerge, trying to form sentences to analyze what had already happened. It is as if a sub-mind (TMI) continues to function, sending information, but which is no longer integrated into the self, but seen as mental objects. The second variety is "ego reinforcement," a string of words that mostly didn't make sense, but which sounded (in the auditory sense) as if it were an assertive speech, like a speaker trying to convince the audience. The third variety arose in response to a parenthesis in practice, where I practiced metta towards all the 6S observed, and thus practice acceptance indirectly. When doing metta, moments with an emotional tone emerged, and even a phrase: “I am afraid”.
During these 60', moments of silence / spatiality alternated with moments of thought. As happened in the past days, when the moments of silence were longer, I was able to stabilize the mind from time to time, and that generated a general vibration (especially in the head).
Observing those 3 varieties of mindstream, the forehead chakra was activated several times.
May 18: 60’. I didn't do Qigong before the session today either. Once in the session, after the first 5' of calm and spaciality, little else worked during practice. After trying different tactics, I achieved a minimum of mental stability by concentrating on the inner vibration, using ta-ta-ta-ta as a mantra. I could not observe this flow of individual words without the analytical mind immediately jumping to create more thoughts from what was observed, especially if the initial object was a thought. In a couple of cases, the initial aversion reaction was clear. There was one interesting thing in the session: relax(ing) the eye cavities, focusing on the base (the bottom). This allows more relaxation than trying to stretch back. At some point of increased relaxation, it fired pyrotechnics into the forehead chakra, accounting for the level of tension built up there.
May 19: 80’. Practice was quiet again. The variety of ‘loose words’ were those mentioned before: analysis and a variant of ego reinforcement (picture gesturing an expansive southern Italian). A funny novelty is that this time there were attempts at emotional ‘expressions’
This time it was difficult to connect with the general vibration that I mentioned in the past few days. My hypothesis is that this is a consequence of the lack of Qigong practice. Qigong brings octane to practice, but it is counterproductive if one is having a strong emotional moment. You have to know how to use the correct dose.
With regard to concentration, the theoretical assumption with which I had been managing (and experimenting) is that when less greed-aversion is experienced, concentration grew organically. But today, that did not work and I forced my concentration a little, focusing on the spatial or closely following the breath. In both cases it worked, at least for a while. The conclusion is that a dynamic balance between both extremes must be found (moment by moment).
May 20: 80’. I went back to practicing Qigong prior to meditation. It was another quiet session but with a different phenomenological
May 21: 40’ + 60’. The different phenomenological scenario that I mentioned yesterday, today deepened. It is not entirely clear, but it opens up new perspectives. In the first sitting it was very difficult to meditate, I felt that whatever method I tried, it was all confusion. As there was also a lot of noise at home, I chose to stop and try later. In the second sitting, the same thing happened at first but I realized that I was wrongly looking at what was happening. On the one hand, I expected ‘loose words’ to come up like in previous days, but that did not happen, I only listened to formed thoughts (generally of analysis), which came from me. The ‘tip of the (wool) ball’ (‘tip of the iceberg’ is the closest phrase in English) is that those ‘loose emotions’ that I mentioned in the last few days did appear, and in a clearer way. Those Italian type expressions / exclamations (like Heyyy, Ahh, Ohh, Wooow, but no sound) now had no words attached, but were physical sensations of being sliding, like going down a slide (or spreading paté on bread) ... Then I also started to observe very brief 'loose images', which also did not have an attached story (nor did they fire words). There I understood that this phenomenological scenario was more subtle, or at least prior to thinking in an auditory (words) format. This may be the explanation for why there was an abrupt drop in ‘loose words' (even though there were still chained thoughts from time to time, words that did come from me). The
From time to time I asked during meditation "What is the next thought?" and I waited for it. This generally triggered (post-silence and first thought) loose words. Today they did not appear, but elements prior to them, in an expressive or emotional format. The next step was to ask "What is before thought?" (
May 22: 70’. The practice went from high to low. The loose words of analysis proliferated, while the emotional expressions ones did not appear. I guess that for the emotional ones to appear, the analysis ones must descend. I took advantage of the practice at different times to try other things. The interesting thing about the day was connecting elements of Direct-Pointing / Self-Inquiry with the ‘continuity’ that I mentioned in the last few weeks. The general rule is to work in receptivity, seeing how attention moves from one object to another. The first step was the usual one, observing spatiality and general silence. The second step is to add to the above by observing how attention falls on that spatiality, that is, observing the observer. The third step was to remember the ‘Headless Pointing Experiment’ and abandon these previous two steps, observing how spatiality comes towards the observer. Since the connection with spatiality was already established for this third step, this receptive observation (instead of fixing the attention 'outside') was natural and even had a certain degree of deepening of concentration. And it was precisely in this receptive attention to spatiality that this ‘continuity’ that I had been talking about emerged. A continuity in which the boundaries between the observer and the observed are merged.
May 23: 50’. It was not a good practice. Obviously I am making too much effort in attention or in vipassana, because there is no flow of loose words or images,
May 24: 70’. This time I reduced "95%" of the attention control, letting the mind jump from one object to another. There was less strain on the eyes and scalp. From the beginning there was a brief (and pale) tour of A&P (with energy bubbling through the head, going down towards the forehead chakra) and DN (with multiplicity of images and a sad general tone, with sad melodies accompanying). But at 10-15’ I was already with some stability in EQ. Fluctuating stability, not solid. The images left, loose words appeared, but not associated with analysis. There were memories of the song of the voice with emotional tones, but without content of words or concepts. All this observed with curiosity. There were also moments of word / sentence flow, but no possible labels. Something more like daydreaming. At one point I had a short nod, like I was falling asleep. This generated the opposite effect, because thereafter the mind was more alert.
Anyway, I implemented as an alert / Self-Inquiry method asking "Am I aware?" every X number of minutes. It just allowed 95% of the mindstream to take its course and from time to time asked the question. The remaining 5% was keeping some attention to how the mind watched the mindstream. Visually, it is as if the index finger points from under the chin towards the head. It was as if I looked at the head / mind from below. It is not a visual view, but rather the internal and surrounding head space. Outside of sitting, I continued (intermittently) with this intention of observing the mind.
May 26: 60’. Loose words reappeared, little analysis and more of emotional expressions (without words) and ego reinforcement (both expressions, and personal rant). There were also quite a few images. The most interesting thing about the practice was that it became very clear that the loose words and images were in sequence, they never appeared at the same time, one triggered the other. At some point there was one (not two like days ago) unexpected abrupt fall of the eyelids (which were already closed) and there was a little more concentration and a silver-colored nimitta appeared, like a diamond with some filaments. I didn't notice it moving, although it did change brightness. It did not last more than 1-2 minutes. During practice I did not observe spatiality or watching the watcher. The latter works more consistently off-cushion, in daily activities or working on the computer.
May 27: 60’. This time the loose words appeared in Italian, Spanish and English. From what was observed today, the fact is that expressive emotions without words occur whenever there is a certain level of concentration. Otherwise, these expressions emerge with words. The same happens with analysis thoughts. In the last 20' I practiced samatha with different variants (breath, mantra). The idea is to expand this a little in practice.
May 28: 60’. Vipassana Jhanas!! Until now ‘vipassana jhana’ (VJ) was a concept. Beyond having practiced vipassana and samatha separately, I was understanding VJ as a practice of vipassana with a higher level of concentration, or a practice of samatha with a minimum level of vipassana in order to deepen concentration. But what was experienced today was different. I walked through the ñanas with equanimity. A&P and EQ were pristine. And DN was somewhat cloudy but intermittent, since I could observe equanimity in these intermittencies. As if DN was contained within an EQ bubble. Something similar I wrote in the log days ago, but this time it was clearer. I understand that this underlying equanimity is the implicit trigger of a higher level of concentration, hence cataloging it as VJ. It would be really cool if I could consistently repeat this quality of practice.
The key to all this was a weariness of letting go control at a 100%, because it leads to a situation without a minimum of concentration and therefore it is difficult to observe the thoughts without ceasing to identify with them. With some guilt, I stopped doing that but retained the idea of minimizing the analytical mind. Hence the equanimity in observation. The image of Kenneth Folk (mentioned by Shargrol) of the floating peanut was used for this. But speeding up noticing was also key. There I realized that I was "stretching" what was observed. It is difficult to explain.
As for the phenomenological, there were loose words and pronunciation melodies in English and Italian.
Lastly, it may sound silly, but it is key not only to have slept 7 hours or more but also that at least in the previous hour (which includes Qigong) the TV is not on or there is no music or constant conversations between other family members.
Up to an hour after meditating, the mind remained silent, hearing the sounds of the house as if they were louder (pumped up) and simultaneously deep silences between sound and sound.
May 29: 60’. I couldn't sleep enough hours, so that affected today's practice. The patina of equanimity was not so present and that had an impact on the level of concentration. The best thing happened in the first 30’, where the most interesting was not the phenomenological but to observe how the mind was changing the focus (wide vs. focused, fast vs. slow, etc.). A dynamic that reminds me of Shinzen Young's expansion-contraction, but less ‘elegant’ (more confusing). On a phenomenological level, there were fewer loose words / emotional expressions (and more phrases with content), and great tranquility on a physical level. This time I put more focus on the physical sensations in the forehead and eyes (and its link with thoughts and intentions).
May 30: 50’. Daydreaming during the first 30’, in the last 20’ I applied vipassana to deepen the samatha. There were many loose thoughts seen as non-self, but without the quality of perception of the recent days. I also practiced metta-gratitude, using Christian mantras. There was some devolution.
May 31: 50’. From the outset I focused on the physical sensations in the forehead and eyes (and its connection with thoughts and intentions), as I did in the previous two days. Many thoughts and loose words. Today's novelty was detecting images (lasting a fraction of a second) that triggered these loose words and thoughts. Perhaps this is related to not having focused on the physical sensations in the eyes. So I refocused the practice to observe the arising of images and detect if this generated thoughts. In the last 15-20 minutes I practiced metta-gratitude, using Christian mantras on and off, giving room for silent gaps and seeing what would emerge. I also tried to visualize religious images, the same deity always appears, but with different shapes and angles. The most gratifying was about 10 minutes of pleasurable perfume. I could let myself be somehow absorbed in that perfume. Few conscious (analytical) thoughts appeared.
Jun 01: 70’. Intention = Mental Inertia = Continuity. Today I was able to observe more closely (and repeatedly) what happened yesterday with the pleasant perfume. Starting from a base of mental tranquility, 'moments of mental inertia' arise where it is perceived how an intention, an emotion or a thought (IEP) has a certain temporary duration that emerges, submerges and re-emerges over a period of time. It is not a single Bell Curve type arising & passing peak, but each IEP has a voltage level that can be intermittently exceeded by a 2nd IEP, but this 1st IEP subsequently re-emerges. Just need to wait for the A&P of the 2nd IEP to happen and the 1st IEP reappears. And when it reappears, it has its long passing that is perceived as this inertia that I mentioned. Visualization is as if there is an ocean of mental processes and that each IEP is a stream at different depths, speeds and strength. Obviously, not always after a 2nd IEP does a prior IEP necessarily arise, as there can also be a gap.
From the point of view of practice, waiting for the reemergence of this 1st IEP and then getting into inertia (surfing) is an experience that allows me to deepen my concentration. It is to hold the (samatha) mental intention but sustained under a vipassana format.
From a psychological point of view, it is easier for me (as a ‘surfer’) to 'wait for the wave', to jump into inertia, than to try to avoid falling into greed-aversion.
Jun 2: Family emergency, I couldn't meditate…
Jun 03: 60’. I applied this idea of mental inertia no longer to the mental objects that might emerge, but directly to Awareness itself. The result is that while Attention varies its focus (spatial and intensity), Awareness remains constant (provisional ‘truth’). In fact, resting on this idea of inertia makes it much clearer (and less stressful) to see changes in Attention, and let more time to rest in Awareness. The result is a very calm practice (and boring haha). Greed-aversion is decreased.
When I leave this modality and focus on thoughts or physical sensations in the head space, single words or analytical thoughts return there.
Jun 4: Again family emergency, I could not meditate...
Jun 05: 50’. While it wasn't a great practice today, there was one interesting thing. I let go of the steering wheel, letting the mind choose where to focus its attention. What was interesting was perhaps obvious, but it was made explicit in practice. Not only are thoughts and emotions observed as 'no-self', but Mindfulness itself is non-self if one does not apply the intention to observe in a particular way. So the insight was that at a deep level greed-aversion is what determines the dynamics of mind's Attention, but at the superficial level the non-intention in observation allows to take distance (watch the watcher) and observe how the Attention of the mind jumps from one object to another.
Jun 06: 70’. I tried different techniques to deepen concentration, including vipassana as a support for concentration. Especially observing mental inertia both in the gaps of breathing and the silence after the end of a thought.
Jun 07: 50’. The practice was a mixture of vipassana and samatha. I do not remember the details well (I’m writing a day later).
Jun 08: 45’ + 40’. The first session was pure samatha. The interesting thing is that since I do not push the thoughts out to deepen the concentration, every so often (1 per minute?) a loose thought (unconscious thought) appears. Since the practice is primarily of absorption, it takes a little longer to detach from these thoughts of the Unconscious. In other words, I can see that they are no-self but I also see how the Self identifies with that thought. It's like I'm in an 'intermediate zone' (80% samatha and 20% vipassana I guess).
Should I tried to avoid the thoughts, they would disappear, at least for a while. If instead I took more distance, then I would see them clearly as loose words, or loose phrases. So this is the ‘blend of concentration of vipassana’ as Shargrol explains in his posts, that’s so fruitful in Equanimity. In the past I have had a (high concentration) experience where I saw how the mind jumped into a mental object and merged with it. Today it was less spectacular but not just one single experience, there were many. Here comes ‘wow factor’ vs ‘consistent practice’ debate, in order to make room for a cessation to happen.
With regard to samatha, mental inertias reappeared, which allowed concentration to deepen. The perfume of flowers appeared intermittently. There was also at some point intense heat in the hands, too intense. When this faded, I took as a focus a very fine and slight vibration in the periphery. The concentration deepened only a little, but it did trigger the activation of energy points: chakras of the crown and forehead. In a third round of concentration, I tried to focus on that (initial) warmth in the hands, and it spread to the legs, pelvic area, and lower abdomen. Seeing that it would take too long to reach a more intense level, I cut the session so I could do another session of pure vipassana.
In the second session, of pure vipassana, unconscious thoughts did not generate identification. The highlight of the session was realizing the persistent tension in the eye area, the relaxation I try there always comes back (while the body tensions in the rest of the head and body in general were almost nil). The solution was to reverse the observation (‘a la’ Direct-Pointing), that the outside world comes to my eyes (eyes like ears that I mentioned weeks ago). I use my eyes as a 'physical' point of contact with the outside, where contact is minimal, without tension. This makes it easy to watch the mindstream without triggering greed-aversion.
Jun 10: 70’. The evolution of the practice was similar to that of yesterday, although with a higher level of concentration. With repetition, patterns emerge that make my practice more effective. (1) Take the space as an object of attention to calm the mind and then remember those feelings that make the space calm. (2) Redirect attention to thoughts, wait for the arising of the first unconscious thought or analytical intention (voluntary or involuntary). (3) Observe in these unconscious thoughts to what degree the Attention tries to merge with them. (4) After passing the thought / intention, observe how the inertia of the previous intention or the calm space re-emerges. (5) After a time in which unconscious thoughts no longer emerge, then wait for the emergence of emotions or changes in Attention (under the assumption that the latter implies a reaction to greed-aversion). (6) When emotions arise, then detect what physical sensations compose it. When changes in Attention arise, detect physical sensations related to greed-aversion. (7) If pleasant sensations linked to samatha arise in any of the 6 previous points, then focus attention there, sustain the intention or look for signs of inertia. (8) An alternative to point 5 is to wander the mind through those areas where pleasant sensations were awakened and later, with a global look, wait for those sensations to reappear. (9) If nothing works, observe the physical sensations in the head.
Jun 11: 50’. It was a practice that went from high to low, where analytical / discursive thoughts arose. The most interesting thing was prior to the session, during the Qigong practice, where something read in DhO fitted perfectly with things that I had observed but could not model: to obtain bliss, the tension goes to the (physical) periphery to leave the center empty.
Jun 12: Family grieving. No meditation today.
Jun 13: 60’. Too much reverie (dreamy) during practice, too many images. Lack of rest and grief. I didn't expect much from practice, but at least I kept the session. The best were the first 25’ in terms of observing thoughts from the unconscious. No prior Qigong.
Jun 14: 60’. It was a better practice than yesterday, but still without returning to previous levels of concentration and the ability to see 3C clearly. Practicing Gratitude / Metta was key to putting a stop to the flood of thoughts. There were no painful memories or destabilizing images (neither yesterday) but as if there was a general underground noise that did not allow the mind to stabilize for too long. I also didn't do Qigong today, due to time constraints, given the family circumstances.
Jun 16: I couldn't practice.
Jun 17: 70’. Another Vipassana-Jhana practice, this time 20% vipassana and 80% jhana. I had previously done a long Qigong and Taiji practice, so that must have influenced. It was a very quiet session, with few thoughts. Mental inertia / continuity was not only present as that underlying current (always void of content, only presence) but also as inertia (expansion) of the expiration of the breath, for a whole-body breath. It was a new experience, because until now inertia was observed in the in-breath (in the form of floral perfume) while today it was in the out-breath. It is more like Qigong, but there it is more dynamic (with a body in movement or extension) while here it is static (beyond the fact that global respiration ‘expands’ the energy field). There were also sporadically more energy discharges associated with martial qigong.
Jun 18: 60’+ 40’ from Qigong and previous Taiji. The Vipassana-Jhana (VJ) scheme is clearer, where for long periods the ratio was 10/90 although there was some variability during the session. It was very calm, with some unconscious thoughts especially in the first 10'. Mental inertia always present as undercurrent. Towards the middle there was a lot of clarity and calm. Then pleasant sensations (not intense, as in past sessions) began to emerge in different parts of the body, but intermittently, perhaps because I forgot to practice the whole-body breath. The session felt short, it passed quickly.
Beyond momentary mental inertia during practice, I note that there is a certain momentum between session to session for the jhanic elements to grow so ‘fast’. (Something should also help the previous Qigong + Taiji).
From the start there was Energy flow in historically hard areas such as the highest part of the spine and the back of the skull.
Jun 19: 60 ’+ 50’ from Qigong and previous Taiji. I started aiming at a VJ 20/80 but there wasn't enough momentum so I turned my attention back to spotting intentions, emotions and thoughts (IEPs) from the unconscious. There were slight variations on what was already known, with independent syllables that the mind was tempted to merge and create words with. But overall there were few thoughts so I had to redirect my attention to observe intentions and emotions. In a practice passage, I observed that some intentions had emotions attached to them, such as a quick response, a kind of silent amazement (WOW! type) or alertness.
Then the vipassana lost momentum and when I tried to go back to it, I observed how the mere intention to focus the intention triggered pleasant sensations throughout the body. So practice turned to a VJ 50/50, sailing halfway between vipassana and jhana. The interesting thing is that just as there were pleasant sensations, there were also typical A&P vibrations in the same areas. The difference was that the pleasurable sensations were more intermittent and more associated with bodily relaxation or out-breath, while the vibrations were somewhat more general and consistent, and totally independent of the mind's intention.
Towards the end it was even clearer that, independent of the object of observation (in this case the arising of thoughts), it is the intention of observation that generates concentration, which triggers pleasant sensations, thanks to mental inertia.
Jun 20: 50 ’+ 20’ of Qigong and previous Taiji. Saturdays are the worst days, due to accumulated fatigue and family outings. And this time, the pattern was fulfilled as always LOL. The first 30’ were pure daydreaming. Then the mind woke up. The rescue of the practice was to give a twist to the Vimalaramsi 6Rs (Recognize a distraction, Release distraction (stop thinking about it), Relax related tension, Re-smile, Return to the object of meditation, Repeat the process). In his scheme, the smile is associated with relaxing tension instead of later peace or in any case as a later step in itself. My practice is to apply the contentment on the spatiality / silence / mental inertia that I observe after passing a thought, intention or emotion. The idea is to be more specific in that merger, and not make it look like an automatic / robotic step.
Jun 23: 50’. I slept only five hours, the pipes broke again and the plumbers came back to repair them. The meditation session was unclear, the mindstream very volatile. I never reached Access Concentration.
Jun 24: 50 ’+ 20’ Qigong + 40 ’. In the first session I tried to focus on vipassana, but with an unstable mindstream (although with a calm background) after 20 minutes, it became clear that it was not the best option, so instead I turned to samatha. In particular, I applied a simple relaxation of the legs, part by part, and the heat `caught fire´ at an intense level. The second session had a more vipassana tone although with that calm mental inertia I always mention, sometimes too calm. I paid more attention to intentions and emotions, which have relatively less presence than thoughts. A particular point that I observed is the (striving) desire to re-experience the causal components of thoughts, that temporary separation between the idea or physical/emotional reaction and the mental text that is then inserted to make sense of it. Obviously, this underlying mental intention/desire prevents observing the present as it occurs.
Jun 25: 60’+ 30’ Qigong. I observed a key point: when thoughts disappear, the silent spatiality that emerges (and that has traits of mental inertia) is always 'outside', that spatiality does not include the body. I see that this is a subtle form of aversion, it is like expelling thoughts out of the body. So what I did was incorporate the body into that spatiality. It is like the three (spatiality, body and mental inertia) merge. Intuitively it feels like the right thing to do.
This arose a bit as a result of what I wrote yesterday from that mental intention to observe the causal components of thoughts and the ‘text’ that the mind adds to it by focusing there. Also, because I listened to an audio by Daniel Ingram where he spoke of the ‘proportionality’ of each physical thought or sensation within a spatial frame. How each phenomenon occupies its time/space but without covering the rest of the field. I understand it as a more mature equanimity, described in terms of the interrelationship of phenomena, and not as an implied existing observer. When I put this into practice, there is obviously an observer in my case, but this scheme still works for experiencing that kind of equanimity: not letting greed/aversion for a thought or physical sensation hide the rest.
During the session, this served to observe the non-self of thoughts and emotions, but not concentrating on them, on what they are or what they are not, but how they "located" within this general mental field. It feels like when in A&P I was doing speed noticing of all physical phenomena and thoughts, but this time it includes subtler thoughts and more importantly, it doesn’t feel like I’m striving, instead it feels natural.
Jun 26: 80 ’+ 30’ Qigong. I put into practice what I observed yesterday, and some interesting conclusions emerged. If the ‘gaze’ is thus focused on the body, the physical sensations and thoughts occupy ‘proportionally’ the spatial frame. Thoughts are easily observable as unconscious and also stop being in the center of attention, they seem to be more on the periphery. And by simply observing the body, pleasant sensations are triggered (scattered, not in a single block). However, after a while this ‘proportionality’ is lost since physical sensations trigger a rain of thoughts/ideas/emotions that sooner or later become a central thought which I identify with.
On the other hand, if the ‘gaze’ is focused on the space in front (of the eyes), basically what I am doing is taking that space as a mental object of concentration. That is why, concentration through, thoughts vanish more consistently, and when any appears there is sufficient concentration to observe its causal components (1st: greed / aversion; 2nd: intentional/emotional reaction; 3rd: syllables or single words; 4th: a phrase / text that unifies those single words into a thought with a certain degree of coherence).
As a tentative conclusion, the best way to go is to first use space as a mental object and, once a certain level of concentration has been reached, broaden the spectrum of observation to the whole body and observe this "proportional" emergence of physical sensations and thoughts. When this is lost, take the space again as a mental object and repeat the process. The idea is that over time the borders between that space in front and the body will get closer, that everything can be observed at the same time and with a consistent floor of concentration.
Jun 28: 35’. It was a very short but fertile practice. Awareness encompassed both the space in front and the body. The thoughts had little force, they could not capture the center. And when they did, it expanded the observation to pleasant (or neutral) sensations in the body. And there it was observed that that thought (mental impression) was not as strong as it seemed.
The most interesting thing was the emergence of visual fabrications. Just as it happened with the words (where first syllables or single words arose, and then the pre-existing (or later) emotion/idea triggered the mind to unify these elements to generate a 'story' or an idea) now the same thing happened with the images. It became clear that when the mind does not understand what it observes, it looks for patterns and builds an image. It could be seen how a set of colored spots were changing to generate an understandable and known object. Precisely what is interesting is that these spots did not change on their own, but instead the attention gave them orders (aversion -> not that, greed -> that yes) of what image could be composed.
Jun 29: 60’. This time I had slept well, but during the day I have had a lot of physical exhaustion and that had an impact on meditation. The bottom-line is that I always must take a short nap before meditating. The meditation was very dreamlike, I observed dreams, in addition to thoughts and physical sensations. I was able to observe the construction of both thoughts and images. But in general it was not a practice with mental clarity. What worked best was to follow the jhana elements.
Jun 30: 60’ + 30’ Qigong. The best happened in the first 10’ and the last 15’, when there was sufficient concentration to observe the creation of verbal thoughts from loose sounds, not even specific syllables. There was no observation of the creation of images, but there were cases where verbal thoughts were observed as spatial objects ... very strange! From 10’ to 45’ there was a proliferation of thoughts, largely due to a lack of intensity in observing the arisings & passings but also because I let the thoughts run to see what underlying psychological content was driving them.
Jul 01: 70’+ 60’ Qigong. I had to adjust the intensity of observation, because I was quickly lost in a chain of thoughts. With that adjustment, the practice worked fine. I used the space in front as an underlying observation object while observing the arising and passing of thoughts. Then, with a peripheral incorporation of the body, pleasant sensations arise in the body. I also add a smile, to see if it stretches the situation. That peripheral incorporation of the body has to be very subtle, because if not, the concentration level is lost and the chain of thoughts returns.
In a moment, the verbal thoughts and even the single words, syllables and other hum hum hum disappeared completely. With that, a little happiness and peace arouse. It was different from other sessions, the closest thing to a full jhana than to a vipassana-jhana. In fact, I was later surprised that thoughts didn’t arise (as the intention was to have the opportunity to see the creation of oral and visual thoughts with greater precision).
At another later point in the practice, I took the Brow chakra as a mental object. Unlike other sessions, there weren't as many vibrations or energy flow, although it did trigger some of this around the Crown chakra. Like yesterday, I continued to observe that certain disembodied objects (thoughts, states of mind) are represented in the mind as corporeal images (with a shape). I understand that it is a kind of defense mechanism of the mind, that begins to generate physical identity to something, because awareness is also incorporeal. I sought to observe awareness itself, just when there was complete mental silence.
Jul 02: 60’ + 40’ Qigong. Night and Day. Today's practice was very different from yesterday's. There was observation of individual thoughts / words / syllables and how they were chained, but observance of this prevented them from becoming conscious formed thoughts. The most different thing of today’s practice was the observation of a lot of negative emotions and mental patterns (eg, critically evaluating aspects of other people). There was also the (escalating) igniting of energy points: throat, forehead and crown.
Another interesting thing is that I practiced metta (to counterbalance the emergence of emotions), with a variant that Shargrol proposed in an old thread: inducing feelings of happiness in the body itself and visualizing those same feelings in the body of other people. The most logical thing would have been to try with a smile of my own and that of others (the usual way I practice metta), but instead it came about doing so via a general vibration of the body. Intuitively, it felt like the ideal way to do it.
Jul 03: 60’ + 30’ Qigong. Today I continued with the Metta practice. I read The Path to Nibbana (David Johnson) and the book turned out better than anything I had read of Bhante Vimalaramsi’s camp (I have a number of compliments and criticisms for the book, but that would need a separate thread). During practice (Metta/Gratitude/Compassion), warmth (and some vibration) was first ignited in the chest and shortly thereafter on the back, at the same height. Then it grew a bit in the chest and later it went up to the head, where the sensation was of expansion (balloon type) and ascension. In the head, Metta's feeling was different, of peace and a non-specific general contentment ... not what I would have expected, but very nice indeed!
Jul 05: 45’. It was the typical session without much concentration and very dreamy, many images. I practiced Metta as much as possible, with vipassana of thoughts as an initial practice to stabilize the mind. The interesting thing of the practice was to observe how the words and the images were not synchronized, but rather out of sync, so it was understood that the mind adds a story to images (the opposite case was not seen). It was like watching the construction of a dream.
Jul 06: 60’+ 30’ Qigong. Except for the first 10’ of concentration (space kasina, I suppose is the technical name) the remaining 50’ were dedicated to Metta. It is a less silent practice regarding thoughts, and that generated a feeling of dissatisfaction during meditation, until I realized that it is inevitable (at least for now) as images, memories, emotions, and all these objects arise: they trigger thoughts. This time the heat and vibration was more intense in the chest, and when I took that to the head space, that pleasant peace felt again, although it lasted less time. I also send Metta to me as a child, to heal emotional wounds. Another thing I tried was to be aware (while doing Metta) that the thumbs were barely touching, without loosening or squeezing. The bottom line was that it is incompatible (at least now) with Metta. The opening of the hand feels better, perhaps because it opens the heart.
Jul 07: 60’ + 50’ Qigong. I practiced Metta almost the entire session. When I tried to do vipassana of thoughts, it was almost impossible. I would have to do another separate session just for vipassana. As for Metta, the warmth intensified and expanded in the chest area. I purposely brought to memory unhappy moments and applied Brahma Viharas to them. When I brought the feeling to my head, this time it didn't work like last time, perhaps because I'm applying too much investigation to it. At the beginning of everything, I remembered an advice from Dharmarato, to take 3 points of initial anapasana: expansion, contraction and the touch of the body with the cushion. This quickly awakens pleasurable sensations in the legs and abdomen. When I switched to Metta on the chest, it was very easy to turn it on.
Jul 08: 60’ + 60’ Qigong. This time there was mental silence while I practiced Metta, at least for some time. Then it was lost. I observe that the pleasant sensations of Jhana or Metta can occur in three different areas: (1) (Jhana) so that it occurs in the legs and abdomen, it is convenient that it simply arise from anapasana, observing expansion, contraction and rest (touch of the legs with the floor/pillow), and has a character of pure heat; (2) (Metta) for it to occur in the chest, I must visualize the person / deity to whom I transmit it, it is a mixture of heat and vibration; (3) (Wet Equanimity? Pseudo J4j2?) For it to occur in the head, I must focus on the smile (corners of the mouth), side of the eyes and nose, it is a mixture of peace, some light and spatiality.
Jul 09: 60’ + 60’ Qigong. Since in the last few sessions I practiced exclusively Metta/Jhana, I wanted to test if I could go back to the Space Kasina concentration type that I have been using to observe thoughts. After a bit of practice, I managed to get my focus back this way and observe the unconscious thoughts. The key is in that ‘continuity’ that I spoke about weeks ago, perhaps best described by the perception of a species of underground ocean that always exists. Something like taking Equanimity as an object of concentration, which includes certain low pitch vibrations. In the last 20' I went to practice Metta and tried to keep that Equanimity as a container for the Metta.
Jul 10: 60' + 60' Qigong. I went back to practicing Jhana/Metta on abdomen/legs, chest and head. Metta in the chest is satisfactory as a practice, but I am impatient with how slow it takes to expand, without remarkable results. However, when I switch to headspace, some of all that remains. As I have been working on ‘space kasina’ + mind-flow observation for months, and that's where I made some progress, I think I should put the focus back there and then introduce the ‘Equanimus Metta’ there. Some of that I managed to do today, and even a Nimitta appeared three times (white circles that go 'away' towards the bottom and stabilize there for a while, then disappear).
In recent days I have been playing with the idea of 'closing the eye of Awareness'. The idea is that, meditating with my eyes closed, I direct my attention to where the Awareness observes everything, and I stress the intention of 'closing the eye', as if the Awareness were an eye that is in the middle of the brain, behind of the eyes. Not that this would trigger a cessation or else LOL, but it helps to identify the center of the brain and little tensions in the head.
Jul 11: 60’. This time I went straight to ‘space kasina’ and observed mind-flow. Still, physical memory lit up the chest for a few minutes, like I was practicing Metta. Since Metta is a more laid-back practice, when going back to the previous practice, I put more energy into it, not allowing to miss any sensory phenomenon or change in perception. For long periods of time, the concentration was so intense that I perceived nothing more than the passage of time and certain mental intentions. After a while a vibration + sound began to emerge very much from the 'background' (back of the head), so I remembered Kenneth Folk’s The Wheel and took it as an object of concentration and investigation, noticing anything in particular other than typical variations of a vibration. I did notice a wave near 5 Hz later. And when I put the focus on the third eye, I felt vibrations at first but then continuous pulses. I was able to hold this practice for about 40 minutes, and the remaining 20 minutes I dedicated to Metta on the chest and Jhana elements on the face. Flower perfumes returned (intermittently).
Jul 12: 60’. I continued with 'space kasina' and observation of mind-flow. I observed the creation of thoughts, not trying to recognize/comprehend them (let alone analyze them). In this 'non-conceptualization' mode, then I intensely observed intentions, particularly small changes in perception. It was a kind of stand-still situation, nothing moved. Then thoughts of observation, complaints and protests (in the form of distant non verbalized emotionality) began to emerge, all because the mind feared this situation of loss of control. Upon observing this, more intensity emerged in the observation. Then peace and luminescence. I interpreted this peace as an ‘end’ of doubts about the ability to reach awakening. Off-cushion, I had no doubts that it is possible to achieve it, but in meditation I can now see that there are subtle doubts that I did not consciously take into account.
At another point in the meditation there was a rotor-blade coming from the bottom (back). Then I heard some cuts in the vibration (like folds of a tape). Later on there was a finer, long-wave vibration (this time located in the top of the head).
One conclusion is that I should try to meditate more times per day to explore this promising stuff, albeit for a shorter time (given work / family restrictions).
July 14: 30’+ 40’ + 40’ + 20’ Qigong. The first meditation was difficult since I had slept only 4 hours and had worked 8 hours. It was impossible to silence the mind, I followed the mind-flow. For the second meditation, I had already taken a nap so the mind was calm from the start. There was energy in the Crown Chakra and Third Eye, and the line that connects them. Since there were few thoughts, I was a bit disoriented about what to focus on. The third meditation also started very calmly and a wave/vibration emerged in the (top of the) headspace. There were times when the heart pulse mixed with the wave/vibration. This wave was seen at times as compact (solid) and at times as very fast vibration. I did not observe gaps. I felt a lot of Energy flow all over my skull again, from the Crown Chakra to the Third Eye. This time I noticed how the tensions in the head alternated with the Energy flow. Towards the end, when everything was calmer, I focused towards the center of the head, looking for the observer. I practiced 'Who am I' observing small tensions and a lot of silence and internal space.
July 15: 70 ’+ 20’ Qigong. During the first 30' the mind 'asked' me to focus on the vibration in the skull, but it was unable to settle down, thoughts could not be observed as such. I also tried to focus on outer space, but it didn't work either. Finally I turned to the internal space (head space) and there everything calmed down, it was possible not only to observe the unconscious thoughts but also the physical sensations associated with the face, neck, eyes and skull (including Crown Chakra and Third Eye). After a while I practiced self-inquiry variants, always with the head space as the focus: Who am I? Where am I? Where do thoughts come from?
Jul 16: 60’ + 50’ + 40’. In the first session I put too much intensity because I had only slept 5 hours, and that generated a very unstable mind-flow. In the second session I lowered the intensity level and everything worked better, but since there were few thoughts, I found the situation uncomfortable. Not knowing what to do. In addition, the cardiac pulse mixes with the sound vibration (at the level of the skull) and this prevents gaps from being observed (when the pulse was not heard, some abrupt cuts could be observed there). For a few minutes the observation point of the eyes changed: it was more to the right and turned anti-clockwise (10 PM). In past days sessions I observed that the point of view was more to the right or more to the left, but without clockwise/anti-clockwise rotation. What happened today was much more intense. In contrast, there were no changes in the Y axis (height), something that I had observed in practice (stand-up, not sitting) in Taijiquan.
In the third session I tried to broaden the observation as much as possible, being able to capture the entire body at the same time, the space in front including the visual (which is what I least pay attention to) and the sound vibration. With this, I applied the idea of proportionality as Daniel Ingram points out. All this improved meditation much more. But I still felt dissatisfied. I investigate this as well as in general any tension or change of perception that may be associated with the Self. In the last 5’ I tried removing the ear plugs. This completely removed the vibratory wave from the cardiac pulse. Maybe from now on I should stop using the plugs.
As an overall fact, the beginnings of the sessions are much calmer. Some momentum of equanimity remains from previous sessions.
During the rest of the day I observe (inconsistently) the physical sensations associated with the Self. It is something that was historically incorporated a long time ago (20y) when I did psychotherapy, but now it is more generalized (not tied only to emotional or ego-building issues) and the observed signs are much more subtle in the eyes, nose, cheekbones (before more linked with jaw, throat, shoulders, chest, abdomen, arms and legs).
July 17: 60’. This time I practiced the first 45' without earplugs and the last 15' with them. The first big observation is that without plugs it's much easier for pleasurable sensations to emerge and remain in the body. It may be a no-brainer, but now I realize that using the earplugs greatly diminishes bodily sensations (since I also focus on space kasina). I guess it’s as if I were trying something like Jhana1-subjhana 5 or Jhana1-subjhana 6. The second great observation is that without ear plugs, in order to stay in Equanimity and observe unconscious thoughts, I need to practice that ‘proportionality’ that Daniel Ingram talks about. In other words, I must broaden and sustain the focus of awareness to the whole body plus the surrounding space and be aware of the arising and passing of thoughts. On the other hand, using earplugs + space kasina, the spectrum of attention required is much narrower.
The big problem of not using ear plugs is that my street is very very noisy (and my little son too).
July 18: 50’ + 40’ + 20’ Qigong. It was actually a single meditation session, with a 5’ break at minute 50, where in the next 40’ I used the earplugs. When I didn't use them, the same thing happened as yesterday, more intense and extended pleasurable bodily sensations in the body, and even greater visualization of deities in brief interludes of mantras. Also, the need to keep the focus of perception very broad to sustain Equanimity, that mind-flow did not lead to a string of conscious thoughts (monkey-mind).
In the second stage I put on the earplugs. The silence and concentration level was much more intense. There I observed 4 overlaid flows: (1) a very fast vibration (which also spread to the legs and arms for a few minutes); (2) a very slow vibration (long wave, which I used as a thrust to deepen concentration throughout the session, I don't know if it is related to the microcosmic orbit or if it is simply that 'continuity' of which I spoke earlier, an effect of concentration); (3) an intermediate / rapid vibration (linked to the pulse); (4) syllables, loose words (unconscious and incoherent).
Type 3 vibration was non-existent at first, intermittent in the middle, and persistent at the end. I suppose this is related to the level of intensity that I put in order to be able to observe the type 1 vibration more clearly. In the next sessions I will try to be more Equanimeous in observing these 4 types of mind flows.
July 19: 30’+ 45’. The first 30' without earplugs were relatively peaceful, with pleasurable bodily sensations arising from a certain 'proportional ' equanimity of awareness. The most striking thing was the activation of the Crown chakra and another energy center in the skull near the Third Eye. There was an intention to open, all sensations where at the skull, there were no physical sensations piercing towards the center of the brain. The second 45’ session with earplugs, I let the attention go anywhere. Half the time, that made me lose myself in thoughts. The other half, the mind-flow could be observed without being stuck to thoughts. All 3 types of overlapping vibrations reappeared, but I detected only two at the same time. I tried to get absorbed by the very long vibration, but the concentration level today was very low. The vibration associated with the pulse appeared more towards the end of the session.
In the second session I also paid attention to the Crown Chakra from time to time and it was activated every time. Sometimes it was a tension (with some visualization of a vertical line above the skull) and other times the typical bubbling that leads to an energy spill into the Third Eye.
July 21: 25’ + 45’. Practiced Metta in the first 25' session. As it was a difficult day (some medical emergencies), the practice was not easy. In the next 45' session (already with earplugs) I aimed to observe mind-flow. It continues to bear fruit that of seeking to equalize the level of visual tension (associated with conceptualization and more generally with ‘grabbing’) with the levels of tension in the auditory and the tactile. The point is that the body makes no effort to listen (the sounds just come in) or to feel the physical contact of the skin with clothing, air, or the cushion. With that in mind, I can easily see the excess tension in the visual aspect.
Another remarkable thing about the session is that I again observed in the mind-flow how the mind (already silent) tries to put together stories that have an abstract visual component. Example 1: A mental (unconscious) intention results in a kind of white tube that moves forward and then turns upward. Example 2: an (unconscious) thought that looks for twists and turns and continues to spin around a series of white cones.
July 22: 30’ + 60’ + 30 ’Qigong. Qigong practice was unusually good, partly because several days had passed without practice and the removal of trapped energy is always satisfactory, and partly because a new exercise is paying off. The 30’ session without earplugs focused on anapana (instead of Metta) under the whole-body breathing modality. The practice is satisfactory but it generates chains of thoughts, so perhaps I should have to practice only while the anapana works. The 60' session with earplugs this time worked. The key was to focus on relaxing the tensions on the sides of the head, as the plugs add very uncomfortable tension for this stage of practice. The cardiac flow stopped being perceived and I was able to follow with more consistency the rapid vibration in the head-space. I observed a clear variability but no gaps. This vibration was at times throughout the session, not all the time. There was also a long flow of unconscious thoughts, single words, gibberish, etc. and this time it could be observed uninterrupted without identifying itself. As a new thing, I noticed the voices in particular of those words: they are almost always from third parties, only a few times did I recognize the voice as mine. Visually, there was brief activity in front of the eyes, where the most prominent were the white circles moving away to the background.
July 23: 30’. I had a very busy day and I had to wait until midnight for the batteries (of a noise-canceling headphone that was delivered to me today) to be charged. I had a lot of anxiety and expectation that things would get better, so it wasn't the best session LOL. The conclusion is that with (usual) earplugs there is the advantage of a deeper silence that facilitates rapid concentration, but as a disadvantage it requires several adjustments during each session, and generates tension in the ear area and even makes the heart pulse emerge constantly, which overlaps the mental vibrations and triggers many thoughts. With N/C headphones, the advantage is that all these is eliminated and also makes the session more even. As a disadvantage, it warms the ears a little (nothing terrible) and it takes longer to achieve a deeper concentration.
July 24: 60’ + 45’ (seated) Qigong. This time, I practiced seated Qigong, a practice that allows me to observe tensions and do a (semi) whole-body breath but without activating with the intention to trigger pleasant sensations or that the breath covers the entire body. It is more than anything designed to bring excess mental energy back down. And along with this, to focus attention on the Huiyin, which happens to activate the rotorblades (felt in the headspace) from down there. In the 60' meditation session (with N/C headphones) I observed just how the rotorblades were maintained throughout the session, although still weak.
July 25: 60’ + 60’ Qigong. Today I returned to Qigong standing, but later in sitting meditation I included the huiyin as the anchor of the breath. As I keep my attention there, the rotorblade sounds at head height, albeit in the background. As soon as I redirect attention to the space kasina, the rotorblade disappears. The practice continued to improve compared to the previous days (regarding the inclusion of the N/C headphones), the session is more even, although without achieving that other mental anchor (space). Still, I could observe the unconscious thoughts and other gibberish, but intermittently, perhaps due to excessive physical exhaustion (family duties).
July 26: 60’ + 60’ + 60’ Qigong. In the first session (with N/C headphones) just in the last 15' I had a deep level of concentration, when I could take the vibration (not rotorblades) as a mental anchor and the thoughts were observed as elements of the unconscious. In this mode, I observed how attention fluctuated with vibration. Earlier, the mental anchor in the Huiyin activated the rotorblade, without achieving to later become the next mental anchor. The most novel thing was that in a brief moment the vibration accelerated.
In the second session (with earplugs) the concentration was higher, it was easier to observe unconscious thoughts, loose words, etc. That is not only because of the increased acoustic isolation but also because if the mind is distracted and conscious thoughts start to arise, then the heart pulse in the ears is activated. So the mind disciplines itself. The highlight of this session was observing how tandem sensations arose in different parts of the body, especially the lower dantian and the vibration / rotorblade in the head, or certain sensations in the chest and the Third Eye. Towards the end, the arms and legs were 'filled' and heat emerged from the bottom up.
Jul 27: 60’ + 60’ + 30’ Qigong. In the first 60' only towards the middle of the session the mind cleared up. However, the rotor blade was present for most of the session, at first more run to the right, then in the center near the jade pillow gate (GV16 to GV17). Later, with the greatest mental clarity, I observed everything at the same time, in particular the auditory, visual and tactile, and instead of observing the mind-flow I observed the attention of the mind, how it observes, from where it observes, etc. Towards the end, the legs began to generate very intense heat.
In the second session I dedicated the first part to observing / activating the Huiyin. This heated up and generated vibrations throughout the session, connecting / syncing with the vibration in the back and headspace. Although for long periods of time I used vibration as a mental anchor, at other times I observed physical, tactile, and auditory sensations. During the meditation there were visualizations of smiling deities, the clear perception of the REN energy line (front of the body). Unconscious and gibberish thoughts with familiar voices also reappeared.
Jul 28: 45' + 30' + 30 'Qigong. The 45' session was always on the verge of sleep. At first I took as a focus the huiyin as a mental anchor, but at one point the mind jumped to the space-kasina, it was strange. Then there were many images of faces / heads, without any emotional connotation, just faces, as if I were observing people doing their own thing. The 30' session (with earplugs) I was more awake. This time I put that general vibration aside and went back to focusing on thoughts and that ocean container. I also asked myself “What am I struggling with?” in order to observe where there is no equanimity, generally in the three physical senses: visual, tactile and auditory.
Jul 29: I had a difficult day, I couldn't practice today.
Jul 30: 60' + 60'. The noise-canceling headphones stopped working so I returned them to Sony, as luckily it was within the warranty period. Anyway, they had never finished convincing me to meditate. I bought other real cheap earplugs (corkcrew earplugs) and returned to the situation of a couple of weeks ago. Obviously, the previous earplugs were wearing and causing irritation inside the ear. With the newer ones, the heartbeat is heard far and from time to time, not persistently and in the foreground. The first 60' session was one of adaptation, only towards the end did awareness reside in an expansive space (towards infinity), where unconscious thoughts and others were observed from the outside. Before this there were moments of confusion, alternating silences but a mind that jumped from phenomenon to phenomenon. There was also quite a discharge of energy in the Crown chakra towards the Third Eye.
In the second session I already started in a very calm situation. I even stimulated a greater calm "descending" as if I were submerged in the sea, with pressure on the skin. I observed both the unconscious thoughts and the equanimity between the three physical senses. This led me to observe in particular the Dukkha in arising & passing of phenomena (when the usual is the other way around) and also Dukkha and Impermanence in Awareness. I think this is promising.
Jul 31: 40'. I had a molar (tooth) removed, so today's practice was just done in order to maintain a certain level of consistency. Only at 30' did the mind stabilize.
Aug 1: 60' + 30'. In the first session (60’) I began to observe the mind-flow and apply a physical-mental relaxation to any thought-emotion-intention that appeared. After a few minutes, this led to a certain level of concentration, where thoughts could be observed with greater precision. Overall, there was on average 1 thought per minute. There were many non-verbal thoughts and emotions: thought-images and emotion-images appeared. Due to the type of concentration, no oral thoughts were generated that would put text/letter to those thoughts-images. In the last 10 minutes, attention was redirected to a vibration in the head-space. It has some points in common with the rotor-blade but it is different. It is a long wave, which 'sounds' like magnetic (very similar to long waves perceived in Taijiquan) that has cyclical cuts (silences). When listening with greater attention, the sound becomes 'pixelated', it sounds zazazaza ...
In the second session (30') the attention was directed to that magnetic wave, but the heart pulse enters and modifies the wave, the cycles become shorter. I had to cut ahead of time because dinner was ready.
Aug 2: 60' + 70'. In the first session (60') there were very few thoughts (every 3-5 minutes approx) in the first 20 minutes, when the attention shifted from the usual space-kasina to the Third Eye. Then the rotor-blade was activated, but very slightly, in the background. The first reaction is to put all the focus there, but that activates the heart pulse and ends up overshadowing it. After various adjustments, the rotor-blade 'stabilized' once attention took a global focus. When the focus also included the legs and the pelvis / sacrum, the vibration of the lower zone was connected with the rotor-blade of the head-space, until the end of the session. Throughout the session, slight pressure was felt on the skin, first on the face and arms, then the rest of the body. Despite the Third Eye being activated, there were no energetic discharges. During the period of adjustments to stabilize the rotor-blade, there were many thoughts and doubts related to practice: how to do it, if I am on the right track, etc. From the unconscious came a phrase: "keep at the vibration".
The second session (70') was very fluctuating. At 5' the mind stabilized, there were brief images (without a defined shape) with bright colors and the silence was so deep that there was no possibility of a thought generating a 'mental echo'. The thought emerged and disappeared, but without activating a new thought. By comparison, from the visual point of view, the ‘space’ was dark, without fluctuation (while the usual thing is that the visual space has variability, alternating between black and white in amorphous forms). This lasted a few minutes, then the amorphous space and thoughts returned with mental echoes. Instead, the rotor-blade emerged. This time it was difficult to anchor it in the pelvis / sacrum (because of an intestinal discomfort) but instead it stayed a long time in the Crown Chakra and in the chest, two areas in which he had not landed before.
Aug 3: 80' + 40' seated Qigong. The 80' session was a single sitting, just that at 60' I changed my legs position. The first 30-40 minutes were influenced by previous Qigong. There was a hum in the background in general (which persisted through the whole session) but at first there was also a vibration in the root chakra. Then some (dense) energy locked at neck level settled. Then the heart chakra was activated again in a complementary way with the Crown chakra. It was satisfying to watch a (historic) blockage in the chest undo, as the 'cold' energy descended into the solar plexus. At the thought level, there were many, almost all associated with the practice (at the beginning there was also a melody with which I was composing).
The interesting thing is that I discovered that thoughts are seen more clearly as not own when attention is focused on the vibration in the Brow chakra. I don't know if this is indeed the case for some energetic question, or if it is simply having found a point of concentration with a physical sensation (in general I concentrate with space-kasina, so the 'container' of mind-flow is incorporeal). There seems to be a way to approach the Brow Chakra that triggers this situation, it is not simply to focus there. Then I tried going from the Brow Chakra inwards to the 'I' point and staying there, observing the movement of the 'I'.
During the night I woke up several times listening to the hum in the head-space.
Aug 4: 20' + 60' + 40' Qigong. I stopped the first session at 20' because the sleep deprivation made me have a lot of energy running through my body. When I went to bed for a nap the energy kicked in again. In the standing Qigong section, the energy points were connected more than usual. Then in the 60' meditation session the first 20 minutes was a ping-pong of energy. On the one hand, it is interesting to observe the energy column at the height of the neck and towards the skull. Or the rotor sound on in lower dantian, the superficial pressure on the face, etc. But on the other hand this is the complete opposite of EQ, it seems more like A&P. So I did about 10-15 minutes of a simple Noting, a note every 1-2 seconds, to stabilize the mind. In the last 20 minutes, the mind stabilized at times, alternating calm and moments of discursive mind. The hum-magnetic type vibration appeared in the last 10 minutes.
Aug 5: 70' + 40'. The first session (70’) was a practice (with earplugs) more focused, with a focus on the third eye, observing how thoughts trigger the numbing in attention or the mind wandering in search of objects to observe. As long as the concentration is sufficient, the pulse in the left ear does not appear. It is an uncomfortable practice.
In the second session (40') I tried putting liquid Vaseline (a single drop) on the left earplug, to see if that would cut the heart pulse. It worked for about 10 minutes but then the sound came back (more muffled). I finally lost all hope that it would work and meditate the other 30 minutes without earplugs. In spite of everything, the session was not so bad since I was able to follow the mind-flow without major problems, although with a lower level of detail and precision.
The most interesting thing was when I finished meditating, because for the next 2 hours the level of thoughts dropped notably, there were almost no thoughts. And in the middle I had the family dinner and watched a while of television. Then thoughts happened then, but didn’t stick lest proliferate.
Aug 6: 60' + 60'. The two sessions were very similar, acclimatizing to a practice without earplugs or Qigong. The body is relaxed on one side but compressed on the other. Something similar is felt in the attention paid to the Third Eye. I notice, on the one hand, that there is a lack of intensity to observe the thoughts so as to be able to observe them as unconscious. In general the thoughts are more than anything of practice, only a couple of times there was a mental distraction, although there are also thoughts about the discomfort of the new situation, the familiar noise, the noise from the street, doubts if I should use the earplugs although be 15 minutes to calm the mind, etc.
Aug 7: 70'. The first 40 minutes had a more dreamlike vibe, with the body relaxed (although I periodically check tensions in the eyes) and the mind on the verge of falling asleep. Few oral thoughts and several images of human and animal faces. And colors with a certain viscosity (that alludes to a physical sensation). Then the mind cleared and the level of observation of unconscious thoughts (visual and oral) was similar to what happened when wearing earplugs. Still, there were relatively few thoughts (yes intentions). In the last 10 minutes I did Noting with only 4 very general tags: feel, see, hear & think. Only a couple of times did I notice think. Noting speed was 1-2 per second on average.
Aug 8: 80'. I used the 4 tags (feel, see, hear, think) for Noting. Depending on the situation, sometimes there were only 1 physical sense notes, sometimes 2 and sometimes all 3. Feel is everything somatic (plus the feeling tone), See is everything visual but non-mental (plus the spatial sensation), Hear is the auditory non-mental (plus vibrations that have sound), and Think the conscious and unconscious thoughts (whether visual or oral). I don't label the intentions and mental-states for now, but I did observe them when there were significant changes.
Doing this type of Noting with very few labels instead of a typical speed-noticing was very helpful, because instead of agitating the mind, it calmed it. In fact, it was not something deliberate but a discovery. I just wanted to make sure that I was making notes about what is really going on, since with fast-noting I may sometimes imagine sensations that actually did not occur.
The point is that I started by making notes first every 1-2 seconds, then every 3 and then every 5, because I noticed that as the time lengthened the mind calmed down more and more. It is as if I were transitioning from vipassana to samatha but never quite intentionally getting there. The eureka moment was realizing that out of fear of falling into dullness, and also out of ambition to achieve SE, I was demanding too much observation (previously in the form of choiceless awareness). Realizing that I could be in a great calm without implying of being dull.
From a phenomenological point of view, the practice was again like in the good sessions of previous weeks, although without that global perception of ‘proportionality’, but rather something more limited to the head-space. Another thing that came up by chance was a somatic anchor on the tip of the tongue, touching the palate. It feels slightly sweet. This calms the mind.
Aug 9: 80’ + 50’. In the first session (80') I continued Noting with 4 labels, where Feel also includes the somatic part of the emotions, which were absent throughout the session, except for a brief agitation in the first minutes. It was a duller session than yesterday, with relatively fewer unconscious thoughts and a couple of thought-chain distractions.
(Clarification: I consider a session to be dull if few or no unconscious thoughts are seen. It may also happen that concentration could be strong enough so that thoughts don’t emerge, but that kind of concentration usually doesn’t last more than 15 minutes and in the exit of a deep concentration, usually unconscious thoughts emerge. So it’s easy to call if the mind is dull or not.)
I observed two probable causes of this duller session: (1) I lengthened the times of each note to more than 5 seconds, neglecting other emerging sensations; (2) I maintained a dull observation of visual sensations.
Dullness seems to emerge faster from the visual than from the somatic or auditory senses. The tip of the tongue continued to serve as the somatic anchor of the mind. In the last 30 minutes I shortened the notes. All in all, this was another session where I was discovering the fine tuning of vipassana-samatha. After 60 minutes I changed the position of my legs, because it was already starting to get uncomfortable.
In the second session (50'), the most relevant thing was to discover that in order for the visual sense not to fall into dullness, it is to intensify the visual, detecting color variations on the visual screen, light fibers or the intermittence of nimitta. I also noticed that if I want to explore the sensations that refer to the self in the head-space, then I must suspend Noting, because it is impossible for me to maintain both practices. In the last 10 minutes I suspended Noting and explored physical sensations in the eyes, Third Eye, and Crown Chakra.
Aug 10: 90' (changed legs at 60'). This time I started the session by dedicating the first 10-15 minutes to The 3Cs, because I had the feeling that I was overlooking several things, before moving on to Noting with 4 labels. The feeling is that Choiceless Awareness (and Noting with 4 labels) is more comprehensive but superficial, that looking at 3Cs in particular goes deeper. In fact, strong emotional memories surfaced today, which were not observed for a long time.
Seeing Dukkha in Anicca or Anicca in Dukkha is easy. What I see is that it is not so simple to perceive Anatta in Anicca or in Dukkha. I can observe Anatta in my thoughts, but it is not obvious to me in my body, probably because QiGong, martial arts and other practices had already made me link between intention and physical sensation visible. Thinking about it, the implicit assumption that I believe I have is that in the chain of causality, at some point there was some mental intention that subsequently triggered a physical sensation xyz. The fact that occasionally I can observe that the energy hits some bone or that the body posture accommodate itself while I meditate, that does not mean that Anatta's insight has penetrated deeply with respect to Anicca. Those are just experiences.
When I did Noting with 4 labels, after a while I observed that it is useless to label "See" because in reality the sensation of observing has the sensation of "Feel" (touch) attached. And every time I label a physical sensation in the body, there is a visual/spatial visualization that tells me in which area of the body it occurs. So before a feeling-tone occurs, it is already possible to observe that See + Feel come in tandem. Perhaps at some point in High-EQ or bordering on a deep jhana each sensation can be observed separately, but in my meditation experience that does not happen.
A comic/ironic thing that happens during meditation is that when I am actually enjoying the ability to observe physical sensations and the unconscious (choppy) mind-flow, just a little while afterwards the mind enters a greater stability, all kinds of thoughts disappear (awareness remains ), the space in front is more transparent, etc. Here maybe is Anatta acting, not letting me even enjoy the feeling of self-control (equanimity) of not trying to control anything LOL!
Aug 12: 80’. The mind calmed down after 30 minutes. There were different things: (1) quite a lot of unconscious thoughts; (2) focus on the visual, since neglecting this (in pursuit of a general 'proportional' observation) ends in dullness or proliferation / chain of thoughts. In particular, I tried to focus not on the luminous parts (or on the moving parts) but on the dark background. This at times generates greater concentration and the emergence of more sustained visual objects over time (this was the cutting-edge); (3) I tried to observe the push & pull of attention exclusively, and as a related practice to relax body tensions in both the push and the pull. It could have been 30 minutes easier for me because of the mental calm, apart from the fact that after 60' my back begins to bother at the level of the shoulder blades.
Aug 14: 60'. Out of curiosity, I tried to use the earplugs again and the heartbeat disappeared only when the concentration was intense (but it generated other types of complications) or when I finally accepted that I would not be able to eliminate it or ignore it. That acceptance made it disappear, but from time to time. Then I connected this with the mind-stream, that its disappearance and its acceptance are connected. Interestingly, today when I write this I found a post from Shargrol “going towards pain” (which I included in the compilation), which deals with this topic.
Anyway, the most interesting thing about the practice was to round off a couple of central themes about my practice.
(1) Working with physical sensations triggers not only thoughts but also emotions. This can be good if the practice comes very calm in the mental, as to generate new elements to observe the mental reactions (work on greed-aversion-ignorance). But it is problematic if one is trying to stabilize the mind.
(2) The most gainful practice so far (perhaps also ‘proportionality’ for dealing with greed-aversion-ignorance) was observing Anatta in thoughts. It’s a well stablished practice, as is also sometimes observed during daily activities. The practice also includes Anicca since the trigger is the question 'What will be the next thought?' The point analyzed today is that the practice is not complete, it is necessary to fully apply the 3Cs on thoughts, dreams, memories, emotions, intentions and mind-states. Anicca is covered only in the passing away of these but never in the precise arisings (catch them when already thoughts are more towards the middle; though not so in the case of the images, as they are more surprising). Anatta is covered in thoughts and emotions, but not in intentions and mind-states. Dukkha is only observed sometimes, and indirectly as a result of Anatta.
As a curious fact about today's practice, some auditory sensations were perceived visually and tactilely as parts of the body. In the last couple of weeks I have been observing this mixture / fusion between different sensory senses.
Aug 15: 90’. The first 60 'were without earplugs, the next 30' with earplugs. Both sessions were calm, there was not much difference in the aspect of distractions as there was no heart pulse in the ears. The surprising thing (or maybe not so much) is that there were much more thoughts (and such) without earplugs than with them. This reinforces my idea that physical sensations trigger more ideas than isolating them (at least in EQ). It was good practice in terms of accuracy for Anicca and Anatta, and somewhat less for Dukkha. At one point I asked ‘what is missing that should be observed?’ And shortly after the answer emerged: ‘aggressions’. Later at night, I had a dream where I observed how someone else (but very similar to me) reacted furiously to my alleged attacks. I understood that his reactions were exaggerated; however my surprising reaction to it was to delete myself from the WhatsApp group (LOL) that I shared with that person. An another ‘me’ was observing this whole situation and also considered exaggerated my reaction to deleted myself from the WhatsApp group.
Aug 16: 80’. The first 50' were without earplugs, the next 30' with earplugs. Even though I was physically tired, it was good practice. There was no major difference between wearing or not wearing earplugs, just a few more hidden unconscious thoughts to discover. There were a lot of mental elements to observe its 3Cs as I was able to follow the mind-stream. The most interesting was the variety of presentation of the thoughts (mostly unconscious, except for those related to Noting itself), from the simply oral ones, the oral ones with musical tones and / or associated colors and shapes, the emotional ones, the ones having voices of well-known people, images, cartoons. It was like being in a dream without there being a common drive force (hilo conductor) to a dream, just this variety of thoughts. It was interesting to perceive those rare thoughts that contained several sensory modalities together!
Aug 17: 80' where the first 55' were without earplugs. From the beginning there was a bodily sensation of energetic/emotional unblocking in the pit of the stomach (solar plexus). Less diversity of thoughts, more oral and with few images. There were also quite a few idiomatic/musical/emotional expressions but without content, such as the ones I observed some time ago. When I put more focus on those sounds, the underlying expressions were like syllables but not even distinguishable in their sounds.
Since the motto was to observe the mind-flow, I observed how the mind settled on each thought. Like a rider on a horse. I noticed that this settling extended too much in time, that sometimes I got stucked to the thought. So I began to observe that certain thoughts (the most compelling ones, either from triggering greed or aversion) are made up of small segments of thoughts. So I started to keep an eye out for those mini-endings within every thought. Now that I think about it, very similar to Shinzen Young's Gone. This lessened those long thoughts.
I also tried observing thoughts by "positioning myself" (looking like this) behind the eyes, towards the center of the brain. A couple of times there was like a split between positional and thought.
Aug 18: 90’ where the first 35’ were without earplugs (put them on once a total relaxation of the body is felt and the warmth circulates through the legs and arms). Before sitting down, I was already quite mentally enthusiastic for new projects to develop. That, and looking for those pauses between thought segments, made the practice a bit choppy (as well as triggering various tensions in the Crown Chakra and Third Eye). At times the unconscious thoughts were easily observed, but at other times I fall into chains of conscious thoughts. In the last 20 minutes I went back to the usual scheme of letting the unconscious thoughts finish by themselves (without stopping in the gaps) and the mind completely stabilized. Another thing that I observed again is that although I capture all physical and auditory sensations, the same does not happen with the visual. I do not know if it is some kind of aversion to the lack of understanding of what I see (ignorance).
The practice itself is structured in doing general Noting with Hear, Feel, See but observing in particular the 3Cs in the thoughts (Anicca and Anatta explicit, while Dukkha is implicit).
Aug 19: 80' where the first 20' were without earplugs, and at 60' I changed the position of the legs. I keep looking for the balance between investigation and concentration. This time I turned to the side of concentration. There were relatively far fewer conscious and unconscious thoughts than yesterday. At times there were none. The most interesting were the last 15 minutes, where a feeling of trust and gratitude to Christian deities arose spontaneously and that triggered warmth in the chest and a feeling of general calm happiness (with some slight tensions in the face derived from it).
Aug 20: 90’ where the first 30’ were without earplugs, and at 65’ I changed the posture of the legs. In the first 45 minutes I had a lot of mental flow: melodies (I had been composing), images, memories, emotions, thoughts about the practice, etc. The interesting thing is that I was able to follow the mental flow without interruptions even when the speed was much higher than normal, up to 3 notes per second. Like other times, when the speed is high, at some point everything goes off, a big ‘Gone’, all thoughts are canceled, only Awareness remains. On other occasions, this was accompanied by a sound whose pitch was getting higher and higher (until it became silent), but this time there were no sounds. After 45 minutes, the mental flow became more spaced and in the last 15-20 minutes there were very few thoughts, emotions and sounds. There was a lot of mental clarity and little to observe, so the attention kind of naturally redirected to what was present: the sensations of observing. I played with the idea that the "I" was another sense door (beyond being an aggregate of see, hear, feel, think). This triggered the detection of a whole series of sensations in the back of the skull, observations about visual changes (presumably due to greed-aversion reactions) and visual perspective somewhat unanchored from the head (sometimes visualizing closer to the chest and other times near the Crown Chakra).
Aug 21: 80' where the first 20' were without earplugs and at 45' I changed the position of the legs. I started the practice with 10 minutes of Metta, scanning the torso for potential emotional/energy knots. At one point I ran into extensive discomfort in the solar plexus, but then it was completely gone. The rest of the practice was similar to yesterday, but with less precision in the 3C Noting in thoughts and emotions, even though the maximum speed of the mental flow was 1-2 per second. I can't even blame external factors (family, street traffic) as I was alone and quiet. Such is life! ‘Man proposes and God disposes’ (‘Men plans, God laughs’ is the closest phrase). Unconscious thoughts tend to have a more feeling-tone quality than raw data. The words / syllables that I mumble have a musical flow (as if following the dissimilar tunes of the languages –German, English, Spanish–) that intermingles with emotional expressions. The positive thing is that I am more easily reaching that level of concentration that allows me to balance vipassana and samatha. In general I tend to need to reinforce the intensity of concentration, although sometimes it is the exact opposite.
Aug 22: 80’ where the first 20’ were without earplugs and at 50’ I changed the posture of the legs. I started over with Metta, and also did the last 10 minutes with Metta. In the middle the practice I shifted from from Vipassana to Samatha. So the Metta version (TWIM type) at the end of the practice was very different from the initial one (more devotional). At all times there were unconscious thoughts emerging, but towards the end they were more sporadic. Even so, I applied that relaxation factor to them, which makes me detect different points of tension in the head. The devotional Metta was more physical and enjoyable, but also more unstable. The Metta type TWIM is more of an Equanimity type, and at times everything became space.
Aug 23: 80' where the first 30' were without earplugs. I liked what I observed yesterday, the different qualities of the Metta, so today I focused directly on that. The first 30 minutes were more devotional Metta, which further ignited the normal warmth of the torso and limbs as a result of relaxation and a certain level of samatha, but also the increasingly distinct vibration in the chest. In the next 40 minutes the Metta was of the TWIM type, applying to physical sensations and all kinds of conscious thoughts (generally from practice) and unconscious (in all its modalities). It is not a simple relaxation but also a gladdening of the mind. What was new about TWIM was adding (at times when there were no physical sensations or thoughts) the Metta to the awareness of awareness, which may sound strange, but it is the way I have to access that most hidden mental area. In the last 10 minutes I went back to practicing a more 'traditional' and intense samatha to observe the differences. With Metta, I have to be careful not to fall into subtle dullness. The body is very relaxed, I could surely stay 120 minutes without moving (today I didn't even have to change the position of my legs). With the more traditional samatha, that subtle dullness disappears but I have to be careful not to generate muscle contractions (mainly between the shoulder blades and forehead). Next time I will try to alternate between both modalities, to see if I can get the best of both modalities.
Aug 24: 70' where the first 30' were without earplugs. I started with devotional Metta/Gratitude and periodically (say every 10-15 minutes) I interspersed lapses of focusing concentration on the thoughts / emotions and relaxation of any physical sensations triggered by them. At one point a tension was activated in the solar plexus and with the Metta, I felt energy descend towards the lower dantian. Once with earplugs, the devotional Metta remained in the background, invoking it from time to time to observe the effects. In the ‘foreground’, I was applying this relaxation and metta to different energy points on the head, especially one that is halfway between the Third Eye and the Crown Chakra. This added a different quality to the arising and passing away of those physical sensations, a quality of 'acceptance' that I find healthier (and physically felt in the lack of extra tension in the back or in the need to change the position of the legs). In the other modality, the endings are more abrupt and although they are not forced, there is some greed (6 Realm's ‘titan’ vibe) in not missing a single sensation. Mixed in with the mumbling of unconscious thoughts and 'word melodies' there were also some wisdom words.
The most interesting and promising thing about the practice occurred in the last 15 minutes, as I focused on awareness of awareness, looking inward and staying there, continuing with Metta/acceptance of the physical sensations that looking there triggers. Little by little the edges of the face were erased, it was as if I no longer had a face but I saw from the middle of my brain, as if living in a space. Then the sound of rotor-blades began to grow from behind the head. The more stable the mind was, the more intense it was heard. It grew and at some point I thought it was going to take up all the space. The type of sound was slightly different from that of weeks ago, with less 'reverb' and with less equidistance between the individual sounds (the gap between sound and sound was not 'perfect', but more variable). Once past the peak, I sought to repeat what happened, I observed that even without the part of the face, there are physical sensations on the top and in the back of the head.
Aug 26: 90’ (first 30’ without earplugs). The first 30 minutes were devotional Metta, the next 50 minutes were vipassana in different varieties, and the last 10 minutes were devotional Metta again. The level of concentration was low but improved throughout the meditation. The most interesting thing about the practice was observing the observer. On the one hand, tensions (sometimes acute and concentrated, but short-lived) continued to be triggered in the head-space. There, acceptance and a slight metta work to 'integrate' that feeling without rejecting it. On the other hand, there were a couple of times that I observed how the observer jumped along with the observed phenomenon. It is not the typical ping-pong where the observer is in a central place and detects physical sensations in the periphery. It is as if a physical sensation arises and there the observer places itself there, then another physical sensation arises and the observer place itself in that other place. So I was attentive to observe that Anicca aspect of Anatta. Very interesting! The difficult thing is to understand what happens, why it happens, that the observer occupies the central place in those moments in which sensations are not observed obvious enough (attractive or aversive) to observe that awareness-phenomena connection.
Aug 27: 80’ (first 30’ without earplugs). Despite having only slept for 5 hours, the practice was not as bad as I expected. There were many thoughts, no more than 10-15 seconds passed that an oral thought or a melody arose. However, there were some passages of greater silence, where I could observe the changes in the observer. The interesting thing about the practice was applying the shoulder correction that Shargrol proposed in a post. Although my posture is straight and I do not have major drawbacks of body tension (except when, due to a lot of intensity in vipassana, the back leans about 5 cm forward and that generates tension between the shoulder blades), I generally leave the shoulders a little fallen forward (a little so as to sink the chest, and so not generate tension there). This time I repeatedly used to bring my shoulders back, and that generated more stability and clarity in practice. It was very helpful in avoiding dullness as I had little slept.
Aug 28: 90’ (first 30’ without earplugs). As I have been doing in the last week, the first 30 minutes I do devotional Metta, and I use the different images that appear in the mind as a guide to the feeling-tone. It is not the same if the gaze (of the image) is from above and somewhat cold, or if it focuses to the side as if avoiding the gaze, or if the eyes have liveliness, or if there is some kindly human expression. The metta is not only devotional but also redirected towards third parties, and in those cases I use the visualization and emotional memory of passages from the most touching Christian rites. These images of deities reappear throughout the practice, not only in the first 30 minutes of Metta, but also in the next 60’ when the focus is observing mind-flow. This time I put more emphasis on locating that proportionality a la Ingram (that equanimity where phenomena emerge within a wide space). And where it is observed which parts of the body/mind have calm and/or pleasant sensations, vs which are tense and/or unpleasant sensations. When there was more general equilibrium, I went on to observe the observer. This time the internal location was deeper, and there were tense sensations not only on the surface of the skull but in the very center. This last practice generated more tensions than there were before starting, so as the last practice, I was loosening several tensions that were emerging in the face and skull. It was not dissolving tensions but rather 'opening windows' into space, erasing the barriers between the internal and the external.
Aug 29: 60' + 60'. Without earplugs the first 25 'and 10', where I applied devotional Metta. In the first session the focus was on observing aversion/attraction in Awareness, predominantly in awareness of thoughts. It was a very silent session, there were only 5-6 thought-chain interruptions for 2-6 seconds. Starting from exploring the idea of proportionality between feelings of aversion and attraction throughout the body, I found (during a gap of thoughts) a 'place' in which I could remain immobile and observe the totality of physical/mental phenomena. These sensations and thoughts that were happening contained their aversive or attractive quality, but the attention was not exclusively focused on the phenomenon but rather encompassed 'everything' that was observable, including the sensation of observing. There were no traces of mental and/or bodily tension in this modality. It was very interesting. It made me think I'm on the verge of entering High-EQ.
For the second session (which had less previous Metta preparation), I had read a text on EQ by Ron Crouch, where he proposed the modality of integrating Anicca in each object until all Awareness shows a vibrational modality (including the observer). I was able to observe these vibrations in large areas of the body, but never to the point that they integrated the entire space. Obviously, it is not something that is achieved in a single session. The idea was to explore this possibility. What I noticed in fact (as I have already noticed on several occasions) was that working with bodily sensations as the main focus is destabilizing. Obviously, one should not avoid difficult areas, especially if this is a potential terrain to overcome. But just as Anicca has been fruitful in reaching A&P, both Dukkha and Anatta have been the tools to advance post A&P in a less destabilizing way.
Aug 30: 60' (first 20' without earplugs). There was not enough traction to apply devotional Metta. In general I was able to follow the mind-stream, where the thoughts appeared every 15-30 seconds, but the underlying feeling was aversion for the lack of mental clarity. I am thinking of organizing a mini home retreat sometime in the next few weeks.
Aug 31: 90' + 30'. No earplugs for the first 30 minutes of the first session. In today's practice, the first session maintained that progression, while in the second session I skipped the first two stages, going directly to observe Anicca and Anatta in thoughts. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the sessions in terms of the phenomenological.
In the last sessions the structure of the practice has been decanting in a sequence. A very idealized version (since the practice is quite variable) of this sequence is:
- Section 1 (T1): 20-30 minutes of Devotional Metta. The body in general reaches a great relaxation, leaving also vibrations and warmth produced by Metta that can be recalled in later stages, although not at the same level of intensity. The mind enters Access Concentration. Visualization of deities and their relationship with the mental and emotional state. Relaxation of tensions.
- Section 2 (T2): 10-20 minutes of Noting (a generic See, Hear, Feel; without applying the 'think' label but obviously labeling its visual, auditory and tactile aspects), also relaxing all kinds of tensions. It is a continuation of Section 1, but without Metta.
- Section 3 (T3): 20-30 minutes of observing Anicca and then Anatta in thoughts. I aim directly at the thoughts with questions like "What are you thinking?", "Do you have something to say?" or "What will be the next thought?", observing the beginning and end of them, the general duration of the gaps between thoughts, what happens with space in general, and the particular tensions in three energy centers in the skull.
- Section 4 (T4): 20-30 minutes observing aversion-attraction in the sensations and their proportionality throughout the space. If the mind is calm and clear enough, then I try to observe / analyze the sensations that point to the Observer /I (here I take time away from the Section 3, as the conditions exist).
Sep 01: 80’ + 40’. No earplugs for the first 30 minutes of the first session. In the first session, the T1 was long with the warmth first in chest and then limbs and head, with low visualization, relatively very quiet and with small tensions dissolving (I explored a particular tension in the center of the chest). T2 was relatively short, because part of the ground had already been covered in T1. Noting was every 2-3 seconds. The T3 was long, I inquired several times with the questions, there were thoughts (unconscious and related to practice) every 30-120 seconds on average, there were no major tensions in the head, sometimes there were visualizations of lights and rings. Since it was quite quiet, I mixed in the observation of proportionality. The T4 was shorter, it was not easy to observe aversion-attraction (though aversion was seen triggered by some unconscious thoughts, and attraction triggered by pleasant sensations in the chest), there were not sufficient conditions to analyze the Observer.
In the second session, I started directly in T3 although they were soon intermingled with T4 and T2. In particular, I observed how the mind wants to maintain a dialogue in any way possible, since once the attention is only on what is happening in the moment, the mind triggers some kind of response, be it a conscious thought of analysis of the observed, or if this is not possible (by the mere fact of being attentive) then some kind of syllabic melody or physical sensations arises. It is tiring! Tiring that constant jump even in small sizes. The mind does not allow itself to pause between phenomena, it needs to be creating a mental dialogue of some kind.
A game/experiment that I improvised in that situation was to “imitate” this jump in attention, between the three modalities (See, Hear, Feel). It reminds me the rock-paper-scissors game. When a (Visual) phenomenon emerged, I did not stay with it observing until its disappearance, but instead looked for the next phenomenon always in another modality (Hear or Feel, in this example). In this way, it did not allow the first modality to take control and drag the attention towards its “phenomenological descent”, but instead the attention was forced to always see a new phenomenon and “disconnect” from the previous phenomenon, or forced to see the gap (awareness) between (significant) phenomena.
Sep 03: 80'. No earplugs for the first 30 minutes. The T1 was also long, but the Metta was not as intense. When I put the earplugs on, the heart pulse in my left ear was present. I decided not to modify anything and thus practice T2 and T3. I was surprised that the level of concentration was growing despite the impediment. After 20 minutes I adjusted the earplugs and it was no longer heard. I went directly to T4, although in reality I was mixing T2 and T3 according to how the meditation was evolving. When I asked "what am I not observing?" the answer was "stubborn" (obstinate).
Sep 04: 70'. No earplugs for the first 30 minutes. It was a different practice than today, since tomorrow I am going to do my first meditation retreat. It is a single day, for 10 hours of practice. So I started today's practice with some anxiety and expectation for what it will be like. The T1 was long, with the Devotional Metta that was growing in intensity and the pleasant sensations were maintained in the body throughout the session, something that had never happened. Not only there was zero discomfort between the shoulder blades, but there were also no stresses at the skull level (except at one point when I targeted ego sensations). It didn't make much sense to do T2 (already with the earplugs) so I went straight to T4, although using T3 from time to time to analyze the difference between a more continuous and a more spaced mind stream. Within the mind stream, bodily sensations and mental and emotional memories of past situations emerged. I was struck by how strange certain internal situations from the past seemed to me, related to interpersonal competition, clashes with my parents and broken hearts. All this is something quite learned since then, but I recognize the great changes that I have been doing and how life itself was a teacher ... Yet, those memories reemerged, so maybe not all is well digested. Or it’s that these things will burn in the background till the day I die.
Sep 05:1-day Mini Retreat. The instruction was to try a "no control" day where I just study where the mind went, with the expectation of entering new territory. I had never done an intensive practice before, so it was all new. For family and physical reasons (I didn’t think I was going to have pain in my knees ...) I could not complete the 10 sessions of 1 hour, I managed to complete only 7 hours (all sited, without walking or standing meditation). However, I did observe things from another angle, and I was able to experience something of all that again the next day walking through the park.
(1) 90'. Devotional Metta at the beginning for 40 minutes and then I let the mind go where it wanted, maintaining a minimum of concentration so as not to fall into dullness. Many thoughts and memories of different stages of my life, without emotionality. Some funny images like monkeys making noise and jumping on top of a bed, like the nursury rime. There were also many lights and at some point a dislocated image.
(2) 60'. From now on, all sessions were without Metta. What was striking was that the thoughts had associated images (or ‘video’) almost always, something that rarely occurs in my daily practice. For example: being trying to string together an idea and so an image sequence appears to me putting the laces to the shoes. Lights and images continued to appear, rings of light, lights that move in an anti-clockwise direction. They are things that I had not seen in years, that appeared in my first attempts to meditate without any method, I sat down to observe what came out, not knowing what to do.
(3) 60'. Thoughts with a lot of visual component kept popping up. Once there was something more like a mini dream. There was once an ugly, hairy image, etc. after a thought triggered an aversive reaction. But in general, it was a walk through things from the past and some speculation about "what would have happened if ...", always with emotional calm, without any emotional discharge, despite being memories that were emotional at the time. In one of these situations the idiomatic expression ‘Tá? Tá?’ popped up, which in Spanish meant something like “Are you done now? May we proceed?”. The silence between thoughts is increasingly spaced. Little and nothing happens.
(4) 70'. It was the most complicated practice, because I stopped for lunch with my family and 90 minutes passed until I returned to meditate (the next retreat I’ll lunch alone), all those little familiar gestures (real or invented by me) that I am abandoning them to do something without them during a weekend etc etc and the guilt it generates. It was a session with many dream elements, so it was difficult to follow the mind. I found myself lost from time to time.
(5) 50'. It was a very good session. Before sitting down, I read a bit of Shargrol’s post compilation… in particular “It's our own clinging that keeps thoughts and emotions ever present. It's in their nature to arise and pass at the speed of mind - but like big dummies, we cling and keep them here. We need to see how doing this doesn't make our life any better … By going deep into how we relate to the world as self and object, interior and exterior, we eventually see that there is a very basic coping mechanism of trying to put the world ‘over there’ so it can't really hurt us, and me ‘over here’ so I'm in control. The end result is the boundaries become much more porous and flip-floppy and there is a greater clarity and intimacy with what is experienced. It is a bit like waking up from a dream, waking up to the obvious … Time is a sensation ”. When I sat down to meditate, what I did different from the previous sessions was to observe how time passed (the time flow). Time is felt through the change in the sensations see, hear, feel. And while I was doing this I observed how a thought wanted to get me out of there, not let me see how time passed. It was like taking me into another place/world. How the thought scales (either by triggering other thoughts or by their level of intensity). Then I observed that thoughts always have a level of tension (high, medium, low, minimal / bare) and that while that level of tension is minimal, it is as if I stayed within the observation threshold of time flow. But after a certain level of tension, it takes me out of that space. It is as if thoughts are fish jumping out of the tank. Another image / idea that came to me is that many thoughts need attention to remain active in the mind, and that tension makes me direct attention towards them. What was interesting for the rest of the practice was seeing this characteristic of thoughts. How those thoughts that were kept below the threshold (letting me see how time passed), had a much shorter life than those that exceeded it. All this also had the conclusion that observing the time flow is a softer way of perceiving Awareness (or Space) since I am not going to 'look for' sensations to put a label on them, but they come to me by the mere passage of time. It’s a less stressful way of being mindful, since it has a more receptive nature.
(6) 50'. I kept practicing on what I observed in the previous session. It became clearer how there are thoughts that do not have tension (or minimal tension) so that they can be observed within this space / time container/threshold, while there are other thoughts that want to get out and stay alive, settle in the Attention. My hunch is that the Self is related to this, because of the tensions that arise in the skull and throat.
(7) 40'. While in the previous two sessions I looked at inherent/resulting thoughts and tensions, in this session I sought to detect the previous aversion/attraction/indifference that triggered those thoughts. In itself, I could not observe that well. But what I noticed is that the tensions after the attractive thoughts have the same tension quality as the aversive thoughts. As a provisional conclusion, I noted that the phenomena observed are of two types: non-mobilizing (indifference) or mobilizing (aversion or attraction).
(1) I can get up early on the weekend to practice (I usually sleep until noon to recover from the week), that it is not a family complication (there is little space). I had expected it to be difficult and complicated, but it wasn't (I had as a reference the exhausting practices of Goenka's retreats). And it was the opposite, in the body it was very relaxed and pleasant, there were no tensions. Later, there were problems with my knees, which left me sore. Hence I see why in the retreats sitting and walking meditations alternate… Next time, I should try meditating sitting in a chair, one out of every 2 or 3 sessions. The relaxed and pleasant also has to do with this type of practice, where I do not have to set an intention to apply a special method, but simply to follow the mind. I had almost no discomfort from tension in the shoulder blades despite having practiced 7 hours;
(2) This type of practice (not controlling the mind) brings up a lot of memories that had an emotional impact in the past, but that did not have a greater impact in today's practice, it may be in part from seeing this within a meditation practice, but also because they are things that happened a long time ago and have already been processed mentally and emotionally.
(3) Observing the passage of time (time flow) is an interesting substitute for observing the surrounding space, because it generates much less tension. It is a more global observation. There is no mental stretch/sweep to search for sensations. There is a more generic sensation of the passage of time, which does not require precision in the observation of sensations. Something like observing a flow ... And that can be applied off-cushion, at least intermittently. And that observing this flow temporarily (no pun intended) suspends thoughts.
Sep 06: 90’ + 70’. I did the first session in the morning, I had the intention of doing three hours of practice before noon, to complete the 10 hours. But the practice was uncomfortable because there was no inertia with the Metta Devotional and because I was still very asleep, so letting my mind run wild and observing was endless thoughts and daydreams. The second session was at night. Before, I had a walk through the park, where there were several moments when observing the passage of time generated a mindfulness such that thoughts did not emerge, it was pure observation. Wouldn’t say it was wonderful or even nice, just clear observation of things.
In the second session, the Metta practice was a little better and after a long time I turned to watch the passage of time, with thoughts that barely contained tension or that were below the threshold. There were no such thoughts that wanted to take over the whole mind. However, towards the end a vibration similar to the rotor-blades began to grow (not for long) and when it that vibration turned-off, a tension arose in the center of the head which later settled on the Third Eye (some residual tension remained within the head).
At 45 minutes I switched to observing the time-flow, without interfering. By not putting any intention, the concentration deepened, a pleasant surprise (thanks Shargrol!), a counterintuitive situation. This time, the mind alternated between observing the time-flow and the space / body space, although if I put intention I could stay in the time-flow. The impression I got with is that the sensation of space is more 'heavy', while that of time-flow is more 'volatile'. This time the time-flow did not have the wavy / vibrational quality, although vibrations related to blood-flow in the trunk were observed. Likewise, almost all of the conscious and unconscious thoughts were perceived below that threshold (for the observation of time-flow). In other words, there was no difference between conscious and unconscious thoughts, they all seemed unconscious. The session could have lasted much more, but I had to stop for dinner.
During the sessions there were different waves in which there was a 'clean' awareness, where the mind did not try to draw conclusions about what it was observing. At other times there were conclusions /log, which nevertheless served as a point of comparison and verification that the rational mind plays against the practice (at least in this instance / stage of practice). In these cases, to end the abundance of emerging thoughts, I did redirect the mind towards observing time-flow, just enough to set the intention to return to that clean awareness.
This clean awareness is what I had been observing at the beginning of the sessions months ago, which I called 'continuity' and which I later assumed was simply an effect of intensifying concentration. From what I see now, they are both at the same time. The crazy thing is that it is an effortless concentration.
During the sessions, in moments of silence some vibration arose several times in the back of the head (and also in the base of the spine), without reaching the intensity of rotor-blades.
Stream entry doesn't like social media, doesn't like having it's photograph taken, doesn't like being recorded, doesn't like appearing in the newspaper. When reporter asks for interview, stream entry respectfully declines. When asked to be a job reference for someone, stream entry mails the potential employer a blank sheet of paper. Stream entry never gives out awards or merit badges or signs pledges. Stream entry always votes but doesn't belong to any party. It's no big deal and wants to stay out of the limelight.
Sep 11: 90'. Clean awareness appeared from the beginning. I kept observing the difference between it and when thoughts that come out of the threshold were activated. The difference is that this time I checked that this awareness comprehended the three senses (see, hear, feel). After a long time in that modality, I felt / observed that this awareness was at a distance from me (the observer). So I "moved" that awareness to the center of the head. This brought numerous tensions to the whole head at first. I just let it continue on its own. Later, applying a minimum of intention, that clean awareness was without tension inside the head.
Off-cushion, during daily activities I practice observing this clean-awareness.
Sep 12: Only 30' due to family time requirements. Nothing significant was observed, I just followed the mind where it wanted to go.
Sep 13: It was another day of multiple practices, applying the same thing that I was doing in the last week, related to letting the mind flow.
- Session 1: 80' - Metta without much traction. Purifications: memories emerged of old art teachers, who were good role-models during a period but later limited the capacity for growth; also issues about school authorities, and peer-pressure. I was also observing the different types of breathing. In general, my breath is 1/3 inspiration, 1/3 expiration, 1/3 pause. But I have a tendency to breath in a lot of air and fast (in just 2 seconds). I tried breathing not so fast and that triggers the lights, rings, morphing nimittas.
- Session 2: 60’ – A lot of daydreaming, just in the last 20 minutes the mind stabilized, when I went back to focus on observing the arising and passing of thoughts. Somewhere during the session some words arosed: "Put Heart in the Soul. Put the Eye in the Heart", with a Christian vibe/code (eye = Attention / Awareness; Heart in the Soul = Openness of the Soul /Devotional Metta?).
- Session 3: 60'. This time it was seated, not crossed legged. It took a lot to concentrate. There was a lot of daydreaming. In the last 20 minutes I changed, I concentrated on the warm sensations in the legs, arms and chest.
- Session 4: 60'. This time it was sort of 'The Watcher'. Although there were daydreams, with images of people talking (but without hearing the sound), the general pattern was more of observation, without getting hooked on the content. It was a good session.
- Session 5: 50'. It was another good session. I observed attraction / aversion / indifference. As a guideline, I was looking for a core inside the brain and trying to keep it relaxed, soft. The thoughts that circulated did not generate physical tensions, except a couple of times: once for being an attractive theme (a project) and another aversive one. The two of them had the same kind of tension, much greater compared to the calm base in the rest of the thoughts that emerged. There was at some point a long scene of a Christian deity with a calm smile in the middle of a church, floating in the center (usually when I observe something like that, soon the image fades or changes).
- Session 6: 45'. The most salient thing was a vibration, which persisted for long stretches of the session, and which for a while was spatially located with the Crown Chakra. I also kept observing on the stress levels of aversive and attractive thoughts.
Sep 16: 60’. I wanted to go straight to Metta / Jhana practice but it didn't work out. The disorder of my current context (economic implosion in my country, my son upset after 6 months of quarantine and myself displeased for having focused on insight instead of metta in recent weeks) made me poorly predisposed for meditation and once seated, everything turned towards a mini DN, where there was a mix between immersing myself in sorrows and observing it from a distance. Once the situation was recognized, I redirected the practice towards observing clean awareness (this led to an appreciation of the 'physical' feel of EQ). Later I was able to go to Metta Devotional + focus on the heart.
During the practice (and then in the typical 20' lying down meditation before I fell asleep), different physical signs emerged that seem to configure the' rapture ': a vibration that pushes there, a sensation associated with slightly losing the XYZ reference frame, etc.
Sep 17: 80'. This time I went straight to 'clean awareness'. I tried to observe the lack of effort to just be open to what happens. It can be detected over time, but also just be. I notice that with this initial intention, first conscious thoughts disappear and unconscious ones emerge. Once 1-2 minutes pass without conscious thoughts, then the unconscious thoughts also completely disappear (for a time). This is striking since when I am wearing earplugs, I am very sensitive to the mind-flow of these unconscious thoughts. When these are gone, the simple observation of physical sensations remains, plus the sensation of observing. So I tried to detect two things: (1) if there is any push-pull on Attention; (2) the sensations of being the observer during the (longer or shorter) stretches of ‘absolute’ silence. At one point I got carried away by analytical thinking about the practice, and felt all the tension in my head and body parts. Much stronger than I had observed so far. Towards the end of the practice, I tried to incorporate some Metta Devotional, but it didn't get much traction (the lack of a coat was likely to have had a negative impact).
Sep 18: 50' + 45' + 45'. In the first session I practiced breathing. The idea was to keep the rib cage open both on in-breath and on out-breath, to feel how the diaphragm works and see if said breathing is longer and less tense. Although some of that happened, and I can see how in-breath drops, it also creates an uncomfortable tension in the ribs. Later, in a standing position I understood how the ‘half circle’ inward and downward generates the same effect but without all the intercostal tension. In the second and third sessions I focused on clean awareness (where unconscious thoughts appeared often, every 20 seconds approx), how the mind reacts all the time in aversion / attraction to physical sensations.
Sep 19: 70'. It was a practice with a lack of energy, with physical fatigue that was noticed in the little capacity to be present with what was happening. A mixture of daydreaming and chains of thoughts. The only notable thing was the changes in the duration and quality of the breath, towards longer and softer/subtle cycles. It may also be that refocusing attention from thoughts as the primary object to breathing is influencing, which triggers 'another variety' of thoughts, emotions and intentions to which I was familiarized with. Perhaps it was a part that I was somehow avoiding (general physical sensations and / or related to emotions) by being focused on the physical only on tensions related to thoughts. After all, if I'm really into EQ, I should also be able to be 'comfortable' with whatever comes up, right?
Sep 20: 55' + 55'. Last night I had a dream (related to family issues) where songbirds also had their violent side (they showed teeth like sharks) and how ivy entered the house (mind) through the window (eyes) as if they were tentacles of an octopus, exploring what was inside, me too. This was experienced not as a nightmare, but as something bizarre. The first session was of Metta mixed with following the whole-body breath. Beautiful (recent and distant) memories emerged, related to my family. Last night's dream was also on my mind, making peace with distant times, putting myself in the place of the other. Pleasant sensations in the extremities and a vibration in the chest. The whole-body breath (ripples from the chest to the ends) mixes with the pleasant sensations, sometimes enhancing them. In the gap between in-breath and out-breath, the vibration of the Energy-body is particularly felt in the extremities and in front of the trunk. It is as if it is a few inches outside the body, or actually that perception does not capture the physical limits of the body well.
The second session (with earplugs) was simply to follow the mind and observe what happens. It was a roller coaster, where there were moments of absolute silence (without even unconscious thoughts) where physical sensations were felt intense (the novelty was tension around the eye sockets), but also moments of chains of discursive thoughts, and other moments between both ends. For a while I was able to follow a background vibration, when conscious thoughts were not so present. The conclusion was that while more time of absolute silence would be desirable, part of this fluctuation of mental attention is natural and inevitable. So it was a bit of making peace with this as well.
Sep 21: 70'. It was a practice with little level of mental stability because I slept only 5 hours last night. There was a lot of daydreaming with visualization of images / sequences, generally without voices, although there was also a voice-over that analyzed what was happening and gave explanations or gave text (script) to the dream dialogues.
Sep 23: 70'. Shargrol: “The next stage --- and one that EQ / Jhana meditators often forget --- is recognizing the fundamental 'goodness' and pervasiveness in awareness itself, regardless of the experience… It seems like" I "am awareness, not any specific experience, but what IS awareness? .. So EQ yogis: the point is not more absorption or more clarity. The point is investigating clinging, aversion, or ill will in all your mind-states… So really, the mind-state isn't as important as the investigation of 'where in my experience is there still resistance to what already is?' 'Where is there clinging , aversion, or ill will? '… And the interesting thing is' getting rid or letting go' of clinging, aversion, and ill will is really 'letting it be'. And letting it be is non-manipulation. And non-manipulation allows seeing things as they are. And seeing things as they are is the Conformity nana. And Conformity leads to ... "
Taking this as a motto, what I did was look for the ‘clean awareness’ with which I had been working in recent days. But instead of ‘tying it’ to the sensation of the time-flow and avoiding mental conclusions about what was observed (‘drop inferences!’), this time I went back and forth between the observation of attraction / aversion and that ‘clean awareness’. This clean awareness is similar to that total lack of effort that one puts into hearing sounds, but it also includes the physical/spatial sensation and the spatial-mental sensation. (I didn't investigate the visual axis yet.)
An important inference is that there is a 'clinging' to that mental object, be it attractive or aversive. It feels like clinging because awareness leaves its 'place' and settles in said mental object. As part of a situation of zero tension (in the perception of see/hear/feel), this clinging feels tense, uncomfortable, unnatural, external.
Another similarity / inference is that this separation between the mental object and awareness feels similar to the separation between conscious and unconscious thoughts.
The challenge of all this is to be able to carry it off-cushion.
Sep 24: 90'. Clean awareness did not emerge from the start as on other occasions. Searching for it was not easy. At best it was unstable. I just let my mind go anywhere and watched the push-pull of attraction/aversion. A few times, the distance between the observer and that mental object (with which there is clinging) was felt. Over time, the mind became more and more calm. In a moment the silence became more complete, abrupt. A voice arose there: "Do you realize, Pepe?" I just floated there watching the push-pull, which was more about physical sensations than thoughts / intentions.
Sep 25: 40'. A short session for family reasons. Clear awareness did not emerge from the outset today. What I did was to look inwards, towards the observer, and try to relax as much as possible. From there, letting the mind go anywhere, I could at times observe that the tensions are 'outside', triggered by attractive or aversive mental objects. Near the end of the session there was a great calm, something that I did not expect. This method seems to work. And during the day I was able to observe on several occasions the clinging to certain recurring fantasies. I also remembered in a 'magical' way the great emotional burden that I suffered as a child (which later became a worldview more in tune with my family and social group dynamics).
Sep 26: 40'. Another short session. Although I had a headache before I sat down, it disappeared during the session (it came back when I finished the session). However, physical exhaustion played against practicing and I was not very eager to meditate as well. The attention was very inconsistent. In the last 10 minutes there was also quite a calm.
Sep 27: 80'. I notice that the concentration has been growing in the last two weeks, even though in the last week the practice time was short, plus I had other activities that absorbed my time and energy. Today's practice had a somewhat contradictory dual motto: (1) let the mind go anywhere, just watch it unfold; (2) be careful not to generate / feed ‘expectations’ and ‘interpret’ what is observed. In other words, I gave freedom to the mind but under certain limits. The result is that in this way it was much more visible how my mind enters loops of expectations and of interpretation, which prevent me from spontaneously observing what is actually happening. But in addition to making this visible, also for several (short) sections the mind simply flowed without expectations and without interpretations.
At one point, when I was observing certain sensations in the center and unconscious thoughts in the periphery, suddenly there was a visual phenomenon that moved from right to left and forward, towards the horizon. This froze everything for an instant and then there was nothing but the feeling of watching. Then a pleasant warmth began to grow from the legs to the trunk, though without encompassing the entire body. Obviously, this was not an ‘SE event’ but it didn’t look like it was an ‘A&P event’ either as there were no vibrations, visual explosions, spatial distortions, etc (qualities that I have observed in the past). Regardless of what it was, the bottom line is that not feeding expectations or interpretations has positive and novel effects in practice.
Sep 28: 100' (changed the legs posture twice). I continued with the same practice. At first, I seek to relax the core of the brain, and observe the internal non-tension in the perception of the visual and the auditory (and the spatial/reference location). Then, the fact of being attentive to the appearance of ‘expectations’ and to the ‘interpretations’ of phenomena generates: (1) a decrease in thoughts similar to the technique of asking myself ‘what will be the next thought?’; (2) given (1) I had an observation of phenomena with fewer micro-pauses of physical sensations; (3) given (1) and (2) I was able to have a cleaner observation of the aversive and the attractive; (4) given (1), (2) and (3) I was able to keep observing the tension that this aversive and attractive phenomena generates without wanting to modify / relax it and at the same time was able to observe how there may be tension in the periphery but not in the center, where the other physical senses (visual, auditory) act uninterruptedly, they are not affected by tension (physical), they are as transparent to said tension.
Later, I also noticed a certain difference in the spatial location of the bodily tensions. There might be a relaxation on the surface of the skin or muscles (or at least no perception of tension), but tension was felt in the bones. It is a thing to explore, because it may imply a hidden place of accumulation of tensions not observed until now.
To this must also be added observing a significant amount of thoughts about future scenarios, something that I do not know if it is circumstantial or something that I can observe now with greater clarity.
I think that you'll notice by looking at your notes that you have taken a very active approach to investigation in these EQ-fractal sits. And (ironically) after reading my quote about non-preference for the type of experience and the benefits of noticing ill will (greed, aversion, indifference), you went _looking_for_ clean awareness.
What I want to suggest is your last couple sits are where you want to go. No preference to what is experienced, no manipulation of experience, but a kind of intimacy with experience and a very gentle attention to when there is "expectation" and "interpretation" --- expectation is a form of ill will ("what is occuring isn't important, what matters is what comes next)", interpretation is a form of ill will (this experience needs to be interpreted to be significant, it is meaningless as it is").
When you let experiences be exactly as they are, that's when the insights happen. Ironically, insights don't need interpretation. They come to us -- almost from "outside" ourselves -- without us making it happen. So don't even change greed, aversion, or indifference into something else. Just fully experience it and let it speak to you, feel it, don't try to fix it.
Obviously this is advice for someone who already has a strong practice, already is psychologically stable, already gone through the nanas, who already has developed a basic level of absorption, who can also rest in the experience of momentary concentration/mindfulness, and whois trying to discover where the "knot" of willfulness is that makes us unintentionally keep avoiding the experience of nibbana. When we stop "going some where" and stop "penetrating right here" we resonate with the experience-as-it-is and into nibbana.
It's like we we have been swinging our mallet all over the place but finally we actually "hit the bell" and the sound is is nibbana. Ironically, the bell is always right here, as it is.
Maybe noticing "willfullness" might help? When things get active, notice the experience of willfullness itself.
In any case, trust that if you give up directing your sits, your sits will go where they need to go. You have the necessary skills/foundation for this kind of practice. The mind is much much smarter than our thoughts. It knows where to take us. No one has ever "figured out" how to experience nibbana. Thoughts are just mind objects, like sensations, urges, and emotions. Neither the answer nor a problem.
I think that you'll notice by looking at your notes that you have taken a very active approach to investigation in these EQ-fractal sits. And (ironically) after reading my quote about non-preference for the type of experience and the benefits of noticing ill will (greed, aversion, indifference), you went _looking_for_ clean awareness.
That was funny I know! I meant to say that by being in clean awareness mode I'm more sensitive to ill will. Yet, it's totally true that I'm way too active in the sits, and that's detrimental in EQ sits. Sometimes I feel like a dog restlessly turning in circles before lying down Well, I'll drop chasing that clean awareness, be in a non-manipulative mode and have an (gentle) eye con expectations and interpretations. Insights will eventually come on their own. Regarding willfulness, I guess you mean both 'desire to see/hear/feel other than what is actually happening' and 'desire to manipulate experience'. I'll note that too.
Thanks for your encouragement and wise pointers!
I will write anyway in hope to be of benefit. Feel free to completely ignore it though.
EQ can be a nice place to be in and it offers itself in a way that still can have a subtle satisfactory sense = subtle clinging to a subtle sense of permanence.
In my experience it helped to bring about Boredom in EQ by gently/intimitelly, but constantly, noting the feeling tone throughout the session. Everything was Neutral and even a bit borderline Unpleasant or borderline Pleasant. This culminated in a certain Status Quo Boredom within this EQ stage = Unsatisfactoriness (Dukkha)
It suddenly needed the very same medicine as previous Re-observation to pass it = ACCEPTANCE of its unsatisfactory nature = Dispassion.
Dukkha helped me pass the EQ. Even this EQ stage was unsatisfactory.
Less concentration stuff and more bringing Boredom to the fore through noting the neutral feel over and over during the sit. Also forget about Cessation as if it doesn't exist. All thoughts on SE is Mara throwing sand into your eyes. Boredom and acceptance of it will culminate in dispassion for EQ. Fuck the EQ stage it's as important as the itch on my ars
Dukkha seems to be in everything except Nibbana (but you will not be there to enjoy it).
I hope my reply doesn't bring confusion. You should certainly focus on what shargrol suggested as what helped me might not help any one else.
There was a time when that calm deepened to a level never experienced during a meditation practice. Visually there was something similar to Northern Lights (vertical lines). But after a while a thought / voice began that started to cloud the experience. I hesitated between ignoring it or following it. As I assumed it was a fear reaction (being helpless in the face of the unknown), I followed the voice to see if it showed something valuable. But it was just more noise.
With regard to unconscious thoughts, there were fewer than with the previous mode of practice and 'more superficial'. There were no vibrations related to mind-flow.
Off-cushion, the tranquility remained for a long time.
Sep 30: 50’. I continued with the same practice. The mind went everywhere. I find that it is a bit more difficult to notice the attractive (when the level of attraction is not high) than the repulsive. In the next sessions I should also focus more on observing the neutral for its neutral quality, not so much as a ‘halfway’ between the attractive and the repulsive. As I had slept little, I had not only a couple of tension discharges (via breathing) but also 45º torsion of the trunk! (the first time that happened to me).
Oct 01: 90'. It was a rewarding session. I had slept well and I did not have a difficult day, so that influenced the result. There were few thoughts to begin with, and that was sustained throughout the session. I keep observing that the fact of not falling steadily into expectations or interpretation of what is happening, makes the mind much calmer. I was able to stay comfortable in that situation. What I see now is that in the previous mode of ‘waiting for the next thought’ there was a (subtle) underlying tension (of expectation), which now is not there.
Obviously, I detected expectations and interpretation during the session. The good news is that it served to be aware of the attractiveness and the repulsiveness of expectations and interpretations. And the interesting thing was that as expectations and the underlying of the interpretive have a "forward looking" character, it made me pay more attention to the attractive than to the repulsive. Unlike the usual, where I was always attentive to the repulsive / aversive, seeking to relax tensions (moving away from everything uncomfortable, as if erasing myself from the map). So it was quite a novelty to observe a large number of sensations related to attractiveness, in the cheekbones (between the nose and the eyes). On the other hand, the physical sensations related to the interpretive were located more in the forehead or in the upper jaw.
With not many thoughts, the practice was more focused on the physical sensations and seeing the attractive / repulsive in them. The most striking thing about the session was perceiving those physical sensations in a very 'vibrant' and 'clear' way. They were attractive to perceive, whatever it was (they did not have the quality associated with samatha / jhana / metta, they were just sensations). At other times, when thoughts were passing by, the (later) physical sensations felt more "opaque" and "vague" even though there were no thoughts by then. It's like there was a cloud /stain left that got in the way.
Oct 02: 90'. I continued with the same practice, don't interfering with the mind, letting it go anywhere. Around the 30’ mark the mind calmed down. I was able to appreciate more clearly the 'neutral' feeling, which until now I had not been able to observe well. The physical sensations related to the attractive and the repulsive were more confusing than yesterday, beyond the fact that they are located on the face, forehead and close to the teeth / jaw. I observed great body relaxation from the neck down, but a 'cloud' of tension in the head.
One particular thing that I noticed over and over again is that awareness 'comes back' from the observed mental object, like it doesn't want to get stuck to the mental object. It does not seem to be something a repulsive reaction (because that would trigger an extra tension) but a kind of letting go. In other sessions I had observed how awareness went towards the object. Today it was exactly the other way around, how it disengages.
One striking thing was that in a moment of calm the unknown phrase “May the Lord keep us” emerged out of nowhere. A quick Google search shows that it is linked to the Old Testament (which I am completely ignorant of): Numbers 6: 24-26 (“May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace”). It is apparently known as the "Our Father" of the Old Testament. The message seems to be in tune with meditation/devotional practice. A message in plural (us) instead of individual (you) has already occurred in the past.
Oct 03: 70'. It was a typical Saturday session, with physical fatigue (and some headache) and therefore there was a lot of daydreaming. I followed the mind-flow and tried to observe the attractive/repulsive, a practice that was more difficult than in the previous sessions. I stuck to the primary and secondary physical sensations (tensions) and when the primary ones disappeared, I observed the evolution of the secondary ones. One thing that became clear during the session is how a thought can arise but in parallel (in the background) there is a 'cloud' that overshadows the qualities of the observed thought.
During the session there were strange images / scenes, no connection whatsoever with events in my life: (1) an empty wine bottle lying on a table, and a voice speaking in a North or East European language; (2) a red-haired English lady with a 1920's hairstyle who chewed a type of herb as if it were parsley. The level of concentration of the session was variable, just at the 20’ mark the mind calmed down but after 30 minutes or so, then it alternated between calm and no mental clarity.
Oct 04: 60'. It was another session with physical exhaustion. There was less daydreaming. I followed the mind-flow. Probably the mind in a dull state made me see everything with a relatively neutral feeling-tone.
Oct 05: I couldn't meditate, due to a emergency visit to the dentist. I was also able to practice in the street, observing in particular the physical sensations in the face of reactions to emotions (anger, fear, compassion). Also, how many of the usual fantasies can be classified according to the 6 Realms (in particular: Titan, Human, Animal).
Later, more on an intellectual level, I was thinking about the interdependence between Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta. As each of them are in each of them three. For example: Dukkha is the unsatisfactory product of the tussle between the attractive and the repulsive. But Anicca is also present in Dukkha, since it is that intermittent back and forth of the push-pull of the attractive-repulsive. And Anatta is also present in Dukkha, in the impossibility of controlling / directing that push-pull of the attractive-repulsive. Furthermore, it’s precisely that persistent exposure of the bodymind to push-pull that shapes the idea of an I.
Oct 06: 70'. During the session I observed 4 cycles of alternation between mental proliferation and mental calm. The cycles went shorter and the mental proliferation less and less intense. At first it is difficult to observe the attractive-repulsive while the physical and mental sensations are passing by, but later it becomes a little easier. On the other hand, it is easier to see if I switch to 'interpretation mode', because it implies a whole change in the focus of attention, even if this is quick. Regarding the management of expectations, I see that many times I anticipate what is coming: I cannot finish perceiving the current sensation that I already put expectation in observing the arising of the next sensation. Other times the opposite happens, that I am behind, but this happens to a lesser extent. When I was able to observe the physical sensation at its exact moment, it felt satisfying.
Oct 07: 50’. A short session for family reasons. Despite having many conversations with different people during the day, there were no major problems calming the mind. The hunch is that the mind is adapting to calming down even when I am starting nowadays from a "disadvantageous" situation by not directing / controlling attention in any specific way. In general, the sequence is: (1) after a few minutes begin to observe the attractive-repulsive; (2) later be careful not to fall into ‘interpretive mode’; (3) once the mind is calm, be careful not to fall into 'expectations mode'. I also noticed that expectations can be focused (example: about the next sensation) or broad (example: where the session should evolve). The 'broad' mode is a bit more difficult to detect.
Oct 08: 90'. I observed the attractive-repulsive, in a mind-flow with many ups and downs. Then I remembered how sounds can be heard effortlessly (effortlessly) even when there is some discomfort in the ears (because of earplugs or because I don't like what I'm hearing). The same with the visual: how lights and shapes emerge without effort on my part, even when I perceive at the same time discomfort or physical tension around the eyes (not related to the specific observation, but rather an excess of tension that lasts of past moments). The novelty was adding the spatial: how the sensation of physical space is beyond whether there are pleasant-unpleasant sensations or not. Observing the spatial was like a click, it totally calmed the mind (I was probably focusing on the closest physical sensations (breath-related), not allowing EQ). From then on, the next 60 minutes were very calm. I observed many neutral sensations (something new, because in general it is either pleasant or unpleasant). But later, the pleasant sensations grew and expanded throughout the body.
Later on, I had to change the position of the legs. Before that (and after) I noticed that while at a general level there may be neutral and pleasant sensations, at a particular level unpleasant sensations can coexist. The mini-conclusion is that it is possible to live with a diversity of (the three types of) sensations simultaneously (something that is relatively unusual, more associated with experiencing a mixture of emotions, but not in a situation of great physical and mental calm).
The interesting thing about this is that I didn’t observe reactivity, something that triggered a change: reactivity to the attractive/repulsive was separated from what felt pleasant/unpleasant.
Oct 09: 20' + 40'. The practice was similar to yesterday. The big difference is that the calm was not triggered by the observation of spatiality but of the visual sense. So the comprehensiveness of the EQ can be triggered by both the spatial and the visual. I suppose that the auditory could also achieve it, since it is a 360º sense.
Oct 10: 80'. From the start there was enough mental calm. Although I'm physically tired on Saturdays, this time there were no problems. I kept practicing observing the attractive/repulsive, without variations. The novelty was that at one point I was listening to a melody in my head, its volume went decreasing until it disappeared. At that moment there was absolute silence, the conscious and unconscious 'minds' fell completely silent, and there was a rush of pleasant sensations in the chest and hands. And the breathing became very light, there was hardly any need to breathe. Most likely it was 1st Jhana or something approaching it. This lasted for a minute or so. Then all that unconscious processing returned (aural thoughts, proto-thoughts, chirps, tiny sensations, humming from far outside, etc). Later on I began to hear external sounds. All this situation of entering and leaving Jhana (or similar) happened again 2 more times, with the same level of mental silence but with the most pleasant sensations subdued.
One conclusion was that observing the pleasant/unpleasant (and observing / experiencing the tensions that that generates), and more generally letting the mind to go anywhere, has a surprising effect of allowing a greater concentration. I am not the one who seeks to be more focused to achieve concentration, but it arises by itself due to an ‘elimination effect’ (like peeling the layers of an onion), things are detached from the mind.
Oct 11: 80'. The practice was similar to yesterday, although a silence of the unconscious processing was already present from the beginning. I notice myself comfortable watching whatever happens. There’s no urge/drive to change the object of observation.
Twice happened that a single physical / mental element that I was observing faded away until it disappeared, and from this an absolute silence emerged. This time there were no pleasant sensations associated with this silence. And this time also, the conscious thoughts (of analysis / interpretation…) returned first and a while later all the unconscious processing.
Another thing is that the difference between attractive and repulsive was not so clear. The sensations are centered on the neutral feeling, but there is like a short (grade/slope) continuum that goes from the attractive to the repulsive.
The stuff about expectation and interpretation is key! Non manipulating the mind leads to very interesting insights/experiences, how the mind works its own way to abide in Equanimity. If the mind bonds to neutral sensations, that's fake EQ? [ Added: this EQ buffer where I can observe A&P and DN stuff sometimes feel fake, compared to an unfiltered mode of noticing. Yet Chris Marti speaks of a 'modeless perception of experience' ... that may probably hint towards not prefering and 'EQ mode' over DN or A&P ones ]
Below is how I classify thoughts:
- The conscious thoughts are the ones I (more or less) feel ownership of, that I recognize that comes from my mind-flow (eg. I got an insight from observing phenomena and that triggers an involuntary second verbal/image thought).
- The unconscious ones are thoughts that come from nowhere (or that could be an answer of a submind (a la Culadasa) to a thought that the conscious mind had even 2 minutes before), it could be proto-thoughts (a sequence of loose words, syllabels, or even the sonic contour of someone speaking in your/other language, or also images with people speaking but that you can't hear their words, and a submind of yours is trying to fill the gap, putting words/sounds to their mouths movements).
- There are also singing melodies, that may fit as conscious or unconscious thoughts, depending of the context.
- There are also synesthesic thoughts, that involve some aural words plus some kind of morphed physical space (that may include some kind of amorphous image). I catalogue them as 'unconscious' thoughts just because they involve some unconscious connection of subminds (but that's just a working hyphotesis).
- There are also unconscious mind processing such as chirps, tiny sensations, humming from far outside, etc. Lately it's happening that this stuff silence first, together with conscious thoughts, while the unconscious thoughts come an go (and the helicopter rotor-sound emerges)
Disclaimer: I regularly use earplugs (because my street and family are way too noisy) and so the unconscious thoughts pop up easily. But even if I'm not using them, I'm trained enough to spot them.
P.S. Where did you place your practice logs? I couldn't find them in the Practice Log Section.
(This usually leads to the "observing proto-thoughts" or "observing the mindstream" which is a strange sort of knowing but being unclear about what is known because any interpretation occurs further downstream. Usually, it's only possible to dip into this for 15 seconds or a minute or so. So a sit at this cutting edge kind of dips in an out of the mindstream over the last 10 or 20 minutes of the sit.)
In a funny way, what drives practice is a kind of sublte egotism/narcisism. What is this "I-ness" that seems to be behind everything I do? What is my mind? What am I?
- If I'm not manipulating experience and there's no obvious purification that's leading to EQ, then the observing EQ is fake? If I'm not 'pushing' EQ, who's preferring/bonding to neutral or pleasant sensations?
- If a non-manipulating mind is experiencing an A&P like phenomenology without the excitement factor and experiencing a DN like phenomenology without the fear factor, then EQ without a samatha vibe is 'real' EQ? [ This could only be experienced for a minute or so, a few times during the sits, don't know if that's exactly the same that you are point at ]
- Can the EQ factors being experienced be real EQ if the focus is narrow (eg. head-space) or only if wide (eg. whole body) or only if full-scale (body + room/infinite)?
- If I'm wobbling together with the wave/diversity of pleasant/neutral/unpleasant sensations, may I be both the wave and the observer?
Thanks again Shargrol ! I'll work on that.
I'm doing fine, thanks, nice that you ask! And thanks for the clarification – and classification. I will return to logging shortly, but maybe not on a daily basis – I have to figure out what's most helpful for me. But I'll be back before too long.
I didn't put my logs in the Practice Log Session, because I wasn't aware I could put them there . Could you explain how it's done?
Just as a brief update: My sitting practice these days is very similar to yours, I mean, in the intention, but probably not in the experience. I simply sit down on my cushion, close my eyes and try to do absolutely nothing. Each time I discover that I – i.e. "I" – am intentionally doing something, anything, I immediately try to drop that intention (and if I can't stop what's happening, well, then it isn't "me" doing it). So that's what I do for 3 x 45 minutes a day. And then I do 45 minutes of walking as well. Oh ... I am already logging, and in your thread. Sorry. I'll update my own as soon as possible.
Oct 13: 80'. It was a very interesting session, with a more subtle level of perception. Right from the start, when the mind is silent, today it was evident that in the mere fact of observing it there was tension. It is something that until now I had not observed. The origin of this tension is probably a mixture of intention and clinging.
Although it was a session where there was quite a calm in terms of the unconscious processing of the mind, in general there was more “content” of conscious thoughts. So there was also more opportunity to see how the mind reacts to that content.
In recent sessions, I mentioned that I generally noticed the sensations were neutral, slightly pleasant, or slightly unpleasant. Today I also observed that the sensations can also be focused or more diffuse, and I believe that this affects the above, making it difficult to detect the 'real' vedana. For example, a more diffuse sensation may feel neutral, even if it is more unpleasant.
Oct 14: 80'. It was a day with a family medical emergency, and although I was tense before meditating, once I sat down, the practice was very calm physically and mentally. However, the difference between attractive and aversive was not very noticeable. It was an EQ that emerged naturally, settling in the neutral sensations. There was no explicit intention to settle on pleasant or neutral sensations.
Oct 15: 80'. The conclusion of the session was: ‘Suffering less, noticing it more’. While Bill Hamilton's phrase applies to advanced yogis, I note that it also applies to beginners. Years of therapy give some tools to observe which are the buttons that activate emotional reactions, but meditation (especially see Vedana) makes one observe it minute by minute off-cushion and second by second during the session. I observe much more variability in the vedana of sensations, both due to its variation in time and its distribution in the mind / body space. Shinzen's 4 formulas are a reflection of much of what happens during meditation.
Until now, I had been separating what were conscious thoughts from unconscious processing (thoughts, proto-thoughts, chirps, morphing lights, tiny sensations, humming from 'far away'). But today I observe that the mind is fading in parts. I notice three areas: (1) background processing (syllables, chirps, morphing lights, tiny sensations, humming from 'far away'); (2) unconscious thoughts (thoughts and proto-thoughts that have some (whatever) meaning); (3) fully dependent thoughts and intentions, usually analyzing the practice, or just mind-chatter. Conscious thoughts are turned off first, then background processing, and finally unconscious thoughts.
Another thing I noticed is that just as last week there was a greater inclination towards attractive / pleasant sensations (and that led to 1st Jhana or deeper absorbing situations), this week I return to the old situation of observing the disgusting / unpleasant and not being able to detect or get hooked on those little sensations related to the attractive / pleasant. And as much as I stay 'immersed' within the sensation [generally a type of vibration + an intention + (sometimes) some pleasant sensation], this does not lead to jhana or deep absorption.
Oct 16: 80'. There was a repetition of what had been happening so far. The only new thing is that the change of the sight (posture of the eyes) modifies certain perceptions. When the gaze points downwards, pleasant sensations are observed in the chest and 'inside', while the unpleasant is more distributed throughout the body. When the gaze points forward (not upwards), unpleasant sensations were felt around the eyes, cheeks and the upper part of the teeth.
Oct 17: I couldn't practice. Many activities and physical exhaustion were added.
Oct 18: Just 40' today. There’s a persistent physical exhaustion for which I will have to modify the weekly schedule. Despite that, the practice was not as bad as I expected. The concentration lasted the first 20 minutes.
Oct 19: 50' + 50'. For the first session I made the intention to perceive the sensations without filters (under the premise that there is always some conscious or unconscious manipulation). This time it was an intense experience, with a lot of sensations that tugged everywhere. It lasted 1 minute or so, as afterwards tensions emerged in response to this ‘unrestricted’ opening, tensions in the jaws and ears that gained prominence and totally overshadowed the other sensations, and this generated so much discomfort that I could not sustain the situation.
To re-calm the body-mind, I focus the attention on pleasant or neutral sensations. This worked, the body-mind calmed down. So I tried to observe again without filters, but it was no longer perceived without the same level of detail / quality / precision of that tugging of sensations. I think that connecting with those pleasant and neutral feelings generated a kind of buffer (the usual samatha side of Equanimity). So there was a trade-off: calm allows me to observe more calmly what is happening, but deep down it does not allow me to observe everything that really happens. It became very clear that finding an oasis of calm does not necessarily mean that I have undergone a purification, that I am observing a calm by stripping myself of something. Instead, I could be deceiving myself by inadvertently taking refuge in something pleasant or neutral.
On the other hand, when I perceived without filters, it was like a barrage of sensations typical of Dark Night but without the component of fear, shock (startling effect) or wanting to escape. Also typical A&P sensations but without the component of excitement and anticipation for the next sensation. There was some fun in this situation ... until the anticipation of future insights tightened the body-mind.
In summary: on the one hand I 'fabricated' (I did not arrive at) an Equanimity (by adding samatha but seeing that it affects vipassana), and on the other hand I perceived the sensations without filters, a very tumultuous and disconcerting experience (although also enjoyed by the adventure side of the new experience).
In the second session I tried the same thing, with slightly different results. The situation of perceiving without a filter lasted only a few seconds, but there was a transition towards a calm of the body-mind that was not intentional (it was unconscious), the mind wanted to seek refuge I suppose. However, later it was felt that the mind was hooked (craving?) to this tranquility. It's like a kind of bond, I don't know how to put it into words. One fact to add regarding the unfiltered mode is that the unpleasant sensations had a greater variety. In general, the unpleasantness is related to body tensions focused on the head space and shoulders. This time, the sensations expanded to jerks, stitches, vibrations, wobbling, etc. in the chest and throat, something typical of Dark Night, but without the urge to escape or have to immediately relax that feeling.
Oct 20: 80'. There were more thoughts than yesterday. And that should have made practice difficult. However, I did notice a surprising ease of going back to EQ. Today in general, it is something that happened organically, without manipulation on my part. At some point, the mind searches for that EQ. I was hooked by with something Chris Marti said: “For me, awakening is not just about staying in some mode or another. It's the modeless perception of my experience”. If the mind is going somewhere and it was not a conscious intention, then let's continue where it is going, not wanting to force a return to the ‘dive into experience’, that tumultuous experience of vedana push-pull. In the last 20 minutes the mind was parked in EQ and the rotor-like vibration emerged, without much intensity but center of attention. The vibration went from being located in the head, to also include the chest. As if I were the vibration.
Oct 21: 100'. There was a lot of variability in what was observed. A pleasant neutral sensation can create a certain hook that leads to a calm mind. Sometimes there were situations where there was that 'willfulness' of actively wanting to do vipassana. Sometimes the attention is more focused on the sensations of the breath, and sometimes on something broader, of the whole body. This change of focus is sometimes natural and other times forced. Different vedana are also observed simultaneously: pleasant, unpleasant and neutral sensations. It is not always clear when interest in one of them is natural and when it is intentional. When one manipulates and when one does not manipulate. There is clinging to both pleasant and unpleasant things, and rejecting both pleasant and unpleasant things as well. I begin to observe more "gray areas", not binary situations.
Oct 22: 80'. Today I exchanged posts with Niels and Shargrol. Niels said something interesting, which connects 'willfulness', with 'preference' and 'manipulation', to be careful not to put intention to right from the start of every experience, and if it happens then let go. I was attentive to the issue of 'knowingness', who is it that classifies sensations as pleasant, neutral or unpleasant. This leads me to observe tensions within the brain. This generates ‘expectations’ of experiencing more interesting sensations, rather than just being. At one point there was a knot in the Crown chakra that then descended into the center of the brain.
Oct 23: 80'. The whole DhO exchange with Niels and others triggered a lot of thoughts during practice, much more than usual. This generated mixed emotions, because on the one hand it makes the practice uncomfortable and it intellectualizes it, but on the other it is a natural need to exchange opinions, ideas, etc with peers about practice. Deep down, I understand that there is 'preference' and that I subtly want to 'manipulate' the practice, so that it is not so chaotic/confusing. "Bring my Equanimity back!" LOL
On the other hand, it also forced me to see that I had been ignoring thoughts (the ‘preference’ issue), that there is a certain 'willfulness' in observing physical sensations only (the underlying idea was that if there is a thought then there must be an associated physical sensation, so it makes no sense to focus there. “Thoughts are neither a problem nor the solution”). It is an important issue, because until now I have not observed this ignoring of sensations. Contrary to practice guidelines, I paid attention to unconscious thoughts, to see if I was missing something. When I put interest ('preference' / focus), more unconscious thoughts arise.
With regard to where the mind goes when observing physical sensations, sometimes they are those related to the cycle of breathing. But other times it focuses on the surface of the forehead, eyes and cheeks. In the latter location, it is clearer that it does not trigger ‘expectations’ or ‘interpretation’. It is something similar to what happened weeks ago with what I described as 'seeing the time-flow' / 'no-log'. As there are no expectations or interpretation, the rotor-blade vibration emerges (without growing in intensity, though).
Oct 24: 80'. The good thing is that there was no headache even though it was Saturday. However, there was a persistent mind-chatter. A remarkable thing about the practice is that how once I let go when I see that I am manipulating or preferring the experience (and I notice an aversion to it), then the mind goes to a certain clarity of perception, but that shortly after (10-30 seconds) a ripple emerges from that aversion that clouds clarity. While the first aversion is short-lived, the second is long.
In the last 10 minutes I dropped the practice guidelines and focused on noticing the pleasant sensations. This also serves as a practice to detect those sensations that I ignored or rejected, as historically I tend to be aversive.
Oct 25: 70' + 70'. In the first session I observed ‘preference’ and ‘manipulation’ as to how the practice should be. All kinds of physical sensations and thoughts. Greater intensity in the pleasant sensations. From time to time a mental calm is generated and the rotor-blade reappears, without reaching an intense intimacy.
In the second session, confusion was noted with a lot of simultaneity of pleasant and unpleasant sensations. The unpleasant was a tension in the center and the pleasant on the periphery. In the last 20 minutes there was some clinging towards neutral feelings. At this stage there was a bit more unconscious thoughts.
Oct 26: 70'. Today was a new step in the practice. The bottom line is: ignore nothing, let everything in.
So much subtlety about the sensations, if there is clinging etc, all that is good vipassana, but in practical terms it is not worth so much detail (in my current situation). Once I am confident that I can observe / recognize this, I should approach the practice letting the mind go anywhere… and observe everything. Have a look at everything that is going on.
For example: the rotor-blade vibration appears when the mind is calm, but at the same time when it was also attentive to the breath and not ignoring unconscious thoughts. Attention should not be focused. If I want to focus on that vibration, then I am ignoring other physical sensations or thoughts. The same thing happens if I focus on physical sensations (something that I had focused on lately to compensate for the previous focus on thoughts), because there I am ignoring unconscious thoughts.
So I have to receive everything ... and that is a mess. It has the qualities of A&P fast-noting, I'm like a goal-keeper intercepting several kicks at the same time, but not wanting to achieve something in particular. Simply, prefer nothing, ignore nothing. That wobbling thing appears along with the physical thoughts and feelings.
Faced with this situation, I asked myself: "where is knowingness?" By ignoring nothing and including knowingness, it's like I distanced myself from everything and the physical sensation / knot appeared in my head. I understand that practice must go this way.
The cutting edge was reached around 30-40 minutes. The end of this experience was rather abrupt, as the mind did not like to get so much shaking. Then there were 3-4 reps of this all-in but they didn't have the same intensity / freshness as the first time.
Surrender to the truth of things: Equanimity is much more about something in the relationship to and among phenomena than anything specific about the phenomena themselves. It involves a real, down-to-earth, honest humanity, a real acceptance of ourselves just as we are … If your practice stays future-oriented, goal-oriented, rather than just being with what is right now, what you wish for will not happen easily.
Beware of shifting to a concentration practice out of fear of falling back to DN: It is very tempting to solidify Equanimity into the fourth shamatha jhana, either because doing so is very nice or because of fear of falling back … Many will shift to modes of attention that are much more in the realm of concentration practice, being more about the positive qualities than the three characteristics, meaning that they stop investigating those and rest in the equanimity. It’s more likely to not progress and fall back if you don’t gently investigate the qualities of this stage: peace, ease, and a panoramic perspective.
See fundamental aspects of Self: Equanimity is about seeing the true nature of even more integrated, inclusive, subtle, and fundamental things such as: expectation, analysis, wanting, knowing, awareness, space, peace, ease, anticipation, subtle fear, subtle doubt, etc.
Allow the wisdom of the 3Cs to show itself naturally: In Equanimity, we can see the three characteristics in a way that applies to the whole field of experience: everything happens on its own, everything is shifting and ephemeral, everything that involves a “this” that seems to be watching “that” has this strange tension in it. Allowing that wisdom to come through and show itself naturally is key.
Practice tactics that worked in previous stages, now don’t. It is common at these times to apply familiar practice tactics that worked in previous stages, such as going for very fine details about small phenomena as we did building up to the A&P, powering investigation, or noting fast as we may have tried to do in Re-observation, or some other gamey strategy that we borrowed from an earlier part of the path. Few of these are likely to help and most will hinder, but many people will try them again and again until they learn this, and there is something to be said for learning for ourselves by trial and error.
Phenomenology: If white lights arise in Equanimity, they tend to be much more broad, amorphous and/or diffuse than the pointed, train headlight of the A&P. Any images that form in this stage are much more likely to have more 3D elements than those in the A&P. The meditator is able to sit for longer and longer periods and begins to perceive clearly the three characteristics not about the object of meditation (like in A&P) but more about the whole sensate universe (Equanimity). There is less rapture and more equanimity than in A&P. There are rarely if ever the spontaneous physical motions and odd breathing patterns that come with that earlier stage. I don’t mention anything about the frequency of vibrations in (low-middle EQ), as it is not about that, but much more about flow, fluxing, synchronization, and inclusion. There might be pulses, shifts, arisings, and vanishings, but this is not about the specific frequency or counting beats or anything of the sort.
The mini Dark Night of Equanimity can make things complicated, and in the face of that seeming complexity some will either try to power the thing (unlikely to work well in Equanimity), or try to solidify the pleasantness they may have experienced right before it and turn something open, flowing, and accepting into a more stable and safe-feeling fourth shamatha jhana, which is Equanimeous but still more frozen and static than works well for reaching stream entry. In this way, people can stagnate in Equanimity.
A double-dip state shift is not a Cessation: Unfortunately, just to make things confusing, there is often a single double-dip state shift into some deeper version of early Equanimity in the manner of A&P territory, with one state-shift that may involve an eye-blink and shift in consciousness halfway down the breath and the other at the end of that same breath, very soon after the shift from Re-observation to Equanimity.
Dropouts and head-drops are not a Cessation: If we are tired, we may begin having dropouts and head-drops that are like what occurred in Dissolution but more extreme, sort of like when we start to have our head nod while driving when extremely tired (something I have done way too many times and strongly advise against). These head drops are among the things that people can mistake for Fruitions, but Fruitions almost never involve the head dropping as these Equanimity head-drops do.
High Equanimity: As practice matures, reality can be perceived with great breadth, precision, and clarity, and soon with no special effort. It is the loss of any sense of the isolated, individual, effortful kazoo player, and there is just the symphony of ordinary reality happening on its own, as it is. The odd thing about High Equanimity is that most of the time you don’t notice you are in it. In fact, not noticing that you are in it is part of its hallmark.
Don’t get attached to ideals as how wonderful High Equanimity should be: Our practice may feel that it lacks the speed and precision of the A&P, the drama of the Dark Night, the delightfully free wonder of the earlier phase of Equanimity, and as if it isn’t enough. When High Equanimity happens, it seems so ordinary that we may try to make it into something extraordinary. If we are attached to ideals about how amazing, blazing, bright, dramatic, powerful, sensational, and thrilling practice is supposed to be, we may keep seeking those qualities and prevent ourselves from being with the very ordinary-feeling but clearly extraordinary stage of High Equanimity.
It can feel pretty boring: In High Equanimity … at that point practice is unlikely to feel much like practice or anything special or unusual. It can feel pretty boring, like we no longer care at all if we awaken, practice, or anything like that.
While doing walking practice you let the pressure off: It is quite common to experience High Equanimity during walking practice, as most people mistakenly believe that walking practice is not as important as sitting, so they let the pressure off, which in this case is good.
This phase may be very quick, just a few minutes or even a few seconds, but if we have set up our practice well, that is all it may need. If we have conditioned our minds to perceive the broad, interconnected, integrated world of phenomena however it manifests in the light of the three characteristics, then in this final natural letting go of everything, the mind does what we have trained it to do. By taking our whole world in, it takes our whole world out.
Vibrations in High-Equanimity: They tend to be very different from how they were in earlier phases. In the A&P they tended to be fine, fast, of one clean frequency that tended to modulate its rate by the phase of the breath, and either localized in one small area or spread out across our skin and the like. In the Dark Night stages, vibrations start slower (the shamanic drum-like beat of Fear) and then later speed up, but in an edgy, irregular, irritating, complex way that is around the edges of attention. In Equanimity, (once out past the “chunky” phase) vibrations tend to be slower, more flowing, more volumetric, more about waves of moving attention-space-phenomena all together. Equanimity is more inclusive, almost like the graceful interpretative dance of attention and space creation itself. Many people don’t really notice much about the vibrations or flow and that is also okay. It is much more a question of flow, a shifting back and forth of attention like gentle waves on a beach.
Vedana: Sharda Rogell gave me good advice: “Just watch the motion of attraction and aversion”.
Subject-Object Synchronization: As Equanimity progresses, it may feel like subject and object are trying to synchronize with themselves, catch up with each other, and align, or that this side is trying to synchronize with all of space. Gently investigate this feeling and any subtle, fluxing tensions in it as lightly as possible, leaving plenty of space for it to do its wide, flowing, easy, natural thing. Trying to force it is natural: feel this forcing, if it arises. You could note “forcing” if that helps identify it. Realize that you can’t do it, but, left alone, it may do itself. Basically, the less you mess with it and the more you just let it be and roll with it, the better.
Mental and physical phenomena may appear nearly indistinguishable: For those with more refined concentration, phenomena may even begin to lose the sense that they are of a specific sense door, and mental and physical phenomena may appear nearly indistinguishably as just vibrations of barely differentiated suchness. Vibrating formless realms may even arise, with no discernible image of the body being present at all ... These are not necessary, just very interesting consequences of having strong concentration skills. Most gain stream entry or the next path without ever having experienced these more refined Equanimity variants.
Formations: One of the hallmarks of Equanimity is that the way reality presents is not made up of lots of little sensations occurring in some stable space, not broken up into lots of little, individual sense doors, but instead complete phenomena begin to be perceived as consolidated in a more integrated way, meaning that they are formed together, with space, awareness, and all the different types of sense qualities happening all together to make up the objects in the sensate world ... It is as though flowing space has textures, colors, sounds, tastes, smells all integrated into it, as part of it, and gradually attention and anything that really seems to be “us” finally gets integrated in the same way also, though we might not notice this at all. It sounds dramatic, but it is very undramatic. Many will get through this stage and have no idea that something was different, and that’s okay. These put-together sense impressions, these formed things, are formally called “formations”.
Formations contain all the six sense doors, including thought, in a way that does not split them up sequentially in time or positionally in space. If you could take a 3D moving photograph that also captured smell, taste, touch, sound, and thought, all woven into each other seamlessly and containing a sense of flux, this would approximate the experience of one formation. They contain not only a complete set of aspects of all six sense doors within them, but also include the perception of space (volume) and even of time, movement, and the sensate qualities that make up “duration”.
What is observing formations? Until mental and physical sensations fully synchronize on “that side”, there can be a bit of a “tri-ality”, in which there are three things going on: (1) the sense of the observer on “this” side; (2) most of the sensations of the body; (3) most of the sensations of the mind, with the latter two fluxing “over there”. As mental and physical phenomena gradually integrate with the sense of luminous space, this experientially begs the question, “What is observing formations?” at a level that is far beyond the intellectual contemplation of it.
Formations are so inclusive that they viscerally demonstrate what is pointed to by the concept of “no-self” in a way that no other mode of experiencing reality can. As formations become predominant, we are faced first with the questions of which side of the dualistic split we are on and then of what is watching what earlier appeared to be both sides. Just keep investigating in a natural and matter-of-fact way. Let this profound dance unfold. If you have gotten to this point, you are extraordinarily close and need to do very little but relax and be gently curious about your experience.
Formations are so inclusive that they are the gateway to the Three Doors. It is the highly inclusive quality of formations that is the most interesting, and leads to the most practical application of discussing formations. It is because they are so inclusive that they are the gateway to the Three Doors, stage fifteen, Fruition. They reveal a way out of the paradox of duality, the maddening sense that “this” is observing, controlling, subject to, separated from, etc., “that”. By containing all or nearly all the sensations comprising one moment in a very integrated way, they contain the necessary clarity to see through the three fundamental illusions.
Anatta and Formations: When experiencing formations, the mind can no longer section off parts of perception that enable it to appear separate, in control, or observing everything else. One of the primary ways that the illusion of duality is maintained is that the mind partially “blinks out” perception of a part of each formation that it wants to section off to appear separate, in control, or observing everything else. In this way, there is not enough clarity to see the interconnectedness and true nature of that part partially blinked out of reality, and a sense of a separate or autonomous self is maintained. The problem is not the arising of those sensations and patterns that the mind is partially blinking out to, it is that these sensations are not clearly perceived. It is almost as if the mind is placing some sensations in its map of space and what is in it, and then only partially doing that for other sensations that it wishes to turn into a sense of something stable and continuous. When the experience of formations occurs, it comes out of a level of clarity that is so complete that “blinking out” can no longer easily happen, as everything is mapped equally and completely to the same volume of our perceived sensate space and so, finally, the clear perception we have developed threatens the core illusion of a stable, perceiving, separate self. Yay!
Core processes: When formations become the dominant experience, very profound and liberating insight is close at hand. The more we practice being aware of our whole mental and physical existence, the fewer opportunities there are for blinking out. In practice, we gently work to integrate those subtle remaining processes that seem to be a “this” side, a practitioner, a practice, a self, and so on, into the rest of the clearly perceived sense field, basically just by being gently aware of the patterns of sensations that make up those qualities of space until they realize they are naturally aware of themselves and the thing flips over.
Dukkha and Formations. Formations contain within them the seeming gap between “this” and “that”, as well as sensations of effort, intimacy, resistance, acceptance, and all other such aspects of sensations from which a sense of self is more easily inferred. These sorts of things are the core processes, those things that most feel like a “self”, “me”, or “mine”. Questioning, analysis, expectation, practicing, remembering, subtle fear, subtle desire, real longing for release, excitement about success, wondering, mapping, comparing, knowing: these are all just sensate qualities. Notice them.
Notice the shifting of attention and how the sensations are part of that flowing movement of effortless direct comprehension, with the comprehension being the manifestation itself and not something overlaid onto that or split off from it in a way that is at once intricate and integrated.
We are not trying to get rid of these subtle patterns that seemed to be the most “us”—they are just fine and they never were a self, never are, and never will be. The point is to just perceive those sensations clearly, and the thing will flip over to another way of perceiving them in which they are just a part of all of this natural transience.
No need to dissect these core processes ruthlessly or catch every tiny detail of them: that sort of stuff worked well in the early stages, but Equanimity sacrifices a bit of that for the bigger prize: wide-open, total, all-the-way-through understanding. Just an ordinary, simple clarity, with the natural curiosity of a fascinated child, will do just fine at this phase of practice—a child who is willing to become wakefully absorbed in the daydream that is whatever the mind does and wherever it goes.
Anicca and Formations. The level of clarity out of which formations arise also allows us to see formations from the time they arise until the time they disappear, thus illuminating clearly those transient, empty sensations that make up a sense of a self or of a sensate universe continuing coherently in time. In the first part of the path the beginning of objects was predominant. In the A&P we got a great sense of the middle of objects but missed subtle aspects of the beginning and end. In the Dark Night the endings are about all we could really perceive clearly. Formations once again put together all of this work we have done in a very natural and complete way that finally includes everything in experience.
Thoughts, Luminosity and Formations. Formations also explain some of the odd teachings that you might hear about “stopping thought” ... The seeming duality of mental and physical sensations is gone by the time we are perceiving formations. Thoughts appear as a luminous aspect of the phenomenal world ... “Luminosity” refers to the fact that the knowledge of sensations is in the sensations of the things themselves and is the sensations themselves. In fact, I challenge anyone to describe the bare experience of thinking or mental sensations in terms beyond those of the five “physical” sense doors. Thus, in the face of experiencing formations, it seems crude to consider thoughts as separate from visual, tactile, auditory, gustatory, and olfactory qualities, or even to speak in terms of these being discrete entities.
A near-miss moment. Separating the early stages of Equanimity from its mature stage, there tends to be a “near miss” moment when we get very close to the fruit of the path, which serves to really chill us out, as it were. From this point, awakening is likely to occur quickly as long as the meditator continues to simply practice and very gently fine-tune awareness and precision, paying gentle attention to things like thoughts of progress and satisfaction with equanimity. At some point even this becomes boring, and a certain cool apathy and even forgetfulness arise. Most won’t notice much about this phase.
Conformity. Around this very mature part of Equanimity the feeling that we are not really here can arise, or that somehow we are completely out of phase with reality … It tends to last only tens of minutes at most ... The sense that we are practicing or trying to get anywhere just vanishes ... We sort of come back, with clarity again becoming more predominant. Then we get truly lost in something, some strangely clear reverie, vision, object, or flight of fancy. By really buying in, we get set up to check out.
Oct 28: 60'. It was a very variable session, with a long stretch of neutral feelings and other short stretches of attraction/aversion. What is new is that more visual things appeared, some related to fear, others related to thoughts that merge the bodily with the visual. It would be necessary to have a checklist on things not to ignore in practice. For example, the observation of the beginning and end of the breath and the contraction / expansion of the torso is automated, but due to having a broader look, I had stopped perceiving the olfactory sensations of the breath. Another case is to implicitly ignore the visual when the lights and shapes do not have a recognizable pattern.
Oct 29: 80'. Lots of variability. The vedana is flatter, so there is not much incentive to follow it. The novelty is that there were new sensations in the brain, very short buzzes. The mind lunged towards it and that triggered a higher level of concentration. With the topic of knowingness, I see it easier to perceive it from observing whether or not I am ignoring phenomena. In a moment, these sensations are stacked / grouped and I see a distance between myself, the observer, and a ball of tensions.
Oct 30: I couldn't practice due to family emergencies.
Oct 31: 60' + 80' + 60'. First session: Many images and scenes without dialogue nor relevant events that tell a story. I heard a phrase: "Feel the smell" and that made me pay attention there, which made my concentration level skyrocket. It happened again that when I incorporate a new element (which I have been ignoring), the level of concentration intensifies.
Second session: There was more tranquility, fewer items to observe. Less clinging. There was more concentration, greater clarity in observing awareness. At some point I vibrated with the vibration.
Third session: Calmness. When there are vibrations, the vibratory center is felt in the chest. There was some unpleasant sensation and even a moment of fear, but most of the sensations are pleasant, without growing into a jhana. Boredom. Expectation that going SE should be the opposite of the dominant boredom.
Nov 01: 80'. I paid little attention to the Vedana. At the outset there was an ‘intention’ of “let everything fade away”. Do not feed new thoughts to be created (which arise from having expectations, or analyzing, or preferring). Cut the chain of thoughts. It was not a manipulation, rather a 'disengagement' of the mind, under the instruction to Bahiya: in the hearing just the sounds, in the seeing just the images, in the sensed just the sensations, in the cognition just the awareness. At one point, the mind went into absorption by itself. It felt everything (nothing) closer. It lasted no more than 2 minutes. Later there was a feeling that everything was coming together, and there was a mental tension around it all. This was the cutting edge, around 40-50 minutes. In general, a higher level of concentration was noticed, a consequence of having done three sessions yesterday, which had the same quality. A positive drag effect.
Nov 02: 100'. There was an absorption today also, which seems to have elements of a 4th Jhana. I have no close experiences to compare. Having recently incorporated the sense of smell and other things that I was ignorant of, plus disengagement, causes much of that total variability to disappear (that of experiencing 100% pulling of the 6 senses) and there is more concentration. Thoughts disappear, pressurization of the skin (particularly on the face) and fluctuations in the upper part of the chest are noted. At times there was the sensation that arms and part of the torso was made of water. This was the cutting edge, close to 40 minutes. Then it was repeated, but with less clarity. In addition, unconscious thoughts are noticed more clearly and there is something that I do not know if it is words and / or tensions.
Nov 03: 90'. At night I had a nightmare, of my little son drowning in the bathtub. I interpreted it as fear regarding what I experienced in yesterday's session. In the morning I had a dream that I would have classified as typical of A&P because there were colorful flowers and images moving two layers deep. The difference is that (for the first time) I could clearly see some particular object (I always see the bigger picture only) and I observed the edges of a flower. And they looked like fake (forged, low quality) edges. That they were not 3D but 2D, superimposed. I also had another dream in which I was descending (as if going down in an elevator).
In the session, there was a lot of concentration after the first 20 minutes. Smells of perfumes, physically felt on the sides of the nostrils. Regarding the perception of the 6 senses (something that happens from time to time) there is a kind of 'collation' (gathering) of the senses. It is somewhat nebulous, but it shows. And the most important thing is that when the mind ignores one or more of the senses, the mind is observed that is hovering, subtly avoiding this of perceiving all the senses at the same time. I suppose it is a matter of practice, of the mind getting used to the situation.
Towards the end I focused on awareness / what am I ?. A lot of tensions arise. A ball of senses / tensions is perceived in the distance. It is difficult to describe.
Nov 04: 70'. The cutting edge was at 55-60 minutes. From the start I have seen expectations, a certain mixture of fear, anxiety and frustration before sitting down to meditate. As I have been practicing lately, I try to observe if I am not ignoring any of the 6 senses and then I add observing awareness. Today I felt again that the body is made of water and that it vibrates like waves, while the head instead had more general tension.
In particular, I was careful not to ignore the visual sense, as it is easy to ignore when there are no interesting lights or images. At one point there was a profound silence and an amorphous 3D light shape emerged in the center of the visual field that was changing (morphing), without defined contours. Sometimes the image disappeared for a fraction of a second and then reappeared. I do not know if these gaps in the visualization is something inherent to the observed object (by the 3Cs) or some Mind & Body type effect product of anxiety / expectation. At one point while I was watching this there was a kind of extra relaxation, I don't know what happened, and then the whole visual field was more filled with points of light. Then I wanted to check again that I was not ignoring any sense, and that ruined the situation ... This was the cutting edge, around minute 60.
Nov 05: 50’. Today there was much less concentration. When I tried to manipulate to have greater concentration, it was possible to achieve it. But I discarded it since it is not the work guideline. The good thing is that I confirmed that it is available if I needed it. During practice there was a lot of mental tugging. I was able to reasonably maintain awareness about the 6 senses. In the last sessions I am more easily noticing the big nanas (A&P, DN, EQ), beyond that it is not a linear path, they appear in any order.
Nov 6: 90'. There was a bit of everything. Phenomenologically, at the beginning there were many images of people (without sound) where the emotional expressions matched with what was going through my head (or that had happened recently).
At first there was a lot of pulling of the 6 senses. Afterwards there was a lot of calmness. I noticed that observing the 5 physical senses plus thoughts, but not observing awareness at the same time, makes the attention less wide. And being a shorter scope, it is more prone to experience that intense pull of the senses so typical of A&P. On the other hand, when I include awareness, the scope is broader, everything is calmer and more spatial.
When it comes to ignoring things that happen, the usual is to ignore awareness. But I realized that I was also ignoring the peace of mind, the easiness. At another time, I would have taken these qualities as something associated with greater concentration. And since the guideline is not to direct the mind toward concentration, lately I've been ignoring these qualities. But I remembered from Daniel Ingram's text that I had to incorporate these qualities into the bundle of perceptions. So I tried to integrate them and noticed that it is possible to simultaneously feel this peace of mind and easiness while some of the 6 senses were doing their usual jerks.
Off-cushion, I was playing with something that Daniel explains about how the mind sections off (eliminates / cuts) some of the perception that allows it to appear as an independent entity, in control and observer of all the rest. The game is to look at all the glitters in the kitchen objects (dishes, silverware, kitchen sink, water, etc) while the mind wanders discursively. The brightness has a certain attraction so it is a good element in which to be present, it is difficult not to observe it, whether one has a focused or wide gaze. But when discursive thought appears, the brightness disappears even though one can still observe everything (since one is washing dishes, so the gaze is on there). So discursive thinking is activated simultaneously with the Self, and this makes things lose that shiny quality. Although it is a very limited example, being able to observe that quality while the mind is active would be a good indication for practice.
Nov 07: 100' + 40'. The first session was quiet, I tried to incorporate the things that I had been ignoring (peace, ease, etc) and parts of the body that I did not include (legs, buttocks). A trick that I discovered by chance is to sometimes allow yourself a certain 'manipulation' of the observation (examples: focus attention, prefer certain sensations) to immediately observe the 'I', the tensions, energy flow, etc. that emerge related with the 'I'. Second session: daydreaming and boredom.
Nov 08: 70'. In the first 30 minutes there was a lot of daydreaming, I saw small scenes (me as an observer). Some embarrassing memories also. The session was complicated because Shargrol's message (“resting in knowing, releasing willfulness: THIS is intimacy”) made me go backwards, go back to the beginning ... put aside this to see what physical sense (or aspect of awareness) I am ignoring and trying to integrate it. It's a little frustrating…
Nov 09: 80'. A very annoying melody constantly in my ear, but in parallel there was physical and mental calm, in part by perceiving perfumes in the breath. There was also an energetic sensation (qi) in the forehead (forehead) that I had not observed for a long time.
Nov 10: 80'. Before the session I had a lot of mental noise, so when I sat down I decided to focus my attention on what historically I had practiced the most and that allowed a certain mental stability: observing the arising and passing of unconscious thoughts. Putting the focus there causes them to decrease noticeably and then consequently a certain mental space opened up. When this space was opened I felt so comfortable that I cut off all willfulness, kind of a complete surrender/fade. Then, physical and mental sensations appear, which go to the foreground (very prominently). As I did not want to lose sight of the rest, I looked for if the other sensations were still there in the background. This made the foreground and background integrate, all the sensations at the same time, although some are more prominent than the others for a while. This looks interesting ... This fade happened twice during the session. As it was a novel session, unfortunately there was expectation, analysis, preference, manipulation, etc. The good thing is that at least I saw it during the session.
Nov 11: 80'. It was one of the best sessions I've had so far. There was a mini break-through. The cutting-edge was at about the 30 minutes mark and lasted about 20 minutes or more, in which it seemed like I was in that typical absorption calmness but without the typical absorption sensations. The senses were simply perceived, without extra mental noises or mental echoes of those sensations. Just what was happening at the time. It did not generate anxiety. I could see that I was not analyzing (labelling) and had no need / urgency to analyze what was happening.
Before this, what happened is that I observed that my vision (eyes closed) was very focused forward, that I was not incorporating the sides. So having a broader attention generated a silence that allowed what was mentioned in the previous paragraph. It was surprising because of the length, the clarity, and the thing that seemed like an absorption without actually being one.
As has happened in the last sessions, the physical knots are felt in the skull and head, between the forehead and the Crown chakra. Lights that were modified (morphing) also appeared and disappeared, without becoming 3D. At a later time one more light towards the center began to rotate counterclockwise, which I associate with elements of 2nd Jhana.
Nov 12: 60'. Before the session I was with a lot of mental noise and that was reflected in practice. However, in the last 15 minutes mental noise and calmness were perceived simultaneously.
Nov 13: 90'. A very even session. A little concentration, a little quiet, a little observation of the five physical senses.
Nov 14: Only 20' because of family emergencies.
Nov 15: 60' + 70' + 70'. In the first session: absorption sensations in the trunk, arms and legs; attention to physical sensations related to thoughts. In the second session (I did 30' of walking meditation in between): it was an important change to be leaning slightly forward (1.5 inch), that eliminates much of the daydreaming and repetitive melodies; there are more images and more lights.
In the third session: the cutting-edge was from minute 40 to the end. I kept that from leaning slightly forward (my back doesn't hurt so I'm not forcing a harmful posture) and a much quieter mind showed up. What I also modified is the center of attention, going down from the eyes-nose towards the chest. In addition to connecting more with the body, it removes the mental noise.
Nov 16: 80'. The positive drag effect of the three sessions yesterday was felt, in addition to having slightly reclined the posture of the spine forward and the center of attention lower, in the chest. Likewise, I felt the breathing cycle in two places: the expansion-contraction of the chest and all the associated sensations in the trunk and limbs, and the sensations in the nose. The physical / energetic sensations are similar to those described by Niels ("bottom of the sea" lite version). For long periods of time they are only physical sensations and very few unconscious thoughts, no extra mental noises / vibrations or mental echoes. I was attentive to “releasing willfulness, resting in knowingness”, so I periodically observed awareness and applied fade/surrender when I observed any sensation related to mental intention. It's very good.
Nov 17: 50’. Today was a difficult workday. There was a lot of mental noise, but after the 20th minute the mind stabilized a bit. Ironically this happened when a dream pulled my center of attention out of my chest, upwards. Probably an effect of NLP: by directing my attention upwards, I stopped connecting with certain loops of emotions in the chest. The rest of the session I let the center of attention be higher and the chest was more like periphery. This "releasing willfulness, resting in knowingness" is quite similar to Vimalaramsi's TWIM, although without the manipulation step to generate metta / equanimity. That manipulation is a hindrance at this stage.
Nov 18: 90'. I continued with releasing willingness, resting in knowingness. It is not even letting the sensations come to me, but simply seeing them emerge in their own place. The last 50 minutes were calmer. Every time I detect willingness, it always refers to some kind of tension in the brain or skull. At times I may be resting in knowningness, while at other times I may not. A new point is that there may be knowingness of an absorption, through the physical sensations that accompany / make up an absorption (slight physical vibrations and sounds of that vibration, a sense of depth in one direction). There is usually a mental intensity associated with an absorption but today there was no effort to land on it. In terms of jhana, it seems like the difference between 1st and 2nd jhana. But it is a variable experience, lasting from time to time, maybe 1-2 minutes.
So many good observations! A very inspiring read! It seems that you are working your way, patiently and persistently, around the vast and subtle landscape known as the EQ nana. I recognize much of what you're describing, but you are wording it differently than I would, and that gives me a new perspective on my own practice, so thank you. And I'm definitely gonna try out The Glitter Game
Nov 20: 80'. Another very quiet session. A key insight that emerged was that the practice is about “resting in patternless knowingness”. Perceive the physical senses without the implicit and unconscious premise of seeking a meaning out of what is perceived. I believe that part of this is already hardwired in our brain (e.g. fight-flight response) but another part is habit and therefore it is possible to be changed. In other words, "analyzing" not only occurs a fraction of a second after perceiving the phenomena, but there is also a preexisting intention ("willingness") to somehow categorize what is going to be perceived.
Plus, together with resting in “patternless knowingness”, what actually arises is not so much observing the phenomena itself, but the process of looking, the process of listening, the process of feeling. In short, a “
When this insight of patternless process of knowing occurred, I did not find willingness as easy as in previous sessions, nor did I find the tensions inside the brain typically associated with it.
Probably, not having understood knowingness as a ‘process’ but only as the ‘final product’ observed is an English-Spanish translation issue. The dictionary translates knowingness as “knowledge”, that is, an object and not a verb. So, it’s a little clearer now the phrase “in the seen just the seeing”. Until now I understood how to avoid mental proliferation ex post from what was observed. But I see that also being able to be aware of the observation process is key. It is possible that this dual capacity to be aware of the process of the senses and the observed is part of the process of understanding what Formations are.
Nov 22: 90'. Releasing willfulness. Observing the process of knowingness. Tensions near the brow chakra.
Nov 23: 50’. Temporary seclusion. A complicated work day had a negative impact, but in just 20 minutes the mind managed to stabilize. Something similar happened yesterday, where I had a headache before and after practice, but not while I was meditating. I had read reports from other yogis who mentioned how mind-state was quickly lost after practice. This time I personally experienced it. Regarding willfulness / knowingness, I observed that for now it is an experience focused on only one physical sense at a time. It is not possible for me to do it in 2 or more senses at the same time.
Nov 24: 50’. Knowingness and openness of the senses. Unproductive session, I observed a lot of expectation regarding the fruits of the practice, which translates into tensions in the skull or pulses in the ear. As for the process of knowingness, for the visual sensation it is useful to open the focus to the sides and see from a distance. It is the physical way of feeling that one is seeing. For the physical sensation, it is more about feeling sensations in different parts of the body, which makes a sensation of space to emerge. In the auditory sense, it is integrating external sounds with internal ones.
Nov 25: 80'. Subtle willfulness. A much calmer session on the outside. Internally, I observed that in "willfulness" there is a superficial version of observing expectation (wanting to achieve some result, investigating some sensation, etc). But there is a subtler version which is to notice how the mind seeks to capture physical, visual, auditory sensations, particularly the new or the most intense ones. Something related to the need for the "I" to have a constant supply of sensations in order to build the "I" or keep it alive. So the difficult thing is to observe without intervening, to let the sensations emerge alone.
Another thing I tried was to visualize my whole body within the mind. First the head, then the torso and then the whole body.
Nov 26: 90'. Deeper absorption. A session similar to yesterday. It is always easier to visually observe related tensions, on the sides of the head, in the brow chakra and higher (with some energy). The mind was absorbed more deeply than in recent sessions.
Nov 27: Absorption and jhana elements. Only 30' for headaches and nasal congestion. But for a while, the mix of absorption and jhana elements allowed me to practice. I continued with the same guideline.
Nov 28: 70'. A near miss? A different session from the previous ones. I saw many faces of people doing their thing, even two cartoons looking at me, which was very nice. 80% of what I perceive is visual and 15-20% physical sensations. At 55-60 minutes, while I was lost in everyday thoughts (soccer), an unusual visual image emerged: a transparent cube and where the lines that joined the vertices were illuminated, half diffuse. This lasted a fraction of a second and there the eyelids collapsed (only once, not 2-3 as on previous occasions). After that everything was pacified and there was a feeling of wide space. There was nothing extra special in particular.
Nov 29: 80'. Wise words and karma images. Another session in which dreams were mixed with the practice. A little because of this situation, I was not attentive to those sensations that denoted willfulness, but I resigned myself to observe what was happening. At one point, the body carried me 10-15 cm forward (there were no previous thoughts of bending over, the body did it by itself). There the meditation worked better, it cut off the reverie. Later I heard very important "wise words" on a personal level. Some time later, the image of a centuries-old Christian monk emerged, with few teeth, half bald (a big receding hair), who was crying, moved by a spiritual revelation. I connected with an archetype of spiritual seeker, or karmic connection. This showed clearly my expectation / desire to reach Stream Entry. Both in the case of the wise words and in the image of the monk, there were later profound silences for a few minutes, fading with white lights that covered the entire space.
Nov 30: 70'. Head tense due to issues not related to meditation, but body quite relaxed and with elements of jhana present.
Dec 01: 90'. Releasing-Resting fusion. A very interesting session. I observed a more subtle willfulness, always from the sensory. From this I observed a fusion, an elimination between the border that separates “releasing willfulness” from “resting in knowingness”. They are part of the same. Or is it that the transitions are very long. I stay in releasing for as long as necessary and this leads to the transition to resting in knowingness being very natural and peaceful. I become that intention and then I release it. The releasing / resting merge takes away those hindrances like anticipation, interpretation, etc. It is something more visceral, corporal.
Dec 02: 90'. Vedana related to Willfulness / Knowingness. There was a lot of silence for chunks of the session. I practiced "inhabiting" body tensions. I observed that there is connection between Vedana and Willfulness / Knowingness. A minor push-pull explains that releasing-resting merger that I talked about yesterday.
Dec 03: 90'. Knees pain solved. I was not able to apply the guideline too much today, partly because of family discussions I had during the day. The only positive thing about the session was to eliminate the knee pain that I had been observing post-session, having removed one of the pillows: I used many (too many) to keep the knees below the sacrum.
Dec 04: 90'. Eyes. I couldn't put the earplugs on because of the persistent pulse in my left ear. I focused on the expansion-contraction in the chest and then the eyes (somatically I can 'breathe' through the eyes or any part of the body). The idea was to observe the movement of the eyes and its relation to willfulness.
Dec 05: I did not practice due to a family emergency.
Dec 06: 60'. Midnight session. The body was never exhausted, something I wanted to play with. The positive thing was inhabiting the pulse in the left ear, and how it was progressively vanished throughout the session.
Dec 07: I did not practice due to a family emergency.
Dec 08: 120'. Jhanas 1 & 2, wise words. Another midnight session. The most remarkable thing was observing for the first time a clear transition between Jhana 1 and Jhana 2. Other times I observed the sensations of one or the other, but not the upward dynamics. This is important, because I often confused the elements of jhana 1 and jhana2. Later in the session, wise words emerged. At 2 am I decided to go to sleep, although I could have continued because I was not sleepy. In the morning I woke up with a persistent perfume of roses.
Dec 09: 80'. Intimacy with sensations. A very nice session. I was already very calm before practicing. Long chunks of time without thoughts and a lot of intimacy with physical sensations. It was very interesting to see the process of knowingness when there was morphing visual objects, feeling the physical sensations related to the observation. It was a practice without expectations and almost without interpretation. I did noticed a certain intention to stay more on the senses, so there is something about knowingness that was not completely “pure”. I suppose there is always some manipulation, even if it is subtle.
Dec 10: 60'. Knowingness and tensions related to the physical senses. It was a complicated day due to the unwanted end of a 20-year cycle of labor independence. I still have a few months to think about how to reinvent myself in 2021, which locally is going to be worse than 2020. As for now, I’m going through the five stages of the duel, but simultaneously. Something about the EQ (and life experience) makes me not experience it as a Greek tragedy, like years ago.
Nevertheless, today's practice was not so unproductive, beyond the fact that after 30 minutes I had to remove the earplugs as a result of the mental tensions that trigger the pulse in the ear. As elements of 1st Jhana emerged, I watched the pulse sound fade as the focus was casually hovering over the jhana element. It was several repetitions, because the mind was out of focus at 60-120 seconds. Afterwards, without earplugs I practiced observing the process of knowingness (of the senses) and the corresponding tensions, associated with the "I". For the visual, sensations in the eyelids. For the somatic, sensations in the skull. For the auditory, sensations in the jaws (maxilla). Anyway, I see that I can go further back and see which part connects with these tensions in the head. Work to do.
Dec 11: 60'. Seeing from behind the head. Today the pulse also appeared in the ear, but it disappeared once I took the whole skull as the object of attention. So then I adapted the guideline (Willfulness / Knowingness) by narrowing it to the skull. This caused a place behind the head or on the periphery of the head to emerge as an observation point.
Dec 12: 90'. Sharp Gones. I continued with the application of the Knowingness associated with the observer. No changes compared to yesterday. The different thing was at the beginning of the session, where there were many abrupt gones (a la Shinzen Young) of the "zzzzep" type, without subsequent pacification of the physical senses.
Dec 13: 100'. Breathing from the skull. The first 20 minutes with a pulse in the ear. There was some kind of absorption. Only in the last 15 minutes was I able to relax my brain / skull and eyes. After the session I practiced 'breathing' from the skull.
Dec 14: 70'. Sensations related to the “I” are always changing places. Without earplugs as the pulse bothers a lot. The feelings of stability and concentration are in the background, but they don’t have thrust enough. It was only in the last 15 minutes that I was able to do Resting in Knowingness, Releasing Willfulness (RIKRW). I saw that the sensations related to the Observer are always changing. If they are not in the eyes, then they are in the cheekbones or jaws or in different parts of the skull (sometimes in the Crown Chakra in particular).
Dec 15: 80'. Sense of I and the Crown Chakra & Heart Chakra connection. The first 60 minutes without earplugs. The practice became very calm again, although I had to apply a little concentration at first since I am not used to being without earplugs. I did Resting in Knowingness, Releasing Willfulness (RIKRW) but this time based on the physical sensations related to the Crown Chakra. The novel conclusion was that with the focus on the Crown Chakra, when I look for the physical sensations related to the "I", they always refer me to the chest.
In contrast, when the RIKRW is more general, this involves much more the visual sense. And by always going back in search of the “I” sensations, I end up jumping from the eyes to the skull or to a place near the nose / mouth, and from those to another part of the skull surface. In short, I end up walking incessantly through different parts of the face and skull. This is in line with the theory. But when I focus on the Crown Chakra (or the back of the skull), the mind cannot go "further back" and jumps to another focus to anchor itself: the chest. Precisely, the chest always has movement simply by breathing, while the rest of the trunk, arms and legs are "pressurized" product of concentration. In the last minutes of the practice (already with earplugs) I noticed a certain descent of the observation point, from the height of the brain / eyes towards the mouth / nose). I suppose that having “connected” (mental link) the Crown Chakra with the Heart Chakra, the center of the “I” began to slide between both poles.
Dec 17: 80'. Throat tension. The Center of Observation: Infinite Descent or Seventh Sense? It was a day emotionally moved by the presentation of the album on YouTube. I had the sensory "stain" (tension) in my throat for much of the session, typical of times when there is some kind of conflict in personal expression. The tension disappeared very slowly. Instead of sequentially observing willfulness / knowingness in each physical sense, I observed it in general, with more distance. One question that arose is whether when I observe the sensations related to the center of observation (watcher), if I should in turn pursue the sensations that observe this (in an infinite descent) or if I simply should take the watcher as a "seventh sense".
Dec 18: 90'. Investigating the observation center. Mindstream speed. I was able to quickly observe the observation center (watcher). I practiced observing the sensory responses to the questions: Who is observing? Who hears? Who feels? I did not practice an infinite descent, but simply the acknowledgment that it is always "behind". When I looked at the mind-stream, it's 3-5 thoughts / intentions per second, far from the 15-20 per second that Olivier mentions somewhere in his posts. Even adding the vibrations of the "Ziiip" type, this minimum figure of 15 per second is not reached.
Dec 19: 90'. Variety of thoughts. As the mind was dreamy, I took the opportunity to observe the variety of thoughts. This is still 3 average thoughts / noises per second. I did a review of the 3Cs, observing from the “behind” and resting in knowingness, releasing willfulness.
Dec 20: 80'. Much mental noise and emotionality; very gradual mental pacification. It was not the best session, a lot of mental noise and emotionality regarding the public's response to the presentation of the album. I observed the variety of thoughts but without the usual quota of equanimity, although in any case there was a gradual pacification of the senses and mental calm throughout the session.
Dec 21: 80'. Observing the silences between thoughts. Tensions that were loosened in the skull just opposite the eyes. Also in the usual points. A lot of mental dialogue today, too much, so I practiced paying attention to silences between words / ideas for added peace of mind.
Dec 22: 70'. Little blank moments after changes in the physical senses. A good session, with greater concentration. I not only observed the silences between thoughts, but also what happens with the changes in the physical senses. When changes occur, little gaps, blank moments are observed. The idea is to avoid reaction to changes, a more complete equanimity, to see where the practice leads.
Dec 23: 90'. Eyes and thoughts. Another good session, yesterday's carryover effect. Today there was even more peace of mind. As a starting point, I tried to deplete all the tensions in the eye sockets. Then observe how the eyes react to the thoughts and physical sensations that arise. Later, I tried to extend that stress depletion to the entire skull. A wild hypothesis that arose is if the sub-minds that handle the physical senses now begin to work in parallel rather than intermingled, hence one does not trigger the reaction of another (as much as before).
Dec 24: I didn't meditate. Family day away from home.
Dec 25: I didn't meditate. Family day away from home.
Dec 26: 70'. The session was bad, tensions everywhere. It was only after 30 minutes that the mind became pacified.
Dec 28: 80'. It was only after 30 minutes that the mind stopped getting lost in dreams. Later the dream material continued to appear but I could already be observing (resting in knowingness).
Dec 29: 70'. A fairly quiet session. I observed everything, in particular the mind-flow. To be watched: I'm not seeing sensations related to the Watcher.
Dec 30: I didn't meditate.
Dec 31: 80'. I did a kind of recap of the last few weeks. Resting in Knowingness. Questions arose: where did this thought / sound come from?
Jan 01: 70'. I continued with the same.
Jan 02: 80'. Observing sensations of peacefulness and space. Looking from this side of the glass. A very good session. I remembered to include observing the sensations (in eyelids and skull) of easiness, peacefulness, space. Later it happened that observing awareness was very interesting for the mind, it overshadowed the other sensations. It's like looking from this side of the glass, the sensations are on the other side. It is not something forced, although I need to have the desire to be.
Jan 03: 40'. Short session due to lack of time, but fruitful. I continued with yesterday's practice.
Jan 04: 30’ + 70’. A very calm session, thanks to the inclusion of peacefulness, space. Sometimes the focus is broader, other times narrower. Sometimes the attention is more consistent, other times more intermittent.
Jan 05: 80'. Working on Clinging. A very good practice. I kept doing the same of the last days, but now changes were noticed. The crucial point was to work on clinging. How the mind seeks to engage with sensations, whether they are attractive or aversive. The mind prefers to hold onto / climb onto something small rather than enjoying this extensive relaxation. To the extent that it does not cling, there is a certain progression: first, mental relaxation deepens; second the thoughts go; third some specific thoughts; fourth certain vibrations and intense sensations related to mindflow.
Off-cushion: during the last days there have been many dreams reliving (quietly) certain intense episodes of my life.
Jan 06: 40’ + 80’. Gaps between thoughts, What am I holding to? First session: Observing peacefulness / space calms the mind, then I tried to observe the spaces between the proto-thoughts. Second session: quiet session in the second half, when I observed tensions I asked my mind "What am I holding on to?"
Jan 07: 90'. "I" building thoughts. One of the most peaceful sessions I have had in recent weeks. I was able to apply clinging from time to time, when there were thoughts that could help me to observe it. It is easy to see how the thoughts that emerge seek to build the self, both from the content and from the sensations.
Jan 08: 90'. Why do I want to change things different from what they already are? Although I wanted to keep aiming for clinging, the practice led me more to observe greed, aversion & indifference. The mind does not want to stay where it is, it wants to improve it via meditation, or it wants to think of something else outside of meditation. There is a tension but it is very subtle to observe it, only to observe the need to change. As compensation I tried to point to "acceptance", "this is what is". Also ask myself: "Why do I want to change things different from what they are?"
Jan 09: One-day home retreat: 6 hours in 5 sessions. A little tired that the mind could not calm down, from the third session onwards I implemented (on the fly) a method to deepen concentration, which worked very well. It is similar to "Noting Aloud" but applied to the subtle mindflow. I focus on detecting the proto-thoughts (which I detect with some ease when using earplugs) and I mentally count (1..2..3..4..etc) until the background mental noise (proto-thoughts, noise waves, vibrations, etc). This was very good because it did identify very subtle things. With the background mental noise at zero, there were only a few loose conscious thoughts and the passage of time. There’s intimacy but boredom also. Having achieved this, I sought to do the same with the subtle elements of the visual and the tactile. The rotor-blade returned for a few minutes, in a distant form.
Jan 10: 40 '+ 80'. Noting of proto-thoughts worked as a way to calm the mind and then resting in knowingness. There were visual effects.
Jan 11: 90'. Breaking the bread. Fluctuations of integrated perceptions. A good session. I continued with the same practice. The most interesting thing was the last 30 minutes, when I realized that I was having more focus on the ‘periphery’ than in the ‘center’. It was necessary to integrate the ‘center’ and at the same time open up, like the visual image of ‘breaking the bread’. This triggers sensations and relaxes the physical and mental. Open the mind and integrated the center with the periphery, there were general and particular fluctuations of perception, nothing dramatic.
Jan 12: 70'. Two levels of deepening. A&P or Formations? A very good session. This time I started 'breaking bread' and let the mental background noise go by itself. Later I did the noticing of the proto-thoughts and this brought a second level of depth into the silence of the mental background noise. I sought to integrate center and periphery, letting the mind do what it wanted. Sometimes there was more concentration, sometimes there was more mental flow. I felt the mixture of many things at the same time: vibrations, fluctuations, empty mind, flickering lights. Very varied and pleasant. I don't know if this time it's an A&P within EQ or a EQ Formations. A beautiful mess.
Jan 13: 50’. The practice was short and was not comparable with the last ones. I was very active during the day and that was reflected in the higher volume of mental flow.
Jan 14: 90'. Intimacy (without integration). At the beginning of the session there was a mental walk through painful memories and mixed emotions about past events. Later, with the mental background noise already off, there was a parade of thoughts, sensations, visuals. Intimacy but without reaching the feeling of integration. At the end I played with placing myself in the center of the brain, to observe sensations and reactions related to the observation center. This triggers more mental, visual and physical activity.
Jan 15: 90'. Ignorance & Willfulness. A similar session. I alternated between ‘breaking the bread’ and noticing the proto-thoughts to silence the mental background noise. What worked the most was observing the things that I tend to ignore (not pay attention to). One of the most important things was to see the vibrations, which at first I took it as something more related to A&P. It appears at different moments of the session and in different parts of the body (in the spine, in the sacrum, in the head and covering the whole body). In the case of vibrations in the head, the peaks and valleys of the wave can (barely) be observed, sensing (rather than inhabiting) the gaps. Another area usually ignored is the tensions between the nose and the mouth, where there is also a point of concentration, tensions which are related to the "I". This also occurs in the middle of the brain, but that’s a more explored area. In the last part of the session, I was working on the balance between ignorance and willfulness. In other words, observe what I am ignoring, but avoid thereby activating a "doer" mind. I understand that the mere fact of seeking a balance implies willfulness ... but having experiences of a certain balance also makes the mind trust in letting go.
Current state of practice:
At the beginning of the practice I connect with a general vibration, different from that of A&P or Qigong, probably related to elements of 1st jhana. Then the vibration loses novelty and attention shifts to observing how physical sensations and thoughts arise and pass away. Thoughts eventually gain momentum and become distractions. When the mind observes that there is a distraction, there the mind becomes detached and thoughts are silenced.
What is new is that I realized that the space I dwell after the mind detaches is like a "limbo", halfway between the phenomena and the “I-Self”. At another time, inhabiting that limbo (which can have characteristics of spatiality and tranquility) I saw it as something positive. But now I see it as insufficient, because I do not get to the I-Self.
Observing this I-Self sometimes requires simply inclining the mind there, remembering what it is like to be there. Other times it requires some intentionality, especially to maintain some consistency in the observation. I notice a certain recurring sequence (which doesn't always happen):
(1) Point "back" to an observation point at the other end of the skull;
(2) When that observation point is exhausted/no longer works, I expand that observation point lengthwise and width, as if it were a 2D plane;
(3) When this 2D plane is exhausted / becomes a burden, then there is a relaxation of the whole head, a loss of physical consistency, as if it were transparent. It is a (gratifying) feeling of "effortlessness" and without a specific spatial location, as if the point of view was floating (slightly) adrift.
I notice that this sequence has some kind of correlation with the jhanas (or rather with vipassana-jhanas) but the level of concentration is usually more shallow than deep.
When this dwelling in the I-Self has some temporal consistency, then the perception of what is happening changes. I observe three recurring modalities:
(I) The most repeated modality is to observe an I-Self on ‘this side of the street’, while physical sensations and thoughts are located on ‘the other side of the street’. The I-Self also has its own physical sensations (generally in the eyes, face and skull), which are located on the other side of the street, while on this side there is only the certainty of being present observing (awareness of awareness) . It looks a lot like the “tri-ality” Daniel mentions in his Equanimity chapter on MCTB2.
(II) Less frequently and with some intermittence, I observe the (endless) mind-stream of proto-thoughts. This happens more frequently when I am in the "effortlessness" mode described in point (3) above. Sometimes I get to this situation simply by releasing the steering wheel of the car (that of "releasing willfulness, resting in knowingness"), but it depends a lot on the previous conditions. I do not know if it is really what Shargrol refers to in his posts, since I am not completely immersed in the mind-stream, rather the I-Self and the mind-stream are present "simultaneously". Also, I do not observe gaps in the mind-stream, and let alone gaps in the I-Self.
(III) Only 2-3 times it happened –after being in the effortless mode, and for a short time– that both the thoughts and the I-Self were fluctuating at the same time (other times, physical sensations and I-Self seemed to rotate). This reminds me of what Daniel mentions about formations, and what Niels and Tim describe as being sunk deep in the ocean, moved by the water currents. My (off-cushion) hypothesis is that due to the effortless modality, where the spatial point of view is unanchored, perception anchors instead to some type of organic wave (brain waves, ripples of respiration or heart rate, etc). A life-saving board for a castaway. So far it happened too few times to see where the practice goes when surfing this wave / fluctuation. I suppose that the amplitude of the waves changes and that is where the gaps arise, or that the synchronization of physical sensations, thoughts and the I-Self increases until they all disappear together.
That is all for now. I appreciate that you have read this far and I would love to hear your own experiences, opinions, corrections, pointers, etc.
Metta DhOers! Pepe
The previous ones were too long and I never managed to read them, I only read a few lines here and there!
1) When you write that you connect with ”a general vibration”, how is this vibration experienced? Is it tactile, auditory, visual, mental, or perhaps present in all the sense doors or somehow beyond the sense doors?
2) Can you expand on your experience, ”that both the thoughts and the I-Self were fluctuating at the same time”? Again I am interested in the phenomenological experience in itself, rather than an interpretation of it. So: How is this I-self experienced in the event you describe? As a tactile object with a location? As a thought? And when it fluctuates, does it mean that it seems to move in space? Change shape? And the thoughts: Verbal thoughts, preverbal thoughts? Image thoughts? Do they seem to have a location?
To me the question of location is almost maddeningly important these weeks (and months!): Where is this ”I” that seem to be observing, experiencing etc.? The unreflected assumption is, as you know, that it is somewhere in the middle of the head, but every time I look for it, it is not there, and then I try to see this point from which I am looking for it, but that can’t be found either, it is not a point, is is … everywhere. And yet, I still (after having repeated these search parties and self inquiries for months) somehow feel that ”I” am inside my head, that my visual field is ”in front of” me, that the tactile sensations of the back of my head are ”behind” me, that this external sound is ”to the left of” me etc., alway already assuming this elusive center point. Does this resonate with you? And how (if at all) does it relate to both the ”general vibration” (1) and the ”fluctuation” (2) that you experience?
1) When you write that you connect with ”a general vibration”, how is this vibration experienced? Is it tactile, auditory, visual, mental, or perhaps present in all the sense doors or somehow beyond the sense doors?
It’s a 100% tactile vibration. Generally in the chest and many times in the head too. No auditory, visual or mental elements. It’s the ‘classic’ body vibration that if the attention is directed to, then it escalates to warmth and pleasant sensations, things that may later lead to jhanas. It’s NOT a body vibration like in A&P (faster & narrow, sometimes with the drum beat at the sacrum area) or like Qigong (slower & wider, with some auditory elements too). Just vibrations during the first minutes of the session.
2) Can you expand on your experience, “that both the thoughts and the I-Self were fluctuating at the same time”? Again I am interested in the phenomenological experience in itself, rather than an interpretation of it. So: How is this I-self experienced in the event you describe? As a tactile object with a location? As a thought? And when it fluctuates, does it mean that it seems to move in space? Change shape? And the thoughts: Verbal thoughts, preverbal thoughts? Image thoughts? Do they seem to have a location?
The I-Self is phenomenologically experienced in mode (I) (check my previous post) as a ‘place’ behind the eyes, close to the back of the head. Sometimes, there is a knot, either in the middle of the brain or in the crown chakra. In mode (II) the I-Self is in the head-space too, but the physical borders of the brain first fluctuate and then kind of disappear (but I’m still buoying in head-space). In mode (III) it’s just like mode (II) but with the “effortlessness” quality more clearly perceived.
That said, while the I-Self (the awareness of awareness) is in the back of the head most of the time, thoughts are perceived to be outside of the head, sometimes in front of me (thus, this side of the street vs the other side of the street). In very few occasions the point of observation and verbal thoughts fluctuated. The verbal thoughts had endings with different pitch, like a sound-wave. The point of observation fluctuated in “block” and the sounds seemed to be inside the block. Whenever this happen again, I’ll be more alert to remember the details.
... And how (if at all) does it relate to both the “general vibration” (1) and the ”fluctuation” (2) that you experience?
(1) No relation at all with the general vibration (which is just pre-jhanic stuff). But the mind-stream I mentioned in mode (II) are a stream of preverbal thoughts plus some fine vibration (no gaps seen there, what Shargrol says the attention should look for, discover, etc).
(2) The fluctuation IS that ‘effortless head-space’, but that happened for a few moments so I cannot give any more data.
Do these descriptions match somehow your phenomenology? Keep in mind that your concentration is way deeper than mine. I'm almost a dry vipassana practitioner.
That sequence 1-2-3 I wrote (place; plane; drifting in head-space) happened organically, so to speak. It wasn’t something I read somewhere or made up before/during the sit. I was insisting to place the attention back from the ‘limbo’ in a horizontal direction and got tired of it so I added a vertical direction (picture a 2D square at the back of your head). That worked for a while but then got tiresome too, and then was when all 3D head-space relaxed, borders fluctuated and disappeared and that effortless sensation prevailed.
Does this clarify/make sense to you?
As to the dry vs. wet vipassana, concentration etc.: I might have a little higher concentration than you, since I have done several retreats, but I don't think my baseline is that much higher, because even though 8-10 days of intensive meditation can really boost your concentration to a level you can hardly imagine if you have never been on retreat, you very quickly loose almost all of it after the retreat. And then you land on a baseline that is just a little higher than before the retreat. - These last months I have found it difficult to tease samatha and vipassana apart, and hence the idea of me doing a more "wet" practice than you might be true, but not the result of a choice, really. I don't experience that I get to choose very much if a sitting is going in samatha or vipassana direction or a mix. The meditation is just doing its thing.
By the way: What is your technique these days? Do you note? Just sit? Use breath as an anchor?
(1) be calm enough to observe how consciousness is observing (awareness of awareness / I-Self). If possible, situate in the middle/back of your brain, but I guess that's not really necessary;
(2) be attentive to the (in) constant emergence of physical and visual sensations linked to who is observing (generally near the eyes, face and skull). That is, every time you feel that you are observing unspecifically / floating, there is some related physical or visual sensation;
(3) leave step (2) in the background and focus on observing the changes / jumps of the Attention between object and object. It's like surfing the Attention;
At some point, you will observe that the process of attention (that fast sensation of going towards one object, and then jumping to the next object) works AUTOMATICALLY. Observe that consciousness arrives a fraction of a second late to each event (be it going towards the object, jumping to another or landing on it). That Consciousness/I-Self adopts this movement of the mind as its own will and action.
In short, that physical sensations and thoughts occur independently of my will is something that I have been observing with ease in the last year. What is new is the AUTOMATICITY with which the Attention / Body acts and how the Consciousness adopts these movements as if they were its own.
This insight is similar to what shargrol wrote in my thread about off cushion practice:
"You could notice how --- in the same way the body can breathe itself -- attention can direct itself. Just get used to that notion. "Look at how my attention seems to know where to go in order to walk, wash, eat... Attention is already attending..."
But! It was not before your clear and detailed observation – and instruction – that I actually got it! Thank you! I’m gonna try it out more in my next sit.
A little tail wiggle of an after thought: To focus on mind processes rather than mind objects seems in general to be key at this (eq) stage: Attending (not attention), intending (not intention), "aversing" (not aversion), etc. Linguistically speaking, it is not the nouns that are interesting now, but the verbs, or rather: One has to see that there never was anything BUT verbs, processes, in the mind. Which also means: There is no (syntactical) subject ( = observer, doer, etc.) to look for. Ah! NOW, we can just relax, right?
While in Mind & Body, the main insight was that I am not my thoughts, but now it's more about how the identification process with thoughts ocurr moment to moment.
While in Cause & Effect, the main insight was the "one-two" process of mental and physical phenomena, but now it's more about how consciousness identifies with mental processes that are actually automatic (that the bodymind does, no intention from consciousness).
While in the Three Characteristics, the main theme (wouldn't say it's strictly an insight but it's related to the Observer/Doer) was about the energetic/tension imbalance between left and right sides of the body, or between back and front, but now it's more about the tension (physical and energy) between the inside and outside (mainly in the head).
While in Arising & Passing Away, the main insight was the granularity of physical phenomena and the speed of emerging and vanishing of physical phenomena, but now it's more about how thoughts emerge, float and vanish in some space "far" from me.
So far, I haven't seen anything really new about the Dukkha Ñanas.
What I have seen lately is that I'm kind of revisiting earlier ñanas. Not in a specific order, nor in the sense of walking through them, but instead like a general deepening of the insights of each ñana. Don't know if it's my particular case (collecting insights that I missed earlier) or it's something that happens to everybody while in EQ.
Your descriptions of revisiting the lower nanas are very accurately worded, thanks for that. Your words made me recognize my own experience in a new way.
I think there is also a revisiting of the dukkha nanas. For instance:
FEAR, revisited in EQ: 1) A scary face appears in the visual field, 2) The mind knows that there will be a fear reaction, 3) The fear reaction appears (micro-tensing of the midriff). 4) Neutral thought: Okay, that was fear. --- Elapsed time: Less than half a second
As opposed to plain FEAR: 1) Arrrggh!! --- Elapsed time: Two-three seconds, maybe even with longer repercussions.
And similarly with the other dukkha nanas: The mind is clearer, faster. So emotions are seen rather than felt.
(Tonight) I also read Papa Che's log about memories past and future scenarios. Something happened as I connected to an "effortless now". Later while on-cushion I remembered that. To sum it up, the best description would be "holy desinterest". I wanted nothing, just being there. In fact, little vipassana happened automatically, not me focusing on phenomena. I guess I finally connected to Shargrol's "release intention, rest in knowingness". It did happened before, but briefly and not very often (I thought it was context related). It felt like a vipassana-jhana but more on the jhana side. Some shapes (sort of Moebius' band) emerged and vanished, looked like doing some kind of rotation. Then, the observing centerpoint moved around and later descended somewhere between the throat and the chest. It was not a cessation and probably not even a near-miss, but it was educational and inspiring.
Thursday: 2 sessions in the morning, 3 in the afternoon. Friday: 6 sessions, 7 hours. Saturday: 5 sessions, 7 hours. Sunday: 5 sessions, 6 hours.
The home-retreat was the only option available, due to mobility restrictions in my country due to the Covid crisis. Doing it at home with an attention-demanding young kid was not an easy task, which unfortunately took the momentum out of the retreat. But anyway, keeping up with 6-7 hours per day of practice was in itself difficult (more difficult than I expected) both from a mental and physical aspects. Since I couldn't do walking meditation (inside my small flat with my family inside), I had to do all the sessions sitting down, hence part of the wear and tear. But it helped a lot to change the position of the legs (burmese, seiza and chair-like sit) and of the hands (joined, separated, on the knees, etc).
Practice: Although some sessions had a more absorbing feel (sometimes with visual elements), the focus of the home-retreat practice was to let the mind go wherever it wanted, just observing greed (of future events), aversion (going back to past things to avoid the present) and ignorance (basically, fantasies of what is actually happening).
Unlike mindfulness, which focuses on physical and mental objects, this practice is the closest thing to effortlessness (‘letting be within awareness’). It is not something static, since that effortlessness sometimes translates into an absorption in the 'Now', other times in something more spatial where there is a simultaneous awareness of the I-Self and the physical and mental sensations of the present, other times it is something more like a noting practice about greed / aversion / fantasy, and other times (those of lesser occurrence) riding an internal vibration (in the head or in the spine).
To my surprise, this type of practice practically eliminated proto-thoughts (the string of mental non-sense, syllables, sounds that simulate the contour of a spoken idea, etc.) and instead popped up some sentences with coherent structure but incomplete, which the mind completed with very strange words that did not give meaning to the sentence. Other times, it happened that the mind tried to represent the 'present' through objects (static or dynamic images), without creating stories or anything else.
This observance of greed / aversion / fantasy has a strong connection to psychological matters and brought to mind many painful memories and frustrations of projects that I cannot fulfill and try to accept that many things will never happen. At night I had very vivid dreams and nightmares.
Also, the problems that arise during meditation practice was part of the observed psychological material, in particular the ill-will about the present: anticipating what is happening (what happens now is not as interesting as what will or should come), or analyze what is happening (what is observed is not interesting or clear enough, it needs a theoretical framework -created in the fly- to make sense).
The observance of the arising of a greed / aversion / fantasy already made the mind return to the present. But in cases where the emotional was stronger, that emotion became the ‘present’ and I ‘inhabited it’, avoiding fleeing but rather moving through all its arising & passing away sequence. This had a healing / purifying character, returning later to a more relaxed, silent present, etc. In some these cases, warmness in different parts of the body or Christian images or melodies arose.
In a few moments of a Saturday session this observation of the greed / aversion / fantasy took some distance: the consciousness saw how the mind automatically reacted to what it disliked in the present. Just as before the retreat I had seen the automaticity of certain mental processes (a more subtle version of the ñana Cause & Effect), now in the retreat I could see some of this automaticity in the greed / aversion / ignorance (which is more related to Dependent Origination).
The funniest moment of the retreat was a “revealing conclusion”: the entire Progress of Insight is about Dukkha and only Dukkha, only that it is disguised with more elegant, mysterious or suggestive names so as not to discourage the unexpected yogis… After all, In the early ñanas the recurring question one asks is why is it so difficult to meditate and why am I investing / wasting my time on this; in A&P it is also Dukkha because of the tension that one puts to Noting everything and accelerate the speed, and in Dissolution because one wants to relive (unsuccessfully) those peaks of concentration / insights etc; in DN it's all Dukkha too because one wonders if old wounds are worth reliving, how much longer will it take to get over the slump, etc; in Low EQ it is also Dukkha because one is on one hand enjoying a certain tranquility but at the same time one is on guard against falling back into DN or going over the top of enthusiasm and triggering an A&P that bring one back to earlier ñanas; the move to High-EQ is the mother of all dukkhas because there you have to dare to release all the previous achievements (a collection of insights on Dukkha lol), and for getting there, everything that deviates me from the present is Dukkha, and anchor myself to the present is Dukkha as well...
Anyway, dukka is what propells the path forward ironically. The mind clinging or avoiding or ignoring, and the dukka feedback of that frustrating that strategy. So a higher-better strategy is attempted. Again and again. Where can a sense of self "exist" as an observer and not be seen through? The sense that we are our body is pretty much blown apart in A&P. The idea that we're our thoughts takes the Dark Night and EQ to be beaten out of us. High EQ highlights this with extreme subtly: are we thoughts or watching thoughts,? are we mind or watching mind?
So one way to think of the refining stages of pre-SE is "Look at it dukka. Look at it do it's dukka-avoidance strategies and fail. Look at it slowly learn its lesson."
Another interesting thing to ponder is that mind objects never hit each other, so why is there dukka?
- Outside of meditation, several times a day it happens that the mind goes into a non-conceptual mode, something that is triggered when the mind does not prefer between one situation / sensation or another. When the mind does not discriminate, it feels strange LOL. In some way, relief is felt as this modality extends in time. It is a modality that is contrasted with the effort that mindfulness implies, to be focusing on objects in a serial way. When you stop discriminating, the objects arrive (instead of going to look for them). No effort
While I do incline the mind initially towards a non-discriminating mind, then it stays in that mode for some considerable time (when family dynamics aren't at their peak).
This non-discriminating mind means it doesn't make verbal/mental likes/dislikes (obviously there's still the more fundamental clinging-aversion-indifference thing), no analyzing and not fantasizing about the future or remembering the past. For a cerebral mind of mine, this is quite a relief. Sometimes boring though, other times both pleasant and unpleasant mixed up. Or kind of accepting the impossibility of improving the actual situation. Not easy to explain, lots of things, but related to the above. There's no fundamental shift in perspective, but a general calm down of the mind/body.
[ Addendum for Niels: Yes, the short answer is zooming out. Precisely, if the mind observes in a serial way, I think it is because some/all of these factors: (1) putting a lot of effort into attention (mindfulness); (2) too much concentration; (3) There is clinging to a certain variety of physical sensations or mental states. Actually, more than zooming out, it is the habitual perception of the mind off-cushion, but where I am attentive to how the mind seeks to cling to pleasant things and forget about unpleas