Message Boards Message Boards

Practice Logs

Mike Monson Practice Log

Toggle
Mike Monson Practice Log Mike Monson 1/1/20 7:28 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today Mike Monson 12/31/19 10:24 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 1/1/20 7:21 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today Mike Monson 1/1/20 9:03 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today Chris Marti 1/1/20 9:02 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today Mike Monson 1/1/20 9:19 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today Dustin 1/1/20 12:43 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today Mike Monson 1/1/20 6:27 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/1/2020 Laurel Carrington 1/2/20 4:11 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/1/2020 Mike Monson 1/2/20 8:17 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/1/2020 Nikolai . 1/3/20 5:16 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/1/2020 Mike Monson 1/3/20 8:45 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log shargrol 1/3/20 6:08 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Mike Monson 1/3/20 8:49 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Mike Monson 1/3/20 10:11 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Georg S 1/3/20 8:58 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log shargrol 1/3/20 9:48 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Georg S 1/3/20 11:43 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Mike Monson 1/3/20 12:47 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Chris Marti 1/3/20 1:00 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log shargrol 1/3/20 1:59 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Georg S 1/3/20 4:13 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log T 1/3/20 7:10 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Mike Monson 1/3/20 7:05 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020 Mike Monson 1/3/20 8:35 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020 shargrol 1/4/20 6:59 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/3 to 1/4 am. - 1/3 2020 Chris Marti 1/4/20 1:30 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/3 to 1/4 am. - 1/3 2020 Mike Monson 1/4/20 9:42 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/4/2020 Mike Monson 1/4/20 11:09 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/4/2020 Chris Marti 1/5/20 11:13 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/4/2020 Mike Monson 1/5/20 4:02 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020 Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 1/6/20 9:48 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020 Mike Monson 1/6/20 11:07 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020 Brandon Dayton 1/6/20 1:53 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020 Mike Monson 1/6/20 3:37 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Chris Marti 1/11/20 7:52 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Mike Monson 1/11/20 8:33 AM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Mike Monson 1/16/20 10:36 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Mike Monson 1/21/20 8:50 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Mike Monson 1/25/20 10:02 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Mike Monson 2/2/20 7:46 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log spatial 1/3/20 8:54 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Georg S 1/4/20 12:18 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log spatial 1/1/20 11:01 PM
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log Mike Monson 1/2/20 8:13 AM
Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/1/20 7:28 PM
Okay, here I go. 
Before I start, I'm posting below a brief-as-I-could-make-it bio/life overview. After this, I'll start the log, okay? 

1956 (birth) to about 1970 or so:
 
My mom brought us to evangelical/fundamentalist-type mostly Baptist Churches. As far as I can remember upon first encounter, I fell for all of it, and loved Jesus so much. Loved his teaching. I was fascinated by John the Baptist. Then, I decided that no one in church or out of it seemed to take it as seriously as I did and I got all pissed off and did my best to reject the whole thing. Still, my affection for the Jesus of the days when I believed still held (and still does).
 
About 1970 to around 1980 or so:
 
Trying to shed Christianity while exploring new ideas.
Got my TM Mantra when that was first popular. Never really got into the meditation.
Visited the Long Beach Zen Center as a project for a high school philosophy class. Sat for zazen. It was an elegant place and I was struck by the still beauty. There was a Japanese man who led the sitting and service. There was a tall nerdy-looking white dude in a white shirt and tie (about 25, looked like an uptight philosophy major) who walked around whacking people with the stick.
 
Read Autobiography of a Yogi. Loved all the stories about powers and other realms, etc. The Yogananda organization has a monastery in the hills east or Orange, California. I visited it a couple of times and talked to a couple of the young monks. I was attracted to that whole thing, I guess.
 
Started reading J. Krishnamurti books.
Started reading books by the guy that used to be named Bubba Free John.
Read Kerouac, Ginsburg, Burroughs.
Read Living Buddhist Masters, by Jack Kornfield.
Listened to Alan Watts talks and frequented the Eastern Philosophy section of bookstores (it was much smaller then) to read Hindu, Yoga, Buddhist stuff.
 
While lying in my bed in the dorms at Chapman University, for some reason I decided to see if I could stop my thoughts. I did something that I know now involved the right amount of concentration momentum, and very briefly I was in a slightly different consciousness. I can’t describe it in words -- the closest I can come is that it seemed that the inside of my brain became the inside of an ancient, large, stone room. It was a significant experience, though subtle and not full of flashing exploding lights or anything. However, it got me going, you know what I mean?
 
I read the Sunlan Sayadaw chapter in Living Buddhist Masters. I sat in an upstairs bedroom in my parents’ house in Irvine and did the “bellows breathing” meditation technique over and over day after day – for several weeks. At one point I had another hard-to-convey-in-words revelation, but it was something like “oh, there is a thing HERE, really HERE, breathing/existing, that’s not my thoughts in my brain, but is something else that’s … HERE.
This was big, but, still, subtle, no lights, no explosions.
 
I got more and more into Krishnamurti and his practice of “choiceless awareness.” It surprises me now but so far it hadn’t occurred to me to look for some kind of Buddhist sangha/group/retreats, some way to formerly practice. There wasn’t much then, but there were places. I know I did like the idea of just being an ordinary person and following K’s teachings without it being a religion or an organization or even a thing anyone else knew about.
 
1980 to first encountering Pragmatic Dharma/Ingram/Folk in around 2007 (?):
 
My life was a mess. 24 years old, no career, bunch of failed jobs and attempts at college. I’d already vaguely decided I was an alcoholic and was sober and attending AA meetings. I decided to make “choiceless awareness” (call it “CA”) my higher power and I went into it FULL ON. I moved to Houston Texas and lived with my parents while working as a waiter and attending University of Houston.
 
Was able to get some strong CA practice in my daily life in all activities. I just watched everything happening in and out – everything happening RIGHT NOW and going away. Thoughts/feelings. I got to where I could see thoughts and feelings as they arose and passed away with great momentum. This was kind of a golden time in my life up to that point. I was often in states with very little suffering and a light, easy-going sense that self-centered striving was useless, silly.
 
My life got much better for a while. I stayed sober but gradually stopped AA. I did well in school and thought I’d found a career – journalism. Had several wonderful experiences with girlfriends and an almost-wife and these were done with much less skill than I’d temporarily acquired in the other parts of my life. I left college two semesters before graduating and went to work as a Health and Education reporter at a newspaper in Tyler, Tx.
 
Then – boom, met the woman who became my first wife, and my CA skills (all skillful behavior) began disintegrating. That marriage became a disaster and after it was over, I desperately tried to get my CA powers back. This came and went with some success and a lot of ragged failures. I read more books and buddhism/yoga/meditation. I think I started doing a version of CA while seated or laying down in my lonely studio apartment in Austin.
 
One day when my CA game was temporarily strong, and I had good practice staying with “just now,” I went up to Lake Travis with a friend. We stopped and I looked down at a kind of marshy spot near the lake. There were bugs everywhere and some of them were making a steady buzzing sound. Small leaves of grass moved in the wind. Another hard-to-describe-in-words moment, but it was stunning, and it was SOMETHING like this: I saw that the water and the grass and the bugs were empty of content and utterly quiet and so was I and I was just like them and always had been. Again, no lights or drama, but important and lovely.
 
Life got sucky. Moved back to California (1986). I was very angry. Still sober, though I’d smoked some weed while in Austin. Back in AA, ACA, CODA. So angry. No more journalism career. I worked pizza places and temp office jobs.
 
Got back into Chapman University. Decided to become a playwright. Wrote plays, did well in school, and graduated with a BA finally in 6/89 and moved to San Francisco to go to the MA program in playwriting at SF State. During my first and only semester there was a gigantic earthquake and I met the young woman who became my wife of the next 15 years and the mother of my two children. We both quit graduate school. I became a paralegal, she became a high-achieving mom. I was still a big mess and started drinking again around 1993.
 
Went to SF Zen Center and sat zazen. Went to some day-longs there and at Green Gulch Farm. This was my zen period. Moved to Modesto in 1994 to work in the legal dept at Gallo Winery. Started sitting with a group in Turlock once a week. This group eventually became the Modesto SFSZ-affiliated sangha and still is.
 
I hated sitting in the cross-legged posture on a zafu. So much pain. Only pain. Still, I was compulsive/obsessive with zen and zazen for several years. Can’t remember anything “hard-to-describe” happening in my zazen in a zendo or at home.
 
Drank a lot off and on. Fought with my wife – on. Got very into massive doses of Robitussin (brings a psychedelic experience that I enjoyed for a while – in 2014 I actually wrote a novel loosely based on this time called Tussinland. It’s still available on Amazon ha ha.)
 
 
2006ish to 2012ish:
I’m not at all sure how or why this happened but I discovered Daniel’s MTCB and rediscovered vipassana. Loved the pragmatic approach/maps. Got on some discussion boards and discussed the fuck out of shit. Met Chris Marti, Tom Otvos, Kenneth Folk, Jackson Wilshire and many others. Had some email correspondence with Daniel. Eventually became a skype student of Mr. Folk.
 
I became compulsive/obsessive with insight practice/maps. Sat and noted vibrations for hours and hours. I used to ride a commuter van from my job in downtown SF back to Modesto every night for about two and a half hours. I used this time to note vibes. Got some momentum.
 
Now, during the last part of this and up until recently I was drinking and doing drugs. A lot. I had a new wife at the time. Sweet woman, a weed yogi (I just made up that phrase ‘week yogi’ but I think it fits, she was very wise and spiritual and smoked weed almost every day though she never seemed ‘stoned,’ know  what I mean?) So, I don’t remember 2006ish to 2012ish real well. A lot of it is coming back to me now as I practice again.
 
Anyway, I guess at some point Kenneth and I decided I’d gotten to ‘stream entry.’ Maybe that’s not even true – that he or I or both thought that – but I think we did. It’s hard now to imagine why. I suspect I talked/wrote like I had, but I don’t know. I recall NOTHING that resembles anything I’ve read regarding A&P experiences – though I guess perhaps some of what I described above could’ve been such a thing – so how would I get to stream entry?  I’ve recently read through the MTCB2 section on the progress of insight several times, and, again – I don’t know. I certainly had the strong jerky ‘mind and body’ stuff quite a bit. And, no doubt, the next seven years were full of what I bet some would call “dark night-like stuff.” But, you know what I mean?
 
[Edit: okay. just a little more on the above. Yes, I imagine that I've experienced the A&P several times in my idiosyncratic ways and probably at least once, recently, maybe twice. Then, I think, I've gone through dark night again and again -- in the past and recently. Stream entry, though, from what I am reading about and hearing about now, doesn't sound like something that has happened to me. I could go on and on I guess, but, just the big points: nothing has ever happened that felt significant in the way that SE seems to be; I've NEVER, ever, gotten any kind of access to concentration jhana levels (in fact, when I hear them described nothing in my experience is even remotely like those descriptions); I understand the three characteristics in a vague intellectual way but I have no idea how to observe them while noting sensations; I guess this may not matter but maybe it does -- anything in my experience that is related to some kind of insight happening has often been wonderful but very very subtle and  ordinary feeling really like I just saw reality a little more clearly, and never ever gave me some kind of feeling or sense that something BIG and amazing and spiritually powerful had happened to me; and, "the three doors" mean nothing to me, I don't think I've seen anthing like that. All that  said, I do feel I can relate to the experience: "Reality stops cold and then reapears." I think I've been at Desire for Deliverance many times and hovered around equaniminty many times and that is probably where I am now. Either way, I'm in a good calm open not-hating-myself-place somehow now, wow, and I'm just going to pay attention with lightness and see what happens.]

2012ish to two months ago:
 
Oh man, this is boring mostly. STOPPED PRACTICING. Drinking off and on. Kids grew up. Moved to Hawaii for two years. Drinking, drugs, compulsive sexual behaviors – big fucking-up on jobs over and over. Quit drinking kept fucking up jobs. Started a two-year habit of taking 20 to 50 or so Benadryl each night (more hallucinogenic experiences like with tussin but a bit clearer, more precise, like tarantulas and large white insect ghosts flying above my bed). Got fired, got divorced. Moved to Seattle, moved to LA. Drank intermittently. Stopped Benadryl May of 2018. More job failures of embarrassing proportions.  Turned 62, could no longer manage life in a big law firm as a paralegal without doing stupid, paranoid shit. Decided to “retire” rather than go on mental health disability. Moved back to Modesto, and lived for about a year with my adult son.
 
[note: there was a period of great creativity from about 2012 to 2015 in which I wrote five novels, mostly very violent and erotic crime/noir fiction with themes of zen and enlightenment with compulsive behavior/addiction mixed in with the crime and killings. Most people found them way too nasty and violent and dark and wondered what was wrong with me (mostly my family and non-noir-writer friends) and the books aren’t well-loved though there are several hundred people who really liked them.]
 
By 9/19 I was living alone. Abject misery for the most part. Alone, lonely, bitter, envious of everyone for the most part. Wanted a “life” and couldn’t find one, you know what I mean?
 
Two months ago to  now (next post)
 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today
Answer
12/31/19 10:24 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Two months ago to now:
 
[note: at least for now I’m not going to speculate on progress of insight/map stuff, I’m just going to describe what is happening.]
 
Even though I said I’d stopped practicing the last seven years, I still kind of meditated off and on. Sometimes zazen on a zafu, sometimes just watching the breath while in a comfy chair, sometimes – but rarely – vipassana. None of this was done with much concentration or momentum.
 
In Mid-November I was watching my breath on the sofa and I got into a sort of nice momentum groove. I felt some bliss, saw some light. Really, felt kind of … good … for the first time in a long time. As I kept it up over the next several days this good feeling sometimes leaked into my miserable life.
 
I was hooked again. I mean, of course -- you know what I mean?
 
My concentration/momentum was still very shallow with mostly thinking thinking thinking. I’ve never had what I think is good concentration. However, when I started to get some good momentum, I got migraines. I could actually feel the migraine section in my brain getting touched and the pain spreading.
 
I decided to try noting practice again. This was a good idea. I found this site and read MCTB2. Saw that Chris Marti was still . . . Chris Marti.  I watched videos on loving kindness with Sharon Salzberg, listened to podcasts from vipassana people and zen people. Kept noting. No migraines.
 
(got caught up on a lot of the recent scandals in the dharma communities. Oh, man, lots and lots of scandals!)
 
About 10 days ago, while doing noting practice my body began to do that jerking twisting shaking moaning grunting thing. Very very strong. It happened the first time my attention really synced up nicely with each vibrating sensation in my fingers and feet. It kept going and going and I just let it, kept with it.
 
I went to bed and got up around five and went to the gym all happy and full of buzzy energy.
 
By noon I was so miserable. Worse I’ve ever felt I have no doubt. All that I’d been feeling that past two or three years was magnified:
I will always be alone.
No one likes me.
No one will ever like me.
I am strange and odd.
I will never have a normal life with people and fun.
I’m a failure, I’ve wrecked my life.
 
These thoughts/feelings just kept getting stronger and stronger. I thought about my recent meditation/spiritual practices and said to myself “Ha! You and your big ideas” – that sort of thing. I wasn’t suicidal but I certainly felt like the rest of my days were going to be awful. I wasn’t depressed in the ‘no energy’ way, I had plenty of energy – life-hating energy.
 
I decided to stop practicing because clearly that was not a good idea.
 
I called my insurance company to see if I could get some mental health assistance.  They called back and I went through several days of being asked questions from a data base from several different people to ‘assess me’ and after several days I still hadn’t been sent to a therapist.
 
By then I’d calmed down. Way down. Went back to practicing. Duh. Went back to the books and the podcasts and the videos. Lost interest in mental health treatment.
 
I started working with all these awful thoughts and feelings as just stuff appearing and disappearing. Let it all happen with as much skill as possible.
 
Kept noting.
 
Now, it’s funny. My ‘horrible’ life is actually quite good in a lot of ways. I live alone and my Uber-driving job is flexible. I have no other real responsibilities. With few exceptions there is no one who needs me to be to be anywhere doing anything. So, I can practice if I want to, so I’m practicing. And practice now for me is very much about developing moral/ethical/right action as much as concentration/insight. I need to grow up, I need to fix a lot of crap I’ve wrecked, I need to stop wrecking things. I need to develop kindness, sympathy, love in relation to myself and the rest of the world.
 
I’m approaching sitting and other activities in a similar way: light, relaxed. Things arise, they go away and I’m trying to be there for that. Light, relaxed.
 
The last several days the misery thoughts from the list above still appear (I’m a failure blab la bla), but now (yay) they are simply the conditions of my life – i.e., I am mostly alone now – what does that feel like? Oh? that feeling is gone? Okay, what’s next?
 
Things are good. Things are kind of fun here and there. Interesting.
 
Last night, while noting breath sensations the jerking came back strong again. It would happen as soon as my attention matched the natural movement of my breath. Boom boom boom. Lots of humming and grunting. This is not a pleasant or unpleasant thing. It’s just something that is happening that I can see/notice.
 
Since then, I’m just continuing to be as light as I can be and to pay attention to things coming and going and it’s been a nice day today. I worked. As I drove I saw moods come and go and come and go – some of them awful some of them pleasant.
 
I had this sense for a little while as I drove from Pleasanton to Fremont (not in words): “oh, no need to get all excited because who’s excited anyway?” followed by a sense that even practicing was certainly nothing to get all excited about for the same reason. This went away after a while. Duh. I remembered something like this from back when I used to do the Krishnamurti choiceless awareness practice.
 
More to come. I’ll try (ha!) to be briefer from now on.
 
 
 
 
 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today
Answer
1/1/20 7:21 AM as a reply to Mike Monson.
No need to be briefer, I'd say. This was a good read. 

I love J. Krishnamurti. His teachings contributed to leading me here. 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today
Answer
1/1/20 9:02 AM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Mike, I like the light touch you seem to be developing in your practice. If you ever want to talk PM me here. And just so you know, if you're at all interested, the old KFD message boards are still available. We saved them on Awakenetwork:  http://awakenetwork.org/forum/kfd-root .

If you need any help getting access to them please let me know.

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today
Answer
1/1/20 9:03 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
No need to be briefer, I'd say. This was a good read. 

I love J. Krishnamurti. His teachings contributed to leading me here. 


You are kind. 
Thanks. 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today
Answer
1/1/20 9:19 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Mike, I like the light touch you seem to be developing in your practice. If you ever want to talk PM me here. And just so you know, if you're at all interested, the old KFD message boards are still available. We saved them on Awakenetwork:  http://awakenetwork.org/forum/kfd-root .

If you need any help getting access to them please let me know.


Thank you Chris. 
The lightness seems to be a practice in itself as it really helps to calibrate the right level of awareness for insight to happen plus it relieves a lot of suffering all on it's own. 
What's the hurry . . . ? 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today
Answer
1/1/20 12:43 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Hey Mike, your story lines up a lot with mine. I saw from your first post how much Benadryl you were taken and I thought something like "I get it". And then reading your story is classic kind of aa drugs alcohol type story. Build it all up and burn it all down and do it again. I've been in the rooms of AA and CA for almost 20 years and been sober the last 10. But that was my MO for a long time. It's funny you mention all those places in Texas. I've been in North Texas all my life so all those names ring a bell. Anyway man I just want to say welcome back. If you ever want to chat let me know. I'm really interested to see how it all goes for you. 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log recent past to today
Answer
1/1/20 6:27 PM as a reply to Dustin.
Thanks, Dustin.
Yeah, "Build it all up and burn it all down and do it again." that's me. I'm best at the burn it all down phase. emoticon

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/1/20 11:01 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Sounds like you were last here before my time, but welcome back anyway!

What you wrote made me think of a story Joseph Goldstein told about when he complained to his teacher about the pain he was in while meditating. The response was "I hope you're enjoying it!"

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/2/20 8:13 AM as a reply to spatial.
THANKS!

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/1/2020
Answer
1/2/20 4:11 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
I remember you from KFD when I was just starting out. Welcome back! The jerking around is something that happens to me periodically, as in, from time to time I'll be getting a lot of it, to the point where I want to say, enough already! The mood shifts are awfully familiar as well, from the feeling that everything's okay to a grinding, underlying depression. 

For me, being in my 60s and retired (not completely of my own volition) was a challenge. I'm a few years older than you are, but the first few years in particular I felt a sense of failure and a lack of purpose. I retired because of medical issues, which I blithely expected would correct themselves once I no longer had the job to worry about, only that's not the way it worked out. Accepting life just as it is seems to be a tough challenge. When you're younger you tend to think about the future as resolving everything for you, and then all of a sudden that particular delusion loses its credibility. 

I don't have substance abuse issues, but I go to Al-anon for a family member and am well aware of that dynamic. I deeply appreciate the frankness of your account, and the difficult road you have traveled. I look forward to reading more about your practice. 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/1/2020
Answer
1/2/20 8:17 PM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Thanks Laurel!

That's right, isn't it? Youth and even middle-age (which I was back in the KFD days) is a different thing, huh? I hadn't thought of that until you mentioned it here. Very nice. 

Weird, I'm piecing together my memories of that past and I'd actually forgotten that the big board we were all on was called Kenneth Folk Dharma, right? Jeez, of course. It wasn't this board. I've been really confused. 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/1/2020
Answer
1/3/20 5:16 AM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Hey Mike!

Can you believe the KFD days were over 10 years ago??!!!??

I just had my 10 year SE anniversary.

Time flies and practice shifts. 

Good to see you on here! 

Nick

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 6:08 AM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Hey Mike,

For what it's worth, in all the years since KFD I've noticed that the people that seem to really progress in meditation practice are the ones who are also very interested in their psychology. Sometimes it's by combining therapy and practice, which is ideal if you can get a good therapist, but othertimes is just by being psycholgically literate and noticing stuff like that while sitting. 

By psychological literate, I mean understanding things like defense mechanisms, immortality projects, personality disorders, shadow/repression/projection, trauma/ptsd/addiction, etc. 

In other words, the people that take the attitude "I'll just use meditation techniques to make my life better. I'll work through the progress of insight stages and attain paths, and I'll have a perfect mind and that will fix my life" seem to build it up and burn it down. They practice really hard, but seem to repress all the real shit that's bothering them in real life... and then it sort of builds up and when they hit a difficult stretch in practice they completely melt down. Or they practice with waaaay too much effort and burn out from the imbalance. At the heart of it, they are sort of bargining: if I practice really hard, then all my problems will magically go away. 

There are lots of teachers and traditions that suggest this "magic" is possible... but from what I've seen, it doesn't happen that way. People have to actually work directly on their problems as _part_ of meditation practice.

The people that take the attitude "I'll use meditation to really see how my mind truly works to untangle all the confusion, and where it is messed up, and I'll take steps to slowly change. I know I'm fixing my broken mind with my broken mind, so I know its going to be a bumpy road. I'll have good days and I'll have bad days. I don't need to be perfect, I just want to get better." Those people seem to develop better balance and make better progress. At the heart of it, they are sort of saying: "I'll take responsibility for how my fucked up mind operates and I'll slowly work on making changes. I know that I can't avoid dealing with the crappy stuff, I have to work on this stuff." These people also seem to choose better meditation methods (out of the million different styles/methods of meditation) for the problem they are working on. It's focused on really seeing the problem(s) and really working through the solution(s). 

Hope this helps in some sort of way!

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/1/2020
Answer
1/3/20 8:45 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Ah Nik! 
How's it going, man? 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 8:49 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Hey Mike,

For what it's worth, in all the years since KFD I've noticed that the people that seem to really progress in meditation practice are the ones who are also very interested in their psychology. Sometimes it's by combining therapy and practice, which is ideal if you can get a good therapist, but othertimes is just by being psycholgically literate and noticing stuff like that while sitting. 

By psychological literate, I mean understanding things like defense mechanisms, immortality projects, personality disorders, shadow/repression/projection, trauma/ptsd/addiction, etc. 

In other words, the people that take the attitude "I'll just use meditation techniques to make my life better. I'll work through the progress of insight stages and attain paths, and I'll have a perfect mind and that will fix my life" seem to build it up and burn it down. They practice really hard, but seem to repress all the real shit that's bothering them in real life... and then it sort of builds up and when they hit a difficult stretch in practice they completely melt down. Or they practice with waaaay too much effort and burn out from the imbalance. At the heart of it, they are sort of bargining: if I practice really hard, then all my problems will magically go away. 

There are lots of teachers and traditions that suggest this "magic" is possible... but from what I've seen, it doesn't happen that way. People have to actually work directly on their problems as _part_ of meditation practice.

The people that take the attitude "I'll use meditation to really see how my mind truly works to untangle all the confusion, and where it is messed up, and I'll take steps to slowly change. I know I'm fixing my broken mind with my broken mind, so I know its going to be a bumpy road. I'll have good days and I'll have bad days. I don't need to be perfect, I just want to get better." Those people seem to develop better balance and make better progress. At the heart of it, they are sort of saying: "I'll take responsibility for how my fucked up mind operates and I'll slowly work on making changes. I know that I can't avoid dealing with the crappy stuff, I have to work on this stuff." These people also seem to choose better meditation methods (out of the million different styles/methods of meditation) for the problem they are working on. It's focused on really seeing the problem(s) and really working through the solution(s). 

Hope this helps in some sort of way!

Thanks. 
It does help and it goes along nicely with what has happened to me and what is happening to me -- and helps point the way forward! 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 8:58 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Hi Shargrol,

how common is it in your experience that people who start with the "I meditate to eliminate all my life problems" shift their attitude to "I meditate to untangle the confused mind". And how is this shift performed, or in other words what is the missing key, that those people can see through the ignorance of their own mind?

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 9:48 AM as a reply to Georg S.
Georg, it depends on the person, but in general... The people who shift their attitude to "I meditate to untangle the confused mind" tend to work on improving their ability to notice and experience sensations, urges, feelings, and thoughts.

In other words, there are many practices that say "focus on bare sensations" and this is a very good way to build a foundation for practice, but at some point the meditator also has to pay attention to how urges (of attraction, aversion, and indifference), feelings/emotions (like anger, frustration, confusion, ambition, etc.) and thoughts (practice thoughts, planning thoughts, comparing thoughts, etc.) show up within the mind.  

It involves allowing sensations, urges, emotions, and thoughts to occur without manipulation, sort of like seeing them as "mind objects" that automatically appear in the space of the mind. And it also involve fully experiencing them, so we get the full impact of the experience. What is interesting is just clarity and intimacy (and time) is enough for the mind's natural intelligence to drop unhelpful habits.

That's the short story. The long story is that this works for ~90% of our problems, often it take friends and teachers to help us see the ~10% of  things we overlook, repress, deny, avoid, etc. emoticon  

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 11:43 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Hello Mike, I want to ask you if it is ok to you asking questions to shargrol in your log. If not please let me know and I will delete them.

@shargrol: Thank you for your answer. Is it ok to ask another one?

The people who shift their attitude to "I meditate to untangle the confused mind" tend to work on improving their ability to notice and experience sensations, urges, feelings, and thoughts.


Were there some "aha"-moments those people described, like "oh, I had to do this, and change that, etc. to make this improving of noticing and experiencing happen"?

Are there some general acknowledgments/realizations, which all/most of them have in common, or are the gained acknowledgments that lead to the shift are so unique to each person that there is no answer to my question?

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 12:47 PM as a reply to Georg S.
Totally fine, Georg. It’s helping me! 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 1:00 PM as a reply to Georg S.
Georg --

Were there some "aha"-moments those people described, like "oh, I had to do this, and change that, etc. to make this improving of noticing and experiencing happen"?

Are there some general acknowledgments/realizations, which all/most of them have in common, or are the gained acknowledgments that lead to the shift are so unique to each person that there is no answer to my question?

May I suggest you read the book "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" to get all the information on the process as you will ever be able to get anywhere else? Those of us, including shargrol, who have traversed this process/path would likely agree that this book was our canon, our bible, so to speak, mapping out the process of awakening and our expectations along the way. No one of us had a path that was entirely like any of the others' but there are common insights and experiences that all of us would claim to have experienced.

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 1:59 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
My favorite books:
MCTB2 by Daniel Ingram
Wake Up to Your Life by Ken McLeod
Essential Wisdom Teachings by Peter Fenner
The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey (seriously, really good!)
...and I guess I should add "Think on these things" by Krishnamurti since I mention it below...

emoticon

Georg, I would say it's basically the same insight that keeps happpen in different ways: when we really see how much we hurt from our bad habits, we automatically make the change. I wish it was different, but humans don't change unless we feel (emotional or physical) discomfort. The problem is, humans are also very good at ignoring how much discomfort they feel. 

Here's one of my favorite statements by Krishnamurti:


Questioner: Can the crude mind become sensitive?

Krishnamurti: Listen to the question, to the meaning behind the words. Can the crude mind become sensitive? If I say my mind is crude and I try to become sensitive, the very effort to become sensitive is crudity. Please see this. Don't be intrigued, but watch it. Whereas, if I recognize that I am crude without wanting to change, without trying to become sensitive, if I begin to understand what crudeness is, observe it in my life from day to day - the greedy way I eat, the roughness with which I treat people, the pride, the arrogance, the coarseness of my habits and thoughts - then that very observation transforms what is.

Similarly, if I am stupid and I say I must become intelligent, the effort to become intelligent is only a greater form of stupidity; because what is important is to understand stupidity. However much I may try to become intelligent, my stupidity will remain. I may acquire the superficial polish of learning, I may be able to quote books, repeat passages from great authors, but basically I shall still be stupid. But if I see and understand stupidity as it expresses itself in my daily life - how I behave towards my servant, how I regard my neighbour, the poor man, the rich man, the clerk - then that very awareness brings about a breaking up of stupidity. You try it. Watch yourself talking to your servant, observe the tremendous respect with which you treat a governor, and how little respect you show to the man who has nothing to give you. Then you begin to find out how stupid you are; and in understanding that stupidity there is intelligence, sensitivity.

You do not have to become sensitive. The man who is trying to become something is ugly, insensitive; he is a crude person.



Sure, we might need to work on it a while, but when we see and feel things clearly the motivation is strong and change happens.

Most of the time, we don't really notice how much we avoid really experiencing things. That's why there is such a backlog of material that comes bubbling up during meditation. So much of our experiences are only partially experienced... and they still need digesting so they pop up as we're just sitting and doing nothing on the cushion.

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 4:13 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you Mike for allowing me asking questions in your logemoticon

@shargrol + Chris: 

No one of us had a path that was entirely like any of the others' but there are common insights and experiences that all of us would claim to have experienced. 


Georg, I would say it's basically the same insight that keeps happpen in different ways: when we really see how much we hurt from our bad habits, we automatically make the change. 


Thank you very much, those answers and the story of krishnamurti, where exactly those things I was looking for. I know now, that only by experiencing the "truth" on someone's own, that one really understands. So reading in between the lines can only take place by direct experience. No words can explain that. (I don't know if that makes any sense to you, but I asked you those questions to make things clear to me, when talking with other people about experiences of my own- and their path).

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 7:05 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Georg --

Were there some "aha"-moments those people described, like "oh, I had to do this, and change that, etc. to make this improving of noticing and experiencing happen"?

Are there some general acknowledgments/realizations, which all/most of them have in common, or are the gained acknowledgments that lead to the shift are so unique to each person that there is no answer to my question?

May I suggest you read the book "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" to get all the information on the process as you will ever be able to get anywhere else? Those of us, including shargrol, who have traversed this process/path would likely agree that this book was our canon, our bible, so to speak, mapping out the process of awakening and our expectations along the way. No one of us had a path that was entirely like any of the others' but there are common insights and experiences that all of us would claim to have experienced.

Yes!

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 7:10 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Mike and Shargrol, 

If I may suggest two books that I really found compelling, though different than those mentioned: No Self, No Problem by Chris Niebauer and The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. The latter is... I'll say, very light... but it is a very basic and straightforward take on this energy backlog that Shargol is making note of here. It's a good basis, I feel. The other, I just read, and it goes over the workings of the brain to fabricate self and other such nonsense, and how we can perhaps tune into it. Additionally, reading that somehow made the connection for me as to why noting works and made it much easier for me to do it in sitting. I don't know what it was - but it made it clearer, despite not being about noting at all. 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020
Answer
1/3/20 8:35 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Bear with me. I know this is long again, but it does feel like yesterday and today were interesting and worth putting down here. 
 
I’m writing this just after five in the evening in Modesto.
 
Yesterday was dramatic.
 
Before work I alternated noting vibrations at the hands and feet off and on with noting sensations of the breath. Maybe 30 minutes or so each about four times. The energy was still strong. Not as strong as the day before but, still, lots of jerking, twisting, etc. There was a feeling that had started days before but was now getting stronger, that I was in the middle of something, that I was passionate about doing SOMETHING. That I had to keep going.
 
Work was unusually slow, and I was in a sour mood most of the time. I kept in tune with my feelings pretty well with consistency and openeness and my feelings were mostly sour, yucky.
 
When I crossed the Altamont Pass (from now on the Pass) and turned on the Uber app I was directed to get off the 580 in Livermore on Vasco, and go south toward Lawrence Livermore Lab, the VA hospital, and the wineries. I was supposed to travel Vasco several miles and then turn right on First to go to an address where there were supposed to be “more ride opportunities than usual!”  
 
Just before First, I saw in the far-left lane what I thought was a squirrel, kind of writhing on the street. Looking closer I saw that that it was a big, chubby yellow tabby cat. Its head seemed to be stuck onto the road and its legs were desperately moving in an effort to get up. Clearly, it was injured – maybe it’s back or neck broken, or something hurt in its brain/head and all I could see were these desperate movements that were getting it nowhere.
 
It was an awful sight. I passed it and I couldn’t stop seeing in my mind those desperate legs trying to move move move. I kept going to turn right on First as instructed, and I started to cry, one of those ragged, child-like cries, and I felt desperately sad for that poor kitty. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t think I could help it (cars were going by fast and I figured one had hit it by then). I drove for a while and then pulled over to finish crying. I know I’d never felt anything quite like that before, though I know many people have seen much worse sights of awful carnage to animals and humans.
 
When I got to the spot it was just some apartment complex. No rides, no visual humans anywhere.
 
Anyway, back to practice.
 
That afternoon I sat or reclined and repeated the work of the morning over and over and over. The energy surges got strong and then awful feelings surged up up up and I went with them. I cried quite a bit and I shouted horrible things at myself over and over like “Stupid!” “I hate you!” “I’m so sick of you!” Stuff like that on and on. At one point I realized that I thought sitting there watching my breath sensations while jerking and shouting obscenities at myself was going to HELP me some somehow, and I started to laugh and laugh at myself for being such an idiot to believe such a thing. Not a fun laugh, a bitter/ugly laugh.
 
I got desperate urges for alcohol and told myself “just go across the street and get some beer. Get some rum. Screw it” Or, I’d say “Go to the market across the street and get some cold soda and some ice cream, now!” I’d go back and forth on those demands, but I kept sitting and noticing and crying and laughing. I felt absurd and silly for a lot of the time – I wondered what I would look like to a neutral observer.
 
I really did think it was hilarious that I believed I was doing something helpful.  I’d lose faith completely while I kept obsessing on liquor or food from the market -- but I just kept noting.
Then I’d get faith back and think something like “Shit, I’m finally facing and feeling all the ugly feelings I’ve been running from all these years, this has to be what I need to do!” Then I’d laugh again. Bitterly. What a dumbass!
 
In between, while walking around the apartment, going to the bathroom, cooking, etc. I kept up with the strongest feelings and the whole place – walls, doors, ceiling, floors -- just seemed to be not just “sad” like the day before but a place of misery and anguish and no hope at all ever. I let it wash over me.
 
Around six I decided, “Time to go to the gym!” So, I did. I felt very self-conscious and the people kind of frightened me, but I enjoyed the exercise and got very into the news playing on MSNBC on one of the tvs on the wall and very into the  movie in which Tom Hanks is in a plane crash on the ocean that was playing on another one of the TVs.
 
By the time I got back I was feeling better, not so much anguish, but still raw. I kept practicing. My son called. He is depressed and anxious. I’m making myself as available to him as he needs me these days. If he calls I try to answer and I talk as long as he needs me to talk. It’s good and it’s nice to feel of service, plus I have so much penance to do for such bad parenting for so much of his life.
 
After the call, my practice got lighter and my mood got better. I got a lot of momentum on sensations: dat dat dat dat dat dat dat dat dat dat dat dat – boom! I caught super fast vibrations in my feet and I kept with them dat dat dat dat dat dat or now now now now or this this this or next next next next. Relentless. All the mattered was the noting. The energy surges were not as strong and seemed to be going through my feet to the floor instead of up and out my head.
 
I could tell that new things with colors and shapes were going on behind my eyelids but I tried to keep the noting momentum going rather than look at that stuff.

While noting breath, sometimes (a lot really) my breath would just stop completely and I'd get an energy surge and for a long time there was no desire to breath, no feeling of being out of breath. 
 
My general mood got better and better.
 
I dreamed a lot. In one horrible nightmare I had to go with Senator Lindsay Graham and another man in a suit to help Graham conduct a trial. At some point I was forced to go into an old bathroom in an old factory building and cut off my penis. On the floor was one of those old blotter containers of yellow glue I remembered from elementary school in the 60s, and I used it to try and reattach the penis. There is more, but you get the idea.
 
In the morning I felt ragged and bitter-- but better. I practiced for a couple of hours and then left for the Pass at nine a.m.
 
I was determined to see this through, or to at least give it everything I had until I knew I’d gotten to the end of whatever it was.  What is this “this” I’m seeing through? – not sure, maybe the dark night/equanimity/cessation, or, maybe, I’m an idiot dumbass and I’m just torturing myself and I should go back to drinking and binge eating  – I’ll find out.
 
The morning noting was strong. The first part of the drive out of Modesto I committed to staying with whatever I felt as much as possible, and I kept that up the entire day. At first I cried off and on, but I kept paying attention.
 
[Note: in this away-from-the-chair practice I do is basically mindfulness I guess but I prefer ‘choiceless awareness’ as I learned it from the Krishnamurti books and from my own experimenting – and in this activity ALL that matters is the watching/feeling. That’s it. Not what is watched, not what I think or theorize about what is watched – just watching, NOW. NOW. NOW.]
 
I can tell I’m getting better at this practice again because after about an hour the momentum got to the point where my suffering went away. It’s kind of a light, nice feeling and a great relief (to put it mildly). Probably not capital E equanimity but very very equanimous in effect. This went on for hours and it was cool to not suffer for a while. It felt like I’d crossed a hump. Now, suffering was there, just on the edges during this experience – I can almost see it hovering, waiting for its chance back in.
 
Again, today, just after the pass I was directed to an address in Livermore that meant I’d have to take Vasco Road South from the 580 and go down to turn right on First. I wondered about the cat – what would I see? I assumed it had been hit and was now orange smashed road kill. However – there was nothing there. No sign of a dead cat.

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 8:54 PM as a reply to Georg S.
shargrol:

The people that take the attitude "I'll use meditation to really see how my mind truly works to untangle all the confusion, and where it is messed up, and I'll take steps to slowly change. I know I'm fixing my broken mind with my broken mind, so I know its going to be a bumpy road. I'll have good days and I'll have bad days. I don't need to be perfect, I just want to get better." Those people seem to develop better balance and make better progress. At the heart of it, they are sort of saying: "I'll take responsibility for how my fucked up mind operates and I'll slowly work on making changes. I know that I can't avoid dealing with the crappy stuff, I have to work on this stuff." These people also seem to choose better meditation methods (out of the million different styles/methods of meditation) for the problem they are working on. It's focused on really seeing the problem(s) and really working through the solution(s). 


+1000

shargrol:

The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey (seriously, really good!)


I second this recommendation.


Georg S:

Hi Shargrol,

how common is it in your experience that people who start with the "I meditate to eliminate all my life problems" shift their attitude to "I meditate to untangle the confused mind". And how is this shift performed, or in other words what is the missing key, that those people can see through the ignorance of their own mind?


If I may chime in here...there was a time when I meditated to eliminate my problems, and then my attitude shifted. 

I started meditating many years ago to relieve stress, develop more inner peace, all the usual stuff. I would be really into meditation for a couple weeks, and then stop for months and months at a time, and this went on for years. I could never sit for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. Then, I got pretty depressed and read a lot of self-help books. Some of what I read was about mindfulness, and I was attracted to the paradoxical nature of it, but I didn't really "get it". 

One day, something just clicked. I saw immediately why my previous way of viewing myself was in error, and I saw what the purpose of meditation really was. Everything I have been doing since then has been attempting to deepen this one insight.

I say this because I don't consider it to have been a gradual process (even though there was probably stuff going on behind the scenes). It was like a switch was flipped. I don't know how to make this happen for someone else, and I really wish I did. My guess is that following the instructions in MCTB would do it eventually, but I also know that my previous self would have been unable to summon the willpower to follow those instructions for any substantial length of time.  Once you see that the point is "to untangle the confused mind", everything becomes 1000 times more immediate and practical, and even if you get demotivated for a day or so, it's easy to come back to it, because it's like a jigsaw puzzle that you always have set up on the kitchen table. When it's about trying to "eliminate all my life problems", it's neither immediate nor practical, and the best you can do is put your trust in some author or teacher. 

I don't mean to be pessimistic, only candid. I really do believe that anyone could get to that point, if they allow themselves to get in contact with their actual experience, allow themselves to question whatever they hold sacred, and allow themselves to get really frustrated. The body knows how to do it automatically, I think. 

I hope that what I'm writing is inspiring. That's how I intend it. Either way, know that there are people who will support you on this path.

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/3/20 10:11 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Mike Monson:
shargrol:
Hey Mike,

For what it's worth, in all the years since KFD I've noticed that the people that seem to really progress in meditation practice are the ones who are also very interested in their psychology. Sometimes it's by combining therapy and practice, which is ideal if you can get a good therapist, but othertimes is just by being psycholgically literate and noticing stuff like that while sitting. 

By psychological literate, I mean understanding things like defense mechanisms, immortality projects, personality disorders, shadow/repression/projection, trauma/ptsd/addiction, etc. 

In other words, the people that take the attitude "I'll just use meditation techniques to make my life better. I'll work through the progress of insight stages and attain paths, and I'll have a perfect mind and that will fix my life" seem to build it up and burn it down. They practice really hard, but seem to repress all the real shit that's bothering them in real life... and then it sort of builds up and when they hit a difficult stretch in practice they completely melt down. Or they practice with waaaay too much effort and burn out from the imbalance. At the heart of it, they are sort of bargining: if I practice really hard, then all my problems will magically go away. 

There are lots of teachers and traditions that suggest this "magic" is possible... but from what I've seen, it doesn't happen that way. People have to actually work directly on their problems as _part_ of meditation practice.

The people that take the attitude "I'll use meditation to really see how my mind truly works to untangle all the confusion, and where it is messed up, and I'll take steps to slowly change. I know I'm fixing my broken mind with my broken mind, so I know its going to be a bumpy road. I'll have good days and I'll have bad days. I don't need to be perfect, I just want to get better." Those people seem to develop better balance and make better progress. At the heart of it, they are sort of saying: "I'll take responsibility for how my fucked up mind operates and I'll slowly work on making changes. I know that I can't avoid dealing with the crappy stuff, I have to work on this stuff." These people also seem to choose better meditation methods (out of the million different styles/methods of meditation) for the problem they are working on. It's focused on really seeing the problem(s) and really working through the solution(s). 

Hope this helps in some sort of way!

Thanks. 
It does help and it goes along nicely with what has happened to me and what is happening to me -- and helps point the way forward! 

Here is what I realized at some point after I STOPPED practicing seven years ago. Now, I didn't know it at the time, I think it took a couple of years to sink in: 

The entire reason I was practicing vipassana and getting so into the maps, etc. was that I incorrectly beleived that if I got Stream Entry, etc. or whatever wonderful attainment I thought was going to happen -- that I would stop hating myself, that my lifetime of relentless screwing up and compulsive destructive behavior would end. That I would no longer have a dependent personality and I'd stop being addicted to woman and   stop needing them to take care of me. That I would get to a point where all my daily life was bright and clear and I would have high self esteem and love everyone around me  I would always know what to do. Something like that. Seemed so silly when I realized it and I'm embarassed to admit it now, but it's true. That's what I wanted and what I expected. So innocent! 

And, I guess, when none of that happend at the point when I wrongly thought I'd gotten SE, it's not surprising that I gave it all up. 

Now, I'm back to want to finish (continue) all the insight work up, if I can. However, I finally realize that one can get far with the wisdom/insight (and concentration) practices/attainments while not developing ethics/morals/etc. They are different skills and practices. Compliment each other for sure and each is contained in the other, but I need to work on developing more skillful moral behavior by working on developing more skillful behavior. This is important and will not happen on it's own or from noting sensations. 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020
Answer
1/4/20 6:59 AM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Mike Monson:
In the morning I felt ragged and bitter-- but better. I practiced for a couple of hours and then left for the Pass at nine a.m.
 
I was determined to see this through, or to at least give it everything I had until I knew I’d gotten to the end of whatever it was.  

Be very very very very careful about this attitude. Usually, it means that we're trying to force something to happen and we are trying to accomplish something to satisfy our sense of pride/ego. It seems like we're "doing the right thing" but actually it's just a sneaky way that we avoid feeling things.

I know it sounds strange to say. "How am I avoiding feeling things? It seems like I'm feeling a lot of things!" you ask... The sneaky thing is sometimes we avoid feeling things by ramping up the intensity. Then it just feels like being hit by a 2x4 instead of something more subtle and close to home. Usually extreme people (like myself, too) would rather face emotions that feel like massive pain and eminent distruction rather than simple things like shame and hurt and guilt and regret-- so we ramp things up! Intensify the shame and hurt so that it feels like pain and distruction! You see how sneaky it is?

My own advice is to pick a reasonable amount of practice to do a day, like an hour of sitting. And then completely forget about practice for the rest of the time and just really enjoy/participate in your normal everyday life. That's it. I know this sounds contrary to the whole "hardcore" approach, but ultimately I think Kenneth has it exactly right when he says "consistency, not heroics". 

The thing is, you need to build in a lot of down time to digest and re-wire your body/mind when you're doing meditation practice. This is heavy stuff. Lots a material comes up. Some of this stuff is psychologically reallly difficult. If you neglect recovery time, then it's just like over-exercising. You make initial progress, but then can't recover and wind up injuring yourself. When mediation gets heavy, there should be lots of recovery time. Lots of walking outside. Lots of sleep. Lots of hot baths. 

It's funny because we think "self care" is a weakness or will delay progress... but really that attitude shows how fucked up our mind is. The whole point of this stuff is self care. The goal is to finally have a sane mind that cares for itself instead of always sabotaging ourself...

"Keeping busy" or "Doing too much" or "avoiding through intensity" or "being addicted to trauma" or "enjoying blowing my mind with extreme experiences" or "being addicted to strong emotions" are all classic versions of this same sneaky pattern. 

If you are feeling bitter and raw, it's much better to allow yourself to be bitter and raw and recover... without throwing more fuel on the fire.

Hope this helps in some way!

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/4/20 12:18 PM as a reply to spatial.
One day, something just clicked. I saw immediately why my previous way of viewing myself was in error, and I saw what the purpose of meditation really was. Everything I have been doing since then has been attempting to deepen this one insight.


It was the same for me - something just clicked - To be precise, it "clicked" on my second retreat, when i "ramped things (suffering) up and up and up while meditation" as shargrol described, but neglected/repressed my feelings/thoughts while off the cushion. I wasn't aware of that in this situation, because of ignoring my own misery. I hated being myself while walking or eating or being around with the people on the retreat. I neglected the feelings of anger and hatred that arose in me off the cushion, even in simple situations, e.g. when someone forgot to put on a new toilet paper roll. I was thinking "why are you all so fucking unmindful in forgetting such simple things. Just be like me, just be "mindful" ;-)". 

Nowadays I recognize that I had to put myself above others, to ignore the fact how big my suffering really was. It was a self defense mechanism of my ego to put other people down instead of having to go through my own pain of self hatered and self rejection. That's why I ramped things up in meditation, trying to make all those things go away, to believe that meditation will magically eradicate all those neglected suffering by itself. But it didn't worked out, or at least it did, but not in the way I expected it. I ramped things up so intensivly that I wasn't able to deal with my suffering anymore. That was the moment I became aware (the click-moment), that self love and acceptance of what ever arises, is the key to improve my misery in this life. I surrendered to my own suffering - I stopped shooting arrows over and over again in my heart to amplify my own suffering. I realized that suffering is there, but I didn't have to make it worse by tormenting myself by judging and hating and rejecting myself over and over again.

I let the demon of anxiety and selfhate eat me up, like in the story of Milarepa. I don't know if you know the story, but it describes my shift from ignorance to self acceptance and I hope it may be of some benefit to you Mike and it may reflect where you are on the path out of your own suffering:

Milarepa is one of the linage holders of the Kagyü lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Milarepa is one of the heroes, one of the brave ones, a very crazy, unusual fellow. He was a loner who lived in caves by himself and meditated wholeheartedly for years. He was extremely stubborn and determined. If he couldn't find anything to eat for a couple of years, he just ate nettles and turned green, but he would never stop practicing. 

One evening Milarpea returned to his cave after gathering firewood, only to find it filled with demons. They were cooking his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed. They had taken over the joint. He knew about nonduality of self and other, but he still didn't quite know how to get these guys out of his cave. Even though he had the sense that they were just a projection of his own mind - all the unwanted parts of himself - he didn't know how to get rid of them.

So first he taught them the dharma. He sat on this seat that was higher than they were and said things to them about how we are all one. He talked about compassion and shunyata and how poison is medicine. Nothing happened. The demons where still there. Then he lost his patience and got angry and ran at them. They just laughed at him. Finally, he gave up and just sat down on the floor, saying, "I'm not going away and it looks like you're not either, so let's just live here together.".

At that point, all of them left except one. Milarepa said, "Oh, this one is particularly vicious." (We all know that one. Somethimes we have lots of them like that. Sometimes we feel that's all we have got.) He didn't know what to do, so he surrendered himself even further. He walked over and put himself right into the mouth of the demon and said, "ust eat me up if you want to." Then that demon left too. The moral of the story is, when the resistance is gone, so are the demons.
Source: start where you are - how to accept yourself and others from pema chödrön, p. 35

Mike, may I ask if you are in therapy right now and or meditating under guidance of a teacher? I ask because to me it was the combination between therapy, practice and finding the "right" meditation teacher that allowed me to establish a healthy balance between daily life and meditation. Finding this balance "improved" everything to me - on and off the cushion.Finding balance on your own may not be easy, because recognizing "overdoing" on- and off the cushin is not always easy to catch and therapy and a teacher can prevent you of experience more suffering that you are able to handle at the moment.

At some point there will come those moments, where it makes no difference if you are on-, or off the cushion - You just be. The more you balance the factors between meditation and daily life, the more moments of "just be" will arise, at least in my own experience. That's because you are "ok" with everything that arises, without judgment/denial/ignorance. This process is a gradual one and it happens not instantly/magically - at least not for me. Meditation insights can be of a great benefit, but without changing something in your daily life (moral, actions, etc.), they are of little help.

Be brave in daily live, step out of your comfort zone litle by litte. You are good and can be so! e.g. take responsibility for you and your actions, take care about yourself and seek guidance if neede, be part of a group if you like to, do something good to yourself and others or in other words just show the world who you are and what you are capable of, despite all your doubts, anxiety, hatred.

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/3 to 1/4 am. - 1/3 2020
Answer
1/4/20 1:30 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Hi, Mike.

Please try to keep to a light touch with your meditation practice. This is not one of those cases where more is better. It's actually better to be gentle and kind to yourself, and not drive yourself into fits of anger, sadness, guilt, giddiness, happiness, and any other emotional experience. I know you posted several times after exceptionally intense periods, but I detect a thread in your comments that might lean toward thinking intensity is a good thing. It may be, but only in short doses. Otherwise can be derailing.

Just stay the course, gently and firmly, and you really should consider finding a teacher, and a therapist.

JMHO, of course.

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/3 to 1/4 am. - 1/3 2020
Answer
1/4/20 9:42 PM as a reply to shargrol.
well . . . 

I appreciate all the warnings and cautions. Thank you. 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/4/2020
Answer
1/4/20 11:09 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/4/2020

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/4/2020
Answer
1/5/20 11:13 AM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Yes - take the long view.

emoticon

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/4/2020
Answer
1/5/20 4:02 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020
Answer
1/6/20 9:48 AM as a reply to Mike Monson.
For what it's worth, I really do think sitting to meditate regularly (without overdoing it) will be helpful, even if you spend the time obsessing over food and drinks and hateful thoughts about yourself. At least you get to see that it's just thoughts. Sometimes I find it very helpful just to disentangle thoughts and feelings from each other, noting every thought as a thought and every feeling as a feeling. Noting them like that gives some distance. It reminds me that engaging with them is optional.

You can do this. One step at a time.

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020
Answer
1/6/20 11:07 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
yes!

thanks Polly 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020
Answer
1/6/20 1:53 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Really enjoying this log. I appreciate your frankness about the messiness of the process, and I appreciate all of the responses. This is exactly the stuff that I need to be hearing and I can do it without having to write my own log!

I personally just got back from a weekend retreat and it was messy and bumpy and I am honestly just exhausted from the effort to stay mindful. The best moment was when I was doing the interview with the teacher and telling her about my experience and she was just like, "sounds like what you've been doing is a pretty dry practice. Maybe you could add in more metta." At which point I nearly burst into tears. This is what EVERYONE says about practicing in the dark night stages (which I'm going through veeery slowly), but I keep dismissing with the reasoning that I need to put all my focus on insight, insight, insight.

Currently I'm taking the advice of everyone here and trying to take a hot bath, but the water is coming out yellow brown. This seems to be a metaphor for something.

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log 1/2 - 1/3 2020
Answer
1/6/20 3:37 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
thanks!

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/11/20 7:52 AM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Hey Mike --

Why are you practicing?

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/11/20 8:33 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log

yes
im working on that question now

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/16/20 10:36 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
RE: Mike Monson Practice Log

still having such nice days. 

Sitting meditation has been on breath sensations.

Really relaxing into the breath happening now — during/in and out/beginnings/ends/in-between. Gentle return when I catch myself in daydream. 

Lots of nice and full feelings in head and chest. Energy goes up straight to scalp rather than all over and being jerky. 

Tonight a lot of what I saw seemed like descriptions of mind/body — really seeing the thought/image echo of sensations. 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/21/20 8:50 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
More nice days. 

More high energy days. 

I'm still on the other side of the bad place I've been in so long and I keep moving steadily farther away. 

A lot of my practice both sitting and away from sitting is becoming very similar -- a gentle effort to stay open and awake to the next thing that happens. While sitting my attention almost every session lately still is on breath sensations along with any strong feelings that pop up. 

So much of what is happening otherwise feels like I'm getting acquainted with being alive in a way in which I can meet new moments with some freshness, newness. So much of the emphasis in my actions is to create a peaceful open state for the next moment.

I feel like this sounds silly or like a fantasy- but it really is happening. 

I don't have much sense of my place right now on the insight map. I still think I'm probably hovering up and down from A&P to Equanimity but if that's true I don't get the feeling I'm verging on cessations but my gut tells me to not look for that and I feel so happy now . . . 

EMPTINESS seems like a kind of silly term for what it's attempting to describe. We are only calling it empty to say it's empty of a self. But, we are the ones who incorrectly once thought there was a self in there. So, if there isn't a self and never was then  it's not EMPTY of anything-- it's just the thing it is. 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
1/25/20 10:02 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
. . . . 

I want to keep checking in, but right now there isn't much to report that is new or fascinating. 

Still, the big news for me is how completely different my daily life has become-- my suffering has decreased so much and there is energy and joy and a lot of just basic everyday wisdom. I'm kind of surprised that it's worked out so well from the very basic and simple things I'm doing. 

it's obvious to me that the biggest factor is developing a consistent skill again in choiceless awareness. I know that my habit became to take any and all dark, negative, miserable, regretful, etc. feelings/thoughts/images and indulge them, enhance them, expand them -- wallow. Now, those are just among all the stuff that comes up that I let arrive and leave. I don't react or resist. This makes a tremendous difference. And, now, those types of things are less active here in the Mike Monson thing. 

RE: Mike Monson Practice Log
Answer
2/2/20 7:46 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Okay. 

I'm going to stop this, but I didn't want to just fade away with no comment or explanation. And, I want to keep it open to come back at anytime with updates or other kinds of posts. 

If one reads through this log from the beginning to now, I do think it tells a story. I'm not sure I or anyone else understands that story ,or knows what it means, but . . . it's a story. 

Once I got back in the groove of practice last fall, a lot happened pretty rapidly, and I've come to a place that I did not anticipate -- which is good, I think. 

My practice has steadily been reduced to 'just this right now.' That's what I do when I sit and that's what I do when I'm not sitting. It's almost like I'm not doing anything or not even practicing, but not quite. There is an effort, there is something going on, something being directed by something -- and that effort is to do as little as possible, to as much as possible have a brain that isn't seeking, that isn't looking for change or improvement, that isn't trying to be spiritual, that isn't trying to become something, that isn't thinking and planning some progression on some path. 

That's really it. It's like a constant negation. If I find that I've slipped into (a lot of this is going to sound like J. Krishnamurti or Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind) plotting, planning, thinking, creating images of what Mike Monson is supposed to do or become or learn -- I catch myself and remind myself that I don't have to be anything I don't have to change I don't have to follow some map or prescription, that I'm completely and utterly free to just be this right now, just what's happening right now, just what's going on now. 

It's a wonderful thing. It's working now. For me.

I do think that all of us come to practice with unique histories and habits of mind (especially unique habits of mind) and I suspect that for me, since I've been so compulsively active in thinking thinking thinking and conjuring up ideas and images of some spiritual future (or for most of the past seven years all kinds of diffferent ideas of all kinds of different futures that were all fictions), that since that is so true for me, any radical change like I'm going through in which I'm NOT doing that kind of thinking, is going to make a dramatic shift in my mood and perception. 


Any kind of planning or plotting or deciding to embark on some kind of meditative or spiritual progression or goal just feels like  . . . suffering. I don't want to suffer. I wonder if I've decided to default into a practice eliminating suffering RIGHT NOW as opposed to to a practice that has some kind of insight as a goal. I don't care about insight right now. I just want to be empty of content and free of suffering. 

So, I'm going along -- like I said near the beginning of this -- and not really trying to do or be anything and, if I notice I'm suffering, I just empty myself of the idea that there is something to be gained from moving away from what is happening now, that there is something prefered or better. This brings peace and openness and relief and I move on. 

I'm not happy, really. I'm not experiencing great bliss or excitement (in fact, things feel quite mundane much of the time) but, the great thing is, I'm not suffering much at all and I don't see 'experiences' as any big deal or something to try to conjure. I like empty. 

I've read about and thought about and practiced in a lot of different ways and what I'm doing does remind me a lot of K's 'choiceless awareness' (and his basic teachings) as well as zen. I don't know if what I'm up to is really all that interesting to the people here, since I'm definitely eliminating maps and stages and experiences and taking up the attitude that any of that will all work itself out or not. 

All subject to change. Duh.