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Brandon's Practice Log

Brandon's Practice Log
1/22/20 11:31 AM
I've been considering starting a practice log for awhile. I've decided to make it a mix of posts on this forum that go into a bit more phenomenology that Dhoers will appreciate, and links to my personal blog where I am going to writing about my experiences for a broader audience. Although I'm trying to exercise restratint, you'll notice a certain evangelical tone in the writing.

To start I wanted to share my account of my A&P experience, and how it has seemed to alleviate most of my symptoms of depression. In a future post I'll talk about how the experience led me to discover MCTB, the POI and DhO.

Dissolution of Craving
1/24/20 12:10 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
I experienced for the first time what appeared to be the dissolution of a craving or compulsion. I was putting my son to bed, and I usually sit on the floor as he is falling asleep and do some noting. I had been playing a video game on his 2DS for the past few weeks and it had become a bit of a compulsion. A common pattern for me is to have a compulsion, to know it's not a good idea to follow it and to either resist it succesfully or to just accept that I am going to give in to it. The third alternative that I had experienced through meditation was to sit with a compulsion until it just eventually faded way. That night, however, I had basically accepted that I would give into the compulsion. 

As I was sitting, I paid attention to what I felt in my body as the compulsion arose. I felt a tightness and ache in my chest. The more closely I paid attention to it, the more it felt like a deep, aching sadness. I started to well with emotion, and just as the tears were about to flow I could feel this aching sadness break apart and dissolve. After that, the compulsion was gone and I just went to bed.

It's the first time I've felt anything like this. It felt very much like the metaphor I've heard before of suffering being like a hot coal that you're holding on to, but as soon as you recognize that, you just drop it. It has also given me some insight into how seemingly harmless activities can have suffering at their core. Even when you are doing something that is "not hurting anybody else" you can still be hurting yourself in subtle but problematic ways.

It's also started to make me much more interested and aware of emotions arising in my body. That's something that is very new to me. I've become very familiar with gross body sensations, and I'm starting to gain some skill with picking apart thoughts, but I am little by little starting to become aware of the manifestations of my emotional world. The heart area seems to be the center of lots of activity lately. Mostly a feeling of tightness or aching. This is interesting to me, since the heart area is where all the fireworks were happening during my A&P experience and my meditation teacher afterwards admonished me to pay attention to where I felt it. I honestly had not given that area of my body much attention since then, but I'm starting to see more and more happening there.

Metta and Concentration
1/27/20 2:25 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
For the most part my practice of late has been less focused, more restless and in general more difficult. Post A&P, I was getting up at 5:30 almost every morning for an hour of practice. I'm still committed to an hour a day, but it has been bumpier. From what the maps say and what others have observed, it seems like I'm squarely within dissolution. If the length of my A&P window is any indicator, its likely to last quite a while, unless I've dropped down to a pre A&P state. That's still a part of the maps I don't understand. Clearly, it is common to cycle up the POI, miss Stream Entry and fall back down, but I haven't found good information on the details of how and when "dropping down" happens (a good question for a dedicated thread). Nonetheless, practice is what it is. Sometimes it feels focused and energetic, other times it doesn't. I can work on equanimity either way.

On advice of the teacher at the last weekend retreat I did, I'm trying to integrate more metta into my practice to keep my insight practice from being too dry. At first I was gung-ho about metta, and I was feeling some really powerful, warm feelings at first, but I've noticed the feelings lately aren't as strong, metta feels more like a chore, and its harder to keep my focus. Perhaps just part of a maturing metta practice. I did pick up Salzberg's Loving-Kindness as a reference. Hopefully that will be a helpful guide.

I'm also adding in more concetration work, just working on breath. This morning's session was all concentration and it felt like the right place to be. I'm thinking I'll spend the rest of this week with a bit of metta to start, followed by concentration. Many sources here and elsewhere have recommended concentration and metta as a good fit for the DN. I guess its time to start taking that advice seriously.

Discovering the POI
2/5/20 1:03 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
My account of discovering MCTB and the POI.

Back to Basics
2/7/20 9:26 AM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Just spent a week on vacation with family. It ended up being the biggest stretch of time I've gone without meditation in the last 6 months. I was a bit frustrated by that. I wish I had made more effort to do some everyday, even if it was a little bit. It leaves me feeling a bit concerned about keeping a steady commitment.

Now trying to get practice back up and going again. Did an hour of concentration practice this morning that began with some metta. Maybe its the time off the cushion by my concentration felt soft. Lots of getting lost in thought. It feels a bit like being a beginner again, although clearly the ability to sit for an hour whether with good concentration or not shows I haven't lost as much ability as I thought. Nonetheless, the beginner feeling is kind of fun. I feel a bit like I'm in meditation lab and testing the practice again. Let's see how it goes to start from a place of weak concentration and work back up to something stronger. 

I'm thinking of spending a few weeks to a month on concentration, maybe with additional noting sessions here and there, and then flip the balance back to an emphasis on noting. 

I'm still making my way through Salzberg's Loving-Kindness and doing a little bit of work every day on metta. I've had a really good experience with mudita practice and need to remember to tie that in to my daily metta practice.

RE: Back to Basics
2/7/20 10:02 AM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Have you ever considered to find a technique to practice off the cushion? A non formal practice you do instead of sitting on the computer or at least 10 minutes before you go into the computer (or TV time). 

yes getting lost in meditation is a common thing if one has not found a way to keep at it non-stop easier. 
I used to get lost into narratives when doing concentration practice or even more so in simple Calm abiding Shamata. 

ive found that Noting Aloud worked really good in destroying hindrances and keeping me 99-100% in the present moment , noting sensation after sensation without breaking the noticing stream of awareness or what ever you wanna call it. 

looking in an honest way it is likely that we are actually mindful during a sitting formal practice only 10-50% and lost the rest of the time. And this 10-50% might be chopped up into small portions of actual determined mindfulness. This like trying to dig a water whole 10 meters deep but we dug 10 holes 1 meter deep and yet we haven't reached the water. 

maybe of more benefit to keep a steady stream of awareness for 10 minutes but actually being mindful of all the sensations arising and passing. 
Noting Aloud seems to do exactly this for me. 

such 10 minutes invested will be more fruitful than 60 minutes of on and off being lost and distracted or even just resting in certain experiences. 
sitting on a chair in front of the computer is as good of a place as any. 

this is my experience of course. Just sharing a possibility. 

RE: Back to Basics
2/8/20 10:04 AM as a reply to Che Guebuddha.
Thanks for the ideas. I try to do as much informal practice throughout the day as I can, and my success varies from day to day. My general approach is to ask myself throughout the day if what I am doing requires me to actively think, or if I can use that mental bandwidth to do some noting instead.

I've also done a bit of vocal noting, per instructions from Shinzen Young's See Hear Feel, but that is something I could really do more of. I certainly feel like I am in a phase of practice that requires more commitment, and in general it seems like I need to bring in more energy to make that happen. Some vocal noting could be a good fit. Today is a Saturday too, so a good opportunity to do some informal practice with all the household chores!

RE: Back to Basics
2/8/20 10:21 AM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Brandon Dayton:
Thanks for the ideas. I try to do as much informal practice throughout the day as I can, and my success varies from day to day. My general approach is to ask myself throughout the day if what I am doing requires me to actively think, or if I can use that mental bandwidth to do some noting instead.

I've also done a bit of vocal noting, per instructions from Shinzen Young's See Hear Feel, but that is something I could really do more of. I certainly feel like I am in a phase of practice that requires more commitment, and in general it seems like I need to bring in more energy to make that happen. Some vocal noting could be a good fit. Today is a Saturday too, so a good opportunity to do some informal practice with all the household chores!
Yeah that sounds fantastic. You seem to have a very clear sense of dirrection and some fine practice for it all. I like you mentioning that "mental bandwidth" emoticon so true. Good stuff! 

Im now trying to look at that "energy" we need to invest the same as what I need to get up my lazy ars and start that hoover to clean up our home emoticon I mean to get up and take into my hands and keep at it for the duration of the entire cleaning. Seems to give good results. So determination and resolve will inevitably get some energy fired up. I find that energy comes out of actually doing Noting. At some stage its on Fire how much energy there is but thats to the cycles Dissolution will come about with its cooling effect , ahhhhhhh lovely emoticon 

My opinion is that you are onto somthing of benefit here. Maybe others might add more to this thread in case Im gone astray as some might have more clarity about this than I. The only reason I responded to your thread is that there were so many views and no one replied. I wish someone with more wisdom would chime in.

RE: Back to Basics
2/8/20 10:34 AM as a reply to Che Guebuddha.
I appreciate the response. That's the main reason I am blogging about my practice and keeping a log here -- to gain support from others in my practice (if it can help others too, that's cool). Being a lone practicioner can only take you so far, and I find great benefit from support of the Sangha in whatever form it takes. I've got a local group I meet with weekly, they are a fantastic group, but they are a more standard IMS/Spirit Rock type of group, so not so much nitty gritty discussion about practice. I actually shared a segment from Deconstructing Yourself at our last sit where Kenneth Folk and Michael Taft were talking about mindfulness with the group and there were some strong negative reactions (although they were all very gracious to me about it.). So this forum plays an important role for me as a place where I can really get into the details of practice with a group that is on board with the POI model of things.

RE: Back to Basics
2/9/20 10:18 AM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
More metta followed by concentration practice this morning, with a bit of a diversion mid-practice to pay attention to the sensations in my chest. Been paying much more attention to the heart center lately. Listened to John Prendergast on Deconstructing Yourself talking about doing heart work. Much of it was over my head, but I feel a strong pull to pay attention to this area.

I had another moment of awareness of the connection between complulsion and the heart center. I was getting ready to do some dishes and was about to turn on some music. I felt a tightness and ache that was very similar to what I felt working with my video game compulsion. There was something that just felt painful in my heart about listening to music, and I ended up listening to a podcast instead. It don't really understand what was going on, but it is becoming an increasingly compelling area of investigation.

RE: Back to Basics
2/10/20 11:01 AM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Practice feels very ordinary lately. The feeling of being a beginner seems to persist. I listened to the Guru Viking interview with Stephen Snyder yesterday and he talked about how the arc of practice has a quality of expansion and contraction. He likened it to an accordion. It's interesting to think of how that concept jives with the POI. I'm certainly feeling a contraction of late. Much more aversion to practice and a much stronger feeling of dukkha off the cushion -- just more uneasy, tense, skin crawly feelings, which of course I'm feeling in the heart area as well.

I'm trying to use it as an opportunity, and thinking of it as if I was lifting weights at the gym. The difficulty is just like an increase in the weight. I'm practicing staying calm and relaxing through restlessness. Fortunately the challenge is not too large, and the increase in difficulty seems manageable. Still doing a solid hour of practice per day, plus opportunistic practice throughout the day -- primarily as I'm sitting in my son's room waiting for him to fall asleep.

experiencing piti?
2/16/20 12:56 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
I've been listening to dharma talks from Tina Rasumussen and Stephen Snyder lately. It's a good fit since I am working on the Brahmaviharas and concentration and most of their talks are on the Brahmaviharas and Jhanas. This week I've adopted their metta phrases in my practice, and I've just been working on directing the metta to myself. The general phrasing they use is:

May I be safe
May I be healthy
May I be happy
May my mind be at ease
May I be liberated

As they describe it, this order follows up the chakras, which I really like. Before hearing their dharma talk on the topic, I found myself stumbling on to this pattern a bit naturally. I was ending my metta with "may I be safe" and in a moment of mind blip I switched it to "may I be free" and it just felt better. After finding their phrase order, it clicked why ending with "may I be free" felt better.

I started my meditation this morning with metta, based on this pattern, and found myself getting into a very deeply concentrated and pleasant state. I was wondering if I had veered out of metta territory into mantra. Not sure if that's a diversion or not.

After some time with the metta, I switched to concentration on the breath.  Rasmussen and Snyder recommend doing a strict anapanasati where you focus on the area under the nose. Snyder has described the practice as not focusing on the sensations on the skin, but on the movement of the breath through the area, as if you are a toll collector on a road. I don't think I quite understand how to do this, as I felt like I had a hard time finding what to focus on. Finally, I just directed my focus to the sensations of the breathing that I could clearly perceive, and again found myself getting into a deeply pleasent and concentrated state. I'm wondering if what I am feeling is piti. I found it to be very pleasent and energizing, which sounds similar to how I've heard it described. The concentration actually lingered for about 10 minutes after the sit, and even now I find it fairly easy to drop into.

Maybe all this metta and concentration practice is paying off.

Also discussing commitment on another thread:

I think it's time to make a new resolve to practice, based on suggestions from the thread. This is the form my resolve will take:

I will resolve to practice a mimimum of 30 minutes per day, but will schedule my practice in such a way that I will have the option to do an hour or more at one time. If I do not practice in the morning, I will practice in the evening as I put my children to bed. There is never a good reason to skip practice.

When not on the cushion, I will find as many activities during the day where I can practice noting -- dishes, laundry, cooking, exercise, showering ect. Throughout the day I will ask myself, "What is happening right now?" I will pay attention to what is happening, I will notice any resistance and surrender to whatever is happening in the moment.

I will keep a log of my practice and attend weekly meditation sessions with my local sangha.

RE: experiencing piti?
2/16/20 1:08 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Sounds great. I look forward to reading you log.