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Phi^2's Practice log

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Phi^2's Practice log Hac Phi^2 Vita 2/26/20 7:48 PM
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Phi^2's Practice log
attainments help practice log first path confusion
Answer
2/26/20 7:48 PM
I'm starting a practice log, despite not being sure that I am nearly anywhere far along enough to be of interest to anyone. There is so much going on in my practice at the moment, that I really do feel like any input would be highly appreciated, and that even just writing it down and putting it out there might be beneficial.

Note
In the text below I make a bunch of claims, like having had an A&P experience, and having managed to make it to equanimity and so on. As I am effectively a lone practitioner (well, me and my partner, but we started together, so we are locked in feedback as far as information goes), I have very few opprotunities for calibration, except for through the DhO. So, the point is, if you read what I have written and think "This guy CLEARLY doesn't know at all what he is talking about, and definitely hasn't had those experiences" you are definitely correct. I would really appreciate if you could let me know in that case, so that I can properly adjust my understanding of my practice.

Me and my practice history
I've been lurking on DhO, making the occasional but very rare post, for about a year now. I started frequenting DhO after getting a copy of MCTB from a friend who thought it would be a good fit for my thinking concerning meditation. At that point I had been meditating daily for something like 6 months, but with very little structure. Basically, the first 6 months I had just been sitting, trying to half heartedly focus on my breath for 15 minutes in the morning, and then doing some app-guided meditations in the evening.

Shortly after finishing MCTB I extended my sit length, and by the end of April I was doing Mahasi noting for between half an hour and 45 minutes in the morning and evening.

By late May I had what I now think of as my first experience of an  A&P event in the context of Fire Kasina, an experience described in detail in another post here on the DhO which I wrote when I was desperately trying to make sense of what had just happened to me. About a month after that I think I touched low equanimity for the first time. And almost exactly another month later (late July of last year) I had a set of quite intense experiences, which I have yet to make sense of, but which had the effect of setting me cycling through the stages of insight. Cycling, interleved with making slow progress back up towards some sort of stable equanimity has been the state of my practice ever since.

In October of last year I decided to take at least 6 months off and focus on writing, yoga and meditation, and have since then practiced between 1.5h and 3.5h hours a day, with two small "retreats" with slightly higher doses of meditation mixed in.

My goal is to get to stream entry, and to that end I am currently ramping up my practice in anticipation of doing a short home retreat in a couple of weeks.

Current practice
Up until about a week ago I normally set a timer for 45 minutes and then practiced for between 45 and 75 minutes, morning and evening. About a week ago I started setting the timer for 60 minutes instead, and also added a half hour mid-afternoon sit when the mood strikes (not the first time I have a period of slightly extended practice). I also practice Ashtanga Vinyasas Yoga 6 days a week, which I do largely as a meditative exercise (concentration, jhana, and mindfulness), and I usually get between 5 and 15 minutes of sitting meditation in at the end of those sessions, that time almost exclusively spent on concentration practice.

Recent Events
I have had some really strong emotional experiences over the last few weeks, most notably a close friend getting diagnosed with a potentially terminal medical condition. These experiences led to a level of introspection that I have rarely achieved off the cushion, and a new clarity on the interplay between emotions, thoughts, physical experiences, and the external world. This lead to an insight on the cushion, which I am still sort of digesting, but it had something to do with how experiences have a sort of "thingness" to them, which I had previously mistaken for interpretation of the experience. In particular I noticed that I could see how experiences occured. That what initially, and since I started meditating, had seemed like grabbing on to experiences and interpreting them, was really just that experiences in themselves have this "thingness" as a basic property. With this insight my sessions became much more smooth than they have ever been before, and things started flowing in a new manner.

After having spent most sessions for about a week looking at this "thingness" I had a great conversation over Sunday brunch about meditation in general, and dependent origination in particular (with a lovelyfrequent contributor to the DhO), which sparked some new perspectives. In the evening sit of that day I had yet another strong insight. Since this sit occured less than a week ago I have an even harder time putting this insight into words, but it has something to do with the fact that there was this tension. Like how some process kept making it so that experience got filtered through a narrow distorting passage, which for example made me take verbal thoughts seriously. Seriously here in the sense that they seem as though they actually meant something special rather than just being one of the things that occur in experience, with the same kind of "meaning" as any other experience. Yes I know, this is a terribly vague description, both over- and under-stating the insight. I hope to be able to clarify this as the practice log goes along.

As I lay in bed waiting to go to sleep that night I went back to the insight from the session, and slipped into practice. My partner was listening to an audiobook, and I noticed how I could, for the first time, see with some clarity how language gets parsed. How there is an event in the hearing sense, which leads to all sorts of little ripples in experience, which may or may not result in concepts forming. I could also see how the concepts forming as a result of the sounds were all based on other concepts, which just emerged, for just a moment, without any sort of self intervening. And then, suddenly, everything had been gone for some amount of time, and it was as if reality came expanding out of a point. Visually, it occured in the form of a space full of blue lights. It took a while (fractions of seconds) for sounds to start occuring, and then bodily sensations reaffirmed themselves, and I found myself fully back in my body, with a strange sense of energized tranquility. As if I was perfectly content to just lie there, but sleep was utterly out of the question. So I just lay there, and, I presume, eventually drifted off to sleep.  

I have had a lot of experiences of "head dropping" before, and in a period (late July of last year, as mentioned above) I experienced what I think of as "black frames", when it seems as though experience has just been gone for a moment. That time the black frames went on for a little over a week before they ended. In addition to that I am also very familiar with the jarring feeling of waking myself up just as I fall asleep accompanied by a sense of falling. If anything, this experience reminded me of the "black frames", but somewhat more dramatic.

The next day I woke up with the shoulder/neck pain that I have come to associate with being in the 3 Characteristics stage of insight (a pain that occured for the first time when I was doing my free form and app-guided practice, and then has reoccured a few times, always in conjuntion with other factors from the 3Cs stage). This reminded me of my experience in last July, which also ended up with the 3Cs-pain reoccuring. In addition to this my mind feels different than it has before, and I am still sort of getting used to it. It seems as though the "narrow distroting passage" through which I used to filter experience is just sort of gone, and that over these last few days there is just much less tension between me and experience than I am used to. Even yoga practice feels different, the relationship that I have to performance, to physical sensation, and to concentration seems new.

Practice has also been slightly different, but not in any particularly clear way. The two big insights lately, about "thingness" and the lack of supremacy of conceptual and verbal thought, seem to still be settling in, and lead to increased clarity in some sits. Other sits genuinely feels like I have fallen back down to 3Cs. The black frames are also back for the first time since July, but only in certain sits, and not necessarily distributed in a way that I understand. For example, in the evening sit yesterday I didn't experience a single gap, head-drop or black frame. Just a few hours earlier, in a half hour afternoon sit, I started the session out with a couple of pretty normal head-drops (backwards rather than forwards, though, which is weird for me) and then had about 4 black frames throughout the session, perhaps half accompanied by some sort of physical motion, such as strongly pushing out the final little bit of air in the lungs. Each black frame followed by a soft sense of energized serenity.

There is a lot more that I would like to mention here (how my face seems like it is "boiling" for most of almost every sit now, and have for about two weeks, how the area around my "third eye" is suddenly really active and so on ), but this feels like it is already unreadably long, so I think I will just leave it here.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
2/26/20 9:33 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
35 minute afternoon sit.

Very sticky, warm weather, so sweating profusely for large parts of thes session. Also started out with a bit of a migraine, or at least a bad head ache with the sense that it might turn into a migraine.

Wide open attention, noting experience but no verbal labels. In fact, quite a low amount of interaction with verbal thoughts at all. The sense of a migraine/head ache stopped mattering almost immediately, to be replaced of a general sense of moving preassures or boiling around my whole head and face. This is the standard and most prominent physical sensation in sits at the moment in general.

First 15 minutes or so uneventful, just establishing attention and settling into the still new perspective. After about 15 minutes first blank frame, accompanied by a sharp push out of the very last bit of air of an outbreath, and followed by a mild calm sensation, and uniform gold yellow light in visual field. I think this was preceded by a complex of concepts having something to do with how a piece of information has "destruction" as it's inevitable outcome, as it destroys the current state of whatever conscious system it interacts with, or itself gets destroyed. This not a particularly clear thing, and definitely nothing like a coherent thought.

For the rest of the session something like 4 more gaps occured, some or all of which might just have been head drops. None of them clearly "black frames" the way I have experienced them before, but more just gaps in experience, followed by reestablishing presence.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
pain
Answer
2/27/20 5:33 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 Hour Evening Sit

This sit took a sharp left turn compared to what has been going on lately. First half hour or so was spent as I have come to expect over the last few days. No particular point of focus, noting experiences as they come and go. Especially the sense of face boiling quite prominent, as well as clear perception of "thingness" in all experiences.

After about half an hour more and more frequent experiences of discomfort, particularly in hip, thighs, ankle and knees started occuring, gradually turning into outright experiences of pain. I think this probably took me by surprise to some extent, as pain has really not been a significant component of meditation for me for quite some time. However, more and more of experience was dominated by waves of pain, which seemed associated with my whole leg/hip region. The pain overwhelmed detailed investigation, and any clarity was lost, as each moment carried with it just a new painful experience. There were attempts to see the  three characteristics of the experiences of pain with clarity, but in general practice was extremely poor from the perspective of clarity and investigation.

After about 10 minutes of this experience, something shifted, and I seemed to simply give up on any other experience than the pain, and somehow every single physical experience clearly presented as just another experience of pain. This went on for the remaining 20 minutes or so of the session.

I have no real idea what this was, I can't recall having had this sustained, and clear, an experience of pain for a long time, perhaps ever. It is perhaps significant that the sit was preceeded by a pretty long conversation about how to deal with discomfort and pain in meditation, so I wonder if I might have just primed myself for looking for discomfort. 

I also noted that pain in sits for me tends to coexist with postural issues, such as slumping, leaning and twitching. This session had literally none of that. I sat up perfectly straight with stable calm breathing for the whole time. Similarly, when I do experience pain it tends to be back or neck related, but the back pain that started a few days ago is steadily diminishing to the point of being almost gone now. So, every aspect of this sit was atypical.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
2/27/20 5:47 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour morning sit

The pain of last nights sit clearly spooked me, and put a damper on this whole experience.

More similar to recent sits than last night's one. However, experience was less engaged with the perspectives and insights that I have gained lately, and more skittish at any hint of leg and hip pain. It seemed as though the discomfort of last nights sit created some real worries, or perhaps some worries have been created by some other thing, leading to both last night's discomfort and this morning's skittishness.

Regardless, started out with wide open focus, noting but not labelling. Found that attention kept snagging on sensations in hip, without sufficient distance to investigate the characteristics of it, but simply getting lost in some sort of aversion to the experience, or a desire for it to go away. There was also a lot more verbal stuff going on in this sit than I have gotten used to lately. Few long verbal discussions, or sustained thoughts, but full statements in response to experiences were frequent.

As the session went on, attention on practice seemed to come and go in waves even more than usual. In periods practice was quite good with clear, ardent investigation. In particular around the 30 minute mark (I usually set my timer to chime at half time) practice was fairly similar to how it has been working lately, and there was even an experience of a gap in there. This time the gap occured in a way that I rememebr quite clearly from last july, with experience just before the gap dominated by the ringing in the ears (nada sound?) doing a "chirp" before disappearing along with everything else.

Towards the end of the session it seemed as though the worried patterns started losening up, and investigation became somewhat smoother and perhaps a bit less forced.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
2/27/20 8:50 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
30 min Afternoon sit

Very similar experience to the previous afternoon sit. I'm a little surprised that these seem so similar to each other, I wonder whether it is mainly the time of day, or mainly the fact that they are shorter, or something else entirely.

Again, no particular anchor for attention, noting but not labelling experiences as they occur. After some time, maybe 10 minutes or so, first seeming gap. This time accompanied by a physical jolt, but no head drop I think. One or two more similar experiences followed over the following 10 minutes or something. Mixed in with those was also something that seemed like softer dips. Same sort of experience of there having been a moment missing, or a black frame, as the experiences causing the jolts, and same soft golden (visual field uniform golden yellow) blissful glow afterwards, but absolutely no jolt or sense of a jarring experience.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
2/28/20 10:07 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 min evening sit

Came home late after dinner with friends, but still wanted to get a sit in, so did 45 minutes immediately before bed.

To some extent the experience was just what I am used to in terms of going through the stages of insight, starting in A&P. So started out bright and flowy, and with a strong sense that some sort of big insight was imminent. The experience of grew until it eventually seemed to crest and break, and things became much calmer (this is a pretty standard expreienc in the first 10-15 minute of sits for quite a long time). Experience then got more diffuse, and some quite complicated mind wanderings occured, with strong  visual components. This lead to two experiences that I have come to associate with the end of the transitional period (the transitional period between the intense, positive state, and a later, calm, positive state, potnetially the Dukkha Nanas): hugely captivating discomfort in the throat, accompanied by desires to swallow, cough and change postures, followed by extremely intense itches on the face. However, neither of those experiences, despite feeling more or less the way the nromally do, didn't seem captivating at all, but sort of just came and went in very short amounts of time.

After these two experiences the rest of the session was spent in a calm state of varying flowing experiences. In particular there was quite a lot of experiences of the face and scalp "boiling" and so on. I don't remember anything that felt gappy, or like black frames, but there was the sense of building up towards those experiences without them occuring.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
2/28/20 11:25 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 min /afternoon/early evening sit

Most Saturdays I replace morning meditation with double yoga sessions, and today was no exception. Did a 45 minute sit when we came home afgter yoga, lunch, grocery shopping for the week etc.

Sort of strange session. From what felt like less than 5 minutes in head drops started, and then dominated the experience for the coming half hour. I must have had over 20, perhaps significantly more, head drops, or sometimes just little twitches that seemed to be different versions of the same phenomenon. It was beneficial in that it let me see the difference between head drops and the other similar experiences that have been occuring lately (which I call gaps and black frames respectively).

In particular I noticed that the head drops do not seem to contain any actual gaps in them at all. Some of them were preceded by some sort of vague, quite disjoint or surprising, mental image, or even some thought that seemed discontinuous with the general tenor of the sit, but then the experience of the head dropping (or twitch occuring, or what have you), seemed to be experienced all the way through. This has some similarities with the "black frames" in that they seem to include experience all the way through, just that for a moment the experience is "nothing". However, it is different from what I think of as gaps which tend to be such that they are noticed after they occur as experience reasserts itself, but there is an actual disconitnuity betwen what happens befor it and what happened after it.

After almost exactly a half hour (I usually set the timer to chime at 30 minutes even if I intend to sit longer, and the bell chimed while this experience was occuring)  the throat thing I described in the previous session occured, this time quite a bit more cativating than the previous session, but much less so than normally. Regardless, it led to swallowing a couple of times. After that the head drops completely stopped, and the rest of the session was much calmer, and less eventful.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
2/29/20 4:19 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour evening sit

Again, felt like the session was spent moving through stages of insight, with large parts spent I stages where attention easily snagged on various physical sensations, such as tickling in the throat (I realized after the sit that I might actually have had a hair in my throat for the whole session, but still not sure about that) and vague hip/thigh pain. Compared to how suffering-focused sessions usually comes out though, this one was slightly different.

In particular, the suffering was as clear as ever, perhaps clearer than it usually is, but it seemed to be less immediate in the sense of calling for some action. Instead, the seeminglynew perspective that I have been experiencing seemed to provide a bit of automatic distance between the suffering and the rest of experience.

I seem to recall other interesting bits from the latter part of the sit, after the suffering had subsided, but can't recall what they were now, 12 h later.

General comment

I don't think I have ever had a set of insights that have affected my daily life so profoundly. It seems like the letting go of the idea that I am identified with some particular stream of thoughts has led not just to a new relationship to myself, but as much so to other people. I have had insights profoundly change my perspective before,but never quite like this. It would be cool if this didn't revert back to the way it was, the new perspective seems preferable.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
2/29/20 6:55 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour lunch time sit

Slow Sunday morning, so morning sit turned into lunch time sit. It's not quite as warm as it has been for the last few days, but the weather is still inducing a near-migraine, which always comes with some distant loopy states of mind.

Remarkably stable sit. Started out in a calm, unbothered, state, and persisted like that for the whole session, with no dramatic events. There were verbal thoughts occuring, and some briefly catching the attnetion, but none leading to longer mind wanders. Just before the sit I had had a conversation about surfing, and in particular the experience of being "caught on the inisde" (when you are trying to paddle past the break, but get pummeled by waves). A memory of a particularly bad experience of this surfaced at one point, together with a strange but profound sense that I might not have survived that, immediately followed by a deep sense of calm joy. Weirdly though, the joy didn't seem related to having survived, but rather with having been there. It was a profound, but undramatic sequence of experiences, and I wish I could better convey them than I have managed to.

We'd set the timer for 45 minutes, as my partner didn't want to sit longer than that, but I didn't get up when the timer rang, and instead ended up sitting, with basically unchanged experience, until getting out of meditation after effectively exactly one hour (according to my fitbit).

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/1/20 4:45 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
75 minute evening sit

Again quite a stable sit, with a sense that some of the gap-like experiences might occur, but they didn't. Verbal thought patterns snagged at attention some sessions lately, which seemed to some times undermine the recent insight about no-self, but not in any dramatic way. As a result of this some time was spent focusing more on the impermanence characteristic, which led to a some very vibratory, at times seemingly physically so, sensations (a fairly standard outcome of focusing on impermanence for me), which led back to more clarity on the lack of self and so on.

When the timer went off for the one hour sit fascination arose at the clarity of the intention to move immediately when the timer went. So I stayed sitting and examined the impulse, which immediately passed away, but was replaced by an awareness of discomofort in sitting, which led to a new impulse to move. Suddenly it was clear how these impulses, and attentions to particular experiences, came out of a whole cluster of... somethings (Ideas? Patterns? Selves?)... which included, or sprang out of, a sense that 1 hour is a sufficient, or good, or acceptable or respectable amount of time to sit.  It was also clear how these patterns were, at least to some extent, built on repeated appreciation of having managed to sit for a full hour, or disappointment in failing to do so. I kept examining these patterns for a while, until I broke the meditation after a total of 75 minutes.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/1/20 5:23 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour morning sit

Surprisingly difficult to get practice started, as in, as much as the first four or five minutes was spent just sitting around thinking about various things, with no real clarity on experience. Strangely, I didn't even manage to get in to practice immediately when I noticed that I was doing this, but instead kept following streams of thought down this avenue and that. Eventually, practice gained purchase, and clear examination of experience ensued.

The first half hour was quite similar to the latest morning sit, except that it went by incredibly quickly. When the bell went off to indicate that a half hour had passed. the though genuinely occured that I might have set it for 10 minutes instead of 30. To compensate, the last half hour seemed quite long instead.

Somewhere after the first half hour gappy things started occuring, but nothing particulary dramatic. There was some jolts which seemed like versions of what I think of as "head drops", and there was a few black frames. There was also at least two proper gaps followed by a sense of bliss. One of those was similar to what I have experienced before as in the sudden awareness that there has been a discontinuity, and experience reasserting itself. The other one was a strangely smooth experience, as if the approach to the gap was somehow deliberate, and the passage through the discontinuity was just a well-trodden, well known, path. I am not entirely sure whether the discontinuity here was more like a black frame, or an actual gap, but the aftermath was the blissful, visually golden yellow, glow I have come to associate with the gaps.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/2/20 6:51 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 min evening sit

It seems as though the conversations I have before sits have a massive impact on the sit itself at the moment, much more so than I am used to. Before this sit I had a fairly long conversation about concentration states. After about 20 minutes of this session I ended up following a set of thoughts about the relationship between emotions and bodily sensations, which very suddenly led to a strong, deep, and bright sense of bliss, which I could maintain and increase with some small amount of effort. After a while the effort subsided and the bliss turned to a calmer sense of pleasure, which then stayed around for some time. This lines up with my understanding of the first two concentration Jhanas, and is very similar to, but stronger than, previous experiences of what I think of as jhanic states.

Towards the end of the sit there were a lot of photo-realistic, but vague, images in the visual field, and it seemed as though experience, or focus on experience perhaps, sort of came and went in slow orderly waves. It seems to me that this might all have been an outcome of low energy, due to how late the sit was, but obviously hard to tell.

edit:
30 minute afternoon sit

I forgot to write about the afternoon sit that I squeezed in, in a fairly stressed way, before the eveing Yoga session. I honestly can't remember much about the sit, except that it got to some fairly deep place after something like 25 minutes, and that the session basically ended right after a fairly clear gap in experience leaving me with a deep sense of bliss.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
suffering attachement poor practice
Answer
3/2/20 6:47 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour morning sit

This session was strangely dominated by loopy thought patterns, and a much lower level of clarity on experience than has been the case over many recent sits. In particular, attention kept snagging on the "contents", rather than just the experience, of a knot in my stomach, and kept trying to unpack what the knot "was about" leading to repeated excursions into content rather than just an engagement with the bare sensation, let alone investigation of the three characteristics of experience. There were periods of what I would in retrospect consider good practice, in particular towards the end of the sit. For these periods experience presented as a smooth, and uninterrupted interplay between sensate experience and reactions to experiences.

One interesting aspect of this otherwise somewhat wasted sit was the realization that while the suffering characteristic, and in particular its relation to attachment, was very clear for most of the session, the session itself was not uncomfortable. So, while I was clearly experiencing suffering, that suffering did not motivate me to necessarily want to alter my experience. I haven't seen this situation with such clarity before, so that was rewarding.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/2/20 10:44 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
50 minute afternoon sit

Again a session of almost constant "head drops" (this session more like bodily twitching accompanied by a sense of almost-discontinuity, but experienctially similar enough to head drops for me to have no qualms to think of them as that) for the first 20 or so minutes. Then a period dominated by tingling sensations and the sense of moving energies ensued, in particular in the face, scalp and neck.

Final 5-10 minutes of the sit had a slow, pulsing quality to it, as if the clarity of attention came and went with a period of about one second. This was not strobing in the visual field so much as it felt as if all of experience increased and decreased in immediacy or clarity or something along those lines. I should have checked how this related to the breath, but I didn't.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/3/20 2:41 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute evening sit

I am getting increasingly curious about deepening my Jhana practice, so spent a little bit of time reading up on how to actually do good Jhana practice. So far my only resource for Jhana practice instructions has been MCTB, which has been good, but I find that more sources tend to be helpful in these situations. I would really appreciate any input you might have on practical practice instructions, in particular on how to identify Piti and Sukha.

Regardless, I started out by doing some of the standard investigation that I normally do in order to get some feel for the texture of my mind (and out of habit, I suspect), before after 15-20 minutes or so shifting into concentration practice on the breath. From there I started gently shifting my focus over to the sensations of pleasure, both those associated with the breath, and those associated just with sitting. So far this is something I do essentially daily in the context of seated meditation at the end of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga sequence. Generally, though, I do this quite gently, keeping the breath as the main focus. Now, instead, I did what I used to do about 10 months ago when I last tried to get aquainted with Jhanas, and tried to completely move over to focusing on the sensations of pleasure. This lead to the sense of tingling pleasure increasing, and building, and a sense of glowing.

My experience with this practice is that after some time an option would emerge to let go of the effort of building the pleasure, which I could either take, in which case I would move "down" into a much calmer, less glowy state, with less excitement but more contentment. If I didn't take the option I could still working on the glowing strong pleasure. This time, though, the familiar sense of being able to chose to let go of the effort appeared, and was immediately taken, with no sense whatsover that I could have done differently. I then spent some time in this calm, darker, pleasant state, before the pleasure sort of slowly started draining away.

The draining out of the pleasure seemed to take several minutes, and was completely out of my control. Eventually I was in a state similar to the previous one in terms of tranquility, but now with somewhat less clarity, or at least "more going on" in some sense. This state seemed a lot like the state I get to when I do fire Kasina after the black hole (the frame of the red dot, which sticks around for some time after the red dot has stopped appearing) has stopped showing up. I rememeber from both fire Kasina and previous attempts at Jhana practice that getting I could get on to a deeply calm and non-bothered state from this one, by some kind of letting go, but I could not do it now. I also got quite confused by what my attention should be focused on in this state. In the first two states it seemed good and easy to focus on the sense of pleasure and bliss, but in this state, I wasn't sure what the factors actually were.

So I spent the rest of the session feeling out this state, trying to hold on to, and focus on the general sense of tingling and preassure around the head and face, which were quite pronounced, and also seeking to let go in the way that I seemed to recall had been useful previously.

This exploration all feels very new to me, and any input would be greatly appreciated.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/3/20 7:03 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Scattered morning practice

Waiting for our landlord to show up at some point before noon made it so I didn't want to set my phone to flight mode and settle in for a full Vipassana session. Instead I just sat down for some concentration practice, while accepting interruptions, partially to see what that did to practice. Probably the longest continuous length was around 15 minutes, probably a total of about 45 minutes of practice.

Spent the whole time trying to find a more solid understanding of the pleasant sensations I understand to make up first Jhana. Normally when I do any practice that I consider to be Jhana related it is in the context of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, which, in my tradition at least, means that there is a strong focus on Ujjaiy breathing in particular patterns and keeping bandhas on, so the focus on pleasure and rapture is always mixed up with focus on gross physical sensation. I decided to start each of the shorter session today by just focusing on my breath as I would in the context of Vipassana meditation, without any modification of it. I then carefully moved over to noticing the pleasure of breathing itself, but much more gently than I have before, and seemingly in a more confident manner, as if I knew what I was looking for. In at least two of the shorter sessions this allowed me to gain a little bit of distance from the breath, and moving out into pleasure in the body, which I could grow and hold in a much calmer and natural fashion than before.

I have quite strong, always available, scalp tingling, since about a year ago, and I have previously taken this as my object to start finding bliss, as that tingling itself seems to be an aspect of bliss. I didn't let that sense dominate as much in these sits as I have before, bit rather investigated bodily sensations of pleasure with deeper curiosity.

Two surprising outcomes of this:
  •  Despite really spending effort on focusing and paying close attention to experience, but not the three characteristics or the properties of experience, I experienced something that seemed like a quick gap in experience. Makes me even more confused about what these gaps are.
  • The afterglow of the deeply blissful experiences that arose was longer and stronger than I have experienced before, or at least for a while.
Looking forward to keeping on exploring this territory.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/3/20 10:00 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 min afternoon sit

Again, tried finding the pleasant sensations in breathing and sitting and staying with actively focusing and increasing those sensations, rather than seeking to move on to other states. Also, less focus on the obvious head tingling, and more focus on suffusing the whole of my body with pleasant sensations.

So once again started out just focusing on the breath, as it is, at the abdomen. No added anchors for attention, so no visualization or counting, or labels or anything like that. Just returning to the bare sensation of my abdomen rising and falling, and adjacent sensations. Then gently started reaching out for the pleasure associated with breathing, which was immediately available, and could be built upon. I now interpret both the really obvious tingling excitement (mostly in head face and skin) and the more subtle sense of cool pleasure (mostly internal to the body, somehow) as objects for attention.

I have had a hard time accepting the fact of the cooler, calmer, pleasure being obvious when I have tried to do Jhana practice before, but now it felt quite easy to use as an object for some reason.

To my great surprise, though, after having been using the pleasant sensations as an object for just a few minutes, a black frame (or possibly more like a gap in experience, I am actually not quite sure) occured, followed by a strong sense of bliss. And a few, maybe five minutes later another one, and again a few minutes after that, and so on for the coming 35 minutes or so. This time the gaps weren't associated with any sort of head drops, and mostly not with any physical motion at all. As I was keeping my attention "close to" my breath in some sense, as the level of pleasure kept moving with the breath, that the first thing that happened after each black frame was the beginning of an inbreath.

This was particularly surprising to me, as I was fairly certain that all this gappy stuff going on lately had something to do with insight practice, or at least that the kind of practice I was doing would matter to whether they occur. Instead, doing this completely different form of practice seems to have brought them out in spades.

After about 35 minutes I started feeling as if my attention was flagging, and some brief periods of mind wandering ensued. During one such period I realized that I haven't done a full 45 minutes of concnetration practice in a long time, and maybe just don't have the mental muscles for it, and that's fine. So for the last 10 minutes or so I narrowed my attention to the sensations of tingling, boiling and preassure around my "third eye" which lead to something more insight practice like, with chasing the sensations around the forehead, seeing the impermance and lack of self of the mental occurences making up the sensation incredibly clearly which lead to another, quite pronounced black frame or gap.

Again, the afterglow from the session was quite dramatic, and lasted for longer than I have generally been used to.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/4/20 3:28 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
55 min evening meditation

Kept going with the Jhana practice. In general the session was significantly less focused than the previous one, and I didn't manage to stay, as I had intended, with the senses of pleasure and rapture. Instead, after some time the rapture seemed to partially slip away, and I found it difficult to reestablish it. After which there was more of a sense of going through the insight stages for a while, and I found it hard to find any purchase on experience.

Eventually, after some poor practice involving the sensee of cycling through the stages of insight and using various factors as temporary focus points I found my way back to pleasure sensations similar to those I had intitially intended to stay with for the whole session. This time I really managed to suffuse my body with the experience of pleasure, and it was extremely deeply enjoyable. This sit occured quite late in the evening, so I had decided to just do 45 minutes, and then hurry to bed. When the timer went it took a full ten minutes to convince myself to stop practicing.

The afterglow was again much stronger than I am used to from concentration practice except in really rare cases, and I found it somewhat difficult to calm down enough to get to sleep.

Edit: I forgot to mention that at a pass through something DN like in the poor part of the practice when I seemed to be cycling I had a brief time, maybe as much as 5 minutes, maybe as little as 40 seconds, with a very dramatically active visual field. In general, random clear pictures in the visual field is something that I associate quite strongly with the DN. This time it was mainly two images, or at least two that I can clearly recall. First there was a series of blue flashes, like lightning through fog, each flash lit up, from the back, the sillhouette of some sort of huge, sprawling war ship, possibly with a fleet of smaller ships around it. The visual field then went back more or less to it's normal state. Before long, out of the top left corner of the visual field, three squares that were clearly windows on a computer occured. They were old timey, and their edges as well as the symbols in them, were matrix-green. They were also accompanied by a very jarring, digital feeling, sound. Like some weird effect from a particularly obnocious techno track, or distortions from folding in an A/D-converter.

What was also particularly strange about these visual experiences was that they scared the bejesus out of me. After the computer windows, which were objectively inoccuous, I felt a deep nameless dread, and for some incomprehensible reason there was a deep worry it would happen again. This fear and worry seemed to push me out of some aspect of the mental space I had been in, and it seemed as though I was no longer in the same territory, and no more visuals of this sort occured for the rest of the sit.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/4/20 6:31 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Note

I booked a 1 hour session with meditation teacher Nick Grabovac to get som help figuring out what is going on for me at the moment. A really good conversation, the upshot of which is that I will take as a working hypothesis that the event almost two weeks ago was stream entry, and that I am currently in Review.

Thus I will start assuming that some subset of the gappy stuff I am experiencing at the moment is cessations/fruition. Nick recommended I spend some significant proportion of my time in review getting as good as I can at making fruitions happen deliberately, so I will do that. I will try to see how intentions to have fruition interact with fruitions themselves, as well as working harder on my precision in order to see what are fruitions, and what are other things, like the head drops.

Under this working hypothesis I also don't want to squander this opportunity to tap into Jhanic states, so will keep playing around with that as well. Possibly use my morning and afternoon sits for Vipassana, and my evening sit for Jhana practice.

1 hour morning sit

I always start my sessions out with a verbal, but internal, resolution stating what practice I am doing, what specifically that practice has as an intended effect, and how it relates to my over arching life goals. For this session I added to the normal Vipassana meditation structure of the resolution, an added resolution to bring about and pay close attention to cessations.

It took between 5 and 15 minutes in equanimity (where most of my sessions seem to start out) for the first gappy thing to happen at all, and I am fairly sure the first thing was a pretty standard head drop, which left me in the same stage again. Shortly thereafter another gappy thing followed, this time less head-drop related, and more like a black frame. And after that it was as if the flood gates had opened. The rest of the session was spent with something gappy happening every 5 minutes or so. Maybe half had some sort of physical movement related to them, but rarely head drops as such. After the afterglow of most of the gappy things I still found myself in what felt like equanimity, but a few significant ones, all of these without a physical movement, seemed to drop me down to the three characteristics. However, the movement back up through the stages was really quick, with quite a bit of head-droppy things on passing through the DN, and early equanimity.

I look forward to playing more with this resolution, and to see if I can learn to see the entrance to the gaps better. In particular, it seems to me that all of the more significant gaps, the ones that seem the most as if they were cessations, were preceded by some moments of mind-wandering like altered states, or at least perception altered in a way that it is really difficult to clearly bring back the memory.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/5/20 2:40 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Right, so a year and day to be sure.  emoticon.

So, my expectation would be ...

1. Head Nods. Probably dullness. Indicative that concentration is not yet disciplined. Having these disappear would be a good milestone, but that will only come with months of alert and ardent effort on the mediation object.

2. Black frames without entry and exit.  Possibly glimpses of formless realms. Maybe implying jhana practice will be very strong in the future, but also that you might fall into intense jhanic states without warning - could be disorienting.  But for now it seems undiscplined.  Try not to be the foolish cow that wanders into every field before it has mastered the first one (Uncle Sid's words).

3. Moving through the nanas, hitting equanimity, something weird going on with reality, gaps/blips, strong bliss. Could well be fruitions.  As you seek to repeat them, try to observe the three door phenomenology on entry (if its there), and the plasticity of insight on exit.

Some things you might observe.
- Path moments don't occur because you are thinking about cessation. They occur by surprise after intense effort.
- First bodily fabrications go, then verbal fabrications, then mental fabrications.
- Your whole being identifies with one of the three doors,  then the other two present in quick succession, and the mind ceases.
- You reemerge and reboot in the reverse order - mental fabrications, verbal fabrications, bodily fabrications.
- For a path moment, you are filled with the insight of the door you entered in, and your mind is plastic and able to be reprogrammed by prior or current intention, and you are filled with wonder, seclusion, bliss, and energy.
- For repeat fruitions, you have bliss and some insight, but you steadily reprogramme the brain (and have quite a bit of harmless fun).

None of this is a replacement for Daniel's writings and videos - he is an amazing fruition phenomenologist, and I am an extremely poor one.  But these comments might help you navigate. Some of the three door phenomenology can be quite hard to notice, hence why I mention it explicity.

And the final piece of advice - if they are fruitions, accept them rather than clinging to them.  Fruitions don't demonstrate that you are special.  The give you a glimpse of the opposite - that you have nothing, own nothing, are nothing except a continuosly cresting wave - so why worry!  Enjoy the ride until the invitable wipeout.

Metta metta metta 

Macolm 

P.S. If this was stream entry, super strong bliss waves might occur at any time - even inconvenient times.  These seem to be sukkha, rather than piti. They will then fade over time.

P.P.S. By all accounts second path can happen quickly.  So keep going.  Third path is a bit different, but having more fruitions in preparation doesn't hurt at all, at this stage.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/5/20 4:25 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
25 min afternoon sit

Time got away from me, so I tried to squeeze a sit in before heading to yoga. Not nearly enough tranquility around the sit to get in to anything at all. So, I don't think I even managed to do any practice of value until the very end.

60 minute evening sit

Started out trying to explore the Jhanas, in particular solidifying first. First half hour was mostly spent with interesting experiences of building, and spreading bliss and pleasure, and at 25 minutes or so I was in a very deeply pleasant state. Something brought me out of it, though, and it felt as if I couldn't quite hold on to the sensations anymore. 

I then slipped into insight practice, and ended up seeing quite clearly the interaction between intentions and aversions. In particular how the attention to look for blissful sensations interact with things that seem to come out of self image, and belief and so on, which either develop and strengthen the intention, or counteracts it.

The mind felt quite dull, and I couldn't find my way back to a more energetic state. Apparently, I decided to give myself a break at that point, and spent the rest of the session with completely basic concentration practice, just staying with the breath, basking in the soft pleasure of being back to the basics.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/5/20 6:38 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
Right, so a year and day to be sure.  emoticon.

So, my expectation would be ...

1. Head Nods. Probably dullness. Indicative that concentration is not yet disciplined. Having these disappear would be a good milestone, but that will only come with months of alert and ardent effort on the mediation object.

2. Black frames without entry and exit.  Possibly glimpses of formless realms. Maybe implying jhana practice will be very strong in the future, but also that you might fall into intense jhanic states without warning - could be disorienting.  But for now it seems undiscplined.  Try not to be the foolish cow that wanders into every field before it has mastered the first one (Uncle Sid's words).

3. Moving through the nanas, hitting equanimity, something weird going on with reality, gaps/blips, strong bliss. Could well be fruitions.  As you seek to repeat them, try to observe the three door phenomenology on entry (if its there), and the plasticity of insight on exit.

Some things you might observe.
- Path moments don't occur because you are thinking about cessation. They occur by surprise after intense effort.
- First bodily fabrications go, then verbal fabrications, then mental fabrications.
- Your whole being identifies with one of the three doors,  then the other two present in quick succession, and the mind ceases.
- You reemerge and reboot in the reverse order - mental fabrications, verbal fabrications, bodily fabrications.
- For a path moment, you are filled with the insight of the door you entered in, and your mind is plastic and able to be reprogrammed by prior or current intention, and you are filled with wonder, seclusion, bliss, and energy.
- For repeat fruitions, you have bliss and some insight, but you steadily reprogramme the brain (and have quite a bit of harmless fun).

None of this is a replacement for Daniel's writings and videos - he is an amazing fruition phenomenologist, and I am an extremely poor one.  But these comments might help you navigate. Some of the three door phenomenology can be quite hard to notice, hence why I mention it explicity.

And the final piece of advice - if they are fruitions, accept them rather than clinging to them.  Fruitions don't demonstrate that you are special.  The give you a glimpse of the opposite - that you have nothing, own nothing, are nothing except a continuosly cresting wave - so why worry!  Enjoy the ride until the invitable wipeout.

Metta metta metta 

Macolm 

P.S. If this was stream entry, super strong bliss waves might occur at any time - even inconvenient times.  These seem to be sukkha, rather than piti. They will then fade over time.

P.P.S. By all accounts second path can happen quickly.  So keep going.  Third path is a bit different, but having more fruitions in preparation doesn't hurt at all, at this stage.
Thank you so much for all of that input! Some pure gold to ponder and put into practice.

Yeah, it makes sense that the head dropping would be a sign of dullness. When I think about them from that perspective, they almost seem like a bailing out from complicated situations. As if the mind gets presented with the option of working really hard on a new experience, but choses to sort of bail out and take a little rest instead.

I hadn't considered that the black frames might be experiences of formless realms, having had no experience with them whatsoever, the thought didn't even enter my moind, so thank you for pointing that possibility out. I am curious if this means that they should be extendable to longer than a moment? But Instead of spending any effort on that possibility, I will try to be a calm and diligent cow, and explore the field I am in before striking out for new vistas.

I really also appreciate all the descriptions with regards to phenomenology of path and fruitions. I interpret your input as saying that cessations don't occur because of forcing them, but unextedly due to good practice (and possibly with an intention/inclination for them to occur)? Or did you just mean that about path moments? If I interpreted you correctly, though, this input is very appreciated, as I can really see how my attempts at getting repeat gaps have been counterproductive, in that I (probably) have been going about it by focusing on gaps, rather than focusing on good practice. 

Also, thank you so much for the reminders about seeing things for what they are, and remembering to be with what is, rather than grasping at it. I have a deep understanding of how easy it is to ruin any surf session by convinving yourself that you own the waves, or that the ocean owes you anything, and that the real joy comes from being with the waves as you and they are. Thank you for reminding me to apply myself to port this knowledge to meditation as well.

Metta

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/5/20 4:54 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Your the only other person I've heard describe facial sensations as "boiling". If I had started my log 3 months ago, every entry would say, "My face feels like it's boiling." That was all that seemed to be happening for a few months.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/5/20 6:45 PM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Brandon Dayton:
Your the only other person I've heard describe facial sensations as "boiling". If I had started my log 3 months ago, every entry would say, "My face feels like it's boiling." That was all that seemed to be happening for a few months.
Yeah, I don't know if I picked that description up somewhere, or if it was just a description that occured to me. It is exactly what it feels like a lot of the time though. When I do tune in to the experience it takes on some different properties, though, and sometimes it feels more like rain on the face while other times it feels like something crawling around under the skin (without the creepiness tha tthat image implies).

Also interesting to hear how much that experience dominated your experience for a while, did it just end of it's own accord, or what happened to it?

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/5/20 7:22 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour morning sit

Complicated session. It felt very different from the majority of recent sits in a sort of contracted, solidified way. Not unpleasant in any way, but it also definitely didn't feel like good practice.

It seems to me as thought as a result of the coaching session with Nick yesterday I might have created a cluster of expectations, desires and attachments that are doing me absolutely no favours during sits. Thoughts about things to try, capacities I want to examine, and so on have been quite frequent and somewhat distracting since the coaching session, and I could see already during yoga class yesterday that there was some murky, confused thinking and grasping going on.

I felt as if the session started out in some territory that seemed quite 3 Characteristics like, but with a dose of Equanimity mixed in somehow. However, as I practiced the way I am used to, noting, but not labelling, playing close attention to experience, I didn't seem to move on to the A&P, instead I seemed to just stay in the state I was in. Not until the timer rang to indicate that half an our had passed did it occur to me that I had really been in this state a lot longer than I would normally expect.

I noticed, then, that there seemed to be some sort of cluster, or perhaps more like a knot, of concepts related to expectations about the session, desire for cessations, attachment to what I expect a session to be now, desire to follow the instructions I had recently gotten. There was also a strong frequent sense of having lost or broken something, and that I had done so by incautious behaviour, or hubristic carelessness. All of the experiences that seemed related to this cluster were quite subtle. Despite their subtlety, though, they seemed to dominate much of the session in the sense that an experience that I would have in previous sessions expected to be easy and flowing observation of some phenomenon was suddenly derailed by some thought about how this observation needed to lead to a cessation, or how this experience too had a 3Cs flavour too it, and why hadn't I moved on to another nana?

So after I noticed how absurdly long I had stuck around in 3Cs, I added verbal labels, which seemed to help me see the unhelpful thoughts as they butted in and set of processes which disrupted clear examination of experience. This seemed to move things along to the A&P, but I don't think I actually managed to get through to Dissolution.

While the unhelpful, pushy, sensations were clear to me during the sit, my thoughts about how this seems related to having created expectations and desires as a result of the coaching didn't form until being out walking after the sit. I'm looking forward to seeing what the next few sits will be like.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/6/20 1:55 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute afternoon sit

I resolved to let go of the active attempts to bring about cessations, and get back to the practice I had been doing, but with more attention to staying active with investigation. This seemed to work quite well and the session was signifianctly less dominated by a sense of grasping interrupting the natural flow of experience.

Much less active session than some recent afternoons in terms of  gappy things, and the things that did occur seemed somewhat less wild, for lack of a better description. For example, some time in to the session a few twitches occured, possibly small head-drop things, accompanied by something like black frames.  About 35 minutes in to the sit something like a gap occured, followed by the sense that I was at a different stage than I had been before, and I started trying to reestablish equanimity. Didn't have time to get very far with that before the timer went off.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/8/20 8:08 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
A note on pain and a question about cycles

At the end of Thursday evening's second yoga session (Which was what's called a "hatha" session at the place I practice. More freeform than the Ashtanga Vinyasa which is my main practice) I ended up coming outt of one of the particularly intense postures with a brutal shoulder and neck pain. At that point I had been practicing asana with elements of pranayama for 2.5h with good focus (except for the fact that I was definitely, in retrospect, pushing too hard towards gaps). This particular posture, though, an abdominal strengthening posture with a fairly long hold, after this amount of practice, was engaging enough to either break my focus, or make me losen my grip on conceptual thinking, I don't quite know which is the right way to think about it. I immediately noticed that this pain was IDENTICAL to what I ususally think of as insight pain, the neck and shoulder pain I mentioned in the introduction to the practice log. However, literally every time that this pain has occured before it has been on the right hand side, and has only ever made very brief excursions to the left side of my body just before going away. Now, though, the pain was fully on the left.

Like I mentioned in the introduction this particular pain has been with me intermittently from just a few months in to my practice. In retrospect it seems quite clear that the first time it occured was when I first chanced into 3Cs doing app guided meditation, and it then stuck around (I thought it was a sprained spine, and did a ton of physio for it) until I managed to make it to the A&P. It then returned when I somehow ended up back in the 3 Characteristics after the experience last July, and then again stuck around until I had made it out of that stage. Since then it has reoccured a few times in conjunction with other factors that I associate with the 3 Characteristics. A similar pain, but much more diffuse, occurs for brief periods when I feel like I am in some later stages of the DN.

However, despite being intimitely familiar with this particular pain, the fact that it was now on the other side of the body totally threw me, and I assumed that I had genuinely injured either my neck or shoulder. I was even worried I might have to stay away from yoga for a while and let the thing heal. However, I mentioned the injury to a very wise friend of mine, who is extremely knowledgeble about anatomy in general and pain in particular. As she is also an ccomplished yogini, with a budding interest in the Dharma, she got really curious and asked what posture I had done to cause the injury. When I explained the situation to me she simply scoffed and said (only slightly abbreviated) "Nah, that pose can't cause that pain, you're imagining it". This was absolutely brilliant input, and helped me treat this pain as I would have treated "normal" insight pain, which is to just move mindfully and be present to the fact that the pain not only moves around, but actually gets out of the way in a very strange way. So I went to yoga class, instead of staying home feeling sorry for myself, and lo and behold, despite being on the wrong side of the body the pain behaved just like insight pain does.

After the yoga session the pain pretty rapidly came back into full force after the brief respite that yoga usually offers from insight pain.

About an hour later I was sitting in the couch looking for something to watch with dinner, when I suddenly started feeling a strong sense that something was happening, or about to happen, which is a pretty common sense for me at both the beginning and end of the A&P during sits. This feeling grew and grew until I found myself deeply engrossed in observing experience, enveloped in a deep sense of bliss, with my partner somewhat impatiently waiting for me to wrap it up so we could start having dinner. I broke the state, and had dinner, but still kept feeling pulled towards just basking in experience. After dinner I ended up just sitting experiencing experience with eyes open or half open, for another 20 minutes or so of head-buzzing restful bliss. During that experience I could feel the pain in my shoulder evaporating. By which I mean, it literally felt as if it was evaporating, as if the pain were a substance around my shoulder and neck, which gradually left the body in the form of gas.

Afterwards, the pain was gone, replaced by a buzzy, joyful A&P-sense of experience. I noticed that there were processes which went looking for the pain, and when they did, they could find it, and when they found it, it was as if the joy drained into the shoulder to be replaced by pain. But it never went beyond a small niggling sense of discomfort before it was caught and stopped. I then realized, looking back at the day, including the writing from the day, that the whole day had something of a 3 Characteristics tone to it, which had gone away with the random couch sits. I think this is the shortest time I have ever spent working through that stage, but it is still on a significantly longer time scale than I had expected cycling after stream entry to be, so I don't know if this speaks for or against the working hypothesis that I am in review, but I am guessing against.

So many parts of this experience is new, first of all, the fact that the insight pain has switched side is deeply confusing and somewhat annoying (in that I was pretty stoked that I had gotten used to and could quickly identify the insight pain). Furthermore, I haven't experienced a stage transition just coming on like that in daily life before. Previously movements "up" in nanas have only come during formal sits, as far as I have been able to tell. This is all farily confusing, but I look forward to seeing what's in store next.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/6/20 9:55 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour evening sit

This sit didn't start until very late in the evening, and I am fairly sure that I was way to exhausted to practice well.

The intention with the sit was to do Jhana practice, but a lot of insight practice, and just general poor practice slipped in there. Some of the poor practice consisted of deep curiosity about the A&P like sensations which had just started occuring a few hours before the sit, but mostly, it was just bad concentration.

For most of the session I was using the ringing in the ears as an object, mostly because I have been really bad at that before, and was curious to see how it would work. When I managed to stay with concentration rather than slipping into insight practice, it actually worked fairly well, but for large parts my energy levels were way to low to do much more than just sit there.

Towards the end of the sit the sense that I was about to slide out of the A&P and in to Dissolution occured, and it was intersting to see how scary I found that thought.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/7/20 2:38 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
(Hectic weekend, so writing down some quick notes about some quick sessions so that they don't get forgotten. Way less comprehensive than I would have liked it to be though)

20 min afternoon sit

Had time to just sit down for a moment between commitments. Regardless, felt like quite good practice despite the short time. A few black frame like events, and a lot of twitchy things that felt like light version of head drops. An event towards the end which I don't quite know if it was a black frame where I just missed the frame, or a gap where I didn't have time to see the stage change after the afterglow.

1 hour (late) evening sit

Super high Buzzy energy before sitting down, to the point of discomfort. Very clear sense of starting out in the A&P. I noticed during the sit that it seemed as though something has changed profoundly in my relation to the nanas. In particular, my strategy for making it through the various nanas used to be to investigate, and thus focus on to some extent, the particular factors that make up the special experience of the stage. I noticed now that the more I focused on the energy phenomena and the rapid occurence of experiences the more intense they got, but didn't seem to have the "developing to eventually be replaced by the next thing"-sense to them. So instead of something building to a climax, which is what I normally expect to happen in the A&P, it just kept building.

Eventually I instead tried to see what happened if I focued on factors I associate with Dissolution (loss of clarity, loser grip on experience, etc). Which did indeed in a few minutes time lead me in to a stage that seemed a lot more like Dissolution, so I tried it again with the rest of the DN stages, and then when I got to something that felt like very, very light reobservation, I started trying to establish the factors of equanimity, which worked really well. In short order I found myself in something that felt very equanimity like. The rest of the session was spent seeing how there was a bunch of subtle, but quite active, processes, pushing really hard for things to happen, and thereby periodically breaking just free investigation. These I couldn't loosen enough to actually finish off equanimity, but I suppose seeing them is good in itself.

I wonder if this was just an anomoulous sit, where I tricked myself somehow, or if this is actually how to move through the stages. Time will tell.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/8/20 8:05 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
This weekend was extremely packed with activities impacting not just the amount of practice I had time for, but also the quality of that practice. In particular, I took time for two 1 hour sits, both really late at night, both after full days of mentally and physically draining activities.

30 min morning sit

Had time for a quick sit between commitments. As I am writing this about 24 hours after the sit, I can't quite recall what happened in terms of the sense of which nana I was experiencing and so on. I remember that there was son twitching/head dropping, and some black frames, and potentially gaps. But not nearly clear enough to ake any statements, and had to get up from the sit immediately in to activity, so very lilttle time to let the experience settle.

1 hour evening sit

I had been experiencing jarring vibrations, sloth and even something like neausea, all things I associate with DN stages. After starting the session with my normal resolution to do Vipassana practice, I was gripped by a deep sense of somewhat desperate gratitude, and was moved to spend some time sensing, experiencing and giving gratitude for the Dharma, the Buddha and the Sangha. I have no idea where this came from. The Gratitude felt so much like the gratitude one feels for coming indoors after being out in a storm, and it was so clearly gratitude to those three things. As things go, not a particularly strange expreience, but still somewhat surprising to me.

The session started out with a deepening of the experiences of neausea and jarring vibrations, as well as the throat feeling, which I have basically never had earlier than 20 minutes into a sit before.  Then focus shifted to developing space, and losening the grip on experience. This lead to jarring vibrations dying down and becoming smoother. I stayed with the calm flowyness itself for a while and let it develop.  After a while of this the flowy stuff developed into a stage that in an afternoon or morning sit I would have expected to be rife with gappy things. However, I also noted that there arose a whole host of experiences that had to do with expectations, pushing for completion, stress about making the most of Review if this is review, stress about getting to review if it isn't, and so on.

The remainder of the session was essentially spent in this stage, just seeing how these experiences, some times presenting as interrupting tensions, sometimes as jarring shifts in focus, or solidification of concepts unfolded. There were also periods of quite clear surprisingly solid, senses of something enveloping, or gripping my torso, or just knotty points along the centerline of the front of my body, and that this was also somehow an aspect of some sort of presistent tension.

During this investigation minor insights occured, related to the absurdity of being stressed about attainment and so on. No particualrly dramatic experiences, but an intersting sit, in particular trying to relate to those knots. In particular it is interesting to see, in retrospect, how permanent they seem, how it actually seems that there is a persistent cluster of idea in there, almost a person, standing in the way of resting in experience.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/8/20 8:21 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour morning sit

The sit started out from a similar place as the session yesterday evening. This time however, the establishment of equanimity didn't seem to get interrupted. Instead the early parts of equanimity seemed to give rise to a couple of head drops, and then, about 10-15 minutes into the sit to something like a gap. Unfortunately I seem terrible at being really present just before the gaps occur, and all I recall of this was that there was some sort of though related to identity, but I think that thought ended to be replaced by what felt like clear observation, but since I can't remember it at all, it probably wasn't. Then experience reestablished itself with a golden-yellow, non-vibrating visual field, and a depe head-centered sense of bliss. I tried to grab onto that sense of bliss and spread it through my body, with moderate success. As the bliss faded I found myself in what I think of as a really mild and somewhat pleasant version of 3 characteristics, I inclined the mind towards succesive stages, and seemed to move through the nana quite smoothly. They all seemed a litlte bit distant, and a lot less immediate than they normally present, so it is possible that it was more like moving through sub-stages of equanimity? In short order, sort of 5 minutes or so, I found myself back in what I think of as equanimity.

This experience repeated a few more times in the sit, interspersed with a few head droppier experiences.

After about 45 minutes or so, I seemed to lose the diligence, and for the rest of the session it seemed as though I just couldn't get the purchase on experience needed for mor cycles to occur. It's worth noticing that this was not an experience of trying hard and still failing to get to the really deep examination, this was more like giving up on it.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/8/20 10:43 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
So ... can you describe the concentration object you are using (eg momentary concentration on the noted object, concentration on the breath, concentration on body/feelings), how the object changes during the sit, and how you interact with the cocnettation object?

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/9/20 1:35 AM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
So ... can you describe the concentration object you are using (eg momentary concentration on the noted object, concentration on the breath, concentration on body/feelings), how the object changes during the sit, and how you interact with the cocnettation object?
Thank you for the question, much appreciated!

I used to use the breath as a focus, as that is the object I use when I do  concentration practice, so it worked well. Some months back it seemed to me that sticking with the breath turned my practice way more in the concentration direction, even when I was trying to do Vipassana, so Iet go of the object to instead just try to keep my attention wide and pay close attention to the properties of whatever shows up.

In practice, this means that what kind of experiences I end up noting differ from session to session. Currently, it tends towards sounds, and visual field impressions as well as energy stuff around the head and face. Other than the head and face the body is fairly silent, as are discursive thoughts. Smells and taste only ever occur as objects in my attention very, very rarely. I also suppose that I pay quite a bit of attention to the texture of experience (The sense of space, general width of attention, feeling tone, etc) which I realize when writing this might be a bad habit?

With reagrds to how it changes through a sit, that is a question I don't think I am capable of answering at all in general, but seems like it might be a good thing to give more thought to, so hopefully I will be able to answer that question better going forward.

Noticing how difficult it was to answer your question gives me the sense that I might not be all that clear on what I am doing, which in turn seems like a problem. Do you have any suggestions on how to sharpen up my practice?

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/9/20 1:57 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
30 minute afternoon sit and 45 minute early evening sit

These two sessions were so similar, and so similar to previous afternoon sessions that I will just write about them jointly.

First of all, the reason I did an extra early evening sit is that I missed yoga class due to traffic (couldn't believe it!), so had some extra time whtat was set aside for practice already.

The afternoon session was quite similar to many of the recent ones as it started out with a period without much happening. My focus was wide, and most of the experiences occuring were related to either the face and head which had a calm vibratory, not quite roiling boil, quality to them. Appearing in attention were also snippets of verbal thoughts.

After 5-10 minutes something that was soemthing in between a head drop and a gap occured, preceeded by some sort of complicated mental image which I can neither remember nor describe. Immediately after which the visual field took on the familiar, solid (as in: completely stable, non-strobing) yellow gold, which then broke down into the normal stroby visual field stuff, now mostly on the left hand side. This was shortly replaced by strong, engaging, bliss-inducing tingling in the head, which pretty quickly lead on to experience seeming to contract and the head buzzing changed from exciting to disconcerting, and then died down to the calm, unobtrusive sense I sort of started out with as the visual field, and space in general seemed to relax out again.

This sort of expereience occured three or four more times (in perfect honesty, this might not be the exact description of the first one, but rather more of a typical one from both of the sits) before it seemed as though I arrived at the same place where it would have happened again, but it didn't. Instead experience, which kept being calm and wide open, took on a different tone which I find extremely difficult to put words on. Strangely, the word that comes to mind is "solid" but I don't quite know in what sense, also the word "real" occurs. As if each passing experience had more of a reality to it than it had before, was more present, somehow. This is a terrible description, and it might convey exactly nothing of thaw I was actually experiencing.

In the first afternoon sit I had to leave to (try to) go to yoga class slightly after experience had made the shift, it didn't go anywhere. In the next sit I spent 15 more minutes just sitting with the new experience. There was an element of the "pushy" sense from the evening sits in there, as if there was an attempt to repeat the experiences I had already had, and that that attempt was what stopped it from happening. Regardless, no more things of interest happened, and eventually I had to get up and get on with my evening.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/9/20 2:57 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Ok, thanks.  Can I ask a follow up.  If you concentrate tightly on the breath - say for example purely at the sensations in and oustide the ends of the nostrils including the upper lip - can you count your breaths?  So, maintaining tight concentration on the breath, can you get to 10 breaths without your mind wandering, or forgetting where you are up to in the count? And if so, can you count the breaths up to 8 and then back down to 1 without mind wandering or losing count (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1). And then if so, can you count the breaths up to 40 without mind wandering or losing count?  Remember, this is focussing tightly on the sensations of the breath, rather than thinking about other things, although a little mind wandering doesn't matter as long as you are always conscious of the count.  Please give it a go of you are willing with strong resolution (first up to 10, then if successful up to 8 and back down to 1, and then if successful up to 40). Then please report back, if you are willing, at approximately what stage you lost the count, whether due to mind wandering or head nods or gaps or anything else.

emoticon

Malcolm 

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/9/20 3:32 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
I so appreciate the detailed questions! Similar kinds of exercises is something I work with constantly in the context of yoga. I dont know what my upper limit is for counting without losing count, but when I have less time for sitting meditation after sessions I  regularly count 50 breaths in lieu of a timer. In a fifty breaths I will normally not have any major mind wanders or lose track of the count. This is with ujjayi breathing and Bandhas, though, so focus on a generalized image of the breathing body system, rather than a single physical point.

I haven't done the up to 8 and back down before, sounds interesting, and I will absolutely give it a go. So will do both the 10 witht tight focus and 1->8->1 and report back.

As a side note I thought of two clear examples of my limitations in similar regards that I can share.
  • In our version of Ashtanga Vinyasa self practice there is a lot of counting for focus. In particular for the sun salutations I attempt to count the number of salutations (total of ten) and then each salutations contains a hold for five breaths, and ideally the time of each breath should be counted in order to ensure equal in and out. Keeping those counters in mind at the same time for the 15 minutes the salutations take is beyond me.
  • About a month ago i got it in to my head (just after the timer had rang to mark the end of a sit) to do 108 "Om Namaha Shivaya", while counting backwards from 108 while visualsizing a counter. Around 50 repetitions in this turned excruciating, and I definitely ended up losing count,drifting from the visualization, and either adding or missing numbers in the region around 20 repetitions left.

Again, thanks for the input!

Metta

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/9/20 3:20 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Ok, great. No need to try the additional exercises. This was just a check to rule out lack of concentration as a possible cause of meditating in dullness and head nods.

Instead, I would now suggest another exercise to test precision of observation. If you are willing, trying focussing on the breath for a full sit (not using any other object, unless you need to label it to get rid of it e.g. fear, fear, fear).  For the first breath, take a wide focus on breathing in whole environment, for the second breath focus on the whole body breath, for third breath focus on the torso, for the fourth breath focus on the nose, lungs and ariways, then from the fifth onwards focus on the breath at the tip of the nose (interior of the bottom of the nostrils, rim of the nostrils, upper lip).  As you concentrate on the tip of the nose, observe the flow of the breath for five minutes or so, then move to the sensations felt on each breath for five or ten minutes, and then focus on the sensations alone in independent of the flow of breath.  Over a period of 30 minutes try to get so calm and tightly focussed that you notice very single sense packet in that very small area.  At times you may not even be able to tell if you are breathing in or out (although it will become obvious as soon as you pay attention to the question).  You might get a dit-dit-dit-dit-dit experience as the breath deconstructs totally, and the sense data are no longer overlaid with concepts.  If so, enjoy that, then look around and see what else you can notice.

Want to try that and report back on the level of precision you obatin?  Highly recommended.

Malcolm

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/9/20 3:39 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Yes, that sounds great! I think i understand all of the instructions well enough to follow them, and perhaps a couple of repetitions will make me able to follow the whole setup sequence. I will certainly give that exercise a go and let you know what comes of it! Looking foward to it.

Again, such deep gratitude for the input.

Agape

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/9/20 4:18 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
50 minute evening sit

Instead of normal evening sit we did this guided Jhana meditation with Michael Taft. Despite listening to his podcast for a while, this was the first guided meditation with him I did, and I really thought it was great. I haven't done a guided meditation that gave me anything of value for a while, and I really found that I enjoyed the experience of just leaning in to following the instructions.

A large part of the reason for doing this particular guided meditation was to find out whether what I have been thinking of as Jhana practice aligns to any extent with something that someone who knows what they are talking about thinks as the way into Jhana practice. This really seemed to be the case, and while I got a lot of good food for thought about letting the mind settle down in a more gentle and orderly fashion, and about pushing hard for concentration, the experience I had in this guided meditation matched my experience from my own attempts at Jhana really well.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/9/20 9:26 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
Ok, great. No need to try the additional exercises. This was just a check to rule out lack of concentration as a possible cause of meditating in dullness and head nods.

Instead, I would now suggest another exercise to test precision of observation. If you are willing, trying focussing on the breath for a full sit (not using any other object, unless you need to label it to get rid of it e.g. fear, fear, fear).  For the first breath, take a wide focus on breathing in whole environment, for the second breath focus on the whole body breath, for third breath focus on the torso, for the fourth breath focus on the nose, lungs and ariways, then from the fifth onwards focus on the breath at the tip of the nose (interior of the bottom of the nostrils, rim of the nostrils, upper lip).  As you concentrate on the tip of the nose, observe the flow of the breath for five minutes or so, then move to the sensations felt on each breath for five or ten minutes, and then focus on the sensations alone in independent of the flow of breath.  Over a period of 30 minutes try to get so calm and tightly focussed that you notice very single sense packet in that very small area.  At times you may not even be able to tell if you are breathing in or out (although it will become obvious as soon as you pay attention to the question).  You might get a dit-dit-dit-dit-dit experience as the breath deconstructs totally, and the sense data are no longer overlaid with concepts.  If so, enjoy that, then look around and see what else you can notice.

Want to try that and report back on the level of precision you obatin?  Highly recommended.

Malcolm
45 min mid morning sit

That was such a good experience, thank you for suggesting it.

Description of attention

Establishing concentration with increasing spatial tightness breath by breath seemed to work well as a way to establish initial concentration. Staying with the sense of the flow of the breath for the following 5 minutes was familiar and pleasant, and let me notice and let go of the properties and texture of the breath (I am currently experiencing a low-key cold, so somewhat blocked up and so on). When the timer rang to indicate that 5 minutes had passed I let go of the idea of the breath as a flow and let my concentration rest on the nostril, upper lip area. For a minute or so there was a sense of flow still, in particular in the nostrils.

The sense of any solidity to the experience soon diminished and the continuity was replaced by individual experiences. As a bit of a side note: This sort of falling apart of the breath, or any experience for that matter, is something I am very familiar with. It started occuring spontaneously back when I was still doing app guided meditation, and seemed like a terrible thing then, since I was certain that it was a sign that my concentration was bad, and that I failed to stay on the breath. I eventually figured out my error, but had moved over to mainly doing insight practice at that point.

For the first five minutes of staying with the bare sensations the individual occurences of experience were still occasionally quite strong, and occasionally had a very very mild unpleasantness to them, as in registering as tickling. I am not entirely sure how frequent the experiences were at this stage, but from the second five minutes to about 20 minutes they were surprisingly rare. I would say on average something on the order of a few experiences a second, but rarely more than two or three. As time went on the experiences also became more subtle, and sort of softer. I can't recall that a single experience was anything but neutral or pleasant from 15 minutes in or so.

Towards the end, about 25 minutes in until I got up after 45 (didn't feel any desire to get up immediately when the timer rang, so sat for a little bit more, just enjoying the experience) there were a few experiences that the engineer in me wants to describe as "click trains". So, a series of seemingly related experiences in a narrow spatial area, something like 6 or 7 occurences in perhaps a half a second, maybe less. Quite a few of those occured towards the end, but mostly it just kept going with the few events a second for the whole session.

Background, distraction and feeling tone
The feeling tone for this whole session was extremely positive, and it seemed as thought there was a steady buildup of joy from the beginning to the end, even if I didn't spend any effort either focusing on it, or making it occur. When it comes to how focused I actually am when doing a practice like this, I find that sort of hard to specify, but I will try. For the whole session I don't think I was away from the space I was focusing on for a whole inhalation or exhalation, or even for any substantial part of one. Obviously, this is harder to tell when not focusing on inhalations or exhalations, but on an object that lacks that sort of obvious parts. I also don't think I followed any longer conceptual thoughts for the whole session, but it is somewhat hard to know. Nothing I recall at least.

However, the whole session did occur in sort of a background space made up by other bodily sensations, thought fragments, visual field static and sounds (and I suppose tastes and smells as well). When I do concentration practice in general this background does not seem imposing or particularly distracting, and only rarely does my attention snag momentarily on something so that attention strays from the task for more than moments. I don't know if it is eventually menat to completely go away, but if so, it definitely hasn't yet. Instead, it seems as though the the object of concentration is embedded in a space made up of "background experiences" or something. It makes sense to me that experience would present in this way, but perhaps I have too low expectations of myself?

One particular part of this background field is made up of  is deeply pleasant face and head tingling, which in this session seemed to come on during the first five minutes. It wasn't particularly distracting, but certainly the most distracting aspect of reality for most of the sit. Partially it is obviously distracting due to being pleasant, but it is also something I have previously used as the object of meditation, so I wonder if there is also sort of a habit to slide over to that when it presents.

End of the session
I didn't manane to keep in mind the instruction to look around what else I could see, so just stayed with the other instructions. Perhaps just as well as I don't think I got to the "dit-dit-dit-dit-dit experience". At the end of the session I was embedded in a deep and calm bliss, which carried on to a very positive sense of mental well being after the sit. 

I think I will repeat this exercise in my next sit and see what happens.


Complete sidenote on head tingling

I find it sort of interesting that the tingling in the head has taken on a more definite "shape" lately, than it used to have. The tingling used to be quite randomly distributed, with a tendency to gather momentarily between the eybrows. Now, though, while there is still a lot of little random spots, it is also more or less constantly (during sits) active in a particular area of the forehead, now slightly higher than the eye brow center. In fact, the area conforms pretty perfectly to the area enclosed by this tilaka:

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/10/20 12:17 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Hey PhiPhi,  some ongoing awareness of the background field is fine, as long as it doesn't develop into distractions that draw your attention away from the concentration object.  You can think of it in terms of mind-moments.  Having 90% of your your mind moments on the concentration object, and never completely losing track of the concentration object, is more than enough.

Also remember this particular exercise is not about bliss.  Although it is great to get arising of piti and sukkha and pamojja from breath meditation under control. emoticon You can access them through breath meditation at other times, but for now just label them and return to the breath sense data packets/quanta.   

When you are ready, I will give more instructions on precision.  But its good to give this tight focus on breath sense another go first.  I do if wonder if your click trains are what I'm after, but just not clearly enough perceived, or perceived by your subconscious rather than your conscious.  Anyway, let me know when you would like the next (and last) instruction on clarity of perception.

Malcolm 

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/10/20 12:49 AM as a reply to Not two, not one.
50 min afternoon sit

Repeated the exercise that Malcolm suggested, to similar effect as this morning. A few interesting differences though.

First of all, the initial bit of focusing on the stream of air through the nostrils was less clear than the previous sit. While in the previous sit I could maintain a sort of solidity in the stream trhough the nostrils, this time it was quite difficult to keep that perspective up, and instead it seemed as if the experience decomposed into individual sensations just a few minutes in, without me being able to do anything about it.

After five minutes I let go of trying to perceive the stream of air and instead focused on just perceiving individual experiences as they occured in the region of the nostrils and upper lips. For most of the remainder of the session experiences occured in a very slow stream of sort of a few occurences a second on average, with some times fewer than one occurence a second, some times up to say five or so.

After about ten minutes of this kind of focus a gap occured. The lead up to the gap did not seem to include any mind wandering, or loss of clarity. To contradict that, though, what I remember now as literally the moment before the gap seems to contain some form of quite complex thought or perhaps just an image, which I don't understand at all, and can't put words on. The first experience as things came back after the gap was a mental impression of the sound of paper being torn, before attention reengaged with the sensations in the nostrils. Just after the gap and for a few minutes there was a lot more experiences in the area which I was paying attention to, but strangely, this felt like worse concentration, not better. Somehow it seemed like exagerrating experience, rather than experiencing more. Slowly experience again settled down, and the frequency of occurences went back to something like a few a second.

A very similar sequence of events occured one more time, a little under ten minutes later, but this time the gap sensation was accompanied by a twitching of the right arm, and there was no dramatic experience similar to the mental impression of a sound from the first thing.

This session, unlike the morning one also included two longer episodes of discursive thought. The first one was the thought "If there is no experience in the area to which I am paying attention, in what sense can I be said to pay attention to it?" or put another way "The fact that I am perceiving myself to be paying attention to this area implies that there is an experience of it. Why do I not have conscious access to that experience?". This was not an annoyed, or frustrated thought, just a musing that was accidentally allowed to persist for a while. The second thought that persisted for a while was the fascinated realization that my experience was actually that the area I was paying attnetion to was like a dead zone in a sea of experience, but that I simply wasn't paying attention to the sea of experience. This thought occured a few times towards the end of the sit, and after the timer rang to indicate that I had done the half hour I had resolved to spend on diligent concentration practice, I played with moving attention around to other spots on my face to see if it would create similar dead zones, and whether it would mean that the area around the nostrils came alive. This did indeed seem to be the case, at least if I allowed attention to settle somewhere else.

All in all an interesting session, and an exercise I look forward to playing more with.

Edit: When originally writing about this session I forgot to mention the experiences that I described as "click trains" after the first attempt at this exercise. A similar experience occured, but this time more in the middle of the session, around the gap and the twitch, rather than towards the end. Again, it seemed like a sort of speeding up of experience, leading to a high number of occurences of sense input in a relatively short amount of time. Hard to say anything about the number of occurences that this involved, but I would say  definitely less than 20, and that it didn't go on for longer than at the very most a second. As opposed to the experiences that I describe above as being more experience, but paradoxically feeling  like worse attention, this increase in frequency of occurences actually felt like an improvement in attention, but one I was unable to stick with.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/10/20 12:41 AM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
Hey PhiPhi,  some ongoing awareness of the background field is fine, as long as it doesn't develop into distractions that draw your attention away from the concentration object.  You can think of it in terms of mind-moments.  Having 90% of your your mind moments on the concentration object, and never completely losing track of the concentration object, is more than enough.

Also remember this particular exercise is not about bliss.  Although it is great to get arising of piti and sukkha and pamojja from breath meditation under control. emoticon You can access them through breath meditation at other times, but for now just label them and return to the breath sense data packets/quanta.   

When you are ready, I will give more instructions on precision.  But its good to give this tight focus on breath sense another go first.  I do if wonder if your click trains are what I'm after, but just not clearly enough perceived, or perceived by your subconscious rather than your conscious.  Anyway, let me know when you would like the next (and last) instruction on clarity of perception.

Malcolm 
Hey Malcolm,

We must have been writing simultaneously there. Thank you for the comments, and thank you as well for reminding me about the click trains. I forgot to mention them in my descrition of the latest session. I will go back and add that as an edit, rather than put the details here.

I think I have enought to work with with this exercise for another few sits, before I am ready for the next step. The differences between the first and the second attempt seems to indicate to me that I don't quite have a stable enough understanding of the exercise to move on. So I think I will do this exercise again for my evening sit, and if not then at least for my morning sit tomorrow.

With the risk of sounding like a broken record here, I am deeply thankful for all of your input.

Metta
//PhiPhi

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/10/20 3:57 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour evening sit

Both mentally and physically quite tired, so decided to continue with concentration, but take it more in the Jhana direction. So started out the session focusing on the tight area in nostrils and upper lip that I had spent the rest of the sits today focusing on, but then instead of bringing my concentration back to that area moved over to the tingling pleasant sensations in the head and face.

This lead to a surprisingly strong level of pleasure and bliss, which came and went with a relatively high base level. Eventually I got to the point where it felt as if I could pull energy up along the spine in packets and leave it in the head just at will. This lasted for maybe ten minutes before the experience abated, and it seemed as though the energy I had already pulled up was gathered in a calm, cool cluster of light.

More of a playful session than diligent work, but I'll cut myself some slack.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/10/20 5:47 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
Hey PhiPhi,  some ongoing awareness of the background field is fine, as long as it doesn't develop into distractions that draw your attention away from the concentration object.  You can think of it in terms of mind-moments.  Having 90% of your your mind moments on the concentration object, and never completely losing track of the concentration object, is more than enough.

Also remember this particular exercise is not about bliss.  Although it is great to get arising of piti and sukkha and pamojja from breath meditation under control. emoticon You can access them through breath meditation at other times, but for now just label them and return to the breath sense data packets/quanta.   

When you are ready, I will give more instructions on precision.  But its good to give this tight focus on breath sense another go first.  I do if wonder if your click trains are what I'm after, but just not clearly enough perceived, or perceived by your subconscious rather than your conscious.  Anyway, let me know when you would like the next (and last) instruction on clarity of perception.

Malcolm 
45 min morning sit

Kept going with the tight focus exercise. Thinking of the level of concentration I manage to keep up in terms of mind moments seems like a good perspective, even if I find it somewhat difficult to tell how large a proportion I am actually spending on the object. I really don't think I manage to get anywhere near 90% of the mind moments being related to the object. However, I think 50% would be some form of absolute lower bound, in the sense that there is at least as much of the object as there is other stuff. Similarly, I don't think I ever fully lost track of the object.

The initial experience of looking at the breath as a stream was somewhat different in this sit than in the previous one. In particular, while it was mostly possible to keep the stream together into a seemingly solid object, it was quite difficult to untangle which sense door the experiences were entering through. In particular, I couldn't tell whether I was experiencing the sense of the breath flowing through the nostrils, or the sound of it.

I then moved over to noticing individual occurences in the nostrils and upper lip. Initially the experiences I noticed were similar to the ones from the previous session of this, but quite a bit more frequent, more like 5-10 a second than 1-2. After just five minutes or so of this, there was a perceptual shift in how the object was perceived, and instead of individual blips occuring in a predetermined area to which I was paying attention, the volume itself occured in a wider space of consciousness, sometimes containing a more dramatic blip of experience, sometimes as just an incredibly subtle sense of a volume or area. This experience clearly arrived in individual, very rapid, packets, but I found it hard to stay with this perspective for more than moments, at most seconds, at a time, before a momentary distraction (discussed below) pulled me away, and required me to sort of re-establish concentration.

So from 15 minutes in to the session and till the end, most of the time was spent dipping in and out of experiencing the rapidly occuring, extremely subtle, sense of the volume just inside the nostrils and the upper lip. Experiences which were parsed as emanating from my upper front teeth also mixed themsleves in with the other experiences from that general area. Not quite sure what to make of that bleed over from physically adjacent areas.

In terms of the things that do pull focus away from the tight focus, the number one thing is pleasant tinglyness in the forehead and scalp. As this is where my focus almost exclusively goes when it is away from the volume around the nostrils, I thought it might be worth trying to make it go away, so around minute 15 or so I tried to label the experiences so as not to snag at them anymore. After just a few moments of this I noticed that focusing on the pleasure just made it build, so I went back to the nostrils and let the tingling just be where it was, as it was. I think it did pull less on my attention as the session went on, but hard to tell.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/10/20 9:33 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
45 min afternoon sit

Dealing with a bit of a head cold at the moment, due to which I am experiencing a nasty head ache, seeminly on it's way to a migraine this afternoon. Relevant as background as I think it might have quite substantially impacted the sit. In particular it might be worth knowing that when I get migraine it impacts the way my experience works really severely, specifically lowering my ability to make decisions, and stay focused.

This sit was a bit of a write off in terms of focus and clarity. Frequent minor mind wanderings meant that I didn't even manage to reach the level of clarity on the breath that I had in the first session of this exercise for most of the session. Despite that there were some periods, in particular between 10 and 20 minutes in when I had some sustained focus on the breath, which led to again seeing clearly the rapid arrival of packets of sense data related to keeping the focus on the particular volume which is the object of meditation.

For most of the session though, attention would flick over to the strong experiences in the head and forehead (no experiences of pain, but presumably even stronger senses due to the pre-migrainw), and then back to the nostrils for some short amount of time, and experience a few sense-occurences, and then flick back over to some other experience.

There were also a few experiences that I tend to associate more with insight practice. In particular, the amorphous throat discomfort that I have mentioned previously showed up in the relatively early stages of the session, in between two gappy experiences.

So, all in all, a session that probably taught me more about what pre-migraines does to my concentration practice than it taught me about concentration practice itself.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/11/20 3:56 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute evening sit

I had an almost fullblown migraine before sitting down, so couldn't imagine doing either good Vipassana, or good concentration practice. Even metta seemed like a tall order in terms of mental activity. I still felt like practicing, though, so I decided to just sit there for 45 minutes.

The relaxed, effortless perspective was so delightful, and there were some interesting minor insights in there. Mostly though, it had an amazingly cool pleasant, sense to it.

I think this was the right decision, not just because of the fact that my mind really did seem to dull for any quality practice, but also because the session greatly diminished the head-discomfort. In fact, after the session, the near-migraine had down-graded itself to a minor head ache.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/11/20 4:59 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
If you go back and read what you were doing a few sits ago, you will see the hints of dissolution in there, and focus tending towards the periphery and the objects being just a bit fuzzy.  All textbook MCTB.   emoticon

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/11/20 6:15 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
If you go back and read what you were doing a few sits ago, you will see the hints of dissolution in there, and focus tending towards the periphery and the objects being just a bit fuzzy.  All textbook MCTB.   emoticon
Interesting. Yeah, the clarity of the periphery, and the lack of clarity on the object does certainly seem Dissolution-esque.

I might need a little help contextualizing that, though. Does this mean I am on my way in to the Dukkha Nanas? Does that in turn mean that I have been completely misdiagnosing my experience up until now, and that the stuff that I have thought of as the stages of insight have been nothing of the sort? Very happy for that to be the case, and not at all surprised if I have fundamentally misunderstood my experience.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/11/20 6:36 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
1 hour morning sit

Still experiencing a head cold, with attendant fuzzy and poor concentration. Not quite as bad as last night, though, so it seemed as though doing concentration practice to the best of my ability might still be better than no practice at all.

Set the timer for an hour and decided to stick with concentration practice for at least the first half hour, and then switch to Vipassana after a half hour if it really felt as thought the concentration had been useless.

Started out like previous sessions, with initial focus on breath as streams of air in and out of the nostrils. Again, it was quite difficult to keep the breath from decomposing into individual experiences, rather than staying with the conceptual sense of the breath as a solid object.

After about 5 minutes I switched into just paying attention to individual experiences at the nostrils and upper lip, instead of seeking to artificially keep the breath as solid streams. For the first 20 minutes or so of this, clarity seemed to come and go in pulses with a period on the order of a minute or so, at the highest end of focus it seemed as though there were more or less constant experiences in the nostrils (about 10 or so a second, perhaps more), though extremely subtle. In this phase of focus there wasn't really a sense that the occurence of expereince required breathing to occur, but rather most sensations were just packages from the area of focus.  At the lowest end of focus it seemed as though there was almost no experiences coming from the area of focus, except something like one or two experiences a second, much less subtlle than in the higher end of focus, all seemingly related to the breath.

When the timer rang to indicate that half an hour had passed, I felt as thought the concentration practice was, while not particularly precise, at least interesting enough to keep going with. So I kept the focus tight. The following 20 minutes where characterized by the same sort of coming and going of strong focus, but with a somewhat lower top level, and the low focus sometimes leading to pure wandering into conceptual thoughts. The conceptual thought mostly had to do with the experience I was having, so no major mind wanderings to completely other topics, but still really poor focus.

Towards the end of the sit the head ache became quite pronounced, and snagged at attention a lot. I didn't manage to rectify this, but basically just sat off the rest of the time in poor focus.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/11/20 8:09 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Hac Phi^2 Vita:
curious:
If you go back and read what you were doing a few sits ago, you will see the hints of dissolution in there, and focus tending towards the periphery and the objects being just a bit fuzzy.  All textbook MCTB.   emoticon
Interesting. Yeah, the clarity of the periphery, and the lack of clarity on the object does certainly seem Dissolution-esque.

I might need a little help contextualizing that, though. Does this mean I am on my way in to the Dukkha Nanas? Does that in turn mean that I have been completely misdiagnosing my experience up until now, and that the stuff that I have thought of as the stages of insight have been nothing of the sort? Very happy for that to be the case, and not at all surprised if I have fundamentally misunderstood my experience.

In answer to your first question. Maybe. Your recent experience certainly sounds like ... a pain. Watch out for emotional bleed through. In answer to your second question. Maybe not. Could just be out of review, particularly given the craving for stream entry seems to have bled away!

If you are heading to the dukkha nanas you might find it easier to see the ending of the objects, as opposed to their arising or existing. Things may seem to be just  ... gone.  Seeming them clearly as fuzzy is also fine, but its a good opportunity to concentrating on noting the passing away of each sensation. But you can expect the ongoing evaporation of the sensate world to be subconciously disconcerting. 

Malcolm

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/11/20 8:51 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
Hac Phi^2 Vita:
curious:
If you go back and read what you were doing a few sits ago, you will see the hints of dissolution in there, and focus tending towards the periphery and the objects being just a bit fuzzy.  All textbook MCTB.   emoticon
Interesting. Yeah, the clarity of the periphery, and the lack of clarity on the object does certainly seem Dissolution-esque.

I might need a little help contextualizing that, though. Does this mean I am on my way in to the Dukkha Nanas? Does that in turn mean that I have been completely misdiagnosing my experience up until now, and that the stuff that I have thought of as the stages of insight have been nothing of the sort? Very happy for that to be the case, and not at all surprised if I have fundamentally misunderstood my experience.

In answer to your first question. Maybe. Your recent experience certainly sounds like ... a pain. Watch out for emotional bleed through. In answer to your second question. Maybe not. Could just be out of review, particularly given the craving for stream entry seems to have bled away!

If you are heading to the dukkha nanas you might find it easier to see the ending of the objects, as opposed to their arising or existing. Things may seem to be just  ... gone.  Seeming them clearly as fuzzy is also fine, but its a good opportunity to concentrating on noting the passing away of each sensation. But you can expect the ongoing evaporation of the sensate world to be subconciously disconcerting. 

Malcolm

Do you mean recent experiences as in sinus stuff? If so, yeah, agreed, quite a pain and potentially deeply exagerrated due to disollution. Thank you for the reminder to watch out for emotional bleed through, will certainly be vigilant and make sure that whatever misery comes my way stops with me.

With regards to craving for stream entry, I suppose it has bled away to some extent. Or at least it doesn't seem all that important at the moment. Either it has already happened, it will happen in the future if I keep practicing diligently, or I'll give up for some reason in which case it can't have been all that important to me in the first place. Regardless, obsessing about it seems to be doing me no favours at all.

In terms of timing, I have no idea what to expect in terms of time between an A&P event and entry into the DN versus Stream Entry and the end of Review. After the recent event there was definitely a distinctly pleasant after glow of basking in a new perspective (this perspective is still with me,  which also helps a lot with not worrying too much about what the event actually was) for about a week, which then diminshed to less dramatic general sense of things being different in a largely positive way over the coming two weeks (basically the time covered in this practice log), which brings us up to today. The last 4 days have certainly been characterized by discomfort and a lack of energy which seems to fit really well with the idea that I am entering the Dukkha Nanas. On the other hand, it also feels like I am just experiencing an utterly standard sinusitis, something I have chronically and am intimately familiar with. As I mentioned in the above post headlined "A note on pain..." I am well aware that I am fully capable of conjuring up completely real seeming experiences of discomfort out of essentially nothing, so I really try not to dismiss this as a possible DN symptom.

Thanks fo the excellent food for thought!

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/11/20 9:22 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour afternoon sit

As a comment to my recent attempts at improving my concentration skills Malcolm suggested that I might in fact be experiencing Dissolution at the moment, explaining the structure of my attention (as well as some other stuff that has been going on, such as head drops, I suppose). This seemed quite reasonable, so I went and had a look at Dissolution in MCTB before sitting down for my afternoon sit.

I decided to use the afternoon sit for a Vipassana session, and in patrticular, to see if I could actually spend the session in what I understand to be Dissolution, based on my previous experience, as well as what I found out on skimming in MCTB now. So I spent the initial 10 minutes or so of the session trying to establish the factors that I associate with disollution. In particular I started with looking for the sense of a lack ofmental clarity that tends to follow after the burst of clarity that for me tends to mark the end of what I think of as the A&P.

A quick side note is in order here. Obviously, if I am indeed in dissolution it's the first time I'm experiencing this and everything I write here has to be taken with a massive, massive, scoop of salt, as I have clearly deeply misunderstood the territory, and have no idea what the stages are actually like. However, I will keep expressing myself in terms of my current understanding of the territory, and then adjust as new clarity arises. I am genuinely sorry for any confusion or frustration my attempt to walk the line between honesty and humility might cause for you.

I found it surprisingly easy to find my way into what I think of as dissolution. Out of newly developed habit, I suppose, I kept using the breath at the nostril as an object, but as opposed to the concentration sessions I noted other experiences occuring as well, and tried to pay attention to the three characteristics of them. It seems to me as though the way that my focus worked was quite similar to what I was experiencing in trying to do good concentration practice, but with a wider attention, noting the periphery as well, the paucity of sensory input from the center of attention seemed quite a bit less clear. The frequency of occurences I noted with the whole field taken into consideration conformed fairly well to the higher frequency that I experience in concentration practice, that is somewhere in 10-20 events per second range, and this did not change much throughout the sit.

When the bell rang to signal half an hour had passed I noticed that it had seemed extremely long. At this point things started to seem a little bit unpleasant, and some hip pains started occuring. Through the following 15 minutes attention grew quite a bit more diffuse, and there was a bit of mind wandering (though no photo realistic images, something that is generally quite common when I spend time in what I think of as DN stages). With about then minutes left the diffusion and dicomfort had grown to quite a strong level, and I decided to try to move on to some less unpleasant stage. So I left of detailed examination, and attempted to instead focus on the factors of equanimity. However, this proved to not work so well, and while I managed to find some equanimity-esque space, and clarity, the discomfort and diffusion definitely remained dominant aspects of experience for the remainder of the sit.

An interesting experience, though I'm not quite sure what I learned.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/12/20 5:47 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour evening sit

Background: Dealing with ongoing sinus stuff which may or may not be an outcome of or exacerbated by Dissolution. As I was feeling as if things were neither getting better or worse despite having taken it really easy all week (and since I don't have a fever... gotta think about those things in the dystopian narrative we have suddenly found ourselves in) I decided to go for a short yoga session. Unfortunately  I felt massively worse after the session, and by the time I got around to the evening sit, my experience was dominated by sinus-discomfort and a general sense of unwellness.

The sit:
Decided to do insight practice, as I was curious about whether I would be able to find the beutiful tranquility of last night and investigate it, despite how poorly I felt outside of sitting. However, that is not what happened. Instead I found that the experience I sat down with was the one I ended up investigating, but investigated very poorly.

For large parts of the session the territory I found myself in felt extremely unfamiliar, but I am also aware that some subset of the stuff that made up that experience came from the sense of unwellness that I sat down with. As sinus-infections tend to have a very strong psychological impact on me, as in creating confusion and a lack of focus, I will try to avoid drawing any strong conclusions before this is over.

Outcome:
I will try to genuinely rest and get rid of this thing so that I can get back to examining experience without the interference. It seems pretty likely to me that Dissolution is the right interpretation of where I am at, but I doubt that I will be able to properly see that, or progress, while still dealing with the discomfort and lack of clarity that comes from the physical unwellness. When that is over, I can get back to properly examine whatever discomfort and lack of clarity remains.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/12/20 8:13 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
55 minute late morning sit

In the interest of focusing on getting well, I decided to take a proper rest day.So resting both in the sense of staying home and taking care of myself, and in terms of not pushing practice at all. So I decided to limit myself to two 45 minute low-key Jhana sessions today.

It was interesting to do a session of looking to build pleasure and joy when my face and head are this uncomfortable. In particular since I tend to find a lot of joy and pleasure in the tingling and boiling of the face and scalp. So started out by staying with body sensations of the pleasure of breathing, and of relaxation, and after some amount og time of doing this moved on, very gently, to look for pleasure in the head as well. This worked surprisingly well, and I could (in some sense literally) work around the sinus discomfort.

When the timer rang for 45 minutes I was in a very calm and pleasant state which I just stuck around in for another ten minutes before getting up.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/14/20 7:55 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Cursory catch up post:

55 minute evening meditation (written two days after the session)
I stuck to the plan of just doing gentle meditation and trying to rest, at least in terms of the time that I set the timer for. However, I got distracted by the sense that I couldn't quite recognize the experience, or that it seemed as though experience had aquite a new flavour to it. So After half of the sit or so, I switched over from gentle Jhana practice, to some gentle examination of experience. Not entirely sure what I experienced beyond the genral sense of a newness to it all.

1 hour evening sit

SImilar to the previously described session in that I tried to practice very gently as my energy levels are low, and levels of genuine physical dicomfort. So the session was eseentially spent in really poor practice, but with acceptance of that fact. In some sense it seemed as though I spent most of the session hovering between concentration and insight practice. A pleasant session, but perhaps not all that valuable.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/14/20 8:03 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 min late morning sit
As I sat down and relaxed before making my resolution of what the sit would be about I felt as if my conscentration was working a bit differently than over the last few days. In particular, the center seemed somewhat clearer, and the periphery somewhat less in focus. So I decided to spend the session on detailed concentration despite the sinusitis stiil presumably being somewhat distracting.

For the first 30 mintes the main attention seemed to float in and out about the clear perception of really really vague experiences in rapid succession in the nostrils, and the vagueness, and very low frequency more dramatic experiences. At times it seemed as though the vague sensations were incredibly clear (I know, that's an oxymoron, but that's how it seemed), only for it seeming seconds later as if there wasn't even any vague sensations there, only the really dramatic feelings of the breath happening three or four times per part of the breath.

After 30 minutes, until the timer rang, it was easier to stay with the vague sensations, but strangely, there was also a pronounced lack of clarity, and an increase propensity for some sort of mind drifting. In this phase there was also two or three twitchy head droppy moment, one of which was very subtle, didn't really include any bodily movements, and lead to the uniformly coloured, very pleasant stage that I tend to associate with gaps, rather than head drops, which might be an indication that gaps are just head drops where I miss the physical bits.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/15/20 6:03 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour evening sit

I am currently really enthused about the detailed concentration, as I am finally seeing how I have left a massive hole in my meditation by not developing the requisite concentration. So despite still dealing with distractions from sinus-discomfort, I felt drawn to doing tight concentration practice for my evening sit.

Most of the sit, or at least after 10-20 minutes or so, was spent hovering on the boundary between experiencing 1-3 dramatic events per second and seeing some sort of much more vague, background-like events that occur with a much higher frequency. Unfortunately, my concentration is not quite up to snuff and there was a tendency for getting conceptually engaged when the higher frequency events staerted occuring, which seemed to have the effect to rapidly kick me back down to the lower frequency experience.

There was also the sense that I was traversing the stages of insight in the background, or perhaps more accurately outside of the area of focus. This was for the most part quite a vague sense, at least barring an experience around 40 minutes in when it seemed as thought the background took on a very strong flavour of what I have previously thought of as Reobservation, with a high level of clarity on a variety of body discomforts, including a deep and persistent sense that I need to do something about my throat. However, I managed to mostly stick with the area of focus through this event. During this experience the area of focus also became quite uncomfortable, and the blips of experience turned from vague senses into clear tickling.

This experience eventually passed, and took the tickling with it, but left behind an added level of clarity on the higher frequency background processes in the area of attention.

For the last 5 minutes or so of the session I couldn't help but noticing the breath diminishing, until it was essentially gone. Just the smallest, calmest little breaths were occuring, with each breath being quite clearly perceived. This was attended by a general sense of deep calm, and somehow darkness. Then the bell chimed, and it was time for bed.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/15/20 6:58 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
I'm glad the instruction on precision turned out to be worthwhile after all. emoticon  Daniel does go on and on about clarity, precision and speed, for good reason.

Oh, I and Ioved that on the earlier sit you could see the vagueness very clearly.  Really good!

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/15/20 7:45 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
I'm glad the instruction on precision turned out to be worthwhile after all. emoticon  Daniel does go on and on about clarity, precision and speed, for good reason.

Oh, I and Ioved that on the earlier sit you could see the vagueness very clearly.  Really good!
Certainly worth while. I'm getting so much out of this exercise at the moment. Thank you for not giving up on suggesting that, despite my obvious resistance to the idea. And yeah, it is becoming exceedingly clear to me why Daniel puts such an emphasis on the the precision, speed and clarity. Currently I'm a little bit flabbergasted as to why I didn't get on to this kind of practice earlier, but the simple fact is that I am at least getting around to it now, which I have to imagine is better than never.

So, again, deep gratitude and metta.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/15/20 8:23 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour (late) morning sit

Still keeping up the detailed focus practice. Some tendency to slip into my own habits in this sit, as it seemed as though there was more of an experience of feeling tone, and so on in this sit than in previous one, and a conversely lower level of clear attention than I think there could have been. Despite this it feels as thought the clarity was increased over all in this session compared to previous ones.

Still most of the session was spent hovering between the low frequency dramatic experience, and much higher frequency vaguer experiences, all within the same small region of nostrils and upper lip. I don't feel particularly confident with regards to the frequency of the vaguer, high frequency sensations, but would as a very wild guess think something along the lines of 15-20 a second. perhaps significantly more, but probably not a lot less.

As I mention below there was a sense in the backfground through much of the session of passing through the stages of insight, and though I don't have enough of a grasp of this kind of attention to make any certain claims, it did seem as though the amount of clarity of the center vs the periphery and so on had a very tight relationship to the sense of being in the different stages.

In terms of how I ended up falling back into old patterns of wider examination, there were a few experiences of that which I do want to record:

Around 20 minutes in to the session my attention was repeatedly pulled away from the object by a vibration elsewhere in my face. This wasn't particularly distracting, but after some time, the thought occured that it was an extremely strange sensation, which might be worth looking at. It felt as if string was connecting the bottom of my left eyeball to the bottom of my cheek, and was vibrating in there. This sounds really unpleasant, but it actually wasn't. It was just sort of there. As I actually spent a few seconds paying attention to the experience, it became clear to me that what I was experiencing was actually just the sound of a cricket from outside of the open patio door. Somehow the sense packages were just being completely misinterpreted. Strangely, realizing this and going back to the main object of meditation didn't change what the experience was like. The sound of the cricket still only presented as a ohysical sensation inside my face. Eventually it faded.

The sense of there being a background tone of moving through the stages of insight was again quite strong. In particular around 30-40 mintes into the session there was a really strong sense that was very familiar from what I think of as my first expereince of the DN about 10 months ago. Significantly, though, this sense of Dullness, almost sleepiness, which used to coexist with discomfort, lack of confidence, and massive head drops, was now just sort of what it is. Just a feeling of dullness. There was a few little twitches in there, though, but nothing like the head drops I have come to associate with that feeling. Eventually the sense of dullness abated.

I really look forward to working more with this kind of focus.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/16/20 1:57 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour early evening sit

I had intended to stick with the maximum two sits a day schedule, but when my partner left for yoga, and I still couldn't join in because I am experiencing persistent sinus pain and people are scared to death of anyone who isn't perfectly well at the moment, I realized that I could mitigate some of my desire for practice by just doing an extra sit.

Continued on the same trajectory of detailed and sustained focus on the area around the opening of the nostrils and the upper lip. The experience is opening up into a new level of richness, or perhaps several new levels of richness. Throughout the session it seemed as though attention passed through several different types of presentation (to some extent seeming to correspond to the background experience of moving through the stages of insight).

I won't go in to detail about the frequency of the vague versus dramatic feelings for moment to moment in the session, mostly because I don't actually remember those things except for certain parts. Instead I will try to describe the experience in broader strokes. It seemed as though I kept hovering on the landscape between the slow dramatic experiences, and the vaguer faster experiences, but how the two parts presented shifted through the session. Mainly, it seemed as thought the territory between purely one and purely the other came into focus, and there seemed to be a rich landscape of possible experiences of the vaguer faster experiences. Some of the presentations included:
  • For some time the vaguer sensations seemed almost continuous, as if not vibrating at all, but actually being almost static in some sense.
  • The vague sensations seemed overlayed by the more dramatic ones, and they seemed unrelated.
  • The vague sensations were extremely clear, and clearly vibrating at a rate somewhere in the low sonics.
  • The dramatic sensations seemed to occur as a subset of the vague sensations, that is, the vague and dramatic sensations were in phase so that some of the vague sensations were also attended by dramatic sensations. For a short while this also seemed to sync up with the strobing of the visual, which came into attention and became quite apparent, somehow without taking much attention away from the detailed focus of the breath
  • The dramatic sensations were hardly seen through an incredibly murky field of stuff, but despite this they occured with roughly unchanged frequency of 1-4 occurences a second.
Some of the shifts between ways that the experiences presented were marked by clear discontinuities in the sense of a jarring shift in experience with perhaps a moment of an experience of nothing in the middle, but never any proper gaps.

As implied above there was still the sense of the background moving along the familiar terrain which I think of as the insight stages, presenting in the ways described in previous sessions.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/16/20 6:50 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour evening sit

Very similar experience to the previous sit with regards to the relationship between dramatic and vague sensations. Perhaps slightly more time spent with the vaguer sensations clear, and tpowards the end of the sit it seemed almost as if the low-frequency dramatic sensations were in the background, and the vaguer sensations were in the foreground.

The whole experience also had a lot more of an A&P feel to it, slightly buzzy, and pleasant in a way that I could mostly, but not quite disreagrds. This then stuck around when I went to bed after the sit, and I had the experience which I am familiar with from previously, in particular at passes through what I think of as the A&P of lying wide awake in bed but being OK with it, just looking at the interesting stuff on the inside of my eyelids.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/16/20 8:20 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 min lunch sit

My morning got interrupted with a bunch of Corona virus related things, and I didn't untangle myself from all of that until well past noon. As a result, I was both hungry and quite riled up by the time I got arpund to sitting down. Consequently, this sit was basically a complete write off. As an interesting meta-observation, it is worth noting that maybe 6 months ago this sit would have seemed like a smashing success. It was comfortable, enjoyable, and centering for the whole 45 minutes, and I spent all of it performing the practice I had intended, although poorly. How times change.

So I won't spend too much effort on recording the specifics of this sit. I'll just note that I kept going with the attempt at sharpening up my focus, so as to get a clearer understanding of impermanence, vibrations, and micro-phenomenology. Due to the frequently distracted mind during this session, though, there was very little new understanding arising. There was still the over-arching sense of an Arising & Passing away style joy and giddiness overlayed on experience, and it occured to me that there was a sense that the frequency of occurence of the vaguer sensations seemed to change with the breath in a similar way that I have previously experienced the visual field doing in states with the same basic feleing tone. My attention didn't quite get sharp enough to clearly discern if this was the case though.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/17/20 12:44 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 min early evening sit

What a strange day this has been, and when I finally got around to a little early evening (or very late afternoon) sit, it proved to be no less strange.

Still feel as though my concentration is not quite up to where it was just yesterday, but still managing to stay reasonably well with the object.

I do feel as though I am starting to develop some confidence in actually seeing vibrations. Previously, I haven't been particularly confident that what I have thought of as vibrations is the real deal, now though, I feel like I have a much clearer grasp of what they are. Now, though, it seems as though focusing on what feels like the same object as before I am seeing a different level of it. It seems as though the things I have previously described as "vague" vibrations are coming in to much clearer view, while the things I have been describing as the dramatic, low-frequency experiences now most of the time seem grouped in with other background stuff.

The frequency of the vague sensations also seemed to shift somewhat dramatically throughout the session, with the lowest frequency, which occured towards the end when the experiences were fairly clear was somewhere in the 8-12 events per second range, while at the highest the frequency was high enough that I don't presume to be able to give any sort of clear estimation, but certainly in the high subsonics, or low sonics (so 18-30 per second, as a wild guesstimate). One of the shifts between frequencies, was marked by a momentary experience seemingly void of content (but still clearly an experience), but otherwise the changes seemed to happen in a much more organic fashion.

There was one extended period when it seemed as though the distinction between the area I was focusing on and nearby areas (both physiologically and conceptually) was diminishing, and the mind grasped on to vibrations themselves in a wider space, rather than specific vibrations. This just sort of came and went over a few seconds, and didn't reoccur, but was an interesting experience.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/17/20 6:45 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour evening sit

Continued with the attention largely on vibrations at the nose, but allowed some more attention of the background of experience to penetrate. Noticed that the different phases of how the vibrations presented corresponded to the same familiar transitions in general tone to experience that I have gotten used to from Mahasi Noting/Labelling practice.

As an example, in the second stage of experience, the one that seemed like what I tend to think of as A&P was attended by fairly fast vibrations, and the sense of being inside the breath looking out at the rest of experience somehow. This sense that the breath at the nose tip was the seat of experience, and that everything else existed in relation to that is one I haven't quite had this clearly before, and it persisted for a surprising amount of time. Everntually it gave way to a period of more confusing, less clear vibratory experiences, with a lower frequency intially dominating.

I finally reached something that looks a lot like what I think of as Equanimity. The vibrations that were the clearest here were somewhere in the mid range in terms of speed. They had a sort of "just right" quality to them. I noticed another interesting thing in this stage that I haven't noticed before, though, and which is sort of hard to put in to words. It turned out that I could feel the vibrations in the nose everywhere, or rather that the location of the vibrations in the nose wasn't in a particular location in my mental space. So I could focus in on that area of the body, but let it present wherever I wanted in mental space. Probably just some sort of anomoly but interesting nevertheless.

I spent the final 20 minutes or so exploring phase shifts, and vibrations in this Equanimity-esque space.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/17/20 7:15 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour morning sit

Note: Barely slept last night as a result of a massively stiff neck, which I am trying to avoid drawing too much conclusions about, due to the myriad factors that could be to blame for that experience at the moment. Edit: Despite this, in a surprisingly good mood. Not particularly relevant to this stuff... but nice, nevertheless.

SImilar sit to yesterday, but again sought to focus in slightly better on the vibrations, and look less at the surrounding experiences. Same sort of progression as described in the previous log, which eventually (this time after just about 15 minutes) lead to the equanimity-esque stage. However, as I widened my attention somewhat, and noticed how the fairly pure (in the sense of quite divorced from conceptual overlays), vibrations I was focusing on were all but identical to vibrations going on elsewhere in experience a gap occured, and I found myself back with attention similar to how I started the sit out (after a brief spell of bliss).  So I worked myself back through the stages, and right after reaching the equanuimity-esque stage, before I could properly start examining how this stage works, another gap occured, and it all started over. This happened one more time.

After the third gap I resolved to try to stay more present, so as not to gap out immediately after reaching that stage. However, by this point my attention was starting to flag in general, and my examination was less clear than what I had started out with, so not even sure I managed to reach all the way up to that stage again. 

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/18/20 12:48 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour early evening sit

This whole session was characterized by dullness. It took a relatively long time to establish concentration initially, and then it took a relatively high amount of effort to keep the focus, and I frequently failed. However, the failures didn't take the form of mind wandering, or at least not into longer thoughts, instead mind wanderings resulted in more of a "just sitting" feeling to experience.

During the first half of the sit there were some periods of sustained focus, but at least three of those, or possibly more, ended in head drops. It seems obvious to intepret these as an outcome of just a lack of energy, given what I feel like right now.

The second half of the sit was even worse, and significantly less than half of the mind moments were of sufficient focus on the breath at the nostrils to clearly show vibrations. When I did clearly see the individual experiences of the breath the speed with which they occured seemed surprisingly uniform through the whole half hour, though. They occured at a rate of somewhere between 5 and 15 a second. The only exception to this was a period of 5 minutes or so when it seemed as though the frequency changed with the phases of the breath, but this was not a particularly clear experience.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/18/20 5:57 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
70 minute evening sit

In a perfect world this would be the description of an excellent sit where I sat down and dilligently did the examination I had intended for the time I had intended to do so. Since we are not living in a perfect world, this is instead once again disjoint ramblings about pain.

So, as alluded to, but not necessarily discussed in the previous two posts, yesterday was spent in incapacitating neck pain, clearly stemming from my back, which had set in suddenly early in the night. During the night it had gotten so bad that I literally couldn't sleep for most of it, and I ended up getting up around sunrise to do an asana-session to get some sort of relief. The pain then persisted through the day. Part of the origin of the paun is clearly and without a doubt the terrible posture I sit in when I work, and some aspect of the severity can easily be explained by the lack of regular asana practice over the last week and a half. So I assumed this was largely a physical thing.

In the evening sit I started with relatively good focus, similar to some of the better evening sits lately. I again seemed to move through different kinds of clarity and different kinds of vibrations. Eventually, after about 20 minutes, I found myself in a wide open state where both the object and the background were in clear focus. In this state, though, my focus on practice clearly disintegrated for some reason, and I found myself probing the back and neck pain. Initially, I just sort of pinged it, and waited for what would come back, until I realized that I was just stirring up eddies of thought, so I stopped. Then I went on to just letting the body try to resolve the pain somehow.

This resulted in an experience I have never had before. It was like being massaged from the inside. With little microscopic motions, each slow and deliberate, each potentially no more than a relaxation or a tensing, the shoulder slowly worked itself out. The motions, little blips of experience, occured in experience, but no individual intentions for the motions. This went on for something like 10-20 minutes. I Registered occasionally that I was doing terrible practice, and was probably moving around a lot, something I would never have accepted a few months ago, but on the other hand, the experience of pain was draining out of me moment by moment, and I had no real interest in stopping that process.

The whole thing eventually ended with a complete absence of pain, and a return to stillness. Somewhat later on the throat tickly thing I have mentioned before as a mainstay of my sessions occured, and I allowed the same process to occur, which seemed to actually find a way to resolve the tension, without any gross physical motions like swallowing or coughing.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/18/20 8:55 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour "morning" (lunch) sit

This was a strange session, but not one I will have a lot orf ability to describe the strangeness of.

Most of the session I stayed pretty well with the object, definitely majority of mind moments on the object, but not sure how big of a majority. I find that quite difficult to judge.

The strange thing about the session is that the experience seemed really stable, and sort of solid somehow, all the way through. The breath inside of my nostrils was made up ofr almost exclusively the subtle vibrations, at a medium to high frequency, potentially shifting with the phases of the breath. The background felt quite solid, or rather as if it was made up of parts that were somehow slightly unfamiliar. In general, there was no sense that I was in any of the familiar stages, or rather, there wasn't a sense that I was on the familiar terrain, where I can comfortably move about.

Something shifted slightly for the last 15 minutes or so, and I found myself in something that felt more like familiar territory, sort of A&P like in particular, but still with a sense of unfamiliarity to it, as if I ddin't quite dare make any of the normal moves because I couldn't quite tell where that might go.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/19/20 4:59 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
It might be interesting at this point to try a different object.  Specifically, the left hand.  If you are game, try this.

1. Gain access concentration then focus on the sensations in the hand. These are more complex because they cover a greater volume.  Once these sensations have been clear for a while ...

2. Open your eyes while maintaining concentration to add the visual component. Compare the visual and physical sensations of the hand, in type and location. Notice how they are different, but the mind overlays them onto one another. If you want, move them in separate directions, so the physical sensations of hand are above the visually perceived hand, or below it.

3. Notice that neither the visual field, nor the physical sensations, nor the conceptual overlay of 'hand', quite fully explain the sense of presence. In fact the visual field is quite 2-dimensional.  There is something else - not exactly prioperceptive location, not exactly knowlegde of volume, but more a sense of fullness in the object that gets conflated with the visual field.

4. Observe this sense of fullness in your hand. Then observe it in some other objects. Then observe between the objects, and particularly in the empty space to the fore.  Then step out of your head and into the tangible depth of the fullness that sits just in front of you.

Enjoy! 

Malcolm

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/19/20 5:23 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
It might be interesting at this point to try a different object.  Specifically, the left hand.  If you are game, try this.

1. Gain access concentration then focus on the sensations in the hand. These are more complex because they cover a greater volume.  Once these sensations have been clear for a while ...

2. Open your eyes while maintaining concentration to add the visual component. Compare the visual and physical sensations of the hand, in type and location. Notice how they are different, but the mind overlays them onto one another. If you want, move them in separate directions, so the physical sensations of hand are above the visually perceived hand, or below it.

3. Notice that neither the visual field, nor the physical sensations, nor the conceptual overlay of 'hand', quite fully explain the sense of presence. In fact the visual field is quite 2-dimensional.  There is something else - not exactly prioperceptive location, not exactly knowlegde of volume, but more a sense of fullness in the object that gets conflated with the visual field.

4. Observe this sense of fullness in your hand. Then observe it in some other objects. Then observe between the objects, and particularly in the empty space to the fore.  Then step out of your head and into the tangible depth of the fullness that sits just in front of you.

Enjoy! 

Malcolm
Kia Ora Malcolm,

This sounds like a really interesting exercise, I will try it out in my next sit.

Soudns like it could lead to some interesting understanding about things I have been unclear about. In particular, there's a lot about how the visual experience with open eyes is constructed that I am still completely uncomprehending about, this exercise seems like it could help.

With warmth and gratitude
PhiPhi

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/19/20 5:31 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute evening sit

Same sort of non-dramatic sit as the previous one. Staying with, returning to, and clearly perceiving the sensations at the tip of the nose is starting to feel quite natural, and there are small insights about the nature of practice, and the nature of concentration occuring. However, in terms of what is perceived, there was a surprising paucity of changes and effects in this sit as well. Instead, the experience, when I was staying with the object, was a largely unchanged kind of gentle but rapid vibrations for almost the whole sit.

There was some changes as the sit went along with the gentle vibrations swimming in and out of the foreground, but no obvious progression from one kind of presentation to another. Instead the gentle vibrations seemed to be in the foreground and clear, and then in the background and hard to see, and then back to the foreground. The frequency of vibrations didn't seem to change in any way that I could notice as these changes occurred.

There might have been more of a tendency towards the end of the session for the period of vibrations to change with the phases of the breath, but I'm not sure whether this was actually a change in frequency, or just the sense that everything (like, the sense of time passing itself) sort of slowed down towards the end of the outbreath, and sped up towards the "middle of the breath".

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/19/20 7:16 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
45 minute (late) morning sit

Initial trial with the exercise Malcolm suggested of looking for the thing that is there in addition to sense and visual impressions of the hand. I think I need a few trials with this to get enough stability to be able to see the fullness.

Lots of little initial things. Finding the vague vibrations in the hand to a little while, and then it was really interesting to just feel how they developed, and related to the conceptual idea of a hand, even before I opened my eyes.

Since I almost never do sitting formal meditation with open eyes there is a bit of ground work to do there as well. Seeing what actually happens in the visual field when the eyes rest on one point for an extended period of time is something I'm quite used to, but then trying to maintain the clarity of sensations in the hand while doing that as well as paying attention to how the sensations are overlayed on the visual expreince and how the visual experience in turn is augmented by concepts.

Towards the end there was a sense that I could feel a certain richness, or solidity to visual space, and for a bit it seemed like I could experience the volume between my hand and a foot as a genuine place or object. Almost immediately after that experience I also got a really, really vivid, strong and sustained experience of vibratory glimmer in the carpet in the background. An experience I have had momentarily before when I have been in periods of good concentration, and sustained practice, but never quite this strongly.

Will keep trying this exercise till at least the pieces are familiar.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/21/20 1:47 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Catch up post.

Note:
Equinox celebration subsumed normal practice for the evening. Two small meditations as part of the celebration worth mentioning.

30 minute afternoon sit
Tried the exercise with detailed concentration on my hand as described above instead of normal Ujjayi Pranayama  after Ashtanga Vinyasa home practice. Did not work at all. It became clear fairly quickly that the habits I have developed with reagrds to what post Ashtanga session meditation is were qiute deeply set, and wouldn't easily yield to alternate instructions. Nothing worth reporting beyond failure.

45 minute fire Kasina

During focus on the candle to reset 15 inutes as well as 30 minutes in to the session there were interesting confusion about what the object of meditation actually was, whether the candle flame, the concept of the candle flame, or the visual image of the candle flame, which all seemed like individual and separate things. Similarly trying to keep my eyes on the candle flame required a lot of effort, not due to a desire to look at something else, or anything like that, but seemingly die to perception changing. The most dramatic expressions of this were how the candle shortened and lengthened, as well as a nystagmus-like shaking of the visual field experience, which I couldn't wuite tell, and still don't know whether it was an outcome of physical nystagmus or just a perceptual thing.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/21/20 1:52 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute afternoon sit

Again attempted to clearly feel viubrations in my hand to then move on to adding visual impression, and seeing what is am experience of an object, that's not contained in those two. This session was almost completely characterized by head drops. The first 20 minutes or so were spent trying to find, and notice every experience of the hand, however, everyu time I felt like I had any extended good focus, it was broken by a head drop.

Eventually I opened my eyes to add a visual component, but this didn't help. However, similar experiences as described in the fire kasina yesterday occured, including the nystagmus-like shaking, the size changing of the object, and cofusion about what looking at somethin actually means.

I feel like the events in this session were largely outcomes of dullness, but there seemed to be some valuable stuff in there regardless, so I won't be too hard on it.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/21/20 4:07 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour evening sit

Again life stuff pushed evening meditation to really late.

This whole session had a very strong DN feel to it. I kept working on detailed attention on the left hand instead of the breath with the intention of eventually moving over to open eyes and so on. Initially, building concentration to a place where I could consistently see vibrations in the hand worked, but immediately when I opened my eyes for the first time a deep sense of dulness set in, and I realized that I was moving towards sleep. So I had to put effort in to increase my energy, but found that it worked poorly with open eyes, so closed them again and found my way back to the vibrations in the hand.

However, my concentration was extremely intermittent, or rather my ability to distract myself was intense. The moment I found myself to any sort of clarity on vibrations, which were themselves sort of unstable and vague, something would build and snatch my attention away. Most of the time it was intense head tingling, attended by deep rapture, that grew as I stayed with the vibrations in the hand, but eventually managed to steal the attention away for long enought to make a negative difference. As the sit went on a little longer the distracting head tingling started getting mixed in with banal photo-realistic images (video game screens, wallpaper, the room in front of me etc) which is also immensely distracting.

I tried to move over to opened eyes a few more times with the same result, and finally settled for trying to work on the concentration amidst the distractions.

This kind of session is something I have had a bit of before, and I associate most of these factors, but the dullness and the photorealistic 2D images with the DN.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/21/20 11:33 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Try starting with the visual perception of the hand, and then adding the sensations.

emoticon (edit: and it can just be for five or ten minutes)

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/22/20 7:14 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
A note on Covid-19

Up until a few days ago my plan was to keep working for a few days, or perhaps even a week, on getting my concentration up to some sort of basic level. I was then intending to take that concentration into a home retreat (making the most out of the self-isolation), in order to see what I could actually achieve that way, perhaps even stream entry?

However, on Friday I was invited to participate in doing some of the modelling work needed to fidure out how we should face the virus. So instead of sliding deeper into seclusion, I will actually be doing something worth while about the situation. Thus, I will have to put the ideas of a retreat on the back-burner, and probably lower the amount of meditation I am doing each day.

So, for the last few days, and the coming day or two I have been wrapping up as much as I can of projects I have going on, so as to be able to refocus on the task at hand. This also means that I will be doing more mental health maintenance meditation, and less hard core practice, and I will be spending less time analyzing each session, and writing about it on here.

So, what I am saying is that this practice log is probably becoming a lot sparser for a while.

It really sucks to not be able to go for this, and it feels like I am squandering some decent work I have put in towards a goal I still think is worth while, but I will hopefully be able to return to it once this ordeal is over.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/22/20 7:18 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
Try starting with the visual perception of the hand, and then adding the sensations.

emoticon (edit: and it can just be for five or ten minutes)

Ah... sweet! Will try to give that a go, should be interesting.

Also, silly question, but do you have a good suggestion for a posture to do this in? Maybe if I leave it at five to ten minuts, I can just sit with my hand up, but trying to do it for 45 minutes or more my standard posture of sitting on the floor with my hands in my lap is quite uncomfortable on the neck...

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/22/20 7:25 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour evening sit


Still quite dull, but finding the dullness, and the amount of distractions my mind throws up fascinating. Intended to start establishing access concentration to then go over to look at vibration in other parts of the body, and perhaps in the end go for adding visuals. However, I didn't get past the concentration stage, and spent most of the session drifting around vibratory sensations in the nose.

Quite diffuse and dark session, with clear vague vibrations coming and going. More time was spent being unable to see vibrations clearly, than was spent experiencing them, but it still seems like things are improving in terms of comfort with the contracted, detailed focus.

1 hour morning sit


Decided to keep on with just the detailed concentration at the nose for this session. I feel as though I have lost some motivation for working hard for improving (see recent post "A note on Covid-19"), due to no longer feeling as though a retreat push for stream entry (or at least to get through the dark night) is a reality. Instead I just wanted to sit with the sensations of the breath, and with concentration, so I did.

Mostly relatively clear vibrations were swimming in and out of focus for the session. I retuerned to the sensations with ease, but tended to slip off them quite quickly. Towards the end, though, in the final 5-10 minutes, things opened up in a very pleasant equanimity-esque way, and attention shifted to more naturally take in both the vibrations of the object, and the rest of experience as well.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/23/20 4:09 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute evening sit

After a long and strange day I really just wanted to sit down and rest my battered mind. So sat down for some really gentle concentration practice.

Dropped immediately in to something that felt very equanimity-esqu, staying with ease with vibrations on the nose tip, thoughts gently coming and going. Stayed like this for 45 minutes (and however long it took me to convince myself to move once the timer rang).

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/23/20 10:21 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour afternoon sit


My whole morning, and some time after lunch got eaten up by Covid-19 stuff, so missed morning practice on a weekday for the first time in I don't know how long.

When I finally sat down to practice I again jhust felt a strong need for a wellness session, rather than a session pushing for progress. So again just sat and focused gently on the breath in what felt like equanimity. During the first half hour there were a lot fo little gaps and head drops, which I didn't mind as each left a nice afterglow. The second half hour was somewhat less well focused, and had fewer events in it, and was just in general a pleasant sit.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/24/20 12:14 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
It's ok to take it easy for a while.  emoticon  

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/24/20 10:10 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
It's ok to take it easy for a while.  emoticon  
Thanks for the encouragement, mate. I am trying not to beat myself up about pulling back right now, as I do believe that I have good reason to do so. Will get back to proper practice once I have a better handle on my role in the apocalypse.

Hope you and yours are faring well in these strange times.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/24/20 10:12 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute evening sit

Still just maintenance practice. Horrendous concentration, and more off than on the breath I think. Allowed mind wanders to sort of just go, and observed how they played accross my mind. Blinking into existence, provoking new processes, recurring, and eventually fading out to be replaced by more of the same.

Very pleasant sit, though, and very well needed.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/24/20 10:15 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute afternoon sit

Still just maintenance meditation amongst Covid-19 related activities. Hopefully I have done the majority of the set up work for what lays ahead now, and can get back to something approximating practice soon. But for now, I am trying to actually use meditation for wellness, and it seems to be working.

So again just sat for 45 minutes with some lazy focua on the breath, more on than off the vibrations in the nose for the first 30 minute, but not necessarily significantly so. After about 28 minuites some sort of gap occured (after I had spent some time gathering up some bodily pleasure), and the rest of the session, after the gap had occured had more of an A&P feel to it, with buzzing head and dramatic visual field, compared to the equanimity-esque calm of the beginning of the session.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/25/20 12:57 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Hac Phi^2 Vita:
curious:
It's ok to take it easy for a while.  emoticon  
Thanks for the encouragement, mate. I am trying not to beat myself up about pulling back right now, as I do believe that I have good reason to do so. Will get back to proper practice once I have a better handle on my role in the apocalypse.

Hope you and yours are faring well in these strange times.
I feel safer with you on the job!

M.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/25/20 10:01 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour evening sit and 45 minute morning sit

Both of these sits had roughly the same character. I'm still not putting any serious effort in to anything except well being, but have found that I might be able to still keep improving my detailed concentration skills, so am staying gently concentrated on the breath at the nose tip still.

Both of these sits had way more of a 3 Characteristics/Arising and Passing away feel to them than the recent more Equanimity-like sits.

Towards the end of the evening sit I got a very strong, very clear impression of going through cycles within cycles within cycles of the stages of insight. In particular I feel as though I have an over-arching cycle with a period (time from, say, Equanimity to Equanimity) on the order of a week. Superimposed on this cycle are shorter ones, though, one seemingly with a period on the order of a day or so, and then the smallest one seems to be the ability to move all the way through the stages, some times repeatedly, in a single sit. I haven't decided if I think this makes any sense as an accurate description of my experience, or was just one of those stray ideas that pop up. There might be some validity to it.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/26/20 6:23 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute evening practice

I'm finding a comfort and ease in experiencing the vibrations at the tip of the nose that I haven't experienced before. My relationship to "location" in internal space is also shifting. In particular, the sense that the feeling of the breath at the tip of the nose occurs at a particular place in relation to the visual field is really losening. In particular some time in to the session it really feels as though the experience is happening "everywhere" in some sense, and "nowhere" in a different sense.

I am actually really happy that I am able to use meditation in this way, and that it seems as though I haven't completely stagnated, despite the drastically lowered amount of practice.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/26/20 6:39 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute morning sit

Again a quick maintenance sit with gentle focus on breath at nose tip. I am finding it fascinating how I more and more easily drop in to the perspective of the senasation, which is very clearly vibratory, at the nose is not located anywhere in particular. It is also starting to seem as if more and more of exprience is conglomerating/spreading out in the same no-place place as the breath experiences occur in.

I am a little surprised by how easy and pleasant, but still clear, this has been for a while now. (Knock on wood.)

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/28/20 8:07 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute morning, 45 minute evening, 1 hour evening and 45 min morning sit... in that order

Persisting in concnetration practice, but with low expectations.

It seems to me that some of the capacities I had built up lately are draining away, which makes sense given the massively decreased amount of practice. However, I am so grateful to have access to practice anyway, and think just sitting is a large part of what is keeping me relatively sane at the moment.

There are a few things that have changed quite substantially lately. Sits feel quite long, but strangely, in a good way. The first half hour of each sit somehow feels longer than a whole hour sit would, but I am so happy to have all that time to focus. Similarly, things seem very solid compared to what they used to seem like. So, the breath seems somewhat more like asolid continuous object, and thoughts seem a lot more real, in some sense.

I hope to be done with the really hectic period of setting up for the new world order and then get back to practice again. I had intended to stay with maintenance practice for at least a few months of the apocalypse, but I am really starting to want to re-establish something like interesting practice again;.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
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3/29/20 5:10 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 min morning, afternoon and evening sit

Decided to try to dedicate at least a little bit of time to practice amid all the crazyness, so managed to fit three sessions of concentration practice in to my Sunday.

There is a strange mix of familiarity and strangeness to my sits now. On the one hand, things feel extremely familiar, but not from recently. In some sense it feels familiar from when I started out in the sense that I am not quite clear on how to navigate the terrain I am in, but the exploration is exciting. On the other hand it feels completely different in how the mind related to the terrain. In particular the ease with which I can just sit back and let the concentration come and go, and experience change seems unfamiliar. BAsically, it feels like when I just started practicing, but with none of the desperation that attended that experience.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/29/20 6:21 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Could be a good time to try to refine access to, and progression through, jhanas.  Just mild intention in this direction would be enough.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/29/20 7:39 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute morning sit

Very similar to the sits described yesterday. Still the same sense of some sort of stability, and comfort in a place I sort of, but dont quite recognize. I keep paying detailed attention to the breath at the nose, and note how focus fluctuates, and how vibrations fade in and out of clarity over time.

I also want to mention that the sense of cycles within cycles is continuing off the cushion. In particular, about an hour before going to bed last night my mind started Buzzing in a way that I associate with A&P, and by the time I went to bed I was buzzing so much that getting to sleep was fully out of the question for the first 2 hours of the night. This experience "falling into experiencing intense head and body buzzing instead of going to sleep" is something that occured for a fairly long time in what I thought of as my first pass through this part of the progress of insight, and has then occured again in shorter periods in various stages. Lately it seems to be happening about once a week, keeping pace with what seems like the longest cycles I perceive.

(that description is spotty, inconclusive and misleading... sorry about that. Don't really have enough time to spend on this today to untangle it. If anyone is actually interested, or can offer some clarity on what I am experiencing, I'd be happy to tery to describe things in more detail)

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/30/20 6:15 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute evening practice

Very similar to previous sits in that everything is very pleasant and easy, and I am very happy to sit and watch concentration strengthen and weaken and clear perception of vibrations comea and go. The sits feel very very long compared to what they used to feel like, but to my surprise, I am very happy about how long they feel as it feels like it gives me more time to indulge in them.

Still not trying to stay super tight with, and counting, vibrations but I am starting to feel a desire to get back into more Vipassana-y sits.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/30/20 6:22 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute morning sit

Started out establishing concentration on the breath at the nose, and when I felt like that was under control, tried to broaden attention without losing focus. So, instead of what I think of as more of a concentration perspective (when experience consists of Object and Background) I tried to work more from a Vipassana perspective (looking at vibrations of the object, and all other vibrations that occur).

With this perspective things seemed a little more familiar than they have lately, even though I still have literally no idea of where I am on the progress of insight. In particular, it seems as though I am barely cycling within sits, or at least not in the way that I have gotten used to. Instead I sit down, and drop into practice, and then the quality of experience is more or less constant for the whole sit.

I think I had sort of expected to be stuck in something very DNesqu at the moment, but that is not at all what it feels like. Not sure what it feels like instead, though.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/30/20 11:38 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
Could be a good time to try to refine access to, and progression through, jhanas.  Just mild intention in this direction would be enough.
Hey,

As always, thanks so much for the input. That's a really good idea, gaining some sort of familiarity with and then control of the first few Jhanas would be nice.

Just out of curiosity, in that sense is this a particularly good time for it? Is Jhana practice something that can comparatively easily be kept up despite a comparatively low amount of practice, or is there some other reason I am not seeing?

Stay safe,
//Phiphi

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
3/31/20 2:27 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
I was tempted to just say "Yes".  

But instead, I will say ... a good time because you are inclinced towards concentration practice at the moment amyway, because you should be consolidating the access to the bliss states you recently gained access to, because concentration practice improves your ability to do vipassana and you seem a little stuck there, and because it strengthens you during a time of trial which this is due to the pandemic.  And also you showed many signs of a path moment a while ago, so demonstrating good control over jhana will help to confirm.  

:-)
Malcolm

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/1/20 8:24 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
I was tempted to just say "Yes".  

But instead, I will say ... a good time because you are inclinced towards concentration practice at the moment amyway, because you should be consolidating the access to the bliss states you recently gained access to, because concentration practice improves your ability to do vipassana and you seem a little stuck there, and because it strengthens you during a time of trial which this is due to the pandemic.  And also you showed many signs of a path moment a while ago, so demonstrating good control over jhana will help to confirm.  

:-)
Malcolm
Cheers for the detailed answer! I have really enjoyed playing around with Jhana over the last two days (short descriptions to come), but I there is a shocking amount of variability between sessions. All of them are pleasant, but they range from absolutely no focus, and mind constantly wandering, to excellent focus and great clarity for most of the sit.

I'm trying not to draw too strong conclusions about what the reason is for the outcomes themselves, as well as the variability. I suspect some of it might have to do with where I am at insight-wise, but I suspect there is also a strong influence from the strange situation, and the large amount of mentally taxing work I am doing.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/1/20 8:37 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Catch up post

3x45 minute evening sits, 3x45 minute morning sits


The first 2 of these sits were just calm concentration practice sits, very similar to previous ones. The remaining 4 had a Jhania practice flavour to them.

The first Jhana practice sit, an evening sit, was really interesting. Going from establishing access concentration to building the tingling joyful feeling in the body was quite easy, and letting the tingling joy come and go in waves required a small amount of effort but nothing great. Towards 20 minutes or so I had a thought about possibilities to progress from 1st to 2nd Jhana, and started looking for a deeper, calmer pleasure, and found it easily. Then the blisful tingling was allowed to fade into the background, which lead to a clear slowing and lessening of the breath. After some time of this it felt as thought the calm pleasure also drained away, to some extent to be replaced by... something else, which I can't quite describe. A feeling of complexity, perhaps? The last 10-15 minutes contained more state transitions, but ones I find much harder to cathegorize.

The next practice after this I really felt like doing some Vipassana practice from these states. So went through the same routes of establishing the Jhana, which I found a bit more difficult, and then tried to experiecne experience in a Vipassana-esque fashion. I don't know how this went, as I can't quite tell whether the somewhat confused DN-like (but not unpleasant) experience I ended up having seemed basically like exactly the kind of thing I have come to expect in DN states, but much richer, and more all encompassing, somehow. So the same sort of photo realistic images, and slippery concentration, as I usually associate with the DN, but very little aversion to that experience. So, concentration was slipping around, weakly maintaining Jhana, while experience was being examined without much clarity, and I happily kept this up for 45 min, or actually a bit longer as I didn't want to get up when the timer chimed.

The remaining two sits fall on the spectrum between these two.

I will try to get back more to pure Jhana practice again, despite being really curious about what is going on with this DN-like experience. Due to the work I am currently doing, and how it relates to what the world is currently like, I am in something of a fragile mental state, and anything I can do to keep on an even keel seems worth while!

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/6/20 7:19 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Catch up post, various meditations, mostly 45 minutes in the morning and evening. Some times more.

Due to the overwhelming changes to the world in general that are still ongoing, my meditation practice is still very diminished and largely in service of my mental stability rather than aiming at any goal.

Most sessions lately have been concentration sessions with an eye towards Jhanic factors. There have largely been two types of sessions occuring:
  • One type where I feel as though the concentration gets no purchase whatsoever beyond access concentration. In these sessions I tend to feel as though I am moving through stages of insight, in particular somewhat DN like stages.
  • One type where concentration really works, I can easily transfer from access concentration to shifting over to focusing on Jhanic factor, and then stay with the factors (though not necessarily control them, in particular somewhat further into the sit) through the sit.
Last night and this morning were both sits of the first type, but in both cases it felt as though I started out in an extremely Jarring, disorienting stage, with almost no ability to direct the mind, but after some time (40 minutes in the case of yesterday eveing, 10 minutes today) ended up transitioning to something that felt very Equanimity-like. When the equanimity set in, the conrol of attention seemed to come back, but I didn't move over to Jhana practice in either case since the state I was in felt like exactly what my being needed at the moment. So instead I ended up extending my session both yesterday evening and this morning from 45 minutes to an hour by sitting around after the end gong. I think that was probably a good choice as it feels as though that has cleared out some things that needed clearing out.

Interestingly, given where this practice log started, when I end up transitioning into what feels like equanimity there is generally some time with head-drops and twitches, but none of the gaps.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/7/20 10:45 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute evening sit 1 hour morning sit

Finding my way into more stable Jhana practice, to a place where I can somewhat easily keep my contact on deep feelings of bliss, and then moving on to focusing on deep feelings of contentment/joy. In that second phase of practice, I have allowed myself to turn towards insight, which feels like it has increasingly had the effect of moving from a Jarring, disorienting, sort of slippery mind state, into one of deep equanimity.

I spend perhaps three quarters of this mornings one hour sit in this more vipassana oriented sense of equanimity, just observing and noting experience, while holding on to the sense of contentment and joy. I understand that this is incredibly poor practice from a development perspective, but it seems to have really good outcomes in terms of my mood, and my abiolity to function effectively and do the work that needs doing. So, to paraphrase MCTB, three cheers for having built up some sort of meditative capacity to help deal with this situation.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/8/20 6:29 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour evening session, 45 min morning session (and a half our afternoon chill out session)

2 steps forward and 1 step back. I thought I was improving my understanding and control of the jhanic factors, but as soon as I got comfortable about somewhat increased ability, the concentration on the blissful and pleasant factors turned slippery again.

Each of these three sessions were sort of similar in that they all started out with an attempt at moving over from concentration on the breath to concentration of what I understand to be Jhanic factors. In all three cases, though I failed to get anywhere beyond working with the first blissful, enjoyable sensations, before wandering off for long enough to have to start over.

The sessions had the strong, healing, equanimity tone to them, even without the Jhanic factors, though. So I will again think of them as having served a purpose, even if not the purpose of furthering my meditation.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/13/20 9:19 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Catch up post: Each morning and evening plus a few afternoon sessions, each about 45 minutes
(Second attempt at writing this, as the first disappeared when my computer died)

I have finally managed to understand that I need to, and can allow myself, to focus wholeheartedly on Jhana for a while, if I want to actually learn about it. So I finally am. This has lead to me gaining some small level of a glimpse, or perhaps the earliest part of an understanding of how the Jhanic states fit in to my mental world.

In particular it seems to me now that Jhana practice is not terribly disimilar from wallowing in the experience (but not the content) of any emotion. Part of the reason I have come to this conclusion is that in my current professional work (modeling the progression from wellness to death in Covid-19) is constantly attended by a low level of sadness. I have noticed that I can grab on to that sadness, and by concentration grow it to completely suffuse me. To become me, in some sense. In the same way, I can sit down and grab on to the pleasant sensations of relaxing, and the joy of breathing, and grow them.

When I started out playing around with Jhana practice, about a year ago now, it seemed to me that I could focus on particular physical sensations to alter my state of mind into something very dramatic and exciting. This then eventually led to a choice (how this choice presented wasn't clear to me) of moving on to a different, less effortful state, that I could then maintain for some amount of time.

Now, there is acompletely different clarity to the experience. It seems to me that I can now see the pleasure and joy as strands of melody in a vast orchestra of experience, and I can focus on those strands and bring them to the forefront, and eventually let them overwhelm the rest of the orchestra. Then the possibility of moving over to the next stage presents itself as a new strand of melody in ths music, gently, and in small at first. This next strand is a form of pleasure of relaxation which has something in common with the extremely deep pleasure that sometimes attends the moments just before falling asleep, but without the lack of clarity that attends that feeling.

The state that occurs when this new strand is developed is indeed a lot more automatic, and the overall orchestral arrangement includes less thoughts of all kinds. As this experience deepens, what happens depends on how much energy I can keep up in my attention. When I am quite dull, I end up in a state full of head dropping, dream like images, and sometimes a complete and persistant lack of knowledge of where I am or what I am doing. When I manage to keep my energy up it instead transitions (wiothout me quite seeing the transition) into a state which is very similar to what I experience in the DN in Vipassana, but without the discomfort.

The state I then end up in includes quite an active visual field, but a sense of detachment from everything, and feeling of things (including concentration) just occuring on their own. The images that occur are largely neutral or beautiful. Mostly it's random faces, geometry, or snatches of equations.

If I manage to stay focused through this stage for some time the visual field slowly starts gaining light, and fullness, and a sense of warm joy starts returning. Eventually the images disappear to be replaced by just a bright, sometimes colourful, volume. This is as far as I have gotten, and I have only reached this stage maybe three or four times, always towards the end of sits. When in this stage, breaking meditation is somewhat difficult, and at one point it took me 15 minutes from deciding to stop meditating, to actually emerging, and even then there was a long afterglow.

I obviously have no idea whatsoever how these experiences relate to the Jhanic states, as I only have something like 6 hours of clear investigation of this behind me so far. I would suspect that perhaps these are different levels of the first Jhana? But at least, I have finally started getting some understanding of how to semi-deliberately cultivate mental states.

I would greatly appreciate any input on what I am doing that You might feel like providing.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/14/20 2:04 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Good. I wouldn't worry too much about the labelling of these states. Daniel thinks they are rather fractal, and that their flavour depends on the nanas you are presently in. I don't have the same degree of experience, intensity and accuracy as him, but I have nonetheless also experienced many different flavours of the jhanas including some that are dififcult to fit within the standard format.  So I think just concentrate on clearly experiencing the factors of the specific state you are in (e.g. verbal formations or not, piti or not, sukkha or not, location of concentration, contraction/expanstion and so on) and also concentrate on clearly experiencing the maturation, fluctuation and transition of these states.

Also, if you feel strong enough, you could use those moments of sadness to undertake something akin to the cemetary contemplations from the satipatthana sutta. Here is the first of them, in Uncle Sid's words. 

"And further, O bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu, in whatever way, sees a body dead, one, two, or three days: swollen, blue and festering, thrown into the charnel ground, he thinks of his own body thus: 'This body of mine too is of the same nature as that body, is going to be like that body and has not got past the condition of becoming like that body."

As I write, I think this body of mine is of the same nature as those dying from COVID-19. Like them, it will one day struggle and die, and the life will leach away. This body of mine has not got past the condition of dying from disease, or injury, or heat, or cold, or starvation, or thirst. This body too will pass away, drain of life, bloat, dessicate, break up, and eventually crumble into dust. For some reason, I find this contemplation deeply comforting, bringing forth compassion, satisfaction, kindness and love.  From stardust to stardust.  Memento Mori.

Much love

Malcolm 

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/14/20 6:24 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
Good. I wouldn't worry too much about the labelling of these states. Daniel thinks they are rather fractal, and that their flavour depends on the nanas you are presently in. I don't have the same degree of experience, intensity and accuracy as him, but I have nonetheless also experienced many different flavours of the jhanas including some that are dififcult to fit within the standard format.  So I think just concentrate on clearly experiencing the factors of the specific state you are in (e.g. verbal formations or not, piti or not, sukkha or not, location of concentration, contraction/expanstion and so on) and also concentrate on clearly experiencing the maturation, fluctuation and transition of these states.

Also, if you feel strong enough, you could use those moments of sadness to undertake something akin to the cemetary contemplations from the satipatthana sutta. Here is the first of them, in Uncle Sid's words. 

"And further, O bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu, in whatever way, sees a body dead, one, two, or three days: swollen, blue and festering, thrown into the charnel ground, he thinks of his own body thus: 'This body of mine too is of the same nature as that body, is going to be like that body and has not got past the condition of becoming like that body."

As I write, I think this body of mine is of the same nature as those dying from COVID-19. Like them, it will one day struggle and die, and the life will leach away. This body of mine has not got past the condition of dying from disease, or injury, or heat, or cold, or starvation, or thirst. This body too will pass away, drain of life, bloat, dessicate, break up, and eventually crumble into dust. For some reason, I find this contemplation deeply comforting, bringing forth compassion, satisfaction, kindness and love.  From stardust to stardust.  Memento Mori.

Much love

Malcolm 

Hey Malcolm,

Thank you for the reminder of staying with experience, and paying precise attention, instead of getting lost in names and theories. It's a reminder I clearly need frequently.

The suggestion of a Cemetary contemplation is so good. I have been using the sadness as a practice object in many different ways over the last weeks. Ranging from what I described before of just concentrating on it and growing it, to more contemplative practice related to the absurdity (for lack of a less dismissive word) of feeling so strongly for a particular set of people dying, when people have been, and will keep, dying in horrible ways every single day of my life.

I am adding the cemetary contemplation to the toolkit.

Deep Agape,
//PhiPhi

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/14/20 6:40 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
30 minute evening sit, 1 hour morning sit

The evening got away from me (something about being in Covid-19 lockdown makes time management more difficult, rather than easier, which is what I would have expected). So in the interest of maintaining stable sleep patterns I decided to do a 30 minute evening sit, before hurrying to bed. It was interesting to try out the Jhana practice I have now developed some small amount of comfort with on a shorter practice session thatn I am used to. In this case, though, it was interesting as it didn't seem to make a huge amount of differencee to how the session came out. Or rather, the full half hour sit felt like the first half hour of a normal sit does.

I started out with some relaxation, and tuning in to the breath, to then switch to the pleasant sensations and the joy and so on. When the timer rang I felt as if I was close to making the transition from a murky but alert state, into the brighter, warmer one which is as far as I have ever managed to take this practice so far. I missed the final 15 minutes quite a bit.

This morning I was quite tired, which I think is partially due to the later bed-time today, partially due to an accumulated level of mental fatigue from the general strangeness. Regardless, I decided to treat myself to a 1 hour morning meditation. It turned out, though, that the mental tiredness was such that I found it very hard to keep up ardent practice, and I ended up spending the whole session building up the initial experiences of pleasure and joy, to then find the next factor to start building, only to lose concentration and have to start over. I haven't had many sessions where I am quite this dull this early in this exploration of Jhana practice, and one interesting realization was that I actually didn't mind all that much. Obviously practicing better would have been better, but poor Jhana practice is surprisingly pleasant, but perhaps that shouldn't be so surprising.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/15/20 7:09 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
45 minute evening sit and 70 minute morning sit

The evening session last night was very much one of those sessions where I couldn't quite get purchase, but ended up sliding back down to access concentration again and again. At the very beginning of the session, as I was tuning in to embodyment as part of initial relaxation, I had an interesting little experience, though. As I was feeling my extremeties I suddenly couldn't understand what made the separation between my body and the rest of the world normally seem so important. It seemed to me that experience occurs as an outcome of various routes of transmission, one of which is through nerves inside the body. But equally, things are transmitted through the air, through electromagnetism, and so on. And the distinction between these different modes suddenly seemed utterly moot. I think this was one of those ultimately meaningless, profound-seeing moments of almost-insight, but it was a cool one.

Before this mornings sit I felt in a sort of a dark mood, or at least not a particularly joyful one. Not long into the sit, though, as I was starting to properly tune in to the poleasant aspects of the breath what felt like a nana-transition occured very suddenly, and deep equanimity suffused me. This took me by surprise as I was expecting the normal slow build up  of joy and pleasure. The transwition lead to a brightening of the visual field, and to a deep sense of contentment with sitting. In fact, the experience was quite similar to the deepest levels I ordinarily manage to reach in a sit, after the state that has some qualities in common with the DN. However, I was still clearly in the early states, as I could build joy and pleasure in a way that I ordinarily cannot in this higher state.

The rest of the sit was somewhat confusing, but also felt extremely positive, and well being inducing. I didn't feel particularly dull, and yet, as soon as I managed to gain some stability with the pleasure and joy, my head would drop, or I would twitch. There was no hint whatsoever of discontinuities, or blank frames, associated with the majority of the head drops, they were just literally that, physical movements. 

As the sessions went on, the head drops became less frequent. Towards the end (I had set the timer for 45 minutes, but sitting felt way too good at that point to even consider getting up) I started having an interesting experience of feeling as if I could grab the equanimity that seemed to just be present all on its own, and solidify it into something very similar to the concentration state I have otherwise only ever had access to by passing through the DN-like state. I could then desolidify it back into basic concentration, with the equanimity just being a strand in the background. And back again.

In retrospect it seems to me that I am actually still cycling through the nanas. The lowered dose of meditation made the experience of cycling way less dramatic, and in some sense I think I had sort of thought it had stopped. In particular since I am doing barely any Vipassana at the moment. However, if I look carefully at how my experience changes over time, the longer cycles through the stages, the one that have a period on the order of a week, are still there. So, I am tentatively assuming that the experience in the sit today had to do with a transition into Equanimity occurring just as I sat down, so that the sit coincided with the really early parts of equanimity where I frequently experience head drops.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/15/20 11:35 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Hac Phi^2 Vita:
45 minute evening sit and 70 minute morning sit

At the very beginning of the session, as I was tuning in to embodyment as part of initial relaxation, I had an interesting little experience, though. As I was feeling my extremeties I suddenly couldn't understand what made the separation between my body and the rest of the world normally seem so important. It seemed to me that experience occurs as an outcome of various routes of transmission, one of which is through nerves inside the body. But equally, things are transmitted through the air, through electromagnetism, and so on. And the distinction between these different modes suddenly seemed utterly moot. I think this was one of those ultimately meaningless, profound-seeing moments of almost-insight, but it was a cool one.

Before this mornings sit I felt in a sort of a dark mood, or at least not a particularly joyful one. Not long into the sit, though, as I was starting to properly tune in to the poleasant aspects of the breath what felt like a nana-transition occured very suddenly, and deep equanimity suffused me. This took me by surprise as I was expecting the normal slow build up  of joy and pleasure. The transwition lead to a brightening of the visual field, and to a deep sense of contentment with sitting.

So this is anything but meaningless. Certainly not a cessation, but nonetheless a glimpse of emptiness followed by a glimpse of the ground. Expect more of this as you continue to purify yourself. It's hard to give precise instructions to progress this from a theravadan point of view, but ongoing calm, concentration and insight will allow these experiences to emerge and unfold. 

Very nice.

Malcolm

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/16/20 12:00 AM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
Hac Phi^2 Vita:
45 minute evening sit and 70 minute morning sit

At the very beginning of the session, as I was tuning in to embodyment as part of initial relaxation, I had an interesting little experience, though. As I was feeling my extremeties I suddenly couldn't understand what made the separation between my body and the rest of the world normally seem so important. It seemed to me that experience occurs as an outcome of various routes of transmission, one of which is through nerves inside the body. But equally, things are transmitted through the air, through electromagnetism, and so on. And the distinction between these different modes suddenly seemed utterly moot. I think this was one of those ultimately meaningless, profound-seeing moments of almost-insight, but it was a cool one.

Before this mornings sit I felt in a sort of a dark mood, or at least not a particularly joyful one. Not long into the sit, though, as I was starting to properly tune in to the poleasant aspects of the breath what felt like a nana-transition occured very suddenly, and deep equanimity suffused me. This took me by surprise as I was expecting the normal slow build up  of joy and pleasure. The transwition lead to a brightening of the visual field, and to a deep sense of contentment with sitting.

So this is anything but meaningless. Certainly not a cessation, but nonetheless a glimpse of emptiness followed by a glimpse of the ground. Expect more of this as you continue to purify yourself. It's hard to give precise instructions to progress this from a theravadan point of view, but ongoing calm, concentration and insight will allow these experiences to emerge and unfold. 

Very nice.

Malcolm
Oh, that's excellent to hear! I'm really happy to have finally gotten some sort of stability in my Jhana practice, if ot stability and understanding of the Jhanas themselves. Even more so that these random experiences that are occuring suggest positive developments.

I know I sound a bit like a broken record, but thank you so much for your input, and for your repeated suggestions of seriously going down the path of concentration for a while.

Deep gratitude,
//PhiPhi

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/16/20 1:22 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
My pleasure as always.  emoticon

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/16/20 9:11 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1 hour morning sit

NOTE:
Continuing on the Jhana practice. I should really settle on a language for describing the states I am experiencing, as there is now some stability around the experience. However, without a better understanding of how they line up with the canonical Jhanas I don't want to call them 1st, 2nd and so on. For now I will just refer to the first state I end up in as "the exciting state" the second one as "the calm pleasure state" the third on as "the DNy state" and the fourth one as "the bright state".

Today I found it difficult to progress past "the exciting state" I kept starting to establish some depth in it, but then slid back out. Not quite through mind wandering, but simply through lack of maintained focus. Not until about half an hour in did I finally find the strand that allows me to move on to the calm pleasure state, which then relatively rapidly developed into "the DNy state". I then spent about 10 minutes (until maybe a minute or two before the 45 minute timer chimed) in that state before the visual field brightened up, and cool equanimity suffused me. I kept sitting in this state, as it feels so incredibly wholesome and healing (not a fan of that term in general, but it is the right one to describe the experience). On the tentative assumption that "the bright state" is some version of 4th Jhana I inclined my mind towards space, to see if I could make another transition, and there was a certain vertiginous feeling of falling into a wide open space a few times, but each time I fell right back down.

At a certain point I felt as though I was done sitting, and got out. As is frequently the case these days when I sit beyond the timer, I ended up sitting for EXACTLY an hour. I am really curious about how this internal time measurement works, and whether I can gain control over this as well.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/19/20 7:43 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Sits over the weekend, 45 min morning and evening on Saturday, 30 min in the morning 45 min in the afternoon and evening on Sunday

Headline: I Finally hit hard Jhana!

I have been pursuing Jhana practice for the last little while, based on instructions from various Excellent sources, such as MCTB, Various Podcasts, Guided meditations (in poarticular the Michael Taft one mentioned some time back in this practice log), the descriptions in the Pali texts. and not least our own Venerable Curious. I have had experiences that correspond fairly well to what I expect at least the first two, perhaps three, jhanas to be, but not strong enought that I have felt confident, or even willing, to state that the experiences I have had was actually the Jhanas, rather than just general mildly altered states of consciousness.

This friday I finally got around to getting the book "RightConcentration: A PracticalGuideto the Jhanas." by Leigh Brasington, which had been suggested to me as the definitive writeen guide to Jhana practice. I started reading it and immediately found some invaluable input.

Before I go any further with this description, I want to be clear that this is a case of finally being able to understand an instruction after it has been repeated in ten thousand ways, not a case of getting a new instruction. I don't think there is anything in the book so far that I haven't already read or heard, I just needed to read it in thisw way, after having read and heard it in all the other ways, for it to finally land.

When I describe the things that I needed to grok in order to push me over the edge, it will not paint me in a positive light, but it's the truth, so here we go:

First of all, I finally understood what access concentration is, and how to notice when I have established it. Brasington gives clear road markers for what access concentration looks like (breath diminishing, visual field calming down, attention returns to object without any prompting) and this was super valuable to me in two ways. First, it made it easier for me to throw myself fully into concentration, as my doubts about whether I was actually getting anywhere was gone. Secondly, it made it so that I felt confident about how to implement the instruction, as in when to move over to the next object.

Secondly, despite having been told over and over by basically all of the sources above that I needed to move over from the breath fully to pleasant sensations, I have, I think, always kept one foot out the door. A half an eye on the breath. I finally stopped doing this, and noticed that with well established access concentration, it was now as if the breath became a buffer between the pleasant sensations I switched to as an object, and general distractions. So, that when I lose attention on the pleasure I end up on the breath, only to immediately bring myself back to the pleasure.

So, I spent the sessions on saturday assuring myself that I could recognizae Brasington's descriptions of access concentration, and spent boith sessions just focusing relentlessly on the breath at the tip of my nose as a solid object. While this was associated with a lot of head dropping, it also gave me the confidence that I can actually easily and rapidly establish access concentration, and then stay with it for some extended period of time.

On Sunday morning, in just a half hour sit (sadly, Covid-19 isolation hasn't ment fewer commitments for us, so time is a scarce resource), I decided to go for it. To move from breath to pleasant sensations, without lust for results. After maybe 5, maybe ten minutes of focusing on a sense of pleasure around my hands, it suddenly happened. Piti, in the form of glorious buzzing, gleeful bliss built to dazzling heights, and when I put my attention on it, it was so easy to keep it there. As the sensation was so dramatic and new in its intensity, I have no real concept of how long I was in it, but I would guess something a little more than 5 minutes, but I don't know. After a while though, the experience of the intense bliss started seeming effortful, and I took a deep breath, and let it all out, sinking immediately into a deep sense of Sukah. While thoughts had been occuring in roughly the normal amount (but without grabbing at attention) in the initial state they now came in a trickle, one at a time with serious gaps in betwen. Happiness ruled. As time moved on the piti kept draining out, and eventually even the happiness seemed to abate to some extent, until eventually, with another out breath, the happiness turned into contentment. Again, I don't know how long I remained focused on this contentment, but somewhere in there I got a brief glimpse of what I am pretty certain was Boundless Space. However, unlike "blank frames", which I have discussed above, this was not one frame, but something on the order of a half a second. Many mind moments. But all that they contained was space, and a vague sense that that space was connected to some formed thing (so I think of it as an experience of the boundless space sub jhana of one of the formed Jhanas, not as a glimpse of the fully formless Jhana), it was quite a dramatic experience.

And then the timer rang.

As I slowly came out of the state my mind was so incredibly clear. And I finally understood why performing Vipassana in the afterglow of Jhana is a thing. Thoughts flowed so incredibly freely, and the distance between knowledghe and insight seemed so incredibly short. I know I have been really slow to comprehend this, but I finally get the importance of good Jhana practice.

In the remaining two sessions of the day I didn't quite manage to re-establish hard Jhana, and I think that is a pretty standard effect (for me) of learning something, and thinking I have it, so that I stop working as hard to do it. But I did gain some interesting experiences in these sits as well.

As I went to bed last night my head was buzzing to an incredible, actually basically painful, degree, and I was really happy to have read a description of how to alleviate "trapped piti" in Brasington. I don't think I would actually be able to fall asleep without that. Also, I had more, and more vivid dreams, last night than I have had in ages. Potentially unrelated, but interesting nevertheless.

There is another, somewhat surprising, outcome of finally following the instructions and believing with a sufficiently high degree of certainty that I have seen the first two Jhanas to actually state it here. Namely that I am now equally certain that the states that I have been experiencing for the last year and a half or so are soft jhanic experiences. Some important subsets of the experiences of these states have been identical to the fully immersive experiences I had yesterday, but without sufficient concentration to actually build them to where they "do anything". However, in the descriptions of the explortations I have done of these soft states lately you'll find mixed in quite a few descriptions of various levels of Access Concentration (by Brasington's descriptions) as well. Equally, I now believe (though with somewhat lower degree of certainty) that the scalp tingling that started occuring for me the first time I had an experience of soft first jhana, and which hasn't stopped since, is a kind of Piti.

The surprising bit about this is that Brasington is very clear that access to the Jhana requires a practice of at least 45 minutes a day, preferably more. Which I certainly have now, and which I can see might be a prerequisite for the experience I had yesterday. But at the time I first experienced the soft first Jhana I was doing something like 40 minutes a day (or less) divided into two sits. Granted, I did do a lot of concentration practice in the context of Asana practice, outside the formal sits, but still, my dose was way below what I would expect was needed.

Now, there is so much to explore, and I am so excited.

(Edit: This is apparently my 108th post here... seems appropriate somehow.)

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/20/20 4:11 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Congratulations! A fine attainment.  I would suggest not trying to go on to the formless realms just yet, but working on developing a jhanic arc (up and down) in the first four jhanas. This will help to develop mastery before moving on to the next grazing place.

:-)

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/20/20 5:13 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
One thing to look for, when you are in any shape near the top of A and P, is a discernment of dukkha = noself, or maybe noself=impermanence, or any combination of these. It's kind of like a braid but one of the factors won't be in focus *i am describing dukkha here. At least that is how I remember all my A and P.s. Once you get bored, watch very carefully because the A and P don't actually go away completely, they just reform in their unique pattern of the three characteristics. I wan't to say that boredom is a hallmark of the dark night. SO Watch out! Stuff will happen but stream entry is only one of several possibilities I think.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/20/20 7:22 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Not two, not one:
Congratulations! A fine attainment.  I would suggest not trying to go on to the formless realms just yet, but working on developing a jhanic arc (up and down) in the first four jhanas. This will help to develop mastery before moving on to the next grazing place.

:-)
Cheers, mate!

And thanks for the input regarding staying with trying to devlop my understanding and control of the first 4 rather than hurry up to the next stage. On the one hand I am really keen to do the work on familiarizing myself with the formed jhanas, but I am on the other hand incredibly Not two, not one, sorry, I mean curious, about what lies beyond. So a gentle reminder to not get ahead of myself, and to do things skillfully and in the right order, is very appreciated.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/20/20 7:28 PM as a reply to Sleeping Buddha Syndrome.
Sleeping Buddha Syndrome:
One thing to look for, when you are in any shape near the top of A and P, is a discernment of dukkha = noself, or maybe noself=impermanence, or any combination of these. It's kind of like a braid but one of the factors won't be in focus *i am describing dukkha here. At least that is how I remember all my A and P.s. Once you get bored, watch very carefully because the A and P don't actually go away completely, they just reform in their unique pattern of the three characteristics. I wan't to say that boredom is a hallmark of the dark night. SO Watch out! Stuff will happen but stream entry is only one of several possibilities I think.

Hi Sleeping Buddha Syndrome,

I really appreciate the inpout, but am finding it somehwat hard to parse. I might not be far enough along to pick up what you are putting down, but would really love any clarifications you want to give.

Are you recommending that I spend more effort seeing how the three characteristics imply each other in pairs the next time I find myself in the A&P? And that I should relate this to the boredom inherent in some DN stages?

With gratitude shining through confusion,
//PhiPhi

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/20/20 8:50 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Two 45 min morning sits, one 45 min evening sit

Keeping on working with the Jhana practice, now with more confidence, and with more of a sense that I can be working on the individual bits of the practice, and be understand the value of the session, even if not particularly dramatic.

To my complete lack of surprise I have not had an experience as strong as sunday morning again, but instead the experiences of first and second Jhana are somewhere in between the soft jhana I used to experience, and the mindblowing highs of the hard jhana I have just seen once. I also feel as though I somehow exhausted my concentration with that experience, as if I don't quite have the same level of pointed concentration to bring to bear on the practice.

However, I am really enjoying working on improving my understanding of how access concentration works, and seeing what depth I can take that to, so a fascination with that might actually be part of the reason I have given somewhat less time to the actual Jhana.

There is one issue, though, that I can already tell is going to definitely be the pain point for this practice, and that is energy levels. As my concentration gets more and more pointed it seems as though my mind starts fading to some extent. In particular, I spent the morning sit today just in access concentration, particularly to see if I could find some way to improve my energy levels, and towards the end I was experiencing almost constant head drops and various other signs of catastrophically low energy, including deep confusion. UInlike what happens when my energy levels drop like this with jhanic factors present, I didn't experience any vivid mental imagery at all. 

Anyway, I will keep trying to figure out how to adjust, and in particular raise, my energy levels.

Edit: These days I normally don't have particularly vivid dreams, in particular not ones with some sort of narrative, or visual imagery. This might partially be related to having had a lucid dreaming practice in my late teens, which I gave up and deliberately partially undid, as it became a "lucid nightmaring" practice after what I now think of as an A&P experience, but I digress. If I remember having dreams at all these days, they tend to be more conceptual, just snatches of disjoint imagery or to present in the form of sequences of emotions. However, for the last two nights I have had long, narrative, and surprisingly coherent (for being dreams) dreams. I have no idea if this is related in any way to the release of piti, or some other aspect of the Jhana practice developing, but it feels as though it might be relevant.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/26/20 11:01 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Catch up post: A week of 45 minute morning and evening sits

I am keeping up the Jhana and concentration practice, and each session is quite similar to the other ones. I chose to view this as a good thing, implying that I am working steadily and with stability, rather than pushing hard for attainments, and for immeditate rewards. However, I am also trying to be vigilant to avoid stagnation, or even back sliding, as a result of accepting that things just are the way that they are.

To that end, here is a description of what a session has looked like over the last week in general.

I set myself up, do my resolution for the session, now involving the phrase "...do jhana practice to the best of my ability that I may gain an understanding of and control over the jhanas". Then I spend some time ,usually on the order of a few minutes, on basic relaxation, finding and releasing any obvious tensions. I then gently start focusing on the breath, starting our with a wide focus on the breath and ever so slowly narrowing it over the course of 10-30 breaths until I am concentrated on my nostrils just by the tip of the nose. I then stay with this focus until thoughts seem whispy, background and inconsequential, very little effort is required to return to the breath after distractions, most breaths are experienced effectively in full, and the breath itself quietens down to a weak but stable stream.

That descriptions goes for the start of effectively all of the 14 or so sits over the last week. After that it becomes more dependant on day form. What I try to do after that is to move all of the concentration over the sensation of pleasure, usually "around" the hands, or "around" the body. I suppose it would make more sense to say "in" the hands or "in" the body, but that is not my experience. Instead it feels as though the body is somewhow enveloped in pleasant sensations. I stay with this sensation to the best of my ability until some form of piti starts manifesting, usually in the form of increased tingling in the scalp, sometimes in the form of a sense of heat welling up through the body. I then refocus on the piti, and stay with it until it starts enveloping me more fully. When this really works (which has only occured 4 or so times out of the 14 or so sessions I am describing here), it presents in one of two ways, so far.  Either it  presents as though the piti seems to in some sense supersede the body as the foundational part of experience (not that the body falls away, just that the piti somehow seems more fundamental, in some way. I wish I was better at describing this, but that's the best I can do). Otherwise it feels as though my whole body is "on fire" with piti, by which I don't mean that I am burning up, but that my body seems like a wick drenched in some volatile liquid which burns just around the wick, and the fire is the piti.

When I either get to a strongly concentrated experience of the piti, or I feel as though I have gotten at least sufficient piti to move on, I take a deep breath, while inclining my mind towards the joy generated by the piti, instead of the piti itself. As the outbreath ends, more often than not I have managed to refocus properly on the Sukha rather than the piti, and attention rests easily on the sukha, while the piti starts diminshing, and thoughts fade deeper and deeper to the background, and occur less and less frequently.

What happens after that differ too much from session to session to be able to give a general description. But it can basically all be described as exploration. As I seek to stay with, or progress beyond what I now am pretty certain is the second Jhana, or at least a state with strong second jhana qualities, I frequently run into issues with dullness as well as persistent piti.

The dullness, which leads to very vague, and non-focused practice, is something I think I have started finding some sort of inroad into solving, and it has been really instructive. In particular, I have found that I find it somewhat finicky to raise my energy levels without simultaneously raising additional piti, effectively bumping me back up to first Jhana (or in the case that this occurs when I have managed the next transition, I start generating piti again, and end back up in second). But at least I am starting to recognize the dullness, with it's head dropping and dreamlike mental images, for what it is and am more often able to work with it, rather than it just taking me.

The persistent piti is more of an issue. As I have described before in various context when I start concentrating, on anything, even in daily life, my scalp, neck and forehead starts tingling in a usually pleasant way. This has been the case since the first time I stumbled into some very mild version of first Jhana about a year ago. However, with the increased amount of concentration practice, this has grown in intensity to a level where I experience it as what I called "face boiling" in the early parts of this practice log, even off the cushion. As I concentrate, it grows immediately, frequently past the point of pleasure into just a neausance. In a few sessions it has genuinely died away as I progress, even to levels lower than what I experience in daily life. In one interesting session I ended up transitioning into what seemed like 3rd Jhana, with no piti remaining, only to get dull, try to increase my focus, accidentally raising piti, notably transitioning back up one state, refocusing on the Sukha, without raising new piti, eventually gaining the sense of bodily sukha without piti, and going back down to (some weak version of) 3rd and so on. In another interesting session the piti became very malleable in some in-between state between 1st and 2nd. As if I could take the somewhat annoying piti from the head, soothe it, and gently push it down from the head to various parts of the upper torso. None of this is stable, though, and I have no clear idea of how to gain serious conscious control over the sensation.

However, in several of the sits, I have been either too mentally tired, or am too distracted by work/lockdown-thoughts to actually make a proper transition into Jhana at all. Or if I manage a transition into first and then second I get taken by dullness to the point of falling out of Jhana, and having to start over from access concentration, unable to reestablish Jhana. However, I am actually not particularly upset with these sessions. I am really enjoying learning about access concentration as well, and I feel as though my relationship to these states is deepening even as an outcome of not managing to attain them.

All in all, I am still depply grateful that this practice exists, and working with it on this extremely low, explorative level is very enjoyable, and hopefully also has some value.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/27/20 1:22 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
There's a fine line between pleasure and pain.   emoticon

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/28/20 7:08 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Also, if you are still haven't trouble getting back to harder jhanas, try dropping the formal intention.  You may be getting a contraction around the verbal formations that throws you off  - just try gently inclining the mind in a non-conceptual way instead.  emoticon

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
4/28/20 7:52 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Not two, not one:
Also, if you are still haven't trouble getting back to harder jhanas, try dropping the formal intention.  You may be getting a contraction around the verbal formations that throws you off  - just try gently inclining the mind in a non-conceptual way instead.  emoticon
Interesting thought. The main outcome of the formal resolution so far, and sort of the intention of using it, is to keep me to the kind of practice I have decided on before sitting down, rather than having me flitter around from practice to practice, I haven't considered that it might contract the mind.

I am not sure I completely understand how to incline the mind in a non-conceptual way? In particular it seems like I wouldn't necessarily know how to go about it as I don't have that strong of a non-conceptual understanding of the Jhanas yet? If I understand what you are saying, you are recommending sort of just bringing the intended steps and outcomes to mind, without naming or grasping, or something like that, right?

Edit: That was a highly contradictory message... Reading it after posting i noticed that "stopping the mind flittering from practice to practice" certainly constitutes a contratction. I meant that I hadn't considered that it might contract the mind in such a way as to make practice more difficult.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
5/4/20 8:27 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Catch up log: Morning and evening sits, at least 45 min

I keep working with the Jhana practice as Covid/lockdown is continuing to have a fairly negative impact on my general mental state. The stability of concentration practice, not in terms of achieving mindblowing result each session, but in terms of a feeling of steady progress, untangling of small knots, and general purification is continuing. I am also feeling as though I am starting to form some sort of personal understanding of the (first 2-3) Jhanas, or at least the (first 2-3) Jhanic factors, as I keep practicing, keep reading, and keep adding my own experiences of different strengths of jhanic experiences, and ways into access concentration.

I have also managed to finally get past my aversion to doing Metta on myself, and realized the incredible usefulness of Metta practice. I have long been aware of and clear on the general mood improvements of metta, and the macroscopic positive outcomes that it brings in terms of the value of loving kindness in the world. However, I have not previously understood the microscopic positive effects it can have on individual sessions. Spending about 5 minutes at the beginning of each session reminding myself that I want me to be happy and free of suffering is incredibly valuable in terms of letting go of the hindrances.

In addition to adding metta to the beginning of sessions, I have also started adding just a 10 minutes or so of insight practice after the main part of the session ends and I drop the concentration on the Jhanic factors. I have only been doing this for 3 days or so, but it seems to have quite a dramatic effect. First of all, the feeling of cycling through the nanas even off the cushion has returned with some strength. I sort of still had the sense that I was moving through them, particularly if I looked for them, but now, after returning to just this smsall amount of insight practice, they are again unmistakable.

Finally I want to mention that my last two evening sessions felt extremely dramatic. In particular the sit last night was quite mindblowing.

About half way through the initial metta, I started feeling as though some quite dark murky aspects of my mind were draining away, but instead of emerging into something like Equanimity I felt as though I ended up in something much more like A&P, with bright colorful lights in the visual field, and a mixture of basically every positive emotion swirling inside my mind, with no particular object other than the the joy of existence. As I finished with the metta and moved on to concentration, the bright lights coalesced into a clear image of a process looking for experience and another process, represented by a bright, infinitely calm Buddha, focusing on the breath. This image was incredibly profound to me, and came with a number of insights in rapid succession about the nature of attention, the futulity of frustration, the fact that all that I will ever be is already present. It also came with a stranger realization which I don't quite know how to contextualize. THe insight had to do with how this Buddha, this being who already knows what to focus on, how to be, is the husk (but not in any negative sense of that word) that will be left, equally as empty as everything else, once all of the things that are causing suffering are stripped away. This then led to something like 15 minutes of deep concentration on the breath, without any inclination to move on to anything else.

Suddenly another set of insights occured (and I apologize to anyone but me who might be reading this for this insight being really flakey and woo-woo-related). It became clear that the one thing that was occuring in my mind in addition to the breath was the intention to focus on the breath. This was followed by a clear perception (true or not) that this is the connection between concentration and magick, as what is actually being trained is the capacity to set an intention, and then follow that intention without the intention occuring as an experience. It seemed to me suddenly that this capacity, brought to its farthest possible limit, would lead to a complete unification between intention and outcome, in accordance with the limitations of reality. And finally, the insight occured that this seems to already be the case, as the state I came into the world with effectively is a set of intentions that are constantly playing out in interaction with the world, and it seemed to me that it is only a kind of tension with regards to those intentions which make it seem like anything but this interplay is ever happening.

After this set of insights concentration deepened further, and a level of joyfulness was added to the experience of focusing. About ten minutes of this led to a massive explosion of Piti (in the form of buzzing bodily bliss, and a pleasant malleability of my constant head buzzing) and Sukah. I refocused on this, and finally managed to spend the rest of the session in what I now think of as hard first, and then second, Jhana.

Getting up after the session I was happier, more equanimous, and filled with more joy than I have been in weeks.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
5/5/20 2:04 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
So I think you now know where you are going, and what you need to do?  See the construction of the world clearly - the formation of perceptions and concepts, in all six sense bases.  See the construction of the self clearly.  Let go of all the defence mechanisms that surround the self (a long process).  And then just be in the flux of perception in whatever frame of reference arises. 

P.S. Don't underestimate the lack of a skin/capilliary work out on your mental state. A bit of mild cold exposure might cheer up the body/mind/emotions.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
5/5/20 8:34 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Not two, not one:
So I think you now know where you are going, and what you need to do?  See the construction of the world clearly - the formation of perceptions and concepts, in all six sense bases.  See the construction of the self clearly.  Let go of all the defence mechanisms that surround the self (a long process).  And then just be in the flux of perception in whatever frame of reference arises. 

P.S. Don't underestimate the lack of a skin/capilliary work out on your mental state. A bit of mild cold exposure might cheer up the body/mind/emotions.
Yeah, I actually do feel like I have some sort of renewed grasp of where I am heading, and as if practice and understanding is developing in a smoother way than before. I have you, and the Dharma Overground to thank for that in so many ways. So I am gently increasing the investigation of how the self, experience and everything presents and is constructed, while keeping on working on concentration and purification. The stress, or tension, about where I am on the maps and where I am going, which started dropping away with the event in February (the event that motivated me to start this practice log), is now essentially completely gone. I do deeply desire practice, and practicing well, but doing that feels like enough.

And regarding the P.S.: Thank you so much for that suggestions. I haven't been doing cold showers in a long time, but remember the mood enhancement that practice used to bring, so I will see if I will let myself pass the initial hurdle for that practice again, and get back into it.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
5/6/20 4:50 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
So, there is no need to be brutal about cold showers. Here is what you can do.

1. Hot shower
2. Turn to lukewarm for one minute - let the capiliiaries sart to close up
3. Turn to cold (but not brutal) for one minute - and let the skin fully contract
4. Then turn to brutal

Also, watch for the following stages

1. Shock of pain (avoided by 2 above), and you get over this in 30-60 seconds by being mindful of the pain
2. Sense of strong cold, and you get over this in 1-2 minutes by being mindful of the cold
3. Feeling of mild cold, but pretty good really (the wetsuit phase?  :-)), and you lean in to this and concentrate on enjoying it.
4. Then energy arises, and you start to feel lively. This is the point you can start doing tummo if you want (inner heat visualisation, supported by visualisation of the nerve channels on either side of the spine, all coordinated with the breath). But more importantly, lean in to this energy
5. Then expand the sense of energy outwards, and you will find more energy arises with additional clarity, brightness and expansion of the mind. That translates through to improved energy and improved mood all day..

You know the cold exposure is working properly when energy and clarity arise, parts of your skin go red, and you sweat slightly in the small of your back after the shower.  If that doesn't happen you haven't got the practice nailed yet.

But be careful about jumping straight in to a brutal cold shower with untrained skin/capilliaries/mental focus as you may just crash your core body temperature.  Watch out for that, and make sure you warm up if you accidentially circulated the cold into the core.  Hypothermia is not the practice.  emoticon  

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
5/6/20 9:34 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Not two, not one:
So, there is no need to be brutal about cold showers. Here is what you can do.

1. Hot shower
2. Turn to lukewarm for one minute - let the capiliiaries sart to close up
3. Turn to cold (but not brutal) for one minute - and let the skin fully contract
4. Then turn to brutal

Also, watch for the following stages

1. Shock of pain (avoided by 2 above), and you get over this in 30-60 seconds by being mindful of the pain
2. Sense of strong cold, and you get over this in 1-2 minutes by being mindful of the cold
3. Feeling of mild cold, but pretty good really (the wetsuit phase?  :-)), and you lean in to this and concentrate on enjoying it.
4. Then energy arises, and you start to feel lively. This is the point you can start doing tummo if you want (inner heat visualisation, supported by visualisation of the nerve channels on either side of the spine, all coordinated with the breath). But more importantly, lean in to this energy
5. Then expand the sense of energy outwards, and you will find more energy arises with additional clarity, brightness and expansion of the mind. That translates through to improved energy and improved mood all day..

You know the cold exposure is working properly when energy and clarity arise, parts of your skin go red, and you sweat slightly in the small of your back after the shower.  If that doesn't happen you haven't got the practice nailed yet.

But be careful about jumping straight in to a brutal cold shower with untrained skin/capilliaries/mental focus as you may just crash your core body temperature.  Watch out for that, and make sure you warm up if you accidentially circulated the cold into the core.  Hypothermia is not the practice.  emoticon  
Thank you for that comprehensive description, and for drawing my attention in particular to the energetic aspects of the practice. In the context of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga I have been working over the last few weeks of increasing my awareness of those energy channels, so this folds really nicely into that. I have a forlorn hope that by increasing my awarness of these systems in general I might be able to limit the distracting impacts of my concentration-related head preassure/buzzing as well as the face boiling. So far, that hasn't quite borne out, but I am looking forward to see if adding cold shower practices might have some impact.

And I also appreciate the point that this is not about hypothermia, but about energy control, and experience clarity. Surfing has given me many opportunities to explore these mental and physical spaces in the past, and I look forward to getting back in the water to experience that as well with new clarity!

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
5/13/20 10:21 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Derailed by Pain.
(Morning and evening practices for a bit over a week, between 30 and 90 minutes)

Last Thursday I started experience severe neck pain again, a type of pain that I have come to associate with the 3 Characteristics stage of insight (as discussed previously in this log). This type of pain used to occur about once every week and a half since February, and tended to go away after about a day or so, accompanied by experience taking on a more bright, clear and generally A&P-feeling. Since I switched to seious Jhana practice with no insight component these pains basically stopped occuring, except in a very small way that I had to look for to find.

However, I recently started adding an insight component at the end of sits, after Jhana preactice, to a large extent due to being fasccinated with how interesting insight practice got as aresult of having been in the Jhanic states. So, I was initially mainly curious to see that even that small amount of insight practice brought back some amount of this physical discomfort, and I fully expected it to just go away the way that it tended to. It didn't. Instead it got stronger and moved down from the neck into the trapezius as well as into the muscles between the shoulder blades. The pain also became much worse than any I have experienced in this context before, potentially with the exception of the first time these pains showed up about 2 years ago now. I ended up not sleeping more than about a fitful hour for 3 nights and eventually went to the doctor to get pain relief, which only worked to a limited extent.

While this pain is similar in terms of location to the experiences of meditation induced pain that I have had before, the experience is very different. There is a strange amount of clarity to the pain, in that I can see how I am making it happen in some sense, despite being completely powerless to stop it. In general, the interplay between a physical reality, which forms the basis for the experience of pain, and the mental reaction to that physical reality, which in the end fully determines the experience, is clear to me in a way that it has never been before.

There is another fascinating, but somewhat disturbing, component to the pain which is directly related to practice. My initial reaction to this pain occuring was to try and pull back into Jhana practice without an insight component. However, it turned out that when I build any sort of strong concentration, even before proper access concentration sets in, the pain becomes like a live wire. So, I will be sitting focusing on my breath, everything going well, but then for a moment my attention slips over to the pain, and it just blows up, leading to incredibly strong experiences of excruciating pain, now impossible to ignore. This is really strange to me, as my experience previously has been that doing concentration practice has been a fairly good way of handling pain, and that in general little aches and pains diminish in the face of concentration practice.

By contrast, noting practice is easy, enjoyable and pleasant. As long as I allow the painful shoulder to make micro-movements in order to alleviate tension noting practice is just deeply enjoyable, and in fact provides a welcome relief from the pain. It doesn't really matter what I use as an object for the insight practice, I can even let the experience of pain be the foundation for the noting, as long as I don't put too hard a focus on it. In fact, noting practice is so enjoyable that I have tended to extend my sits by quite a bit lately, notably a 45 minute sit yesterday that turned into a 90 minute sit, and several other sits that was intended to be 45 minutes and instead landed on 75.

I don't quite know what to make of the situation. On the one hand it seems so incredibly familiar, I have been through this pain perhaps 20 times since the first time it occured. But on the other hand it is completely new in that the clear experience of how the pain occurs, and the impossibilty of concentration practice, hasn't accompanied the pain any of the previous times.

I suppose I'll just keep on doing noting, as that seems to be all I can do, and hope that this too passes, like it always has.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
5/14/20 9:26 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
1hr 45min morning sit

As I sat down for my morning meditation I noticed that the pain (from yesterday's log) seemed to have much less urgency to it, or to be more distant, so I decided to again try concentration practice, and it worked. As I started developing access concentration I noticed that the "live wire" effect of the shoulder pain was no longer there. In fact, I could move my attention over to the pain, without any significant increase in discomfort. I seemed to have lost some of the Jhana momentum I had built up, but nevertheless managed to find some sort of stability with both piti and sukah. Towards the end of the 45 minutes it felt as though I was part way through to the 3rd Jhana, but I sitll have very little understanding of what that actually feels like, so not quite sure.

When the timer rang to indicate that 45 minutes had passed I switched to noting to see if I would once again experience the post-jhanic boosts in insight. No strong experiences or dramatic insights followed, but the experience of sitting and looking at the fluxing, flowy nature of experience was extremely restful, and pleasant in a low key sort of way. Most of the time the mind was clear and bright, with very little effort required to either keep up the noting, or stay out of dullness (even though dullness did set in at one point, with a few head-drops, but it was easy to pull back out of that). I was quit surprised when I got up and realized that I had been sitting for an extra hour in addition to the 45 minutes I had intended to sit.

After the session the pain had diminshed significantly compared with before the session, but that might just be a temporary outcome of deep relaxation.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
5/27/20 9:15 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
General Note on current practice: Mental health, Pain and Relief.

(I wrote this yesterday, but couldn't make my mind up about posting it. It is a long and somewhat rambling post that goes into some detail about mentally difficult experiences. In the end, I decided that I do want this recorded in the context of my log, just because I expect I will find this interesting to look back on later. For anyone other than me who reads it I want to point out that I do understand that this post conflates experiences that might not be at all related and have nothing to do with the Dharma.)

Since the pain (described in some detail above) set in a few weeks ago, it seems to be occuring in tandem with really difficult mental states. It is clear that it is somehow related to unskillful treatment of various attachemnts, and general "stuff" but it is very hard to see what is the chicken and what is the egg here, perhaps that is even the wrong way to look at it. Given the general state of the world, though, I find it hard to say that it isn't reasonable to be depressed and anxious so it seems precarious at best to assume that my current mental state is a product of some inisght stage rather than just the outcome of dealing with a strange novel situation.

However, there seems to be a strong relationship between the pain, mental states, and meditation, though not in the way I would have expected. I will try to show how the experiences seem to hang together for me, starting with some general overview of my formal practice for the time I have neglected writing (owing to a general sense of disillusionment with all forms of practice). I had a big dip in motivation to practice just after the pain set in, and couldn't bring myself to do a minute more than the 45 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening that I have such a strong habit established around that it basically happens automatically. It is noteworthy to me that I started going back down to 30 minutes in the evening, but I just couldn't bring myself to sit longer. This general aversion and feeling that sitting wasn't achieving anything was with me for well over a week.

Then, a few days ago in an evening meditation, the general lack of focus spiralled out of control. As I sat down to meditate some general, utterly inconsequential, life stuff got stuck in my mind to the extent that I couldn't even make my normal resolution. I decided to just keep sitting anyway, despite my mind spinning out. However, the spinning out continued into what felt like a full blown panic attack, which then led to the thought that I had broken, or was breaking, my mind by meditating while on relatively strong pain medication. As I take mental health extremely seriously, and have promised myself many times that if ever I felt like I was losing my mind, I would seek help immediately. So I prepared to break my meditation and tell my partner what was happening, but just as I was about to do that I realized that in fact, my mind was actually as well as ever, I could easily make the decision to break meditation, I could formulate what I wanted to say to my partner, all in all I could think clearly. The only thing crazy about my mind state was the idea that I was going crazy. And with that realization, the spinning out ended, the panic drained away, and I was left with the same level of strong emotion, but completely flipped to positivity. The rest of the session was spent in awed examination of the lightness of the mind, with absolutely no pain left in either neck or shoulders. There was also a strangely pleasant feeling of the right and left side of my body being connected, that I didn't know that I had missed, but which seemed to somehow be related to the pain in my right side. This might sound really strange, and I wish I could explain it better, but despite being right handed, I identify much more strongly with my left side, and always have. During this sit it felt as if I have somehow been out of touch with my right side for a while, and that it was finally reconnected to my conscious experience.

After I came out of the session I was pain free for about an hour, and I "felt like myself" for the first time in weeks. Eventually, my mind state sank back to it's normal current low level, and the pain returned. But the moment of respite gave me back the sense that there is value and positive outcomes from formal practice after all, and gave me renewed motivation.

After that session, sitting meditation has been strangely easy and compelling. Morning session have automatically extended quite a bit beyond the timer, and I have even added some afternoon sessions. The sits are largely just pleasant, with a mixture of looking at vibrations, predominantly at the tip of the nose, and verbal labelling. It takes about a half hour at the beginning of each sit before the pain in the shoulder and neck dissipates (generally with a buzzing/evaporating feeling) this tends to occur together with a feeling of being "locked in" or (to use some surf lingo) "in the pocket". As if meditation is just occuring, easily and pleasantly on its own. There are generally some patches where dullness sets in, accompanied with some dream like images and head drops, but I can counter-act that with just a small effort of will and get back to either observing vibrations or labelling.

This morning this resulted in the longest sit I have ever had. I set the timer for an hour, and when the timer chimed I was so content with sitting, that I barely noticed the bell, beyond the fact that it was a sound. I then ended up sitting for a full hour longer, in the easy pleasant state that have been the experience of formal practice for the last few days. I spent most of the session verbally labelling, intermittently realizing that I had stopped, but with no concept of for how long I had been just sitting for, but just restarting the labels as soon as I noticed that I had stopped.

After the session this morning the lack of pain, and the feeling of having come out of a depression stuck around for significantly longer than previously, and I am still feeling some level of relief, 8 hours later.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
5/28/20 1:30 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Well done to post this. One day you will look back and understand it precisely (if you don't already). I previously wrote a detailed reply to your 'derailed by pain' post, but in the end didn't publish it as I thought it actually wouldn't help. You just had to do ... what you have just done. The pain will be there for a while still, but probably like a ghost of its former self.  Just let it subside over time.  Concentrate instead on softening and releasing all the other things around it, which may be more apparent now that this obscuring pain has been seen through.

The dharma is a long journey. It seems so simple, but the sankharas make it so complicated. emoticon

Metta to you both.

Malcolm 

P.S. Hope the surf's been good!

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
5/29/20 12:16 AM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Not two, not one:
Well done to post this. One day you will look back and understand it precisely (if you don't already). I previously wrote a detailed reply to your 'derailed by pain' post, but in the end didn't publish it as I thought it actually wouldn't help. You just had to do ... what you have just done. The pain will be there for a while still, but probably like a ghost of its former self.  Just let it subside over time.  Concentrate instead on softening and releasing all the other things around it, which may be more apparent now that this obscuring pain has been seen through.

The dharma is a long journey. It seems so simple, but the sankharas make it so complicated. emoticon

Metta to you both.

Malcolm 

P.S. Hope the surf's been good!
Thank you so much for those encouraging words. It has been a bit of a trying, so writing about it didn't come all that easy.

I don't think I quite understand what is going on yet, but I'm sure it will be clearer in hindsight. For now, I just keep practicing, and appreciating the fact that both the physical pain and mental difficulties are diminishing (though in a non-linear, non-monotonic, fashion). Your description that what is left of the pain is sort of like a ghost of what it previously was is spot on, and it goes for the mental stuff as well.

Looking forward to catching up with you some time soon, now that we seem to have beaten back the virus.

Metta to you from us both.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
5/29/20 12:42 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
2 evening and 2 morning sits: Third eye exploding

The description of current sits frtom my previous post basically covers my latest few days of practice as well, with one notable exception.

In the 45 minuite eveing sit yesterday I almost immediately ended up in a state of head buzzing, just on the edge between extreme pleasure and pain. Or rather, it was an incredibly pleasant experience, but the buzzing and preassure in the head felt completely physical, and as if my head (or brain) was literally about to explode. I applied a technique from Brasington's right concentration to deal with "stuck Piti". which consists of rapidly running my attention up the length of my spine a number of time which made the buzzing diminish somewhat, and lead to a brief gap in attention.

After that gap I had a strange feeling of reliving the mental formations (images and stray thoughts) that were bothering me about five weeks ago, but this time they were distant and maneagable, and were somehow overlayed on a feeling of bliss. Eventually the mind moved on to a state that seemed like a blissy version of the isssues I had about a month ago, and then the ones from 3 weeks ago. In other words, it seemed like a rapid replay of the issues I have dealt with over the last period of time, but without being stuck in them. Finally, the pain came back, but now more as an idea, a presence I knew was there without really capturing me. Then the thought occured "What will happen when I reach my current state inside of my current state?" which was accompanied by a mental image of something like diving into a fractal, or mirrors reflecting each other. I am a little bit unclear on what happened next, but more due to things being incomprehensible than dullness, I think.

The next thing I clearly remember is that all of the head buzzing suddenly went right into the point between my eybrows, and then for lack of a better word, exploded. This explosion occured in three senses exactly simultaneously, it seemed. There was an incredibly strong buzzing sensation between my eybrows, I "heard" a loud buzzing noise, which sounded exacly like a wasp trapped under a glass or something like that, and I saw a blue/white cartoon-explosion. Sort of like a "POW" speech bubble from batman in the -60s. The experience was strong enough that it made me twitch my head back, and wonder for a moment whether I had actually been hit in the face. The rest of the sit was spent in just calm bliss.

After the session I was extremely high energy, not in an annoying way, more like I had gotten a bunch of energy back that I didn't know that I had missed.

It doesn't seem like the session changed anything dramatic about later sits (which I would have expected if it was an A&P experience, which it seems like?), but I guess whatever happened might still be settling in.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
6/1/20 11:57 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Quick update: Back and forth, back and forth

Over the last few days I have been feeling like I have been dipping in and out of whatever difficult experience it is that has been going on for the last month or so. At the moments that feel the "furthest along" somehow, lasting for times on the order of hours, I genuinely feel like I have a clear view of my experience, perhaps clearer than I ever have before. There is a calm, and a presence there, which reminds me of how things used to be before things got difficult around the second week of lockdown or so, and all pain is completely gone. Actually it feels hard to even think that I so recently was in dibilitating pain. But then buzzing and preassure in the head returns, back and neck pain comes creeping back, and the clarity gets muddled again.

Yesterday was particularly unstable, and three times during the day I got sufficient amounts of buzzing, and confusion, that it felt like the only thing I could do was to sit down and meditate. Each time I did so I spent between 60 and 90 minutes meditating. Each time I spent perhaps the first half hour establishing access concentration, and went from there either to first Jhana and then Mahasi noting, or straigh into Mahasi noting. Each time I came out of meditation with a renewed sense of clarity, and a sense that I had just momentarily forgotten how to see reality clearly. And each time, the clarity eventually faded.

This morning's meditation session had a different structure than the recent sessions. In fact, it felt exactly like sessions from about a year ago. At that point I had just gone through a difficult period, which I assumed at the time to have been the DN, and when I came out of it the first few sits where just deeply pleasant, but almost completely empty of either insight or structured thought. The difficult period that time had been characterized by dullness, difficulty clearly seeing experience and tons of head drops. The final part of the difficulty was, that time too, characterized by pain, and difficult thoughts (but on a much, much lower level than the current experience). The meditations just after the difficulties ended that time saw head dropping return, but as opposed to during the difficult period the head drops in the pleasant state didn't seem like falling asleep, but just like blinking out for a moment. The meditation this morning was EXACTLY like that. Calm, no structured thought, pleasant, and constant head drops.

The really surprising thing about the experience this morning is that nowadays I in general connect head droppping with dullness, which I have basically figured out how to deal with. However, there wasn't really any dullness that I could recognize this morning. Instead my head just kept dropping over and over despite my mind being clear and alert.

This afternoon I again felt enough preassure around the head, and murky thoughts that I felt compelled to take a break from work for a meditation. I was curious to see whether this session also would remind me of my old experiences, but it didn't. Instead, this session seemed to have all the openness and clarity of the end of sessions yesterday. This includes an incredible clarity about how each mind moment is sort of an echo off, or a riff on, previous mind moments (with the mechanism creating the mind moment completely absent from experience) as well as a clear experience of how experience doesn't occur in a static space.

As might be obvious from this post, there is a relatively strong sense of frustration, almost a desperation, in me about the fact that a perspective that seems so much clearer and less filled with suffering is just around the corner, or above some surface, but that I can't seem to stabilize it. This frustration does not get helped by the fact that I can't quite tell whether meditation is what casuses the clarity or is instead the source of the murkiness. For now, I will keep assuming that practice is what lends the clarity, and that by keeping practice up I can stabilize the clearer perspective. However, if stability doesn't increase soon, I might try to lower the amount of practice to perhaps ground down to some extent.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
6/4/20 2:17 AM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Striving, frustration, clinging. All opportunities to wallow in the chain of dependent arising.  emoticon

One reliable way to take the energy out of arising is mindfullness of the body, throughout the day.  But I'm not sure it matters too, much.  The dharma has got you, and will purify you now one way or another!

Metta

Malcolm 

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
6/24/20 10:38 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Long Catch-up post: Real world issues dominate as Meditation practice continues

I have been quite bogged down by real world issues lately. In particular lingering complications from pain management meds that was needed for the back pain (now diagnosed as a bulging disk in the neck). This has led to very low energy levels in general, and in particular, a lack of interest in writing about my practice. I think this has a lot to do with the practice being stable, and sort of undramatic, and so not worth examining, while a lot of other things feel unstable and in flux, and so catches a lot of my attention off the cushion. However, practice has continued, usually with a morning and an evening sit, and occasionally with an afternoon-sit thrown in when time has permitted. Most sits are between 45 and 90 minutes, with the occasional shorter sit when time has been scarce, and the occasional longer sit when it has been possible.

There have however been two distinct periods. After I slid back into the darker mind states, after having "Gotten my head above the surface" I finally managed to get back into something that feels incredibly equanimity-esque. However, while the quality of experience reminded me of what I have previously though of as equanimity (the experience I was having at the end of last year and beginning of this), it had a grander, deeper feeling to it than before. In particular, the sense of a central controller/observer was quite different and much more abstract than that sense was the last time I was in similar territory. However, after having spent a few sessions in this new equanimity I started having the experience of moving up the nanas in each sit again, starting from something bright, colorful, exciting and suffused with the sense of imminent insight (I think of this as A&P territory), followed by much more diffuse states, indused with some difficult thoughts and emotions (I think of this as the dark night stages) and finally breaking through a painful difficult experience into calm and equanimity. The strange thing is that after a few of these sessions, in one sit I suddenly felt as if I was back in exactly the same mind-space as earlier in the year. Now, I was again experiencing the "throat tickly"-feeling (described above) at each pass through the "dark stages" and the Equanimity I ended up with seemed to come with the same contracted sense of an observer which I was working with earlier in the year.

This, familiar, progression from stage to stage continued on and off the cushion for about a week, until suddenly it ended. In one sit I again started out in what feels like A&P territory, but now progressed through the "new versions" of the darker stages. Gone were the feelings of uncomfortable bodily sensations and throat tickling, to be replaced by a (for lack of a better word) deeper sense of existential discomfort, and general wrongness of space. On the other side of these darker stages I now, again, found the new kind of Equanimity with its more subtle sense of a central controller/observer and a much more complicated sense of experience just occuring on its own.

My current way of practicing, for the last week or so, is to first do about 5 minutes of metta, and then go on to establish access concentration by focusing on the breath at the tip of the nose. Once access concentration occurs, I switch from focusing on breathing as such, to focusing on seeing vibrations, still at the tip of the nose. Once I shift to focusing on vibrations, and widen my perspective a bit, letting more of sensate reality in, I relatively quickly move from the bright, interesting, place where I start out into more complicated (but not always unpleasant) sensations. This eventually leads up to a state where everything is very confusing, and space itself seems to fluctuate wildly, along with my sense of self, and my perception of input. This eventually breaks, usually suddenly, at which point my mind settles into a calm, sort of stable sense of reality just occuring in waves. In this state (which feels like some sort of low equanimity) there is often a few initial head-drops, and even a blank space or two. Then things sort of settles down into a calm, mildly (but not excitingly) pleasant sense that everything is perfectly fine the way it is, and this state persists, with various shifts in perspectives, and smaller insights, until the end of the sit.

My main issue, currently, is that after the head-droppy/gappy bit after the difficult stages, I sometimes get gripped by a powerful dullness. The main difficulty with this is that I don't always care enough to do anything about it, but instead just sort of let it occur. THe dullness seems like an acceptable version of experience, and it's not until after I have gotten up that I realize that I looked at reality without paying attnetion for large parts of the sit. I estimate that I have sometimes spent up to 45 minutes in this sense of equanimous dullness.

Regardless, while I am worried that not paying sufficient attention will eventually make me fall back down to the difficult stages, it also feels as though it does my mind a lot of good to just experience the profound equanimity. So, while I really want to make sure that I don't back-slide again, I also do really appreciate the experience that these long but dull stretches in this stage offers up. So, my plan is to keep going with what I am doing but try to increase my energy level somewhat, in whatever way I can.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
6/24/20 10:32 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Not two, not one:
Striving, frustration, clinging. All opportunities to wallow in the chain of dependent arising.  emoticon

One reliable way to take the energy out of arising is mindfullness of the body, throughout the day.  But I'm not sure it matters too, much.  The dharma has got you, and will purify you now one way or another!

Metta

Malcolm 

I noticed now that I had failed to respond to this comment. It helped me a lot, and reminded me to go back and have a look at the chain of dependent arising. Some of the links are a lot clearer to me now than they have ever been, and focusing in on particular steps inthe chain while in the highest stage I currently reach in my practice frequently leads to really valuable insights.

When it comes to mindfullness of the body throughout the day, it's a bit of tricky business at the moment, as I am experiencing a lot of difficult and painful physical sensations at the moment. I am attempting to be gently mindful at all times, but try to avoid catching on too hard to any experience, as too much focus at the moment tends to lead to a huge increase in discomfort. I am sure there is a lot to learn about contact without attachment in these experiences, but I don't think I really have the mental space to take those lessons in off the cushion.

So, as always, thank you so much for your input. Even when I don't have the common curtesy to respond, I do listen and implement.

RE: Phi^2's Practice log
Answer
7/6/20 9:41 PM as a reply to Hac Phi^2 Vita.
Catch up post: Stability and dullness

Not much has changed in terms of what an average sit is like since the last post. Except perhaps that I am in general experiencing less of a transition through difficult stages before reaching the equanimous pleasant stage. There are, as there has been a few times before, two sort of distinct types of sits, one that more commonly occurs in morning sits and one that most commonly occur in evening sits.

In the mornings, when I usually sit for an hour, sessions tend to drop almost immediately into a calm, equanimous, state where thoughts (after establishing access concentration) occur orderly in a one by one, and wispy, fashion, while the visual field remains largely calm, filled with a diffuse white-ish light. As the sits progress, usually after about a half hour or so, I find myself in what I think of as an equanimous version of dullness. This is a state in which I am perfectly content to just sit, and look at experience as it occurs, but without delving particularly deeply into the mechanisms that produce the moment to moment experience. In this state I frequently end up having sustained periods, with lengths on the order of minutes, of the experience of "seeing through my eyelids". What happens is that I suddenly find that I can see the room I am sitting in (which is usually quite dark), just as it would look if my eyes were open, from the vantage point I am sitting in. The first few times this happened, I genuinely thought I had let my eyes open, but now I know that my eyes are still closed. Strangely, the body is generally so "far away" when this occurs that I have to actively go looking for the sensations of my eyelids to check whether they are still closed. Sometimes I can't even manage to find those sensations, and actually give up on it, not even caring enough to work out whether I have opened my eyes.

I can't see that this would be a big problem, except for the fact that I am very bad at noting my experience in this state, and tend to become quite diffuse. So, still trying to find a way to counteract that dullness. Regardless, it feels as I am still making steady progress towards seeing all of experience more and more clearly in an integrated way. In particular, the sense of a central controller seems to be getting less distinct, to be replaced by a keener sense that all of experience occurs on it's own, in intermingling waves. It seems as though some parts of what has previously seemed like part of the watcher has now moved out into being links in the chain of interdependent origination.

The other kind of session are slightly more dramatic, and seems more likely to occur in evening sits. During these sits I have a much stronger sense of some great insight being imminent, or the bottom being about to drop out of existence. This feels like an outcome of deeper clarity during these sits, but it could easily be the other way around. So, while during these sits it frequently feels as if I am about to finally "see through" the dualistic illusion, or see all of experience as a full integrated whole, I am not sure that this is genuine perception of insights close at hand, or if it is just the experience of insight, without an actual insight attached. That might sound paradoxical, but I have experience from earlier parts of the path of being in really bright, giddy mental states, and constantly feeling like I am just moments away from a deep realization, only to end up in a dramatic, bright, experience, frequently with some blank frames, but without any insight.

I am also still dealing with some significant amounts of physical discomfort, making concentration practice, and thus good insight practice more difficult. But the discomfort is diminishing, and I hope to be back to undisturbed practice soon.