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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 curious.
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 curious.
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 curious.
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 curious.
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 curious.
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 curious.
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 curious.
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 curious.
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 curious.
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 curious.
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 curious.
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 curious.
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
3/15/20 7:45 PM as a reply to curious.
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
Answer
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 curious.
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 curious.
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
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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
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3/22/20 7:18 PM as a reply to curious.
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
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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 curious.
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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 curious.
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