Andy's practice log - Discussion
Andy's practice log
Hi, I figured this would be a potentially useful way to pair my interest in writing and meditation. In particular I assume that writing things out will force me to crystallize some implicit assumptions in what I'm practicing and better think through some of the contradictions I'm facing. This may end up one big draft that never gets posted, which is also fine. For now I will post a summary with recent interesting experience and my current concerns.
Note: I am formatting this with bullets because normal paragraph breaks are not working, if you know how to fix this, please let me know.
background on my practice
Goenka 10 day ~5 years ago - not much between then and last year
March 2019 - picked up MCTB, resumed daily practice with some gaps here and there, had some exposure to TMI
October 2019 - found what seemed like deep EQ through noting practice, but overall too map oriented
November 2019 - had some intense, multi-day experience of non-duality that, following consultation with teacher, presented as A&P
Dec 2019 - experience burnt out from practice, returned to hedonism
Jan 2020 - discovered michael taft guided meditations, practice following a shamatha : do nothing : general noting three part sequence
Feb 2020 - get into EQ again, this time with much deeper concentration
Mar 2020 - two week period in which I practice 1-3 hours per day, breaking into newish, deeper feeling eQ territory,
very chill but also bored, prolonged periods of 10+ minutes in which I feel like I can't act or do anything, very curious and gentle but also bizarre and confusing ,
during this time I had a sit where my heart began beating rapidly for 10+ minutes like something *big* was going to happen and I observed thoughts of mapping, planning, desiring SE, etc. but continued to curiously and mindfully observed heart that was seemingly going to explode on its own accord; eventually dissipating.
It was difficult to map or to recognize the sub-processs of this state e.g. breaking into it and being confused, not being able to really think or act, feeling like some clarity is returning and what is going to happen, and what proceeds from there.
There were some later periods where it felt like there is almost just pure awareness, and that starts to flicker in/out too, which is what I assume I'm going for.
Although this time around I was much more able to just let stuff happen, there was still a pervading desire to map and achieve an expected outcome. In this recent period, I was able to clear out enough crap from my life to practice. I wasn't really sure what I was doing, but practicing more seemed to be the logical thing to do. I noticed that when I craved "progress" enough and tried to take daily practice even further (say into the 4th hour) I would dip back into previous stages, my whole body feeling like it was on fire.
This period of EQ ended because 1) I moved, and had to do all the things associated with moving; 2) I was losing motivation and increasingly confused on "what to do in EQ." While I hope to have learned on how to better get back into the swing of things, and my current living situation and social isolation are more conducive to sitting, I'm finding a deep resistance to let go of the emotionally numbing crap that I do, that I know keeps me from practicing (e.g. weed/porn/video games), but I am making some practical behavioral progress there, too. I'm very confused about what to with myself, with my life in general, and how meditation fits into that is another question. I am trying to let the question gently hang there as a sort of continuing inquiry practice without demanding a logical answer. I know that even sitting for a few minutes per day will help keep the habit alive and allow it to re-energize when the conditions are ready.
Last week I started an online meditation training with buddhist geeks focused on loving awareness. I was considering practicing only loving awareness for the duration of the course, e.g. 10 weeks, to really test the technique and get a feel for it, and since I felt like I was hitting a wall/getting frustrated with do-nothing and noting practices.
My initial experiments with this loving kindness were good, in fact, on the second day I practiced for 20 minutes and felt the presence of something deep and loving visiting me. For some reason the word "angel" came to mind. This presence felt both foreign like a visitor and at the same time part of me, and it was extremely beautiful. Unfortunately I maybe took this peace for granted and continued to chill out hard (See aforementioned numbing coping mechanisms), so I haven't really revisited this formally or practiced it enough, although for some reason the phrase 'let loving awareness arise' is deeply entrenched, I find it coming to me throughout the day without effort. I feel that this needs to be paired with more focus; I am concerned that I am taking the 'letting this happen' aspect in the wrong direction. Two days after this angel thing, I did a guided meditation with michael taft and I cried during the part about the boddhisattva's buddha fields emanating from each of us, because I felt that I did not possess or have perfections of equanimity, discipline, etc. to spread; I felt separate from these qualities.
Last night I was watching david blaine tricks which led me to browsing the magick forums here. I read about someone summoning a demon and felt scared but deeply compelled to read it. I felt paranoia and fear that I had not felt in years, like when I was a child and could not sleep for fear of something coming for me. I became paranoid that there was a dark edge to the loving awareness I had felt earlier that week. I do not know if this fear is substantiated. I muttered 'may loving awareness arise' as I fell asleep to protect myself. I will try practicing today.
thing to attend to in EQ seems to be the ebb and flow of attention
how much to 'attend' to what's going on and how much to ease off 'without completely falling asleep or going into a tangent'
thoughts are subtle and vibrational and discursive, sensations seem to bring their own things into being, mind is just sort of hanging out, watching it happen
one visual theme is eyes, i keep seeing oval-sort of shapes and 'doing nothing' they sort of shift or merge or perspectivize geometrically, on their own, feels very expansive and all-absorbing and a small sense of 'dropping' and vast emptiness
but perhaps there is still too much gripping and something changes
still, better at letting go, was easy to 'drop into this' and remain in it for 40 minutes, but i tended to get irritable after that - probably good to gradually push that time period but not force it?
I enjoyed reading your log. Nice detailed descriptions thanks.
Sounds like you are aware that you are cycling between A&P and EQ. Definitely worth (re-)reading the Progress of Insight in MCTB if you haven't already and also in Mahasi Sayadaw (Chapter 5, Practical Instructions in Manual of Insight).
I'm not a specialist in the nanas or much good in EQ myself but yeah, wondering what to do in EQ tends to get you chucked out! Best just to just note it as "loss of motivation" or "confusion" or "wondering what to do" and return to the meditation object. But if that doesn't work then you can try to investigate it. Where in the body do you feel loss of motivation? What are the exact sensations of confusion or wondering? Breaking it down into sensations can cause it to disperse or at least make you realize your mind is just applying an arbitrary label to a small part of a broad experience field.
No need to beat yourself up about emotionally numbing crap, we all do it one way or another and sometimes meditation can be emotionally numbing crap as well. Try playing a little with the resistance to letting go. How exactly does that feel to resist letting go of something? Can you pinpoint it in the body?
Angels and demons are pretty common, nothing to get too excited about or afraid of.
It's good that you notice getting irritable, nothing wrong with that and an excellent thing to investigate if you can sit through it.
It sounds like your cycles have contracted from months to days, which is common with practice. If you keep practicing and noting then you may start to cycle through all the stages in a single sit and it becomes a familiar routine which you can observe off the cushion as well.
Thoughts of desiring SE and feelings of something big about to happen are common and best noted and put aside. You can't plan for the unexpected ;-)
Thanks for the thoughtful reply, and for normalizing the demon fear thing. Your advice about noting and investigating the suffering or the resistance itself is spot on, and I intend to apply it keenly. As far as reading MCTB, I have reviewed that chapter many times, and to an extent I benefit from reading but also find myself too suggestible/easily primed such that the thing I read that day might get stuck in my head during the sit. That being said, it's been a very helpful chapter.
I would say that I now often cycle up to EQ in a sit, but also, with consistent sitting, it feels like I'm already there as soon as I take a seat. I don't care so much right now, but I tried in the past to understand how cycling works for a pre-SE yogi. It's said that after SE, you just cycle all day, but pre-SE yogi's supposedly start from the beginning of the cycle each time they take a seat. That never really made sense to me, because I've always (long before interest in meditation) found my mood and outlook to cycle throughout the day. I don't think it matters too much right now, like I don't *need* to know or to fetishize that knowledge, but it does seem practically useful. It's hard to tell what's going on when you also have years of anxiety and depression under your belt, and trying to understand if your therapist and meditation teacher are talking about the same things (sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't . . .)
After my morning sit, throughout the day, I noticed things to be nice and "luminous", in their own place, more easily in focus. Either that or I just finally cleaned my glasses The first time this really happen and I noticed it, back in the fall, I thought I was experiencing some form of enlightenment, and became really fixated and lost in how nice and spacious all the objects around me were. Now, it is still very nice, but more mundane. Things just feel light and easy, and even the more stressful things related to work or projects are less nippy. I already foresee how this is a corruption of insight, given my impulsive mind and love of procrastination (:
This attitude was reflected in my afternoon sit: feels like I need to balance the factors or something, I feel a bit too chilled out . . .