Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

Posts: 1639 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
[Link to previous log]

Time for a new log cause the old one was getting a little heavy on my phone. Last log I set out to smooth the ride and it ended up getting pretty bumpy, although that was mostly due to getting sick. I like to think that it was smother than it would have been had I not had a meditation practice to help me through it. But who knows, it seems that every time I get to a better place with meditation it opens up a whole new can of worms. I'm beginning to suspect that's the point. No big ambitions this time, other than trying to stay on this pony.

My current practice is mostly centered around the body and progressive patterns of relaxation and tension release. A year ago I would have thought that was very superficial as I was much more into the intellectual side of things and spiritually ambituous. But over time it's become harder to use my intellect to escape the physical and emotional side of things.

As always, please feel free to add your comments and suggestions. It's been very helpful to me in my practice. Thanks.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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I just sat for a while and the quality of my meditation has shifted a little. The strong slightly painful waves of piti have morphed into a sort of golden ball of energy/warmth/light in the belly which slowly expands to fill my body & mind and then contracts again. It's intensely pleasurable, although there is still some of that controlling/grasping "trying to get the right dose" quality I had before. It's very powerful at times and feels like I'm going to be lifted off my seat if I really surrender to it. There's still some thinking although it's less urgent. My breath is getting quite small and there are some long gaps after the outbreath where I try to keep my mind on "where I last saw the breath" as someone put it. Some other words keep coming to mind which are "in the centre of the breath is the nimitta and in the centre of the nimitta is the first jhana". For me the centre of the breath is in the centre of my brain/mind which is where I see the hazy light. That seems to be more like Ajahn Brahm's point of focus rather than a lot of the others who place it at the tip of the nose where personally I've never been able to sense much. I'm worried that I'm going to jinx myself with this anticipatory talk of nimittas and jhanas, so I'm reminding myself that this was really a very nice experience, worth it for its own sake, and my next meditation will very likely suck, especially if I try to recapture this or look for anything beyond it.
agnostic, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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I had some success using the self-enquiry method to wake up from the drama-dream during the day. Something like "I'm feeling stressed. Who am I? No one. Ok, it's just stress arising. Gone." There were a couple of days like this and then I fell back into the dream more persistently, although I was still aware in the back of my mind it's just a dream. It feels like the sense of self drops away for a while and it's a great relief, but then old habits of identification slowly restart. The sense of discomfort returns and then I want to wake up again but there's a period of time where I can't make it happen, until the discomfort gets too great and I give up trying and it's ok again. Calm returns and bliss arises, although even in that I recognize a sense of grasping where I'm trying to have a nicer experience for myself rather than just accepting life as it is. It's an impossible situation but it's also kind of recognized as ok and just what's happening even when it feels frustrating.
Tim Farrington, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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agnostic

No big ambitions this time, other than trying to stay on this pony.

standard rodeo time for a successful ride is eight seconds, to stay on a bronco or bull. Don't forget to wave your cowboy hat, for style points.

love, tim
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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I had the usual hangover after the last deep meditation - a day of heightened irritability. After experiencing the bliss it feels extra painful dealing with family stuff, like I just want to get away and meditate. I'm guess that's the downside of the bliss, getting attached to it and avoiding the rest of your life.

I slipped into the bliss again relatively easily this evening with the aid of reduced breathing. The piti is like a strong drug which you have to learn to handle. At a certain point I lost interest in it and saw the benefit  of hanging out with sukha instead. Once I let that go and moved into EQ then the thoughts started up again. I had to consciously tell myself the benefits of EQ - being secluded from strong feelings/vedana and thoughts which stir up the mind again.

I'm a bit confused about when one is supposed to move into harder jhana. It seems like there is a natural tendency to experience piti & sukha when you deepen the concentration and that starts to feel like cycling through "soft jhanas". Is the nimitta supposed to solidify in soft j4 or you shouldn't think of it like that, it's just access concentration (with hints of jhana factors)? Maybe it really is a jhana cycle and it just gets progressively deeper the more you practice. Anyone have any tips? Maybe I should find a meditation teacher. Any recommendations?
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Hi agnostic! I fancy that breathing style of yours. I'm into it these days too (Aikido Ki-breathing). 

Seems to me you have the tendency to "talk yourself into stages and states" rather than observe, be interested in, and describe sensate experience. 

I would suggest to keep that breathing style and body your main priority and don't force the mind, but rather "let the mind join in" once gladened because of the body's calm. You know the "happy body, happy husband" or sumtn' emoticon 

There really is no rush in such "breathing" approaches. It's more like swimming in the sea, with the warm Sun in your back. 
No Jhana or stages to think about or attain to. Just the body doing what it does , breathing in long, pause, breathing out long, pause, ... and there is knowing about this and funny enough there is also knowing about the mind pitching up some scenario stuff on Jhana and Nimitta in the midst of body already knowing what to do. Curious thing emoticon 

I now do separately Ki breathing and Freestyle Noting Aloud. When I feel the need for going more investigatory I go Noting. When I feel to just let the body play the breath violin in D minor I do ki breathing and enjoy the concert without blabbing about Nimitta or Jhana during it emoticon 

So I suggest you do similar. If you see the mind insisting to blabbing about let it do some matter of fact blabbing like Noting. If it's about calming the body then only let into that body breathing, and keep the mind stuff in periphery , let it do its thing and let it join the body breathing when ready (I'm talking not about one single session. It might take up to 6 months until Mind really joins body in this deep breathing and THEN some interesting stuff might pop about emoticon but yes, it's because at that stage you will not have expectations but just "be the breathing" ) 

I hope this helps and does not confuse you even more emoticon 

Take care! 
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Thanks Papa Che, you nailed it as usual emoticon You're right, it's my competitive side creeping back in. I felt like I made a bit of "progress" recently and instead of just enjoying it (or noting it) I also want to move the bar higher or get some confirmation or something. So, no more blabbing about jhanas or nimittas and if I start thinking that way then I note it emoticon Sometimes it feels boring just writing about the breath or tension, so again I just note that aversion and return to the breath!
Thanks again,
George
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 8 Months ago.

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I know emoticon 

We all fall prey to clinging. It's the name of the game until we get tired of it. Clinging can be gross and later on the path it becomes more like a wolf clothed in sheep skin, just mingling amongst us and we fail to recognize it taking form of an "expert" meditator who attained this medal or that belt color emoticon 

it's really more than enough to just take a breather a bit and let the breathing in and out be cognized as long and with or without struggle of gasping for air. I'm sure your breathing style is very similar to the Ki breathing I do. Let the mind do what it wants as long body is staying on the task. Some fun stuff will show its true nature when you least look for it. It's not showing up if you effort towards it. Give up effort. Like all of it. emoticon Breathing in long, hold breath, breathing out long, hold breath ... if mind wants ponder let it do so as long body breathing is still going on. If mind is extremely stubborn as in wants to be the cleaver one doing insight then move away from breathing and give the mind full on 1-5 sensation a second job emoticon Ha! 

Ok. I'm talking too much again. My bad. 
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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No it's very true what you say, good stuff. I'm going to try noting my experience a bit more plainly in this log and avoid giving my opinion about my practice or intellectualizing it. I know when I'm doing it when I start to imagine I'm teaching or explaining it to somebody, or else trying to link up my experience with what some authority says. I'm still going to follow the general framework of anapanasati though, because it's been helpful and I have confidence in it. Please anyone feel free to call me out or chime in with your own comments or observations though, as I'm sure you can all see things which I'm hiding from myself emoticon 

So, this morning I noticed quivering in the lower lip as I relaxed, as well as the occasional twitch of the nose. Forehead sensations are very minimal and there's a sense of "did I really have all that pain?" Tension in the jaw, neck and shoulders is noticeable, but I'm less concerned about it since my body seemed to know how to let go of the facial pain so maybe I should have confidence it will figure this out as well. There's a feeling of pressure on my chest, but mostly it's just the sensation of contact with my clothes being amplified.

There was quite a lot of thoughts about practicing and writing it up here, but they were the gentle calming kind rather than the urgent unsettling kind. There were feelings of gratitude for support from Tim, Papa Che and the rest of this community, in the form of warm glow in the heart area. I notice a tension in my belly which manifests as a tendency to try to control the breathing, and when I let that go the breathing becomes more relaxed and smaller and there's a feeling of dropping and grounding. The sensations in the perineum are then very pleasant and I notice there's a tendency for the mind to sexualize them, as if that's the only way it can rationalize the experience and quite frankly it's a little bit offended that its own being let go is so pleasurable. There were too many thoughts to allow sustained bliss experiences and I noted how that made me feel dissatisfied and short-changed with the meditation, so there's some attachment to the bliss there. But as attachments go it's one of the less harmful ones and it's something to work with.

There are feelings of irritation and anger relating to thoughts about my current situation of extended living with in-laws and out conflict prone interactions. I try to follow them back to their root - "why am angry about this, because of that, and why am I angry about that etc" - and that seems to reduce the anger somewhat. Mostly it comes down to a feeling of having limited territory or personal space and feeling the need to protect or defend what I have. I can see that they probably feel the same way too, even if I feel the odds are stacked against me - maybe they feel that as well being older.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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agnostic:

There are feelings of irritation and anger relating to thoughts about my current situation of extended living with in-laws and out conflict prone interactions. I try to follow them back to their root - "why am angry about this, because of that, and why am I angry about that etc" - and that seems to reduce the anger somewhat. Mostly it comes down to a feeling of having limited territory or personal space and feeling the need to protect or defend what I have. I can see that they probably feel the same way too, even if I feel the odds are stacked against me - maybe they feel that as well being older.

Please give this talk a chance its very short, less than 10 minutes but I find its a very good talk and teaches something trully amazing when it comes to human interactions and it also can help on the path as we get more aware of our aversions and urges with people around us

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDJBKEOe7Pg
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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Thanks, it's the kind of teaching I usually avoid because it seems so impossible for me. It's hard to even think about practicing compassion for the very people I feel are contributing to my own suffering. I have to remember that my own suffering is self-created and I'm just projecting my own mental states onto those around me. I will try to visualize myself as protected by this golden ball of warm loving goodness which is always accessible to me whatever the circumstances. That could be the "real me" as much as anything else ... why not?!
Thanks again
George
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 8 Months ago.

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I know what you mean. I find it too rather difficult to just be compassionate towards certain people or at all times. It's hard. 

It's easier to start with those we like or love. 

All in all, forcing compassion is not going to do it. Meditation practice will. 
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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By the way, I like the way you linked it back to the d minor chaconne. That was a nice touch emoticon
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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Another mini-sit and some blissful feelings of being enveloped in a warm golden glow. I notice that my mind is better able to take criticism when it's in this state. I recognize that this current situation is the best for my kids and wife given the pandemic and my sickness, so it's just me being selfish about not getting what I want, or rather getting what I didn't want. Either way, it's a good lesson in acceptance and being less selfish.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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I just had another session where my breathing got very small. It feels like there is a tug of war going on between the breathing centre in my brain and the rest of my body.   The breathing centre is screaming "too much CO2, breathe now" whereas the rest of my body is saying "wait, this feels great!" At times my abdomen involuntarily tightens to expel more air and fight the urge to breathe. It's not relaxing due to the feeling of air hunger, but every cell in my body is buzzing happily and I'm getting bathed in bliss waves. I put the oximeter on my finger to check there's enough oxygen in my blood and the SPO2 is not dipping too much (94 min down from 98). I guess this is what the Buteklyko people mean by breathing retraining and getting acclimatized to the feeling of air hunger. Once my breathing centre realizes I'm not suffocating it relaxes and I feel less air hunger. Still, it's a bit alarming when many seconds pass between small breaths. It reminds me of watching someone dying when increasingly long periods pass between breaths and just when you think surely they must be dead by now there's another breath, and it goes on for hours like that. It's kind of comforting to think this is what dying might be like and it could be pleasurable.
Tim Farrington, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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agnostic:
I just had another session where my breathing got very small. It feels like there is a tug of war going on between the breathing centre in my brain and the rest of my body.   The breathing centre is screaming "too much CO2, breathe now" whereas the rest of my body is saying "wait, this feels great!" At times my abdomen involuntarily tightens to expel more air and fight the urge to breathe. It's not relaxing due to the feeling of air hunger, but every cell in my body is buzzing happily and I'm getting bathed in bliss waves. I put the oximeter on my finger to check there's enough oxygen in my blood and the SPO2 is not dipping too much (94 min down from 98). I guess this is what the Buteklyko people mean by breathing retraining and getting acclimatized to the feeling of air hunger. Once my breathing centre realizes I'm not suffocating it relaxes and I feel less air hunger. Still, it's a bit alarming when many seconds pass between small breaths. It reminds me of watching someone dying when increasingly long periods pass between breaths and just when you think surely they must be dead by now there's another breath, and it goes on for hours like that. It's kind of comforting to think this is what dying might be like and it could be pleasurable.

ag, i have a similar thing with the breath, and almost exactly the same reasoning sequence on it: just beyond the realization of not suffocating, letting the body breathe when it will. Not holding the breath, but not "doing" the next breath either. It really is peaceful as can be, and I do suspect it mirrors the dying process in some way, and it is certainly good practice. we only get one chance to actually die, might as well enjoy it! Practice, practice, practice! It is really a lovely condition, once the mind accepts being "beyond" all this breathing stuff. The time-distortion feels very real, yes. You can get to the point where the next in-breath actually is a real surprise, and feels like rebirth might, like, "Well, now, where do i find myself this time?" Of course, the next birth may suck even worse. But this is why we practice, right? It's a complete circular futility, as i understand it: letting go of  the mistakes we have made, and the dukkha we know, for mistakes yet unmade and fresh variations of dukkha we can't foresee. Or maybe i missed something in the scriptures, lol.

love, tim
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Good to know that it's not just me who plays these games!

As I was falling asleep after meditating last night this semi-voluntary pattern of reduced breathing continued and I found myself getting a bit anxious about the next breath and woke up a couple of times with a gasp. It feels like I might have pushed it a bit too hard and it needs time for the breathing centre to gradually acclimatize to lower levels of breathing.

Clearly anything can be pushed to extremes. Someone mentioned free-diving and obviously there's auto-asphyxiation ... the middle path!
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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I'm also wondering whether this is why anapanasati puts short breathing after longer breathing, because of the calming effect. This goes against what Buddhadasa says about the short breath being agitating. But he also says to get to know your own breath, so it seems there's some room for experimentation.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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I just had a much more relaxed session with reduced breathing. For the first time I felt like I was actually letting go of the urge to breathe. It seems that urge is not in the breathing centre like I thought but higher up in the control part of the brain. When I let it go then it turns out the body knows perfectly well when to breathe and it happens all by itself. Imagine that! I measured my breath rate using my pulse and it was around 5 breaths per minute. That feels really low to me because I'm probably used to doing 10 or 12, but I've heard of people going much lower than that. Most of all it was just really nice and natural, it felt like coming home to the breath. It reminded me of my daughter when she was a baby. She was such a good sleeper and I used to worry that she had stopped breathing. She's always had a really good sense of her own body, unlike her brother who takes after his father!
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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Mixed noting + serenity session after lunch. Feeling dull due to digestion and a slight headache. Tried focusing on the breath but couldn't focus the mind. Realized it was dark nightish and everything was floating on the periphery, so just grooved to the emptiness of the centre.

I studied the urge to breathe and realized it is completely independent from the actual act of breathing. It's like an itch which you don't know if you are going to scratch or not, and even if you do scratch it might not give satisfaction. Sometimes I give into the urge to breath and it is satisfying because it happpens to coincide with the actual need to breathe, but mostly it is unsatisfying and I realize "oh, I didn't actually need that breath". Eventually I just stopped giving into the urge and the breathing happened when it needed to happen and the urge disappeared. I feel like I could learn a lot from that - it's a template for all kinds of compulsive, controlling, addictive behavior. Interestingly the natural uncontrolled breathing pattern was quite irregular, sometimes long, sometimes short, just like when you hear someone sleeping (and anapanasati steps 1 & 2 :-)).

Once the breathing settled then I wandered vaguely through the later nanas. Haven't done it for a while and couldn't remember everything. There was the sense of just catching the vanishing of phenomena. There was a heartfelt desire for deliverance. There were thoughts about cessation. There was some anxiety, fear and disgust. When that got too heavy then the mind automatically slipped back into serenity mode and bathed in blissiness for a while at the end.

There's a bit of a feeling of failure there, like I could have landed a cessation and blew it. Still I investigated those feelings - who exactly would be landing what? At that point I felt a shift like my mental activity dropped forward in front of me, like here's the brain and here's the vat. Ditto the running logging commentary, I could step back and watch it do its thing without getting involved. Eventually the commentary stopped and I realized if something's happening I will remember it and if not then no problem. At that point thoughts subsided and it was just pre-verbal murky  mental formations. Still feeling a bit edgy, I remember why I took my foot off the vipassana pedal a few months ago. Back then I would push myself more and sit for three hours, now I feel like it's better to take it a bit slower.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 8 Months ago.

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That's good work. You are walking through the terrain regardless of the weather conditions, and when needed you take shelter because that allows you to maintain a shape that enables you to keep walking the next day. 
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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Thanks Linda. I hope you are doing well. Best wishes,
George
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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Evening sit. Took about 15 mins to let go of the urge to breathe and sink into reduced breathing (5 breaths per minute). Bliss came on strong. I felt a bit guilty enjoying it all by myself while my wife is sitting downstairs with her parents, so I decided to use it on them. I brought various conflicts into mind and sort of bathed them in the bliss, removing the negative charge. Since there was still some bliss left over I used a bit of it on myself. It seems silly that I'm a difficult grumpy bastard a lot of the time only to get blissed out on the cushion. Lastly I went through various people I've wronged and held them and the transgression in the bliss while I said sorry and promised not to do it again. Don't know how much effect any of this will actually have on my behavior, but it felt authentic and healing. To be fair I had done quite a bit of this before I got sick but being being sick took away my capacity for giving for about 6 months. I hadn't planned any of this, normally reading about this kind of meditation strikes me as a bit cheesy, it all came spontaneously by focusing on giving up control over the breathing. It was a pretty intense experience and then some fear and anxiety started to come on strong, like I was falling into a void, so I decided to call it quits and try to ground myself a little before bed.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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1h morning sit. I realized that relaxing the urge to breathe is different from artificially extending the pause between outbreath and inbreath. With the excitement of all this new Buteyko stuff I've been pushing the pauses a bit, as if it's a competition to lower my breathing rate and extend my control pauses. While that pushes me deeper towards jhana like states faster, it's also forceful and has unpleasant side effects like disorientation and edginess. This morning I realized that the middle way is just to relax the urge to breathe, to be aware of the urge to control the breath, whether that is breathing sooner than necessary or later than necessary. Being aware of that allows the body to find its natural breathing rate, which feels easy and unforced and is pleasantly relaxing rather than a supercharged altered state.

I also realized that yesterday I was confusing the short breath in anapanasati with a small breath. It's like there are two axes - short/long and big/small. Short and small offen go together when stressed and long and small when relaxed, but different variations are possible. For me the point is to observe the variations, to play with them a bit to find the edges and then relax into the middle where it all takes care of itself.

After I got my breathing relaxed (30 mins) I felt nice and peaceful and then my thoughts turned to mind vs brain. It seems easier to forget mind altogether and just think about the brain being a physical organ along with the eye and ears and the rest of the body. Sure there's a tendency to think "but it feels like something different and non-physical to be me in here", but on closer inspection that's just persistent user illusion which the brain maintains along with all the other activity it does. The only mystery about consciousness is that we think there's a mystery at all. Sure I might see something which you don't, so it's "in here" but not "in there". But that just means this brain can react to it and that brain can't, it doesn't imply that "I" have a private audience on the contents of "my" brain. Anyway, not trying to argue or create a theory here, it was more like gentle thoughts along the lines of "ah, that's how it is, no problem, I can relax about it now".

Aftet that episode (20 mins) I felt even more nice and relaxed and just happy to be hanging out with not much thinking at all and being aware of whatever. I felt like I could easily have sat for much longer, but family and work calls.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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Afternoon sit during energy crash. Immediately noticed dullness and generalized aversion to all experience. Just noting it and accepting it caused it to lessen and then the breathing settled and piti started up. Realized I have to relax into the piti and just let it wash over. If I get too excited or cling to it then I kill it or it gets stuck. Just have to let it come and go, no big deal. Started reflecting on the 3Cs. You can't push pain away and you can't hold on to pleasure, it all comes and goes. Seeing that caused me to let go of the piti and start bathing in sukha. Noticed I started to think more because it's a less in your face experience, but noticing that caused thinking to subside and sukha to stabilize. Let go of sukha pretty quickly and hung out in equanimity for a bit.

Still felt mild aversion, realized it was that nagging sense  of the observer "in here". Let that go and awareness expanded out into "space". Noticed that space was still a bit "stuffy" and moved on to awareness itself. Noticed that awareness wasn't really a thing apart from awareness of some murky phenomenological quanta. Let those go and focused on "nothing". Realized that nothing was still a bit somethingish, dropped that and left not with perception, because there's nothing to perceive, but not with non perception either, because it's still a state of some kind. This was all a bit scripted and I was thinking my way through it at times. Probably 20 mins in total so pretty soft. Only done it once or twice before a year ago.

After that went back to hang out in regular equanimity. Still felt some piti-sukha waves coming in but declined to folllow them. Tried to note and drop all thoughts of something big or special about to happen. Still left with a nagging sense of aversion causing me to remain stuck. Recalled that I've been here before a couple of times a year ago and something did happen. Wondered if I like being stuck here and/or am afraid of losing something or not making it back. Told myself it will all still be here when I get back and it's no big deal, lots of people have been through this.

Focused back on that uncomfortable centrepoint of experience again. Felt the brain sort of flatten out at that point and a weird sense of the hemispheres separating and being rejoined by a channel. Started to feel it was getting a bit too intense again, like there's still some structural shifts or settling needed and no need to push it further right now. Trust the process and the body/mind to know what to do in its own time.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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Bedtime session, 1h ish. Mostly hanging out bathing various pains in sukha. Some emotional pains from wife getting angry with me earlier. Some physical pains from relaxing tension in jaw, neck and chest - feeling like heavy weights hanging off those areas. Really appreciative of having a strong stable sukha glow to bathe that stuff in. Almost no piti, mind seemed to know exactly where to go with this stuff. First time I've really spent a long time getting to know sukha all by her lovely self, fell in love a bit. Night night.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

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Morning session. Nice warm sukha glow was still there, despite mind whirling with unsatisfactory thoughts. Dominant physical sensation is a tension in the throat. This is an old area of contraction which started when I was about 10, in the form of compulsive clenching and vocalizations. I recall the throat chakra is related to self expression, so hypothesize this is something to do with the feeling of not being able to express myself. Back then I really wasn't able to express myself (exiled to boarding school). Nowadays I tend to put myself in situations (mostly just imagined) where I feel unable to express myself. I started to run through things I feel unable to express, but it didn't feel like it was getting to the root of the tension. Instead I tried droppping the ideas and bathing the tension in sukha, which felt more healing. Indeed it started to feel like genuine compassion for myself.

Stuff like this used to make me think "oh there's goes another self-absorbed Buddhist saving the world", but I realize now it's impossible to feel genuine compassion for others if you don't feel compassion for yourself. It can be an uncomfortable fact at times but everyone needs compassion, whatever they have done. Eventually I felt as if I was being bathed in compassion, bliss and the breath all at the same time. This is a totally new feeling for me. Then the intensity dropped and I started to feel a bit more dispassionate about the whole thing. Back to reality, I'll just see if I can piss everyone off a bit less today LOL.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Short mid-afternoon sit. The sukha is immediately glorious. I'm just sitting there like a love-struck idiot, gawping at the beauty of it, tears welling in my eyes. It's almost painfully beautiful. Part of that pain is the poignancy of it, knowing this is by far the most beautiful thing I have experienced and yet it cannot really be shared. Painful also is the knowledge that the beauty is proportional to the degree of letting go - it makes a mockery of all mundane efforts to control experience and create a better life. And yet it is still unsatisfactory, because I'm still there in the middle of it and that sense of being the owner of the experience creates dissatisfaction. But I'm reluctant to let go of that because I'm transfixed by the beauty. The words of Maha Bua keep running around in my head, something to the effect of "this is the true avijja (ignorance) and yet you don't recognize it." It's like this is the purest essence of everything we consider to be special, beautiful and valuable. And you're supposed to turn your back on that? Total respect for the cold-hearted motherfucker who can just shrug and walk on by.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Short evening sit. Getting more accustomed to the new level of sukha/bliss. Spent time savoring it, bathing pains in it and also gently investigating it.

Pains are 1) pulling sensation on lower lip, as if there was a weight attached to a fishhook hanging off it (probably payback for the time I spent fishing as a youngster - I was always uncomfortable with actually catching the fish); 2) tension in throat, as if my vocal chords are being stretched; and 3) pressure on chest bone, as if there was a weight on there. These pains are mild by comparison with the facial pains I had and I'm more accepting of them and comfortable they will get worked out. Technique is to relax into them and feel the fluctuations, try to get the waves to join up with the ambient bliss field.

When I was dominated by piti I couldn't really distinguish the sukha and appreciate it much. Now when I sit the sukha is immediately present and it's kind of there in the background off the cushion as well. It's mellowed me out a bit and judging by people's reactions to me today I'm being less of an arsehole. I can still generate piti if I want to but it feels way too coarse and unpleasant by comparison with the sukha.

In terms of investigation, being critical here, whereas the piti was too fizzy, the sukha is a little too sugary, a bit sickly sweet. It also has its own intensity to it which gets a little tiring. I couldn't drop the sukha though, it was just getting more intense and since I'm tired and have zero inclination to push things right now, I'm calling it a night.
Tim Farrington, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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agnostic:
Short evening sit. Getting more accustomed to the new level of sukha/bliss. Spent time savoring it, bathing pains in it and also gently investigating it.

Pains are 1) pulling sensation on lower lip, as if there was a weight attached to a fishhook hanging off it (probably payback for the time I spent fishing as a youngster - I was always uncomfortable with actually catching the fish); 2) tension in throat, as if my vocal chords are being stretched; and 3) pressure on chest bone, as if there was a weight on there. These pains are mild by comparison with the facial pains I had and I'm more accepting of them and comfortable they will get worked out. Technique is to relax into them and feel the fluctuations, try to get the waves to join up with the ambient bliss field.

When I was dominated by piti I couldn't really distinguish the sukha and appreciate it much. Now when I sit the sukha is immediately present and it's kind of there in the background off the cushion as well. It's mellowed me out a bit and judging by people's reactions to me today I'm being less of an arsehole. I can still generate piti if I want to but it feels way too coarse and unpleasant by comparison with the sukha.

In terms of investigation, being critical here, whereas the piti was too fizzy, the sukha is a little too sugary, a bit sickly sweet. It also has its own intensity to it which gets a little tiring. I couldn't drop the sukha though, it was just getting more intense and since I'm tired and have zero inclination to push things right now, I'm calling it a night.

I think "being less of an arsehole" is the highest practice! And yeah, fuck that sukha/bliss stuff beyond a certain point, get your sleep. Let the ambient bliss field ambiate according to dependent origination.

love, tim
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Ah yeah, thanks for the reminder about DO - nothing special about these experiences, just a function of letting go. Getting attached to them will just created its own  problems emoticon 

What happened to your log Tim? Kind of missing a warm beer at the Bardo of Last Resort these days ...
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Short morning sit. The sukha/bliss was more mellow and I noted that I felt wistful about that, so I reflected on the disadvantages of being attached to it. That allowed me to drop the remaining sukha and settle into equanimity. The defining characteristic seemed to be a certain kind of coolness, like suddenly finding yourself in a cool air pocket on a hot day. The simile of being draped in a white sheet also came to mind. I found it hard to appreciate the benefits of equanimity until I had experienced being blissed out to the max. I tried rekindling piti and then dropping back through sukha into equanimity just to confirm what was going on. In summary: piti = fizz, sukha = sugar, equanimity = cool. It felt like I could spend a long time just hanging out in equanimity, but I was interrupted by my son wanting to play, god bless him. 
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Evening sit. Bliss all the way, a little more mellow. Occasional piti wave traveling downwards from the heart to the seat, very pleasurable. Jaw and throat opening up, still a little tensed. Heart radiating more, still some chest pressure. Trying not to get emotionally carried away by the bliss, some gentle investigation but leery of killing it prematurely as I feel like it's doing some important healing. Bliss got a little intense and tiresome after 45 mins, turned it down and tried to shift into equanimity but mind was too stirred up and was getting tired. Off the cushion experience is a bit more spacious and calm, although the usual aversions are still rattling around in the background. Generally happy to be having a deeper experience of the jhana factors, giving me more confidence in and gratitude for the Buddha's teachings.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Still feeling pretty blissy. I started worrying that if I get accustomed to it then I will be annoyed when it passes, but I reminded myself that it is just generated by letting go. That in itself was enough to let go of the worry and turn up the bliss. I don't want to declare victory yet, but it's nice to think that problems can be addressed by letting go and bathing them in bliss. That might sound like bypassing, but I recall Ajahn Brahm saying somewhere in his book that if he has a problem then he goes into jhana for a while and the solution usually presents itself. Who knows, maybe he's a spiritual bypasser too emoticon
Tim Farrington, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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agnostic:
Still feeling pretty blissy. I started worrying that if I get accustomed to it then I will be annoyed when it passes, but I reminded myself that it is just generated by letting go. That in itself was enough to let go of the worry and turn up the bliss. I don't want to declare victory yet, but it's nice to think that problems can be addressed by letting go and bathing them in bliss. That might sound like bypassing, but I recall Ajahn Brahm saying somewhere in his book that if he has a problem then he goes into jhana for a while and the solution usually presents itself. Who knows, maybe he's a spiritual bypasser too emoticon

yeah, this bliss stuff is clearly fucking you up bad, mate. Another yogi bites the dust in bliss. It's sad to see it. I will dedicate my dukkha to you, like sending flowers to a funeral.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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I just need them to reopen that damn Bardo of Last Resort and then I can go on a proper bender.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Afternoon sit. Sukha has mellowed and tensions in jaw, throat and chest are more apparent. Focused on relaxing those areas and trying to "caress them with attention", which caused some powerful rushes of piti. Spent most of the session repeating that process, with slightly different areas of focus and depth. The experience of piti  definitely varies depending on which part of the body I'm unknotting. I tied to apply the lessons I learned from clearing my forehead pains: relax, flow, breathe. That took about a year and I don't want to protract this process unnneccesarily. The confidence which comes from knowing it can be done helps. A couple of times I moved past piti and into early sukha, but new tensions and piti rushes would come back. It's a tiring process and that's another lesson I learned before: it can't be forced, have to let it happen in its own time. Better to sit for shorter periods more frequently rather than try to clear it all out in one monster sit, which leads to frustration and fatigue and ultimately protracts the process I think.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Evening session. Powerful tension release session. Started with the throat tension and somehow dropped the labels and got much more interested in the actual sensations. Observed a fascinating array of interleaving sensations, chromatic richness, forgot it was pain or tension at all. Was drawn to the edges where the sensations undulate and ripple into the surrounding areas. Tried to find the centre but it as empty, just a hole where the label was applied.

At this point I got drawn into a beautiful melded piti-sukha bliss state with a lot of emotional release. Feelings of joy and satisfaction at gaining some mastery over the mind, as well as sadness about all the things I was letting go of. Releasing specific tensions brought to mind things like success, talents, renown, money - all the things I was so attached to and have deep roots in my body.

I felt like I could have gone further but the intensity was strong and I'd rather let it out bit by bit than fry myself.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Short morning sit. Similar dynamics to last night of tension release and piti-sukha. There was a strategizing mind loop running something like this:-

"While this is very pleasant and it's nice to have some ability to control the mind, I know this is not 'it' and I don't want to get stuck here. On the other hand, I know I have a strong critical tendency so I should give myself a chance to enjoy it for what it is and let the healing process work."

What I notice here is impatience and some aversion to the bliss, as well as a false sense of being in control of the process. In reality the piti-sukha is just a mechanical reaction to letting go, and letting go happens when dukha becomes strong enough and the right conditions arise.

I guess the correct strategy is to stay as close as possible to the actual physical sensations and avoid theorizing, or at least see it for what it is - a misguided attempt to reassert control? I'm interested if anyone has any suggestions ...
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Olivier, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Hi George,

We haven't exchanged much yet.

I think you should wallow in the bliss and let it lead you on.

What you're writing reminds me of a certain time in my practice when i was practicing using AB's book. It led to very positive stuff. Stop overthinking it and just enjoy meditating please emoticon emoticon You're not gonna get stuck, and if you do, that's a problem for the future. It's easier to go from bliss to discernment than the other way around. A smooth and joyful mind is the most conducive to deep insight.

Cheers,

Olivier.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Thanks Olivier, that's exactly what I needed to hear! 
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Zachary, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Olivier:
Hi George,

We haven't exchanged much yet.

I think you should wallow in the bliss and let it lead you on.

What you're writing reminds me of a certain time in my practice when i was practicing using AB's book. It led to very positive stuff. Stop overthinking it and just enjoy meditating please emoticonemoticon You're not gonna get stuck, and if you do, that's a problem for the future. It's easier to go from bliss to discernment than the other way around. A smooth and joyful mind is the most conducive to deep insight.

Cheers,

Olivier.

I agree. Feeding on this jhanic bliss is still feeding (perhaps why you feel guilty) and yet it's a more skillful form of feeding than the usual things the mind uses as food sources. You can think of it as "trading up" to better ways of feeding. If you're able to feed on the bliss and feel satisfied, then you're less likely to go out into the world and cause problems for yourself and others in trying to secure the mind's food supply in other ways (whether it be material, emotional, etc.) So a better way to orient yourself aroud the bliss is that you're actually doing yourself and others a big favor by making yourself feel good just sitting there doing nothing, on some level it's a practice in compassion and generosity. 

I am more or less paraphrasing something Thanissaro Bhikku talked about but I can't find the exact source at the moment. 
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Thanks Zachary, that's a really helpful way to look at it. The guilt is ridiculous. It's amost as if I feel more guilt sitting there getting blissed out doing nothing than I did about all the harmful ways I was feeding before. There's a kind of cognitive dissonance - the materialist mind can't comprehend getting so much pleausure from doing nothing!
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Afternoon sit. Sukha/bliss was gone, mind felt sluggish and discontented. Normally this would be a yucky dark night session, but the idea popped into my head of trying to observe the parallel between the third vipassana jhana and the third samatha jhana (or at least what I know of it from the experience of sukha). Specifically I was observing that attentional aspect of things being on the periphery. The yuckiness was on the periphery but the centre was calm and empty, similar to the experience of sukha. That's all it took to reignite the sukha and make me feel happy again about sitting. The thought crossed my mind that if discontent can be overcome so easily on the cushion, maybe it can be applied off the cushion as well.

Anyway, after that I was back into relaxing body parts and experiencing piti rushes as before. Still it was quite exciting and tiring and the mind would balk at fully settling, either spinning thoughts or generating strong piti rushes. Afterward I re-read the part of Ajahn Brahm's book about the different kinds of piti and realized that I might be focusing on the more physically thrilling piti at the expense of the calmer variety born of letting go. There's a lot in that book I overlooked or forgot, including his account of anapanasati which has some good practical tips. The takeaway was to keep doing what I'm doing but look for a calmer experience.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Evening sit. Following Ajahn Brain, trying to calm the experience of piti-sukha so it's less of a physical rush and more of a stable mind bliss. Had some success and moments of intense stillness and the mind lighting up a little. Trying to cultivate the peace and beauty of it so that thoughts lose their appeal. Dropping the guilt and aversion to the bliss - why feel bad about feeding the mind healthy food for a change?
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Morning sit. Following Ajahn Brahm's description of anapanasati now. It's simpler than Buddhadasa and more directly aimed towards jhana. I'm noting less to minimize thoughts and the tendency to create a narrative around my experience to post afterwards. Not much point in focusing too much on the tensions and pains because they tend to reduce naturally once the bliss (piti-sukha) arises. Working on a calmer experience of the bliss now, in preparation for a more stable experience of citta. Realizing that if too many thoughts arise during the later stages then it's because I didn't spend enough time in the preparatory stages (present moment awareness and silent present moment awareness). But that's ok because at any point I can go back a couple of steps and boost it up. Actually it's quite useful to do that because you get a better sense of the purpose of each step. Will post a more detailed description of the steps if I have time and anyone is interested.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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I'm just posting my summary of Ajahn Brahm's approach to anapanasati from his book Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond. This is to imprint it in my mind so I don't need to think about it too much while I'm actually practicing, as well as for anyone who is following. I was following Buddhadasa's book Mindfulness of Breathing before, but he has more of a vipassana approach at the citta stage (step 9) whereas Ajahan Brahm is more purely focussed on jhana which appeals to me more at the moment since I'm mostly practing samatha. As always, comments welcome.

Preliminary Steps

Step 1: Present-Moment Awareness.
Give your attention to the present moment, abandoning all thoughts about the past and future.

Step 2: Silent Present-Moment Awareness. Abandon all thoughts and inner speech about the present moment (including running commentary on your meditation) by attending to each successive experience very closely. As a way of solidifying your intention, you can set up a gatekeeper to the mind with the instruction not to let any unwanted thoughts enter.

Anapanasati

Steps 1 & 2: Awareness of Breathing.
Start focusing on the breath, observing when it is long/short, heavy/light, rough/smooth etc.

Step 3: Awareness of the Whole Breath. Immerse your mind fully in the whole process of breathing (sabba kaya patisamvedi).

Step 4: Calm the Breath. As you relax your breath will calm down, which calms the body (breath is called kaya sankhara which means body conditioner). In practice I tend to find myself circling around steps 1-4 a few times. When I start focusing on the breath it is normally a bit uneven. When I relax it becomes smoother, slower and smaller (carbon dioxide buildup which is relaxing). But relaxation brings release of bodily tensions, which can cause the breath to become uneven again and the process restarts.

Steps 5 & 6: Experience Joy & Happiness. With relaxation comes the experience of joy & happiness (piti-sukha). According to AB sukha can’t be experienced separately from piti until the third jhana proper, which I haven’t experienced. I have developed a sense of piti as more of a physical feeling of exhilaration and sukha as a more emotional feeling of happiness, but I think this is unhelpful at this stage as it caused me to get excited by piti which makes the breath uneven again and stirs up the mind. It seems better to focus on piti-sukha as a single package of bliss and try to make it as smooth and beautiful as possible, without getting excited by it.

Step 7: Experience the Citta Sankhara. Citta is the mind and depending on your translation sankhara is either the conditioner or the thing conditioned. Either way, you are transitioning from piti-sukha being a physical & emotional experience to being a purely mental experience.

Step 8: Calming the Citta Sankhara. You can get excited by the experience of piti-sukha, so try to calm it as much as possible. I tend to find myself circling around steps 5-8 as well.

Step 9: Experiencing the Mind. Aim for an experience of pure mind, which ultimately gets reflected as a nimitta. I can only experience the beginnings of this because my mind is not yet calm enough, so I won't post the rest of the steps into jhana and beyond.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Afternoon sit. Deepened and stabilized the experience of piti-sukha bliss a bit further. When it gets really calm I notice there is a slight wobble or shimmer in the experience of the bliss/breath/mind (they are tending to get merged at this point). I realized that it's due to trying to hold onto the experience a bit to tightly or control it. When I let go of that it then it stabilizes further. There is still some anxiety and excitement due to the depth/intensity of the experience. It's hard not to get exited when you are finally experiencing the bliss you only thought happened to other people in fairy tales. The anxiety comes from the fear of being annihilated by the bliss - it's so much bigger than me or anything I've ever experienced before. The key here I think is just to take it slowly and give myself a chance to acclimatize. I would be lying though if I said I wasn't excited to be making some progress and greedy for more, which of course is counter-productive.

I try not to spend too much time thinking about it, but I can't help speculating about the tension in my throat. The forehead pains I experienced seemed to be related to neurotic ways of thinking. From what I've read about chakras, the throat is related to speech. That's definitely an area I could work on. I tend towards sarcastic or cynical speech, or to say things which I know will antagonize or annoy other people. Mostly it's fairly low level but it's still indicative of a pervasive level of ill will. If I can correct this then it would be good for everyone around me and I imagine it would contribute further to calming my mind.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Evening sit. Breath was somewhat uneven, due to deeper release of tension down in the belly region now. There were ripples of energy down my body, similar frequency and feeling to the bliss wobble from earlier. Mind was stirred up by the new sensations and it felt like I was sitting on a piti volcano which I dare not release all at once. Calm was more elusive but that's fine, I've been here before, it's a familiar pattern of progressive tension release. Feelings of gratitude and confidence about practice.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 4 (Riding the Ride)

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Woke up early feeling edgy and disatisfied after an emotionally charged materialistic dream. I was sailing a fine old yacht with my mother and kept making mistakes. It's interesting because normally it was my father who is the hyper-critical one, but she can be very judgemental and in this dream I felt ashamed of my incompetence. It seems the yacht is a symbol of my mother and my inability to please her. Old baggage, time to let it go methinks.

It's interesting that I should dream about my mother just when the bliss is getting so powerful and satisfying. I know that people tend to project deities as being perfect all-loving mothers or fathers. I don't want to reify the bliss too much, but there could be a bit of that going on here and I don't think it's an unhealthy transference, at least temporarily. The bliss seems to be a place that I can reliably go to for those things I couldn't get from my mother - acceptance, comfort and unconditional love.

Throat tension was stronger (or awareness of it is increasing) but I'm trying not to obsess about it. Reminding myself that I didn't cure my forehead pains by thinking about my neuroses; they just dissolved due to a mixture of proper breathing, gentle awareness, relaxation and the passage of time.

I was able to calm my breathing more this morning. I found it helpful to repeat phrases to myself like "relax, it's ok, you don't need to go anywhere, everything you need is right here, no need to think about it, just sit back and let it happen, enjoy." Sounds cheesy but it really works!

I finally made the connection with what people mean by this "rotor" effect. I realized they are talking about the sound of a helicopter from a distance right? I think that's the same thing as this wobbling or shimmering vibration in the bliss I've been describing. I also think it's the same thing as the very harsh vibration that I experience occasionaly during sleep paralysis. It seems to be different variations of the same underlying phenomenon depending on the mental state - the result of clinging too tightly to certain aspects of mental or physical experience. Maybe AB is even referring to the same thing when he talks about the tendency of the nimitta to wobble in the first jhana due to trying to hold onto it, which is how he says vitakka-vicara manifests at this depth. Or maybe I'm just succumbing to my tendency to over-generalize, which is a kind of intellectual power grab!

Anyway, the trick I found which works is the same as how I learned to escape the sleep paralysis vibrations, which is to relax and fall into sync with it, so that there is no tension left to sustain the vibration. I played around with relaxing my jaw tension and noticed that at first the tension felt like a solid block because the vibration frequency was so high I couldn't even "hear" it. Then I relaxed it a little and it became a high pitched hum. Relaxing more it became the 10hz rotor which feels loud and throbbing. Relax more and it was the 1hz wobble. Relax that and it's gone. It explains why deep relaxation can feel more stresssful at first, as the vibration falls into the auditory range and the more noticeable frequencies.

I was posting as I meditated this morning and clearly a lot of theorizing about mechanics and less attention on the breath. I just wanted to get the techniques down so that next time I don't have to think about them and can get back to the breath!

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