JazzMuzak's Practice Log

Jazz Muzak, modified 5 Months ago.

JazzMuzak's Practice Log

Posts: 33 Join Date: 9/27/19 Recent Posts
Hello. I'm not sure how often I'll post here, but I thought it would be fun to keep a journal of what's going on in practice. Kind of wish I'd done it sooner. For reference, I've been practicing Buddhism in some form or fashion for about six years, when I found Ram Dass and then later MCTB. I got approximately nothing done for about four years, although I'm sure that time primed the pump in some way. I certainly think all the reading about nanas and all that rot put some things in perspective in a nice way. Explained a lot about my adolesence.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I was vaguely into meditation, got into LSD, which got me VERY interested in meditation, worked with TMI stuff and then jumped into the vipassana stuff from MCTB, got some insights, spent some time in the cycle, may or may not have finished a cycle or two depending on your standards (and my standards on the day you ask me, hyuk hyuk hyuk), and now I practice pretty regularly again after taking a break. It's been a wild couple of years and this forum has been a great help. I spend most of my dharma-socialization-time on Discord these days, but lurking on here was a great help when I needed it.

I wrote this practice report to a friend of mine, and I figured it wouldn't hurt to repost it here:


Lately I've been sitting more often, and making more effort on my moment-to-moment vipassana practice. I had an event/shift in early August that felt "final", in a way, and I laid off the practice for awhile to see what was up with that. No longer feel like that was as "final", as I thought.

In daily life, there are times where I am caught up in mental content, times where I am present with reality, times where I am successfully vipassanizing reality but duality isn't obvious, and times where I am successfully vipassanizing reality but duality is quite obvious. This is trending more and more towards the later part of that scale, with periods stuck in content being clearly bookended by periods of strong mindfulness, and usually with a good "stuck in content" note at the end.

In sitting practice, I'm finding calm tranquil states quite easy, often not noticing Jhanas 1-3 or noticing them in a tranquil way before dipping strongly into 4th Jhana. No luck with the Formless Jhanas right now, which is fine. I've been using 4th jhana as a stepping stone into vipassana, although I also sometimes jump straight into it at the start of a sit.

Noticing a couple solid techniques, noticing a sensation and focusing on it's connection to the reference point, noticing a sensation and using it to locate the reference point in space, concentrating directly on the reference point (which often creates a new reference point that the former point is in reference to), and sometimes noticing how some sensations appear to clearly stand on their own, without a reference point. It is unclear right now whether this last mode is a true seeing into non-duality or if the reference point is so subtle I'm missing it.

Also continuing to notice impermanence in real time, feeling all the sense doors break up into bits. Using the visual sense in particular to notice grasping, how I can drop the "interpretation" from the raw data and watch it become incomprehensible.


Also noticing the spontaneous arising of actions and thoughts when I can, noticing how an urge arises that is either grasped or rejected by the mind. Noticing how this grasp or rejection feels like a choice that has "me" behind it. Haven't been able to see through that to notice if that's a spontaneous arising as well, so the mind's current assumption is that there is someone somewhere making decisions.

What I'm noticing is that while large portions of the sense field have been sussed out as clearly impermanent, dissatisfactory, and not-self, there are other portions and patterns that arise that really mess me up and are clearly identified with. Certain thought patterns that the mind absorbs into and says "yes this is 'me'" in some way. Intentions and actions that are similarly identified with, although if I'm mindful, it seems that bodily actions (walking around, driving, eating, peeing) arise basically on their own.



Also noticing the most irritating little thing in the head/neck/chest area (what I referred to as the "reference point" earlier) that seems to be a center, a watcher. Not necessarily a controller or a doer, but some sort of perceptual nexus that all reality filters through. This is completely maddening in a way that is difficult to describe. Some part of being understands that this is somehow a flaw, or otherwise unnecessary, but it is extremely hard to pin down.




So, uhh, anyway. Not sure how these practice logs are supposed to work. If anyone happens to read this and has anything to point out or any questions, I'm happy to hear it! I try not to be shy about my experience and if you see bullshit to call out or advice to offer I am all for it.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: JazzMuzak's Practice Log

Posts: 5375 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Seems like a great way of logging to me. 

What you are describing with regard to that reference points sounds incredible similar to what I was working with that led to stream entry, although of course I can't be sure if it is the same kind of reference point. I'm not saying that you haven't finished a cycle or two, as I'm in no position to judge that. I'll just share what was helpful to me in working with my sense of a reference point, and whether that is helpful in your case is for you to find out for yourself. 

Working from 4th jhana is excellent. I couldn't have done it without 4th vipassana jhana. I was instructed by Michael Taft to work with the impermanence of a single reference point and really follow it closely as it vanishes, to see the vanishing. And of course, you can't see the vanishing in a dualistic mode, because as soon as you turn the reference point (I used to call them subjective points) into an object, then a new reference point pops up, and thus it has already vanished. So from that 4th jhana mode, you need to transcend that illusive paradox. You already know this theoretically, but you need to do it in practice and be aware of the moment it happens. 

Since I did this (or undid it), this particular form of reference point has never popped up for me again. Selfing of course still occurs, in many annoying ways, but not like this. And this is obviously said with the caveat that I can't be sure we are talking about the same kind of experience. Maybe you have already dismantled the kind of reference point I'm talking about and found a new type that is still too subtle for me to notice as tangibly. Regardless, if it pops up in that tangible way, it sounds like that tech would do the trick, and you seem to be going in that direction already. I'm looking forward to reading updates. 
Jazz Muzak, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: JazzMuzak's Practice Log

Posts: 33 Join Date: 9/27/19 Recent Posts
Had a lovely hour long sit tonight. Sit duration is getting longer, we'll see if that holds up. Daily mindfulness seems strong, noticing more quickly during the day when I'm prodding at reality, thinking about how it sucks and I want something else or how I want it to stop changing, etc. Staying pretty clear about reality, not getting lost in my stuff very much, and when I do it's a smooth transition back into practice whenever that happens. Going in and out of practice states seems to pretty much happen on its own. Quite relaxing, in a way. Takes some of the work off my back as far as getting into a practice mindset.

Lots of cool stuff in my sits lately, but tonight was a particularly fun one. Sat down and started with some concentration on the breath to level out, then I pretty much just let whatever was going to happen, happen. Vipassana was in a pretty strong state, I noticed things and they pretty well dissolved under the sheer force of the noticing, it seemed. At one point things relaxed and there wasn't as much to work with, so I brought up a  koan a friend gave me to use as a mantra. After a while of using the mantra, the mind keyed into the way each syllable is its own little unit, and then those little units broke up and began to vibrate. The vibration blew up to the full-body level in some way, and I noticed how individual sensations where blasting in and out of existence very quickly. Been here many times before so it wasn't particularly shocking, so I was able to stay level and watch it happen with a certain level of equanimity.

After the vibrations calmed down, I spent some time meditating eyes-open. Watched visual space flicker, like everything I saw was made of static. Saw some cool hallucinatory type things, the light off my lamp turned into a dove at one point, which was quite beautiful. At one point it was like I took a "step back" in some way and saw the totality of my experiential reality in one big ball of stuff (except for the thing that had backed up to watch, I suppose). This felt quite profound in the moment, and felt quite "whole", and gave me the feeling that this was all there was, there was nothing to see or do outside of this space that knows. While this is going on, I'm noting the reactions to it, the "wow", the "wonder", the "this will pass", even the notion to "keep noting and don't get caught in this", etc.

Things calmed down considerably after that event, and I had a brief moment of deep fear that came up. Some shadows arranged themselves into a skull-type thing on my wall, I had the uncanny feeling that something was behind me watching, I began to fear that I was losing my mind, etc etc etc. I noted this and allowed it to pass, keeping a measure of equanimity throughout the process. It was beautiful in a way, because I could see how these sensations and thoughts were just sensations and thoughts coming and going to no one, in some interesting way. Knowing themselves, but some other process said "yeah this isn't real, nothing to be worried about", or something like that. Very interesting.

If there was a takeaway from this particular sit, it was that noting is good shit. I knew that already, but this kind of pounded that understanding in at a deeper level. I've had precious few sits where I've had mindfulness this strong. Part of me hopes this keeps up, another part of me notes that ideal, recognizes it as craving, and sees the root of that craving as the need to feel strong. It's basically pride, I suppose. That process seems to be coming through with a great deal of content right now, noticing specifically what gives rise to the many energetic movements of the mind and body. I feel like I'm at a good place with my practice, but I also fear that something is bogging me down that I don't fathom or recognize yet, and there remains the aspect that notes these feelings and susses out their prideful origins.

As usual, any commentary is appreciated. emoticon
Jazz Muzak, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: JazzMuzak's Practice Log

Posts: 33 Join Date: 9/27/19 Recent Posts
Funny how three months can just pass you by like that!

Lately practice has been, oh, 96% morality, let's say. Lately when I sit, I basically immediately go "yup, all just sensations, just like every other moment", and I get bored. Concentration practice feels bizarre to me the last several months, because it feels odd to try to manipulate sensations into the shapes and colors and impressions and feelings that I previously associated with jhana. It generally feels best to just let things be most of the time, although I hope at some point I can get over that and do some jhana stuff again. If I want, I can incline into jhana, but it feels forced and not particularly any better than normal rest, because normal rest pervades jhana as well. 

So, since sitting seems to be a bust lately, I work on morality, and boy, is that a tough cookie. Been largely irritated and agitated lately, outwardly at least. Most of the time I generally feel inwardly quite calm, even if there are reactions from the bodymind that seem not quite calm. It's very odd. I wonder if there's some bypass or supression going on. Things like pain, anxiety, anger, etc are seen extraordinarily clearly, almost like I can't avoid them. As soon as they are there, they are there, already known because... Well because sensations and knowing of sensations aren't different, I suppose. They "fit" into the grid, so to speak, but I can't quite blow them off. However, I will not rule out the possibility of there being something unseen in the seemingly strange way I can react outwardly while being utterly relaxed emotionally.

The last several months I've done bits of online teaching, which has been incredibly frustrating as well as incredibly rewarding. When someone really seems to "get it" and go back to their practice, I feel overwhelming joy. When someone really just doesn't get it and won't practice and generally flounders, I suffer incredibly. This is a great source of frustration in my life right now. Maybe I need to go back to the drawing board with my methods and really figure this whole teaching thing out. We'll see.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: JazzMuzak's Practice Log

Posts: 3877 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
The last several months I've done bits of online teaching, which has been incredibly frustrating as well as incredibly rewarding. When someone really seems to "get it" and go back to their practice, I feel overwhelming joy. When someone really just doesn't get it and won't practice and generally flounders, I suffer incredibly. This is a great source of frustration in my life right now. Maybe I need to go back to the drawing board with my methods and really figure this whole teaching thing out. We'll see.

Hmmm... how do you think your student feel about your teaching? To be honest, it doesn't sound like you're in a good place to teach with the high level of attachment to outcomes that you described here, let alone the hint that you don't quite have a plan and haven't figured it out. I don't mean to be disrespectful to you, but I do wonder, "Why this?"
Jazz Muzak, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: JazzMuzak's Practice Log

Posts: 33 Join Date: 9/27/19 Recent Posts
Hi Chris, thanks for the response.

I totally agree that something isn't quite syncing up right, which is why I've elected to stop trying at it for now. No disrespect taken, I think you're absolutely right. I think some part of me attaches to some ideal that I should be some awakened sage enlightening the masses, when clearly it doesn't actually work that way in reality. Something to work on, I think.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: JazzMuzak's Practice Log

Posts: 1643 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Jazz Muzak
So, since sitting seems to be a bust lately, I work on morality, and boy, is that a tough cookie. Been largely irritated and agitated lately, outwardly at least. Most of the time I generally feel inwardly quite calm, even if there are reactions from the bodymind that seem not quite calm. It's very odd. I wonder if there's some bypass or supression going on. Things like pain, anxiety, anger, etc are seen extraordinarily clearly, almost like I can't avoid them. As soon as they are there, they are there, already known because... Well because sensations and knowing of sensations aren't different, I suppose. They "fit" into the grid, so to speak, but I can't quite blow them off. However, I will not rule out the possibility of there being something unseen in the seemingly strange way I can react outwardly while being utterly relaxed emotionally.

​​​​​​​Hi JM!

I sometimes find myself reacting outwardly angry while remaining inwardly calm. At first I used to think 'ok cool, just more sensations arising', but now I see it as a form of repression or dissociation. A healthy experience of anger is the opposite - being able to experience the feelings without reacting or acting them out. Here's a passage from Wake Up To Your Life which talks about it.
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In the hell realm, the world is seen in terms of anger, and you react, to anger with anger. The experience is a constant striving against opposition. To empty the hell realm, you have to die to opposing. “To die to” means that you stop trying to avoid or put an end to the experience of opposition. You can avoid opposition by giving up, by losing whenever conflict arises, but giving up doesn’t free you from the anger inside. Often, it just intensifies it. You become increasingly resentful. Putting an end to conflict doesn’t end the anger either. You can win the battle, but acting in anger reinforces it, and the war against opposition goes on. You die to opposing when you can stay present in opposition and conflict. You stop trying to end the conflict by either winning or losing. You stay present in the experience of opposition, meeting all the internal reactions with attention and not falling into the projected world of opposition, the hell realm. When you can stay in conflict and opposition without moving to anger, you have begun to die to the hell realm.

I'm still figuring this stuff out and it's tough, but WUTYL is a great resource for working with emotional reactivity!

Best wishes
George
Jazz Muzak, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: JazzMuzak's Practice Log

Posts: 33 Join Date: 9/27/19 Recent Posts
Thank you for replying George.

I will continue to look into the suppression/ dissociation angle. Thank you for the book rec! I will check it out.
Jazz Muzak, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: JazzMuzak's Practice Log

Posts: 33 Join Date: 9/27/19 Recent Posts
Not as long between updates this time. Woo hoo! Mild... improvement? I guess you can call it that.

Still on the moral trip. Insight still feels tentatively "done", concentration hasn't been particularly interesting (one day maybe...), morality is, well all of waking life, so I'm there for the ride whether I like it or not! I've spent a lot of time considering what I talked about in the last long, namely, my frustration with teaching and the possible repression thing. Still not sure if what was happening really was repression, but I feel like I have a better handle on understanding the whole unfolding process that is stimulus > reaction, if that makes sense. It still feels like it unfolds on it's own but I no longer have emotions come up that surprise me, usually everything causally makes sense. If something irritiating happens, I feel all the little bubbling bits of the reaction as they build, rise, peak, fall, pass. Normal vipassana stuff I suppose, but I guess I'd be neglecting it. Funny how what I just described sounds exactly like an insight practice, but it really does feel like normal life/morality stuff. Hmm, another thing to contemplate I guess!

I know I said before I would probably try and drop teaching for awhile, but that noble intention was a bust, I'm still here talking to friends every single day about our mutual dharma struggles, trying to help and being helped in turn. I think recently there's been less of an entanglement with outcomes. These days when I offer advice I try not to get so caught up in other's reactions to the teaching, or how well the teaching seems to land. Instead I just throw out what feels helpful and skillful and see what happens. This is helpful because, if something doesn't quite work, instead of freaking out and blaming myself, I can take a breath and think of another way I might help in the future, or if all else fails simply walk away and assess that maybe I'm not the right person at the right time for this situation, relatively speaking.

Lately wondering if there's going to be new material coming up that "needs working on", in an insight sense. It's been a long time I feel, something like eight months since any serious work and four since the last minor "project" came up. I still notice POI cycles go by on their own, doing their thing, how they relate to all the happenings of my life. That seems quite inescapable, but more and more I'm able to completely relax into them, even during Dark Night stuff. Permeating all of this experience seems to be a deep trust that things are working themselves out as intended, and that I really don't have to worry so much. To compare, in the past I might worry myself sick during a Dark Night thinking that I had lost my way, that I was actually the most novice of novices, that I was totally deluded about everything, that I was mentally ill, that I was losing touch with reality and my practice, etc etc etc. These days, when similar states of confusion, worry, and fear arise, they come and go like the workings of a grand clock, each arising and passing away in turn just as they're intended to, imparting their lessons. I still feel like I "grow" in some way from these cycles in that I learn more and more about myself and the world, but now it seems to have become a moral/behavioral transformation rather than one of, say, meta-introspective-phenomenal-perceptional transformation, if that makes sense?

Signing off! As always any tips, ideas, pointers, feedback are appreciated. I learn much from everyone who replies.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: JazzMuzak's Practice Log

Posts: 5375 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Closely watching chains of reactions is definitely insight stuff. That's where it intersects with the morality work. Look for the dependent origination of it and the three characteristics in each step of it. Good luck! 

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