JazzMuzak's Practice Log - Discussion
JazzMuzak's Practice Log
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.
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.
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.