Flos Practice Log

Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Hello Friends.

I have decided that I need some guidance and am thus starting a practice log here (also after the kind reminder of Tim). I will now list everything that I consider important or that I think others might consider important.

My background:
  • I work at a university in computer science and filter everything through this lens. Thus, I am a very "academic" person that likes to conduct meditation/contemplation "experiments" to attain insight.
  • I am meditating for about 3 years now very consistently, and started after my father fell ill and passed away - as a tool to deal with the situation. Since it worked so well, and I had countless other positive effects, I kept the habit and build upon it.

What I read/heard:
  • Daniels book
  • Every book by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
  • Every talk by Ayya Khema I could find
  • The Nikayas except for the middle length discourses (yet)
  • I started reading the small manual of Abhidhamma by Bhikkhu Bodhi
  • Leigh Brasingtons books
  • All of Bhikkhu Bodhis books
  • I glimpsed into the Visuddhimagga (100 pages maybe and some bits here and there)
Again, my perception is likely very influenced by those people and their work - if that helps. I tend to go very close by the Theravada tradition and what I think the Buddha actually taught. I go mostly by occurrence frequency in the Suttas when it comes to perceived importance.

What I experienced/did so far:
  •  I started with Bhante Henepola Gunaratans method for the first year without many results, but small insights and learning something new about myself every other session
  • After a while I started reading other books and picked up Leigh Brasingtons method, which lead me into a few Jhana experiences that had a profound effect on me. Relatively quickly, I experienced what might be an A&P event. I was sitting on my office chair (works best for me for concentration, otherwise there is too much numbness) and whenever I closed my eyes, I started "spinning wildly" on my chair. At some point I just eased into it and looked. The spinning stopped, and it felt like I sunk deeply into the depth of my skull and at that point I realized that I was perfectly fine with the thought of dying - which I feared quite a lot before.
  • After 2. I started toying with insight after Jhana and conducted tiny experiments in accordance with what the Buddha stated. I tried to "predict" what I would do, think or know next and failed every time. After one very deep meditation my brain stopped seeing itself as the "control unit" and I could "stand next to me" for hours and just watch what happened without "doing" things. Since then, I can see non-self whenever I incline my mind towards it.
  • After 3. I started pondering experiments with which I can see impermanence. After a while I started again, trying to predict what I would see next when I turned my head and noticed, that my brain only slowly "spawned" objects after they became objects of my consciousness. Objects were just popping up and my brain rationalized them being there all the time. Again, whenever I incline my mind towards that I can see it.
  • Shortly after that I noticed, that there seems to be a short "blinking" whenever the object of my consciousness changed. I noticed that it synced up with the rising of my chest and concluded that it must be because of the movement that created a big enough "difference" in perceived pictures. Again, I can see this whenever I incline my mind towards it.
  • I also noticed, that I pretty much have to do something all the time and am never truly at peace.
  • My newest experience was the "blinking" to the extreme. I was grocery shopping, had a small burst of anxiety and my perception started being divided into a chain of single frames. I noticed a new picture, then a brief pause, then another picture. That happened several times over the cause of a good minute, which gave me a mild case of anxiety. Not fun while shopping groceries.
  • A small note on fear: While I did a 16 week online course (dry insight, noting) with Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu I developed a fear of mirrors - might sound strange. But it feels very uncanny watching my image there. It also felt on one or two occasions very unsettling to watch other people into the eyes. It has gotten better lately, and it is definitely better when my gf is around. I recently started actively "looking" at what makes me afraid there and couldn't find anything really...
How I practice right now:
  • I meditate at least 2 hours each day formally (I sit on an office chair, not a cushion... no idea why, works best for me).
  • I do walking meditation when I am low energy/tired.
  • I do Metta when I am agitated negatively or annoyed.
  • I do vipassana/noting as a default.
  • When I feel little hindrances, I do Jhana.
  • Bit by bit, I introduce new mindful everyday chores. Thus far I do mindful dishwasher, showering, hair routine and introduce a new one every about 60 days.
  • I also try to be mindful whenever I can in everyday life.
I pretty much follow Ayya Khemas/Leighs method. I start with something that gets rid of the hindrances if there are any, and then I meditate and try to get concentrated (not too good at it). After the meditation I sit there experimenting/contemplating for a few minutes. I made good experiences with counting, but for some reason rarely have the energy to do something that tedious.

What else I do in everyday life:
  • I lift weights 4 times a week, pretty heavy.
  • I teach at university from my home office.
  • I have a girlfriend, if that matters.
  • I created a small meditation discord community and make videos for them and recently started doing a book about related things.
  • I spend a good bit of time teaching younger people online because I enjoy it.
I think that is everything for now.

And now to the questions:

I have never visited a retreat. Should I? I don't feel like I have too much time... work at university demands a lot and I can only go on vacation at specific times.
Any idea what I should do next or focus on? I have set myself the goal to attain stream-entry in 2021, if possible.

Any feedback is very welcome - I am always more than open to well-meant criticism!

Sincerely
Flo


PS: I will write here whenever I have questions or encounter something new!
thumbnail
Chris Marti, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 3865 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Hello, Flo. Welcome to DhO practice logging.

Why did you start to practice meditation? Sorry if I missed the explanation in your first comment, but this motivational part is always interesting to know.
Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Hello!

I pretty much started because the death of my father took quite a toll on me. Or as the Buddha would have put it: One of the divine messengers came to me. xD

I continued out of scientific interest though, after the worst symptoms were gone.

Sincerely
Florian
Martin, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 274 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Good to see you logging. It is very helpful for me to read people's logs.

I have been practicing for a fairly long time and I have never been on a residential retreat because I run a small business and I would have had to close the business to go on a retreat. But I have been on many weekend retreats and I can say that the impact is often (not always) profound. The conditions that are set up at a retreat are different from the conditions of ordinary household practice in a way that affects the outcome. Once retreats happen in person again, I would particularly recommend that because my guess is that being in a space dedicated to practice surrounded by people dedicated to practice may be key parts of the conditions.
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1538 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I could never go on retreat due to family constraints. A lot of progress happened for me by examining my reactivity in daily life situations, although that came a bit later. The early progress was due to strict noting practice. Mahasi Sayadaw's Progess of Insight was the rocket fuel for that. Good luck!
Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Hello friends!

Would anyone change something about my current practice? If I don't receive any feedback, I'll probably continue what I am doing anyway (with a slight upwards trend)!

Sincerely
Flo
Martin, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 274 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Flo:
Hello friends!

Would anyone change something about my current practice? If I don't receive any feedback, I'll probably continue what I am doing anyway (with a slight upwards trend)!

Sincerely
Flo

I can't see myself wanting to change anyone's current practice but yours, in particular, looks as if it was set up with considerable care. It's hard to imagine wanting to pull any Jenga sticks out of it. 
Tim Farrington, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Martin:
Flo:
Hello friends!

Would anyone change something about my current practice? If I don't receive any feedback, I'll probably continue what I am doing anyway (with a slight upwards trend)!

Sincerely
Flo

I can't see myself wanting to change anyone's current practice but yours, in particular, looks as if it was set up with considerable care. It's hard to imagine wanting to pull any Jenga sticks out of it. 

+1 on what Martin said. You go, Flo!
Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for the feedback you all!

I have maybe one question. I recently started "silent noting" if that makes sense. I just do the same as before but skip the labels. Daniel also mentioned it in his book. Is this fine as a default or is it generally better to "note out loud"?

Thanks in advance
Flo
Sam Gentile, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1023 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Flo:
Thanks for the feedback you all!

I have maybe one question. I recently started "silent noting" if that makes sense. I just do the same as before but skip the labels. Daniel also mentioned it in his book. Is this fine as a default or is it generally better to "note out loud"?

Thanks in advance
Flo
I am a hardcore noter. I find that its better for me to note outloud in being more present but I'm sure which way is better. This would be a good question for Papa Che.
Hector, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 85 Join Date: 5/9/20 Recent Posts
For flickers from kasina I find I can't note with spoken sound, in my head it's bip bip bip bip bip.
Tim Farrington, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Flo:

I have maybe one question. I recently started "silent noting" if that makes sense. I just do the same as before but skip the labels. Daniel also mentioned it in his book. Is this fine as a default or is it generally better to "note out loud"?

Full disclosure here, that my experience with internal and external verbalization comes almost entire from varieties of mantra work and prayer, so there is a large chance of apples and oranges here, or apples and unicorns, or unicorns and orange rinds, so my offerings will be general and modest and tentative, as possible orange rinds in relation to noting practice.

The broadest danger in letting go of verbalization in a technique is that you may be doing it out of laziness or from enjoying the ease of a space-out or from a sense that to do so is more "advanced." One of the main points of technique is that the humble by the numbers practice of it subverts laziness and space outs and makes "advanced" irrelevant; to do your technique cleanly and assiduously is to be doing what you need to do, period.

That said, there is a point in verbalization when it becomes more effortful to form the verbalization than seems worth the while. You can see what's seen enough before the word can form and the whole process of formulating the word seems clunky, and besides, you've seen three other things before the verbalization is complete, and now you're three, oops, four, words behind. In mantra/prayer, I take this verbal disjunct as a good thing and just allow the time for the verbal formulation anyway, because that's the fucking prayer, after all, and if it seems like it takes ten years to formulate the next word, I'm working on God's time anyway. Plus, it's sort of fun, seeing the verbal mind in such slow motion.

But again, that's a different method. So this is where you need a noting practice person, not me. I was trying to drag my feet on responding here, because I figured Papa Che would say something pithy, but he was too slow, lol. 
Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Thank you for the feedback!

I agree that it is relatively easy to space out. And in the beginning I did that a lot.
However, after "seeing" non-self over and over I noticed a very "obvious" difference between mindfulness as in "I know what I am currently doing since I observe myself" and what I thought was mindfulness before that. It made the distinction a LOT easier for me.

I like to compare it with what the Buddha often stated: "when a monk is walking he knows that he is walking, when he is sitting, he knows that he is sitting [...]. Aka he knows clearly what he is doing at every moment in time.

I will toy a bit with more verbal forms of noting and try to find out if there is a difference!

Sincerely
Flo
Tim Farrington, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Bueno. You seem to have a particularly strong anatta sense. And in noting terms, Daniel talks about speed and precision, with notings "perhaps up to forty per second or more, with an extremely high level of precision and consistency." He's obviously talking about seeing something without a matching verbalization in such places; it sounds more like seeing all the sparks from an exploding firework. It's "silent" but real. So you go, perhaps up to 40 times/second, with an extremely high level of precision and consistency!
Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
That sounds good to me. I have to admit though that the rapid noting Daniel suggests tends to make ma a bit paranoid/easy to get startled. The first few times after I did it I noticed an immense amount of small changes in the peripheral regions of my visual field, which, at least when I started, lead to a bit of anxiety. Maybe should try it again, knowing what to expect in advance.

Sincerely
Flo
Tim Farrington, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
If you get anything from me, get that I think you're doing just what you need to be doing. I don't think it's broke, and I don't think you need to fix it. The thoughts and issues you're raising come with the territory of conscientious practice; it is your conscientious practice that has gotten you this far, and it is your conscientious practice that will take you along your path. 
thumbnail
Olivier, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 731 Join Date: 4/27/19 Recent Posts
It does tend to have that effect, can be a bit distabilizing and lead to very clear cut, intense experiences. If it gets too much, know when to back out and relax. You might use the seven factors framework, if you know it, it implies being aware when excess anything is there and balancing that out with complementary factors ; for instance, tranquility, concentration, equanimity, when energy and clarity become too much or irritating. 

Cheers 
thumbnail
Pepe, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 330 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hi Flo,

Olivier:
It does tend to have that effect, can be a bit distabilizing and lead to very clear cut, intense experiences. If it gets too much, know when to back out and relax. You might use the seven factors framework, if you know it, it implies being aware when excess anything is there and balancing that out with complementary factors ; for instance, tranquility, concentration, equanimity, when energy and clarity become too much or irritating. 


Here you have a 1 page summary of Daniel Ingram's Seven Factors of Awakening Framework.
thumbnail
Papa Che Dusko, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1667 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
You are already getting good advice from other members here and I'm just adding my bit in hope to help you remove some of the doubt concerning speed and aloud vs silent. 

No reason to drive yourself nuts with speed noting if you feel it's too much. Please remind yourself that noting/noticing speed is subject to change. Each Nana stage has its own speed flavors emoticon 

If you can note 1-3 matter of fact sensations per second you are actually on top of this game. But even this can change when there is more "sinking into" the wonder and sensation occurs. 

Also remind yourself to be curious. Wonder about stuff arising emoticon 

Here is one way noting speed and curiosity can be; https://youtu.be/bhw0S-yWCjA


And here is how it can be when stuff is just popping up like pop corn in a hot pot emoticon
https://youtu.be/yBmemoticonTTPzdo


Both these ways are ok and correct. As long you are not being constantly lost in mind stories you are fine both with silent and with aloud noting. If lost too much then noting aloud sure helps keep you on track. 
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1538 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I also noticed, that I pretty much have to do something all the time and am never truly at peace.

If that's the way you are and you know it, then you could try making peace with that.
thumbnail
Niels Lyngsø, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 314 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
Hello Flo

Nice to meet you! I agree with the other guys here that you seem to be doing fine with what you are doing. I especially like your experimental attitude: You are trying things out on your own, investigating what works for you.

In my opinion, you should do the same thing with noting/noticing. Some people prefer using one specific technique (say, noting aloud, or choiseless awareness) no matter what. And if that works for them, fine. Others, like me, prefer to constantly tailor the technique according to conditions. For me noting aloud is a great support if I am very drowsy or very agitated, have many verbal thoughts etc. Typically during difficult sittings. When things get easier, I switch to just noting inside my head, and when they get even more calm and clear, I switch to choiseless awareness aka Do nothing aka Just sit. Also noting speed and which labels I chose to note with change during my practice. At one point, I only noted "pleasant", "unpleasant" or "neutral" for several weeks, because I found out that I was not very good at perceiving these qualities of experience. When the mind is just somewhat clear and calm it is impossible to note everything verbally, even if you do the shooting aliens-style of Daniel Ingram (di-di-di-di-di). There is just too much going on for even the inner voice to be able to follow along. At that point – and that would typically be at the Equanimity nana – noting can actually be a hindrance to seeing things clearly.

Regarding retreats I cannot recommend them highly enough! And if you are able to go, try to get at least a week, since the first two or three days usually are spent just calming the mind down. And THEN ... Your clarity and concentration just switch to levels you cannot imagine before you've been on retreat. That's my experience, anyway (just came out of a wonderful New Year Retreat, check my log if you are interested).

Finally I want to point you to this excellent ressource that has been a huge help for me and for a lot of other yogis here on DhO: a collection of posts by the very experienced yogi shargrol. It contains, among many other things, much valuable info on noting techniques.

Good luck with your practice, looking forward to following you!
Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for all the advice, friends!

I will try and make a retreat possible in the near future, since most people agree that it is a good thing. Until then, I will continue my regular practice as usual. Most of the centers in my region require me to visit an absolute beginners course (Goenka) before I am allowed to the more advanced stages. Is it still a good idea to go there?

And for "balancing the factors": Just today I encountered a very in-depth Sutta on that topic in the Samyutta Nikaya. And heard a few talks by Ayya Khema on it. I haven't thought about directly putting that advice to use though. I will think about it!

Sincerely
Florian
Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Now that I think about it, I have one more "urgent" question.

After finishing most of Daniels book, enlightenment doesn't seem too desirable anymore.
I feel like most of what he describes is actually negative, and I remember that it gave me a surge of demotivation.

Is it really worth attaining in the end?

All the concentration states and nirodha etc. sound very nice, but the insight part sounds mainly like a burden. The only truly "positive" statement I remember is that his friend Bill described fourth path as "highly desirable, but he cannot explain why".

Sincerely
Flo
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1538 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
In the limited way that I've experienced it, awakening isn't desirable per se because it involves seeing one's experience "just as it is" - without the craving for it to be different - even the acknowledgement that it can't be any different from the way it is. In my opinion, if your experience is nice/crappy before awakening then it will still be nice/crappy after awakening, you will just feel less inclined to judge it as desirable/undesirable.

Having a better experience of life is a function of purification (morality etc.), which may or may not make awakening more likely. So yeah it's an important judgement call to what extent you want to focus on feeling better and helping others (purification) vs awakening (truth seeking). The sensible advice is to focus on purification and let awakening take care of itself, although it seems that some people ignore that - possibly because they are impatient and so impure that they know they won't awaken fast enough if they focus too much on purification first! Also they may feel that purification will be easier "after awakening", but I think that's an open question.

There's also the whole question of whether you actually have any control over this process and could even make any kind of meaningful decision about it. For me, awakening violated my sense of autonomy and control in a pretty fundamental way. I could see that in some sense I was "already awakened" and it was just a question of getting to a place (through practice) where I could allow myself to see that. I don't like using that kind of language because it makes it sound like awakening is a personal attainment (like jhana or NS which definitely require some work), whereas for me awakening was much more like "reality recognizing itself" in an impersonal way. A more accurate description would be something like 'when you recognize that the present moment is all there ever is then you also see that this was always the case, even when you thought it wasn't'. Awakening also violated my sense of personal time, so the concepts of before & after awakening also cease to make sense.

I think it's natural to have some doubts and all you can do is meditate on those doubts and follow your natural inclination, taking into account the wide range of perspectives you will get on here. But I wouldn't call myself fully awakened by any stretch of imagination - maybe I'm just delusional! Hopefully someone else will offer a more constructive perspective ...
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1538 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Hi Flo, I was in a somewhat negative or fatalistic mood when I wrote the above. A more balanced reply would be that there are three divisions to the path - morality (more broadly personal development), serenity (absorption) and insight (awakening or seeing reality as it is). Pursuing insight without enough of a base of morality or serenity can be quite unstable and uncomfortable. If insight doesn't appeal so strongly at this point then that is perfectly valid and it makes more sense to focus on personal development and serenity, i.e. smoothing the ride before unleashing too much insight. From the perspective of ultimate insight (or at least what I've seen of it) one realizes one did not actually have such a choice, things happened the way they had to happen according to personal causes and conditions. But yeah in the relative space we all inhabit and practice and communicate with each other it totally makes sense to consider such choices and figure out what works best for you. I hope that is less unhelpful!
Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Thank you a lot for the clarification!

I have digged a little in the meantime in this topic and found similar statements from Ayya Khema.
She pretty much stated that insight without the purification of mind is possible, but not very nice.

For the "no choice" part - I think I am already aware of this. I can see, whenever I want, that thoughts, intentions, knowing, doing and all those things just arise on their own. Logically, it is not my choice, but I do still live "like it was my choice" the majority of the time.

Sincerely
Flo
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1538 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Flo:

For the "no choice" part - I think I am already aware of this. I can see, whenever I want, that thoughts, intentions, knowing, doing and all those things just arise on their own. Logically, it is not my choice, but I do still live "like it was my choice" the majority of the time.

That's totally fine too. Actually it's wanting to be in a state of "no choice" all the time which is the problem!
Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Hello friends,

yesterday I went seriously "hunting" for the observer for the first time.

I did not catch anyone (who would have thought) since I am not yet sure what I am looking for, but I found a deep calm instead.

I also discovered that my mind "despawns" objects that haven't been the center of my attention for a while.
I was just looking straight ahead at something, put my attention on the side regions and the smaller objects in the peripheral regions of my vision just vanished, even if I "looked" directly at them.

Not yet sure what to make of this, but it was interesting.

Sincerely
Flo
Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Hello friends,

I did not expect to write so much when I decided to log.
I was more expecting 1 post every few months.

Nonetheless, here I go.
I tried some advice from the Shargrol post collection and just sat. Without any goal.
I have never been a very emotional person, but the last few days only a few minutes into my regular 40-min meditations a warm feeling in my heart-region arose. In fact, it sometimes felt to pleasant that it made me tear up. It doesn't feel like the Jhana experiences I previously had - not at all.

Furthermore, it has been quite consistent. I just sit, and it arises. I don't even watch my breath, which puzzles me a bit. I do watch what happens though, took Ayya Khemas advice seriously and "entered the feeling like someone would enter a hot bathtub".

I guess I will spend the next few sessions either enjoying it, or inspecting it further.

Sincerely
Flo
thumbnail
Niels Lyngsø, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 314 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
"I tried some advice from the Shargrol post collection and just sat. Without any goal.
I have never been a very emotional person, but the last few days only a few minutes into my regular 40-min meditations a warm feeling in my heart-region arose. In fact, it sometimes felt to pleasant that it made me tear up. [...] I do watch what happens though, took Ayya Khemas advice seriously and "entered the feeling like someone would enter a hot bathtub"."


Lovely! And yeah, just marinate in that and observe what happens. emoticon
Tim Farrington, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Niels Lyngsø:
"I tried some advice from the Shargrol post collection and just sat. Without any goal.
I have never been a very emotional person, but the last few days only a few minutes into my regular 40-min meditations a warm feeling in my heart-region arose. In fact, it sometimes felt to pleasant that it made me tear up. [...] I do watch what happens though, took Ayya Khemas advice seriously and "entered the feeling like someone would enter a hot bathtub"."


Lovely! And yeah, just marinate in that and observe what happens. emoticon

Amen! Beautiful.
Tim Farrington, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Flo:
Now that I think about it, I have one more "urgent" question.

After finishing most of Daniels book, enlightenment doesn't seem too desirable anymore.
I feel like most of what he describes is actually negative, and I remember that it gave me a surge of demotivation.

Is it really worth attaining in the end?

All the concentration states and nirodha etc. sound very nice, but the insight part sounds mainly like a burden. The only truly "positive" statement I remember is that his friend Bill described fourth path as "highly desirable, but he cannot explain why".

Sincerely
Flo

Hi Flo, This is what I think of as "Where's the beef?" territory (a sort of joke on an old US commercial, played for hamburger comedy there, but deadly serious in this sense). It's the heart of practice, and if you don't find an answer that makes the heart beat, you roll up the mat. The very good thing about asking it whole-heartedly is that you find that your tolerance for bullshit and fluff and sugar-coating and glibness will be very low. This is your life, and you're asking why you should be all in on a path. I ask it myself pretty much every day. There are a couple of broad approaches to allowing the question its full and authentic scope, and the first one I think of is: what got you started on your path in the first place? In your case, it was quite clear: your father's illness, and death. It's the same thing that got Siddhartha going, when he left his palace one day, a happily married prince with a wife and child, and on his way along the road his eyes opened to the godawful reality of a sick man, an aging man, and finally a dead man. So Gautama, the awakened one, found his first awakening, awakening to the first noble truth, samsara dukkha, to the relentless reality of suffering pervading mortal human life. And then he saw a guy in orange robes, a yogi on the way, a rumor of solving that dilemma of relentless inevitable suffering, and he went off seeking the beef. And again, the rumor is that he found it, and everyone who has followed in his footsteps on the path has faced the question of whether that rumor has anything to it, and what that beef of nirvana could actually be. There are as many answers as there are people who consider the question, but the only answer that really matters is the one that rings true enough to you to motivate you to walk the path "toward" it. And at this point you've seen enough to know how difficult the path is, and to get a sense of how long and hard it may be, even if the rumors are true.

And you're at a point where your previous sense of the beef has been lost, through practice, partly, paradoxically enough: you've let go of some previous answers, and rumors you're hearing now sound sort of lame. I really do think, as a veteran of the high mortality rate of every rumor of "attainment" that had me chasing its truth, and every framing and image of the carrot that had me running after it as it dangled from the stick, always out of reach, that this is all to the good. What is the truth of the three characteristics, of transience, the incredible disappearing self, and the dukkha born of wrong desire? Let the 3 Cs take every rumor, there's fire test number one. Nothing is going to hold up, pretty literally: we see the emptiness of the formulations of the beef. But you've also got the deep, visceral, gut-and-heart corrective to bullshit beef: you know why you started, you know the unanswerable reality of deep and genuine grief. That's fire test number two: any rumor of beef that doesn't hold up at a loved one's funeral is not going to do it. This isn't an intellectual exercise, this is your life, and you've got to get out of bed every day and raise your child and love your girlfriend and everything else the duties of love require. What does meditation practice bring to that? 

The thing is, I suspect that you're fucked, at this point. Can you really imagine "going back"? Is there really some stable place of satisfactory existential eden somewhere behind you that you could possibly be satisfied with at this point in your life? If you rolled up the map, is there enough beef in your life for you to live it out without further desire for an answer to the questions that got you started in the first place in meditation? You're a deeply authentic person, that comes through strong here. You need to be honest here, ruthlessly honest, while your bullshit detector is on its high setting, it's a blessed window of that universal solvent doubt, and you should trust the scream of that bullshit detector. It may look like nihilism, letting the fire take all the rumors, all the supposed motivators, all the reasons and good things to attain and good things to be. It may feel like despair: emptiness and meaninglessness are less than a breath apart, in practice. But again, I suspect it's too late for you, you're not going to settle for hand-me-down bullshit now. I'd say sit with it. Sit with it like your life depends on it, and you don't know, and really obviously can't possibly know, what "it" is or could be or whether it's worth all the fuss and labor. And see what comes of that. Let "where's the beef?" be your koan, and let all the answers crap out. That's a daily practice I find I can live with. Seems like you're at a place where you could give it a try, lol.
Flo, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Thanks a lot for the kind words, I will keep them in mind.

I do not plan on stopping to practice or anything - there are too many benefits I already experienced.
You are very right in that sense, I have already gone too far.

I guess I'll just see where this all ends and will (hopefully) soon know for myself if all this Nibbana is in the end worth it.

Sincerely
Flo
thumbnail
Papa Che Dusko, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1667 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
"All the concentration states and nirodha etc. sound very nice, but the insight part sounds mainly like a burden."

You also mention Ayya Khema emoticon seems to me you lean towards Jhana/Shamatha path so why not embrace that instead. See what comes out it. But really do have faith in the practice and give it at least 6 months or longer even, as these things need to develop. 

See for yourself what absorption states are. Learn them well, enjoy them, see them for what they truly are. See if they are subject to the 3 characteristics or not. 

You can use breathing as object or another body sensation or Kasina of sorts. Stick with it, do it daily. See what comes out of it. 

Best wishes to you emoticon 

EDIT; let me say that this Path might not be a one of "attainments" but of "reduction" emoticon as in we don't know what we "get" at the end. We only ever know what we have "dropped away" developed dispassion for hence let go off. What is left at "the end" once all has dropped away? 
emoticon 
Sam Gentile, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1023 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Niels Lyngsø:
Hello Flo

Nice to meet you! I agree with the other guys here that you seem to be doing fine with what you are doing. I especially like your experimental attitude: You are trying things out on your own, investigating what works for you.

In my opinion, you should do the same thing with noting/noticing. Some people prefer using one specific technique (say, noting aloud, or choiseless awareness) no matter what. And if that works for them, fine. Others, like me, prefer to constantly tailor the technique according to conditions. For me noting aloud is a great support if I am very drowsy or very agitated, have many verbal thoughts etc. Typically during difficult sittings. When things get easier, I switch to just noting inside my head, and when they get even more calm and clear, I switch to choiseless awareness aka Do nothing aka Just sit. Also noting speed and which labels I chose to note with change during my practice. At one point, I only noted "pleasant", "unpleasant" or "neutral" for several weeks, because I found out that I was not very good at perceiving these qualities of experience. When the mind is just somewhat clear and calm it is impossible to note everything verbally, even if you do the shooting aliens-style of Daniel Ingram (di-di-di-di-di). There is just too much going on for even the inner voice to be able to follow along. At that point – and that would typically be at the Equanimity nana – noting can actually be a hindrance to seeing things clearly.


Hi Niels,

Haven't talked in a while. I just wanted to see ttis part on noting is very instructive and informatiomal/

Regarding retreats I cannot recommend them highly enough! And if you are able to go, try to get at least a week, since the first two or three days usually are spent just calming the mind down. And THEN ... Your clarity and concentration just switch to levels you cannot imagine before you've been on retreat. That's my experience, anyway (just came out of a wonderful New Year Retreat, check my log if you are interested).

Finally I want to point you to this excellent ressource that has been a huge help for me and for a lot of other yogis here on DhO: a collection of posts by the very experienced yogi shargrol. It contains, among many other things, much valuable info on noting techniques.

I echo this collection, especially the info on noting techniques.

Good luck with your practice, looking forward to following you!
Flo, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Hello Friends,

I have been practicing consistently (2h each day) for the past few weeks and am half-way through the post collection of Shargrol.
I read it slowly and try to put it into practice, thus I might need a while until I am all the way through.
Thus far, it has been very helpful for me, thanks again for posting!

As I understand it, the "maps" aren't too useful to me, as I only practice at home and not on retreat.
That said, a few questions arose in me concerning the EQ stages.

I am currently sitting exactly the way Shargrol explains.
Little "trying" and a lot of direct experience without wanting/inspecting etc and feel pretty EQ-like many times.
I can clearly see the Anatta aspects in almost all experiences and can pretty much notice if I am mindful or not if that mark is present.
I am also trying to spot all the subtle attraction and aversion when they arise.

That said, my mindfulness made what felt like a leap lately.
It has gotten a lot easier, almost effortless to remain mindful during meditation and often also during everyday life.
I have also gotten a lot faster at noting, as I seriously started discriminating the different mental phenomena.

That said, noting also got a bit weird, as I am observing "myself" noting all the time too, which can be pretty funky.
Thus I sometimes sit there noting and then noting that I noted that I noted etc...

That kind of practice doesn't seem too beneficial to me.
Oftentimes I just let my mind wander and just observe what happens without trying to control.
I am aware of what happens most of the time - little trance.

However, there is always a bit of slight fear of the unknown present.
I seem to have the opposite "problem" of most people Shargrol responded to.
I am not too ambitious to finally see Nibbana, but rather a bit fearful of it (but also curious).
The way Daniel described the three doors in his book sounds a bit creepy to me too.

Have any of you had similar experiences and maybe a hint for me on what to focus?
Yuttadhammo would probably advise me to just label the fear too, which is likely great advice that I fail to appreciate :X

Sincerely
Florian
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1538 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Fear of losing control or annihilation is pretty common when you're used to holding on tightly to stuff. Samatha/tranquility practice helps a lot with this because you start to get a feel for how nice it is let go for a while, to take the load off. emoticon
Flo, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
I see, thank you!

Interestingly, I thought that strong feelings of non-self already "prime you" for the loss of control... as you can clearly see that there is none. But I assume I am missing aspects.

Sincerely
Flo
Tim Farrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts

Ola, Florian, and thanks for your post. Loving your strong consistent practice right now!

As I understand it, the "maps" aren't too useful to me, as I only practice at home and not on retreat.
That said, a few questions arose in me concerning the EQ stages.

Practice is practice, at home or on retreat, and the times when the maps are useful will come in both. You don't seem to be in any danger of falling into the various traps of map-obsession, checking off milestones in a rush to the next thing, constant need to have your meditative GPS location down to the centimeter, and so forth. And EQ is a place where the maps essentially crap out anyway, lol. Trying to go anywhere else from EQ will generally get you back to the dukkha nanas. EQ is very no-place-to-go, like the no-exit sense of the dark night except that it is not oppressive. So you're probably okay resting easy with the maps right now. 

my mindfulness made what felt like a leap lately.
It has gotten a lot easier, almost effortless to remain mindful during meditation and often also during everyday life.
I have also gotten a lot faster at noting, as I seriously started discriminating the different mental phenomena.

That said, noting also got a bit weird, as I am observing "myself" noting all the time too, which can be pretty funky.
Thus I sometimes sit there noting and then noting that I noted that I noted etc...

That kind of practice doesn't seem too beneficial to me.
Oftentimes I just let my mind wander and just observe what happens without trying to control.
I am aware of what happens most of the time - little trance.


The sense of effortlessness in your noting is one of the keys here, I think. Niels actually said some stuff on this thread about a month ago that seems more relevant than ever to where you are at:

Niels: I especially like your experimental attitude: You are trying things out on your own, investigating what works for you. In my opinion, you should do the same thing with noting/noticing. Some people prefer using one specific technique (say, noting aloud, or choiseless awareness) no matter what. And if that works for them, fine. Others, like me, prefer to constantly tailor the technique according to conditions. For me noting aloud is a great support if I am very drowsy or very agitated, have many verbal thoughts etc. Typically during difficult sittings. When things get easier, I switch to just noting inside my head, and when they get even more calm and clear, I switch to choiseless awareness aka Do nothing aka Just sit. Also noting speed and which labels I chose to note with change during my practice. At one point, I only noted "pleasant", "unpleasant" or "neutral" for several weeks, because I found out that I was not very good at perceiving these qualities of experience. When the mind is just somewhat clear and calm it is impossible to note everything verbally, even if you do the shooting aliens-style of Daniel Ingram (di-di-di-di-di). There is just too much going on for even the inner voice to be able to follow along. At that point – and that would typically be at the Equanimity nana – noting can actually be a hindrance to seeing things clearly.

You do seem to be flirting with what he is calling "choiceless awareness, aka Do nothing, aka Just sit." The important thing is to not fool yourself here that "choiceless awareness" is somehow a better thing to be doing than that old noting stuff. In a way, what we call choiceless awareness is really just a very gentle noting, a noting lighter than a feather, and it is only really possible when you're able to note the ripples from the noting itself (which you actually mention in your post, i think). So "Do nothing" is noting without making ripples, if that makes any sense. And in practice, you'll still be seeing subtler ripples with every noting, for the most part, or learning to slip between the ripples, by a non-move of deeper unknowing.

However, there is always a bit of slight fear of the unknown present.
I seem to have the opposite "problem" of most people Shargrol responded to.
I am not too ambitious to finally see Nibbana, but rather a bit fearful of it (but also curious).
The way Daniel described the three doors in his book sounds a bit creepy to me too.


This is one of your strengths, lol, you really don't have the classic ambition drives, and you are very quick to assess whether the carrot on the stick is even something you'd want to eat if you ever caught up with it. This simplies things enormously. That "bit of slight fear of the unknown present" (and that's a great way to say it!) is exactly where you want to be. There is awe in that fear, and deep curiosity. It's the engine of meditation, hitting on all cylinders. The unknown present is exactly where you want to be. So keep doing or not-doing whatever brings you face to face with it. No need for drama, quiet and gentle is the way to go/stay here. 
Flo, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Thank you very much for your reply, it means a lot to me! =)

I think I am already doing the "gentle noting" frequently. I sometimes describe it as "noting without words". I just sit and know the experience but also notice how the noting itself changes things up. The less "loud" I note, the smaller the influence. Maybe that is what you mean by "ripples"?

I assume I will continue to go towards the slightly uncomfortable stuff and get familiar with it. It also worked with my fear of mirrors, it might as well work there!

Sincerely
Flo
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1538 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Flo

Interestingly, I thought that strong feelings of non-self already "prime you" for the loss of control... as you can clearly see that there is none. But I assume I am missing aspects.

I find there is both a mental aspect to anatta (thinking about and noting not-self) as well as a physical/energetic aspect (how the the body is tensed up in certain places and used to holding on to uncomfortable emotions and sensations in a certain way). The samatha really uncovers the physical clinging because it's a hindrance to deeper absorption.

Heading into the uncomfortable stuff is generally the right way to go, while respecting your limits of course. Loved the bit about fear of mirrors. I once read online that staring at your face in a mirror for half an hour without blinking would make you go crazy, so of course I had to try it. Might explain something ... emoticon
Flo, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Hello Friends,

yesterday I was practicing as usual but was very tired from work.
During the sits, nothing out of the ordinary happened.

However, once I went to bed I think I experienced an A&P event on the brink of falling asleep or even during sleeping.
It was a lot like Daniel described it in his book.
There was a strong "zapping" sensation that seemingly went up my spine and exploded inside of my head... if that makes sense.

Interestingly, my mind decided to be perfectly calm (after maybe a few mind-moments of surprise) during the entire experience and just observed what happens.
Nonetheless, I "woke up" afterward a bit disoriented.

Just yesterday I read a post from Shargrol in which he stated that most people experience thousands of those before hitting SE.
I guess this is 2/1000 then ;D

That said, nowadays I experience "mental lights" almost as soon as I close my eyes and can relatively effortlessly observe thoughts, urges, emotions, and also thoughts about thoughts as well as my own noting etc.

Just for my peace of mind: should I worry that I only experienced so few A&P events? I likely know the answer already =)

Sincerely
Flo
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1023 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Congrats on your A+P! Sounds like the classical definition of an A+P.
Flo, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Thank you!

Nonetheless, my "first" A&P is already half a year or more in the past (at least that's what I assume). I am just a bit confused that you are "supposed" to have them up to 500 times or more before reaching SE (likely more, since I don't really go on retreats) and want to double-check.

If I only had 2 thus far, it might be a much longer way to SE than I expected emoticon

Sincerely
Flo
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1023 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Flo
Thank you!

Nonetheless, my "first" A&P is already half a year or more in the past (at least that's what I assume). I am just a bit confused that you are "supposed" to have them up to 500 times or more before reaching SE (likely more, since I don't really go on retreats) and want to double-check.

If I only had 2 thus far, it might be a much longer way to SE than I expected emoticon

Who did you hear that from?  I have never heard that. I always heard A+P ->Dark Night -> CYcling > Equanimity -> Stream Entry
I have never heard 500 times
Flo, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Hi!

I've read it in this post collection: https://shargrolpostscompilation.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html#centeringinsteadofconcentration
That someone kindly links a few posts prior.

"An A&P event, Formless Realms and Cessation. Aspects of A&P events can very closely resemble the three main styles of cessation. Many times there will be an A&P event when someone isn't able to rest in EQ with enough centering. It's like the mind knows it wants to go higher but can't, so it grabs onto the closest equivalent. Very very common. That's why people need to know there will probably be 500 A&P events before first path. If most of this is off retreat, then maybe that number is 1000 or 2000 times. Calling an A&P event as Stream Entry is so common, when actually it's just another trip through the A&P ñana. It's very similar to how towards the end of second path there can be a "first-path-like cessation" instead of a "second path fruition" --- this happens all the time. Many times people will call it second instead of a repeat of first"

Sincerely
Flo
Tim Farrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Just for my peace of mind: should I worry that I only experienced so few A&P events? I likely know the answer already =)

The A&P in the shargrol post you cited here is being specifically counter-pointed to stream entry, cessation, fruition, and the formless realms, so the point he is intent on establishing, in context, is that the A&P is more common, and is often mistaken for a "higher" event, because we all want higher, and A&P is very prominently High. The larger context is that to call an A&P event something higher is to ultimately cheat yourself, while if you just let an A&P be a good old marvelous miraculous A&P, it leaves the door open for a distinctly and genuinely deeper and more integrative event. You don't lose anything by thinking of what may turn out to be a stream entry as an A&P, the fruits are the fruits and you'll taste them through time, but you may well lose something by thinking of an A&P as a stream entry, taking an unripe fruit as your standard. So that's the context of his point.

As for the numbers . . . what can i say, shargrol probably did a lot of drugs, lol. I certainly did, and I was a pretty cheap date myself, with smitten by God moments, but I wouldn't worry about it. In my experience you will get as much juice as you need to be plunged into deeper misery, and in terms of cycling many times through the nanas up to EQ, there will be a point in every cycle that gives you enough juice and energy to get you into the dark night. Call it an A&P, call it bait and switch, lol, but it's the tastes of The Good Stuff that keep us going, and if you're going to get through this whole journey (I hear it's doable), you're going to have enough of those tastes to get it done. Your taste does get refined, and what seemed like an A&P at some point can become something routinely experienced in meditation or off the mat, in time. But you'll chase the carrot on the stick right up until the carrot finally says, "Shit, man, put the fucking stick down, take me off the string, and just eat me." Then you will thank the carrot and the stick and the string, and you'll stop hauling loads for that cheap-ass farmer and open your own organic carrot farm.

Reading this over, I was trying to reassure you, but I see that if you are really listening, you will run away screaming now, lol. But honestly, fuck the numbers, and do the practice. That's what you knew you would be told, I suspect, lol.  
Flo, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Hi and thank you for your reply!

I naturally need very little to keep me going. I am more of a habit person and just continue doing the things I started forever, with a slight upwards tendency. Maybe I do not need as much A&P-reassurance =)
Also, I took very few drugs in my life (a handful of times weed) and want to keep my headspace somewhat clean. Whenever something bad happened, I was intoxicated so I take the 5 precepts pretty seriously... especially the intoxication one!

That said, Shargol also gave a very vivid description of what is and what is not SE. Combined with my scientific nature I hope not to fall for wishful thinking!

And do not worry, it is reassuring.
I guess I will hold the stick up for a little bit longer and reevaluate later!

Sincerely & thanks again
Flo
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 1023 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Hmm, consider me reeducated ...
Flo, modified 21 Days ago.

RE: Flos Practice Log

Posts: 34 Join Date: 11/5/20 Recent Posts
Hello friends!

I decided that it would be best if I had a teacher I could talk to.
It was nice for a while to figure everything out "on my own", but I feel I should move past that.

I am still struggling with concentration and am not too sure if I do everything correctly in general.

I think this might be the best place to ask:
Where can I find a qualified teacher, especially during pandemic times?
The area where I live doesn't have meditation centers or groups close by, and I am travel restricted.
I only have a diamond way center that doesn't feel like a good fit to me.
I have been there once and everyone was nice, but they meditate loudly with prayer beads and everything and I must admit that I am a bit repelled by that.

Sincerely & many thanks in advance
Flo

Breadcrumb