Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/12/11 11:26 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana tom moylan 9/12/11 2:43 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Nick W 9/12/11 7:40 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Eran G 9/12/11 10:09 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/13/11 6:51 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana tom moylan 9/13/11 7:27 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/13/11 7:35 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/14/11 8:40 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/17/11 1:51 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana End in Sight 9/17/11 2:22 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Tommy M 9/17/11 4:48 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana End in Sight 9/17/11 10:27 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/18/11 5:02 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana End in Sight 9/18/11 6:30 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana End in Sight 9/18/11 8:52 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 9/18/11 9:33 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/18/11 3:31 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/21/11 5:21 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/22/11 1:42 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/22/11 3:50 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana End in Sight 9/22/11 3:54 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana End in Sight 9/22/11 4:16 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/22/11 11:26 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana End in Sight 9/22/11 11:49 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/23/11 9:05 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana End in Sight 9/23/11 9:33 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/23/11 3:02 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/29/11 10:30 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 9/30/11 7:22 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 10/2/11 6:16 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana Liam O'Sullivan 10/6/11 1:02 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/12/11 11:46 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path End in Sight 10/12/11 11:08 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/12/11 11:20 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path End in Sight 10/12/11 11:35 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/13/11 12:00 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/13/11 8:55 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/16/11 6:16 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/20/11 2:13 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Tommy M 10/20/11 3:50 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/21/11 7:51 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Tommy M 10/21/11 3:31 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/21/11 3:59 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/22/11 3:18 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/24/11 3:42 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path End in Sight 10/24/11 4:00 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/26/11 10:35 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path End in Sight 10/26/11 4:55 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/2/12 4:10 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/31/11 9:26 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/31/11 12:47 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/31/11 10:13 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 11/3/11 1:02 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 11/6/11 9:44 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 11/7/11 7:55 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 11/8/11 4:07 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 11/12/11 12:14 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 11/14/11 8:23 AM
RE: Practice thread 2 Liam O'Sullivan 10/2/12 4:12 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Nick W 10/21/11 10:31 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/21/11 12:49 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Jane Laurel Carrington 12/5/11 7:05 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 1/22/12 2:26 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 2/8/12 3:15 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 2/23/12 7:02 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 3/1/12 9:55 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 3/11/12 5:43 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 3/20/12 7:06 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 4/1/12 7:16 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 4/18/12 10:43 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Richard Zen 4/18/12 4:58 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 4/22/12 11:07 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Richard Zen 4/23/12 9:26 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 5/1/12 9:51 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Stian Gudmundsen Høiland 5/1/12 10:47 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Richard Zen 5/1/12 2:13 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 6/5/12 9:08 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Bagpuss The Gnome 6/5/12 9:30 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 6/5/12 1:59 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Daniel Johnson 6/5/12 11:52 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 6/6/12 5:09 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/1/12 4:57 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/2/12 4:10 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path The Meditator 8/4/12 5:19 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/5/12 12:58 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/6/12 4:34 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/8/12 9:54 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/10/12 6:50 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Bagpuss The Gnome 8/10/12 9:53 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/10/12 2:27 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Bagpuss The Gnome 8/10/12 3:21 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/11/12 1:41 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/12/12 11:43 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/14/12 3:39 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path End in Sight 8/14/12 9:03 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/14/12 12:56 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/18/12 5:21 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Bagpuss The Gnome 8/19/12 10:52 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/21/12 12:07 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Andy W 8/28/12 4:51 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 9/1/12 7:36 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/19/12 7:29 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/24/12 2:46 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/26/12 9:46 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 8/28/12 1:26 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 9/2/12 5:12 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Change A. 9/2/12 9:27 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 9/6/12 8:37 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Tommy M 9/11/12 6:53 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 9/12/12 5:52 AM
Does anyone read this bit? Falalala Liam O'Sullivan 9/13/12 6:13 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 9/14/12 10:08 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/3/12 7:23 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Stian Gudmundsen Høiland 10/5/12 5:33 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Stian Gudmundsen Høiland 10/5/12 5:29 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/13/12 9:28 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/17/12 10:00 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/23/12 12:35 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/27/12 4:12 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 10/30/12 7:06 PM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 11/1/12 1:21 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Bagpuss The Gnome 11/1/12 4:24 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 11/29/12 10:30 AM
RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path Liam O'Sullivan 12/1/12 7:43 AM
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/12/11 11:26 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/11/11 2:39 PM

Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Previous thread: working towards access concentration and first jhana

I am starting a new thread as I am feeling a strong pull towards vipassana practice. My (very tentative) hypothesis is that I crossed the A&P unwittingly in my early twenties, had fun with the dark night, dropped right back to pre-first vipassana jhana, hit Mind and Body hard on my first retreat a couple of years ago, and bounced off the Three Characteristics on a retreat a few months ago due to lack of knowledge of the vipassana map. I'm writing in a lot of detail as I'm hoping this will be helpful to others at similar stages, though if it is offputting, I'll summarise more.

Performing body scans, anapanasati and keeping the four foundations of mindfulness in, er, mind, have helped to increase the inclusiveness, specificity, rapidity and awareness of my practice to the point that I'm more confident in doing noting practice, which I previously felt too scattered to perform. I've found it actually suits me as it is 100% inclusive of phenomena compared to other methods, has a game-playing feel which is fun, and things like the defilements and mind-chatter are just grist for the mill.

As such, I am now performing as much fast noting as I can - though obviously this isn't appropriate most of the time or when knackered, in which case I drop back to satipatthana practice. I am doing so in order to get momentum up for a two-week Mahasi style retreat in November. I have also resolved to do a 45 minute sit of either samatha (to carry on working on attaining the jhanas and improve concentration) or noting on days I'm not working, which seems quite enough to be getting on with. However, my practice is changing quite rapidly recently as I experiment with what works and so that might well go out the window soon!

A fair whack of noting yesterday, but as I was at work, this was pretty informal. However, today I went to a daylong vipassana retreat, with the following highlights:

Doing sitting noting, I was able to do highly inclusive, but not hugely speedy noting, at a consistent rate of about three sensations a second throughout most of the sit. I attempted to speed up by noting monosyllabically, but I didn't feel I was as aware of the sensations as fully at that speed. I wasn't used to meditating in a chair so I sat without a cushion on the floor in a kind of wonky half-lotus. I felt a tad hot and the back/shoulder/neck pain I've felt for a few days intensified, and sitting in the half-lotus was also quite painful. There were some muscle twitches and a slight rocking back and forth that speeded up as I noted faster - I had experienced this during anapanasati recently in time with the breath, but this time there was no seeming connection. A lot of negative emotions arose, all of which were noted. This reminds me of similar sits in the retreat in which I suspect I reached the stage of The Three Characteristics (as per MCTB descriptions) but then dropped back. However, it also could well be just a lot of stress caused by back pain, though I've never encountered the unexplained rocking (a kriya?) before. More practice methinks!

Walking meditation was less successful - I find the predictability of the lifting-dropping-stepping noting makes it turn into mantra-like false noting, with noting as I walk around normally being less predictable. Any pointers? I also attempted monosyllabic noting, but this was mantra-like too.

(EDIT: I have no idea where I am on the maps any more, and it's actually become less important anyway, hence the change to the title of the thread! 12/10/11)
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tom moylan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/12/11 2:43 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/12/11 2:42 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
Liam,
excellent report! i admire your commitment, resolve and focus. with your descriptions of your recent practice and its shifts i'm confident that your upcoming retreat will be successful. i think that noting is the way to go at whatever speed you reach.

as for walking, i could never do it, until my last self retreat that is. i then used a five stage noting of it: push, lift, swing, drop, feel... by concentrating on the "feel" as my heel touched the ground and until the ball of my foot "pushed" lent a bit of reality and focus to the feel. once that was solidly established i would focus my atention successively on each phase and try to pin down the feelings of each action. i did barefoot walking which helped the sensitivity.

the walking practice was a REAL boon in the times my sensitivity was down (dissolution) or when i was just knackered.

i imagine you are shooting for stream entry, have you made some good solid resolutions? if not do that. read tarin greco's reformed slackers guide and nickolai's superior tips on momentum and reaching stream entry.

good luck amigo and report back!
Nick W, modified 10 Years ago at 9/12/11 7:40 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/12/11 7:40 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

Posts: 41 Join Date: 6/28/11 Recent Posts
Hi Liam. I cant work out how to send you a PM on here! ! Im really interested in where you're off on retreat in November as I've been seriously considering trying to noting practice.

Where is it you're going, and where did you get the day retreat?

Many thanks!
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Eran G, modified 10 Years ago at 9/12/11 10:09 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/12/11 10:09 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

Posts: 182 Join Date: 1/5/10 Recent Posts
Hey Liam,

Sounds like you've got a lot of enthusiasm and dedication for the practice. That's great! Your willingness to experiment with different practices and with different ways of doing one practice (faster, slower, etc.) would also come in very handy as your practice develops.

There's a couple of talks from U Vivekananda (A teacher in the Mahasi tradition) that I found very helpful in my noting practice.

The first one - http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/186/talk/9108/ - includes the basic instructions for both sitting and walking meditation and instructions for reporting one's experience clearly. I found his instructions very clear and helpful in my practice and his advice on how to report was helpful for me both in posting here and when analyzing my own experience.

Another talk that was helpful was about phenomenology - http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/186/talk/9212/ - this one lists the various aspects of phenomenon that may arise and is helpful both in developing a lexicon for noting and in seeing experience more clearly.

HTH,
Eran.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/13/11 6:51 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/13/11 6:37 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Thank you for your comments and pointers, my friends, and especially your encouragement. It's really helpful in the face of how challenging stepping up my practice is proving itself to be.

tom moylan:
i then used a five stage noting of it: push, lift, swing, drop, feel... was a REAL boon in the times my sensitivity was down (dissolution) or when i was just knackered...
Hi Tom! I was using exactly the same technique, albeit not with as much consistency as I'd like. Do you mean that in Dissolution you've found yourself less able to discern sensations as specifically and fully? If so, that's an important heads up. I had assumed Dissolution was mainly about lack of motivation, and I now have a counterploy emoticon

tom moylan:
have you made some good solid resolutions?
I haven't made any formal ones, no, and I take your implied point. Just like any undertaking the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) applies. I hereby resolve to realise Stream Entry as soon as is practicably possible, for the benefit of all beings. I resolve to practice as described above in order to increase the chances of entering the second vipassana jhana whilst on retreat in November. I resolve to do a 45 minute samatha sit after I finish writing this. Wokka wokka.

tom moylan:
read tarin greco's reformed slackers guide and nickolai's superior tips on momentum and reaching stream entry.
I've read the Reformed Slacker's Guide - 'when in doubt, note/hit and accept pain' is the best advice I've ever had I think. I hadn't read Nikolai's pointers - do you mean this article on the Hamilton Project? Thanks for the tips.


Nick Wilson:
Hi Liam. I cant work out how to send you a PM on here! ! Im really interested in where you're off on retreat in November as I've been seriously considering trying to noting practice.
Hi Nick! You can send PMs by clicking the 'Messages' button on the top row and then choosing the recipient(s) from the member list. I am going to Satipanya for a straight up Mahasi noting retreat, the teacher of which is Bhante Bodhidhamma. I've never been there before but will write a review afterwards. I am working up to an extended personal retreat at some point and this may well be the ideal place to go. Experimenting with noting practice has been beneficial for me for reasons I've already explained, but as I will describe later, it's really cutting to the chase in ways that aren't entirely pleasant.

Nick Wilson:
where did you get the day retreat?
It was organised by London Insight Meditation and taught by Stephen Batchelor as a mixture of meditation and discussion.


Eran G:
Your willingness to experiment... would also come in very handy as your practice develops
Hi Eran! Different techniques are appropriate for the challenges of various nanas, I imagine you mean? I'm really enjoying 'exploring' the technical side of meditation - I could just do fast noting constantly but that doesn't seem like a very intelligent way of finding out what works for the individual. I feel like I am finding my own voice, as it were.

Eran G:
There's a couple of talks from U Vivekananda... that I found very helpful in my noting practice.
Now we're talking. A bit of structure for my noting practice. Many thanks. (HTH?)

(Edit: apologies to people who have been sent five versions of this via subscription, I'm having trouble with my tags.)
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tom moylan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/13/11 7:27 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/13/11 7:27 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
liam...you should write a thread on how to make (S.M.A.R.T.) resolutions...you've got it down.

to your point about dissolution, the "couch potato stage" per MCTB..yes not feeling motivated is one obvious part of it but for me during my "self-retreat" just kicking back and doing nothing was not a real (or desired) possibility as i had serveral days left in which to shoot for SE. i found that after a pretty thrilling textbook A&P my sensitivity to noting sublte sensations went to shite, also per MCTB. In that situation the walking sensations as well as the elevated energy were just what i needed. By the way, as a schedule i used the one Tarin Greco proposed in his slacker's guide, namely, alternating hourly sitting and walking.

the link to nickolai's monumentally empowering "momentum" for stream entry post on the hamilton project was exactly what i was referring too, sorry for not linking but your powers seem to be switched on.

good luck and good work!
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/13/11 7:35 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/13/11 7:34 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
After the bodily and emotionally unpleasant (but very successful) meditation at the day retreat on Sunday, yesterday at work was an interesting one. (Prepare for a discursive one.)

A fair whack of negative thoughts, emotions and physical sensations arose in obviously causative conjunctions, some generally about life and others more specific, with a certain sulky demotivation about my ability to continue practicing or working. Though they were not particularly intense, bringing myself to experience them fully against habitual suppressive reactions meant that a lot of aversion arose and they were experienced as less tolerable due to this. There were also instances of an unpleasant, slowly buzzing background vibration felt in the body that I find hard to describe. As I was at work I put these experiences aside in order to avoid any possibility of them snowballing, after doing some (difficult) noting. I tried to drop back to the satipatthanas where appropriate.

On the other hand, rather pleasant memories from my childhood of 'beginner's mind' and forgotten pleasant associations to objects - such as 'isn't it novel and exciting to be on the tube?' arose. On the way home I experienced a curious couple of minutes in which there was very little thought or emotion and I was just noticing arising and passing away of crude sensations - people walking through my field of vision, the sounds of buskers playing music fading in and out as I walked past - in a kind of seamless reel of experience. I found myself noting someone else's movements almost as if they were my own. It wasn't rapturous, just pleasantly calm and equanimous. After this, some experiences previously labelled 'pleasant' were experienced as partly unpleasant, and others labelled as 'unpleasant' had a pleasant aspect to them. I remember the same 'rawness' rubbing both ways on retreat, but without the insight into impermanence, not-self and unsatisfactoriness that I had in these experiences. 'Dukkha' seems best translated as 'bittersweetness' right now, not 'suffering'.

At home I discussed some of this with my partner. We discussed the need for further sceptical investigation and the need to avoid trying to slot experiences into the vipassana maps. This turned into a full blown conversation about various models of knowledge and their inevitable reductionism and paradox, which led to some talk of the non-dual that felt a bit like koan practice or direct pointing. Whenever I discuss this kind of thing while more mindful, I get this fascinating feeling of putting my finger on something that instantly slips away.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/14/11 8:40 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/14/11 8:40 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
I'm reporting immediately after twenty minutes of (attempted) mindful yoga and a 45 minute sit. I experimented with doing both anapanasati and noting. I began with counting breaths, trying to start noting, but found myself very calm and slow and wondering whether it was a good time to try to enter the first jhana. However, I found myself grasping at the desire for absorption and automatically noting this, so I clunked the gears over to noting.

Not keeping my mindfulness between the yoga and the sit made it more difficult to get into the swing of things, and changing from vipassana to samatha multiple times also made getting up to full speed take more time.

More restlessness than I've felt for a long time while sitting, with quite a strong desire to get up, to check the timer, to stop a few minutes early... like a particular voice that was trying to get out of putting in so much effort, facing another voice that was sternly telling it to stay put. All of this was noted, including the different 'voices'.

The noting was constant and highly inclusive, including many phenomena I had rarely noted consistently before, like not-noting, sleepiness, laziness, desire/aversion, cold/warmth, imagining, narrating, daydreaming, false noting. Even when my mind was starting to drift off into a half-asleep state it continued noting - even noting the elements of the daydream, leading to a recognition and noting of the trancelike state and more wakefulness. Again, it wasn't speedy noting - around 1-5 phenomena per second - but the consistency was much improved.

I'm starting to get that it is all about the method and not about the various perspectives that arise. Trying to make oneself into a 'good meditator', telling oneself that one is gunning for Stream Entry for the benefit of others - in short, inclining the mind towards the wholesome, is great for the Virtue training, but these too must be noted and not attached to.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/17/11 1:51 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/17/11 1:51 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Squeezing in fast noting wherever I can to the point that things that were previously frustrating, such as getting blasted with raindrops or piercing noises, are now welcomed as another source of rapid vibrations to catch. Word-label noting just isn't anywhere near fast enough now once I get up to speed. I'm noting at around 1-10 phenomena per second now (averaging, I dunno, five?) when I note monosyllabically, though this is still more likely to go into false mantralike noting than word-label noting. Any tips on how to increase the ability to note, in terms of particular noting strategies, not just 'moar practice'? ;)

On KFD, Kenneth Folk suggested verbal noting was the best method he knew- wouldn't this be slower, even if it acts to prevent any mental wandering by using more of your faculties (I assume)?

I am having to note my imagination anticipating or even creating false phenomena, as well as more content surfacing that threatens to take my time away from my practice - quite complex 'issues' that I'm wary of doing anything but noting, as trying to 'break them up' to investigate them has only resulted in psychologising.

Little worries bleeding in r.e. technique: I'm not quite sure, to be quite honest, how to investigate phenomena in terms of the three characteristics. Noting them is merely noting their existence. Of course, there is some awareness of the three characteristics as I explained in the previous posts, but no active investigation. Perhaps focusing in on a part of the body and noting all the tiny phenomena in, for example, back pain would be better? The fact that new phenomena appear in awareness so quickly means that I often jump back and forth between entities - for example, I will notice 'sound of train' then 'itch on neck' then the awareness will jump back to 'sound of train', which has become peripheral in the split-second period in which awareness focused on 'itch'. Is it better to attempt to follow a particular entity until it has ended ('sound,sound,sound,sound,itch')? As one can tell, I've been performing 'choiceless' noting.

Thanks all, I hope your practice is going well...
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 9/17/11 2:22 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/17/11 2:19 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Squeezing in fast noting wherever I can to the point that things that were previously frustrating, such as getting blasted with raindrops or piercing noises, are now welcomed as another source of rapid vibrations to catch. Word-label noting just isn't anywhere near fast enough now once I get up to speed. I'm noting at around 1-10 phenomena per second now (averaging, I dunno, five?) when I note monosyllabically, though this is still more likely to go into false mantralike noting than word-label noting. Any tips on how to increase the ability to note, in terms of particular noting strategies, not just 'moar practice'? ;)


You can try imagining a non-linguistic sound, a gesture, or a small visual mark in place of a monosyllabic note.

The next "traditional" step, if you want to notice faster, is simply to notice without noting, but this can be trickier in terms of losing consistency of attention.

If you want to try an even faster method of noticing, search for a thread on KFD I began called "drunken vipassana fist" for instructions. However, keep in mind that apparently no one has tried that method besides me. So (as with everything) you try it at your own risk.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]
On KFD, Kenneth Folk suggested verbal noting was the best method he knew- wouldn't this be slower, even if it acts to prevent any mental wandering by using more of your faculties (I assume)?


Yes, it will be slower (obviously). If you're in this for the long haul and want to figure out what's best for you, you'll have to learn via trial-and-error. Others can ultimately only make suggestions which you will have to test out and judge for yourself.

I personally found rapid noting or noticing to be excellent, especially at where you are on the path. I tried slower noting later on but did not find it personally valuable.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]
Little worries bleeding in r.e. technique: I'm not quite sure, to be quite honest, how to investigate phenomena in terms of the three characteristics. Noting them is merely noting their existence.


Do you notice them vibrate, or your attention shifting rapidly on and off them?

Do you experience them as worth identifying as?

Do you experience them as worth relishing?

Your practice sounds strong to me, I would keep it up.
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago at 9/17/11 4:48 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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If you want to try an even faster method of noticing, search for a thread on KFD I began called "drunken vipassana fist" for instructions. However, keep in mind that apparently no one has tried that method besides me. So (as with everything) you try it at your own risk.


Here's the link....

This technique is a beast by the way, I still use it as it's a real sledgehammer to cut through complacency.

Your practice sounds strong to me, I would keep it up.

I second that motion. emoticon
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 9/17/11 10:27 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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Tommy M:
If you want to try an even faster method of noticing, search for a thread on KFD I began called "drunken vipassana fist" for instructions. However, keep in mind that apparently no one has tried that method besides me. So (as with everything) you try it at your own risk.


Here's the link....

This technique is a beast by the way, I still use it as it's a real sledgehammer to cut through complacency.


Caffeine and all? Dude...!

Maybe send me a PM sometime and let me know specifically how it's worked for you. I haven't really been recommending it to anyone else because no one mentioned using it, so I figured it was something idiosyncratic to me, or too bizarre for most people to consider. If it's helpful on occasion, perhaps that changes things.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/18/11 5:02 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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End in Sight:
If you're in this for the long haul and want to figure out what's best for you, you'll have to learn via trial-and-error. Others can ultimately only make suggestions which you will have to test out and judge for yourself... You can try imagining a non-linguistic sound, a gesture, or a small visual mark in place of a monosyllabic note. The next "traditional" step, if you want to notice faster, is simply to notice without noting, but this can be trickier in terms of losing consistency of attention.
Thanks for the helpful comments, End in Sight. I happily take your points. I have fiddled about with using mental sounds as notes, with roughly the same benefits and drawbacks of monosyllabic noting.

After reading your post last night I spent some time just 'noticing' with a lot of applied attention, which was pleasant, fluid and natural, though less inclusive and consistent, but there was the nagging 'you're doing it wrong' feeling as it was less formal. However, I have a gut feeling that this kind of intentional, focused attention is quite enough for this vipassana jhana; it reminds me very much of the kind of attention I paid to things when I was younger as a game - the quality of attention itself being an object. I think it's just a case of working at formal noting until I feel confident enough to dispense with it entirely and just 'notice'. In fact, I can't really see much difference between this and my satipatthana practice.

End in Sight:
If you want to try an even faster method of noticing, search for a thread on KFD I began called "drunken vipassana fist"
I've had a quick look at the thread (thanks for linking Tommy) and think I'm going to have a crack at it on a quiet day, but without the caffeine. My current viewpoint is that I would rather have a short sharp shock getting me to Stream Entry than a more prolonged, and still unpleasant Dark Night. It'll be less fuss in the long run, and I can always ease up if it's causing real fuss. I'm a bit tired of being a Dark Night Chap, as patient as I'm trying to be - why linger?

End in Sight:
Do you notice them vibrate, or your attention shifting rapidly on and off them? Do you experience them as worth identifying as? Do you experience them as worth relishing?
I notice my attention shifting rapidly as I have mentioned. I don't experience discrete sensations 'vibrating' of themselves, if this is what you mean? While in the noting 'mode', sensations are not worth identifying, the content is not considered. They do seem worth enjoying, but not attaching to, as the suffering inherent in doing so is now experienced more clearly- I suspect this is what you mean by 'relishing'. Each sensation has a bittersweet/imperfect 'taste' to it, meaning that even phenomena previously labelled as 'unpleasant' are now seen to not be that easily reducible or absolutely categorised, and vice versa. The actual process of quickly noting is in itself the most fun, beyond the smaller amount of sensate pleasure involved in the phenomena (which I am also trying to note, by the way). I'm aware you're trying to point me towards the three characteristics of the phenomena that I am experiencing, and I do have these kind of insights afterwards upon reflection, or occasionally during practice, so I suppose the active part of the process is the noting and the passive part is the arising of insight.

End in Sight:
Your practice sounds strong to me, I would keep it up.
Thanks, all encouragement spurs me on to practice more diligently. The best part of me knows I'm on the right track.

Tommy M:
I second that motion.
Thanks for the continuing support Tommy. The suggestions you made in my previous thread are bearing fruit now as I put them into practice.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 9/18/11 6:30 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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[quote=Liam O'Sullivan] After reading your post last night I spent some time just 'noticing' with a lot of applied attention, which was pleasant, fluid and natural, though less inclusive and consistent, but there was the nagging 'you're doing it wrong' feeling as it was less formal.


Noting is ultimately a crutch (albeit a very powerful, very good one). If you notice your experience precisely, you're doing it right. I'd say, whatever gets you to do that is worth doing.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]I've had a quick look at the thread (thanks for linking Tommy) and think I'm going to have a crack at it on a quiet day, but without the caffeine. My current viewpoint is that I would rather have a short sharp shock getting me to Stream Entry than a more prolonged, and still unpleasant Dark Night. It'll be less fuss in the long run, and I can always ease up if it's causing real fuss. I'm a bit tired of being a Dark Night Chap, as patient as I'm trying to be - why linger?


Please let me know explicitly, either in this thread or by PM, how this method works for you and what you experience.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan] I'm aware you're trying to point me towards the three characteristics of the phenomena that I am experiencing, and I do have these kind of insights afterwards upon reflection, or occasionally during practice, so I suppose the active part of the process is the noting and the passive part is the arising of insight.


On the contrary, if in the moment of meditating you notice vibrations, don't experience phenomena as being worth identifying as (= taking on as an identity for yourself or taking on as 'yours'), and don't experience phenomena as worth relishing, that is direct experience of the 3Cs right there.

Why this is may become more apparent in time. The 3Cs are not "objects" attached to phenomena waiting for discernment, but something that you will observe in relation to 'your' interaction with phenomena.

It sounds like your current experience contains sufficient clarity about the 3Cs given where you are on the path, so again, keep up what you're doing.

Keep in mind that, ultimately, you cannot directly control whether or not you identify as any phenomenon, you can only work towards seeing that such identification is not worth continuing. Do not fall into the false belief that you can currently observe a phenomenon without identifying as it on some level. (If you believe this, you are eventually likely to get stuck by considering that you have mastered the practice and reached the highest attainment because of your wrong view about what identification is.) You don't have to thoroughly understand what this means at the point you are at on the path...simply let it rest in the back of your mind, and use it to guard against forming a dogmatic belief about what this "identification" fundamentally is.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan] They do seem worth enjoying, but not attaching to


What does that distinction mean to you?
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 9/18/11 8:52 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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End in Sight:
On the contrary, if in the moment of meditating you notice vibrations, don't experience phenomena as being worth identifying as (= taking on as an identity for yourself or taking on as 'yours'), and don't experience phenomena as worth relishing, that is direct experience of the 3Cs right there.

Keep in mind that, ultimately, you cannot directly control whether or not you identify as any phenomenon, you can only work towards seeing that such identification is not worth continuing.


Let me clarify this point a bit, as it's extremely important, and our community has not done a good of talking about it in a clear way.

In many suttas, in context of the no-self characteristic, the Buddha will ask someone

"And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

In other words, understanding this characteristic is not about whether one sees that some phenomenon is or isn't a self, or is or isn't regarded as "mine", but is about whether one sees that some phenomenon is not worth regarding in those ways.

Believing that one can simply stop regarding phenomena as self or "mine", and believing that dropping that way of regarding phenomena is what is called for, is the path to a noxious and unwholesome kind of "spiritual" dissociation, and, in context of Buddhism, is wrong view. Completely dropping that way of regarding phenomena means becoming an arahant, and one cannot decide to do that by force of will.

To the extent that one holds the belief that they can stop identifying with phenomena or regarding them as "mine" by force of will, that is the extent to which one's practice will be sidetracked in various ways, and the extent to which one will suffer needlessly.

(There is a grosser level of identification and a subtler level of identification. Of course, the grosser level [the explicit, well thought-out belief "this is me or mine"] can and should be dropped in this way. But dropping the subtler level is what enlightenment is supposed to do for you, not something that you have to do in order to get enlightened...and one who believes they have done it but does not believe they are enlightened is simply confused on this point.)
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago at 9/18/11 9:33 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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End in Sight:
End in Sight:
On the contrary, if in the moment of meditating you notice vibrations, don't experience phenomena as being worth identifying as (= taking on as an identity for yourself or taking on as 'yours'), and don't experience phenomena as worth relishing, that is direct experience of the 3Cs right there.

Keep in mind that, ultimately, you cannot directly control whether or not you identify as any phenomenon, you can only work towards seeing that such identification is not worth continuing.


Let me clarify this point a bit, as it's extremely important, and our community has not done a good of talking about it in a clear way.

In many suttas, in context of the no-self characteristic, the Buddha will ask someone

"And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

In other words, understanding this characteristic is not about whether one sees that some phenomenon is or isn't a self, or is or isn't regarded as "mine", but is about whether one sees that some phenomenon is not worth regarding in those ways.

Believing that one can simply stop regarding phenomena as self or "mine", and believing that dropping that way of regarding phenomena is what is called for, is the path to a noxious and unwholesome kind of "spiritual" dissociation, and, in context of Buddhism, is wrong view. Completely dropping that way of regarding phenomena means becoming an arahant, and one cannot decide to do that by force of will.

To the extent that one holds the belief that they can stop identifying with phenomena or regarding them as "mine" by force of will, that is the extent to which one's practice will be sidetracked in various ways, and the extent to which one will suffer needlessly.

that's a great point. i was wondering about it too, though not fully thought out.

i might round it out by saying: if you point to a phenomenon and go "look, that is not self!", then you have already lost, as you have identified with it already (you are implicitly saying there is a self over here that is separate from that phenomenon being looked at).

Maha-nidana Sutta:
"As for the person who says, 'Feeling is not the self: My self is oblivious [to feeling],' he should be addressed as follows: 'My friend, where nothing whatsoever is sensed (experienced) at all, would there be the thought, "I am"?'"

"No, lord."

"Thus in this manner, Ananda, one does not see fit to assume that 'Feeling is not my self: My self is oblivious [to feeling].'
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/18/11 3:31 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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End in Sight:
If you notice your experience precisely, you're doing it right... The 3Cs are not "objects" attached to phenomena waiting for discernment... you cannot directly control whether or not you identify as any phenomenon... (it) is about whether one sees that some phenomenon is not worth regarding in those ways (as self)... (there) is a grosser level of identification that can be dropped (by force of will).

Thanks for this (and to Beoman for your input). It was already broadly understood by me, though nicely put by you, and mainly encourages me to note worries or intellectualisation. I will be making my posts in this thread as purely phenomenological as I can from now on.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/21/11 5:21 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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Or perhaps I should have just said 'descriptive' rather than 'purely phenomenological'? (Vacillation noted ;) )

Some counting of breaths and noting throughout the day, not intentionally to produce any jhanic states, but to simply to keep practicing as often as it occurred to me that I'd stopped. Momentum, momentum, momentum, as Nikolai says. A 30 minute sitting session (at the Wake Up Sangha's meditation flashmob at Marble Arch, happy Peace Day everyone) that similarly went between the two. Things like my reactions to being around other practitioners, embarrassment at nodding while being photographed, all noted, adding another facet to the technique.

The group meditation was motivating and I went on to note heavily for a few hours after that as I travelled. Confidence brought an abandoning of the word-label noting- multiple phenomena had swept through awareness in the time it took for the mind to think of le mot juste, even if it wasn't a specific word, for each noted sensation. I've been aware of my inclusiveness of noting increasing, so the speed of noting increasing struck me as a refinement of technique - I now have to work on being as fully aware of every fine sensation as possible, as I'm not used to working at this speed.

My definition of 'thought' is under revision. The chains of thought that I had seen as single entities are now breaking up into sets of discrete entities - a strange experience to see yourself interrupt a 'thought' half way through. The technique that the mind comfortably settled itself on in this evening's noting was to use a non-linguistic swift 'mark' that is one of these shorter vibrations. This was not more rapid than my best previous speed, but the average number of notes was increased and it was much less effort.

Perhaps this is just imagination, but we'll see. Doing this, I settled more and more into the noting. I stopped actively sweeping awareness for sensations, as it became more obvious that the correct technique was to simply be receptive and experience sensations for as long as they arose (rather than only noting the beginnings of sensations and trying to jump to another one). This is uncannily reminscent of the kind of undifferentiated interest in the field of awareness that I had as a child before the planning and conceptualising mind became dominant, and I used this sense to guide/relax myself into a more choiceless awareness. Mostly, the effort was in keeping the mind from narrating, rather than in the actual noting.

This coming back to the centre will be something I will further investigate. I've just read Nikolai's blog post at the Hamilton Project which basically encourages 24/7 mindfulness with less concern about results. This has fed into my practice plan for the next few weeks - to continue noting or simply being as aware as possible at all appropriate times, but to put all concern for the vipassana maps out of my mind and concentrate on good technique. Any tips on common pitfalls in establishing Right Mindfulness are very welcome - I've noticed there are various pseudo-states. To be quite honest I'm finding ploughing through the Majjhima Nikaya hard enough work at the moment without reading more heavyweight tracts by bhikkus!
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/22/11 1:42 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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A half day focusing on practice and supporting activities today.

10:45- mindfulness of brushing teeth, shower, etc. Distracted but building up attention consciously.

11:00- one hour noting sitting. Slow but inclusive. Calm, resisted desire to go into samatha for fuzzy feelings. Multiple interruptions e.g. postman, neglected to maintain mindfulness whilst dealing with these. As noting deepened, rocking in time with breath increased, restless and mild frustration. Dozyness and awareness of dozyness.

12:00- swimming mindfully. Amusing mindfulness of bubbles in jacuzzi. It's a hard life.

13:00- lunch, admin, chores. Not so mindful.

13:30- mindfulness of walking outside, in shops. Pseudo-mindfulness - lots of thoughts about being mindful instead of actually being aware. Songs in head, mind playing out old memories, spinning stories about being wronged. Reminded me of Eckhart Tolle's 'pain body' theory - ego seemingly trying to push buttons to get a rise/attention. Conscious inclination to accept and allow to pass.

14:45- sitting. Drowsiness, back and ankle pain, slow/fast noting alternating, stories. Abandoned hour sit at half hour mark as nodding too much. Went onto walking instead.

15:15- walking meditation. Experimenting with noting or wordless concentration on soles of feet. Settled on five-point 'lift swing drop touch push' noting.

15:30- first Tai Chi session in a while, following DVD. Attempts to follow breath as well as instruction. Surprisingly intuitive, body anticipating next moves. Calming.

16:30- purely experimental long session of noting, including attempt at drunken vipassana fist technique (not appreciably faster than my best fast noting and my mind automatically kicks in to reduce stress, so I doubt it's for me), using music visualisation on laptop for an unpredictable visual medium, listening to previously-unheard very fast trance music for a similar aural experience, etc. Fast noting when attempting to include only two or three fields (bodily sensation/sound/visual field), much less successful when attempting to include all possible fields. Visual field hardest to include as I'm used to meditating with my eyes closed - some kasina samatha practice-like aspects of one-pointed concentration creeping in.

18:30- stopped formally practicing and continued to note informally. Unpleasant generalised dark nightey thoughts and feelings creeping in, very 'all structures are unstable'. Mind seemingly searching after the fact for particular concrete 'issues' to apply to these sensations to make sense of them - 'will I be able to deal with the DN', 'that'll teach you to drink too much caffeine', 'how will I know the difference between insight disease and going a bit loopy' kind of stuff with associated bodily reactions. All very 'storm in a teacup' - while unpleasant in a 'hitting something deep and nasty' way, I've been here before, so they were compartmentalised and noted. Memory of Dan Ingram saying 'good, these are a sign of progress!' coming to mind. However, a definite sense that finding an actual teacher is probably going to make the next few stages a lot easier - I don't know anyone in the flesh with a good knowledge of the map - associated feelings of loneliness, desire for deliverance, desire for reassurance, mixed in with determination and a compassion generated by an observer status perspective (all very anatta). Will have to make best use of Bhante Bodhidhamma's knowledge on retreat in November -as well as you lot ;)
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/22/11 3:50 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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Addendum: still a bit buzzy and feeling odds and sods of fear, misery and disgust (where on earth am I in the maps? If I've had an A&P, it was a pretty tiny one) so I tried some samatha using a breakfast bowl as suggested by Kenneth Folk. Almost immediate shift into access concentration and some hints of another shift (first jhana?) Very calming, though odd when the brown rim of the bowl disappeared against the white wall so that the entire bowl appeared to have vanished. Looks like I might have found a suitable kasina. Something to investigate a bit more I reckon, though not to get too attached too.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 9/22/11 3:54 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]16:30- purely experimental long session of noting, including attempt at drunken vipassana fist technique (not appreciably faster than my best fast noting and my mind automatically kicks in to reduce stress


How much caffeine did you have?

However much you may have had, chances are it wasn't enough.

I have taken up to 1000mg (approximately 10 cups of coffee's worth of caffeine) before meditating. It would make me feel approximately as bizarre as one would expect 10 cups of coffee to make anyone feel. That's too much for most people, so it's certainly not a recommendation, but...just saying. (It should give you an indication of how you're aiming to feel and how much restlessness you're aiming to produce.)

This may not be apparent because the youtube link in the instructional post no longer works, but, until one masters the technique, there is no drunken boxing without being drunk; similarly, until one masters the technique, there is no drunken vipassana fist without a mug of coffee in each hand.

However, there is no need to pursue the technique if you don't like it.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 9/22/11 4:16 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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I realized it would be irresponsible of me if I didn't provide a disclaimer...one doesn't need that much caffeine, and one would have to be very, very committed to consider using anything like that. So, I don't recommend it, and I (very seriously) suggest that you see a doctor and get their permission before attempting such a thing.

However, considering the impact of such a high dose should give one an idea of what kind of mental state is being aimed for, and will help to attain it with a "normal", safer amount of caffeine (still probably higher than the amount you used).
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/22/11 11:26 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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I definitely used a lot less than that! As such I'm not going to disparage your method, as I didn't do the same thing you did.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 9/22/11 11:49 PM
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[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]I definitely used a lot less than that! As such I'm not going to disparage your method, as I didn't do the same thing you did.

I merely thought you might be interested in giving it a fair shake, as I assumed you hadn't fully tried it but didn't realize that. Two cups of coffee, 30 minutes before meditation, may be a good starting point. (Tea can be a good substitute, as the stimulation is "smoother" somehow, but one would have to drink more of it.) If you tried that, maybe two more cups would be good. The point is to release some kind of restraint that your mind has in order to note all the stuff that flows without that restraint in place.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/23/11 9:05 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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End in Sight:
I merely thought you might be interested in giving it a fair shake... The point is to release some kind of restraint that your mind has in order to note all the stuff that flows without that restraint in place.

To be honest, yes, it wasn't about the caffeine, it was about not mentally letting myself reach that state. Perhaps a bridge too far, for me.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 9/23/11 9:33 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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Your practice sounds like it's going well, so in a way it doesn't really matter what technique you're using. The main factor for you at this point is probably just how much time you devote to meditation.

EDIT

If I've had an A&P, it was a pretty tiny one)


The first A&P of a path-cycle is often the biggest, and any repeat-A&Ps are often quite unimpressive (though discernable if one looks).
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/23/11 3:02 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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I was mainly being tongue in cheek there, as all signs point to the first vipassana jhana ;) I appreciate the continued encouragement though, and yes, I'm not expecting a huge A&P, having been there before I suspect...

On the way home, a slightly jarring buzzy vibe felt in the chest, throat and head, as well as sounds (especially synthetic ones on the DLR) resolving into speedy little waves. I'm not sure whether I'm imagining all of this/exaggerating! (More practice...)
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/29/11 10:30 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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Less formal practice than before and very little sitting - I've let myself get distracted. Getting some inspiration from Dharma texts (such as Sayadaw U Pandita on effort) brought the motivation to get back on track, and simply restarting the 24/7 approach with the minimum of self-judgement worked well.

Worries about locating oneself on the path, and about technique, are completely at bay at the moment after reading Kenneth Folk on Buddhist Geeks describing 'the common denominator among all of these technologies for awakening' as 'attention. And there are lots of ways to apply attention; lots of things to apply attention to.' Along with Bhante Bodhidhamma's perspective on aims and objectives - that 'if we make our sole objective the establishment of moment-to-moment attentiveness... we shall be heading towards the end of suffering and the experience of the deathless' - this provided ample encouragement to stay in the moment and not indulge in craving for Stream Entry too much. I'm feeling more comfortable in using my experimental, 'whatever works to keep you investigating' approach, continuing to mix in body scans, anapanasati and bare attention with various forms of noting to continue my 24/7 approach. A new one is to try and be aware of every word read, written or typed, which is very unnatural for a rapid reader and writer like me.

After claiming that I wasn't sure how to investigate the Three Characteristics, I've been gently reflecting on them as I note. I had a moment earlier in which I realised how much I was overlaying particular emotional content that was past- and future-oriented on a particular moment of practice, and the present moment immediately felt very pristine. It felt a bit HAIETMOBA actually; AF is lurking at the back of my mind after so exposure to it on here. Impermanence is very easy to tune into, whether phenomena are jarring or blissfully over quickly, or seeming to be flowing into a new form. Unsatisfactoriness is strangely more difficult to tune into, because I tend to get lost in the content trying to look at it, and I'm becoming less utterly averse to pain. Not-self is apparent due to a greater attempt to note intention - I have to motivate this body to move, and sometimes it moves of itself in reflex arcs or unmindful fiddling about.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 9/30/11 7:22 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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Some interesting stuff today. A lot of renunciant thoughts after my night shift. I just went clubbing and was underwhelmed by the whole field of my experience - it all seemed a lot of fuss. I found myself continually in a cold observer status, noting automatically, feeling very distanced from and yet aware of phenomena, interested but not absorbed in anything. Some part of me was sulking that I wasn't having a good time and other parts were completely fine with that - all of these ambivalent thoughts and feelings being observed. All I wanted to do was practice.

All my best noting seems to be on the underground, and both ways in and out of town, polysyllabic noting led naturally to speedy, monosyllabic noting ('datdatdatdatdatdat...') Finally, I stopped hunting for sensations and just sat back. I watched whatever arose and disappeared in the centre of awareness, leading to a very dispassionate, uncluttered state of mind in which memories of past associations of un/pleasantness with various phenomena were appearing, as well as memories I'd long forgotten of more poignant/sense pleasure-related times, but they had no purchase. My friend was talking rapid-fire and worrying about not getting the train - I just pottered along until it all worked out fine, feeling a tad patronising. In a way, I couldn't tell you whether any phenomena were pleasant or not - there just wasn't that kind of judging going on, though another way of putting it would be that - and I deliberately quote End in Sight here - no sensation seemed particularly worth relishing. On the contrary, doing anything but observing them as they came and went felt like 'interrupting the flow'. This is both disturbing and freeing - or it would be if I didn't feel so accepting of both reactions!
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/2/11 6:16 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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Feelings of being distractable, edgy and easily lost in the content today are sitting alongside a spaciousness that is accommodating of them, when I intentionally tune into them. I think an evening sitting is in order once the family have all left, but in the meantime, my practice for today is going to be to stay with whatever comes up - crap mindfulness or unpleasant sensations - and see how that affects my perceptions.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/6/11 1:02 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/6/11 1:02 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: first vipassana jhana

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In terms of my last post, mindfulness of in-laws (*snigger*) was very helpful in terms of restraint and skillful response, but not very new in terms of insight (it was all very Mind and Body / Cause and Effect) so I won't comment further.

I suspect I'm starting to understand what people on here mean by 'flickering' - the arising and passing of phenomena very quickly, all over the field of awareness, like a (metaphorical) show of tiny sharp lights, one after the other. I make myself laugh thinking of it in terms of Whack-A-Mole while noting. It's so fast occasionally that it's like an epileptic's nightmare at times. When meditating, it's fast enough that I'm not clearly 'catching' every phenomenon in its entirety, though rationality tells me that if I'm experiencing it, then I'm catching it in some way. Phenomena are starting to have a different 'taste'. There is a sense that noting is a long way after the actual arising of the sensation in terms of time elapsed, and this is starting to verify what Daniel Ingram calls 'basic Dharma theory' for me- that consciousness is a sense impression after the fact, for instance.

Having a bit of fun with insight disease, walking the tightrope between sharing thoughts on contemplative practice with like-minded people and a desire to preach or judge. Another niggle is having confidence that I am not in some way exaggerating my experiences after reading too many (possibly prescriptive) descriptions of the progress of insight. The only reasonable response is to be as honest and kind as possible with oneself, really. 'A continuous series of mistakes' doesn't sound so awful now ;)

Today, some unpleasant meditation. Nodding off, anxiety, random knee pain and a lot of restlessness and reluctance to meditate, mind wandering, a sense of acceleration of the noting beyond what I could note satisfactorily, vacillation between monosyllabic and polysyllabic noting, craving to enter the stream, a certain loss of satisfaction in the actual sensations or the process of noting. I don't mind admitting I didn't have the willpower to stay with it for more than five minutes at a time, despite switching between techniques and coming back to it multiple times.

I'm going to help myself with basic physical and mental health precautions, continued resolutions not to dwell too much on where I am in terms of the maps, and I'm going to try and sit more. My recent draw towards day-to-day practice has now shifted to a draw towards some long sits daily to beef up the practice, though I'm going to try and keep the everyday activity stuff going too. There's a real sense that there's something to be worked through with patience.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/12/11 11:46 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/12/11 11:46 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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I've just edited the name of this thread as I now have absolutely no idea where I am in the nyanas, and have deliberately stopped putting any effort into the analysis! I'm quite happy that all I need to do at the moment is incline my mind towards putting in the time and effort into noting and to set up good conditions for meditation the rest of the time. I'm finding I'm needing some space away from the 'Dharma questing' too at times, saying 'don't worry about being mindful for this modest period of time' to myself, but that's not a problem in itself.

Plenty of noting on the way back and forth from work in the last week- no equanimity to states arising, no strong emotions either way on the most part, just relatively speedy noting without particular enjoyment or displeasure.

Realised I haven't made much headway on doing more sits - if anything they've petered out as I put more effort into noting for as much of my commute as I can, seamlessly - so I decided to have a sit before my pre-night shift nap. I wasn't so much nodding as falling forward after fifteen minutes so I admitted defeat. Polysyllabic noting worked better to energise me. It felt very slow, phenomena hard to catch in their entirety, but it was more inclusive and less distractible when I didn't hunt for sensations. Itches, twitches, rocking back and forth and suchlike were all welcomed as much as I could as grist for the mill, with noting of intention or not-noting becoming much more automatic. Noting of the beginning and ending of the in- and out- breath is becoming more prevalent.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 10/12/11 11:08 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/12/11 11:08 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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[quote=Liam O'Sullivan] I'm finding I'm needing some space away from the 'Dharma questing' too at times, saying 'don't worry about being mindful for this modest period of time' to myself...

Why?
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/12/11 11:20 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/12/11 11:20 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Multiple reasons: because trying to be very mindful 100% of the time is very demanding, and I have to have a space to relax; because I'm very good at using objectives as clubs to beat myself with ('why are you not a stream entrant yet?') and so again a space to relax is helpful; because there are other things in my life other than Dharma practice that require my attention...

Mind you, maybe that's also an excuse to slack off at times!
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 10/12/11 11:35 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/12/11 11:29 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Without commenting either way on whether relaxing your mindfulness at times is a good idea right now, I would suggest that one of your practice goals should be gradually working up to 24/7 mindfulness or as close as you can get to it. (I believe that the more you practice this, the less taxing it becomes.)

I have no idea if this is something that is extremely hard or impossible to do pre-path...but, if it's possible, it would be extremely valuable to pursue and establish.

I do think that constant mindfulness is likely to conflict with attending to non-dharma things much more pre-path than post-path, so this may limit the full extent to which you can establish this kind of mindfulness right now. However, it is still valuable to establish ongoing mindfulness during other moments, and so still worth pursuing insofar as it is possible.

In order not to beat yourself with this objective, it is perfectly reasonable to look at it as a goal that is to be worked up to gradually.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/13/11 12:00 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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I take your helpful points, EIS. Thanks.

If anything, I did claim that 24/7 mindfulness was my game only a few posts ago, and I still don't think it's a bad ideal, even for a pre-pather. I'm aware there is a lot of dwelling in content going on right now and it is harder to make it part of the noting process, to actually meditate, or to keep the cardinal rules of good practice in mind- Dissolution perhaps, but who knows?

Though some integration is occurring, I'm starting to understand the power of the compartmentalisation approach of MCTB in the following of the three trainings, especially (I suspect) as a pre-pather - as you say, all of these 'other moments' can be used for practice. There is a certain level of mindfulness I can cultivate, for example in applying right speech in conversation by actively listening, but I've already had a few moments when I've realised I'm not attending to the content as is required!

It's good to have these gentle reminders: e.g. that the more your practice, the less effort is required, and when I look back to the furious 'back to the breath every two seconds' effort I had to put into my first few months of meditation, I know it's perfectly true. I'm oscillating a bit between persistence and complacency.

Much of this is about black-and-white mental habits of mine that are dying hard, so I'm making a point of being aware of them as much as possible and thus 'fold' them into the practice.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/13/11 8:55 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Accepting that wide swings between demotivation and enthusiasm are inevitable, but likely to lessen with increased momentum, I've reviewed my previous success in what Ian And calls 'patching together' more and more instances of mindfulness, even when I was half-asleep on my way home this morning. Some encouraging fast noting on the way in to work tonight.

I resolved to maintain mindfulness in the transition between parts of my commute. Slower, polysyllabic noting of sounds and movements was used to get things going. The effort to use labels based on the four sattipathanas blocked out distracting mindnoise. Greater awareness of bodily and aural vibrations arose, requiring monosyllabic noting ('dit... dit... dit... dit...'). The faster I noted, the top half of my body rocked back and forth more. Accepting noting of back pain and sources of irritation, and some falling into automatic body scanning followed.

This speeded up to a mental buzzing noise ('ditditditditdit'). quick pulsations of warmth danced across the hands and face, leading to temptation to try for samatha jhana. I usually have difficulty including thoughts into fast noting, which are automatically noted polysyllabically even during fast noting and so act like 'speed bumps'. Instead, they were very rapidly accepted and assimilated monosyllabically and the noting accelerated to another plateau. It was difficult at the time to estimate, as it felt like certain more sophisticated/convoluted thinking mechanisms were being bypassed.

I realised the speed of noting was being limited by the use of a syllable with two consonants that I was pronouncing mentally- pointing out in passing that I was beginning to note the beginnings and ends of sensations as being in fact separate sensations- and so I began to use a soft 'd' sound, almost a 'duh'. The mental impression was like the sound of a rapidly oscillating motor ("d' d' d' d' d' d' d' d' "... what am I typing? *grins*). There was uncertainty about whether I was doing false noting at this speed, but I had the sense of noting the intention before every movement of my body as I squirmed once in my seat.

The enjoyment of the noting was dropping away as I was forced to concentrate harder on noting, feeling very awake and coolly putting strong, unstrained effort into the practice.This was pleasant too. The awareness was focused as it was clear that only one sensation could be experienced at once, but there was a sense of it occurring against a background, as this focus was bouncing around in the greater field of the six sense doors with less slowing down in transferring from a phenomenon of one door to the next.

As I switched trains I was able to maintain mindfulness, but with less intensity as I had to walk, with my awareness coming to 'centre' and sitting back to watch the jump between experienced phenomena. Awareness of awareness? It got to the point at which the noting fell away almost of itself and there was noticing of phenomena, with some visual flickering occurring as I walked. As I sat back down on another train, things geared up again. There was a veneer of evaluating thought floating on top of this which saw the noticing as a mental 'highlight' that was somehow separable from the experience of the phenomenon and yet masquerading as part of it. I attempted to drop this highlighting. Was this an attempt to experience the bare phenomenon? I dunno.

This has a sense of a pass through the first vipassana jhana and into some sub-nana of the Arising and Passing Away to it. Do other pre-path yogis have these long passes from 1st nyana to later nyanas in one sit? Am I falling back a lot between sits to earlier nyanas then pushing on again, while those who do daily hourly sits progress more slowly and smoothly upward in a given sit? Also, is there any difference in terms of stream entry realisation between those who sit in a quiet room noting subtler sensations and my seeming preference to note in more grossly stimulating environments?
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/16/11 6:16 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Thanks to the London DhO lot who have answered the important parts of the above questions for me. As always theories are tentative, but I feel much better about talking about where I am in terms of nyanas now, and how recognising said nyanas will assist in not getting caught up in their content.

It seems as if I am going up and down through the nyanas I have realised, of which it seems include everything up to Re-observation. My 'best' noting meditation is in fact A&P in which flickering is evident, and my 'worst' noting is Dissolution. This really gives some perspective. I had suggested I had reached low Equanimity, but the 'specialness' of that experience now suggests it was A&P.

Finished a 35 minute morning sit. Slow noting, but patience with the arising irritation and desire to speed up. Irritating itching in the ears, head, back of the neck, which I refused to scratch, instead welcoming them as something to note. A couple of shapes behind the eyelids which is unusual for me. Tiny moments of sloth and torpor, but little distraction from the noting. A little rocking in time with the breath when the noting speeded up, automatically turning into monosyllabic noting, before slowing down again. Some aversion to sitting and a desire to check the timer which I stubbornly resisted, rather than noting. A certain fascination with the phases of the breath and a sense of absorption in it at times a la samatha practice. Out of nowhere, a dissatisfaction with posture, feeling as if I was crooked and leaning to the right, but knowing intellectually that I wasn't.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/20/11 2:13 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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TL;DR version: My usual experiences of the first vipassana jhana, barely noticeable second, and then the most clear pass through the Dark Night (c.f. Ron Crouch's description) that I've ever had. Possible Low Equanimity, or bouncing off Reobservation. Yowsers. I resolve to reach Equanimity beyond reasonable doubt on my retreat in November.

Disappeared off to Epping Forest earlier to find the root of a tree (thanks Sid) and on the way, enjoy a bit of what I am suspecting has been an informal AF-like sensuousness practice (thanks Carolin).

Meditation on the way there followed the now-usual pattern of going from mental label noting to high speed noticing, with (the also usual) false starts, sloth and torpor, daydreaming, and so on that I now accept as part of the game. Restlessness disappears entirely once I get up to speed.

I've been attempting to keep a 'thread of bodily awareness' intact at all times, as well as allowing only thoughts on the present moment as per Owen's suggestion on the Hamilton Project. At one point, due to sloth and torpor, or just generally being very soothed by what is now a familiar and all-embracing noting technique, I dropped back to counting breaths just to continue to stay awake while continuing to practice. I now understand why Ajahn Kalyano of Amaravati once suggested that mindfulness of the body could cut years off of one's practice.

Again as usual, I attempted to keep continuity of mindfulness as I got off the tube and walked, slipping between allowing myself to enjoy the forest in a mindfulness of phenomena way and a more classic dispassionate noting. I did some experimentation with eyes-open meditation, bearing in mind Tarin's advice to learn to meditate in any physical position (eyes open being a position, if you think about it) and Stian's comment that this was the only way he managed to deal with sloth and torpor. Not bad, actually, though it didn't stop me wanting to doze off once I'd found a suitable tree - my eyes just unfocused as the noting continued. Next time I will attempt to note the visual field too.

Gradually the sloth and torpor became too much (my fault for not exercising today and sleeping in too much) and I moved into what I reverentially call the Crap Half Lotus (still not very flexible yet). Somehow getting more of me touching the ground (as opposed to cross legged easy pose, for instance) raises my energy, but to be quite honest this time it was the discomfort that was keeping me awake. Finding the discomfort acceptable I continued noting, beginning to find myself rocking as the noting sped up, feeling the pain in my legs, and the frustration at the torpor. This continued until I started to get itches on my head and face that I refused to scratch, building in intensity. So far, so first vipassana jhana.

I'd had speedy all over the shop noting from early on, which I now tentatively see as an A&P type phenomenon, so that confuses the progression of the meditation somewhat - but after that the itches increased in intensity, and I began imagining that I might have ants on me from the ground. I then heard a squirrel jump about pretty close to me which suddenly startled me in a way it wouldn't usually, with slightly paranoid thoughts about its angry chittering - I opened my eyes and it was of course half way up a tree. The itches began to 'spike' and feel like they were jabbing my head, which made me want to scream with frustration. I was surprised at how I was enduring the itches without a strong desire to check the timer (endurance, not equanimity) as I am determined to be able to sit through unpleasantness. As they became worse I began to twitch with what I can only describe as revulsion - my head nodding, my arms doing little funky chicken movements as my hands were placed on my knees, my mouth twitching at high speed, and my eyes screwing up. Desire for deliverance at this point? You betcha.

The effort at this point was more focused around holding on to what was happening to me, as opposed to a deliberate noting. There were several peaks of this unpleasantness - mixed with a certain dogged satisfaction as I suspected I knew which nyanas I was experiencing - until there was a sudden, brief (seconds) sense of being alright with what was going on, then I dropped back into the unpleasantness and decided to not stress my legs any longer, with five minutes of my projected forty five minutes left.
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago at 10/20/11 3:50 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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The tics and, as you so hilariously described, the "little funky chicken movements" confused and annoyed the hell out of me for a while when I started doing hardcore noting practice, but it does subside and can actually be incredibly cleansing. They're usually called kriyas and are common for most meditators at some point in their practice. Your descriptions sound like 2nd to early 4th vipassana jhana with some well observed notes on 6th, Knowledge of Fear, and 10th, Knowledge of Re-Observation, ñanas in particular, so you might be underestimating your current position as I don't think you're a kick in the arse away from getting into Equanimity.

A way to efficiently get through Dark Night is to surrender to the experience, the attention is out on the periphery naturally at this stage so the center is going to be difficult to observe clearly. Instead of fighting to note what's arising and passing at the center, relax and watch what happens at the periphery, it can be quite irritating as it seems that you're only catching the tail end of sensations but as long as you're observing the 3C's then you'll move naturally into 4th vipassana jhana. The shift into 4th, in my experience, always feels like a movement from the chest/throat up to the head as attention becomes panoramic and seeing the arising and passing of all the subtle stuff that gets you to 1st path becomes much easier.

Something else to bear in mind is that 3rd jhana is inherently pleasurable, don't expect Dark Night to be shitty and harsh just because you think it's supposed to be, it doesn't have to be if you can learn how to negotiate it skilfully. I was still making that mistake until a week or so ago..... emoticon

Take care and practice well, mate!
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/21/11 7:51 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/21/11 7:51 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Everything you have said so far about my practice has eventually checked out as true, so I'm inclined to trust your interpretation that I am entering the fourth vipassana jhana, but am still going to verify this by doing a one hour plus sit on Sunday and seeing whether the pattern repeats itself and Re-observation more clearly presents.

The unpleasantness of such sits is not a problem in itself, and neither are the kriyas - I have a lot of trust in the method now. The main problem is that I am now moving up and down the nyanas quicker in daily life, and so there is a certain lability of emotional/mental state which requires more work to keep mindful of.

Tommy M:
kriyas... can actually be incredibly cleansing
How so? I can imagine energetic/psychogenic reasons, but have no evidence.

Tommy M:
A way to efficiently get through Dark Night is to surrender to the experience
I think applying this approach is why I moved through the Dark Night with such clarity and speed yesterday. I'll watch closely for the various phenomena you mention (panoramic vision, perceiving tail ends of sensations etc) as I would really like to know this territory inside out.

Tommy M:
3rd jhana is inherently pleasurable... don't expect Dark Night to be shitty and harsh just because you think it's supposed to be, it doesn't have to be if you can learn how to negotiate it skilfully
. Interesting. There were certainly pleasurable/satisfying aspects. Do you mean that you have learned how to ride the wave, or that the phenomena of the DN have somehow changed for you?

As always, major thanks matey!
Nick W, modified 10 Years ago at 10/21/11 10:31 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/21/11 10:31 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Liam:
I'd had speedy all over the shop noting from early on, which I now tentatively see as an A&P type phenomenon, so that confuses the progression of the meditation somewhat - but after that the itches increased in intensity, and I began imagining that I might have ants on me from the ground. I then heard a squirrel jump about pretty close to me which suddenly startled me in a way it wouldn't usually, with slightly paranoid thoughts about its angry chittering - I opened my eyes and it was of course half way up a tree. The itches began to 'spike' and feel like they were jabbing my head, which made me want to scream with frustration. I was surprised at how I was enduring the itches without a strong desire to check the timer (endurance, not equanimity) as I am determined to be able to sit through unpleasantness. As they became worse I began to twitch with what I can only describe as revulsion - my head nodding, my arms doing little funky chicken movements as my hands were placed on my knees, my mouth twitching at high speed, and my eyes screwing up. Desire for deliverance at this point? You betcha.


Liam I hadn't realised just how similar our current experiences are! Techniques are pretty far apart (noting vs scanning) but your description above is so familiar --man, it's *exactly* the same!

I haven't been keeping up with your progress here. I will try to rectify that immediately emoticon

Keep up the good work!
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/21/11 12:49 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/21/11 12:49 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Nick Wilson:
Liam I hadn't realised just how similar our current experiences are! Techniques are pretty far apart (noting vs scanning) but your description above is so familiar --man, it's *exactly* the same!
Noting and body scanning are (obviously) different forms of the same practice, insight meditation. To me, they're still on roughly the same end of the continuum compared to things like Koan practice; body scanning is just more structured and less inclusive than noting, with corresponding pros and cons.

I'm not sure whether I've mentioned that I've done a bit of body scanning, and I still find myself automatically scanning around my limbs as noting gathers strength, the body being a grounding place to start before noting becomes more purely choiceless and inclusive of phenomena.

That being so, it's not surprising to me that two people's experiences of the nyanas could be so similar as to be almost identical when they are following a similar methodology of pragmatic investigation too, though hearing it from my Dharma bros does give me the warm fuzzies emoticon
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago at 10/21/11 3:31 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Everything you have said so far about my practice has eventually checked out as true, so I'm inclined to trust your interpretation that I am entering the fourth vipassana jhana, but am still going to verify this by doing a one hour plus sit on Sunday and seeing whether the pattern repeats itself and Re-observation more clearly presents.

I'll always emphasize that anything I say should be verified for oneself, everything I say is always subject to correction should more accurate data become available but I'm glad that it's been of use to you so far. As for Re-Observation, what always sticks out for me is that there's a sort of fractal at the entrance where you zoom through from Fear to Desire for Deliverance really quickly before everything gets all jagged and harsh, but with a skillful slight of mind towards acceptance and equanimity it can open up into 11th quite painlessly.

Liam:
Tommy M: kriyas... can actually be incredibly cleansing

How so? I can imagine energetic/psychogenic reasons, but have no evidence.

I also have no evidence for this either, my statement was based on my own experience. What I noticed was that when these shakings and gesticulations occurred, I would feel drained but lighter in a similar way to how it feels an hour or two after an energetic physical workout. They decreased over time and so I this is why I tend to view them as "cleaning up the channels", which I've placed in quotes to emphasize that this is not a literal description, and breaking through various energetic blockages.


Liam:
Tommy M:A way to efficiently get through Dark Night is to surrender to the experience

I think applying this approach is why I moved through the Dark Night with such clarity and speed yesterday. I'll watch closely for the various phenomena you mention (panoramic vision, perceiving tail ends of sensations etc) as I would really like to know this territory inside out.

I did quite a bit of exploration of Dark Night territory for a while, once you learn how to go through it, as you seem to have already, it's full of really deep insights if you spend a bit of time there. Just stick with the 3C's and you'll do fine.

Liam:
Tommy M: 3rd jhana is inherently pleasurable... don't expect Dark Night to be shitty and harsh just because you think it's supposed to be, it doesn't have to be if you can learn how to negotiate it skilfully

. Interesting. There were certainly pleasurable/satisfying aspects. Do you mean that you have learned how to ride the wave, or that the phenomena of the DN have somehow changed for you?

Until about two weeks ago, I had learned how to ride the wave pretty well but I still fell into the water sometimes. Untying the perceptual knot which allows for the belief that DN needs to feel like shit will happen if you figure out the underlying cause. For me, it was tied up in the belief that life, and thus everything in it, needed to be experienced as tough and unpleasant sometimes. Something along the lines of having to take the rough with the smooth was the general idea. Now though, after an interesting, but not AF yet, shift in baseline the other week I've experienced DN cycling as a certain flavour of feeling or thought but it doesn't do what it did before emotionally or psychologically.

As always, major thanks matey!

And as always, you're more than welcome!
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/21/11 3:59 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/21/11 3:59 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Tommy M:
As for Re-Observation ... with a skillful slight of mind towards acceptance and equanimity it can open up into 11th quite painlessly
When it gets to Re-Observation, I am going to try for 'kindness towards the sensations and the experience of them' rather than 'dogged clinging on'. I wonder whether the two approaches will produce the same results, or even if bloodymindedness will be the better of the two! Something to investigate.

Tommy M:
Just stick with the 3C's and you'll do fine
After pondering this and reviewing End in Sight's comment about the Three Characteristics not being objects attached to sensations, I think I've worked it out. It is experiencing the world in a different way to the usual aversive/desirous way that is the insight. There's no extra component to extrapolate intellectually. 'Understanding this broadly' my arse, Liam... ;)

Tommy M:
Untying the perceptual knot which allows for the belief that DN needs to feel like shit
Now I'm really getting why you have to note everything, even clinging to views that seem helpful and even disastrous to relinquish... within the context of insight practice of course...

Many thanks to everyone on here.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/22/11 3:18 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/22/11 3:18 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Attempting to include thoughts more in noting practice on the way to work, after realising how little they are included compared to bodily sensations and emotions, I realised that they are being bypassed rather than noted, suppressed rather than looked at. They feel like speed bumps on the road. Looking into this, I realised that this is because thoughts that de-rail the noting practice tend to fall into 'ethical', 'practical' or emotional categories:

1: 'That thought was immoral. I'd better stop noting and rationalise it in order to feel compassionate.'

2: 'That thought led to unpleasant emotions. I'd better stop noting and re-stabilise.'

3: 'Did I forget to do something? I'd better stop noting and check.'

The correct response, of course, is that in the context of insight practice, whether something is ethical or practical or not is just content, which is to be seen as such and noted.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/24/11 3:42 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/24/11 3:42 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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TL;DR: Dark Night through to Low Equanimity. Frustrating failure to prevent DN bleedthrough.

Lots of desire to spread the Dharma to people I care about recently - this is obviously a form of bleedthrough that I need to be aware of. A resolution not to talk about this stuff to anyone but other pragmatic Dharma practitioners or contemplative types, or the wife.

In central London, in the process of sorting out a visitor's train for her, and a familiar generalised anxiety appeared, with associated sinking feeling, increased heart rate etc. Noticed this and continued on as usual without showing it much - I'm old hat at this - and resolved to jump on this opportunity to try for Equanimity. I began noting.

By the time I was on my own train it had progressed to a sulky, angry-sad mix of thoughts and feelings with associated heaviness of limbs. Next, an almost flu-like selection of symptoms, along with a harsh unpleasant vibration, frustration and revulsion towards all the phenomena I experienced. My attention felt, and I don't mind quoting, 'panoramic'. I began having facial twitches and rocking began subtly. I started to crave cigarettes but the idea of having one was repulsive. Noting became difficult and it was a matter of staying with whatever was happening around me. I think this was coming in waves at this point with identifiable fear, misery and disgust notes.

Getting home I plonked myself on the zafu and began noting like a mofo. Very quickly I began to have big, fast kriyas like I've never experienced before, much facial twitching, head nodding, gurning, funky chicken, whole body rocking in a circular fashion. I resolved to sit through it all. I tried for a 'kind' attitude but this seemed tacked-on, and instead just watched as all this occurred. Fast and loud staccato breathing and sniffing, but no pain.

My mind wandered a couple of times and I put more effort into noting, with cool determination. The kriyas continued and the noting sped up beyond anything I've experienced before. Thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, sounds and so forth were noted without the usual difficulty of shifting between forms. Noting got easier, harder, easier. I dropped back to monosyllabic noting, back up to noticing, refusing to 'search' for phenomena and just noting whatever came up, including mental inclinations, not-noting, more bodily feelings than usual, thoughts. Certainly ten times a second at least. A sense of being watched and a feeling something was going to happen. Whenever my mind wandered, I brought it back to noting.

Eventually the emotional content died down though the kriyas continued. I felt very calm and focused on noting. There were thoughts about the vipassana map but I was able to note them without frustration. The kriyas came in cycles. I noted a desire to stop meditating and carried on. The mind searched for a Fruition without craving. I carried on until my neck and back started aching from the kriyas and I stopped noting about an hour after I'd started.

Funny stuff, this vipassana lark. What will people think on retreat when I'm bouncing up and down on my cushion, eh? ;)
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 10/24/11 4:00 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/24/11 4:00 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Lots of desire to spread the Dharma to people I care about recently - this is obviously a form of bleedthrough that I need to be aware of. A resolution not to talk about this stuff to anyone but other pragmatic Dharma practitioners or contemplative types, or the wife.

It is a good idea to make such a resolution so that you don't proselytize in a bizarre way...however, to the extent that you think the dharma has benefited you, there is good reason to share it with others, so perhaps there is a neutral way of talking about it which you could find.

I have no real suggestions about this (and in fact would welcome some); I struggle to find a way to talk about these issues with people which would both be down-to-earth as well as beneficial to them. Most of the time I avoid saying much due to not knowing how to approach the issue skillfully, except in the case of particular people who I know would be interested in hearing the gory details. (Probably the same line of thinking that's gone through your head.)

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Getting home I plonked myself on the zafu and began noting like a mofo. Very quickly I began to have big, fast kriyas like I've never experienced before, much facial twitching, head nodding, gurning, funky chicken, whole body rocking in a circular fashion. I resolved to sit through it all. I tried for a 'kind' attitude but this seemed tacked-on, and instead just watched as all this occurred. Fast and loud staccato breathing and sniffing, but no pain.

One thing I found is that, when I had these experiences, there was always some subtle mental thing I was doing to fuel them, even if I thought I was just observing...and, if I could "relax" and not do that, they would all go away (and the progress of insight would move forward).

Dunno how common this is, but I think I got the idea from having read some short excerpt from Jack Kornfield. Worth a shot!

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]My mind wandered a couple of times and I put more effort into noting, with cool determination. The kriyas continued and the noting sped up beyond anything I've experienced before. Thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, sounds and so forth were noted without the usual difficulty of shifting between forms. Noting got easier, harder, easier. I dropped back to monosyllabic noting, back up to noticing, refusing to 'search' for phenomena and just noting whatever came up, including mental inclinations, not-noting, more bodily feelings than usual, thoughts. Certainly ten times a second at least.

If you can remember this mental state (in terms of what it's like to note so fast) and tune into it in the future, that might be able to help you.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Eventually the emotional content died down though the kriyas continued. I felt very calm and focused on noting. There were thoughts about the vipassana map but I was able to note them without frustration. The kriyas came in cycles. I noted a desire to stop meditating and carried on. The mind searched for a Fruition without craving. I carried on until my neck and back started aching from the kriyas and I stopped noting about an hour after I'd started.

If you're really on a roll, why not try lying down (continuing to note) next time?

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Funny stuff, this vipassana lark. What will people think on retreat when I'm bouncing up and down on my cushion, eh? ;)

Goenka tells a story about someone like this and related it to their day job (something to do with building ICBMs). emoticon
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/26/11 10:35 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/26/11 10:35 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Thanks, EIS.

End in Sight:
to the extent that you think the dharma has benefited you, there is good reason to share it with others, so perhaps there is a neutral way of talking about it
You've got a point in that it doesn't have to be black and white. My best friend was bemoaning his lack of understanding about 'how to get into a tradition that was for him' and 'wanting to be able to ask the hard questions', and so seemed delighted when I told him about pragmatic Dharma. Of course, I had difficulty shutting up about it after that ;)

I think the rule for me is going to have to be to ask myself the following: Am I talking about this because it makes me feel 'spiritual'? Am I showing off? Has this person shown genuine signs of interest or am I lecturing? Am I slamming someone else's practice/beliefs implicitly by talking about how great pragmatic Dharma is? Does this person seem to be 'seeking' something non-dual? Do I think they'll get what I'm saying? Am I arguing for the sake of winning an argument with someone who might have something to teach me?

End in Sight:
when I had these experiences (kriyas), there was always some subtle mental thing I was doing to fuel them
There was certainly that sense. I could have physically stopped them but chose to watch. I wonder whether they will prove to be a useful signpost for certain nyanas or whether they will 'run out' of themselves as per the energy blockages interpretation.

End in Sight:
why not try lying down (continuing to note) next time?
Good thinking Batman. There was also a time constraint as I was meant to be meeting my other half, but I ended up completely wired and hyperaware after the sit! Made me wonder whether it was a 3Cs into A&P thing, but I doubt it.

A half hour sit a few minutes ago: Very boring. A few small kriyas. Longing for a solid sign of progress. Some interesting questions popping into my head about how I was experiencing things, for example, emotions as separate from the physical sensations linked to them. Quite relaxed and nodded off. Decided to do mindfulness of housework instead. A bit distracted, mindfulness feels forced and too cognitive. My diagnosis: I've got complacent after the other day's big sit and haven't practiced enough, and so my mindfulness has decreased. The plan: find a middle ground between these big swings in effort, and also a middle ground between over-analysing practice and just getting on with it.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 10/26/11 4:55 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/26/11 12:45 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]I think the rule for me is going to have to be to ask myself the following: Am I talking about this because it makes me feel 'spiritual'? Am I showing off? Has this person shown genuine signs of interest or am I lecturing? Am I slamming someone else's practice/beliefs implicitly by talking about how great pragmatic Dharma is? Does this person seem to be 'seeking' something non-dual? Do I think they'll get what I'm saying? Am I arguing for the sake of winning an argument with someone who might have something to teach me?

Perhaps you could talk about issues such as the value of a regular practice, or the value of extending mindfulness to daily life, insofar as you have experienced them. These are relatively non-sectarian and non-divisive and (possibly) non-aggrandizing topics.

I myself have found that there is some value in forgetting about meditation and the word "spirituality" altogether, and just talking about my experiences in completely down-to-earth ways. For example, paying attention to all one's senses is a lot more interesting than being lost in some inner world, and I have found that it helps me be a better person and makes me happier. That can be the beginning of a conversation, even if it usually isn't strictly about "spirituality". I'm not sure it's the best way, but it does seem to be helpful to others...better than not talking about it at all.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Decided to do mindfulness of housework instead. A bit distracted, mindfulness feels forced and too cognitive.

In these cases, can you find a way to observe your experience in which you don't feel like you're trying or expending effort?

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]The plan: find a middle ground between these big swings in effort, and also a middle ground between over-analysing practice and just getting on with it.

Good idea.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 10/2/12 4:10 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/29/11 4:53 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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End in Sight:
Perhaps you could talk about issues such as the value of a regular practice, or the value of extending mindfulness to daily life
I think this deserves a practical thread of its own beyond the helpful general advice given by Daniel in 'Toxic Dharma' - I'll have a think.

End in Sight:
can you find a way to observe your experience in which you don't feel like you're trying or expending effort?
You often talk about recalling or looking for states of mind, and this is interesting to me, because it's where my practice is at this week - consciously trying to balance the five spiritual faculties and bolster the seven factors of enlightenment. I can't jump to a mind state easily, but I can encourage its arising, when I am mindful enough to be aware of what is lacking and can resolve to cultivate it through actions that promote it. I don't have the kind of control over my mind that you imply yet, but that's increasing.

On another note (hur), noting practice is becoming more seamless when mindfulness is strong. Yesterday felt like an A&P kind of day, all shimmers on the river, smugness and beginnings. Some new things that I noted:

Typing on keyboard
Bleariness on waking (thanks Stian)
Tears of gratitude with a straight face while eating in a public place (the notes interleaving, amusingly)
A sense of uncanniness/magic to experience (something to do with anicca?)
Ironic watching of anger arising and passing
Distances between objects
Internal verbal monologue

This list is mainly for a laugh, but it does show the greater inclusivity of noting. Thoughts are harder to catch now as there are less compulsive loops and mind-chatter.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/31/11 9:26 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Slip-sliding up and down the nyanas depending on my level of mindfulness and effort, which if anything is a learning experience.

Yesterday, walking around East London, my ability to focus on what was in front of me was very impaired - my attention was sliding off those phenomena even when I attempted to concentrate on them and 'wandering' around in the periphery. I would call it distractable, but I was more aware of little phenomena in a way I'm not usually, giving rise to great feelings of novelty and enjoyment of the sensorium. This was accompanied by frustration, worry and a bit of misery. Clearly Dark Night experiences, and the understanding of them as such is making it so much easier to step back and function better.

Talking about this with my partner, we played a kind of game in which we had to count our breaths and continue having the conversation. Excellent for focus. He managed to get to about a hundred breaths or so without any lapse of concentration, he says, and I don't doubt him - he does visualisations and informal insight practices all the time. This is fascinating as it's clear that without formal teaching, or even caring about goal-oriented practice, he's much more awake than I am!
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/31/11 12:47 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/31/11 12:47 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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A half hour sit that seemed strangely equanimous from the start. Noting was easy and quick. Then a short blissful period that involved a mild head-rush up towards the crown and very speedy noting with very fast 'stream of consciousness' style thoughts, neutrally noted. Some sexual content. Difficult to note fast enough.

This moved into a further equanimous state which required engagement to continue noting. Some anxious feelings and an increased heartbeat, more unpleasant thoughts of a kind that really push my buttons, nonetheless noted and not dwelt upon (too grossly unpleasant to slip under the radar). Quickly led into miserable, irritated restlessness and into revulsion with associated kriyas, not as bad as before, but with rapid eye movements. My eyes are still sore as they kept rolling very high up. A definite sense that something was encouraging the kriyas, and every time this was noted, I relaxed. Desire for escape from feeling.

The unpleasantness started to wear off, noting became harder, and I started dozing. Kriyas were waking me up out of this half-asleep state. Since I'm on a night shift tonight, not really surprised. Came out of the sit and continued to cultivate mindfulness.

First jhana, mini A&P event, Dark Night and a touch of Equanimity, I reckon, as is becoming a standard pattern for me. It would be very nice to have some foothold in Equanimity before I go on retreat in November to have a good shot at stream entry, but I'm aware there are basically no tricks to this other than continual effort.

'Are you practicing?' sits centrally on my desktop, reminding me to be mindful. I am determined to crack this.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 10/31/11 10:13 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 10/31/11 10:13 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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For the past seven days I have been trying to really ramp up the mindfulness, after resolving to find a 'middle ground' on issues of analysis and effort. This has had the following effects, which might be of curiosity to those interested in matters of integration of Virtue and Insight:

The greater care, attention and goal orientation in practice has led to greater care, attention and goal-oriented living, directly and indirectly.

I am more aware of the benefits of mindful periods and the unskillful behaviour inherent in lapses, making the difference between them seem more vast (and making the actual difference even more so as I become capable of greater levels of mindfulness).

Movement up and down the vipassana jhanas is clearer and quicker, ergo the experience of the progress of insight is much more intense.

Mind-states are being superceded quicker, meaning a suddenly reactive period can be curtailed by a resolution, but also back-sliding occurs swiftly into less wholesome states when mindfulness is lax. From the outside this must be quite bewildering.

There is a process of calling up of old memories, habits, mental-states, especially those linked to the period in which I believe I first entered the Dark Night, but which are being psychologically 'dealt with' more comprehensively.

In the spirit of 'every second is precious' I did an hour's sit in my break. Instead of feeling more tired, I feel pretty energised. It was a direct attack on my difficulties with sloth and torpor, really, considering I will be on the most intensive retreat I've ever been on in twenty days. The mind was less frustrated with nodding and dozing due to having this intent, and there was less inclination to stop practicing and rest. However, the tired mind still acted as usual, with a quick relay of thoughts and images moving through my mind in a semi-logical free association. I could just imagine the neurons firing in a haphazard fashion as the brain was half-shut down. Now I get, quite viscerally, what End in Sight was doing during his 'Drunken Vipassana Fist' meditations.

What was interesting was that each was noted at speed and their 'concept' fully appreciated without the trains of thought and emotion that would usually arise, for the best part, or else the note seemed to cut them off half way through. This tells me that firstly, the sensations involved in thought are even less solid and more momentary than perceived before; and secondly, that I sense these thoughts can be further carved up into briefer component sensations.

Either way, the ability to note thoughts, which until recently could easily drag me into content games or were too 'clunky' to note quickly, will be useful to more inclusive noting, and ergo to working my way through Equanimity.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 11/3/11 1:02 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Dipping in and out of sleep before finally going off in a way I don't usually do (due to a fractured body clock), and there was much more awareness of the movement between (arbitrary) levels of wakefulness, even when almost asleep. I had always thought the mind would be too muddled to be aware of these transitions. Very interesting, in that there is automatic noticing going on even at these times. It doesn't feel a jump away from lucid dreaming, which might be interesting to cultivate.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 11/6/11 9:44 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Two hours of sitting meditation broken up by two lots of walking meditation. Unpleasant vibrations, an excess of jittery energy and a desire to face whatever arises in meditation prompted the sit. Immediately dropped into pronounced Misery and Disgust with a hint of Fear, with every phenomenon being irritating and repulsive. A lot of loss of concentration and quite a fight to remain in the game, though noting was highly inclusive. Some attempts to trick myself into 'better' meditation by focusing on the breath, opening the eyes, trying another posture and attempting choiceless awareness, but all in all nothing changed, which I suppose is the point! Some hints of equanimity, though mainly a weary endurance that reeked of Desire for Deliverance. The usual types of kriyas, and even some whimpering at times, though they seem more and more to be something psychogenic. The waves of different Dark Night vibes suggests Re-observation, though all in all the actual experience of this did not crest to a high level of restlessness as often occurs.

It seems reasonable, now that I have mapped the first three vipassana jhanas relatively well, move quickly through them, and can endure whatever the Dark Night has had to throw at me so far, that on retreat I should aim for stream entry. Advice I have received on renunciation and equanimity are resonating with my experience and so I'm going to keep pegging away at the 24/7 mindfulness regardless of my opinions on how the meditation is going. This is not to say that I'm not getting a bit hacked off with pre-path, but I know the cure is patient diligence!
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 11/7/11 7:55 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 11/7/11 7:55 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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TL;DR: A clear presentation of the second sub-nana of Re-observation, followed by a glimpse of Equanimity.

I'm starting to move up and down the nanas less, staying at the tail end of the Dark Night instead of experiencing A&P characteristics. Any desire to go back to the A&P has gone as I'm distrusting of the slightly manic high which must be followed by the compulsive behaviours of Dissolution. Ergo, there's just a sense of longing for an end to the Dark Night and a fear of not pushing through Equanimity.

If yesterday was a clear presentation of the aspects of Misery and Disgust within Re-observation, then morning was pure Desire for Deliverance aspect. Instead of the unpleasant vibes and revulsion, there was a sullen apathy and awareness of all the little aches and pains in my body. Feeling lethargic as I forced myself to get ready for work, I realised what renunciation meant very viscerally: no sensation could even pretend to be satisfying or permanent anymore, derailing the usual desires for worldly things. There being little trust that stream entry could provide an escape from this, given the lack of experience of it, instead the craving for the world to be other than it is grew, with much dwelling in content and poor mindfulness. Instances of Misery, Disgust and Fear popped up, highlighting the tedium.

As I continued to fight to stay with the present moment there didn't seem much point in noting, but I continued anyway, no longer looking for results. Quickly, the sulkiness subsided and there was a lightness in the chest. It seemed foolish not to accept whatever was in consciousness. I would describe it as the craving becoming so all-encompassing that it was dropped as too much to bear. There were a poignant few moments of gratitude and a desire to gently weep which were stepped away from, as disturbing the feeling of relief. Focusing on this equanimity lessened my mindfulness and I felt like the Dark Night symptoms began creeping back in, so I concentrated on noting, only to find that the inclination to notice sensations was far more effective than putting in actual effort to note.

Sorry about the melodharma, but I'm describing how I felt at the time - with the perspective afforded by reflection, it's quite clear what these experiences were, and if anything I'm quite glad to have had the 'Desire for Deliverance' aspect so clearly mapped.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 11/8/11 4:07 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 11/8/11 4:07 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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I was too absorbed in my role at work to really focus on sensations pleasant or unpleasant, so as soon as I left yesterday evening, I dropped straight back into automatic noting of Re-observation symptoms as well as experiencing some weird anicca stuff (a sense of hyperreality, like watching the watcher) and some interesting Disgust-type symptoms (sudden focus on the dirty, faded and broken bits of the inside of a train).

This morning, inclining the mind to accept whatever arose and note irregardless of content gave rise to Equanimity within minutes, or perhaps made me aware that I was already there. There was a sense that the tide had turned in terrms of struggling with the Dark Night (I've stopped struggling and that's sorted it out), but also a cool diligence as I'm aware that it is very easy to fall back if one gets lost in the content of the nana. The actual content of the nana is hard to define, being at the moment mainly a lack of Dark Night symptoms, and a lessened desire to seek pleasure.

I am noticing rather than noting, except for thoughts, which I am accepting and allowing to pass with a monosyllabic note. It seems natural not to furiously apply attention in order to practice speedily, but instead to focus with more precision and explore the experience of phenomena. I am noticing/noting the Three Characteristics directly in conjunction with sensations- for example sound-unpleasantness-impermanence but without actual verbal notes.

I'm looking forward to when formations present themselves, though I'm not attaching to that as it might not be a clear apprehension.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 11/12/11 12:14 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 11/12/11 12:14 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Yesterday's 'on the way to work' sesh was a bout of sustained monosyllabic noting/noticing. With the tentative assumption that the calm and highly inclusive awareness was Equanimity, I reflected briefly on 'what I might be missing' as per MCTB: it seemed to be interest in the individual nature of sensations, when so much Dark Night sitting might as well as have been counting pennies when noting, struggling to stay in the game or having to simply hold on to the practice. I attempted to be as aware of them in their entirety, from beginning to end, and in how they presented compared to each other, as possible, which was a pleasantly active way of doing it. There was little sense of a 'high' as per A&P (though again, this remains a possibility) and mapping/planning thoughts were noted, there being less of these than in the past. This was pleasant of course, but rapture was not the predominant factor, and the pleasure was mainly in the skill. Hunting for formations requires noting.

Some more Dark Night vibes a la Fear and Disgust later in the evening once work had finished and I could put more power into the noting - amazing how quickly one falls back - but with very few twitches.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 11/14/11 8:23 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 11/14/11 1:32 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: pre-path

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Today's first lesson is: follow instructions. The second lesson is: FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS. ;)

Damningly I've been seeing following the breath as a beginner's game despite explicit comments to the contrary from experienced practitioners, especially those who point out that there is no such thing as a practice purely for beginners. As such, when I've been noting, it has been hard work being bounced from pillar to post without a still centre point to ground me. Instead, for the last couple of days I have been trying to be aware of the breath at all times - not some aspect of bodily awareness that may vary, but just the breath.

Before, mindfulness seemed almost artificial at times as I struggled to keep up with the transience of objects in awareness, but concentrating on the breath really wakes me up. Suddenly noticing was very easy; all I had to do was focus lightly on the breath and somehow relax into awareness of my surroundings. Concentration stops feeling split after a few seconds as the breath 'goes out' into the field of awareness, the experience of other phenomena interlacing with phases of it in mind moments. It felt as if before, I was being buffeted in a storm, while now, I have driven a tether deep into the ground which stays stable as everything else darts about.

I had thought that it was too distracting to perform this kind of mindfulness exercise whilst, for example, at work, but if anything I can use this to respond carefully and skillfully to others, as well as to note when I am not directly engaging with them.

I'm going to check Practical Insight Meditation to see whether I'm truly following instructions correctly, and again it amazes me how easy it is for me to not simply follow them but instead let attempted cleverness trip me up, but to be honest I feel confident enough in my technique now to trust my own judgement, and my previous noting wasn't exactly without merit.

There is one frustrating point though: this method makes my breathing very deliberate. Any pointers? Are my experiences in fact linked more with Equanimity than technique, as it seems I am bouncing between that and Re-observation?

(Edit: unfinished post completed)
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 10/2/12 4:12 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 12/5/11 4:52 PM

RE: Practice thread 2

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I came back from a two week Mahasi retreat at Satipanya (see my review of this slightly marve place) on Sunday. I learned the noting technique directly from an experienced teacher who wasn't afraid of getting technical where required, Bhante Bodhidhamma, and attempted to apply Tarin and Nikolai's 'shooting for stream entry' instructions as I saw them.

Basically, this retreat has really humbled me, and I hope things stay that way. When I first came across it, I appreciated the pragmatic approach of this site and others as a way of staying investigative and down-to-earth while exploring the Dharma, which was obviously vast and subtle enough to get completely lost in. I didn't see the potential for misunderstanding and misapplying the pragmatic approach itself though as an ego game.

I won't harp on as these traps are quite obvious in hindsight and I'll save them for the Neurotic's Guide to Pragmatic Dharma that I have (only semi-jokingly) considered making notes for, and the whole point of course is to recognise your greed, hatred and delusion. I'd like to think I'm moving back to a more respectful, kind and honest position.

In terms of how we discuss things here, though, I'd say I've been cherry-picking experiences that have given the impression that I was finishing up Re-Observation. The first few days of retreat were a big bunch of content, physical pain and the hindrances. This was probably due to noting thoughts for the first time ever in any great detail and quantity, especially expectations, desires, irritations and so forth, and the resulting mental and bodily reactions to these. Over-efforting led to an interesting experience in which I think I basically clubbed the mind into submission, becoming very concentrated and unemotional, accidentally entering a jhanic state at one point.

Eventually I began working out what I was doing wrong, going back to basics with the teacher's instructions. I relaxed into some calm, blissful or genuinely equanimous states at points, often due to mental exhaustion, tiredness or periods of defeat. This included one in which felt like experiencing the ever-flowing now as a kind of moment complete in itself. These of course left immediately as I seized on them. There were a lot of obvious 'mind and body interaction' type insights (pleasant and unpleasant) when I stopped trying to think my way to enlightenment. In the last two days there was a fair whack of physical pain and some amusingly weird twisting of the body on the cushion that are hard to explain away. There were plenty of 'conventional' insights as well, though many of them had a distinctly perceptual bent. Metta seemed pragmatic and effective for the first time as I actually began to apply it.

In any case, comments are welcome, and I'm trying to use this as a healthy goad to balanced daily practice.
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Jane Laurel Carrington, modified 10 Years ago at 12/5/11 7:05 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 12/5/11 7:05 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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I'm "replying" to your first post just to move the thread back to the left :-) . Anyway--

Welcome to the club! I started this practice in the hopes of knocking myself out to get to stream entry, after which I believed all my problems in life would suddenly be easier, if not over. I got to low equanimity at the end of the summer and felt like a goddess. Everything seemed so effortless, after a long hard slog through some miserable D.N. But the slog just meant I'd earned it, so I was fine with that. I just tripped along the path feeling that I'd be at stream entry by Christmas (the only present I wanted).

To make a long story short, I got slammed back into the dukkhas. This time around instead of crying all the time I ended up with a nasty case of anxiety, with a painful knot in the midsection all day that would spike in the vicinity of my pet phobias. I am tentatively beginning to hope that I am no longer walking around in a continuous state of vigilance, but I can't be sure. Nor can I expect that even if I am beginning to get back to eq. I won't have another trip to the dukkhas yet again. The temptation to feel frustrated is understandable, but if you recall Tarin and Nikolai's case histories, you'll find that both of them put in a considerable amount of time and effort over a long period before they reached first path. Other people may get there sooner or with less work, but no one's experience can be a template for your own.

And I know we all acknowledge this, and at the same time we all hope that we'll be the ones for whom everything opens up with seamless ease. But I now have a different model for understanding this process. Instead of thinking, I will work hard to be rewarded as soon as possible, I'm thinking I have to learn whatever it is the path has to teach me, so if I'm knocked back into fear or misery or disgust it's because there are deeper layers of insight that I need to uncover. I don't want to go overboard with such thinking, become complacent, and join the mushroom culture, nor do I doubt that even after first path there are plenty of things still to learn. But at the same time I tell myself now that if I'm feeling stuck in a less-than-desirable place, it's because I need to be there.

Hanging out here or on KFD when you're pre-path can feel like being a kid looking into the window of a big candy store, watching others get luscious goodies while unable to go inside oneself. There's also a fear that we will be forever shut out. There's a bit of greed and aversion in that kind of thinking. May we both be enlightened in this lifetime!
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 1/22/12 2:26 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/22/12 2:26 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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Thanks for your comments, Laurel - all very helpful.

Bagpuss has quite rightly poked me for not posting recently, so here's the state of play. Having settled into a new job I began straight after my Satipanya retreat, I've reflected on practice; during December, I wasn't sitting, but I was still automatically paying attention in a practice mode, and this has resulted in a bit of progress. The generalised 'ick' vibes disappeared once I stopped practicing vigorous noting, which seems to point to it being a DN phenomenon (and therefore some sliding back through the nanas).

The tough lessons of the retreat boil down to a greater awareness of how craving directly produces suffering (who knew?), for example in that I suffered more grossly when craving enlightenment as a concept on retreat, than I do now as an unenlightened person off retreat (who is more subtly desiring it). This is all kind of paradoxical, but clear when enlightenment is not seen as a 'thing'. Even these habits are in some way unpleasant and anxiety-inducing to relinquish, pointing to said habits being seen as part of self.

This has, at some points, led to a reduction in aversion when engaging in activities that on some level I don't want to do - the mind seems to have cottoned on to 'things don't have to be this way', and unpleasant sensations are seen with more equanimity. Certain levels of soreness in the feet during walking meditation after a busy shift were seen as more interesting than unpleasant. Similarly, more gross sensual pleasures are being more clearly seen as unsatisfying, in a kind of removal of denial, and the desire to engage in them is lessened.

The self just seems that little bit more changeable at the moment- 'starting again, again and again' could be my slogan for practice and life in general now, with a greater desire to stay in the present, which now seems like the only possible place any kind of lasting satisfaction could be found. Past and future feel increasingly abstract and suffering-inducing in terms of the lived experience, and there is an certain relinquishment of the desire to control and incorporate. If anything the self sometimes feels a touch porous, and grosser negative emotional reactions to even nasty things I see unnecessary, being more about me than any adaptive response. I will be performing metta in the evenings to make sure this doesn't turn into coldness.

It's arguable as to whether these are sila 'insights' or panna 'Insight' - at my point, I can't see any difference between these two Trainings. They seem very psychological in a psychotherapeutic sense, but mainly derived from mindfulness cleaning the windscreen. I don't know whether these are the result of sliding back or whether they'll be more permanent.

In any case, I'm continuing my attempts to be mindful 24/7, mainly through mindfulness of body. I'm making a habit of acknowledging thoughts and even trains of thought that try to dismiss/reject/contradict unpleasant thoughts. Sorting out my routine and simplifying my life has made more time for a daily sit, too. I suspect that as soon as I get up to speed that the DN will creep up on me, but I hope that I will be able to dis-embed from its phenomena more easily now.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 2/8/12 3:15 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/8/12 3:15 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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Attempting to be mindful at all times, with a base of bodily awareness, walking meditation whenever going anywhere, and as much noting of sensations that 'jump out' at me as possible. I'm becoming better at 'dissecting' content into phenomena of the six sense doors which is improving the ability to dis-embed, but this is only possible due to a more accepting mind-set. Chicken and egg?

There is some suspicion that a period of bouyancy, particularly vivid sensory input and one-pointed attention followed by a more grim 'sloggy' vibe was me moving back up from second to third vipassana jhana. I'm holding that model quite lightly, though, considering the bother such speculation has caused me recently.

The more important aspect seems to be the increased willingness to focus on the unpleasant, after multiple teachings on 'fully knowing suffering', 'embracing suffering', 'purification' and so on. Greater equanimity to these sensations is also arising, as opposed to relief when they end, which I think I've confused before. This patient approach is helping to prevent wallowing in content - for instance, concern about 'breathing correctly' while doing Mahasi noting is being noted itself.

I am also making a strong effort to distinguish between the various sense doors (hunger as opposed to desire for sensory stimulus being a good example) and to closely follow where the breath begins and ends in meditation.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 2/23/12 7:02 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/23/12 7:02 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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The goal remains being mindful as close to 24/7 and this is my main practice at the moment: just paying attention. I am catching myself on automatic pilot more than ever, and interestingly am now noticing tiny lapses of concentration within these periods where I am attempting to be mindful, as stray thoughts pinwheel off or a sensation distracts me. This strikes me as a sign of progress.

I've not been sitting for more twenty minutes at a time and not at home, though I'm seizing every little opportunity to practice. This seems to be because on days in which I have things to do I am energised and so momentum builds, whereas on days off it's easy to slack off when in fact that would be a prime time to do some Mahasi noting for an hour or two, which I certainly have the patience to do in one go these days.

Perhaps I'm digging lots of tiny holes as Andy W helpfully discussed at the latest meet, but I am trying to more take the spirit of the thing and apply attention whatever way works at the time. When I'm tired I do fast 'datdatdat' noting, when I'm frazzled I ground myself in the body, when I'm calm I do Mahasi, when the body is shouting with fatigue or nervous energy, I watch the dance of sensations.

I'm on a big acceptance trip (as before, the chicken-and-egg, sila-or-panya thing would be annoying if I hadn't learned to just note that thinking) and this is helping me to note thoughts and stay in the moment more. As I ramp up the meditation I hope this will affect the unpleasant sensations that I tend to get caught on. Certainly at the moment there's no sense of pleasant highs or rough lows during practice or in everyday life, though growing equanimity is making these seem more arbitrary anyway.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 3/1/12 9:55 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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Again, the sense that 'finally, I'm doing it right!' which I'm now savvy enough to smile knowingly at and know it's all a day by day recreation of practice. ;)

Using practice often as a psychotherapeutic tool, semi-knowingly, has had benefits in terms of the Morality training. I've come to the point at which putting such concerns aside entirely whilst on the cushion is the way to go now in order to pursue Concentration and Insight practice more purely. I could witter on about it, but the point is basically that dispassionately noting is doing me more good than trying to sort through 'issues' right now, especially as the Three Characteristics become more forward in my experience, and that seeing through issues makes them non-issues.

When I say this, I mean that (finally!) due to greater inclusion of thoughts in my noting, I am more able to pick out what is mentation and what is experience. Phenomena have been experienced as very unsatisfactory, just not fulfilling of desires; things like desire and aversion have seemed more transparent, their transience making them less imperative to act on. I can drink a cup of green tea and enjoy the flavour but the craving for the flavour or the associations is apparent and impersonal. It'd be scary if not for it being equanimous and not apathetic. This has been different to the attempt to 'infer' the Three Characteristics by logic.

Having said that, some interesting thoughts for the geeks: After reading Ron Crouch's description of Cause and Effect, it's possible that I've been stuck bouncing between that and The Three Characteristics for much of the time due to much dwelling in content. Also, there's been a certain awareness of the mental effort involved in sensory perception, as if the sound itself was being created in the act, inferring the creation of sense impressions. This has intrigued me as it points towards anicca in a logical way and this is the Characteristic that I feel is less clear to me experientially, but that's the philosopher in me.

I've been making an effort to be aware of the ping-pong of the desire to suppress thoughts generally or specifically, which the mind does for various reasons. I'm also trying to let the noting 'flow' a bit and to note chains of associations rather than get lost in the content, which usually happens after two or three associations.

I'm also going back to concentration practice (metta just isn't happening, I humbly try to treat my work as a compassion practice anyway) to compliment the noting, mainly counting breaths and letting monkey mind get on with singing arias. There's not a lot of desire to 'go for jhanas' at the moment though they'd be fun if they arose, so this particular self-sabotage of my concentration practice (trying to force jhanas) has subsided.

I'm rearranging large portions of my life around practice in a reasonable way- good sleep prevents drowsiness, not drinking promotes mindfulness, getting essential life stuff out of the way gives me half an hour to sit and note- so I'm hoping this will facilitate continuing a daily sitting routine, which is the only way I'm going to 'get this done'.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 3/11/12 5:43 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 3/11/12 5:43 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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Twenty minutes of particularly ideal practice this morning.

Mindfulness of the body established while grabbing my cushion and so on, then just plonking myself down and not squirming about too much. Access concentration established in about twenty breaths, did about thirty more to strengthen it, then turned to noting when it seemed natural.

Started off with the usual 'rising... falling', quickly moving to 'hearing... seeing... calm... feeling...' about once per second. Things which have often got me off track, such as feeling saliva beginning to fill the mouth and really wanting to swallow, irritation due to repetitive images, mind chatter, analytical thought, and worries about technique were noted. Some twitching around the eyes which I was tempted to stop but instead noted. Interestingly, some automatic body scanning was also noted rather than suppressed. Desire to flip over into 'pushing' for jhana, as I was enjoying the calm, was noted.

I moved to monosyllabic noting which I haven't done for a while, as sensations were clearly noticed more than once per second. Soon the noting was too fast for much analytical thought, especially repeat offenders like 'is the noting stopping me experiencing the sensation fully?' I allowed myself to follow trains of association rather than moving the attention back to the breath deliberately.

Thoughts about the third nana came into my mind and immediately there was a pressure on my right side as if my body wanted to twist. The thought came that this was some kind of autosuggestion and I continued noting, at which point the mind bounced onto other things. Some doziness towards the end (noted) and some desire to get up, all noted, and that was that.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 3/20/12 7:06 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 3/20/12 7:06 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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The monthly meet proving to be a great goad to practice as usual, it cemented my desire to see all these small and fast events that it seems those with greater concentration than I have, so I have stepped up my concentration practice. I feel little pain while I sit at the moment and have great patience, though any clear identifiers as to where I am in the nanas are absent, at least as far as I can see. I'm basically practicing with every moment I can think to practice with, and bearing in mind my own tendencies to turn this into a battle.

Practicing mindfulness of body, especially of walking and of the breath, is simultaneously a touch gruelling and serves to raise my energy. I feel a touch clumsier sometimes, as thought intrudes and tries to take over the process of being in the present. Physical tiredness brings a great interest and aesthetic enjoyment of sensations, noting is bringing frustration and thoughts to the fore, and I am finding it interesting how much mental Stuff is surfacing. There is an attempt to take a less masochistic, and more realistic, approach to practice, which is partly why I have gone back to concentration practice - though perhaps I'm not solidifying the object very well, as my attention darts around the kasina, and the irritation involved in not having perfect attention asserts itself...
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 4/1/12 7:16 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/1/12 7:16 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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The two words I'd describe my day to day experience with are 'samsaric' and 'equanimous'. There's an experience of the three characteristics much of the time now that has nothing to do with intellectualising them, but at the same time I suffer considerably less than before I started meditating regularly, without a huge change of conditions. I think worries about practice have been covering up what is actually decent practice. I'm still doing the above mentioned methods, but it's also got to the point where there's a real (if subtle) sense of being 'on the ride' and I want to see what happens at stream entry to this samsaric quality to life. As such I'm 'backing off the career ladder' as Dan Ingram would call it, and taking advantage of a move in a few months to increase the amount of time I have for practice- the plan is to continue doing some samatha as a supportive measure to an increased amount of vipassana.

I've just sat an hour of samatha, which is the longest samatha sit I've done for some time. There was very decent concentration, posture and a lack of pain, though the temptation to note was quite strong and an inability to let go of the breath at times led to a lot of tension in the abdomen. Sloth, torpor and restlessness kicked in around the forty minute mark. Many phenomena that would have been distracting before, weren't. I experimented with concentrating at the anapana spot, at the abdomen and with the whole breath, as seemed natural. Once I was relatively absorbed, I experimented with various forms of concentration, trying to fiercely follow the breath at times, at another point doing something that I can only describe as fixing my awareness on an area and allowing the breath to emerge within it. I'm not sure I have the vocabulary for this, though it seemed like a wider awareness. I felt that most of each phenomenon was being observed, rather than just the start, middle or end. Concentrating on the experience of concentration led to upwellings of pleasant feeling that I've considered soft first jhana before.

This all makes me suspect that I'm now lurking around the end of the Dukkha nanas, Desire for Deliverance onwards, and increasingly sitting in Low Equanimity (but who knows eh?)
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 4/18/12 10:43 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/18/12 10:43 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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I feel I'm shifting between late Dark Night and Equanimity quite a lot now. A sense of wanting to get re-engaged with the world, spaciousness, curiosity, concentration and acceptance was felt over the last couple of weeks... it's subtly moved back into jagged vibes, a sulkiness that comes from nowhere that I no longer identify with as 'mine', a touch of attention deficit, a lack of ability to become one-pointed and (last night) quickly shifting negative emotions from disgust to misery to restlessness...

At the moment, I'm doing more meditation than ever, but dozing off sitting upright is very common, my eyes are stinging as I look at the kasina, there's a lot of restlessness and dislike of meditation, when usually I really enjoy it these days. It's all pretty textbook I suppose! I'm finding noting the visual field out and about much more suiting my here-and-there attention.

The progress is in that this is no longer 'A Problem' for me. CCC's comment that it's easy to turn pragmatic Dharma's insistence that content should be put aside during insight practices into a neurotic fear of content is very poignant to me, as I keep stepping back from the thicket of views again and again during practice, but simultaneously try and get stuck in with 'the realities and verities of life' off the cushion as the late, great Peace Pilgrim puts it. This is alongside an appreciation of Bruno's 'foul insights' thread in which he describes equanimity that seems to be so laid back as to not be particularly fussed as to what happens at all, which is how I've experienced what seems to be Low Equanimity.

Irregardless I'm stepping back, again and again, from all these theories too, and just noting like a bugger ;)
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Richard Zen, modified 10 Years ago at 4/18/12 4:58 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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Reobservation is a bitch. I felt withdrawal symptoms in the spine and head. It doesn't happen anymore because of careful investigation. I find that noting thoughts and mind states with looking at the ending of thoughts very helpful. Paying attention to the ending of thoughts helps with "no self" practice and creates more peacefulness. I feel that when the mind makes any commentary (including Buddhist commentary) it's also another object that can arise and passaway and reveals itself as being more conditioned into habit than out of volition. I even look at politics I like or dislike on TV and just let mental commentary lapse on its own with noting. I treat strong anger reactions the same way and it seems impossible at first but gets easier with practice. Sometimes I just note without words and "ride the wave" throughout the day. Equanimity just makes it so much easier to let go.emoticon

Just my 2 cents.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 4/22/12 11:07 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/22/12 11:00 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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Hi Richard, thanks for the helpful advice. I am able these days to see commentary, opinions and so on as just another set of phenomena to be noted off during insight practice, yes.

When you say 'withdrawal symptoms', do mean sensations akin to withdrawal from a substance, or something else? When you say they don't happen any more because of 'close observation', how has this observation affected them?

R.e. paying attention to the end of thoughts, it's not really occurred to me to try to catch that in particular, though perhaps my concentration practice will help me to to do that.

Back to the ongoing blithering... a week of annual leave has allowed a lot of focus on practice and the whole deal is becoming clearer. I'm seemingly flying up and down the nanas, possibly as far as A&P to Low Equanimity, with a suspiciously enjoyable (heh) fascination with colours and whatnot on a walk earlier in the week and the cycling moods at the time of my last post.

To demonstrate, today's experience has been a real mix, which I suspect is Re-observation still. I took the time to observe the various negative or apathetic mental states and the corresponding thoughts, emotions and behaviour that came with them, and none of them seemed hugely me or mine to be honest, just a contingent bunch of phenomena that weren't to be taken too seriously. By the time I got home an hour or so ago I was itching to just sit down and do some solid noting, even though I knew I would be seriously averse to it, paradoxically. Sitting was a haze of drowsiness and I maintained mindfulness moving into walking practice instead, which remained drowsy and unconcentrated, with the only thing to do being to stick with it. I either rumbled up the Dukkha Nanas from Dissolution (with the usual misery, disgust, desire for deliverance etc) or stuck through Re-observation to the end of it, or possibly Low Equanimity, at which point within half a minute my concentration improved, things seemed interesting again, and there was a sense of relief.

Does anyone else roar around the nanas this much in daily life and on the cushion without being a Stream Entrant? (Edit: Only last night I did twenty minutes of highly alert, concentrated samatha in the middle of a Saturday night cinema foyer, after a frustrating day I was able to remain quietly composed during, suggesting Equanimity...)

Alcohol obscures the process and I suspect even knocks me down the nanas, perhaps due to just the lack of focused practice that occurs in its wake- any thoughts on that, out of geekery?
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Richard Zen, modified 10 Years ago at 4/23/12 9:26 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/23/12 9:26 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Hi Richard, thanks for the helpful advice. I am able these days to see commentary, opinions and so on as just another set of phenomena to be noted off during insight practice, yes.

When you say 'withdrawal symptoms', do mean sensations akin to withdrawal from a substance, or something else? When you say they don't happen any more because of 'close observation', how has this observation affected them?

R.e. paying attention to the end of thoughts, it's not really occurred to me to try to catch that in particular, though perhaps my concentration practice will help me to to do that.

The way I describe the dukka nanas is that if you look at what is pleasant in the habitually unpleasant and what is unpleasant in the habitually pleasant a lot of mental habits trigger the amygdala so that disgust over these overpowering manipulative repetitive thoughts creates a war in your mind and body and it certainly felt like that for me. What seems neutral with closer investigation leads to more subtle pleasant and unpleasant experience. It's like the amygdala needs attention (as opposed to ignorance) to react to unskillful behaviour. A gambling addict knows conceptually that the addiction is destructive but the disgust somehow is not triggered unless clear awareness of the pain being ignored is faced.

That experience reminds me of a lot of Buddhist dead body contemplations and using disgust and insight to make you aware of the 3Cs even further. Once you investigate the 3 characteristics more deeply and equanimity becomes more of a baseline I definitely don't feel those anymore (or more accurately) it bothers so little that it's not really a problem. When I got those "withdrawal symptoms" to addictive self-referencing I felt like those negative feelings weren't all bad and that there was something purifying in it. Accepting in awareness of how those sensations arise and passaway helped enormously.

The experience was almost like energy was being sucked out of my spine in the back of the neck and the skull and stomach. I listened to an annoying Radiohead song "We suck the young blood" during this experience. It's unmelodious and I normally hate it but listening to it during the dukka nanas made me say "yes this is correct, I agree." emoticon So it's definitely a low but thank god lows also arise and passaway. There was also a disconcerting feeling of "one cannot do differently than what one has habitually created for oneself" was very apparent and the purifying feeling was the diminishing of that belief. I'm starting to wonder if dopamine is being used as a reward drug and to discontinue using it in habit changes will always create what feels like withdrawal symptoms. When I was addicted to coffee I felt a little bit like this when I went cold turkey for a few weeks. It was gentle compared to dukka nanas but somewhat similar.

Staying with the four foundations of mindfulness while going through this will eventually get the brain used to not reacting as usual with repetitive mental habits. Then the equanimity came out and it's very childlike in that the mind can be quieted with more ease and having two choices (awareness or fusion with thoughts) were available. Of course my mind still wanders but if I want to bring it back it's not a struggle to do so. When those repetitive thoughts appear again it's easier to not let them take complete control of the foreground of experience. That mental peace of thoughts being "gone" and waiting for the next thought is refreshing.

Anyways different people will have slightly different experiences so good luck with your practice.

Richard.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 5/1/12 9:51 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/1/12 9:51 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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Richard: The kind of greater ability to link unskillful behaviours to the unpleasantness they cause, and the greater ability to spot habitual patterns early on and choose to step out of them, are definitely a helpful conventional side of practice, aye. Stian and I were talking about this kind of psychological side to practice yesterday, even up to (Nikolai's term) hacking vedena, which I've recently identified that I've been able to do for some time. The trick for me is to redirect the energy inherent in those bad habits by accepting the content rather than mentally attempting to crush the intention, preventing repression and allowing the mind to naturally pass on to the next thing. I'm sure that people who do cognitive therapies are investigating the first two nanas in a more or less systematic way.

Back to the dribble: some barriers have dissolved in terms of confidence and commitment, and I am now doing a lot of practice even when I am averse to doing so, rather than at my preferred times. This has had the effect of intensifying symptoms of the nanas but also teaching me a hell of a lot. I've been sitting with Carolin from here and by comparing notes phenomenologically, she was able to point out that what I've seen as incidences of 'soft first jhana' are much more likely to be A&P events, given that I move up and down the nanas a lot. I'd never identified an A&P event before and so being able to point out at least two past ones, all similar, put things into context.

For instance, on sitting a couple of days ago after a lot of noting out and about, the mind was one-pointed in its attention, noting a mixture of noticing and fast mental tapping up to 12 notes per second. Dozing off didn't seem to slow me down as objects presented easily without mental 'groping' for a note, and eventually pleasurable uprushing energetic phenomena showed up. I was then unsurprisingly very full of the brahma viharas including affection for people that bordered on the romantic (bless) up until yesterday, at which point things started to shock me and fill me with unease (Fear), and on continuing to note at work and on the way home I was able to identify Misery and Disgust showing up with the phenomena that I've described in previous practice notes. All of this was observed very calmly. I think finally experiencing some periods of Equanimity have rubbed off generally, as knowing that I can get there means I am more able to be patient, rather than fall prey to the various preponderances I have during various nanas.

Whereas I've been through this territory innumerable times, I'm now identifying it with a good degree of confidence and am able to separate it from mundane causes of 'fear' and 'misery', etc. This is important as I have booked a three-week retreat in November at Satipanya, and I hope to be much more equipped to sit through Re-observation with a consistent noting technique and perhaps have a shot at stream entry. It is also useful to finally be able to 'explore' the nanas with some interest as I pass through them and see what psychological and dharma insights turn up.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago at 5/1/12 10:47 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/1/12 10:47 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Some barriers have dissolved in terms of confidence and commitment, and I am now doing a lot of practice even when I am averse to doing so, rather than at my preferred times.

I think finally experiencing some periods of Equanimity have rubbed off generally, as knowing that I can get there means I am more able to be patient, rather than fall prey to the various preponderances I have during various nanas.
Sounds really good to me.
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Richard Zen, modified 10 Years ago at 5/1/12 2:13 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 5/1/12 2:13 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Whereas I've been through this territory innumerable times, I'm now identifying it with a good degree of confidence and am able to separate it from mundane causes of 'fear' and 'misery', etc. This is important as I have booked a three-week retreat in November at Satipanya, and I hope to be much more equipped to sit through Re-observation with a consistent noting technique and perhaps have a shot at stream entry. It is also useful to finally be able to 'explore' the nanas with some interest as I pass through them and see what psychological and dharma insights turn up.

That's sounds good. Keep up the momentum. I'm currently using the Shinkantanza/"do nothing" practice which is showing clearly the mental agitation in regards to striving to have a good meditation. Letting go of mental striving for meditative attainments is a little counter-intuitive but I'm definitely getting used to it. Sometimes vibrations in a body part like an arm or leg go from fine to gross waves and then cessate for a brief moment and come back. It's feels nice but not sure if anything is happening that's important, and with this practice I can't intentionally analyze. It only happens when I do this practice.emoticon The way it works I don't even want to strive for cessation because it ends up being the problem. In my concentration practice I'm also trying to keep note of when my sense of self targets a sense door and to try and stay aware of all sense doors at the same time. Lots of hard work there.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 6/5/12 9:08 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 6/5/12 9:06 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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TL;DR: Moving through Equanimity.

I have been doing a great deal of noting in everyday life as well as sitting in lunch breaks, when travelling, on days off and so forth. The trick has been to get into the habit of swiftly noting any aversion to practice that arises, in order to prevent any lapses into modes of mind that are analytical and indulgent in content, and to cultivate the 'game playing attitude' that is very curious and enjoys the pleasant sensations that arise from such a still mind in a non-grasping way. The concentration that comes from attempting to keep mindfulness of body at all times has really facilitated this ability to switch into 'practice mode' within seconds, to the point at which word-label noting is going at two notes a second with little effort, and fast noting more like four and upwards with the mind 'noticing' many more between notes. If strong effort is applied, many more sensations are noted, though this changes the experience from a rather choiceless awareness that points strongly to anatta, to a more deliberate and precise investigation of anicca. Sometimes notes are serving as labels for a string of sensations just to keep the momentum going, for chains of cause and effect, or for awareness of more than one of the Three Characteristics in the same sensation.

As such the mind has remained in the Equanimity nana for several days now, my previous experience of the nana lasting minutes at most. Given I have been lurking around the previous vipassana jhanas for (I suspect) around a decade and really bouncing up and down from A&P to Re-Observation for about a year due to unbalanced practice, this is quite a relief – or it would be, if the mind was not so equanimous! The descriptions given in MCTB match up closely: the panoramic feel, clarity of mind, sense of reconciliation of the experiences of the previous nanas, the progress that greater concentration is making on practice, the gentle inclusion of sensations of space, time, subtle emotions and so on. There is a great naivete and enjoyment of the sensorium, the childlike 'coming home' feeling often mentioned.

Crucially, much of the bodymind has moved – very subtly, mind you, this is nothing gross – to the 'other side' of the dualistic split and often feels entirely observed, with only very intentionally willed thoughts and actions and the observer remaining on 'this side'. Even these began to feel a bit suspect in terms of being 'me' yesterday due to extensive noting throughout the day, though I find it difficult to explain how they seem a touch 'translucent' compared to the very obvious feel that the 'real me' is not causing the sensations making up the bodymind.

There have been several mental dropouts in which the mind has gone into reverie that is half remembered afterwards and practice has not abated- as though various analytical functions have quietened while investigation of the present moment has continued. I find myself going into koan-like musings, with dualistic paradoxes being very evident. Investigation seems to go on wordlessly, which is a surrender for someone who is very narrative like myself. Talking of surrender, allowing noting to happen almost automatically has allowed something rather jhanic to arise very pleasantly a couple of times yesterday, as the attention seems to shift to the mind attempting to 'take in' the whole of the sensorium at once. From Ron Crouch's descriptions, I think this is my practice moving towards High Equanimity. I sense that there is a lot of territory within this nana and I still have much subtle work to do before Stream Entry occurs. (It's also occurred to me that these dropouts may have been fruitions that I have not been concentrated enough to actually catch the entrance and exit of.)

Also of note are the psychological effects of coming out of the Dark Night- it's very pleasant, in a calm way, to have a more balanced attention and mental states, and the mind is shying away from swinging back to A&P-like exultance, which is full of dukkha that is not even seen as subtle now. I've been doing some travelling about, and going to places with old associations brings up old memories and feelings but with a new enjoyment and a sense of psychological reconciliation of unpleasant aspects from this new perspective. There is a small fear of dropping back and a recognition that the equanimity I am experiencing is still dualistic, not The Real Deal, and that only some truly non-dual realisation is going to sort me out.

I've written loads here so I won't rabbit on, and I'm still pretty new at this game, but I would say to anyone reading who either feels they can't do this stuff or is chronically dark nighting and despairs of ever not being: all of the work involved in getting to this point has 100% been worth it.
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 10 Years ago at 6/5/12 9:30 AM
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I've written loads here so I won't rabbit on, and I'm still pretty new at this game, but I would say to anyone reading who either feels they can't do this stuff or is chronically dark nighting and despairs of ever not being: all of the work involved in getting to this point has 100% been worth it.


Good work Liam. Now keep up the momentum! This sounds exactly like my last prolonged experience with Equanimity and it seemed so stable and permmenant (haha!) but i've been "chronically dark nighting" ever since emoticon
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 6/5/12 1:59 PM
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Ha! Loud and clear. Thanks for the advice Bagpuss: falling back is possible and quite likely, but momentum makes it less likely. I don't see myself as having 'achieved anything permanent' as this is all part of the Progress of Insight, but even if I do fall back to early Equanimity or Re-Observation, I'll know the way forward. Good luck with fourth Jhana, I don't have much to add to your threads but moral support :-)
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Daniel Johnson, modified 10 Years ago at 6/5/12 11:52 PM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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[quote=Liam O'Sullivan] falling back is possible and quite likely, but momentum makes it less likely. I don't see myself as having 'achieved anything permanent' as this is all part of the Progress of Insight, but even if I do fall back to early Equanimity or Re-Observation, I'll know the way forward.

"optimism, optimism...." emoticon

oh, that impermanence! emoticon

Hey, I've checked out your thread and can relate to many things you write about. ...Just wanted to chime in and say best luck with the practice.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 6/6/12 5:09 PM
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Thanks, Daniel, I appreciate you taking the time to post words of encouragement. I hope your own practice is satisfying emoticon
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 8/1/12 4:57 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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Having left my job and moved to Berlin I've got more time on my hands. During the hectic period of getting settled in I tried to note the avoidant thought 'You don't have time to meditate!' and carry on informally noting, counting breaths and whatnot even when it was literally 24/7.

On the psychological front, I've just finished the superb 'TA Today' and have been using the greater moment-to-moment mindfulness that practice has enabled me to build up, to note things like racketeering and gameplaying as they occur. This is helping me to reflect on practice and so be less neurotic about things like progress. When my practice is compromised by charged sensations (as it is in little minor fashions in a sit or was in major fashion on retreat), this helps me return to the 'curiosity mode' that our Stian describes as summing up vipassana quite nicely.

('I demand to know what nana I'm in! No, actually I'm wise now and don't care! Let's post that to DhO! No, wait...' is a good example...)

My informal practice of noting or counting breaths in everyday life is progressing nicely. More and more it occurs to me in the moment that I've not been practicing. The reaction to that thought, whether averse or keen, is the first note that gets me going again. Doing informal noting I find really raises mental energy and so mobilises physical resources. It's an amazing way to get shit done when you don't want to do it. There are particular times such as waking up or going to bed that it occurs to me to continue practice, to the point at which I sometimes wake up noting three times a second, or find that I am clearly noting how 'my' awareness is contracting as I fall asleep. In the past I would have pondered what that means more deeply but I having debated things like not-self with people recently and found the arguments just go round and round, I'm talking about the implications of practice to people less and just doing it more.

Quite frankly failing to do formal sits every day is my biggest buggerup. I've been doing two half hourly sits each day, thinking that it is best to do a reasonable amount of 'formal' practice each day rather than miss some out completely. The 'Meditation Helper Pro' app on Android is a useful tool for keeping continuity (thanks Andy). As I will be doing a three-week Mahasi retreat in November, I'm re-reading Bhante Bodhidhamma's 'Encouragements Towards Awakening' to remind myself of his style, as in my last retreat basically learning his methods took up a large portion of my time, and I'm more wanting to see how I can mix in his particular style with my preferred fast noting. My plan is to work up slowly over the next three months to the amount of meditation I will be doing on retreat, so that I am consistently in Equanimity by the time I get there, and so that the amount of sitting is not a shock to the system. It is very tempting to see this as my 'shot for stream entry' retreat but such preoccupations didn't help me last time. I'd rather see it as 'a shot at stream entry' with all the preparation I can muster.

I'm alternating fast noting sits with anapanasati at the moment. I think I've slid down the nanas again but it's debatable where I am at the moment, definitely not Equanimity in terms of phenomenology. Doing formal samatha for long periods again after so much noting is odd and at times I even suspect I am not doing samatha at all. However, when the awareness of the breath 'slots in' to a certain groove - more one-pointed awareness of the breath as a single continuous waveform-like entity - there is an immediate shift and the pleasantness of first jhana spontaneously arises all over the body.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 10/2/12 4:10 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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For those of you who like me struggle a bit with Right View, Right Understanding and Right Effort, apparently falling off your bike helps ;)

Long story short, I pranged myself earlier this week on the roads. Firstly the pain and the risk of injury made myself act very slowly and mindfully upon getting up. Secondly, I was aware of a lot of negative emotions and a bit of surprised disorientation, so in order to keep control of the situation, I found myself wordlessly noting these. Thirdly, I began treating myself as the patient and then acted on that, which was on reflection an interesting observation on not-self.

Naturally, having not damaged myself for a while, this was a very sutta-like reminder to practice while you can, so I kept making resolutions to continue practicing and generally not to let myself fall into the sick role. The continued pain on movement means that noting the intention to move before moving slowly and mindfully is very much necessary. This is really encouraging continuity of practice though in a much less rapid-fire way than my usual fast noting.

For the next few days afterwards the pain prevented me from sitting on a zafu and the lack of sleep meant that I kept dozing off if I tried to meditate in a chair, and the temptation to slack off was palpable. Ergo more resolutions and more informal practice on moving from room to room.

This has sharpened my practice to the point at which it was before I moved so I feel I'm moving back up the nanas. The dark night 'game', in which I experience fluctuating, various bodily and mental tensions and the bodymind seems to want to do anything to escape them except actually experience and accept them, is very obvious. I intuit that this might be the boundary between Re-Observation and Equanimity. It'll be interesting to see what occurs next.

(Minor edit)
The Meditator, modified 10 Years ago at 8/4/12 5:19 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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[quote=
Liam O'Sullivan]For those of you who like me struggle a bit with Right View, Right Understanding and Right Effort, apparently falling off your bike helps ;)

Long story short, I pranged myself earlier this week on the roads.


Liam, hi

Everything has good and bad side even to fall off a bike. What happened to you? I am not sure about the word "prang" (to have a minor collision with another motor vehicle)

I am bad after a while and getting back to do meditation regularly. I was in part of India with Tibetian buddhism. I did my meditation occasionaly but I did it where monks do for many centurions.

Hemis
Shey
Thiksey
Leh

Take care
Ivana
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 8/5/12 12:58 AM
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Nah, no other vehicles involved, just a tramway groove taken at a bad angle...

Good to hear from you Ivana - I'll be trying to set up a Skype call between the London DhO meet regulars soon so we can catch up on practice developments, now that we've scattered to the winds.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 8/6/12 4:34 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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I'm aware that this period of my life in which I have very few responsibilities or worries won't last forever. It's also clear that the more mindful I am, the better the more skilful, focused, motivated and happy I am conventionally. However, the increased level of mindfulness is also reminding me how self-delusive the mind can be even about its own experience; the dissatisfaction inherent in 'insight disease' is clearer, how this manifests differently to conventional feeling-tones of pleasant/unpleasant, the suffering involved in indulging in the thicket of views, how the insights I gain get buried as I backslide into poor practice, and so on. Ergo, I am learning the serious power of making moment-to-moment resolutions (as opposed to future-oriented promises that tend to poke my neurotic buttons and made practice more difficult in the past) to practice like a bastard and make moving towards stream entry my priority. In fact, bringing the mind back to the present is the resolution, albeit informal. A little reflection on sila is helping to balance this out, in other words considering whether there is any bleed-through and making sure that other commitments are still being upheld, and helping me note the mind's worries about becoming a fanatic!

This kind of practice has made my mind relatively quiet over the last few days, and off the cushion there are far fewer thoughts on past and future. Informal noting continues and is becoming more concurrent with the phenomenon. Aside from this I am in the dukkha nanas most likely as bodily and mental sensations of generalised unease, worry, sadness and whatnot appeared from nowhere yesterday and were noted with much less derailment than in the past.

On the cushion things are more mixed. Doing the morning samatha sit yesterday my concentration was utterly shot in a very Dissolution-like way and I switched to noting to experiment. I found myself noting 'not-noting' and 'confusion' and 'grasping for a note' as well as 'frustration' and 'sighing', these being interleaved with 'recalling' and 'aversion to sitting' notes. At no point did I stop meditating or leave the cushion (see, power of resolutions, innit).

The evening sit, however, had excellent continuity of concentration on the breath, but this was so calming that I dozed off solidly for a large portion of the sit and had to begin spoken notes, which were again centred around frustration, all noted quite dispassionately.

This morning's samatha sit (I am upping them to three a day now) involved good concentration but then surprisingly a lump of boredom landed on my head - which is very unusual as I am extremely rarely ever bored at all in life these days!
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 8/8/12 9:54 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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A morning session in which I was concentrated on the breath enough to notice the large lapses of focus (better than nowt I suppose) and a lot of energy, which made me switch to noting. A lot of grasping for notes, holding onto the meditation, and strong bodily reactions to the clunking about the builders were making upstairs. Notes were coming quite far behind the phenomena, though in hindsight there was a sense that I was actually noting the watcher's impression of the phenomenon. Quite a lot of negative emotions bouncing around in the afternoon which I noted. So far so dark night, right?

I'm finding doing a little inspirational reading immediately helps me to summon more motivation to practice, so I had a quick re-read of some of Mindfulness in Plain English that seemed relevant. My gut told me that I needed to do some back to basics (unconsciously noticing that my practice was not great in the morning, I think). Compared to the first time I read Bhante G's book, in which I scoffed a bit at the 'just relax, just let go, take it gently' advice, a bit of experience has put that into context in terms of strong, but unstrained effort.

That advice helped immensely; word-label noting was consistent at three notes per second with no breaks between the notes. There was a pleasant steadiness of concentration that was very palpable as a calm, strong, almost solid sensation in the mind (Edit: There was no sense of straining to hold onto the experience, which usually occurs when my noting is good enough that phenomena seem to line up to present themselves to my attention as in previous A&P sits, which is unique. I attribute this to better concentration and less neuroticism about achievement). This may not be the fastest I can note, but the notes themselves came with little sense of effort and felt very spontaneous- I wouldn't say without a sense of agency, but with their arising and passing in and out of 'nothing' being evident too. The actual labels were very quiet in the mind and the experience of the phenomenon very 'forward', so there was no sense of the noting being false or obscuring the fullest awareness of the phenomenon that was possible. I began attempting to be aware of the beginnings and ends of the sensations as noting began to fall away into noticing, and the calm sent me dozing off a tad in the last five minutes - though the mind continued to note into and out of these momentary slumps.

It's clear that doing one third samatha to two thirds vipassana is greatly assisting in producing more consistent noting, so as I up three half hour sits a day to three forty-five minute sits in a few days, I'll keep it in that proportion.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 8/10/12 6:50 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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Yesterday's final sit was meant to be an hour of Mahasi style noting to get me used to sitting for longer periods. Instead I found myself thinking about Bhante G's advice that 'the carpenter doesn't follow the saw, just fixes his attention on where the teeth cut the wood', and applied this to the breath in my preliminary establishment of access concentration. I found myself in a palpable bubble of pleasant calm and decided to try and deepen it by continuing the samatha-style practice, which succeeded. Thoughts were fewer than usual, felt very 'solid' and were positive. Sense of the body and of the outside world was attenuated. For some reason this state had a soundtrack as a Bat For Lashes song looped through my head. The concentration then became self-sustaining and I began noting from within this state. Trouble was, this was so calming that I kept zoning out into the sense of concentration and it was a struggle to bring myself back to the vipassana!

I think this was a mixed blessing; on one hand this was suspiciously second-jhana like (please do feel free to correct me, jhana experts) and I've never been able to do vipassana from within a concentration state such as this. On the other, I suspect that I could have been fooling myself and all I was doing was some kind of self-hypnosis that had nothing to do with real practice. Either way, this wasn't balanced, as the calm was preventing investigation and dropping my energy, and balancing the spiritual faculties is really important to my practice right now.

It's also made me think that the 'first jhana' I felt I experienced a few days ago were A&P phenomena.

This morning, back to the ragged concentration, back to the aversion to sitting and the sulkiness, but without the torpor. I resolved within the sit to just bloody well sit irregardless of whether it was bad practice or not, and things improved. This kind of acceptance/bloody mindedness in the face of unpleasant phenomena is the only thing that is going to get me to stream entry after so much backsliding. A Misery/Disgust sit compared to Dissolution/Fear sits a few days ago? Not that it hugely matters as my tactics are purely pragmatic now. Onward and all that. ;)
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 10 Years ago at 8/10/12 9:53 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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Yesterday's final sit was meant to be an hour of Mahasi style noting to get me used to sitting for longer periods. Instead I found myself thinking about Bhante G's advice that 'the carpenter doesn't follow the saw, just fixes his attention on where the teeth cut the wood', and applied this to the breath in my preliminary establishment of access concentration. I found myself in a palpable bubble of pleasant calm and decided to try and deepen it by continuing the samatha-style practice, which succeeded. Thoughts were fewer than usual, felt very 'solid' and were positive. Sense of the body and of the outside world was attenuated. For some reason this state had a soundtrack as a Bat For Lashes song looped through my head. The concentration then became self-sustaining and I began noting from within this state. Trouble was, this was so calming that I kept zoning out into the sense of concentration and it was a struggle to bring myself back to the vipassana!


As an experiment. See what happens if you try to sense the whole body at this point. By whole body, i mean both the physical body but also the subtle energy streams and strands of experience flowing through and around the body. If you can sense them, or something like them, see if you can pick out the "joy" flavour from it, and either gently switch your attention to this strand, or split it with the breath.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 8/10/12 2:27 PM
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Bagpuss:
see if you can pick out the "joy" flavour... and either gently switch your attention to this strand, or split it with the breath.

In order to achieve hard jhana, I surmise?
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 10 Years ago at 8/10/12 3:21 PM
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No not at all. Very much the "vipassana jhana" / "sutta jhana" kind of thing. If you can "relax like you mean it" at that stage and also be aware of the whole body you may be able to pick up on these kind of wavy squirly billowy pleasant "flavours" floating around like ever changing energy -- if you can pick out a pleasant one and focus on it the same way you fucs on the anapana spot you'll see that it's easier by far (cos it's nice..) and if you learn to balance the intensity with which you focus on it you can increase it from weak but steady to just about as much as you can bear..
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 8/11/12 1:41 AM
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Ah so! Thanks Bagpuss, I shall experiment with that.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 10 Years ago at 8/12/12 11:43 AM
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As the larger amount of noting I am doing pushes both the centre of gravity and cutting edge of my practice into the dukkha nanas and there is no stable place for the mind to rest (as per Florian's excellent explanation in this thread), I am experiencing various mainly negative sets of phenomena during the day, not just during sitting. It's usually at this point that I struggle as I get frustrated with practice, try and 'fix' my life conventionally and generally splurge my dissatisfaction all over everyone. Instead, I'm just noting the buggers and preventing bleedthrough by just getting on with the washing up, as it were. If anything, the strong desire for deliverance (read: sudden lack of interest in anything else...) is keeping me very focused on practice and broadly, it's the best it's ever been. I'm even plunging into the Majjhima Nikaya again, wish me luck eh ;)

Basically, this all points to the need to sit for longer to push my cutting edge over into Low Equanimity again, so that's what I'm doing. Todays sits have been all over the shop, with an attempt to do Bagpuss' 'sutta jhana' experiment failing as my concentration was not up to the task, but this constitutes no problem at this point as I am heading in the right direction with the minimum of fuss.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 8/14/12 3:39 AM
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Samatha remains pants as the mind throws caltrops of emotionally charged memories in my path. They would be harmlessly noted if I was performing vipassana instead, but I'm continuing with the samatha in the mornings as I'm convinced it is greatly helping in terms of my ability to pay attention, whether by creating good habits of patient mindfulness or greater concentration.

Speaking of attention, this morning's informal noting is dropping into watching, simply noticing the three characteristics in a direct way. The actual sensation is very unimportant, and instead there is a focus on how they appear and vanish into and out of nothing, very much out of my control. There is acting on intention and there is effort being expended, but both have a sense of being 'encapsulated' as discrete events, somehow. Practicing this way seems to make cause and effect less explicit than if I were to note. Dukkha is harder to pin down but I don't want to get into conceptual musings about it, so I'm carrying on regardless. Knowing that I can do this practice means that I am more encouraged to up the intensity as I can continue with daily tasks with minimal impairment whilst doing this 'direct noticing'.

I finally gave myself permission to drop word-label noting on the cushion, despite ongoing worries that this would mean not fully focusing on sensations as they went by. I also suspected that it was contributing to grasping for notes. Instead, I dimly kept in mind the fact that it is utterly impossible for there not to be another sensation along to be noted in the next nanosecond, encouraging this 'watching not grasping' mode. Monosyllabic noting is bouncing along at 5-7 notes per second, and it seems smooth in a way that I rarely experience outside of A&P. Also, given I am sitting in a quiet room and not on a busy train, the notes are more focused on internal experience and are not contributed to chiefly by repetitive predictable vibrations, which always felt a bit like cheating.

I suspect that either I'm just practicing better in terms of allowing the analysing and controlling mind to take a back seat, or else there are some hints of Equanimity, but either way the fact that more practice is not destabilising me is encouraging me to further intensify my practice.
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago at 8/14/12 9:03 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Speaking of attention, this morning's informal noting is dropping into watching, simply noticing the three characteristics in a direct way. The actual sensation is very unimportant, and instead there is a focus on how they appear and vanish into and out of nothing, very much out of my control.

How are you clearly noticing the 3Cs of a sensation without clearly noticing the sensation?

After a sense-experience, there is sometimes a different experience that replaces it that could be characterized as "void" or "blank"...it's possible to rest with that experience, which would give the impression of noticing impermanence (fading / what comes before arising) clearly while noticing the actual sensation that faded or re-arose unclearly. Any chance you're doing something like this?
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 8/14/12 12:56 PM
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I didn't mean that the sensations were not being noticed - it would be more precise to say that the content of the sensation was not important.

It's possible that I'm getting excitable though and it was this 'resting in the blanks' phenomenon you suggested, so I'll do some more practice in similar conditions and reflect afterwards. Ta for the input.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 8/18/12 5:21 AM
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I haven't experienced 'seeing not-self and impermanence more directly' in informal practice again, so I'm setting that aside for now. I've decided the best approach is to bracket all analysis of practice as useful theories to be held loosely. I have an internalised Bill Hamilton sitting there listening to the mind's attempts to over-estimate attainments and encouraging me to note 'em.

An hour's sit just now, experimental and all over the place:

- Strong and easy concentration on the breath from the start. Breath is let go of and concentration connects each breath, so that it is perceived as a circular motion in the abdomen. An effortless 'bubble' of calm concentration as pleasurable feelings arise in the head in particular, though I find it hard to describe clearly as any attempt to focus on them makes them recede. Somehow 'relaxing' into this pleasurable sensation and allowing it to arise, whilst keeping attention on the breath, intensifies it. Unusual physical sensations such as the calves and hands resting on them feel larger and 'floaty', and the mouth feels full.

- Thoughts seem to detach from the concentration and some analytical thought can occur. An unresolved issue that has been in my thoughts recently sorts itself out spontaneously with the arising of lovingkindness.

- Concentration slowly 'deflates' as I do other things than concentrate on the breath, so I return to it. I begin noting from within this concentration state. I begin Mahasi style noting but stop noting the breath, rather letting it be an anchor. I switch to fast noting and soon it becomes easier to just notice than actually note. There is little sense of excitement, just the mind 'moving' around alighting on objects. There is a lesser sense of 'changing gears' when the object of awareness changes from that of one sense door to another, than when I am noting formally.

- I begin musing about what this means and keep trying to bring myself back to the present, with some success.

As interesting and nice and whatnot as this sit was, and as much as I'd like to shout 'Yeah! Back in Equanimity!', I suspect this may have more to do with a progression or regression to A&P. Also, I am minded to resolve to use this concentration state to do more rigorous vipassana than to experiment, as there is obviously some attachment to the pleasant experiences; over the last few days I have done hours of diligent practice on days in which it is 'nice' to do so, and much less on days in which it has been a bugger. Solution: keep intensifying practice.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 8/19/12 7:29 AM
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RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

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Amongst less notable sits, one earlier that demonstrates how to turn a 'crap' sit into a 'good' one: the notes being mainly 'dozy', 'confused', 'waking', 'doubt', 'striving', 'determination', 'musing' and so on. It's a game of ping-pong today as I keep allowing unpleasant thoughts and emotions to turn into notes, but to paraphrase Tarin: 'Good. Get upset. Get angry. Turn it into motivation.' Right effort seems very paradoxical today...
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 9 Years ago at 8/19/12 10:52 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 8/19/12 10:52 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 704 Join Date: 11/2/11 Recent Posts
An effortless 'bubble' of calm concentration as pleasurable feelings arise in the head in particular, though I find it hard to describe clearly as any attempt to focus on them makes them recede. Somehow 'relaxing' into this pleasurable sensation and allowing it to arise, whilst keeping attention on the breath, intensifies it. Unusual physical sensations such as the calves and hands resting on them feel larger and 'floaty', and the mouth feels full.


When it happens again, try dropping the breath and relaxing into it. If that does not feel right then just allow the pleasurable sensation to be the main focus with breath in the background.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 8/21/12 12:07 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 8/21/12 12:07 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Thanks, 'Puss. I've avoided doing so up to now as focusing on the pleasantness tends to create some kind of attachment that disperses it, but I think that kind of anticipatory habit in practice is falling away in general, so I'll have a crack at it. I've just done three hours of decent meditation and some mindful yoga back to back, and the only problem was doziness: this doesn't seem to be a problem in a concentration state, so perhaps noting from within what I suspect is first or second jhana is the way forward.

I've made my practical meditation rules explicit to myself, based on things that are working to maintain a good routine:

- Prepare well: Get rid of any urgent worldly tasks before sitting. Re-establish mindfulness before sitting. Check for bodily tensions that might make a posture unsustainable and reduce sitting time/consider posture accordingly.

- Timer: Take care to set it correctly. Prevents 'did I leave the gas on?' moments that make me check it. Checking the timer is death to a good sit, the rest will be killing time.

- Good habits: Never abandon a sit unless in agony. Never abandon a sit because it seems poor. Never ever scratch an itch. Never change posture mid-way. If I've prepared well then none of this will be necessary.

- Resolution: Make a formal resolution as to what I will be doing for the session and stick to the method. Only change method if I have resolved to do an experimental sit.

- Practices: Do at least one walking meditation session or other physical practice per two sits, as this increases time spent formally meditating by a third. If I've been sitting too much, I need to get physical. If I'm adverse to sitting, then I need to do a different practice, not do no practice at all.

Sounds harsh perhaps, but I have difficulty keeping up motivation and these rules are working...
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 8/24/12 2:46 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 8/24/12 2:46 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
This morning's samatha sit was educational. From the start it was difficult to be one-pointed and there were a lot of emotion coming, but I was not dozy, and so I knew that I was experiencing one of the later dukkha nanas. As much as I kept going back to the breath, a wider focus kept opening up. There were some thumping, unpleasant vibes felt in the body, and phenomena had a repulsive edge to them that made me twitch: noises were too loud and had an unpleasant vedena, there was an aversion to sitting, all coming pretty fast. Towards the end, I simply allowed this to happen and the sit became choiceless vipassana, anchored on the breath, which seemed to let out the tension somewhat in kriyas. Coming off the cushion immediately killed off the unpleasantness.

This is amusing as I only just posted on another thread that the kriyas I experience are now occasional, and that I felt that greater acceptance of sensations had lessened them. From the twitching I was doing earlier, either I'm digging out deeper layers of emotional gunk (which, from the content of the difficult thoughts, seems true), or there's simply a lot of energy bouncing around in the dukkha nanas that I don't know how to deal with, or it's just part of the progress of insight... or all three!

Something is telling me to go with my intuitions, drop any attempt at strong concentration states, and to do some long vipassana sits today, resolving to sit through the unpleasantness that will no doubt arise.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 8/26/12 9:46 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 8/26/12 9:36 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Making a concerted effort to continue dis-embedding from the various emotions, thoughts and greater narratives that arise. A lot of deeper, more troublesome narratives are turning up, as they did on retreat last year, probably due to the level of concentration at which I am practicing and the greater amount of practice I am doing on and off the cushion. This is encouraging as they are being observed instead of being identified with, clung to or pushed away, and so I am that bit less likely to become derailed on retreat.

It feels like I am increasing the threshold at which such narratives are understood as not-self. The thought arose that it was frustrating to have to keep 'relearning the lesson', and that it would be really helpful if I could see through all these narratives as being not-self 100% of the time as this would be really helpful in getting enlightenment. Then I realised what I'd just thought and had to laugh.

Aside from noting very psychotherapeutic narratives that I'm sure everyone here can relate to, and breaking them up into sensations where possible, there was the narrative of 'How can I get into Equanimity of Formations? Must have equanimity in observation!' Then I had a think about it, and reflected that equanimity is a phenomenon separable from the act of observation. Consciousness is implied to be characterless. Huh. This is probably fallacious in some way from the non-dual perspective but is certainly a helpful assumption for noting.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 8/28/12 1:26 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 8/28/12 1:26 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Practicing this morning involved very little pain and less suffering caused by clinging or aversion to various mental states; so much so that the level of calm sent me into napping mode. I am deliberately word-noting at 1-4 notes a second rather than performing fast noting. Nikolai's advice on how to reach stream entry is really striking a chord and I feel that the word-labels are 'keeping the noting honest'. The word-labelling made me less dozy, but frustration at this torpor added to the desire to note faster seemed to put a spanner in the works.

Instead, I slowed down noting, allowed the process to 'do itself' and just latched onto whatever arose. Noting in fact sped up and microsleeps appeared to do nothing to stop the noting. The mind unsurprisingly was calm and still.

It has become clear to what extent the dharma does itself and the "self's" resistance to the inclination towards surrender is what creates much of the unpleasantness of the dark night. I spent a bit of time explicating this to myself with the help of a dharma buddy on here, and hashed out the working theory that Re-Observation is the denial phase. A&P has undeniably shown that the world is not a reliable, stable entity, and the dark night is the deepening of this understanding, with the greater the resistance to this, the greater the suffering.

Attempting to cling to the obverse of the three characteristics, by doing things like trying to take control of the process of insight by forcing noting, is like trying to push back through bottlenecks that I have already squeezed through. Once effort has got me to A&P, and endurance has got me through much of the DN, Re-Observation is something I always fight. Every time I surrender to the process, whether through exhaustion, good advice or experimentation, Equanimity opens up.

Another way of putting it, for neurotics like me, is that a resolution to approach all phenomena as radically 'ok' must be made. The ethical, emotional and psychological axes must be put aside, again and again if necessary. This might be highly psychologised for some, and I'm sure that I've come to this point multiple times before and spouted similar on this practice thread, but somehow I fail to remain mindful of this and fall into the content! Good to know.

My practice standard for the next few days will not be how many notes I can cram into a second, as it's quite clear that that isn't the problem, but instead how much I can simply apply good technique and slap labels on phenomena as they slide past. I also have a gut feeling that I need to investigate more subtle sensations and those that are harder to dis-embed from without solidifying them as self.
Andy W, modified 9 Years ago at 8/28/12 4:51 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 8/28/12 4:51 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 59 Join Date: 10/13/10 Recent Posts
Your rules are impressive Liam! I think I need to follow some of them myself. Switching postures (i.e. getting up and walking) is a good option when the going gets tough.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 9/1/12 7:36 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/1/12 7:36 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
It's easy to optimise your time when you don't have many responsibilities, I'm in an ideal situation for this kind of practice right at the moment. Also, I don't feel much pain ever when sitting, even on retreat, so it's easy not to shift about.


Anyways. A rise in tough emotional content, bad vibes and whatnot off the cushion, so I sat. I resolved to accept anything that arose as per my previous post: anything emotionally difficult, psychologically difficult, anything I was averse to or craving, any thoughts about 'bad practice', any patterns that bored or frustrated me with their reappearance, any hindrances. I found myself saying 'yes' before the first few notes; whether this is more a psychotherapeutic thing is a matter of debate, but it helped to incline the mind towards surrender and towards fully experiencing sensations, even if those were of grasping or pushing.

Noting became faster the more I relaxed, above five word-labels per second at points. There was much mind-chatter, but I used it as a source of notes, including noting the wish to have a still mind. It was a matter of 'noting outside the box' to rise above particular structures of thought. This produced spaciousness around the various difficult sensations and their intensity slightly lessened, creating a paradoxical calm (which in hindsight should have been my next note!). The intention to note drowsiness meant that there was strong awareness even as I slid into doziness, and I was able to mindfully lift myself out of it, which is new. There were no physical effects, energetic experiences, or strong concentration states. By the time my timer went off an hour later, I was very ready to carry on, but I convinced myself to stop - I think next time things are going so well I will continue for an extra half hour. I went cycling and the unpleasant sensations were still there, and even stronger, but there was a sense that they were not being suppressed.

Possibly the shift from the first to second sub-nanas of Re-Ob, crisis to acceptance? Off the cushion, there is this sense of paradox or tension which it occurs to tentatively label as 'dukkha'. On the other hand, I'm continually reminding myself to bracket analysis and try and stay with the sensations themselves, and re-resolving to keep at it consistently when I know I'm being lazy.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 9/2/12 5:12 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/2/12 5:12 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Very fast and precise noting upon going to bed last night, after resolving to note the sounds coming from multiple noises that I had told myself were 'too fast/complicated to note'. Don't believe everything you think, eh? Probably helped that I was expecting nothing from such an informal practice, too. Pointed to a certain sloppiness of practice in terms of speed and inclusivity of sensations which I'll try and tighten up.

Due to this confidence-boosting experience - I had forgotten how fast I can note when I'm just going for it - began an experiment this morning to make the word-labels for sensations as short as possible to facilitate the fastest 'slow noting' I could. The result was that it reminded me how much mental experience comes in physical-seeming forms: mental chatter as 'hear', images as 'see' and so on, with less to label 'think'.

I'm going to experiment with this to see whether there is a middle way between the slowish but gentle 'surrender' noting I've been doing and the kind of punchy but often unpleasant practice I'm used to, that could create a strong and balanced practice.
Change A, modified 9 Years ago at 9/2/12 9:27 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/2/12 9:27 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 791 Join Date: 5/24/10 Recent Posts
[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]The result was that it reminded me how much mental experience comes in physical-seeming forms: mental chatter as 'hear', images as 'see' and so on, with less to label 'think'.

I have had the same experience though with visualization practice. It made me aware of the times when my mental experience would be 'seeing', 'hearing' and so on and with that, it became clear to me how much I day dream.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 9/6/12 8:37 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/6/12 8:37 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
A lot of really unpleasant content a couple of days ago, fuelled by a life situation, so I resolved to note it for as long as it went on. Hours later I was still noting. There were cycles of relaxation as the thoughts that led to the unpleasant sensations disappeared from the mind, and it became clear that I was desperately noting 'away' from the thoughts to minimise the unpleasantness, which of course just increased the craving and aversion.

Next day, unpleasantness still rising and falling, and a lot of searching in my mind for the 'right practice to make it stop', at the same time as attempting to incline the mind towards acceptance and noting- very bizzarely dissonant. The impulses of course were coming one after the other. In the end I played Ken Folk's 'Mahamudra and the Joy of Failure' meditation, and while it wasn't exactly third gear, I just sat there and let the unpleasant sensations in the body appear full force. This escalated them, but I felt very present to the sensations, allowing the attention to follow them and not attempting to direct it.

Today, I wasn't finding it possible to note very well as there was a lot of confusion when I attempted to. I dropped back to awareness of the body as much as I could. From there I've been able to build up to detailed noting of bodily sensations at a slow speed.

I'm not inclined to try to map this today in terms of the nanas as much as I'm theorising, because I think it's part of the cycle of what I'm experiencing. It seems that there is a pattern: a greater level of intense unpleasant content as I note faster and harder, then there is a fight to 'win' in various ways, there is eventual surrender for whatever reason and then the idea grows that something fixed has been achieved and I my practice changes to a very analytical, expectant, almost complacent kind of noting. Then there is another big dump of unpleasantness and the same pattern reoccurs.

It seems as if any attempt to grasp, avoid, win or achieve in the conventional sense is being drummed out of me - I get the whole 'enlightenment is not a state or an idea' thing now - so I'm going to continue to sit, with the resolution that I just practice for the sake of the present moment only.
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago at 9/11/12 6:53 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/11/12 6:53 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
just sat there and let the unpleasant sensations in the body appear full force. This escalated them, but I felt very present to the sensations, allowing the attention to follow them and not attempting to direct it.

Good, this is all that's really required at this stage but be aware of how those sensations are not you, how simply by observing them in the first place they can't be what's observing, and how they're noticed then they're gone and replaced with a completely different moment of experiencing.

I dropped back to awareness of the body as much as I could. From there I've been able to build up to detailed noting of bodily sensations at a slow speed.

Again, this is good but, if you can, try to stay at the level of bare awareness as much as possible. Really experience those sensations in the moment they arise, or whenever you notice they're occurring at least, and you'll quickly see just how impermanent and empty, and thus unsatisfactory, they really are. Don't worry about fully "noting" the sensation, as long as you're right there with it and experiencing it clearly, even without the conceptual labeling, its nature can become readily apparent.

It seems that there is a pattern: a greater level of intense unpleasant content as I note faster and harder, then there is a fight to 'win' in various ways, there is eventual surrender for whatever reason and then the idea grows that something fixed has been achieved and I my practice changes to a very analytical, expectant, almost complacent kind of noting. Then there is another big dump of unpleasantness and the same pattern reoccurs.

Good insight, it sounds like you're probably hitting early-11th ñana and falling back down into Re-Observation. When you notice that change to that expectant, analytical way of noting, shift to a more concentration-based approach and just let objects present themselves. Inspect them as you would have before, but go gently and take in the details 'cause things can be seen from this super-wide angle once you settle back into Equanimity. Don't get complacent though, stay alert and attentive but chill out on the noting and let it happen. As long as you're present, in the moment and completely 'there', you can see how even that sense of an observer is no different to any other sensation appearing 'in' awareness.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 9/12/12 5:52 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/12/12 5:52 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Tommy M:
try to stay at the level of bare awareness as much as possible... Don't worry about fully "noting" the sensation, as long as you're right there with it

Thanks, Tommy. With that in mind:

The last few days have been busy so I've mainly been plunging awareness into the body whenever I think to, especially since there have been bouts of nastiness every day or so that I have been resolving to watch and accept, which stopped yesterday.

As I read Tommy's reply, some anxious vibes centred in the chest appeared, so I sat immediately.

Access concentration came almost immediately just by noting. I found my awareness going back to the breath often which really anchored the practice. I could feel myself creeping over the boundary into an absorption state focused on the breath at points so I consciously upped the investigation of sensations. I noted dwelling in content and striving for notes deliberately, which seemed to subsume these thoughts into the more calm, effortless thread of notes.

I felt it was becoming a blur so I returned to the breath various times instead of striving to pick the sensations apart. Again, this seemed to increase the effortlessness. It felt as if there was a background vibration that was slow and strong at points that I find hard to describe, somewhere between being heard and felt, that was very drawing of attention. Attention felt wide in the sense that sensations of all the sense doors, internal and external to the body and from various directions, were being noted. I noted various thoughts about 'how to examine the three characteristics'. Various anticipatory thoughts struck me as amusing, and it occurred to me that investigation of the three characteristics was in fact going on as sensations were observed as flickering.

Noting turned into monosyllabic noting by itself in a way that I only realised when the thought occurred, and attempting to fill in the gaps felt like striving and taking me away from bare attention, so I went with it. Eventually I began purely noticing (which I eventually noticed, hur.) Some concerns about accidentally going into an absorption state or investigation falling apart made me deliberately go back to noting, but eventually I allowed the process to do itself, which I am not sure was as specific of sensations as the noting. Upwelling feelings kept pushing upwards from my chest into my head, which made me expect some kind of energetic explosion from the crown as it built up.

Nice to think this was Equanimity, but I suspect it's A&P, so I'm going to sit some more today and see what happens.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 9/13/12 6:13 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/13/12 6:13 AM

Does anyone read this bit? Falalala

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Have just sat for 90 mins. Access concentration within 2 mins. Perfect posture, little pain. Feeling-tone consistently 'pleasantly neutral'. Calm more experienced as a lack of agitation than a jhanic pleasantness.

After 30 mins, bouts of doziness set in, the onsets and ends of which I noted. Doziness stopped. Became quietly pleased with the cleanliness of the noting (which I noted), noted multiple portions of the breath, moved into fast noting, which felt extremely self-propelled. Thoughts such as 'this is boring', 'I want to do something else' arose and were noted, but lacked any unpleasant physical counterpart sensation. Began attempting to note beginnings and ends of sensations with little success, as each was brief.

Attempted to note everything possible, including desire to note everything, searching for an 'I', desire for pleasant experiences, desire for stream entry, increasing numb bum, the lack of aversion, trying to catch the mental movement from one sensation to another, trying to make analytical links to produce not-self realisation, sense of watcher, trying to think of what DhO peeps have said pushes the yogi further into equanimity, feelings of gratitude and affection, worries about what was a true note and what wasn't, sense of control of noting process, sense of lack of control, desire for release of control/total surrender.

Eventually just sat for ~last ten minutes, watching the noting, increasing tension in shoulders and pressure in forehead.

My thoughts are that I should have stuck with the noting in order to note the sense of watching.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 9/14/12 10:08 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/14/12 10:08 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Another 90 minutes. Generally similar to yesterday, except that there is was a strong awareness of various vibratory or pulsing sensations, such as hissing in the ears, the heartbeat, the pulse through the body, and so on. Some dullness, but noting continued within these states. Line between fast noting and noticing blurred as before, letting go of the noting seemed to produce a fast awareness of strings of shifting images, thoughts and so on, but I'm not confident that all of the were 'true notes'. A lot of anticipation and second-guessing and hunting for self, which I tried to note. Some facial twitching and tension, I think brought on by this mental desire to somehow push for stream entry. I think I'm going to have to learn some patience.

Informal noting off the cushion now feels crisper and easier. Mental grumbles, bodily sensations and whatnot are being automatically seized upon and noted. Cheerful without rapturous feelings.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 10/3/12 7:23 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/3/12 7:23 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Had a large amount of overseas visitors for the best part of two weeks, made very little time to meditate, and found myself falling asleep when I tried. Lesson in itself there about acceptance but also prioritisation. There's no room to be a hobbyist in going for stream entry, but there's no medals for giving oneself a hard time doing it either.

Continued attempts at 24/7 practice are resulting in a large amount of movement up and down the jhanic arc in daily life, and I've been trying to monitor this a little more in order to not get confused by the rapid changes in experience that this is causing.

I've been noting in half-asleep states in the middle of the night, watching the notes predict chains of thought, seeing encouragingly dense strings of notes in which nothing seems to get 'through' un-labelled, and getting back to the bare awareness of sensations ('hardness' as a feeling rather than 'touching' as an action when touching a table, for instance).

Clear movement back into Re-Observation as the centre of gravity last week as a result of less practice, now back towards Equanimity, as phenomena are watched more dispassionately and there are less 'spikes' of unpleasant mental/physical states.

The greater awareness practice is having continues to unearth psychological stuff. It is unfortunately not completely possible to shelve dealing with it at the same time as pushing through the nanas, so I now understand the MCTB emphasis on retreat as a way of sorting out nuggets of the insight disease quickly.

There is a certain amount of success in integration, and a certain amount of unskillful reaction. It feels like trying to clean a carpet whilst still having muddy boots on and tracking the mud back in. Retreat in November will hopefully be a 'cleaning the boots' situation.

There is a lot of noting of the ongoing construction of the social identity, in terms of adherence to views and -isms, attempts to differentiate from and identify with others, attempts to create havens with no Other, etc. It is being perceived how regardless of the content, this process is directly causing suffering in terms of unpleasant sensations and thoughts and unskillful actions. This part of the integration is a balancing act between skillful actions and simply keeping out of the game and noting everything. There is almost a continuum of how much attention I can keep apart from tasks to be mindful, with some tasks and learning doing themselves as I watch depending on their complexity, whilst too much emphasis on watching impairs the efficiency of the task.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 9 Years ago at 10/5/12 5:33 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/5/12 5:29 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Hi Liam.

Just read through your latest posts and here are some things that stood out for me. (Bear in mind I just took some codeine, so my coherency and clarity might degrade towards the end of this post emoticon)

*puts his teacher-cap on*

You know how I hate to be seen as lecturing, so let me say that these are my opinions based on a very idiosyncratic (or so I like to believe) set of beliefs and you may do whatever you wish with them, including using them to crack the nut! emoticon

Enjoy the reede (get it? Read/ride?)

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]On the cushion things are more mixed. Doing the morning samatha sit yesterday my concentration was utterly shot in a very Dissolution-like way and I switched to noting to experiment. I found myself noting 'not-noting' and 'confusion' and 'grasping for a note' as well as 'frustration' and 'sighing', these being interleaved with 'recalling' and 'aversion to sitting' notes. At no point did I stop meditating or leave the cushion (see, power of resolutions, innit).
This bolded part; what does it feel like to (seemingly) be in control like that? Does it have a certain flavor?

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]A lot of grasping for notes, holding onto the meditation (...)
Is this related to the above?

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan](...) the first time I read Bhante G's book, in which I scoffed a bit at the 'just relax, just let go, take it gently' advice
Is this related to the above? Don't take this lightly. Really try to remember if there was a certain flavor to this.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]That advice helped immensely; word-label noting was consistent at three notes per second with no breaks between the notes. There was a pleasant steadiness of concentration that was very palpable as a calm, strong, almost solid sensation in the mind (Edit: There was no sense of straining to hold onto the experience, which usually occurs when my noting is good enough that phenomena seem to line up to present themselves to my attention as in previous A&P sits, which is unique. I attribute this to better concentration and less neuroticism about achievement). This may not be the fastest I can note, but the notes themselves came with little sense of effort and felt very spontaneous- I wouldn't say without a sense of agency, but with their arising and passing in and out of 'nothing' being evident too. The actual labels were very quiet in the mind and the experience of the phenomenon very 'forward', so there was no sense of the noting being false or obscuring the fullest awareness of the phenomenon that was possible. I began attempting to be aware of the beginnings and ends of the sensations as noting began to fall away into noticing, and the calm sent me dozing off a tad in the last five minutes - though the mind continued to note into and out of these momentary slumps.
There's so much good stuff in this quote I'm gonna have to break it up. You might find this controversial, but I believe you might have been at the verge of fruition here.

I really, especially, most importantly want to point out this part:

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]There was no sense of straining to hold onto the experience, which usually occurs when my noting is good enough that phenomena seem to line up to present themselves to my attention

(...)

The notes themselves came with little sense of effort and felt very spontaneous- I wouldn't say without a sense of agency, but with their arising and passing in and out of 'nothing' being evident too.
Do you remember our conversation about flow? Does connecting this experience with that conversation make anything click for you?

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
You need the speed of flow coupled with the right "direction of mind".

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]I began attempting to be aware of the beginnings and ends of the sensations as noting began to fall away into noticing (...)

You had the speed of flow, and the above quote suggests to me that you just about had the right "direction of mind". I'd like to put it to you that you very much did not "being attempting to be aware of the beginning and ends of the sensations" - that happened all "by it self" and as a natural effect of being in Mid-High Equanimity with the speed of flow.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan](...) there was no sense of the noting being false or obscuring the fullest awareness of the phenomenon
Again with the control-thing, but this time the opposite. The incessant conundrum, questioning, doubt, skepticism - the flaw finder - went away for a brief moment, and I very highly recommend you start being more aware of those moments. This is the state of mind that will get you wet.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan](...) They would be harmlessly noted if I was performing vipassana instead, but I'm continuing with the samatha in the mornings as I'm convinced it is greatly helping in terms of my ability to pay attention, whether by creating good habits of patient mindfulness or greater concentration.
The bolded part, how does it relate to the control-thing?

Of course samatha is helpful to you in your current situation. It helps to soften your sharp, pointy "I AM PRESENT!!!"-ness, aka. the flaw finder, the thing that controls - the thing that needs to go away at least temporarily for you to jump into the water.

Here's a little excerpt from recent notes:

Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
(...) One only realizes that one was in flow retrospectively. One never realizes that one is flowing, while one is flowing. This is a very, very big hint. To put it plainly: the absence of the "thing" that would have been monitoring your experience for you to know that you were flowing; that absence is what allows flow. The fact that you cannot know that you are in flow, when you are in flow, is what allows flow.

When that self-monitoring (ie. self-consciousness) goes away, when you "lose yourself" - that's it. Can you get a good, proper, thorough feel for this? When I get a good feel for it - when it is somehow present and clear in my mind what it means to flow - I can sit down, direct/incline my mind towards it and fruitions occur.


[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Speaking of attention, this morning's informal noting is dropping into watching, simply noticing the three characteristics in a direct way. The actual sensation is very unimportant, and instead there is a focus on how they appear and vanish into and out of nothing, very much out of my control. There is acting on intention and there is effort being expended, but both have a sense of being 'encapsulated' as discrete events, somehow. Practicing this way seems to make cause and effect less explicit than if I were to note

If you put what you call 'noting' (it's use exemplified by the very last word in this quote), on one end of a continuum and 'watching' as you call it here on the other end: what, phenomenologically speaking, happens as you incline towards 'watching' (or 'noticing' as you've also called it)?

Also, I find that trying to make phenomenological descriptions is exactly something you should not be doing or will feel disinclined to do when you're directing your mind this way. See my quote above re: retrospectiveness for why. This is what "bare awareness" means, at least as used by Tommy in his latest reply here.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]I finally gave myself permission to drop word-label noting on the cushion, despite ongoing worries that this would mean not fully focusing on sensations as they went by. I also suspected that it was contributing to grasping for notes.

(...) the notes are more focused on internal experience and are not contributed to chiefly by repetitive predictable vibrations, which always felt a bit like cheating.

I suspect that either I'm just practicing better in terms of allowing the analysing and controlling mind to take a back seat (...)
Are you starting to notice the pattern here? "Gave myself permission"... to relax the flaw finder. Not feeling like you're cheating... because you relaxed the flaw finder. The analysing and controlling mind. Can you get a good feel for it and gain skill in 'disabling' it?

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan](stuff about breath, concentration, pleasurable sensations) Somehow 'relaxing' into this pleasurable sensation and allowing it to arise, whilst keeping attention on the breath, intensifies it.
Did this "relaxing" also entail a diminishing in self-consciousness (here defined as TEH FLAW FINDER)?

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Something is telling me to go with my intuitions, drop any attempt at strong concentration states, and to do some long vipassana sits today, resolving to sit through the unpleasantness that will no doubt arise.
What's that something that told you to do this? Did it feel like lack of control, a "carpet drawn out from under your feet"-kind of thing? Very subtly, so? "Whoops, loosing my control, better get a grip!" <- it's staring you right in the face!

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Noting became faster the more I relaxed, above five word-labels per second at points. There was much mind-chatter, but I used it as a source of notes, including noting the wish to have a still mind
That thing or place where the "five word-label per second"-analysis comes from... Is that it? The flaw finder?

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Very fast and precise noting upon going to bed last night, after resolving to note the sounds coming from multiple noises that I had told myself were 'too fast/complicated to note'. Don't believe everything you think, eh? Probably helped that I was expecting nothing from such an informal practice, too.
Probably helped that you were not engaging the hyper vigilant flaw finder because you had already accepted "defeat".

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]It seems that there is a pattern: a greater level of intense unpleasant content as I note faster and harder, then there is a fight to 'win' in various ways, there is eventual surrender for whatever reason and then the idea grows that something fixed has been achieved and I my practice changes to a very analytical, expectant, almost complacent kind of noting. Then there is another big dump of unpleasantness and the same pattern reoccurs.
Bingo, bingo! Use the above quotes to pin-point that nasty kind of noting and root it out. Replace it with flow emoticon

Tommy M.:
(...) be aware of how those sensations are not you, how simply by observing them in the first place they can't be what's observing, and how they're noticed then they're gone and replaced with a completely different moment of experiencing.
(...) try to stay at the level of bare awareness as much as possible. Really experience those sensations in the moment they arise, or whenever you notice they're occurring (...)
Don't worry about fully "noting" the sensation, as long as you're right there with it and experiencing it clearly, even without the conceptual labeling (...)

I don't want to be putting words in other peoples mouths, but I'd like to point out the level of engagement that is being emphasized here. To me it sounds like one is supposed to be so absorbed in the investigation, to be so utterly close to sensations, in a trance-like, groovy-relaxed way that one cannot make a thought about what is happening. Sounds like flow.

-----------

The above is all connected by an overarching theme (can you spot it?). I hope it makes a compelling case.
I'm not commenting on your last 4 posts, because I am so dead exhausted right now.

Hope this helps!

Below are some more general notes.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 9 Years ago at 10/5/12 5:29 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/5/12 5:29 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]I am learning the serious power of making moment-to-moment resolutions (as opposed to future-oriented promises that tend to poke my neurotic buttons and made practice more difficult in the past) to practice like a bastard and make moving towards stream entry my priority.
This makes my bell ring. In a good way.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]This morning's samatha sit (I am upping them to three a day now) involved good concentration but then surprisingly a lump of boredom landed on my head - which is very unusual as I am extremely rarely ever bored at all in life these days!
This signals to me that the boredom wasn't boredom. Why would you suddenly get bored if you have not been so in a long time? Mr. Content contently said: "gotcha!".

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan] I found myself in a palpable bubble of pleasant calm and decided to try and deepen it by continuing the samatha-style practice, which succeeded. (lots more...)
In the interest of diversity and openness, this could have been 14.2. Definitely sounds like a place that could be utilized very productively, if only one realizes so.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]I resolved within the sit to just bloody well sit irregardless of whether it was bad practice or not, and things improved.
This attitude has enabled a lot of interesting things to happen for me in sits and everyday life.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Making a concerted effort to continue dis-embedding from the various emotions, thoughts and greater narratives that arise. (... the whole post really)
Too much striving, controlling, effort. I do realize that nanas 1-3, 4, and 5-10 require some differing qualities of effort, striving, controlling. But that's not what you're having troubles with - it's the specific type of effort required for Eq that it seems you're not finding.

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]A&P has undeniably shown that the world is not a reliable, stable entity
Just a little correction here: That would be Dissolution. In A&P, one's pretty much "on top of things".

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]Once effort has got me to A&P, and endurance has got me through much of the DN, Re-Observation is something I always fight. Every time I surrender to the process, whether through exhaustion, good advice or experimentation, Equanimity opens up.

Another way of putting it, for neurotics like me, is that a resolution to approach all phenomena as radically 'ok' must be made. The ethical, emotional and psychological axes must be put aside, again and again if necessary. This might be highly psychologised for some, and I'm sure that I've come to this point multiple times before and spouted similar on this practice thread, but somehow I fail to remain mindful of this and fall into the content! Good to know.
Amen!

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan]I resolved to accept anything that arose as per my previous post: anything emotionally difficult, psychologically difficult, anything I was averse to or craving, any thoughts about 'bad practice', any patterns that bored or frustrated me with their reappearance, any hindrances.
Yes!

[quote=Liam O'Sullivan] (stuff on aversion) I just sat there and let the unpleasant sensations in the body appear full force. This escalated them, but I felt very present to the sensations, allowing the attention to follow them and not attempting to direct it.
Ah; a breath of fresh air. Would you say there is a difference between this 'presentness' and the kind you otherwise employ? "I felt very present to the sensations" - call me a projectionist, but this sounds like very useful attention.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 10/13/12 9:28 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/13/12 9:25 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Hi Stian, hope you're in less pain? Thanks for taking the time to really make your point, because it's an important one for my stage of practice and I'm finally grasping it's significance. (To anyone else reading this, Stian has been discussing concepts of flow and surrender in general and my practice in particular with me a lot outside of the DhO, much of the gist of which is contained in his above two posts).

Self-consciousness isn't a problem to be rooted out in order to push on towards entering the stream, it's the illusion we're interested in dispelling itself. You're encouraging me to completely dis-engage TEH FLAW FINDER (the illusion of self itself, I suspect) rather than keeping it in place in whatever fashion to try and guide the practice. Instead, gently inclining the mind towards the growing effortless absorption in watching/noting, following the 'taste' of that once caught, is 'flow'; is the experience of greater centrelessness itself. If I can keep doing this whilst remaining watchful and not spacing out, I sense good things will happen. I can see how you are encouraging a certain amount of Samatha practice in allowing this 'softening of the I' to occur.

The consideration of the term 'flow' has a lot to say for the First Training also, as while charging around at work for hours at a time I've often felt much more spontaneously resourceful than when the pressure is off at home and there is time to ponder. In fact, sometimes there has been quite the come-down as suffering re-asserts itself as happening to the self.

The barriers to practice at the moment have been mainly around the fact that I have been taking, for example, MCTB's advice on noting particular sensations such as space and anticipation and turning that into a hunt for them, as well as continuing to analyse how textbook my noting is, etc. This is despite the fact that all progress through the nãnas after the first three – what is traditionally seen as true vipassana – seems to have come from surrender to the process. I don't think I've written here how some of my best meditation recently has been 'just sitting' without either second jhana bliss or Dark Night unpleasantness, but that the sheer feeling of ordinariness in the rapid noting has engaged my analytical mind to ask 'what's going on here?'

You've made a few Socratic hints about control, such as asking how refusing to leave the cushion regardless of whether it felt like poor practice or not felt. The answer is that it didn't feel like control in terms of actively dampening down impulses per se; it felt paradoxically more like surrender. Yes, it's a similar quality as to when Re-Observation was kicking my arse with physical sensations and I allowed them to be observed as fully as possible, as you've rightfully linked. I also take your point, Stian, about how to interpret Tommy's 'bare awareness' comment, and that by this point too obsessively applying the writ of the word-noting technique is holding my practice back.

While I am continuing to note when off the cushion, I feel that this is only stopping my centre of gravity falling back into Re-Observation, not producing these kind of flow periods that push me on as there is not enough continuity of concentration and practice. The only difference is that there seems to be more of a curiosity in terms of trying to tackle the sense of the observer head-on. As such my intention to build up to to the routine of my November retreat, over the course of this month, has been reasserted.

(edited 2nd para to be clear)
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 10/17/12 10:00 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/17/12 10:00 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
First training: Partly due to an upward trend in noting phenomena and partly as a feature of the Equanimity nana, pleasant and unpleasant thoughts and feelings float on top of a more equanimous witness, enabling greater response to impulses instead of reaction. The sources of these impulses, and that they do not form a coherent self, are often more clearly understood, which pulls the carpet out from under cognitive dissonance. (This is the kind of insight I lose when I get lazy or fall back.)

Second training: Concentration varies. Massively dozy on some days, probably due to bad sleep pattern. On others, slightly obsessive attempts to form very strong access concentration by observing the breath at the abdomen started me moving up the jhanic arc at the same time, or threatened to solidify into first and second jhanas. I understand the correspondence between the vipassana and samatha jhanas now in terms of their qualities. I suspect as I get used to traversing the dukkha nanas and Equanimity without anxiety then the third and fourth samatha jhanas will start to open up.

Third training: Beginning to work towards 24/7 noting as going on retreat in a few weeks. Attempting to observe jhanic arc as I sit. Two clear energetic A&Ps since I last wrote here. Scooting through dark night quickly and painlessly due to learned 'surrender' response. Equanimity very 'unmystical' compared to second and third vipassana jhanas, but now not boring. Too many phenomena to note, resolving to 'catch 'em all' regardless of perceived ability to do so works well off-cushion. On cushion, If I begin to fret about technique, I stop trying and the notes build in speed again. Attempts to 'take on the sense of the observer directly' now seem like an attempt to anticipate the process.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 10/23/12 12:35 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/23/12 12:35 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Large amount of noting from waking, through various tasks around the city, to the point at which the continuity of concentration was taken as meditation object while I was on the U-Bahn, rushed in to fill my awareness pleasantly, my eyes rolled uncomfortably up into my head and something (second?) jhana-like arose, before I deliberately stepped out of the absorption. Continued noting to home, at which point I sat for an hour and a half before beginning to write this...

Unpleasant sensations in solar plexus to begin with; I didn't so much zero in on the sensations, remaining choiceless in the noting, but it did occur to incline the mind towards seeing them clearly, observing any aversion towards doing so, and so on, which naturally brought the attention to them. Slivers of thoughts that were noted too quickly to turn into full-blown narratives were quite clearly associated with these chest sensations and attention created even more aversion, to the point that these sensations felt somehow violating.

Paradoxically, the inclination of the mind towards observing this aversion uncritically meant that this gross aversion disappeared within the space of a minute (Reobservation crisis -> acceptance probably) and soon the unpleasant sensations were being monitored with equanimity. Calm arose and I began dozing off, but noting continued within the dull states as far as I'm aware.

Resolving to 'take myself out of the equation', once the very active noting of sensations picked up speed and strong access concentration occurred, I deliberately held off any hunting for notes, the speed dropping back and then speeding up again. As I was in Equanimity already within the first half hour of a ninety minute sit as hasn't happened before, the resolution arose to continue to surrender. None of this was particularly rapturous, being pleasant more in terms of the grosser qualities the mindstate lacked (a clearer understanding of the qualities of the fourth jhana, I surmise). Boredom and restlessness were met by so much equanimity at points that they could barely be described in those terms at all.

This is a good way of describing the rest of the sit: things arose and were noted and sank back down. Intention to swallow arose, worries about it breaking concentration arose, the action occurred and was noted, meditation continued. Thoughts about whether this was a 'flow' state arose, thoughts about suppressing these thoughts in case they caused too much self consciousness arose; they were noted and that was that. It wasn't exactly watching, it wasn't exactly 'flow' in terms of no self-consciousness whatsoever, but instead it seemed as if there was a paradoxical blur between watching and acting. I say 'seemed' as I can get overexcited about this kind of thing. ;)

After a while, a lot of tension built up in the head and neck, which I simply watched until it subsided, not encouraging any anticipation of an 'event'. Gradually the noting dissolved into noticing of slivers of thought and tiny bodily movements, with the occasional intrusion of an impulse to get clever and try and note the observer.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 10/27/12 4:12 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/27/12 4:12 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Another of these cycles that feels like a dip back into Reobservation, with all the craving, aversion, concern, analysis and whatnot that comes with it. This time the understanding of the process has stuck. I'm attempting to note the desire to control the process and push through, the ironic attempts to force surrender, any attempts to problem solve. Tentatively seems to have progressed me to Equanimity within minutes. I'm getting a bit more used to zooming around the nanas and not expecting to 'be in Equanimity' 24/7. As the Thai Forest gents say, it's just The Way It Is.

The self seems strangely solidified: with a greater amount of noting of body/mind not being 'me', this creates a strong subject/object distinction somehow. This is experienced as quite pleasant and reassuring in a 'see, this is what is really you, this is what you can cling to!' sense. I'm aware that this is selfing process too, so I am attempting to note what I realise as I write this is the sense of the observer, too, for example in the visual sense of watching an arm move.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 10/30/12 7:06 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 10/30/12 7:06 PM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
I'm supplementing what seems to be a drop in concentration with some extra Samatha sits; they're falling into the 'now you can notice all the dropouts in your concentration' category rather than the 'seamless continuity of attention' class. However, there is an interesting experience of how the mind proliferates with thoughts about the practice which only lead away from one-pointedness, so I'm naturally learning to incline away from them.

'Inclining' seems to be the point of the practice at the moment; inclining towards surrender and investigation, rather than my former pummelling of my mind into states of concentration with suitably strong side-effects. Perhaps it'll be useful to use the battering-ram method again at some point, though. It seems likely that this is the kind of fine-tuning that MCTB mentions as being essential for moving through Equanimity, as more subtle mindstates and whatnot are included in noting.

I've suddenly developed a fascination with the brahma viharas and, finding that it's hard to just conjure authentic-seeming metta out of nowhere on the cushion, I've been turning towards these states of equanimity, sympathy, compassion and benevolence as they occur, noting them and tuning into them. Gratitude and patient effort seem like two virtues that are particular good in tandem at taking some of the shadow side out of my goal-oriented practice (grasping and inconsistency being their corollaries) and are clearly applicable to sila too. 'Starving the defilements' seems appropriate to describe this kind of 'ignoring to death' of bad habits that is occurring. They are noted and then the mind turns off somewhere else looking for something else that might satisfy, and so noting is very scattershot and choiceless at the moment.

As a result, though this is possibly a gentle A&P or the experience of mid-Equanimity, things are very crisp and spacious today as they seem to become if I meditate intensively. I understand why the word 'ease' occurs in the suttas so much, and I can see why people are so interested in AF too; the sense of cultivating the happy and harmless mind through sensuousness is very understandable in this mindstate. Even if I don't have a clear path moment when stream entry occurs, it's days like this that I recognise the direct and cumulative benefit of a consistent practice, cultivating skilful mental states moment by moment.
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 11/1/12 1:21 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 11/1/12 1:15 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Leaving shortly for retreat. My resolutions are:

- To practice as per Tarin's Slacker's Guide, Nikolai's Hamilton Project advice, i.e. objectify all phenomena from waking to sleep to build up concentration and momentum

- To put the cultivation of insight above all other passing impulses that might occur (as far as is reasonable), especially any mundane 'merit making', desire to explore interesting experiences/raptures/jhanas, desire to impress, culture shock, holiday-making, Vipassana Vendettas etc.

- To follow instructions precisely as per Mahasi method, but recalling lessons from previous personal practice/retreats

- To report as purely phenomenologically as possible to teacher as per his guidelines

- To recognise this as an opportunity to enter the stream, but practice moment-by-moment as if I were to be on retreat forever

- To expect a rise in bodymind unpleasantness/neurosis/dwelling in content etc. and to incline towards accepting this

(Edit) - To get back on the horse immediately, and a million times if necessary, if I fail to do any of the above.

Thanks for the advice y'all, see you in a month.
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Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 9 Years ago at 11/1/12 4:24 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 11/1/12 4:23 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 704 Join Date: 11/2/11 Recent Posts
Have a great retreat Liam. Be as relaxed and non-straining as you can!
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 11/29/12 10:30 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 11/29/12 5:47 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Retreat report – 23 days, Mahasi tradition. Noting only.

Day 0: Noted all the way to the centre. Arrived a day early to help, little to do so began sits. Calm, fast noting.

Days 1-2: I try to create a strong continuity of awareness. Tension builds along with pain. There is frustration whenever the mind wanders. I resolve to submit to the process and instantly am very concentrated. In the next sit, the noting takes over for a few seconds, blurring along, sounds rushing in my ears. I attempt to stay with it and it dies off.

Days 3-4: Bodily pain and negativity creep in until I notice I'm dwelling in 'life issues'-type content. This falls into three categories: in the first, the associations are so repeatedly obvious that they give me a lot of psychological insight, which I resolve to put aside to work on later. In the second, the unpleasantness is so exaggerated that the 'issues' are clearly unfounded. The third is composed of the most charged stuff which I'm still resisting.

Days 5-6: The teacher suggests that I am over-efforting and that it would be better to see the process of insight as purification rather than progress through goals. There are daily identical cycles of negativity, joyful relief, and neutral, concentrated calm, each day waking up in negativity again. To try to break this I systematically follow the instructions, then add strong noting of analysis.

Days 7-9: There is a slow shift as I start trusting intuition over analysis. I stick to mindfulness of body and in desperation finally spend the sits just watching all the unpleasantness, and there is a sense that this is deeply purgative. A lot of insights arise around what's good, healthy, beneficial practice and what's just reinforcing the suffering self, and I formally renounce stream entry hunting. Mystical thoughts arise like 'each step is a koan' and emptiness suddenly seems very obvious conceptually. Patterns of sensation that seemed to cause reactions before, e.g. unpleasant memories or pain, seem less imperative to react to, less worthy of being seen as 'mine' and able to cause harm.

Day 10: Sitting alone in the kuti I naughtily let my guard down a bit. I'm not trying hugely hard or expecting much before lunch. The cushion is like a pancake and my legs cane. I become more and more concentrated doing slow noting, really getting into the sensations, and the notes 'go into' the sensations more and more, less and less pointing at the sense of separation. There are suddenly two mind moments in which the sense of the experiencer is absent, like two frames of a film in which the screen has disappeared. I couldn't tell you if I was noting or not. 'Huh'.

Days 11-13: The hindrances keep coming up as I try to balance the practice. The teacher encourages me to investigate these as authentic states, using the noting as a targeting tool rather than trying to take in everything. It's interesting to see torpor turn into restlessness and so on. The noting is more accepting and there is less proliferation and resistance. The nanas seem to be sailing by as I feel frustration, bliss and calm, but I just note the analysis. There is some kind of upwards energetic 'blast' which brings me out of a dull state. Pain is almost entirely gone.

Days 14-17: I work at continuity of awareness, counting breaths before I begin noting in sits, and trying to really get into the breath 'all the way up and down'. I begin noting the mental movements that constitute grasping and aversion, as well as noting vedena. I notice that I am still resisting a few repeating patterns of phenomenon. I turn the noting mind on them and they seem to flee from awareness. 'Kilesas', I think. They stop causing suffering after that. (Edit: at one point in a calm stage, I feel very physically light. I start trying to note more subtle mind states and so on.)

Days 18-23: What is meant by investigating the three characteristics becomes more conceptually clear as I deliberately look for arising and passing, craving and aversion. I do a lot of noting of intentions and deliberate noting of charged thoughts, making more positive resolutions and affirmations, cultivating the brahma viharas.

Afterwards: the mindfulness and self-discipline is starting to slip away so I'm catching it and returning to the present and the meditation object as much as possible. The 'loosening of the I' has remained to a large extent, with this 'loss of imperatives'. I'm thinking about how to keep practice integrated into daily life. It's all quite jolly emoticon
Liam O'Sullivan, modified 9 Years ago at 12/1/12 7:43 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 12/1/12 7:43 AM

RE: Practice thread 2: Pre-path

Posts: 213 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
No one has felt the need to comment to I'll present my own tentative conclusions.

Either:
a) I have sorted out a lot of psychological 'issues' overlaying insight practice
b) or, got a little better at navigating the move from Re-observation to Equanimity, leading to a loosening of the 'I'
c) or, the latter expressed itself in the former (my preferred interpretation).

I don't feel like I've learned many massive new lessons; it's more that the lessons I've already had have deepened, or those I have chosen not to follow up on have been pushed into my face until I've surrendered to them. Maintenance is now required. 'Investigate resistance consistently' is the name of the game.

My plan is:
1) Investigate emotionally charged sensations especially, as well as the craving and aversion inherent
2) Strict daily noting sits, emphasising bare awareness over speed
3) Try to keep a thread of awareness on the breath at all times to build concentration and provide a base of bodily awareness for informal everyday noting
4) Cultivate the brahma viharas and note intentions, getting back to the well-wishing purity (and fun) of the 'questionless koan' type practice I had before I even knew what the nanas were!
5) If absorption/strong concentration states arise, to tinker with jhana practice

As such that's it for this thread. Thanks all emoticon