AKD Daily Log #1

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AKD Daily Log #1

Posts: 39 Join Date: 1/20/21 Recent Posts
Hello, I just wanted to start a log on here to keep me accountable and practicing daily. The goal for this log is to jot down a brief report after each sit or once daily as life allows. This log is more about helping me to stay consistent than anything else, but advice or pointers are always welcome and appreciated.

At the moment, I am practicing with Wake Up To Your Life by Ken McLeod; practicing what he describes as 'resting in attention with the breath' during my formal sits. I am currently working through the first part of the book that focusses on attentional development. Eventually, I'd like to move on to the later exercises in the book and work through them in order. I am very interested in learning about and working with my belief structures and patterns of reactivity that are limiting my lived experience.

Other than that, I incorporate noting into my sits when the mind is busy and I also practice Metta sporadically so those practices will show up in this log as well.

My long term goal is to become more self-aware, mature, less needy, and basically sane. I'm hoping consistent practice can help facilitate that sort of growth.

Thank you for reading. 
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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2/10/2021 - Evening sit - 35 minutes

A fairly standard sit for where I am - there was plenty of distraction and I fell into mind wandering quite often. There was a base level of contraction in the abdomen and discomfort in certain areas of the body. The aforementioned contraction in the abdomen would wax and wane in relation to mental proliferation and reactivity (more contraction associated with more mental proliferation). There were uncomfortable pressures in the head that contributed to an overall sense of unease and disatisfaction with being present in the body - although these pressures were present before the sit and are present now. When I caught myself coming out of mind wandering, I'd take stock of the body an often times my facial muscles were pulled into a grimace of some sort. Mental proliferation took the form of various mental images, memories, practice thoughts, worries, songs, random nonsense, etc.

The moments after coming out of mind wandering are interesting as I take stock of the body and realize the posture is not quite right: certain muscles in the back, shoulders, and face need to be released. I'd set the gentle intention to relax into the breath until carried off again.

There wasn't much in the way of physical or mental relaxation in this sit, but it was an interesting one. At some point, I sorta considered why there was so much aversion to sitting simply at rest which spurred some investigation into those uncomfortable mental and physical experiences that kept pulling me off.

Also, I realized around that same point that I was just glossing over the breath - I was aware that I was breathing in or out, but there was wasn't really a connection to the actual sensations associated with that. So I tried to explore that a bit as well. 
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2/11/2021 - Lunch break sit - 30 minutes

Was quite drowsy during this sit, but there was some clarity that was aware of drowsiness so it wasn't a huge issue. The mind was busy, but I was able to hold thoughts in awareness for a period of time (along side the breath) until I got lost in mind wandering.

Upon waking from mind wandering, I'd check my body and mental state while resting into the breath again. Although I got lost rather often, I didn't really beat myself up over it which was nice. Just returned to the breath without fuss. 

Overall, a sense of calm, ease, and comfort dominated this session. A bit of impatience arose in the final minutes, but I could have sat a while longer if I didn't have to get back to work. 
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2/12/2021 - Evening sit - 45 minutes

This sit was marked by reasonably good concentration/continuity of attention, but awareness was volatile.

The first 20 or so minutes, I was with the breath to varying degrees. Attention focused on the nose tip, sometimes the physical sensations of moving air were obvious, and sometimes just the general knowing of the in-breath/out-breath was dominant. The first 5-10 minutes felt very 'careful' - as if I was slowly reading a paragraph to catch any typos. Each breath was experienced alongside subtle distractions such as mental images, expectations, narrative thoughts, sounds, other physical sensations, etc. Everytime the subtle distractions were noticed, a micro-intention was set to go back to the breath. At some point this started to become automatic and focus on the breath was more effortless. 

I reached a point where the outer world of sensory input (and my body) started to attenuate. Thought content was 'turned up in volume' as well as the sensations of the breath. Eventually, awareness started to fade - without the clarity, catching distractions was basically impossible. The energy of the mind that had been focused on the breath started to feed into thought loops.

At that point, the session became difficult. More distraction and restlessness and boredom. I spent more time trying to play around with opening awareness/clarity so as to catch hindrances. I was reading WUTYL before my sit and there was a pointer in there was a quote in there that I was able to use - "Boredom is excess attention with insufficient intention." I couldd see how the energy of attention was flowing into craving, aversion, thought loops, etc. so I'd set the intention to get interested in the details of the breath and the boredom would dissolve in moments which is neat. The issue is that attention was inconsistent, interest with the details of the breath would fade, and so I'd fall back into distraction and then boredom/impatience. I can see how boredom and impatience are forms of reactivity though - they pop up in response to a lack of interest and engagement with the object of the moment. I'm wondering what the right balance is here - between repressing boredom by going back to the breath vs. dwelling in boredom to understand/process it more fully. I'll just have to experiment and see. 
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2/13/2021 - Evening sit - 10-15 minutes

I was worn out yesterday and decided to give myself a day off from meditating. I still wanted to sit for a little while, just to keep up some continuity. The sit was dreamy and lazy.
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2/14/2021 - Evening sit - 45 minutes

I started this sit with 15 minutes of Metta. The Metta was quite lovely, the body became settled, the mood was one of benevolence, and the mind was quite centered on the task.

I switched to resting in attention with the breath for the last 30 minutes of the sit. Right away, breath meditation put an end to the positive mindstates from the Metta. Plenty of mental content arose, and the body became contracted. Impatience and boredom contributed to twitching muscles in the face & feet, and uncomfortable pressures in the abdomen, throat, & head. After a while of getting knocked around, the mind started to stabilize on the breath with awaress of the other content that was churning away in the background. I was excited to sit in a state of impatience and boredom while being present to it - not tuning out the unpleasantness. I think some equanimity was developing at that point as the the contraction/pressure/thought loops/etc. were still playing out, but it wasn't a problem. 
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2/15/2021 - Morning sit - 45 minutes

I did not sleep well last night, so drowsiness/dullness were the largest hindrances.

I started with 20 minutes of Metta. Metta was nice - I was able to tap into beneficial mindstates of appreciation and benevolence. I notice how for certain people, the Metta flows naturally. For more difficult people, I can see the 'wall' the mind wants to put up - obviously it's a form of reactivity, a form of limiting. Between repeating the Metta phrases, there is a brief moment where the mind considers who will be the next recipient of Metta - in that moment I can see whether I want to skip someone or not. This decision making process is so rapid and automatic (fraction of a second), but I try to pick the person that I want to avoid so as to get in touch with any aversion to wishing them well. For these people I'd rather avoid, sometimes the well wishing is half-hearted, but I try to take stock of it and continue. 
At the very beiginning of the Metta session I had trouble focussing, then concentration grew and I was centered on the task, and the final 2 minutes of Metta, things started to fall apart as drowsiness took over.

Similar to yesterday, as soon as I switched to mindfulness of breathing, various hindrances arose - disinterest, impatience, greater dullness, plenty of distracting thought content. It was interesting to toggle between states of more open awareness and more constrained awareness (while resting in the breath). If awareness is too open, the mind slides off the breath, but if awareness is too narrow, then distractions/hindrances aren't noticed in time to make fine adjustments. Drowsiness/dullness gave me the opportunity to experiment with sitting up a bit straighter and bringing attention to the fine details of the breath without collapsing awareness. 
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2/15/2021 - Evening sit - 45 minutes

Started with 15 minutes of Metta and finished with 30 minutes of mindfulness of the breath. There seems to be a pattern emerging based on the last few sits: the Metta is always nice and the mind stays on task, but the hindrances strike when switching to the breath meditation.

Tonight's biggest hindrance was desire: I seemed to have inhabited some Hungry Ghost realm. I sat through endless mental images of the object of craving, pleading with myself not to act on the craving, bargaining, planning, fear, annoyance, impatience, contraction, glorifying the object of craving, etc. It was a real mess, super exhausting - I really wish I didn't have to do this dance.

Eventually the desire sorta disappeared and then dullness became the dominant hindrance. I started skirting the line between dozing and wakefulness - mental imagery became vivid, narrative thoughts became louder. The breath was still in awareness during these points, but more as a concept (in breath/out breath) and less the physical sensations. After sitting through dullness and dozing a bit, the mind was slightly refreshed and with the extra energy, it went back to craving. All pretty funny. 

The sit ended in a state of exhaustion and impatience, but it's promising to be sitting through the midst of so much reactivity (hindrances) and just gently going back to the breath when coming out of mind wandering. Getting in touch with the mind/reality no matter how it presents itself in the moment. 
George S, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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AKD

There seems to be a pattern emerging based on the last few sits: the Metta is always nice and the mind stays on task, but the hindrances strike when switching to the breath meditation.

Maybe try sending more metta towards yourself?
AKD, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Hello George, thank you for the tip! I send plenty of Metta to myself during my sits. The quote above isn't really a complaint: I simply jotted that observation here as an interesting pattern that happens almost instantaneously when switching from one practice to the next. Currently, I am not adverse to the hindrances in a way that seeks to place blame on myself; put another way, I don't consider the hindrances (or other forms of reactivity that arise) to be personal failings/shortcomings and so I am not beating myself up if they arise. Honestly, I'm fully okay with getting in touch with hindrances and reactivity so that I can bring awareness to them and learn from them. As the saying goes, "Smooth seas don't make good sailors." 

Of course, this relaxed attitude is subject to change. 
George S, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Sounds good. I got a lot out of the exercises in WUTYL in the chapters on realms and elements. 
AKD, modified 2 Months ago.

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2/16/2021 - Evening sit - 40 minutes

This evening I prefered to skip the Metta and do just straight breath meditation. The sit was a bit of a snooze fest. There isn't much to say beyond the fact that I would doze off and awareness of the breath would slowly fade as dreams took over. I'd wake up, return to the breath, and doze off again. Rinse and repeat. There was some aversion to trying to stay awake, and a natural level of impatience arose as I wanted to just take a nap instead. No real frustration associated with falling off the horse though.
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2/17/2021 - Evening sit - 60ish minutes

Tonight I did a series of guided meditations that were part of a larger dharma talk given by Ken McLeod: https://unfetteredmind.org/mountain-sea-and-sky/

The dharma talk unpacks the backdoor, pith instruction that comes from Tibetan mountain hermits: 

Body like a mountain.
Breath like the wind.
Mind like the sky.


In this case, Ken decides use the the metaphor of sea waves to describe the breath instead of the wind which is traditional. The idea behind describing the body, breath, and mind in these ways helps the practitioner to intuitively grasp and align those aspects of their experience in a way that promotes stability, naturalness, openess. The practitioner can return to what is already there and rest.
AKD, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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2/18/2021 - Evening sit - 60 minutes

Started with 15 minutes of Metta before switching to resting in attention with the breath. 

The Metta was nice as usual. I had been in a somewhat frustrated mood today, imagining myself getting into altercations with people that I'm not even in contact with. So during the Metta, I gravitated towards wishing those difficult folks plenty of Metta. When I sort of 'locked on' to a person while repeating the Metta phrase, there was this slight bit of energy or 'center of experience' located directly behind where the ribcage converges and the sternum starts (xiphoid process).

When switching to breath, the quality of attention changed - it opened up, but became less stable. If I had to describe this portion of the sit it was mostly sitting through drowsiness, craving, and various levels of uncomfortable physical contraction. Even now, my throat and abdomen feel phsyically constricted and I have a bit of a headache. Although the sit was difficult, I am very encouraged to continue because I was able to keep the breath in attention (without forcing it) and be present to the hindrances as they played out - the mind did wander into distraction a few times. It wasn't necessarily super restful, but I set gentle intentions to try and release a little phsyical or mental tension where possible. Towards the end of the sit, the overall reactivity started to settle down and I was surprised when the bell rang. 
AKD, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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2/19/2021 - Evening sit - 50 minutes

Started with 15 minutes of Metta and the rest was breath meditation. Not alot to write down here. It was a very sleepy sit and there wasn't a whole lot of motivation. Concentration was not super great and I fell into mind wandering quite often. Awareness also kept collapsing. Not discouraged though! 
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2/20/2021 - Morning sit - 45 minutes

Skipped the Metta this morning in favor of breath meditation. The two most prominent hindrances were dullness & doubt. Before the sit, an unwillingness to sit had me procrastinating.

The first half of the session was relatively chilled out. I'd intend to rest with the breath while allowing things in background awarenss to play out. I'd check in on posture sporadically and make adjustments where appropriate. After a while, momentum and motivation wobbled: plenty of mind wandering occured anytime awareness collapsed. A large part of the mind wandering was doubt related to practice and the expected outcomes of working with certain traditions or teachers. I set the gentle intention to allow the doubts to play out, feeling the contraction and the aversion alongside the breath. The session ended in this state where the mind was busy, but overall I was drowsy and dull as well.

I am having some issues remembering to set intentions to energize or rest when the mind is dull or busy - this is an area where I will have to experiment. It's just slightly confusing since it often seems dullness and business are experienced together, but most teachers present these as opposite ends of a spectrum: either the mind is dull, or it is busy. 
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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2/21/2021 - Note

I sat for maybe 5-10 minutes today. A day off here or there is alright.

That said, lately I have also been doing a lot of off cushion practice and trying to bring my life into practice. I am still working to increase formal practice time however. Ideally, formal practice would run 90-120 minutes a day so I hope to work up to that as long as it is productive - sometimes the mind doesn't want to play along or life gets in the way. 

Lastly, after looking around a bit, I've found a mentor/teacher of sorts who is a student of one of Ken McLeod's closest pupils (so 2 degrees of freedom). This individual has been participating in a teacher program that Ken himself apparently oversees, although he is no longer teaching. We will chat maybe once a month as needed, and I can reach out to them if I have questions about the specific exercises in "Wake Up To Your Life".

On one hand, I am excited to work on my reactivity and to cultivate presence - on the other hand, I got into this stuff in the first place because of Daniel's descriptions of the awakened 'mode' with its various aspects/criteria (as Daniel defines them in this thread). Ken doesn't talk about these perceptual aspects of his experience in the few talks I have listened to. I am sure that many of these practices lead to the same or similar place (since these methods all work with attentional development and faculties of awareness) and many people can report the Progress of Insight no matter what technique they are practice. However, doubts remain.
I do like the way Ken brings the practice to bear on the way we live our lives, which to me is very practical. I want a bit of each I guess: the cool perceptual shifts/understandings that reduce suffering, and to bring my life into my practice so as to be present to all that occurs and be basically sane. 
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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You could say that realms/elements/reactivity practice is shifting attention from direct sensate experience down towards underlying psychological strata. In my experience that's where most of the suffering is generated, although it can take a while to accept that. emoticon
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Yeah, I sorta realized noting wasn't doing it for me anymore as I had trouble stepping back to see reactive patterns. This has less to do with methods and more to do with my lack of understanding - a person can use noting to pick up on this sort of thing too. I just found it helpful to try a new practice in a new framework for that reason you outline above!
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2/22/2021 - Evening sit - 60 minutes

A fairly difficult sit. I practiced just the resting on the breath.

There was plenty of mind wandering; slight frustration and doubt seeped in in relation to that. I spent most of the sit in a state of planning and worry/dread in relationship to both professional and personal deadlines that are coming up. I knew on some level that all of that struggle was mind made, but I just have to watch it play out and try to keep coming back to the breath.

The mind was slightly dull, the throat was constricted, the abodomen was contracted, and there was a lot of pressure in the head. I would often check to see if I could release some of this tension, but to no avail (I really don't think I was striving in a way that would cause these physical discomforts). I notice lately that in the evenings, there are many physical sorts of contractions in the body and mind.

Towards the end of the sit, some level of attention was regained and awareness opened up in a way that was very natural, although the unpleasantness was still playing out to some degree. What gets me is that within moments of finishing the session, most of the contraction and gross feelings just stopped. Very interesting. 
AKD, modified 1 Month ago.

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2/23/2021 - Morning sit - 60 minutes

Started with 15 minutes of Metta before switching to resting in attention with the breath. Metta did not come as easy this morning - the main flavors were those of jealousy and guilt, although friendliness was available at points. 

The breath meditation was interesting in that there was a lot of emotional content in the form of fear, dread, guilt, shame, and quite a bit sadness tied to thought loops/frustrations about career, relationships, and death. It was hard to keep breath in awareness as the fantasies related to prematurely dying played out. I just got to the part in "Wake Up To Your Life" in which impermanence and death are contemplated, but I still haven't read any of the meditation instructions as I want to continue to cultivate attention for another few weeks - this might be a good decision based on the difficulty that arose this morning.

The last 5 or so minutes of the session, all of the reactivity and contraction started to attentuate: the body felt settled and the awareness opened up. A sense of ease was available with a small bit of impatience to start my work day.  


​​​​​​​2/23/2021 - Evening sit - 30 minutes

Just a session of mindfulness of breathing. Some anger and reactivity bubbled up, but I was really gentle about returning to the breath. Towards the end, relaxation grew, things got sort of dull, but there was a reasonable amount of awareness.

About to sit with some friends so I'll jot down a brief entry here once we are through. 
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2/23/2021 - Night sit - 70 minutes

Group sit with friends: a smattering of discussion, Metta, and resting in attention with the breath. My legs are sore. Besides that, attention was fairly good, the body felt settled & firm. Awareness took in what was going on both internally and externally. 
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2/24/2021 - Evening sit - 45 minutes

Really didnt feel like sitting tonight. Started with 15 minutes of Metta and then did 30 minutes of breath meditation. 

Metta was nice. For some reason I focussed on the more difficult folks tonight. It brought up a lot of memories of people I had interacted with earlier in my life when I was a bit more of a jerk. I saw how I wanted to close down and ignore these people so I could avoid thinking about them or wishing them well. The mind was very focused on the task and the body became so settled like waking up from a nap.

Switching to breath meditation, the hindrance of desire became extremely prominant. The mind was tumbling around with songs, cravings, rationalizations, mental images, planning, future thoughts, worries, and so on. Jumping off the cushion and walking away sounded really appealing, but I suppose this is the 'work' of meditation. Just patiently coming back to the breath again and again, feeling into all the discomfort/contraction of the body and the busyness of the mind. 
AKD, modified 1 Month ago.

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2/25/2021 - Morning sit - 60 minutes

No Metta today, just practiced resting in attention with the breath. The most notable hindrances were desire, aversion, and some subtle dullness. The mind was extrememly busy and I must have fallen into distraction a few dozen times. Any time I was caught up in distraction, I'd come back to the body and breath without too much fuss, placing my attention on the breath and opening up awareness to all sense doors.

Although there were hindrances, they were not as intense as the past week. There was some general sense of 'okayness' with what was coming up, even if that material was painful - I've been going through this territory so often lately that my patience/capacity to sit with it is slowly growing and it feels like less of a big deal. The body was fairly relaxed and most of the contraction seemed to be happening with regards to the scope of attention/awareness. 

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2/25/2021 - Evening sit - 45 minutes

Started with 15 minutes of Metta before switching to the breath. Overall this was a very difficult sit and I wanted to get up from the cushion every few moments.

I have trouble meditating in the evenings - after a few caffinated beverages throughout the day, I am often partly wired, but also exhausted due to waking up early, going to work, doing other chores, etc. which means my will power is lacking. I often just want to have a few beers, play video games or watch videos online, and eat junk food to tune everything out. The motivation is even harder to come by if I have already done a morning sit since I convince myself I should be off the hook. Most of my evening sits are like this, and when I describe facing strong bouts of desire, dullness, impatience, aversion, doubt, and reactivity, I am describing this barrage of craving. 

Tonight was no different: the Metta was met with little interest, and the hindrances were in full bloom during the breath meditation. It is funny though, on one hand, a former version of myself would have quit the sit early, but tonight I patiently started again and again, bringing myself back to the object of meditation and feeling into the current level of reactivity in the body/mind. Meditation really is 'work' in the sense that we are sitting through all of these crazy currents of desire or aversion, and we just need to be there for it in a way that doesn't seek to get past it or around it. Currently, I am not overly ambitious or trying to blow through the Progress of Insight, but the basic effort of returning to what is already there and resting is still a lot of work. 
 
The question I'm really interested in answering for myself: if I keep practicing in this fashion, will these intense bouts of reactivity start to get dismantled? Or should I find a different way to antidote it (less caffeine, more sleep, cutting out harmful habits, making a daily task list so I don't fall into complacency, etc.)? As I type this, I realize it's some combination of both probably. Ken McLeod talks about freeing up the energy that feeds the reactive patterns so that it flows into attention/presence, but at the moment it feels more like energy is being used to counter the reactive patterns. This is interesting stuff.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Yeah trying to counter the reactivity doesn't work, it just drains your energy. What you need to do is to fully experience the reactivity without acting on it. So take your example of wanting to tune out with beer, videos and junk food. This is the void element pattern - numbing yourself due to feeling overwhelmed by the intrinsic spaciousness/emptiness of existence. Instead of actually using the numbing stuff, you just meditate and visualize the process - the feeling of being empty and overwhelmed, the feeling of craving for something to numb that feeling, the feeling of giving in and opening a beer, the feeling of momentary relief, followed by the return of feelings of emptiness accompanied by feelings of failure, guilt and self-recrimination. You want to observe really closely how this whole process of reactivity plays out in your body. As you repeat the exercise, the reactive pattern starts to "self-liberate", meaning you can experience the emotions without the compulsion to act on them. Eventually you come back to the source and realize that emptiness/space is not so bad after all, it's actually a pretty cool place to hang out, you were just having a bad reaction to it, and suddenly your energy returns because you are not fighting it any more. emoticon

EDIT: Also, if you do succumb to the reactivity, which happens to all of us, no need to feel bad. You can still meditate afterwards and fully experience what it's really like to be full of beer and junk food and gamed out. It's actually a pretty interesting meditation. I remember once meditating after a few beers and being like 'wow, this is what it really feels like to be drunk, I don't really like this at all'. I've barely had a drop since then and I used to be a competitive binge drinker back in the day.
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Hey George, 

I thank you for your thoughts and I believe that you're probably correct. I will read more about the Dakinis at some point and hopefully that framework will help with these feelings although it sounds sorta silly to attribute this to feeling "overwhelmed by the intrinsic spaciousness/emptiness of existence".

Question: when you refer to "feelings of emptiness" above what do you mean by that exactly? In this context, it sorta sounds like the unsatisfactoriness that many depressed people who lie in bed all day report - these folks feel empy inside. It doesn't quite sound like the Emptiness that is described in "Seeing That Frees" where the practitioner realizes that some aspect of reality is fabricated. 
On one hand, people describe feelings of depression and feeling "empty", on the other hand people describe the real understanding of fabrication and grokk what emptiness is in terms of experiential reality which is supposedly quite freeing. 
Tim Farrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Hi AKD, and forgive me for showing up late to the party here, though I've been following your great log with interest all along. I just wanted to say that you're really keeping up a fairly severe monastic schedule right now, given that you also work all day. It's actually more rigorous than the practice of most of the people in the ashram I spent a couple of years in way back in the day, and our evening practice was a program, sometimes a talk but most often chanting, which is very chill and actually as good as ice cream and beer most of the time. So you are during some hard-ass sadhana right now, and you're also cleaning your own toilets.

For what it's worth, I used to bust out of the ashram once in a while and slip off down the street to the local McDonalds for a cheeseburger, fries, and a big vanilla shake, and I would read Doris Lessing novels there and feel wonderfully degenerate. 
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Yes "emptiness" is a bit of a loaded term, "spaciousness" may be simpler. So every element is a reaction to the "intrinsic spaciousness of  existence" and comes in two forms - "distorted" and "liberated". E.g. distorted fire element is feeling lonely and consuming to increase intensity, liberated fire is getting close through compassion. "Space" or "void" element is a bit confusing because it underlies the other four, but basically it refers to feeling overwhelmed or "empty" and numbing oneself or "spacing out" in its distorted form, and pervasive awareness (opposite of ignoring) in its liberated form. The "emptiness" of dependent origination (emptiness of any intrinsic existence) is a somewhat related concept and it is ultimately freeing, but it can also be tremendously threatening (so again a "liberated" vs "distorted" reaction).

The important thing about all this is not to get hung up on the theory, but do the exercises and visualizations yourself. That way you get a feel for how the patterns work in your life. There's no "right answer" and I might be misinterpreting your experience. But once you start to see your own patterns then you see how pervasive they are and also it's the same pattern running in totally different situations. So for me "space" reactivity covers everything from depression to binging on Netflix to spacing out in meditation. The more you see it and the faster you detect it, the less of a problem it is. The nice thing about this practice is that the reactivity can be a lot more noticeable in daily life than it is in meditation, so you have a lot to work with and can make relatively fast progress. You might spend years spacing out in meditation without realizing it's a problem, but if you wanted to meditate and binged instead then obviously something else is going on! Likewise with anger, conflicts in daily life are much more noticeable than subtle self-directed anger in meditation.

I would also recommend the book Spectrum of Ecstasy for realms/elements practice as it has lots of practical examples from western household life. Also it's chapters 5 and 6 of WUTYL which are the heart of it in case you didn't get there yet. I found the dakinis stuff a bit abstract, I just used the examples and templates from my own life. As shargrol said to me, the cool thing about this practice is that the shittier things seem, the more opportunity you have to cut to the heart of reactive patterns and free yourself from them. emoticon
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Also I have to add, the word 'intrinsic' can be misleading as well. There are lots of different terms for this intrinsic whateverness: spaciousness, emptiness, fullnesss (!), wholeness, thisness, thusness, isness, beingness etc. The way I see it, elements practice is a kind of expanded form of the middle links of dependent origination (reaction to stimuli) and realms is where you get "born" in the later links. From this higher level perspective it seems there is a reaction to some intrinsic property of existence. But at some point you have to examine that intrinsic property itself and see that it also collapses. So spaciousness collapses into awareness into nothingness etc in the formless jhanas. Or emptiness is itself empty, just another property of conventional reality - 'emptiness is not other than form'. Not necessarily relevant to the current discussion, but just wanted to put it out there!
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Hey George, thank you for taking the time to type out such a detailed answer. I'll likely be referring to it in the future and unpacking it more and more as things progress. I decided to work with WUTYL in order - from what I understand, it can take years to work with it in this fashion, but I'm in no rush. I'm sure I'll read an article or instructions about these element and realms practices on Ken's website and then I'll be able to apply it to my life well before reaching that part of the book and practicing it 'formally'. At this point, I still am working on cultivating attention since I am still quite a distracted meditator even after hundreds of hours of cushion time in the last few years. 
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Thank you for the encouragement Tim! Sounds like you had a lovely time in the ashram. Funnily enough, I live within walking distance of a McDonalds as well - maybe I'll be making the trek there once in a while when my apartment feels too much like an ashram!
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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2/26/2021 - Evening sit - 10 minutes

One of these days where I skipped practice, but still tried to sit for a few moments to preserve some sense of commitment and continuity. 
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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2/27/2021 - Morning sit - 60 minutes

Started with 15 minutes of Metta before switching over to the breath. 

Another sit characterized by disinterest, spacing out, boredom, low energy, doubts, frustration, aversion, etc. Coming out of this session, I am in a worse mood than when I went into it. Funny how just repeatedly trying to come back to the breath can result in such an adverse reaction. 
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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3/2/2021 - Evening sit - 30 minutes

Resting in the experience of breathing - felt settled, things became soft, and I dozed off repeatedly. Very tired sort of day so this was expected. 

3/2/2021 - Night sit - 70 minutes

Group sit with friends: a smattering of discussion, Metta, and resting in attention with the breath. Attention was fairly good, the body felt settled & firm. Awareness took in what was going on both internally and externally - there was little struggle. 
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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3/3/2021 - Morning sit - 30 minutes

Resting in the experience of breathing. A plain sit charcterized by few hindrances. Patiently returning to the breath/body when getting distracted. I had some future thoughts, planning, and worry related to life stuff. When getting centered on the experience of breathing, relaxation would naturally occur and awareness would open up to the wider field of internal/external experience. 

Throughout my day, I often try to practice this technique when: washing dishes, folding laundry, cooking, eating, cleaning, walking, using the restroom, showering, watching TV, in meetings, work tasks that are not cognitively demanding, while driving, shopping, hiking, falling asleep, waking up, etc. It's been helpful to tune into an open experience of awareness while engaged in the task at hand. There are many hours during my day where I forget this intention and tune out, but it's a seed that has been growing. 


3/3/2021 - Lunch - Mindful Eating

Although this wasn't formal meditation, I decided to eat my lunch very slowly and mindfully. Usually when I eat a meal, I put on a TV show or find some YouTube video to watch while I'm eating - this typically leads to greedily and mindlessly scarfing down food.
I sat in silence and made sure to tune into the sights, sounds, smells, textures, tempertures, and flavors while taking special care to chew each mouthful many many times. There's always an automaticity to just swallowing food that borders on impatience. I'm not sure how often I'll do this, but I've noticed that I am very attached to having some form of entertainment going while eating which is ironically taking me away from an enriching sensory experience.


3/3/2021 - Evening sit - 45 minutes

Started with 15 minutes of Metta before resting in awareness of the breath. The mind was very sluggish as I was drowsy after work. Metta was hard to focus on and repeating the phrases in my mind was a slog. During mindfulness of breathing, I must have dozed of 12-18 times. Watching the breath as things would go soft at which point the mental imagery & mental narratives became vivid as I slipped into sleep. This happened so many times and it became sort of unreal to watch as the line between the dream world and the waking world would blur again and again. 
AKD, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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3/5/2021 - Evening sit - 45 minutes

Resting in awareness with the breath. Tonight I set an intention to tighten focus on the breath just a bit more than usual in order to ride it like a wave. Overall, there were a few different hindrances: I was really bloated for some reason so my body felt uncomfortable and there was some stress and anxiety. Additionally, I was quite drowsy.

This was all a blessing though: I am appreciating how difficult sits are the ones in which we can strengthen our attention & awareness and learn more about the mind. Coming back to the breath again and again produced a certain satisfaction and confidence - especially when catching distractions before they lead to mind wandering. Overall, the sit seemed to be over quick as I was engrossed in the process. 
AKD, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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3/6/2021 - Morning sit - 45 minutes

Resting in awareness of the breath - a sit similar to the one yesterday evening. The intention was the same, although this time the hindrances were a bit different. Mind wandering occured at point which lead to low levels of discouragement or frustration, but nothing too crazy. 

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3/6/2021 - Afternoon sit - 45 minutes

Resting in awareness of the breath. I was a bit less determined during this sit. Right away, there were doubts related to a certain turns my practice has been taking with regards to mentorship, methods, lineages, etc. There was also quite a bit of drowsiness and dullness as I started to settle down. Lately, I have been assailed by doubts which has made it more difficult to be consistent with sitting. I used to be very gung ho, but the flame is spluttering as I question why I do all of this yet something inside of me freaks out everytime I consider giving up. A rock and a hard place. I just keep doing my best to notice these fears and bring myself back to the breath/body, or whatever task I may be attending to in the moment. 
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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It's worth bearing in mind that the patterns tend to fight back once you start prodding them! It's almost as if they have a life of their own - they evolved to meet a certain purpose and will fight for survival when they are threatened. So this meta-pattern of digging down deep and bringing some element of reactivity into awareness, followed by being assailed by dullness (void element!) and doubts (air element!), is itself a very common pattern! Ken talks about it in his book and it's certainly something that I've observed in my practice. It might not feel like it, but it's actually a sign of progress!
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Thank you for the encouragement George!
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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3/7/2021 - Afternoon sit - 45 minutes

Resting in the experience of breathing. Pretty standard sit - there was dullness and mind wandering. Plenty of patience associated with returning to the breath again and again however which helped grease the wheels. I have been been seeing the effect of sitting on my mindfulness off cushion - there is definitely a positive correlation there which is helping to inspire me. There wasn't much impatience associated with the length of the sit either which is usually a hindrance I deal with quite often. Hopefully practicing this way well continue to yield benefits.

Over the last week or two, I have noticed that there was a slight imbalance in my posture that has been causing subtle pain in my neck. I removed about 2 quarts of buckwheat hulls from my cushion as I think I was positioned too high which caused my legs to pull my entire spine forward ever so slightly. I'll see if this will lead to a positive change before adding or removing more of the filling. 


In other news, I was offered a spot on a Zoom retreat/workshop starting today that will be led by one of Ken McLeod's longtime students that he authorized to teach. This was sort of last minute so I won't be able to treat it like a formal retreat, but I think it will provide a good foundation for working with Ken's material. The retreat will focus on the Four Ways of Working: https://unfetteredmind.org/the-four-ways-of-working/
There are 5 dharma talks over the next month on Sunday evenings, along with guided meditations and daily group sits during the week. I will not be able to attend the daily group sits due to the fact that I am in a different timezone and will be at work, but every session is recorded so I can just follow along with the videos during my own daily sits.  I'll be reporting my daily sits here based on the instructions given during this workshop.


3/7/2021 - Evening sit - 40ish minutes

This was a guided meditation that came at the end of the first dharma talk on 'Power'. There are two methods that we are supposed to experiment this week and we were guided through both methods. My intention is to practice both methods each day in separate 45 minute sits.

The first method involves calling up some personal core belief or social roll or identity that causes us suffering. The point is to really generate the feeling in the body associate with the belief. Then we are to slowly visualize placing this 'issue' in a bag, tying it off, placing it down on the ground, telling ourselves that we don't need this burden, then turning around and walking away. 

The second method is simply the Five-Step Mindulness practice outlined here: https://unfetteredmind.org/five-step-mindfulness-practice/ The first part is once again to generate a problematic emotion, stabilize it, and then do the exercise of bringing more awareness to the emotion and all problematic reactions and learning to settle into it however it may manifest.

During the guided sit, I had trouble with the first exercise. My life is partly run by a core belief that I am not good enough or worthy. I am very aware of that fact though and, although I have experienced some really difficult emotions associated with that fact, they just wouldn't come during the session. I also could not quite believe that just putting the belief in a bag and dropping it would help resolve anything. I was very skeptical and there wasn't really any relief or lightness associated with walking away from the bag as some other folks on the call reported. I'm not disappointed though - I'd like to experiment with this method and vizualize putting the belief in different types of bags and placing the bag in different locations (in this case I imagined a white bag with a blue cross like the flag of Finland that I dropped on a trail in the woods I was hiking today).

The second exercise was definitely more emotionally charged. I brought up a memory from a few years back which comes up quite often and I usually just try to repress the thoughts. Tonight I really called it up and felt the 'gut punch' and disappointment and fear associated with this memory. The issue here was, as I tried to follow the instruction of easing into the emotion, I was no longer generating the emotion causing the emotion to fade. Slippery business. There was a moment during the session where I realized, even though the emotions were painful, and I was reacting with aversion to the emotions, I was still fundamentally alright and I don't always need to hide from feeling these emotions fully. Shining a light on those dark corners that I usually want to avoid. 
Tim Farrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Wow, AKD, this workshop sounds great.

I hope you get the tweaks on your sitting posture smoothed out. The times when I've been in transition on sitting posture have generally been rough, it's like changing a golf swing, from what I understand of that process: you see the hole in your old swing and realize you have to change it, but the new swing is actually worse for a while, awkward and feels ineffectual, while your muscles are relearning everything. But when it clicks, mo bettah. Just remember throughout that it's a real factor, the posture change, and be easy with the process as an aspect of your practice. 
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Thank you for the encouragement Tim! There is definitely a change in the posture related to the slightly lower cushion. It remains to be seen whether this posture is better or not so it will take a few weeks to sort out. 
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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3/8/2021 - Morning sit - 45 minutes

Started with 25 minutes of resting on the breath in attention before attempting the visualization exercise above. There was quite a bit of restlessness and dread due to the start of the week and going back to work. I was also pretty dull/drowsy as I had trouble falling asleep last night. Thoughts were also popping up in relation to planning out the visualization and which 'core belief' I'd end up using, etc.

Quite naturally, the feeling of being a failure arose. The mind started pulling up thoughts of missed deadlines, houseplants I had killed, failed romantic relationships, unhealthy/unproductive aspects of my current lifestyle, the way I avoid certain situations or procastinate certain areas of my life, the fact that I was unable to stay on the breath during this sit, etc. The physical sensations associated with these were centered behind the navel - there was a cocktail of sensations similar to sadness, frustration, existential dread, anger, and apathy. There was the additional aversion to these physical sensations and mental phenomena. 

The visualization took place in a small city square (Marienplatz in Stuttgart Germany - a place I visited while studying abroad). The drawstring bag was made of dark green velvet fabric and there was a circular, ornate pattern stitched on it in white, not completely unlike a mandala. In the middle of the pattern was an oval shaped gem that looked dark purple, almost like an eye through which the bag could see. It was an ominous looking bag like it belonged to Slytherin in Harry Potter. I walked up the steps in the middle of the square that has a small marketplace. I unfolded the bag and held it close to my navel where the sensations had been centered. The feelings of failure emerged from my navel as black smoke with tendrils that latched on to the mouth of the bag, trying to climb its way back out. The tendrils were eventually forced into the bag as more and more smoke poured out. I tied the bag off and it was completely inflated - about the size of an adult cat, but weighing next to nothing. The bag seemed very much alive and cursed. I placed the bag down, stated that I didn't need to carry this weight anymore, and walked down the steps and down the street. Afterward, I could sense a change in the energy of my body - a reduction in the sensations associated with failure, a bit of ease. There was some guilt however - I realized afterward that I shouldn't just leave a dangerous package like that in the middle of a public place. If someone opens it, the smoke will come out at them. In the future, I will try to visualize placing the bag in more remote areas. 

I also think that next time I will start this exercise with 30 minutes of sitting and reserve just 15 minutes for the visualization and cooling off period since that part goes rather quickly. 


3/8/2021 - Evening sit - 55 minutes

Resting in attention with the breath + five-step mindfulness practice.

My original plan was to cultivate stable attention during the first half of the sit before calling up difficult emotions to work on with the five step mindfulness practice, but the mind had other plans. It didn't take very long after starting meditation when a barrage of difficult emotions came up. Before the sit, I had laid down for a nap so I was quite relaxed before sitting. Within minutes of sitting on the cushion, I was facing existential dread tied to future thoughts about deadlines or other life things that may or may not happen. There was a lot of stress and fear and the thought loops were very seductive. 

At that point, I realized that there was no point in waiting to start the 5 step practice since difficult emotions were arising anyway. I didn't quite repeat the phrases formally, but I went through and examined which emotions were present, the reactions to those emotions, and then, along with the breath, I was able to cultivate a sense of calm and ease in the turmoil. From that perspective of being in the emotion in a clear way, I set intentions to examine how it was arising, how it was manifesting in the moment. 

In the latter half of the sit, the difficult emotions were calming down as if they had been processed. At that point, leg pain became the dominant issue: experiencing the pain, I then tried to observe the reactions to it, cultivate a sense of calm and then ease. This was really difficult because pain causes quite an energetic reaction in me (agitation) where I want to leap off the cushion. 

On some level, I have been doing something similar to the 5 step process these last few weeks, but these steps help to make it a bit more intentional. 
Tim Farrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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There was some guilt however - I realized afterward that I shouldn't just leave a dangerous package like that in the middle of a public place. If someone opens it, the smoke will come out at them. In the future, I will try to visualize placing the bag in more remote areas. 

To ease your mind, AKD, I actually happened to stumble across that bag of smoke during my last meditation this morning, and it followed me home, like a stray cat. I gave it a bowl of milk and it seems quite happy here. I am a smoker, and if the bag ever lets loose, I'll be right at home. Meanwhile, no harm, no foul, and thanks for the bonus companionship, lol.
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Thank you Tim. You're showing my personal hang-ups some Metta and I think that's something I could learn to do as well.
Tim Farrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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lol, AKD, I think that guilt you felt was real moral sense, a feedback on behavior, a product of self-examination in the best sense, not a personal hang-up. And I certainly had no notion of addressing any hang-up in your process or person. I was genuinely touched by your concern for those fellow souls in the square in Stuttgart, even as you were working so hard on your purgative process. Yes, there is an element of meta-humor, moving toward playful absurdity even, once i chime in, in that it is actions in a visualization, and then in a secondary visualization, but right behavior in every bardo and realm is crucial. Treating others well in any bardo, whatever its metaphysical or ontological status, is simply beautiful. And if I could ease your sense of the work you did by suggesting that the imaginary bag that lightened your load did no imaginal harm to others, and even did some good to me, for whatever peculiar reasons . . . well, all the better. It's a jam session, and your solo was great; I just did a little riff on one motif. Keep up the good work, my friend.
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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3/9/2021 - Evening sit - 45 minutes

Started with 30 minutes of resting in attention with the breath before trying out the visualization exercise.

There isn't much to say about the first 30 minutes: I'd get distracted, come back to the body and the breath, and started opening up awareness to include internal and external experience.

When it was time for the visualization, I decided that I'd try to generate feelings of uselessness that had popped up a bit earlier in the evening. I had visualized a royal blue, satin cloth bag with a gold stitched pattern and blue jewel. There was also a sort of chain netting around the bag to weigh it down. I vizualized myself paddling out on a lake a short drive from my parents' house, placing my sense of uselessness in the bag, before rolling it off the side of the paddleboard into the water. The issue was, the feelings of uselessness didn't quite manifest so strongly in the body, but I followed through with the visualization. I imagined the bag sinking to the bottom of the lake which made me feel uneasy because I have a slight phobia of deep water. 

At that point, I switched gears and started visualizing deep water, sunken airplanes & boats (https://old.reddit.com/r/submechanophobia/), sea monsters of different shapes and sizes - anything to make me feel uncomfortable. It was chilling and eerie - the body had this icy emotional quality and there was a faint nausea. I figured since I had accidentally tripped up an emotional reaction, I'd just work with that for the rest of the sit - I intend to do this one again and maybe torture myself by looking at some photos in the linked subreddit above. 


3/9/2021 - Night sit - 45 minutes

Resting in the experience of breathing. Sort of a hum-drum sit. Very often getting lost in distraction and then resetting: bringing the mind back to the body, the breath, and then opening to all experience internal and external until falling back into distraction. Rinse and repeat. 

There was some boredom & some impatience which wasn't so bad, but I started fretting about my posture quite a bit and tried to reshape the cushion several times now that I've taken out some of the stuffing. Posture-wise, I was wayyy more comfortable during the sit before this one. There were also some uncomfortable body sensations (contraction in the abdomen and tightness in the throat) and I realized at point that I was sort of generally aware of these things, but also tuning them out quite a bit. I'm beginning to wonder how much of my experience is just tunedd out, but that's a question I'll have to sit with during my next few sits. 
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Nice switch. That's a good practice, meditating on your fears. Kind of like charnel ground meditations.

Most of the incomng sense data is naturally tuned out, unless it's changing and alerts us to fight, flight, eat or breed. It's a pretty interesting exercise to focus on everything that's not doing that - reality suddenly gets a lot more expansive and less threatening/addictive.
AKD, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Thank you for the tip!
AKD, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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3/10/2021 - Morning sit - 60 minutes

Resting in awareness with the breath. I didn't feel much like digging into any reactivity today beyond what comes up naturally as a result of sitting quietly.

A standard sit - I say the scales were tipped in the direction of resting with the breath instead of getting lost. I noticed lately, after getting settled on the body & breath, that when I 'open' to experience I unconciously gravitate towards the auditory field. There is a sense of ease associated with just listening and sitting in the sound bath. Today, I set intentions to keep the body and breath in awareness alongside the auditory field. Of course thoughts, emotions, feelings, urges, etc. all pop up, but I try to keep contact with the breath while all of this arises.

Other than that, not much to say. A relatively calm sit and any resistance that popped up was unproblematic. 
AKD, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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3/11/2021 & 3/12/2021 - Skipped. Didn't feel like sitting.

3/13/2021 - 45 minutes of open awareness sort of practice while laying on a yoga mat. 

3/14/2021 - Took part in the next portion of the workshop. The topic was ecstacy as described here: https://unfetteredmind.org/the-four-ways-of-working/

We did a guided sit with 2 separate instructions. Since ectasy includes a sense of devotion, the firt part of the sit was the Guru Yoga Prayer as described here: https://unfetteredmind.org/guru-yoga-prayer/

The second part of the sit was about opening to experience in such a way that we create less distance between the experience and all of its richness. The instruction was to pick a sense door (sight or sound were recommended but this can be done with anything), within that sense door pick a frame or single object, then open to every detail/component within the frame or object. Anytime the mind fixates on a detail, open back up to the whole frame/object in a gentle way. 

Not much to report all in all.
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RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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3/15/2021 - Afternoon sit - 30 minutes

Sat in the midst of angst/anger/frustration/pointlessness on the cushion today. I guess it's just one of those days where I hate everything and feel stuck in life.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Good that you sat through it. Important to investigate those feelings.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: AKD Daily Log #1

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Good that you sat through it. Important to investigate those feelings, i.e. the physical sensations beneath the thoughts.

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