Will-O Practice Log

william strother, modified 1 Month ago.

Will-O Practice Log

Posts: 10 Join Date: 2/25/21 Recent Posts
Hi All, 

This is my first entry so any tips on format, what to include, or any feedback at all including just a "hello" is greatly appreciated. Glad to be here!

A bit of background:

About a decade ago I spent some time living and working at a meditation retreat for a few months but honestly my practice was pretty poor and I feel I never even really even accomplished correct posture. The whole experience actually sort of turned me off of Buddhism for a very long time, my complaints being those that Daniel mentions in MTCB (werid taboo around enlightenment, generally seeming to be about self therapy, etc). Suffice to say I hardly have a serious meditation background, although I have read books, online PDF's etc in aggregate over the years and have been interested in Buddhist thought since at latest high school, so most of my life at this point.

My practice: 

Recently I decided I wanted to go down the road of it again. I've been doing some Mantra meditation and also some Vipassana type body scanning for about 2 weeks now. The practice is erratic ranging from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours a day depending, usually both sequentially. I'm about halfway through MTCB and had never thought or known to really hone down to the granularity of sensations before reading it, and that seemed like an exciting and novel approach, at least to me. 

Lately I have had a ton of anxiety, mostly acute work related stuff, and I became curious about what anxiety *is* exactly, where it comes from and why it feels bad, so last night when sitting I found the breath and then scanned my body and found the anxiety (quite easy!) in the stomach area, like pins and needles. I noticed it running up and down my torso - the motion reminded me of flames licking at an object or like fire in zero gravity appearing, disappearing, coming up again.  I just sort of observed this feeling until I became totally immersed. For maybe the second time ever my breath became very slight and I stopped noticing it. I kept observing the anxiety feeling totally detached from it and "letting it do its thing". I then had an insight; despite superficially understanding that emotions are physical sensations in the body (hence the term feelings), I truly saw and understood this in a real way. That emotion is physical but related to a thought and there's this curious feedback loop between them. After the insight I had bright lights on the inside of my eyelids and watched it like a lightshow until it dissolved into nothing shapes like a lightbulbs corona does if you stare at it for awhile. I kept observing until the show was over then opened my eyes and had brief residual affects. My intent had been to understand what anxiety is, why it feels bad, which I still don't know. It's very mysterious like when you hear that dopamine causes pleasure and you say "yes but why" and if you keep asking why, why, why eventually it's like, "well no one knows its just this molecule that goes into the brain then you feel that way". So, for now my intention is to try and break down the sensation to even more granular levels and see what the mechanism is - if there was one thing I would like to understand it's what negative sensations even *are*, if that makes sense. If I had not found MTCB not only would I not have thought to examine anxiety in detail I would have considered everything else that happened to be wrong, and me just losing focus. 

Since then I've had almost a craving to meditate and keep popping in to observe sensations in myself, both because it feels good for the first time ever, and because I'm curious. This whole instrumentalization of meditation - its use as a tool for phenomenal observation - is totally revelatory to me.  My whole previous expierience was basically sitting in enormous pain trying to focus on my breath and failing. 

Anyway, my assumption is that my experience described here is nothing special but it's been my most interesting one so far! Also ordered a Seiza bench as that's my preferred tool for sitting and had forgotten they even existed until googling about for a bit. 

Thus is completed the 1st post. Cheers!
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O practice log first entry and brief intro

Posts: 3869 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Hello!

I suspect you had a classic Arising and Passing Away (A&P) event. This means a number of things that are described here:

https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-iv-insight/30-the-progress-of-insight/4-the-arising-and-passing-away/
Edward, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O practice log first entry and brief intro

Posts: 87 Join Date: 6/10/19 Recent Posts
Or Mind and Body
william strother, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O practice log first entry and brief intro

Posts: 10 Join Date: 2/25/21 Recent Posts
Interesting, I'll read about it. Any suggestions for continued practice in either scenario? 
william strother, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O practice log first entry and brief intro

Posts: 10 Join Date: 2/25/21 Recent Posts
After reviewing I'm going to go ahead and say that it's mind and body and that it just happened again -- 40 minutes of Mantra meditation which began as a struggle, but then I noticed at one point that I could step back from the Mantra and it just kept repeating, which I remember from somewhere or other in MTCB, but with a twist - the mantra kept going with even the same hiccup to the word that I had been a bit annoyed at myself for making. Like watching a mirage copy of myself make the same mantra with the same minor mistake. Tried to play along and watch it go like with the session from my OP but it didn't last as long. 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O practice log first entry and brief intro

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Hi and welcome emoticon 

I have built myself 2 Seiza benches back in 2010 when I started with Buddhist meditation. I could never sit cross legged. 

However these days I prefer just a normal chair tipped forward. I place something under the hind legs so to tip the chair forward a bit. This way it's easier to sit straight on a chair I find. 
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O practice log first entry and brief intro

Posts: 1545 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Hi Will, 

Welcome to the DhO. emoticon

Nice first post - you've gone straight to the heart of the four noble truths!

william strother
My intent had been to understand what anxiety is, why it feels bad, which I still don't know.

What makes it feel bad is resisting it.

Culavedella Sutta (MN 44)

“What is pleasant and what is painful in each of the three feelings?”

“Pleasant feeling is pleasant when it remains and painful when it perishes. Painful feeling is painful when it remains and pleasant when it perishes. Neutral feeling is pleasant when there is knowledge, and painful when there is ignorance.”

“What underlying tendencies underlie each of the three feelings?”

“The underlying tendency for greed underlies pleasant feeling. The underlying tendency for repulsion [resistance] underlies painful feeling. The underlying tendency for ignorance underlies neutral feeling.”

When you stop resisting painful experience then you allow yourself to experience it fully, it passes faster and it feels pleasant (and when you stop clinging to pleasant experience then you tend to have more of it and it doesn't feel unpleasant when it passes). This rule applies to all kinds of experience - minor physical discomfort, uncomfortable emotions, severe pain, distressing psychological conditions, relationships, work etc. This is basically the third noble truth - the cessation of suffering - stop resisting/avoiding unpleasant experience and seeking/clinging to pleasant experience. If you pursue this insight single-mindedly enough it can take you all the way through to nibbana (letting experience be as it is).

It also helps to see this in the framework of the three characteristics. Experience is impermanent - it's always changing - which means that you can't stop unpleasant experiences from arising and pleasant experiences from passing. Since you can't stop this from happening, you create suffering by fighting it. It's easier to let go when you recognize that experience is not-self, i.e. it's not "your" personal pain or pleasure, it's just dependently arisen experience.

Sorry to fill your starting log with such a long post, but I think this sutta says it very nicely.

Salla (Arrow) Sutta (SN 36.6)
​​​​​​​
“Mendicants, an uneducated ordinary person feels pleasant, painful, and neutral feelings. An educated noble disciple also feels pleasant, painful, and neutral feelings. What, then, is the difference between an ordinary uneducated person and an educated noble disciple?”

“Our teachings are rooted in the Buddha. …”

“When an uneducated ordinary person experiences painful physical feelings they sorrow and pine and lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion. They experience two feelings: physical and mental.

It’s like a person who is struck with an arrow, only to be struck with a second arrow. That person experiences the feeling of two arrows.

In the same way, when an uneducated ordinary person experiences painful physical feelings they sorrow and pine and lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion. They experience two feelings: physical and mental.

When they’re touched by painful feeling, they resist it. The underlying tendency for repulsion towards painful feeling underlies that.

When touched by painful feeling they look forward to enjoying sensual pleasures. Why is that? Because an uneducated ordinary person doesn’t understand any escape from painful feeling apart from sensual pleasures. Since they look forward to enjoying sensual pleasures, the underlying tendency to greed for pleasant feeling underlies that.

They don’t truly understand feelings’ origin, ending, gratification, drawback, and escape. The underlying tendency to ignorance about neutral feeling underlies that.

If they feel a pleasant feeling, they feel it attached. If they feel a painful feeling, they feel it attached. If they feel a neutral feeling, they feel it attached.

They’re called an uneducated ordinary person who is attached to rebirth, old age, and death, to sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress, I say.

When an educated noble disciple experiences painful physical feelings they don’t sorrow or pine or lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion. They experience one feeling: physical, not mental.

It’s like a person who is struck with an arrow, but was not struck with a second arrow. That person would experience the feeling of one arrow.

In the same way, when an educated noble disciple experiences painful physical feelings they don’t sorrow or pine or lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion. They experience one feeling: physical, not mental.

When they’re touched by painful feeling, they don’t resist it. There’s no underlying tendency for repulsion towards painful feeling underlying that.

When touched by painful feeling they don’t look forward to enjoying sensual pleasures. Why is that? Because an educated noble disciple understands an escape from painful feeling apart from sensual pleasures. Since they don’t look forward to enjoying sensual pleasures, there’s no underlying tendency to greed for pleasant feeling underlying that.

They truly understand feelings’ origin, ending, gratification, drawback, and escape. There’s no underlying tendency to ignorance about neutral feeling underlying that.

If they feel a pleasant feeling, they feel it detached. If they feel a painful feeling, they feel it detached. If they feel a neutral feeling, they feel it detached.

They’re called an educated noble disciple who is detached from rebirth, old age, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress, I say.

This is the difference between an educated noble disciple and an uneducated ordinary person.

A wise and learned person isn’t affected
by feelings of pleasure and pain.
This is the great difference in skill
between the wise and the ordinary.

A learned person who has comprehended the teaching
discerns this world and the next.
Desirable things don’t disturb their mind,
nor are they repelled by the undesirable.

Both favoring and opposing
are cleared and ended, they are no more.
Knowing the stainless, sorrowless state,
they understand rightly, going beyond rebirth.”
william strother, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O practice log first entry and brief intro

Posts: 10 Join Date: 2/25/21 Recent Posts
George, the post isn't too long at all, I appreciate your posting it. Great link to the Suttas and great feedback. Thanks! 
Tim Farrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O practice log first entry and brief intro

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Hi Mr. Wisp, and welcome to DhO! What a wonderful wave of energized, refreshed, and refocused meditation it soulds like you're on, and may you you dig deep into your practice and thrive here.

You posted your second leg entry as a separate thread, I noticed. General practice here is to keep your intial practice log thread going post by post, through many separate entries, which allows your development over time to be in one place and eases review. When the thread becomes so long that it starts to get unwieldy, you start your log #2 then. 

​​​​​​​Again, welcome!
William Strother, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O practice log first entry and brief intro

Posts: 10 Join Date: 2/25/21 Recent Posts
Edit: Moved from a premature Log 2 and copied into this thread

Hello All, 

Not sure if I'm supposed to continue from the last log or start a new one, or how often to update, so if I'm doing anything out of sorts please don't hesitate to correct me. 

Yesterday I was pretty excited after feeling with some confidence that I had hit Mind & Body and was able to line up my experience with descriptions of states in MTCB. Any confirmation that this is real, replicable, and not made up is pretty exciting. That being said todays practice felt absolutely awful and I could only manage 45 minutes. Absolutely nothing felt like it was flowing. I kept feeling that I lacked resolve and needed to maybe hire an MI because I realized I have no idea what to do with my tongue, or when to swallow, and just generally felt clueless about posture and actually angry at my seeming incompetence. I had opted to try Vipassana type body scanning - noticing all sensations in my body that I could, and it had seemed absolutley futile with my mind wandering and getting drawn into thoughts. In fact I gave up with about 10 minutes left and tried Kasinas for the first time ever, to little success (Nothing but black, and then nothing but black with a bit of yellow after staring at a yellow paper). 

It was only this evening while re-reading the insights section of MTCB that I saw in the The Three Characteristics the description of that stage and of the body commonly twisting here. Once I read it it completely hit home as the most stand out experience of the sit had been this bizarre sensation of my head and body seemingly ballooning in odd ways, and twisting in opposite directions. It became so pronounced and I became so irritated that I opened my eyes, almost wondering if I had in fact changed position during the sit which I had not. Session ended with a huff and a few hours later I began to think of work issues and idly wonder if I'm not slowly sliding into clinical depression from the stress of running a small business during Covid along with a routine despair about how I have no idea what I'm doing with this stuff. 

But it looks like progress! As before and hopefully always, any input is welcome and appreciated. 

Thanks! -Will-O
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O practice log first entry and brief intro

Posts: 1545 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Yup, progress! emoticon
William Strother, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O Practice Log

Posts: 10 Join Date: 2/25/21 Recent Posts
Another day another log. After running into some difficulties with my practice and more specifically my confidence around my chosen methods I decided to try a guided meditation by the oft mentioned Jack Kornfield on youtube. It was a sort of light noting and Vipassana meditation; body scanning and then should something present itself strongly, following that sensation and allowing it to do its thing and study it more or less. This is actually what I had been doing and get the most mileage out of generally. The odd effects of the Three Characteristics phase presented again with my body twisting and tongue mending about. Before I had had lights appear as if someone were holding a flashlight in front of my eyes a few days ago but now it was quick little flashes of electrical currents on the insides of my eyelids. Anyway, sounds mildly A&Pish per MTCB but since feeling like I was in M&B I've been really very depressed and that pre-dates this session. Of course, I have plenty of experiences in life that I suppose could be A&P, although I have to admit that at those times I wasn't very observant of these kinds of ephemera and vague sensations which I'm now watching so closely. Depression is highly unusual for me. I'm actually almost depsondent in fact, ha. It's hard to mette out the casues as seperate from daily life however, as I do have unprecedented hardship with my professional life right now. Acute problems related to COVID lockdowns etc. I actually don't dwell on them nor do they come up during meditation, beyond flushes of anxiety or fear that I then let run over and through me while observing them until they pass. It's more like the blues and just really severe cynicism and exhaustion. I slept like the dead last night after not sleeping well for days, maybe weeks? I actually tried to resign today too from a part time job which was helping float me from my financial losses and my employer tried to talk me out of it, told me everyone is having a hard time and to get back to him with feedback on what I felt I can do, if not current duties. Anyway, thats back to content I see, but for context, for anyone reading..

Naturally the most annoying part is that I'm lost on the maps! Or am I? 

May this entry benefit all beings. 
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O Practice Log

Posts: 1545 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
That sounds like a nasty double bind there with the part time job and stress of running a small business during Covid. It must be hard to take care of your energy body and anxiety when you are under so much pressure. emoticon
Tim Farrington, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O Practice Log

Posts: 2437 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Naturally the most annoying part is that I'm lost on the maps! Or am I? 

Given the amount of pressure in your real off-the-mat life right now, the perfect storm of non-meditative circumstances, I'd say accept being lost, map-wise, for the time being, though you could well be in dark night/dukkha nanas as well as overwhelmed by the rest of the stuff, which could be funny some day, maybe, a really good meditation war story, once you survive it. Meanwhile, do what you do on the mat, steady and at a pace that feels sustainable, and accept that in a pressure cooker like you're in right now, just showing up is most of the work, and the rest is pretty much covered by not running away screaming. Be tough as nails and gentle as a feather. 
William Strother, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O Practice Log

Posts: 10 Join Date: 2/25/21 Recent Posts
Fantastic advice. Honestly it's already darkly hilarous -- deciding to meditate because..well..life is kind of unbearable, and then starting and basically instantly getting clobbered by some Thor hammer of existential depression. Sublimely perverse. And the natural due of every novice, really. 

George thanks for your kind words as well. Your point that bad feelings are bad because we hang on to them was a game changer. I hadn't formulated that cearly depsite I think being on the verge of that insight. It is much better to keep a log in a community like this I'm finding.  Anyway speaking of logs (more like a journal, but)

Was bedridden with depression, again can't stress enough how odd that is for me. 

Read MTCB section on Dark Night which seems applicable regardless of location and the suggestion was to keep it very sensate. Elected to Youtube a more formal Vipassana body scan guided meditation that was 25 mins long. Nothing too notable occured other than the absence of sensations in my stomach area, which I found odd given that that's often where feelings originate. 

After the guided Vipassana I decided to investigate the haunting depression for another 25 mins. Really take it in and study it. It was easy to find and appeared on the front of me - face and chest mostly. In contrast to the stress and anxiety feelings I've mostly examined this one was much less mutable and really stayed in one location. it felt viscous and thick, syrupy almost. It had weight. I don't think anxiety has weight like that, at least I haven't noticed. I understand where the term "wet blanket" really comes from. I sat with it. I found myself frowning and then realized I was averse to it. I then tried to be more accepting and let it flow, stop resisting. It lingered still. I noticed thats where the fear in my mind would kick in; fear that it would be like this forever. I believe the other feelings were easier to manage because of their speed, because they disappear and reappear quickly.  The stillness of this was scary.  Also those feelings had clearer mind/body feedbacks than this which seemed here on it's own account somehow. Meaning a thought occurs, the anxiety starts, the anxiety starts a though occurs. This was less so. Mysterious...

Which brings me to the insights of tonights sit:
I don't truly understand the 3 characterisitics in a visceral way. They are more theory than fact, and while I see things rising and falling away it feels superficial. I don't get them on a sensate level despite getting it on a philosophical level. 
I had wanted to understand the relationship between mind and body. That was on the agenda too.  I can see clearly that they are two different things, but, then, on closer examination it isn't quite clear whats going on. They seem to both be spontaneous and parallel, but also interact in this unclear way. There's a feedback loop but what comes first or second? I can't tell. Conceptually, and to some extent experientially, I can gain clarity by referencing outwards: This odd feedback happens between all existing things. In this way the mind is object. I do now viscerally know this. They are both mysterious because everything is mysterious, phenomenal reality seemingly has no explanation. Further investigation also needed, but if the physicists don't know then my chances seem slim. Alas, I can get a literal feel for how phenomena manifest and fall away. A better feel. 

Agenda: investigate mind and body. Investigate depression. look for 3 characteristics. Try noting. Continue Vipassana. 

May this entry benefit all beings. 
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O Practice Log

Posts: 1545 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
FWIW, my experience with depression was that it's not really an emotion at all. It was a cognitive strategy designed to shut down and avoid the real feelings which were unacceptable to me - anger, shame and sadness. (Real sadness is a warm heartfelt tender feeling, unlike the cold numbness of depression.) Of course that's not how it felt at the time. Like you say, there was a kind of heavy blanket overlaying everything from above and numbness below. I wasn't used to feeling my emotions at all lower in my body. YMMV, but for me the depression started to lift when I allowed my awareness to drop down through it and feel what was really going on below.
William S., modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Will-O Practice Log

Posts: 10 Join Date: 2/25/21 Recent Posts
George thanks again. Depression does feel like a disconnection or a signal jam rather than a real feeling, though I am still not able to fully see past it.&nbsp;<br /><br />Busy day and a late meditation. 60 minutes of focusing on the breath. Started it late in the evening and was tired and sluggish. Nothing new occured other than needing to stand to finish out the hour from sleepiness.&nbsp;

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