smiling stone's log

smiling stone's log Smiling Stone 11/2/22 5:18 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) George S 3/20/21 6:37 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Smiling Stone 3/21/21 6:52 AM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) George S 3/21/21 9:23 AM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Papa Che Dusko 3/21/21 9:43 AM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Chris M 3/21/21 11:33 AM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Smiling Stone 3/22/21 11:52 AM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Sam Gentile 3/22/21 1:50 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Smiling Stone 11/14/21 2:37 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Smiling Stone 11/14/21 3:49 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Papa Che Dusko 11/16/21 1:26 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Agua Viva 11/18/21 2:04 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Smiling Stone 11/22/21 3:36 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Papa Che Dusko 11/23/21 1:11 AM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Smiling Stone 11/29/21 3:02 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Olivier S 11/29/21 4:08 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Smiling Stone 12/2/21 4:01 AM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Smiling Stone 1/14/22 2:56 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Smiling Stone 1/30/22 3:18 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Smiling Stone 6/1/22 3:00 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Chris M 6/1/22 3:28 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021) Smiling Stone 6/1/22 3:42 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022) Smiling Stone 10/15/22 2:31 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022) Smiling Stone 11/2/22 5:10 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022) Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 10/16/22 3:49 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022) Smiling Stone 10/17/22 10:47 AM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022) Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 10/17/22 2:07 AM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022) Smiling Stone 11/2/22 5:17 PM
RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022) Smiling Stone 11/2/22 5:12 PM
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Smiling Stone, modified 28 Days ago at 11/2/22 5:18 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/20/21 5:42 PM

smiling stone's log

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
15/03/2021

Hello everybody, long time no see...
These last months, I've been maintaining a daily evening practice, focusing on some breathwork with retention (a la Wim Hof) in the morning since October (I will hopefully start a thread on this exploration). The new thing is I consistently lie down in meditation-relaxation (but still aware of body as space) as I go to sleep and wake up in early morning. I would say the meditative feel seems more pervasive in daily life.
I had a powerful experience last week that I wanted to write about.
I spent the first three days of the week with a light but pervasive vibrational feel to my experience of body associated with spectacular good mood during work hours as well as in meditation. On the night of day three I became aware of an event I really wished I could attend to on that very night... on the other side of the planet! I got moved by a deep longing connected to that place, all my friends there that I would not meet in a foreseeable future.
That same evening, I was really inspired by an interview of a lithuanian nun in Burma (https://insightmyanmar.org/complete-shows/2020/2/20/episode-3-sayalay-piyadassi, very good podcast by the way, many interesting interviews). What Sayalay Piyadassi shared about letting go to the point of not holding to anything brought me tears, as it rang so true to my ears... I traveled back in time to a younger me that lived with simplicity but still held to a fine thread (of money and security) that I was not ready to let go of. I felt that engagement of the whole being of the nun on the path, and that awed me. I remembered the complete fulfillment while dwelling high on the mountain, touching the sky with few possessions, few intentions... (I could feel she let go with all her being, and I could somehow bring this to awareness (in my being) as I try to share in the next paragraphs)...
I was also touched when she said that, when in Spain, she could see very clearly the qualities she had developed, and the ones where she still had more work to (un)do. It was so obvious at that moment that THIS is the way to liberation...the so-called fetters model, impossible, bigger than life, high up there!

Next morning, I received a text message from my dear baba friend (from that other side of the world) wishing me HAPPY SHIVARATRI in capital letters. A very special night these last years, filled with friends, magic and music... brought more longing in the morning. I breathed in it (along the lines of Jack Willis -Reichian Therapy, the technique, for home use- from a classic thread here, deep breathing on the verge of hyperventilation during a full hour, freestyle smiling stone style)... and that longing morphed in a complete letting go in the deepest recesses of my being, suffused with love and connection to my faraway friends. Distance was abolished in the blissful oscillation of the now. I was surprised by the intensity of the bliss and realized that the warm, encompassing, velvety vibration was the expression of the purity of my love (in that special moment). Well, I was high as a kite, and had all these insights about unconditional love and "we are one" (while breathing deeply remember). I came down quietly and decided to honor the day with meditation as I don't often think about the progress of insight, but I sure was somewhere interesting (the Apex, you know...). I thought 'maybe some breakthrough if I maintain the intensity'... I did not have any backlash during the next hours but I did not stay in these heights either. Quiet quiet sits...

I breathed again that way a few days later and saw clearly how it makes my mind race a bit (feeling really quickminded and insightful, wanting to write interesting stuff) but without losing balance or getting scattered, as it would have a few years back. If there is a hangover, it is a slight high...

It's really interesting how the mind works...

One week later, I am still impressed with the quality and the beauty of that moment, I think I got a new understanding of the power of metta, which I touched in a moment of deep letting go following very pure longing (the mind was not holding to anything, but still connecting, embracing, giving giving).


That's all for now
with metta
smiling stone

[More thoughts: it's not no-self, more a self experiencing oneness (with bliss). It was more intense than any cool meditative experience I remember, like a ten-fold bliss factor... easy in the merging... When they say 'metta can only take you to the first jhana' (because of the applied attention and the bliss), well, if this was it, I understand why people get hooked... but in this case, it seems you can only get hooked by giving and loving, the self completely directed outward...
To remain more and more in that state, that would be my idea of the holy life...Bringing this into daily life, every moment... I am not equating this with awakening as discussed here, because it relies on connection and intention. Note that if I was able to practice with dear ones, I could only imagine the breadth of mind necessary to produce this with enemies... still a long way to go toward universal love! Actually, I had a strong experience of metta with the ego turned completely outward serving on retreat a few years ago... but it's a long journey to translate that to normal life... Every moment new and unique is a good start, just where we are, as we are...]

[Edited for links, which were not taken into account on first publication]
George S, modified 1 Year ago at 3/20/21 6:37 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/20/21 6:37 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

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Beautiful experience Smiler ... Welcome Back! emoticon
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Smiling Stone, modified 1 Year ago at 3/21/21 6:52 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/21/21 6:52 AM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

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Thanks George, good to be back... Although I felt it was important to let go of logging for a while (I got hooked by following my log last year), as language is so embeded within our mind that commenting on our experiences inclines them in certain directions. Very interesting sometimes... but not all the time!
George S, modified 1 Year ago at 3/21/21 9:23 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/21/21 9:22 AM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

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Yeah I know that feeling well! emoticon​​​​​​​
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 1 Year ago at 3/21/21 9:43 AM
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RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

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Welcome back emoticon good to see you doing well! 
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Chris M, modified 1 Year ago at 3/21/21 11:33 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/21/21 11:33 AM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

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Hey, great to see you back!
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Smiling Stone, modified 1 Year ago at 3/22/21 11:52 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/22/21 11:51 AM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Thank you, Pepe and Chris, for your warm welcome, it feels like homecoming...
Speaking of dhamma buddies, what about Linda and Tim? I understand they slowed down a bit on posting (which I find quite sane), but I hope they are doing well (I saw Linda is in full night shifts with diverse online retreats, so I guess she's fine)... and Olivier, on retreat as well?

much metta
smiler
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Year ago at 3/22/21 1:50 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/22/21 1:50 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

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Welcome back! Glad to hear you're doing well and about ypur powerful experience
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Smiling Stone, modified 1 Year ago at 11/14/21 2:37 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/14/21 2:36 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Hello everybody, welcome back to me!
First thing first: Sam, it was good to read your recent post and to know that you are still up and fighting the beast... or developing peace of mind in the midst of such hardship. I missed your answer to this thread when it came (ages ago), but I was moved by your kind words. So... Kindness back at you, and whatever positive vibe can travel through this medium in these difficult times!

Edit: I just found this unfinished unposted draft and thought it would be of historical interest before the retreat report (a little bit of a rant, that's why I didn't post it at the time)...

07/07/2021

A little update before summer break...
So for a long time I had this lingering question about the path I've chosen: was I missing something? Did "not letting go of the object" prevent me from subtler realizations regarding emptiness? Reading about the experience of others comfort me in the validity of attending to perceptions of body sensations, both for triggering insight and as a concentration practice in daily life. I can really feel the lessening of suffering... and of pain as well, that famous first arrow...
Not that I'm not interested in non-duality, emptiness and the like, but I'm quite sure that recognizing it means you're out of it already. I value the intellectual understanding advocated by So Wei Hu (among others) that triggers interesting realizations, but it all comes back to identifying duality in experience. The real deal (well, Oneness, not the real real deal in the buddhist sense -extinction-) seems best accessed in deep concentration when the sense of a thinker disappears. Otherwise there's a thinker who "thinks non-dual". That's the limit of conceptualization that also goes for attainments in the pragmatic model. Another opinion: recognizing an attainment in oneself does more ill than good, as has been shown many times on this board.
Anyway, during meditation my sense of body has mellowed quite a bit in this last year. My question from the first paragraph could translate as: is this mellowing different from the one felt by somebody dwelling in emptiness -having let go of "body"-? I believe it is... or I think that yes, you can go the direct route to the mellow bit, but you then left behind an important part of the path.
A few days ago, I had an interesting sit, attending difficult emotions related to work (and more general procrastination!). The sense of body was peaceful and subtle in the scan, and stayed so as these emotions played themselves in spaciousness. Before, the body would have been stirred by these emotions, if that makes sense. It was really as if there was no container then...
... Also, nowadays I mainly don't intellectualize the practice in daily life (or on the cushion), which sustains presence in the moment most of the time. No bullshit. It makes more obvious the moments where I have to take decisions for the future (it happens sometimes)... and where I still generate quite a bit of stress. I'm working on it... but working on it means not recoiling from the decision-making process, not procrastinating. That's where I'm at...
(Well... about the "not intellectualizing the practice" bit, you tell me after you read what's next...)
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Smiling Stone, modified 1 Year ago at 11/14/21 3:49 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/14/21 2:38 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

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The retreat:

So... I sat a ten day course (in the Goenka tradition) this summer and wanted to indulge in a longish report here. Note that it's not about getting rid of the illusion of the self or about completing paths. If anything, it has more to do with energetics... That's my path today, anyway.

I felt really good getting there, ready for an intense bout of practice after more than a year (I do maintain a daily practice, which I believe makes a world of difference).

Day 1: good concentration at the start of the retreat, no pain, some slight adjustment in the middle of the sit is enough to prevent any tension from sinking in (the first day is usually one of strong adjustment to the retreat setting).

Day 2: First "lightening" of experience (or change of layer -that's what I want to expand on hereafter!-) in the morning, followed by a moment of deep understanding of the technique (by which I mean some insights ahead of my everyday views nowadays). These bouts of comprehension that feed analysis will come more or less each morning, and will stay in the back of the mind for the rest of the day without becoming prominent (not obsessing about them).
A rush of unrelated thoughts followed, contrasting with the depth of concentration of the first day. Nevertheless, I was happy to find out that none of them was too "sticky" (that the space around thoughts cultivated in daily life did not disappear in the intensity of the retreat..)
This would stay true for the whole retreat... Kind of! A little bit of restlessness in the afternoon, short lived and duly observed, did not threaten the meditation. The restlessness I'm talking about might translate as the necessity to unfold my legs a second time in the sit (remember it's anapana days, so there is no instruction not to move during meditation. In fact the suffering students are often reminded by the assistant teachers to relax in the sit... Easier said than done). It could also be a big urge to leap outside for fresh air (this one, I never indulged before the gong). These happened in the absence of psychological symptoms (such as sense of unease, mental rampage etc.).

Day 3: Mind is quiet again and start to be well gathered around the "zone" (the small area centered under the nostrils above the upper lip), using as little intention as possible: I did not willfully alter my breathing pattern, and my only intention was to let the breath "just be", as it is, while focusing there lightly.
When I focus on the zone, my attention is still sometime called away by tensions in different parts of my body, facilitated by the long hours of sitting.
During concentration periods, deep subconscious imbalances remain. I believe these tensions to be the direct consequence of a lack of equanimity in some deep layers of the mind, that happened some moments ago and triggered an alteration of the breath. This dis-balance of the breath then translates with varying swiftness into the said-tensions.
In the afternoon, I realize that, when I drift in some erotic fantasy (yes, it's a reaction of the mind that still takes place, a few days in the retreat), the breathing relaxes itself and tensions dissolve. I don't develop guilt toward these erotic reveries: they are not so powerful that I cannot easily return to concentration, and they do provide an interesting way to recognize "natural breath". I can then better acknowledge when I stray away from it, usually through some kind of restraint.
So... during anapana, I observe the qualities of the breath and compare them to this "ideal", "natural breath". But this ideal that does not generate any tension varies according to the layer of consciousness I dwell in at this moment.
Back to the idea of different levels, or layers of consciousness, or ranges of frequency where consciousness sits in this moment, vibratory landscapes associated with meditative states. This idea comes from the feeling of repeatedly passing through "thresholds" in concentration (during anapana), as well as saturation or dissolution experiences during Vipassana, when the mind is more aware of the whole landscape (of itself)...
I am aware that the idea of realms or envelopes goes way back and has been thoroughly explored by various traditions. I don't refer to these here as I try to have a fresh look on it as it unfolds in my own experience.
In practice, the first time I go through a threshold is quite spectacular, like the impression of being sucked in through a vacuum at the back of the head. But then it gets smoother, the shift becomes subtler and subtler: a simple lightening of experience, a weight being lifted from consciousness, at some point it will become a new baseline bleeding into daily life...


Day 4: At some point in the morning, I notice that one-pointed concentration does not interfere with the flux of respiration anymore. No tension whatsoever despite long hours of focused sitting. "Natural breath" that slowly brings more peace, more space and more joy in the concentrating business (Thanissaro Bikkhu, and maybe Ajahn Brahm, speak of the "beautiful breath" when one switches to a very subtle, natural breath). This culminates in blazing luminosity...
... and I fall back on earth, once again: I find myself all tied up, rather oppressed by a frequency bandwidth that's too low for me to deal with, in this moment. This is the landscape I will have to explore this afternoon, during the long sit where Goenkaji introduces the body scan as a tool to reveal the three characteristics of existence (or three ways of looking at existence, as we want to avoid any reification).
My experience in these rarefied states is that, very close to balance, when I increase the energy of the system, there is an exaltation that might generate an overwhelming restlessness (which in its more severe forms may lead to psychosis and dissociation). On the other hand, if I further decrease it, I get into a stillness that first restrains the awareness, and lead to an "unbearable" pain I would do anything to avoid. At other times, if it's not the current cutting edge of my practice, I might pierce through the pain, that would be my new threshold from which to explore etc. That last one, not breathing enough, is the territory of too much control, of neurosis, of fear of life... This fear of fusion with the "ground", or with the lower limit of the last bandwidth I have access to, is just that: a reaction to a solidity, to a raw density of pain that seems impossible to deal with.
The scan will slowly reveal some space and befriend this realm, felt sensation after felt sensation, until attention becomes fluid again, until the "ground" slowly dissolve.
In the best of worlds, after fully integrating this new landscape, this layer, I will have a new intense experience, corresponding to the next threshold, and the story will repeat itself on a subtler level. But with this technique of focusing on the "zone", it also happened in the past that I pierced through too deep and landed in a landscape I was not equipped to visit (see below). I think that a lot of meditation related problems stem from this fact.
Contemplating the functioning of these layers of mind would feed the insights of the next few days.
As a result, the afternoon "Vipassana" session was not easy, but not unbearable either. At these depths (where I was after these three days of Anapana), I already had cultivated space and detachment to a certain extent in the past. I had got thoroughly acquainted with them during some 30 day course. There, I spent the first week of Vipassana scanning slowly in a murky environment because of a thoroughly reduced breathing, artificially restrained through 10 days of anapana, before heading up again. "Heading up", meaning breathing consciously a little bit more to raise the energy of the system to a point where the attention could move more freely. I had been out of my depth (as a consequence of restraining my breath), and the rock had not been shattered...

Day 5: I continue to reflect on this frequency business: how many layers have I explored in all these years? Which ones? Do I always visit the same ones again and again? I will come back to this topic, and also to the relationship between subject and object as it relates to this practice.
Practice wise, fluidity comes back in the afternoon.
I remember having gone through some difficulties on day 6, after some strong energetic activity in the back of the head. It was less intense, though, than the one that took place right before an out of body experience on the first 30 day course -a change of layer indeed!-. A few hours of challenging doubts about this path. It comes to me that this technique is the true incarnation of the Hinayana, the "small vehicle" according to the Tibetans. In the end it is not derogatory, it is literally true: In this exercise, we take as object frequencies that vibrate slower than consciousness, perceiving the different levels of physical sensations in our subtle body with a fast, penetrating mind. We could think of four layers: the surface, under the surface, way deeper, and at the core. There seems to be no end to this exploration: at the very bottom seems to be death, or pure matter, something unbreakable... There is a Quixotesque dimension to testing it again and again...
And this is what the Mahayana schools have realized. They are the Big Vehicle because their realms lie beyond the body-mind envelope, beyond the layers that define the individual. They renounce the total purification of these deep layers, hence personal liberation (that would be the meaning of the Boddhisatva vow in this model) to focus on the exploration of the transpersonal realms, with the goal of unifying the mind around the most subtle ones (the different shades of emptiness).
The realizations of the pragmatic dharma seem to fall within that category, where consciousness goes beyond the self to settle in various (god) realms, always more refined, and which trigger interesting changes in perception. The mapping is also parallel to the non-dual realizations. My experience is not so. It stays within the "human realm" (this mind-body) with a sense of a relative self, but this self is transformed through practice, as one of its building blocks (the perception of one's body) undergoes slow but dramatic changes...

Day 8: body manifestations have quietened to a large extent, a pervading peace looks as it will last, sittings extend naturally, no weariness, no agitation. Everything is just fine.
It dawns on me, at that point in the retreat, that my conceptualization of emotions was still incomplete and inaccurate. I now propose that all of them would be a manifestation of higher realms in the layers where consciousness has access: the body-mind. It is also true of anger, passion or jealousy, which is why they are represented as wrathful deities in the tibetan pantheon.
My mind comes back to the hypothesis of Julian Jaynes, on how in remote antiquity (the time of the Iliad), people externalized their emotions as if they were sent by the gods (as if their source was not in themselves, as we would tend to think about it now). By the Odyssey, the characters had begun to internalize them.
I will have to come back later to this sense of presence of an alterity which is intimately weaved into mystic life...
With emotions, I see some kind of reaction taking place in a realm of which we don't have any direct perception, finding its way through the different layers of our being: a shiver, a current, magnetic, electric etc. It will finally stop its course in one of the recesses of our subtle body, maybe an organ, if it's a "negative" emotion... or disappear without remainder if it has a "positive" valence. In this case, no remainder but the desire for it never to stop, a greed that yes, leaves a deep trail behind (this desire is the one we work on through meditation).
The retreat ends on a seemingly eternal tapestry of equanimity. I even re-tested the heart-base a bit without any further backlash (after the one on day 7). Just as if the cursor of the highs and the lows had moved upward.
I leave with the sense of having developed a certain maturity, noticeable in the way I sit, and I am quite proud of the path unfolding... Basically, I am full of myself (again!), even as I stutter when I have to align two sentences in a row on day 10... That's the slight exaltation at the end of the retreat, not too bad, no bleedthrough with the other students. Notice it! Also, people come and ask how many retreats etc. I can see the projections going on, and still it doesn't help with the pride. Remember that usually nobody will talk phenomenology at the end of these retreats, except for all the range of what Daniel calls A&P experiences, embedded in the Goenka framework.

After the retreat I kept on thinking about the relationship between subject and object. About the way that cultivating equanimity while attending to an object infuse the vibration of this quality in the consciousness of the subject, who will perceive it by reflection in the attended object. I can't attend to equanimity per se because it is out of reach of my senses. I don't have access to the realm of equanimity, its pure abode, while staying connected with body sensations.
To each emotion corresponds a vibratory signature. When we scan, we first meet a wide array of different vibrations (different sensations on the body, thoughts) that we will infuse with this quality of equanimity until we harmonize the whole layer of consciousness in One all-pervading vibration of a certain frequency: this is "unification of mind".
It also speaks of the importance of the Brahmaviharas: cultivating compassion, metta and karuna is of utmost importance. Each has its own peculiar signature, and equanimity would be quite dry if it lead us astray from all this shades of love.
I was also happy to persevere in that tradition, now convinced that maintaining a relationship with the object is the best way to keep some balance in the world without developing dissociation.
Ok, these certainties developed in the exaltation of retreat come and go, and I can see how I might be building just another theory to justify my ongoing (relative) fidelity to this path. I have no direct experience of the outer layers, but I feel their reflections in this body-mind. I believe it is useful to train our mind to deal efficiently with the less harmonious vibrations which will sooner or later disrupt our existence. Again, the fine balance between dissociating (looking elsewhere) and being overwhelmed (not cultivating space around the object)...
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 1 Year ago at 11/16/21 1:26 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/16/21 1:26 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

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Best wishes SS emoticon 
Agua Viva, modified 1 Year ago at 11/18/21 2:04 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/18/21 2:04 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

Post: 1 Join Date: 11/18/21 Recent Posts
So grateful for your sharing : many thanks, Smiling Stone !
This is a deep, honest, elaborated reflection as well as a crystal clear text about your experience, that resonates strongly for me (even if I'm in other kind of meditative and embodied practices).
Hoping to reading more in the future!
with metta,
Agua Viva
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Smiling Stone, modified 1 Year ago at 11/22/21 3:36 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/22/21 3:36 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Hey Agua Viva, thanks for the nice comments (well, very nice, really)... and welcome to the Dho. Hope we'll see you around...
Papa Che, I'm happy you did not completely switch to the land of koans and still show up around here...

Since the retreat, a good proportion of the outbreaths have been either blissful or peace inducing (that's a big claim, I know). It made me realize that until then, there was still subtle restraints around exhalation I was not aware of. Over the years, the inbreath got slowly more free, smoother, less jerky. I remember having a few clicks in the back of my nose on retreats, after which things were never the same. But I did not give that much importance to the outbreath at the time... I still don't give that much importance to the pause: I can focus on it but it's not a matter of focusing. Focusing enhances it.
I am on looking for a form of noticing the breath that would not alter it, using the lightest touch of peripheral awareness... but I know from the scan that any form of attention alters body sensations. So why would it be different? Breathing is an activity, way more complex than "body sensing"... Anyway, what I call "natural breath" is a breathing that does not produce suffering. If I meditate with the breath, the quality of the mind noticing it must not carry the seed of suffering.
"Peripheral" slipped in the text, but I believe the more centered the object is on the stage of awareness, the more it is bent by the beam of attention...
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 1 Year ago at 11/23/21 1:11 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/23/21 1:09 AM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

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Ah yes those pesky koans! If I could only find that first wise guy who came up with the bleedn' koans ... urgh! 

​​​​​​​emoticon btw, you can join me in the land of koans would be nice to have you there! 
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Smiling Stone, modified 1 Year ago at 11/29/21 3:02 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/29/21 3:02 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

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Hey Papa Che! I might I might, but that's already hard to follow up on one forum, as you can see here... One of these days maybe...

A little disclaimer about "natural breath". It's not like I don't ever alter the breath. In the first post of this thread, I explained how I've been playing with deep, conscious breathing and retentions (and more) almost daily for the last year and a half. From after my first retreat and hearing about the benefits of holotropic breathwork more than ten years ago, it has been a way to balance from the inclination toward shallow breathing developed on intense retreats. And I really feel these explorations have been fruitful.
Other disclaimer: I am aware that I have a reductionist take on the path, bringing it all back to the effect of the breath on the energetic body. These are my views these days and are subject to change. It is just an approach, a way to use concepts to eventually deepen my understanding.
I don't assume that other people will share my insights about the particular phases of the breath (what does what with how much...). I already know of people who have very different experiences (with small breath, big breath, no-breath) with the same setting within the same tradition. We all come to this with our own blockages in different parts of this energetic conundrum. That's what the "purification" is about.
I also sense that my writing could be clearer and less circumvoluted. I do get carried away when I'm writing, I'm working on it! Anyway, I'm really happy to be part of all this happening here...

With all that said, I also wanted to share a tension I feel about the possible outcomes of practice:
What if I did not take the "no-thingness" that is one of the fruits of the path at the most granular/essential level of "absence of concepts", but just as an invitation to stop objectifying other beings... or to recognize the "being", the moving nature in time and space of the "other" that reflects my own but carries its own unknowable mystery and which allows a true relationship. It already involves going beyond the frozen image we superimpose on reality and look at other beings in a fully open way. It leads toward harmlessness toward other humans, animals, trees and plants etc. Toward love...  It also points directly to our own paradoxes, when we do objectify the world around us to serve our needs and desires. Here I think of my own shortcomings when I see somebody in need in the street and ignore him or her, keeping on walking...
What about the truth of otherness versus the truth of oneness? Well, that's a big difference between Christianity and Buddhism as I understand them.
Isn't there an unsurpassable beauty in cherishing the mystery of alterity: that this other being in front of me is a totally unknowable universe of consciousness that I can only truly approach through love? Versus understanding that I am everything because everything flows from the same essence... That's at the heart of my questioning these days...
And about the koan : "Two hands clap and there is a sound, what is the sound of one hand?"  (blink to the other site): one hand doesn't clap. You need two hands to generate a sound. Becoming, manifestation, the world. Without alterity, nothing. Extinction. Nibbana. Silence... Gymnastics to make one hand actually clap are just a way to create two from one... Just? Isn't that the whole creation process?
Well...
with metta
smiling stone
Olivier S, modified 1 Year ago at 11/29/21 4:08 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/29/21 4:07 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

Posts: 783 Join Date: 4/27/19 Recent Posts
In principio erat verbum ! :p No love possible without two-ness emoticon

Good stuff ! 

​​​​​​​Cheers Smiling emoticon
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Smiling Stone, modified 12 Months ago at 12/2/21 4:01 AM
Created 12 Months ago at 12/1/21 2:38 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Ha Olivier!
It's nice to have you show up here, I appreciate that you still read my log. I suspect that your practice went through some unreported developments (or twists and turns) since you were active here, and I would really like to know how you are doing these days... regarding completing insights, the path you're on, music and life in this crazy world...

What else did I want to add to the last posts?
Yes, about the "thresholds", it's not like Goenka doesn't talk at length about the "lokhas", the various realms of consciousness one may inhabit. Actually, in the last few days, I went through all his commentaries on the suttas (which are available to old students on dhamma.org). They are (of course) focused on vedana and aimed at defending the view of this tradition, but still, they are a welcome add-on to the available discourses, covering the later part of the path. You can find an excerpt taken from his take on the Girimanand sutta here, where he develops a bit on nirodha taking place at the end of the outbreath and gives an elegant definition of an arahant:
Goenkaji on anapanasati  (thanks to the yogi who gave me the link, that's what prompted my inquiry into these suttas commentaries).

I had kind of forgotten how much my own views were still informed by the tradition! But I still think it's interesting to try and clarify these concepts...
That's all for now
with metta
smiling stone

(Edited for the link and for some anonymization)
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Smiling Stone, modified 10 Months ago at 1/14/22 2:56 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 1/14/22 2:56 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Hi everybody!

I just finished Leigh Brasington's last (free) book on SODAPI (for Streams Of Dependent Arising Processes Interacting) which is a good read (but not as groundbreaking as I expected - maybe my reading was a bit quick and superficial...). Anyway, I'm not going to expand upon it now: it's among other things a good short intro to Nagarjuna whom I was not familiar with...
Anyway, in the appendixes he translates upekkha - equanimity- as literally "to gaze upon". I had not heard that one before and it prompted some proliferation on my part: equanimity would not be a state but a way of looking "from above", the result of which could be either deep peace, compassion, spaciousness or indifference...
For a long time I've been wanting to address this question of the "near enemy" which I don't find so satisfying, and it resonated strongly with my concern about the varying "distance" to experience, fruit of letting go but devoid of an ingrained moral stance.
Just food for thought
with metta (as a state that might be cultivated among others through wholesome intention when the necessary distance to experience allows us to)
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Smiling Stone, modified 10 Months ago at 1/30/22 3:18 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 1/30/22 3:18 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
I will copy here something I had written in the Goenka thread answering to Matt :

"I've been stumbling on the concept of "stunning enunciation" (which I'm not sure you'll find on Google yet) related to dance of BMC workshops, where the imaginary world conveyed by the voice and meaning of the facilitator indices an altered state in the active audience of the workshop akin to a trance... And I thought: "we, in the meditation and  satsang world (especially satsang!), we make such a big deal when a guru gives you a felt experience of a heightened reality, these dancing people are way more sane, they just take it as a tool to expand their field of experience without conflating that with supramundane wisdom! Anyway...

Also when I first read your post, I thought maybe you were a "direct realist" (one who believes one can have access to some ultimate reality) whereas I'm an "indirect realist" (who believes in the existence an ontological reality but not in our capacity to access it, as filters are ingrained in our hardware). Reading you again, I'm not that sure... and it's late, but I wanted to introduce that concept here at some point, so...
I'll let it settle for now"


Ahaha, writing this, I did not think of hypnosis, poor me... because in my mind, it was a little bit different, but any utterance that plunges you in a trance state has something to do with hypnosis. Anyway, I liked the term "stunning enunciation"... Thanks to Till Gebel in this thread for reminding me about the connection between meditation instructions and hypnosis (which I was fully aware of... It slipped from my mind ofr a while)

metta to all
smiling stone
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Smiling Stone, modified 6 Months ago at 6/1/22 3:00 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/1/22 3:00 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Hey everybody, little update: practice has been smooth since last entry. There is ease and curiosity. I prioritize real life over forum interactions, which is why I have not found the time to come here in the last months. I've been following the recent posts though... I formally sit at least once a day (still try two without pressure) with lying down meditation in bed mornings and evenings, and my work gives room for small bouts of practice during the day, with eyes open.
I wanted to keep some trace of my last one-day course (I wrote this a few weeks ago and i am not too happy with it, but I wanted to come back to posting, so here it is):
The Goenka one-day retreat consists of six hours of meditation, with two hours of anapana in the morning followed by one hour of "vipassana" instructions before lunch-break. In the afternoon, the last hour piles up meta instructions plus a final discourse.
So there was good equanimity regarding the instructions that continuously shatter the silence on hours 1, 3 and 6, and that thankfully do not disturb me anymore (not always thanks to concentration - this time at least during the first hour). No tensions during the first half of the day.
During the "vipassana hour", I completely lost track of the instructions, to the extent that there was a real full blank, with the certainty of having maintained some awareness of body sensations, but otherwise as if I had fallen asleep for a while... Maybe I did! Ahaha, would that be awakening, to plunge into sleep with an awareness of perceptions, but upside-down... Upside down in the sense that in bed I am aware of perceptions with the idea of falling asleep. Here the idea was to be aware of sensations and I fell asleep... in a sleep where that awareness remains...
I was not impressed with the occurence, just intrigued by the blank state. I usually sit when I listen to meditation podcasts, and I find that listening to a talk gives a really clear feedback when I'm loosing it (I often do!). Sometime it is because concentration was deep enough on an object -different from the talk!-, but generally I simply admit that I was drifting into sleep. Not here, though...
During the fifth hour, I was aware that the sittings were building on each other, even while getting up every hour for a few steps and having a lunch break (40 mn instead of 50, to get a few minutes of extra sitting in the afternoon!). So I was starting to feel some localized oppression at the level of sensations (earth element!). Asking myself what was evaluating the degree of oppression, I drifted away from it and recognized acutely that "in the feelings, just the feeling" etc. It was just the recognition of something always known, a way of establishing the focus that made sense of the koan, and revealed at the same time that it had always been true.
There was something paradoxical in that realization which is quite obvious here: an observer who realizes that there is no observer... Well, more that the former has no substance outside of the sensations that it observes... as long as there is no reactivity... (being acknowledged that perception is a reaction of the organism to the environment... so perception is the first building block of the ego, which is pure reactivity in its essence).
And, going on at the same time, the memory that I am often in that state, without this little hiatus that makes me realize who I am. This went on until the end of the sit, about 30 mn later.
It approximated an "insight" which, without being in any way revolutionary, did let me happy with my day.
Yes, it's the bahiya sutta, and no I don't claim anything, there is no attaining anything, there was no build up (or afterglow), and there was some kind of construct going on to recognize that, really... It felt like a non-event, I am the very same as before. If anything, it's another indication that ego is pure subtle reactivity (as in planning, remembering, constructing a global entity to make sense of the myriad inputs reaching our senses every moment, which still seems useful to ME in everyday life. I believe that, more than disappearing, it often goes subconscious -dissociated from-. Subjectively, there is no me, no agency, but from outside there is still plenty going on). Hum... anyway, I'm in full analyzing mode right now...
Off with the day retreat...

Metta to all
smiling stone
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Chris M, modified 6 Months ago at 6/1/22 3:28 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/1/22 3:28 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

Posts: 4595 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Nice comments, and congrats on the insight - it's not a small thing!
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Smiling Stone, modified 6 Months ago at 6/1/22 3:42 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 6/1/22 3:42 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Thanks Chris!
Coming your way soon...
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Smiling Stone, modified 1 Month ago at 10/15/22 2:31 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 10/3/22 3:59 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Hello all,
I will now indulge in a longish report about my last ten-day course, hoping that the level of detail will be of interest to some... As I've been procrastinating for a while, I will post it in bits so I get the motivation to finish it... and it might be easier to digest that way. Also, I assume that you are familiar with my worldviews, so I won't expand on everything, focusing on what's more important for me at the moment... Anyway, here we go:

Ten-day course - summer 2022:

I (of three parts)

Daily practice had been full of peace and joy, with really subtle winds enlivening the body perceptions, and solidities quite removed toward the core (I would have to go and look for it in my "bones" to find it). So was the first day: no tensions whatsoever, feeling really good -happy to be on retreat after a full year- quiet breath and a feeling of velvety coolness surrounding the body. I let awareness gather below the nostrils with the rest of the sensations in the periphery. I move freely before any pain manifests itself (this is anapana days, no adhitthāna - self-imposed immobility-), which means once or twice during the longer sits where it is enough to unfold and refold the legs. As I respect the "natural rhythm of the breath", sensations remain light and easy and I don't feel the need to move during one hour sits.
In the afternoon of Day 2, I reflected -once again- about the importance of respiration: when a negative emotion arises, there is first a change in respiration (Goenka says "it gets slightly hard" in his Day 1 discourse). By getting slightly constrained, it provokes (with a varying delay) a contraction of my perception of the body sensations which I will become conscious of at the spot made most sensitive by the long sit. Often the knees, sometimes the back, maybe the neck. Not moving facilitates the development of tensions and makes the whole process much more obvious... but it's the same that's at play when you sit ten hours a day behind a computer and develop backache. The spot where the pain solidifies depends on the activity, but inadequate breath seems a strong possible cause...
During his discourse on Day 2, Goenka says (I have to paraphrase because I could not find the quote browsing through the discourse or reading the summary... and would not listen to the whole thing at home !!!): "when the mind gets agitated by an emotion, two phenomena take place in the body, one quite obvious, the other slightly subtler. The first one is that the breathing loses its balance and regularity, it gets slightly hard. The second one is a psychophysiological change where some chemicals are released in the body, modifying the heart rate and producing a physical sensation somewhere in the body.... maybe heat, maybe perspiration etc."
It's not so clear to me which change comes first, the heart rate or the breathing (is it the breathing that alters the heart rate, or directly the brain?)... and the discourse made me consider the alternative, which was good. I am no physiologist! The muscles which activate the breathing process are very close to the "core" (heart, spine, thorax), and it seemed that they could be first to be affected by an emotion -by a strong signal from the brain- before realizing that the heart could well change rhythm before the breath, that it might be higher in the receptivity chain (if not the source... where do emotions take birth? in the brain, as I assumed here a bit quickly?)
At the end of Day 2, I feel very equanimous and start to think that this retreat might be fruitful...

Day 3: This morning, the sittings are more fragile, there is more agitation in the mind, more vulnerability. I understand that something, some shield inside me, has been let go of, and this something is that comfortable (silky?) meditative ease that I had built and reinforced in daily life using an ample and quiet breath and which had survived during the first two days of retreat.
The concentration on the small zone under the nostrils had reduced the breath to a subtle thread, subtle enough to sneak under this subconscious defence (subconscious in the sense that I was not seeing it as an armor but as a progress on the way to shamatta).
And under the armor lies vulnerability...
On day 3, this subtlety of the breath, coupled with the strain of long hours of sitting, provokes (according to my model) an intensification of the sensations in the most vulnerable spots that is sometimes too much for me, that I cannot cope with -meaning I have to move to relax-. I do believe that maintaining insufficient oxygenation (mild hypoxia) can lead to a pain that lasts beyond the meditation hour and actually hurt the tissues in the physical realm (pain may lead to injury, especially on intense retreat). And I made a promise to my partner to take care of myself during these retreats (hum... pun intended)... Also, on this retreat, I did not hold back any yawning, as I see it as a symptom of a need for oxygenation and as a highly rewarding activity in and of itself!
In the same vein, I developed the habit of walking at a good pace during the breaks (especially at lunch break), keeping 15 to 30 minutes to lie down and relax the body (without sleeping). These walks are energizing and help with digestion! The fact that I wanted this showed me that I was in good shape... I know others value walking meditation during all breaks... I guess I still have more excess energy than them, and I feel the need to balance the stillness of the rest of the program...
Anyway it does not hinder the quality of the sits. The stillness grows deeper in the afternoon...

It's while reading Siavash's log a couple of months ago that I was reminded of the nature of my insight that day: the breath carries within itself the emotion that colors the mind in each moment. I was then thinking about the "taste" of respiration... recognizing the intrinsic nature of the bond between the psychic feeling and the physical act of breathing. A bridge towards manifestation... There was a depth this time in this "old" understanding, that gave it a renewed strength which would grow over the next days...

Day 4: During the morning meditation, I notice that I've passed beyond the threshold of pain (that was there yesterday), that there is now no resistance when the breath reaches the level of subtlety where I got blocked the day before. As a consequence, I grow more quiet, and the sensations at the moustache become much clearer (on the first three days, I was paying attention to the contact of the breath in that zone, but without deconstructing it into more primal sensations which would be more vipassana-ish -that's how I understand the instructions to old students-).
I also realize that there is no sloth or torpor yet during this retreat, even though I was concerned about it before coming (due to the act that I'm not growing younger, and that I had felt more prone to falling asleep during my sits since I got Covid and injections).
I am happy that I don't seem to develop expectations about the practice, there is no urge to do so, it tones down the retreat in a good way... This means I would let the experiences I would have formerly associated with "bhanga" fully blossom without injecting any affect into them... There remains movements to and from the clarity and the unity of the perceptual field due to some subconscious tightenings... and towards a cyclical solidification of experience. This will happen slightly before the Vipassana session on the afternoon of Day 4.

(To be continued...)
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Smiling Stone, modified 28 Days ago at 11/2/22 5:10 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 10/15/22 2:29 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
II

From Day 4 onwards, I sit one hour a day in a different posture (on my knees with a big pile of cushions under my bottom), so as to preserve my knees in prevision of the longer sits, as they had started to lengthen already.
In the beginning of the afternoon, during meditation period, I had a daydream about Tim and Papa-Che. I was stepping in the Bar of Last Resort which was empty and very dusty, full of deserted spiderwebs. I was light-humoured, getting in an easy monologue with a vortex of whirling emptiness and silence where the stairway to the cave was disappearing, joking about all this new bunch of "attained" people on the forum, how they obviously don't know the way to the Bar, and how a Good ol' Judge would hang them by the dozen... and I could hear the faint voice of Papa-Che shouting from very far away in the void "F-ck you, Chris!" (I'm very happy that he since found his way back, if not here, and hope that Tim will appear again as well, some day, as I've stated many a time before. Life is fragile and precious). A "private joke" moment in a serious environment, but I was moved that these folks appeared unannounced... and that the dho made it into the retreat for another reason than me fantasizing a report (which, well, happened a few times on former retreats)!
I took the habit of being on the cushion for the first gong, giving myself an extra ten minutes of sitting, and I do the same for the two hour sit, suspecting it won't be an easy one as I just reached an apex (where perception reached new heights of subtlety and clarity). My experience tells me there might be some solidification coming... confirmed by the fact that I moved a bit during the afternoon group sitting due to rising restlessness... Eventually, the last minutes of the Vipassana session had me squeeze my fists, and fight a bit not to unfold my legs, which now happens quite seldom. I followed Goenka's pace during the instructions (when on former occasions I might have sped up a bit, aware that it would protect me from pain)... and this very long scan was efficient in opening further layers of experience, which I was grateful for (opening as if going from unaware -ignorant- to solid -fully identified- to fluid to subtle -further de-identified- to fully dissolved -non-existent-).
Nevertheless, I felt a bit vulnerable coming out of the hall, and I needed to apply some strong will to be present for the first gong of the evening group sitting, one hour later! which was, of course, very interesting... Something that gets noticeably better with years of practice is resilience: the swiftness with which balance is restored after it was lost for a while. It is obvious when comparing retreats, and the further one goes in the past, the more obvious it is.
So, from right after the session, the body was open enough to be scanned in different ways according to the mood of the moment, this with a modicum of intention (hardly any pressure applied by the attention). It is also very clear that, even if it's a physical sensation that we observe, we react to a mental event: the feeling of pleasure or displeasure, of lightness or oppression provided by the sensation and to which we associate a positive, negative or neutral valence. Even when Goenka translates "vedana" as "sensation", it is on the "feeling tone" that we train not to react...

Day 5: The morning chanting is about paticca samupadda, it's the longest chanting of the retreat and the most energizing, and I always look forward to it. I remember that it was not an easy sit, I still felt a little bit dense and dozed off for a short while in the middle, but the rhythm helped me reach the end of the session. Afterwards, very good equanimity that welcomes sensations that are not always comfortable (of diverse valence -I borrow the term to Andrés Gómez Emilsson, I did not use it before I read the QRI blog, which I thoroughly enjoy-).
[Actually, I think "valence" was used by Kenneth Folk or Michael Taft in the series of three talks that opened the Deconstructing Yourself podcast, maybe when talking about the work of Thomas Metzinger in the second one...]
There has been a return to more materiality in the perception of the body, but it remains fluid. I see what it means to have no doubts about the technique, as I now consider the observation of sensations as another window on a former state of mind. "Former", but with a delay that shrinks with practice on a large time-frame (which is a subtler aspect of the resilience I was evoking above).
I talk here, but I don't intellectualize in the moment, and I practice seriously. In the course of the day, the body retrieves a luminous transparency.
Oh, I forgot an anecdote from the Vipassana session: at some point, somewhere in the middle of the sit, the weather changed and the wind came up very suddenly, as if a big storm was coming. I took it fully in the face through an open window nearby and was quite surprised. The noise was also very potent, as if the end of the world was near. "Anicca"... When I opened my eyes at the end of the sit, I realized that someone had switched on the fan next to me because of the extreme heat (fan which I had not noticed beforehand). I had a good laugh!
On the evening of Day 5, I do my best to follow scrupulously the instructions (for old students given by Goenka on Day 1), without questioning them or interpreting them to my liking. My faith in the technique is renewed and strengthened since the beginning of the course. The insight of Day 2 has also gained more depth with each passing day.

For the last few years the perceived envelop of my body has been really transparent (dissolved???) and I have been working "inside", at varying depths and densities. As I am back to a fair transparency of the layer I'm working on (mind you: I speak of "layer" but it's the totality of the body that I perceive, the "layer" refers to a level of reality -of density... a realm?-), I decide to concentrate a few moments on the inside of the mouth, the teeth, the palate, the tongue where I feel some heaviness, the sinuses in their mysterious spirals and hidden cavities, the windpipe, the throat, and down down down inside trying to picture anatomically the organs, the blood-vessels and anything else I can think of while considering the elemental qualities of the different tissues and liquids. My anatomical knowledge is quite limited, but the experience is fascinating. I had never done that in such a detailed manner (and on retreat), as it's totally anathema in the Goenka world to visualize anything, let alone your inner organs! But I thought that in the general scan, he doesn't refrain from naming the different parts of the body that he wants us to feel, so why not do it inside? I started because I felt some density on the tongue, but the totality of the scan was fascinating... and exhausting! On zones where my awareness does not meet any obstruction when I don't conceptualize any boundaries... Naming does wonder in introducing duality. Afterwards, I was under the impression of having unlocked a few knots and of having come back to peace and luminosity. During the night, I woke up at quarter past twelve, and laid awake for a few hours before finally falling asleep again, for a wake-up call at 4h20 max... I got a bit stressed, although I know it's counterproductive. I generally have a very sound sleep on retreat...
[ Reading this, my partner had a good laugh! "you state your renewed faith in following the technique scrupulously, and in the next paragraph you go on experimenting..." That's me, and I assume the irony... Moments of faith come and go quickly, and neither preclude respectful experimentation (here it could be included in "scanning the body in different ways")...]

Day 6: I was tired in the morning... but waking up was easy enough. The morning meditation (4h30-6h30) was the most complicated during this retreat (it's not always the case). I am under the impression that I am processing the (subconscious) events of the night, which would be the cause for losing momentum with regard to the former evening... Or maybe it is just the case of interrupting meditation for a few hours of deep sleep (lying down in bed, I'm usually relaxed and aware of my body until I fall asleep -if the scan keeps me awake, when I'm tired I switch to lying on my side and it usually does the trick. It was not the case last night-).
So this morning, in my cell, I realize after a looong time that I totally lost it in a persistent daydream... Half an hour? Less? I don't know... It's the first time on this retreat, which until then has been surprisingly calm regarding discursive thoughts, few and non-intrusive so far... I resume practice with a strong intention of not letting these reveries overwhelm me again -to the point of forgetting practice-, but some trains of thought or others come back, multiply and proliferate. Here I do acknowledge the limit of the bodyscan technique, and even of anapana (recollection of the mind on the breath around the nostrils) to face these attacks (Goenka uses "storms" for anything that interrupts meditation). Thus I resolve to count my in-breaths for a while (in series of thirty... and I don't always make it to the end without going somewhere else), then to resume the scan while noting intrusive thoughts. It works and I'm able to practice again, but I also understand why it's required to note continuously: the repetitive naming produces a kind of trance that sustains concentration (that prevents the mind from wandering). I don't do that, I only note when a "dangerous" thought appears... or a little before if I can, when I feel it coming this way.
I also had a little moment with a strong sense of hopelessness somewhere in the morning, recognizing that I cannot manage to escape the fate of the ups and downs in meditation... the feeling that there is no way out, that I am trapped... like a hamster running and running in its wheel, trying to reach escape velocity to fly out and be free... It lasted around two hours (as I remember it) and it was not quite desperation, it did not prevent me from practising. That's how I measure the seriousness of the attacks, the way in which they hinder the continuity of practice.
I go back to more subtlety in the course of the day but the thoughts are still there, if less persistent. I link this little morning crisis to the state of extreme clarity following the anatomical scan the evening before (well, to the high that prevented me from sleeping).  When I come back to "transparency", I do not resume the anatomical scan, although I was very impressed by its efficiency... I guess it's because it had to do with the core, which is not unlike the concentration on the heart base, which I hold in such high regard when it comes to unlocking deep, subconscious, mysterious stuff (I spoke about that elsewhere).
So I stop using intention to direct attention and let awareness gather where it wants and move around freely... when I don't come back to the more precise part by part scan, which I do at least twice in the sit.

(To be continued...)

[Edited for additional content between brackets]
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Month ago at 10/16/22 3:49 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 10/16/22 3:49 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022)

Posts: 6845 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Thankyou for your thorough reports! I could feel the retreat energy when I read them, especially the second one. It caused loud high frequency nada sound to appear and popped my sinuses open. 
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Smiling Stone, modified 1 Month ago at 10/17/22 10:47 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 10/17/22 12:43 AM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Thanks for the encouragement Linda, I'm trying to wrap up the third part before next year, and positive feedback is appreciated...
I like when your sinuses pop open while reading!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Month ago at 10/17/22 2:07 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 10/17/22 2:07 AM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022)

Posts: 6845 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I like it too because it makes experience very spacious and breathing very easy. emoticon
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Smiling Stone, modified 28 Days ago at 11/2/22 5:17 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 10/25/22 5:07 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
III

In the morning of Day 7, I'm still noticing stories that interrupt the scan. At some point I consciously choose to consider these intrusive thoughts, these strayings from the object of meditation as reactions that are triggered by the meditative endeavour... as "sankharas coming to the surface", as the form the "impurity" takes to manifest itself in the mind and lead to some evaluation. The practice triggers that, the absence of pressure in the mind who can no longer hold its contents within. And where is the drive to forget coming from? Not from "me", I don't want to forget... It is itself a reaction.
Again it's meditation 101, but it's an interesting change of paradigm from " "I" am taking a break from meditation through daydream..." to "this intention (to stray away from the object) is not me". A way to establish that there is no "I" behind any derivative of experience... to objectify a subtle process in a more efficient way (so far, I had failed to disidentify from intentions as efficiently as from thoughts, not knowing exactly where to look)...
I also remember that the first half of Day 7 was not so easy in the body on a subtle level, but that this change of perspective regarding intents really deepened equanimity. Gone was the deception of witnessing the appearance of an unwanted thought, replaced by the awareness of an ongoing selfless process.
As in preceding days, something gets lighter in the course of the day. I switch from feeling like a hamster in a wheel to the idea (or belief) that I've been "through the whole spectrum of vedana" (of the different valences, another Goenka parlance to be tested literally on this retreat) to be experienced in the reality I inhabit these days, according to the level of consciousness I am exploring. This spectrum is now more narrow, devoid of the extremes on both ends, and oriented towards the pleasant.

From Day 8, I extend the sittings in the cell to test that equanimity. I don’t leave the cell during the breaks, but I do unfold my legs briefly after a couple of hours, and stand once in the afternoon. I have been more hardcore on former retreats, and although I remember fondly a dhamma friend of mine who performs six and a half hours sits, I don’t emulate him. I’m still concerned I might hurt myself due to dwelling too far from the physicality of the body (although I have the feeling that I inhabit it fully), as I've noticed again and again how the body takes its toll from tensions which are not properly released. So there is no disappointment when I break my posture, and continuity of practice is maintained.

Day 9… long sits interspersed with very quiet small movements (no forcing!). A peaceful and luminous mind, the perception of a clear body still stirred by subtle fluxes… coupled with the belief that this aspect of the path has no end… or does it? Because there has been a spectacular evolution these last years (here referring to evolution in the perception of sensations which has been more open, more quiet, more luminous, more spacious, first making these sensations more pleasant, then tending towards neutrality).
I didn’t say anything     about the energetic activity in the brain (in my perception of that zone). It had been recurring in different areas that were already open (it was not the first occurrence in any of them) since the beginning of the retreat, sometimes with intensity, sometimes opening to subtler vibrations which would create more space, enabling more links between different areas of the skull. In my former practice, these were often the sign of some breakthrough, which I could not pinpoint this time… The possibility of a cessation crossed my mind once or twice in the last days as I felt in that kind of territory, but it did not occur (my hunch is that the mind remains too oriented towards objects for that kind of development) and I did not think about it twice...
So, one aspect of practice is energetic, and the various meditative experiences are signposts of this inner work, which seems endless. There lays their value: their intensity/subtlety is a consequence of the degree of letting go on the long run, when the past conditioning has been revealed… But there are also methods to orient the experience towards desired outcomes. Becoming aware of these methods enables us to deepen our equanimity, and our knowledge of our inner inclinations. This is the other axis of practice…
[One aspect... and one axis! Not so clear... The two axis of practice would be awareness and equanimity, and energetics is an aspect, an outcome of practice to be considered in assessing the development of equanimity, but it has its shortcomings... the "methods" I'm thinking of here are mainly manipulations of the breath...]

On Day 10, I talked to two new students who had each felt a flux of subtle sensations during the Vipassana session on Day 4. They were very nice, not particularly impressed with their experience or devoted to meditation, and in the past they had both practised diligently a form of scan of the different parts of the body during guided relaxations that they were following in bed before sleep (I think it was sophrology). I remembered I had done something of the same kind in my late teens (a weekend workshop followed by guided relaxations following tapes at home, that was the eighties...). It is very close to hypnosis, as is Kriya Yoga, as is the guiding of Goenka...
I thought: don't they miss a precious lesson of the technique? By not experiencing the more difficult/unsettling sensations that usually appear in the beginning of the practice, they are severed from an important part of the field of vedana... are not dwelling enough in the dark recesses of their consciousness... for now. Actually, they bumped into more difficult territory afterwards... I'm doing that as well of course, as nowadays I hardly ever experience the highly negative valence associated with the most unpleasant part of the spectrum... but I went through that at some point, and might still find my limits by pushing a bit. It is a recurring line of thinking that would apply to those who develop insight based on pleasant practices... Others may find themselves completely overwhelmed by some aspect (be it positive or negative), to the point of losing it/dissociating/dark-nighting/needing psychiatric care (name it)...
In the view of Goenka, the less we know, the wider the range of experiences we will go through during the retreat, the progressive acceleration of the scan leading to more pleasant sensations, then to exhiliration and restlessness (which can get really bumpy as well). These pleasant sensations have a miraculous aspect after a few difficult days which makes one adamant in promoting the technique and is instrumental in building a kind of weird cult around this tradition. And of course, not everybody follows the scheduled template of development.
[These two paragraphs are quite problematic. I mix two different feelings: one is that a knowledge of bodyscanning methods seems to be useful to navigate the retreat better. The other has to do with my suspicion about easy methods of insight, hence the question about "the precious lesson"... where my (unenlightened) view doesn't concur with the view that each one gets what he has come for. Can we find shortcuts on the path to insight or is there always a (karmic) price to pay -having parts of ourselves remaining in ignorance-? Obviously, I find it hard to swallow that others may have an easier path than me! (those practising the TMI-TWIN and other softening methods, see also Dhammarato, Leigh Brasington etc.)... Plus I have no idea what these two particular fellows have been through before, during or after the retreat, just full projections after a few minutes of "metta day" discussions, notoriously prone to re-interpretation after nine days of silence.]

I will now try to review how I understand the technique by the last days of the retreat:
I formulate an intention to be equanimous coupled with an intention to be aware of some sensation or the other, with a certain width to it (the zone of attention being more concentrated, or more diffused). I am in a certain mood while doing so. These parameters are the outcome of the part of the mind which deals with the present moment (to the extent that such thing exists), and plans according to how it has been educated by life and programmed by former practice. When "I" transforms this intent into action, this action will comply with all or some of these parameters... or none of them, preferring to wander in daydreams, discursive thinking or going wild. This action "I" is the fruit of the one that asserted the intention, but also of all the other moments which have come before... since the beginnings of time? Each of these innumerable moments has a particular weight in the mix, depending on what it was made of (and how it resonated with the rest of the universe).
So, any straying from an intention can be considered as a fruit of kamma in the present.
Can I trace back in time these chains of causes and consequences? I believe they are way too intertwined, way too complex in their interactions to complete such a task, although the practice scrapes reality to the core -to some extent-. But... I can discern the taste or colour of the fruit in the present, and observe how it resonates with the past (where did I meet this taste or colour?). Every reaction brings with it the multiplication of associated moments of consciousness in the future (which share the same characteristics). Here the sankhara that generates kamma. Identifying these tastes also makes it easier to see what kind of hindrance these processes are linked to: it has mainly been passion and restlessness for the last few years... and a bit of greed (in the form of stinginess).  Restlessness sounds like the core hindrance, and it takes many forms...
A total acceptation of the emotion that is in the moment and a total absence of reactivity: this is equanimity.
The mind that wills the intention is at the edge of the present and the mind that responds to that intention bears all the dross of the past. It's not the same mind, really: there's a seed (a fruit which is a seed) and a fruit coming from other seeds.
And as I said before, it is an intellectual choice to look at this process as the result of past deeds instead of as the bad will of a free personal agent... It's a fruitful working hypothesis, not reality with a big R! It says something of how our views nourish our experience.
[My partner reminded me that there are more options, namely that consciousness results as well of a myriad interactions with the environment and relations with other beings in the present. Ok, but... In the retreat environment, inputs from the environment are considerably reduced...Hence this undue simplification]

The retreat now appears to me as a laboratory whose aim is to produce physical and emotional experiences of the widest range, which are only the soil on which we develop the balance of our mind. I will confess that I have considered in the past that subtle sensations were a signpost of progress. Clearly, it's the identification with any aspect of experience that is a sign that there is still a degree of ignorance. And disidentifying from physical sensations generates a distance which makes the sensation more subtle, in this sense there is a progress, which is linked to the development of equanimity. But there is more to practice(s), namely disembedding from all frames of reference (mind,  mental contents, and other subtle aspects of body like proprioception -of which the sense of balance is an important ingredient-)... And the proper relationship to natural breath nurtures this ever-developing harmony...

That's it for now!
with metta
smiling stone

[Edited for additional content between brackets, plus quotation marks]
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Smiling Stone, modified 28 Days ago at 11/2/22 5:12 PM
Created 28 Days ago at 11/2/22 5:12 PM

RE: smiling stone's log (2021-2022)

Posts: 279 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Hello,
Re-reading the last retreat reports with my partner, she pointed out some inconsistencies/gaps in the reasoning (sometimes a lack of clarity). As I had posted them before feeling totally satisfied with them (they would still be sitting in my computer!),  I felt the need to edit some. As I did not want to alter the text (not to loose the readers), I included clarifications between brackets at the end of some paragraphs in part II and III (so far)...

I wanted to add something on how I view practice nowadays, outside of the retreat setting:
For me the focus on the perception of body sensations is a refuge (as in "Dhamma is a refuge, be an island to yourself"). It has me isolate one type of perception, thus reducing the noise of the other doors, and it helps me stay in the present, but it also keeps the mind moving (it's not a stillness practice) and connected to reality (more loosely connected as absorption deepens). When life circumstances are tough, it provides a way out of suffering... by ignoring the mental component of emotions and thoughts (that's where that "second arrow" comes from) and dwelling in the now. Yes, ignoring! So the amount of insight I can derive from the practice depends on how I contemplate the rarefied mental contents (instead of ignoring them)... how I recognize hindrances that don't exist in the body... it is at a crossroad between concentration and insight... It gives a satisfaction not unlike the one people derive from a mature concentration practice (or so I suspect).  Mental activity is not precluded but its intensity varies (one could say with the amount of inquiry) and with it the crispness of duality... So non-inquiry would be non-dual when absorption is happening.  But one state is not superior to the other, the meta-quality is the same.

Finally, I wrote the following and did not include it in the final version, as it was redundant, but it might still speak to some:
"There is the "I" pertaining to the moment (t) who generates action, whom I just talked about... and there is the perception experienced by this "I", associated with different emotional textures, which forms the experience of moment (t+1): it constitutes the "I" of the moment (t+1): does it keep a trace of the intention from moment (t) or has it been totally overwhelmed by the past? If so, in what time-frame (as in seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, ages or lifes-?-) will the intention (t)  re-emerge (an intention that is the fruit of -which remembers- the intention of moment (t))?"

Hum... I got sidetracked again... I wrote this wanting to acknowledge that the practice is not a panacea, but profound nonetheless... Did you get it?

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