Niels's practice log # 3

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Niels Lyngsø, modified 4 Months ago.

Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 329 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
This is a continuation of my first and second log.

Spring Retreat Report

Eight days of eight 90 minutes sittings (see schedule and set-up towards the end of my second log), 20th to 27th of March 2021.

I had yet another great and productive retreat, very different from my New Years retreat, which had a lot of joy and sheer physical pleasure. I had none of that this time (in the sittings, that is – off cushion I was quite joyful). Once again practice managed to throw something quite unexpected at me! This is a lengthy report, so I’ll start off with an brief summary if you just want the headlines, then a table of content, and then dive into the details.

Brief summary
I had some insights relating to the way attention works. There were some vibratory phenomena and some deep and calm jhanic states (though not as deep as I have gone before), but no cessation experience or anything similar. But most importantly, I had some (to me) qualitatively new experiences with ”energy” being moved around inside the body.

Mood in off cushion periods of the retreat and even more so post retreat: Joy, gratitude, amusement, faith in practice, a further lessening of striving.

Table of content
Insights & vibratory phenomena
                Attention working by itself
                Meditating on the written thought stream
                Vibrations, rotor, calm states
The energy stuff
                What I mean by ”energy”
                The fourth vedana: ”intense”
                Energy related sittings in chronological order
                An alternative image
                Dream & hypnagogic episode related to anger
                Concluding remarks on energy
                Four questions on the energy experiences 

Insights & vibratory phenomena

Attention working by itself
In some of the sittings, there was some mind related or insight related stuff, mainly with regard to how attention works. This felt like a continuation of my practice just before the retreat, the main thing being an insight into the anatta caracteristic of attention: There is no ”I” paying attention, or moving attention from one object to another, attention is moving all by itself.
                My fellow traveler Pepe described it very well in his log:
                ”At some point, you will observe that the process of attention (that fast sensation of going towards one object, and then jumping to the next object) works AUTOMATICALLY. Observe that consciousness arrives a fraction of a second late to each event (be it going towards the object, jumping to another or landing on it). That Consciousness/I-Self adopts this movement of the mind as its own will and action.”
                ”Surfing the Attention,” as he calls it.
                I had a lot of these surfing experiences on this retreat. Even several occurences of a meta-level experience: ”I” decided that now that things were calm and clear, I should do some attention surfing. Only to find out that the attention surfing had already begun a fraction of a second before ”I” made the ”decision” that this should happen.
                Hence the other insight that there is really no difference between meditating and not meditating. I especially experienced this in the breaks when I was reclining and couldn’t decide if I should a) stay with the breath as to calm down, b) monitor the movements of attention and arising thoughts, or c) just rest. Only to find out again and again, that ”I” didn’t or couldn’t decide, and that it would be for instance b, then a, then b, then c, although I found it hard to define what ”rest” would be, if not some form of a or b – or the giving up of chosing between a and b and c.

Meditating on the written thought stream
Like on earlier retreats, I had some visits from a visual experience of handwriting. It usually takes at least four days of retreat before it shows up, I guess it demands a certain level of concentration. What I see is a distinct handwriting style, the same every time, like you would recognize the hand writing of a parent, for instance. This I do not recognize, though. It is definitely not my own. In the beginning it is only in the center of the visual field, but as concentration grows stronger, it expands. It can be seen with closed eyes, and also sometimes with open eyes if I fix my gaze at a point. When concentration is very strong, it can be there on the walls and the floor, even when I walk around.
                This was the case at the Goenka retreat where I had my spiritual emergency back in November 2019. At that time I was extremely fascinated with this handwriting and very impressed about it (and about the mighty yogi who managed to produce it J). It could be in Danish or another language I know, or it could be in a language I didn’t recognize, and I was very curious and put a lot of effort into decoding it, as if it might contain some important secret message. Because the thing is, that this handwriting isn’t stable, it morphs and changes imperceptibly like writing often does in dreams: You think you can read a word or a fragment, but as you read it, it changes to something else. Very captivating.
                Well, on this retreat, on Day 5, fourth sitting, somebody decided that the sitting should begin open-eyed. So I just stared at the wall in front of me (white wall paper). And after a couple of minutes, I was in an absorption state, and the handwriting appeared. My attitude to it has changed a lot since the Goenka retreat, I now have no sense that it contains anything important, but I got curious as to how it actually works. It is not the content, but the process that is important. So for some 10-12 minutes the writing on the wall and I played together: It kept mutating very fast, I managed to decode a word now and then, but the word(s) changed in the same instant. Often there were misspelled words (my own name in different incorrect spellings, for instance). It occourred to me that they might not be misspelled, but misread, that I was the one committing the error. So was ”I” the entity writing or the entity reading and interpreting? These thoughts kind of entered the handwriting as well. This little game was fun and difficult – and extremely conductive to concentration. So when I had quite a strong absorption, I closed my eyes, and the handwriting disappeared. – It kind of reminds of a written/visual version of what shargrol calls meditating on the (auditory) thought stream J.

Vibrations, rotor, calm states
As usual, the first two days were a mixed bag of boredom and back pain, but when concentration got stronger, I also – apart from the insight stuff just mentioned, and the energy stuff that I talk about below – had some experiences of calm and peaceful mindstates, mostly what I in my previous log referred to as ”outer space”. I passed through these for maybe ten or twenty minutes, I even got some glimpses of the starry night that I spend so many hours watching on the last retreat. What was new was that there much more often were vibratory phenomena in the calm and peaceful mind states. These phenomena took two forms: 1) A flickering of light in the visual field, around 10-12 hz, usually only in the periphery of the visual field, sometimes expanding to towards the center. The flickering was there when I was on cushion with closed eyes, but some times it would also show up as I was settling on the cushion, open eyed, getting into pusture, or continue for a while when I got off cushion after a sit. 2) The Rotor. To me, the rotor is a helicopter sound like experience, also around 10-12 hz (ta-ta-ta-ta-ta), but 80 percent tactile, 20 percent auditory. It is usually located at the middle of the spine, but at the same time somehow difficult to locate. Mr. Rotor came by several times a day (from Day 3) and stayed longer and was more steady and distinct than I have experienced before. A few times there were both flickering of light and rotor at the same time. Then a few times a flash of a nonverbal thought, ”I might be close to Stream entry”. No cessation experience or anything similar, though.

The energy stuff

What I mean by ”energy”
The word ”energy” is terribly unprecise, used in so many different ways. I would prefer a more precise term, but my knowledge is much too limited to pick one: Chi? Kundalini? So I will just try to describe phenomenologically what I experienced, and what I mean by ”energy”. Maybe a more knowledgable person can point me in the direction of more precise terminology.
                To me, ”energy” is a tactile experience of the body that is different from the conventional, mostly mental, anatomic experience of limbs, organs etc. Energy can be air or smoke like, when it is very light and loose, and it can feel more liquid when it gets heavier and tighter. This liquid can have different levels of viscosity, from quicksilver and water through syrup to wobbly gel or pudding. What I in my old log have called a ”bottom of the ocean” feeling, for instance, is the feeling of gentle semi-viscous waves, passing slowly back and forth in the body, mainly the torso.
                Earlier in my practice I have had energy experiences that were very blurry, unclear, chaotic. Especially on my second Goenka retreat in May of 2018 I had a lot of this: A boiling ocean, the self/observer being in a little boat thrown hither and dither, under and over, through the foam of the violent waves. Extremely intense and exhausting experiences.

The fourth vedana: ”intense”
The word ”intense” keeps showing up in my mind when it wants to describe some of these more hectic energy experiences. We usually operate with three categories of vedana, which can be considered to be a spectrum: plesant - neutral - unpleasant. ”Intense” doesn’t really fit in, in this spectrum. But imagine that we bend the spectral line of vedana as to create a circle, and then place ”pleasant” at nine o’clock, ”neutral” at six o’clock, and ”unpleasant” at three o’clock. Up there at twelve o’clock, where the very pleasant and the very unpleasant meet, far away from ”neutral”, we have the fourth, apocryphal vedana ”intense”. Everybody knows the experience, in fact it is trivial that pain and pleasure have a common border (or border zone), just think of getting a good massage or an almost painful orgasm: Was it pleasant, neutral, unpleasant? Well, no and yes, it was … intense.

So I had some intense energy experiences on this retreat. And they were very different from the ones I have had before in two ways: 1) that they were much more clearly and calmly perceived, and 2) that there were some very distinct movements of energy taking place within the entire energy body. Not all of the sittings had this energy work going on. In many of sits, it was completely absent. I did nothing to cultivate the energy or manipulate it, but just observed it when it arose to the best of my abilities, although I had to bail out from time to time when it got too intense. Here are some of my …

Energy related sittings in chronological order
Day 3, second sitting: Massive heaviness in the lower torso/pelvic area. Felt as I had swallowed a cannon ball that had doubled my weight. Body sluggish and sore. Accompanied by feelings of misery, disgust, desire for deliverance. Tired of seeing the same striving and craving and aversive thoughts that I have seen so, so many times. These thoughts and emotions were seen very clearly and calmly, though. So was the heaviness. The rest of the body was calm, soft.
                Day 3, third sitting: Continuing in the same vein. Heaviness somewhat contracted to a spheric lump of tensions in the belly just below the navel. More yucki feelings and negative thoughts. I actually had the thought that I should just drop the retreat right now and spend these days doing something nice instead, like read a book. The next split second I literally smiled at that thought, it being so clear an example of ”rolling up of the mat”. – A thought appeared: This is DN seen through the lense of EQ.
                Day 4, fourth sitting: Again an experience of extreme heaviness in the lower torso. Moreover, the energy in the surface of the entire body, especially head and torso, tensed up more and more. It had nothing to do with muscular tensions: The muscles seemed very relaxed and soft, body was immovable, breath very calm, concentration strong, thoughts almost absent. At the same time the surface of the ”energy body” was hard and tight with tensions. Like if you have a liquid in a metal ball and strike the ball, there is this rippled pattern in the surface. This experience (soft inside, ”rippled” tensions in the surface) I will call the ”body suit”. The body suit usually starts off neutral and then either stays there (even getting a bit pleasant in its neutrality), or become more and more intense. The body suit in this sitting got very intense. There were yucky emotions. There were (mostly preverbalized) striving thoughts and aversion against the striving (shame, self blame). Suddenly I realized that my face was turned downwards, and in the angrily mumbling mind, there was this loud and clear and fully verbalized sentence, in English: ”Face the music!” So I looked straight ahead. And within seconds, the extreme heaviness in the lower torso disappeared. But the body suit was still there. Much easier to accept now, though.
                Day 5, seventh sitting. Again the experience of extreme heaviness in the lower torso or pelvic area. I was at this point kneeling on the cushion, usually the most comfortable for me, but had an intuition to shift to burmese position, and so I did, and that seemed to open up something: The heaviness got more evenly distributed, and the body suit came on, covering an otherwise soft and deeply relaxed body. No frustration or aversion, I just watched. And remembered to look up and face the music every time I felt my face had turned a bit downward.
                Day 6, fourth sitting. It began like a regular (i.e. not energy-related) sitting, but after half an hour I switched to burmese position, and then the standard absortion changed into the body suit, at first neutral, but then more and more intense, tilting towards the unpleasant, even painful. The energy got asymmetrical after maybe half an hour: It was as if an additional lump of energy evolved outside of my right overarm and shoulder, somehow loosely connected to my body. Again my attitude was very calm, curious, respecful – and highly concentrated: These intense energy sittings are really conductive to concentration, there are no random thoughts and emotions, no visual or auditory stuff worth noting, just this very intense energy. This continued in …
                Day 6, fifth sitting. More of the same. In a way like an ultrastrong absortion, but not jhanic (I think), as it was definitely not pleasurable. Emotionally extremely neutral and equanimous, though, so you might say Equanimity, 4th jhana, but the more experiences I have, the less these categories seem to fit. During the last 30 minutes the rotor was there in the spine, very distinct and steady. Continuing into …
                … Day 6, sixth sitting, even though I was quite exhausted. And then something new happened: After about 20-30 minutes, within this body suit of now very equally distributed fine hard rippled tensions, a lump of denser energy formed in the lower part of the solar plexus. The rest of the inner body was still soft and calm. But then this lump arose, like a fire ball in the midst of the deep and calm ocean – under the glass thin ice on the surface. Up until this point there had been virtually no thoughts accompanying the energy sittings, once they got intense, but now suddenly a fully verbalized noting or commenting voice arose, kind of like a reporter from a sports event or some political turmoil. It kept on live-reporting during the rest of the sit. I will just give you a resume: ”This lump seems to be spheric, the size of an orange. No, a bit smaller than that. It is spinning or pulsating very rapidly as if it might explode. Now it is moving upwards. Very slowly, as if ploughing through the body. It is now at the center of the solar plexus. Now it is pressing against the point in the chest where the two lower front ribs meet. It is as if it can’t get through. Wait, what’s going on? Oh, it is slowly moving backwards horisontally, just below the rib cage. Now it hit the spine, kind of grabbed onto it. And now it is climbing. Slowly …” It took about 25 minutes from the lump had set in motion until it reached the top of the spine. There it lingered for quite a while. Then it burbed about 1/5 of its mass upwards. The baby lump moved slowly upwards along the back of the head. ”What will happen when it reaches the crown? Will it somehow get out like a fountain of energy? Is this what they call kundalini rising? Don’t speculate, observe! Okay …” It didn’t exlode into fireworks, it distributed itself very calmly and more or less evenly along the inside of the scull. In the mean time the mother lump returned along the same route she had come from: down the spine to the level of the solar plexus, inwards through the body just below the rib cage, to the front of the torso, and then down below the solar plexus to somewhere around the navel. When the bell rang, I was completely exhausted.
                Day 6, seventh sitting. The energy did not take into consideration that I was exhausted. It obviously still had its plans with me: The instant my butt hit the cushion, the rotorlike vibration began in the spine, the body suit started forming, and some 30 seconds later a new lump of dense energy started to emerge at the top of the spine, where the mother lump had lingered before burbing. I did not have the power to go on with this, my concentration wasn’t strong enough anymore, and so I bailed out, changed position several times during the sit, even did some standing meditation, almost fell asleep at some point. I was very surprised that time had passed so quickly when the bell rang.
                Day 7, fourth sitting. Very much a repetition of Day 6, sixth sitting: A lump of energy formed behind the navel, moved upwards following the same route as yesterday, stopped at the top of the spine, lingered there for some time and then burbed healthily upwards, giving off a smaller, more diffuse mass of energy that traveled up along the back of the head, under the crown and then distributed itself evenly inside the head, while Mother Lump went back to the belly to dig out some more. She then repeated her little journey, doing the whole thing once again, though the burbed out baby was smaller this time.
                Day 7, sixth sitting. Another body suit was building up, this time a bit asymmetrical: There was a tiny and very dense lump of energy in the lower right front corner of the rib cage. This was quite painful, and I felt I didn’t have the power to do ”energy work” at this point, so I collapsed the spine and did some long outbreaths (sighing) with open mouth, which made the energy calmer. After some 10-12 minutes, it (both the painful tiny lump and the body suit) built up again. Then I let out steam again. This pattern continued throughout the sit, the energy wanting to do its thing, me saying, ”I don’t have the strength right now”.
                Day 8, second sitting. More than one hour of full-on intense body suit tensions, very equally distributed, even the surface of the fingers were covered. No lumps formed this time. I just sat with it, no aversion, very calm, even though it was quite unplesant. Then I suddenly felt I could not take anymore. I collapsed the spine, let out air through the mouth and stayed in this resting position until the bell rang some 15 minutes later.
                Day 8, fourth sitting. Startet in kneeling position, felt energy building up, changed to burmese position, which seems more suited for energy work. The body suit came on. There was pain around the physical heart (it really hurt, and I got a little nervous since I have a defect heart ventricle). This pain or tension then moved into the center of the chest. Then backwards to the spine. Upwards, you know the story by now, lingering, burbing a baby out that distributed itself in the head (the whole process from the forming until the baby was delivered and spread took maybe half an hour). Mother Lump trotted her way back down the spine, below the rib cage to the front of the torso and down into the belly. Then up again, this time much faster, same route, a bit more forceful burb, resulting a minute later in some vibrations in the crown. Mother Lump on her way down the spine again, and once again I was too exhausted to continue, so I collapsed the spine and rested through the rest of the sit.

An alternative image
I related these energy events to a friend, using the mother and baby imagery as above, and she suggested that another image might be better: Maybe the big lump is not like a mother burbing babies out or a truck transporting stuff up, and then going back down for more. Maybe the entire lump tries to get through the neck (throat chakra?), but the passage is too narrow, so only some of it manages to squeeze itself through, pushing the rest back down. From where it then rises and tries again.
                This seems equally plausible to me, though I am not sure how important it is which image we chose.

Dream & hypnagogic episode related to anger
During all of this energy work, the bodymind was emotionally very neutral, very equanimous, once the body suit was on, and the intensity strong. No thoughts (apart from the one sitting with the reporter). No memories, no image thoughts. No anger, fear, sadness etc. showed up. But since I have read about the connection between energy and emotions, I thought it might be relevant to mention two emotionally charged experiences from the retreat, having to do with anger. They occurred just as the energy work was starting off:
                On the night between Day 4 and 5 I dreamed that my neighbour was visiting me. He is a carpenter, and he was there to help me out with something practical here on my little farm. He kept bumping his big bag of tools into the back of my knees as we were walking across the yard. I told him firmly but kindly to stop. He got very upset, turned around, said he wouldn’t help me anyway if I was to behave like that. I felt his anger, I felt my own anger, but I remained calm and asked him to come back tomorrow so that we could discuss it ”when the tempers have cooled down”, as I said. I felt content with the way I had handled the situation, both the clear saying no and the insisting on dialogue and continued contact. Then I woke up, still feeling the adrenaline from the anger pulsating in my body, and still feeling good about my skills of conflict resolution (they are not always that good J).
                On the night of Day 5, as I was falling asleep, I had several instances of hypnagogic episodes that were a bit like lucid dreams: Something was happening as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, and then I found out that it was a dream or hypnagogic vision, taking place in the bed I was lying in. In one of these, I suddenly felt anger for a split second, opened my eyes and saw a boy of about twelve years of age sitting astride on me in the bed. I did not recognize him. He shouted (in Danish): ”I am so very angry!” His face and body expressed that emotion very clearly as well. I – or the adult part of me, if the boy was also me – was completely calm, not afraid, not angry or in any way agitated. ”I truly understand that,” I said to him, and somehow I really did feel that I understood his anger, even though I didn’t know why he was angry. And then he just disappeared into thin air, and I realized that it had been a dream/vision.

Concluding remarks on energy
This transportation of energy inside the body was quite surprising to me. It was like an alien intelligence operating inside my body – ”intelligence” because there very much seemed to be a plan and some systematic construction going on. It did not seem random.
                I have read a thousand times about people who experience ”energy moving in the body”, but I had never thought that it would be as almost cartoonishly literal as this. Also I have read (and just now re-read) some of shargrols remarks on this subject (in the great collection of his posts that Pepe put together), and he talks about ”rewiring”. First time I read that, I took it to be a metaphore, but this also seems much more literal to me now: It actually felt like there were being drawn some new fiber-optic cables inside my body, establishing new connections between gut (gut feeling), heart (heart felt) and head (thoughts/spirit/intellect).
                I am not sure what to make of it, but I am not worried about it either. Apparently it is something that has to happen by now. So I just let it happen. But I am curious, though. So I’ll finish this energy section by posing …

Four questions on the energy experiences:
                1) I wonder why this energy work show up now. I have been doing a little tantric practices and observed semen retention since 2021 began, having only one conventional orgasm every 21 days, following the advice and excercises from the daoist book ”The Multi-Orgasmic Man”. So that might have influenced something. But perhaps these things would have happened anyway. My question is: How do these energy experiences relate to the progress of insight?
                2) A natural follow up question is: My goal of practice is progress on the path of insight and eventually if possible Stream Entry and full awakening – so should I change anything in my practice, for instance do more or less or different ”energy practice” than this tantric stuff I am dabbling with? Or am I on track, doing what I am doing now, just observing on cushion what happens with this energy when it happens, not manipulating it, and then doing some yoga and breathing and kennel exercises on the side? Any suggestions to change of practice are welcome. My own hunch, though, is that what I am doing is okay.
                3) Are there any conceptual frameworks (involving for instance ”chi”, ”kundalini”, ”chakras” or the like) that reasonably explain what I experienced?
                4) Are there any recommendable ressources (books etc.) connecting the insight meditation tradition with this energy stuff?

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Thank you for reading this long report. As always, comments and questions are very welcome.
George S, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1909 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Hi Niels!

Great log, I really enjoyed reading it thanks :-)

The handwriting stuff is fascinating. I think I recall you saying that you work as a translator, so maybe it's related to that - struggling to translate meaning and establish the right balance between literalism and interpretation?

I've had a lot of intense energy experiences, though a lot less dynamic than yours - usually it's painful waves in the forehead which have lasted months at a time. Actually I've just come out of one such painful period and what I've realized is that for me, "intense" really means "unpleasant". While it was going on I wanted to think of myself as being accepting, so I was reluctant to label it as unpleasant. But the fact that I was getting tired during sits shows that I was resisting or fighting it on some level. At a certain point it got so strong that I didn't have any choice but to surrender, and that's when it maxed out and vanished. Yours are more dynamic and you sound more accepting, but the exhaustion made me think of this.

I think this energy stuff is loosely related to release of trapped emotions, but there's no exact correspondence. I spent quite a while researching it and there's a crazy divergence between systems. Lots of people out there looking for answers => lots of different answers! Once you've got the basic idea what it is then I think looking for further reasons and interpretations is probably counter-productive, just another form of resistance! My suggestion would be to really try and find where you are resisting it. Look for the point of maximum discomfort where it seems like it might overwhelm you ... and then really relax into that, safe in the knowledge that it's not going to hurt you! Beyond that, accepting that it's just one of those things which happens along the path and will work itself out over time. Trust that your body knows best ;-)

Your anger issues sound relatively minor and like you have good boundaries. Oh actually that's another thing which can help with energy (Siavash told me about it from Rob Burbra). Try imagining your "energy body" to be a bit bigger than your physical body, like a kind of loose space suit or something. That both relieves the pressure and also prevents you from picking up unwanted energetic influences from your environment, if you can maintain it during the day (or at least when you are interacting with people or situations you find stressful!)

All the best
​​​​​​​George
​​​​​​​
Sam Gentile, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1289 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Niels, I am going to need a longer time to read this but I congratulate you on doing a large body of great work and sharin it with us.
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Pepe, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 411 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Awesome report Niels!

It's so good to read reports with that phenomenological description. In fact, the bodysuit is the exact description of how it feels. And the energy flow you describe matches 100% with taoist teachings.

I wonder why this energy work show up now.
EQ + good concentration + interest in energy flow.

How do these energy experiences relate to the progress of insight?
People with experience in Kundalini would answer better your question. Taoist maps are usually overly complex, and usually Enlightenment is not the goal but energy deployment. Also keep in mind that although taoist masters may have unitive-like experiences (energy related), that doesn't mean that they have the insight realization that buddhist achieve. They lack clear maps on this. The only clear one I know of (the Water Method), his western promoter Bruce Frantzis had to complement it with buddhist methods, and his chinese master already got buddhist SE before jumping to the Water Method. 

Any suggestions to change of practice are welcome. My own hunch, though, is that what I am doing is okay.
Though I'm not qualified to give my opinion on that, you usually work with intention, either trying to rise it up and then make it descent to chest / feet, or direct it to neiwan (middle of the head) or chest and then to the hands. Regarding the "tensing" bodysuit and emotions, in Bagua Zhang all the animal forms are tailored so that those energy tensions bring alive primal animal instincts. Not my taste.

Are there any conceptual frameworks that reasonably explain what I experienced? Are there any recommendable ressources (books etc.) connecting the insight meditation tradition with this energy stuff?
What matches best your description is Damo Mitchell's teachings. He has the best videos available, and for free: Explaining the Microcosmic Orbit. Download all the videos while you can! His best and most detailed book is  A comprehensive guide to Daoist Nei Gong.  
Scott Meredith's Juice Radical Taiji gives a description and practice methods for the stages of energy deployment (mingjing, anjing, huajing). Though it works on a stand-alone basis, if you have Damo Mitchell's neigong foundation stuff already under your belt, then your practice would be much more straightforward. 
Bruce Frantzis' Relaxing into Your Being: The Taoist Meditation Tradition of Lao Tse, Volume 1 (Water Method of Taoist Meditation) is the only meditation method that I found comparable to buddhists' (though with the caveats I wrote earlier). 
Martin, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 294 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Thank you for such a detailed and clear report, Niel. Sometimes I feel like we are in a pen-pal club for travel writers. People write about where they have been and what they have seen, and the world seems a little more knowable. 
Tim Farrington, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 2470 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Mood in off cushion periods of the retreat and even more so post retreat: Joy, gratitude, amusement, faith in practice, a further lessening of striving.

Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your great work here, Niels. It's inspiring. Do what you do, man, the orchard is thriving, the blossoms are exquisite, and you can't argue with sweet, ripe fruits.
shargrol, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1577 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Great retreat Niles, congratulations.

I think you would be interested in this Shinzen article, it reminds me of your vendana = intense idea: https://www.shinzen.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/art_ickysticky.pdf

This "relaxation pain" is somewhat uncommon, but common enough that it's not rare.

With energy, I think pretty much all of the metaphysics around "what it is and why it's doing things" (like chakras, micro/macro scopic orbits, etc. ) are pretty much contrivances. I tend to think that energy simply moves because it needs to, sort of like how attention simply moves when it "decides" to. I tend to think the form the energy takes (heavy sludge, light wispy air, turbulant water) is an incidental by product. Like the noise of a lawnmower, it's sort of just a side effect. The whole "intelligence" of energy is that it goes where it needs to and seems to fix what needs fixing. (It's smarter than any of our attempts at modeling it.) There really isn't anything to do except watch it if we want, and as you said it is extremely concentration inducing just to watch it happen.

The emotional/though associations with the energy are important, though. I think sometimes the "tone" of the energy can give psychological clues... and my feeling from reading (which might or might not be true) is a feeling of repression. I have the feeling that the energy was moving around slowly and laborously and cautiously... as if it was working through a basic sense of body repression. But who knows if that's correct or helpful in anyway --- that was just my impression upon reading.

So I guess the "relaxation pain" and the repression vibe seem to suggest your body-mind was slowly being mentally and physically "massaged" at a very deep level. Seems like it wants your body and mind made even more pliable and malliable, more alive.

Seems like a great thing to happen on retreat, which can only support your ongoing daily practice!

(Note: this is sort of like the rewiring that occurs post SE, but the post SE rewiring tends to move much quicker through the body.)
George S, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1909 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Another thing I forgot to mention about the energy stuff Niels, because I was all focussed on acceptance whereas this is a side step ... I find that the piti (physical energy sensations) tends to get more magnified the more I focus on it. That's fine when it's pleasurable and not too strong, but when it gets painful then I feel like I'm getting stuck in a negative feedback loop where more attention causes more pain etc. What I sometimes try then is to focus instead on cultivating sukha (emotional happiness) in the heart area, or else some brahmavira stuff like gratitude (for being in the present moment), loving-kindness, compassion, joy etc. Sounds a bit cheesy but it actually works! I find Ajahn Brahm videos helpful for this because he's all about cultivating beautiful happy joyful states :-) You do that for a bit and suddenly realize that you've forgotten all about the painful piti!

So first I try acceptance of the painful piti to see if it moves around or passes, but if it looks like it's stuck in for the long haul then I divert attention to something more positive. I don't know whether this is just avoiding the pain which will still have to be experienced later, or whether the pain is just gonna do it's thing and work itself out whether I focus on it or not, so might as well cultivate some more positive mental states in the meantime. I'm a bit ambivalent about it, like it's cheating or something, but maybe that's just a stupid 'tough it out attitude' and I should do it more often! Anyway, something else to try if you're getting stuck ...
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Niels Lyngsø, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 329 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
It's been three weeks since my Spring Retreat, and even though nothing much new has happened, I feel it is time for an update. But before the update, a little response to your reactions on my retreat. And I'll end with a question. First:


Response
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Thank you so much for the kind, encouraging and thoughtfull reactions. I feel grateful to be part of this community.

Mostly @ Pepe: Thanks for all the info, I have been checking it out and find some of it quite useful and interesting. I still only do a very modest dosis of "energy practice": 10-15 minutes a day with breathing and kegel exercises, still observing semen retention. I do both of these things because I feel they energize or vitalize the mindbody-system, not to master any skill or make progress in energy practice, my only goal being progress on the path of insight.

Mostly @ shargrol: Thanks for the Shinzen thing. Very interesting and recognizable. The only thing I don't recognize is the agitation: "icky, sticky, creepy, crawly": I don't feel that these words describe what I experience in these states, it is not dynamic like that, more static, more a feeling of being held in a tight grip. But his explanation that this "samadhi pain" is caused by a sort of surplus or habitual resistance, that goes on even though there no longer is any pain to resist, really resonates with me. And it seems connected to your other point, the point about body repression: Your hunch is spot on! This bodymind, which is now 52 years old, has been repressing emotions (and hence sensations (of emotions)) up until quite recently, it has had lots of unaknowledged anxiety and sadness for almost half a century, it has been dealing with this by trying to exercise control (hence tensing up), by drinking alcohol and smoking weed (hence fogging (and fucking up) awareness), and it is only now, ever so slowly, learning to relax, accept, enjoy ... Btw: I still find my fourth vedana "intense" useful and accurate: There are feeling tones about which you would say "I'm not sure if it was pleasant or unpleasant or both, but it was definitely not neutral": intense.


Update

Since the retreat I have upped my daily sittings from 2 x 60 to 2 x 90 minutes + a "before bedtime sit" without timer, usually 30-60 minutes, thus sitting between three and four hours every day now. The reason I felt it necessary with longer sits, is that this energy work that began during my retreat, is continuing, and it seems to go slow and thus need time. The level of intensity is much lower now, which is to be expected, but in eight or nine sits out of ten, the energy work takes center stage.
          So the typical sitting these last three weeks looks like this: Most of the experience is tactile sensations. These have become much stronger and clearer since the retreat. The rest of experience is usually taken up by verbalized thoughts, mostly random shit, sometimes practice related, all clearly seen. Absorption is weak, sometimes entirely absent. Nothing much happening in the visual field, nothing much happening with the high pitched tones, nothing much happening with emotions. Except sometimes some aversion and frustration – this happens when the mind gets impatient and wants to go back to high EQ with strong absorption, pleasant or neutral body sensations, vague dreamlike bliss etc. It then tries to do what it has done in high EQ: Surf the attention (as Pepe calls it), do self inquiry, meditate on the thought stream. But that is not possible these weeks, and hence there is frustration until mind again finds acceptance and just sit and watch this energy work. Which can be quite painful. There are no longer these cartoonishly clear transportations of energy along the spine, it is less obvious what exactly the energy is doing, but one thing is quite clear: The activity is centered two places: 1) at the back of the upper torso, i.e. the area of the shoulderblades; and 2) at the back of the head, sometimes also the middle of the head (to be more specific: a pillar from the top of the spine up to just under the crown). In these two areas there is tension, painful soreness, stiffness, slow and heavy waves (these things mostly in the upper back), and there is tension, wobbling, throbbing and throbbing pain (these things mostly in the head).
          There has been only one insight related event worth reporting: In one sitting, for a fraction of a second, the middle of the head – which is usually the place where the un-findable self seems to reside – was utterly "not me", just as anatta as the bird song outside. The next fraction of a second, the feeling of "I" or "me" rushed back in, and once again there was this center of experience. The whole thing lasted maybe a tenth of a second, and I'm not quite sure, but there might have been a sense of "falling". I'm not sure if this was a "near miss", maybe rather a "far miss". So to be absolutely clear: I do not think this was a cessation, but whatever it was, it felt new and exciting and encouraging.
          I still have faith in practice. My hunch is – and this is also what both shargrol and others have said – that this energy work just has to do its thing, its "rewiring" or "purification" or whatever it is. The challenge right now is to be patient and not try to rush through it and back to high EQ. So to put it another way: After more than a year, I'm back to sitting with physical pain again and trying to learn new lessons of acceptance.


Finally, a question

My (and the general) intuition is that this energy work is connected to emotions. But my sittings are emotionally quite neutral (apart from the amentioned frustration/aversion). One or two times there has been hints of sadness. Otherwise I don't really observe any emotions these weeks. Should I make an effort (for instance by a tailor made emotion noting technique) to look for emotions?
shargrol, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1577 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Hard to say... I feel --- but don't know --- like things are going slowly for a reason. I'm not inclined to suggest directly dredging up more potentially challenging emotions. It seems to me that ongoing frustration/aversion is enough. emoticon In many ways, it's like going through Misery again. The body/mind is frustrated and aversion, "look at the body/mind being frustrated/averse"... and notice how the knowing of the state is something different than the state itself. The knower isn't frustrated/averse, despite our habit of identifying with it. 

Also remember that the mind can become quite mundane and even sloppy in late equanimity. This is like a combination of Dissolution and EQ, you could say. The mind is soft and allowed to range and even daydream... and when you ask yourself, "Am I lost in this daydream?" the answer comes back "No, I may be daydreaming, but this is lucid. Even though the body/mind daydreams, the knower still knows. I haven't really lost mindfulness."
https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-iv-insight/30-the-progress-of-insight/11-equanimity/

"
From this point, awakening is likely to occur quickly as long as the meditator continues to simply practice and very gently fine-tune awareness and precision, paying gentle attention to things like thoughts of progress and satisfaction with equanimity. At some point even this becomes boring, and a certain cool apathy and even forgetfulness arise. Most won’t notice much about this phase.Around this very mature part of Equanimity the feeling that we are not really here can arise, or that somehow we are completely out of phase with reality. Conducting our ordinary business may be difficult in this phase if we are out in the world rather than on the cushion, but it tends to last only tens of minutes at most, though rare reports involve it going on for somewhat longer. The sense that we are practicing or trying to get anywhere just vanishes, and yet this may hardly be noticeable at all. We sort of come back, with clarity again becoming more predominant. Then we get truly lost in something, some strangely clear reverie, vision, object, or flight of fancy. By really buying in, we get set up to check out. When understanding is completely in conformity with the way things are, this is called …"

Regarding emotions... I would stay open to the idea that not observing emotions is somewhat curious, so be open to being led into a greater wisdom about emotions. If you are led there, then simply notice what is being experienced. If you are not led there, I wouldn't push it there, at least not for now. At least, I can't blindly recommend pushing it to focus on emotions.

What's your instinct on this? You are probably in a good position to figure this out for yourself. I'm not in your head emoticon
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1909 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Niels, I just wanted to say that I've changed my view on the energy stuff since posting above. I've gone back to focusing on the breath and I'm finding that the energy is working itself out better. It's always tempting to focus on the energetic effects, but I find that causes it to get stuck and take on the stance of a painful problem which needs to be sat out. If I actively ignore it and return to the breath, the energy actually increases because more is released but it seems to flow better and find a way to settle itself down, resulting in more time in a calm mind state not worrying about energy :-) I don't know if that will work for you or not, but I just wanted to correct some of the stuff I said above about focusing on energy. I guess my view now is that the body naturally knows how to let its energy flow and anything I try to do with my rational mind just gets in the way of that!
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Niels Lyngsø, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 329 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
@ shargrol & George: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My instinct is that it wouldn't make much of a difference if I tried to go searching for emotions – that they will show up if they need to show up, and stay hidden if that is what is best for me now. I might have some hidden trauma, some things that will show up at some point, but I am not afraid of that, on the contrary, I welcome what ever might come to be purified. I have at this point been through so much emotional turmoil (in my entire life, and on the path these last three and a half years), including a complete so-called psychotic break down, and I have gotten through it all and seen how necessary and healing it was for it to come up, so nothing emotional really scares me. I feel that my equanimity and wisdom are well developed enough that I can handle what ever might come.

But all this being said, I do find it odd that I am so emotionally neutral during the energy work. So I try to stay curious and open. And I have begun setting an intention at the beginning of each sitting: "May I be able to see any emotion I need to see at this point." My faith in practice is strong. I can consider this and that option, set an intention, maybe even try noting for a while, but at the end of the day, there really doesn't seem to be two ways of me doing it. Because, at this point, it does me. What ever happens just happens.

Obviously some small part of me still thinks it possible to control things, and it keeps trying again and again. But I trust it will run out of steam eventually. Why should I be different than so many other practioners who have been in the EQ nana before me? It might take some time, though, 50 years of conditioning could take some time to break down. But I trust the process. emoticon
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Pepe, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 411 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hi Niels, I would leave emotions aside but focus on the fleeting mindframes that ocurr during the sit. See if these pointers are of help:

* Check if the mind is discriminating in any way (a non-conceptual 'this sensation is good/bad/meh', 'this perception is good/bad/meh', 'this absortion is good/bad/meh', etc) and just accept that it's what ought to be at this moment
* Watch the stream of micro-aversions happening, when pleasant sensations are not pleasant enough or tensions pass away not fast enough, etc 
* While pleasant/unpleasant/neutral sensations may be predominating, you may be ignoring the other varieties. See if you could perceive the three kinds simultaneously at all times 
* Inquiry yourself when everything looks fine yet you acknowledge there's impatience in the back burner: "What is it that I would want to change what I'm experiencing now?" ;  "Why any change would make it better?" ; "What is the definition of 'better'?" ; "Do those 'better' metrics 'improve' 'me' in any way or push me aside from what is happening right now?" 
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1909 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I think that's a great attitude Niels - open to whatever needs to show up, whenever it needs to show up :-)

Just one other thought. I went through periods of thinking that the next insight/path couldn't show up until my energy situation "resolved itself", but in hindsight that was a false assumption. There might be a loose connection, in that it's hard to maintain an equanimous mental state sometimes if the energy is too distracting, but beyond that I think it's more helpful to assume that they are independent (a bit like the relationship between insight and samatha - actually depth of absorption seems closely linked to energetic-emotional settling). I guess what I'm saying is, SE could wink at you tomorrow and you would still have the energetics to work through, or you could work through the energetics first and then get the wink from SE ... and ultimately it probably won't make much difference :-)

The insight/paths are helpful for giving you confidence, but you are very committed and solid in your approach anyway with the confidence of having weathered some heavy storms. Maybe they gave me more ability to dig into deeper stuff later on, but in terms of the quality of day to day life and the experience of the sits themselves, the energetic-emotional-psychological process dominates. Like you say, you're on the ride and you trust that the process will work out for you in just the right way it needs to given your conditioning. It's easy to get impatient sometimes, but when you step back and see how those decades of conditioning are actually unwinding relatively quickly, it's amazing really. emoticon
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Niels Lyngsø, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 329 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
@ Pepe:

Thanks, those are excellent pointers. I am applying them in my sits now. I findt it hard to keep pleasant, neutral and unpleasant vedana in mind simultaneously, though. I can make attention jump back and forth between pleasant tingling in the skull, unpleasant tension in the upper back, neutral movement of the abdomen, for instance, but I can't focus on them at the same time. But perhaps you mean zooming out, like keeping the entire body (and the entire range of vedana) in awareness? (I am using the terms attention and awareness a la Culadasa: attention = spot light; awareness = flood light).

And another thing: I am not sure what you mean by "fleeting mindframes" – could you expand on that?
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Pepe, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 411 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Niels, I wrote you back in my practice log
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Niels Lyngsø, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 329 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
It’s time for an update, but this time it is not going to be that much about meditation, but more about (my) emotions, psychology and personality traits. I do end by asking a question about practice, but it takes a while to get there: This is a very long post, so be prepared J.

I see The Progress of Insight as part of a broader personal development, and right now the insight aspect and the psychology/ personality aspect seem tangled together. Hence this long post.

In insight language it could be dealt with swiftly: Doubt has arisen. Note ”doubt” and move on. When it arises again: Repeat.

Tl;dr: The doubt in a nutshell
But this particular doubt is very insisting in my sittings and continues off cushion. Is has to do with emotions. With the fact that I mostly experience emotions very lightly and fleetingly. And I’m not sure if it is because of repression or because of my being in the EQ-nana (pre-SE). In other words: Is this a sign of emotional immaturity or a sign of progress on the path of insight? This is my doubt in a nutshell.

I haven’t told much about my upbringing or earlier life in this blog, but I feel it is necessary to provide some background to why I am feeling this doubt now.

Personal background
I grew up in the lower middle class, no siblings, didn’t really have friends, learned how to read from an older cousin before I got to school, and spent most of my childhood alone in my room, reading, writing, daydreaming, mostly about space (stars, planets etc.). My father: hypercritical, neurotic, constantly dissatisfied with me, rarely in any articulate/verbal way, mostly in body language, facial expression, sighs etc., and the occasional slap in the face. My mother: depressed, afraid of my father, trying (with moderate succes) to protect me from him, able to give me physical care (hugging, caressing, tucking in at night), but often with a distant gaze, emotionally absent. Emotions, especially anger, were very much taboo. I don’t recall having been angry once during my entire childhood and adolescence.

This childhood gave me a strong inner life and a fragile and insecure social life. Even though I met a woman, got two kids quite early in life, had a divorce and two subsequent romantic relationships, I have always been and still am an introverted person and a loner. This is also reflected in my work life: I am a poet, writer and translator, working from home, so all my work takes place within me. I have much less exchanges with other people than the average person.

Six years of jungian therapy, ending around ten years ago, and about one year of a still ongoing, more mixed method psycho therapy (reparenting, among other things) has taught me a lot about my unhealthy patterns. Only after I began meditating (in november 2017), though, have I been able to begin changing these patterns.

A brief description of these patterns could be: I have always fallen in love with very extroverted and emotionally expressive women – who were also emotionally unstable (borderline personality, bipolar, depressed etc.). I was the (on the surface) calm, caring, endlessly patient partner, providing them some form of emotional (and sometimes financial) stability. Looking back on it, I can see that under the surface, there was unacknowledged anxiety and repressed anger. In return for what I gave, I got admiration, gratitude and a sense of being worthy and ”good”; also they helped me understand (and feel!) my own emotions, the common understanding between us being that she was emotionally more intelligent than me. So as you can see, these relationships were to some degree transactional, and there was dependency and codepency.

After my two first breakups (in 2007 and 2014), I was miserable. Even though I am a loner, I did not thrive without a romantic partner. I coped unhealthily by having a lot of sex, drinking too much and smoking too much weed. I desperately wanted a steady partner to share my life with, it felt as if I couldn’t survive (emotionally) without it.

I broke up with my latest girl friend in September 2020 and have been living on my own since then. It was by far the best breakup of my life: I was and am not miserable at all, none of us were hurt or angry, only a little sad, and we remain each others best and most intimate friends, speaking (phone or skype) often several hours a week, still sharing each others lives, still loving each other, actually, but knowing our dysfunctional dynamics well enough to understand that it is not right for us to live together right now.

I quit alcohol around two years ago and weed a little more than a year ago, shortly before I transitioned into EQ. And I feel more happy and healthy than ever before in my life. I don’t miss having a steady romantic partner at all. I don’t miss alcohol or weed the least. I’m in good shape, no illnesses, no medications, I run and workout and do yoga. My finances are better than ever. Having had earlier on an addictive relationship to sex, I am now slowly developing my sexuality in a healthier direction (taoist tantra) with a partner who just like me has absolutely no need to live together and be a ”couple” in the regular sense.

So as you can see, I really don’t have anything to complain about. I thrive, and I feel very grateful for that. Very priviledged. Compared to my life pre meditation I would say that maybe 80-90 percent of the suffering has gone. At the late age of 53 I have finally begun to become an adult. A sane person. Though still very much a loner, an introvert and a bit of a weirdo J.

In a way you could say that I have been in the Dark Night for most of my life, even though I didn’t really recognize or acknowledge difficult emotions before I began meditating. From the first retreat onwards I have had quite a rollercoaster ride with several A&P’s, followed by DN’s, going back to really weird and scary A&P’s etc. Especially the last 5-6 months before I transitioned into EQ were tough, and at that point I really recognized and viscerally felt my fear, misery, disgust etc. There was anger, hatred, self-hatred and despair. And then, much to my surprise, over a couple of weeks, it all dissipated. All the reasons for having the difficult emotions were still there, nothing in the external circumstances changed, the mind just, by it self, found out how pointless it was to loop around in these unpleasant emotions.

So I know how it is to feel emotions. But I very rarely feel emotions now, and when I do, it is in a light and and fleeing manner: They pass through the system in a matter of seconds.

So why this doubt?
Why do I suddenly think that my relationship to emotions – especially difficult emotions, and most particularly: anger – might be a problem?

Two reasons:

1) I have been in the EQ-nana for 14 months now, all the way through with a very consistent 2-3 hour daily practice and with three 8-10 days retreats, totalling more than a thousand hours on the cushion, and still SE has not happened. I am more patient and less striving about it now than six or eight months ago, but I am beginning to get puzzled: What is lacking, what is missing, what is it that the mind hasn’t solved yet? Could it have something to do with emotions?

2) There are some things happening in my life that give me good reasons to be angry. It is an inheritance issue following the death of my father in December 2020, too complicated to explain in any detail, but the basic thing is this: My father has managed, from beyond the grave, to fuck me over, stealing quite a lot of money that my mother – who died back in 2001 – wanted me to have in her will, but the money are now going to my father’s new wife/widow. I should be furious. And I sort of see or think or know my anger. But not once have I really felt it in my body, my jaw hasn’t tightened, my fists have clenched, I haven’t slammed doors or shouted obscenities. I just very calmly think that he, even in his grave, is a mean old motherfucker. And then this happened: I spoke with my ex girlfriend (as mentioned my most intimate friend) about it on skype, and she got angry on my behalf: Her tone of voice, her facial expression and words articulated the anger, and then – only then – did I feel it in my body. And only for maybe five or ten seconds, then the system calmed itself down again. My ex girlfriend noticed this. And we had a talk about my apparent lack of ability to feel emotions on my own. She suggested that I might be repressing my anger. That I am still not very good at recognizing my emotions. And I was not sure what to think.

Spiritual bypassing? Embodied metta?
So I have spent some days thinking and researching. Am I doing a form of spiritual bypassing? When I read about this concept, it seems to only half way fit my problem. During the research I reread some of shargrols posts from the compilation and came across this video which I saw. It made a huge impression on me. Martinez’ way of rethinking the four immeasurables really resonated with me: Feeling rather than just imagining the difficult person when you do metta. As he says: ”Get angry! And only then forgive and send love.” That really made sense to me. I have never really connected with the metta practice, and now I can see that I have stayed too much in my head, not embodying metta, as Martinez so brilliantly explains.

Another thing happend to me during the video. At the Q&A, a woman is asking a question about being betrayed, and she becomes overwhelmed with sadness and begins crying. Martinez then asks her: Do you want to be sad, or do you want to be angry? ”I want to be angry.” Okay, so what is he [her former husband who betrayed her]? ”He is,” the woman’s tone of voice changes remarkably, ”a motherfucker!” And exactly at that point, I got tears in my eyes and felt very moved: This woman (who like me with the inheritance issue got betrayed) got into contact with her anger, and it was obviously empowering her. And the thought came: Maybe I need to get into contact with my anger?

So to rephrase my question:
When I only feel like a whisper of bodily anger, even though I have good reasons to be angry (righteous anger, as Martinez calls it), is it then because A. I am only feeling the tip of a gigantic traumatic iceberg? Or is it B. because my mind through three and a half years of practice has made so much progress on the path of insight, that the whisper I feel is just a residue of my old way of reacting? In other words: Is it a problem or something to be grateful for? Should I try to dig into difficult emotions, for instance by doing some embodied metta practice a la Martinez? Or should I just continue my many months of practicing ”do nothing” and trust that the mind will lead me through what ever I need to be led through (as it has led me through a whole range of very different experiences these last 14 months in EQ)?

I can already hear shargrol asking: What is your own hunch? Well, my own hunch is to trust the mind and just continue my ”do nothing”. BUT! There is lots of doubt in the system (and thoughts about this has taken up a lot of space in my sittings these last days), so I am eager to hear what those of you who mananaged to get all the way to the end of this post might think?
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shargrol, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1577 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
"With the fact that I mostly experience emotions very lightly and fleetingly... Is this a sign of emotional immaturity or a sign of progress on the path of insight? This is my doubt in a nutshell."

My hunch is it is underdeveloped emotional maturity. The more emotionally grounded way of experiencing emotions is to feel things deeply but fleetingly. In this mode you get all of the information of the emotion, but there isn't wallowing in it. It's similar to having thoughts but not becoming obsessive. In healthy thinking you have the information of the thought, but there isn't wallowing in it.

"My father: ...constantly dissatisfied with me... My mother: ...emotionally absent. Emotions, especially anger, were very much taboo. "

This lack of nurturing is extremely unhealthy. Basically, if you were a normal emotional kid, you would lose access to the limited nurturing your parents were willing give. Not good.

So why this doubt?
1) I have been in the EQ-nana for 14 months now... 2) ... My father has managed, from beyond the grave, to fuck me over, stealing quite a lot of money that my mother – who died back in 2001 – wanted me to have in her will, but the money are now going to my father’s new wife/widow. 

My advice would be to learn to separate these two things.

If you look at your life, you can see how you have dealt with emotions by packaging them together with thoughts/strategies: 

In your childhood it was a strategy of "if you have no disruptive emotions then you get your parents acceptance" instead of allowing emotions to be what they were and learning to live with their natural dynamicism.

In your relationships it was "if I'm brave and calm, I get to experience her raw emotionality and be appreciated" so you got to experience emotions but, again, only through a strategy.

In the same way, I feel like combining 1 and 2 is another sort of attempt at packaging.  "if I get angry at your dad then I might get SE" or "if I do not get angry, I am keeping my EQ and might get SE".  I feel like you are binding yourself up again with how you are framing this.

Emotions don't need intellectual framing.

"So to rephrase my question: When I only feel like a whisper of bodily anger, even though I have good reasons to be angry (righteous anger, as Martinez calls it), is it then because A. I am only feeling the tip of a gigantic traumatic iceberg? Or is it B. because my mind through three and a half years of practice has made so much progress on the path of insight, that the whisper I feel is just a residue of my old way of reacting? "

No one knows, but it's probably something in between. Not necessarily a gigantic traumatic iceberg, but almost certainly a dead-spot in your heart/mind that would benefit from reviving.

There are probably a lot of emotions waiting to finally be felt... but again there is no pre-emptive strategy than needs to be adopted.

When emotions arise is when you interact with them. That's how emotions work best. emoticon So perhaps you can set the intention "if it will benefit myself and all other beings, may emotions arise so that they be fully experienced and give me useful information" or something like that.   


 
Emil Jensen, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 271 Join Date: 7/16/20 Recent Posts
 Hey Niels,

I read your long post!
And I'm glad I did, it's very interesting question you're asking here. I'm also glad that you're doing well these days! I felt moved by that whole background story and how it's gotten to look so nice at the moment emoticon

I can be very unfiltered and I don't know if the following sounds callace or rude??... But just know that this isn't my intention at all! But I just wanna spit out my thoughts here, in one big un-edited and un-sorted manner.

I think it's a good thing that you're not angry with that whole issue with inheritance. If you're really not angry, why should you be? Being angry doesn't really feel good and in this case it would add nothing of value (Although I like Shinzens description of anger being kind of like an emotional massage. I recognize that it can be, but propably not if it's anger in a steady-resentment kind of way which often would be the case in such a case...). It's obviously a really fucking stupid situation, but also it's kind of a whole new chapter, you know with your father being gone. Perhaps it's just a refreshing new chapter and you can just say fuck it to the inheritance and just kind of leave it to be stupid on its own...

About the emotional massage - I LOVE being angry! hah! Perhaps you should try to practice the anger a little bit, who knows? Not like..flip off strangers and get into fights ofc (unless you wanna have a brawl - i need a sparring partner), but just whenever it's there try to really focus on it and let it do whatever it wants.
I started loving being angry after I learned to put it down once the physical reaction was out of the system. You know, you can get angry and then hold a grudge (not so nice), or you can get angry and then just say "ahhhhh" after having released all that energetic buildup like it was a sneeze or a good yawn. It does take some practice tho, because getting angry is a little bit of a taboo, as you know, and a lot of us probably tend to mind our anger due to that.

We're also looking at potentially something that could be investigated in your practice here: The sense of confusion or lack of..something? - are you investigating that properly? Perhaps, if you looked closer, you'd see that the confusion was kind of gnawing at you?? Does it feel good? Bad? Neutral?

Thanks for the read, Niels. And thanks for allowing me to spit my thoughts out there, although they may not be worth much.

Best of all!
 
George S, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1909 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
My take Niels is that you are afraid of being angry at your father and are asking for permission.
George S, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1909 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
It almost feels like you might have transferred some of that anger/frustration onto SE - the immovable "object" blocking your way!
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Pepe, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 411 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Niels, I cannot speak from an acomplished meditative side, but from an experiental point of view, expressing repressed anger was a game changer in my adolescence, but eventually I run into (medical, psychological, social) trouble because of that. Bringing back joy to life was the key to regain health, peace and valuable human bonds. In your case, you can access meditative joy and social joy (as Covid has diminished in DK nowadays IIRC). Joining a sport group may both vent indirectly repressed anger and make bonds with new people. Just an idea, of course... In my case, it was social dancing: making peace with my goofy side, having fun while also learning the physical/mental/emotional dialogue that happens with each partner (in only a 5 minutes time-frame), making a new group of friends in my 30s, etc. So there's a lot to learn there while having fun too. 

Hope this helps bro!
Pepe
Tim Farrington, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 2470 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
hey, Niels, thank you for sharing this deep, thoughtful post. Your process is so interesting to me, as your practice has long been an inspiration.

I feel like putting a warning label on this, something along the lines of, I've been going through a particularly intense and prolonged spell of dark night and depression, my own peculiar double whammy of darkness paradigms, so anything I say should be considered with the crucial grain of salt. I'd hate for a subliminal evangelical vibe of misery loves company to leak through here, lol. I rely on the remarkable resilience of your equanimity, in that light.

That's the first thing that comes to mind here, actually. We talk about chronic dark night yogis, you were one for a good long time, but you are the first person I've encountered where it even occurred to me that you might be called a chronic equanimity yogi. Fourteen months of more or less consistent EQ sort of makes the relevance of pretty much every map a little less urgent, to say the least. And it's not been a static condition at all for you, there have been quiet and undramatic wonders happening recurrently all along the way, things that someone other than a deadpan Dane like yourself might have made a much bigger deal out of. Your equanimity, practiced unrelentingly, has ripened a lot of quiet fruit in your life, as you say in this post, in review. Whatever else is going on, this is not a dead end. It's dynamic, interesting, engaging, and fruitful. If none of us had ever heard of stages of insight, or maps, or multiple paths, or stream entry, we'd have to say that what your meditation practice is "doing," however quietly and mysteriously and without fanfare or much in the way of breakthrough phenomenology, is pretty damn good. There are whole schools of philosophy (Stoicism comes to mind first, of course) where what you're calling EQ is as good as they aspire to. And to anyone who is really experiencing the cluelessness and fathomless abyss of the dark night, the cluelessness and fathomless abyss of equanimity are the promised land, and the quiet of EQ, when it dawns in even its most remedial aspects, is the difference between the calm and the storm. Or the eye of the hurricane, lol, for chronic dark night yogis like me. But you've been at the eye of the hurricane, metaphorically, for so long that you've fixed a lot of the storm damage already. The eye of the hurricane is starting to look like a climate, not a weather event. You've had time to plant crops, and harvest, and replant. That's fucking weird, and it does seem to call for the occasional review such as this. You'd hate to somehow bypass the rest of the hurricane altogether and miss out on all the fun and glamor and drama of re-achieving peaceful survival, right?

Niels: I can already hear shargrol asking: What is your own hunch? Well, my own hunch is to trust the mind and just continue my ”do nothing”. BUT! There is lots of doubt in the system (and thoughts about this has taken up a lot of space in my sittings these last days) . . .

It would be crazy to say anything but go with your own hunch and trust the mind and just continue your "do nothing." In a way, it really is that simple: if it ain't broke, don't fix it, as we say in the American south. The doubts here are theoretical and speculative. This is not to deny the reality of suppressed anger and trauma as an invisible shaper of lives, nor the potency of ancient parental dynamics in the psyche. George S is of course a great example here of someone who recently, after a lot of meditation practice, found his way into the psychological deep mud of primal trauma and pervasive parental failures, in trying to finally unwind his syndromes. It was revelatory, and deeply visceral, and seeing him go through it was inspirational, you could really get it that this man had tapped into shit he needed to see and expereince, that he hung into the encounter, and that healing began in a way it never could have other than through that authentic visceral experiential immersion in all its overwhelmingness and even terror. But I think the timing of his revelation was also crucial, for what it's worth. He honestly came to feel the failure of his meditation practice to do anything about the compulsive misery-generation of his psychology. He did conclude that he had been spiritually bypassing this stuff, and faced it.

I don't hear the same note from you at this point. It is certainly possible to go a long way intellectually in exploring deep anger stuff, parental stuff; I once took a weeklong seminar on accessing the parental fuckups that have made us who we are, or something like that: a week of exercises and making lists and journaling and dredging. It had no effect really. It was only when my father had a stroke near the end of his life and I spent some weeks tending to him in rehab (he had broken his hip too), that I had the experiences I needed to really open the can of worms there. So I am a believer in the mystery of timing. There's no need to go looking for trouble, or trauma, they know where to find us, and will, if they're going to. You'll know it, when it's time to deal with that shit. You won't be any more ready to deal with it then than you are now, but you will have to, then. I don't see any other way to confront this stuff in its full force except when we have to, honestly: kicking and screaming in resistance all the way. You certainly shouldn't do it just to have the line item in your spiritual resume, because you "should." It's only a required element when you're backed into the corner you can't get out of without facing it. It ain't pretty. You'll feel as grateful to get through it as you are with any ordeal. But you can't deal with the dragon until the dragon shows up. And everybody meets different dragons. There are indeed people who seek the dragons out, spiritual professionals, as it were, dragon-slayers by trade. That's its own vocation, and they pay their own price.

That doesn't seem to be your path. Fourteen months of EQ is probably enough time for insane ambition and hubris to surface on its own. I think this current high tide of doubt is of that ilk, more or less: a species of ambition, a big abstract "should". Your own gut is telling you that. In equanimity you live with the most profound mortal mystery: peace, at the eye of the storm of samsara. You know how you got here, via the dark night of exposure to the storm's full effects and implications. To be at peace with that is a miracle, and the condition of that hard-won peace is the paradoxical dynamic acceptance of your ongoing practice of "do nothing." This question of striding forth to conquer anger, the abstract ambition to expose the whole of the hypothetical iceberg, in my take at least, seems like a big temptation to do something, to stir up a little heroic action. I'd say trust your own hunch here, as always, and keep doing your nothing.
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Smiling Stone, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 216 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Hey Niels, thanks for your beautiful post... I value your opening to your private life even more because I don't do it myself!
I wanted to pay a visit since your retreat but I said what I had to in the other thread (more or less -maybe using intention to move your attention around your body might be a welcome change from open awareness from time to time if you are feeling like you are on a plateau, because your subconscious might not want to go everywhere-).

I can definitely connect with your reflections on emotions, and I wanted to share a few more thoughts that will address this topic...
So let's give it a try:
There are several possible courses of action with anger/pain/whatnot...
- to indulge in it, and thus feeding the multiplication of what I interpret as "sankharas" (the feeling as reaction to an input) and which is already all pervasive in our experience (our experience is built on that).
- to (try to) eradicate it. For this there are several ways, but broadly, this is the path of meditation (ok, we don't 'try to eradicate it', we just observe it equanimously without trying anything... but in the end, don't we want to get rid of unwholesome contents?):
- repressing it. That's what we do with an unwanted thought or a pain at the beginning of a retreat (like, we try to ignore it but we're not that successful), and this results in burying it more or less deeply under the surface. There is a pressure cooker quality to the situation.
- ignoring it. That's what a mature concentration practice does, we are truly not attracted to what's happening outside our field of attention. It takes practice, but this may lead to eradication from our conscious experience (note 'conscious').
- investigating it. This is Vipassana. Through repeatedly witnessing the dissolution of the object, this leads to detachment and finally eradication of everything! It is said to bring a more thorough liberation (from the Self?), meaning there is more resolution involved in the process, but it's still not therapy. By the way, is therapy that efficient? What we project on meditation, does therapy achieve it? questions, questions...
(Of course, I oversimplify the dynamics of concentration and insight as they go hand in hand...)

You and I and countless others have witnessed that eradication works to a certain extent... but is eradication satisfying? My hunch is: well nope! Not if we want to keep on developing ourselves and becoming better human beings int his world... Not if we want anything else than total escape from the wheel of samsara!

Also, I want to take side here: with Tim, and against Shargrol and George S... To praise your path and practice and dedication, and not to point to your weaknesses (you do that very well yourself). There is no such think as perfection when it comes to emotions and everyone has shadows (even Ken Mc Leod, the main Shargrol reference these days. I was moved a few years ago by an account from a woman who fell in love with him, and some details she gave (nothing horrible, just the portrait of a man with more flaws than he admits). The lack of answer from Mr Mc Leod was also telling for me. Well, here it is... http://patriciaivanconnections.blogspot.com/2012/09/my-story.html)

So, what I want to point out is that there is no perfection in this world, regarding emotions or anything else... look close enough and you'll find movement, hence tension. That's why I don't find that helpful to state you have 'this' blindspot or 'that' unresolved issue... making you believe that you could some day (with the right practice) attain to some emotional perfection... evolving, growing, yes! arriving anywhere nonono...
Also, I suspect that what happens to us with emotions happens to others with their sense of self...

That was a bit of a rant...

About practice, I would be really interested in you expanding on your breathing patterns (long/short, deep/shallow etc.) on retreats, now but also around your psychotic episode... Did it go crazy a bit or did it stay subtle? how subtle? Was there restraint or hyperventilation? Feel free to ignore that, of course! I'm kind of looking for confirmations about some ideas I have on the matter, and I find the topic endlessly fascinating...

with metta, wishing you the best with your practice and with your life, and hoping you will get in touch with what escaped you so far...
smiling stone
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Niels Lyngsø, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 329 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
Dear fellow yogis!

​​​​​​​It's been around a month since I updated last. Lots of things have happened, both in my practice and outside practice. To mention just one thing, I feel a much stronger connection between practice and life than ever before. It's gonna be one of those long updates, so I will start off with a tl;dr-version and then dive in.


Tl;dr

After reading shargrol's wise answer to my last update, I had a minor crisis. Then within a week, several big things happened, and now I feel revitalized and with a renewed enthusiasm for both life and practice. I have spoken with a teacher and am currently in the process of a radical change of practice.


Response to last update

Thank you for all your comments. I am equally grateful for the ones that praise and encourage my practice, those that point out weak spots, and those that suggest alternative understandings. Tim's comment helped me feel more happy for where I am and what I have achieved so far on the path, "permanent EQ-yogi" is perhaps not the worst thing you could be. This was a nice balancing to the comment that struck me the hardest: shargrol's razor edge sharp analysis of my predicament, my conditioning – my emotional immaturity and my tendency to strategize around emotions (scroll up and read it, it's excellent).

My initial reading of shargrol's words turned out to actually demonstrate his point: I felt sad and shameful, miserable, discouraged, this lasted for 2-3 seconds, then the intellect came rushing in to "save me" from feeling emotions, blocking this initial reaction with lots of thoughts: "Oh, I feel sad because I identify with my conditioning and reify this emotional underdevelopment into me being a helplessly flawed person, and I feel shame because I project this unto shargrol and feel that he condemns me for being a flawed person, although that's not what he is doing, and if I write this in my response, he will see how clever I am and therefore like me again, oh, wait, I am projecting again, blah blah blah ..."

A couple of days later I was making breakfeast and coffee, listening to some cheerfull groovy music, and literally caught my self singing along and taking a few dance steps in the kitchen: A little impulse of joy, 2-3 seconds, immediately killed by reflection: "Wait a minute, I shouldn't be happy, I should be miserable because of my lousy emotional conditioning, so this joy must be a mistake ..." It wasn't, of course, but it was gone, killed by reflection. And since that, several times a day off-cushion I have observed something similar: an emotion starting to rise, starting to be felt in the body, and then verbal thought rushing in, analyzing, "protecting" me. I will try to keep observing this, as I suspect that loving (even cheerfull, playfull) observation of this pattern might help it loosen its grip on me.

One sentence in shargrol's answer has really stayed with me. It sums up the point about not strategizing in a kind of simple instruction that I feel have set me more free: "When emotions arise is when you interact with them. That's how emotions work best." – So I don't need to worry about it! It's not my responsibility. I just need to be mindful not to let thought bully emotion, or a least observe it when it happens.


Big life decision

Back in September last year, I decided that I would move to a little cottage in the Swedish forrests. Right now, I live on a farm in a village in Denmark, sourrounded by agriculture, but with a nice meadow, a strip of wood and a huge garden. I moved to this place back in January 2020 with my then girlfriend, and the decision to leave the place came shortly after she and I broke up. Somehow it was (supposed to be) our place, so it couldn't be my place, I would be living in the empty shell of a broken dream. And I felt I needed silence, isolation, loneliness in order to develop my practice further. BUT: Around a week after my last update, I suddenly changed my mind. I was talking with my therapist, still kind of sad and shameful for being such a flawed person, and we discussed my plan of moving to Sweden. She said: "Moving deep into the forrest seems like returning to the womb. Are you going up there to die?" This was a bit shocking to me. But even more shocking was the answer I then heard coming from my mouth: "No, I am not going up there to die, it's more like going up to my room." After which I literally said "shit" out loud, because I in a split second understood what had driven me to this plan, and in that same split second changed my mind: As I child, I would go up to my room to be safe from my father's anger. That was probably a good strategy at the time, but my father is dead now, I no longer need to isolate my self to stay safe. On the contrary, what I need is to connect more with people – which is kind of difficult out in the forrest. So, on the spot I decided to stay where I am: Outside of the city, somewhat close to nature, but not isolated. And the next days and weeks I sort of fell in love with this place again, saw how I had neglected it (never washed the windows since my girlfriend moved out, didn't weed the garden at all this spring, so it is truly a jungle now) in an undetected state of slight depression or indifference (uh! the near enemy of equanimity – I didn't see it before now). I saw how it could be my place, not just (a shell of) our place.


New teacher, new practice

In the same week as I made this huge decision, I also, due to a sudden impulse, got my self a teacher. As you know if you have been following my log, I have felt kind of stuck in the nana of Equanimity, and one afternoon, on some weird hunch, I went back to Kenneth Folk's website which I have visited several times when considering getting a teacher. Each and every time the site has announced that he does not take new students. The announcement was still there, but so was his e-mail address. And without giving it any further thought, I just wrote him eight lines, telling him that I have been stuck for 14 months in EQ pre-SE. Literally two minutes later, I got a one line answer: "I will speak with you." 

A couple of days later, we had a 25 minute talk. I told him briefly about my practice, and he asked some questions. I told him about my daily practice, and that I do home retreats now and then. "Tell me about your two latest retreats," he said. So I spent less than an minute telling about my New Year retreat with all the bodily bliss and joy and deep jhanic states, and less than a minute telling about my Spring retreat with the weid energy transporation experiences. Then he asked: "Do you do any tantric practices?" I hadn't mentioned those at all, but then told him about my semen retention and 15 minutes of bandha-excercises a day. "There's the smoking gun," he said. "You have awoken the energy. You need to work on that." And then he told me a little about the energy channels and the buddhist understanding of them, and he basically suggested that I drop my vipassana practice and switch to buddhist tantra. He recommended the book Introduction to Buddhist Tantra by Lama Yeshe and advised me to buy an audio book version of a specific translation of the Vimalakirti Sutra. And then he recommended that my practice from now on should simply consist in listening to this sutra again and again and again (it's quite long, five and a half hours listening time). Three to five hours a day – in one stretch. I was very confused. How could that be a practice? "So do I sit on the cushion?" "You can sit, if you like. Or stand or recline. Or take a bath or be in the garden. It doesn't matter. Just make sure you are undisturbed. There might come some weird sounds from you, and you might flip in to some yoga postures." "But what about Stream Entry?" I asked, "don't they have that in Tibetan buddhism?" "They don't care much about that. Perhaps it will happen somewhere along the way. Don't worry about it." I remembered that energy practices often on this forum are considered more advanced – something you do after Stream Entry. So I said: "I don't think I'm qualified. I don't think I can do it." "You are not doing anything. You don't meditate. The text will meditate you." And then he explained that the text was a "coded message for your energy system", that I didn't need to understand it, since it worked on a much deeper level than intellectual understanding. "Your bodymind will get it, don't worry about it. And just let the bodymind do whatever it does in the meantime." He made an analogy to self driving cars: "Take the back seat. Let the google car drive. Especially if it gets intense. If you are going through a hairpin bend at 80 miles per hour, you DON'T want to grab the wheel." A few minutes later, he ended the conversation by saying "Let me know how it goes."

After the conversation I felt mindblown. On the one hand, it sounded woo-woo and kind of crazy. I have never heard of a practice consisting of just listening to a sutra. And the idea of a coded text that would transmit some secret knowledge to my energy system sounded far out. But at the same time, I felt a weird, but strong confidence in Kenneth. He was very kind, his questions was to the point, and even though I only gave hime very little information, I got a clear impression that he understood me and my practice on quite a deep level. Kind of like an experienced doctor who has seen thousands of patients and don't need that many pointers to give a diagnosis and a treatment.

For instance, I think he saw my striving, even though that word was not mentioned, and then gave me practice instructions that make it very hard for me to strive, since there is no perfection in practice to strive for: Sit, stand, walk, whatever. It doesn't matter what I do. It doesn't even matter if I don't understand the text. I can't do anything wrong. But I also can't do anything right, let alone perfect. Because I am not doing it.

So I intend to follow Kenneth Folk's advice. At least for three months, as an experiment. And then evaluate. I have bought and studied the book on buddhist tantra. And I am working my way through this excellent ressource by the Michaels Taft & Owens: 24 hours of lectures and guided meditations around Vimalakirti Sutra. And in a week or so I will switch to this new practice.

Oh, one more thing: "What about my sitting practice?" I asked. "I have been sitting consistently at least two hours a day the last 3,5 years!" "You can keep sitting, if you like," he said. "We don't want to do anything traumatic to you." So right now I am in the process of planning my daily practice and considering if I – on top of three hours of "listening to sutra-practice" – should do a little regular sitting, for instance before bedtime.


From arhat as ideal to bodhisattva as ideal

I have been reading a bit about mahayana buddhism, which until recently has been almost unknown to me. And now I see my decision not to isolate my self in Sweden as somehow strangely in harmony with this shift in practice, going from the theravada ideal of personal awakening to the mahayana ideal of the bodhisattva. Strangely enough, the universe has cooperated this shift: Within the last month I have gotten into much more intimate relationships with my ex-wifes (yes, plural, I have three of them!). They have each there own life crisis and have chosen these weeks to turn to me as an intimate friend who knows them. And I feel much much closer to all of them than I have ever been before. Also in other relationships, there seem to be more intimacy these last weeks. And I haven't even fully switched practice yet.

So, what about the EQ nana and Stream Entry? you might ask. Well, I still want to wake up. So the goal is the same. The motivation has changed as to emphasize even more that it is "for the benefit of all sentient beings". I don't want to leave the Progress of Insight behind. Rather, I hope to combine these things somehow. Maybe return to more regular vipassana at a later point. But in this moment, it feels right to try out this new practice – a text and energy practice, really weird, never heard about it before – and see how it goes.

Thoughts and comments are very welcome.

[Edited for typos and a little clarification]
Sam Gentile, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1289 Join Date: 5/4/20 Recent Posts
Niels Lyngsø
Dear fellow yogis!

​​​​​​​It's been around a month since I updated last. Lots of things have happened, both in my practice and outside practice. To mention just one thing, I feel a much stronger connection between practice and life than ever before. It's gonna be one of those long updates, so I will start off with a tl;dr-version and then dive in.


Niels, it feels like I haven't heard from you in forever - so good to hear from you! I'm so glad that you feel a a stronger connection between practice and life. While you were away, I obtainted SE although I'm back in the Dukkha Nanas nw.

Tl;dr

After reading shargrol's wise answer to my last update, I had a minor crisis. Then within a week several big things happened, and now I feel revitalized and with a renewed enthusiasm for both life and practice. I have spoken with a teacher and am currently in the process of a radical change of practice.

YES!
Response to last update

Thank you for all your comments. I am equally grateful for the ones that praise and encourage my practice, those that point out weak spots, and those that suggest alternative understandings. Tim's comment helped me feel more happy for where I am and what I have achieved so far on the path, "permanent eq-yogi" is perhaps not the worst thing you could be. This was a nice balancing to the comment that struck me the hardest: shargrol's razor edge sharp analysis of my predicament, my conditioning – my emotionally immaturity and my tendency to strategize around emotions (scroll up and read it, it's excellent).

My initial reading of shargrol's words turned out to actually demonstrate his point: I felt sad and shameful, miserable, discouraged, this lasted for 2-3 seconds, then the intellect came rushing in to "save me" from feeling emotions, blocking this initial reaction with lots of thoughts: "Oh, I feel sad because I identify with my conditioning and reify this emotional underdevelopment into me being a helplessly flawed person, and I feel shame because I project this unto shargrol and feel that he condemns me for being a flawed person, although that's not what he is doing, and if I write this in my response, he will see how clever I am and therefore like me again, oh, wait, I am projecting again, blah blah blah ..."

I'm so glad that the  wise Shargol helped you see this. Big breakthru

A couple of days later I was making breakfeast and coffee, listening to some cheerfull groovy music, and literally caught my self singing along and taking a few dance steps in the kitchen: A little impulse of joy, 2-3 seconds, immediately killed by reflection: "Wait a minute, I shouldn't be happy, I should be miserable because of my lousy emotional conditioning, so this joy must be a mistake ..." It wasn't, of course, but it was gone, killed by reflection. And since that, several times a day off-cushion I have observed something similar: an emotion starting to rise, starting to be felt in the body, and then verbal thought rushing in, analyzing, "protecting" me. I will try to keep observing this, as I suspect that loving (even cheerfull, playfull) observation of this pattern might help it loosen its grip on me.

Yes! Yo've got it! Joy! Bask in it!

One sentence in shargrol's answer has really stayed with me. It sums up the point about not strategizing in a kind of simple instruction that I feel have set me more free: "When emotions arise is when you interact with them. That's how emotions work best." – So I don't need to worry about it! It's not my responsibility. I just need to be mindful not to let thought bully emotion, or a least observe it when it happens.


Big life decision

Back in September last year, I decided that I would move to a little cottage in the Swedish forrests. Right now, I live on a farm in a village in Denmark, sourrounded by agriculture, but with a nice meadow, a strip of wood and a huge garden. I moved to this place back in January 2020 with my then girlfriend, and the decision to leave the place came shortly after she and I broke up. Somehow it was (supposed to be) our place, so it couldn't be my place, I would be living in the empty shell of a broken dream. And I felt I needed silence, isolation, loneliness in order to develop my practice further. BUT: Around a week after my last update, I suddenly changed my mind. I was talking with my therapist, still kind of sad and shameful for being such a flawed person, and we discussed my plan of moving to Sweden. She said: "Moving deep into the forrest seems like returning to the womb. Are you going up there to die?" This was a bit shocking to me. But even more shocking was the answer I then heard coming from my mouth: "No, I am not going up there to die, it's more like going up to my room." After which I literally said "shit" out loud, because I in a split second understood what had driven me to this plan, and in that same split second changed my mind: As I child, I would go up to my room to be safe from my father's anger. That was probably a good strategy at the time, but my father is dead now, I no longer need to isolate my self to stay safe. On the contrary, what I need is to connect more with people – which is kind of difficult out in the forrest. So I decided to stay where I am: Outside of the city, somewhat close to nature, but not isolated. And the next days and weeks I sort of fell in love with this place again, saw how I had neglected it (never washed the windows since my girlfriend moved out, didn't weed the garden at all this spring, so it is truly a jungle now) in an undetected state of slight depression or indifference (uh! the near enemy of equanimity – I didn't see it before now). I saw how it could be my place, not (a shell of) our place.

Wow, what an abrubt change! It;s like moving off to a cave..

New teacher, new practice

In the same week as I made this huge decision, I also, due to a sudden impulse, got my self a teacher. As you know if you have been following my log, I have felt kind of stuck in the nana of Equanimity, and one afternoon, on some weird hunch, I went back to Kenneth Folk's website which I have visited several times when considering getting a teacher. Each and every time the site has announced that he does not take new students. The announcement was still there, but so was his e-mail address. And without giving it any further thought, I just wrote him eight lines, telling him that I have been stuck for 14 months in EQ pre-SE. Literally two minutes later, I got a one line answer: "I will speak with you." 


Well, I am so happy you chose Kenneth. When we were talking about Abre, I hoped you would choose one or the other. Kenneth was one of Abre's teachers and they're very close today.

A couple of days later, we had a 25 minute talk. I told him briefly about my practice, and he asked some questions. I told him about my daily practice, and that I do home retreats now and then. "Tell me about your two latest retreats," he said. So I spent less than an minute telling about my New Year retreat with all the bodily bliss and joy and deep jhanic states, and less than a minute telling about my Spring retreat with the weid energy transporation experiences. Then he asked: "Do you do any tantric practices?" I hadn't mentioned those at all, but then told him about my semen retention and 15 minutes of bhanda-excercises a day. "There's the smoking gun," he said. "You have awoken the energy. You need to work on that." And then he told me a littel about the energy channels and the buddhist understanding of them, and he basically suggested that I drop my vipassana practice and switch to buddhist tantra. He recommended the book Introduction to Buddhist Tantra by Lama Yeshe and advised me to buy and audio book version of a specific translation of the Vimalakirti Sutra. And then he recommended that my practice from now on should simply consist in listening to this sutra again and againg and again (it's quit long, five and a half hours listening time). Three to five hours a day – in one stretch. I was very confused. How could that be a practice? "So do I sit on the cushion?" "You can sit, if you like. Or stand or recline, or take a bath. It doesn't matter. Just make sure you are undisturbed. There might come some weird sounds from you, and you might flip in to some yoga postures." "But what about Stream Entry?" I asked, "don't they have that in Tibetan buddhism?" "They don't care much about that. Perhaps it will happen somewhere along the way. Don't worry about it." I remembered that energy practices often on this forum are considered more advanced – something you do after Stream Entry. So I said: "I don't think I'm qualified. I don't think I can do it." "You are not doing anything. You don't meditate. The text will meditate you." And then he explained that the text was a "coded message for your energy system", that I didn't need to understand it, since it worked on a much deeper level than intellectual understanding. "Your bodymind will get it, don't worry about it. And just let the bodymind do whatever it does in the meantime." He made an analogy to self driving cars: "Take the back seat. Let the google car drive. Especially if it gets intense. If you are going through a hairpin bend at 80 miles per hour, you DON'T want to grab the wheel." A few minutes later, he ended the conversation by saying "Let me know how it goes."

Very interesting. Above my pay grade as Tantra is differemt than the Dzogchen I'm studying but what a clever approach


After the conversation I felt mindblown. On the one hand, it sounded woo-woo and kind of crazy. I have never heard of a practice consisting of just listening to a sutra. And the idea of a coded text that would transmit some secret knowledge to my energy system sounded far out. But at the same time, I felt a weird, but strong confidence in Kenneth. He was very kind, his questions was to the point, and even though I only gave hime very little information, I had a feeling that he understood me and my practice on quite a deep level. Kind of like an experienced doctor who has seen thousands of patients and don't need that many pointers to give a diagnosis and a treatment.

I think he saw my striving, even though that word was not mentioned. And then he gave me practice instructions that make it very hard for me to strive, since there is no perfection in practice to strive for: Sit, stand, walk, whatever. It doesn't matter what I do. It doesn't even matter if I don't understand the text. I can't do anything wrong. But I also can't do it perfect. Because I am not doing it.

So I intend to follow Kenneth Folk's advice. At least for three months, as an experiment. And then evaluate. I have bought and studied the book on buddhist tantra. And I am working my way through this excellent ressource by the Michaels Taft & Owens: 24 hours of lectures and guided meditations around Vimalakirti Sutra. And in a week or so I will switch to this new practice.

Oh, one more thing: "What about my sitting practice?" I asked. "I have been sitting consistently at least two hours a day the last 3,5 years!" "You can keep sitting, if you like," he said. "We don't want to do anything traumatic to you." So right now I am in the process of planning my daily practice and considering if I – on top of three hours of "listening to sutra-practice" – should do a little regular sitting, for instance before bedtime.


From arhat as ideal to bodhisattva as ideal

I have been reading a bit about mahayana buddhism, which until recently has been almost unknown to me. And now I see my decision not to isolate my self in Sweden as somehow strangely in harmony with this shift in practice, going from the theravada ideal of personal awakening to the mahayana ideal of the bodhisattva. Strangely enough, the universe has cooperated this shift: Within the last month I have gotten into much more intimate relationships with my ex-wifes (yes, plural). They have each there own life crisis and have chosen these weeks to turn to me as an intimate friend who knows them. And I feel much much closer to all of them than I have ever been before. Also in other relationships, there seem to be more intimacy these last weeks. And I haven't even fully switched practice yet.

So, what about the EQ nana and Stream Entry? you might ask. Well, I still want to wake up. So the goal is the same. The motivation has changed as to emphasize even more that it is "for the benefit of all sentient beings". I don't want to leave the Progress of Insight behind. Rather, I hope to combine these things somehow. Maybe return to more regular vipassana at a later point. But in this moment, it feels right to try out this new practice – a text and energy practice, really weird, never heard about it before – and see how it goes.

Thoughts and comments are very welcome.
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Pepe ·, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 411 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Three ex-wifes! You do believe in love emoticon I never felt much attracted to Mahayana's teachings, actually felt that they were more interested in siddhis and perceptual enhancements despite their bodhisattva speech. But that began to change when I learned more about some specific practices, like Tonglen.  

Just for fun, I tried hearing the Vimalakirti Sutra while working and in the first minutes of the sit, trying to visualize not specific images but big pictures/landscapes. That triggered A&P energy! Perhaps I was just scripting myself. But the effect did happen. I guess it helped that I was on cushion, at the usual timeframe. There's some momentum in the body/mind: whenever I try to change the hour of practice or add a second sit, the body/mind needs some consecutive days to adjust. Funny that with SE, adherence to (most of inner-outer) rituals should vanish, yet sitting in the same place at the same time every day works better than a random practice. So this tantra attuning shouldn't be dismissed as a practice. 
 
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Niels Lyngsø, modified 1 Hour ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 329 Join Date: 11/15/19 Recent Posts
Time for an update!

I have dropped the Vimalakirti practice, and Kenneth Folk is no longer my teacher (cf. my post above).

Here’s what happened: For a month I kept up the practice Kenneth Folk had suggested, sitting three hours a day listening to the Vimalakirti sutra. After a few days I had a feeling that nothing much was happening. The practice was supposed to ”recalibrate” my energy system (that has been quite active for some months), but my experience of energy did not change. I kept at it, though, as the disciplined yogi I am. Maybe I just needed to be patient. After around three weeks, still nothing happening, no changes at all in the experience of energy or anything else, for that matter, and still dissatisfaction with practice. I noticed that I more and more tended to just do my regular Open Awareness practice, ignoring the text in my ears, or reducing it to just one random object among others. So I decided it was time for another talk with my teacher. Until then we had had one audio talk and exchanged some e-mails.  Now, I wrote him a short e-mail, telling him that nothing much was happening with the practice and requesting a new talk. He did not answer. One week went by. In the mean time I dropped the Vimalakirti practice entirely and returned to my regular practice. I then sent Kenneth Folk another e-mail, kindly reminding him of the last e-mail. No answer. I thought maybe he was off-line (on retreat, vacation, whatever). Maybe fallen ill. I then checked his Twitter. He seemed to be online and thriving. Another week past and I still didn’t get any answer. And so I gave up and let him know that I regarded our teacher-student relationship as ended.

It is of course totally okay that Kenneth Folk wants to stop being my teacher, he doesn’t even have to explain why, he could have just written me one line saying so. I trusted him. I felt he let me down. So there has been some disappointment and anger in my system.

The experience made me reflect. One of the issues that I am struggling with is that I feel it is difficult to surrender, to let go of control. I wish to do it, but I don’t know how to. I have considered getting a teacher for a very long time, but have always hesitated. It is part of my self narrative that I am very independent and do things my own way (that’s why I like Dharma Overground and the pragmatic approach so much). When I finally decided to find a teacher, I explained it to myself as an attempt to question that self narrative, and when Kenneth Folk suggested this practice to me, I decided that even though it seemed quite foreign and even a little crazy to me, I would … surrender to it. Because perhaps Kenneth Folk knew something I didn’t. Perhaps he saw something in my practice and my conditioning that I didn’t see my self. And if I followed his lead, something might happen that I could not have achieved on my own. That’s what teachers are for, right? But now I see that this was NOT surrendering. It was – once again, argh! – overruling my own intuition, my own feeling, my own instinct, in the hope that I would make progress. In other words it was – once again, argh! – strategizing. Trying to figure it out.

Because when I think back, I had a sceptical feeling about this strange practice all along. Just didn’t listen to that feeling. Kenneth Folk also told me that he was himself doing the exact same practice these days, and since he is much, much more advanced on the path than I am, perhaps I should have questioned whether that practice would be suitable for me, being a total newbie in comparison.

Anyway, it has been a good lesson. No harm done. I have gotten another reminder not to overrule my intuition, not to strivingly strategize. A reminder to own my practice, as shargrol often says, and which is very much in line with my way of thinking. And I have learned that surrendering is NOT the same as overruling my own intuition.

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So after this little crisis, I am back with my Do Nothing aka Open Awareness practice, even throwing in some Self Inquiry, inspired by Angelo Dilullo’s teachings. Sitting four hours a day, I have re-found enthusiasm for my practice. Which is, by the way, going well. I’ll write about that in a later update.

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