Niels's practice log # 3

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Niels Lyngsø, modified 14 Days ago.

Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 313 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?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Thank you for reading this long report. As always, comments and questions are very welcome.
George S, modified 15 Days ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1505 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 16 Days ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 997 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 15 Days ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 327 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 15 Days ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 260 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 15 Days ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 2437 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 15 Days ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1529 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 15 Days ago.

RE: Niels's practice log # 3

Posts: 1505 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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