RE: Swag's practice log (and other stuff too I guess)

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Swag Axe, modified 3 Days ago.

Swag's practice log (and other stuff too I guess)

Post: 1 Join Date: 4/6/21 Recent Posts
Hi everyone, I'm pretty new to this forum. I'm relatively active on /r/streamentry whose discussion and diversity of practices I enjoy a lot and have been lurking around here for quite some time. While I was initially largely skeptical of the whole awakening project, I've had quite a few interesting experiences and the movement of my own path despite whatever overt thoughts might arise pooh-poohing it, the way I practice tends in this direction. I'll try and give a description of my history, my meditation progress below, describe my practice as it stands right now, what my future goals are etc. FWIW, I'm 29 years old now.

Pre-2018

Grew up in a very traditional in some ways, non-traditional in others south asian family. Had a really difficult childhood, physical abuse, bullying etc. which lead to me developing a lot of really poor coping mechanisms, a twisted moral compass, self-resentment and a deep depression and addiction issues that lead to me frequently contemplating suicide. Through some luck and good fortune, it turned around around this time. I have a great support network that I'm not often grateful enough for emoticon. I was engaged in a PhD at the time and was (in my eyes at least, maybe not my peers but who knows) very close to failing out. 

2018 

Had a bit of a love affair with psychedelics after discovering them, got a lot of value out of the good times and the bad, but a couple of negative experiences really turned me off from using them too regularly. Be careful folks, not always fun and games with these guys! I had some really profound "oneness" type of experiences that in a meandering way encouraged me to take up practice

2019 - 2020

I'll probably put this in bullet form since this is where I started practicing meditation more seriously. I haven't really been on a retreat except for some self-guided ones that I've done using talks on dharmaseed.

  1. Graduated with my PhD, and around this time I picked up TMI and started practicing diligently using this framework. Went up to Stage 4/5 relatively quickly (within a few months) and stagnated there. I was probably practicing 1 - 2 hours/day at this point
  2. First few months had me go through lots of weird experiences where various parts of my body felt like they were different sizes, like I was constantly spinning around, nausea during meditation
  3. Had one really kind of blow-out experience where I felt this oppressive feeling come on and suddenly disappear followed by a blinding white light, an intense existential fear and lots of piti. This was almost 1.5 years ago from the present day (4/6/2021) so my description is a condensed version of what I posted on reddit. It's so long ago that my memory of it is a bit fuzzy but thankfully I logged a pretty detailed account on reddit.
  4. Kept practicing with TMI, although I don't really remember progressing all that much past Stage 5. I remember sits being really uncomfortable and tight for about 6 months from early to mid-2020. I also started psychotherapy to start addressing all the childhood crap so I could figure out how to not pass it on to my kids
  5. Took up forgiveness/metta meditation for a couple of months mid-2020. Emotions started really showing up around this time, cried a few times off-cushion, in my car, while running etc. Felt good and cathartic. Despite all the shitty feelings I had for most of my early adulthood, I barely ever remember crying. I probably cried more in the last year than I have in the decade before it.
  6. Ran into some of Rob Burbea's work, picked up Seeing that Frees, and really took it up doing mostly Metta or Samadhi style of practices. Sits were anywhere from 30 minutes - 2 hours/day. Pretty variable depending on what phase of practice I was in.
  7. Also encountered some of Reggie Ray's work and started doing some of his practices for a little while (mainly 10-points and earth descent)
  8. In ~8 months - 1 year after the event described in point 4, my practice/emotional life felt like it was constantly cycling where I would be really anxious and fearful for some time, I would have some kind of insight (all of them were into personal psychological issues for the most part) and feel really happy again until the cycle started over again
2021
  1. Kept up with Rob Burbea's samadhi/metta practices and decided to orient myself to attaining first jhana. My early explorations with psychedelics made the jhanas very interesting and attractive states to me as meditative attainments to pursue
  2. Became more interested in the awakening project, picked up MCTB and read a little bit of it and signed up for my first guided retreat (end of April of this year)
  3. Did a personal Jhana retreat using Rob Burbea's retreat talks with the intention of building samadhi rather than attaining Jhana. Got into the first jhana, really fun and exciting place to explore. Had some really awesome experiences trasmuting negative vedana through whatever malleability was cultivated into jhana. 
My practice as it stands, what I want from it now & the directions I want to take it 
  1. If it wasn't particularly clear from reading my above posts, my practice has, for the most part, been in the direction of cultivating concentration. Right now it's more in the direction of Rob Burbea's energy body work using metta and the breath. I've done very few explicit insight practices and most of my insight practices are usually done within a samadhi context (where the explicit intention of the sit is cultivate samadhi). 
  2. I really love Rob's teachings on emptiness, they tickle my intellectual/conceptual bones just right and I also love his approach to samadhi. At present I'm at a bit of a cross-roads - I really want to pursue attaining stream-entry, but Rob's style of approaching insight practice is much more open-ended than say Mahasi or Shinzen's noting. The practice maps seem like a helpful way to orient myself but the few times I tried noting, I didn't really enjoy it, but I did really enjoy Rob's "ways of looking" practices where one of the 3Cs is used as a lens with which to hold phenomena that appear in the mind.
  3. I've signed up for an insight meditation retreat at the end of this month and will practice as intensely as I can during this time to figure out what my path forward is going to be. My hope is to do a mix of both concentration and insight style practices but with limited time off-retreat in lay life, choices will probably have to be made as to what's most beneficial. While there's the over-arching goal of attaining stream-entry, there's also the more at-home goal of practicing as best I can to function in a kind and loving way. My hope is to transition into a mix of metta and insight practices since these seem like the best way I can get the right mix of moving towards the goal of stream-entry as engaging with life in a kind and caring manner.​​​​​​​
I don't really know where I am on the practice map outlined in MCTB, but at present I'm not even sure if it's really that important. I'll probably re-evaluate and look for some guidance, either through engaging on the forum or by reading MCTB once my retreat itself is over. I don't have any expectations for my retreat except for hopefully giving me some sort of orientation for which direction to take my practice in the near term.

Thanks to anyone who bothered reading all of this, it was a pretty fun personal exercise. If anyone's got some helpful comments or just want to talk, I'm happy to engage emoticon
George S, modified 3 Days ago.

RE: Swag's practice log (and other stuff too I guess)

Posts: 1480 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Hi Swag!

It looks like you have dealt with some knotty issues very skillfully and have a solid foundation of practice in place. I don't have any specific suggestions, just wanted to say hi and looking forward to following your practice!

All the best
George
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Pepe, modified 3 Days ago.

RE: Swag's practice log (and other stuff too I guess)

Posts: 325 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hi Swag,

Welcome to DhO! I don't have any  specific suggestions either, but I can point you some posts from Shargrol (you probably know him already in /r/streamentry) and Daniel on the topic, food for thought:

Shargrol

Alternating Samatha and Dzogchen
Balancing TMI and MCTB approaches
Every yogi should have multiple techniques in their toolbox if they wish to attain Stream Entry

Daniel Ingram

Pros and Cons of goal-oriented and non goal-oriented traditions
Vajrayana and Theravadan perspectives can work nicely together, with some caveats though 
When it’s time for Vipassana, when it’s time for Dzogchen
- Also check:  7 Factors of Awakening - Daniel Ingram's framework (a 1-page summary I made of MCTB2)

Hope this helps!
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