Martin's Log 2

Martin, modified 3 Months ago.

Martin's Log 2

Posts: 294 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Sam helpfully pointed out that the last log (https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/22024623) was getting a bit long (thanks, Sam!), so I am starting a new one. Here is an update on what has been going on:

Not much.

1h 1-4 + 3C daily

There has been a real sameness. Sometimes it's longer than an hour, but recently I have actually been getting slightly restless by the end, which I haven't experienced in a very long time. The jhanas are well-formed, the post-jhana (or semi-fourth) observation is mostly spent trying to notice which of the sensations get interpreted as self, and what is it about the ones that do not that sets them apart. For example, thoughts sometimes come up and sometimes seem to be me, and sometimes do not. Or bodily sensations come up, such as pain in the knee, which seems like self about 40% of the time, while a rumbling stomach never seems like self. I try to work out what specific component-sensations point to self or not-self. Half the time this morphs into observation of impermanence or dukkha. On the impermanence side, I will be struck by either the arising or the passing (usually not both) of the sensations I am noticing. On the dukkha side, the dukkha nature of craving or aversion comes up, and I try to work out what sensations those things are actually made up of. Overall, the experience is akin to being posted as a lookout on a dark night, it's very engaging. 

Off-cushion, I am enjoying the low-hanging fruit. Not clinging to stuff is more comfortable than clinging to stuff. Also, since the illusory nature of self and the integrated nature of the world is intellectually obvious (in the way that it is intellectually, but not intuitively, obvious that the earth rotates and the sun stays still, rather than the sun orbiting the earth) returning to that mode of seeing the world is fairly easy and much more relaxing than seeing it as a bunch of ghosts, each driving a separate machine. Glitches in the perceptual stream (freeze-frames, tears, etc.) are common at the moment, but nothing long or dramatic happens. 
Martin, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Martin's Log 2

Posts: 294 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
April 25

  • 1hr 1-4
  • On the weak side.
  • In the car, stopped at a light, after the sit, I was thinking about samsara and how it was inescapable and how the people had seen this a permanently inescapable, and at that the surroundings went into a rapid strobe. It was kind of like the world was coming apart at the seams. It went away when the light changed. Later, running, it occurred to me that my own escaping of samsara would not stop samsara because the rest of the world would still be caught up in it, and as no self exists in the first place, there is no difference between me being caught by it and me being free of it. That's kind of relaxing. 
  • Knowing that no self exists, or in any case, that this sense of sense will not exist a few seconds from now, makes it easier not to stress over changes. In college I wondered, who do I owe loyalty to, the guy who decided not to drink beer and play darts this morning, or the guy in the afternoon, who wants to drink and play. The answer is neither. They are both freshly sprung from their surroundings, not willed or created by any agent, any more than a cloud or a rock. 
  • Here is an interesting question: when is a plant born?
April 26

  • 1h4m 1-4 
  • Very well-formed. Had a very solid matter-of-fact focus on the breath, which I kept until the 15-minute bell, then switched to first, which was silent.
  • Played a game of "self or not-self" with sensations. First, I noticed that thoughts about the future, are accompanied by a sense of self. Verbal "thought" that has an interlocutor results in the other (non-interlocutor party) being self, whereas words that do not have an interlocutor are not-self. Pain tends to be self on first arising but not on repetitive iterations. Sensations that locate the body or a part of the body in space have co-arising self. The same is true of thoughts about the future, even just a minute into the future. Time, I guess, is selfy. Self is, among other things, a side effect of the experience of other, which is to say, that which is not here and now. 
  • One thing I should comment on is that, for the past several weeks, my heat at the heart is a bit stronger than usual. I really don't know what to make of my heat, it's like a little regular reminder that the world is arbitrary and does not conform to the rules. 
April 27
  • 1h6m 1-4
  • Kind of a weird one. 
  • 1-4 went fine, though 1-3 were quite fast and 4 took some settling in.
  • In the hanging out phase, almost all the time was spent in thoughtless awareness of imagey stuff. There were quite a few places (scenes), a lot really, but not much connected by any theme, other than farm themes being over-represented as usual, but there were quite a few detailed, color, 3D close-ups, none of which had any significance. One, I remember, was a metal part painted yellow, like a cover of some sort. There were also some bright lights and dissolving and stuff, but that was not the predominant theme, it was more like being in a planetarium playing random bits of film, none of them more than a minute long. 
  • During all this, a sense of self was absent more than 90% of the time, probably 99%. And each time that a sense of self formed, there was, co-arising with it, though not simultaneously, a sense of personhood, to which the self belonged and, in none of the cases was that Martin. I'd guess I was about 15 or 20 different people, most of who were men, but there were a few women in there. All of the stints were very brief. Something would arise among the other things, and that object, for no reason that could be discerned, would be seen in relation to a self, and when I looked at the sensation of self, there would be a voice or just a felt persona, or both, which I could recognize as a completely unknown stranger, and then it would fade and things would be back to there just being objects without any self among them. 
  •  It's weird. I just watched Steve the Guru Viking's being interviewed by Dan Dotty and heard him list off the causes of self that I bumped into yesterday. It's an excellent talk, btw, especially:
    • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​12:00​ - Unravelling and thinning out 
      15:12​ -Steve’s practice approach 
      19:00​ - Service and attention
      22:38​ - Being in shape 
    • and 43:48​ - Men, helping, and society
Martin, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Martin's Log 2

Posts: 294 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
April 28
  • 1h 1-4 Automatic. Weak. 
  • Yuck. Dukkha. It's like reaching into a packet of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans ("Alas! Ear wax!"). I have to ask why it sucks so much when it cannot even be pointed to, except in the most general way (that, right over there). Is there self when there is dukkha? I guess, probably, but it's hard to see something subtle like self when something obvious like dukkha is presenting. 
  • I did notice, separately, that possession produces self. Near the end, I wondered how much time was left, and I had a very strong sense that there was five minutes left, and so I felt I knew, with substantial certainty, that there was five minutes left. And there was a very strong sense of that knowledge being possessed by me. I then looked to see if I felt the same about possessing pain, and saw that there was indeed a sense of self that came up when I framed the pain as possessed. 
  • It's funny, often, off-cushion, I think of the sense of self as just a silly and avoidable misconception. And it is, sometimes. If I think about myself, especially in narrative terms, or think about another person or anything else, in relation to myself, that's going to make self. And it can be dropped. But when I sit, I notice how the felt sense of it arises again and again, from so many conditions. That felt sense will fade, of course, and is probably discontinuous even on the nano-scale, if examined with enough temporal resolution, but it cannot just be dropped, in the way that though-based fabrications can. 
George S, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Martin's Log 2

Posts: 1873 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
 Maybe the problem is the assumption that the felt sense of self needs to be dropped!

In the car, stopped at a light, after the sit, I was thinking about samsara and how it was inescapable and how the people had seen this a permanently inescapable, and at that the surroundings went into a rapid strobe. It was kind of like the world was coming apart at the seams. It went away when the light changed. Later, running, it occurred to me that my own escaping of samsara would not stop samsara because the rest of the world would still be caught up in it, and as no self exists in the first place, there is no difference between me being caught by it and me being free of it. That's kind of relaxing. 

This is like the riddle ‘samsara is nibbana’. One way to look at it is - samsara is caused by the belief that the present moment is not good enough, or the desire to be in a better state than the one you are currently in. But nibbana is the relinquishment of craving, so it can’t be a different state which you want to be in! So the question becomes - what prevents you from seeing that you are already in nibbana? Is it anything more than the desire to be in a different state from the one in which you currently find yourself? 
Martin, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Martin's Log 2

Posts: 294 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Yes, that makes sense.

I see two ways of looking at what you are saying: one is that you are pointing to radical acceptance and the other is that you are rephrasing the third noble truth. The former would be part of what I internally refer to as the low-hanging fruit: a deliberate cognitive reframing of perception with concurrent redirecting of mental activities. It's great but limited. For example, yesterday I was actually of the opinion that it was impossible for me to be stressed: cut me in half with a two-handled saw and it would not bother me. Today, I had fear, stress, disdain, dislike, etc., all day. I will mention that, objectively speaking, in material terms, I had more reasons to be content today than yesterday. And no unpleasant thing happened. This is where the low-hanging fruit is not enough. I can't just opt to relinquish foundational craving. This is the dukkha nature of being alive. We are designed by natural selection to suffer, to be unsatisfied, to be worried, etc., at least some of the time (aka 1st NT). Which brings us to the third noble truth way of understanding what you are saying. I'm working on that :-) 
George S, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Martin's Log 2

Posts: 1873 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Deep down we have this fantasy that enlightenment will mean no more bad days, but it’s that fantasy which keeps us perpetually dissatisfied looking for a solution we will never find. Calling radical acceptance low-hanging fruit makes it sound like it should be easy to pick, but evolution designed us to keep looking higher up in the tree for something tastier looking!

​​​​​​​Relinquishing foundational craving overnight does sound like an impossible task. Craving still arises, but if you see it and accept it for what it is then it’s much less of a problem - ‘oh hello craving my old friend, what do you want today?' It’s like the kid in the toy store who is throwing a fit because you won’t buy them the toy they’ve just seen. You know that in five minutes they will have forgotten all about it and be fine again.

This might all sound a bit wishy-washy, but there’s a big difference between agreeing with the words (‘yeah, but ...’) and what happens in your brain when it actually accepts them and relinquishes that foundational craving for a moment. I mean what was that experience at the lights when you were thinking about how samsara is inescapable and the world started coming apart at the seams?!
Martin, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Martin's Log 2

Posts: 294 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Yes, I think you are right. No doubt the mechanism has to be seen, and the operation practiced, many times. 

I don't actually think that I am hoping for a future with no bad days, as I don't see any examples of outcomes like that, but I am interested in the mechanism that underlies suffering. The thing that I find interesting is that, although some of it can be fairly easily seen ("Hello, Craving!"), I generally cannot see what I am referring to as foundational craving off the cushion. Yesterday sucked, but I cannot tell you why. There was no event/process/object that I could consciously choose to be OK with. My working assumption is that there is craving that is generated in the framework of dependant origination without being noticed by me (ignorance), which results in unnecessary suffering. Having got rid of a pretty large percentage of unnecessary suffering so far by paying attention to where it comes from, I'm hoping to keep going, at least for the moment. 

As for the nature of the experience when the world started coming apart at the lights, I really can't say what was going on. But, for that matter, I really can't say what is going on when the world doesn't come apart. It's all fairly mysterious.
George S, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Martin's Log 2

Posts: 1873 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Another way to look at foundational craving. Thoughts like 'I need to notice craving' or 'I need to let go of craving' presuppose that there is an 'I' which is independent of the craving. But in reality 'I' and craving are the same thing! (upadana khandha, clinging aggregates) How can I notice itself or let go of itself? Just by noticing that when craving is not present then I am not present and when craving arises then I am back. It's an energetic thing really, just that feeling of pushing and pulling against experience. That’s the point of samatha practice - you let go of 90% of craving and see how good it feels, but there’s still the craving to deepen or stay in the state.  

It gets even more interesting when you consider the fact that your experience can’t be anything other than what it already is in the present moment. How is craving even possible? It’s just making a lot of effort to push or pull on a string which is not attached to anything at the other end - effort for effort’s sake purely to maintain the illusion that a permanent entity exists which is making the effort! In that sense craving is also an illusion. It feels damn real until you realize that there’s no one actually doing the craving, then it’s just another feeling happening by itself, much less of a problem. That’s another way to back yourself into radical acceptance - seeing that you are trying to reject something which is not even happening anyway the way you think it is.
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Stefan R, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Martin's Log 2

Posts: 109 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
I love this take. If I can offer another perspective, which is the same at its core but worded differently?

No sensation is made of itself. "The Self" is just another sensation, which is made up of sensations that are transient, and which are also not made of themselves. Craving in the moment is just another one of these sensations that are coming and going. If you rest in open awareness without interference, you'll notice the sensation of craving sitting alongside another sensation of hearing (for example). Suddenly makes the mind realise it's been tricking itself; "wait, if there's hearing and here's craving, where can "I" be in all this?.. What will "I" be when they leave? What was "I" before they arrived?"

Hopefully, this makes sense? emoticon

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