Danny’s practice log 1

Danny S, modified 3 Months ago.

Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
As my practice has really ramped up in the past few weeks, and I've been having some interesting experiences, I thought I'd start a practice log.

I describe my background, my first retreat, and my practice the two weeks following in this thread: https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/22986018

I have pretty much based my entire practice on MCTB2, Daniel's post compilation, and, more recently and much to my benefit, Shargrol's post compilation. So if anybody wants to weigh in with advice, questions, tips on how to be a good member of this community, or suggested reading, that is always appreciated. I have actually never spoken in person with a teacher or with dharma friends with more experience than me, so I will try to describe my experiences in ordinary language and not assume I know where I am on the maps. However, because I have been through several cycles of certain modes that have common characteristics and transition properties that appear to match well with what I've read about the progress of insight stages, I will sometimes just say "A&P", "DN", and "EQ" to refer to what I am taking to be those stages.

Practice log
Let's start with a week ago, which is more or less where I left off in my other thread. Monday through Wednesday I was in what I am thinking is High EQ because it felt very ordinary and normal and yet, if I paid attention, the level of attentional width and clarity was greater than any previous sub-stage of the wide, clear, neutrally pleasant stage I am calling EQ that always comes after the most unbearable part of the irritating, edgy stage with vague and unsatisyingly out-of-phase sensations at the center of attention and annoyingly vague and buzzy sensations at the periphery that I am calling the DN. The past few weekends I have meditated 3-5 hours a day, always making sure I get to EQ so that I am there during the work week, as I find it really helps with aspects of morality in daily life, including job performance.

As a side note, I remember hearing in a few places that a meditor before stream entry always starts a sit in Mind and Body, whereas a meditator of 1st path and higher always starts a sit in the A&P. This has honestly always confused me for a couple reasons, because don't the nanas also tend to persist as baseline modes of perception off the cushion? If a chronic Dark Nighter sits down to meditate, won't they still be in the DN? And likewise for EQ? That has at least been my experience, that I am in the EQ stage as my baseline mode of perception for several days at a time, and when I sit down to meditate I'm not instantly transported back to Mind and Body or anything like that... Of course, I do make a habbit of "checking in" and doing sort of a 1-2 minute "micro meditation" to check that the properties of EQ are still in my experience.

Anyway, on Thursday, I had gotton a particularly good night of sleep and was at the cutting edge of my practice. I did a couple 15 min sits while at work (they actually have a room dedicated to meditation with cushions at work, but nobody else uses it so I tend to just do this in an empty phone meeting room or at my desk out of fear of embarrassment). Around 4pm, my ordinary High EQ turned into an EXTRA clear and dreamy sort of High EQ. I have heard High EQ described both of these ways (sometimes ordinary, other times dreamy) and for me these are two separate states, with the dreamy version being much rarer and more unstable. This had happened exactly two weeks earlier at the same time of day, interestingly enough. I felt sleepy and so went to recline in a hammock. I had read that Stream Entry occurs often when one is drifting off yet fully aware, so I tried to see if I could drift off while maintaining awareness. No such luck at first, but as I woke up from a reverie, I started thinking something along the line of what I would try to learn if I fell back to ReObs again. Suddenly, I had the brief impression that I could see the windows behind my closed eyelids, then there was a state shift and the smooth, wide body sensations were replaced with tingling all over my hands, feet, and face. My closed-eye visiual field also became brighter and parts of it started vibrating quickly.

My first thought was, "did I do it? Is this stream entry?". As I was doing walking meditation on my way back from work, I noticed how all motion seemed like it was being seen at an extra high frame rate. When I got home, I remembered that one of the gold standards for diagnosing SE is easy access to the concentration jhanas. So I decided to test that, and.... nope. I have always had time concentrating single-pointedly (ADHD), and this was still the case. I had had a similar state shift from the wide, clear, and dreamy state to a faster and more awake state two weeks ago, and I remembered reading one of Shargrol's posts where he mentioned it being common for people in EQ to get an A&P event instead of SE, so assumed that this was another instance of that. It was kind of interesting, though, because both times I wasn't really putting in a ton of effort that would push me in that direction. They were both while I was in some train of thought. Anyway, the fast and tingly state that I'm beginning to believe is how the A&P presents for me quickly progressed into the DN, which I recognized by how I was getting annoyed at my partner unnecessarily. Luckily I was able to get through that and back to low EQ in only half and hour this time.                         
Danny S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Yesterday (Saturday), I was at a new cutting edge of my practice and had 5+ hours to meditate. I treated this day almost like a self-retreat, starting the day in low/mide EQ, and decided to go for SE again. I focused on keeping attention wide and soon entered the out-of-phase sub-stage that I think is the EQ mini-DN, applying gentle curiousity to what exactly was not satisfactory about the out-of-phase-ness, noticing related attraction/aversion/ignorance sensations in my head, face and neck. I was having a hard time getting through this, and then I realized I had been almost unconsciously tuning out the ringing in my ears as a distraction! Once I accepted this as part of present experience to investigate, progress quickly resumed.

Soon I got past that to the ordinary-but-clear High EQ, where I tapered down on the effort of noticing gross body sensations and turned instead of subtle expectation, investigation, thoughts of progress, etc. in my head, face, and neck. Once these were no longer detectable, I dialed down the effort even further and noticed let attention move around on its own and at the same time tried to notice how the sensations that appeared in attention were also occurring in space. I didn't have really get a sense that different sensory modalities were the same, but I did try to include my closed-eye visuals and the ringing in my ears in my fluxing attentional field while localizing them in space. Once this was a bit stable I felt like I could see for the first time what Daniel meant when he said that attention and space are the same thing. After this was going on for some time, I started gently asking, "who is observing this?" And there there was the answer, "these sensations behind your eyes, dumbass!". It seemed these sensations that seemed to think they were an observer were being missed when I let my attention auto-flux wherever it wanted. So, I started playing what I call "observer tag", where I rapidly switch attention to different senstions in my head around where the sense of an observer is, and just go rapidly sweeping all over different locations so that the sensations don't have time to label themselves an observer before getting swept up in the rest of the attention field. This was a fine balancing act because it required intention and effort to integrate that I had to also not miss integrating.

After doing this for a while and continuing to gradually dial down effort, I felt myself start to get kind of sleepy. I felt myself getting excited by this, which snapped me out of it a couple times before I was able to note and integrate the excitement and new thoughts of progress. As I got deeper in my dreamy state, I started swaying a bit on the cushion, and I noticed that my effort to maintain balance was preventing me from letting go more fully. I had enough caffeine and general energy in me that I wasn't afraid of actually falling asleep without awareness, so I laid down on my bed and continued. As I got dreamy in the sea of fluxing space and attention, I started gently asking myself who was observing all this. At some point, a reverie appeared where I was watching Link from Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (my all time favorite game) glide from a tower on his hang glider. I thought, "hey, maybe this is like Daniel's gerbils" and the reverie disappeared. "Darn, I'm being scripted", I thought, but I just noted that thought, localized it, and allowed it to integrate and vanish. Some more visuals and thought responses showed up in a pattern like this (at one point I tried imagining a God-Link watching the character Link. No luck there emoticon), but I just kept noting and localizing the thoughts and returning to gradual dropping of effort. At some point, I had another Breath of the Wild reverie, but this time the character "I" was playing running across the grassy hills was a dark-haired man. Maybe I realized the character was me or something, because I (i.e. all the rest of experience) suddenly fell into that image.

It wasn't like "whoosh" or a sucking sensation or even vertigo or anything, just "Zoop. Done". I was not paying attention to the breath specifically at that point, so I can't say whether it happened at the hend of the out breath or whether any time passed, but the next thing I noticed was that my body was all tingly again and my visual field was vibrating. For the first minute or two I just tried to go back to the dreamy state before realizing I was definitely not in EQ any more. I thought, "Was that... Fruition? If so, that was even less remarkable than I thought. Like so ordinary I was probably just scripting myself into it... But this definitely feels like a state shift to the A&P, so it was some kind of event".

As a test, I decided to see if I could access the Jhanas. So I tried to focus on my breath and solidify it into a continuous wave of sensations. This came pretty naturally, and there were far fewer distracting thoughts than usual (though of course I was in an extra concentrated state after meditating 5 hours). I quickly found pleasant senations in the breath, and then turned my attention to solidifying those. There was some sensation of my mouth and hands being larger at this point, but I had read about that effect so this could just be scripting. The pleasure began to really intensify, but before it reached a peak it got more diffuse, but in a cool blissy way that was still pleasant. Throughout all of this the tingling was still noticeable, so if these were the first three jhanas they definitely light, thought their properties were the dominant focus of attention. I couldn't remember what the later jhanas were supposed to be like, so I stopped there, got up, and opened MCTB to read the chapter on them. I found it really difficult to read and pay attention at that point, like things were severly out of phase.

One thing I noticed for the rest of that day, and which continues until now, is that my distracting thoughts are significantly reduced. It's not that I don't space out or get lost in thought still, it's just that, if I decide to focus my attention on something, either to solidify one object or to pay attention to experience as it is, the meditation object is just there. No narrating. No worrying. Second after second, as long as I hold the intention to stay focused. I might still forget I'm supposed to be paying attention after a while, but baseline for me is that I am literally several times a second getting bombarded with thoughts in the first minutes after I sit down. Right now, no matter what I'm preoccupied with, I can just resolve to concentrate on on my breath and it will just be there. For every part of the cycle, as smooth as I want. Even when I am tired and dull, I can just know my mind as tired and dull.

Also, I'm now able to really notice vibrations. This has been a HUGE sticking point for me before. In EQ, it is less vibratory and a bit more like ripples on a puddle during a light rain.

Another thing is that unpleasant sensations kind of have some of the "edge" taken off of them. Specifically, the sensations in my head and face and neck that I would recognize most obviously as aversion are pretty much gone, though as I cycled back through the DN today I noticed that there are still sensations of aversion there, but they are more subtle and deeper in my body. This made the DN seem kind of less edgy and almost blissy, but it also caused me to take a lot more time to get through it because I didn't realize I was missing some aversion.

One thing that is a bit disconcerting, though, is that pleasant sensations, or things that used to evoke anticipation, also kind of have lost some of their "edge". The pleasure is still there, but it doesn't have quite the same "oh yeah, that's the stuff" kind of feel to it.

Not sure if this is Stream Entry or something else. I guess I'll keep practicing and see how these changes hold up with time. On the off chance this is SE, maybe I'll just try focusing on concentration practice for a change so I don't get unwittingly thrust into into another progress of insight. On the other hand, maybe I should keep trying for fruitions in order to confirm what I think I might have attained, and to make sure I can navigate through these stages since, SE or not, I'm cycling through them a lot in daily life.
Danny S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Monday 8/2/21

In the morning, I checked to see if I could still do the at-will instant concentration, and it was still there for the most part.

12pm: To test whether I got gotten SE, I sat down to meditate and resolved to try to get a fruition. Flashes and tingles faded to cool, dark, sleepy bliss over 30 seconds or so. Then everything got extremely vague and didn't progress so I stopped sitting.

1pm: Started feeling a sense of pleasure/confidence arise that was quite noticeable and felt like a nana state shift, though I wasn't actively practicing.

2:30pm-3:30pm: Feeling of pressure in the chin and just in front of both temples. Also some long, thin pulses of pain in the chest and abdomen. Clarity fading in and out.

4:30pm: Sat down to meditate and the breath was barely there. Everything was extremely vague.

5:30pm: My working hypothesis at this point was that I had gotten SE and was in Review. I'd read how, in this stage, one should be able to call up the nanas out of order just by resolving to be in them. For some reason, I decided to take Daniel's advice to "do the unthinkable" and try calling up ReObs while in a more spacious and chill state while cooking dinner. I basically thought, "Reobservation" and imagined the vague center of attention of breath in my abdomen and the annoying sensations around the edges. That worked! I thought, "hey I'll be able to get out of this super quick". Nope. I first noticed it when I got unusually annoyed at my partner for some silly reason that shouldn't have bothered me. 
This was not a state I wanted to continue in, so I sat down to meditate as soon as I could and tried all the techniques I could think of. Nothing worked. I tried holding all the annoying sensations in my mind, and they only got worse. I tried thinking, "ok, I give up. I'm defeated"................................................... then checked if I was past it. Nope. My mind knows when I'm faking defeat and still holding out hope. I tried holding the tension all in my mind, as wide as I could, noticing it in space. I tried imagining pressing them gently on my face with loving, intimate compassion. I wasn't getting anywhere and so I decided to count 10 breaths and give up. By 10, the weight hadn't lifted, so I sighed to myself and got off the cushion. And THEN the weight lifted and the center of my abdomen started to return and feel more filled out and sensations became less unsatisfying. I guess the lesson is, I can't game it, I can't fake letting go. I just have to accept that sometimes things will suck, and also accept that I can't force myself to accept something without giving it time. This sit lasted 45 min or so.

9:30pm: Now that I was in an open and equanimous state again, I decided to do a "mindful workout". I have this VR workout game that involves striking targets to the beat of a song, and I like to try to stay present and try to keep attention wide enough to notice the music, the sensations of body movement and pain, and my visual field all at once, yet fast enough to notice each intention to move and how that intention is conditioned by visual cues of the approaching targets. I kind of alternate between this and noticing how it all kind of happens on its own, whether or not I'm mindful of it.

While taking a shower after the workout, I recalled reading in MCTB how boundless space jhana could be entered from EQ by focusing on the nana's spacious elements. I wasn't exactly sure what spacious elements were, but, eyes closed standing in the stream of warm water, I decided to try my best to do this. I first got myself absorbed in the feeling of peace and equanimity and let it pervade my body. At some point, I felt like I was indubitably in some kind of altered state, though it required moderate effort to sustain, I tried focusing on the sense of "space", in my body. As I scanned over and focused on what I thought of as space in each area of my body, the sensations there become kind of effervescent, though the most course ones like the spray of warm water on my skin remained. I then tried focusing on "space" in the area just beyond the edges of my body. This is where things got interesting. I had been focusing on the sensations of space sort of in time with my breath up to this point, but now I noticed that my breath was too much of a solid object itself. So, like a kid learning to tread water and gradually letting go of the edge of the pool, I gradually let go of my breath and tried focusing just on the space beyond my bodily boundary. Eventually, I got into a state where the breath was very faint and 80% of my bodily sensations had vanished to be replaced by a pleasantly diffuse sense of space. I could still feel the spray of water, but it was like those sensations were just happening there is space and not happening on any hands or body. I then tried expanding my sense of center/self into the space, and this resulted in some really cool sense of expanding outward, but it made me start to lose my balance a bit, so I opened my eyes and stopped.

Tuesday 8/3/21

10:30am: Meditating in hammock at work for ~40 min in a dreamy state. I tried cultivating intimacy, sort of like gently pressing my face against every aspect of experience. I tried cultivating curiosity, sort of like holding every aspect of experience like a beautiful and delicate butterfly and gently marveling at it. I could tell there were more jhana qualities to this state than usual.
At one point I went into a train of thought, thinking about how I would describe my experiences on DhO in the future and how I really ought to forgo using map terminology even as a shorthand for my experiences or even saying "what I think of as ___ nana" because doing that causes me to put my experiences into potentially artificial categories, define them only by comparison to other experiences, and assume that no properties of the experience stand out or are noteworthy. Anyway, during this thought stream, there was a blip that I felt mostly around my nose, which is where my breath was most vivid since I was wearing a face mask. My breath was very light at that point, but I think I noticed the blip during an in-breath. Whatever this was, when I checked my sensations, I realized I was back in the state where bodily sensations feel tingly and there are fast and bright vibrations in my closed-eye visuals. I've begun to wonder, however, whether I am getting back into this bright vibratory state just by virtue of thinking about it and looking for the characteristic sensations.

12:00pm: Everything was very clear as I mindfully walked out to do some errands during my lunch break.

2:00pm: At my desk, I decided to experiment was calling up the nanas again. I was still seeing fast vibrations whenever I closed my eyes and paid attention for even a few seconds, so I tried calling up "Equanimity" and thinking about broad attention and things looking volumetric. Sure enough, everything became spacious and sensations were more wide and full. However, even though I had been think of what I thought of as more mature EQ, where I got was the "chunky phase" where things are ok but there are still some lingering buzzy vibrations. Then I thought, "Arising and Passing Away" and the vibrations got bright and fast again. I focused my attention on them and they dissolved into dark, cool vagueness in a few breaths. I then thought, "let Fear arise", and paid attention because I was not sure whether I had noticed most of the early Dark Night stages. At first, I didn't notice much, but when I kind of dropped the effortful attention to get back to work, I noticed that there was a steady beat I could feel in my hands and lips. I checked my pulse to see if it was correlated, and no, this was occurring a few times with each heartbeat. "This must be the 'shamanic drum beat' Daniel was talking about", I thought.

3:30pm: So I was reading about how the maps are unhelpful and in fact cause extreme confusion between 1st and 2nd path. Also, I was looking back at my previous posts to see if I could gain insight by bringing a new perspective to past experiences, and I was astounded by how little information they actually contained that was not compressed and distorted through the lens of my naive map knowledge, and that was only a few weeks ago! Part of me wants to say, "screw the maps, I'll just investigate my own experience and draw my own conclusions like a proper subjective scientist".
However, it seems like the maps are really helpful for me when things get tough or confusing, as that is often a sign of progress, so it makes sense to know them. Also, I feel like it is worth it to at least consider that I may have gotten SE, as it would mean I am currently in Review and have a potentially very difficult and taxing new cycle of insight coming up in the next weeks or months that I would do best to prepare for, or possibly postpone. I also thought about going back and editing all my previous posts to remove the map terminology, but I think I will just leave them the way they are so that, looking back on these logs, I'll be able to see my natural development of spiritual maturity.

Evening: During my regular evening sit, I resolved to try to repeat the experience I was thinking could be a fruition. I broadened my attention to include all my physical sensations, got curious and intimate with them, and then gradually let go to allow attention to move on its own. I gently nudged it toward the sensations in my head where there seemed to be an observer, and then started to get sleepy again. There were a few rounds of sensations I thought of as "me" kind of swirling together with everything else, me getting too excited and ramping up attention to "look for" a cessation, and then repeating. Eventually, there was a very subtle moment where I think a black hole opened up in my swirling closed-eye visuals, and then I sort of "woke up", wondered if that was a cessation, and tried to incline my mind back to a dreamy state to see if I could get it to repeat. I was able to have it repeat two more times, though without noticing any new information about the entrance and exit. It basically felt like briefly dozing off for a split second and waking up. After the third time, I wasn't able to incline back anymore and felt tingly and had bright, fast vibrations in my visual field.

Wednesday 8/4/21

8am: I had read yesterday in MCTB Daniel describe how different concentration states could be entered, and even described creating a "lidocaine" jhana from a sensation of numbness he randomly felt in his arm after a nap. The idea of being able to amplify and step into any kind of sensation really intrigued me. I was thinking about gratitude for some reason, and remembered research about how psychologically and physiologically important it is to feel gratitude, and wondered if I could try creating a concentration state out of that. So I thought of how I had felt seeing the huge smile on the elderly monk's face as I handed him my cushion at the end of the retreat, minutes after clarity and equanimity had returned to my experience. For the next 20 min, I tried to hold in attention, widen, and strengthen the warm sensations of gratitude I felt in the center of my stomach and chest and below my eyes. I definitely succeeded in strengthening it, though not to the point of being self-sustaining. There was a pleasant afterglow with similar characteristics for about 20 min.

10am: I read on some DhO post yesterday someone give the advice of trying to hold in attention all the edges of the open-eye visual field in attention at simultaneously without moving eyes or changing focus. I tried this for ~15 min and in each moment I made effort to do so I get these sensations in my temples light they are being lightly tickled with a feather. This still happens whenever I try this. Kind of interesting. After sitting for another 15 min trying to keep a wide attention on my whole body, I got up to walk mindfully to the bathroom, and then the left half of my body and head became all peaceful and sort of smooth in a pleasantly neutral kind of way, but then the right side of me remained normal and noticeably tingly in comparison.

Thursday 8/521

This day was marked by more experimentation with concentration states. I noticed that my breath had become very clear and smooth when I focused on it, which very quickly brought up feelings of pleasure and ease.
This is kind of embarrassing, but at one point, I was like, "wait, if I can cultivate, concentrate on, amplify, expand, and prolong any sensation, does that include sexual pleasure?". So I focused on subtle sensations of sexual pleasure that arose in my groin and abdomen during breathing as my concentration object, and it kind of worked! I wasn't able to make it self-sustaining or full-body, but it was a very pleasant experience nonetheless. Interestingly, it did not seem to require or generate the normal physical components of sexual arousal. It was just the feelings. I noticed that, in the afterglow, when I thought of my partner, I saw her as especially attractive. I'm not sure if this is a skillful use of concentration, but I feel like others must have tried it so it must be part of some tradition out there.
I noticed that, for the rest of the day, just focusing on the breath at all brought feelings of ease and pleasure. I felt kind of guilty for feeling this because my practice had not involved much pleasure like this up to this point, and I was afraid I would get addicted to it.

Friday 8/6/21

Started the day in a state of high clarity and equanimity. I decided to sit and see if I could get my sense of self to swirl around and get into that sleepy/dreamy state again that I had been suspecting of being a fruition. I wanted to try to be more aware/more concentrated so that I could clearly tell whether it happens at the end of the out-breath and whether it has the three doors characteristics. I was able to get this to happen, as usual by letting attention move around on its own for a bit and then nudging it to flow through the sensations in my head, which it seems to not like to do naturally. As has happened before, I was able to get my sense of observer to swirl around with my fluxing attention, get sleepy/dreamy, eyelids flickering a bit, and then "wake up". I was able to get it to repeat once, but then I tried to repeat with "more awareness" to try to see what was happening more clearly, and that prevented me from entering the dreamy state again.

I started seeing bright, fast vibrations that then began to dissolve into vagueness and they typically would whenever I pay attention to them for a few seconds and then had to get back to work. I found myself anxious that I had wasted time and that I would not finish something in time for the meeting with my supervisor. I closed my eyes to check if I was still in the fast vibratory state and there were still some steady vibrations, so for a moment I figured I had returned from the vagueness. But then I had the thought, "wait, maybe this is Fear". I always thought I didn't notice this stage because I never worried about something horrible and catastrophic happening, but maybe it's just this mild anxiety". And I thought about it: I still had time to make progress before my meeting, it was a minor task with no formal deadline, and my supervisor is a really chill person. 

So after doing some work, I decided to do an hour sit into my lunch break and go through the vague/annoying/out-of-phase stages (my working hypothesis being that these are the Dark Night nanas) to get back to the spacious and equanimous state. I guess I could have just tried to call up that stage out of order, but doing that somehow felt unnatural and like it was cheating. After all, the early Dark Night stages are the ones that I had the most difficulty recognizing, and I wanted to take this opportunity to explore them skillfully. It was kind of hard to recognize based on the emotions that are supposed to arise, but I did notice that there was a steady 4-5 Hz beat in the center of attention that slowly started getting replaced by chaotic buzzing in the periphery. I did some occasional noting when I got lost, but mostly tried to stay intimate and accepting and broad and let things play themselves out. Interestingly, throughout this, I noticed that these stages actually had a touch of good and bliss to them. Even when the steady 4-5 Hz beat got replaced entirely by the chaotic and vague buzzing and I got the familiar agitation and urge to change postures, there was still a sense of blissfulness that came with the breath, which still felt smooth, cool, and shamatha-y. I felt guilty for these good feelings and tried to ignore them so that I could accept the annoying buzzing as I felt I had to. But then, while investigating suffering, I noticed that my mind was retracting at the appearance of the pleasure, so that it was actually a part of the experience I wasn't accepting. So I dropped the resistance, and soon the weight lifted.

Sunday 8/8/21

I started this morning in a good state that felt spacious and equanimous, but also a little more sleepy than I would have expected given how much I'd slept. I decided it would be a good point to try more concentration practice training since cycling was getting kind of boring. I sat down on my cushion and resolved to go through all 8 jhanas. I focused on my breath in my whole body and tried to keep my mind as glued to it as possible while focusing on pleasant aspects of the sensations. However, I quickly found that it was difficult to find the intense, orgasmic forms of pleasure in my currently peaceful state, so I instead opted to amplify the feelings of peace and neutrality throughout my body. Once this felt stable, I again tried to amplify sensations of space, and this did change this but somewhat subtly. I then focused on space outside the boundary of my body and, like before in the shower, most body sensations faded away and things get more diffuse, though there was some persistent tingling in my fingers and some heavier kind of "blocked" feeling in parts of my face. After trying and failing to dissolve these remaining sensations and the spaciousness getting a bit boring, I tried expanding my sense of observerness/centerness into everywhere I had been detecting space. This was a substantially more dramatic shift than from peacefulness to expansive space, as it felt like "I" was being expanded in all directions. It definitely wasn't "infinite" consciousness, but it was definitely a much more expansive state. After a few minutes, the remaining sensations in my hands and face started getting annoying and my concentration faltered, and it had been over an hour, so I took a break. Everything seemed extra clear and nice in the afterglow. So maybe this was "light" formless realms? Is that a thing?

About an hour later, I decided to try again to see if I could get into harder jhanas. I was able to get the sense of peace and neutrality to pervade my body again, but this is as far as I got (and still had tingling in my fingers). I tried to just concentrate on and enjoy the peace and stillness, but the more I did the more annoying it became. It started to feel more like dullness and out-of-phase-ness, and I got up after about half an hour and felt annoyed at the persisting afterglow which eventually dissolved into the familiar state that is clear and present and spacious but out of phase. 

I wanted to get back to the even and ultra-clear and equanimous state that always follows this out-of-phase one, and concentration practice wasn't going anywhere, so I decided to do another vipassana sit. I did a 45 min sit and just investigated the out-of-phase sensations with curiosity and as much intimacy as it would allow. I investigated the suffering characteristic, which has become a favorite of mine as it seems the most readily perceivable and also seems to create the most progress. I tried to find where in my body was feeling bad when I got frustrated at how the sensations of my breath seemed "not close enough". I had been noticing that, in the past week, these sensations of reactive suffering had been getting more and more subtle and diffuse. Whereas it used to manifest as a lump in my throat or ache in my face, it was now more spread out through my chest and abdomen and more difficult to notice.

Eventually, I got back to the highly even/clear/equanimous state and went about daily activities for two hours or so, checking in on my present experience every now and then. However, at some point when I considered meditating some more, that I was feeling somewhat frustrated and sick with these cycles. I'd been through all these stages at least a dozen times at this point, and it was starting to feel like "acceptance, curiosity, intimacy, letting go, sleepy, sleepy, wake up, rinse repeat". I don't know if what I was getting were fruitions, but at this point there I felt like having them didn't really give any "profound" insights or produce any effect aside from starting another annoying cycle. And concentration just didn't feel that great because it felt like I'd lost the ability to just amplify any pleasant feeling I want at the drop of a hat like I could several days ago. Anyway, the intensity of these feelings of boredom and disinterest surprised me because I had not felt them in the highly even/clear/equanimous state before. So, as has become habit, I tried to investigate the nature of this dissatisfactoriness. This was the most subtle it has ever been, actually. It was somewhere in my trunk, but other than that difficult to pinpoint. I didn't feel like meditating so I just laid on my bed, still aware. I began to notice that there were subtle annoying fast vibrations overlaid on top of the filled-out and satisfying slow fluxations that characterized the even/equanimous state. As I paid attention to them, they got stronger, and I recognized them as the late Dark Night type of buzzing. But it was happening on top of the equanimous and clear state that was still recognizable.

I wanted to get to the bottom of this now, so I got back on my cushion and paid attention to the chaotic frequencies in my body, and close-eye visuals. The familiar full-body-restless-leg-syndrome appeared, and the buzzing intensified. Checking the sensations of my breath, I noticed that they were now totally out of phase and the equanimity and clarity had all gone. Soon, my entire visual field was like an ocean of buzzing flies. And sensations of buzzing were all over my body. If I had to use map terminology, I would describe it as ReObs on steroids that gave it the pervasiveness of High EQ, where it normally is only around the edges. I noticed how any sensation I turned my attention to would instantly dissolve into buzzing, like trees being shredded by an excavator mulcher. I was ready to give up at this point, but as a kind of hail mary, I turned my attention to the sensations of the observer in my head and imagined the ocean of buzzing in my visual field swarming up to meet whatever was watching them. What followed was the most harrowing experience I've had so far in my practice: everything that seemed to be "me" dissolved into harsh, chaotic vibrations. It was somehow cathartic, though, like being purged in the flames. Anyway, that seemed to do the trick, and the weight lifted.

Writing this several hours later, it feels like some sense of myself really did get shredded. Suffering is now a lot more difficult to find. You would think I would be really excited about that, but actually a sense of anticipation and excitement is also hard to find. So if that was ReObs on steroids earlier, maybe this is like EQ on steroids?
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 2111 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
It's always good to investigate thoughts around mapping, progress and attainments, which usually comes down to asking yourself something along the lines of 'who could possibly be making progress towards what?'
Danny S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Thanks for the tip. I had been trying not to be too attached to the maps in the past couple of weeks, but they seemed helpful since they seemed to have such predictive power. But now they are definitely no longer helpful. As you can see from my post below, things have gotten pretty confusing and hard to map in the past couple days.

I've been focusing on investigating the suffering and impermanence characteristics since they seemed less slippery than no-self, but no-self probably deserves more attention.

I was about to ask whether I should actively avoid mapping/progress thoughts or just notice them, but I suppose a better question would be, who is it that is trying to decide between those strategies? emoticon
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 2111 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Exactly - thoughts/sensations of choice and control are also very fruitful areas of investigation emoticon (as well as anything to do with pressure and guilt)
Danny S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Monday 8/9/21

10:00am: I'm noticing that attachment and aversion continue to be felt much more subtly than usual. If anything, more so than last night. In terms of vibrations, last night there were still touches of 15-20 Hz buzzing here and there, but now things are smooth and fluxing. Everything is very clear and spacious, but I tend to pay attention to it less than before. I'm realizing that, previously, I would subtly relish the fact that I was in this equanimous stage, and would keep checking my experience for its hallmarks and get a subtle sense of gratification when I noticed the clarity and fullness. And I would get an urge to really delve into them. But now it's more like, "ah, yeah I guess if I think about it those qualities are there, so that's nice". Also, before, when I would think about needing to stop meditating and get to work I needed to do, there was a twinge of guilt and suffering, and now that feeling is less noticeable, at maybe 10-15% strength.

11:30am: I felt tired and so lay down to take a 45-minute nap. I noticed bright and fast vibrations as I closed my eyes. The frequencies were mostly much too fast to count beats. Sometimes when I paid attention to a vibration that seemed to have a frequency low enough that I might be able to perceive the arising and passing of each pulse, the frequency would then speed up. I tried drearily paying attention like this for a bit, but then allowed myself to drift off. Strangely, as "I" (the part that had been applying effort) drifted off to sleep, it seemed like there was another layer of consciousness that was staying awake and still passively being aware of the vibrations. In terms of body sensation, it felt like there were these thin ripples of light flickery sensations just beneath the surface of my skin, gently and very very slowly moving over my temples and eyelids. This passive noticing layer stayed awake the full 45 min even during periods when the effort-applying layer was totally silent, so I guess I was never fully asleep? Or was that a lucid dream? Not sure, but the bright vibrations remained after waking up.

4:30pm: I laid down to take another short nap. I was lost in a train of thought whose specifics I can't recall, but at some point, I felt this sense of dropping or collapsing, and then BAM, I was laying there in a different state where attention had shifted to more external sensations and feeling a bit more tingly. This event happened to my whole consciousness, but there was weirdly some sense that the lead-up was localized to my left side. This was very similar to the event that happened while I was reading MCTB at my desk a month ago, except that in that one the lead-up felt localized to my right side somehow. There was some tingling and fast vibrations in the layer of consciousness overlaid on the familiar spacious and clear equanimity as before, but more subtle and vague now.

7:30pm: The fast vibrations mostly vanished from the over-layer, to be replaced by a dark, cool, and breezy feeling. This felt like what I thought of as Dissolution earlier, but it was overlaid on the familiar equanimous/clear/spacious layer, and its properties were felt more clearly than before and seemed to match descriptions of Dissolution more closely.

9:30pm: In the shower, I started detecting a steady 4-5 Hz beating in my hands, arms, and face.

10:30pm: the steady beat was gone and replaced by annoying buzzing, similar to last night. I sat for 45 min and tried to stay present and repeat what I'd done yesterday, trying to incline my mind to shred the observer into chaotic vibrations again, but I wasn't able to do this.

Tuesday 8/10/21

I think I actually had a good night of sleep (best all week, according to Fitbit), but I woke up feeling pretty lousy. I did a 45 min sit, which felt quite unproductive. I tried different techniques, tried welcoming the harsh vibrations with compassion, tried to dissolve myself in them, tried doing nothing, started sobbing, tried really going into the feeling of hopelessness. I tried noting slow. I tried noting fast. I tried really asking myself why my experience was unbearable and noticing the locations of the sensations of suffering co-arising with thoughts of dissatisfaction. My timer went off. I counted ten breaths and tried to just be with each moment of each one with no expectation or reflection. I opened my eyes and still felt lousy, so I continued for 10 more min. I wanted the dark buzzing to either dissipate or intensify since some kind of change would signal progress, but it just kind of oscillated stronger and weaker with little apparent correlation to my state of mind. I noticed thoughts like "I'm still trying to change something, so it won't work", "I'm still subtly thinking in terms of the maps. I'm thinking this is a version of ReObs. Otherwise, why would I be so upset that I'm not getting past it to something better?", "My breath still feels solid, I'm not seeing vibrations enough". "I'm seeing mental images instead of sensations. That means I'm not perceiving directly enough. Or are these impressions part of my experience that I'm inadvertently avoiding?" Then I went back to recline in bed for 30 min and continue with lower effort. I solidified my breath a bit, which took the edge off things and made them more blissy, but then I wondered if I was screwing up my insight practice this way, or if I should feel guilty for trying to reduce the difficulty.

I'm still not feeling super-great several hours later. This is the first time in a month that I've felt "stuck" in a not-so-great state. But I don't feel as bad as I would have about it before my practice ramped up. The suffering is like grease on my hands now, whereas before it was like tar.
Danny S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Wednesday 8/11/21

At this point I should say that, since the start of this week, my working hypothesis has been that I started a new progress cycle on the road to 2nd path at some point last weekend. I am very uncertain about this, especially since it would mean I got SE 2 weeks after first getting stable EQ, and then spent only a week or so in Review, but I haven't read about any mimics for cycling rapidly and then suddenly going through stages again that seem longer and more intense and to require more meditative effort. It's taking a lot of time to write these logs, so I'm just going to use map terminology when I've experienced it and described what the experience is like several times before, though I will still try to err on the side of raw experiential data. I'm sure I will probably look back at a lot of this and laugh at my naive assumptions, but hey, that's always what progress in anything feels like.

4-5 hours meditation total

Cycled up and down from A&P (fast vibrations, flashes of bright light, [not crazy, just like a smartphone LED flash going off ~5 ft in front of closed eyelids] ) to ReObs several times, occasionally getting to low EQ (feel better, attention broader, but still ~20% of the chaotic vibrations, pain, and negativity are present), and each time staying there longer. Eventually the frequencies and attention characteristics of ReObs remained, but the negative emotionality was gone. Also it felt like there were stages overlaid upon stages at different points (frequencies of vibrations, perceptual clarity, width and phase of attention), so in general this was confusing.

11:30am: reclining and observing what seemed like ReObs vibrations, but didn't feel bad or jarring. Got the vibrations to be all around and felt the observer's frame of view shaking a bit. Eventually plateaued and decided to walk to get lunch. As I was walking back, there was this sense of everything getting noticed extra clearly on its own that I hadn't experienced before. No effort was required, and it was also kind of hard to imagine why effort would possibly be required.

10:00pm: By the end of the day, I got through the characteristic mini Dark Night of EQ, where things are clear and wide but attention is somehow unsatisfying, to something more even. Then I started getting helicopter rotor vibes in all my senses. If I let attention drift off and "let go", it seemed like vibrations started building like the lead up to an A&P event, which I kept trying to avoid, until I fell asleep.

Thursday 8/12/21

5-6 hours meditation total.

Woke up, and the rotor vibes continued, then died down as I woke up more and got coffee. I felt like I was on the verge of completing a cycle, so I sat for an hour, then lay in bed for hour and a half. Kept asking, "who is making effort?", "who is feeling guilty for not doing it right?". Tried drifting to sleep. Kept seeing fast vibrations when I closed my eyes or relaxed. I kept trying to avoid them because I thought they were going to cause an A&P event and I didn't want to get sent back there again.

12:30pm: 1 hour sit + 1 hour reclining. Got exhausted with trying to avoid fast vibrations and just let things happen. Hard to remember exactly what happened as I wasn't conceptualizing experience that much, but felt mostly good throughout even though I experience frequencies that seemed indicative of another cycle. I had this notion that maybe I was cycling 1st path review stages while in EQ for progress cycle, or the other way around, or noticing sub-cycles. Just noted "mapping".

I was dropping effort wherever I noticed it, but that effort in dropping effort was also exhausting. I kept inquiring about the doer and observer, and there were definitely points where I got "intimate" with my experience by imagining pressing my face into it and sort of becoming it and swirling/fluxing with it for brief periods. At these points where I "felt close", I tried various combinations of just dropping effort completely, getting intimate, getting curious, watching the mindstream, inquiring about the observer or doer, trying to notice impermanence of space and attention. I guess my eyelids kinda flickered at some points, and at others, it seemed like I dozed off and came back. Most of this period was equanimous and/or blissful. At one point I found myself in a more awake state with bright flashes and vast vibrations, and tried to incline to going back to dreamy fluxing, but eventually it was clear I was out of that state.

Still not sure what fruitions are supposed to actually feel like, though it seemed like I had been in the right conditions for one at some point. It's possible I don't notice anything because, for whatever reason, when I let attention do its own thing, it doesn't keep track of the phase of the breath much. I tried doing concentration practice at one point, to test if I had new abilities there, but was so vispassana-ized that all I could feel were vibrations. Things didn't seem obviously different at first, but I felt pretty fried and that point and so stopped actively practicing.

2-5pm: I had these feelings like I was in EQ, but I got this huge feeling of grief that wasn't attached to anything I could identify. It was intense enough that I almost sobbed out loud. But it also felt strangely cathartic, with a touch of good, sort of like it was grief due to a necessary realizing that something I had treasured for a long time had actually never been there.

I then started to have all these weird sensations. At times it felt like I could feel the inside of my body like my intestines and my esophagus. It was really weird. I also had this strange sense of heavy pressure between and around my eyes, a bit like being congested during a cold, but with more of a sense of actual external pressure being applied there. But yeah, weird and annoying physical sensations that were very real and not like something subtle I had to pay attention to notice.

At some point, I had this sense that I had gotten "big" somehow. Like all the sensations I had been paying attention to were occurring in a larger container. Hard to tell if this went away for periods or if I just stopped noticing it.

5pm-10pm: More confusing cycling. Feelings of being fed up with these cycles. Feeling like I'd fried myself. Feeling annoyed in general. All of these feeling. Emotional and suffering sensations, which had kind of faded and gotten more diffuse earlier, I could feel in my face and throat again, but I felt more equanimous about it. I kept checking the frequencies and they suggested I was in EQ (soft, slow, fluxing), but I wasn't used to the emotions being presented there. However, I guess I was pretty equanimous with all these feelings, and it didn't seem like I was reacting to them too much in a bad way despite feeling them vividly.

Feeling the endorphins after a workout, I tried concentration practice, focusing on and solidifying the breath, and entered some kind of clear and full-feeling state that was relaxed, but in a way that felt like it wasn't hazy or vague at all. Strange thing is, whenever I try to get into 1st jhana (positive feedback from noticing the breath) or 2nd jhana (intense pleasure amplifying itself), if I'm in what I think of as the A&P I feel like I maybe get a tiny taste of pleasure for a minute or two and then it stops working and I realize I got into something more diffuse. If I'm in the spacious and equanimous nana I think of as EQ, I usually just can't find any raw pleasure to focus on and peace or spaciousness is all there is to amplify.

Friday 8/13/21

6am-8am: This morning it really felt like something had changed. I had that sense of mental clarity that followed what I thought of as 1st path/stream entry, where I'm able to just decide to put my attention on the breath and it just stays there as long as I keep wanting it to, or just stay aware of things without thoughts interrupting, though it fades if I get distracted. I realize that sounds contradictory, like if it fades when I get distracted then is it really so stable after all? I guess I would describe it like telling a dog to "stay" and he stays as long as you look at him like you mean it, but then if he notices you divert your attention elsewhere for more than a few seconds, he stops obeying. Whereas before, it was like having a puppy that will only sit still for a few seconds even when you are focusing all your attention on him. But in this case it's my attention that is supposed to "stay", so then what is it that is attending to attention?

I then had this sense that there were at least two layers to my mind. While brushing my teeth, I realized I was able to keep my mind in continuous-type steady attention on my breath, and yet there was also this "bigger" layer of consciousness that was aware of that and other things as well.

I don't know if I've gotten another path or what. Maybe I've just gotten to stable EQ of the next progress cycle. Either way, I think for the next several days at least I'm going to focus on concentration training. I guess it would be an unfortunate waste of momentum if I really am just on the verge of second path, but I feel pretty fried from all the insight practice and have this sense that I've gotten this jist at least of the stages of this cycle, which seem to be going along in daily life at this point anyway, which is kind of disruptive. And besides, I've always felt like my concentration is on the weaker end, so probably makes sense to develop it.

10am: Wow, this really is a new level of clarity! Like high frame rate combined with wide and detailed attention and it's all almost effortless. Much smoother than before: when I turn my head around and look at different things, it used to feel like concentration was broken with each saccade, but now I'm not missing a beat. 

I am also seeing impermanence on a new level. I think I'm in EQ and I'm getting the rotor vibes, and for the first time I feel like I can notice the qualities of the beginning and ending of each pulse. Like "dhUhb dhUhb dhUhb" instead of "dhb dhb dhb". 

This is so interesting, but still gonna try to stay with concentration, which I feel also sort of amplifies insight practice by improving momentary concentration as well (not sure if that's expected). During what I thought of as my 1st path review cycle, this is the impression I got. After doing concentration practice for a session, I'd often start noticing new vibratory phenomena showing up.
Danny S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Saturday 8/14/21
All of last week I would just close my eyes, relax my mind into the out-breath, and everything would start pulsating or flickering. In the last couple of days, especially, the effects were so vivid they were comparable to a light (0.5-1.0 g) dose of psilocybin. What I think of as the DN stages would be cool, dark, breezy, and broad. In what I think of as EQ, I would feel like I could just bask in the spacious wonder of a visual scene or sink into the soft, sensuous details of tactile contact in my hands or feet. 
However, waking up today, I felt more pain and annoyance than had been typical the last several days. I sat down to meditate and everything felt solid, so I fell back to noting for ~30 min. As my concentration ramped up, I started trying to distinguish between the physical sensations and the mental images that created the illusion of continuity, but doing this felt a lot more difficult than it had been.
8am: I then remembered my decision to focus on concentration, and thought, well, if I'm not clearly in any of the nanas right now, maybe this would be a good time to try rising through the jhanas so I can see what they're like without the nana effects being there. So I sat for an hour and a half and tried to make the breath continuous and go toward whatever felt good/pleasant. As usual, I barely noticed 1st and 2nd jhanas and was wondering why I couldn't find any pleasure to amplify when I realized things had gotten blissy and diffuse. I relaxed into a more broad and less effortful focus, and maybe 10 min later sensations kind of "filled up", like someone was pouring a pitcher of warm contentedness into the different parts of my body. At this point, I started sensing the fluxing pulsations I had experienced in the more mature parts of the wide, clear, and equanimous insight stage. I tried to ignore this and remain focused on the solidity.
I'm not sure if this is normal, but when I do this kind of concentration practice, there are very obvious state shifts that seem to occur in different parts of my body, and sometimes it can seem like some physical sensations, usually parts of my hands and face, are "left out". Fewer sensations were "left out" in this way during this sit than any previous concentration sit, but there was this sense that I was still at most only 85% "in" the different states.
I felt my mind almost automatically incline toward a more immaterial, spacious element, similar to before. This time, rather than focusing on the spatial periphery around my body, I imagined looking out over a cliff toward a vast horizon, which seemed to really amplify the sense of vast opening up and attenuate my sense of body. At this point, a problem I tend to have when going for what I think of as the formless realms is whether to keep concentrating on the breath, which feels less "purely" spacious at this point but is easier to keep track of, or to concentrate on "space" which is more what I'm going for but is more slippery. Sometime later, I then felt the thrilling sense of expanding into the vast space. It's a bit like the "stomach drop" feeling as a roller coaster accelerates. This shift felt somewhat less "complete" than the shift into spaciousness, encompassing maybe 60-70% of my experience field. I'm aiming for "boundless" space and consciousness at these points, but I have the annoying sense that they are only truly boundless in some directions, particularly in front of me. At some later point near the end of my sit, there was another gradual state shift with the sensations of expansiveness kind of shriveling up and vanishing. This was pretty unstable and only happened to 30-50% of my experience field, and was short in duration.
10am: After the concentration afterglow faded, I was making breakfast and out of habit tried to sort of ease into the present moment. Suddenly the 2-5 Hz pulsations resumed and the wide sensory clarity returned. I spent the rest of the day on a long drive to visit family, during which I oscillated between that and the dull, kind of annoyed, less mindful state.

Sunday 8/15/21

In the morning, felt very non-mindful and somewhat more irritable again. I did not sleep very well last night, it felt like. However, I continued doing concentration practice: mostly trying to stay with the breath continuously and experimenting with focusing on pleasant sensation when they arise. 
At some point, I laid down to take a nap and again had it happen that it felt like one layer of consciousness fell asleep, yet I remained aware of my body and closed eye visuals. Then, different sensations started to kind of "pop out", getting extra clear and just presenting themselves continuously with no connection to anything that could be called "attention" or "effort". Whenever the sense of an observer or doer would arise, the doer would gently incline to "go to sleep" and fade away. I had this happen at least two more times in the next several days, twice while napping and once drifting into and out of sleep in the middle of the night. Not sure what this is, but definitely interesting.

Monday 8/16/21

Did 1.5 hours concentration practice in the morning, focusing on pleasurable breath-related sensations. This seemed to trigger some very intense insight-type cycling, which was very distracting while working. These stages were more intense than what I had been experiencing last week, and it took actively practicing to move through them. I kept getting into difficult stages that would start bleeding through into my life and making me irritable, and when that happened I would just take a break to meditate and observe the 3Cs of the tension and irritation. I probably meditated a total of 6 hours this day.
It seemed like all the stages I was familiar with were repeating themselves within each stage. I would get to a point where experience just seems unbearable and think, "ah, here's ReObs", and then it would pass.  But then it would come up again, but more intense and with a different flavor, about 30 min later. Eventually, the stage that seems open, equanimous, and clear predominated and became the underlying stage instead of just a substage. This stage that I think of as EQ seemed doubly fractal: like every substage also had its own set of subsubstages. And then the mature part of this stage that I think of as High EQ seemed to be even MORE fractal. I had given up trying to count subsubstages at this point, but it just seemed like there was a ridiculous number of distinct stages that came up after the "mini Dark Night" of EQ had passed. I was somewhere in that territory when I fell asleep.
Yeah, I read all the warnings that getting obsessed with fractals is unhelpful... but it's kind of interesting to think about when not practicing.

Tuesday 8/17/21

I was still in some flavor of equanimity after waking up, though things had gotten more ordinary and integrated. Late that morning, I started becoming sleepy whenever I would tune in to the present moment. Personally, I've found practice-induced sleepiness while in an ordinary/equanimous stage that, together with context of recent stages, to be a symptom that a state shift back into the tingly and "high frame rate" stage is about to occur. I always have a had time noticing how exactly the state shift occurs, because it always happens when I am not looking for or expecting it and am sleepy/dreamy in general. These shifts seem to correspond to fruitions based on the lead up (stages that seem to match descriptions of a progress of insight), conditions that induce them (just letting go and easing into intimacy with dreamy, fluxing, no-self-y experience), and the subsequent results (back to what seems to match A&P, followed by fading to dark, cool, diffuse vagueness, etc.). Of course, any of these sets of indicators seems to also apply to common fruition mimics, but thinking of them as fruitions as my working hypothesis has so far been useful in predicting what is likely to happen next. In this case, my hypothesis was that I was near the end of a POI cycle (my third, if I had to guess).
Anyway, during an hour-long sit balancing the factors and allowing myself to drift into dreamy being with experience, there was a discernible blip where I was drifting with experience one way and then, next thing I know, things are different. I think the discontinuities I noticed were in my closed-eye visuals and my sense of balance. This time I definitely noticed a wave of bliss that lasted a few minutes, though I feel like "bliss" is not the best term, as it was quite distinct from the bliss that characterizes what I think of as 3rd jhana, which is diffuse but still tangible. This was more like a wave of relaxed centeredness.
I resolved to stay with experience to get a better idea of what these highly fractal stages felt like. I definitely noticed several subnanas of the A&P before vibrations faded into the cool vagueness of Dissolution. From there, things got really confusing and so I gave up on trying to name the stages and let the cycle go on in the background. I resolved to focus on concentration practice for the rest of this review cycle.

Wednesday-Friday 8/18/21-8/20/21
Averaged about 2-3 hours of practice per day here.I continued doing concentration practice while allowing the cycles to go on in the background. This made things a lot more pleasant on average. I take the breath in my whole body as object on most sits. One thing I noticed was that it was difficult for me to go into any jhana except the one corresponding to my current insight stage. Also, I found I tend to have this issue where most of my body will shift into the next jhana, but then areas of my head and my hands will remain in the previous one. For instance, after getting getting cool, diffuse, misty bliss to pervade my whole body, I'll feel a shift occur over 10-30 seconds in most of my body where it feels like the volume of my body is being filled up with clear, lukewarm water, but then there will be the vague misty-ness in my hands and face, which will feel crude and annoying by comparison. Three strategies I try for reducing this are 1) focusing only on the parts of my body with the target sensations I'm trying to cultivate and ignoring the problem areas, 2) trying to find and amplify subtle hints of the target sensations in the problem areas, and 3) trying to get the target sensations to "overflow" from where they are into the problem areas. So far I haven't found anything that really works super well for this.

One night, I went to a large social gathering (outdoors) for the first time since my practiced ramped up after the weekend retreat. I didn't drink, as alcohol has come to seem pretty pointless to me. I'm normally very awkward and self-conscious at these kinds of events, especially without drinking, but this time I felt so much more comfortable. I was still quieter than the average person, so it's not like I was magically transformed into a charismatic social butterfly, but at least 80% of the social anxiety was gone and I was able to focus on trying to keep up with conversations and jump in where I could. This was really fascinating as it showed me how much I'd improved.

On Friday, as my Review was beginning to mature, I did another psilocybin trip and had this insight that suffering can be pinpointed in any moment of present experience by asking, "Why does it need to be different?". This was probably during an A&P-like phase of the drug experience because I thought I'd cracked the whole puzzle and knew exactly what the Buddha meant and would tell the world as soon as I got the chance. Then an extra-irritating DN came up and asking "Why does it need to be different?" seemed a lot less profound as I lay there miserable and unable to sleep. In general, though, during the trip I felt like I got a lot done in deeper territory despite being overwhelmed by it. Sort of like opening a door to a super-messy basement and spending several hours doing productive tidying, yet still ending the day with it being really messy compared with the rooms where I'd just been waxing the already-clean floors.
Danny S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Saturday-Monday 8/21/21-8/23/21

The next day, I woke up and it felt like 85% of all my realizations from the past month had faded. I still wasn't getting caught up with bad thoughts and feelings, but I felt pretty dull, solid, and observer-y. For the next two days I kept wondering where I was, whether I'd killed my progress with psychedelics, and trying to be mindful of experience, including during most of a 6-hour drive, but nothing seemed to change. At one point I tried rapid noting and got some bright vibrations to show up briefly, but then this faded off the cushion.
On Monday, I wondered if I might have gotten tossed into the start of a new POI cycle, so I tried doing what had worked in the beginning and just sat and noted like a crazy person as fast as I possibly could (3-5 times a second) for around 2 hours. I threw tranquility to the wind and allowed myself get all spazzed out to where my precision was just hanging on. Clarity and vibrations started showing up with a sense of gratification, and then faded into an extra-dark vagueness. I continued to note every instance of that vagueness. When some clarity returned, I would occasionally notice some small bit of pleasantness or clarity in the center, and I would get this sense of aversion and have the thought, "just get on with it and bring on ReObs already!". I noted that thought and continued. I broadened my attention and kept noting and noticing until my center of attention had almost disappeared and my legs were asleep and I had a strong urge to get up, and then I kept noting. Eventually I became exhausted and just dropped the effort. I got up cautiously noticed how the weight had lifted, and continued to note "relief", "space", etc.
That evening, I got into what I interpreted as an extra-annoying EQ mini Dark Night. Things felt kind of solid so I tried rapidly noticing the full field of experience in order to dissolve them. That was a very bad idea, because next thing I knew I was all tingly and back in the A&P. I tried to pretend I was still in EQ as I really did not want to go through the DN again, but Dissolution showed up pretty quick and I was on the ride again (I'm describing my honest thoughts and reactions to the stages here, but on a higher level I do recognize that the DN is where the most learning takes place and that all the struggle teaches me important lessons).

Tuesday 8/24/21

After getting to EQ and falling back a couple more times, I got into stable EQ somewhere around late this morning. I hadn't had a great night of sleep, especially in terms of REM sleep according to my Fitbit, so I took a couple naps that day. This is where the weird phenomenon occurred again with the observer/doer falling asleep and some more broad and automatic "awareness" or something remaining. On reflection, this experience seems to be correlated with a lack of good-quality sleep the previous night. It's very interesting.
Something new I found I was able to do this time was, while awake, I experimented with trying to maintain a broad perspective on the visual field or the body in attention, and then I would sort of incline for attention to "fall asleep" and just allow experience to be there. This seemed to be really high-yield, though not as strong as when I was actually on the edge of sleep, doing something very different from my standard practice in shifting experience to a more panoramic perspective. Interestingly, however, a whole bunch of annoying aches, pressures, and mild pains would also show up when I did this. I would also feel the mucousy inside of my nose and throat, which added to the overall disconcerting nature of the experience. I'm not sure if the broad attention thing was causing this, or if the new sensations were already there and I was just noticing them more. When I tried doing this with my visual field, really taking in all the edges of peripheral vision, I would get strange new tickling and light pressure sensations around the eyes.

Some notes on how I use map theory

Because the cycling occurs in daily life, trying to map my progress (at least on the scale of a single POI cycle) is more than just a curiosity or ego trip: it actually is useful to me in planning my day and week. For instance, say I have some time left on Sunday where I could meditate. If I think I am in 3Cs, then it probably would be a good idea to hold off on the insight practice so I don't cross the A&P and then have to worry about DN bleed-through without having the opportunity to practice and get through it. On the other hand, if I think I'm in early ReObs, then it would be best to try to press on and get to EQ, which pairs much better with daily life activities.
The way I distinguish between POI cycles and Review cycles is that the Review cycles seem to have a positive baseline momentum while the POI cycles have a negative baseline momentum. Imagine a car shifted into neutral on a smooth road, where practice equates to pushing the car forward. In a POI cycle, the car is facing a slight upward incline: without any pushing, it will tend to roll backward. In a Review cycle, the car is facing a slight downward incline: without any pushing, it will tend to roll forward, though pushing will cause it to roll forward faster. That's how I think of it, anyway.

Needless to say, this only applies to off-cushion thinking. Mapping inevitably occurs on the cushion as well, but I'm getting better at recognizing it as more phenomena to investigate.
Danny S, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Wednesday 8/25/21

I woke up in what to me is classic High EQ: extremely ordinary feeling, trying to "pay attention" to sensate experience seems low-yield or entirely redundant, and emotional state is extremely equanimous. The equanimity was so strong this time it would be surprising if weren't for, well, how equanimous I felt.

I tried investigating suffering and no-self, but these seemed a lot more subtle than usual. I had a sense that the present moment was not enough, but it was hard to say why. I also clearly felt like there was a doer and observer, but it was hard to pinpoint where. They used to be easily pinpointed in tactile sensations around my lips and mouth and behind my eyes, but investigating these sensations seemed lower-yield now.

That afternoon, I started feeling sleepy and so sat down to meditate. I did a bit of trying to notice no-self in subtle intentions and in any sense of an observer before just relaxing into experience and letting it do its thing. At some point, I fell into a reverie where there was this "blue space god" (blue-skinned humanoid with a large spherical head and almost comically small face wearing black and purple future/fantasy armor) who seemed to be rescuing these "black crystal mummies" (humanoids made of or encased in black crystal shards) from a cave in Mordor, laying their unmoving bodies one by one out on a rocky plateau under a black sky. The "plot" is hard to recall, but there was some sense that the space god was divine and good and taking compassionate pity on the crystal mummies, who were victims of their own unskillful nature in some way. The last thing I recall is some of the crystal mummies turning blue, and that there was something very touching and significant about this and what it meant for their relationship with the space god. Then, next thing I remember, I was sitting there calm and tingly. I just carried on meditating for a minute or two before I realized something was different and realized that reverie may have been the lead up to a fruition.

Thursday 8/26/21
This morning, I felt like I could really get a glimpse of panoramic perspectives, really tune in to how everything happens in space. I tried imagining a static reference frame or space bubble in which all of experience was occurring. This didn't produce any really significant insights, but it was interesting. There was a sense of improved mindfulness and concentration, similar to previous afterglows following the completion of a cycle. The afterglow faded by that evening, but I could tell I was cycling through stages throughout that day and during a hike with coworkers in the afternoon.

Friday 8/27/21

Nothing too significant. I could tell I was cycling but had a lot of work to finish and didn't pay attention to the stages. I was pretty worn out by the end of the day.

Saturday 8/28/21

Another psilocybin trip (2g). Had some A&P-type stuff show up briefly and then spent 8 hours in some extremely restless and unsatisfying DN-type states. Interestingly, my partner, who does not meditate, had a similar experience (i.e. predominantly restless and unsatisfying).

My current views on psychedelics and meditation:
After ramping up my meditation practice to 3-5 hours/day two months ago, I found I started seeing little point in both alcohol and cannabis, which I felt dulled my mind. However, by this point, my partner and I had developed a weekly ritual of tripping on 1-2 g of psilocybin mushrooms (we live where they are decriminalized). Each weekend that we didn't have other plans, we would take care of all our open loops, clean our place, set an intention, and start the trip.
Everything I had read about meditation and psychedelics suggested that, assuming the drug doesn't psychologically scar you in a permanent way or cause other harm to your daily life, it is unlikely to be harmful to one's practice and may be of benefit. I have not tried other psychadelics, but I was familiar with the affects of light to moderate doses psilocybin.
However, at many times, I've felt uneasy about using psychedelics in the midst of high-dose daily insight meditation. One fear was that the drug would alter the trajectory of my progress of insight such that the maps would no longer apply to me and I would be forever confused about "where I am" and unable to map my progress. The biggest fear, if I was honest with myself, was that I might get Stream Entry or some other attainment while on a trip and that everyone (possibly including myself) would doubt any claims to an attainment I made because it coincided with a drug experience. 
However, upon examination, I consider these fears, especially the latter one, irrational and born of insecurity. In fact, if it is possible to accelerate spiritual progress with these drugs under certain conditions, then testing this hypothesis myself could ultimately benefit others. As psilocybin and other psychedelics seem poised for both widespread decriminalization and FDA approval for use in psychiatry, these drugs will likely become most people's first introduction to the spiritual path. I sometimes think about what it would take for it to actually be a possibility that "all beings awaken". If we imagine a day when insight meditation is widely accepted as beneficial and taught like health class, PE class, or driver's ed, that would be a start, but given the nature of the Dark Night, I'm not sure that would even be a good idea. But imagine a day when awakening is used like a vaccine for many forms of mental illness? I think it is clear that this is impossible at the current level of instruction technology. If the IMS 100-day retreat were a clinical trial, where fewer than 30% of highly-motivated, self-selected participants got some permanent benefit (stream entry) after 2000 hours of intensive practice (more than all the therapy time most people receive in a lifetime), and probably many more experienced increased anxiety, neuroticism, and irritability (dark night), it would be laughable to suggest it as potentially beneficial even as a niche treatment.

Sunday-Monday 8/29/21-8/30/21

I woke up on Sunday feeling distracted and unmindful, which by now I found was a typical result of tripping while in a review cycle. I was able to get up to what felt like it could be an A&P after 3 hours of furious fast noting, but that whole day I felt pretty off my game. After a couple more hours of meditating, by the end of the day, I felt like I had gotten up to EQ, but as I would realize later passing through the stage again in review, this was probably just a mature phase of Dissolution.
On Monday, I felt similarly off my game, and my instinct was to spend even more time meditating to get through it. I was thinking, "I'm in EQ, yet I feel like crap and progress is so slow. I must have desensitized my serotonin receptors with the psilocybin or something". Turns out, I was probably not in EQ. It's just the cues from previous cycles I had been using to identify it were no common in other nanas as well, especially their mature phases.

Tuesday 8/31/21

"I got better sleep last night, and my perceptual clarity is mostly back, though it's not as easy to feel things fluxing/vibrating as it was last week. I feel solidly somewhere in EQ, as identified by the smooth and spacious quality of vision, slow-to-moderate mind speed, and the ability to feel tactile sensations in different body areas simultaneously (e.g. both hands and feet). However, I am feeling this very persistent sense of sadness all throughout my face, neck, chest, and abdomen that seems unrelated to external life factors. It has the flavor of disappointment, as though I was really looking forward to a vacation only to realize I need to cancel it and do work that I hate instead. This is really not normal for me in EQ, and it only adds to my confusion. My mind is still noticeably more distracted than usual. It keeps grabbing onto thoughts about practice and then launching into general mind wandering."
^ Quotes indicate I wrote that in real time (I often get around to writing these a few days later). So interesting to look back on it and see how I was probably in mature Misery and thinking it was EQ. At some point, I was starting to feel like my previous attainments were a dream and started thinking "who are you kidding, thinking you got Stream Entry?". But something in me really wanted to disprove that hypothesis, and I poured even more time and effort into meditation.
I spent a lot of time this day trying to delineate the spacial boundaries of what I thought of as myself, going by the advice for getting 3rd path in MCTB. I kept looking at a point in my vision, then noticing the sense of the watcher, and noting "that" each time the pattern of sensations presented itself. It would go from the center of my head and then shift toward my chest and abdomen in a split second. Eventually, I got those patterns of sensations to start vibrating, which I wasn't able to do before.
Anyway, that evening, I got super-sensitive to the suffering caused by trying to manipulate experience. Even the slightest inclination to change something like notice faster or see more clearly created a huge wave of tension in my face, neck, and chest. There was nothing to do but just be aware, and yet this was really difficult as energy and effort had been my way of avoiding getting lost in thought. I really had to try to center myself, but it was not easy.

Wednesday 8/31/21

At some point this morning or the previous night, I got into what I'm pretty sure was the real EQ of this cycle. I was able to drop most of the effort and sail on through, paying gentle attention to present experience.
That afternoon, I got sleepy and felt like it was Fruition time. I laid down in a hammock and allowed my closed eye visuals to do their thing where they somehow get "closer" to "me" and swirl. I remember a reverie at some point. I don't remember anything about what it was except that it seemed inane and that I didn't even try to remember it since I was sure it couldn't signal a fruition. Yet, sure enough, when I remembered to check, I was back in the A&P with a wave of bliss.
I also got the characteristic "instant access concentration" that comes in the afterglow of completing a cycle.
That evening, I watched the stages roll by in the Review cycle and saw how I had been misidentifying a lot of them.
Danny S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Sunday, 9/5/21

10am: 30 min sit investigating +/0/- sensations. Some things I noticed: 1) I am experiencing a lot of non-specific grief-like sadness again (which I'm starting to recognize as a repeating thing, usually occurring when I'm thinking I'm in EQ), and I realized that the actual physical sensation of sadness actually has a positive feeling tone. 2) As I try to do this Vedana/Tanha investigation, the first thing I'm noticing is that the vast majority of the aversion I experience during practice is associated with thoughts or judgements about what "should" be happening. The actual physical sensations that condition the judgements (sense of out-of-phaseness, pressure in my face, sense of solidity, etc.) are almost always close to neutral. So the actual difficulty comes up further down the reaction chain.

11:30am: This investigation seemed to trigger more stage shifts. The sadness turned into this almost unbearable restlessness and all these small areas pain arose on the inside of my throat and nose, feeling like they were raw or dry. I investigated these small pain sensations and that really seemed to dissolve them. Now everything has become super clear and tingly in an A&P-ish way. It's more pleasant, but the pain is still lingering there and I have a feeling of uneasiness. A lot of these phenomena seem new, but I guess I'm more concentrated right now than I was during the week.
Perhaps attention is like a home where A&P is the display shelves and cases at the center of the main room where we put everything we enjoy experiencing. DN is the closets and basement corners that we shove all our stuff we don't want to deal with. EQ is all the space in between that we use all the time but don't usually notice.

Monday-Thursday, 9/6/21-9/9/21

These few days I felt like I kept alternating between a state that was spacious with flow/fluxing-type vibrations and a state where concentration was difficult and vibrations were not apparent. At some point on Monday while in the latter state, as I had been working on concentration the past several days, I tried getting into the 1st pleasure jhana. I was able to get the pleasure to increase to where it was quite strong for several minutes. As I came out of this state, and my concentration became more momentary, I noticed my breath had started getting this ratchet-like jolting to it, and then I started feeling some odd pains in places in my abdomen and back and my body started shaking a little. These are the things that seem symptomatic of Cause and Effect and 3Cs as a new progress cycle begins.

On Thursday, I felt like I got poor sleep. I had one of those lost-in-thought-briefly-while-dreamy-then-SKADUSH-land-back-in-my-body type events (third one I've had, I think). 

Friday, 9/10/21

Real-time notes:
"Good night of sleep. Feel really good in a normal way, but somehow mind is scattered when trying to focus on breath, observer is very solid, no vibrations.
Focused on observing resistance during ~20 min of informal walking practice. Had a release of tension at some point.
10am: 45 min sit, kept alternating alternating noting and just following the breath, with both seeming somehow more low yield than usual.
12pm: checked on resistance, and weirdly it wasn't there like usual. mind seems fine with the absence of juicy bliss or vibration or other 'fireworks'.
12:30pm: feels like something is building beneath the surface..."

Something very significant changed on this day related to my reactive thoughts and emotions related to practice. My mind basically dropped 90% of the negative reactivity and expectation about what I was "supposed to" be feeling. It is such a huge relief. I think the practice of noticing and fully experiencing resistance is really paying off. 

At one point, I thought it would be natural to characterize progress or attainments by the amount or type of suffering that is reduced, but I think I can see why people don't do this. It's because the majority of suffering is probably caused by reactive patterns that get investigated and diminished on a case-by-case basis throughout the paths.

Saturday, 9/11/21

1st half of the day, I felt pretty good and calm but also kind of vague with no vibrations or interesting sensations, but I wasn't upset by that. It seems the reduced reaction to failure to control experience is persisting.

There was some free time and my partner was available to trip sit, so I thought it might be a good time to try a higher dose of psilocybin (3.5 g). This time I followed as closely as I could the protocol of the 2006 Johns Hopkins study, "Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance", laying on a couch with an eye mask while listening to the playlist used in the study and resolving to "trust, let go, be open". I had a pretty crazy A&P-type ride during the ascent, where there was a lot of pleasure and excitement as I felt like my mind was being unraveled like a knot and I felt connected to all of past and present humanity and thought that everything in my life had been telling me how to experience this moment. Please note I don't believe any of this was "real" or provided legitimate insight in any way, aside from seeing how my mind operates in god/jesus/found-the-ultimate-answer mode).

However, near the peak, I sat up and had a realization that I actually do think has some external validity: I realized all the bliss and pleasure I had been experiencing was pointless or somehow "empty" (not saying this was "emptiness" in dharma sense, that's just the word that comes to mind). I told my partner I was getting existential and she suggested I take a nice relaxing bubble bath. I thought about it and the prospect of that ephemeral enjoyment also seemed pointless. Then I thought about what there was to look forward to tomorrow and it was all also pointless. Then I extrapolated to the rest of my life. It was all unsatisfying and pointless. There was no possibility that it could be satisfying or have a point. It was terrifying. I felt trapped by my very nature in endless suffering.

I spent the rest of the trip being edgy and restless, and that vibe persisted to a milder extent for the next few days. I had this feeling of existential angst that reminded me of when I learned that death was a thing as a child, where I just wanted to watch a movie and take my mind off of the prospect of not existing. As I write this, this pointlessness isn't dominating my thoughts, but deep down, I think I know that this is true. I mean that's what the Buddha was talking about with samsara and dukha, isn't it?

Monday, 9/27/21 [fruition?]

The previous evening, I found that, for the first time in about a month, the vedana I could detect in my breath sensations was 99% neutral. Same for my other physical sensations.

After going to bed, I woke up around 4am (something fairly common for me, annoyingly). As I was laying there, at some point I had a train of thought along the lines of, "what would I be like if I did not have a sense of self?". Then there was a blip and I was laying back in bed, my train of thought having been cleanly cut off. This is the fourth time I've experience this type of event where there is a definitive blip and my mind stream is clearly cut off where it normally would have continued. The presentation was the most mild this time, which seems to follow a trend. Each of the four cessation-like events has been more mild than the last.

At the time, what immediately came to mind was that this must be a cessation from 1st path. My working hypothesis at that point was that I was in the vicinity of EQ on the road to 2nd path, and this event just didn't feel satisfying enough to be the culmination of the inordinately long and difficult cycle I had been going through the past month.

Thursday, 9/30/21 [non-dual experience?]

After practicing as usual (letting go and relaxing into present experience, then investigating any resistance/ill will that comes up and including it in awareness) the three days after the blip, something very interesting happened after I went to bed:

I woke up around 1:30am (an unusual time for me to wake up) and was trying to be calm/mindful to get back to sleep when I suddenly felt like something was about to happen, and then I "fell into" the physical sensations of my body. The best way I can describe it is like it was as though I was relaxing and letting go into present experience as usual, but this time encountering no resistance. Superconducting mindfulness, I guess. There was no blip or unknowing event, and the whole thing felt like a pretty analog process despite occurring over less than a second. It felt very nice and new and exciting, rivaling the most interesting experiences I've had on psychedelics. For the next half hour or so before I fell back asleep (and I'm 95% sure this was not a dream, as I interacted with my partner and got up to use the bathroom), there was this sense that things were almost all happening on their own with significantly less of a center point. I remember "where am I?" getting asked and there being no answer from a specific location. I also remember detecting resistance, but that resistance being experienced very differently in a way that felt no more "personal" than other sensations occurring.
At the time, this shift felt so stable it seemed like it could be permanent, and there was so much excitement and thinking, "Wow, this is amazing! What conditions led me to this? I've got to help other people get here. I can't wait to experience this when I'm fully awake!". It definitely felt like the most significant meditation-related experience I'd had thus far. I soon fell back asleep and had many semi-lucid dreams where this state seemed to persist. Unfortunately, when I finally did wake up, I was out of that state.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 2111 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Danny S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Saturday, 10/2/21

I decided to try practicing one of Ken McCleod's 5-elements meditations from Wake Up to Your Life during a 45-min sit. I think I was cycling through ReObs at that point (recognized by the restlessness), so it wasn't a pleasant sit, but provided plenty of fuel for examining reactions. I have to say I am a bit confused as two what I'm supposed to be looking for in the five elements reaction chains, and the descriptions in the book seem kind of vague and metaphorical. I'm having trouble translating terms like "open space", and "falling to pieces" into sensations I can investigate. However, right when I start to think this Ken McCleod guy is too mystical-shmystical, he writes something brilliant like the fractal nature of erosion as a metaphor for the formation of reactive patterns. I also like his philosophy of not sparing the patterns of daily life from the scalpel of attention. So I'm sure there is something to this, but it seems like it'll take some time to really get it.

Sunday, 10/3/21
Did several 10-20 min sits throughout the day, trying to notice aversion in the form of faster reactions (one or two per second), rather than slowly mapping out the persistent bodily sensations associated with reactivity over the course of 2-5 seconds as I had been doing the past two weeks. In doing this, I realized that there were two types of sensations that I had developed a strong aversion to: 1) feelings of pressure around my nose and eyes, and 2) the absence of the satisfying "ahh, yes, oxygen" feeling that normally occurs at the end of the in-breath. 

Monday, 10/4/21

Felt like the first time I tasted EQ, realizing that I had forgotten how wonderful life could be. I just felt content and motivated and excited the whole day. I thought I had really cracked this cycle. Sadly, like all tastes of EQ-like states this past month, it did not last.

Tuesday, 10/5/21

The EQ vibe was gone, and now I just felt critical of myself and my thoughts. I kept thinking "maybe I crossed over into Disgust", and then would get disgusted at myself for continuing to get obsessed with maps and models. Practice-wise, I tried going for faster sensations and reactions, and this seemed to move things forward pretty well.

I'm mostly just trying to notice reactivity to sensations, but when I feel like I can do this pretty well, I try to see if I can notice the 5 elements reaction chains. I'm not sure if this is a correct interpretation of 5 elements, but I've been experimenting with conceptualizing it as the 5 different ways the mind tries to escape or avoid a threat in the form of an uncomfortable/unsatisfying/frightening experience:Earth: increase the stability/solidity of comfortable sensations (decrease mind moment variability?)Water: attenuate or remove uncomfortable sensations (decrease mind moment intensity?)Fire: intensify or create comfortable sensations (increase mind moment intensity?)Air: decrease the stability/solidity of uncomfortable sensations (increase mind moment variability?)Void: decrease the clarity of experience (increase the number of non-perceiving mind moments?)

Wednesday, 10/6/21

I had another experience that happened under similar conditions to the no-self peak from earlier, and seemed to be of the same flavor, though it was shorter and more jarring. Again woke up around 1:30am, with sensations seeming different somehow. Then the timer on our washing machine went off--BEEEEP--and it was so loud and jarring in my half-awake state that this intense fear arose. I feel like I normally would have just been like, "ugh, stupid beeping, I'm trying to sleep". But this was like, a primal terror that the sound would become so jarring that I would die. And then there was some kind of sense that my aversion to the beeping was not the same as the beeping, and then this incredible sense of release and peace pervaded me that was so intense it was somehow... creepy? Anyway, this all occurred in less than a second, and then repeated a few times with each beep of the alarm, but at a lower level of intensity each time.

During the day, I felt edgy as usual but somehow found the motivation to be super-productive at work while also applying strong vipassana to my experience and my fast reactions to experience in every spare moment. At the end of the day, I did a 45 min sit and things got really out of phase like I was watching from behind a window. Practice wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't miserable either. I felt pretty worn out but also accomplished.

Thursday, 10/7/21

Ok, this is really starting to suck. Practice today is really dissatisfying, but now so are the normally pleasant distractions I usually turn to. Food is somehow tasteless, and thinking about playing video games brings no sense of anticipation. I'm like a dopamine desert.

At work today, focusing on tasks just seemed unbearable at times. At one point, I seriously thought about asking my partner if I could borrow the car this weekend to go off into the wilderness and meditate.

I did a 45-minute sit this evening but felt pretty dull and kept getting distracting thoughts. In the times I wasn't distracted, I tried to investigate what sensations made up the resistance, but it was diffuse and difficult to localize and distinguish from thoughts.

It feels like it's all I can do just to keep it together.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 2111 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
It sounds like you’re getting the hang of elements practice. There's no “right way” to do it, it's just a loose framework to become more aware of your own reactive patterns and it varies for each individual. More important than getting the exact element right is noticing that it’s the same emotional/psychological reaction pattern which is operating in different contexts, both on the cushion (reaction to bare sensations) and in daily life (reaction to people & events). So for example earth reaction might manifest in daily life as fixating on increasing material comfort and in mediation as fixating on deepening jhanas. Fire reaction like you say is about increasing intensity (to counter feelings of loneliness/isolation), which could manifest in daily life as provoking some sort of conflict. Air in daily life could manifest as anxiety or a slightly paranoid/suspicious mind state (e.g. getting caught up in political intrigue), like you say to make things seem less stable. And void is the classic “spacing out” reaction to feeling overwhelmed, which can manifest as depression. Spectrum of Ecstasy also has lots of good examples and is written in a slightly different style. The unifying theme there is that the elements are reactions to the perceived “emptiness” of experience, but when they are liberated they translate into a sense of “spaciousness” and freedom within experience. These articles are by the same author to give you a taste:



Are you looking at realms as well? It can help to alleviate the “seriousness” of some of these mental states, by reminding you that they really are just mental states and they come and go in fairly predictable patterns. Something like “dopamine desert” could be seen as animal realm, where you’re focused on just doing whatever you need to do to survive with no enjoyment or pleasure (and it might be the void reaction which is pushing you into animal realm). Wanting to escape to meditate could be seen as a water reaction (disperse/avoid energy) to get out of animal realm and into god realm (getting blissed out oblivious to the world & others). Feeling dull on the cushion (when you’re not actually tired) sounds like cold hell realm (as opposed to the hot hell of anger), and it could be void element which is pushing you into it.
I don’t mean to diagnose you, just throwing out some ideas of how I used to practice this stuff. And it’s not like you ever “get beyond” this practice, it just becomes more automatic after a while so that it’s nowhere near the problem it used to be. When I feel tired and loaded with chores now it’s like ‘oh ok, animal realm, no big deal’ rather than ‘this sucks I need to get away from it’. When a potential conflict comes up it’s like ‘ah here comes hell realm, how deep do I want to get into this’ rather than blindly getting into a big conflict and stewing over it for days. I hope something there is helpful for you. It really is a worthwhile practice because it extends to your whole life/experience.

One other point is that as you start to notice the elements/realms then it can seem like the reactivity is getting worse. Partly because you are noticing it more, but also because the patterns tend to “fight back”! It’s almost like they have a life of their own (which they kind of do, being an adaptive behavior pattern) and they sense that they are under threat so they fight for survival! So just wanted to say that it’s normal to go through some rough patches when you are practicing this stuff and actually it can be a sign that you are doing it properly and the practice is working!
Danny S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Thanks George.

​​​​​​​This info was extremely helpful in getting a feel for these practices.<br /><br />I'm just now re-reading that last paragraph, and I probably should have paid more attention to it! Patterns have definitely been fighting back hard the past two weeks. I'm feeling pretty good today, but it's probably another eye of the storm.
Danny S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Woah, realizing I kind of left it off at a cliffhanger there! Anyway, here are a bunch of logs and notes I've accumulated.

Thursday, 10/14/21

Things have actually been going a lot better in the week since my last post. I've felt motivated to wake up early and practice first thing in the morning, when I get back from work in the evening, and during breaks at work when I can, for a total of 2-3 hours/day. Oddly enough, I've actually been more productive at work as well.

Some map digression: I’m thinking that the "biggest fractal" has finally cycled up to EQ after taking me deep into ReObs around when I wrote my last post. In the past month there were several days where I kept thinking, "I'm finally in EQ", only for it to be replaced by more new DN stuff the next day. This is the first time during this current big cycle that the ok-ness has lasted more than a day or two. There have been a lot of A&P-->DN-->EQ mini-cycles in the past week, but always with the backdrop of wider attention and lower reactivity. It still feels like low EQ, though, where the DN stuff still shows up a bit.

The five elements are starting to make more sense to me. I think I was trying to logic them too much. On an intellectual level, I couldn't see why all these reaction chains were necessary or sufficient to describe reactive patterns. However, after spending several days really looking for them in my experience, it really does seem like all manifestations of aversion, greed, and ignorance on the cushion really do seem to be dominated by one of these elements. Also, something I've noticed is that each of the six realms, except for the human realm, seem to be closely related to one of the elements. I guess it's supposed to be that any element can lead to any realm, but it seems like certain combinations are more likely:

When I am feeling equanimous, detecting blissful jhanic sensations, or feeling like experience is especially clear and I want that state to be more solid and stable out of fear that it may weaken or end --> Earth --> (usually) God realm

When I feel pain in my legs or unpleasant pressure in my face and I want to avoid it or for it to dissolve or disappear out of fear that it will become too much for me to handle --> Water --> (usually) Hell realm

When I feel like attention is out of phase with sensations, the in-breath isn't "satisfying" enough, my vision isn't "clear" enough, the DN isn't irritating enough, or experience is otherwise boring and I want sensations to intensify or for something interesting to happen --> Fire --> (usually) Hungry Ghost realm

When thoughts and distractions constantly jump into my mind, or I keep jumping between different meditation objects, or I keep switching attention from narrow to wide and back, or I keep theorizing and doubting out of an insecurity that I'm not doing it right and am missing out on progress --> Air --> (usually) Titan realm

When I feel dull, tired, sleepy, or confused, and the prospect of taking a more active role or doing anything with more energy seems overwhelming --> Void --> (usually) Animal realm
Danny S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Sunday, 10/17/21

Did a psilocybin trip (2.5 g Z strain) as I sat in the car while my partner drove us home after a visit with my former lab mates. I actually spent this trip talking with my partner and reviewing where I was in life with regards to my family, my friends, and my career. I actually wanted to try doing dakini practice on this trip, but my partner wanted to vent about all the issues she was seeing in my life, and I'm actually glad she did.

I realized that I had lost a lot of my creative idealism and ambition. Seeing my former lab mates and advisor and hearing about all the innovative technologies they were working on reminded me of the dreams of changing the world with new scientific discoveries and technological innovations that used to be so prominent in my day-to-day thoughts. My partner told me that she hadn't seen my same spark or enthusiasm since meditation became my main hobby, and I feel like I have to agree with her. This really hit home and made me realize I need to make a change. I had originally started meditating to try to improve myself, to give myself some kind of advantage in creativity or willpower and thus make a greater positive impact on the world, but it has become less about that in recent months.

Granted, you could say this shift in priorities is progress from a practice point of view, and sure, a lot of my ambition and enthusiasm was rooted in a desire to achieve and be somebody to compensate for feelings of inferiority. But it feels like the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction now. Maybe this will change, but for now I do genuinely feel that my living up to expectations is, in many ways, a matter of morality. Later in life, I may not have the same opportunity to distinguish myself and put myself in a position where I can make a difference in the world.

Anyway, I do recognize all the benefits I have gotten out of meditation. My reduced neuroticism and less fragile ego have really improved my functioning in life. So, what I resolved to do, and what I told my partner, was that I would from this point on focus my practice on removing obstacles to living by my values in daily life. After all, if I become an arahant but then end up just sitting on my ass all day, then that kind of defeats the whole original point. No judgment to monks or those for whom retreating from daily life is a skillful path: it's just not the one for me. If I did that, I would disappoint so many people, and I would violate my core life value of maximizing my positive impact on the flourishing of all beings. I have a responsibility to use my skills for this purpose (without making sacrifices that cause me or those around me to be miserable, of course).
Danny S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Tuesday, 10/19/21

Good night of sleep (I'm sure getting back to exercise yesterday helped). I did a couple 20-30 min sits throughout the day, but mostly tried to notice 5 elements in daily life reactions. I would notice the reaction, try to perceive the individual components, and then do a ~10 second version of the corresponding dakini practice (picturing the dakini, the elixir being poured, the components dissolving into light, and the pristine awareness symbol forming), or, if I only have a second or two, I just picture the pristine awareness symbol and the dissolving into light. Mindfulness felt really strong throughout the day, with clarity (mostly visual field being very 3D and hi-res) and jhanic sensations (mostly the breath at the nose becoming nice and cool and smooth) showing up. When they did so, I would picture the yellow jewel at my earth center and notice the fear of them going away and the reaction to solidify the sensations, then picture the reaction dissolving into a light that illuminates the less-pleasant aspects of experience to show that they are the same as the jhanic or clear aspects in that they are all just experience.

Later in the day, while sitting at my desk, I decided to actually try cultivating jhana for the first time in over a month. Jhana had seemed far away ever since I entered this "big" progress cycle, but it had seemed closer several times since EQ started to predominate around two weeks ago, though I had been too focused on insight practice to cultivate it. Honestly, I guess I had become so focused on attending to all the clinging and aversion in my experience that ignoring it to cultivate jhana felt wrong, but after doing Dakini practice for a week or so, I'm finding that I'm not as averse to reactive sensations because I think, "ah, here is more energy I can dissolve into light to power my awareness". Anyway, I rested my attention on the cool, smooth quality of my breath at the nose and cultivated an absorptive state for ~20 min. 

Wednesday, 10/20/21

Not a great night of sleep, as I kept waking up. 90 min sit first thing in the morning, spending half the time doing all 5 dakini practices as I listened to each corresponding section of WUTYL. The other half I spent just noticing reactive patterns in awareness. When noticing the patterns in awareness, I realized there was a sensation or emotion that I had trouble placing as one of the elements. It felt a bit like a tender cross between sadness and worry. It was like worry in that there was a sense of something nonspecific being wrong that could get worse in the future, and it was like sadness in that it felt like disappointment or grief for something I couldn't do anything about.

My mind and memory are kind of foggy this morning. There is little drive to practice or dissolve reactions.

Another hour of meditating at work. Then things got really unbearable and ReObs-y. 

I got back home feeling restless and exhausted at the same time somehow. When walking around, I felt I needed to relax. When relaxing, I felt I needed to get up. Did a 30 min sit this evening.

Thursday, 10/21/21

​​​​​​​Feeling like I "need to do" something, even if that thing is notice/cut/dissolve reactive patterns, is itself a form of aversion to present experience, albeit on a more subtle level. Any kind of "making sure" or "checking in" is like this too.
Danny S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Friday, 10/22/21

Had a bit of a crisis of confidence about my career and my practice today, feeling that I was a poor fit at my job and realizing that I had no idea what my long term goals in life were anymore. All my grand ambitions that I had earlier this year seemed naive and foolish, and I felt lost.

I did a psilocybin trip with my partner this evening (3.5 g B+, a less potent strain). This tremendous grief associated with my ideals about my career welled up and became so powerful I just wanted to curl up and hide. After a few hours, it passed and turned into spacious EQ vibes. I was still apprehensive about my responsibilities and how I would move forward in life, but it seemed more manageable .

Saturday, 10/23/21

The sense of a more "pure", or at least more jhanic, EQ was still there throughout this day. I tried cultivating the jhanic aspects throughout the day and during sits, which felt really nice, like a well-deserved break. One thing that made me uneasy, however, was I kept thinking, "wow, this is so nice. I'm so grateful to feel this way. I really, really don't want to go back to feeling the way I did yesterday". This felt like a vulnerable position to be in, because I feel like the point is to change how I relate to experience such that I can be ok with both the pleasant and unpleasant states, and all I could think was how I really just preferred this pleasant state.

Sunday, 10/24/21

So it is back to the DN today. I'm pretty lost now on whether these cycles represent any kind of progress or are just backsliding. Doesn't feel like progress in any case. Maybe that "pure EQ" was just a psilocybin afterglow.

I did a 90 min sit early this morning and a 45 min sit this afternoon, both times doing some 5 elements/dakini practice followed by the standard "open to experience, notice resistance, fully experience resistance", which is my default. Both were very difficult, 

I've noticed that I've been developing a tendency to stop and practice whenever I feel some jhanic sensations. But now I'm seeing how this is a form of clinging, and is probably related to my tendency to use practice as a form of avoidance of daily life responsibilities. And at this point, the jhanic sensations are almost annoying, like they are taunting me.

After another difficult 1-hour sit in the evening, I was feeling pretty defeated. However, I knew that, regardless of how I'm feeling, tomorrow is the beginning of a new quarter at my job, and it's time to really re-engage with my life as I'd resolved to do. I knew that all of this was experience that I was supposed to be embracing, but the goal of embracing it kept turning into a basis for comparison and aversion as well.

Then, at some point while getting ready for bed, I was pondering what it meant to be "open" to experience. I imagined opening to everything I was feeling and all the reactions to those feelings. It seemed to work surprisingly well! Like suddenly I was more ok. The "location" of the opening was something I had to vary a bit, first in my heart and chest area, then the center of my head, but what worked best seemed to be imagining some kind of "opening" motion occurring several feet behind me and a soft cone of "light" that represented open awareness illuminating all my experience from behind.
Danny S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Monday-Tuesday, 10/25/21-10/26/21

​​​​​​​Only 30-60 min formal sitting practice, but throughout the day I'd notice avoidance/aversion to doing some task and just intend to be open to that whole experience. This continued to work surprisingly well.

My 5 elements and 6 realms practice has been getting less deliberate lately. I feel like I've gotten a good sense of these things, but it's getting to the point where trying to identify which element/realm is operating feels kind of procrustean. It's a bit of a kind of aversion to experience to go, "hey, make sure you interpret those sensations and know what element that was!"

Just intending to open to experience whenever attraction/aversion/indifference arise is working well at this point, though I still drop back to the 5 elements and 6 realms as sort of lower gear when things are difficult.

Wednesday, 10/27/21

Woke up feeling fast, tingly vibrations, and didn't feel horrible. That's basically how I recognize the A&P, since the only other state where things are vibrating that much is ReObs, where the negative vedana is unmistakable.

Jhana felt really close the whole morning, and I spent an hour cultivating first and possibly second jhana (orgasmic pleasure arising, mostly in my lower abdomen). It's weird: I had been thinking I was nearing the end of some big cycle, but that's kind of out the window now. I haven't had anything resembling a fruition in a month. Maybe I'll try more concentration practice to condition my mind.

In other news, I'm having a hard time really switching to having career goals as my main aspirations (and things I read and think about in my free time), rather than practice goals, though I think I am gradually moving in that direction. To be clear, it's not that I'm trying to give up on meditation: it's just that I think that have healthy boundaries would be good, and that obsessing about goals tends to lead to desired results in daily life, but can be hindrances in practice. I guess it goes back to what I learned in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: "actions come first, feelings come later". The tough part is, the times of day when I have the most energy to work on a project are also the times when I feel I can make the most breakthroughs in my practice.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Yeah elements/realms can feel a bit prescriptive after a while. It's a great framework for getting a basic handle on reactivity, but once you know how to identify the sequence feeling -> reaction -> mental state, you don't need to be so explicit about it. You sort of develop a muscle memory in your body and feel when you are getting pulled out of equanimity, and your body kind of remembers how to welcome the feeling into awareness and re-center. At least that’s how it works on good days!

For some kind of specific sticky issue like career goals, you might a more flexible technique like Gendlin's Focusing helpful. You ask yourself ‘how does this issue feel for me in my body?’ Not your discursive thoughts about it, but the felt sense of the issue in the body. Then you ask yourself for a word or phrase which best describes the feeling. If it fits you sit with it, if not you ask again. You keep going back and forth doing this, looking for a fit and eventually you get to some kind of mini-release or resolution. You can repeat it as necessary and the resolutions tend deepen in a fractal way. Basically you are working directly with your subconscious, using the power of primitive verbalization to help unlock the old emotional knots in the body which are being expressed through whatever issue you think you are facing in your rational mind. It can be very direct and powerful, and also quite suprising!

​​​​​​​This part of the path can involve figuring out deep psychological drivers, so it's pretty normal for "whole life" issues like this to come up. Probably the only advice I can give is not to make any drastic changes until you get a better sense what's going on under the hood! Once you do that then things seem to be able to change quite naturally into a better aligned format if necessary, at least that's been my experience.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Just another thought. Focussing is like doing depth therapy on yourself in a way. It might also help to talk to an actual therapist as well. I don't mean to suggest you have issues which need therapy, just that a good listener can reflect things back to us which we habitually overlook. Talking with friends and family is great, but often it can just follow the formula of existing patterns or blind spots. And while meditation can get very deep into some areas, it seems to leave others untouched until circumstances touch on them. Meditation + therapy can be a very powerful combination, because you're getting the interpersonal catalyst as well as the ability to feel into what comes up. It might only take a few sessions to get to the bottom of the issue!
Danny S, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Thanks for the advice. And yeah, I'm just focused on keeping my options open while I figure things out: maintaining relationships, opportunities, income, healthy habits, etc.

The Focusing technique sounds very interesting and applicable. I tried it out for about 20 min today, and it seemed to help start to uncover stuff (see post below). Looking forward to exploring it more.

Hmm, I have seen several people mention how therapy and meditation work very well together, and I definitely have psychological blind spots. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll see what comes up as I explore my sticky issues, and maybe explore options for therapy in the meantime.

Actually, something related to this I wanted to ask about: Daniel mentions that concentration practice is good for working on psychological issues, and I've read a few practice logs where people have gotten more enduring non-dual shifts soon after focusing on concentration/shamatha. I really haven't focused on concentration practice for longer than a few days up to now, but I'm wondering if it could be beneficial at this point in my path. However, I've also read that jhanas can become an avoidance mechanism that hinders progress. What is your perspective on this?

The several times I've tried to go into something deeper than very light jhana states, at some point difficult sensations (restlessness, painful pressure in my face, etc.) will pop up and block me from going further. And then I will feel I need to go back into insight mode to clearly perceive the resistance that came up, which breaks the concentration.
George S, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Basically meditators are always doing some mixture of concentration and insight. If nice jhanas arise then enjoy them, if not then the hindrances need to be investigated (like you describe). There's no point in trying to force deeper concentration, that's just adding more ill will, it's all in the relaxing and letting go. But the deeper you relax, the more you will tend to open up old emotional & psychological knots. If they are minor ones then you can just relax through them, but if not then you may need to do some more active investigation (back to insight and/or therapy type explorations). Sometimes people can get into deep jhanas easily and get attached to them, but that doesn't sound like where you're at right now. The opposite problem is craving deeper concentration and getting frustrated, which could be a sign of some unwillingness to investigate the hindrances.
finding-oneself, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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I just read through some of your posts. I can relate to the struggle. Its good to know other people are doing it too. 
Danny S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Glad to hear you found reading my posts validating. I do try to be as authentic as possible in my reports, including the difficult along with the good. There has been plenty of good as well, though I have probably erred a bit on the side of overemphasizing the difficult recently. This is probably for the best, as it will be a reminder to my future self to remember that this path was not a cakewalk. In the post-SE honeymoon, I would fantasize about how I would get my friends and family into this stuff, but right now, I would not recommend insight practice to anyone who is not already really into meditation and not likely to quit when it gets challenging. "Perhaps better not to begin" indeed.
Danny S, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Thursday-Saturday, 10/28/21

Things have been going a lot better, with positive vedana tending to dominate and the easy access to jhana continuing. Less formal sitting time (30-60 min) these past few days. On Thursday, I felt like I was going through DN sensations from the past month (pressure in face, disappointment in stomach, negative thoughts) that felt familiar, but somehow easier to handle. Also, it was all in more of a 3rd vipassana jhana, with a layer of smooth, numb bliss covering everything. Maybe this is review cycling after all.

Practice consisted mostly of the usual theme of exploring what is preventing experience from being perfectly fine as it is. Also, because reactivity has been down recently, I also felt inclined to focus on exploring no-self a bit. Some take-aways:

-- I've noticed that, after about a week of doing it, just thinking "be open" seems to be lower-yield in the face of reactivity. Seems like part of the reason is that there is now this habituated expectation that intending to "be open" will produce some positive shift--and so the intention is now contaminated with ill will. I'm sensing this is going to require even more subtlety.

-- In some moments, I'm starting to see more clearly how reactions are sort of superimposed on bare sensations, rather than being all mixed up in them and part of the perception. It's as though I can see that pristine experience is there behind this windshield of reactivity, but I know that if I try to get any closer, I'll just fog up the windshield with more reactivity.

-- I had some very painful muscle cramps Saturday night that, from experience, I knew would get worse and then subside in waves over about an hour regardless of what I did. I tried opening to the pain and making space for it, but what really made it more bearable was noticing that I was by definition able to bear the pain I was already experiencing in that moment.

Sunday, 10/31/21

Trying out Gendlin's Focusing technique.

Clearing a space
: Asking "how is my life going right now?", issues related to work-life-practice balance, long-term goals, and near-term decisions come up.

Felt sense:
I center around the problem of clarifying my career goals. In my lower chest and abdomen there's a feeling that moves downward from top to bottom. It's heavy, but vague and cloudy, with flavors of trepidation, bewilderment, and perhaps disappointment.

I can't find a word that really captures the essence of the feeling, but the image of a thick cloud of fog billowing toward me as I drive down the road into it seems to fit.

I go between the feeling and the image. The feeling intensifying in response to the image seems to signal a fit. I let the two change a bit to better fit. In the feeling, the anxiety component becomes stronger. In the image, the cloud gets closer to me until it is right in my face.

Asking: I ask what makes the problem so much like entering this cloud. An immediate answer comes that says, "I don't have enough time to decide what to do", but there's no shift or release, so I keep asking. Eventually, the answer is, "I don't feel ready to decide", which seems to fit somewhat better. After I probe a bit deeper, it becomes, "I'm afraid of committing to a path forward", and there is a small shift and release. Now the feeling is slightly less thick and heavy.

I rest a bit, returning as I space out and drift into pondering the issue a few times. My mood is a bit heavier than when I started the exercise, but it has that necessary/had-to-work-through-this feel to it. Looking forward to digging deeper with focusing. There is definitely more to this...
Danny S, modified 22 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Monday-Wednesday, 11/01/21-11/03/21

​​​​​​​Wow, Focusing is really working for me!

After focusing an issue and getting the shift/release, my practice suddenly becomes more spacious and jhanic and pleasant. It really feels like emotional blockages are being released. Sometimes, the very act of "just listening" to my body and seeing what words and images arise, rather than assuming a label for them, is enough to cause the release. Powerful stuff! And it pairs so well with the skills I've developed in meditation.

A lot of times the description handles that seem to cause a shift are not what I would have expected. One time I was focusing a feeling that I would normally call "busy" or "anxious", but those didn't seem to fit. I ran through all the basic emotions and those didn't fit either, so I went back to "just listen" to the felt sense without imposing labels. There was sense of insecurity there, so I tried titan realm labels like "must achieve" and "not good enough", which fit a little but not very well. At some point, phrases like "I'm worthless" and "I don't deserve love" came up, and then there was a big shift and release. This didn't make sense to me because I think of myself as having a pretty healthy sense of self-esteem. Are there really parts of me that have such extreme negative views? I mean, that seems to be what's resonating, so I guess yeah, on some level.


-- Focusing seems to work best when I can articulate a problem and then focus on the associated sensations. It seems to work less well for vague negative feelings that spontaneously arise.

-- Focusing on the urge to "do something" about resistance. Even the automatic reminder to "notice", "accept", or "open to" resistance carries within itself some intrinsic resistance! Really paradoxical. I'm reminded of the problem of achieving temperatures close to 0 Kelvin: past a certain point, a given process meant to cool the system will introduce more energy than it removes, thus no longer causing a net decrease in temperature.

-- There are times when using Focusing on reactive emotions seems to not help or to be impossible, particularly when I'm in a reactive loop with the facial pressure. At these times, I find the only thing that allows me to relax is by noting "urge" whenever I feel the "need to do something".

-- Wondering if I actually have more work to do to understand 5 elements, as I'm not sure if I have really perceived emptiness/open space, assuming that's something that can actually be perceived.

-- I recently noticed a common theme in 5 elements techniques and other methods for getting comfortable with emptiness/open space: the need for vulnerability. I guess the 5 element reaction chains are all apparently trying to escape some sort of vulnerability associated with open space. Perhaps I will try just noticing any generic sense of vulnerability behind the urge to react by asking myself, "what am I afraid will happen if I don't react?"
Danny S, modified 22 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Thursday, 11/4/21

Kind of a difficult day overall. Maybe colored by stress around work.

Notes during the day:
  •  Focusing is becoming lower-yield, or at least more difficult to do given the pressure/tension in my face that dominates attention and make subtle/vague sensations harder to get a hold of.
  • Animal realm is now dominant for me. Most of the time, I'm just doing what it takes to survive and trying to avoid pain and discomfort.
  • I scheduled an appointment with a therapist, though the first slot available was a few months away.
  • I signed up for a 7-day metta retreat at Spirit Rock on Jan 10. I think this will be really good for me at this stage, as it sounds like it will focus on the 4 immeasurables, which are what follow 6 realms and 5 elements teachings in WUTYL. Metta is also a practice I haven't done with much consistency, so should be little risk that the instructions are too basic for my level of practice, or that I come in with pre-formed bad technique. Looking forward to it.
  • At this point, the worst resistance is resistance to taking action, to the extent that sitting practice feels a bit like a form of avoidance... Actually, it may always have been a form of avoidance at some level. It's a bit frustrating because the difficult emotion-related sensations fade when I stop and try to focus them--probably because I'm not taking the action anymore when I stop like this. So, I think effective action needs to be my gold standard measure of acceptance in these cases. Intention and action are just more sensations in experience, and I need to sustain my mindfulness off the cushion if I want to see them all clearly. It's becoming more and more clear how I need to improve at applying practice to daily life, which, at this stage, means bringing all my avoidance patterns to attention during their operation.

I want to digress a bit on the pressure in my face. I've mentioned it a few times, but it has become such a major influence on my practice lately that it deserves more attention. For the past few days, the pressure/tension in my face arises whenever I'm even slightly mindful, which is basically whenever I'm not fully engaged in some kind of activity. This has made it very difficult to do formal sitting practice with most of the techniques I've learned thus far. I've tried using techniques like focusing and 5 elements with this pressure, but it seems to behave more like an actual physical sensation like pain: the best I can do is relax aversion associated with the sensation, but not the sensation itself. Then again, there are apparently forms of chronic pain that are actually psychological in origin, so maybe this is not so clear-cut.

I keep cycling through different theories of what is causing this pressure/tension, thinking I've found the cause and then realizing I still can't predict or control it. Here are some notes I wrote about it last week:
I looked up the pressure in lip and nose thing, and it sounds like I've been unconsciously tightening my sinus muscles while attending to the breath in order to amplify the sensations in the nose.

The pressure would usually occur in the DN stages and in the EQ mini DN, and it also seemed to get worse when I would apply a lot of effort, so that explanation actually makes a lot of sense. so basically whenever attention gets out of phase, I try to make breath sensations more vivid by tensing my sinuses.

I can stop most of the tension by "holding my breath" until breathing kicks in as a reflex. Then I notice how the reflexive breathing just continues, and yet there is still this sense that I need more air and am holding my breath. But it's actually the conditioned pattern that is suffocating... Not "me". I can hardly believe I've been failing at the literal first instruction in meditation all this time. It's so ironic. Just letting my body breath on its own feels so unnatural at this point.
Turns out, that was not the best idea. I developed an aversion to the sensations of the breath at the nose, and found myself unconsciously holding my breath to avoid them at times, and I would start getting anxious and feel like I was suffocating. Kind of felt like I was going to condition myself into having panic attacks, so started trying other things.

Yesterday, I found one thing that seemed to reduce the facial pressure sensations while mindful and non-distracted: really pushing myself to include my whole body and the space around it in attention. I first noticed that I could focus attention on the breath in my abdomen and try to ignore the breath at my nose, and this would help a bit. Granted, it would cause pressure/tension in my abdomen and pelvis instead, but it actually felt pleasant in this area. My model of the etiology of this pressure/tension had been that it arises in proportion to the amount of effort I'm applying, as it definitely increases when I'm using too much effort. But then I found that, when I'm as relaxed and letting go as possible, it would go away for a bit, but then recur, as though it had become even more sensitive to even the slightest effort. Then, a new mental model formed: maybe the pressure/tension is some kind of "build-up" of "energy" that is deposited in whatever location my attention is focused on. So, that's how I decided to try making attention as wide as possible.

In addition to reducing the tension, this wide and spacious attention seemed to bring some cool effects of its own. This evening, after an informal sit practicing just resting in the wide awareness without too much effort, I took a bite of a Reese's peanut butter cup and there was a distinct shift: like awareness of my space of interoceptive/bodily sensations suddenly got added to my awareness of external space. Kind of like two halves of a jigsaw puzzle, which were up to this point being put together independently, being connected. And then I was looking at that half-eaten peanut butter cup and the visual scene presented differently somehow, like it was more interesting or significant the way it was in space. Hard to describe.
Danny S, modified 22 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Friday, 11/5/21

I'm continuing to cultivate the spacious awareness, mostly in daily life, since formal sitting still seems to cause things to contract and the tension in my face to return.

Current go-to techniques:
1) Apply effort to make attention as wide as possible, 
2) Notice any emotional tension/resistance occurring in space and ask, "what vulnerability is this resistance trying to protect against?"
3) Cultivate and fully experience that feeling of vulnerability. Remind myself that full awareness is supposed to feel edgy/creepy/agoraphobic to a mind used to duality.
4) Notice how the intentional effort to do 1-3 is itself a form of tension, 
5) Realize that I can "rest" in the wide, spacious awareness instead of trying to keep it propped up with effort (this one often doesn't work, and my mind naturally contracts around the breath at the nose, which feels somehow more safe/comfortable, but then that creates pressure/tension again)
Danny S, modified 22 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Saturday, 11/6/21

I'm continuing to search for the most skillful way to relate to this pressure/tension. I've read Shinzen Young's description of tensions that can't be voluntarily relaxed, which kind of sounds like this. He says it represents deeply held/unresolved tensions. If the sensations were constant, I could just accept them with equanimity as he suggests, but the problem is they seem to be correlated to how I direct my attention. So often I'm interpreting the tension increasing as "hey, change up the practice technique, something's not working". But other times I think, maybe this is just aversion to experience, and there's no "I" directing attention anyway. And then I try do-nothing type practice. Both routes seem moderately successful at different points.

On the upside, the whole body/spacious awareness seems to be paying off: noticing sensations as localized in a spacious field of awareness is becoming more automatic and more complete. It still requires effort to maintain, and there is often this sense of my mind going, "Ok, this is nice and all, buuuut I'm tired. Let's go back to nice cozy one-at-a-time land". But then, as soon as it does, the annoying tension in my face comes back! It's like going on a backpacking trip and being awed at all the beauty and nature, but then getting tired from all the hiking and going home to rest, only to remember you left your home messy and cluttered with all the baggage you've been putting off dealing with for years.
George S, modified 21 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 2111 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
My experience is that energetic pain is like an object lesson in aversion/resistance. Trying to "fix" it doesn't work, neither does ignoring, it and even gentle acceptance has its limits. Total surrender works well in principle, but it needs a lot of sit time and when I'm tired it's easy to fall into old patterns of resistance. The framing makes a big difference:- 'this is a problem which shouldn't be here and needs to be addressed' vs 'this is interesting, let's see what's really going on'. I've also found that addressing seeminly unrelated "real life" issues tends to coincide with shifts/openings, as well as talking with a skilled energy practitioner (someone who can relate to the energy in its own terms).
Danny S, modified 21 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

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Yeah, I thought this sounded like some sort of energy issue. Good to know there's no "quick fix" I've been ignoring.

Well, I guess that's one more incentive to spend time addressing the "real life" issues!
Danny S, modified 21 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Sunday, 11/7/21

Didn't sleep very well. Interestingly, however, when I got out of bed, I noticed how I was feeling all the usual sensations implying a poor night of sleep but that they were less of a big deal because there was all this extra space around them. Like, "ok, the sensations in these regions are unpleasant, but they only occupy a small fraction of this total volume of space". This sense faded as I started my day. This theme of difficult sensations being easier when I can localize them in space isn't new, but it was more pronounced than usual. I've had a lot of my most vivid experiences right after waking up, so I feel like there must be certain selfing processes that go offline during sleep and take a while to rev back up.

Also, for a few fleeting seconds while washing my hands this morning, the experience felt extra-vivid and there was a sense that it was all happening on its own. There were a couple other moments today where some scene got effortlessly smooth and vivid, but only for a split-second. Getting closer, but still plenty of knots to untie...

In terms of the energy issue, I was reading in TMI about the analogy of horses tied together for explaining how piti can be chaotic and unpleasant when the mind is only partially unified. I haven't had a lot of success following the TMI theories, but I'm going to experiment with thinking of this energy as this type of piti, mainly because it basically means it is going to happen for a while whenever I'm concentrated, and is not indicative of some kind of problem.

Random observation: I started doing some weight training for the first time in a few years this weekend, and found that there is something about the endorphin high occurring seconds to minutes after a set that seems to tangibly boost mindfulness. Did two 30 min shamatha sits using this framework for the energy issue. The tension was still there, but I found there was much less aversion to it because I was just like "there's the unbalanced piti, as expected, which just means I'm concentrating properly".
Danny S, modified 19 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Monday, 11/8/21

For the first time since I started my job earlier this year, I'm feeling some traces of that spark of creative ambition, that part of me that feels confident that I can come up with an idea no one else has thought of that solves a problem. It's still faint, but it feels like I've removed some obstacles. This motivated me to do some more Focusing:

Focusing the feelings involved in the issue of my motivation around work:
It's too hard
I don't know if I want to commit to this project
I could be doing something else
I don't want to give up my free time
I don't see how it serves my long term goals

Felt so much better after that session. The last two descriptions were hard for my rational verbal mind to accept. When I felt them resonating, my first impulse was to say "I have too much free time! What am I even doing with it??" or  "It's stupid for me to feel that way. I don't even know what my long term goals are! Am I sure this is what's fitting? Shouldn't it be, 'I need to really define what my goals are'? No? Sure that doesn't fit?." I guess I can see why these feelings were getting suppressed. My rational mind was shaming my emotional mind for feelings it judged to not be valid or helpful. 

This feels a lot like the fights I used to get into with my partner, where I would inadvertently invalidate the way she felt by arguing it isn't rational. I realized a while ago I was being an asshole to her. I didn't realize I was also being an asshole to myself.

This evening, spent some time noticing the habituated intention to "be more mindful" and the associated aversion to present experience, which happens very fast. I would started by noting "urge" whenever I felt the urge to try to change something about my experience, and then just used noticing. Things got very smooth and the energy in my face became more cool and flowy.

Tuesday, 11/9/21

Had another intense wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night experience. It was a lot like the time with the washing machine alarm, but this time with no external triggering stimulus. Basically, I was just laying there, feeling the tingly energy that usually accompanies these experiences, and I inclined my mind to see everything happening on its own. There would be some kind of shift, and then this sense of confusion and terror would arise with no apparent cause, and then things would go back to normal, all in 1 second or less. This happened 3-4 times. I remember Daniel saying that some parts of the mind just go "Ahhhhhh! No no no no no!" when confronted with no self, and then that deep-seated fear in each of the 5 element reactions, so this definitely felt like something of that flavor. I wonder why this part of the mind doesn't freak out during other no-self-type experiences.

Not-so-great night of sleep the past two nights. Circadian rhythm adjusting to end of daylight savings time. I felt symptoms of poor sleep throughout the day, but it was much less big a deal than it used to be. Still, ended up being pretty unproductive.

Trying to get a sense of what it is like to let go of everything but the present moment. It seems it would actually be a very scary experience! Like riding a rollercoaster blindfolded.

I feel like I'm a bit in-between practice frameworks right now, and that has been affecting my motivation to keep up my sitting time, which has been only 30-60 min the past week. I'm kind of leaning toward concentration practice for a few reasons:

-- If the energy/tension in my face really is low-grade piti associated with TMI stages 7-8, then, in theory, it should fall away in stage 9.

-- The insight practices I've been doing are basically spacious awareness and investigating emotional reactivity, both of which seem to work as well or better off the cushion, so it makes sense to use on-cushion time to improve concentration.

-- The result of shamatha sits should basically be either 1) I get into deep absorption states, in which case I get to dwell there and condition my mind with positive qualities, or 2) I run up against some emotional hangup, in which case, great! More fuel for insight/therapy practice.
Danny S, modified 3 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Wow, it's been a while since my last post. In the past three weeks, I've been really focusing on re-engaging with my life, especially at work. I've started making traction on a new project where I have more independence, and for the first time since I started my job, I've been feeling excited to make progress and try out new ideas. Time will tell if I can keep this up as conditions change, but for now, it's a huge weight off my shoulders.

I've been practicing 1 hour a day most days, often split up between 2 or 3 sits, and 3-5 hours maybe once a week when I can spare the time. It's been about 50% insight and 50% concentration, which has been a shift from the pure, freewheeling insight practice I'd been doing the two months prior.

Wednesday, 11/10/21

1 hr morning samatha sit, breath at abdomen as object. Focused on pleasure sensations, which kind of amplified and then turned to diffuse, cool bliss over about 5 min. Space broke down a bit: sensations in abdomen seemed to be right next to those in my face at several points.

Saturday, 11/13/21

Morning: 30 min sit focusing small, hot, prickly sensations in my abdomen and throat.
Need release
Repressed anger
I put the last three in caps because the words only resonated with the feeling when I screamed them in my head. So I guess that's sexual frustration --> desperate loneliness --> rage --> repressed into general restlessness. 

Afternoon: 3-4 hours concentration practice following breath at the abdomen. For the first hour, there was more mind-wandering and general difficulty than I was used to. Then, I noticed fast vibrations, pleasure, and bright lights as I crossed the A&P of a new progress cycle. I continued to focus on the breath and then turn my attention to pleasure when it arose, hoping to cultivate jhana. By late afternoon, I got to a place where it felt like parts of my being were expanding outwards, which I hadn't gotten since the honeymoon after SE. However, as usual for me, these jhanas were all very light and soon became boring.

Evening: ~ 1 hour 5 elements practice. 

Sunday, 11/14/21

Some interesting thoughts about the 5 elements:

-- After recognizing the urge to change something about present experience, I had been identifying the element by either 1) running through a memorized list of the reaction chain components of each element to see which ones match, or 2) classifying the element by the type and location of sensation occurring. 1) was much too conceptual and intellectual, and 2) didn't really work since the reactions aren't sensation-specific. What I'm finding works much better is asking, "if I let this reaction take over, what will I end up doing?"

-- For each element, I've been experimenting with facing the core fear associated with the element in some absolute way in order to sort of "corner it". For instance, if I'm experiencing a fire reaction and seeing present experience as boring and not enough, I think to myself, "There will never be more than this. It will never get better". Basically, it has to be something that shows how the reaction is useless by forcing my mind to accept that what it fears is inevitable. It has to be a bit overly pessimistic to avoid allowing wiggle room that projects me into the human realm, like "ok, accept that experience is dull and boring right now... so that it will get really vivid and awesome later!"

Here are phrases I've found to work with each element.
Earth: "I can never be sure of this (belief or comfort that I'm clinging to)"
Water: "There's no way to escape this. I can't avoid it"
Fire: "There will never be more than this. It will never get better than this"
Air: "Nothing I do will ever be enough (to feel secure/to achieve what I want)"
Void: Haven't found something for this yet. I guess the urge is to space out or go to sleep because reality is too much, so maybe something like "There is no rest. "

-- I've noticed that the 5 stages of grief are basically the 5 elements in order of increasing energy:
Denial: Earth, then Water
Anger: Water, then Fire
Bargaining: Air
Depression: Void
Acceptance: Awareness?
Danny S, modified 3 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 44 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Monday, 11/15/21 - Friday, 11/26/21

​​​​​​​Kind of slacked off writing notes in the past two weeks, though I've stayed productive and engaged in life.

I've started listening to WUTYL from the beginning after going through Ch 5 and 6 pretty thoroughly. It's definitely been helpful to be reminded of the basics of _returning_ attention to what is already happening and _resting_ attention on the breath.

I also tried going off both caffeine and my stimulant medication last weekend to see how it would affect my practice, as my impression was that these stimulants were very helpful to my practice, but I wanted to do the experiment. Busyness and striving were much less of an issue, which makes sense. It was much easier to "just be", although there was definitely a lot more subtle and strong dullness present. Interestingly, the energy in my face completely subsided during this period. However, the energy seems to arise in proportion to my level of energy in practice, so maybe I'm not sure if it going away is a good thing. Urges for basic needs like food and sleep were much stronger, as is typical when I'm off my meds. Overall, it was probably more difficult to practice well. 

Afternoon of the second day, I did a moderate-dose psilocybin trip for the first time in a while (3g Z-strain). The trip was definitely a lot smoother without the stimulants. By the end of the second day, there was this intense restlessness and non-specific craving. This often happens at the tail end of a trip, but I feel it was made more intense due to the lack of dopamine in my synapses while off my meds. It felt pretty impossible to just be ok in the present moment. I guess if I ever attain something that convinces me I've completely eliminated aversion, greed, and ignorance, then going off my meds and throwing in some psilocybin would be a good way to see how that holds up.

All in all, I'm feeling like I've hit a plateau in my practice. I've done really well getting past  80-90% of the reactive patterns causing me the most trouble in both practice and life. I'm able to do what needs to be done in life without avoidance 80-90% of the time. I'm able sit and rest with experience without trying to change things 80-90% of the time. The energy in my face comes and goes but doesn't bother me 80-90% of the time. The cycles come and go but I'm able to just let them do their thing 80-90% of the time. But that remaining 10-20% of resistance is really subtle and elusive. My motivation to practice has been relatively low, and it feels like I haven't made any breakthroughs in a while. There doesn't seem to be a large difference in off-cushion experience between days I slack off on practice and days when I practice for several hours.
George S, modified 2 Days ago.

RE: Danny’s practice log 1

Posts: 2111 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
That sounds pretty good overall. You’re right about the last 10-20% of resistance being subtle and elusive. Shargrol wrote this in my log at a similar point:

the things that are left to be discovered are very subtle at this point. the insights that happen are small in some sense, but they pervade so much of experience that you might call them big, too. they are so big by being so small.

And Daniel described it like this:

The last little remaining ignorant percentage was maddeningly difficult to track down, with the tracking down paradigm obviously being part of the problem.

It’s almost like we become so focused on addressing our issues, that we find it hard to step back and appreciate what a huge improvement an 80-90% reduction in reactivity/avoidance/resistance/suffering really is. Somewhere in the back of our mind we might be thinking something like - if I just keep going like this then the last 10-20% will vanish altogether:

I guess if I ever attain something that convinces me I've completely eliminated aversion, greed, and ignorance …

​​​​​​​But as Daniel says, part of the problem is the paradigm itself - the expectation of getting to 100%. Life is never going to be perfect, and that’s fine, good enough is good enough. I’m not suggesting you give up, as long as we live we need to keep working on our stuff (morality and concentration). But in terms of “completing” the insight part of the path, it’s as much about the framing of that last 10-20% and expectations as anything. I mean what is awakening anyway other than being present with what’s going on in your life? What if that last 10-20% was called just getting on and living the rest of your life like a relatively sane human being?

Maybe the big breakthroughs are mostly in the past now. Part of the problem with the “final insight” is that we might be expecting it to be another big breakthrough, a big move from here to there, when actually it is extremely subtle. It’s almost like we don’t notice it because it is so obvious, we’re already looking at it - a move from here to here, or no movement at all.

I suppose that's really just a long-winded way of saying you're on the right track, keep going with gentle investigation, and don't be afraid to step back and look at the bigger picture and examine your expectations ...