Brodie's Practice Log

Brodie's Practice Log Brodie 9/29/21 10:16 PM
RE: Brodie's Practice Log Papa Che Dusko 9/30/21 12:51 AM
RE: Brodie's Practice Log Kaloyan Stefanov 9/30/21 2:12 AM
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RE: Brodie's Practice Log George S 10/8/21 11:51 AM
RE: Brodie's Practice Log Danny S 10/8/21 5:14 PM
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RE: Brodie's Practice Log Kaloyan Stefanov 10/18/21 6:09 AM
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RE: Brodie's Practice Log Brodie 10/26/21 8:52 PM
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Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 9/29/21 10:16 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 9/29/21 10:16 PM

Brodie's Practice Log

Posts: 29 Join Date: 12/26/20 Recent Posts
Hi all, 

I've been wanting to start a practice log here for some time. Today is the day.

I'll keep my history short. I've been practicing for 6 years or so. MCTB was the first book that really inspired me to take practice seriously, but I didn't understand how to put it into practice. I started practicing TMI but it never really stuck. Explored all sorts of random magick and new age stuff, along with various Buddhist teachers like Rob Burbea, Reggie Ray and Shinzen Young. I've spent most of these 6 years jumping all over the place from practice to practice. Around a year ago I really got into Shinzen's system and it felt like home, but I was efforting super hard and recently took a break from vipassana and did mostly "just sitting/shikantaza" stuff for a few months. 

Recently I'm back on the vipassana band wagon. It is the style of practice that makes the most sense, conceptually and experientially to me. I've been reading sections of MCTB2, mainly the chapter on the 7 factors of awakening, and I realize that my practice has been out of balance with regards to the factors. Having this framework in the back of my mind is really helpful. 

Currently I'm practicing about 3 hours per day, or as much as daily life allows. I'm working primarily with Shinzen's noting practices and body scanning. I like to cycle through see out, hear out, feel out, see in, hear in, feel in as a kind of circuit, focusing on investigating impermanence. Generally I'll do something like that a couple of times per day, maybe one sit focusing on the outer circuit and one on the inner circuit. And I tend to do another practice where I focus on body sensations, starting with 15-20 minutes of either breath focus or sitting with full body awareness, and moving into a ~45 minute body scan, again trying to deeply investigate impermanence. I've found practicing in this manner to be a really fun way to practice, and I try to allow myself to play around with different techniques rather than being dogmaticlly married to one. After all, they are all about investigating experience at the sense doors, so I figure they are all complementary. 

Looking forward to keeping a log here and being part of the community. I hope that this will help me to maintain a consistent and dedicated practice. 

Brodie emoticon 
Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Years ago at 9/30/21 12:51 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 9/30/21 12:51 AM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Welcome Brodie and best wishes! emoticon 
Kaloyan Stefanov, modified 2 Years ago at 9/30/21 2:12 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 9/30/21 2:12 AM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Hey Brodie, welcome! Thanks for sharing details about your practice and it is great that you decided to keep a log here! I am looking forward to hearing about how things go for you!

Good luck with your practice and let us know if you need any help with something! emoticon
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/2/21 1:09 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/2/21 1:07 AM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Thanks for the warm welcome guys! 


Here are some reflections on practice of late (the past 2-4 weeks).  Motivation to practice has been strong of late. I was getting somewhat bored with "just sitting"/"do nothing" type practice, although having the odd interesting experience. Coming back to doing a lot of noting feels really exciting and interesting again, and I'm noticing a marked improvement in day to day sensory clarity and the general collectedness of the mind throughout the day. 

My attitude towards practice has changed considerably also. I used to feel like I had to meditate to get enlightened, and that was the most important thing. I'm tending to view practice now as simply part of a balanced life. I'm very much into physical health, fitness, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which I teach for a living. I'm seeing meditation as the psycho-spiritual complement to physical health and fitness, simply another part of becoming a more healthy, well rounded, and well-functioning being. This feels more healthy.

I've been formally practicing around 2.5-3 hours per day this week. And although I feel motivated to practice, I find there is often resistance to sitting formally in half-lotus in my bedroom. I'm being more leniant with myself in this regard and practicing sitting in a chair in my backyard, on the couch, or lying down. In this way I'm practicing a lot more than I would be otherwise. I acknowledge that there is some benefit to be gained in finding the discipline to sit formally cross legged, but it also seems like somewhat of a positive development to allow myself some more freedom in terms of posture and location of practice, and not being so ridigly dogmatic and perfectionistic about these things. I figure the more time spent practicing the better, regardless of posture. 

Along these lines, I'm enjoying finding various ways of making practice fun and interesting. Shinzen's framework of practice really is ideal for me in this regard. I have really been enjoying his way of progressing or cycling through a sequence of techniques in a sitting: for example doing 5 minute intervals of focus in/out see in/out, hear in/out, feel in/out, focus in/out, etc. I find it very enjoyable working with the "outer circuit" (outer visual, auditory, and physical body) when sitting outside or going for walks, and working with the inner system (mental image, mental talk, emotion) when I'm indoors. This feels like a fruitful way to practice for me. I'm realizing that the most important factor in making progress is simply doing a lot of practice, and I'm a lot more likely to do a lot of practice when I'm making it fun. 

Historically I've struggled to find a shamatha object that I enjoy working with. Sometimes I love the breath, then it starts to feel forced and tense. I've tried mantras and kasinas but never stuck to it. Lately I've been enjoying sitting with an awareness of the whole body as a shamatha object, but again, I'm not sure if it will stick. I feel more inclined simply to work with objectless shamatha (something like do nothing, or Michael Taft's "dropping the ball") prior to or after noting as a form of shamatha. 

Re vipassana: I've never really understood how to investigate the 3Cs before, but I've worked a lot with Shinzen's formulation of impermanence/flow. I had an kind of intellectual insight into this yesterday which really helped. Instead of trying to investigate or find the not-self or unsatisfactory quality of experience, it seems to work to investigate the general idea of self/not-self, or satisfactory/unsatisfactory. This feels kind of like asking an inquiry of the experience, like "is there self in this experience?" and investigating the sensations to see that there's nothing there that implies a self. Likewise asking of experience "is this satisfactory? is this enough?" and finding that sensations aren't inherently satisfying. I don't know if this has been talked about before, if other people practice this way, or if its fundamentally flawed in some way, but it seems to make sense to me and feels fruitful in experience, so its something I'll be exploring. 

Finally, I've been dropping a little bit of metta in now and then. This seems to be good for me, as I'm generally a pretty cold and intellectual type person with some self-diagnosed autistic neurotypology. I find it helps me to feel somewhat more connected to people. I was repeating "may you be happy, may you be peaceful" towards people and feeling the sensations of loving-kindness walking around in a shopping center the other day and it was as if all of a sudden I started to realize that all of these NPCs walking around are actually conscious beings with their own inner worlds. This makes me think about a remark I made to my girlfriend recently that I often struggle to remember that the people around me are actually beings in and of themselves with their own lives, and not just sensory events, or things defined in terms of the impact they have upon my experience (often irritation, nuisance, tiresome; or enjoyable, a source of emotional support, good for stimulating conversation, etc). I guess this all ties into the illusion of self and self-centeredness somehow. 

​​​​​​​That's it for now. Time to practice. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/4/21 9:17 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/4/21 9:17 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Really enjoying practice. My concentration seems to have been steadily improving by practicing vipassana on individual sense doors. I've been experimenting with different shamatha objects - different ways of working with the breath, some mantra, and metta practice - to see what works. Regardless of the particular object, I'm consistently experiencing pleasant vibratory sensation throughout the body, generally starting in the hands and forearms, the chest, throat, and around the mouth. 

I took a quick look at Leigh Brasington's method for entering jhana. This morning I did a 1 hour sit with the intention of following his instructions. I have tinnitus, so I decided to use this "inner sound" as the object for generating access concentration. Concentration seemed to build very quickly, generating pleasant sensations and some bright lights behind closed eye lids. After 20 minutes I switched to focusing on the pleasantness of the pleasant sensation in my chest, as per Leigh's instructions, and allowed attention to rest there. I continued for 40 minutes. The pleasant sensations waxed and waned in intensity. At one point I decided to attempt to "breath into" the sensation and gently coax it to spread through the body on the out breath, as per Rob Burbea's energy body instructions, and the pleasant vibratory sensation throughout the body started to become much more intense and wide spread, almost like a feeling like I was going to "take off" from all of the vibratory energy in the body, and there was a sense of euphoria building along with bright white light behind the eyes. However, there is also some craving for jhana throughout the sit, and I was doing my best to let this subside and just focus on the sensations without any craving for jhana to arise. I told myself that I was doing this for the development of wholesome mind-states and to train the mind for insight practice, rather than chasing after jhana. 

I'm unsure whether focusing on the pleasant sensation in the chest is appropriate for first jhana. In Shinzen's system, this was a feel-in sensation, an emotional body sensations, whereas Leigh says to focus on a "physical sensation". I am unsure whether an emotional body sensations would fall under his definition of physical, or whether he specifically means a "feel out" (non-emotional) sensation. From my limited knowledge of jhana, it seems that perhaps focusing on the emotional sensation would take one directly to second jhana. 

I will try again and attempt to focus on a purely physical (non-emotional) sensation such as the pleasant vibration in the hands, and see where that leads. Regardless, I'm excited by this potential development in practice. Jhana's have always seemed so far out of reach, however I'm now confident that I have the appropriate level of concentration to be able to explore this area of practice, so I'm excited to see where that leads. My intention is to devote an hour/day to this kind of practice, and 1-2 hours of vipassana, and see how that goes for a while. 

Mindfulness off the cushion has improved significantly over the last few days. I'm intending to remember to always simply "be here now", to be present in an open way without grasping onto anything, and to let go of thoughts when I notice I'm caught up in them, kind of like Michael Taft's "dropping the ball", rather than doing any particular practice. I've felt much more present and less caught up in thoughts, and there is a sense of clarity and collectedness of the mind. It feels very motivating to notice these improvements in practice. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/8/21 2:46 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/8/21 2:46 AM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Practice continues to develop in fascinating ways. 

2-3 hours / day of formal practice, and generally trying to be as mindful as possible in daily life. 

I've been devoting a fair amount of time to increasing concentration, primarily using the "nada sound"/tinnutus as the object, which gets me to access concentration pretty quickly and generates piti throughout the body. I've tried to enter jhana a few times following Leigh Brasington's instructions, but concentration tends to wane after switching to the pleasant sensation. Also doing a fair bit of metta which is working very nicely as a concentration object also. Concentration practice finally feels fruitful after exploring these new objects. 

On the vipassana front there have been some very interesting developments. 

Labels no longer seem necessary. I notice that labelling experience creates a kind of lag behind the direct perception of the experience, and a kind of mental echo. Even when I drop the labels, there's this kind of non-verbal inner impression of tagging the experience with attention to acknowledge that it has been registered, but this feels also like a lag... a kind of conceptual mental echo or impression which is placed atop of the direct sensory experience. So I've been dropping labels and the non-verbal noting and just kind of "knowing experience" as directly as possible. I've also been working with expanding the focus of attention. Instead of knowing individual and relatively narrow sensory experiences one by one (buzzing in hand, sound of car, mental image of the street outside my house, pressure in the butt, etc) I've been expanding the focus to include of the field of experience... maybe the sense of the whole body, or the whole visual field, or a larger region of the sound space... and working to include awareness of multiple sense doors at once. 

This more inclusive way of knowing experience directly actually feels easier in some ways. It feels unnatural or contrived in a sense to restrict attention to individual objects in a serial fashion, and more natural and intuitive to simply just know with as much direct clarity what is present moment by moment... so that could be a sound and the mental image of the thing heard, as well as vibrations in some part of the body, etc. 

Even this is still restrictive and directed in some way. There is a foreground or central area of attention which is more in focus, even if that area of focus spans across multiple sense doors. I've also been exploring the potential to simply know the whole field of experience in its totality.... "everything all at once" ... with as much clarity as possible, and again, this feels quite natural, intuitive, and simple; in fact, it feels a lot more natural and effortless than selecting some particular piece of experience to focus on and ignoring the rest. 

So this is all very interesting. I read Daniel's "Hierarchy of Vipassana" post and it seems like moving in this direction is moving up the hierarchy... moving from labelling to simply knowing, and from a narrow to more inclusive scope of attention, and then to all of experience.

I'm trying to encourage myself to play with this and explore and have fun with it. Letting go of "formal technique" (like see-hear-feel, focus in, focus out, or working with indivudual doors - my usual go to's) feels somewhat scary and disorienting, but also more natural and immediate, and seems to be the encouraged direction to go in. Moving back and forth between these modes feels like good training, like moving up and down gears in a car. It feels like I'm becoming more fluent with the machinery or technology of attention/awareness by exploring these contrasts. And Shinzen's advice to "work with the whole and work with the parts" seems to support this way of working also. 

I realize I have come to this point in practice before, 4 or 5 months ago, got all freaked out and moved to Do Nothing or Just Sitting because it was more simply and less disorienting. Now I feel like this exploration is part of becoming a mature meditator, really learning how my mind works for myself; taking ownership of practice. 

That said, I still don't really entirely understand what it means to directly perceive the 3 characteristics. At various points in practice I make an attempt to bring one of them to the forefront of my mind and I feel I'm getting a sense for noticing these qualities of experience, but this is pretty new to me. 

If anyone is actually reading this, cheers emoticon 
George S, modified 2 Years ago at 10/8/21 11:51 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/8/21 11:51 AM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Good stuff emoticon 
Danny S, modified 2 Years ago at 10/8/21 5:14 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/8/21 5:14 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Hi Brodie,

I also have often wondered whether my habit of mixing techniques and just doing what feels right in the moment is "correct", and ultimately I think your intuition about this being part of "owning your practice" is absolutely correct. Do what feels right for you. emoticon

I'm not really qualified to give (reliable) advice, but I wanted to share my experience since your practice sounds similar to how mine was a year ago. I was all into the TMI stages, was practicing 2-5 hours a day after 4-5 years of doing small bits of spiritual practice here and there, and kept "leveling up" every 2-3 days until I was around stage 6, thinking "look at me, I'm a spiritual prodigy!" (not that you sound like this, just poking fun at myself emoticon) I felt like I could be just on the verge of jhana at points but could never get "all the way" into it. I could feel subtle and pleasant "breath-related" vibrations throughout my body, especially hands and face. Sits felt very good and my perceptual clarity in daily life kept increasing. Basically like what you describe, but maybe a bit more subtle. I now believe I crossed the A&P at that point.

Then progress kind of plateued in TMI and so I went back to the noting recommended in TMI, and gradually lost 90% of my motivation to do formal sitting, though I kept obsessively reading MCTB, other dharma books, and dharma forums like DhO and r/streamentry. Meanwhile, I was starting to struggle in daily life at school/work, with my family, and in my relationship with my girlfriend, and this gradually got more severe over a period of 6 months that, with hindsight, I believe was the Dark Night. Throughout all this, I was thinking, "one day, I'll find time to go an a two-week retreat and maybe get to Mind and Body". Not once did I consider I could be in the Dark Night, because I thought I first had to be able to notice attention appearing and disappearing 20 times a second and experience sparkling orgasm vortices in the Arising and Passing Away before getting to that territory. I also read Daniel's descriptions of the Dark Night and thought, "Oh wow, that sounds like a crazy emotional rollercoaster with fear and misery and disgust jumping out at me like a haunted house." That's not at all how it was for me. It mostly just felt like meditation didn't work anymore, which I attributed to me not practicing as diligently. It was not until my first weekend retreat, when I rose through and recognized most of the stages in order and got a taste of Equanimity, that I realized how much of my problems were actually Dark Night side effects. It was all much more subtle than I had thought, and it really crept up on me. Once I knew it was the DN, however, I was empowered to apply the advice for those stages and see my reactivity as part of my practice.

Anyway, the point is, I crossed the A&P having experiences like yours, and really would have benefitted had I known it was possible to do that and then enter the DN despite having pretty weak concentration (think: mind wandering for 10-30 seconds every 2-5 minutes, max noting speed of 1-3 Hz). So, if at some point you feel you are no longer making progress despite trying several different techniques in your toolbox, maybe consider that you could be in the DN and try reading advice related to that.

I notice you haven't mentioned anything about the progress of insight maps, but I'll bet you've read about them at least a little. I don't want to "corrupt" you by suggesting you obsess about "where you are" on the maps, especially because they have been a source of craving and overcalling of attainments for me. However, at least in my case, I think undercalling was a lot more detrimental than overcalling.

Anyway, keep it up!
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/9/21 2:43 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/9/21 2:43 AM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Hey Danny, 

Thanks for the input. 

I do have some basic knowledge of the POI map. I've read a few different takes on it over the years, but that said, I haven't read that section of MCTB for over 3 years and my memory of what Daniel Ingram has to say on the topic is pretty minimal, so that might be worth another look. 

That said, I did an 8 day virtual retreat in March with Shinzen Young and I had been reading a lot of map theory at the time (mainly Kenneth Folk and Ron Crouch's stuff). I was doing a couple hours shamatha/metta and maybe 8 hours formal noting in Shinzen's style on the retreat, and things got very intense fairly quickly. By day 3 or 4 pretty much every sense door was filled with strong vibrations and I was seeing bright white lights with my eyes closed. I think that this was A&P. A few days later I had a couple of sits where I progressed through what seemed like textbook Dark Night stages, from misery through desire for delieverance, but it was over fairly quickly. After than I had a couple of very strong experiences where the vibration in the sense doors seemed to ramp up 10000x fold (just a random number to emphasize how powerful this felt) and all of the sense doors started to sync up until I was experiencing one unified field of vibration, and I felt like I was on the verge of dissapearing/cessation. This happened a couple of times but no cessation was coming. 

Then being the reckless former psychonaut that I am, one night I decided to take 300ug of LSD, and shit got wayyyyy too intense. Everything became far too fast and chaotic and I couldn't figure out how to practice in that state. Eventually I realized that with fast walking meditation (Shinzen's "auto walk") and metta I could calm things down. 

After that I was seriously obsessing about the maps and what stages I had passed through, and whether I had fabricated the whole dark night stages, or whether they could really have been the dark night because I passed through them so quickly and with relatively little suffering. So I really have no idea where I'm at. I would say that I probably crossed the A&P on that retreat, and maybe (?) I got to equanimity, but have probably regressed since then. There were definitely phases since that retreat where I've lost the motivation to practice and started doing at little as 1-1.5 hours per day of just sitting / do nothing. I recently listened to Michael Taft's podcast on his map of deconstructing sensory experience and find that simplified approach to mapping progress with vipassana very helpful, basically just always attempting to notice more and more detail and flow/impermanence until one contacts pure awareness and eventually has a cessation. 

That said, my motivation has been very strong over the last few days, attention feels very powerful, and concentration has improved considerably, so maybe I've been going through A&P again. Yesterday and today it seems that attention wants to be more diffuse/broad and open, and there is more of an awareness of the periphery, which seems characteristic of moving out of A&P into dissolution. I also have the lyrics of a song called Dissolution by A Perfect Circle stuck in my head :') which happened on retreat also after all of the intense vibrational stuff, haha. 

Regarding mixing up techniques, I've taken the perspective that they're all really just about observing the sensations that make up experience moment by moment, so whether I'm allowing attention to float around the whole field of experience (as in "see-hear-feel), a particular sense door (see out, hear, out, etc), or a particular group of theme/category of experience (focus in/focus out, focus on see/hear/feel), whether attention is narrow or broad, or whether I'm noting objects in one or multiple of the sense doors at a time (Shinzen's exclusive vs inclusive emphasis - i.e. noting "see-hear, hear-feel, all, etc"), it all is kind of just a variation on the theme/technique of observing reality moment by moment. I used to have massive technique FOMO and would jump around all of the time, so it really helped me that Shinzen actually encourages people to practice his system in this way, changing up the options on the noting apparatus based on interest, opportunity, and necessity in the moment. So I find that helps me stay motivated and keep things fun. But maybe it is less than ideal. I can't say for sure. 

Thanks again for the input. If you have any advice on approaches to practice that might be helpful based on your study of the maps then I'm all ears (eyes? haha). Cheers. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/9/21 2:48 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/9/21 2:48 AM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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I also went through about a week of being very averse to sitting in proper meditation posture about a week ago, as I hinted at a little. Over the past few days, proper posture has felt pretty effortless and actually pleasant, so that could also indicate a shift from Three Characteristics into A&P, I believe. In any case, I'm going to try to prevent myself from getting super caught up in map theory and notice thoughts about practice simply as thoughts without getting all caught up in the story. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/10/21 9:51 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/10/21 9:51 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Practice continues to develop. 

Labelling/noting no longer seems necessary to remain present with experience. In fact, it seems like the act of noting is getting in the way of simply percieving the totality of experience moment by moment. There's been a movement from noting + labelling (using Shinzen's definitions), to dropping the labelling and just noting objects with bare awareness.

However, even the act of intentionally selecting and noting individual objects/sense doors seems contrived and unnecessary, so I've been moving towards simply allowing experience to show itself moment by moment, experiencing the whole field of experience as a totality. 

It feels almost effortless and natural to allow reality to simply show itself, moment by moment. There is the recognition that there is no need for an intentional act of noticing an experience; the sensation knows itself as it arises, thus the whole field of sensation can know itself as it arises. Even thought is noticed clearly as thought amidst this field of experience, so it feels like there is no real potential for distraction. This is much more natural than selecting pieces of the field to note moment by moment. When I do go back to noting individual sensations in a linear fashion, there appears to be just as much clarity of all that is in the background of attention (i.e. not being noted) as the object in the foreground. 

So based on this, and the reading I've been doing of the POI chapters in MCTB2, I feel like I'm in EQ. I listened to a podcast between Daniel and Michael Taft where Daniel described the analogy of the kazoo player that appears in the EQ chapter of MCTB and this really struck me; it was like "oh yeah, why am I picking out little pieces of reality to experience moment by moment when I can just experience the whole thing directly?!" 

I'm doing my best to not obsess over the maps. Thoughts about where I'm at are noticed simply as thoughts, and I've been including notes such as "mapping" or "practicing thought" when needed. That said, reading through these chapters on the POI was really helpful. I feel like I've been in EQ before, in the months following my retreat, but I didn't know how to practice; I moved towards more "do nothing" and I think the lack of investigation led to me falling back into the DN. I lost a lot of motivation for practice in the the following months, and also had some other stuff going in my life that took a lot a lot of time and energy away from meditation. And I went through some tough months emotionally, which I didn't connect at all with the Dark Night because I had kind of disregarded the POI due to my prior obsessive tendencies about it. 

So in practice now I'm intending simply to allow reality to arise and to be known in its totality. I'm intending to include the more subtle aspects of experience that feel like "self" or "the meditator", sensations related to investigation, effort, striving, craving, aversion. I'm noticing that there is some part of the field that feels like "this side" (which is typically sensations located in the back and middle of the head and neck, some thoughts about practice, and feelings of striving) whilst the rest feels like its "over there" or "objective". I'm also noticing the subtle sense that it feels like these two aspects of reality are trying to come together or merge with one another; to put that another way, it feels like the distance between the sensations known and the knowing of them is attempting to collapse, as sensations realize that they know themselves where they are, rather than being known from a central vantage point. And in some kind of weird way the sensations that make up that central vantage point / viewing platform, as subtle as they are, also seem to be realizing that they know themselves as they arise, rather than being known from another point. This is very hard to describe, but I think that paints a relatively decent picture of it all. 

Beyond that, I've been struggling a lot with energy levels over the weekend. I had a couple of nights of very poor sleep due to irresponsible caffiene and modafinil use and it seems I'm still recovering from that. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/10/21 10:03 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/10/21 10:03 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

Posts: 29 Join Date: 12/26/20 Recent Posts
I realize as I re-read my post above that I'm kind of adopting Daniel's language in describing my experience. I'm trying to be very conscious of not allowing my experience to be scripted, but it does seem to do a good job of describing what is occuring for me right now. 

If I had to condense things and use more of my own language, I would say the defining feature of practice right now is that it simply feels natural and effortless; there is a natural clarity of the whole field of expeirence such that noting feels completely unnecessary and actually gets in the way. There is a natural awarenesss of thought as it arises such that there really isn't any potential to be distracted or lost in thought. And there is a growing clarity of subtle aspects of experience such as the sense of "investigating", "efforting", "striving", and sensations associated with the "knower" of experience. 
George S, modified 2 Years ago at 10/11/21 11:04 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/11/21 11:04 AM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Scripting is not necessarily wrong, as long as you are aware of it and reality testing it. Are the suttas scripting people with their detailed descriptions of satipatthana, anapanasati and jhana?!
Danny S, modified 2 Years ago at 10/11/21 3:48 PM
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RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Just curious, how has your concentration practice been? Have you tried accessing jhanas lately?
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/11/21 7:49 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/11/21 7:49 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Throughout last week I probably devoted at least 45 minutes / day to concentration. I've really just been playing around with finding an object that I enjoy working with, and seeing how my concentration is with each. Over the weekend I mainly practiced vipassana as there was a lot of compelling stuff to explore. 

The breath at the abdomen feels the most soothing, but my concentration is relatively poor with it.

The "inner sound" (ringing in the ears) works really well for getting to access concentration, but it's also kind of an annoying sound and I tend to hear it more throughout the day when I've been concentrating on it, and I'm not sure I want that in my life haha.

Concentration with metta is also pretty strong, and leads to strong vibration / piti throughout the body. I like to employ a bit of Rob Burbea's strategies for working with it - basically visualizing the metta as a golden white light originating in my chest, breathing into that with each in breath, and spreading it through the body with each out breath. I did this before bed last night and it led to strong vibration/piti throughout the body in a matter of minutes, but it was late and a didn't have time to take it further or attempt jhana. I'm also not sure what the next step to enter jhana would be with this style of practice - I'm assuming just to keep enjoying the pleasantness of the metta/vibration in the body and allow it to build and suffuse the whole body. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/11/21 7:50 PM
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RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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I guess so. Scripting yourself into a sense of wide open clarity and equanimity doesn't sound like the worst thing thing if it leads to good practice, and as long as its not an equanimity born of suppressing difficult experiences. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/11/21 8:08 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/11/21 8:08 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Yesterday was characterized by intense doubt, over-analysis, map obsession, confusion about the best way to practice and how to combine different perspectives. Thoughts like "is shinzen's system really enought?", "what about the 3 characteristics?", "maybe I should focus on the practices from Seeing That Frees?" "No, I need to commit to one system" etc. This kind of thing has been a recurring theme in my practice over the years. 

So the practice has been noticing the sensations of doubt, worry, and the associated thoughts arising; seeing them as just more sensations. This morning the phrase "taking the sensations of the present moment as the path" came to mind, which really helps with the doubt and analysis of which system is best. No matter what system or particular technique you employ, it comes down to noticing the sensations that make up your reality moment by moment, whether than is the pressure of the seat, the sound of the cars outside, or thoughts questioning how to practice. 

Another thing that helps me is to look for common threads between teachers / systems of practice and formulate them in my own words. Perhaps this is giving into the doubts and the intellectual analysis, but it seems to help me get back to practice. 

Basically the common threads for progressing in vipassana, as I see it: 
  • Notice and label sensations in your experience with as much clarity, detail, and equanimity / acceptance as possible. 
  • Move towards expanding the scope of attention to include more and more of experience. Start with a small area, such as a finger tip, and try to expand the scope of attention progressively whilst maintaining the same clarity of attention. 
  • Start to include an awareness of the more subtle aspects of your experience, such as intention, the sense of exerting effort, of directing attention, and the sense of self.
  • Move towards dropping labels and simply noticing/noting with bare awareness. 
  • Move towards noticing experiences happening in multiple sense doors at once in parallel, rather than jumping from place to place. A good place to start is working with the individual sense doors in a particualar modality (such as see out, hear out, feel out) and then experiencing them all at once with the same level of clarity. Do the same for the inner circuit. 
  • Ultimately move towards experiencing the whole field of experience with as much clarity as you can experience a restricted area of the field. "Total capture" of everything happening in your experience, moment by moment. 
  • Include in this global field an awareness of the more subtle aspects of experience, such as intention, the sense of self, the sense of effort, the sense of "space", the sense of self, etc. 
  • Go through the above process for each of the three characteristics. 
Having a framework like this figured out in my mind, and now externalized, helps to provide me with a sense of structure and an understanding of what I'm shooting for in my practice. However mainly, I realize, its about not getting caught up in the stories of doubt and intellectual analysis and just staying with experience with as much clarity and broad coverage as possible. 
George S, modified 2 Years ago at 10/12/21 12:04 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/12/21 12:04 AM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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This morning the phrase "taking the sensations of the present moment as the path" came to mind, which really helps with the doubt and analysis of which system is best. No matter what system or particular technique you employ, it comes down to noticing the sensations that make up your reality moment by moment, whether than is the pressure of the seat, the sound of the cars outside, or thoughts questioning how to practice. 

Another thing that helps me is to look for common threads between teachers / systems of practice and formulate them in my own words. Perhaps this is giving into the doubts and the intellectual analysis, but it seems to help me get back to practice. 

These are both really good ideas. You can't really go wrong or script yourself with the first one, because you are looking at your experience directly "as it is". And it gets really interesting and important when you start to ask questions like what do I want out of practice and what is awakening? And by comparing different traditions and looking for a common denominator, you can get an intuitive sense of what is likely to be important and which way to go ...
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/12/21 9:29 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/12/21 9:29 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Yesterday I had a really busy day. Only had time for 45 minutes or so formal practice in the middle of the day. 

I'd been thinking about concentration/shamatha and experimenting different approaches. Particularly Rob Burbea had been on my mind and his emphasis on developing a sense of wellbeing and enjoyment rather than a strict emphasis on concentration. Here are my notes from immediately after the sit: 

I sat down and resolved to work on samadhi - focusing on developing a sense of relaxed energy and enjoying the pleasantness of this. I moved to full body/energy body awareness. Vibration/pleasant sensation was super strong immediately, and I started to freak out thinking I’d taked too much acid (id just taken a microdose). Simply sat in full body (energy body) awareness with background awarensss of the breath for about 25 min, then started to breath in and out of different areas - abdomen, solar plexus, heart, throat - and spread energy through the body. This led to the intensification of sensation and some cool vibration almost like the hair standing up on the back of the neck and head. Very enjoyable sit. Kind of blown away how powerful it felt. Concentration wasn’t super strong in terms of background thoughts - there was some thinking about stuff coming up on the weekend which was quite active for a time - but this kind of didn’t take away from the practice. Almost like it’s more about enjoyment of the sensation more that brute / strict concentration, and this felt really nice, really freeing; because I can allow myself to enjoy the sensation and get really into that, much more than I can control the background thoughts. 


This morning I read a few sections of transcripts from Rob's Jhana retreat. 

I sat down and did 40 minutes again with the intention to focus on developing a sense of wellbeing and enjoyment. I started by opening up awareness to the energetic space of the whole body, and noticing the breath in this space. This felt very pleasant any enjoyable straight away; not in a piti sense, but more in a kind of open-hearted, lack of expectation kind of way, a kind of openness of heart way; very wholesome and simple. I started to incorporate some metta phrases into this and notice the impact of the phrases on the sense of the energy body, and played a little with breathing and visualizing energy coming in through the heart and spreading through the body. Piti started to build in the hands so I switched the foreground of attention to the hands but kept awareness of the whole energetic space in the background, and focused on simply enjoying the pleasantness of the sensations in the hands, the happiness that came with this, and gently coaxing the piti to spread by keeping the awareness open and breathing up through the hands and out through the rest of the body. 

I really enjoy this approach to developing samadhi/shamatha. It feels like it is more about the quality of attention, and the openness of the heart/mind which counts, rather than simply holding attention on one spot for as long as possible. There is something very gentle, playful and open about it, which I feel is very nourishing, wholesome, and helpful for balancing out certain aspects of my natural disposition (which is to be more cold and analytical). I have tried this style of practice in the past but I was always a little too heavy-handed with it. This time around I feel I can take it super slowly; like I can just rest in the sense of the whole body and enjoy that, maybe include some metta phrases if they feel helpful in the moment and enjoy that, or maybe start to feel/visualize the breath in different parts of the body, but there is no strict formula to follow, and its more about exploring the quality of attention and mind (being receptive and open, sensitive to the impact that the breath or metta has on the whole energetic space and sense of wellbeing). 

I did about 18 minutes of vipassana after this before I got too hot sitting outside in the sun. I dropped any attempt to investigate the three characteristics and was just present with the experience of the senses - first allowing attention to move between the outer sense doors of seeing, hearing, and feeling, and then seeing and hearing indivudually. It felt like contact with the senses was significantly deeper as a result of dropping any particular attempt to investigate the 3Cs, like I was really just in contact with sensation as it is, and there was a sense of spaciousness (noticing the space around and between objects in the visual field, and the whole field of sound space). It feels like the attitude of emphasis on "quality of attention" rather than strict technique from Rob's samadhi practice carried over into this vipassana practice, and I was more receptive and open to allowing sensation to simply show itself, rather than going out to find it, so to speak. 

A lot to explore here. I feel much more at peace. The obsession on mapping has dropped away. Practice is simply about noticing what is here in each moment (vipassana) or encouraging a sense of wellbeing and enjoyment (shamatha). This feels like a maturation in practice. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/12/21 10:36 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/12/21 10:36 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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45 minutes vipassana. Sat down and resolved to simply explore/experience sensation/reality moment by moment. 

Started with the body. Allowing attention to move through the body and then opening to the whole body.

Then into sound space; opening to the totality of sound space. Started to get a sense of how the mind tries to "make something" out of the sounds ... there's a mode in which sounds are just activity, and then the mind makes them into "things" (a dog barking, my girlfriend in the room next door, cars in the distance, birds chirping) ... dropping out of this mode in which sounds "represent something" and sound is just sound/activity/process. Noticing the subtle thought in the background that arises in response to sound - a word or mental image that tags/labels/represents the thing.

Then into vision and the same kind of thing ... getting a sense of the way that the mind makes a thing out of the activity of the visual field. Started to get a sense that there's nothing really "out there" ... there is just the activity of seeing ... and at the same time, there's no "thing" or "I" here knowing vision, there is just the activity of vision. 

And then opening up to the totality of outer see-hear-feel. It struck me that there's too much going on for "me" to be able to notice and keep track of moment by moment. The only way to actually know what's there moment by moment is to "get out of the way" of "trying to know/notice" and just "let the sensations know themselves" or "be known". And this opened up into a sense that there's actually no one here; there is just this activity, moment by moment. 

There was a lot of thought as all of this was going on. Thoughts describing these insights, trying to conceptualize them - the make them into something real to hold onto. Then there was the realization that the activity of trying to hold onto these insight was just another way of fabricating a sense of self that gets to "have" the insight, and that there's no need to try to hold onto this sense of the activity just knowing itself because there's no one to hold onto it.

The sense of "trying to know experience" is a kind of grasping; reaching out for it and trying to hang onto it as it fades away or after its already gone creates the sense of the self or the one that is noticing experience. But there is far too much happening moment by moment for that fabricate self to notice... the fabricated self can know narrow portions of experience in a linear kind of fashion, but not the totality of a sense door or multiple sense doors... there's simply so much going on that it can't keep track - that kind of linear processing just can't keep up; the only way to "keep up" is to just let go and then there's no one there keeping up, there is just activity manifesting.

And the sense of the self that is there meditating or trying to track experience just feels like a kind of tension, very tiring and constricting. Opening up to simply activity manifesting is kind of ecstatic, but in a strangely simple or ordinary way. 

Somehow this is so simply and subtle and yet also kind of like HOLY FUCK ... I think this is my first real taste of no-self without psychedelics. 

A quote from MCTB that struck just now: "it is just this transience that awakens". 

I fucking love this shit. 
Kaloyan Stefanov, modified 2 Years ago at 10/18/21 6:09 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/18/21 6:09 AM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Hey, great to read about your practice and experiences. It seems you are progressing really well! I really like your description of your taste of no-self and it resonates a lot with some of my experiences at that stage! HOLY FUCK indeed emoticon Are you getting these no-self tastes only during sits or does it also happen in daily life?
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/21/21 9:20 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/21/21 9:20 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Life has been pretty crazy in the week since my last post. 

Over the weekend I ran a retreat focusing on integrating BJJ, yoga, and meditation. That was pretty stressful and demanding, and I didn't get much practice time outside of the meditations that I led. But it was incredibly rewarding, and very cool leading some meditations and hearing about people's positive experiences. It feels very strange to be teaching people how to meditate... serious imposter syndrome. But I just remind myself that I'm not teaching the dharma, I'm just sharing some basic meditation techniques and my thoughts on how to integrate that with movement and martial arts, which I'm certainly qualified to do. 

And generally haven't had a lot of time to practice in the week since. I've been sleeping a lot and recovering from the business and sleep deprivation of that weekend. 

I would say that the week has been characterized by a continuing sense of doubt and over-intellectualization of the path and practice. I keep finding myself thinking about whether Shinzen's methods are enough, whether I should be integrating more of Rob Burbea's or MCTB's techniques and approaches into my practice. I question whether I would have more success or make faster progress just 100% committing strictly to one system, or whether a more fluid and integrative approach is better. 

I've been examining the root of this kind of thinking. I realize that it comes from a sense of wanting to get "there" as fast as possible, and make as rapid progress as possible. And the antidote to this is realizing that no one knows the absolute fastest path for anyone, and that everyone's path is unique. Ultimately it is an experiment, and as much as thing of play as it is work, and only I can know what feels fruitful in the moment, and what I feel drawn to practicing.

I just keep trying to remind myself that as long as I'm practicing, it probably doesn't matter what particular technique or system I'm using; the best practice is just the one that I'll do. And I remind myself that this thing takes time, and that to explore any particular technique or system deeply requires one to really put the time into it - you can't practice everything at once; so just practice what you feel like practicing right now, and don't worry about what you're going to need down the line. 

When I remember this, I realize that I'm really enjoying working the way I'm working with Shinzen's system as the basic framework, and it seems to be working. But I also feel strongly drawn to Rob Burbea and his general approach to practice; so I plan on slowly reading Seeing That Frees and gradually integrating some of his insight ways of looking into my practice. In particular, I feel drawn to his dukkha and annatta ways of looking, which I occasionally experiment with, but I feel I really have to give some time to. 

On the vipassana front, mostly I've been focusing on investigating impermanence/change in each of the sense doors. I've also been working with expanding the scope of attention, covering the whole of the outer or inner system with awareness, and sometimes the whole field of experience. This feels fruitful, particularly for off the cushion practice, where it feels more contrived to note narrow experiences in a linear way. On the cushion, I'm still really enjoying working with each of the sense doors individually, and then opening up to cover the whole inner or outer system, or working with all visual/auditory/somatic experience part by part.

On the samatha/samadhi front, I've been really enjoying metta practice in the way Rob Burbea teaches - opening up to the whole "energy body" and noticing the effect of the metta phrases and visualizations on the sense of wellbeing and energy in that space, and exploring the impact that different modes of attention have on piti and the sense of wellbeing. 

I keep noticing an enhanced sense of clarity and vividness. This is particuarly noticable in vision, where it really looks like I've updated my graphics engine. I'm more attuned to subtle changes in texture and shade, and it is generally just fascinating going around observing the world with this enhanced clarity. I'm often surprised when I notice this randomly just going about my day. I'm also noticing that I'm much more aware of thoughts and intentions off the cushion; the mind can get very active, but I rarely feel like I'm getting carried away or lost in thought. 

In response to Kaloyan's comment above: I haven't really had any more tastes of that no-self experience, but I do notice in general that the sense of self feels "thinner" in a way, like there's just kind of less "over here" on "this side" of experience. And all of my fretting about practice has been causing me a lot less suffering than it used to, like it is a little easier to notice it simply as the activity of the mind and not get caught up in identifying with the story of the confused meditator. 

That's it for now. I finally have a chill day with very little to do, so I plan on getting in a few hours of solid practice. 
Kaloyan Stefanov, modified 2 Years ago at 10/25/21 5:55 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/25/21 5:55 AM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Hey Brodie, great to hear about your progress - it all makes great sense. Seeing That Frees and the approaches in it is a great book for roughly where you are, I am a fan of that book personally.

For where you are, direct-pointing stuff might be really helpful for you - it definetely was for me roughly at the stage where you might be. A lot of the popular teachers out there are quite direct-pointing heavy (more from an Advaita/Zen standpoint), so if you feel drawn to that you can check out some of the stuff from Adyashanti, Rupert Spira, Fred Davis, etc. 

Daniel Ingram, although not famous for direct-pointing specifically, does some direct-pointing in MCTB (in various chapters such as 3 characteristics for example) + in podcasts such as this one - It is a bit longer one, but worth it if you haven't seen it already.
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 8:41 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 8:39 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Dumping logs from the past few days. I've been moving more towards keeping notes from each sit, which really seems helpful. This isn't a record of all sits, just those that I wrote notes about. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 8:41 PM
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RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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20 mins vipassana. Focus out. See out. Hear out. Felt like I was getting sucked into hear flow, like somehow it was “eating me up” or I was getting “sucked into it”. That felt very powerful. But got really tired. 

Took a microdose and laid down to nap. Did do nothing and eventually drifted off into a restful semi sleep. 

10 mins SHF and focus in. Piti and happiness was present. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 8:43 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 8:43 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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36 mins.
Sat down and decided to try shinzens focus on rest. I let the mind move between the restful states, and this felt quite nice. Eventually the light behind my eyes became very alluring and I started to focus exclusively on this. I started to get a sense of exhilarating merging with this, which was actually somewhat frightening as I felt the sense of self beginning to fade. It feels as if the sense of being “on this side” of experience, observing the light “over there” somehow, on the other side of some divide, started to fall apart; as if there was just the light/flickering, no one observing it. But this didn’t intensify to complete merging, perhaps due to resistance. Eventually piti got quite strong in the hands, arms, torso, and face and I focused on this overall sense of piti/wellbeing throughout the body, and alternated between probing and opening to it, which really seemed to intensify it when I switched modes. I also thought of the idea of equanimity, as in just creating space for the piti/wellbeing and happiness that was building, rather that grasping at it, and this intensified it and brought a sense of spaciousness. Thought was very subtle/quite throughout most of this and I was really just present in the experience. Then it became too much; kind of harsh and overall just a bit overwhelming in a subtle way, and I took a couple of long breaths out as per Leigh Brasington's instructions and switched focus to the sense of happiness/warmth in the chest/feel in space. The physical/vibratory aspect calmed down a lot and I stabilised in a state of happiness, with some vibratory physical stuff in the background. At this point thoughts were a bit more active than they had been, as I was kind of excited about possibly having reached 2nd jhana and wanting to tell my girlfriend about it or write it down. And I got a bit restless and tired and decided to get up and write notes. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 8:45 PM
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RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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41 mins vipassana.
Started exploring outer sound, leaning into exploring what it means to “hear flow” or emphasise the flowing aspect of sound, the expansive and contractive qualities of this. Then into visual, exploring different emphasises on restful or flowing experience.

It feels very different to “see flow” than it does when I “investigate impermanence” in some way. Like noticing different frequencies of change - the movement of leaves, branches, and the movement of the gaze itself, as well as the subtle vibratory flickering of the visual pixels. See flow with closed eyes became very interesting; I could see how this could easily lead to piti/access concentration for jhana practice. Then into body; just feel. Letting attention go wherever in body experience... some stable, like the sense of the pressure of the chair, some flowing, like the breath, and different frequencies of vibrations. Again, it feels different to feel flow than investigate impermanence; more natural and fluid in some way... tuning into the movement that is already there are all different frequencies, whereas it’s as if when I investigate anicca my mind assumes it has to be this very microscopic level vibration. Feeling the different flowing frequencies is very interesting. And then opened up to everything for some see hear feel. I like the labels body sight sound feel image talk, and then adding things like intention. I played with this last night on a very low dose of acid walking around town after bailing on some shitty dance event I went to with friends. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 8:47 PM
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RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Slept from about 11 - 9.30. Finally feel rested after 3 nights poor / insufficient sleep. 

20 and 36 mins noting mind states from shinzens auto think retreat. 
I really like this technique. The first 20 minutes I got super concentrated, and had a lot of piti/sukkha building in the hands and smile. I was getting somewhat absorbed into mind space. The second time around I was also quite concentrated but not as intensely, and experimented with dropping the labels and maintaining the technique. 

I feel I should narrow my focus of techniques and go deeper into them. This is certainly one to focus on, and going deeper into the individual parts of the mind (I love see in, and I’m very motivated to explore it more deeply after Michael Taft saying how useful it is). Also, most of the suffering is in the mind, so it makes sense from a liberation perspective. 

30 mins metta/samadhi 
Intention was to work on samadhi through metta. Started saying phrases and focusing on the pleasant feeling in the chest. Expanded awareness to notice the sense of wellbeing throughout the body. There was pleasant sensation throughout a lot of the body, but I was struggling to know what to do with them. I think I’ve taken in too many concepts about jhana practice too quickly and I’m not entirely sure what to do with it all. I love robs poetic and playful approach, but it also kind of leaves me feeling a bit mind boggled. I think perhaps I should just focus on LBs simpler approach for some time and see where that leads. 

44 mins. 
10 mins see rest / light eyes closed to build concentration. Started to get very concentrated. I seem to enjoy this the most as a concentration object/find it the easiest to go deep with. 
20 mins see in. Towards the end I started to feel really concentrated/there with the activity of image space. Rest started to become more apparent. Very pleasant and fun. I love this practice. 
10 mins hear in. Really enjoyed this and it felt a lot more fruitful than it usually does. The mind went very quiet and then this kind of throbbing/pulsating vibration appeared which felt like a subtle hear in without content... like hearing the subconscious mind as shinzen talks about. 
4 mins noting mind states - see, hear, see-hear, rest. Got tired and stopped. 

The more I listen to people like Michael and Janusz talk about shinzens system, the less worries I feel about it. The more I want to go deep into it and master it. And I realise that it is fine to incorporate other practices along the way, but I think that is better done with a good foundation in the basic system and keeping shinzens system as the foundation. Things like noticing annatta and dukkha seem to come next, but noticing gone and flow are really starting to become very rich, so there doesn’t feel like a need to include any more right now. 

Overall, I want to focus on vipassana on the mind (see in, hear in, noting mind states) and developing concentration/samadhi to jhana, probably more using LBs framework until I have a better handle on Robs, and probably using focus on rest/see rest as the practices for generating access concentration. 

20 mins see rest, see in , hear in in the car between classes. Was really tired. 

20 mins metta in bed before sleep. Pretty tired and concentration weak. Some anxiety about upcoming changes to my work schedule and early mornings. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 8:52 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 8:52 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Very poor sleep. Had to wake up at 5.30 to teach morning BJJ. I often get stressed about feeling tired the next day when I have to get up early and this keeps me awake. 

50 mins
10 feel rest over the whole body. Started to get really pleasant restful sensation covering the whole body. I wanted to stay with this but I had made a plan for the sit so I moved on. 
10 mins see in. 
10 hear in. 
10 noting mind states. 
See in and hear in got very concentrated. There was a lot of hear in rest occurring which tastes really delicious and draws you in deeper to concentration. This led to a fair amount of happiness and piti. I tried to focus on change / flow to emphasise the vipassana aspect. Noting mind states was harder as I was getting kind of tired and didn’t want to use labels. I laid down. 
10 mins covering mind space (going for a global unfixated state as shinzen describes in his auto-think technique). Started to drift off. Was somewhat asleep at the end by the time the bell went. Felt refreshed. 

40 mins guided Michael Taft jhana meditation. 
Beginning with feel rest... just focusing on relaxing body sensations and feeling their pleasantness. Then feeling the pleasantness of the breath... noticing it in a very continuous and stable way, emphasising how nice it feels. Then focusing on the piti/pleasure throughout the body. Focusing on the pleasant breath generated a lot of pleasure throughout the body, mainly in the upper half of the torso, the arms and shoulders, and lower face and neck. I focused on this in a broad way, taking it all in and enjoying it. This felt like a light first jhana, with stable pleasure and happiness. The effort of this eventually became annoying so I took a long outbreath and tried to move into second jhana, focusing on the happiness/joy more than the pleasure, and I felt I could do this. Then the instruction was to start vipassana, and so I started to notice the changingness of the moment, in an open shf kind of way, and this felt much more pronounced than it normally does.

Knowing the basic theory of trying to emphasise stability, continuity and pleasantness for shamatha and de-emphasise the changingness and details of individual sensations is very helpful. 

Maybe I’m making up the idea that this is jhana, but it seems to fit the bill of a very light jhana. I feel very concentrated, thoughts are whispy and in the background, and there is a considerable (not mind blowing, but also singificantly more than general walking around levels or what I would normally experience in day to day life) and stable sense of pleasure in the body and happiness, which I’m able to replicate. So that seems to fit the bill of a light jhana. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 9:02 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 9:02 PM

RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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In general I'm really enjoying practice lately, and feel that in some ways, although I am no doubt still a beginner, I'm starting to mature or "come into my own" as a meditator.

Some basic theoretical ideas that I've read many times but never really understood really understood experientially - like the idea that shamatha and vipassana exist on a spectrum, and how to emphasize one element or the other - are now noticable in my experience, and very helpful for guiding practice. 

I feel I'm also learning how to skillfully work with my mind to encourage concentration and the arising of pleasant states. For example, I used to very effortfully try to force my mind to concentrate. Now I'm realizing how noticing and relishing in the pleasantness of the object of concentration carries the mind much deeper into collectedness and calm than force.

And the arising of light jhana states in my practice has been incredibly motivating. I used to think that jhana was something completely unattainable for a guy like me, and I always thought of myself as having horrible concentration chops. But I'm now able to reliably evoke a sense of physical pleasure, wellbeing, and happiness that suffuses the body, which seems to have all of the qualities of a light first jhana, and in a way its kind of mind-blowing. 

Finally, I'm gaining deeper appreciation for how great Shinzen's UM system is as a foundation for practice, and how to incorporate elements from other teachers within this basic framework as I am drawn to them. I feel like having this system as the foundation of my practice gives me a sense comfort or stability in an intellectual way... I don't feel like I'm just floundering about trying to figure out how to meditate... as well as allowing freedom to explore other approaches when I genuinely feel drawn to them. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/26/21 9:08 PM
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RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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Thanks for the input! 

One of the things I struggle with is exposing myself to too many different approaches and techniques and getting confused about how they fit together. I have a mind that always wants to fit things together into coherent systems. That said, I definitely feel drawn to exploring STF, however I think I will do so very gradually over time. At the moment, I feel very drawn towards exploring anatta, as most of my practice has been focused on Shinzen's presentation of impermanence, so I plan on reading the Anatta chapter. 

I think you're right that direct pointing stuff could be helpful for where I'm at. I feel like my mind is somehow primed for a breakthrough... but again, I'm hesitant to bring in various other techniques and perspectives at risk of confusing myself and muddling my practice. Perhaps I will do some guided meditations from some of the people you mention once or twice a week and see if that seems helpful. 
Danny S, modified 2 Years ago at 10/27/21 4:59 PM
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Yep, that's how I would describe what I think of as light 1st and 2nd jhana. Have you tried going from there and accessing 3, 4, 5 (or 4.5), and 6 (or 4.6)? That's something I wish I had seriously attempted earlier in my practice, as it would have provided a baseline against which to benchmark later improvements.
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/27/21 8:38 PM
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RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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I haven't yet but I will certainly try. At the moment I don't really know how. Ingrams take (based on some preliminary readings of the jhana sections in MCTemoticon seems to be just keep concentrating, and noticing the undesirable aspects of the jhana you're in, and you'll end up in the next one. I'll read the appropriate chapters in Right Concentration and see if I can keep exploring further along. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/27/21 8:39 PM
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45 mins vipassana. 
Started with some do nothing. Just settling in. Then see hear feel for the most of it, and finishing with 6 or 7 mins of DN again. 
Felt drawn this morning to investigating anatta. Even just the thought of it whilst sitting drinking coffee in the morning before the sit brought up a sense of spaciousness. So I resolved to investigate sensations through the lens of “not me, not mine” or not self, and just simply seeing that everything in awareness isn’t me and isn’t under “my” control. Attention was largely drawn to sensations in the back of the head, neck, and back of the upper torso that feel like the center of awareness. There started to be a noticeable sense of spaciousness around the sensations being noticed, like “feel space” behind the head and the back. It feels like the “self” tends to move back into that space when noting sensations that feel like the center in the head/neck/upper back region. As I noticed this sense of space, there started to be more of an awareness of spaciousness in general, with the space around generic feel out and feel in sensations becoming noticeable. There was also a sense that there was a “see out space” behind the head where the sense of self seems to retreat to when being investigated. 
Finished with do nothing again and I noticed that the field of awareness seemed to have a center somewhere; it’s not just a wide open field, some part of the field feels like it is the place from which other parts of the field are construed as being known from. Again, this is generally located in the head, neck and upper back, or the space behind the head/upper back. There seems to be much more clarity about this sense of self/center. 

Continuing my exploration of concentration. I decided to experiment with a kasina. I am very drawn to visual experience and have found that visual objects tend to get me very concentrated, and I was reading some MCTB discussion on jhana this morning, so I thought I would give it a crack. I sat down in front of a lamp and stared until I got a blue after image, then closed my eyes and focused on the afterimage. This was initially very beautiful and fun, and generated a lot of piti/vibration/energy in the body almost immediately. Actually this energy was present in the body even before I started formally practicing; even just when testing the kasina for a couple of seconds as I was setting it up I had this pronounced energy in the body. Maybe I just drank too much coffee this morning (and I also had a modafinil). Side note: writing this stuff for the internet makes me realize what a stimulant junkie I am. As I continued with this things got very intense. There was a huge smile on my face for a lot of the sit and my body felt like it was surging with energy in a kind of "stuck my finger in the socket" way. I actually probably wouldn't describe this as that pleasant and for most of the sit, at least 35-40 mins, it was too intense. It was also generating a lot of tension in my body, but I'm not sure if that is because I was sitting on a chair in a posture I don't normally use. I eventually stopped using the kasina as it was moving around in my visual field with my eyes closed, as if the center of attention and the center of my visual focus weren't quite perfectly lined up and my eyes kept chasing the afterimage around the visual space. So I just started to focus on the light behind my closed eyes instead, and this was also very intense at times. The intensity waxed and waned throughout the sit.. at some points I got a little bit spacey, and at other times I was aware of some thought in the background but was still present with the afterimage/light behind the eyelids; and often the piti/vibration got a lot more intense right after coming back to the light/image after the brief distractions. At the end I did a little bit of vipassana and there was a lot of very pronounced impermanence/flow. Very intense stuff. Not sure if pleasant. There is a lingering giddy energy in the body, a lightness in the chest; again, in a very stimulant kind of way. I would say the term "rapture" applies to this experience more than any so far... exhilirating, fun, and blissful... but almost too much to handle and overstimulating in some way. A very different quality than my other recent experiences with concentration practice which were generally more mellow... actually I would say the same quality, but this had a lot more rapture and less of a kind of "calm, cooled out, peacefulness" that I would associate with the term shamatha. I feel kind of racey in the 30 mins following, very fast. 

20 mins before bed
Focusing on relaxing body sensation, trying to cover the whole body. Then simple metta, feeling the heart center. Nothing spectacular, just gentle and pleasant. Piti/vibration started to build in the hands towards the end. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/31/21 9:27 PM
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RE: Brodie's Practice Log

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18 mins. 
Doing some laundry this morning. Waiting for the washing machine and it’s a nice day so I decided to sit outside and explore visual experience. See out, see out rest, see out space. There is a curious aspect of spaciousness - basically, noting the space between and all around “things” in the visual field, and to some extend continuing all around even beyond the visual field - which is very alluring. I mostly just focused on this and this led to a nicely concentrated state with piti/happiness/hoy building up. Also exploring the “thinness” aspect of spaciousness, the way that the visual field can appear as if it’s holographic, almost like you could just reach out and put your hand straight through it. 

15 mins see rest eyes closed
10 mins see in 
8 mins hear in 
Hear in started to get powerful as I was drawn to more rest and flow. Piti was building. I got very tired and had to stop to get ready for work. 

26 mins before bed. 
Feel rest (scanning and relaxing, feeling the whole body relaxed) and then feeling into the pleasantness of the breath. Started to get into what im now becoming more familiar with as a light first jhana; a very pleasant, wholesome sense of the body alive with pleasant energy/vibration/piti and joy/happiness. For about 15 mins. Then I started getting super tired. Switched to do nothing. The yawning of being tired took me out of the jhana, then I sat in do nothing. There started to be a sense of the distance or separation between “me” or “the meditator” and “reality” or “outside” or the “over there” falling away, like a membrane becoming permeable. There was a sense that this sense of separation was something “I” am “doing”, and that when I could truly let go into doing nothing, that barrier or sense of separation would fall away; in a very subtle way this was ecstatic, in a much deeper way that the pleasure of jhana, and I felt myself moving back and forth ever so subtly between normal dualistic consciousness and somewhat less dualistic consciousness, like teetering on a brink. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/31/21 9:29 PM
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27 mins
10 pleasant breath. Breath and body sensation was very subtle straight away. There was a quality of calm, lightness, and quiet to the mind, not in the sense of being super concentrated, as I got distracted a couple of times, but just a different kind of background peace. 
10 mins see in 
7.5 mins hear in. 

54 mins Michael Taft just shamatha guided meditation. 
Relaxing through the body, feeling the pleasantness of the relaxation mixed with breath sensation. Very peaceful and relaxing, a sense of wellbeing and subtle joy welling up. There was a point in the beginning where the piti felt strongest, and I felt I could have gone with that, but I stayed with the guidance. There is a lot of soreness and stiffness in the body from a lot of training this week, which feels like it was preventing the development into deeper shamatha/jhana, along with the need to pee for about half of the meditation. Towards the end the instruction to allow the mind to dissolve into the sensation of pleasure/relaxation, which is very powerful, and I realize something I’ve been playing with in my shamatha. 

25 mins sitting in bed before sleep 
20 mins see in 
5 hear in 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/31/21 9:29 PM
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Incredibly busy day with way more social interaction than I was feeling ready for. Mind felt like it was in a bit of a modafinil hangover grogginess, like I didn’t really sleep deeply. came home feeling very scattered and resistant to being present: getting on my phone and scrolling lots, listening to audiobooks, just really avoiding being present. I don’t know why I get like that when I don’t meditate early in the day and then have a busy day. 

17.5 mins shf and I feel much more calm and settled. 

21 mins focusing on the light behind closed eyes then pleasant body vibrations and happiness. Concentration was relatively weak/inconsistent and I’m very tired. 

21 mins see in and hear in. Very tired but solid practice. Developing much more clarity with hear in (mindfulness is concurrent with the arising of mental talk). 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/31/21 9:31 PM
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27 mins shamatha/samadhi practice. 
Resolved to work on jhana. Scanned through the body feeling sensations of relaxation. Then sensing the pleasantness of the breath within the space of the whole (energy)body. Light piti and joy/happiness started to build and I switched focus to that. But I got really tired/dull and the mind started to drift off into fantasy a bit as if I was kind of falling asleep. I’m really tired today after a big week and a carb heavy lunch + trying to cut down on caffeine. 

Noticing how samadhi is very dependent on conditions, (such as being well rested) and as such it cannot provide true happiness or a reliable place of refuge. It is unsatisfactory, and impermanent. 

41 mins shamatha/samadhi 
Sat down and resolved again to work on shamatha/jhana.. this time using a lamp as the primary object to help with energy. I stared at the lamp until a blue and then a red after image formed over the top of it, then closed my eyes and focused on the after image, which was at first a kind of golden green, which would fade into a much fainter red. After a couple of rounds of this I switched my focus to piti in the body, which was particularly strong in the hands, mouth and jaw, and forearms and shoulders, as usual. I soaked attention into this and felt myself in what I’ve started to identify as a light first jhana, an experience characterised by strong (relative to anything normally experienced in life or typically in vipassana practice) vibratory sensations and a sense of joy/happiness in the chest, throat, and around the mouth (feel in space). Eventually this wasn’t so interesting and I decided to move up to second jhana, emphasising the sense of joy/happiness and allowing the piti/vibratory experience to fade into the background. I was able to stabilise here, then decided why not try to go further. I let the sense of happiness fade into a light kind of contentment - just a calm sense of wellbeing, still centred in the chest, but much calmer, less energetic and course, more subtle. This was nice, and I thought, why not go further? I let go of that sense of calm contentment and found a state of gentle equanimity, and simply focused on that sense of equanimity. This was more spacious and open, with a little remnant of that contentment in the chest. I was quite surprised that I was able to make it this far. There was still some background thinking present, but it wasn’t a distraction, and never really took me away from the meditation. I briefly thought to look for a sense of space, but then I decided instead to go back down each of the Jhanas. The experience on the way down largely resembled that on the way up. At the end I played with intending to increase the strength of piti in the first jhana, which was somewhat responsive. Then I decided to close the meditation as I was getting fairly uncomfortable in the legs and some restlessness was coming up as I wanted to record the experience. 

About 40 mins noting mind states, see in, hear in before bed. Some random scattered practice laying in bed as I was unable to get very restful sleep. 
Brodie, modified 2 Years ago at 10/31/21 9:31 PM
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I was laying in bed last night and really struggling to sleep. I've started taking creatine and it seems to make me pee constantly, which was really interrupting my sleep. 

I was laying in bed doing see-hear-feel, and soaking my attention into the sound of a passing car, and it hit me: this sound isn't "self", there isn't and "self" in the sound, and "I" don't have any control over it. I've been freaking out wondering about mixing practices, including the 3Cs in Shinzen's techniques, or just doing them in a purely UM way. But the 3Cs aren't really techniques... they aren't necessarily "ways of looking" as Rob Burbea describes them, they are simply aspects of experience that are there to be noticed, qualities of experience. 

In noticing a sensation/experience, soak into it, open up to it, and notice: is it changing? is it self? is it satisfying? 

Framing the 3Cs in this way - as inquiries to make of experience - feels very fruitful. Rather than framing it as something that I have to try to see, something esoteric or hidden, it is simply right on the surface. Is it changing? Yes. Is it self, belonging to a self, or under the control of a self? No. And is it satisfying? No. These qualities of experience are simply right there on the surface to be observed with a watchful eye, no matter the particular technique you are employing. You can lean more into one or another if you so choose. 

And another thing that I realized yesterday, or re-realized at a deeper level: resistance = suffering. The term dukkha has always kind of confused me. Dukkha isn't suffering, dukkha feels more like it is denoting the fact that sensations aren't satisfying. So eating breakfast this morning, I asked of the taste, is it satisfying? No, there is no lasting satisfaction there. This is dukkha. 

Suffering is something different. Suffering is what we cause ourselves when we resist experience. Suffering = pain x resistance, as Shinzen teaches. Suffering is also present when we are driven to experience something that isn't present, or more of it. This is basically the 4 noble truths. The cause of suffering is craving and aversion (drivenness and reisistance); in letting go, letting things be (equanimity) there is the end of suffering. 

I have been examining my life for suffering, trying to find where the largest suffering is. There is a lot of suffering in tiredness. There is a lot of resistance to the sensations of tiredness - the feelings around the eyes, the sense of a cloudy mind. 

And there is a lot of suffering in irritation, criticism and judgement of others, particularly when I get annoyed or triggered by my girlfriend, and then this spins off into papanca, a proliferation of critical and judgemental thoughts towards her and our relationship, which spins off more generally into criticism of others people and the things they do that annoy me, and general aspects of my life that annoy me. 

But it isn't the thinking itself that is suffering, it is the resistance to these thoughts that is suffering. I should not resist these kinds of thoughts when they arise, that is suppression, or craving to not have critical thoughts. Instead, I should greet them with clarity and equanimity, allowing them to arise and do their thing. The resistance to such thoughts is so strong because they challenge the image I have of myself as a compassionate, kind, caring person, and the ideal of myself as a compassionate contemplative. Alternately, I can adopt a skillful means such as metta practice when I find myself getting into an unwholesome mindstate such as this, and spinning off into all sorts of judgemental thoughts. 
George S, modified 2 Years ago at 10/31/21 10:40 PM
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Some good insights there! emoticon