JhanicManifold's Practice Log

Jhanic Manifold, modified 3 Months ago at 3/17/22 3:02 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/17/22 2:40 PM

JhanicManifold's Practice Log

Posts: 3 Join Date: 9/12/19 Recent Posts
In an attempt to increase the consistency of my sits and my motivation, I'm starting this practice log. I'm new on this forum, though I've been reading it for a few years. In this log I'll attempt to write matter-of-fact descriptions of my bare experience, and I'll try not to use any of the dharma concepts that I think I know, since that would likely just confuse things (though I'll use TMI stages and 4-path descriptions in describing my practice history below). 

The first post below will be a description of my practice prior to the existence of this Log.

Thanks to anyone reading this or who would like to offer advice or commentary.
Jhanic Manifold, modified 3 Months ago at 3/17/22 2:58 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/17/22 2:55 PM

RE: JhanicManifold's Practice Log

Posts: 3 Join Date: 9/12/19 Recent Posts
Overall Practice History

Started meditation 3.5 years ago, for the first year I mostly did 1h/day practising exclusively TMI, I quickly got up to stage 4, then oscillated between stage 4 and 5 for most of the first year. Vibrations at the nose first occurred after 3 months of practice and became common (still only at the nose) after 6 months. A notable experience happened about 9 months in: I was in bed trying to go to sleep, and then all my senses started to vibrate in sync much "deeper" than before, it felt like I was appearing and disappearing about 8 times a second, I felt fear and then it stopped. Another early notable experience happened listening to music on the bus, I suddenly got really into the music, starting crying of joy, got off the bus and all the colors felt especially vibrant, I felt an increased background happiness and contentment for 3 days after that experience.

After a year of practice I finish undergrad and take a year off for meditation, I ramp up to 3h/day practice TMI, I'm around stage 6, and body (mostly arms, legs and chest) vibrations start becoming more common, though they are intermittent and only last a few seconds at a time. After 3 months of 3h/day, I go on a Goenka retreat, lots of body vibrations during most sits and a painful tension in my sinuses starts appearing, but nothing too amazing, on day 7 I sort of crash, motivation goes to 0, the retreat ends, and my daily practice crashes too, I barely practice 1h once every few days.

1 month after the Goenka retreat, I go on a 2 week Shinzen Young retreat, I mostly practice TMI, but a few days in I report noticing that there is a "distance" between the visual field and me, the teacher suggests I practice self-inquiry with "who is watching?", so I do that. I start noticing that I can "watch" the sensations of the back of my head from even further behind, the origin of the point of observation being somewhere behind my head, and I start playing with the location of the point of observation, shifting it in and out of my head and inquiring into who is watching.The Shinzen retreat ends and I practice a mix of TMI-style body-scanning and self-inquiry, now about 2h/day (1h for each practice). Body vibrations become common, happening basically every sit for large periods of time, but I feel like I actually regressed along the TMI stages. Mind-wandering occasionally restarts, but my sits in general feel very calm, equanimous and without much dullness, occasionally I have experiences where the body turns thin like mist, but solid at the same time, I don't know how those relate to anything.

Last 2 Years History

In August 2020 I ramp up practice again to 4 hours/day, all of it in a single sit in the morning. I mostly do TMI and self-inquiry, but effort drops a lot, mind-wandering still occasionally happens, but its no big deal at all, I don't especially care about TMI stages or vibrations, which now happen all the time and are basically so common that they are boring, they aren't pleasurable or painful, it's just something that happens. Practice just sort of goes on on its own. I have a momentary experience where it feels like the watcher and the object being watched realise that they are both the same, and that all the problems of life come from the misunderstanding of separation, that's nice, but it lasts a single moment. Sits then become quite painful, any increase in concentration creates a painful sensation right behind my nose, so I mostly focus on that, and anxiety increases in daily life and during sits. I'm not sure what TMI stage I am during this period, certainly never higher than 6, but I don't really keep track of it, I just make sure to not be in dullness (out of habit). Then there starts to be a general tendency to want to open up attention, focusing on a narrow part of experience feels slightly painful, and I naturally gravitate towards either just watching the whole body at once or doing open awareness practice, with effort levels being at an all-time low.

Then, something unusual happens in my practice: as I'm laying in bed before going to sleep, I start to become convinced that I'm having a heart attack and that I will die, there's a general sense of dread, and what feels like my heart sometimes skipping beats. I try to meditate during this and to maintain decent equanimity, after about 30 minutes of this dread, there is a great sense of "plunging downwards" and then the feeling of my heart having skipped a beat. This was mostly in the "what the fuck was that?!" category, and just accentuates the feeling of dread. This sense of plunging followed by a skipped heart beat happens another time and I then get out of bed and go eat something to calm myself. This feeling of dread and the plunging happens again on a second night. After these two experiences my motivation to practice goes to 0, I'm not afraid or anything, I'm not too sure why I don't practice, I just seem not to.

After a month of not practising, a shift happens during daily life while I'm taking a walk. Out of the blue, a thought like "the ever-falling present moment" occurred and suddenly attention latched on to the impermanence of the visual field in a different way than usual, it's an extremely subtle difference, like the difference between "watching objects move" and watching movement itself, independent of what in particular is moving. That shift gave me the ability to place attention on impermanence in this way whenever I want in daily life. Watching stuff change in this way provided great joy and fulfilment for about a week, watching the trees change would make me literally laugh with joy, my legs moving was incredibly fulfilling, even thoughts changing did the same thing. This joy fades over the next month, though I still seem to be able to watch impermanence in this new way.

​​​​​​​This is when I talk to 2 teachers who seem to strongly hint that this is Stream-Entry, but I am very sceptical, nothing in the sense of self has changed in daily life, it's just that impermanence now seems to provide joy and fulfilment.After the shift, I restart practice at 2h/day, suddenly my sits are MUCH more tranquil, attention is spread out over the body, the body feels very still and almost asleep, while awareness feels bright and diffuse. This lasted for a few days, after which sits suddenly became quite a bit more painful, with neck and shoulder cramps, and an almost permanent anxious feeling in the body which continues to this day. My mind has no difficulty finding reasons to be anxious from the circumstances in my life, but those seem like rationalisations, the circumstances were the same while I was feeling joy and contentment.I start practicing self-inquiry and open awareness practice for 2h/day, vibrations suffuse the body about 5 seconds after sitting, and in good chunks of daily life too, though attention stability is shit, with oscillations from TMI stage 2 to TMI stage 7. The sense of observer has started vibrating too, the location of the observer seems to be somewhere right behind my head (I can look "forward" at the back of my head), and that location seems to be oscillating, especially when I do self-inquiry. Thoughts are also vibrating now, it feels like I'm thinking through a blowing fan. Doing self-inquiry with "who am I?" also causes a painful tension in the center of my head, right where it feels like the thinking is happening.

At this point I start falling off the wagon with respect to practice consistency, I have bursts of practice every few days, but nothing too consistent, over time I drop even further and eventually settle at maybe 1h/week practice, a level I've been at for the past 6 months or so. Nowadays I practice Mindfulness of Breathing at the belly, my sits are quite filled with mind-wandering, but vibrations in the body are still common after a few minutes have passed. I also have a persistent dull pain in the nose and forehead region when I pay close attention to an object for some time. The dull pain starts to vibrate too if I pay attention to it, and the only thing that makes it go away is expanding the focus over the whole body. 
Martin, modified 3 Months ago at 3/17/22 4:05 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/17/22 4:05 PM

RE: JhanicManifold's Practice Log

Posts: 443 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Wow, you are very good at describing things. That was very clear!
Jhanic Manifold, modified 3 Months ago at 3/17/22 4:45 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/17/22 4:45 PM

RE: JhanicManifold's Practice Log

Posts: 3 Join Date: 9/12/19 Recent Posts
Thanks, clarity is what I'm aiming for. Over the long-term I'm betting that straightforward descriptions of what is happening will be more useful to my future self than my guesses and theories about where I am on the path of insight.
Sigma Tropic, modified 3 Months ago at 3/17/22 5:35 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 3/17/22 5:35 PM

RE: JhanicManifold's Practice Log

Posts: 325 Join Date: 6/27/17 Recent Posts
Not sure if that was stream entry but sounds good nonetheless! I think you're noticing the attentional widening that happens concurrently with the dukkha nanas in a broad sense. 

It can be good to just report what's happening but with any practice you do you just want to strive for both centeredness and vividness. Relaxed and alert, with sustained attention. It doesn't matter too much what the object is at this point, but what seems useful for a lot of people is metta or a more samatha focus. After the A&P your mind has basically gotten an upgrade and can dissect reality into impermanence quarks which you mention you can do so that's good. Now what you do is you start to be less heavy handed and you allow the attention to be wide and you start to give the mind a bit of a longer leash -  you still reign in the hindrances when necessary, still antidote dullness when it comes up and still intend to stay present and engaged, i.e. do the practice with sincerity. But now that you've passed one perceptual threshold and unlocked impermanence the next step is to apply that to different types of objects up to and including mind and consciousness. 

You are up to the point where you can start to see thought streams as just another object so you can be a little more loose about "distraction" and you learn to experience mental activity as mental activity. You want to start to look for clues that there is some commonality between the sensations. What is different about the experience of a thought vs. a physical touch sensation or a jhana sensation or a lust sensation and you want to see what happens when you let the mind wander a bit. See if there's some sensations you're ignoring and some sensations that you think are better than others. Give it a bit more slack and ease up on requiring super clarity, what you're going for now is to be able to hang with the broadness and appreciate the periphery of your sensate experience. Try to get over this idea that one sensation is better than another sensation. 

It can be good at this point to learn how to get into jhanas. Start simple just try to enjoy one breath cycle fully and appreciate it, even if it's subtle and non-spectacular. Repeat that and learn to appreciate the pleasantness more. Learn how to sit correctly and do some yoga or Zhan Zhuang to circulate the energy. You breathe and you notice what feels pleasant and you sit there and enjoy it. Do that until you can just sit there enjoying the experience of sitting there. You will find that after A&P if you can learn to just really enjoy yourself, eventually the mind will find nibanna. Don't worry about that now, just keep going.