RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 1 Month ago at 6/13/22 8:35 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/13/22 8:33 PM

Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
A place to record what I think about before, during or after a sit. 
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 1 Month ago at 6/15/22 10:12 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/15/22 10:12 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
I practise Goenka-style Vipassana. 6 years, last 2 years seriously. I've struggled with expressing my thoughts to my family so I thought this would be a good place to organize my thoughts before compiling them and 'laying it on them' so to speak.

Part of why I'm doing this is for anyone who is looking for a personal account of a Goenka student. I see a lot of new-age-y stuff from dilettantes and hostility from others who think it's too doctrinaire or severe. Not necessarily here but around. I found the first 10-day tough; I tell others it's the toughest thing I've ever done besides dealing with the death of my parents. Your mileage may vary. There will be more about this over time I think...

The first observation I want to make is the most valuable thing I got from the first course. I paraphrase "If there is anything you've heard here that you have trouble with, leave it aside and remember the technique". I am a firm believer that Buddhism has a ton of cultural accretion obscuring what Gotama was about. I spent years reading about Buddhism and not practising because I was raised Irish-Catholic (if you don't get what that means read 'Trinity' by Leon Uris) and had a very hard time putting down a lot of my core suppositions. It made me suspicious. I wasn't about to take on new ones in the guise of eastern mysticism.

Finally the day came when it became clear that I had to take the leap, because death by a thousand cuts still gets you dead it just takes longer than you'd like. I think I was lucky because the technique appears to have been made for me. Almost everything I experienced on my first course I was familiar with, in a range of different contexts. More on that later...

My understanding of the Path comes from some suttas, the Dhammapada and 3 or 4 books on neuroscience, all the other reading being a bit of a waste of time (ahem... Allan Watts...). I found MCTB a dozen years ago on-line and read it 3 times, back to back. It also has a lot to do with my views. However, I am not a big fan of the maps other than knowing they exist and as for claiming attainments... well... I believe whole-heartedly that scripting experiences is a thing, is hard to avoid and leads to much disputation etc. Not generally conducive to practise.

Having said that, at one point I finally realized that all that I thought I knew about Buddhism was wrong. The only good way to describe it is as if metaphor, or the ability to be metaphorical, had been deleted from the world. I believe I had not been putting enough concreteness in the words written by those who were describing the Path. I now think that what was being described was very very simple but the writers only had their personal internal experiences and an ancient vernacular with which describe them, a vernacular which tended to the mystical. Again, more on that later...

As for practise; 2 hours a day, morning and evening for the last year. I struggled getting up and running the first year with 1 hour a day but got that down by the 3rd course. It was hard. After serving a course I found the motivation to make room for 2 hours and now I only miss a sit for a specific good reason. Life sometimes trumps Path. No truck with laziness!!

Rapid progress (or change) began with the added hour. The morning sit usually introduces new territory and the evening sit develops on that base. Or not, but definitely there are fewer sticking points with a 2 hour per day regimen.

What I describe here will sound clinical. I try to avoid religious/spiritual/nebulous phraseology. If things change and the touchy-feely becomes necessary then I guess I'll adapt but until then I will be trying to avoid the words I see in various translated texts from days gone by. No-self will be a challenge. I'm not saying I'm special just that if I were to describe my experience right now it would be 'pressure in the temples, radiating over and behind the eyes, with waves of tingling through-out the body into the extremities', 'random thoughts about sexual urges manifesting physically in places other than the genitals' 'nerve nexus in the centre of the chest snapping' etc. I may refer to sankhara as short-hand for... more on that later.

Feel free to comment or ask questions, I will read them. I may not respond other than 'Hi. Thanks', don't be offended. If I see something that makes me go 'hmmm...' I'll acknowledge it. I'm not really here to discuss or argue, I get enough of that irl. I'm just thinking out loud.
thumbnail
Smiling Stone, modified 1 Month ago at 6/18/22 2:24 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/17/22 4:17 AM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 272 Join Date: 5/10/16 Recent Posts
Hi Kevin,
Welcome on the forum! (edit : I see that you were active on Dho more than ten years ago, on  a thread with a few ex-Goenkaites, so pardon me for assuming you were new here ...)
Looking forward to reading your log.
Coming from this tradition as well ...
with metta
smiling stone
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 1 Month ago at 6/20/22 8:12 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/20/22 1:08 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
So the format will be, for now, Practise update, History, Random Thoughts. I expect it will change, as all things do.

Practise: General deepening of concentration as has been the norm for about the last 2 - 2 1/2 years. Accompanied by ongoing exploration of my crop of sankhara. The bodily split is getting slightly less pronounced in the last 2 months. The 'thing on the side of my head' as I like to call it is still changing. Awareness of sensations is pretty continuous. Unless I am concentrating on a task requiring high precision or one that presents some amount of hazard I am aware of sensations on almost the entire body. Surface and a significant volume of the interior as well. Strangely this experience of sensations becomes quite intense when I am driving, an activity you would think requires significant concentration. Hmmm...
I have a sibling on the same path. I stopped giving them updates because the updates became pretty repetitive 'deepening concentration... intensifying sensations'. Today (20th) is a fine example. Sweeping is becoming more refined, sensations more intense. Based on this mornings activities I don't think they will be fading into the background at all going forward. Annica...
​​​​​​​
History: My first course was hard. The first sit in the morning is 2 hours and generally optional at the centre I attend. I sat in a chair due to a knee injury that makes cross-legged sitting impossible. After less than an hour I would be crippled for days. As it turned out the chair almost had the same effect. My entire body was screaming for relief by the time the chanting started. It was a unique experience of pain I have never encountered before nor care to again. Not the greatest start to day 1! I adapted by using cushions which I believe helped me, over the course, to achieve a deeper state of concentration than I otherwise could have. Learning to balance on a pillar of pillows while keeping your back straight is hard. While learning anapana as well is hard, on stilts.
A very definite moment occurred on day 2 when I knew I could complete the course. During the post-breakfast sit, just before the chant began, a voice in my head (more on that later...) said quite loudly and firmly "Loser! Loser!! LOSER!!!" It was very upsetting. For a few moments all I felt was defeat. Then I thought to myself 'fuck that...' and started over, concentrating on the feeling of breath on my upper lip. The chanting began. I left the dhamma hall still quite upset. I quickly calmed myself down and upon returning for the next sit I found that I could in fact focus my attention if I tried.

​​​​​​​Random Thoughts: The first course is indeed difficult. You are told this in the information provided and on my first course they took the trouble to actually ask 'Are you ready to do 100 hours of meditation, in silence?' On one course I attended, a new student quit on the afternoon of day 9, straight off the cushion and out to their room. I heard part of the discussion between them and the AT a bit later. The student was distraught, who knows why. Literally hours before Noble Silence ended, they left. My advice to anyone reading this who may consider doing a course: Be ready to face questions you never knew you had. Don't expect answers. If you are under care for personal issues this is probably not for you. Even if you are not under care for personal issues, you will face challenges you never knew you had. If you do go, follow the instructions, do not ad-lib. Also consider that by being accepted for the course someone else may not have been. Honor the opportunity.
thumbnail
Chris M, modified 1 Month ago at 6/20/22 1:31 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/20/22 1:31 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 4476 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Hello, Kevin. I'm looking forward to reading your comments!
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 1 Month ago at 6/20/22 7:10 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/20/22 7:10 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
Hi Smiling Stone
​​​​​​​Thanks!
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 1 Month ago at 6/20/22 7:10 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/20/22 7:10 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
Hi Chris
Thanks!
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 1 Month ago at 6/20/22 8:04 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/20/22 7:55 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
So, start a log and things happen that beg to be recorded. Who knew? Well then, to work...

Practise: Same as ever, deeper concentration...deeper sensation... however this afternoon's sit again went much deeper, such that at the moment my awareness of sensations is about where it would have been on the cushion a few months ago. My head is a balloon, I feel I am radiating heat like a light-bulb and as I type I feel the 'pressure' in my head slowly moving down my body. Trunk, arms, legs. On course they talk about vibrations but I describe them as pressure, tingling, heat or a few other things. Anyway, it continues. A side effect of progress like this is I sometimes pause what I'm doing and just spend a few moments being equanimous, wherever I am. It must seem strange to bystanders seeing my best imitation of a pylon. Practise never stops!

History: Day 3 of the first course we left anapana and began vipassana. Marathon sit of 2 hours while we followed the instruction. Not knowing what to expect I was surprised when I immediately recognized the sensations that came up during this sit. Finding that I could control the focus of my attention to such a fine degree was a small revelation. There were some blank areas and I struggled to flow smoothly but by the end of the instruction I was eager to return to the hall and begin again, butt complaints notwithstanding. This is where the real work began, anapana being merely a preliminary tool to get to the main event.

​​​​​​​Random Thoughts: Over the years I have wondered about various strange experiences that hinted at bodily processes that were opaque to my everyday attention. When one of my parents died I experienced grief, of course. Unfortunately I got the news from a several hour old answering machine message after a night out with some friends. In an almost out-of-body experience I simultaneously slumped to my knees, began weeping and watched myself react in a very detached frame of mind. It occurred to me that my reaction was not due to remembrance of things past or of a feeling of great loss; I was not particularly close to my parent. It seemed that my reaction was a program response, one that happens quite normally at times like this, one that will proceed according to plan and then resolve. This feeling stayed with me until after the funeral. The experience of being somewhat disconnected from my reactions did not seem at all abnormal.  My reactions did not seem at all abnormal. Another time, long after and unrelated, I was out in my new minimalist sandals. It had rained earlier and I was walking by a park where they had not yet cut the grass, so it was almost up to my knees. I decided to walk through the grass just to see how it would feel on my legs. I shuffled into the field with the wet grass brushing my legs and by the time I had taken a dozen broad steps I broke down and began weeping uncontrollably. To this day I have no idea why. We embody our entire lives and are only aware of a tiny fraction of the experiences that go into making us what we are. Thinking this is one thing, feeling it is another.
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 1 Month ago at 6/21/22 9:21 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/21/22 9:00 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
Of course things change, of course...

Practise: Both sits today were quite intense. Free flowing attention and major reactions throughout the body. The pressure is climbing up the back of my head, into the center and settling there for a moment then pushing out into the body. It generally follows the sweeping. Concentration is increasing as well. A 'big one' is coming somewhere down the road. The 'thing on the side of my head' is getting really intense, even when not sitting. I'm beginning to wonder if this will be a gentle release or a major explosion. The map of sankharas is getting a bit more refined but still follows the pattern of injuries. My right leg tingles at random constantly (oxymoron?) as does the orbit of my right eye and my right wrist, these occasionally.

History: Day 4 and 5 of the first course were uneventful. Practising sweeping and trying to eliminate blank areas, trying to figure out how to get through stickiness, struggling with up vs. down. From the beginning down was much harder than up! It was slow and stalled frequently. I also struggled with extending the sweep out the arms to the fingertips. In general slow progress was being made. Then came Day 6.
The morning of Day 6 was unremarkable. The afternoon sit was something else. I was doing my best, content that I had made progress with my arms when I took a break, just sitting without any effort. I noticed a tingle on the top of my left thigh and began to pay attention to it. It began to grow of it's own volition and I remember thinking 'ok, take me there...' and in a flash the tingle covered my entire body, pushed up into my head and ka-BAM! Everything changed. It was like a breaker blew and I vanished, the world vanished, experience became a null. It still puzzles me. I've been knocked unconscious, had my bell rung as well. This was unique. There was a pulse in my head, then there was nothing, then there was me again. Then there was sorrow. I doubled over and wept for about 10 minutes, barely managing to keep from balling and disturbing those around me. At one point I remember one AT whispered to the other '...a big one'. When I regained my composure I started practising again and in a short while the sit ended. I went to my room and let out what was left of the event. After this, I learned to carry tissue in my pockets to keep myself from leaking all over myself as emotion would swell up again and again over the remainder of the course. There was a similar reaction on the morning of Day 10 just before Noble Silence ended that began as I was walking around outside. No blankness this time just a rush of sensation then emotion. For weeks after this course I felt good. Not amazing, not joyful, nothing very intense but a deep 'good'-ness. It eventually faded, as did the proficiency with the technique that I had developed. Big mistake not following the recommended 2 hours per day. It wasn't until the 3rd course I got my groove back on the cushion. Hindsight is 20/20.

Random Thoughts: In 2010 I found a book by Thomas Metzinger titled 'The Ego Tunnel: The science of the mind and the myth of the self'. He is a philosopher. The book talks about advances in our understanding of how the brain works and how our minds manifest. The book is very interesting, outlining the history of neuroscience through stories of medical investigations and experiments carried out by researchers. The two things about this book that stayed with me most were his mentioning Antonio Damasio and his works and the implications of creating artificial consciousness. The 3 latest works by Damasio are well worth reading for anyone who wonders what consciousness is from a scientific viewpoint, and the question raised by artificial consciousness is one of morality:
"...The phenomenal property of selfhood will be exemplified in the artifical system, and it will appear to itself not only as being someone but also as being there. It will believe in itself.
   Note that this transition turns the artificial system into an object of moral concern. It is now potentially able to suffer. Pain, negative emotions , and other internal states portraying parts of reality as undesirable can act as causes of suffering only if they are consciously owned..." The italics are the author's.
George S, modified 1 Month ago at 6/21/22 9:51 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/21/22 9:40 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 2529 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Maybe walking in the long grass subconsciously reminded you of being a child?
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 1 Month ago at 6/23/22 7:00 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/23/22 7:00 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
Well, that was interesting...

Practise: Using the adjectives 'intense' and 'deeper' would be redundant, true but redundant. I'm loathe to use metaphor but there is one I think is apt. We have all at one time or another slept wrong and put our arm or leg 'to sleep'. We also have experienced the discomfort occurring as it 'wakes up', so to speak. That is what this feels like, on a more or less global scale. (Note: next time your arm goes to sleep on you try raising it as it comes back. The discomfort will be greatly reduced or eliminated. Same goes for your leg, but that looks strange in a public place.) Also accompanying these sensations is a definite buzz (vibration??) at times and a lot of heat. Twice, an area behind my eyes snapped with a not quite sharpness, violent enough to make me start. The 'thing on the side of my head' is now a constant companion.

History: Near the end of the course you are instructed to go inside with your attention. I was lucky. Almost immediately I was able to pass throught my body in any direction. At least for a while. As I said I got out of practise pretty quickly once I returned home. I asked the AT two questions on the first course. I paraphrase: 'Is this really what I am feeling?' and 'What the hell was that?!'. The first answer was basically 'You are not imagining this, if it feels like something it is. Keep practising' and the second answer was 'That was sankhara. Sometimes there is emotional content, sometimes not. Keep practising'. I have found that the ATs tend toward concision. This was a bit frustrating for me at first but now I think I understand why and find I appreciate it.

Random Thoughts: Oobleck is a thing, a very strange thing. It is the colloquial name for a certain colloidal solution made from cornstarch and water that demonstrates the properties of a non-newtonian fluid. Google it. Slowly push your fist into a bucket of the stuff and your fist sinks. Punch into it quickly and it stops on the surface. That is what attention feels like when sweeping. Try forcing what you feel and the 'feels' push back. Be gentle and you go deeper. Easy to say, hard to do. Like consoling a distraught child...
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 1 Month ago at 6/23/22 7:03 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/23/22 7:03 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
Hi George

The 'why' is unimportant
​​​​​​​Thanks
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 1 Month ago at 7/7/22 12:38 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 6/29/22 4:32 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
Let's get this party started...

Practise: Many days away but practise continues. As the intensity of sensation grows I've found that achieving the needed subtlety to sweep/sense the sensations is getting easier. Maybe it is actually staying the same but feels more subtle in contrast to the sensations? More questions... Globally I have the feelings of pressure and tingling in increasing and varying degrees. This is not always simultaneously constant over the whole body but does occur on all areas, including internally, or at least 95%(?). Hard to really say as I try not to concentrate too much on examining it closely. The somewhat freaky part is what is going on inside my head. There are definite locations I would associate with internal brain structures having what appear to be vibratory sensations and these are concurrent with perceptual anomalies. These began 2 days ago and have been increasing in intensity and regularity, such that I am thinking about the impact on my ability to control vehicles. A time may come...

History: The second course was a challenge and in hindsight a valuable lesson. From the start I had real trouble concentrating. This was due to my lack of consistent practise and another student (but really it's all on me!). The other student had a habit of swallowing air and belching softly for minutes at a time. Lacking sufficient discipline I could not ignore his sounds. Around day 6 he finally stopped but by then I was almost ready to leave. My attempt to avoid using the chairs at the center resulted in a strained muscle in my hip from sitting on a cushion on a box I had brought with me. All in all it became a trial of patience that motivated me to commit to a more consistent practice. The only real event of note was a couple of short interactions with what I fear was a sociopath. The way they acted with me and a few others I overheard, after Noble Silence ended, set off alarm bells with me immediately. At one point this student was speaking with another, a 'life coach', about the course and content and it seemed like a jousting match between two confidence men. Perhaps I'm wrong, better cautious...

​​​​​​​Random Thoughts: In 'The Strange Order of Things' Antonio Damasio proposes that feelings precede and are an integral part of the process of consciousness. He makes a good argument. Feelings reveal inner states that need to be attended to and the integration of those feelings with the stream of sensory data allows appropriate responses to those feelings. My explanation pales, you need to read the book. Also related is 'The Hidden Spring' by Mark Solms. It seems to me that the concept of sankhara pretty much agrees with the ideas these scientists present. Modern neuroscience catching up to ancient wisdom.
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 1 Month ago at 7/7/22 1:28 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 7/7/22 1:28 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
Back from a big break...

Practise: Progress continues. Today I found myself wondering about jhana as things changed yet again in my experience during the sit, then I let it go as it was unimportant. Some random tingling in areas not unexpected and a few sharp pains that made me jump. Other than that just what I call progress, things changing, the 'thing on the side of my head' changing, my observation changing. The pressure I feel in response to observation does appear to be increasing in intensity and taking on a quality I'll call smoothness. The border between it and non-pressure becoming less distinct, and of course moving all the time. Like a flow. Interesting as always.

History: The third course was quite productive. It turned out I was the most experienced student! The center is not very old so... On the first morning I sat for the full 2 hours and by the end entered a state of bliss I had never achieved before. I half-assumed this was due to endorphins as at the end it was quite a chore to stand up. Three events of note occurred. First, I asked the AT about anapana at home and he said 'no need unless you have trouble focusing, continue with vipassana'. Second, on the fourth(?) day I achieved what I call clearness over my entire body. This being that the flow of observation was completely unobstructed on one full sweep, then the sensations changed to various pressure, tingling etc. gradually to cover the entire body again. The third was the next day as during a sit an energetic activation of my entire body occurred accompanied by what appeared to be a bright light in my perception, which imagination turned into a shaft running up my spine from my hara to the top of my head. My body felt hardened and sweeping revealed nothing, as in no change in feeling or sensation anywhere. I swept for some time but nothing changed, I remained energized and hard. The bell for the end of the session sounded and it dissipated as I began moving around. This continued to happen for the next day or so until by doing patient sweeping it gradually dissipated and sensations returned. Whatever was opening up was complete I guess. At the end of the course the student who sat beside me paid me a compliment saying I had inspired him to try harder. Apparently I sat like a stone for the entire course. Adhitthana has been very important to me since that course.

Random Thoughts: The thought about jhana brought to mind an attitude I've tried to cultivate since I began sitting seriously. When I find myself struggling I remember two things Goenka keeps repeating after the chant that begins the sessions: 'just observe' and 'keep moving'. This is an interesting dynamic. Observe would seem to imply that you let your attention rest on some object of interest. Move implies just what it says, movement; in this case movement of your attention. This sounds just like a flow state:
"In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity", from Wikipedia.
The enjoyment part may be subjective. There is no woo in what we do, we just don't understand it fully. I do however trust that those who came before aren't kidding when they say it's worth the effort.
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 27 Days ago at 7/13/22 9:33 PM
Created 27 Days ago at 7/13/22 9:33 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
Of solo cups, ice cream headaches and enlightenment...

Practise: I struggle with describing what is going on during sits and by extension in the mundane world. I hesitate to use the common descriptions I see on DhO because for me they don't really correlate with my experiences, in that they seem more nebulous signpost than description. So, how to describe what I feel besides the tingling, pressure and heat/cold I've mentioned before? Try common experience, like an ice cream headache. That is very similar to my mind what I feel while scanning without the feeling of overwhelming pain that can accompany a overly large swallow of ice cream or very cold water. Another example is this: imagine you are holding a solo cup full of water in your dominant hand. You are carrying a heavy suitcase in the other hand. Now, you must open a swinging door with a pull-handle. There is no table nearby on which to place the cup. So... you hold the cup with 2 fingers while trying to pull the door with the other fingers of the same hand. Very possible, not the best solution but I've done it without spilling the water or crushing the cup. That combination of tension and relaxed control is very much what scanning can be like. A third example: I play guitar. Learning guitar means moving your chording fingers very precisely from one shape to another. To really establish the muscle memory I repeat the change(s) very slowly 10... 15... 20 times then take a break. Repeat several times. I can feel the effect in my hand, my arm, my body... my brain! Frustration is not just an emotional response, there is a real physical component. There you have reactivity. That's just part of what is going on.

History: My 4th retreat was suppose to be the Satipatthanna course. It was cancelled by COVID. Well pooh, now what? I had taken 3 weeks vacation and that was to be my start. So I decided that I would try and sit twice a day for the duration since I had the time. My practise began to change quite quickly. The ease and touch of scanning became more subtle and I began to notice two things which for me turned out to be of great importance. First I began to recall the repetition of experiences I had started seeing while on the third course. There was a cycle to what was happening. Second, I noticed that the sensations that were changing as I scanned were not what I was first observing! My observation was as a gentle touch, like a faint breath on skin, to the area being examined while the actual gross sensation (pressure, heat etc.) came immediately afterward. The gap was virtually imperceptible but becoming apparent. This combined with the ooblek principle changed how I practised. I was too lazy at that time to continue the 2 sit per day practise once back to work but it let me know that insight isn't necessarily a nebulous concept, difficult to grasp. A great bit of motivation.

Random Thoughts: What is enlightenment? An overused term in the west. The connotations often assigned render it almost meaningless to me. Am I enlightened? I am on the Path. I see it's affects and have no doubt that it is good. My life is better than before. My first exposure to Buddhism talked about the 4 path model. When I read the description now I could say I fit the requirements: Sotopanna Kevin! HAha... Who cares. I'm not knocking anyones claims here but when that thought occurs to me I remember that in the end we're all space dust. Is my life improving? Am I improving the lives of those around me? Is my ability to distinguish between the two improving? Is my definition of improving improving? I practise because I will probably never get it right and practise makes perfect. Yoda almost got it right. There is only try.../data/user/0/com.samsung.android.app.notes/files/clipdata/clipdata_bodytext_220713_202910_006.sdocx
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 21 Days ago at 7/19/22 11:07 PM
Created 21 Days ago at 7/19/22 11:07 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
Again, with feeling...

Practise: It's been an intense week. Several release events that sent waves of intense sensation throughout the body. Some ping-ponging of sensations, like ripples caroming off the interior of a vessel (except in 3D) begins most sits now, then things settle down to regular sweeping. The sweeping gets subtler still, almost to the point that there is no sense of contact between the sensor and the point of contact. The 'thing on the side of my head' is still resisting. It changes sometimes from solid to void to very faint tingle to sharp pain or some such but always returns to solid. The split between left and right side of the body is more pronounced but more due to dissimilar change in sensation than actual quality, for instance left will feel light and airy with easy sweep while right will be lumpy, easy here hard there. When a release happens it tends to be more focused in the middle and spreads out from there than before when a release would be quite localized. All in all the experience during a sit is of progress into the body, a bit deeper with each sit. Much easier to see than even 3 weeks ago.

History: The 4th course actually came after COVID restrictions were relaxed. I went to serve. It was pretty stressful because I did not receive any real instruction on what to do, other than a loose-leaf binder containing some rules and general expectations. The first few days were a grind with little sleep. Luckily there were only 14 male students. On day 2 I had a release in the left chest area that resulted in a feeling of joy so profound I wept. Quietly of course, I was sitting at the front of the hall. How lucky these students are to find the dhamma so early in life! I spoke to the AT about this because it felt like I was using the students I was responsible for as a way to boost my ego. The AT said 'Some ATs have trouble with this as well. Don't dwell on it.' The next day I had another release, purely emotional not physical, related to the thing on the side of my head, that really rocked me. Two realizations came from this: The little voice inside my head tells some hard truths and generational trauma goes deep into the past. Later that day during an optional sit I was in the hall feeling restless and gave up, just sitting on my stool. Sorrow rose up and I had to leave for the washroom as I was losing it again. I came to realize then that the chain of pain is breathtakingly long and trying to assign responsibility is futile. The rest of the retreat was good and productive. It was after this that I began sitting twice a day.

Random Thoughts: Sankhara (however you spell it) seems to have so many meanings it's hard to pin it down. Like dukkha. There must be a good reason for that. I think the meaning changes as you progress. Such a compound phenomenon into one word is tough but you have to say something. So this sensation here is sankhara... why is it here? From experience... What experience? Who knows, it doesn't really matter, it's just there... Now it's gone... Here comes another... It's different... Really?... Doesn't matter it's gone... Here comes another... and another... Boring? Hardly/data/user/0/com.samsung.android.app.notes/files/clipdata/clipdata_bodytext_220719_220244_703.sdocx
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 11 Days ago at 7/30/22 12:14 PM
Created 11 Days ago at 7/30/22 12:14 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
I wrote this several days ago, things have progressed... Annica

Practise: The blurred edges of the pressure have over the last few days become more indistinct, to the point that there are no definite boundaries anymore. There is a continuum of sensation that varies in intensity from almost nothing to something that feels a bit like a fold being pressed into the skin, itself varying in intensity. Keep in mind that this is not just surface sensation but 3 dimensional. The sweep is still being refined. Observation seems most efficient went it is maintained on the border of volition, if that makes sense. I feel I make the most progress when I try to approach the boundary of voluntary control of the observation. I would characterize this as trying to keep the act of observation underneath the sensation itself. The amount of effort required to be conscious of the progress of observation passing any given point is generally inversely proportional to the intensity of the experience observed, depending on where I am in a cycle. The cycling that is occurring is from fine sensation to intense sensation then an event, then restarting. 

History: The chronological progress of my practise is about done now. There are stories that will need to be told that don’t need to be placed into a temporal pattern to make sense so from here on it’s just Practise and Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts:

What is vipassana? Insight
What is insight? (from Dictionary.com)
Definition of insight
Noun
-    an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding
-    penetrating mental vision or discernment; faculty of seeing into inner character or underlying truth

So, apprehending the true nature of what? Generally speaking, Reality™. From here it is usual to segue into the 3 Characteristics. Well, what about taking a half-step back and asking how the actual act of apprehension takes place?

In my practise I am seeing my sensation(s) from my perspective with my senses. It started with developing concentration by focussing on the breath sensations externally. This proceeded to the discovery that there were sensations on my skin that occur continuously and that I was not consciously aware of them before. At first I was suspicious that I was somehow fooling myself by generating these sensations but as I progressed it became clear that what I was observing was a previously unnoticed process occurring without my intention. Perhaps like breathing(!). Being a rationalist I pondered what this could be and naturally thought of the electrochemical activity of the nervous system. Goenka alludes to this in his discourses but does not develop it much. This notion stayed with me and developed further as my practise progressed. To be brief, what I think am doing is becoming aware of the processes that generate subjective experience by developing my ability to observe what is happening in my physical systems as consciousness manifests. The end result of becoming completely aware of this process is the act of enlightenment in that once one sees the process in action one can no longer support the position that ‘I’ exist outside the process. 

Start with a process that is autonomic and yet voluntary (limited to the needs of life of course); breathing. This is the gateway to perceiving other autonomic functions. Describing them is going to be difficult because it is not common to be able to observe internal processes outside of the conscious external experience of pain, nausea, joy, euphoria etc. Work your way up the chain to see how system activity generates all experience. Part of that chain is the interface between the external environment and the processing systems wet-ware, so to speak. Eventually you will be able to observe mind itself being generated as an experience. To be plain: we are meat-machines. I am starting from the periphery and moving into the core, the brain. I assume that something like noting is moving from the brain and the higher function realm out to the periphery. This makes sense to me. I'm sure someone somewhere, even here, has said this before. Daniel Ingram mentions in passing some physical phenomenon in MCTB that correlate somewhat to what I see in my practise. 

Annica – processes/experiences continuously instantiate and terminate out of physical systems in order to maintain homeostasis: impermanence/change

Dukkha – processes/experiences do not last nor permanently resolve that which is required to maintain homeostasis: unsatisfactoriness/suffering

Anatta – processes/experiences instantiate or terminate a 'doer' to facilitate homeostasis: non-self 

As I mentioned in my first post, part of the problem I see with Buddhism as presented by some is that it comes from a primitive context that took certain spiritual precepts as self-evident and it has not shed the mystical trappings of the many environments in which it developed. These trappings are what I found and to some extent still find in most writing and conversation on Buddhism. In the Goenka course I still see some of these trappings but the emphasis in practise is on the technique so I can ignore most of these issues. Kalapa? Re-incarnation? Rebirth in realms? These are not the contents of my experience so I rarely give them any thought. Pondering is unproductive.

'But is that not what this whole discourse is?!' you may say.
Sure. I may also be completely wrong.
​​​​​​​I'm ok with that...
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 7 Days ago at 8/2/22 9:41 PM
Created 7 Days ago at 8/2/22 9:41 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
You can't always get what you want...
​​​​​​​
Practise: Late sit today was interesting in that on occasion the sweep just swept, all by itself. I'm not sure if I was expecting this or not. I must say it took me a bit by surprise so I will assume I was not expecting it. Sensation is still pretty much constant every waking moment and changing subtley in each area. The sensations that I have become familiar with like the thing on the side of my head have taken on new characteristics, the most noticeable of which is how they vary as I try to relax while observing them. Recently I have been able to dial down the intensity at will. This is quite welcome because at times it feels like someone is trying to push a blunt object through my skull at the level of the temples. The bodily left/right split is doing strange things too. Whereas before the 'feel' of the sensations on either side would kinda swap around now they stay pretty much as they are but as the overall system level of excitation (I'll call it) increases they are coming closer together in 'feel'. The top of the chain in my head is also starting to expand and connect more readily to the base of the spine/genital area, the hara. I've started getting little flashes of light and shooting pains here and there a bit more often as well. Not unexpected.

Random Thoughts: On my first course I overheard a comment by one of the students which made me so sad. They were in discussion with the AT about taking part in the vipassana instruction, which was about to begin. They were being given the player that some used to hear discourses, apparently the AT thought they were not ready for vipassana yet. The student said, with some distress "... but I want it so bad!" Hard to hear. It ended well though, they we all smiles by the end of the course so I assume they made sufficient progress to get the hang of the technique. This came to mind during my sit today when the sweep did it's own thing. "Don't want this..." It helped, a bit.
thumbnail
Kevin Andrew, modified 16 Hours ago at 8/9/22 10:40 PM
Created 16 Hours ago at 8/9/22 10:38 PM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 22 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
Practise: Over the past few days I have been struggling with ooblek. Reactivity. It is again becoming apparent that the harder I try the harder things get. Strangely easy to intellectualize but difficult to be mindfull of in practise. As I stated before, progress seems to occur when my sweep is on the edge of volition. I am slowly approaching the edge, like a dust mote approaching a black hole, orbiting asymptotically, and it is tough going. One thing that helps is the idea that this is a type of healing and it must be done gently, like a mother caressing a distressed child; she may not know what the problem is, she just knows that comfort is needed while her child works out whatever is causing the upset. It's hard because I am the mother and child. The thing on the side of my head has started to change remarkably. For the longest time I was afraid that it would become something I had to live with, like hemorroids or a bad back. Now it appears to be changing into something I feel could be manageable. There are shooting pains around my eye, jaw and cheek. The feeling of the right side being crushed in a vise while I am reading can become spectacular and hard to be with but that appears to be what is required. This is again obviously the result of progress in my sitting manifesting while off the cushion.

As for off the cushion... There is no 'off the cushion' anymore. The process continues every waking moment. It has happened so slowly I cannot say when it became continuous. Just before COVID started I began trying to concentrate whenever I had an idle moment. Soon I became aware of sensations while driving, then while on transit, then while reading, then during idle conversation... Slowly it became always. The cushion is for new territory and the rest of my time is for practise. So many stories talk about continuous practise and now I have an idea what they were getting at.
​​​​​​​
Random Thoughts: On the course you are advised to seek advice if you are not seeing progress. What that progress is you are not told explicitly. One person I know is very frustrated by this and I see why. It is easy to stall at any point during this process and struggle mightily. I have been stalled at times. I don't really know if what I am doing is 'correct' however it seems to me that my temperment is suited to this situation. I once had a discussion with a friend about politics where they decried the lack of critical thinking in the general public. I have heard this before and found it to be their passive way of stating "I'm right and they're wrong". So this time I offered my view of what critical thinking was, in a nut-shell: I can always be wrong, and the work that that mindset implies. My friend seemed a bit confused. Our relationship is long but it wasn't until a few years ago I began to realize how much my friend sees the world with blinders. Their life is a game that they must win, even in the inconsequential details. This insight is one of those hidden things that once you see you cannot un-see, like the arrow in the FedEx logo. This and other small things have turned my friend into whole new person to me, while at the same time the same old person. It took a while before I got my head around the idea that they were always like this and the only thing that has changed is my view. I can see what they struggle with daily and some measure of the upset it causes them. I can see it in me. It engenders my compassion. To me that is progress. Having said that, I may also be wrong...
Martin, modified 15 Hours ago at 8/10/22 12:19 AM
Created 15 Hours ago at 8/10/22 12:19 AM

RE: Thoughts on Vipassana: a practise log?

Posts: 479 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Your practice sounds really good.

I was also touched by your description of the difference in perspective that has grown between you and your friend. I have had similar experiences recently, accompanied by the odd sensation of knowing that my current perspective cannot be explained over a beer, or an evening, because it is not a verbally explainable difference. I think your instinct for compassion is what is needed. But, as you say, I could be wrong... :-)

Breadcrumb