Michael's Practice Log

Michael, modified 8 Months ago at 9/10/22 5:33 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 9/10/22 5:33 PM

Michael's Practice Log

Posts: 14 Join Date: 7/19/19 Recent Posts
Hi everyone!

A brief and partial history of my practice: I have practicted inconsistently for many years. I have done around 4 retreats between 7 and 14 days long at places like IMS. I had a period of about 2 years with daily practice around 80% of the time. I haven't practiced much in the last year but am getting back into it. 

I discovered Daniel Ingram on a podcast and devoured MCTB a few years ago. 

I have had some nice and some interesting experiences on retreat. One of these felt like "perfect mindfulness." It seemed like there could be no such thing as a distraction. Anything that arose - any thought or sensation - seemed like it was just there and easily noticed. This was a long time ago, but I remember a lot of energy and brightness during this sit. I remember thinking something like the roof could cave in and it wouldn't affect this "state" I was in. I would get up and move, but nothing would change, so to speak. I described it to the teacher and she used the word equanimity while describing it - which felt like a big statement for some reason. I knew nothing of any maps at this time in my practice.

Another interesting experience was one of a near total lack of aversion to extreme back pain. One reason that I have been very inconsistent in practice is that I experienced back pain in (almost) every sit. This has lessoned or almost disappeared in the last few years - if I just use a nice chair to meditate. Anyway, I was on retreat and experiencing very strong and bothersome back pain every sit and after wishing it would go away for days and days, I finally just had a sit where I felt like I truly was willing to just accept and it and experience it. I remembering thinking something like, "Hey old friend, back pain. What are you like right now?" And shortly after that, it really seemed like all or nearly all of the aversion disappeared. It was intense, firework like back pain. I would feel it shoot across my back - but no aversion.

I am currently leaning more towards jhana style practice. I am not sure if I have experienced anything that would be considered jhana. 

During my sit today, I applied some effort in "focusing" on my breath at the nostrils. One thing that seemed interesting to me, was to first attempt to not use any sort of "prior" in noticing what the breath felt like - to really just be with the raw sensation whatever it was. Later, it occurred to me that maybe using some level of "prior" makes sense. The breath in this moment probably feels similar to how it felt in the last moment. So I decided to sort of stay with the breath in a way that incorporated it's history to a degree. Then of course, I realized that this prior doesn't work because at the moment the breath changes from in to out or out to in, that feels different than the moment just before it. Similarily, the in breath feels different than the out breath. So, I felt like the "prior" needing to be expanded in time. The result of whatever I was doing cognitively by considering this concept of a "prior" mixing with raw data seemed to allow me to stay with the breath without much else happening in the mind quite well. This was towards the end of the sit and then the bell rang.

Throughout the sit, there were a few periods of major distraction - lasting maybe 30 seconds to a minute. The rest of the time I was with the breath in a way that felt sort of connected to it, or in a way that felt really connected to it. 

Thanks for reading. My main purpose in posting is to report what I am doing and receive guidance, so if you have any feedback or guidance, I would be happy to hear it. Thank you!
Michael, modified 8 Months ago at 9/10/22 6:45 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 9/10/22 6:45 PM

RE: Michael's Practice Log

Posts: 14 Join Date: 7/19/19 Recent Posts
I just sat again - shortly after the sit described in my last post. I played a little bit with the technique/idea described in the last post about priors and whatnot, but eventually the sit took on a different sort of idea. This time, I got to a place that I've been before. It is something like, rather than seeing the breath as some external to pay attention to, it is more akin to, this mind state of being aware of the breath is occurring and I can "apply effort" to just continuing to stay in this mind state. It is a subtle distinction, but seems to make it easier to stay with the breath. 

Eventually, I started to wonder if I was entering dullness. I'm not sure I know exactly what that term refers to. At first, I concluded that it wasn't dullness. But time continued on and I realized I had lost the breath in a way, but without some obvious distraction taking its place. That did feel like something appropriate of the term dullness. I'm not sure if the technique I was using caused the dullness or was coincidence.
Michael, modified 8 Months ago at 9/12/22 3:02 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 9/12/22 3:02 PM

RE: Michael's Practice Log

Posts: 14 Join Date: 7/19/19 Recent Posts
One quick practical question - Is it better to reply to the top post for new entries or the last post? Anyone have an opinion on this? Thanks.

Yesterday I sat one time for 40 minutes. It was a nighttime sit close to bedtime and I found distraction occurring frequently. Currently, I think of two top level categories of distraction - major and minor. Major is lost in thought completely having forgotten about the breath. Minor is more like mind activity that occurs "in parallel" with paying attention to the breath. 

There also seem to be two different categories of minor distraction to me. One is something akin to mental activity reminding myself that I am paying attention to my breath or maybe something like "oh, that breath felt good." Basically, mental activity that is related to the meditation process. The other category is something that comes up quick but doesn't turn into major distraction. Perhaps a memory or a random thought. 

Anyway, I was distracted in both of these ways a lot last night. Eventually, I became fairly tired. Initially, I experienced aversion to the sleepiness, but I seemed to make a decision that it was just ok and I was going to continue to attempt to meditate even if the sleepiness made it hard. That lessened the aversion.

Just wanted to get this update in to stay in the habit, even though there isn't a lot of content in this one. Thanks!
Michael, modified 8 Months ago at 9/14/22 9:04 PM
Created 8 Months ago at 9/14/22 9:04 PM

RE: Michael's Practice Log

Posts: 14 Join Date: 7/19/19 Recent Posts
I intended to sit for 45 minutes today, but got really sleepy and stopped early - around 25 minutes. I went right to my bed after, but pretty quickly wasn't very tired anymore. I was surprised about that. 

I seemed to have good periods of concentration during the sit. I am definitely curious about piti and jhana, but I try not to care about that during a sit and just focus on my breath. I notice sort of pleasant body sensations at times and I notice that sometimes the breath itself is pleasant.