John W's Log #2

John W's Log #2 J W 10/14/22 9:54 AM
RE: John W's Log #2 J W 10/11/22 8:41 PM
RE: John W's Log #2 Chris M 10/12/22 7:13 AM
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J W, modified 1 Year ago at 10/14/22 9:54 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/11/22 8:13 PM

John W's Log #2

Posts: 684 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
Hey all, at long last I am starting my second log.  

My hope is to do a better job than I did in my first log of not getting overly personal here, and just sticking to sitting meditation, but in order for me to get this thing started properly, I will have to give a few boring personal details in order to provide background about my conditioning and my personal history, as well as my goals for this log and with meditation in general:

1. I have long suffered from insomnia.  This condition, to the best of my knowledge, has much less to do with meditation and as it does with early life trauma and other environmental factors.  It runs in the family - my father, and one sibling has it - and neither of them has done any sort of meditation nor have they had any history of substance abuse.

I can't say that meditation has made my sleep deregulation any better or worse (yet), but it has certianly made me more aware of it.

2. It was recently suggested by my therapist that I am on the bipolar spectrum.  I'm not sure to what extent I have this condition, but it does fit with my experience of mood swings began occurring as early as my late high school years (16 or 17), possibly earlier than that.  It was almost certainly made worse by substance abuse (alcohol and psychedelics).  While it's been mostly manageable, there certainly have been ways in which my life has been affected by these mood swings.

Again, I can't say that meditation has made these mood swings better or worse, but I have become more aware of them since I began meditating. 

I also, thanks to Daniel Ingram's book, began to view these 'cycles' through the lens of spirituality a couple of years ago, which previously I had not.  Whether or not this is a 'better' or even 'good' way to view mood swings or cycles is I guess, TBD.  What I can say with certainty is that some of the phenomena that occur during an episode of insomnia seem to map pretty well with MCTB progress of insight stuff.  For example, I can think of several occassions where after one or more nights of sleeplessness/restlessness in which I experience things that seem to map pretty well to the dukkha nanas (fear, misery, desire for sleep --I mean deliverance, etc), as well as more equanimous states, and blips, or series of many blips in rapid succession, after which my mind sometimes becomes much more relaxed and I am able to sleep. In several cases a series of sleepless nights will end in a very vivid dream which starts with a 'breakthrough' (to put it very vaguely - imagine climbing through a tiny hole), followed by an extremely pleasant and fulfilling dream world environment which I can only assume is some sort of dakini land or pure land.

This brings me to my intention(s):

1, to focus toward a type of interaction with this forum which has a limited amount of risk for potentially giving someone some sort of advice that might be unintentionally harmful or misunderstood.  As this is my personal log it gives me a way to interact with and contribute to the community in a way that's specific to just my own experience.

2, to receive advice from others on the path, particularly from those with similar conditions to mine, or who are familiar with conditions such as mine.  I have read threads on here before that talk about BPD and meditation which I have recently re-read after my diagnosis.

3, to keep myself motivated to practice daily and maintain an awareness and a history of what is going on in my practice.

4, to perhaps bring a bit of awareness to how meditation can (or can't?) be helpful for those such as myself with conditions like bipolar or related disorders. 

One final note on this point which is perhaps a tricky one - I have read many different answers here on DhO on whether or not people with bipolar disorder and other mental conditions *should* meditate.  Perhaps the best answer is that we don't know.  

I have spent the last, oh, 4 to 6 weeks, and periods of several weeks throughout the past 18 months not meditating at all.  My experience is that my symptoms were only worsened during these periods of not meditating (though, not sure if there is any correlation).  Perhaps that's just me, and perhaps that is part of the tricky part - no two people are the same. 

Whatever the case, we'll see how this goes.  

Much love to you all,

(few minor edits to remove some unnecessary personal info)
J W, modified 1 Year ago at 10/11/22 8:41 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/11/22 8:41 PM

RE: John W's Log #2

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30 minutes: Michael Taft guided shamata- following breath 
-mind restless (lack of sleep)

20 minutes: vase breathing

30 minutes: just sitting
-whole of perception as object
-tingling, visuals
-slight head pressure
Chris M, modified 1 Year ago at 10/12/22 7:13 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/12/22 7:13 AM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Glad to see this new log, John. I'm sure there are folks here who can help, even if it's just lending you a sympathetic ear.
J W, modified 1 Year ago at 10/12/22 12:24 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/12/22 12:23 PM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Thank you Chris, that is very kind.

Sleeplessness persisted again last night although I eventually did sleep. I went through several mini cycles getting into EQ, high EQ, blip, A&P zoomies, back to EQ, etc, 3 or 4 times over the course of a few hours. These cycles were overall pretty pleasurable and had a feeling of 'ironing out' my mind. Alas, I did get bored of this after some time. Not much time spent in the Dukkha Nanas and the times I were they didn't have too much bite to them, so that's good I think.

At some point it occurred to me how silly it was for me to tell myself "no meditation" during sleepless nights, since "no meditation" is basically just aversion to mindfulness thus leading to getting stuck in the DN's which is harmful.

​​​​​​​Hope to get some good sits in later today (if my mind is not too exhausted).
J W, modified 1 Year ago at 10/13/22 10:20 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/13/22 10:19 AM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Sending meta and gratitude. Thanking you, my friends, for your support and patience. I’m probably going to take some time off from updates here and just focus on myself and getting on a better more regulated schedule.  

Tried to keep it chill last night but mind was getting a little agitated. Insomnia is tough, but here is not the place to look to fix it. I need to just be chilling as much as possible and not worry about getting any sort of intense practice going.

Maybe some relaxing breathing stuff, basic mindfulness or yoga nidra if it helps.

​​​​​​​Thanks, as always, for listening friends. I hope I have not caused too much concern here. Will try to check in when I’m feeling better and more rested.
J W, modified 1 Year ago at 10/14/22 9:51 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/14/22 9:50 AM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Feeling a lot better after a good night's sleep, pretty much back to normal.

These periods of sleepnessness, as rough as they are, usually come with some insight, which I would much prefer come through more healthy and stable means, but at least I got something out of it.  And mostly that insight is to be kinder.  To myself - starting with getting some medication to help with these episodes if and when they happen - perhaps something like Seroquel which can be used as kind of a 'stopgap' to just shut things down altogether. And to others. On that note, I know I haven not always been kind here on the DharmaOverground, and elsewhere. So to anyone I may have hurt or caused discomfort, I offer my deepest apologies.

As far as meditation is concerned, I don't think keeping a log here will really be of benefit to me. Nor will posting publicly about my personal life or using myself as some sort of experiment. I'll probably be sticking to nondual awareness style practices and breathing practices for the foreseeable future, as far as sitting practices. And then of course, there is always the meditation of life.

For the record, I don't think any of these most recent episodes were triggered by sitting practice of any sort. I can point to a couple of pretty specific things that did trigger them. It's possible that in the recent past when I was doing more intense style practices, that that might have kicked off sleepless patterns, but I wasn't really paying attention to that at the time, so I'm not totally sure, but wouldn't be surprised if they did.

So, I think it's now best for me to go into "read-only" mode here at the DhO. I've learned a lot from this place, and I hope to continue to follow, be inspired by, and learn from others on the path, here and elsewhere. I think Daniel and Co. are doing some great work in answering some of the big questions, ones that really, really do need solving, and I wish them all the best with those endeavors.

​​​​​​​Ok, JW, signing out.
Chris M, modified 1 Year ago at 10/14/22 10:23 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/14/22 10:23 AM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Thanks for your brief but informative visit! Best of luck to you. I hope you'll come back someday in a more active posting mode.
J W, modified 1 Year ago at 10/14/22 10:33 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 10/14/22 10:33 AM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Thank you, Chris, best of luck to you as well, hope to see you around.

​​​​​​​I'll make sure to report in later down the line, should I come upon any sort of definitive information worth sharing.
J W, modified 1 Year ago at 11/1/22 10:57 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 11/1/22 10:57 AM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Hey all, been inspired to check in briefly, I have been doing pretty well since the last post.  Hope to continue to keep monthly updates or so here.

The key for me right now is maintaining a healthy balance. As long as I'm getting enough sleep I am basically fine.  An hour of physical exercise, an hour of creative writing, an hour of meditation, few hours of work every day seems to be the best way to keep me on track.  And of course, moderation (damn weddings!!).  I also picked up a low-dose Seroquel prescription which I have used a couple of times as needed and it seems to be helpful so far.  

Meditationwise, I've been able to keep up a decent practice, though there are times when common sense tells me to back off (if I'm stressed or restless) and do more calming type exercises.  I have still been able to still do pretty intense stuff at times.  YMMV.  A lot of my practice right now has been mindfulness towards everything and understanding everything as path.  Physical exercise and writing music is especially good for this.  One thing I have noticed is that sometimes it's helpful for me if I get 'stuck' or getting overwhelmed, to switch activities.  If I'm writing music and getting overwhelmed, I go sit for 20 minutes, or vice versa, and then come back to the original activity.  For some reason that seems to help me get over the hump, so to speak.

A couple of things I feel like I didn't make clear from earlier - 1, therapy has been really helpful.  2, My therapist also happens to be an advanced meditator.  This combination of experience has made it easier for us to talk about unusual mental states that may arise during meditation, as well as how one might or might not benefit from a particular practice at a given time.  (In my opinion, which is of course biased). A shared understanding of the dharma also just helps us to be 'on the same page'.

Thank you for all the good vibes!!! _/\_
J W, modified 7 Months ago at 10/4/23 7:55 PM
Created 7 Months ago at 10/4/23 5:17 PM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Hey everyone,
I've been inspired to check in with what is inevitably to become a long-winded update, since it’s been a while since I’ve posted and I kind of left things off abruptly - though I do follow along pretty regularly and am always left inspired by reading the DhO.

Firstly, a few personal updates, for anyone who might be interested:

I’ve been in a really good place over the last few months - the happiest I have been in years. I attribute this to several major life changes.  My wife and I moved from a small southern college town to LA back in May. As someone born and raised in a big city, small town life was quite a different experience than what I was used to.  It was great for a while, but as our friend group became smaller and smaller towards the end, and eventually ceased to exist (most people who live there are only there for school and they leave after their program is completed), I found myself feeling increasingly isolated and agitated/depressed as a result.  This was compounded by my sleep problems and the pandemic, and I had several depressive/anxious episodes over the course of the last couple of years which affected my personal relationships (in real life and online).

I feel very thankful to have found a behavioral therapist who was also an advanced meditator that worked with me during that time.  He helped me greatly in a few different ways.  One thing he helped me to understand is that I was feeling isolated  because I was isolated. I had developed this mentality that I could be happy and thrive under any environment, no matter how adverse, and that is simply not a realistic attitude to have.
He also suggested I try Seroquel (Quietapine) to help with the sleep issues. At first I was taking that ad hoc (15mg - a very small dose), but after a while I started taking it regularly as I did not notice any significant side effects, and it has worked wonders in improving my sleep schedule. It’s taken before bed, and by the time morning comes, the drug has mostly run its course. I have sometimes noticed a little bit of grogginess in the first hour after waking up, but nothing besides that. No dampened creativity or trouble meditating or anything of that sort that you hear so much about. I plan on continuing to take it indefinitely, the improved sleep quality has been a complete game changer for me. I used to have several nights a months where I would not get any sleep, or not get adequate sleep. I’ve barely had any nights like that since I started taking it.

Moving to a big city has been a big change that required a little bit of adjustment to get used to the change of pace, but we are really loving it. I have a lot more friends here - as does she (part of the reason we moved) and we are both really happy. Lots of people with similar interests to myself and I’ve found it easier to tap into a sense of belongingness and creative/collaborative satisfaction as a result. Both of us hope to make LA our permanent home.

A couple of things I want to clarify - firstly, I maintain that my behavioral issues were/are not primarily a result of or exacerbated by any sort of meditative practice. I don’t think they were really exacerbated (much, at least) by psychedelic usage either. The behavioral issues I experienced over the last couple of years have been present most of my life, certainly the entirety of my adult life. I recall having trouble sleeping from at least the age of 7. I also recall many manic/depressive episodes similar to what I experienced over the last couple of years going back to my teenage years and throughout my twenties.

The reason I bring this up is because I want to eliminate any confusion that I may have caused by interacting here in an agitated state as to what contributed to that agitation, and I do deeply apologize for any confusion I may have caused.  I believe that meditation has many great benefits, and though it may not be without risk, my personal experience looking at the long(ish, I started meditating in 2019) term results of my meditative practice, they are overwhelmingly positive.
Finally, I want to make clear that I do not claim, nor have I ever claimed any title, despite casual suggestions of 2nd path from some teachers in the Buddhist Geek and MCTB traditions, but I think this type of diagnosis cannot be made without really getting to know someone over the course of several months or more, and in each case, I have only met with these teachers a handful of times at most. Regardless, the simple reason is that my practice and my experience does not align closely enough with Theravada Buddhism or any other Buddhist tradition (at least, that I am familiar with) for me to be able to justify using such a title, though there are parallels. (Although, my day to day experience has without question been influenced greatly by the teachings of the Buddha - I mean, the guy was right about everything! …Except for his taste in music). 
J W, modified 7 Months ago at 10/4/23 5:40 PM
Created 7 Months ago at 10/4/23 5:22 PM

RE: John W's Once in a While Log #2

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Now to the fun stuff - meditation:

Daily practice has been relatively steady, averaging around 45 minutes a day, although that fluctuates from month to month as time allows.  
I don’t currently have a teacher or do any sort of guided practice, nor do I follow any strict set of instructions or tradition, though I often wish I did cause it sometimes feels like I’m just marinating in awareness without any goal or way to gauge where I am, but nevertheless, looking back over the long term, I do feel pretty happy with how my practice has progressed and I do feel like I am able to hit my cutting edge during practice pretty regularly.
My current practice could best be described as simply abiding and relaxing/dissolving into awareness.  I can’t say I’m too adept at being able to call up specific jhanas at will, but the basic factors of jhana (?) seem to be always there (on cushion and off), like static on an AM broadcast.  

This ‘static’ presents itself across several senses:

Visually - ‘snow’, ‘flickering’,
Touch - tingling, prickling
Sound - buzzing, ringing
Smell/Taste… have not really noticed too much here.

This ‘static’ can be enhanced by narrowly focusing on it but doing so does not seem to be something that is beneficial and can lead to discomfort and twitching or jumping.  Conversely, ‘allowing’ or ‘feeling into’ seems to be more of a direction that is beneficial to awakening and dissolution of self.  Rather than ‘me’ narrowly focusing on these sensations, just allowing and embracing the sensations as they are seems to be conducive to getting myself into deeper and more refined states of consciousness.  The sensations begin to all merge into one vibration and during a good day the subject/object separation will begin to break down and there can be a sense of the self merging into itself or the perceptual field merging into awareness, which is itself conscious.
When abiding in what I think would map to high equanimity, ‘dream memories’ may spontaneously arise, as if triggered by some nerve that was stepped on somehow, and I will have flashes of some dream that I had which evokes a blissful emotional response.  This can happen in waking life as well.  I’ve had some pretty cool and meaningful experiences related to ‘dream recall’ or whatever you would call it.

Perception is quite different than it was a few years ago, at it has been this way for 2 or 3 years now, so seems like it’s permanent. With eyes open, when going about my day, there is sort of this aliveness and malleable depth to everything, which gives things kind of a dreamy quailty - By dreaminess I mean, perception does not have the rigid absoluteness that I remember it having, with regard to spatial awareness, depth perception, color, and focus, subject/object separation, and even internal mental processes like thought, emotional or physical reaction.  All of these are more fluid and can all sort of be ‘felt into’ and perceived in different ways.  Internal mental processes are much more observed and transparent feeling, even involuntary things like jumping out of fright or feeling pain from stubbing my toe. It may sound like these perceptual changes would make things more confusing and difficult and unpleasant. But quite the opposite is true - I found it harder to get worked up about things and I find the malleability kind of pleasant and fun.

Similarly, with eyes closed, the chidakasha has qualities of aliveness and depth that I do not remember perceiving prior to my meditative practice.  Nimittas(?) of various colors will come and go and wash across the chidakasha randomly.  There is a similar fluidity to that described above, which can become more apparent by playing with focus of awareness, for example, alternating between focus on the peripheral, the center, both at the same time, etc.  As these boundaries of focus are played with, a sense of delight or pleasantness can arise.  

Perception of ‘self’ - there is an automaticity to motor and linguistic functions; speaking, moving around, etc. this stuff happens without really thinking about it.  Moving around from one location to another doesn't feel so much like I'm moving spatially-  I had a friend's dad who used to say "wherever you go, there you are".  That kind of rings true for me.  

All of that said, I definitely don't want to give the impression that I don't get upset or get frustrated or act like an asshole sometimes, in fact emotion can have such a rawness and nakesness to it that there are times when it feels like I've made progress in the opposite direction.  But when I look at the way that I respond to the emotional reaction and how I talk about it with whomever that reaction was shared with, and then I look at the way my relationships have changed over the last few years, I keep going back to the Bill Hamilton quote, "suffering less, noticing it more".  

Anyway, enough rambling.
I’m gearing up for a 10 day self retreat in Koyasan at the end of the year.  I will make sure to log during my retreat and pop in later on with an update sometime next year. Peace and gratitude all!
J W, modified 7 Months ago at 10/4/23 5:45 PM
Created 7 Months ago at 10/4/23 5:31 PM

RE: John W's Log #2

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 Also meant to post this part:​​​​​​​

Songwriting continues to overlap with my meditation practice, as do other off-cushion activities and off-cushion life in general - especially things like walking.  The parallels between songcraft and insight/concentration meditation are too many to list here without writing a whole chapter, but in summary:  

While working on a song, the artist enters various concentrative states that are identical in my experience to the Samatha jhanas, especially jhanas 1-3.  The beat of the song tends to be a particularly good object of meditation and can lead to involuntary dancing, grooving, and headbanging. There are also a series of realizations/fruitions that occur during the writing of a song.  These fruitions range from an ‘aha’ moment triggered by something small- a mistake or a misheard word which somehow leads to the song getting better- to deeply personal revelations that appear spontaneously and can be difficult to put into words, but somehow brings a sense of closure and meaningfulness to the song.  

To me these more meaningful fruitions often present themselves visually - usually they are a location (dream location or real life location) that appears in the mind which holds some sort of personal meaning, but would be hard to describe out of context.  Just like in meditation, these moments of fruition are ultimately outside of the artist’s control, though there are ways to make it more likely to happen.  Just like lightning strikes - one may wander into an open field in the middle of the storm to increase their chances of it striking, but cannot command it to strike.

​​​​​​​So, the practices of songwriting and sitting meditation play really well together and I continue to be open to the integration of these two practices.  I find that when moving from songwriting to meditation, or vice versa, the concentration built from one practice carries over into the other practice and I do frequently move between the two.​​​​​​​ 

edits: minor grammar etc
Papa Che Dusko, modified 7 Months ago at 10/4/23 11:36 PM
Created 7 Months ago at 10/4/23 11:35 PM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Hey JW emoticon good to see you again mate! 

Glad you made the move back to the city. Im familiar with being isolated in an unfamiliar tiny town of the countryside. It's not pleasant and can be/is a source of anxiety. We are social animals after all. 

I did see you have a new album out on Spotify! Well done! Let the music play on! emoticon 

Best wishes John! 
J W, modified 7 Months ago at 10/5/23 2:33 PM
Created 7 Months ago at 10/5/23 2:33 PM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Hey Che, so good to hear from you as well!  Glad to see you're still trucking and congrats on young Dusko #2.  

Chapel Hill was great for a long time, don't get me wrong - and not wholly unfamiliar as I did have family close by and some friends.  Nice little music scene there as well, (though the pandemic took a huge bite out of that).  Everything just has its time, and once we lost our reason to be there (she finished her doctorate program), we were both ready to move on.

Re: music - thanks!! I'm excited to share some new stuff I've been working on.  How's the jamming these days for you?  Would love to collab on anything you have in the works - if the kids allow you any time to do stuff like that!  I had such a good time working on that last one.

Peace my friend!
Papa Che Dusko, modified 7 Months ago at 10/5/23 5:18 PM
Created 7 Months ago at 10/5/23 3:15 PM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Oh man would love to collab but kids and new job will not allow me much time. But if something pops up I sure will send it to you! 

​​​​​​​Thank you! 
J W, modified 7 Months ago at 10/16/23 4:56 PM
Created 7 Months ago at 10/16/23 3:39 PM

RE: John W's Log #2

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Adding on a bit, as my last post was a little vague, I’d like to clarify a few things.  A little better effort is warranted.

The perceptual changes described in the last post are certainly not any sort of end goal of practice - it is true that the grosser versions of selfing are in a sense easier to see through than they were before, and it is generally easier to get into more refined states of absorption - so for these reasons, I guess the perceptual shifts are ‘good’ - but I look at any sort of shift related to awakening as more of a side effect or a byproduct of insight.  And even if perceptual shifts are ‘good’, it’s certainly not something I think of as a big deal or even something I really notice most of the time unless paying attention to and thinking about (which, I guess I am thinking about a lot of the time).  

I certainly don’t mean to be competitive and say ‘my experience is better than yours’ or anything like that.  I shared it just because I think it’s cool and interesting to ‘compare notes’ so to speak.  One thing I think most here can agree on is that serious meditation practice can lead to some pretty trippy and far out states of mind, and more importantly, can lead to some very real and beautiful and meaningful insights, life changing even, and the fact that is possible just from sitting and understanding your own mind is pretty wild and should be talked about (which it is, here at least, thankfully).
That said, I want to clarify more about the goals of my practice, for myself if nothing else.  As I mentioned in the last post, in no way do I feel that I am even close to ‘done’ or that I ‘have’ anything (at least anything that will last).  


Perceptual changes aside, my experience tends to waffle between feeling more ‘connected’, and more ‘disconnected’ (two terms which I will define and describe in more detail below), but most of the time is pretty neutral.  

The difference between ‘disconnected’ and ‘connected’ has to do with the grossness (or, obviousness, in-your-face-ness) of the ‘self-sense’ or more specifically, clinging to the self.

Adjectives I would use to describe being in a ‘connected’ state:
-relaxed, at ease, equanimous, alert, aliveness, closeness, intimacy, prescence.

Disconnected state:
-Agitated, restless, short-tempered, fatigued, isolated. Stuck in your own head, own world. Not listening to the conversation. Etc.

The aim of my practice, which I think is probably common to many people here, is to fully understand the nature of self and of reality (i.e., the three characteristics), until it is completely obvious, all the time.  Not some of the time, not only after certain effort or during certain practices, but all of the time, 'always on'. The method that I use to accomplish this is twofold: 

Firstly, the Samatha part - engaging in any sort of constructive concentration practices that will lead to spending more time in the connected state (subtler versions of self) than the disconnected state.  This includes, but is not limited to:

-Concentration meditation (absorption, jhana, breath work, listening to music, writing music, household chores, etc)
-Physical exercise, hiking, walking, open awareness, surrendering to nature/the universe/experience
-Heart practices, grounding practices, including socializing/being a good friend, spending time with family, volunteering, being a good partner, romantic intimacy, etc

Basically, just being absorbed in or present with the current moment.

And from a biological-behavioral standpoint: avoiding things that are going to lead to more disconnected or withdrawn states.  the Buddhist concept of Sila.  I'm not a hardcore renunciate type, but have definitely found that overindulgence in substances like alcohol or cannabis or other things can lead to very withdrawn isolated states (though maybe fun in the short term, definitely not the next day).  Basic kindness and compassion, patience, that kind of thing.  Avoiding any sort of addictive habits.

Secondly, the Vipassana part - gentle investigation, asking the question “Who is it that is feeling ______ (connected, disconnected, etc)?”, investigation of the three characteristics.

It’s important to note that there is always ‘selfing’ going on, for me at least.  In the more disconnected states, it’s very obvious and in your face.  But, even in the more refined states, there is still a more subtle selfing that occurs.  It’s not as obvious but still there, though much more delicate and ephemeral.  
It is through this gentle questioning that insight into nature of self and of reality can occur.

This question can be explored in different ways, whether that’s through insight meditation, artistic creation, or just figuring out your life and your personal shit.  I think when done correctly, any sort of existential questioning can lead to similar or even identical insights into the nature of self.

I described in the last post what some of these insights are like for me, specifically when they happen during songwriting, but I personally think there are different ways these insights are presented, depending on what type of practice you are doing, what your personal karmas are, etc.  I’ve certainly had different types of insight-related experiences when doing sitting meditation and those present differently than what I described, and even within one specific practice insights can present differently (

FWIW - I don’t know if the insights I have had would map to A&P or Fruition; honestly, mapping tends to hurt my brain and so I try to avoid it thinking about it most of the time unless perhaps I'm feeling complacent or prideful.  If I had to guess, probably a mixture of both.  Sometimes the after effect of an insight is very A&P-like, I feel excited and inspired, but more in like a giddy way.  Other times, it’s been more powerful and heart-centric, with a cool satisfactoriness or ‘knowingness’, that has lasted several days in some cases, other times it’s like being jolted awake thinking “WTF was that??”.  

Anyway, I hope this is a little more clear for anyone reading on where I’m at and where I want to go (which is exactly where I am right now, but… more so?) Hehe.  Any tips appreciated, as always.
Be well, and keep on keeping on! 

(edited for formatting and minor clarifications)
J W, modified 5 Months ago at 12/5/23 5:26 PM
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I write from day 9 of my 10 day solo retreat in Japan . and it's been a struggle biting my tongue, all I wanted to do yesterday was write, write, write.

i will post a more detailed review later.

but for now, i wanted to capture the essence of how I feel right now, as I don't know what will happen after this, the clarity and openness will likely fade. I sure hope it doesn't. whatever the case, this feels like a start, not an end.

i would summarize as follows:
i have discovered bodhicitta.

the words that continue to resonate me come from the book i am currently reading, The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron:

'bodhicitta is said to be like a precious treasure lying at the side of the road with a few dirty rags over it. People-perhaps very poor people who are starving to death—walk by it all the time. All they have to do is just pick up the rags, and there it is.'

in my own words:
It is like there is this infinite well of bliss that I can draw from whenever I want to through simple kindness. It feels silly that I have never seen it before, but I feel extremely lucky that I see it now.

Gosh I hope I can remember this and it remains open to me. (Clinging?) ;)

J W, modified 5 Months ago at 12/5/23 6:08 PM
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I would also like to extend my deepest gratitude to everyone at the DhO, but especially those who I have looked to as teachers over the last several years:

Chris Marti
Daniel Ingram
... and others
J W, modified 5 Months ago at 12/5/23 6:55 PM
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If I had to guess where I'm 'at'... since that is a not unimportant thing... maybe 1st or 2nd path territory?

Ok, back to business now.
J W, modified 5 Months ago at 12/5/23 8:30 PM
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Hahaha, I'm sorry. Last post I swear. This is just too funny. A poem I wrote called

'I have discovered bodhicitta'

can I hold it in my hand?
can I tie it in a knot, can I tie it in a bow?
can I throw it over my shoulder, like a continental soldier?
bodhicitta, no

​​​​​​​retreat-brain, y'all
shargrol, modified 5 Months ago at 12/6/23 5:33 AM
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Sounds like a great retreat!!
J W, modified 5 Months ago at 12/7/23 2:07 AM
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We have life, we have each other, and we have this moment.
J W, modified 5 Months ago at 12/7/23 5:49 PM
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Retreat is over, insight remains, (though thankfully, it's never over)
​​​​​​​I am curious to see how things go, what shakes, what sticks, what is forgotten, what is remembered, over the next few weeks and especially after the next several months after I get back home.

my assessment of progress of where I am hasn't totally changed, before retreat I thought I was maybe on my 2nd path, maybe still on my first. Now, I am more cautiously confident that I have completed my 1st, am potentially well into my 2nd, and perhaps (10% chance) even completed my 2nd.

whatever the case, it doesn't really matter - what my intuition tells me is that if I can cultivate 'this', deepen it and expand it until there is nothing to expand, I am not gonna give a hootin' holler about paths, jhanas, nanas, flips, flops, doo-diddles, whiz-bangs, or fidilisks (anyone? - if not, google. Your welcome.)

Because the essence of 'this' (Bodhicitta) is that it's so obvious, it's just impossible to see how anyone could need or want anything else.

( ​​​​​​​btw - quit nicotine effortlessly at start of retreat, let's see if I can make that stick at least! )
J W, modified 5 Months ago at 12/7/23 11:14 PM
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Last post and I will shut up...

May this hopefully bring some clarity to some things to someone/anyone 

Absolute bodhichitta // Path of Seeing // Third Path in the 5 Path Model // First bhumi // "Stream Entry" (Skt. paramārtha cittotpāda; Tib. དོན་དམ་སེམས་བསྐྱེད་, döndam semkyéWyl. don dam sems bskyed) - the wisdom that directly realizes selflessness. It only arises through the power of meditating on the path, and is therefore known as ‘subtle bodhichitta, which is gained through reality itself.’Kamalashila's Intermediate Stages of Meditation says:Absolute bodhichitta transcends the mundane; it is beyond all limitations; it is utterly clear; it is the absolute domain; it is stainless and unmoving, like a candle flame undisturbed by wind. To achieve it, we must devote ourselves for a long time to training in the practices of shamatha and vipashyana.
Compare to:

Relative bodhichitta //  First Path of 5 Path Model (Path of Accumulation) (Skt. saṃvṛttibodhicitta; Tib. ཀུན་རྫོབ་སེམས་བསྐྱེད་, Wyl.kun rdzob sems bskyed) - the mind that is intent upon attaining perfect enlightenment for the sake of others. It is generated through formal practice, and so it is known as ‘coarse bodhichitta arising from signs.’ It consists of bodhichitta in aspiration and bodhichitta in action.Relative bodhichitta is based on the dualistic mind and is conceptual. It is to be abandoned when attaining full enlightenment. It is not present at the level of buddhahood, nor during the meditation of the aryas.

I think I have experienced these both - and this is 'absolute bodhicitta'. I have in the past experienced 'relative Bodhicitta' and that is limited to a certain object.

Bodhicitta == 'thusness' / 'this'
-can be used interchangeably 

​​​​​​​we'll see.....
Papa Che Dusko, modified 5 Months ago at 12/9/23 1:31 AM
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I'm not familiar with that model of buhmis and bodhicitta but may it all be of benefit to you and many. 

Congrats on the nicotine quitting! I remember this being a big one! Saves money and health! I suddenly had money for music gear that I enjoy ,which I wound otherwise just consume as nicotine. 
J W, modified 5 Months ago at 12/9/23 2:51 AM
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Neither am I ... just googled Bodhicitta emoticon

Sorry, I know that makes me sound like an ignorant arse. But during my time in the the kadampa world we didn't talk much about bhumis.

 just wanted to make the comparison:
stream entry -> first bhumi -> mctb 1st path (or 2nd, depending on your definition)

after stream entry, it's just a question of how many times you delineate -
10 Bhumis // Paths 2-4 

see the graphic in the bottom section Summary Of The Five Paths of this website :

Of course, I am oversimplifying, and the path and its fruits may present and unfold in many different of ways. Mapping is a messy business and the jury is still out as far as my 'attainments'
J W, modified 5 Months ago at 12/9/23 2:50 AM
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But now that you mention it... hmmm

second bhumi:

The bodhisattva can take birth as a ruler over the four continents.

All Four of them??? I'm sold

( PS: cheers from Kyoto
we should jam again soon! )
Papa Che Dusko, modified 5 Months ago at 12/9/23 6:16 PM
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They are big into Math Rock over there in Japan! I admire that style but can't play such as it's too complicated for my poor old brain! emoticon Too many notes, so to speak! 

I just ordered a UA 1176 studio compressor/limiter in pedal form! Very excited to hear what it brings to my musical palette! emoticon 

Maybe it inspires an interesting riff idea? 
Yes do send me an idea if you have any. I can try and add parts if inspiration allows it! emoticon 
J W, modified 5 Months ago at 12/9/23 6:41 PM
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They are also very into Christmas music, which is a bit of a surprise.

'Tis the Season!!

joking aside, I have been very blown away and humbled by the people, the environment, the amenities, etc etc.  

There is much more balance and cleanliness over all, between the city centers, the suburbs, small towns and countryside, than compared to for example East LA or other parts of the United States, where you may find a pile of human excrement outside of a high end luxury fashion store.

Not that this is a good or bad thing. I think that it does point towards how the extreme dualistic nature of samsara is often more highlighted in 'very capitalist' nations such as the USA.

​​​​​​​(edit: to be clear, it is not a good thing to not take care of people within a society that need help)

What one does with that and how they interpret it is up to them. 

congrats and have fun with the 1176! That's one of the best ones. Will send some stuff your way once I get back home.
J W, modified 2 Months ago at 2/27/24 2:01 PM
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Hey all, hope everyone is doing well. 

Sorry, never posted a full retreat report, I just couldn't find the motivation or time to do so, mostly because it's nothing that hasn't been described here already plenty of times.  Overall I think a pretty standard retreat experience.

The location was pretty unique, though, I think, as it was more of a tourist destination than a retreat center.  If anyone happens to be looking to do a retreat in Koyasan (near Osaka), let me know (DM or comment here) and I can share some tips.

As for how everything's holding up, pretty good I think, though I think my path is still very much of the 'gradual' sort.  Subtle baseline changes still holding I think.  But definitely feels like I've got some more path experiences ahead of me.

I was inspired to write here, as last night occurred one of the more clear fruition entries/exits (assuming it is what I think it is).  Even though I took mental notes after it happened last night, I had all but forgotten about it this morning until I randomly remembered.  Definitely not like a capital P Path experience, but perhaps a review of lower path, near-miss or something of that sort.  Anyway, maybe this will help me remember:

- Lead up very much felt like i knew it was going to happen.  It was a very nice mental state I was in right before it happened.  Kind of felt like I was laying in a sunny field or something.  Perhaps one of the post 7th Jhanas of which I am not super familiar with, J8?  There was definitely still consciousness/awareness there.  But the predominant aspects of consciousness were a knowingness that all I needed to do was relax and let go, and pleasantness.

- The thing itself very much a non-event.  I vaguely remember visually, kind of like two separate frames conjoining into a single image, and head nodding.  Such a non-event that I would have probably not thought anything of it if it weren't for the lead up and what comes after, and if I didn't know what I was looking for.  Gap in consciousness, must have been slight if it happened.  I do think the self must have dropped out momentarily because of what came after.

- Immedately after, a little bit of a 'this' wave (I prefer that to 'bliss' wave), at least for me, not so much bliss as much as a knowingness, satisfactoryness, one-pointedness, but on this occassion not too strong really, pretty subtle.

- A little bit later, gets weirder.  I can't say exactly how long after the non-event, maybe 30 seconds? A Minute?  I start remembering things that 'happened' that I don't remember happening when they happened.  Very hard to describe and very dreamlike, but they had qualities of Conformity, or like I had learned something on some subconscious level.  The image I had was something along the lines of, like filing away some paperwork or something, that I had just completed, like legal paperwork or something.  Just the feeling of 'yep, that's done, and checked off the list', combined with confusion like 'wait, what's going on? what just happened?'.  Again really weird and sort of like a quantum Schrödinger's cat feel where it was like, did this actually happen, am I reflecting on something that already happened or is going to happen or that I am just making up in the present?  If that makes any sense at all.

J W, modified 2 Months ago at 2/27/24 2:40 PM
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One other thing I remember thinking, after this had occurred, is how it could be possible to further understand these subtle subconscious processes, by repeated fruition. 
I understand why people find benefit in going through fruition many many many times, I think the more you experience it, the greater clarity is brought to those very subtle things that happen that are so hard to describe and happen so quickly. 
So, there is a desire for it to happen again and to pay attention when it does! 
Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago at 2/27/24 7:20 PM
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Thanks for updating us! Good to hear from you JW! emoticon 
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 2/28/24 6:39 AM
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Sounds really good JW!
J W, modified 1 Month ago at 4/15/24 4:56 PM
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I have not meditated much at all since mid January, partly out of laziness, partly out of curiousity (how does not meditating affect my normal experience vs. daily meditation practice, and how do 'attainments' hold up without meditation), but mostly just because I haven't had time or energy with all that life's thrown at me recently.  That's hopefully going to change now that life is getting a little more out of the way and a little more manageable (or maybe it will never change, right??)

So, just popping in here mostly to express a desire to become more active here again.  I do think about DhO and check in semi-regularly, but feels like when I try to participate, my contributions just end up sounding half baked since I don't really have the ability to see things all the way through at the moment.

I do notice some changes that seem to have persisted in my experience, likely related or resulting from meditation-driven insight, that I'm going to think on and be writing about over the next few days/weeks and be writing about.

Best wishes 
J W, modified 1 Month ago at 4/17/24 12:45 AM
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Every time I meditate (maybe once a week) I wonder why I don't do it more often. Lately it's been very relaxing, good feeling, and I've had an easier time allowing thoughts to be in the background. 

half baked thought of the day: what is the difference between the mind in meditation and not in meditation?  Investigating that "difference" would be a good thing to explore 
J W, modified 23 Days ago at 4/25/24 3:31 PM
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 Something I’ve been chewing on lately.  
​​​​​​​A couple of qualifiers:
The best metaphor for enlightenment is no metaphor at all; there’s no need, nor is it possible, for one to describe ‘this’.  I’ve heard teachers describe the self-evident quality of ’this’ before but didn’t quite get what they meant until experiencing it for myself.  

“How could it be anything other than this?”

Also, I recall a metaphor sort of similar to the one I am going to describe from Daniel Ingram, though it’s been a while since I’ve read it and my memory is hazy.  It involves some sort of a symphony, and the metaphor is that as one becomes more enlightened, the song played by the symphony becomes more full and rich and less of an approximation of the melody and closer to the melody itself, or something like that.

That’s basically the same idea of my metaphor here, but like Daniel (also a musician) I’m speaking from real experience based on things I’ve noticed in my life. In fact it’s not a metaphor, it’s just changes that I have noticed over time about my personal experience.

A metaphor for enlightenment:

For a little background, (without getting too much into the personal details), I had a pretty rough patch during the latter half of Covid.  To summarize: Dark Night Yogi vibes.  Actually, it was less of a ‘patch’ and more like the way I had lived my whole life up to that point, the difference being that previously I had not been aware enough of any of my issues to even start to try to change them or improve myself (though ironically I was at various points in my young adulthood obsessed with ‘self-improvement’).

I wrote an album during that period which was more or less a dark night chronicle.  One of the songs was literally a disco cover of ‘La noche oscura del alma’ .  During the writing of that album, all the way up until right before I released it, I was really proud of what I had made.  Then, I started to become a little be less enthusiastic.  In hindsight, it wasn’t quite the masterpiece.  

(Here’s where the metaphor really starts)

I went on tour playing shows in support of this album in 2023.  After about the first show, I started to realize everything that was wrong with these tunes.  They were rigid, overly rhyming (almost like nursery-rhyme style).  The vocal melodies needed to be shaken up, they felt too cookie-cutter.  The chord structures were cool, but also felt a bit like they had been copy-pasted on top of each other (which they had). 

The live set was heavily reliant on pre-recorded tracks.  Half of the instruments being heard weren’t being played.  The guitar player didn’t know his parts.  I couldn’t hear myself sing half of the time because of the programmed tracks, and because of the vocal processors I was using.  All of this was going on in my head while I was trying to maintain the facade of being ‘into’ my performances, for the sake of the audience.  I was faking it.  And, I may have fooled some, but there was no fooling myself.  It felt like I was going through the motions, like a marionette that I myself was controlling, not actually present.

A couple of years later - personally, I am in a much better place (and I think mostly because of lifestyle/behavioral changes, but to some degree also meditation probably helped) but not without several bumps along the way.

I’m now in process of writing for a new album, about half of them done, and recently started playing shows (with mostly the same band). The songs are richer, more organic in nature, fuller, attention paid to every detail from the start, to the very end of each track.  Using gold-mining as a metaphor - where before it’s as if I called a song done once I struck the first vein of gold, it is now as if that first strike marked the start of an idea, not the end of one.  
Harmonic metaphor - if two notes are slightly out of tune, it leads to unpleasant cross-vibrational interference. When two notes are completely in tune, the vibrational frequencies overlap completely. 

The previous songs were recorded mostly on a laptop using virtual instruments.  The parts that were recorded on live instruments were piece-meal recorded in different studios over the course of 2 years.  Every part of the song sounded it was recorded in a completely different place, then all mashed together in the end like Frankenstein's monster.  This time, everything was recorded at one place, in a single studio, with everyone in the room at the same time.

Playing them live feels completely different than before. ​​​​​​​No tracks, no vocal effects, no computer processors, just 4 guys on stage.  It feels more present, complete.  There’s a certain phenomenon that happens when the performer is ‘present’ that is very similar to concentrative states described in Buddhism- the self drops out, what’s left is just the song.  

Performing in front of an audience feels more natural.  Why?  Because presence is obvious, and relatable.  Previously it was as if I felt the need to explain or prove why I was up on stage.  It felt more as if the audience was doing a favor by watching, which was anxiety inducing to me, because I felt like what I was performing was more of a work-in-progress than a completed work.  Now, I don’t feel the need to explain anything.  I’m here because I’m meant to be here, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.

​​​​​​​(PS I don't plan to share any stuff publicly here, for the time being, but happy to send you links via DM if interested) 
J W, modified 23 Days ago at 4/25/24 3:23 PM
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RE: John W's Log #2

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Why are metaphors (stories) needed?  

Because the biggest problem is that people think they are enlightened when they aren't.

Most people, especially non-spiritual / non-theistic people follow the 'Already There' model of awakening.  That is, you are already enlightened, all you need to do is wake up to it.  Which is true! 

But the problem is, when most people think "oh, great! I'm already enlightened. now I don't have to do anything", as self-reassuring as that thought may be, they aren't actually enlightened.  You can tell this because most people who talk this way are very clearly still very confused, act in ways that show that they are in pain, act in ways that harm other people, etc etc.

So while it is true that the best metaphor is no metaphor, in reality people needs stories and examples and metaphors and movies and music and books in order to grok the relative differences between their problematic and self-harming behaviors, and other modes of experience that are 'better' i.e. "More Enlightened".  Unlearning and relearning is basically always gradual.
shargrol, modified 23 Days ago at 4/25/24 7:52 PM
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well said.
J W, modified 22 Days ago at 4/26/24 3:14 PM
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Thank you shargrol!
J W, modified 18 Days ago at 4/30/24 6:31 PM
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Just to turn my last note on its head :

Stories are the cause of most of the world’s problems.  More accurately, it’s the false identification with stories that cause most of the world’s problems.  In this case stories (and their function) are not properly understood as stories, but as realities.
Secondly, not all stories are good ones. For every 'good' story (generally - one that points to a 'realness' of some sort) there are 10 bad ones (at best - predictable, self-serving, boring).  People like bad stories because they feel validated by them.  Good stories are challenging and engaging and leave people with something of value.
Papa Che Dusko, modified 17 Days ago at 5/1/24 4:25 PM
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Good to hear from you mate! emoticon Looking forward to hearing that new album! I hope with less reverb on your vocals this time emoticon Maybe a slapback delay on some sogs instead of reverb? Just an idea. I mean Elvis used it heavily so why wouldn't we! emoticon