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Tarver's Practice Thread Tarver  3/12/12 11:53 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Thread katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 11/17/11 4:56 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Thread Tarver  11/18/11 7:21 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Thread Nikolai . 11/18/11 7:15 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Thread Tarver  11/18/11 9:06 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Thread Nikolai . 11/18/11 9:13 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Thread katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 11/18/11 8:46 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Thread Tarver  11/18/11 8:58 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Thread Tarver  11/25/11 7:39 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Thread Tarver  12/2/11 1:06 PM
Statement of practice goals for December 2011 Tarver  12/2/11 8:42 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 1 Tarver  12/7/11 4:22 PM
RE: Statement of practice goals for December 2011 Bagpuss The Gnome 12/3/11 4:13 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 2 Tarver  12/14/11 9:15 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 3 Tarver  12/21/11 4:06 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 4 Tarver  12/28/11 11:16 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 5 Tarver  1/3/12 7:02 PM
Statement of Practice Goals for January 2012 Tarver  1/3/12 7:44 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 6 Tarver  1/11/12 11:30 PM
Feedback welcome! Tarver  1/4/12 11:12 AM
RE: Feedback welcome! katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 1/4/12 11:43 PM
RE: Feedback welcome! Tarver  1/5/12 12:02 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 7 Tarver  1/19/12 11:26 AM
3-Day Solo Retreat Report Tarver  1/23/12 1:32 PM
RE: 3-Day Solo Retreat Report Tarver  1/24/12 1:51 PM
RE: 3-Day Solo Retreat Report Tarver  1/25/12 10:19 AM
RE: 3-Day Solo Retreat Report Tarver  1/26/12 11:59 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 8 Tarver  1/31/12 12:10 PM
Thread Moved Tommy M 1/12/12 2:55 PM
RE: Thread Moved Tarver  1/12/12 3:00 PM
10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report Tarver  2/13/12 2:47 PM
RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report Tarver  2/15/12 9:48 AM
RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report Bagpuss The Gnome 2/15/12 10:06 AM
RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report Tarver  2/20/12 2:57 PM
RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report Nikolai . 2/20/12 3:23 PM
RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report Nikolai . 2/20/12 3:53 PM
RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report Tarver  2/23/12 12:31 PM
Statement of practice goals for March 2012 Tarver  2/27/12 11:47 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 9 Tarver  3/4/12 12:48 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 10 Tarver  3/11/12 11:23 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 11 Tarver  3/17/12 6:49 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 12 Tarver  3/25/12 11:47 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 13 Tarver  4/1/12 8:57 AM
Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012 Tarver  4/2/12 8:02 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 14 Tarver  4/8/12 11:21 AM
RE: Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012 (D Z) Dhru Val 4/4/12 11:32 PM
RE: Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012 Tarver  4/5/12 8:17 AM
RE: Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012 katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 4/12/12 4:02 PM
RE: Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012 Tarver  4/12/12 5:07 PM
RE: Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012 (D Z) Dhru Val 4/14/12 8:41 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 15 Tarver  4/16/12 8:40 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15 Andrew . 4/9/12 11:38 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15 Tarver  4/10/12 11:08 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15 Tarver  4/12/12 5:20 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15 Andrew . 4/10/12 8:09 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15 Tarver  4/11/12 9:51 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15 Andrew . 5/11/12 9:01 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15 Tarver  5/12/12 8:57 AM
Stream Entry... maybe. Tarver  5/10/12 2:23 PM
RE: Stream Entry... maybe. katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 5/10/12 2:17 PM
RE: Stream Entry... maybe. Bagpuss The Gnome 5/10/12 2:32 PM
RE: Stream Entry... maybe. Tarver  5/10/12 3:40 PM
RE: Stream Entry... maybe. Nikolai . 5/10/12 7:23 PM
RE: Stream Entry... maybe. Andrew . 5/11/12 1:16 AM
RE: Stream Entry... maybe. katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 5/11/12 6:13 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 16 Tarver  5/17/12 11:02 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 16 Andrew . 5/15/12 7:22 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 17 Tarver  5/28/12 2:54 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Adam . . 5/28/12 3:42 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Tarver  5/29/12 10:31 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Andrew . 5/29/12 8:06 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 James Yen 5/30/12 4:00 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Tarver  5/30/12 7:07 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Andrew . 5/31/12 12:58 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Tarver  5/31/12 10:15 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Andrew . 5/31/12 8:52 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Sweet E 5/29/12 10:22 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Tarver  6/2/12 9:04 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Some Guy 6/2/12 11:01 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Tarver  6/3/12 2:59 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Some Guy 6/3/12 8:18 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Tarver  6/3/12 10:33 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Stian Gudmundsen Høiland 6/3/12 2:34 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Tarver  6/3/12 3:16 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Stian Gudmundsen Høiland 6/3/12 7:20 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Tarver  6/4/12 1:28 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Some Guy 6/4/12 7:38 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17 Tarver  6/4/12 12:52 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 18 Tarver  6/17/12 7:27 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 19 Tarver  6/24/12 2:09 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 19 Andrew . 6/24/12 7:20 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 19 Tarver  6/24/12 8:22 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 19 Andrew . 6/24/12 9:16 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 19 Tarver  6/25/12 12:08 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 20 Tarver  7/29/12 11:49 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 20 Andrew . 7/29/12 7:58 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 20 Andrew . 7/30/12 12:24 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 21 Tarver  9/19/12 7:23 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 22 Tarver  12/2/12 1:36 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 22 Richard Zen 12/4/12 8:13 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 22 Tarver  12/4/12 2:43 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 22 Richard Zen 12/8/12 10:41 AM
Tarver's Practice Report 23 Tarver  3/22/13 10:55 AM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 23 Nikolai . 3/22/13 5:16 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 23 Tarver  3/22/13 10:10 PM
Tarver's Practice Report 24 Tarver  9/6/13 11:10 PM
RE: Tarver's Practice Report 24 katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 9/7/13 6:22 AM
Tarver's Practice Thread
Answer
3/12/12 11:53 AM
[EDIT: Note to the reader: Please take everything in this Practice Log with a grain of salt. Although written as a faithful in-the-moment statement of intentions and chronicle of progress, the result includes any number of instances of boldly declaring one thing and then turning around and doing exactly the opposite. Such is the process! Good luck, and may your practice bear fruit.]

Just sat for one hour, with a timer. Decided that although my ultimate goal is stream entry, and that I gather that it is insight practice that will lead there, as far as I can tell I suck at insight practice so I am "just" going to do concentration practice today.

Posted an introduction yesterday, no response yet, but I am looking forward to sorting out what to do for insight practice. In that introduction I mentioned that on two occasions under the ideal conditions of a meditation course I have been able to maintain continuous conscious contact with my breath for an entire hour.

I just did it again, at home, and I would like to document this.

As soon as I set the timer and closed my eyes, I realized that it might be possible to stay with my breath for the entire hour today, right here, this sit! I became excited at the possibility, and almost lost it right there, but I just took note of the story-line and paid attention to the breath. At no point during the hour did I have that startle, that "what am I doing, oh yeah, I was supposed to be meditating" realization. My mind wandered many times -- perhaps hundreds of times -- along all kinds of stories, and I felt discomforts and shifted my shoulders, moved my head around, wrinkled my face, and moved my fingers, but I never opened my eyes or took my hands off my lap. Each of these distractions, however, only lasted as long as the next out-breath. There were several distinct phase transitions, and I thought "oh, that's different, I wonder what level that is?" but just dropped it and returned to the next breath -- that felt like swimming along in a lake and coming to a place where the water is a different temperature, but not letting it interfere with swimming. I made a kind of deal with myself, that if I lost contact with the breath, I would open my eyes and check the time. The only time that even started happening was right at the very end of the hour when I realized I might have dropped two or at most three breaths, and just as I was evaluating how to call it, the timer rang. There were maybe half a dozen other "incidents" along the way where my mindfulness became faint, but I never got farther than the last breath away from it. I was very aware of the "not too tight, not too loose" idea throughout, and I felt motivated by the prospect of writing up my experience and posting it here. I also remembered something Daniel said in the videos, that it is the experience NOW of the thought that something might happen in the future that is to be attended to. So whenever that or any other distracting thought came up, I sort of said to myself "thanks for sharing, that's really cool, I am grateful for the motivation you impart, and what a great reason to let you go and stay with what I was doing which happens to be -- ".

In summary, I don't think I did it very "well" because there were a few rough turns where I almost spun off the track, so to speak, but I am calling it a win and declaring that I was able to stay in contact with my breath for one hour at home today. Wow.

Feelings: excitement, pride, humble gratitude

RE: Tarver's Practice Thread
Answer
11/17/11 4:56 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Hi Tarver -


I would add that writing down one's present intention for doing the practice is very helpful (indeed I read it from Daniel's book, Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha), if not here (and privacy on this point can help some persons be more honest with themselves), then somewhere, as well as the events that led up to the practice and the goal (which you mention is stream entry).

It is very common to start a practice, get agitated, leave the practice, look for a new practice, get agitated, take actions based on agitation, get frustrated with self and one's own actions, go back to original practice, get agitated, leave the practice...

To regularly note why one is doing the practice is as much an insight practice as anything and can track a) the urge to practice, b) the patterns of living/thinking that lead to the urge, c) cause a sense of progress towards one's goal, and d) build intention (which intention sustains one through challenging practice efforts and/or helps one return to a practice).

RE: Tarver's Practice Thread
Answer
11/18/11 7:21 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Having declared myself here, I am indeed experiencing an immediate and enormous jump in my practice.

Privacy is a big issue of our times, yeah. It seems to me that the benefits of getting into contact with like-minded people for mutual support outweighs the risks. Extroverts of the world, unite!

Skipping from one practice to another... excellent topic. I think of myself as very reluctant to do that, and yet looking back I guess that over a scale of years I have done so. On the one hand, I don't think I have given the Goenka technique a "fair trial" because the recommendation is to sit two hours every day between courses, and I have never done that. On the other hand, even though I find Goenka's explanation of the technique intellectually compelling, I have found it so grindingly hard even under the ideal circumstances of a course -- three courses -- that I seriously doubt my ability to play the first hand.

Another thing I have not tried is to attend a course as staff, a dhamma server. Not only would this be excellent dana, but I have also been told by reliable sources that those who do this experience a dramatic improvement in their practice, specifically in their capacity to integrate practice with the rest of their lives. In order to do that "clean", however, I would have to stick to the prescribed Goenka technique and not mix it up. Spiritual eclectics are not welcome to serve at Goenka centres.

Both posting here and potentially serving a course would be filed under "Sangha", and maybe that is the missing ingredient. I am blessed with the most incredible, loving, and supportive circle of friends I could even dream of wishing for, and yet specifically on the topic of mediation practice I find myself curiously isolated, right along the lines of the warning in the foreword of MCTB, come to think of it.

You also brought up the topic of regular exercise on my introduction post, but I'll answer here: your point is well taken, and although I am not entirely sedentary I would do well to exercise more, as would most people. Indeed, it says right in MCTB, "When we exercise, we are working on training in morality," and the first training supports the second, which supports the third. But I don't think that is quite it, because all vigorous exercise and yoga are strictly interdicted on Goenka courses, and lots of people make dramatic progress there. I am big and healthy and physically quite competent but I have always disliked yoga and exercise. Hmmm... there it is, aversion. Maybe I should investigate that...

Thank you for your responses.

RE: Tarver's Practice Thread
Answer
11/18/11 7:15 AM as a reply to Tarver .
WTS Tarver:


Another thing I have not tried is to attend a course as staff, a dhamma server. Not only would this be excellent dana, but I have also been told by reliable sources that those who do this experience a dramatic improvement in their practice, specifically in their capacity to integrate practice with the rest of their lives. In order to do that "clean", however, I would have to stick to the prescribed Goenka technique and not mix it up. Spiritual eclectics are not welcome to serve at Goenka centres.


I served abut 30 odd courses over a number of years. Highly recommended development of the paramitas all aimed at dissolving the 'me-ness'. It strengthened my practice manifold.

I wrote this for any yogis not wanting to mix techniques. Check also the comment section with other yogi quotes in order to maximise the efficacy of the sweeping method.
http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2010/11/going-for-stream-entry-on-goenka-10-day.html

Nick

RE: Tarver's Practice Thread
Answer
11/18/11 8:58 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Sat for one hour resolving to sit AA, which is to say adhitthana anapana. (Joke, but seriously. Why do Vipassana meditators die with a smile on their lips? Because there will be no more adhitthana sitting, at least for a while.)

Lost track of my breath exactly nine times (counted on my fingers), mostly at the beginning, and mostly briefly.

Motivation fluctuated wildly, with periods of restlessness and boredom, agitation, and a few intervals of calm.

Noticed that distractions were best met with compassion and gratitude, and a sense that they were sweeter left alone than indulged in.

I am suspending my practice for the weekend because I am attending a Leadership Training course with the ManKind Project, and the schedule is quite tightly structured. A component of the course is a 7-week follow-up to do "whatever it takes" to reach self-defined goals, with robust peer support for accountability. I am considering setting a goal (or, cringe, perhaps even making a commitment) of practicing 2 hours every day, and documenting that here.

RE: Tarver's Practice Thread
Answer
11/18/11 9:06 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
The article looks excellent, thank you, I look forward to reading it!

Perhaps the answer is in the article, but I will ask what is on my mind: with the goal of stream entry, am I better off sitting a course, say, a few months from now, or serving one?

To keep this line of questioning simple, let's suppose I just stick to the techniques I have been taught in the Goenka tradition, to "give it a fair trial".

RE: Tarver's Practice Thread
Answer
11/18/11 9:13 AM as a reply to Tarver .
WTS Tarver:
The article looks excellent, thank you, I look forward to reading it!

Perhaps the answer is in the article, but I will ask what is on my mind: with the goal of stream entry, am I better off sitting a course, say, a few months from now, or serving one?

To keep this line of questioning simple, let's suppose I just stick to the techniques I have been taught in the Goenka tradition, to "give it a fair trial".


I would go serve and get it out of your system or get even more inspired to utilize a further course to take it as far as possible. Understanding how to maintain one's practice while up and about, working, interacting with others will help one when the course ends to transfer momentum of practice to all avenues in life. Momentum is key. And we aren;t always sitting on our arses to maintain it. Give it a fair go in all positions and situations.

Nick

RE: Tarver's Practice Thread
Answer
11/18/11 8:46 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Hi Tarver,

here's another post from the same gold mine: http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2011/03/dharma-is-for-losers.html

RE: Tarver's Practice Thread
Answer
11/25/11 7:39 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Monday Morning

Slept well for nine hours, got my son off to school, and sat for one hour, "adhitthana anapana," resolving to pay particular attention to annica (impermanence). Lost track of the breath six times over the course of the sit, counting on my fingers, each time briefly for only a few breaths. If I caught myself even wondering if my mind had wandered, I "took the hit" and counted a lapse. I guess it is a manifestation of dukkha (suffering) that I am not satisfied with this, and wish I could sit the full hour with no lapses! The mental content of one of the lapses into thought was a realization of how pervasive dukkha and annica are in daily life -- my lips curled ever so slightly and involuntarily into a smile when I realized that I was using the very meditation instructions themselves to subvert the mediation practice. Sneaky, slippery, funny mind...

Just to see how it was, I sat this morning on the old fixed-height fixed-angle mediation bench I had made for myself and sat on for (six?) years, rather than the DanaBench prototype I have been using for the last two years. DanaBench is definitely better because it never "digs in" but there is something reassuring about a solid perch, too, at least initially.

I used earplugs as I almost always do. Occurs to me that I use padding on the floor, why not also padding for the ears?

Monday Afternoon

Sat another hour. Stayed in contact with the breath continuously. Four or five times my awareness became faint, but I caught it just as the last wisps of the short-term memory of the last breath were dissipating. Also, oddly enough, my mind started to follow a story away from the breath in just the moments before the timer rang, as if I knew the hour was up. There were some odd auditory phenomena, like a ringing that persisted for some time and then went away. Also, as the sit got long and boring I started to imagine the sound of the timer and doubting if maybe it had gone off -- of course there is no missing it when it does go off, but that's where my mind was trying to go. Upon reflection, I don't think I was in contact with the breath continuously per se, but rather consciously aware of at least one fragment of each breath. The image came to me of putting stickers on boxes coming down a conveyor belt, and my job being to make sure there is at least one sticker on every box.

Tuesday Morning

Before sitting this morning, I re-read the chapter in MCTB "From Content to Insight" so that I could watch for and report the "good stuff" and of course so that I could come off as The Dharma Dude, etc. Also, I upped the ante and resolved to observe not just "the breath" but specifically the points of transition between in-breath and out-breath, and see how many of them I could catch. Well, it was just like old times, off in story for many minutes at at time, in my judgment a very weak session. I did not open my eyes for the hour, but did move my hands to scratch and stretch and fiddle with the bench several times. Reminds me of an expression from carpentry "After tight comes loose" which means that if you over-tighten a screw or a nut you are liable to strip it and then it won't hold at all; I wanted to tighten up my observation to find those celebrated vibrations that everybody keeps talking about, and I gather that I am supposed to observe "faster" in order to get there, but this morning in trying to catch two moments in each cycle of breath rather than sitting content with just one, I am guessing that I exceeded my capacity to stay present and so kept drifting off. Of course, the way to get stronger at anything is to practice more difficult exercises, while also having enough successes to remain motivated to continue.

My previous experience is that the best way to guarantee drifting off into la-la land (and presumably wasting my time) is to try body scanning, so that is why my strategy is to stick very close to anapana/concentration, and attempt to edge ever so gently and gradually into insight territory from there.

Another image that keeps coming to mind is that of skiing down a slope. Suppose the hour of sitting is like a ski slope, and the first objective is to make it to the bottom without falling down, which corresponds to staying aware of sensations -- say, the breath -- without drifting off into stories or thought (or worse, getting up and wandering away entirely!) Having achieved that a few times, I would now like to do it without the meditative equivalent of flailing my arms, careening about on one ski, narrowly missing trees, etc. Eventually, I can try to get through all the gates, jump the moguls, etc., and someday start "competing" for time, style, and so forth. This is all very hypothetical, as I don't ski.

Tuesday Afternoon

Sat for one hour intending to notice each individual in-breath and each individual out-breath. Counted lapses of concentration or breaks of adhitthana, however minor, on my fingers. The final count was 19. "Progress, not perfection."

Also, found my heartbeat distracting at times, had to consciously ignore it and keep the focus on the breath.

Wednesday Morning

Sat for one hour. Blah. Kept fidgeting and forgetting why I was even there. Breath, what breath? Even opened my eyes 10 minutes in to check the time! Thought "OK, start again" but to no avail. Somewhat comforted by the knowledge of the stages, that the time is coming when the best practice will be to show up and practice at all, however poorly. I found any ambient noise intensely irritating and distracting, even though I don't think there was anything particularly noisier today than yesterday or the day before.

Any feedback, comments, or encouragement would be welcome. If this were the first few steps of a Marathon, I would want people on both sides of the road cheering me on. emoticon

Wednesday Night

After a very long and productive day, meditated for one hour. Tried to follow the breath and simply find the first jhana. Not very successful, probably due to fatigue. With 13 minutes to go, couldn't believe the hour wasn't up yet and opened my eyes. Switched to a reclining position with the knees up and completed the hour.

Thursday Morning

"Sat" for one hour in a reclining position. Attempted to follow the breath on a "nothing fancy" basis. Used a posture I learned many years ago from the Alexander Technique, on a thin mat on the floor with the head slightly elevated (folded towel) and the knees raised. Drift off too much, knees fall over and one wakes up; spine is extended; hands either on hips or belly or by my side. One hour is a very long time. If boredom is a manifestation of the noble truth of suffering, then perhaps I am earning merit by accumulating direct experience of this truth. On the one hand, the results so far of this experiment in sustained "serious" practice is that my concentration and stamina seem to be degenerating. On the other hand, everything I have read here and elsewhere and what little I know about neuroplasticity suggests that consistently "showing up" and plugging away at it will sooner or later lead to mastery. I am only a few days in. Looking forward to the possibility of sitting with a friend later today.

Thursday Afternoon

Sat with a friend. We did some light & gentle relaxation / movement / energy / intention-setting stuff and then set a timer and sat formally for half an hour. I was able to stay in contact with my breath (or at least a part of each breath) without at any time feeling like I had lost it for the entire sit. Far from rock-steady, with a few "close calls" but stayed with it nevertheless. Encouraging.

Friday Morning

Just to verify my concentration, I tried counting out-breaths from one to ten. Sat for 55 minutes, then 5 minutes of metta/tonglen. It was as easy as the proverbial shooting fish in a barrel. In fact, it was so easy, that it got really really boring and that's where the challenge was. About three-quarters of the way through the hour, there was some kind of state transition into a calmer, easier way of being. Was that a transition from access concentration to the first jhana? Who knows... Maybe I will try some body scanning next time and see if I can do it now that I am sitting two hours per day and have a bit of momentum.

My commitment is to sit 12 one-hour meditations per week, and this weekend I am taking a trip out of town with my Sweet-E so I am likely to "skip" a couple of sits, but still stay within my commitment to practice.

RE: Tarver's Practice Thread
Answer
12/2/11 1:06 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Saturday

Sat half an hour this afternoon alone and an hour this evening with my Sweet-E in the hotel room. Started body-scanning, Goenka style. Surprised myself with how well it went. In the half hour sit I only managed one "round" scanning down and then back up, but picked up the pace slightly in the evening session. The main thing I am happy with is that I can sustain the effort without zoning out (much).

Sunday Morning

Sat one hour, body-scanning. Very aware of the difference between the idea of, say, my elbow and the actual physical sensations from that part of the body. After 40 minutes had only made it from head to toes twice (and not even back up). Worked very hard to pick up the pace in the remaining time, but find that if I go too fast I become quite vague about where I am and liable to lose focus and zone out.

I always follow the same "path" down the body lest I get lost. (Seems funny to say!) I start with the top of the head (cue Goenkaji: "Top of de head") and go down the face and front of the torso to the groin. Then back to the top of the head and down the entire back. Then left side of the head and left arm, and then right side. Finally I "go" into the left armpit and proceed down the left side of the torso and down the left leg, and repeat for the right. When I am done if I am feeling ambitious I come back up in reverse order, or if I am feeling conservative I start at the top again .

Sunday Evening

Meditated for half an hour on the train, just following the breath, anapana. Stayed with it surprisingly well given all the distractions, fatigue, etc.

Monday Noon

Sat for one hour. Settled in with a few minutes of anapana, then started body scanning. Took 25 minutes to make my way down the body the first time, top to bottom. Very frustrating. I know there is nothing wrong with my concentration -- if I can do adequate anapana on a passenger train, I should be good to go for some respectable insight practice -- and yet the body-scanning is really, really hard work and it is very hard not to zone out. I know that certain parts of the body will appear "blank" without sensations at some times, and I am perfectly prepared to accept that with equanimity IF I feel that I am sufficiently focused to register "due diligence" in that area. The problem (seems to me like a problem) is that if I hang around long enough in any area I eventually start to feel something -- a light tingle, a subtle contraction of a muscle, my pulse, whatever -- and as soon as I feel anything I move to the next adjacent area. When this goes well, it feels like a slowly rolling billow of sensations moving along my body. But this keeps slowing down and dissipating, and I start doubting whether I am giving adequate effort to a given area. Is it just quiet right now or am I not paying enough attention? Then I kind of "fall in" to a perceptual vagueness that I FAIL to notice, and next thing you know I have zoned out and when I get back all I can remember is roughly where on my body I was supposed to be scanning, and I pick up where I left off. Meanwhile, I have to ignore all the self-critical thoughts about how all the cool kids are probably blasting through this with Mahasi noting, while I am stuck with frumpy old Goenka scanning, but I shouldn't go changing techniques because that would probably make it even worse, etc, etc. And so it goes.

Monday Afternoon

Sat for one hour, and I think this is getting better. Articulating my frustration above was helpful. I got one scan of the body top to bottom in 25 minutes again, then I thought I would switch it up. I moved my awareness up and down my entire body (front, back, sides simultaneously) and it suddenly seemed fairly easy, though not nearly as precise as I would like. It was as if a "smoke ring" of awareness of sensation was moving up and down my body, taking about two minutes to go each way. Played with that for a while, then went back to the "standard path." Opened my eyes occasionally to peek at the timer to get a sense of how long things were taking. Managed to scan up my body along my "standard path" (described Sunday Morning, above) in five minutes flat at the end of the sit.

I hope this detailed account of my practice is helpful to others. Writing it is definitely helping me make sense of my experience -- not that narrative coherence is important for ultimate insight, but it is helpful for maintaining motivation.

My best guess right now is that I am somewhere in the first three stages along the progress of insight, Mind & Body, Cause & Effect, and Three Characteristics. The three characteristics are more obvious to me when I reflect on my sitting quite frankly than when I am actually doing it at this point.

Tuesday Afternoon

Back to blah. Procrastinated on my morning sit until well into the afternoon. Frustrated at failing to get traction on some other commitments, and the vagueness and lack of focus are evident in my practice. Decide to do one thing, and then next moment do something else. What's with that? Started the session following the breath, figuring "at least" I could work on concentration skills -- that is always helpful -- but I wasn't even very present with that. Finally came up with the following: on each breath, turn my attention to one of six major areas of the body: head, torso, left & right arms, left & right legs. Start each "round" with the head, and decide at the last moment which part to attend to, constantly switching it up. Catch any sensations I could, and transfer attention to another part on the next breath. Felt more like shoveling gravel than like examining something with a magnifying glass, but managed to keep that up for 10 or 15 minutes at the end of the sit. On days like today, I feel like meekly admitting that this whole meditate-seriously-until-stream-entry idea is really stupid and unworkable, and I should just drop back to accepting my lot in life and find some other plan to cope with the suffering that is life.

Tuesday Evening

Sat one hour, much the same as this afternoon. "This too shall pass."

Wednesday Morning

Meditated one hour before getting my son up to go to school. Tried 40 minutes of reclining posture, attempting to follow the breath, but kept spacing out and concluded that I was wasting my time. Then sat on an actual cushion (I usually use a bench) for the remaining 20 minutes. One resolution after another to make good use of my time pathetically dissipated into fiddly postural adjustments. Is this the stage of Dissolution? I have no idea where I am, except that I do know that these things are cyclical and that the certain recipe for failure is to give up.

Wednesday Night

Sat one hour after my son went to bed. To counteract vagueness, I wrote my intention on a card: "One hour of anapana, highly focused on the sensations around the nostrils. Adhitthana." Well, it went according to plan for the first half hour, then my focus fell apart, I started to fidget, open my eyes, get lost in story... I am clearly not enjoying any blissful jhana here -- I don't think I am at any risk of getting lost in the joy and pleasure of concentration practice, as per some of the warnings I have been reading.

Thursday Morning

Sat for one hour, with the written intention "Scan the body continuously, grossly if necessary, but as finely as possible, for one hour." What a difference having a clear goal makes! In terms of the Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice that Daniel has recently articulated, I would say that I was bumbling along at around HVP level 3, with a few intervals of level 4. Probably sitting with my friend this afternoon, and then meeting some DhO dudes this evening. Excited.

Thursday Afternoon

Logged one more hour of mediation. Embarrassingly low quality. Felt very unfocused so I tried a standing posture for about 20 minutes. To my credit, I stuck it out for the hour but not sure I accomplished much except the beginnings of a rather interesting headache right at the end. (Might sit with friend tomorrow; couldn't sync up schedules today.)

Friday Afternoon

Sat one hour, in a chair, following the breath. HVP-Level 3. Kept eyes closed, but adjusted posture many times. Deal was, follow the breath no matter what, and don't worry about posture. (I will call it "Supported Quarter Lotus" -- sitting in a kitchen chair against the backrest, with my legs crossed.) Right at the very end, with seconds to go, noticed that even though I thought I was just passively following the breath, there was just the barest wisp of intention preceding each breath, and I thought "Ha! There it is: Cause and Effect". Then the bell rang.

Statement of practice goals for December 2011
Answer
12/2/11 8:42 PM as a reply to Tarver .
My experience and reading lead me to believe that although my concentration skills are good, they are not nearly good enough for what I want to do, which is to ascend through the stages of the progress of insight to stream-entry.

Therefore, I am setting the following goal for practice for the month of December: to refine my concentration skill to the point where I can reliably follow every breath for a period of one hour, reproducibly, at will. This corresponds to the Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Level 5.

My practice commitment is 12 one-hour sessions per week.

Here are some things that are EXCLUDED from this stated goal, for clarity:

For tactical purposes, I don't care whether this is concentration practice or insight practice. Whether the breath is "solid" or resolved into component sub-sensations is not my problem this month. Staying with "the breath" (or any part of it) is.

Whether awareness is broad or narrow is not explicitly part of the goal, but I expect that if this works (ie, if my skill improves) I will need to keep narrowing my awareness to keep it challenging, and I anticipate doing so in the classic way, at the entrance to the nostrils.

Posture. Ideally, I would like to be able to do this "adhitthana" without moving, "without opening my eyes, hands, or feet", looking like a statue of the Buddha. For this month, I don't care. I may use a chair, or a bench, or a cushion, or a prone "Alexander" posture, or standing, or something else. (I have always despised walking meditation. Perhaps this is worth investigating at some point in the future...)

Access concentration vs. jhana. It would be nice to master the first jhana, and even nicer to master the second. Apparently, it is a lot less work than slogging through this on access concentration alone. Not my problem this month! Jhana can come or go, is welcome if it comes, but is not the stated goal. It is a highly desirable side-effect of the stated goal, but I am resolving not to let that desire be distracting.

Given my larger goal, awareness of the Three Characteristics is highly desirable. Therefore, dukkha manifesting as boredom is welcome here. Bring it on. Awareness of anicca and anatta are also welcome (perhaps inevitable) but not the stated goal for this month.

In fact, progress through the stages of insight is not the stated goal for this month. Awareness of the breath is the stated goal for this month.

At a respiration rate of 10 breaths per minute, there are only about 600 breaths in an hour. I will not count breaths (that's way, way too easy!) but I will count and report lapses of mindfulness. These will be counted on my fingers, reporting up to ten lapses or "more than ten" if that is the case. Any doubt that I may have missed a breath counts as a lapse. If this goes well, the number of lapses should trend asymptotically to zero.

Questions, criticism, or any other feedback would be most welcome and encouraging. Thank you.

Tarver's Practice Report 1
Answer
12/7/11 4:22 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Friday Evening

Sat one hour in a chair. Shifted position occasionally. Followed the breath, mindfulness lapsing 8 times about evenly spaced. I never cease to be amazed at how seductively interesting certain thoughts can be, and how the mind just patiently keeps offering new combinations until something "sticks".

Saturday Morning

Sat one hour, much like last night, with 9 lapses. Failed to notice that the cat was still in the bedroom and managed to put it out without losing the breath. but then did lose it as I congratulated myself on this accomplishment. Funny, eh?

Sunday Evening

Sat for one hour with no lapses -- zero missed breaths. Not quite rock solid, a few times it got a bit thin, but not once did I feel that I had actually lost it. I knew a short way into the session that I could make it all the way through with no mishaps if I simply remained calm and focused. (Yeah, "simply.") For much of the session I could rather calmly examine the in-breath and the out-breath as very distinct phenomena.

I have been reading Ian And's General, All Purpose Jhana Thread and finding it very helpful. I have never found meditation particularly joyful, more like something that is good for me. At one point today, however, perhaps two thirds of the way through the hour, I noticed myself getting bored. I immediately recognized this as a manifestation of suffering, and felt joy at catching it. I felt myself smile ever so slightly, and as if I had hit a bumper I was bounced right back into mindfulness of the breath full on. Cool.

Monday Morning

Lots to describe today. Sat one hour, had no trouble at all staying with the breath. In fact, it was so easy (!) that I was able to develop quite a train of discursive thought before I noticed that I was about to fall off the breath, and cut it out. This is new, and a most welcome development. In fact, I feel that I need to find something more interesting to work with, or boredom will destroy my practice just as I have gotten it "really" going. The next step is obvious: while staying with the breath, develop awareness of the Three Characteristics. It feels like I am being pushed or drawn in this direction simply in order to find ways to execute the marching orders for the month -- to stay with the breath.

There was an ongoing low-grade commotion outside my door, a well-documented phenomenon. I was able to "read" the experience of it in real time as impermanence ("it isn't there most of the time") and suffering ("I don't like it") and even to a limited extent no-self ("those people aren't doing this to me, my body just happens to be here while they are coming and going"). Even while I didn't like it, it almost gave me something to push against, and keep my practice strong.

I started sitting on the floor with a BackJack, legs outstretched, with a bit of padding at the small of my back and under my knees. I actually leaned forward off the back rest and simply sat cross-legged on the mat for about 20 minutes of the sit -- not sitting straight upright, but closer to the classic "lotus". Also, it has usually been my experience that I run hot -- I typically dress like others would dress were it about 10 or 15 degrees Celsius warmer. At the Goenka courses I have attended (always in Winter) everybody else in the Dhamma Hall has a shawl or a blanket over them, socks, hats, etc., and I am sitting there with bare feet and a t-shirt. Today I felt like putting a blanket over my shoulders for the first time, ever.

Monday Afternoon

Sat for one hour. On a cushion. Without opening my eyes, hands, or feet. People, this is huge! Oh, and I don't think I lost the breath at any point either. I have never been able to sit for long on a cushion. After my first Goenka 10-day (at which I used a bench), I found that I could sit for short periods on a cushion, but for all of the decade I have been meditating I have been all about benches or other postures. (I am six and a half feet tall, around 250 pounds.) Today I sat for an hour on a cushion, and with strong determination rode it out. As for the breath, the funny thing is that the gaps between breaths have started to get subjectively longer and loooonger and loooooooooooonger. I know that playing by my own rules, I never hit a spot where I said "There, I have lost track of the breath and just noticed and need to come back now, count one lapse," but the timing is getting all strange and unfamiliar. Surely this is progress, but from what to where?

Tuesday Afternoon

Sat one hour. Concentration abysmal. I find this very funny, and not entirely unexpected as a rebound from yesterday's high. Sat cross-legged on a DanaBench set low for half an hour, then switched to a prone Alexander position. Five lapses in the first half hour, another five in the next 15 minutes or so, then a certain sense of relief that I didn't have to try any more -- struggled with that, kept applying "micro-resolves" which evaporated faster than I could make them. With five minutes left, said to myself "Self, surely you can do 5 minutes clean, starting NOW" and gave that up within three minutes.

Printed my Statement of Practice Goals for the month and put them in a plastic sheet protector so I wouldn't drift too far from my stated intentions, by the way.

Tuesday Afternoon #2

Sat one hour, with my friend. Concentration still lagging, but posture was perfect. emoticon

Thursday Morning

Sat one hour, kneeling with the DanaBench. Read my laminated Statement of Practice Goals for the month before sitting. Ten lapses of concentration occurred within the first 20 minutes, and I felt impatient with this clever technique I have cooked up -- it felt distracting, and I tried to follow the sensations of the irritation but then remembered my resolve to follow the breath this month, and then felt irritated by that. It was, in spite of all that, a rather good session (judgment noted). As I returned to the breath, I allowed my awareness to include my entire face, and especially any muscle movement associated with smiling. Thus do I flirt with the elusive jhanas.

I didn't write it up yesterday, but I had what felt like a profound insight sitting with my friend. I realized that I have lived much of my life "skewed" into fear, anger, and misery. I have heard so many warnings about being seduced by the "pleasantness" of following the breath, about the "joy" and "pleasure" of concentration states. Mostly I think, what are they talking about? Meditation is hard work. Life is hard work. Getting stuff done is hard slogging. If other people are more successful than me, it is because they try harder (can you spot the projection?) than I do. So I realized that correct equanimity for me, subjectively, actually feels awkwardly even precariously joyful -- vulnerably exposed to happiness. And then, beyond that there is a whole mirror image realm from the one I have been living in where the problem actually becomes getting carried away with and seduced by the joy. Turns out, that is not my problem. Turns out, that correct balance need not be burdened with effort. Who knew?

Thursday Afternoon

Sat 25 minutes with my friend G. Did a half hour of movement, stretching, and vocalizing before that. Was very conscious of the feeling of my face peripheral to my breath, with the feelings associated with joy, happiness, gratitude, and not exactly pleasure but perhaps contentment, especially as manifested in any tendency to smile.

I am about to apply to sit my fourth 10-Day Goenka Vipassana course at the start of February, and there is a very good chance that my Sweet-E will come and sit with, her first course. (The dog and the cat will be sent to their own respective 10-day courses elsewhere.) After considering the matter at great length, I have decided to sit rather than serve because I do not feel 100% committed to the Goenka practice. I could easily rationalize that what I have been doing is so similar that the differences are minor, but a fib is still a lie and would not be consistent with the first training, sila. As soon as I decided to sit rather than serve I felt relief at the freedom to explore my practice as I need to, but I also feel responsibility to constrain my exploration to the very nearest margins of what Goenka teaches because this is all still within the rubric of "giving it a fair trial." Also, if my Sweet-E can indeed come, then it will be great to have the symmetry of both of us sitting even if I will likely be in the front row among the men, and she in the back row among the women. And finally, this is after all a big push towards stream entry for me, and I have every reason to believe that the paramita of dana will flourish bountifully once I realize that attainment.

Thursday Afternoon #2

Sat 35 minutes following the breath, losing the breath, following the breath, losing the breath. Felt like a lot longer than 35 minutes! Descended to some pretty deep states of calm abiding for short intervals.

I wish I had some better clue about whether I am in access concentration, jhana, or momentary concentration. By process of elimination, I suppose access concentration.

Applied to attend Goenka course February 1-12, 2012. That starts in exactly 8 weeks. I have a lot of preparation to do!

RE: Statement of practice goals for December 2011
Answer
12/3/11 4:13 AM as a reply to Tarver .
For tactical purposes, I don't care whether this is concentration practice or insight practice. Whether the breath is "solid" or resolved into component sub-sensations is not my problem this month. Staying with "the breath" (or any part of it) is.


Sounds very sensible. One thing i recently reread in MCTB was something about momentum --if you're mind has started on insight, then you may have a hard time doing concentration practices until you've mastered a cycle of insight --and vice versa. This certainly seems true for me personally -i can concentrate pretty good, but i don't think i get much jhana stuff going except maybe 1st before insight takes over --after that, doing anapanasati as you are planning the two kind of mix and mingle together, which is a pretty good combination.

I imagine you'll find your experiment rewarding.

Tarver's Practice Report 2
Answer
12/14/11 9:15 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Thursday

Going easy on the formal sitting today because I am still recovering from and processing and integrating some very powerful "work" I did last night at my ManKind group. Although technically that is all "first training in morality" (Accountability, Mission, etc.) last night had a very strong "in the body" component that was distinctly A&P-ish, when I reflect on it. Felt some energetic stuff that reminded me of the Quickening in the movie Highlander... dum de dum, just another night out with the Circle of Men...

As for my formal practice, I am going to sit a "One Day" Goenka mini-course for Old Students on Saturday, so I will have plenty of hours this week to fulfill my practice commitment for the week even if I take it easy today.

And, having said all that about taking it easy, my friend G. dropped by for a bit more body awareness or whatever you could call whatever it is that we have been doing, and she invited me to look into my body "for evidence of life." Well, shiver me timbers, there were all those "sensations" that everybody has been making a fuss about. Within a few minutes (less than 20 minutes) I could easily pick out six clear "energy centres" up and down my body, and scan in and out of them, and actually had fun zooming around and playing with it all. There was from bottom to top, Power, Creativity, Love, Expression, Gratitude, and something kind of cosmic-gold-sparkly at the top that I can't think of a name for, but it doesn't matter because, well it just doesn't matter.

Friday Morning

Sat one hour with both Sweet-E and G. Very grateful for their company. Sitting with others is so different than sitting alone! Also the dog was with us, but he had trouble finding his breath for a while and kept shifting his posture, especially at first. Eventually the dog settled into some kind of soft jhana but then totally lost it with three minutes left on the clock, and got up and started wandering around. I used the dog (I hope skillfully) by deliberately generating compassion for it, noticing the smile on my face, and attempting to follow that back into mindfulness of breathing with the factors of fixed and sustained attention, joy, happiness, rapture, etc. Counting lapses of mindfulness of the breath seemed totally out of place at this session, so I did not attempt that whatsoever. I think I am on the right track, but I am not as good at it yet as I look forward to being. Note to self: these desires for the future are occurring in the present.

Friday Afternoon

Sat one hour with my Sweet-E. This was a few hours ago at her place, and I didn't log it right away so I am getting foggy on the details. I think I was attempting to harness the "joy" of smiling to help focus attention on the breath. I am constantly astounded that people talk about "liking" concentration practice, that it can be so joyful and pleasant as to be a problem due to being seductive, etc. The only reference I have for that is that I find concentration practice tolerable but insight practice so brutally difficult that I have seldom even attempted it for more than a few days outside of a Vipassana course. I have had a few glimpses (I think) of the first jhana, and maybe if I attain that reproducibly I will find a way to stick with serious practice on more than raw determination and/or the desire to escape the perennial off-cushion Dark Night cycling once and for all.

Tomorrow I am attending a Goenka one-day course. I look forward to hearing the instructions again. Now that I am steeped in all the fantastic info from MCTB and DhO and have been sitting two hours a day for a little while, maybe it will sound different or perhaps (please!) feel achievable. Even if it doesn't, I will continue the experiment right through to the full 10-day in February, but some early positive indicators would be encouraging.

Saturday

Attended the Goenka Vipassana one-day mini-course for Old Students. It was excellent. Everybody there was serious and Noble Silence was scrupulously observed, the modest gym at the Unitarian Congregation was packed to capacity, and on the whole it was really well done. I found the meditation itself fairly easy, although one of the sessions was long enough for me to struggle a bit, and I had a bit of one of those little breakthroughs that happen when one pushes oneself because others are present. (Answer: the pain was 99% in my mind!) I found the body-scanning easier and more sustainable than perhaps ever before in my life (!) so there might be hope for me yet. I also had a brief interview with the Assistant Teacher, and asked about anapana and the first jhana. It would not be fair to quote the teacher's answer because I can't remember it exactly and I don't want to misrepresent it, but essentially it boiled down to resolving the dialectic between figuring it out for myself and following directions. I should add that I really liked the guy -- he obviously knew what I was asking about, knew what he was talking about, and seemed helpful, relaxed, friendly, and compassionate. I can only imagine how psychically draining it could be to wear the projections of an entire room full of meditators of varying levels of skill, but this guy wore it well (or so I project). What this has to do with my practice is that I came away feeling validated, encouraged, and motivated. I have not yet sorted out how (if at all) this experience might affect my practice goals for the month. One thing the Assistant Teacher pointed out is that no sooner does one deliberately point one's mind somewhere and experience a sensation than the whole thing proceeds to change, so the process is very fluid -- and I am realizing upon reflection that what is true microscopically is true macroscopically as well with my stated goal and how I thought my practice would look for the month. These are great problems to have, and I am very grateful (which is primarily a facial sensation in my cheeks and around my eyes).

Sunday Afternoon

Sat one hour with my Sweet-E (and the dog). Used a cushion, and felt more stable and "solid" in the good way pertaining to posture than ever before with a cushion. Sweet-E even said I looked, whatever her exact words were, basically stable. Didn't feel I had to escape and move when the bell rang, just opened my eyes and felt just fine and sat without moving for a few more minutes. This is wonderful progress. I am feeling inclined to maintain a concentration practice for the balance of the month in congruence with my formally stated practice goals, centered on mindfulness of breathing. It felt appropriate to cultivate a whole-body awareness, however, rather than the narrow focus I thought I would need.

Addendum: I find myself very irritable and short-tempered after sitting today. Very odd and incongruous.

Sunday Evening

Sat half an hour with my Sweet-E. Felt vague about what I was doing. I really have been very sensitive today, volatile, reactive. Dark night? Duke of Bananas? Who knows?

Monday

Sat one hour, then later a half hour with my friend G. Didn't log it right away, so I don't remember details.

Tuesday Morning

Sat for 50 minutes, clipping 10 from my sitting time because I am going to a meeting that includes 10 minutes of meditation, I am running a bit tight for time, and I was eager for an excuse to get off the cushion. Starting to feel a bit of a droop in momentum. Physically, I am sitting better than I can ever recall in my life, and cognitively I know I am making fabulous progress. Emotionally, although I feel globally OK today, I felt kind of blah about my practice. Not bothering to count lapses because it feels distracting, but not staying with the breath continuously by any means. Don't want to start body-scanning because I want to shore up my concentration this month, but starting to suspect I am wasting my time because my concentration is good enough. Stick to my plan, or re-negotiate? I feel like I am gently easing myself though a funnel from wide thoughts about past and future, squeezing down into the present. One interesting thing about this morning's session is that I was able to exclude a ticking clock from my awareness (until I checked on it, of course!) as I am using ear plugs less often.

Tuesday Evening

Sat one hour with my Sweet-E, as an experiment, before dinner so she could sit with. Pets and my son coming home and the neighbors upstairs made it a noisy environment at 6pm, but the distractions gave me something to "push back" against. I was acutely aware of the difference between thoughts of the past and future vs. experience of the present. I am finding it easier to sit without moving (much) for the hour, and I think this is a simple muscle tone thing.

Wednesday Morning

Sat 40 minutes with G. Resolved to pay particular attention to the difference between thoughts of the past & future and the experience of the present. Careful what you resolve. My mind took me on a Technicolor tour of all the times in my life I have been unskillful with failing to be present with what was actually happening, and this was all the more unpleasant in that it kept (recursively) occurring to me that these were thoughts of the past, and not what I was there to practice. Planning to sit again briefly with G. later this afternoon, and then another hour with Sweet-E this evening -- but that's about the future.

Wednesday Afternoon

Sat another 45 minutes with G. and then an hour with Sweet-E. I have been sitting a lot with others under a variety of different circumstances, and it all feels distracting, but I am sure I am building my concentration skills.

Tarver's Practice Report 3
Answer
12/21/11 4:06 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Seven weeks to go until Goenka Vipassana 10-day course #4. Objective: stream-entry.

Mid-Month Check-in:

The stated practice goals for this month seem a little odd and strained at this point. So far, I am meeting my commitment to practice times, but sitting with friends at all different times of day and sometimes under less than ideal conditions. The "theme of the month" is to develop concentration skills. My posture is improving palpably. Off the cushion I have put in many hours of study re-reading MCTB, looking things up and posting on DhO, following links and clarifying my understanding on technical issues, watching dharma videos, and now recently reviewing my annotated copy of the Mahasatipatthana Sutta and listening again to the recording of Goenka chanting same. Attended a Goenka One-Day sit for "Old Students". I have indeed been one busy dharma dude. Two parts of my stated goals that I have not been tracking closely are locating myself on the Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice, and counting lapses of mindfulness. I am two weeks away from the target of being able to follow the breath for an hour, at will. Upon reflection, part of the strain I am experiencing may be that my study includes reading about the progress of insight, whereas my practice this month has been largely, but not entirely, concentration. My formal statement of practice goals is not all that well drafted, with loopholes and inherent contradictions, but seeing those is clearly a sign of progress. I think I am on track with my stated goal, and making definite progress towards the larger goal of stream-entry in February 2012. Christmas will be disruptive to practice, but I will just have to work around that as best I can.

Thursday Morning

Sat one hour, on a cushion; broke adhitthana once or twice, fidgeting with my hands. Wrote on a card before sitting: "I resolve to follow the breath without interruption for one hour in this sit." Remained resolved, but got lost in thoughts briefly a few times. Rather than being content to catch part of every breath, I worked with following the breath as a continuity and remaining vigilant for any experience welling up in my awareness that wasn't that. Why is the present moment so elusive? Seems like my mind wants to be anywhere but present with what is happening right now. Felt like I came close to breaking a sweat with the "applied and sustained effort", but couldn't find any joy or pleasure to leverage, as per the first jhana. Feel tired after the sit. Am I doing this all wrong? Better do it "wrong" than not do it at all, I suppose. Ugh.

Thursday Afternoon

I was reading an article by Kenneth Folk which distinguishes effort from concentration. I decided to "take it to the lab" and sat down for an hour of kasina practice with a candle. (I tried a candle rather than a coloured disk because it seemed like more fun.) Very instructive, attempting to meditate with a primary object in a different sense modality. I sat fairly still but didn't constrain myself to any kind of adhitthana, and I kept my eyes glued to the candle flame for the entire hour with no more than about two or three lapses of perhaps a second each.* Here is the odd part: even with my eyes on the candle, eventually I stopped seeing it and my mind could wander off, even though I was still looking right at it. The lesson I gleaned is that intense effort is not possible to sustain for more than about half an hour, and in order to stay with the primary object it is necessary to relax into a more gentle form of concentration which is characterized by continuing to see what I am looking at. This throws a light on my experience of following the breath when I am not sure if I have "missed" a breath or not: I am all internally "pointing" at the breath, but lose concentration nevertheless, and stop feeling it in the same way as I can be looking right at a candle and yet not see it. Overt lapses like looking away are one thing, but the subtle lapses are actually hard to notice as they creep up. This may explain the strain I wrote about this morning in my stated practice goals. Now what do I do, I mean, besides keep practicing?

* I realized shortly after I wrote this that keeping "my eyes glued to the candle flame for the entire hour" with almost no lapses is actually very strong adhitthana, but in a sense modality that I am not used to taking into consideration!

Further Reflection & Strategic Review

It dawned on me this morning that my goal for the month is to develop concentration skills, not concentration states. This is actually something that the Assistant Teacher at the Goenka Daysit pointed out to me, but seems to have taken the better part of a week to sink in: practicing Vipassana also develops concentration skills. Another hint is that many people seem to be reporting that the (samatha) jhanas become obvious and relatively easy to sort out after stream entry. Therefore, I am going to switch my practice focus to full-on body-scanning Vipassana, with only occasional interludes of anapana, much as prescribed. I will continue to research and refine the distinction between "effort" and "concentration", as I think that holds the key for me to stay with the practice (any practice) and not waste my time on the cushion. This tack feels congruent with getting ready for the course in (less than!) seven weeks, and it is a calculated risk that two weeks from now staying with the breath for an hour if I so choose will be a fairly easily reproducible feat, even though I won't be practicing that directly for the balance of the month.

Friday Afternoon

Sat one hour with G., in addition to stretching and movement and the other things we do (she is helping me reform my diet, etc.). Made excellent use of the energy from other "stuff" in my life to power my practice, and sat the hour maintaining the body scan sometimes part by part, other times sweeping the whole. Noticed clearly that that the sense of the observer and the sensations on various parts of the body were obviously flip sides of the same phenomenon, as if this were as plain as the nose on my face. Is this observation of anatta? Wasn't particularly looking out for it before, but it was really clear today. I also wonder what the difference between dukkha and aversion is. Is not liking a sensation dukkha? That can't quite be it. I will look that up later, perhaps post a query if I can't find a good answer.

Also sat one hour with Sweet-E, remaining equanimous in the face of strong external distractions. Looking forward to doing some research tonight, as outlined above.

Saturday Afternoon

Sat one hour with G. Had a bit of trouble following sensations, so fell back to the breath a few times. Not worried by this -- I think it is a question of skill-building and perseverance, so I am just doing the best I can. My posture is so much better and more stable than it was just a short time ago; my mindfulness is sure to follow. Took an interest in the question, "Who is observing the sensations?" and I know the answer, of course nobody is, but I tried to observe that directly. This prompted the more interesting and seemingly problematic question of "Who is deciding which sensations to observe?" and again it seems really obvious to me intellectually that it is the integrated field of experience that is causally associated with my body that becomes more or less focused from time to time and under various circumstances, but again "I" tried to observe that directly. It would be lovely if, off the cushion in daily life, I could be more deliberate about what I want to do and when -- more disciplined in other words -- and I think what I am working on in my meditation may, as a desirable side-effect, point the way to "getting out of my own way" and getting on with what I need and want to do in my life.

Also sat one hour with my Sweet-E and a friend of hers who turns out to be an Old Student of Goenka's and currently a student of Shinzen Young. As for my practice, I am still a bit wobbly on keeping the attention present to my sensations and moving continuously through my body. The good news, of course, is that I am present to my sensations and moving my attention continuously through my body, which a few short weeks ago was much more than I could do.

Sunday Morning

Sat one hour with Sweet-E and G., my son having packed off to a friend's with the dog. All quiet in the house, except for the traffic, the people downstairs, the noisy power supply on one of the computers... aversion... aversion... First half hour, my concentration just wasn't there, and I could barely even do anapana. I faced this with equanimity as best I could, and just kept "starting again". About half way through the hour, the possibility of doing Vipassana showed up, and I was able to do some body-scanning. By the end of the hour I was almost effortlessly scanning up and down my body at about one minute per round trip, noticing subtle tingly vibrations wherever I "looked". The focus wasn't that tight, but there were no obvious "blank spots".

Also got some insight, perhaps, into the issue of suffering (unsatisfactoriness) vs aversion: Aversion and craving are deviations along a certain axis from equanimity/serenity/tranquility/samadhi, whereas dukkha is the inherent quality of anything I experience whereby there is always some way that it could be better -- there is always something to complain about, in other words, especially in the obvious cases of birth, old age, sickness, death, etc., but in all phenomena in fact.

Sunday Afternoon

I forgot to mention that I woke up last night in the middle of the night with an unmistakable feeling of Fear. I noticed almost right away that there was no proper object -- it was just a feeling, rather than a fear-of something -- and concluded that it was probably the Duke of Bananas playing tricks, and went back to sleep. What brings this to mind is that I am having some very pronounced Misery/Disgust reactions to cooking this afternoon. If this is what I think it is, at the rate this is going, then Re-observation is just around the corner. Batten the hatches, the storm's a-blowin' in... or it might just be a sprinkle. Never can tell, can we?

Sunday Evening

I have no idea if I am "on the map" or what, but I certainly had a very interesting experience this evening. Sat 45 minutes with my Sweet-E, and wasn't into it much at all at first. Just did anapana for quite a while. Suddenly, intensely unpleasant sensations arose on my arms and face. I stayed with it, stayed with it, didn't react, didn't react, observed, observed, observed... couldn't have been more than a minute or three, but it felt like forever. By the end of the sit, I was able to scan up my body all the way from feet to head on a single in-breath, all the way from head to feet on the out-breath. I could continue to do this for a few minutes after the bell rang, even. IF I am on the map, those would be re-observation and equanimity. If I am not on the map, that would merely be freakishly awesome progress. At this rate, I will have stream entry well before Christmas, which simply does not fit with my preconceived ideas of how much effort and diligence are supposed to go into this project, and therefore cannot possibly be happening this quickly and easily, sitting merely two hours a day. Whatever! Keep practicing, and as they say, "Keep an open mind."

Monday Afternoon

Sat for 1.25 hours, alone. Found a comfortable position on the couch with especially the small of my back supported and my feet over the coffee table; upright, yet eminently sustainable. Deliberately entered a broad focus awareness and played across the boundary of "zoning out" and found that I could apparently simultaneously perceive sensations from a large part of my body. Probably accessing second, third, or fourth jhanas, but will need to look it up and play with it some more to be sure. Was too "busy" stabilizing the awareness to spend much time drilling for the Three Characteristics, but did occasionally check for them, and of course the evidence was everywhere. Thoughts popped up in my awareness that were of the form of people I know, and it was transparently obvious that these were projected aspects of my own personality. Made no effort to stabilize and study these, as that's not what I was working on today.

Tuesday Morning

Sitting alone, I set the timer for an hour and a half, and opened my eyes with exactly one minute left to go. Quite possibly the longest timed, sustained meditation I have ever done on my own in my life. Went deep, very deep, right to the limit of my present skill and abilities.

First thing is that Big Issue is back. Big issue is ruining my life, ruining my son's life, causing this trouble, that trouble, blah, blah, blah. Went looking (perhaps hunting) for sensations that might be associated with Big Issue. Never turned up any specific sensations per se, but noticed the following: at one point my perception of "space" (such as it is, with eyes closed, etc.) seemed distinctly out of phase with itself as if my head, my perception of it, and my mind were fanned out like the cards in a hand of cards, such that my head was about a quarter or half a unit to one side, and my perception were offset to the other side. Clearly, the Duke of Bananas is playing tricks. Also clearly (thanks, Duke!) my perception of the content of Big Issue is out of phase with reality. That's what my lawyer and everybody have been telling me for many years. Go figure. Resolving this insight to Right Speech & Right Action may take some integration, but for now I will be damned if [Big Issue this, Big Issue that].

In other news, I spent part of this session cultivating an awareness of my entire sensory field bringing each sense modality on-line like the pilot of an aircraft going down a checklist ("Physical sensations -- check; visuals -- check; auditory -- check... What am I forgetting? Where was I? Who hid the list? Start over... Physical sensations -- check"), and then once it was all precariously balanced, looking for the three characteristics. All without "thinking too loudly" so as not to disturb myself. When this goes well, the subtlest rustle of intention ripples out almost (but not quite) imperceptibly into a gentle cascade of sui generis observable phenomena, which are observable not because anybody is observing them but because they are phenomena, obviously impermanent, and unsatisfactory at least insofar as I can't see them clearly enough for "my" liking.

Also, at some point in this session I was struck forcefully by the intuition that I should re-read Leslie Dewart's Evolution and Consciousness. Forthwith. Could a few of you really kind, smart, highly realized people who can read and digest and master every other kind of philosophy and technical material please get your hands on a copy of this book, and help me sort out the exact nature of the "switch that gets flipped" in the mind when somebody gets Path? Maybe we (maybe somebody, maybe I) can clarify and elucidate and propagate that one key nuance that will fit together with all the other important work that others are doing so that within this very lifetime enlightenment goes viral. Thanks.

Tuesday Afternoon

Sat for another hour, again alone. Not sure what I was doing. Alternately scanning up and down my body and drifting through some nebulous void. Kept forgetting the instructions.

Before sitting, I started re-reading Dewart's book. Remembered just at the end of the sit that I had asked him to sign my copy of his book, and that he dated it -- December 21, 1989, which is tomorrow, the winter solstice.

Wednesday

Meditated the better part of an hour informally, and then sat one hour formally. Set the timer for an hour, and opened my eyes with 10 seconds left to go. Had no trouble scanning the body freely, and made a point of going through it once in great detail. Towards the end, I spent a while cultivating the widest possible awareness, including sensations, sounds, images, and an awareness of as many of the Three Characteristics as I could remember. I am nowhere near Goenka's description of touching the body with the mind and having a sizzling of sensations as if touching a welding rod, but at the rate I am progressing, maybe I will see that soon, possibly within this very lifetime.

Tarver's Practice Report 4
Answer
12/28/11 11:16 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Six weeks to go until Goenka Vipassana 10-day course #4. Objective: stream-entry.

Thursday Morning

Sat one and a quarter hours, attempting simply to follow the breath. Tried to observe the observation, but kept forgetting the intention. Was fairly stable for half an hour or 45 minutes or so, then started zoning out catastrophically. Was amused rather than discouraged, smiled, and got back to work as soon as I figured out what was going on. Got distinctly restless around 1 hour, and then resigned myself to the finality of my resolution to sit until the bell rang and had a few good minutes of samatha. Lost concentration entirely with two minutes left on the clock.

Thursday Evening

Sat one hour with Sweet-E, amid distractions. Neither of us felt very focused. It may be hard to maintain my practice over the next few day with Christmas events, but I will do my best. As I make the rounds of holiday gatherings, people are struck by my confidence, poise, and clarity. People are astounded that I am meditating two hours a day, yet millions spend that much time simply driving to and from work.

Friday Morning

Took the time to respond to another post that seemed important, but only sat for half an hour and not very strongly at that. OK, 'tis the season to break up routines and all that. All the best to everyone!

Saturday (Christmas Eve)

No practice.

Sunday Morning (Christmas Day)

Sat one hour with unbelievably weak concentration. Kept opening my eyes, shifting position, and even found it necessary to reach for the smartphone and check my email at one point. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday Afternoon (Boxing Day)

Sat for about 35 minutes, clipping the treetops at around Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice Level 2, at best. Oh, no! The Grinch stole my concentration...

Monday Evening

Sat another half hour with my Sweet-E, and settled into a deep, calm, relaxed state. Body-scanning would probably have been possible had I been motivated to do it, but it still felt like a holiday and I just plain didn't feel like working too hard.

Tuesday Afternoon

Sat one hour, following the breath off and on, otherwise lost in thought. Wonderful, constructive, positive thoughts about consciousness, dharma, how the self-presence of conscious experience may even be a "fourth characteristic" that accounts for the first three -- so either I am on the verge of articulating a philosophical breakthrough that will catapult me into enlightenment and pull the rest of the human race with me, or I have allowed Christmas to totally destroy my momentum and bust me back down to the beginner level of meditation and I am going to have to painstakingly reconstruct my practice, one breath at a time. Hard call.

Tuesday Evening

Sat an hour with my Sweet-E, and circled up to perhaps HVP-Level 3. Did a little bit of body scanning, just for demo purposes. Later, started writing an essay, which I intend to post on DhO as soon as I have anything coherent to present, suggesting that the self-presence of conscious experience (as exposited by Leslie Dewart in Evolution and Consciousness) may be a "Grand Unifying Characteristic" more useful for practice and rapid progress than the classic three (anicca, dukkha, anatta) because it implies, contains, and explains them in exactly the paradigm-shifting way that heliocentricity accounts for all the epicycles necessary for a geocentric model. In so doing, I may well have embarked on my most important life's work. My hope is that this work contributes to the alleviation of my own suffering and that of humanity as a whole.

Wednesday Morning

Sat for one hour attempting to follow the breath. While I was supposed to be meditating, I deduced that mindfulness consists of acquiring voluntary control over the assertiveness that characterizes conscious experience (one implication being that assertiveness may be at least at times involuntary(!), locking the experiencer into a reality of their own making, but not their own choosing, ouch). Some critical threshold of such voluntary control, coupled with a high degree of assertiveness and concomitant self-presence, presumably results in the emergent effect of "transcending the illusion of duality", aka enlightenment, which would render the experiencer effectively a master of reality in a pervasive and very cool way that would be very hard to explain to others who weren't able to experience things that way. The question is then how to direct my own practice in such a way as to achieve this effect in myself, and then find a way to teach it to others on a massive scale. Do I detect a whiff of A&P-ishness in my demeanour? Dewart seems to have that effect on me. I so wish I had gotten on with this while he was still alive.

Wednesday Evening

Sat for an hour with Sweet-E while my dearest son failed to keep the dog quiet in the next room. Increasingly over the course of the day, and then acutely during the sit, I have been sparring with the Duke of Bananas. I thought the hour would never end, and Sweet-E also said that it was a hard session.

Tarver's Practice Report 5
Answer
1/3/12 7:02 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Five weeks to go until Goenka Vipassana 10-day course #4. Objective: stream-entry.

Thursday Morning

Sat one hour with my son, age 12. The fact that he actually survived the hour is great; he says he could follow three or four breaths in a row, and spent considerable periods of time sitting quite still. If we do it again, I may set him to breath counting just to get established. The aspect of my own practice that I am happiest with is my ability to maintain my posture on a cushion with almost no difficulty. I had been hoping to be able to follow the breath myself for an hour at will by the end of this month, which I am not yet able to do although there are still a few more days until the end of the month. It also seems, however, that the goal may have been a bit misguided as if attempting to complete a rally in first gear -- what seems to happen is that once the mind calms down, the focus of attention naturally tend to broaden. If there is insufficient mindfulness (self-presence) that becomes zoning out, but if there is sufficient concentration the nature of the focus matures and expands.

I will write up my goals formally at some point in the next week, but the time is almost upon me to take whatever samatha I have and get to work on the vipassana in earnest. I think introducing some vipassana a few weeks ago was a good idea.

Thursday Evening

Sat another 45 minutes with my Sweet-E, just following the breath off and on, sinking into a pleasant state of tranquility. Looking forward to reading the remainder of Dewart's book, and then re-reading MCTB seeking a synthesis of the two perspectives, both of which I have great confidence in.

Friday Afternoon

After running into something which I found personally upsetting, I sat two back-to-back hours with a short break in between. To keep it interesting, I crossed my legs right over left for the first hour, and then left over right for the second hour. Followed the breath. Oddly enough, my mood had not shifted much even after two hours of sitting, and I was about as annoyed going out as coming in. Very curious.

Saturday (New Year's Eve)
Only sat a bit less than half an hour, still experiencing a low mood; lots of schedule disruptions and logistics happening around the celebration of the New Year.

Sunday (New Year's Day)
Sat one hour with Sweet-E, and an excellent session indeed to kick of 2012. (Started writing a draft of my practice goals for the month earlier today, the gist of which is to focus on vipassana in preparation for the Course one month hence.) Was able to scan the body every which way with perfectly adequate concentration. Also realized the a potential commonality between what the Buddha was saying, and Ingram, and Dewart: the "dots" that line up are suffering, dualism, and absent-mindedness with respect to the self-presence of consciousness. I feel keenly focused and deeply committed to working very diligently this month to attain stream entry in February. I can't guarantee the outcome, but if I don't succeed it won't be because I gave it any less than my absolute best effort.

Monday Morning

Sat 75 minutes as per the draft practice plan for the month, which I will be posting shortly. Became restless at about 45 minutes, opened my eyes briefly, and crossed my legs the other way. I have been sitting just fine on a cushion (to my utter astonishment!) and I think this is excellent physical practice -- it is getting easier and easier. I am able to scan the body part by part and also at times with a free flow of sweeping, although today I couldn't quite get it to one pass (up or down) on any given breath (in, out, or both) but I dare say that from where I was a month ago this is astounding and wonderful progress.

One area where I am having difficulty is with my understanding of what exactly I am doing when I sit. It bothers me that I don't need to know what I am doing, that it is sufficient that I simply do what has worked for others. I guess that I am deeply attached to knowing what I am doing, and I fancy that I have the intelligence, perspicacity, and access to a few sources of theory that put me in a position to articulate a theory of what is happening that will in some ways be better than what is already extant. The flip side is that I am not buying Goenka's dogma about defilements and purification, and because I am sincerely trying to follow his instructions as they pertain to the practice itself, I find myself straining to "translate" them in real time into terms that are meaningful to me.

What I think I am doing is taking advantage of neuroplasticity to train myself to have increasingly voluntary control over my faculties of attention, especially as concerns that aspect of conscious sense experience whereby the object of experience and the act of experiencing that object are simultaneously integrated into a single experiential act which includes both aspects. In my understanding (or perhaps I should say Dewart's) this is already happening all the time, but because of weak (or deficient, or more neutrally, underdeveloped) self-presence, which is to say voluntary control over assertiveness, the object of experience dazzlingly overwhelms and the self-present quality gets overlooked; or when the self-present quality first gets noticed it gets mistaken for a subject-object split. Transcending "the illusion of duality" then is simply (ha!) a question of sufficiently developing voluntary control over the self-presence/assertiveness that is the signature characteristic of every conscious experience, paradoxically unbeknownst to most human beings who experience consciously all the time. And yet why should people know this? My favorite example is that we got along more or less adequately for countless eons without even knowing that the blood circulates until William Harvey sorted us out.

Tuesday Afternoon

At the family cottage with my son and a friend; they went out to build a fire, and I sat inside for 75 minutes. Got restless after half an hour, stretched briefly, got a sip of water, and crossed my legs the other way over for variety. No idea why that amuses me so much, but it does. Opened my eyes at exactly one hour, glanced at the timer, and got back to it. Took some time to build my concentration over the entire sit, but succeeded in getting some good scanning done. My skill at this is definitely building. What I am doing is starting with gross scanning, like head -- torso -- left arm -- etc, then front & back of head -- top and bottom of torso -- top and bottom of arms -- etc, finer and finer until I "lose it", then start again calibrating the coarseness. I find that I can pretty well always scan as coarsely as that, and presumably as my skill increases I will be able to track sensations finer and finer down to... whatever there is to be discovered.

Tuesday Evening

Sat just over an hour, once again while the gang was outside roasting marshmallows. Restless at first, then eventually settled in -- actually got up to deal with something in the room after I had set the timer. Towards the end of the session I felt drawn to a full-body awareness, very rapidly noting (or should I say, noticing) sensations all over the body, seemingly simultaneously. Felt very alert, sat very erect, felt very calm and present. I guess that was a "craving" exercise, being equanamous with something I "want", whereas the restless phase earlier in the session might have been an "aversion" exercise, being equanamous with something I "don't want", i.e., feelings of boredom, distraction, etc.

Also, got a phone call from the local Vipassana Centre to discuss my application, which after we discussed it I was told will be recommended to the Assistant Teacher for approval. Was warned against "mixing techniques". In addition, as an Old Student, I was invited to come to the Centre to sit (and possibly help with something) between courses to strengthen my practice. I have mixed feelings about this: it felt a bit too much like crossing a border and being careful to tell the truth, but avoiding any topics that might lead to misunderstandings. On the one hand, I am profoundly grateful for the institution of the Goenka Vipassana Centres which have made it possible for me to get to where I am today. I am sincerely making the effort to understand and apply the instructions provided by that tradition to get results. On the other hand, in spite of their Herculean efforts to steer clear of any dogma (or perhaps because of them?) I don't get the feeling that I am getting the whole story about what happens with insight practice, and had I not read MCTB and spent a month cultivating concentration, I don't think I would be in as good a position as I think I am in now. Maybe others can take the instructions as given and get somewhere with them, but it wasn't working for me. And on yet some other hand, maybe I am getting to the point where I am starting to appreciate certain nuances which would just be distracting or even deleterious at the start. Maybe it just isn't a perfect world. It's great to know that I am on for the Course, and maybe I can get up to the Centre for a day or two beforehand even, make myself useful, and get an even better running head start with which to hit the Course.

Statement of Practice Goals for January 2012
Answer
1/3/12 7:44 PM as a reply to Tarver .
The principal practice goal for January is to prepare for the upcoming Goenka 10-Day Vipassana Course, February 1-12. The goal for the Course is to attain Stream Entry.

"Pariyatti" (Sufficient theoretical knowledge)
- Finish re-reading Leslie Dewart's Evolution & Consciousness, the best and most penetrating account of the human condition of which I am aware, with direct implications for virtually every aspect of human life including presumably practice.
- Re-read Daniel Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, the most detailed and useful exposition of enlightenment and what it takes to achieve it of which I am aware.
- Re-read Goenka's Discourse Summaries and analysis of the Mahasatipatthana Suta, to assimilate and internalize the specific instructions and technique in which I have the most experience, and which I am planning to use to attain Stream Entry. Distinguish dogma from technique as clearly as possible in order to achieve equanimity with Goenkaji's pedagogy.
- Collate all the print-outs of the various articles and posts collected from the Internet into a binder, rank them for importance and/or topic, and review for best practices.
- Document such theoretical insights as arise from reading, reflection, and practice in my practice reports, but defer for now the project of synthesizing any coherent articulation of my understanding.

1st Training: Morality
- For this month, do just enough to get by.
- Keep the house in order, pay the bills, take care of my son, keep myself fed, and stay in loving relationship with my Sweet-E.
- Postpone any major new projects or initiatives.
- Avoid distractions, upsets, and triggers.
- Defer maintenance wherever possible.
- Maintain adequate sila to support the further trainings.

2nd Training: Concentration
- Work with what I have. Do not do any formal concentration practices for more than a few minutes, if necessary, to establish focus for vipassana.
- Maintain adequate samadhi to support the final training, both in the sense of stillness of mind on the cushion to do insight practice, and in the sense of global "focus" to align my priorities for this month in accordance with this plan.

3rd Training: Wisdom
- Practice vipassana -- awareness of and equanimity with body sensations -- as much as possible as per Goenka's instructions.
- Sit at least two hours daily; when possible, sit for 1.25 hours rather than one hour.
- Allow one or two days per week (presumably weekends and/or holidays) for only one sitting.
- When possible, sit formally on a cushion or bench in order to train physical endurance.
- Sit with a timer and avoid moving (adhitthana).
- Smile at discomfort with equanimity; smile likewise at progress with equanimity.
- Scan as finely as possible, or as coarsely as necessary, but keep scanning.
- Practice with others only if the intensity and integrity of practice can be maintained.
- Log my practice here on DharmaOverground, but avoid dwelling excessively on where I might "be" on the maps -- trust that I will make progress by keeping the focus on the practice.

Review these Practice Goals frequently to stay on track.

Tarver's Practice Report 6
Answer
1/11/12 11:30 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Four weeks to go until Goenka Vipassana 10-day course #4. Objective: stream-entry.

Wednesday Morning

At the family Cottage. Got up before the others, dealt with the dog, stoked the fire, and tried to sit in the main room. Dog was distracting, so I moved to the bedroom and set a timer for 75 minutes. Never really overcame the restlessness, and called it off after only 65 minutes. Some sessions are like that. Maybe it was too cold, even for me? Maybe I haven't had a cup of coffee yet? Whatever.

In all the thinking I was doing while I was supposed to be meditating, however, I reflected on the idea of want / craving / desire, and that perhaps the standard dogma misses a key point. The conscious direction of final causality is so central to the human experience, that perhaps the source of suffering is not desire per se, but involuntary or somehow unskillful desire, maybe skewed by absent-mindedness or badly projected in a way that dooms the game to a loss right from the opening moves. I am suspecting that desire, like "ego" and suffering itself, is going to need an overhaul before the concept becomes really usable -- at least by me. Human consciousness doesn't come with any definitive owner's manual where one can look this stuff up. Maybe I will have to write it -- to throw on the heap of countless other attempts to do so...

Wednesday Evening

Sat another half an hour. Set the timer for an hour, but decided not to be any more heroic than that as it is quite late, it has been a very long day, and I am very tired. Felt drawn to that full-body awareness again, which feels distinctly easier and more restful and relaxed than the narrow focus of anapana or the constant effort of body-scanning vipassana.

Thursday Afternoon

Was really exhausted, possibly fighting off a cold, as is my friend who joined us at the Cottage. Slept about 12 hours. Took a cold shower to invigorate the ol' body, and managed to sit 45 minutes before I had to get up to attend to household matters. Tried something new, scanning from side to side rather than up and down. Feeling somewhat disorganized and off-balance, but also confident that these things come in phases and this too shall pass.

Also, I have been going over my Practice Thread the last few days to see if I had missed anything, and realized that I had not read very carefully the comments section of the link that Nickolai suggested here. It is indeed a total gold mine, collating comments from a number of DhO-ers, including and especially Tarin and Jill. Thanks again. I am now working my way through that material, including some of the podcasts which are loaded on the Android and ready to go. emoticon

Friday Afternoon & Evening

Went over to G's place and talked through some Issues but only sat for 15 minutes. Got home, and felt the need to push into it a bit so I sat for an hour and immediately reset the timer for another hour. Opened my eyes with exactly 15 minutes left on the second hour, and thought "that's quite enough" and rolled off the cushion. Spent about half of the first hour with my forehead on the cushion instead of my ass, and part of the second hour (3/4 hour) slumped against the wall, but there it is. Scanning felt too hard today, even full-body awareness was a slog. No idea what stage I am in, although Misery and Disgust are likely candidates, or maybe even Mind & Body as my spine just won't feel straight no matter how I sit. Made sure I logged two full hours of practice today, having gone and foolishly published my plan for the month. I am feeling a bit rattled that I only sat once yesterday, having spent many hours in the evening reading and reviewing things that seemed really important, watching the time slip away, never getting around to the second sit of the day. Doesn't matter how I feel, if I want that Duke of Bananas off my back once and for all, I have to practice no matter what -- indeed, especially if I don't feel like it. If I ever get anywhere with this, I will have earned it. "Master of the Present Moment" seems like a sick joke to me at this present moment, but I am sure that is as impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not proper to any persistent self as everything else.

Saturday Morning

Sat for 75 minutes, but not continuously as I paused the timer and got up to pee (after duly examining the relevant sensations, of course). Not thrilled with my concentration as my mind keeps wandering, but apparently with practice the momentary concentration is supposed to add up and become quite strong. It really is remarkable how on different days (and even at different times during the same sit) the capacity to clearly perceive sensations on specific parts of the body fluctuates wildly, as does the ability to focus the mind sufficiently in the first place even to look. At times it is effortless, at other times all but impossible.

Applied to serve a 10-day Goenka Course on Jan. 18 -- tucked right in front of the one I am going to sit on Feb. 1 -- and included a link to this practice thread in my application. The question is, is what I am doing sufficiently close to what is taught in that tradition to qualify me to serve a course, given the enormous premium that is placed on not mixing techniques? It is probably like anything: if you stare at it long enough, it will resolve into little swirly fragments that can then be interpreted in any number of ways. I suspect that I scrutinize myself in way too much detail, and I hope that these efforts eventually result in liberation from whatever fraction of my cogitation turns out to have been superfluous.

I am now going to listen to Goenka chant the Mahasatipatthana Suta; I have indexed my printed copy with the time for the start of each paragraph, because I kept getting lost. Some passages sound literally like the phrase "mumbo-jumbo" over and over. When in doubt about the instructions, why not try to grok them in Pali? But seriously, before I get to the course I fully intend to learn all the relevant Pali vocabulary (which is all neatly listed in glossaries in the relevant publications) because, well just because.

Saturday Afternoon

Sat for 55 minutes whereupon the dog got restless, so I let me up and him out. I did my best to maintain equanimity in the face of the return of easy scanning in any direction I wanted, coarse or fine, so I just explored sensations in a matter-of-fact way for most of the "hour".

Spent much of the day working through the Mahasatipattana Sutta and the bulk of the Discourse Summaries. I am a little perturbed by the disconnect around what comprises Right Concentration. The Buddha clearly states that the first four jhanas are Right Concentration, whereas Goenka seems to take a different tack. Presumably this pertains to the wet insight / dry insight controversy. I guess that now that I have done what I had to do to get to the point where I can apply the technique more or less as specified, it doesn't pertain to me much in the short term.

Sunday Afternoon

Sat for an hour, but scanning was weak. Observed the fluctuations in the capacity to scan -- anicca. Kept getting distracted, however, by doubts about the 3 characteristics being truly fundamental. Most explanations I have read seem to start with one and derive the others. I am thinking that the cause of suffering is not craving, per se, but conscious craving in the form of narratives that "leave something to be desired" and hence never satisfy. Relief would come from realizing that any given perspective can be decomposed, and choosing ones (perspectives) that are fluidly adaptable -- optimized in real time, so to speak, with conditions. So why would training conscious control over proprioception help one realize the ultimate relativity of all narratives? Probably has to do with penetrating the felt experience of purposiveness aka final causality aka desire. Still, the dharma is shot through with reductionisms and metaphors that just don't hold up to examination. And, be that as it may, if I am to get myself enlightened I am going to have to pick or compose a story that I believe in just long enough to do what I need to do to get to where I want to go... there it is again, "where I want to go". Is that reducible to a sensation somewhere on the body? Even if it isn't, actually, maybe looking for it is skillful in this case.

Monday Afternoon

Sat two hours in quick succession with a very short break in between. Opened my eyes with one and three minutes left on the clock, respectively. I keep feeling like my spine could use stretching and "cracking" and wanting to fidget, so periodically I just twist and stretch with my shoulders from side to side, but try to keep it to a minimum and observe the sensations that comprise the urge to move. Cycles of wandering mind and "remembering the instructions" seem quite rapid, maybe a minute or two, but I am not opening my eyes to time anything. I feel frustrated that my concentration is not sufficient, like trying to work wood with dull tools: I want clean shavings, but I am getting smoke and powder instead. But I am trying to "play along" and apply the technique as I understand it, which is to scan the body as soon as I am able, and notice aversion when it arises.

Last night I drove a friend (also a Vipassana meditator -- Goenka "Old Student") from Toronto to Kingston and back to drop off some of her kids, so had lots of time to talk about practice and the dharma. Quite a few of my friends are Old Students.

Tuesday Afternoon

Sat for 52 minutes.

Tuesday Evening

Sat 59 minutes, more or less adhitthana, but not really trying very hard, if that makes any sense. Feeling paranoid about the tension between the Goenka tradition's interdiction of "mixing techniques" and the Pragmatic Dharma approach of dynamically adapting to what works best. "Chase two rabbits, catch neither" ...which is why I have decided to try and do it Goenka's way until the end of the Course in February, and then re-assess. If I can go serve and get some more perspective on the whole thing (and obviously be helpful and play it straight by the house rules) so much the better. Also, applied to attend a Goenka Daysit here in Toronto on Saturday -- it should be possible to shuffle the logistics with kid, dog, and Sweet-E to attend that, but for some reason I am finding all such considerations surprisingly onerous at the moment.

Wednesday Morning

Atypically, I am starting my practice report before I sit this morning because there is something highly significant to report. I have been turned away for both the Goenka Daysit on Saturday, and for serving the 10-day course next week. The response for the Daysit mentions a wait-list of 40 (!) which is entirely plausible, as I left it late to apply and the hall was packed last time. But I remain paranoid about what "they" -- the Goenka people -- think of me and my sincere attempts to practice, as I applied to serve scarcely two days after a call went out for servers because they were short of servers for this particular course, and the declining email very blandly says the "course is full and has a wait-list" without commenting at all on the substance of my application. Maybe I will get a call in a few days saying, can I come after all? Maybe the likes of me are exactly the kind of "wrong vibrations" that they don't want to pollute their atmosphere with? I am afraid of calling and asking, as I don't want to get dis-invited from the course I am accepted for, Feb. 1 (could that happen?) and also I don't want to create a hassle and waste the time of people who are (in my imagination at least) extremely busy doing things in a way that they whole-heartedly believe in and have found works for them -- at least I hope it works for them -- how many sotapannas are there typically on staff?. On the one hand, I am disappointed. On the other hand, this puts me firmly in the position of a "confused" outsider who, though attempting to do so, has yet to grasp all the merits of Goenka's particular approach to things, and therefore on my own ("You are your own master") to find my best way in light of such guidance and advice as I have been fortunate enough to receive to date. OK, now sit.

Sat for one hour. At 28 minutes, opened my eyes, shifted position (crossed my legs the other way) and resumed. In a fit of rebellious pique, I noted (yes, noted!) each in-breath and each out-breath. For the first half of my sit, I was squarely with the breath and other miscellaneous sensations on the body as they arose. For the second half hour I was much more lost in thought, working out contingency plans for strategy and logistics to get the kind of environment and technique necessary to get stream entry. Realized that I don't need Goenka. Will attend course Feb. 1 as planned unless the Goenka Inquisition ferrets me out -- what am I so paranoid about? There is no Goenka Inquisition! Almost nobody follows the prescribed instructions. Almost nobody sits two hours a day and remains utterly "pure". Almost everybody "mixes techniques" one way or another, just by virtue of being exposed to other ways of thinking about the dharma, or should I say dhamma. I am among a small minority that takes more than one course, and among a tiny minority that sits two hours per day for any sustained time -- and not even that long in my case. Perhaps I am taking this all way too seriously.

Wednesday Afternoon

Supplemental: Was cleaning out some papers and came across documents pertaining to the court case last year where I lost custody of my son. Broke right down and cried. Tried to observe the characteristic of dukkha. Also attempted to observe the thoughts about how I wish my practice were strong enough to shred this experience into the tiniest of little particles and make some good use of it. Who is this "I" who is trapped in this senseless, stupid, ridiculous clusterfuck, somehow entirely of my own making, and yet from which "I" can't escape? (Anatta?) In a few years my son will be all grown up, and in a few more years I and everybody I know will be dead (Anicca?) and in the meantime being bitter and resentful isn't helpful. Still, it is the dominant fact of my existence, it hurts like hell, and it feels utterly pervasively and absolutely real.

Wednesday Evening

What a day of paranoia and emotional reactivity! Got another note from the Goenka centre inviting me, as an Old Student, to come early or stay late for the Feb. 1 10-day to sit extra and/or help with something (which, ironically, will be hard for me to schedule as the time right close to the course is tricky). I have been just so hair-trigger touchy-sensitive about all of this. Yikes. What got into me?

Only sat 40 minutes out of the planned hour this evening after my son went to bed, and just suddenly knew that this was enough for today. Tried noting again. In my estimation, done right, there would be no verbalization -- just the assertive designation of the object of experience that always accompanies vocalization and indeed thought but is not so obvious unless one knows to look for it. If I weren't reading Dewart, I am sure I would mis-understand noting entirely. It has nothing to do with what Goenka criticizes as taking something other than naked reality for an object of meditation. I think I may be seeing the broad outlines of a colossal and tragic misunderstanding -- or another aspect of one -- that has been hampering humanity for eons and causing untold suffering.

If anyone has been following this thread and lives near or can get to the Toronto area, I am planning to head up to the family Cottage (two hours north of Toronto, right on the shore of Georgian Bay) for a small private meditation retreat January 19-23. My vision is to head up Thursday, sit intensively for three days, and return Monday. Would anyone be interested in joining me? No cost except to get ourselves there and back and feed ourselves. Message me privately please, if you are interested.

Feedback welcome!
Answer
1/4/12 11:12 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Is there anybody... out there? [cue Pink Floyd] emoticon

Please feel free to respond to this post with any feedback, suggestions, tips, criticism, or other input.

Thanks!

RE: Feedback welcome!
Answer
1/4/12 11:43 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Hi Tarver - I enjoy this thread, the details, the account of such sustained efforts, and the words (e.g., duke of bananas, sweet-E, as well as the clarity in expressing meditative experience). I am wondering how you have been experiencing the quotidian (all things off the cushion) since you began your thread. Here is some context (from your text) for my interest:

Here is the odd part: even with my eyes on the candle, eventually I stopped seeing it and my mind could wander off, even though I was still looking right at it. The lesson I gleaned is that intense effort is not possible to sustain for more than about half an hour, and in order to stay with the primary object it is necessary to relax into a more gentle form of concentration which is characterized by continuing to see what I am looking at.

(...)

It dawned on me this morning that my goal for the month is to develop concentration skills, not concentration states. This is actually something that the Assistant Teacher at the Goenka Daysit pointed out to me, but seems to have taken the better part of a week to sink in: practicing Vipassana also develops concentration skills. Another hint is that many people seem to be reporting that the (samatha) jhanas become obvious and relatively easy to sort out after stream entry. Therefore, I am going to switch my practice focus to full-on body-scanning Vipassana, with only occasional interludes of anapana, much as prescribed. I will continue to research and refine the distinction between "effort" and "concentration", as I think that holds the key for me to stay with the practice (any practice) and not waste my time on the cushion.
What are your mindfulness skills like during daily activities now, after such cushion practice (mindfulness of each moment is concentration off the cushion)? Meaning is there a stronger but gentle form of concentration occurring when you are engaged with Sweet-E, son, dog, colleagues?

Regarding the lack on information provided in a Goenka retreat (which reminds me of my own zen sesshin experiences) and a comment you made earlier about reading Leslie Dewart - something like "[who is aware of reading this, of course no one is...]" (it is from an earlier post you made): the comment had to do with conceiving self/no-self. That comment contains a conception of anatta, but, in my opinion, the understanding stops there (and impedes). There is a self (an agency with spotty, contiguous awareness of its life-long experiences) there when reading Dewart, aware of reading, aware of words, aware of history, aware of learning, aware of sharing, aware of pleasure...the phrasing no-self (anatta) translates a phrase used in an earlier time in another culture (one with Atta, one that justified ritual sacrifices of others and social hierarchies based on proximity to the great Self (atta)) - The discovery process you are experiencing on the cushion has some challenges, but your commitment to the process seems to overcome such challenges (e.g., boredom, pain, sense of pointlessness, impatience, confusion, loss of interest). Consider then the person who has much book knowledge, can expound at length using all the established words, yet cannot experience cessation due to attachment to expert-published conceptions and inability to be in their own unique moment-to-moment fresh life. Your bodily path looks very capable from my view.

Also, "stream-entry" - a palpable release from many irrelevant mental concerns - may not be a mind-blowing "it happened now!" experience. For example, I've had at least two conceptual releases from sitting at the window and letting images of "the human condition" form and reform until something "clicked" (releasing the conceptions) and three conversations in the past six months after which conversations (by hours or days) the unfolded, unloaded mind (unfolded and unloaded of assumptive conceptions by engaging with two others in conversations - both in mutual irritation as well as in perfect mutual understanding) does not refold or reload. The mental faculty just can no longer pick up or attach to certain tensions. conceptual fixities evaporated. Thus, this sort of "stream-entry" is seen to be, over weeks, an apparently permanent release (a cessation) of some activities by the mental faculty. Maybe tomorrow I will wake up and find the mental faculty has taken up some activities and objects, but at present, it seems that the event called "stream-entry" is just like a foxhound saw that the fox hunt was goofy pointlessness (and causing needless suffering) and the hound (mental faculty), decided to do interesting/life-curious/related things with its life (faculties) instead. [EDIT: to be clear, then: while I understand well that this desire regarding "stream-entry" motivates the practice, if possible, do not at all dwell on concepts of "stream-entry" - just do your actual practice - trusting that many find it to be useful. It is ongoing, deepens, has learning curves and learning moments (aka: mistakes) like any other practice.]

RE: Feedback welcome!
Answer
1/5/12 12:02 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Thanks Katy for your thoughtful response.

In answer to your questions, I have been steadier and more productive "off the cushion" in the last few months than at any other time in recent memory. Normally -- most years -- my mood either dips or crashes around Christmas, and this year I basically sailed right through. My son (whom I just asked) says I am calmer and more easy going than previously. Clearly this is attributable in part to the meditation practice, and also in part to the prior work in "the first training in morality" which made it possible to make the effort to sustain the practice.

I am quite aligned with your suggestions about how to hold the goal of stream entry, what to expect, and how helpful it is to ignore or release expectations. I get it. I like to think that I am not pining after some mythical state as much as making sure I make tangible progress every single day, looking forward if anything to finding out all about it once I get there.

Tarver's Practice Report 7
Answer
1/19/12 11:26 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Three weeks to go until Goenka Vipassana 10-day course #4. Objective: stream-entry.

Thursday Morning

Only sat for 35 minutes this morning, noting sensations "one by one as they occurred" and yet with "constant thorough understanding of impermanence". (Well, maybe somewhat shaky, but I am just sorting this all out...) Looking forward to a longer session later today. Very excited and yet relaxed, feeling confident and solidly on track. What a change from yesterday! I have a strong feeling this morning that this is possible, that I am well on my way towards an understanding of the problem and the instructions comprising a solution that I can apply successfully to "do what needs to be done".

Thank you so, so, so much Daniel; without your book, videos, posts, etc. this would have remained vague, mystical, maddeningly enticing and yet forever in the future. I am starting to understand, in various senses, that "this" is in the present.

Sent a few notes around looking for noble companions for the small private meditation retreat I am planning at the family Cottage January 19-23. My vision is to head up Thursday, sit intensively for three days, and return Monday. I have in mind the "traditional" Vipassana schedule of 4:30am-10:30pm or so, including at least 10 hours of sitting time daily. The cottage Mokotow is two hours north of Toronto in a straight line past Barrie, west of Penetanguishene, right on the shore of Georgian Bay. It is a solid cedar "Panabode" three-bedroom winterized bungalow with full kitchen and bathroom. If you would like to join me (us?), please message me privately.

Thursday Afternoon

Sat for another 35 minutes, attempting to note the breath. A bit thrown off by the theft of some tools, but only a bit. A couple of years ago when a toolbox went missing I was totally devastated, but today I am in a position of at least partial choice over how I react. Still a bit bummed out, nevertheless. I can't be letting my sitting or not sitting depend on my mood. I'll never get past the Duke of Bananas that way.

Friday Afternoon

I have been reading up on noting for the last two days or so. Pulled down all kinds of comments & links from DhO, read what MCTB has to say, etc. Just tried to sit for an hour, but only made it through half an hour. Noting rapidly most of the time, up to five or more times per second on the "straightaway" of the breath (racetrack analogy) like "in in in in in in in in in in stop out out out out out out out out out out out stopping stopping in in in..." etc. Strangest thing happened: I got unseated by an unleashed torrent of creativity like I can't believe. OMFG, after about 35 minutes, I stopped and opened my eyes, rested a minute, and came over to write up this report. I simply didn't want any more insights for now -- the implications of the ones just "received" are quite enough for one sitting, thank you. I am humbled and astonished at the power of the mind, my mind, to intuit and integrate and narratize and understand. In the course of this I am developing some theories about what noting is actually doing -- not "dis-embedding," that's beside the point -- but directly exercising the faculty of self-presence which makes consciousness arise as the result of the experience of speech. (For a full explanation, read Leslie Dewart's book.) In other words, this is an alternative paradigm for dependent origination which is way, way better than the traditional one. Mastering and applying this technique is going to be a wild and wonderful ride.

Saturday Afternoon

Once again, set the timer for an hour and had enough after half an hour. "Insights" for the day include:

First, isn't it funny that at a Goenka Vipassana course, absolutely everything is impermanent, anicca, everything, that is except the Teacher, who is digitally identical every single course, and will be until the end of time? Maybe that is why he can feel the tiny tingly pin-pricks of sensation everywhere on his body -- he is in fact a pixelated TV image! I mean this half-joking, but there is a serious side to my observation which has to do with the nature of the adequacy of consciousness in cultures such as ours whose experience of speech is based upon Indo-European languages (technically, ontic cultures). I don't have time to develop the idea fully here, but it has to do with projections of God, the idea of morality being based on obedience rather than personal initiative (responsibility), and the nature of causality as forces compelling their effects.

Second, the key issue with noting is not vocabulary -- what terms to use for what -- it is actually learning to perform a new kind of speech act.

Third, in light of one and two above, I quickly developed a scheme for noting as follows: Call everything that is body (kaya) 1; everything that is feeling-tone (vedana) 2; everything that is mind-states (citta) 3; and everything that is mind-contents or thoughts (dhamma) 4. Learn to cruise at a noting altitude of at least one and preferably about five (or more) notes per second, training at 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 then 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 etc, then maybe 1 1 1 2 2 1 2 2 1 1 1 2 2 or whatever, and gradually mix it up. Eventually, learn to combine them until I can note 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4 and relax into that and get good enough to start noticing the background as well as the foreground (including the gaps). That will be knowledge of equanimity of formations. Whether this takes hours or years to achieve is the question, but it is surely just a matter of time and effort.

Fourth, there might be something to the idea of "embedding" after all, but I will have to review this in the light of the concept of "objectivity" and double-check for inadvertent reductionism. At any rate, I can see the usefulness of the idea, whereas I was having trouble with it yesterday.

There were a few other insights that I did manage to note and then otherwise ignore.

By the way, funny aside: I was deeply involved noting a very distinct and unpleasant sensation on my chest which was manifesting all kinds of anicca but not the kind I wanted, which was to go away, when the dog picked that moment to sneak up on me and lick my hand. I almost jumped off the cushion.

OK, I am going to have to learn to ignore my "insights" and keep sitting. On the other hand, I am pleased with my understanding and am pretty sure that I am on the right track.

Sunday Evening

Had a long and emotionally draining day. After all was done, set the timer for half an hour, attempted to sit noting. Gave up after half that time. Hey, didn't I used to have discipline and stamina?

Monday Morning

Baby steps, or monumental triumph [cue angelic chorus]? Set a timer for one hour, and actually sat for one hour. OK, I'm back in the game. Wrote on a brightly colored card, "Note 'em all, and let God sort 'em out." Realized shortly into the session that this would be a wonderful aspiration for later, but for now I should just stick to noting the breath and just even staying "on the cushion" (although in fact I used a DanaBench this morning which I have not been using for a while). Settled on noting "in out in out in out in out". Played with "in top out bottom in top out bottom" for a while, but found it too draining for now. Fidgeted a bit, but kept my eyes closed. Very occasionally noted such things as "thinking, itching, twisting, unpleasant, future, planning, resolving, etc." Steady deterioration of concentration over the hour, with about 98% of breaths noted in the first 20 minutes, maybe around 80% in the second 20 minutes, and probably 50% or less in the last 20 minutes, but these are impressions as I was neither counting nor checking the time. Noticed, but frankly didn't have quite the mental agility yet actually to note, several trains of reflection to the effect that this noting technique is much less violent than anapana and body scanning.

Monday Afternoon

Sat for an hour, but I wouldn't say all that well. Opened my eyes, uncrossed my legs, and watched the timer tick down for the last 10 minutes, at first making a half-hearted attempt to note that as "tick tick tick tick tick." Nevertheless, kept ass on cushion for one hour. Yay me.

At one point, I tried noting anything physical as anicca, anything about pleasant/unpleasant/or general states of mind or being as dukkha, and anything with cognitive content as anatta. Was amusing for a while, then moved on. I bet sports announcers would be really good at this.

Heading up to the Cottage in a few days to try this for about 10 hours per day... yikes! Have not yet found anyone to come with. Feeling apprehensive about that, because I anticipate that this is going to be difficult. Going straight into a 10-day course before I have this working smoothly would be even worse.

Tuesday Afternoon

Supplemental: I am reading Mahasi Sayadaw's Practical Insight Meditation Basic Practice (1970) instructions which stipulate:

If you sincerely desire to develop contemplation and attain insight in this your present life, you must...

1 An additional rule is not to speak with contempt, in jest, or with malice to or about any of the noble ones who have attained states of sanctity. 2 If you have done so, then personally apologize to him or her or make an apology through your meditation instructor. If in the past you have spoken contemptuously to a noble one who is at present unavailable or deceased, confess this offense to your meditation instructor or introspectively to yourself.

I am sure that I have not spoken or written of Goenka with contempt or malice. Nevertheless, in the course of my otherwise serious and critical attempts to sort out how best to proceed, I have certainly framed a few comments and observations in jest. Therefore, in accordance with the above instruction, I apologize.

Sat for 51 minutes, remembered a phone call I had to make, and watched myself allow that to knock me clear off the cushion. Experimented with noting everything as either "this" or "that". The overall feeling is reminiscent of struggling to get going with body scanning a month or two ago, and I got that working adequately within a reasonable time. Learning to note is just so, so... pragmatic!

Had a lot of future-oriented thoughts about how to do what is looking like is going to be a solo retreat in a couple of days.

Wednesday Morning

Sat one hour, reasonably stable in terms of posture and discipline outwardly, but inwardly often lost in thought. Caught quite a few of the "mind states" along the way, though, like "anticipating, dreaming, planning, etc.," as well as some of the feeling-tones, "pleasant/unpleasant". Actual physical sensations are relatively easy to notice and note, but thoughts -- cognitive content -- is so slippery! Fail to notice that it is arising, and a moment later the entire field of experience flips into "full-screen" mode and away we go!

I was reading some synopses of Dewart's book last night and considering the two levels of speech and conscious experience (pre- or non-thematic/thematic and immediate/mediate) in light of the instructions and practice of noting. Looks like the practice is designed specifically to exercise non-thematic speech and therefore generate immediate conscious experience, and when discursive cogitation arises, to fold it back into awareness at the immediate/pre-thematic level. Could it be that deliberately training and strengthening this more primitive and generally less versatile level of mental functioning somehow eventually translates into a transformation and/or maturation of the higher level? Clearly something of the sort is going on. The practice observations I made above probably refer to a transition between immediate and mediate conscious experience of my own mental processes. The practice of "mindfulness" would seem to be countering the defective "absent-mindedness" congenitally blighting the ontic consciousness characteristic of our culture. If training pre-thematic speech and immediate experience corrects for this, then maybe Dewart's hypothesis that the defect appeared at the thematic level is incorrect; maybe the defect originates at the earlier non-thematic level, but only becomes apparent at the full thematic level.

I wish that I could find even one other living human being who knew what I am talking about, and with whom I could discuss this so that we could cook up a plan to save the human race from itself.

Supplemental: <Geek> I have crontab all set up and tested on the ol' Linux laptop to play the nice bell mp3 at some sixteen different times throughout the day for my private retreat starting tomorrow evening without any further human intervention, and I have the Ingram Cheetah House videos all loaded up on the tablet for curling up by the fire for dharma talks, as per the bells. All I have to do is remember when I hear any given bell, am I supposed to sit or salivate? </Geek>

Wednesday Afternoon

Sat a little over half an hour. Slacking off a bit maybe, but from tomorrow night to Monday morning if all goes according to plan, I will sit more than I usually do in two weeks. I am going to include some walking meditation, as I have heard from Daniel and others that it is under-rated.

Thursday Morning

I am signing off for now, and leaving shortly to head up north for my private retreat. Unless I hear back from someone in the next couple of hours, it looks like this is going to be a solo effort. The plan is to start at 6pm this evening and keep up a schedule based on the Goenka 10-day Course timetable through Sunday night. Monday morning I will sleep a bit later and after one final sit I will release myself from my resolve and document the experience. My intention is to abstain from talking, reading, and writing except for one document which is "the map" of the progress of insight itself, which I will follow along on as I watch the Cheetah House Videos for "dharma talks" each evening.

I am feeling quite apprehensive, as if I were facing a difficult exam for which I have been studying and practicing for diligently for months. Maybe if I read one more thread on the subtle distinctions between wordlessly observing the left nostril vs. noting the right nostril, there will be less pain in my life... ??? No, the time has come to turn off the computer, finish packing, and get going.

Therefore, I hereby take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and undertake this private retreat in the hope of attaining enlightenment for my own benefit and that of all sentient beings.

Thread Moved
Answer
1/12/12 2:55 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Thread moved as per Tarver's request. : )

RE: Thread Moved
Answer
1/12/12 3:00 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:
Thread moved as per Tarver's request. : )


Thanks! ...and fast, too. Nice to be "filed" in the "right" place. You see, it is really a Nine-fold Noble Path, but nobody ever talks about Right Filing. No wonder it is taking so long for everybody to get enlightened.... emoticon

3-Day Solo Retreat Report
Answer
1/23/12 1:32 PM as a reply to Tarver .
It feels good to be sitting in front of a computer once again, writing. For three solid days, I did not write anything. That was difficult, and I am surprised by how much I missed it.

The first thing -- and this may come as no surprise to loyal readers of this thread -- is that I noticed that I like to think. More on this later and how I noticed it, but the point is that I derive actual pleasure from thinking. This is a valuable and important insight as in, "oh, yeah, I GET it" rather than "oh, yeah, whatever"; this is both a strength and a potential and actual obstacle to progress.

So what happened? I just spent three entire days alone in the rustic suburbia of cottage country, trying to meditate. Driving up on Thursday, I gradually cut myself off from contact with others, listening to dharma talks by U Vivekananda and podcasts by Nick & Co, having turned off the phone and throttled off the e-mail & text message stream. Drove through some pretty nasty weather (whiteout conditions) and it took a while to get in, start the fire, etc. The heaters had been set a bit low (an ongoing issue) and there was ice in the toilet, but nothing was actually damaged. Missed the planned 6pm sitting, but hooked up with the timetable for the "dharma talk" and the last sit of the day, and got to bed.

Then it all started to go sideways. I couldn't sleep but two or three hours, and although I got up at 4am and got into it, I felt a bit wobbly and unfocused. I interpreted the timetable as: sit in any posture using any technique that seemed to make sense during the "meditate in the hall or in your room" times, but sit formally on a bench or cushion, preferably adhitthana, during "group sit" times. By 9am I was feeling pretty exhausted already (or still) so I took the first of many naps. I am disappointed that on none of the three days did I actually sit for all of the sessions of the day; I probably averaged about six or seven hours of meditation per day but not the intended and scheduled ten or eleven. To give myself some credit, this is still a fair bit of practice and I did have some minimal chores like basic cooking and tending the woodstove. The bigger picture is that this is exactly the pattern of my life that I have been trying to transcend which got replayed in microcosm during the mini-retreat: I burn really hard and intensely at something, then burn out, then crash, then rouse myself (usually with some clever idea) and then repeat the pattern. It followed me here!

Friday afternoon the sexual distraction part of the program arose, persisted for a while, and then dissipated. Old news.

As for the practice itself, I made considerable headway with noting. I don't know how people manage in actuality what they claim to be doing in terms of noting rapidly and precisely every second of the entire day, from the instant they wake up until sleep finally overtakes them. For all of my powerful imagination, I just can't imagine. What I was able to do was to anchor my noting to the breath for periods of time, such that I would note each in-breath and out-breath, and in addition find at least one other thing to note. The most I got up to was breath plus about two other things. It would go like this, for example: "in-breath, [cheek sensation], out-breath, [temple sensation], in-breath, pleasant [some sensation], out-breath, concentrating [state of mind], in-breath, thinking [some thought], out-breath, [torso sensation] and [arm sensation]" etc. I realized that this is a skill, and that like any skill it is first learned slowly and then speeds up with practice. In order to build the skill, I tried very deliberately "looking" for things to note up and down the scale, so to speak, from sensations to feelings to emotions to thoughts; in other words, to practice the four-fold foundations of mindfulness.

Once I had the range of my experience lined up this way, it became quite clear that there is a hierarchy with "understanding" at a "fifth place" above thought -- understanding comprising worded stories or trains of thoughts. I was unable to make the connection experientially to isolate any specific connections between physical sensations as components of specific thoughts. I was aware, however, of training the assertive quality of experience and strengthening that quality by "leaning into it" at the four levels of sensation, feeling, emotion, and thought, with the assertiveness becoming more subtle and harder to catch as I went up the chain. (The reason noting works, by the way, is that it harnesses the assertiveness of speech at the pre-thematic level, generating and strengthening conscious sense perception. Read Dewart.) To work on this, I would do an "analysis" of a given sensation. I would "grab" some physical sensation and then as quickly as possible note it "itself", feeling about it, emotion around it, and any thought that might pertain to it, but attempting to stay below the level of understanding, ie, worded story. This would take a few seconds, and I believe that Knowledge of Equanimity Concerning Formations is going to consist of being able to exercise this skill at a speed and competence level that approximates real-time experience. Although I couldn't quite nail it down in terms of the "sensations of thoughts", this is where I noticed very clearly nevertheless that thinking literally gives me pleasure. Who knew that I am an intellectual hedonist?

At some point I had a dream that the woodstove kind of fell apart, and parts of the chimney and the face and the glass were all dis-assembled, some still hot on the carpet (!) and the stove was still burning (!!). Obviously, the stove was "me", and I was worried that the hot parts were going to burn the carpet, and where was the smoke going to go with the stove-pipe dismantled? But through the discomfort and anxiety, I was grateful that the glass wasn't broken and I was somehow able to manipulate it without getting burned even though it was still hot.

So what was I missing here? Well, Saturday was Three Characteristics Day. I sat for two hours, 4:30am-6:30am, contemplating the Three Characteristics as I stared into the lazy flames of the ol' Jotul-3 woodstove. Sensations (and feelings, and emotions, and thoughts, and the rest) are like the flames, one moment they are there, the next they are gone, always changing, changing, changing. Seeing is like the glass -- sometimes clear, other times not so clear, and that bothers me because I want it to be clear all the time. And the whole thing is a chaotic system, transforming potential into thermal and kinetic energy in a causal semi-structured/semi-random way. It struck me that whereas Ingram goes on and on about the three characteristics, Dewart goes on and on about the three categorical concepts of reality, causality, and finality. Since they are both talking about human consciousness, maybe there is some correspondence? Bingo! Bingo!! Bingo!!! The three characteristics are none other than empirically derived categorical concepts -- in fact, THE main three categorical concepts that all humans use to organize conscious experience, but which may be damaged or deficient or immature or somehow broken in some way in the case of absent-mindedness; enlightenment may be "simply knowing" this and thereby fixing it.

Reality corresponds to no-self. Every conscious experience automatically implies no-self, when all the "moving parts" are clearly enough perceived. This has to do with the otherness-to that the relativity of all "things" have to do with each other; in the case of a conscious experiencer, the object is other than the experiencing of it, which leaves a gap which we fill with a sense of "self". But there ain't no self there "really", it is just a convenient working assumption for dealing with the dazzling and mesmerizing stream of objects of experience which are "illuminated" when experience is "done" assertively. Fail to notice your own assertiveness, and you are likely to start thinking that experienced things are real "in and of themselves" rather than experienced so as a function of one's (assertive) experience of them.

Causal efficacy corresponds to impermanence. Every state of everything is conditioned by the immediately preceding state, and in turn conditions the immediately following state, in a ceaseless continuous dynamic fluxing single motion that characterizes the entire universe from the dawn of time to the end of it. My experience of any fragment of this global, universal unfolding is necessarily going to be characterized by impermanence, if and when seen clearly. Moreover, my appreciation of the relation of any two successive states as they are related, when organized consciously through the categorical concept of "causality," will include that "impermanent" aspect as part of the very experience. (Note that conditioning does not imply deterministic necessitation because of emergent/chaotic factors.) Of course my understanding of this is subject to change, ha ha ha, but the point is that impermanence is not something to notice about objects of experience -- although that is often superficially true and sometimes relevant -- it is a (categorical) way of organizing the experience of any and all objects when the grokking of the experience of them in causal terms is sufficiently clear.

And finally, finality. Final cause (purpose) corresponds to suffering. It struck me -- how could I have missed this before? -- that every experience of desire is simultaneously also an experience of suffering. Why? Because of the interpretative nature of the assertive quality of conscious experience, and because all interpretations are arbitrary, all conscious experiences could in principle have been made differently. You can't have it all, you gotta choose, and this is unsatisfactory! What am I looking at right now? An old laptop. Or perhaps, a marvel of technology. Or perhaps, an out-of-date Linux installation. Or perhaps a tool for communication, or perhaps an instrument of the Devil, or perhaps a gift from my now-deceased Grandmother, or perhaps evidence of my skill with computers, or perhaps an artifact of a post-industrial consumer society, or perhaps any number of an infinite number of things I could say about it. The point is not "what it is", but what I could say about it. What I do say about it is what I want to say about it (or feel compelled -- which is another issue), and what I choose always excludes an infinite number of other options. Now, when it comes to desire itself, actually consciously wanting one or another thing, this dynamic gets really in-your-face. Again, the point is not that desiring this or that thing sometimes leads to subjectively unpleasant consequences (though that may often be the case) but that desiring anything, experiencing any object as an object of desire, makes use of the categorical concept of finality which inherently and necessarily leaves a theoretically infinite number of other options to nag and pull in any number of other directions, to use a spacial metaphor. This is both unsatisfactory and inescapable. Desire and suffering are flip sides of the same coin, or else one is the figure and the other is the ground. If I plan or intend to take action on any desire, I had better be prepared to face the death of all the alternatives -- and the greater the desire, the greater the suffering. It is like friction in physics, when you apply a force one way, there is an equal and opposite reaction. But the bottom line is not the unpleasantness, but the categorical dimension of the conscious experience of doing anything to any purpose, ever. The trick must be not getting over desire or stopping it, but seeing through it and not letting it bother you somehow. Surely this has to do with taking responsibility for one's own assertiveness (and of course choices), which only could become possible when one attains conscious mastery of this aspect of experience. Otherwise it would be like yearning for a world without friction. Ain't gonna happen, except in the lab, and then not even quite.

As Saturday wore on, I was pretty dazzled by my understanding of the three characteristics, how inherent they were to the very structure of conscious experience, how pervasive, etc. Feeling a bit cooped up, I went for a walk in the afternoon. When I broke a shoelace getting dressed, I exclaimed "anicca!" When I looked at the monster homes that people had built by clearing all the trees from their lots I saw them in terms of "dukkha." When I stopped to single out objects of experience (like trees) I was aware that their very reality as I experienced them assertively very quietly also implied "anatta" on "my" part.

My discipline, however, not all that strong to begin with, began to break down on Saturday night. I watched some dharma talks, switched "tea time" with sitting time, and experienced strong fluctuations in my motivation to actually sit. I did a fair bit of sitting to be sure, but not right on the schedule or exactly as planned.

On Sunday, I was going to go all-out and try noting "continuously" to the best of my ability. Maybe I was working my way up the lower nanas, and got to A&P about then? I got blindsided by thoughts of a scheme to make money by starting an Internet coaching service to help people do 4th Step inventories (a definite niche market but a problematic business idea). I thought, "Oh, no, please... not another brilliant plan... I am TRYING to meditate!" I tried noting the thoughts, I tried to sit, I made some headway, but I became exhausted and more or less collapsed after lunch. (Dissolution?) I just simply and literally rolled over about 20 minutes into the first sit of the afternoon, and crashed. I slept through the next two bells with all kinds of turbulent and disturbing dreams that I don't remember except for their unpleasant affective quality.

When I woke up around 5pm on Sunday I was pretty stunned, figured I was done, and decided to break silence and call my Sweet-E. It was good that I did, because she was just going into a situation where it was good for us to talk beforehand. I was feeling squarely in the grip of the Duke of Bananas, and quite discouraged. (Misery?) Watched the most recent TED Talk, which, wouldn't you know it, is about "Is there a real you?" and concludes with a quote from the Buddha. I checked in with Sweet-E again later in the evening, staying up past midnight reading and puttering, trying to let the Dark Night charge dissipate somehow.

I got up this morning, and wrote this report. I just don't feel I have it in me to sit right now. I need to eat something, pack up, and get back to town. I know I should sit and yet I am not going to. I feel frustrated, defiant, and yet also calm and grounded. This is humbling. There are limits to my resolve, and yet I was playing at my leading edge this weekend. The structure of the 10-day Goenka Course coming up is going to be indispensably helpful in making any progress. I am afraid that I have whacked the hornets' nest with a stick, landed myself in the Dark Night, and it is now time to return to society and look functional. I am confident that I have developed a visceral and cognitively sufficient understanding of those damned and blessed three characteristics that are the tickets to enlightenment. I have gotten a handle on noting as another "tool in the box." Maybe I am a hero. Maybe I am a fool. Maybe I worry too much about arbitrarily attributing qualities to an ephemeral "me".

RE: 3-Day Solo Retreat Report
Answer
1/24/12 1:51 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Assertiveness corresponds to luminosity.

RE: 3-Day Solo Retreat Report
Answer
1/25/12 10:19 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Still not leveled out, have not yet resumed sitting, and having a rather peculiar experience. Wracked by paranoia, resentment, jealousy, self-pity; but alternating rapidly with feeling just fine. Unlike a year ago when the subjective experience of suffering was like being stuck in a trash compactor (Star Wars comes to mind) however, this feels more like some corner of a battlefield where there are clouds of noxious smoke and plenty of very real hazards but none of them is actually immanent necessarily, and even the clouds of smoke are not that solid or even particularly lethal for that matter, really; they just sting the eyes and make it hard to breathe.

On the one hand I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, for myself and for humanity -- figuring out how to understand and eventually internalize, make use of, and propagate Leslie Dewart's insights into human consciousness and where it came from and how it works so that this fortunate accident that is humanity (including me) can actually continue to enjoy a succession of present moments leading off into a future that transcends ignorance and suffering. <grandiosity> I am the lone custodian of a vitally important piece of the puzzle, without which our very species may not survive. </grandiosity>

On the other hand, I am having a bit of a hard time of it today, the email is piling up, I am squabbling with the people closest to me, I don't even have custody of my own son, and I can't even take care of the wretched dog to everybody's satisfaction. <humility> Maybe there is nothing peculiar about my experience; maybe it is just garden variety dukkha. </humility>

Tarver's Practice Report 8
Answer
1/31/12 12:10 PM as a reply to Tarver .
One week to go until (Goenka) Vipassana 10-day course #4. Objective: stream-entry.

Wednesday Afternoon

Sat for one hour. First sit since Sunday. Rather unpleasant. Technique in tatters, emotions oscillating, distracting tears rolling down cheeks, aches and pains. I don't care any more where I am on the map... can I please just get outta here? That's not true... I do care where I am on the map, and it's either 3 Characteristics, or Misery shading off into... what did I just say? Yeah, D for D. So what I have to look forward to soon is either yet another typhoon of highly distracting and vaguely plausible A & P fueled brilliance, or the Technicolor shitstorm that is Reobservation. I feel like I am in a small boat waaaaaay out to sea, and I do not like the weather forecast. Quick, let me finish alienating everybody close to me so that when I do sink without a trace, nobody will miss me.

Thursday

Did not sit at all today. Spent a great deal of time on DhO, and answered a few posts in what I hope was a helpful and interesting way, processing my understanding of this dharma and being supportive of others. Feeling a weird mix of self-conscious insecurity and hair-trigger sensitivity to a few seemingly random topics, especially with Sweet-E (sorry!), and a generally calm sense that everything is on track and I know what I am doing and I am taking reasonably good care of myself.

Saturday Morning

Sat one hour. Utterly crapola concentration. I would be deeply worried if I didn't know that these things come in cycles; as it is, I am only mildly annoyed and perhaps even somewhat amused.

Saturday Afternoon

Sat another hour. Kept forgetting to note, and when I did remember what I was supposed to be doing it felt pointless and futile. Reflecting on it, it reminds me of the "World Between the Worlds" with all the pools in the Chronicles of Narnia, permeated by vagueness and forgetting why one was there, where one came from, where one was going. Posture was ok. Not great, but ok. Mild pain in the knees with occasional fidgeting. Fascinating state -- if only I had the residual concentration to actually investigate it!

Tuesday

Conspicuously not sitting. Packing to leave. Can't find this particular burgundy-maroon blanket that I like to sit on and have used for years. Can't find a single scarf. Need to go out and by vitamins, scarf.

Either I know exactly what I am doing, am going to go on this course, and fly some approximation of an attentional barrel-roll through four jhanic quadrants and up through a dozen nanas and beyond; or I have just spent several months digging myself ever deeper into conceptual and categorical confusion which will result in an experience more closely approximating those films of the early attempts to launch a booster rocket which, in frame-by-frame horrific detail, resolve into balls of flame and flying debris implying enormous costs, futility, frustration, and pain. Or maybe these are just two aspects of the same process.

Any last-minute feedback, advice, or just plain acknowledgement would be most welcome. I may yet sit today and/or update this thread; or I may just get busy, get going, and reappear in a couple of weeks.

RE: 3-Day Solo Retreat Report
Answer
1/26/12 11:59 AM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :
... as I stared into the lazy flames of the ol' Jotul-3 woodstove. ...


The better part of a week has passed, but I keep remembering one tiny detail whose significance keeps growing on me. I was sitting on the couch looking at the stove when my entire visual field around the focal point kind of twisted and smeared about a quarter turn into a spiral back and forth about four or five times over the course of about a second or so. I think I kind of blinked and tried to refocus my eyes, but they were not unfocused (in the optical sense) in the first place, which is what struck me as odd. I shrugged this off at the time, but also remember it quite distinctly. Could this have been an A & P event?

10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report
Answer
2/13/12 2:47 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Stream entry... fail.

Otherwise, still sorting out what happened.

I worked very, very diligently, meeting and possibly even slightly exceeding the scheduled meditation hours for the Noble Silence part of the Course (Days 1-9). Got up every morning 4am, kicked off with a cold shower, and worked in my most congenial private room. Did not go for any walks in the lovely woods until Day 7. Skipped afternoon tea every day until Day 9. I just worked right through every available minute. There is still considerable scope for improvement in terms of "continuity of practice", however, because I was unable to maintain sensate awareness through very much of the day outside of formal practice. By the end of the Course, I did find my awareness coming to rest naturally and spontaneously on the breath, for example, whenever I would pause between tasks. I guess that is the next frontier.

I had one one-hour session on Day 2 and two sessions on Day 3 where I maintained continuous conscious contact with respiration pretty well without interruption. My idea of "not holding myself to an impossible standard" is to wink at 5 or 10 missed half-breaths, say, and call it a win anyway. I felt confident that my samadhi, possibly excellent, was at least adequate.

I only met with the Assistant Teacher once, on Day 5, after lunch. I came away from that and the course as a whole with, I think, a more nuanced and balanced view than I had before about the value and pragmatism of what Goenka has set in motion. The AT's are truly, truly remarkable people in my experience. Their powers of intuition and subtlety boggle my considerable imagination. I still have some very fundamental criticisms of the technique itself and the way it is presented, and I do intend to articulate those later, but in the meantime the first and most important thing to say is about how brilliantly designed and put together and especially how broadly accessible the whole package is.

Reobservation (or what I took to be Reobservation) somewhere around Day 5 was mercifully brief, not more than half an hour when the psychosomatic pain typhoon blew in: I dug the heels of my steely resolve into the icy slope pitching off towards the abyss of Hell, and refused to move. From somewhere deep within the caverns of my non-soul, the words "I... WILL...WIN!" rang up and echoed through my mind. I powered through it with that subtle balance of determination and surrender, and got to the other side.

For the balance of the Course, I got up to something that seemed like at least Low Equanimity every day and, interestingly, progressively earlier each day. So around Day 7 I changed tack and while maintaining the momentum of discipline established thus far, tried not to try so hard and tried instead to work with a lighter touch. What a delicate business!

At one point, a very distinct koan-like question popped forcefully into my mind: "There are no Others, only Self. Are you willing to withdraw the projection?" What was that? I did reflect on it casually, and after a few days it seemed like the answer to the question, or perhaps the question behind the question, is that if the premise were true, and the projection were withdrawn, what would happen is that "I" would disappear in a puff of humility and a fraction of an instant later a supernova of compassion would occur. I thought this was quite clever and amusing, and so the metaphor of building and detonating such a "psycho-nuclear fission/fusion device", suitably hoisted on a test-tower 12 nanas high in the desert test-range of the Vipassana Course, became a kind of private joke for what I was trying hard not to try too hard to achieve. My best guess right now is that the basic design for this "love bomb" is sound, but I just need more or higher-grade fissile material (Equanimity); to get that I need to fine-tune the refining process (Vipassana technique) and package it properly (actually practice); and if and when it does go off in a critical chain reaction (Path, Fruition, etc,), the result will be metaphorically like an "ego-obliterating" nuclear explosion (Stream Entry). Meanwhile, the experiments and prototyping process are leaking radiation (Love) like crazy, but in this case, unlike the case of actual atom bombs, this is a tolerable side-effect.

I made some excellent connections with a few of the other men on the Course and may very well have made a few new friends. Being very careful not to disturb those who seemed happy to be taking Goenka's teaching at face value, I spoke with some of my new friends about DhO and the maps, and they seemed quite interested. I actually do understand something about all of this, and my capacity to communicate what I understand has considerable potential to be helpful to others.

Surprising to me, and still a little foreign but not unwelcome, is the tsunami of love and compassion and tenderness that all of this has in fact precipitated. Towards the end of the Course the random discursive thoughts were mostly along the lines of "Love is all that matters," etc. I spent all of yesterday, my first day back, with Sweet-E who did not seem to mind this development -- just in time for Valentine's Day tomorrow!

Maybe I will update this later with some further details of the practice itself and some of the progress I made "while I was supposed to be meditating" on the content of my conceptual understanding of what happened and what happens (with reference of course to my favorite philosopher) with -- I hope -- some philosophical rigor rather than just poetic and colorful metaphor, but for now it seems most important to re-learn how to think and write and function without disturbing too much the very deep and still tender feeling of humility which above all else is the hard-won prize and yet unearned gift with which I return to the regular world.

RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report
Answer
2/15/12 9:48 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Further observations:

This is Wednesday, having got back on Sunday. Still exhausted, scattered. Have not articulated further practice goals or plan, and have only sat one hour (and clipped a few minutes at that) since returning. In my judgment, this is understandable but undesirable.

I have "stuff" to get around to in my daily life, a queue of email to respond to, clients who want things from me... the "real world" beckons. I have not even unpacked everything yet!

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of helpful reference material available. Much of it is highly relevant, and my capacity to appreciate what it says seems to have increased significantly since I got back. Mixed blessing.

Feeling confused about how to practice. I don't accept Goenka's practice at face value, and yet I don't feel I have the strength or discipline to implement any alternative or variant known to me in any sustainable way. What I was doing -- salting the scanning with noting "to taste" -- seemed to lead through recognizable stages of progress (although the interpretation remains problematic) but I really don't have the stamina to keep up that level of effort. Clearly I am in the midst of a learning process on this. "Continuity of practice is the secret of success." How do I do that?

On the course, I had maybe one or two minutes of "real" vibrations. This was a totally obvious pulsating phenomenon in my hands and "in" my breath, the two being somewhat synchronized, but the whole thing lasting a very short time so I didn't have much time to observe it, although the frequency did seem to vary depending on where I was on the in-out cycle of the breath. Maybe 10Hz or so? It was as distinct as the car's anti-lock braking system engaging. Unmistakable -- these are vibrations, these are pulsations. On the one hand, I am greatly encouraged to have had this experience, although frustrated that it occurred at the very end of a long session in my room, at the very end, interrupted by the timer, and never recurred. On the other hand, this throws doubt on my previous understanding of the samatha/vipassana spectrum. Makes it seem that what I thought was vipassana has really been samatha with a succession of objects (like various bodily sensations) accompanied by thoughts about impermanence, rather than the actual experience of impermanence.

I did have fairly routine experiences of "vibrations" flowing freely through the body, the most notable of which was when the bell for lunch was rung outside my door at one point, and I could "hear" the ringing of it resonating up and down through my entire body. In light of the overtly vibratory phenomenon briefly experienced, however, I am second-guessing myself: how much of my full-body somatic experience of a sound (same thing happened with someone coughing in the meditation hall at another point, etc.) is an actual experience of impermanence, and how much is filtered through the solidified conceptual experience of a transitory object, which includes my theoretical understanding of the physics of sound as consisting of vibrations? I suppose that coming to appreciate the possibility of fooling myself this way itself constitutes progress, and I am trying to be graceful here as the acquisition of humility can be painful, if that is what is happening.

Having developed the ability to meditate in a prone position for sustained periods without falling asleep, I accessed some fairly deep relaxation states which I took to be strong samadhi even though I tended to maintain much more of a whole-body awareness than a narrow one. I noticed "state transitions" occurring at the bottom of the out-breath exactly as described, but could never be sure what I had transitioned out of or into. It felt as if to go left were to fall asleep, and at the last split instant I would go right instead, and fall both further awake and yet more deeply relaxed. Reminds me of the the scene in The Matrix where Neo runs out of the train station at one end and reappears in the same station at the other end. Great, I found the door, which leads out and right back into the same room. Or does it?

I didn't literally wake up in a cold sweat over this, but it has crossed my mind many times:

Daniel M. Ingram:
There are numerous pitfalls in thinking about things in this way, and one can easily make really large mistakes, such as mistaking 1.7 for 7.1 and things like that, but realizing that this sub-aspect nature of things is even possible allows one to ask the question and hopefully also provides a way to sort out 1.7 from 7.1, which are developmentally really, really different and have profoundly different implications for practice.


What if I am totally fooling myself into thinking I am crossing Reobservation and getting at least into Low Equanimity, whereas (camera zooms out ) I am really just knocking about the sub-jhanas of the first three nanas, below even the A&P? I believe the technical term for this kind of thinking is "the Hindrance of Doubt", and yet...

Hold on a minute... maybe that vibratory experience was an A&P? Why has it taken me well over a week for that most obvious of hypotheses to even occur to me?

RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report
Answer
2/15/12 10:06 AM as a reply to Tarver .
On the course, I had maybe one or two minutes of "real" vibrations.


What if I am totally fooling myself into thinking I am crossing Reobservation and getting at least into Low Equanimity, whereas (camera zooms out ) I am really just knocking about the sub-jhanas of the first three nanas, below even the A&P? I believe the technical term for this kind of thinking is "the Hindrance of Doubt", and yet...


Someone with more experience than I should be able to help more I hope, but until then, let me add a comment here...

I started to feel constant vibrations in the body (almost 24/7) from the A&P period onwards. I felt it very strongly during the A&P and even during the DN but now feel it less so, though it's still clearly there and only takes a few quiet breaths to "rise up".

I don't know if that's typical or not for Goenka students. I'd be interested to hear what others say!

One thing i've found repeatedly though is that for me it's unhelpful to pay any attention to where I am right after a retreat. It's more useful some couple of weeks later when I've recovered. You might want to put all this worry/speculation to one side and see where you are when you're feeling better.

RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report
Answer
2/20/12 2:57 PM as a reply to Tarver .
One week and a day after getting back, I am still integrating the experience of the retreat (or Course, whatever) -- that is a polite way to put it.

Sitting very little, almost no formal practice with a timer etc., but lots of "moments of mindfulness" throughout the day. Am I sinking slowly back into the diffuse everyday hopelessness of the Dark Night, or am I just tired and need more sleep? Funny how going on retreat seems to destroy my formal at-home practice. I do feel quite motivated to get somewhere with all of this, and am prepared to do anything except sit. What is up with that? Gotta get my formal practice back on track, but I feel like I am in "dry dock" for a bit of an overhaul, to borrow a nautical metaphor.

I am talking to more people (phone, Skype) about this stuff than ever before. Bizarre how I feel painfully shy about talking about practice, even though in other areas I am generally quite outgoing. This is something I need to do more of, just get over myself and connect to others for real-time conversations.

I have done a fair bit of reading online, especially over at Kenneth Folk Dharma; have reviewed key passages of MCTB and a few other dharma books; and have even taken a look at Ye Olde Visuddhimagga.

I am still in the game, but I am not quite sure what to apply myself to next.

By the way, I am not sure what to make of the whole 3 characteristics thing. Impermanence is obvious. I am not bothered by "duality" -- doesn't apply to me. Am I "seeing through" it, or failing to see it in the first place? I know the self is a fiction, and have known this for decades. The unsatisfactory nature of all phenomena is inherently obvious, just from the fact that my preferences are arbitrary and because any phenomenon is the way it is, and I could imagine it being otherwise, the likelihood of everything lining up with my preferences rounds off to about zero, ergo dukkha. What is the big deal?

RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report
Answer
2/20/12 3:23 PM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :

By the way, I am not sure what to make of the whole 3 characteristics thing. Impermanence is obvious. I am not bothered by "duality" -- doesn't apply to me. Am I "seeing through" it, or failing to see it in the first place? I know the self is a fiction, and have known this for decades. The unsatisfactory nature of all phenomena is inherently obvious, just from the fact that my preferences are arbitrary and because any phenomenon is the way it is, and I could imagine it being otherwise, the likelihood of everything lining up with my preferences rounds off to about zero, ergo dukkha. What is the big deal?



Paying attention closely to the 3 C's as they manifest constantly in all phenomena experienced should lead one to develop dispassion and relinquishment. Take a look at how the anapanasati instructions eventually lead to dispassion and relinquishment.

"[13] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on inconstancy.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on inconstancy.' [14] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on dispassion [literally, fading].' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on dispassion.' [15] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on cessation.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on cessation.' [16] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in focusing on relinquishment.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out focusing on relinquishment.'

"This is how mindfulness of in-&-out breathing is developed & pursued so as to be of great fruit, of great benefit.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html

RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report
Answer
2/20/12 3:53 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
By witnessing in realtime the 3 C's inherent in the 5 aggregates, one eventually develops dispassion for them, and thus the attachment born of craving that clings to the aggregates as 'I', 'me', 'mine', begins to loosen.

"Now, what is impermanent, is that unsatisfactory or satisfactory?"

"Unsatisfactory, O Lord."

"Now, what is impermanent, unsatisfactory, subject to change, is it proper to regard it as: 'This is mine, this I am, this is my self'?"

"Indeed, not that, O Lord."

"Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever form, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that form must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'

"Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever feeling, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that feeling must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'

"Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever perception, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that perception must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'

"Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever mental formations, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all those mental formations must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, thus: 'These are not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'

"Therefore, surely, O monks, whatever consciousness, past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, low or lofty, far or near, all that consciousness must be regarded with proper wisdom, according to reality, thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'

"O monks, the well-instructed noble disciple, seeing thus, gets wearied of form, gets wearied of feeling, gets wearied of perception, gets wearied of mental formations, gets wearied of consciousness. Being wearied he becomes passion-free. In his freedom from passion, he is emancipated. Being emancipated, there is the knowledge that he is emancipated. He knows: 'birth is exhausted, lived is the holy life, what had to be done is done, there is nothing more of this becoming.'"
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/mendis/wheel268.html

RE: 10-day Goenka #4 (Feb. 2012) Report
Answer
2/23/12 12:31 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Anapanasati Sutta:
Monks, I am content with this practice. I am content at heart with this practice. So arouse even more intense persistence for the attaining of the as-yet-unattained, the reaching of the as-yet-unreached, the realization of the as-yet-unrealized....

Then the elder monks taught & instructed the new monks even more intensely.


Thanks for the pointers and encouragement.

I am not going to log every sit for a little while. I have an agreement with a local friend to check in when I have sat every day to get a bit of accountability happening, and so I am going to just get my ass on the cushion, "assume the position", and sit at least once every day for a few days to get some momentum going again.

Upon reflection, I am desperately clinging to my oh-so-clever views of how this thing is supposed to work, which the recent retreat definitely rattled. Sitting more will further undermine my "old way of thinking". On the one hand, that is the whole point. On the other hand, coming up against it, I am not liking it very much at this stage. But I can't go back...

Statement of practice goals for March 2012
Answer
2/27/12 11:47 PM as a reply to Tarver .
My intuition backed up by a lot of reading suggest that developing my concentration would be fruitful at this point. Therefore, I am devoting the month of March to samadhi, much as I did December. The confidence, to say nothing of the practical benefit, that I got from being able to follow my breath without interruption for a solid hour at least once in a while (even if not 100% at-will as per my December goal) has been extremely beneficial. I did that by being less dogmatic about specific technique, exploring very moderately, and having a clear goal while maintaining strong daily practice. Let's try that again.

The goal for March, succinctly stated then, is to attain to jhana. I am taking Ven. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana's doctoral dissertation, A Critical Analysis of the Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation as my guide.

The long-term (indeed, hopefully, not-so-long-term) goal remains stream entry; insight is the means to that end; concentration is the means to that end in turn. Some things just work better with lube (!) and whereas dry insight sounds great on paper, I find it very difficult in practice. My strategy is informed by the idea that samatha and vipassana converge in the higher nanas. I believe that I can get to equanimity quite reliably so long as I maintain any regular practice whatsoever. Conversely, slacking off my practice leads to some pretty unpleasant backsliding in short order. In a perfect world, I would simply "do vipassana" for a few hours every day and be enlightened in no time, but that option does not seem to be available to me, whereas what I am setting out here does seem viable, so this is what I am doing.

I am going to remain open-minded about suitable objects and practice methods, exploring kasina, mantra, and noting individually and in various combinations along with and without good ol' anapanasati breath-following. The danger and shadow in this is the possibility of endless tinkering with technique at the expense of actual practice. This is a risk that I acknowledge and take full responsibility for managing skillfully. Likewise the risk of becoming a "jhana-junkie." I have read that this is not a serious danger for yogis above the fourth nana.

A few words about verbalization: I am coming from a theoretical framework informed by Leslie Dewart's Evolution & Consciousness, from which I understand that the key faculty of the mind that I am striving to train is called "assertiveness". This is a natural concomitant of all speech, and is in fact the reason that the experience of speech is what originally generates human consciousness in the first place, conscious experience being assertive experience. As such, verbalization is a tidy way -- indeed the usual way -- to wield assertiveness purposefully, but assertiveness is also present, though not necessarily self-evident, in normal everyday human consciousness. In fact, it is the chronic failure to notice let alone take responsibility for one's own assertiveness that is at the root of much that is wrong with us and our world -- possibly the very mechanism of dukkha. I see verbalization as a "delivery system" for assertiveness. Along a continuum from spoken words, to mentally spoken words, to thought, to conscious experience itself, at some point there would be something like "wordless verbalization", an apparent oxymoron meant to signify meaning one's (conscious) experience on purpose -- another way of describing mindfulness, or put negatively, overcoming absent-mindedness. So when I say that my efforts to develop concentration may include an element of mantra and/or noting, please understand that my ideal would be to do so wordlessly, with "pure" applied assertiveness, and is intended to converge on what would normally be understood by non-verbal meditation techniques, but to do so more efficiently. Confused? Please ask.

I am feeling a bit squirmy and dodgy about committing to specific practice times. I know damn well that two hours a day of hard practice is the barest minimum for building the kind of momentum that I want.

Slow-and-steady-wins-the-race has never been my style. I have always been better at the rhythm of burn-hard-then-crash in iterative cycles. Pondering... pondering...

I keep remembering for some reason when I was training for a truck driving license. I failed the test the first time, when my objective was to pass the test. The second time, I came back with a new objective: to drive the truck. I passed the test. How do I apply that learning to these practice goals? "Passing the test" is stream entry. "Driving the truck" is sitting with good technique on a hard-core and yet sustainable basis.

I need to find what works well for me, and apply myself to it with all the diligence and intensity of the proverbial dude with his hair on fire throwing himself into a river, a metaphor which dovetails nicely with the goal of stream-entry.

I may well come back and edit this up to March 1. Until then it is a draft, after that it becomes a commitment. Comments welcome and appreciated!

Tarver's Practice Report 9
Answer
3/4/12 12:48 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Monday

Did about 5 hours of kasina practice this afternoon, back-to-back sessions from half an hour to an hour and a quarter, with breaks no more than 10 minutes tops, for a total time of about 5 1/2 hours.

Started with a cardboard circle 8" in diameter, cut from a cereal box, hung against a light gray bed-sheet, about 7' away. Couldn't get a learning sign, just slowly swirling shadows and indistinct blobs of light as long as I kept my eyes open. Tried both glasses on and off, not yet sure of my preference. It was a bit messy, with lots of tears (!) and some snot. Ignored that as best I could, until it dawned on me that that might be a useful nimitta, maybe the very thing I was looking for, a sign of profound joy? Was never sure if it felt like joy or sorrow, just emotional release. Cultivated and welcomed the jhana factors as best I could, noted the hindrances as if with a cognitive fly-swatter. (Kept a printed list of the factors and hindrances nearby, and checked it occasionally.)

I think the trick is to fall in love with the meditation object -- "only have eyes for it", think of nothing else, feel intense joy and pleasure at the privilege of being allowed to sit a short distance away from a piece of post-consumer rubbish salvaged from the recycle bin. All afternoon. Longing for it, thinking about it, so happy to see it that the eyes flood with tears.

At one point I was simultaneously observing the kasina with the slow light-and-shadow swirls, noting the breath with "in, out, in, out", listening to ambient sounds, and attending to sensations in the body, primarily the tingling hands, with total relaxed ease. This didn't last too long, maybe a few minutes, but it was noteworthy, how inclusive my awareness could be.

Switched to a smaller dark green kasina for the last 45 minutes (lid off a jar of cashews, 4.5" diameter). Stared at it intently, noting in Polish "kropka, kropka, kropka" ("dot, dot, dot") and finally got a decent learning sign, something that looked like a glowing blueberry (reddish purple with a golden yellow edge) that persisted for less than a minute and sometimes only a few tens of seconds, but was nevertheless clearly a learning sign. Shy little devil: one wrong thought, and it promptly disappears.

I think I am on the right track here. I am greatly encouraged by the possibility of the 2nd jhana, which is apparently called "Noble Silence" because there is great joy, but the noise finally stops at least for a little while. As might be evident from the effort I am putting in, I am looking forward to that.

I wonder if I wasted hours with the cardboard kasina before switching to the green one, or if all of that emotional release strangeness was a necessary step along the way. Who knows? I am looking forward to parlaying the learning sign into a counterpart sign, and then getting into a proper jhana. I felt very raw and tender after the day's practice and wrote this report first as an email to my local friends and didn't even want to post it right away. All very odd, but I am guessing probably par for the course, because it is a very odd course.

Tuesday Afternoon

One hour of kasina practice -- the time went by very quickly. Picked up right where I left off yesterday, with a very clear learning sign within minutes that appeared within one to three seconds of closing my eyes, and persisted for up to a minute although it only appeared very clear and round for tens of seconds at most, then got blob-like and drifted around but was clearly the same phenomenon in degenerating form. Did that a few times, and then decided to keep my eyes open for longer periods. More emotional release, with distracting tears rolling down my cheeks.

I am getting better and better at noting hindrances as such. Ill will? Doubt? Sense desire? Whap! Noted with extreme predjudice! Now back to the primary object...

Am now using a dark green plastic bowl from Ikea, 4.5" in diameter, which interestingly says "MADE IN MALAYSIA" on the bottom -- same neck of the woods as a lot of these meditation traditions and instructions hail from, including this excellent e-book, Essentials of insight meditation practice : a pragmatic approach to vipassana by Venerable Sujiva, which a friend just pointed out to me yesterday! Synchronicity central, here we are...

Wednesday Morning

Did about 3.5 hours of kasina practice. Didn't use a timer, just sat until concentration lifted, which usually worked out to be about 45 minutes or so, then took 5 or 10 minutes and got back to it.

Kept my eyes open most of the time. Tried closing them and checking for a learning sign, which was right there from the start of the session, but no stronger than yesterday. Could I be doing anything differently to get a counterpart sign sooner or more efficiently?

The tearful emotional release business was greatly toned down, but not entirely gone.

I am wearing my glasses because I have concluded that it comes down to a mind-and-body issue. Anything happening from the optic nerve on back is in the category of "mind". Anything happening from the retina on forward is "body". Now, given that I have a modest prescription with different optics for each eye, I want the optic inputs to be as balanced and precise as possible for two reasons: First, to have the best fighting chance for hemispheric balance (which unequally good eyes would "naturally" but undesirably skew), and second, so that whatever distortions and weirdness occur within "mind" as artifacts of concentration have the cleanest possible input data, so that I can experience them as much as possible exactly as "mind". In other words, I am wearing my glasses for kasina practice because this is primarily a mind training, not a body training.

At one point I thought I might be in the second jhana because I had a very clear, calm view of the kasina in the centre of my field of attention, as well as the slowly-rotating clearly-mind-generated visual overlay of wispy luminous... what would I call them? ..."anti-shadows". Didn't require any "applied and sustained thought" to maintain this, and I could, without disturbing the phenomenon, think things like "Hmmm... this matches the description of the second jhana." Felt more "interesting" than "pleasant", but then I do take pleasure in what's interesting. This lasted no more than a few minutes. Curiously, at no point did I think "Oh, this could be the first jhana."

Thursday Afternoon

Not feeling well today. Barely managed an hour of unfocused, sloppy kasina practice. Might sit more later, might blow it off for today. Suffering -- it's not just for breakfast any more.

Supplemental

I was just re-reading the Visuddhimagga instructions for kasinas around IV.27-30 and poking around the web for clarification, when I came across something interesting. In my practice from time to time, among other things, the kasina goes black as I gaze at it. Apparently, this is called "eclipse" and is the superimposition of the color of the kasina with the opposite-color learning sign, which cancel each other out and create a black image. I had not realized that the "black" image is the result of a superimposed learning-sign. Cool. One thing I will try in the next session is slowly partially closing my eyes, and see if I can maintain an image of some kind as I gradually close my eyes.

Saturday

No formal practice for two days, but what happened was even better. Met with my two DhO-Toronto friends on Friday night, and three hours slipped away before we knew it. Great meeting! The topic of Shinzen Young came up, and I watched a few videos when I got home, including one about the "touch, sight, sound" noting practice. Tried it informally off and on all day today, and for some reason had a day of one uncanny syncronicity after another -- too many to list, and I do mean all day. Met with three other guys from the 10-day Goenka last month, and had yet another great two hour talk. Did a whole bunch of other things today not directly relevant to report here and I am very tired. At a party, some guy told me of a concentration practice to remain continuously mindful of the second-hand of a clock; looking forward to trying that. On the way home, for a ten or fifteen minute bus ride and short walk up a busy street, I was able to maintain uninterrupted "touch, sight, sound" noting, first with eyes closed on the bus and then walking home, during which the half-dozen or so stray thoughts that did occur were simply duly noted and I was able to stay pretty well continuously at the sensory level. There is hope for me yet. I am very grateful for sangha and fellowship.

Tarver's Practice Report 10
Answer
3/11/12 11:23 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Tuesday

Thought I would post a few words just to stay current. I have been practicing only sporadically if at all for a few days, and feeling physically unwell due to some kind of cold. In spite of that, I am feeling wisps and traces of abiding happiness and calm. This is in stark contrast to my usual baseline (for years) of feeling fear, misery, panic, agitation, paranoia, anger, resentment, various flavors of depression and their ilk as continuous background.

My understanding of the dharma and what I am doing is undergoing a slow-motion (or maybe not-so-slow-motion) explosion. I could say that the dharma is doing me. For days now, the internal weather has been "flurries of syncronicities with scattered happiness and blowing and drifting ideas." Surely this has something to do with the few days of intense practice I did last week? It also feels like ongoing unfolding shock-waves from the recent 10-day. The causes are too complex to trace, and maybe it doesn't matter.

I have been listening to some recorded "Pragmatic Dharma" classes run by Vince Horn. I feel so connected to conversations that happened years ago among people I have never met. (Except one -- you know who you are -- thanks again for the dharmedia!)

I have been reading a lot of Shinzen Young's material, and am immersing myself in his system of noting -- trying to study and understand and internalize it, not yet really practicing it.

I also stumbled upon a book by one Jason Siff that I just ordered from the library when it turned up in a search for something else. Siff's analysis validates a whole slew of experiences I have had over the years and I suddenly feel vastly more empowered to give myself permission to do what needs to be done. Here are links to Siff's Web site, Skilful Meditation Project; his book, Unlearning Meditation: What to Do When the Instructions Get in the Way; and a pair of interviews on Buddhist Geeks, Episode 185 and Episode 186.

Among other things, in light of Siff's ideas, what Shinzen Young is laying out suddenly makes way more sense. It made a lot of sense before, but now it makes even more sense.

My practice goals for the month seem quaintly irrelevant, except for the following:
 Tarver :
I need to find what works well for me, and apply myself to it with all the diligence and intensity of the proverbial dude with his hair on fire throwing himself into a river, a metaphor which dovetails nicely with the goal of stream-entry.


Wednesday

Spent much of the day reading, studying, and memorizing Shinzen Young's material for students, punctuated by three short periods of formal practice (totaling about two hours) during which I played around with the 5 Ways. I am optimistic that once I learn it, I will be able to do Shinzen's style of noting, even though I am not very good at it yet. I can see myself developing a practice where I "loop and branch" fluidly around the 5 Ways, integrating samatha and vipassana, to say nothing of metta, in a robust and coherent way. There is even room in all of this for some good ol' Goenka-style body scanning, when that makes sense. Wouldn't it be funny if I returned to that for my primary practice? Stranger things have happened...

Thursday

No formal practice today, sporadic informal practice. Sick in bed for a good part of the day. Watched quite a few Shinzen Young videos.

Friday

Sat one and a quarter hours today, practicing Shinzen's Focus on Rest, Focus In, and Focus Out. I have a few questions which I will post separately.

Another book I ordered from the Public Library arrived, Shaila Catherine's Wisdom Wide and Deep. If I were still keen to develop specifically jhana, this would be an excellent book to have. Endorsed by Pa-Auk Sayadaw and based on Visuddhimagga, it looks like an excellent treatment from the traditional point of view, and just flipping through it, looks like it goes into a detailed account of dependent arising (among other topics). I am still planning to read it for pleasure (ironically!) anyway, but I think I will make faster progress with Shinzen's streamlined system for actual practice.

Saturday

I have been doing more snippets of "Focus Out" noting while out and about, and just sat an hour formally doing (or not-doing) the "Focus on Rest: Do Nothing" practice. Tricky. Very subtle, very tricky. Great practice for busting perfectionists like me down a notch or two... Sit there, and try not to -- among other things -- meditate. Kind of feeds back on itself. Reminds me of the classic comedy sketch, Stop It! Was going to sit two hours heroically, but seized the first excuse that came up to bail after one hour.

Got a pointer to an updated scheme by Shinzen for how to categorize, discuss, and note sensory experience, just when I finished memorizing the "old" scheme with flash cards. Funny. Anicca.

Am planning how to get to another retreat ASAP. Possibly as soon as next month.

Sunday

I hate meditating. It is boring, and bloody hard work. When will it end? Noted: "Talk", "Thinking", "Feel", "Boredom", "Frustration", "Future Thought", "Restless Sensation". Not even using the labels I have decided aforehand to use. Noted: "Self-judgment", "Talk", "Wrinkly Forehead Sensation".

Sat one hour attempting Shinzen's "Focus on Change" which is the closest to classic Vipassana in the 5 Ways, as best I can tell. There is even one particular way of doing it (Shinzen-ese: zoom systematically, note without labeling, restricted to bodyspace) that would be an exact analogue of Goenka body-scanning. And guess what? I ran into the exact same problem I have had all along, which is that I have found that practice fiendishly difficult to do for some reason. Kept zoning out, but without the momentum of being on retreat when I could "stay with" the zone-out to a considerable degree. Kept falling back to noting the breath as "expand, contract" -- the only instance of impermanence I could "stay with" -- and at times (for bonus style points) "expand, gone, contract, gone." Occurs to me after the fact that I could, in principle, note the collapse of concentration as "Gone", but doing so would mean that concentration had not in fact collapsed.

Hey, isn't the uncomfortable feeling of the recursive decomposition of the the observer just workaday third vipassana jhana stuff, aka, dark night noise? Maybe doing this, even in a way that subjectively feels like I am doing it really badly, is actually great progress? Maybe it always feels that way because that is just the nature of the territory?

A realization that I came to towards the end of the sit is that I may have mistaken something about samatha and vipassana. I have been thinking that I am not very good at vipassana because my samatha is not strong enough. Here is another theory: my samatha is just fine and I am simply not very good at vipassana. I have been over this before, and even relieved helpful feedback and tips from others... What am I missing, or why am I not "getting" it? Why am I why-ing and whining so much today?

I am afraid to re-read my practice thread from the last few weeks, as I predict that I will be shocked at how much flip-flopping and thrashing I have been undergoing. Am I thrashing in my practice, or is my practice thrashing me? OK, Tarver: step into the fear, and hereby commit to re-reading the practice notes from the start of the year to the present, get some perspective, and get a fresh start with Practice Report 11 tomorrow.

Sunday Night

Started re-reading my practice thread, and realized that I haven't been sitting with Sweet-E much lately. Mentioned that when we phoned each other for good night, and then made an instant date to sit over the phone. Thus I did one more sit than planned today and tele-sat 45 minutes with Sweet-E. Decided to do Shinzen-esque "Focus In" and note Feel, Image, and Talk. To my astonishment, I settled into a deep calm state (jhana? not-jhana? doesn't matter!) and was able for the most part to note mental Images and verbal discursive thinking Talk within seconds of any arising. Nailing Feel (emotional sensation) was harder, but only because I am still not clear how to distinguish Feel from Touch (objective physical sensations), so I just leaned into the Image and Talk. Never went more than ten or maybe fifteen seconds tops into any chain of thought before catching it, and this without even concentrating on any other object like the breath to stay "anchored". Who would have thought that I could pull off a sustained interval of what pretty well amounts to cittanupassana and dhammanupassana? I am blinking in astonishment as I write this report -- I wonder, will this become a new baseline, or will it be years before I ever do anything like this again?

Tarver's Practice Report 11
Answer
3/17/12 6:49 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Practice Goals for March 2012, Utterly Simplified:

Focus on Shinzen. Sit formally at least two hours a day with the best possible posture, favouring long sessions. Practice whichever of the 5 Ways seems to make the best sense at any given moment. Also practice informally off-cushion (presumably primarily "Focus Out") as much as I can. For the time being, resolve any thoughts about Dewart, saving the world, etc. into their somatic, visual, and auditory components and avoid reacting to them. Put off-cushion effort into studying, memorizing, and internalizing Shinzen's system and protocols. Surrender to and develop faith in a fluid, algorithmic process of steady improvement. Forsake rigid, brittle, prescriptive goals. Arrange for more retreat time ASAP: Shinzen if possible, otherwise Goenka, possibly even both. Set aside the stream entry idea as best I can, and behave as though my hair were on fire and I am trying to jump into the stream.

Monday Afternoon

One hour of "Do Nothing" practice. Nothing to report. Ha ha ha...

Monday Evening

Sat another hour, starting with "Focus on Change: Note Vanishings", working primarily with sound-space for much of the time, then after about half an hour switched to "Note Flow" and tried to attend to body-space but found it a great exertion and fell back to anapana for the last ten minutes; wound up clipping the hour three minutes short anyway.

Tuesday

Up at the Family Cottage for a few days with my son for March Break. Sat a bit less than half an hour this morning and an hour just now (this evening) doing "Do Nothing", as well as sporadic "Focus Out" during the day. The way in which I kept "forgetting" to keep doing Focus Out reminds me of how my mind used to wander when I first started meditating, and way more time was spent zoned out and distracted than ever on the object.

Wednesday Afternoon

Sat 75 minutes of cross-legged adhitthana eyes-closed "Focus Out" noting and mentally labeling Touch and Sound as such (using just the two labels), roughly one note every second or two. Stayed with it for the most part, but got lost in thought briefly half a dozen or a dozen times for maybe a minute or two each time. Minimal movement, and didn't even re-cross my legs. By including Sound -- I usually wear earplugs -- this seems much more sustainable than restricting the field of awareness to the physical sensations of just Touch. Odd. The ambient environment is relatively quiet here, but far from dead silent. Maybe the time is not too far off when I won't need earplugs back in town, and I will become able just to "opt out" of attending to sound. That would be very nice.

Wednesday Evening

Sat two short sessions of 30 or 40 minutes of easy-going adhitthana in quick succession, the first doing "Focus In" and the second "Focus on Change". I really like the "Do Nothing" protocol, because one winds up having to note everything, but I am worried that it isn't really Vipassana -- more like Zen or something. I am still getting my bearings. I am listening to Shinzen's audio, The Science of Enlightenment, and it is packed full of great information.

Thursday Afternoon

Sat one hour of cross-legged, eyes closed, adhitthana Shinzen-esque Do Nothing. I have decided that this practice fulfills the criteria for my goal(s) for the month, I seem to be able to (not) do it adequately, and it just "feels right" for some reason, so notwithstanding my penchant for saying one thing and then doing exactly the opposite, I (as of now) intend to stick with this for the rest of the month for formal practice. Apparently this practice has a lot in common with so-called choiceless awareness, Mahāmudrā, and Dzogchen, but it isn't the fancy shtick that attracts me, it is the direct cultivation of concentration by palpably exercising the faculty of cognitive inhibition, plus the fact that Kenneth Folk recommends "concentration" and Daniel Ingram recommends a "light touch" to get from Equanimity to Stream Entry, and that is what I am trying to do. I am developing a sense of the "centre point", the "zero in the middle", hints of "nothingness" as the actual object of samadhi, which must first be experienced and then let-go-of -- or both at once -- all of which leads me to believe that I am on the right track. Such beliefs are indulged off-cushion, of course; on-cushion I just try hard not to try very hard to simply drop them as soon as any hint of inclining any which way gets noticed.

Thursday Evening

Sat 75 minutes of Do Nothing. Got restless about half-way through, and re-crossed my legs, after which I settled a bit "deeper".

Friday Morning

Got up a bit early and sat three sessions of a few minutes less than an hour each of formal, eyes-closed, cross-legged Do Nothing. Now it is time to switch to Do Everything mode, pack up Cottage, son, and dog, and get back to town.

Saturday Morning

Got up quite early, and sat two hours (with a short break) of formal, cross-legged, eyes-closed Do Nothing, except that I kept forgetting to Do Nothing, and spent a good part of that time alternating between observing sensations and getting lost in thought. This is seeming more and more like one big No-Self observation, as the question of who is deciding to "Do Nothing" keeps creeping in, only to be set aside when noticed. I want to look up what Siff has to say about this. Also, didn't I swear off resolutions to do any given practice, in favour of a more fluid, adaptive approach?

I have been listening to Shinzen Young's The Science of Enlightenment -- most informative, most inspiring.

Off-cushion, I noticed yesterday that I seemed to be distinctly relaxed, easy-going, interested in other people, and pleased with little details of the urban landscape like flourishes of color and decoration, as if I could sense the joy and care of those who had put such things out for others to enjoy.

Tarver's Practice Report 12
Answer
3/25/12 11:47 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Monday

Sat two "short hours" (about 55 minutes) in quick succession of Shinzen-eze "Do Nothing". The subtlety of this practice is astounding, and I am sure I am only scratching the surface. "Let whatever happens happen; if you notice an intention to direct your attention, drop that intention." Well, allowing things to happen involves a certain direction of attention! It is amazing how the momentum of clarity, concentration, and equanimity continues to build in the gap between "in spite of" and "because of" my effort. I can see how (not) doing this practice well enough should lead directly to cessation (non-)experiences. It is simply a matter of time.

Tuesday Morning

Sat one hour of Do Nothing. Off-cushion, I am studying dependent origination; on the one hand, apparently this is Very Important, on the other hand, it just has the smell of an obsolete scientific paradigm. I will post a query about this.

Tuesday Afternoon

Sat one hour, but was agitated and not in equanimity with the stupid little noises that the dog kept making.

Wednesday Morning

Sat one hour. I am noticing a parallel in the unfolding of "Do Nothing" practice with anapana. In the initial stages of anapana (and then again and again at iterative levels of subtlety), it took (takes) some time to learn the balance between just observing and intervening with the breath. "Do Nothing" involves observing intentionality -- not deliberately, of course, as that would be an intention to be dropped as soon as noticed -- but in effect, that is what emerges from attempting (there it is again!) to follow the instructions. At this stage of practice, it feels like I am seeking that elusive balance point where I am present to the intention to direct attention, but not engaged with it or activating it. Come up to it, just short of it, then stop. The balance point is of zero width, and may well be tantamount to cessation. This practice feels like converging on nothing, overshooting, backing off, converging again... like spiraling in a (hopefully) decaying orbit into a centre which is simultaneously non-existence and infinity, with the maddening and delightful property that even so much as admitting on the cushion that one is doing anything of the sort bounces one farther from the objective. The whole process feels familiar, from the attempt to "just be with" the breath, except that instead of the breath the object is the attention-directing volitional aspect of consciousness itself.

By the way, I would just like to mention the really slick meditation timer that I use on my Android smartphone. Great little app, with several very useful features. Check it out.

Sat another hour. My posture has been quite good; I occasionally bend and twist my back a bit by way of a stretch, but otherwise sit quite still for long periods with very little pain or trouble. What struck me this session was the subtlety of the instruction, "Let whatever happens happen." Sneaky, subversive instruction. In order to "let" anything occur, I have to be aware of it, so this winds up cultivating that faculty of mind that goes by so many names: mindfulness, awareness, assertiveness, acceptance. But I can't do it "on purpose" within this rubric, I just let it arise spontaneously, in such a way as makes clear that there is in fact no "I" allowing anything -- except, of course, that the meditation keep occurring.

Thursday Morning

Sat about an hour and a half with a short break. I noticed yesterday that I am more relaxed off-cushion than I used to be, and that I have just a smidgen of increased capacity to exercise restraint of pen and tongue.

Friday Morning

Sat one hour. Dropping the intention to direct my attention to the question of whether I am doing the practice correctly is very subtle and amusing even, so much so that I find this aspect of this practice actually pleasant in spite of (because of?) the maddening self-referentiality of it. Several times I had a very clear and easy-to-notice-and-drop intention arise to open my eyes and attend to the timer; so I dropped it and went back to "doing nothing." Then, the intention arose so quickly and sharply that I didn't catch it before I opened my eyes and saw that there were 40 seconds left on the clock.

Friday Evening

Sat three-quarter hour immediately before going to bed. This is a new trick for me, as I have not liked meditating at this time before. Perhaps my equanimity is building, to the point where I can observe the "dislike" and sit anyway.

Saturday Morning

Only slept a few hours, because I am taking a course that ran late last night and starts early this morning. Sat half an hour (having set the timer for 45 minutes). Very aware of a certain inherent contradiction between allowing a train of thought to continue once I become aware of it, and withdrawing the volition to continue to place my attention on that train of thought once it has become the object of conscious experience. Teasing apart the "intention to direct my attention" from the attention itself, so that I can drop the "intention" without messing with the "attention", when what has my attention is thought, is very, very subtle. Perhaps with further practice it will become increasingly obvious.

Sunday Morning

Sat one hour. Opened my eyes with 1:50 left on the clock. If I "tried" to guess when an hour was almost up, I doubt I could do it. Without "trying", it keeps happening. What's up with that?

Sunday Evening

Sat half an hour with Sweet-E, anapana.

Tarver's Practice Report 13
Answer
4/1/12 8:57 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Monday Afternoon

Sat one hour.

Supplemental

I posted the following to Facebook, and I am copying it here for context:

Me: In spite of the toothache -- I am seeing the dentist on Wednesday -- I am feeling wave after wave of wellbeing and contentment. It's weird. I'm not used to it.

Friend: Could I borrow a cup? :-)

Me: Here are the three things which I did, which I believe are responsible for this effect: 1) stop drinking entirely, and abstain from all mind-altering drugs especially psychiatric prescription meds; 2) get extensively involved in supportive communities, especially the kind where at least part of the stated purpose is in fact to develop fellowship and those skills and behaviours are consciously rehearsed and cultivated; and 3) learn to meditate competently and practice an average of about two hours per day. I have been variously playing at or working on, and getting better at, each of these factors one way or another for 10 or more years(!), and I am happy to help anyone who asks with any aspect of it. I can't really lend you my cup, but maybe I could help you somehow pour your own?

Tuesday Afternoon

Sat one hour. Had a snack. Sat another hour. Maybe someday I will suffer wave after wave of discipline and productivity in the "real world."

Wednesday Morning

Sat 50 minutes, took a 5 minute break, and then sat one hour. Quite restless today; it was well into the second hour before I really settled in at all. Shinzen's words echoed back to me, about how nothing in the technique of Do Nothing guarantees a restful experience, although with time it tends to go that way.

Thursday Mid-day

Sat one hour, with a quick pee break at 30 minutes. If all goes as planned, I am going away for two and a half weeks of retreat three weeks from now (two different retreats, back-to-back, with about eight hours between them, at just about opposite ends of the spectrum from conservative to liberal) but I am starting to get a bit nervous about some of the arrangements that aren't coming together quite yet. Early this week I was feeling quite well, but the last few days I have been a bit "off". The toothache is objectively very mild and at times all but imperceptible but for some reason really, really annoying when I do become aware of it. Where's that Equanimity when I need it? Also, I am second-guessing my practice because it is almost the end of the month and I wonder if I should assert new practice goals for April? Stick with Do Nothing (Sweet-E says it seems to be "working") or practice noting in order to build insight-specific momentum? I sent a few emails earlier today in which I really "put myself out there" in big, emotionally risky ways, deeply aligned with my mission in life. And yet, here I sit squirming and procrastinating in the face of seemingly trivial domestic and occupational tasks that I just can't seem to bring myself to do. I so do not yet have adequate mastery over my own mind.

Thursday Afternoon

Sat just a little over 50 minutes of Shinzen-ific Focus on Change: Note Vanishings. One way to do this practice is a variant of following the breath, noting "Gone" as each in-breath and each out-breath disappears. I can see right away that this practice is going to put anicca squarely front and centre in my awareness. For example, I notice the afternoon and all the things I thought I was going to do in the basement and note "Gone".

Friday Morning

Sat 50 minutes Noting Vanishings. Frickin' brilliant technique! I am thinking I would do well to do this for the rest of my formal practice until the retreat(s). I am very sensitive to ambient noise and sound in general. For example, if there is a TV in a restaurant I usually ask them to turn it off, and if they can't or don't, I will often find another place to eat. With this technique, I can put this trait to use, because few sounds last long and their Vanishings are really, really prominent to me. I usually sit with earplugs (which eventually start to hurt my ears) but now, instead, I can turn this into a sustained examination of anicca. So I am keeping the focus primarily within Touch and Sound spaces (in Shinzen's technical sense), also Noting Vanishings within Feel, Image, and Talk if they are prominent. I am not deliberately ignoring the restful states, but inclining to the active and objective keeps me so busy that it hardly ever comes up. I am not deliberately "returning to the breath" as per Mahasi instructions because there are advantages to having "no place to stand". Neither am I particularly avoiding the breath. Shinzen points out that "all Vanishings are un-created equal," so in this regard I am applying the skill cultivated in Do Nothing of "let whatever happens, happen." Sitting cross-legged with eyes closed, Sight is not an issue. I note Flow if something "grabs" my attention with respect to something which I know will be Gone momentarily, but I am not particularly looking for those. (...although I could note "Gone" with respect to the integrity of the plan for what I was going to note..) Having scarcely logged two hours of this practice so far, I can tell that doing this in a sustained way for a while is going to sensitize me to impermanence like nobody's business. Just as Do Nothing seems to converge upon contemplation of anatta, Note Vanishings converges upon contemplation of anicca. I wonder if there is another technique within Shinzen's system that equally elegantly lays bare dukkha? Whether there is or not, I may not need it. Finally, I now have two techniques that I can actually do which cultivate respectively real-time experience of the two of the Three Characteristics. I predict (and hope) that if I "groove" the habit of Noting Vanishings to the point where it basically keeps going on it's own momentum (specifically, without deliberate effort), and then switch back to Do Nothing in a retreat environment, that should be sufficient to set the necessary conditions for Stream Entry that are spelled out in MCTB.

Saturday Morning

Sat two half-hour sessions of Noting Vanishings, or at least attempting to do so. This practice is much more difficult than Do Nothing, harder to sustain. It is more endothermic, so to speak, with respect to the samadhi. I would really like to master it, but this is going to take some effort and determination.

Sunday Morning

Sat 56 minutes of Noting Vanishings. Samadhi was perfectly serviceable today. Again, I kept my attention primarily on the soundscape and with the ticking clock, the refrigerator, the traffic noise, the rain, and the occasional chirping of the computer hard drive, there was plenty to attend to. Any gaps were easily filled with physical sensations, the grossest of which is of course the breath. If is true that "all Vanishings are un-created equal", and that every phenomenon emerges out of the prior non-existence of that phenomenon, then all sensory phenomena can be noted as "Gone" with respect to the state which preceded them. Focus on Change, indeed! This is initially obvious in the case of the termination of an active phenomenon like a noise ending, but when the sound starts the preceding silence is Gone. With "Flow" to note the middles, it would seem that all of experience can be noted with just "Flow" and "Gone". Cool. Who'd have thunk it? And for some reason, I find this way, way easier and more workable than trying to "simply observe sensations."

In other news, I have confirmation of my place at the 10-day Vipassana course in less than three weeks, and arrangements are being made to go to the Shinzen retreat immediately following. Exciting times.

Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012
Answer
4/2/12 8:02 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Sit "an hour or two each day as life allows," looping and branching through Shinzen Young's 5 Ways, emphasizing insight practice. Also practice off-cushion whenever possible, cultivating "continuity of practice." Attend the 10-day Vipassana Course (spot confirmed) for the latter part of the month. Organize life and finances to also attend the week-long Shinzen retreat at the end of the month, immediately following the 10-day. Re-read MCTB yet again. Converge inexorably upon stream entry.

Is it just my imagination, or is this getting simpler, more streamlined, and more focused? I attribute this to two factors: 1) gradually increasing confidence and competence on my part, and 2) the awesome power of Shinzen's system for encapsulating complexity and re-mapping dead ends into just so many nodes of a network.

Tarver's Practice Report 14
Answer
4/8/12 11:21 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Tuesday Wednesday Morning

Sat half an hour, restlessly. Couldn't pick a technique, and watched myself skip from one to another, with detached amusement -- a certain technique in and of itself, I suppose. "Thrash and Observe." Am nervous about going to the dentist shortly, where I get to practice equanimity in the field. Not sitting as much as I might like in the last few days, but I have been super busy making arrangements for the upcoming retreats. Everything is falling together very nicely, and it is going to be a hard steady burn between now and April 18. Dropped in to visit my parents briefly yesterday, and found out only after I had left that the Bikkhu Bodhi book on dependent origination had arrived, but they didn't check the mail until I had gone. Phooey. Might be another week until I see that, and I wanted to consider it very carefully before going. Am thrilled with the new (to me) Shinzen manual pointed out in the very first post to new DhO Shinzen section. I am going to stop by a print shop today and get a hard copy spiral bound. There are also some very positive developments on the DanaBench front, my best hope for right livelihood in the long run.

Thursday Morning

Had a surprisingly positive experience with the dentist yesterday. Managed to observe sensations, cultivate restful states, and Note Gone, and it all went quite well in spite of having an ostensibly inherently unpleasant quality. I must have been more apprehensive than I realized about this; I even got the day of the week wrong in yesterday's update! (My dentist is, by the way, totally excellent -- if anything, he is so good at what he does, and so personable, that my uneasiness is totally and obviously about me and my stuff, and a great test case for my capacity for equanimity. Dr. Mark Nusinoff, dentist in Toronto: very highly recommended.)

Sat 15 minutes. I am suddenly incredibly busy. Am going to have to do more "daily life practice," which is just as well. Yesterday I finished listening to Shinzen's The Science of Enlightenment for the second time through, and am re-listening to John Peacock's Buddhism Before the Theravada. I know that dharma audio doesn't count as practice. Would that it did.

Saturday Morning

Formal practice? What formal practice? Daily life practice? Yeah, right... When I remember, I note "Gone", especially about fragments of auditory phenomena that drop or diminish abruptly, but I am astonished how seldom I remember to do this. Ideally, I should do lots of formal practice to build momentum for the upcoming retreats, but it isn't working out that way. On the other hand, I used to do medieval armoured combat when I was (much!) younger, and of the handful of tournaments that I ever actually won (the connection is accessing states of high concentration and flow), several of them were preceded by periods of no practice whatsoever so there is also something to be said for fallow periods before returning to the fray, so to speak.

Sunday Morning

Sat one full hour of Do Nothing.

RE: Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012
Answer
4/4/12 11:32 PM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :
Sit "an hour or two each day as life allows," looping and branching through Shinzen Young's 5 Ways, emphasizing insight practice. Also practice off-cushion whenever possible, cultivating "continuity of practice." Attend the 10-day Vipassana Course (spot confirmed) for the latter part of the month. Organize life and finances to also attend the week-long Shinzen retreat at the end of the month, immediately following the 10-day. Re-read MCTB yet again. Converge inexorably upon stream entry.

Is it just my imagination, or is this getting simpler, more streamlined, and more focused? I attribute this to two factors: 1) gradually increasing confidence and competence on my part, and 2) the awesome power of Shinzen's system for encapsulating complexity and re-mapping dead ends into just so many nodes of a network.


Nice. You are going to get it,

I quite like Shinzen as well, nice to see him having his on sub-forum.


By the way, I am not sure what to make of the whole 3 characteristics thing. Impermanence is obvious. I am not bothered by "duality" -- doesn't apply to me. Am I "seeing through" it, or failing to see it in the first place? I know the self is a fiction, and have known this for decades. The unsatisfactory nature of all phenomena is inherently obvious, just from the fact that my preferences are arbitrary and because any phenomenon is the way it is, and I could imagine it being otherwise, the likelihood of everything lining up with my preferences rounds off to about zero, ergo dukkha. What is the big deal?


This type of understanding of the 3Cs although true on some macro level is not useful for gaining stream entry. For stream entry you need to understand the the 3Cs at the level of your moment to moment experience of reality.

Our experience of reality consists bodily sensations, mental verbal thoughts, and mental images, that are occurring in every moment.

If you are doing noting Vipassana then, mental verbal thoughts are already kept busy by the noting process, so you can focus on observing the bodily sensations. If you have strong concentration, then it has the same effect.

For Vipassana noting purposes assume that your awareness of reality in each moment is actually all of reality, and observe the 3Cs in that. i.e. if you feel a portion of your leg in a given moment, assume that that portion of your leg is all that exists for the time period.

Each time you refresh your awareness counts as a moment, in each moment notice the elements of impermanence, eg. notice that mind constantly shift to a different sensation.

Dukkha and no-self can also be understood in terms of bodily sensations. For dukkha notice the craving for and aversion to certain bodily sensations.

No-self is a bit harder to see, But when you start to see dukkha and impermenance clearly, then you can start to observe the sensations of observing. In doing so you might notice a clump of sensations near the back of your head, that you identify as the observer.

Try then to observe the observer, and your brain will get confused regarding its subconscious model of the self, hopefully leading to stream entry soon after.

RE: Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012
Answer
4/5/12 8:17 AM as a reply to (D Z) Dhru Val.
D Z:
Nice. You are going to get it,

I quite like Shinzen as well, nice to see him having his own sub-forum.

Thanks for the encouragement. Yes, hopefully a helpful and supportive conversation will emerge to make the best use of Shinzen's teachings, including exposing any weaknesses in his system or the applications of it which is all going to be very healthy.

The necessary arrangements passed a tipping point yesterday such that it looks like I really actually am going to go to the Shinzen retreat. This has a bit of a through-the-rabbit-hole quality, as I have watched however many YouTube videos over the last month, listened to The Science of Enlightenment twice, and gulped down the practice manual yesterday, but have never met the man personally yet. It's almost like there is no need to, as he has done such a great job of putting so much useful stuff out where it can be found on the Internet, but I'm looking forward to that obviously.

As for the 3C's, I am finding that Do Nothing isolates No(n)-Self like nobody's business, and Note Gone nails anicca pretty squarely at the experiential level. I am not worrying about dukkha so much because, paradoxically, I have such a clear intellectual understanding of how the arbitrariness of the attribution of meaning through the essentially creative process of conscious experience qua assertive experience (as per Dewart) always "leaves something to be desired", which maps onto the categorical concept of final causality, which I think corresponds very, very closely to the concept of dukkha, that I can't seem to penetrate the concept at the all-important experiential level -- I know it's happening, and I can even see it happening, but I understand that it is happening, rather than experience that it is happening. So long as I work on anatta and anicca, I don't need such a practice at the moment, but it has crossed my mind to try designing one if none of the others lying around that I haven't tried yet don't seem to work. Great little project for after stream entry, perhaps, to isolate this.

Also, I am not sure I really understand the "traditional" view, and maybe there is something in the dependent origination piece that I have yet to discover -- in fact, I am sure there is, but I am not sure yet what.

Funny you should bring up the immediacy and totality of experience in vipassana, as I just re-read that in MCTB the other night. I will take that straight back to the cushion, thanks.

I have heard others talk about a sense of an "observer" in the back of the skull or something, but I have no such experience whatsoever. Maybe something subtle will turn up at some point. Never say never...

Tarver's Practice Report 15
Answer
4/16/12 8:40 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Monday Morning

Sat for one hour Noting Gone, and opened my eyes with 47 seconds left on the clock.

Off the cushion, I have started listening to Bhikkhu Bodhi's lecture series on the Majjhima Nikaya and reading his book The Great Discourse on Causation: The Mahanidana Sutta and Its Commentaries. I am growing increasingly convinced that the doctrine of dependent origination (to say nothing of the Three Characteristics) needs to be revised in light of Dewart's Evolution and Consciousness. To do this right would be a project of about the scope of a PhD dissertation. Last time I tried anything of the sort, I dropped out of PhD school in second year. This isn't just about personal liberation. Consciousness is a team sport, and it is my responsibility to take what I know and make it available to the rest of humanity, and what I know is that if we don't start taking into consideration what Dewart discovered about consciousness, we are basically screwed as a species at the rate we are going.

I have just over a week until I leave for the two retreats, and squeezed into that time I have also taken up a fortuitous opportunity to attend another Human Awareness Institute (HAI) workshop this weekend. I see this as a chance to practice equanimity with pleasant experience, and to do some further work on the first training in morality as concerns love, intimacy, and sexuality -- there is always more work to do. This will be my seventh HAI workshop. In light of what I just wrote in the preceding paragraph, I am reminded of HAI's mission statement which is about "creating a world where everyone wins."

Wednesday Morning

Sat one hour of Focus In.

Thursday Morning

Sat one hour of Do Nothing, and opened my eyes with just over two minutes left on the clock. Why do I keep doing that?

Off the cushion, I am incredibly busy, juggling commitments, chaos & drama, responsibilities, and life in a way that I don't think would be sustainable over a long period, but maybe it would be as I am reasonably calm and level in the midst of it.

Friday Morning

Sat one hour of Do Nothing with a short pee break half-way through. Sure enough, spontaneously stretched and opened my eyes with two and a half minutes left on the clock. I hope this isn't a metaphor for my life in general and my progress of insight in particular: almost there, then stretch, yawn, scratch absent-mindedly, and wander off.

Monday Morning

Sat one hour of Do Nothing. Less than 48 hours until departure for twin retreats. Too busy with necessary preparations and trying to tie up loose ends to respond in detail to other posts, except to say that my experience of dukkha is emerging and maturing in a very sweet and matter-of-fact way, oddly enough, but thanks for them!

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15
Answer
4/9/12 11:38 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Hi Tarver,

Any links to a copy of Dewart's work? I've often felt it was the way language works that reinforces so much of what we would be better off without. What do you see though as the cause in language though? Isn't it more of a factor spinning off a more fundamental condition of humanity? Just have a look at the chinese word 'Ma' for an example of affection, hatred, power and utility wrapped up in a single term. The word itself is so common in humanity you could call it a primal sound, with so many meanings ( I speak some Ashanti Twi, and it can mean both mother and 'give' there) , the actual word though could not be called a cause, but more picking up meaning from the role given to 'mother' in society.

I hope everything goes to plan with the retreats, stay relaxed mate.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15
Answer
4/10/12 11:08 AM as a reply to Andrew ..
Andrew Jones:
Any links to a copy of Dewart's work?

No, not really, but his book Evolution and Consciousness: The Role of Speech in the Origin and Development of Human Nature (University of Toronto Press, 1989) should be available in every major library.

Dewart published his book right at the end of his teaching career as a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Toronto, and it was roundly ignored. Even meditators struggle with anatta; academics have not been ready to hear any of it, much less a systematic exposition of how consciousness emerges from experience with the self as an emergent phenomenon way down the chain. Furthermore, the book is written in a masterful and intellectually playful style that I find delightful but others may find unreadable: the guy makes full use of the English language. Among other things, he uses the pronoun "he" and refers to humanity as "man" without apology (except perhaps the lengthy footnote on p. 277). He is an iconoclast through and through. He started out as a Catholic, but by the time he was finished he had so thoroughly deconstructed the very concept of religion that there was almost nothing left of that except a penetrating and methodical style that traces his arguments right back to Aristotle and Aquinas.

The main point of his book is that the development of speech through natural selection caused the emergence of consciousness within the human species. First, not language, but speech. Second, yes, speech first and consciousness dependent on that. This is explained at great length and in painstaking detail constituting essentially an alternative model of dependent origination which explains a great deal about why humanity is the way it is today. In my estimation, Dewart finishes what Darwin started: explaining humanity's emergence through the mechanism of natural selection, and how the appearance of consciousness transcended natural selection. This is a paradigm-changing argument, as radical and startling as proposing, at the time, that the Earth orbits the Sun; if Darwin is like Copernicus, Dewart is perhaps like Galileo or Kepler.

There is a great deal to his thesis, and it is hard to explain succinctly, although I have made an attempt in the preceding paragraph. Dewart explains also why we are so obsessed with language, and so rarely think to scrutinize speech. The best analogy that might resonate in this forum is that of content vs. insight.

One of the immediate practical applications of Dewart's theory is in the practice of noting in vipassana. Of course the experience of speech turned back upon experience itself causes improved functioning of consciousness: that's been the mechanism for acquiring consciousness in the first place all along!

I studied with Dewart only briefly, as I was a grad student in another department at the time. He was a wonderful, deeply compassionate, quirky man. I went to his cottage once, and he came to my wedding. He passed away a few years ago, and I deeply regret not having gotten my act together in time to have worked more closely with him on making his insight available to those who are ready to hear it and make use of it. I have an unpublished manuscript synopsis of his book that he wrote, which I keep meaning to scan and post somewhere.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15
Answer
4/12/12 5:20 PM as a reply to Tarver .
I have scanned and posted the synopsis by Leslie Dewart of his book, Evolution and Consciousness. To the best of my knowledge this synopsis was never published anywhere. Prof. Dewart was circulating it in manuscript form in the early 90's, and I got a copy from him. He never did complete the project he indicates at at the end of this paper; instead he turned his attention to a critique of the philosophy of mind, which never came to publication.

If anyone has any suggestions about how better to post this than the form in which I have done, please let me know.

EDIT: Also posted to scribd if that is more convenient than the PDF.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15
Answer
4/10/12 8:09 PM as a reply to Tarver .
thanks Tarver,
Saved and printed. You could put it on scribd as well.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15
Answer
4/11/12 9:51 AM as a reply to Andrew ..
You are welcome.

Here's what to look for as concerns practice:

Right off the top, the whole model explains anatta like nobody's business, but I think there is a strong correspondence to be explored between the Three Characteristics and the three principal empirically derived categorical concepts that Dewart explains:

Anatta ---> reality (objects and self as other than experience)
Anicca ---> causality (change, and the bringing about of it)
Dukkha ---> finality (purpose and meaning)

Conscious access to and manipulation of the categorical concept of causal efficacy concerns not only that things change, but that one can make them change, on purpose. But the flip side of wanting things to change, and having conscious access to that aspect of experience, opens the door to negations and hypotheticals -- really important aspects of speech implemented in human language -- which opens a gap, so to speak, between things as they are and things as we would like them to be. Ergo dukkha: only happens if you are conscious! But it goes even one step deeper: since every conscious act is an exercise of assertiveness, an attribution of meaning, and therefore an act of creativity, it is also necessarily arbitrary. I would locate dukkha at the very level of conscious experience -- not only that things out there could be other than then way they are, but also that my experience of them could be other than the way I happen to have had it. Not just overt suffering, but the niggling built-in incompleteness that necessarily attends having said something (or experienced something -- note the parallel!) in only one of the infinitely possible ways that it could have been done. Or put another way, dukkha is like the force of friction in a physical system, in experiential terms the necessary "equal and opposite reaction" to having the conscious experience of meaning and/or purpose.

I take Dewart's theory as essentially correct. My hope is that I (or somebody more skilled than me) can use it to develop or fine-tune practice techniques (or something...) to make enlightenment relatively easily achievable by large numbers of people.

RE: Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012
Answer
4/12/12 4:02 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Hi Tarver -

I want to wish you good health and continued diligent efforts on your upcoming retreats (leaving in a few days, no?).

This "clear intellectual understanding" caught my attention. I added bold emphasis around what may be a misleading sense of permanency (versus a flux of desiring/non desire):
paradoxically, I have such a clear intellectual understanding of how the arbitrariness of the attribution of meaning through the essentially creative process of conscious experience qua assertive experience (as per Dewart) always "leaves something to be desired", which maps onto the categorical concept of final causality, which I think corresponds very, very closely to the concept of dukkha, that I can't seem to penetrate the concept at the all-important experiential level -- I know it's happening, and I can even see it happening, but I understand that it is happening, rather than experience that it is happening.
Also, I want to apologize and hopefully help us both capitalize on something I wrote here in the outset of your thread. Up thread I spoke about a cessation occurring over some period of time...in that post I had had a thoughtful understanding of bodily and behavioural changes (cessations of some of my behaviours, mostly reductions/weakenings of unskillful behaviours). A little more than a month later, I would wake up and, during a second sit of the early morning, experience a mental blip followed by what seemed like incremental re-ignitions of aspects of the mind. So, the thoughtful understanding of "cessations" and the experience of cessation-re-ignition were apples and oranges.

How is this something to capitalize on? You have "Do Nothing isolates No(n)-Self" and you have "Note Gone nails anicca pretty squarely at the experiential level"; perhaps there is a "Expect Not" - an open not knowing; experiential dukkha will make itself known without thoughtful analysis at, as you say, the "all-important experiential level".

I consider thoughtful analysis an excellent mental activity and it has been a preliminary skill for me in pacifying a rowdy or piqued mind (the same skill also contributed to the rowdy/piqued mind...I guess its about how the sword is wielded not about the sword!); I also see that after calming the mind, meditative occurrences are purely experiential: I did not think my way to them nor could I have thought them up and created them (at least not consciously). Now I am very content to sit without expectation and to be diligent when sitting/mindfulness is challenging. Such a strange and helpful practice.

Ok. Again, best wishes on your retreat, being away from family, sitting well, spreading open the mind...thanks for so many contributions here.

[grammar edits]

RE: Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012
Answer
4/12/12 5:07 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Hi Katy, thanks for your good wishes. Yes, I am going away tomorrow for the weekend, then two days later for two and half weeks with a few hours back in the middle. I am just feeling the pull of Last Minute Vortex getting under way...

Funny you should mention keeping expectations at bay. I made up a saying long ago: "Travel light; leave expectations behind, and make room for delight." I am reminded of that. But at the functional level, off-cushion in life, I have been better recently at tackling things kind of "one bite at a time", just getting started even if it isn't the "perfect" way.

No, there is no permanency in "leaving something to be desired". What I meant was that if I look at I could see, and say to myself about it, and experience: "shelf", "brown", "wood", "furniture", "possession", "storage", "firewood", "clutter", "decoration".... etc. etc. Any way I happen to have the experience, any meaning I settle on, always excludes an infinity of others. So there's a shadow of loss to any gain in meaning. It's like you can't fly without balancing thrust, lift, and drag. Bemoaning drag doesn't help. Admitting drag allows one to design airplanes and fly. Same with dukkha; the truth of suffering isn't bad news, it's good news, if the way it actually works can be experienced by "upgrading" the relevant operative categorical concept(s), which is usually expressed in traditional language as "seeing the three characteristics." But knowing about it and implementing that category are two different things. Here's another way to put it: the only way to experience anything as unpleasant is with reference to a hypothetical other that is different, and in some way more desirable. Where ever there is imagination, there is suffering! I have no intention of forsaking desire -- I hope rather to become skillfully equanamous with it, accepting the inevitable "suffering" that attends having purpose and meaning, and then get on with something meaningful, like developing the (non-)experience of cessation for myself. emoticon Desire without expectation, sounds paradoxical, but it is lining up like that, and having reflected upon it in response to your post, I would say that all three characteristics are lining up for me experientially. Interesting. Hmmmm.....

RE: Statement of Practice Goals for Arpril 2012
Answer
4/14/12 8:41 PM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :
As for the 3C's, I am finding that Do Nothing isolates No(n)-Self like nobody's business, and Note Gone nails anicca pretty squarely at the experiential level. I am not worrying about dukkha so much because, paradoxically, I have such a clear intellectual understanding of how the arbitrariness of the attribution of meaning through the essentially creative process of conscious experience qua assertive experience (as per Dewart) always "leaves something to be desired", which maps onto the categorical concept of final causality, which I think corresponds very, very closely to the concept of dukkha, that I can't seem to penetrate the concept at the all-important experiential level -- I know it's happening, and I can even see it happening, but I understand that it is happening, rather than experience that it is happening. So long as I work on anatta and anicca, I don't need such a practice at the moment, but it has crossed my mind to try designing one if none of the others lying around that I haven't tried yet don't seem to work. Great little project for after stream entry, perhaps, to isolate this.


For stream entry as described in the MCTB, the experiential understanding of the 3Cs from the perspective of your own 5 bodily senses is what matters. Intellectual understanding can be a hindrance though sometimes it can also help.

(Admittedly Dewart's stuff is quite interesting. But don't dwell on it to much during practice)

For the purposes of your formal sits the gold standard for reality is your own bodily sensations. For the purposes of meditation do not worry about evolution or transcendence or anything like that. Just try to by aware of the 3Cs of your own bodily sensations as you note or body scan etc.

You seem to be able to experientially see Annica which is a good thing.

The key to seeing dukkha is to be aware of the craving and aversion for experience. Why a craving for this experience or the other, if it is all impermanent than what is the point ?

Although you are probably having some interesting experiences with do nothing practice, I would venture that it is probably not isolating no-Self in the way that most people on DhO would define the term.

It is best not to think of Vipassana as a way to directly see some sort of ultimate truth, but rather as an unusual way of using the brain so that it can see its own flaws.

In doing so the brain initially gets more confused as aspects of reality conflict with underlying mental structures, but eventually the brain does correct those structures to more closely match reality.

Stream Entry... maybe.
Answer
5/10/12 2:23 PM as a reply to Tarver .
The candidate path moment occurred in the dining hall at the Goenka around the 7th day or so, and involved an insight concerning dukkha, a visceral understanding of a truth which if expressed verbally would be along the lines of "On the one hand, dukkha only bothers me if I am conscious (ie, it is a property of consciousness, not of experience or of reality); on the other hand, dukkha only bothers me to the extent that I have failed to master the skill of consciousness." The insight struck with some force, stopping me dead in my tracks, gasping out loud subtly but significantly in the Noble Silence. At once, it set me thinking, what was that, and was that It? Initially I thought no, because there was no discontinuity, no perceptible fruition. But over the next week or two all kinds of secondary shifts have started creeping in which have led me to entertain the possibility that yes, maybe that was indeed it.

I asked Shinzen about it, of course, and whereas he certainly wasn't about to "certify" me one way or the other, he did say that stream entry is a very real phenomenon but that sometimes -- frequently even -- it has a gradual onset; that whereas the "flashy" stuff is lovely when it happens, it is by no means the rule. This reminded me of an appendix to one of my favorite textbooks for making practical use of spiritual experience to overcome certain specific forms of suffering, which suggests that profound and transformative spiritual experiences are sometimes of "the 'educational variety' because they develop slowly over a period of time."

So, I am going to take the suggestion made in MCTB to wait a year to see how it pans out, setting the date of May 1, 2013, by which to call it definitively one way or the other. The worst that would happen if I declared stream entry prematurely would be that I would make a fool of myself. The best that would happen is that I would empower myself to "act as if" and perhaps close the deal for real, and maybe also inspire others to think that this thing can be done and it is worth striving for; and more specifically that the technique of noting is worth learning and practicing because it gets results -- in this very lifetime.

The secondary shifts I alluded to above are all heuristically congruent with the hypothesis that I have crossed some critical threshold. In the days following the candidate path moment, it gradually dawned on me that it no longer felt accurate to say that I had not attained stream entry: that was among the first clues. I feel much less concerned with striving towards a goal, and more concerned with review and integration. Having practiced the technique of "Just Note Gone", and developed greater sensitivity to abrupt diminishings, I have noticed that the distinction between "enlightenment and non-enlightenment" has at least partially collapsed for me. I have a feeling consistent with having graduated from High School only to become a lowly freshman in College. I am talking, after all, about stream entry, not stream mastery.

I have lots of other things I could write about, like practice details, how cool Shinzen and the Shin-heads are, various amusing stories about the Tarvisattva and his exploits and travails, etc., and I may supplement this report with some of that later. There is, however, lots of water to haul, wood to chop, and email to answer.

RE: Stream Entry... maybe.
Answer
5/10/12 2:17 PM as a reply to Tarver .
it gradually dawned on me that it no longer felt accurate to say that I had not attained stream entry: that was among the first clues.
(...)
I have a feeling consistent with having graduated from High School only to become a lowly freshman in College. I am talking, after all, about stream entry, not stream mastery.
Jeez, that is so well said. Thanks.

RE: Stream Entry... maybe.
Answer
5/10/12 2:32 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Whether it works out or not it sounds like you've made cracking good progress Tarver, well done!

Can you describe your day to day experience in phenomenological terms as it differs from the pre-?path? Tarver's experience?

Added: You mention "Goenka" retreat in your post. I presume that's incorrect?

RE: Stream Entry... maybe.
Answer
5/10/12 3:40 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:
Whether it works out or not it sounds like you've made cracking good progress Tarver, well done!

Can you describe your day to day experience in phenomenological terms as it differs from the pre-?path? Tarver's experience?

Added: You mention "Goenka" retreat in your post. I presume that's incorrect?


Thanks, Bagpuss. (Also, Hi Katy, with whom I exchanged a few words via chat.)

Well, for example, I spent over three hours yesterday preparing a detailed exposition of the whole thing, which disappeared (just note: "Gone!") when I went to post it, because I wasn't logged in properly or something. I was annoyed, but I just rolled with it. Of course, that may simply be Equanimity, not SE, but I was astounded at how I rolled with it.

Since returning, I have been really exhausted. Today is Thursday, and I am only just getting back into the flow of what I need to do. In the past, if I were sleeping long hours, exhausted, I would also be depressed. Right now, I am definitely not depressed. As per that famous line about "in the seeing, just the seen; in the hearing, just the heard" etc., I am experiencing "in the exhaustion, just the fatigue." I am tired. Of course I am tired, I have busted my ass for months and brought that to a crescendo these last few weeks. No surprise. This too shall pass -- I just know that. I am near done resting up, and swinging back into action. No big deal.

Yes, Goenka is correct. I sat a 10-day Goenka, followed immediately by a week-long Shinzen. My position on the matter is that what I was doing between my ears at the Goenka is my business, my karma, and I take responsibility for it. Externally, I made scrupulously sure not to disturb others, or take any notice of any disturbance caused by others, and I simply extended this "prime directive" to include the recorded instructions, the intent of which I translated into a form that made sense to me. In the event, to my utter astonishment, I was seated in the front row, first seat. I never thought in my life that I would have the privilege and the pressure of sitting there. Accordingly, I made an even extra additional effort to make use of and follow the structure and discipline of the course for the benefit of anyone sitting behind me -- I would anyway, but I tried to be among the first to arrive in the hall, among the last to leave, sit adhitthana right from the start, etc. I periodically followed the instructions literally just to make sure that I could, for example following my breath in anapana in the last sit before vipassana instruction was given, and didn't drop a single in-breath or out-breath for the whole session; other times sampling the various body sweeping options which I found I could do easily, but paradoxically felt exactly like playing "games with sensations" rather than making progress in insight. How I made use of the opportunity and the gift of sitting the Goenka is, as I have said, my responsibility, and I emphatically don't want to advocate that others go and cause any disturbance or start arguing with anyone involved in that tradition. That is so not the time or the place, though it may seem to be. Here, online, places like the DhO, is the time and the place to discuss or debate the pros and cons of various techniques. So please, don't anybody ever go to a Goenka course and do anything but really do, or at the very least outwardly in every way appear to do, anything except exactly what and how they say. That would be rude, unskillful, and counterproductive. For myself, as I discovered months ago, it is quite clear that noting accelerates progress by at least an order of magnitude, making the difference between achieving enlightenment as a project for many lifetimes (as Goenka actually implies, half-joking, but half not-joking) and getting there in this very lifetime. Also, noting auditory and visual objective "sensations", to say nothing of emotions, mental image, and mental talk, round out the experience of meditation in wonderful way, so that at a certain point there are no more distractions, and continuity of practice stops being a theoretical ideal and starts to become a pragmatic reality, regardless of where one directs one's attention. All of experience becomes increasingly present to itself, and at some threshold of concentration, sensory clarity, and equanimity, there seems to be a tipping point where further progress kind of takes on a life of its own. And I think that something of that sort is starting to happen to me.

RE: Stream Entry... maybe.
Answer
5/10/12 7:23 PM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :
In the event, to my utter astonishment, I was seated in the front row, first seat. I never thought in my life that I would have the privilege and the pressure of sitting there


Prime position!

RE: Stream Entry... maybe.
Answer
5/11/12 1:16 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Good work mate. emoticon

RE: Stream Entry... maybe.
Answer
5/11/12 6:13 AM as a reply to Tarver .
"in the exhaustion, just the fatigue."


and what they said...

and thanks.

I love your use of that seat. That a struggling person would know how a "first seat" person can relate to them and change skillfully in mere months.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15
Answer
5/11/12 9:01 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Hi Tarver,

I agree Leslie Dewert's work is really important. i can understand why it has not found widespread acceptance, very confronting really.

It is useful to me because in my deepest moments, I know words got me here somehow...didn't realise how literal that was. cheers.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 15
Answer
5/12/12 8:57 AM as a reply to Andrew ..
Andrew Jones:
I agree Leslie Dewart's work is really important...


Thank you. You really, truly made my day.

Would you believe that I was curled up with E&C, reading the chapter on "Consequences of the emergence of the self-defining consciousness," when your post appeared? I take that as a good sign. It has long been my dream to convince at least one other person that there is something significant here. Lots of people have indulged me, listened to me, nodded politely; but now, finally, I have one who has actually agreed.

The next part of my evil plan is to double that number, say, a few dozen times and find a way to guide our civilization out of absent-mindedness before we cook ourselves right off the planet.

Enlightenment could be as simple (ha!) as attaining a certain degree of conscious mastery over self-definition, which may be why, for example, Change of Lineage appears just before Path.

emoticon

Tarver's Practice Report 16
Answer
5/17/12 11:02 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Saturday

Formal practice was slack all week, but I usually drop out a bit after intensive retreat so I wasn't worried or after myself. I will say, though, that I did a block of very difficult and stressful work (cleaning out a basement and shifting some storage -- dirty and emotionally triggering) with a more robust baseline of equanimity than I have ever observed in myself before.

Did a "Home Retreat" over the phone with Shinzen, on Nurture Positive. Surprised and delighted at how much I got out of it; I signed up for that particular topic mainly because it was the weakest link in my understanding and practice of The Five Ways. I realized that with the tiniest tweak of intentionality, all kinds of stuff that I am already doing, have been doing for years, is fodder for "practice in life", piggybacking on and reinforcing the three-fold attentional skill-set of concentration, clarity, and equanimity.

In focusing on what I find inspiring, I found myself tweaking my formal personal mission statement, so it is now: "I create a world of mindfulness by mastering the skill of consciousness." The whole statement got an overhaul during the last round of retreats, and it used to be a world of "enlightenment" rather than "mindfulness", but the reality is that the former freaks people out whereas the latter can get you research funding, so this feels pragmatic and is also a nod to Shinzen who discoursed at great length about the word "mindfulness". (I know that Daniel prefers that "mindfulness" practices were more clearly distinguished than they usually are, and I see that point too.)

Sunday

Sat a 50-minute "hour", mostly doing "Focus In" but frankly skipping about without much internal discipline even though my posture was exemplary.

Got my 12-year old son to do "Focus Out" in a sustained way for about 15 minutes as we drove home from Sweet-E's. Made sure I was extra jerky on the brakes to give him some extra Touch to work with, which he reported that he appreciated.

Started a blog: Mastering the Skill of Consciousness ~ Reflections on evolution and consciousness, mindfulness and pragmatic dharma, and recovering from the absent-mindedness which afflicts so much of humanity. Posted a list of topics and questions to explore.

Monday

Did some more work with my son, who is responding with interest to the mindfulness intervention. He maintained his concentration for a 10 minute sitting-still session (Meditation Helper keeping time on his phone) without prompting from me, and reported starting to notice gaps which upon reflection turned out in fact to be restful states in the background of the active states he was noting. Also, he wasn't feeling well, and after only 10 minutes of formal mindfulness he really noticed how tired he was and took a long nap.

Andrew, very cool that you are also thinking of working with your kids. Here is my favorite way of starting with Focus Out: hold your hands in front of you, and clap them together (or of course have your kids do it): presto, Touch, Sight, and Sound at the same time! You can start with that as a teaching piece for distinguishing aspects of experience by focusing selectively on the various aspects of the "same" experience -- you don't have to tell them that this is the first step on the long road of vipassana.

Yes, not only is Shinzen totally cool in person, but his system is also so simple and adaptable that even kids can learn and start to practice appropriately selected parts of it in a very short time. I just recommend sticking to the old one-word labels rather than the compound labels that are in the current practice manual (e.g., teach "Touch" rather than "Feel Out", "Sight" rather than "See Out", etc.) The compounds are great for understanding the grid, but I believe they may introduce subtle problems in actual practice.

As for me, the lack of formal practice is catching up to me and after spending a large block of time dealing with Big Issue all afternoon, I got all triggered and poor Sweet-E caught the brunt of it in the evening. I would like to think it is not as bad as it has been in months and years past, but this is still not how I want to be in the world.

Thursday

Managed 10 minutes of formal practice with my son before he left for school this morning (quite on time, thank you). Scored a wonderful and evocative graphic for the blog. Managed 45 minutes of formal practice myself later this morning, and was pleased with the appearance of sufficient "spontaneous" samadhi to allow a period of the Do Nothing negation of technique to occur. What I am not managing to do is to get my tentatively enlightened ass out the door to go and earn some money... OK, now it is time to get cracking with Do Something practice.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 16
Answer
5/15/12 7:22 PM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :


Got my 12-year old son to do "Focus Out" in a sustained way for about 15 minutes as we drove home from Sweet-E's. Made sure I was extra jerky on the brakes to give him some extra Touch to work with, which he reported that he appreciated.



And now you have made my day. I have a 12 year old too (and a 10 and 8 while on the subject). Randomly, I saved the Five Ways pdf onto a computer I'm setting up for my boys out the back room. It would be indeed the perfect introduction/continuation of mindfulness training (for the young padawans) and sparks the smoldering idea to commit to Shizens system myself (a friend of vipassanaforum politely pointed out my lack of a consistant tradition/technique/teacher, which i 'defended' but have been considering anyway) I particularily like Shinzens humility regarding maps and techniques in that in his critique he includes himself.

I assume that he is in person a worthy teacher from your reports. hmm, ...emoticon

Tarver's Practice Report 17
Answer
5/28/12 2:54 PM as a reply to Tarver .
I have not decided to stop maintaining this log, but I have been behaving as if I had, so I will post this update to stay at least approximately current. Let's say I will fall back to updating this ad-hoc, perhaps weekly. Note that I am not posting monthly practice goals at this time.

I have been sitting formally very little. When I do, I drop quickly and all but effortlessly into surprisingly deep samadhi, and then wander playfully in and out of all kinds of techniques and non-techniques, just because it seems that I can and the novelty of this has not worn off. Following the contours of the interpenetration of (non-)self and all manner of phenomena, I take great delight in being present to the scintillating ephemerality of experience. I am deeply grateful for my understanding of the factuality of reality in all its splendid relativity, and that my own mastery of the skill of consciousness has has now reached the point where I have considerable freedom in how I choose to organize my experience. At the same time it is very plain that there is tremendous potential for learning many, many new (to me) cool and wonderful ways to do this, and that by the same token many, many shadows remain to be illuminated.

A few examples from practice and life:

I sit with eyes closed and become present to the entire field of my experience in all modalities (inner and outer) as a volume of space. I arbitrarily pick out a one-inch cube in the middle, and become present to that, inclining my awareness until my experience is present only to that. Then I again pick out a one-inch cube in the centre of that and repeat, drilling down into the heart of the fractal, going on a little trip from here to nowhere and back. This is fun.

I sit to meditate and very soon notice a feeling of calm and peace. I notice that my face has relaxed into a soft smile like a warm thick blanket casually thrown over a couch, so that the folds of it naturally wrinkle (or perhaps smooth) into the gentle smile. Everything is as it should be. I am uniquely myself, here and now, and yet simultaneously connected to all of humanity. Goodwill, love, and blessing shimmer softly all through me and around me. It is plainly self-evident that I am some kind of buddha. This is my actual experience. Sweet-E arrives with the magic dog, and I don't move or say anything right away. She remarks later that "Yeah, you were in some kind of zone there, weren't you?"

I chair a meeting of a small committee to review the governance documents of a community organization. Acutely aware that one of my favorite aspects of the essence of humanity is to organize experience through thematic speech, I allow myself to sink into a full-on participatory experience of being human, with my leadership interpenetrating and riffing off the contributions and perspectives of the others. The committee totally blows itself away with how much we accomplish in one sitting. Afterwards, one man expresses his delight with how astonishingly well it went and says that whatever that consciousness thing is that I have been working on, that seems to be working out.

As I go about my day, I keep catching myself making a very soft vocalization once in a while, just "Hmmm...." with a moment of relaxation and joy. It seems familiar. Where have I heard this before? Where did I learn this? Finally, I can place it. This is the sound Goenka makes when he pauses at the end of the Discourses, after everyone has said Sadhu, as he looks out upon his world, and sees that it is good.

I get my 12 year old son to sit in formal meditation for 30 minutes, noting silently to himself. His noting vocabulary now includes "Touch, Sight, Sound; Feel, Image, Talk; Rest, Gone, and dog." He reports that he was able to maintain the practice for well over half the sitting time, appreciates the video-game quality of it, and provides practice reports entirely consistent with what one might expect from any serious meditator. For example, whereas I noted the ending bell as "Gone" with respect to the session as a whole, he reported a delay in noting it as "Sound"; in other words, although he missed that particular ball, he is so definitely in the game. I am so proud of him and I love him so very dearly. I came up with an analogy for him about what to look for apropos jhana, how attention can be like a marble in a saucer. When you get it lined up just right, the marble basically stays in the bottom of the saucer even if the saucer is gently disturbed; the bottom of the saucer can be any object of meditation. To demonstrate this, we worked out a pet-the-dog meditation to try in the future, making the sensations of the hands in contact with the dog the object, sneaking in vipassana by setting the intention to divide those sensations into their component elements; we will try this soon.

Prompted by a suggestion in another thread, I listened to the "Hurricane Ranch" recording of the conversation between Tarin and Daniel about AF, which I just can't remember whether I have heard before. If so, certainly not from the perspective I have today. The whole thing made perfect sense to me. I am still digesting it, but my first impression is, yeah, as soon as you point that out there is no particular reason not to do that, and as you say it makes great sense and why would you do anything else, since that is so obviously better? (There might be reasons, but I can see the point.) Here are a couple of guys trading assertions about how they have learned to organize their experience. Nothing inherently unusual about it, except of course the stratospheric level of mastery of the skill of consciousness. Cool. At the same time, I can pick out a few traces of a certain inefficient thrashing and groping, which these guys surely would not tolerate if they were aware of it, seeing as their favorite hobby if not their entire lifestyle is all about improving the quality of their experience. I would like nothing more than to articulate what I see in clear unambiguous helpful non-controversial loving easily-understood-by-anybody kind of language. That is going to take disciplined thinking, reflexion, and all of my skill. The thing I want to say has never been said before. It is up to me to state it originally and creatively. I am consciously participating in the most universal of all human experiences -- working out what I mean.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
Answer
5/28/12 3:42 PM as a reply to Tarver .
At the same time, I can pick out a few traces of a certain inefficient thrashing and groping, which these guys surely would not tolerate if they were aware of it, seeing as their favorite hobby if not their entire lifestyle is all about improving the quality of their experience. I would like nothing more than to articulate what I see in clear unambiguous helpful non-controversial loving easily-understood-by-anybody kind of language. That is going to take disciplined thinking, reflexion, and all of my skill. The thing I want to say has never been said before. It is up to me to state it originally and creatively. I am consciously participating in the most universal of all human experiences -- working out what I mean.


i'm excited to hear it

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
Answer
5/29/12 10:31 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
i'm excited to hear it


Me too. This is hard, but worthwhile. Let me be the first to admit, also, that I am doing plenty of thrashing and groping here myself!

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
Answer
5/29/12 8:06 PM as a reply to Tarver .
My only comment/ unasked for advice, is to let things unfold at a practice friendly pace. Derwart's life work is over now, and as much as it's usefulness is there in what he left behind, it is Tarver's turn. Make sure you are not on a crusade for the sake of it, is what I mean to say. They are very seductive - crusades.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
Answer
5/29/12 10:22 PM as a reply to Tarver .
I just read your practice post and it was amazing! emoticon

Very well written and I loved reading it and hearing about your experience and your progress! emoticon

Thanks for sharing! I don't usually respond to your posts, but I do read them.

But this one was amazing - thank you for writing it! I shall return to read it again sometime, because it was so beautiful and uplifting! emoticon

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
Answer
5/30/12 4:00 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Hey Tarver,

Just a thought. I don't know if you got Stream-Entry yet, but-

You might want to consider aiming for Arahatship instead.

And by the whole aim higher than your goal principle, you might get to Stream-Entry a lot faster.

Or not.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
Answer
5/30/12 7:07 AM as a reply to James Yen.
The tone and substance of my last practice report, plus the warm reception I am getting from Sweet E and others, plus the fact that I feel motivated to share the best "dharma" that I know, plus the fact that I have formally given myself until May 1 of next year to call it one way or the other (and thus dropped the push on that front), all suggest stream entry. Or not. Whatever. I am integrating whatever it is that I have recently attained. In the meantime, what may look to others like a "crusade" feels to me like an appropriate level of interest in an important topic, a choice to take up a responsibility which happens to fall to me to make, to seek a way to make use of and disseminate an insight which is no more and no less than yet another garden-variety major breakthrough in the unfolding of humanity's understanding of itself. This happens all the time to people; it just happens to be happening to me.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
Answer
5/31/12 12:58 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Stream entry- do you believe in the cosmology that makes that desirable?. Either way you have had a significant 'base line shift' as many would say (I'm thinking of Nick specifically, but have not done an exhaustive study on the origin of the term in pragmatic circles...haha) -'Baseline shift'- nice term I think- pragmatic and non-sectarian. That is not unclear in your experience is it?. Unless you are a buddhist, then 'stream entry' has a funny ring to it as an attainment. you may as well say you were 'born again or baptised in the spirit'...

as far as looking like you are on a crusade, that is for you to decide. Word like 'responsibility' are dangerous things if they don't refer to our children and things we can actually control in some way.

You are doing a fine job of 'spreading the word' (haha, that's a pun, how clever..), I'm benefiting from the discussing of 'assertive communication giving rise to the sense of self', I would only suggest that you save some energy for practice, what if you have levelled out in a highly equanimous phase and this energy you are currently injecting into your blog would be better spent 'putting the nail in the coffin' of ever relapsing into depressive states? just a thought gleaned from a year of reading these forums, there is always more.

Just an idea though mate, I'm a complete stranger and know nothing of what you are going through save words on the screen, and as we both know (you more than me) they are for the most part completely reflexive and 'self defining' rather than any sort of 'true thing'.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
Answer
5/31/12 10:15 AM as a reply to Andrew ..
Andrew Jones:
Stream entry- do you believe in the cosmology that makes that desirable?


Baldly stated, no, and that's just it: if I have attained anything, it is in spite of the cosmology surrounding it. Got a huge leg up from MCTB which, in case you haven't noticed, doesn't even mention dependent origination (except once obliquely to locate the teaching with respect to the three kayas). What "baseline shift" gains in neutrality and therefore acceptability it loses again in vagueness, much like the term "mindfulness meditation." A classic trade-off. I would say -- here I am, in fact saying -- that I have attained an "entry-level" clinically significant reduction in absent-mindedness, which corresponds recognizably to what others describe as characteristic of an early stage in the onset of classical enlightenment, perhaps even a (the?) crucial tipping-point.

Now that you mention it, I was also "baptized in the spirit" long ago, around the age of 11, when I was a Christian. Very seriously, it was an enormous huge big deal at the time. I have retained the formal commitment I made at that time, in some form, however abstractly, to be a "good person" ever since. If this stuff is for real, so to speak, no single culture or tradition is going to have a corner on it. By the same token, the effectiveness of views and techniques for getting desirable results is likely to vary widely. That just makes sense, and is readily observed in the vast field of people seeking to adjust to themselves, each other, and our world, now that our species has transcended evolution through natural selection.

Yeah, practice. Thanks for the reminder. That's what friends are for. emoticon I have been sitting up to an hour a day for the last few days. Same old same old: the edge always feels messy. Right now I am working on generating compassion for the guy working on the renovation immediately below me (the ceiling having been removed, and with it the last pretense of acoustic isolation), who finds it necessary to play an objectively atrocious radio station really loudly in order to keep himself sufficiently concentrated to do what he needs to do.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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5/31/12 8:52 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Haha, I was also 'baptised in the spirit' at 10. Small world, spiritually speaking.* I can still speak in tongues, which is basically jibberish that anyone can do, but highly rated in some circles. It most likely has a similar effect to noting really fast, knocks out the usual 'self definition circuit for a while an lets you notice that 'You are here'. (whatever you are)

Anyway, sounds like you have some crap music to catch up listening to for free, I won't hold you up.





*bonus points if you picked up the 'Brother, Where art Thou?' reference.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUMDMjqang0&feature=related

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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6/2/12 9:04 AM as a reply to Tarver .
I took a few minutes to look around the Actual Freedom website. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. The critique of traditional practices is brilliant. The proposed solution (which I do not doubt for one second "works" for some people), in spite of its claims, is right back at the point of departure. This is going to take a while to tease apart and explain. So close and yet so far. There is yet hope -- lots of it! All is well, and I love you all.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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6/2/12 11:01 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Tarver, congratulations on your baseline shift and thanks for your sincere and thoughtful record.

In light of the context, I hesitate to make a sort of nitpicky comment, but I guess that's just my conditioning. :b

...Now that our species has transcended evolution through natural selection.


Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but I think this is definitely not true. Noam Chomsky points out in the introduction to Hegemony or Survival, that it remains to be seen whether human intelligence is an evolutionary advantage in terms of longevity of the species. With loose nukes, the militarization of space, and climate change... there is ample room for doubt. Maybe 'crusades' like yours will make the difference?

The discussion of evolution in the context of awakening seems to me only loosely related to Darwin's theory at best.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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6/3/12 2:59 AM as a reply to Some Guy.
Thanks for the note, J B.

Chomsky certainly comes up a few times in Dewart's book, which concludes on exactly that note, that there is nothing guaranteed about the continued success of the human species in evolutionary terms. The choices appear to be: we either move towards more highly conscious self-definition, which is to say we increase our autonomy, or we disappear from the face of the planet. Chomsky is an interesting guy. His "deep structure" in grammar, for which he is famous, is one of the most egregiously extreme manifestations of the ethnocentrism of the semantic complex ever explicitly stated, attributing to most of humanity a speech characteristic that in fact only appears in a tiny minority of cases (Indo-European and Sumerian). And yet I gather that Chomsky's more recent work departs significantly from his earlier. I have not read the book you mention.

We have most definitely "transcended" evolution through natural selection, in the sense that the evolution of our consciousness is no longer dependent on or reducible to the evolution of the organic apparatus which provides the experiential basis for our consciousness. Dewart explains in great detail how, if one fails to distinguish conscious from non-conscious experience, is inclined to reduce effects to their causes, absent-mindedly overlooks the assertiveness of speech and reduces speech to language, etc., then yes of course it will be hard to explain how humans differ from animals, and the significance of Darwin's non-deterministic yet perfectly causal explanation of emergent phenomena will be hard to grasp let alone integrate. Once these points are appreciated, however, then what Dewart is saying about the nature and evolution of human consciousness and what pragmatic dharma people are saying about awakening being a natural stage of development or maturation that for whatever reason only a minority of people actually seem to attain, but which a sufficient dose of certain practices can precipitate; well, these two perspectives seem so strongly and self-evidently complementary that I have taken it upon myself to call some attention to E&C so that I can find a few people to talk to about it, so we can all figure out how to do it better.

By the way, I prefer, say, "initiative" to "crusade". emoticon

I am only just starting to get the first glimmers of practice-oriented ideas for harnessing Dewart's theory, and what I have come up with so far (besides obviously the whole noting piece) is to simply seek to distinguish act of experience from object of experience within the same moment of consciousness, because when I catch myself doing that, it is almost invariably in the context of a moment of profound appreciation of "right-now-ness" which is well on the way to what a lot of other people seem to be getting really excited about as PCE-type territory. Of course it's nice, but it doesn't seem like a big deal, because it's perfectly normal, right? That's exactly what I would expect to happen if I emerge from absent-mindedness. Its the regular dazzled-by-the-objects type of awareness that is problematic, even though a lot of traditional meditation instructions promote exactly that, even to the point of trying to attain "non-dual awareness".

It further occurs to me that perhaps the rupa jhanas are inclined towards experience of object (but not act), arupa jhanas are inclined towards act of experience (but not object), and AF practitioners don't get jhanas because they are integrating the field. Just a thought.

And seriously, thanks again for the note. I find it very easy to respond to short, specific comments, but in the other thread I am wracking my brain for days to try to figure out how to handle the open-ended (albeit perfectly reasonable!) questions. I don't want to be rude and ignore people, but neither am I sure how to respond sometimes except to little slivers.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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6/3/12 8:18 AM as a reply to Tarver .
We have most definitely "transcended" evolution through natural selection, in the sense that the evolution of our consciousness is no longer dependent on or reducible to the evolution of the organic apparatus which provides the experiential basis for our consciousness.


That's probably true regarding consciousness, but doesn't have much to do with the survival of the fittest species or natural selection of genetic mutations. Consciousness, from the point of view of Darwinism, is an interesting side-effect. In fact, Darwin considered the word evolution a misnomer which he allowed to appease the religious folks of his time. The idea that evolution is a process toward greater moral perfection, or neural complexity, or self-awareness, is a misconception. Bacteria have always been the winners of the Darwinian race. Most adaptable, most numerous life-form.

The side-effect of this conversation is that now I have to go check out Dewart to make sure I'm not talking out of my arse.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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6/3/12 10:33 AM as a reply to Some Guy.
You are absolutely right! Evolution has no pre-defined goals. Moreover, consciousness is a behaviour, a skill, a quality; not something like a fine mist that permeates space and simply settles in higher concentrations in things like human brains, as well as settling in lower concentrations in objects, rendering them intelligible. But rooting out and amending the pervasive vestiges of this kind of thinking (especially from religion) is a massive undertaking that only a few of the sciences have even been remotely successful at, so far. It is precisely the incongruities that indicate where to look for productive insights.

I wouldn't discount side-effects. After all, life itself could be considered nothing but a curious side effect of the operation and interaction of the properties of physics and chemistry. We don't get much satisfaction from thinking of ourselves as "nothing but" a self-sustaining chemical reaction that persists for however many decades, however, even though that is strictly speaking true. The emergent properties, the non-reducible properties, are the interesting part. And yet there is something (painstakingly exposed by Dewart) built right into the very way we think, that makes it hard for us to see this.

We are still subject to genetic mutation and all the usual "survival of the fittest" kinds of mechanisms that we and every other life form have always been, but for us (provided we don't physically wipe ourselves out, which has recently emerged as a distinct possibility) it is practically irrelevant. The barest minimum of consciousness is demonstrably overkill when it comes to organic survival -- witness the recent human population explosion. What we now adapt to, what we "select" for, is not adaptation to the natural world but adaptation to ourselves. What makes the human species so unique is that we have interiorized the process of evolution and learned to sing the song in a new key, as it were, transposed into a human mode. It is more important for a human being to be congruent with themselves in terms of meaning, purpose, identity, etc., than it is even to survive organically. The tragedy and absurdity of war, suicide, and countless other examples suddenly make sense when this non-reductionistic understanding of human nature is accommodated.

J B:
The side-effect of this conversation is that now I have to go check out Dewart to make sure I'm not talking out of my arse.

Ah, see: sometimes the side-effect can become the main point! To help get you started, at my blog, I have posted two summaries of Dewart's work in his own words, as well as recordings of me reading same in MP3 format to make them maximally accessible. But if at all possible I recommend the book. It goes into great detail, for example, on everything from how to decipher McLuhan's saying that "the medium is the message" to why God got called Yahweh and how the whole point then got lost in translation.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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6/3/12 2:34 PM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :
Consciousness is a behaviour, a skill, a quality; not something like a fine mist that permeates space and simply settles in higher concentrations in things like human brains, as well as settling in lower concentrations in objects, rendering them intelligible.

 Tarver :
Rooting out and amending the pervasive vestiges of this kind of thinking (especially from religion) is a massive undertaking that only a few of the sciences have even been remotely successful at, so far.

 Tarver :
Life itself could be considered nothing but a curious side effect of the operation and interaction of the properties of physics and chemistry.

 Tarver :
We don't get much satisfaction from thinking of ourselves as "nothing but" a self-sustaining chemical reaction that persists for however many decades, however, even though that is strictly speaking true.

 Tarver :
There is something (painstakingly exposed by Dewart) built right into the very way we think, that makes it hard for us to see this.

 Tarver :
We are still subject to genetic mutation and all the usual "survival of the fittest" kinds of mechanisms that we and every other life form have always been, but for us (provided we don't physically wipe ourselves out, which has recently emerged as a distinct possibility) it is practically irrelevant.

 Tarver :
What we now adapt to, what we "select" for, is not adaptation to the natural world but adaptation to ourselves.

 Tarver :
What makes the human species so unique is that we have interiorized the process of evolution and learned to sing the song in a new key, as it were, transposed into a human mode.

 Tarver :
It is more important for a human being to be congruent with themselves in terms of meaning, purpose, identity, etc., than it is even to survive organically.

 Tarver :
I recommend the book. It goes into great detail, for example, on everything from how to decipher McLuhan's saying that "the medium is the message" to why God got called Yahweh and how the whole point then got lost in translation.


This is from one post. I have some thoughts about this; I don't know how best to express myself, but I'll take a stab.

The quotes above amount to a world-view. Does one need to adopt such a world-view to understand Dewart's paradigm shifting discovery? I hope you see where I'm going with that. And this stinks of scientific materialism, which has received it's fair share of criticism.

Cognitive resonance or harmony is nice and all that, but what happened to "right view is no view"?

Hmm... I find this doesn't do justice to my thoughts about the quotes, but I'll leave it here incase you do text-induced telepathy.

What's the gist? Is it (ie. Dewarts paradigm shifting discovery) so complex that it necessitates such a specific and far-reaching view? What about parsimony, succinctness?

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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6/3/12 3:16 PM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
What am I to say? I like this view. It makes sense to me. Contemplating it and attempting to explain it brings me joy. The more clearly I understand it, the happier I get, the more compassion I develop for others, and the more inspired I become to take positive action in the world. I too am taking stabs at expressing myself. A succinct expression of my experience will emerge from practice, and many drafts, maybe. Also, people are unlikely to understand succinct expressions of new ideas, assimilating them back to what they already know. I hope in the short term that one or more people emerge who read the book carefully so that I can stop being the only one who sees something cool and useful here and has read the text. I hope in the medium term that we can find fruitful ways of putting these insights to use. I hope in the long term that the human species overcomes absent-mindedness, stops being a hazard to itself, comes into sustainable equilibrium with the natural environment, and flourishes happily and largely if not entirely free from ignorantly self-created suffering.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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6/3/12 7:20 PM as a reply to Tarver .
I am detecting something which might be recoil in your reply. I re-read my posts to you (both in this thread and the conspectus thread) and it occurs to me that I seem demanding, maybe even demeaning. For this I apologize. Let me re-state some of my questions here (I don't want to interrupt the nice thing Nikolai has going in the other thread, even though that thread might be more concerned with what I have to ask).

(a)

Does one need to adopt a certain world-view to understand Dewart's paradigm shifting discovery?

What is the nature of this discovery? Is it such that it make sense of something on a high level in an already quite developed "model of everything"? Is it a simple, down-to-earth discovery with immediate practical application?

I read a review of E&C and the reviewer say this:

Gregory Nixon:
In my view, such wide reading [of the book] never took place because of bad marketing and because, like all great philosophy, it is a damned demanding tome. This is a work of high philosophy indeed by one of our major intellects who sees clearly and unsparingly and truthfully.


His stance that all great and high philosophy is necessarily demanding and requires great intellectual training, is a notion I don't agree with. As I see it, the pinnacle of philosophy is insight. Insight comes as an "aha!", and though the consequences might be grave, the insight itself is always feather light, penetrative and no matter whether it is intuitive or counter-intuitive it is always simple.

Is Dewarts discovery simple in this way, or does it require one to keep several threads of logic and a conceptual house of cards to understand and/or make use of it?


(b)

It seems to me that you are either promoting several things as "the thing" that defines this discovery, or that these things are variations of the underlying essence of the discovery:
  • to understand the difference between mere experience and self-present experience
  • that consciousness is a skill and the implications of that
  • that speech is prior to consciousness and the implications of that


(c)

Some of the things you write has an uncanny resemblance to what I have come to call apperception, which is nothing new to this world. I'm very tempted to create a thread to discuss this word and it's meaning more thoroughly, but I don't have time right now to give it what I deem an appropriate treatment.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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6/4/12 7:38 AM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :
Evolution has no pre-defined goals.


"Evolution," as used by Darwin - and I think it's fair to assume that the term refers to Darwin's theory - has a very specific purpose: survival and reproduction. This is not at all what you're talking about. Like I said, this is a niggling point, in a way, but I think it goes to credibility.

Anyway, sorry for hijacking.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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6/4/12 12:52 PM as a reply to Some Guy.
J B:
 Tarver :
Evolution has no pre-defined goals.


"Evolution," as used by Darwin - and I think it's fair to assume that the term refers to Darwin's theory - has a very specific purpose: survival and reproduction. This is not at all what you're talking about. Like I said, this is a niggling point, in a way, but I think it goes to credibility.

Anyway, sorry for hijacking.


I am going to start a new thread, perhaps in T&T, where we can continue to discuss this so I can re-claim my practice thread for reflexions on my personal process.

As for your query, from the point of view of my personal process, as this is my practice thread, after all: I am torn between flatly contradicting you (with or without fluster and strong language) and risk offending and/or alienating you; referring you to the relevant pages of E&C where the point is painstakingly explained, with detailed citations and maybe even quoting entire passages verbatim; writing a long and detailed essay to unpack it which may in any case help me rehearse the explanation and eventually pare it down to a terse riposte; dancing the happy dance that you are so smart and observant or intuitive or for whatever reason have picked out a point so central and critical and vital to the whole enterprise; or just hanging my head in my hands and giving up because the mistaken view, the pervasive blunder, the fog of absent-mindedness, is just so deeply rooted and widespread that even if I do manage to explain it to you, what hope is there that the Wrong View may be overcome on a large enough scale before it is too late? Seeing as how I see right in what you have written evidence of the kind of thinking which, spread wide, is resulting in the burgeoning environmental crisis which compromises my son's chances of living any kind of reasonable life into his old age, I take this as immediate, pressing, urgent, vital, extremely important. How can I possibly retain my composure and equanimity, "stay in love", and calmly, smilingly keep working on this until the job is done? This is my challenge, the challenge that I have woken up to.

So this is my personal reaction to your comment. Redirection to new thread and substantive response forthcoming...

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 17
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6/4/12 1:28 PM as a reply to Stian Gudmundsen Høiland.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
I am detecting something which might be recoil in your reply. I re-read my posts to you (both in this thread and the conspectus thread) and it occurs to me that I seem demanding, maybe even demeaning. For this I apologize.

That is really big of you. Yes, I suppose there was some "recoil", now that you mention it; sorry for that on my part. I was tapping the last response on a Tablet rather than a proper keyboard so it was harder to shape the text for nuance, and in this my practice thread, I feel less constrained about indulging and expressing my point of view, as such. In any case, I am absurdly grateful for the push, however, because you guys -- individually and collectively -- are providing a challenge which I invited, and against which I am clarifying my thinking and skill at saying what I mean.

Let's move this discussion here.

Tarver's Practice Report 18
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6/17/12 7:27 AM as a reply to Tarver .
I met yesterday with about 25 other Shin-heads, which is to say Shinzen's Toronto & GTA (Greater Toronto Area) sangha, at a lovely private home in Oakville for several hours of sitting, a fabulous pot-luck feast lunch, a dip in the pool, and noble conversation.

I am reluctant to describe what actually happens when I sit for sustained periods these days, lest it sound pretentious. I move fluidly through the 5 Ways, and whichever approach I take it seems pretty profound and not at all hard. Noteworthy yesterday was one session of sitting with music and attending to Image and Talk in response to the stimulus, and a period of Focus on Positive (essentially metta) which was subjectively quite intense in a pleasant way. I am finding that during and after any sustained sitting such as yesterday's (although I also have to admit that I toy with this, and don't work too hard to try to stop it) I am pushed to the edge of my capacity to maintain equanimity with respect to the high quality of coherent, productive, lucid, insightful content that seems to get stirred up within me. It's like the "monkeys" of my monkey-mind have all come together as a diligent team of post-docs cranking out one research paper after another, riffing on the implications of their recent fresh insights and working cooperatively. Nice problem to have -- but seriously, this phenomenon is intense and disconcerting enough to actually feel problematic. I would do well to remember that some instructions never change, including the one about Content vs Insight.

I mentioned in preliminary and sketchy outline what I have been working with in terms of extending the dimension of Flow to include Relativity and Purpose, and was warmly received. The idea is that Flow captures the classic "mark" of anicca, but two other aspects of experience are also suitable and fruitful candidates for objects of meditation, pervasively across the rest of the Grid:

Relativity (corresponding to anatta) is that aspect of all experience that every figure is not it's ground, and every object of attention is not every other object. Of particular interest is the otherness structured into every conscious experience, where the object is other than the act, and other to both is the negative space within which the (not-)self arises.

Purpose (or meaning) is another pervasive aspect of all experience, corresponding to dukkha. One place to notice this is in the gradient of Talk, from passive burble/babble past a certain tipping point where the tone shifts and meaningful talk starts being generated (keyword: assertiveness). Beyond that, however, all objects of experience are in some respect or another somewhere on a scale of Purpose, either congruent with or antithetical to my narrative of what is or should be going on. The thing to notice is that the meaning is not in the object, but in my experience of it; discrepancies in this narrative are as good a way as any other to describe fundamental suffering. In other words, I can put up with just about anything if it makes sense, but if and to the extent that it doesn't, right there: that's where I suffer. This is the subtlest point (compared to Flow and Relativity), but the one the Buddha actually started with because it is, well, the most meaningful to us.

Tarver's Practice Report 19
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6/24/12 2:09 PM as a reply to Tarver .
The Tarvisattva has sprouted eight extra arms and a spare head or two as he tears into the business of helping humanity emerge from its ignorance and misery. Being new at this, the extra limbs keep getting tangled and the results are modest to date. Updates to the to-do list and calender smartphone applications might help keep things organized.

A couple of really smart cool guys have appeared via the blogging activity who have not only read Dewart but actually met and studied quite deeply with him and are interested in discussing this stuff with me. I am snowed in with great and relevant material to read and consider, and testing their indulgence with long emails in which I organize my experience by writing it out.

Responding directly to some of this material (in particular, an extraordinarily helpful 1983 Master's Thesis taking stock of Dewart's early work), I have tweaked the statement of my personal mission of service as follows: "I create a world of truth by mastering the skill of consciousness." I am mentioning it here simply to document it, with only the most cursory mention that this is apt to be grossly misunderstood by anyone who fails to appreciate the syntactic (as opposed to the semantic) perspective within which it is framed. From this point of view, truth only incidentally implies correspondence to the facts whatever they may be; much more significantly it concerns itself with the adequacy of consciousness's adjustment to itself, prospectively, and its capacity to continue to develop. This revision "revealed itself to me" (obviously I thought it up, but that's what it subjectively felt like) during the course of participating in a recording of Shinzen guiding a Nurture Positive exercise.

I participated in a live session of Shinzen's Facilitator Training Program yesterday, the first half of the module on "Focus on Rest". It was anything but restful for me, as I also purchased the previous two programs on "Focus In" and "Focus Out" and scrambled to catch up on a few months of work in 48 hours. Feels like grad school all over again, but the wisdom of age does not quite compensate for the stamina of youth.

A number of people have recently expressed interest in studying formally with me, and I am gearing up to hang out a shingle and start teaching more than casually. (Dare I call myself the "Stream Entry School of Toronto"? Naw, that would freak people out too much -- or maybe it would simply filter for those who are serious?) Shinzen has worked out so many aspects of the pedagogical nitty-gritty that it would be plainly foolish to do anything but try it his way "by the book" at least at first, but learning his techniques at the teacher level is a non-trivial undertaking.

Meanwhile, I am continuing to work on articulating the integration of Ingram's exposition of the map(s) of the progress of insight and emphasis on the three characteristics with Dewart's presentation of the empirically derived categorical concepts based on the self-presence of consciousness with Shinzen's sensory grid and techniques of practice. This is not a simple program that I am likely to dash off in a single afternoon, in terms of actually writing it out for others to understand, follow, and benefit from -- it is, however, a fairly succinct description of my own practice. This remains, after all, a practice thread.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 19
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6/24/12 7:20 PM as a reply to Tarver .
i received my copy of E&C and having read the first chapter or two, spent sunday afternoon pleasantly enjoying 'consciousness presented to itself', If you break it down to a single word, it is 'wonder'. a type of elevated curiosity that becomes aware primarily of it's own function if it is allowed to. hence natural surroundings are best for noticing it, or a shopping mall with the kids at a pinch.

It is a better description of what is being called 'apperception' than any i have read so far. although it is not for the faint hearted (minded?), heavy going, until it sinks in that you must put each page literally into practice before moving on. I was stopping at each paragraph myself and contemplating it while looking around the room to get a handle on what he is describing. it is slippery stuff.

for him to have conceived and written this stuff without a high level of conscious skill himself would be some sort of miracle. it complements af related practice nicely by filling in the flakey intelectual writings of the aft with some far better analysis. and allows me to put fully into practice not being an 'actualist' which has been my personal 'revelation' all along. Iconoclastic thought needs to be maintained out of the reach of identity.

paradigm shift indeed.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 19
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6/24/12 8:22 PM as a reply to Andrew ..
Andrew, I am glad you are enjoying E&C!

Once one groks that consciousness is in no way re-presentative, but simply self-present, then non-dual experience is as simple as looking out at the room; and yes, there is a joy and wonder in that. It's not that there is no subject and object -- there is a relativity, but it isn't problematic -- there is just no elusive "inner world" mirroring the outer world; that was simply an artifact of an absent-minded projection of the activity of experiencing onto the objects of experience. There most certainly is, however, a rich world of meaning to be explored self-presently.

I completely agree that it must have taken quite a level of conscious skill to write the book. The flip side, I am afraid, is that it also takes at least a moderate level of skill to read it.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 19
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6/24/12 9:16 PM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :

Once one groks that consciousness is in no way re-presentative, but simply self-present, then non-dual experience is as simple as looking out at the room; and yes, there is a joy and wonder in that. It's not that there is no subject and object -- there is a relativity, but it isn't problematic -- there is just no elusive "inner world" mirroring the outer world; that was simply an artifact of an absent-minded projection of the activity of experiencing onto the objects of experience. There most certainly is, however, a rich world of meaning to be explored self-presently.

I completely agree that it must have taken quite a level of conscious skill to write the book. The flip side, I am afraid, is that it also takes at least a moderate level of skill to read it.


Yes indeed, but if you keep summarizing as well as you have in this quote, then that problem will be a 'non-problem' of an imaginary inner world soon enough!

that is it right there, no re-presentation. no message, no transmission. the subject and object are not the problem, that consciousness itself is taken for granted is. once one reflects deliberately on the act, it creates a pleasant loop.

I can get glimpse of it 'looping' but it is slippery as the attention returns to the subject or object.

were is your blog again? have you got a forum going on it at all?

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 19
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6/25/12 12:08 AM as a reply to Andrew ..
Andrew Jones:
I can get glimpse of it 'looping' but it is slippery as the attention returns to the subject or object.

were is your blog again? have you got a forum going on it at all?

It would not be fair to oneself to expect the habits of a lifetime of absent-mindedness to clear up in an instant. But in my experience, once you know where to look, progress can be rapid. Wait until you get to the parts of the book that explain how the experience of speech generates consciousness (by organizing experience), and take that back to noting practice (or asking HAIETMOBA for that matter) with a now-conscious understanding of assertiveness.

Looking forward to your reports. I am subscribed to your practice thread; I can follow you there. emoticon

Blog is at: Mastering the Skill of Consciousness. No forum yet. Just tinkering with setting one up using Forumotion. Funny you should ask!

Tarver's Practice Report 20
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7/29/12 11:49 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Sitting only occasionally, but having no trouble dropping into any kind of samadhi I like when I do and indeed having a bit of fun with it. For example, surfing the dimensionless edge between the existence and non-existence of God, or balancing at the fine point of inflection between the boundless expanse of retrospective error and prospective truth.

I have realized yet again what I have always known, that an aspect of my development which I don't like but would do well to face squarely is the financial dimension of my life in this world. Leveraging such progress as I have made in mindfulness, I am turning my attention to the problem of supporting myself and being of service to others, as measured numerically, in money. Although it would seem that this should be easier than the "problem" of enlightenment, for me defining and attaining an adequate level of material prosperity (freedom from debt, etc.) seems harder. I recently heard a wise person say that "I don't wanna" stopped being a valid excuse for failing to do the next right thing sometime around the age of four. Having matured at least to some degree spiritually, it is now incumbent upon me to do so in other areas of my life as well.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 20
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7/29/12 7:58 PM as a reply to Tarver .
I know what you mean, well half what you mean, not the bit about samadhi, just the bit about doing what it right regarding career.

I have been thinking to myself 'what is necessary is sensible', any feeling pointing away from what I have deemed rational is questioned. Whatever defies the intellectually sound idea of 'conatus' - doing what is needed to continue in existence as a human being in this world, doing what is needed by my family etc - is challenged, leading inexorably to this moment of being a working man!



perhaps I can share with you the joys of Spinoza;

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/spinoza/benedict/ethics/

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/spinoza/benedict/understanding/index.html

I find his biography very encouraging; that such as young man would use his intellect so thoroughly, and in the light of what method I use these days, his words encourage me immensely to trust 'what follows of necessity' as being indeed worth of my full attention.


Also,
I really appreciated the link to E-prime the other day and tips on 'assertive noting'. This morning while contemplating it (noting) while doing it, my 'conversation' with my 18month old niece yesterday came to mind simultaneously with a nostalgic ache as I felt what it is like to be a child learning consciousness in an environment less than cheerful myself.

One has the opportunity through simple 'noun and verb' noting to bring oneself up again - relearning consciousness, in a cheerful environment of ones own making.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 20
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7/30/12 12:24 AM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :
I recently heard a wise person say that "I don't wanna" stopped being a valid excuse for failing to do the next right thing sometime around the age of four. Having matured at least to some degree spiritually, it is now incumbent upon me to do so in other areas of my life as well.


I was thinking about this, against the background concept of 'assertive noting and early childhood development' and I wonder how wise the dismissal of ' I don't wanna' is without finding out why 'i don't wanna'.

I was also simultaneously Noting in a kindly and cheerful manner, creating a pleasant naivete.

If 'i don't wanna' has at it's heart a 4 year olds reasoning, then when those 'inadequate ideas' are purged and adequate ideas (those imitating immanent reality -things of necessity- and reason) are instilled, one could expect to experience 'i don't wanna' as less than the impelling 'reason' it currently presents. One could imagine that 'i don't wanna' was a quality of the teacher's manner that one was brought up (parented) with and learnt to imitate, and all instructions to the contrary, has persisted due to the flaw in ontological language, vis-a-vis, the job is boring! The emotion created through the conditional resultants of imitation of the physical posture*, while that posture finds justification by the assertion of 'isness' of the state, when the 'isness' has no essential reality. Does aversion behaviour, like self, expresses 'phase'?; that inherent in the state it's own demise lurks?. The phase rarely expresses apart from it triggers, (such as in reflective thought one generally has no 'boredom'), so un-examination (reaction) of 'i dont' wanna' results in 'i should, so I'm gunna', the opposite 'isness' (it is not/should not) invokes the momentum to keep the phase in motion. As we are rarely alone, even if we do not invoke the opposite 'isness' some bastard surely will...rather than seeing it as unstable and changeableness of behaviour we push and pull at description; "I don't wanna' is not a valid excuse" when 'I don't wanna' needed no such additional layering, rather simply the time to understand 'why'.

Why don't I wanna? Why this behaviour in the face of immanent necessity? Maybe I always did wanna, and this behaviour of 'not wanna-ing' expresses how I thought it goes. I express my 'wanna' in the most socially approve of manner, but not 'wanna-ing' Certainly everyone else was doing it this way - they all can't be wrong could they? (!)

Back to the 4 year old then- So what if, as the childhood reflexes are subsumed by 'maturity' of the prefrontal cortex, the example and assertion (teacher) were aimed towards reason and immanent necessity -in a cheerful manner, rather than distracted instruction and abstract futures half dreamed through vacant looks?

Do we get a chance to 'bring ourselves up' again?. Noting cheerfully with innocent wonder, guided by reason and immanent necessity?

The job has nothing of 'boredom' at it's essence, 'boredom' behaviour rather overlays the job. 'I don't wanna' behaves, rather than 'is'. Relearning how my 'wanna' can be expressed leaves my job exonerated.



Work in progress as always.


*literally we imitated the facial/emotional expressions (from others) and asserted it as being directly correlated with the task at hand, or the task imagined.

edit: footnotes changed to actually make some sense. x 2 removed stray asterix. x3 getting fussy. Should close browser now...

Tarver's Practice Report 21
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9/19/12 7:23 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Have been sitting a bit more lately, mostly getting up early and having the time, so why not? Mostly practising Do Nothing.

Sweet-E is signed up for her first Goenka in December and I am planning to attend Shinzen's week-long at Mount Carmel in November. We are looking forward to those, and I have been going over my notes to brief her a bit about how to hit the retreat in the most productive way. (Not that I am her formal Teacher or anything, but it only seems to make sense to share the gist of what has worked, especially the idea of the Maps.) Funny how I was squinting at and poring over those very same documents a bit less than a year ago, and they seem pretty clear and self-evident to me now, notwithstanding my long-standing quibbles over Right View.

I have not been staying current with DhO, and have no idea what's up on the rest of the forum.

Overall, I am calmer, more focused, and more productive than I think I have ever been in my life. I am holding back on "new projects" for a while and putting the burn on tying up loose ends, de-cluttering, and re-tooling. Whatever I "did to my head" in the intensive effort documented above in this thread has been paying dividends, and I get the feeling that this is a burgeoning trend that is only getting under way.

Tarver's Practice Report 22
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12/2/12 1:36 PM as a reply to Tarver .
What is the ASCII equivalent of simply holding up a flower and smiling?

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 22
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12/4/12 8:13 AM as a reply to Tarver .
How are things going with your Shinzen practice (if you're still doing that)?

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 22
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12/4/12 2:43 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Going really well, thanks for asking!

I would say that I have an adequate handle on Shinzen's system, having done two one-week retreats with him this year and put some effort into learning it to my own satisfaction and taking advantage of the rich array of customization options available. I have also gotten to know Shinzen himself at least a bit -- I just love the dude, both for his profound insight, seemingly limitless erudition, vast compassion, humble generosity, and masterful pedagogical virtuosity; as well as for his quirks and possible blind spots, such as his shameless Pythagoreanism, his incongruously conservative epistemology bordering on scientism, his bizarrely self-effacing denial around some of his own attainments, and most frustrating of all, his stubbornly sceptical resistance to my particular philosophical interpretation of the nature of consciousness. I mention all of that because I really like and trust the guy, which bears directly on the confidence and commitment I can in turn bring to bear on applying his approach to the reconfiguration of my own mind, from the inside out, as it were.

The main practice I had been doing was "Do Nothing", but at the retreat last month I changed tack and started doing "Theme Blasts", systematic surveys of a broad range of techniques in a single sitting.

I have my timer pre-set for sits of 12 to 72 minutes (12, 18, 24... 72), with a bell to ring at six equal intervals of 2 to 12 minutes. (I use whatever time I have available for formal sits, thus cutting myself off from the excuse "I don't have a full hour, so I won't sit now.")

The segments are as follows:

1) Focus In
Labels: Feel, Image, Talk; Rest, Gone, and .
Eyes closed.

2) Focus Out
Labels: Touch, Sight, Sound; Rest, Gone, and .
Eyes open.

3) Focus on Rest
Modalities: Visual / Auditory / Somatic.
I attempt sometimes to drill into one, and at other times to maintain simultaneous awareness of two or even all three at once -- kind of like keeping so many plates spinning.
Eyes usually closed.
Not usually doing labelling, but continuous awareness, which anticipates Flow to some extent because "the high-pitched whine of Silence" or the "grey-scale Blank of visual rest" are rarely static. It may be coincidental that I find these "restful"; the hand-tingling and other somatic manifestations of samadhi I tend to find more "interesting" than "restful". Now that I write and reflect on this, how odd that it's hard for me to find somatic Rest. Something to work on...

4) Focus on Flow
No labels, or just Flow and Gone.
Eyes open, or half-open, or closed.
I start with the breath, and establish continuous, uninterrupted awareness. Then, I attend to the quality of anicca, perhaps noting the top and bottom of each breath as a "Gone" of the previous breath, or noting the change in speed of the breath over the course of it's duration as Flow, or not noting at all but just grooving on the variability and fluxiness of it. Thus, I use (essentially) anapana to establish awareness here for this segment, and then "keep the window open" (metaphorically) in such a way as to allow my mind to wander only if it picks up other instances of Flow, and mosey over to those. Anticipating the next segment where I will go the other way, I lean into this segment with deliberate Effort. It's only a few minutes, so I can really lay it on and I rarely miss even half a breath.

5) Do Nothing
The formal instructions are short enough to quote here: "Let whatever happens, happen. Whenever you're aware of an intention to control your attention, drop that intention." In contrast to the strong effort of the previous segments, this is a kind of non-effort, ultimate rest exercise. It has been called "Call off the search"; I like to call it "Cut the power and coast". Unless I happen to be fending off some particularly Great Idea, I tend to descend quickly into variously deep samadhi. Worth mentioning that the idea is to drop intentionality, but not mess with the momentum of concentration, clarity, and equanimity.

6) Nurture Positive
I sometimes change posture (having been sitting on a cushion), stretch, and lie down at this point. Then I typically cycle through the four Archetypes we use at MKP, considering from each of those four perspectives my formal statement of Mission: "I create a world of truth by mastering the skill of consciousness." So I say to myself, in turn, "As the Lover, I create..." then, "As the Warrior, I create..." then, "As the Magician...", and finally "As the King...". For each, I pause and kind of dwell in the feelings and associations that well up when I take on the archetypal "energies" evoked. I cycle through them quickly or slowly; sometimes seeing how fluidly I can switch, other times seeing how deep I can go, yet other times calling up hybrids and axes from the "mandala" of my understanding of the structure of human emotion and motivation. If some "insight" has manifested in the previous segments, I might formally contemplate that instead if it seems, well, "positive."

Within each segment, I "loop-and-branch" to certain limited extent, as described, but overall the idea is to stay within each defined technique for the duration of the segment.

Invariably, there is a distracting up-welling of small-i insights along the way. In fact, this whole sequence is highly energizing, to a degree that is at times actually distinctly problematic. For those, and generally for anything intrusive outside the designated area of focus, I sometimes use the note "Not", or non-verbally . If some "really great idea" pops up early in the sequence, I try to have the discipline not to pursue it -- employing, if necessary, the cognitive fly-swatter of -- and hold off until towards the end (so far, this is like normal practice). What happens is that "great ideas" seem to run themselves out during Do Nothing, where I explore the edge of whether or not "I" am driving the thinking. At the end, -- unlike other practices I have done before -- there is a chance to "dive right in" to thinking, as part of the formal practice, in the context of Nurture Positive. Thus, globally, over the course of the whole set, this becomes just one of the many polarities that are explored from both directions, as it were. Doing all of this in structured, quick succession really highlights the range of it all.

So, in a word, setting aside a few philosophical nuances (which could be "real", or artefacts of my own immaturity, or both), I would say that I am pretty solidly on-board with Shinzen's Basic Mindfulness system, and that it is going quite well.

Also, by the way, Sweet-E is going to her very first Goenka 10-day course tomorrow (yay!) and Shinzen was kind enough to send along some very helpful and encouraging pointers for how to approach that for maximum benefit, for which we are grateful.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 22
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12/8/12 10:41 AM as a reply to Tarver .
Yeah I've tried all those practices before. They help. I especially liked this guided meditation to improve my noting:

Stephanie Nash Guided meditation

Though the focus on the positive (metta) is something I'm trying to add to daily life more. I find that smiling more often reduces tension with those around me and if I'm concentrated they may actually project that I'm unhappy when that isn't the case.

Tarver's Practice Report 23
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3/22/13 10:55 AM as a reply to Tarver .
May 1 is a bit over a month away, before the year is up to formally call it one way or the other on the question of stream-entry. At this point, it seems pretty clear that I've got it.

So, what should I do with my new-found superpowers (which, paradoxically, turn out to be neither super nor powers, but nevertheless there they are)?

Well, my principal goals for the year concern health and wealth. Apropos health, having adopted a plant-based and essentially whole-foods (vegan) diet, I have lost 11 pounds since December. My BMI is down to 29 from over 30 and the goal is a BMI of 25 or less. Apropos wealth, my goal is to increase my income by an order of magnitude. To that end, I am seeking -- and finding! -- more formal paying students. Posted an ad on Kijiji. I always have several projects on the go, but I definitely practice more when I teach, so this tends to sustain a virtuous cycle.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 23
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3/22/13 5:16 PM as a reply to Tarver .
 Tarver :
May 1 is a bit over a month away, before the year is up to formally call it one way or the other on the question of stream-entry. At this point, it seems pretty clear that I've got it.


How so? Phenomenological descriptions of the event, what was happening before and after? What has changed in the ongoing experience?

Nick

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 23
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3/22/13 10:10 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
How so? Phenomenological descriptions of the event, what was happening before and after? What has changed in the ongoing experience?

Hi, Nick!

Except for that experience in the dining hall at the last Goenka (what is it about dining halls at Vipassana Centres?) which seemed significant at the time, it was more of a process than a single event. I am writing this now without looking at my log... I described it above, so whatever I wrote then will be more factual. Whatever I write now will have the benefit of perspective. Apparently not everybody has that single "fireworks" moment with a discreetly perceptible fruition. In my case, however, a shift has clearly occurred. Since then I have been different, for the better. One way to put it is that the novelty of not being depressed not only has yet to wear off, but also looks like a new baseline state that looks and feels long-term-stable. Sweet-E says I am not the same guy I was; even if I do have crappy periods they are significantly shorter and less intense than they used to be. In day-to-day life, thinking things through calmly and not making a big deal out of stuff is easier than ever. My apartment is cleaner than ever. When I sit, I easily drop into as deep a samadhi as I care to, and stay there as long as I like. I have reformed my diet and am shedding weight. Life seems OK.

Having said all that, if I am in fact enlightened, it would be "just barely". Clearly there is lots and lots yet to do.

One other thing: I do notice (and usually react more with compassion than anything else) that other people -- the vast teeming crowds of other people -- are mostly asleep. I also notice myself not being present all the time, which is paradoxical because in noticing, I am in fact present. It's like the negative space around the content of experience is, to a greater degree, part of the referential frame of my awareness in everyday life, if that makes any sense.

Tarver's Practice Report 24
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9/6/13 11:10 PM as a reply to Tarver .
I suppose it's time for an update. As always, I practice in fits and starts -- I have been accused of being disciplined, but seldom consistent.

I just spent a week at CML ("Center for Mindful Learning") the Basic Mindfulness monastery at the Friend's (Quaker) house in Burlington, VT. I wrote this impression when I was there: "This place rocks. 5 stars. The real deal. Perfect fusion of ancient monastic tradition & contemporary pragmatic dharma culture. Nice balance of autonomy & responsibility with guidance & structure. That's how I find it. I'll be back first chance I get, but who knows when that'll be." Adding to that, I would characterize the place as a small humming hive where the modern monastics divide their time between meditation, chores, growing vegetables, and writing software. Everyone calls each other "Friend" after the Quaker fashion. It's odd, but in a way that I really, really like. I was told, as a compliment, that I fit right in. The leadership -- Soryu, Frances, and Harrison -- have got to be three of the most honest people I have ever met, each in their own way. Each really helped me with my practice. I put an exclusive focus on Do Nothing (as per Shinzen's Basic Mindfulness technique) for the whole week, and essentially watched myself cycle through an entire range of other practices, kind of on autopilot, as if I knew better than I myself knew, if that makes any sense, what the best thing to do would be. I also overhauled my posture, with help from those there, especially Frances. On the one hand, it was a deep, intense week. On the other hand, I feel like I barely got into it and only scratched the surface of what's possible. I happened to be there when the first videos from the Buddhist Geeks conference were posted, where Shinzen announced the results of the brain scan study. Turns out the guy sleeping on the next mat had been in the study, and the contents of the announcement (as concerns automation of practice with expertise) validated some of my experiences on the cushion. I have never felt quite so much "a part of it".

I am sticking to the strictly plant-based and almost entirely whole-foods diet, and my BMI has dropped nearly 5 points this year, to just over 26. I should no longer be overweight by October at this rate. Sitting is vastly easier, but also a bit destabilized by this welcome and unfolding development.

Individual private students continue to to show up; I have taught some courses at a yoga centre here in Toronto this summer, and I am teaching my first-ever segment of the HPP next weekend.

The only cloud on the horizon is http://guymcpherson.com/2013/01/climate-change-summary-and-update/ about which I recently became aware. Yes, yes, I know that all is impermanent ...but SERIOUSLY? WTF??? So, I'm reviewing my priorities and decisions and I'm not sure what I'll do next. Sweet-E and my son and I are driving out to the country to visit some friends who have established (apparently) a sustainable farm. The problem, or at least a problem, with waking up is that then one is confronted with reality. "Once you see it, you can't un-see it," McPherson is fond of quoting. And once you wake up, snoozing fades as an option. Now that I have learned to see everything as temporal, with-a-history, and about-to-be-Gone... well, everything is indeed about be... Gone.

RE: Tarver's Practice Report 24
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9/7/13 6:22 AM as a reply to Tarver .
I am sticking to the strictly plant-based and almost entirely whole-foods diet, and my BMI has dropped nearly 5 points this year, to just over 26. I should no longer be overweight by October at this rate. Sitting is vastly easier, but also a bit destabilized by this welcome and unfolding development.
Awesome! I have to say that I started doing that this summer (before a little visit last week) and loved it. I think you know I love to see what effect dietary changes have.

Thanks for the link to the climate change article. Recently, I've been looking at Jean-Francois Rischard's work on 20 major problems coming in the next 20 years. His proposed solution reminds me of Super Friends and the Hall of Justice, so I like it emoticon