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John's Practice Thread
Answer
11/22/11 8:33 PM
If interested, here is my introduction:
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/2455192

Amazingly enough, in all of my studies and meditation, with all my breath focused meditation, somehow the instruction to focus on the pleasant aspects of the breath was either never brought up or escaped my attention.

I am interested to see what happens when I cultivate this focus, as before I have always let any discomfort or pleasure pass without any grasping or focus, whenever possible. I like the idea of a positive feedback loop that might bring me some peace. It would be invaluable to me, as I have suffered from pretty much lifelong anxiety.

Correct me if I am misinformed. I am going to do my usual breath focused meditation, only instead of just bringing my mind back to my breath, I will focus on any pleasant sensations. Time to practice!

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
11/23/11 11:48 AM as a reply to John Hooper.
Wow! I found my meditation to be far more pleasurable than I could have imagined! I started off with focus on my breath, fell into good concentration, and then scanned for pleasant sensations and focused on those, then generalized them throughout my body. I smiled, and used the feeling of happiness that arose, focusing on it, associating it with the other good feelings I was experiencing, and I felt happy and calm. It was greatly physically pleasant, and very mentally soothing and pleasant as well. I was interrupted after about 25 minutes, and had to do a few things, but I went back to it and repeated the same process quite easily.

After I was finished, the pleasant, positive feelings continued for while, and then the usual worries started creeping back in, which I observed as thoughts and physical sensations. I think this is labeling. I don't remember where I read about it, but it helps just to mentally note exactly what I really experience. A thought is just a thought. A pang in my heart is just a physical sensation. It helps alleviate the anxiety.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
11/23/11 12:04 PM as a reply to John Hooper.
John that sounds great. (note: im not qualified to help you, just commenting)

Sounds really similar to my practice a month or two back. You can kind of alternate between the breath and the bodily sensations with one aspect fueling/enabling the awareness of the other, or you can spilt the attention between the two and achieve similar results.

Keep posting!

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
11/23/11 5:38 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Thank you for sharing. I sat for an hour today, and again, it was extremely pleasant, though not what I would call "rapture" or anything like that. However, it was very pleasant, and eventually my thoughts stopped coming and my concentration deepened. I felt expanded, feeling the space around me. I tried focusing even more on the breath at my nostrils, but that was not as good, so I refocused on the pleasant sensations, both mentally and physically. My concentration was steady, so I decided to work on something I have been curious about, which is "form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form is nothing but ..." you know how it goes. The "form is emptiness part" was never hard to grasp, but I could never see how emptiness was form. I'm not saying I fully grasp it now, but for the first time I could intuitively see that maybe emptiness is, literally, form -- like exactly the same thing. Like this emptiness that is me, and everything else, is form -- me, and everything else. That probably sounds stupid.

Next time, when my concentration is deep and steady, I am going to try the direct pointing method. Instead of asking "Who am I?" as I have in the past, I will meditate on the truth -- that "I" does not exist. I will probe into the deep falseness of the self, the fiction that seeks. Me. Ha, that sounds stupid too, "I" will probe into the falseness of me! Oh my.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
11/25/11 2:34 PM as a reply to John Hooper.
Busy day yesterday, so I only had a 30 minute sit. I watched my breath and let my thoughts subside, focused on the pleasant sensations and let them flow throughout my body, smiled and focused on the pleasant mental state, letting that mental state widen and deepen. When it felt stable after a while, I did switch to the direct pointing investigation -- to directly see the self as non-existent. Not surprisingly, I didn't have any great breakthroughs. All the time, I touched back to the breath for grounding, and kept some focus on the pleasant feelings and mental state.

Today, due to interruption, I had another 30 minute sit. This time I just focused more on the breath, the very pleasant physical and mental sensations. For some time I let the physical sensations expand as I breathed in, then focused on the mental sensations as I breathed out. Towards the end, I really increased my mental focus, which seems to give me a feeling of more space, an expansion of sorts.

I hope to get a longer uninterrupted session in later.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
11/27/11 12:21 PM as a reply to John Hooper.
Sat for 45 and then 30 minutes yesterday, an hour today. Now it is different. The pleasure is much less and my mind wanders again and again. I am not sure what to do. If I bear down hard I can stop my mind from wandering for a bit, but I am pretty sure that is not the way to practice. What I do is just refocus on the breath, over and over.

I was hoping that the concentration method would go better, and it seemed to be, but now I am having the same familiar problem with staying focused. It is hard not to be discouraged.

Any help or advice would be appreciated.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
11/28/11 8:09 PM as a reply to John Hooper.
Had three 30 minute sits today. The first was much better than yesterday. The next two were just so-so. To keep my mind from wandering, I just keep counting breaths 1 to 10 over and over. Towards the end of my last sit I found that silently saying the number on the in breath and the out breath helped, then saying them twice was even better, then finally saying them three times for every in and every out breath was best of all. I don't know if this is the right thing to do, but it seems better than getting lost in thought over and over.

I'll just keep going.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
11/29/11 8:53 PM as a reply to John Hooper.
Finally something happens! I realized that the breath counting just wasn't doing it for me, and knowing that I am a very visual person, I decided to try these instructions. I'm pretty sure they are from Kenneth Folk.

1. Get a kasina object. You only need one. Cereal bowls or small plates work great. It should be about 8-10" in diameter, without designs. Earth colors are best, as they don't give you eye strain.
2. Prop the bowl against the wall.
3. Sit about 4-6' away.
4. Stare at the bowl.
5. Let us know what happens. (You may be amazed at the antics a simple cereal bowl can perform.)

So, I found a round eight inch black plastic lid and double-taped it onto my white wall at my sitting eye level. Then I sat about 4-5 feet away and started counting breaths. I didn't expect much, but as always, I was hopeful.

I was amazed at what my kasina object did. It was surrounded by bright light, it popped into 3D, it even seemed to rotate like a planet, and then it disappeared! I was surprised, but it came back in a few seconds, and this went on and on, with lots of strange effects. However, I did not feel like this was getting me to any jhana. I kept trying to relax more, and kept watching for about another fifteen minutes ... THEN it happened. Definitely an altered state. My vision, that had been focused solely on my kasina object, suddenly went wide and I could see the entire wall at once. My body fully relaxed when this happened, and it felt very, very good. It was different. I was locked in.

I kept expecting to lose it, but it was very stable. It was like my outer vision was more in focus than the center, but I could see everything fine. Sometimes the kasina object stopped doing much of anything, once it disappeared for about five seconds, but the state continued even if it just looked like a black lid. It was very strange feeling, but not in an unpleasant way. It was very pleasant.

For a while I tried relaxing more, to see if anything else would happen, but nothing did, so I stopped at about 40 minutes.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
11/30/11 6:48 AM as a reply to John Hooper.
John:
I was amazed at what my kasina object did. It was surrounded by bright light, it popped into 3D, it even seemed to rotate like a planet, and then it disappeared! I was surprised, but it came back in a few seconds, and this went on and on, with lots of strange effects. However, I did not feel like this was getting me to any jhana. I kept trying to relax more, and kept watching for about another fifteen minutes ... THEN it happened. Definitely an altered state. My vision, that had been focused solely on my kasina object, suddenly went wide and I could see the entire wall at once. My body fully relaxed when this happened, and it felt very, very good. It was different. I was locked in.


That really is amazing! Im sure Daniel has written something about this in his book. Particularly about spinning and moving objects and what Jhanas they corresponded to.

Im inspired to try this, but im most certainly NOT a very visual person!

Good stuff John.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
11/30/11 11:30 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
I try everything, especially things that are free and easy, like this. If you would try it I would be interested to hear your results. It was more than I ever expected, but we are all different. My morning meditation (counting breaths while I ride to work) was much more settled than before. I'll have to wait for this evening to have another kasina session.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
11/30/11 9:07 PM as a reply to John Hooper.
Ah, the world conspired against me today, and I could only spare 25 minutes for kasina. I think I was coming close again when I received a phone call. Several times it seemed to almost tip into the altered state, but it just never made it there. My commuter meditations are much more steady though, without so much internal chatter. I look forward to a long kasina session tomorrow evening, or Friday for sure.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
12/1/11 8:44 PM as a reply to John Hooper.
OK, I had my usual two 30-minute commuter meditations. Never anything exciting. Doesn't feel like it goes anywhere, but it's pleasant enough I suppose, counting breaths to 10. I did have time for 40 minutes of kasina. While I didn't reach an altered state, it was interestingly different. This time, for some reason, the image was constantly splitting. There was the usual cycles of bright white halo effects, textures appearing, lots of 3D popping, but this time I was frequently looking at two images instead of one. I did feel very close to going into the "wide angle" altered state of before, but it never quite happened. I wasn't particularly trying for anything, just letting it be whatever it wanted to be. One time the two images shrank, becoming much more sharp, but a lot smaller. At the end, while seeing two images, they shrank, and then the right image shrank more until it was very small and seemed to move towards me, finally seeming very near, almost to my right eye. So the two images now appeared to be different both in size and location. That is when my phone alarm went off, and it's hard to shut off, otherwise I would have observed this latest weirdness a little longer.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
12/3/11 5:13 AM as a reply to John Hooper.
John, you'll probably find this interesting.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
12/5/11 11:42 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
I've decided to continue my practice thread here: http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/thread/4804906/John%27s+practice

It's nothing personal, just that my work blocks dharmaoverground but not kennthfolkdharma ... go figure.

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
2/2/20 10:59 AM as a reply to John Hooper.
What was started eight years ago was life changing.  The kasina meditation and then personal instruction led to great changes.  Anxiety isn't gone exactly, but it is transformed.  The detachment seemed too great however, and instead of helping others it seemed to only lead to misunderstanding.  Attempting to re-engage with the suffering mindset to stay on common ground has not helped anyone, so returning to the detachment internally, but not trying to "help" seems to be the best course of action.  So I am here to re-enter the space I left, to practise simple kindness, and maybe to learn what can be of true help to others. 

RE: John's Practice Thread
Answer
2/16/20 7:17 AM as a reply to John Hooper.
Sitting is much different than before.  There is no more effort.  There seems to be no more passing through the stages, though the jhanas come. There is no more striving or urgency.  Sometimes the mind wanders off into daily concerns or stories, but mostly it is just a focus on the kasina.  The kasina seems a lot less dynamic now, which is amusing as it is just a Costco plate taped to the wall, not doing anything.  When thoughts are found to be elsewhere, just a gentle adjustment to refocus on the kasina, nothing else.  Equanimity.  Pleasant, but no longer a great relief or refuge.

Some noting is mixed in at times.  An amusing observation lately has been the intrusion of self noted just the same as an itch, or a sound, or any other arising thought.  That used to be the very important "me!" commanding the stage.  Not that it doesn't frequently command the stage now, but then it was so special and all important!  It was not something conditioned, it was in and of itself, it was the foundation, the center of the universe, not just some shabby little tale written mostly by societal conditioning.