Aviva's Practice Log

Aviva's Practice Log Aviva HaMakom 12/18/22 5:35 AM
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Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/18/22 5:35 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/18/22 5:35 AM

Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
I could not log back in with my previous name- I wrote that I was trying to go from a severe ADHD case to being a hardcore samatha yogi. I think in the time since that post I've made some very good progress. I am studying with Tina Rasmussen, having done two solo retreats guided by her and one 14-day in-person retreat with her in August 2022. I have just been accepted into her mentoship program, where I will work with her for a year.

I have been working on writing up my complete August retreat experience- it was very wild and I am proud of myself for having gotten through six weeks of the Dark Night without blowing up any part of my life or losing my mind.

I reached the A&P at the very end of my solo 5-day retreat, on Day 7 of my 9-day solo retreat, and on Day 4/5 of my 14-day retreat. I also reached it after around 30 days of intensive home samatha practice between Thanksgiving and New Years of last year. I never switched to insight practices at this point, which I now realize was perhaps not the best course of action.

I was so focused on samatha- especially influenced by the fact that my teacher's lineage is with Pa-Auk Sayadaw, proponent of ultra-hard jhanas with the strictest standards of mastery, and also utterly certain that the wet path is the way of the historical Buddha. First master jhana to the highest level you can, and only then turn to vipassana. 

I am in the A&P now, and I was only open to finally doing Mahasi-style noting this time around because I got into this state sort of by accident, because of a 100+ day practice vow that caused me to be extremely mindful in daily life.

I next meet with Tina on March 28th of 2023, and in preparation what I would like to do is commit to a daily practice of 30 minutes twice a day, once before work and once at night before bed. I think this is both doable and reasonable for a householder with two full-time jobs.

Now that I am doing noting, I am actually glad I spent so much time in samatha-land. I think it did do its job of "padding" my mind with bliss and happiness, even though according to Pa-Auk's standards I've only gotten about 60% of the way to the first jhana. Although according to the soft jhanas people like Leigh Brasington, I think I have been DEEP into the jhanas. It's a bit confusing.

I have applied for and am waiting to know if I am accepted into the next 14 day samatha retreat with Tina this August. I still aspire to purify my mind and body enough to "be an energetic match" to the hard jhanas, but I am wondering if perhaps I should go for stream entry on that retreat once I power up to the A&P. I know this is ridiculous planning-mind and that I have no idea what may occur between now and then, but this is my practice log and I will plan if I want to!
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/19/22 7:46 AM
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Sat for ten minutes at 9 pm last night with a friend when I was visiting her. Immediate drop-in to strong concentration and feelings of light mountain air chi flow rushing upwards over the eyelids, along with significant but not too alarming head tingling and a high pitched rushing noise.

It was likely a mistake to meditate that late, even for ten minutes. I could not fall asleep until 2:40 am and experienced head-rushing, palpitations that I thought were my pulse (I actually took it and it was normal) but were actually subtle pulsing in the muscle fibers of my entire upper body, and a sense of tension and fear. I talked myself through it and also tried to note the sensations, drank some water and turned on the lights (all non-blue bulbs, really helps keep melatonin high) and eventually felt tired enough to sleep.

That whole episode felt extremely similar to the days after my one (but mighty and doors-blowing-off) MDMA trip. Feels like extremely mild serotonin syndrome, which I am not claiming to actually have- but the parallels are noteworthy for this log.

Awoke today after only five hours sleep with great energy and a desire to organize my room. Also really wanted to write this post . . . hmmm . . . . feels distinctly hypomanic.

Today will be the day I stop taking myo-inositol, a supplement I think could have helped launch me into this A&P due to its theorized neurological effects, such as potentially raising serotonin.

I also read something quite interesting yesterday which I haven't yet seen peer-reviewed proof for, that junk/processed foods LOWER serotonin. The more I meditate the more I avoid processed food and try to follow the sattvic meditation diet from Ayurveda, and I realize that could also be pushing my serotonin higher than usual. Also as a younger person, I frequently felt my body somehow "needed" junk food in a way that went beyond mental craving for the taste. I would go through periods of great alacrity in avoiding processed foods, and eventually I would get a creepy-crawly vague bad feeling that would pervade my being, and nothing would make it go away but a big bag of potato chips and some fast food. While this was no doubt heavily mind-made in the sense of craving or even a desire to "lower my state of consciousness," I wonder whether it was also my brain's effective attempt to lower serotonin levels that were gradually moving out of the desired range.

Knock on wood, I have never been depressed and neither have my closest biological relatives. We could even be said to have an unusual resilience against it, considering some life circumstances that would throw many/most people into depression. We also all have ADHD, and I suspect many of us may have mild autistic traits as well (they often go together and the genes are found right next to each other in many cases). 

I also understand that serotonin is extremely complex in the brain and "low/high" serotonin is so vastly oversimplified as to be misleading and incorrect, but as this is a practice log and not a neuroscience blog I will try to restrain myself from over-writing about brain chemicals. But as a bio-hacker and former neuroscience rat lab minion, I cannot help but be fascinated by the "N of 1" possibilities.

No meditation this morning, just a 30 minute walk in the sunlight and a high-protein breakfast (still sattvic though, the protein is from dairy) to raise dopamine for the day. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/19/22 9:55 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/19/22 9:19 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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During my morning staff meeting, much of it did not directly involve me, so I was able to do note-free vipassana in which I tried to allow all the sense door inputs to be noticed in a relaxed, wide, panoramic way. I was following the conversation and being socially appropriate but also taking in as much as possible while doing that. Tried to note when I was straining at all in this.

A colleague next to me was in an obvious state of irritation, and I felt an aversion towards their energy and a desire to shield myself from it. But then I softened this and tried to accept and include this sensation in my experience. This led, within minutes, to a sense of not-too-overwhelming physical bliss building up in the middle of my body and a sense of relaxation and well-being

I could really feel how even the slightest unexamined aversion or desire caused a slight suffering, a slight contraction in my field of awareness. I had to consciously breathe, because I was starting to go into breath cessation just from this amount of concentration and I didn't want any weird stuff happening in the meeting!

Writing in this log is also giving me some time anchored in thinking to slow down the intensity during this workday. I feel a little embarrassed to write so much, but this is where I am. I want this A&P to go differently than all my others. I would get overwhelmed, stop practicing, and usually throw myself into activities to lower my state of consciousness due to the Fear stage of the Dark Night. Now trying to ride the wave with new awareness and insight while not crashing, this time equipped with at least a basic ability to see the landmarks and practice well.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Year ago at 12/19/22 11:10 AM
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Actually, I know of a Lama who recommends french fries as a remedy when lung/chi/prana goes berserk. It's supposedly grounding.  

By the way, personally I wouldn't mind at all if you write more about brain chemicals. I'm a bit of a bio-hacker myself although I lack the neuroscience education. Also, I haven't had any experiences with drugs, just supplements. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/19/22 4:38 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/19/22 4:38 PM

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French fries! That is so great, and does not surprise me at all. I once pulled the ripcord on an A&P cycle (this time last year, in fact) by eating hashbrowns from McDonalds. It felt like it instantly jolted me out of that super-expanded consciousness and back down to Earth after weeks of fussy and probably overly obsessive yogic eating. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Year ago at 12/19/22 5:06 PM
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Yeah, different foods have extremely tangible effects on my consciousness as well. I can totally relate to knowing exactly what to eat for a specific effect. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/20/22 4:32 AM
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Linda- although I think I have more ADHD traits than autistic (but unclear whether that is due to lifelong extreme masking), I feel like allistic people look at me like I'm utterly crazy for being able to feel such subtle effects of things in my body. I was this way before any formal meditation.

--------

Already in my short noting career, I'm noticing that as I get more concentrated noting starts to feel really undesirable and difficult and I want to drop it and be in a deeper inner silence. 

Noting seems great for powering up mindfulness when I am foggy or have been lost in mind wandering (ESPECIALLY walking around in daily life), but maybe it's my samatha practice taking over when the notes want to drop.

Except that instead of focusing on the anapanasati spot under the nose, I am allowing myself to notice as much as I can at all six sense doors at once. This leads to breath cessation, a sense of piti and pleasure and relaxation in the body, and surges of light brightening the visual field, and often a high pitched rushing sound, like a swarm of tiny cicadas in my head. Body starts to disappear.

It kind of feels like my mind has unified/concentrated on the whole field as an object, evenly noticing quite a lot of sensations arising simultaneously. Is this still even vipasana or is this some vipasana/samatha hybrid? It feels like I'm making progress but I'm not sure if I should be trying to note more energetically when the urge/ability to note drops away.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/20/22 8:05 AM
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Last night I could feel that I was too awake and that "my serotonin was too high," a shorthand that might be about piti or something else but means head rushing, muscular palpitations and a sense of being wired and bursting with energy.

So I had several spoonfuls of cake frosting and some (high quality, not fast food but still deep fried) French fries. I immediately felt a welcome, relieving lowering of the energy but was still able to be mindful for seeing my last two clients.

By the middle of my last client at 8:30 pm I was extremely sleepy and tired! I went straight home to bed and was almost asleep when a friend in distress called me. By the time I finished talking to her the feeling of piti was partially back, probably because emotional distress rouses all my focus due to it literally being my job to deal with it (hopefully) skillfully. So literally concentration is doing all of this, confirmed.

I had many lucid dreams filled with sex and food, which I take to be a direct result of eating the non-sattvic food and sinking some energy back into the lower chakras. Although notably I came upon a beautiful rainbow cake that others in the dream were telling me to eat, and after eating one piece too quickly I stopped, thinking "I have to be careful not to promote karmic tendencies towards greed in dreams- what happens here has meaning." 

Woke in the middle of the night and did a few hours of closed eye, lying in bed meditation that was mostly vipassana without noting and it was generating a lot of piti and surges of visual brightening. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Year ago at 12/20/22 9:59 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Aviva HaMakom:

Linda- although I think I have more ADHD traits than autistic (but unclear whether that is due to lifelong extreme masking), I feel like allistic people look at me like I'm utterly crazy for being able to feel such subtle effects of things in my body. I was this way before any formal meditation.

Me too! And we are not alone. It seems to be common for neurodivergent practicioners - and non-practicioners as well. I have a hard time imagining what it must be like to sense so little as neurotypical people do. Even Daniel Ingram had to walk barefoot on sharp stones to feel sensations in different places on his feet in walking meditation. Jeeze! I can basically feel if one of my socks has been worn more often than the other one. If one of them has shrunk just a tiny little bit in being washed, the lack of symmetry is super-tangible. When I walk barefoot, it feels like the ground communicates with me energetically. In the store I can tell if a fruit or vegetable is fresh inside, because I can sense its prana. When I was younger I could feel X-ray. It was a buzzing prickly sensation. If I need to brush my teeth, they tickle.


Already in my short noting career, I'm noticing that as I get more concentrated noting starts to feel really undesirable and difficult and I want to drop it and be in a deeper inner silence. 

Yeah, with strong sensory clarity noting gets clunky very fast. It’s but one of many valid methods. Note, however, that the sense of discomfort is often exactly what we need for insight to develop. Investigate the mechanisms making it undesirable! That’s a powerful path.

Another powerful path, seemingly completely different, can be to use the noting as a build-up for dropping all of it and relaxing into peace. That’s totally legit too, albeit not what people usually mean when they talk about noting. I have always found that noting is a super-fast track into nondual perception, but from what I have heard that is not so common for people. I have heard the method being criticized for maintaining a duality and forcing practicioners to be super-frustrated about the suffering and thereby seeing it clearly the hard way, but for me it automatically collapses. If I start out with a modified version of Shinzen Young’s noting, based on different senses but with all senses instead of the three he uses, and as fast as Mahasi noting, not only does the sense of subject-object relationship fall away but also the separation between sense doors. I get into equanimity super-fast with noting, and everything synchs up and manifests as formations that are aware. When that happens, I just drop the labels. No need to squeeze spheres into square-shaped holes.


Noting seems great for powering up mindfulness when I am foggy or have been lost in mind wandering (ESPECIALLY walking around in daily life),

It is. That’s one of its strengths, I’d say. It can also be very grounding if one is anxious; slower noting is better for that purpose.


but maybe it's my samatha practice taking over when the notes want to drop.

Except that instead of focusing on the anapanasati spot under the nose, I am allowing myself to notice as much as I can at all six sense doors at once. This leads to breath cessation, a sense of piti and pleasure and relaxation in the body, and surges of light brightening the visual field, and often a high pitched rushing sound, like a swarm of tiny cicadas in my head. Body starts to disappear.

It kind of feels like my mind has unified/concentrated on the whole field as an object, evenly noticing quite a lot of sensations arising simultaneously. Is this still even vipasana or is this some vipasana/samatha hybrid? It feels like I'm making progress but I'm not sure if I should be trying to note more energetically when the urge/ability to note drops away.

This is a valid way into what might be called nondual absorptions. Like jhanas but without the narrow focus. More Tibetan style shamatha, although with a pragmatic twist. Totally valid practice. If it works for you, enjoy! Michael Taft teaches it as one of the many tools in one’s toolbox for easing one’s way into zhine without an object, starting with really taking in everything and then letting it all go. I think there are probably also tantric (and other) methods available that emphasize that the entire field can be the object, so that one doesn’t need to drop it. Probably schamanic practices too. And you can shift your focus from everything ”out there” to what is aware. Play with it! See where it leads! You are on to something.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/21/22 9:47 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/21/22 9:47 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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The day before yesterday I did many short sessions of 2-10 minutes throughout my long work day. Zinging, crawling piti or kundalini or wind/fan chi (take your pick!) on the crown of my head, and an immediate feeling of an energy buildup throughout the body with emotional excitement.

Then yesterday a client cancelled and I realized I felt sick: sore throat, weird fatigue, like I was getting strep. I noted some sinking feelings of dread at the idea of being sick again (recovered from my first bout of COVID one month ago), but then I decided to sit for the next 40+ minutes of the empty session. I did all-six-sense-doors, allowing and accepting and trying to notice everything without straining. 

Immediately a river of chi welled up from my root chakra and flooded into my throat, and PUSHED the sore-throat feeling up and away, over the top of my head. I realized the sore throat was from stuck energy, as was the yucky fatigue feeling. It was pushed over and around my head on the surface channel, lodging at the occiput and also some being swept down to my kidneys and causing them to hurt and ache. This has happened to me before, after my retreat, and signaled a huge release of toxic energy from my organs (or at least that was my intuitive understanding, I leave space for this to be just a fabrication/story).

By the end of this meditation I felt smooth, clear, mountain-air feeling chi in the "river," and for the rest of the day I felt amazing and had good energy to continue vipasana and noting during daily life.

Then this morning I meditated again for more than an hour and felt even more clearing of this channel, always around the place it stopped in the session before. Felt less hypomanic today and more smooth and grounded. Like the recent A&P huge burst/explosion of energy is being integrated and settled into a higher level of daily awareness. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/21/22 9:57 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/21/22 9:57 PM

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Your reply made me laugh out loud about the socks! As a child I wore EVERY item of clothing inside out, because the seams would hurt me so much.

Very interesting about investigating what makes continuing to note feel uncomfortable- I think it is because when my concentration does come up, that slows my verbal mind even though I can still feel and perceive a lot of the sensations. I think I still have the desirous pull towards jhanic modes of existence where passion and surrender dominate over analysis and equanimity. This is brand new territory and I'm excited to explore it. I feel kind of like someone who has been on a long MDMA trip but suddenly someone spiked me with cocaine? From lovey/rushy to clear and amped.

I have heard a similar explanation for Zen koans, that the true meaning is to tie your mind in knots until it becomes exhausted and drops the koan and plunges you into silence.

I also get a very fast blurring of the sense-doors! Its like they are all one and I have to make some kind of effort to even separate them. I incline towards unitive experiences and I am better at seeing what is the same rather than what is different.

"Like jhanas but without the super narrow focus" really resonates with me. I will look up Michael Taft. 

I am very grateful for all of your comments. 
George S, modified 1 Year ago at 12/22/22 9:59 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/22/22 9:59 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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 I like your detailed description of energetic processes. I experience similar stuff, but since I stopped logging it feels like it's become more encoded in muscle memory rather than verbal memory. I find there's a trade-off between verbal memory and the intensity of the experience - the less I remember the more intense the experience - presumably because laying down verbal memories takes up significant bandwidth. I'll have these very powerful meditations with lots of energetic development and afterwards I can't remember much of what happened, but next time I sit I'll notice that my body automatically recognizes what's happenind and knows what to do on a physical level. It seems to take place in a different space.

I also resonate with what you're saying about serotonin and things like food. I think that building a deep concentration practice in the midst of daily householder life presents different challenges from being a monastic or on retreat. If I'm doing deep meditations then I feel more need to get grounded afterwards to function effectively, whether through "junk" food, drink, entertainment, sex etc. It doesn't get talked about much because it appears to go against precepts, but actually my hindrances are way less in meditation if I do a certain amount of non-satvic stuff outside meditation, or even just being really busy, rather than trying to keep the renuniciate high going 24/7.
 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/22/22 11:54 AM
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30 minutes meditation in the middle of work day sitting on the couch. Immediate minty fresh, freezing chi starts bubbling up over my face- it feels like my eyelids are being shot with the air from a dentist's little tool. Metronome-steady pop-clicking in my sinuses as the energy literally feels like it is beating a path through blockages- I get a mental image of a tiny coal miner with his pick, and a woodpecker. Energy progresses over the scalp and down further on the neck, reaching the nape with some kidney pain.

Feeling more tired, cloudy and less good alacrity and concentration today, a bit depleted. Perhaps this is Dissolution? My main resolve is to keep daily life mindfulness as high as I can and sitting whenever possible throughout the day.

In the last two days I noted how much I turn to podcasts, phone calls with loved ones, and food when I am feeling unpleasant sensations. Instead now I note them and allow myself to fully feel them.

Shagrol said something in a post somewhere that really resonated with me, that the task is to become deeply intimate with all aspects of the human experience- this gives me such a sense of purpose right now. I am always chasing highs, but now I can be gently curious and interested to learn all I can about how it feels to be approaching or in the dukkha nanas. Just stay with with it, stay with it, without strain. I have not allowed myself to be fully human before, but the only way out of suffering is fully and deeply into it with my whole heart.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/22/22 5:57 PM
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During a random three hour free period today, I lay on a couch drinking hot chocolate and reading a magazine. I felt a heavy sense of depression settled around my kidneys and felt dim, blah, cloudy. I also noticed that my entire pelvis felt "dead," whereas there had been so much sexual energy before.

As I continued to read the magazine with a wandering mind, I suddenly felt an alarming and piercing itching sensation right at the origin point of the root chakra. I felt a little alarmed, noted the alarm, kept reading the magazine, and felt the itch blossom into a bright, hot, expanding ball of sexual energy that quickly exploded in three spontaneous orgasms and got the top of my head tingling like crazy. I sat up and started meditating in earnest.

The horrible depression feeling around my kidneys was swept away by the chi flow that resulted. I interrupted my meditation twice to put my hand over the air vents in the room because I could not believe what I was feeling could be internal- it felt like a strong fan was blowing icy air over my head and down my back. When I inhaled this super-icy, minty "air," I could feel bursts of euphoria in my head and once again it felt like my sinuses were being cleaned out with a combination of woodpeckers and drano!!!

I let my head droop and it almost felt like I fell asleep, but I was still aware of the energy continuing to move through its preferred orbit. I was "under" a long time, maybe two hours.

After feeling disgusting and heavy all day, I suddenly felt unbelievably light, happy, grateful, and with a sense of wonder. It was a nice reminder that this is all just a cleansing process, not much different than taking my car to get detailed after sinking to the bottom of a dirty lake with the windows open.

​​​​​​​In fact, I went out and bought nice holiday presents for my family. If I so much as focus at all on any sensations the sweet, rushing minty wind will start welling up from my hands and head.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/22/22 7:00 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 12/22/22 7:00 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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George S:
 I like your detailed description of energetic processes. I experience similar stuff, but since I stopped logging it feels like it's become more encoded in muscle memory rather than verbal memory. I find there's a trade-off between verbal memory and the intensity of the experience - the less I remember the more intense the experience - presumably because laying down verbal memories takes up significant bandwidth. I'll have these very powerful meditations with lots of energetic development and afterwards I can't remember much of what happened, but next time I sit I'll notice that my body automatically recognizes what's happenind and knows what to do on a physical level. It seems to take place in a different space. 


Thank you for your comment! This is so interesting to hear about with others. I've never heard anyone say it quite like that, but yes there is a trade-off. I think so much of these practices are about bandwidth- redirecting it, refocusing it, expanding it hopefully. This is the real magick . . .

George S:
I also resonate with what you're saying about serotonin and things like food. I think that building a deep concentration practice in the midst of daily householder life presents different challenges from being a monastic or on retreat. If I'm doing deep meditations then I feel more need to get grounded afterwards to function effectively, whether through "junk" food, drink, entertainment, sex etc. It doesn't get talked about much because it appears to go against precepts, but actually my hindrances are way less in meditation if I do a certain amount of non-satvic stuff outside meditation, or even just being really busy, rather than trying to keep the renuniciate high going 24/7.  


It heartens me to think there are other people running around looking like they are living a normal life with all of these things happening to them. What an odd club.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/22/22 7:06 PM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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During my last session with a client the sense of magickal, sparkly icy air wafting over me kept happening, enough to be kind of distracting and I had to strictly put it out of my mind. This is the first time I've had something thoroughly pleasant and elevated-seeming be a sensation of distraction during normal life- for a long time it would be painful tingling and other types of energy pain that I would have to ignore. 

It also shows me that even good things happening outside of my "control" are alarming to the small self.

Also, today I noticed that the times it was hardest to keep up a wide vipassana style attention- with or without noting- were conversations with people and eating with other things going on. Before this latest round, one of my favorite things in the world was to eat while talking to someone on the phone (simulating having a meal with someone during these pandemic times). Now suddenly I find that less pleasurable than eating slowly and trying to be extremely mindful of all the sensations. It feels actually quite horrible to do distracted eating, I realize I'm totally missing it for most of the bites!
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/23/22 6:14 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Someone on this forum posted old articles by Ron Crouch about the POI, and I found them to be enormously helpful. I realized that despite reading MTCTB, I actually did not really understand the difference between a path moment, a cessation and a fruition. Now I finally get it! And more importantly, why (specially and concretely) I should persist.

It is becoming more and more clear to me that insight opens the energy channels in my body, and mental clinging shuts them down and clogs them like a diseased artery. I feel like I am receiving biofeedback, teaching me how to navigate.

I would like to post my retreat experience from August, not sure how long a post can be here (and I have no expectations for anyone but me to care or read it because it is ridiculously long, but for the sake of completeness and because what I am currently experiencing was very much opened up by that time. 
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Chris M, modified 1 Year ago at 12/23/22 8:17 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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It heartens me to think there are other people running around looking like they are living a normal life with all of these things happening to them. What an odd club.

I think almost everyone has these things going on but they aren't really paying attention. These phenomena are always with us as human beings. Most folks don't have a spiritual practice so they're not as in tune with their body/mind. It takes some effort, some quiet, learning how to pay attention, and noticing to really tune in and examine them. It's a skill we can, and do, learn.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/23/22 10:26 PM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Walloped with epiphanies today, trying not to let them become too much thinking: I run away from endings, vanishings- don't clean the dishes after dinner, don't the paperwork immediately, etc. I want to live at the peak of the Arising and deny the Passing Away. Realizing this brought a sense of natural resolve and I will no longer run from the end of sensations.

over at a friend's house with the same greedy, ADHD tendencies: she cooked and I insisted I do the dishes immediately after. I tried to be very grounded in the six sense doors as I did it.

Long gaps in mindfulness today because i hung out with exciting and dear friends today. It is so hard to maintain that mental awareness when I am with someone I love. I get absorbed into them, all I'm thinking about is them and our relationship. I can tell this is going to be a challenge.

trying to remember: it's all Now, Just Now, Only This Moment. There is no other time. 
George S, modified 1 Year ago at 12/24/22 3:10 PM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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It heartens me to think there are other people running around looking like they are living a normal life with all of these things happening to them. What an odd club.


True that emoticon
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/25/22 7:44 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Dissolution could be at hand, perhaps- as I was walking to my friend's house to help prepare for a holiday party, I suddenly started to think about a scenario in which I died and no one knew how to reach all my clients, and they showed up for appointments but I would be dead and it would be very traumatic. I realized that "putting my affairs in order" and making it easy for family and friends if I were to die suddenly meant giving someone access to my client database and leaving instructions for them to be contacted. [This was no doubt also influenced by me showing up to a hairdressing appointment a few weeks ago - she was a sweet and wonderful woman who I had known for ten years and cared about- and encountering her mother instead, collecting her belongings from the salon and telling me she had died suddenly].

I imagined that I would write a letter to be given to clients in the event of my death (they would be asked if they wanted to receive it, only if they said yes) and I was crying as this letter mentally composed itself in my head.

The funny thing was, it did not feel like I was exactly sad about the idea of dying. It felt very moving, meaningful, and important, as though I was really appreciating my life. In this round of meditation development, I am now acutely aware of all the things that worsened previous Dark Nights. with a more visceral understanding of all the places in my life where I avoid the end of a loop, a cycle, or an event. This is exactly what has kept me trapped all these years, cycling. 

In the last couple of days I made strong resolves not to reject any part of the  Dark Night manifestations, to welcome them in and try to stay as aware as possible. Also, I have started to note "Awaken" when I come back to consciousness of the sense doors in daily life when my mind has been wandering. I started off noting "Waking Up," but instead my mind spontaneously switched it to Awaken- a note but also an inner call, a heavy order lightly given. Because this is all just stringing together many such momements until it becomes continuous.

I usually don't like parties,  because "I" "am" "too introverted" and "I" "find" "people boring unless they are extremely smart and weird." Quotations around every part of those sentences that are ridiculous and untrue, because I managed to keep my vipassana awareness very strong during this party and I enjoyed it so much. It was remarkable, akin to someone else suddenly enjoying getting a root canal with no anesthetic. 

Normally I am averse to noisy rooms, and small talk, and people I judge to be boring conversationalists. And yet I sat there in the middle of the party suddenly crying because of how moved I was to be there, thinking about the ending of the year, the ends of our conversations, the end of this party as microcosms of mortality. I was allowing everything in instead of contracting against it, and this resulted in a very significant different experience.

Everyone's faces looked . . .  the same. Not in a raptorously beautiful way, as I have experienced many times during the A&P, but in a way where I recognized everyone was just a human being progressing through their own lives, their own challenges, all wanting the same thing (to be happy). I was not compelled to seek out the "most interesting person" at the party, or the most attractive. 

Someone pulled out their phone to show a titillating picture of a person they were dating, and I could see they were bragging about this person's beauty and lusting after it, thinking that this person feeling desire back towards them made them more valuable as a person. It was so weird! I realized that I too once felt that way and would do such things, and now it felt so bizarre to me. It was exactly as if this person . . . . pulled a turnip out of their pocket, and started praising all of its characteristics, and bragged about how much cooler and better owning this turnip made them! But then we found out it was not even their turnip from their own farm (perhaps you could be justifiably proud of having worked so hard to produce it), it was just something they had chanced to find at a farmer's market. Just a fundamental, hilariously wrong misunderstanding of what-leads-to-what. I did not judge this person or feel superior to them, I was simply noticing this mental complex of illusion that I used to fully and totally buy into and have no awareness of.

Although I was crying off and on all night (all from things being beautiful and evanescent, not from despair), I made sure no one noticed (which was easy due to wearing a mask).
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/26/22 5:26 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Visited family today and got two interested relatives to do an un-timed sit with me. One person has a meditation practice and naturally has a very open third eye and astrally travels quite easily even without any training. 

We did the un-timed sit together, during which I felt lots of wind element activity (felt like icy mountain breezes were blowing upward across my face) and lights brightening up above me. It was so strong that I had the thought: I wonder if X is going to be able to feel this, I hope I am not disturbing them.

We shared a little about our experiences and they immediately said: "was that you!?!? I could feel strong, cold, fast gusts of air traveling through my whole body and I saw a light above me, like I was deep under a lake and I saw the sun far above. I have not had either of those things before while meditating, and I thought it felt like it was coming from you."

Not everyone is as sensitive as this person, but it makes me wonder about meditating next to people at the meditation center and whether it's better to sit alone these days. I also have to take care to dress warmly because it seems at least this superficial energy channel is decently open. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/27/22 2:12 PM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Spent more time with relatives. Everyone was in a bad mood and doing political rants and generally being quite reactive. I tried to stay awake throughout all of this but it proved difficult and I had long bouts of mind wandering and being caught in thoughts. Meditated only 10 minutes the whole day formally.

Woke up this morning and felt hungover, I thought I was getting sick. Sore throat, aching head, extremely hungry for large amounts of calories. I had an impulse to eat meat, which I've been avoiding since this A&P began. 

It dawned on me that all this might be because of my experiences the previous day, so I engaged in diligent sense door vipassana during my workday, and after about five hours of this my symptoms have cleared and the energy channels feel decent again.

This is all pretty weird. The insight that came was that being lost in thinking/mind wandering is essentially an addiction, a vice, a substance- I overdosed on thinking after weeks with lessened mind wandering and it felt AWFUL. It is also far easier to slip back into old habits when you are around family. I believe it was Ram Dass who said if you want to see if you're really enlightened, go hang out with your family on the holidays for a week. How right he was.

I feel a renewed energy and dedication. Samsara seems quite disgusting right now if I am not carefully practicing in real time, which I believe may be a Dark Night manifestation. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/28/22 10:57 PM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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How rapidly things change- lesson all its own.

Yesterday was the 14th day since the A&P in the dream event, and the 23rd day since the beginning of the vow which started this current cycle of insight. Last night I suddenly got ravenously hungry after about three weeks of restrained, sattvic eating. Although I did not eat meat, I ate eggs, commercially prepared foods from a chain, and I ate commercial potato chips. I ate past the point of fullness and felt a sense of both heaviness and relief flood my body. It was like my bodymind had been "too awake" and it needed the energy to come back down. I felt sleepy and unclear, warm and nice. I scrolled social media to mindlessly get lost in entertainment, something I stopped doing 24 days ago.

Woke up today and did more overeating, although I feel strongly that I am done with it now. The body asked for it, so I gave it what it wanted (I still think it is better that I did not eat meat). All of the magickal, special, elevated high-frequency consciousness feelings are gone. Even the Dark Night manifestations I was getting felt shiny and beautiful in their own way, very "Dark Academia/Goth" vibes! Now all seems nearly back to normal. 

But I do have a better felt sense of coming back into the Now moment, when I catch myself being disappointed that the magick has gone I immediately come back into six sense doors in the Now, even if just for a moment. I note "grasping," and that never fails to bring a moment of awakening. 

This is THE point where I can't let my practice fall away. I have to maintain a daily practice, preferably twice a day, or else I will fall below. And maybe that is just fine, too.

The holidays, the food, seeing all of these friends, it all made it so difficult because my insight skills are so weak and amateur. I remind myself not to be too hard on myself, this is the VERY FIRST insight cycle I actually tried to apply insight to! I've only been doing it for two weeks and I think the outcome has been wonderful. This must be why it takes so many cycles to get to stream entry for some people. It is all good . . . .compassion and forgiveness for myself. Even being more conscious of this part is a victory.

Hard to remember to practice in daily life, hard to formally sit.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 12/29/22 10:00 PM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Very tuned in to the suffering and unsatisfactoriness of samsara. When I meditated today I could feel the relief of thoughts thinning, sense of me thinning, and the beautiful flow of cool energy starting to move upwards. 

It feels like the moment I stop practicing, as soon as I start attaching to thoughts, my energy channels start to close up again and a feeling of unhappiness creeps in- like a bushwhacked trail in the jungle quickly regrowing if no one clears it daily. Attaching to thoughts as me or mine feels dark, low, disgusting, like I am giving in to using heroin and can't tolerate the clarity of being awake all the time.

Ate normally today, neither super light Sattvic nor bingeing on junk- quite ordinary- though still no meat, and that helps I think. Have returned to eggs though, seems ok. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/2/23 10:26 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Went on a trip with friends for New Year's Eve. I stayed at a hotel and we all slept in the same room at night, but it was a terrible experience and I ended up renting my own room for the next night- one of my friends is a reiki practitioner, but (it pains me to say, I love her dearly) quite physically and emotionally unhealthy combined with having an extremely powerful and intense energetic field. I felt I was absorbing her energy and it was too stimulating.

When I moved to the other room and was alone, I lay down and had a bizarre vision (not a dream, was not asleep): I saw a man walking up the stairs but suddenly he started running so fast he became a blur, and then my mind rushed up close to him like a camera in a movie swerving closer to the action, and I startled badly. It was like there was excess energy in my system and it was suddenly releasing itself. Also felt a return of sexual energy that had been gone for a number of days, and my intuition tells me it had something to do with my friend's energy (I do not have sexual feelings towards her, but she has some towards me).

I meditated on and off, in daily life and for short bits, throughout this trip. Felt a lot of crackling energy buildup from not having sustained long practices.

It had been a little over two weeks since I had eaten meat or fish (stopped on the day of the A&P event), but I had some fish for the holiday dinner and immediately regretted it. I felt tingling and soon energetic pain in my fingertips, toes, and top of my head. It felt like my energy channels were already full of my OWN energy, and adding the life energy of this creature was like overloading electrical wires with too much current.

I am kind of concerned about how my material body will obtain enough Omega 3s and so forth. Historically I have always needed a lot of animal protein. I will trust the process and take it day by day.

*      *       *

One good change is that after about 6 weeks of exercise intolerance from having COVID, I was able to start walking (at a slow pace) 10,000 steps a day or more. I feel immensely better when I start the day off with a long walk, so I really want to maintain this for the new year. And of course, it is even better if those steps are simultaneously walking meditation. That would add hours of practice to each day and it physically solves a lot of issues too. I need to lose some pandemic weight and I think this will be part of how I do it- I believe the stagnant energy of excess body fat is a major contributing factor to experiences of kundalini energy bursting through stagnation/toxicity. I need to return to a state of fitness and relatively greater leanness in order to not have that happen so forcefully.

I have been experiencing major changes with my eating patterns in the last few days. I have been abiding by the ayurvedic principle of "the first burp"- when your stomach is 3/4ths full it sends up a tiny, barely noticable or audible air bubble to signal that one should stop eating- eat any more and you risk accumulating "ama," ie toxicity. This amount of food nearly always accords with the amount of food you can fit into your two cupped hands. What I've been noticing very recently is that I'm drawn to stop eating immediately BEFORE that first burp, instead of fitting in as much as possible and only stopping when it arrives. It feels like my stomach is getting more sensitive to sensations of fullness, even if I eat quickly. I am simply unable to overeat the way I used to!

*       *         *

Last night I led my new Kalyana Mitta meditation group, which meets every two weeks (the leadership rotates each time). I like the people, they are sincere and kind and definitely have more cushion hours logged than me for the most part. During the 30 minute meditation that opens each two-hour meeting, I experienced a surge of piti-sukha and some lightening/brightening of the visual field. The surge felt similar to the vision of the speeding man: it startled me and was almost frightening with how strong and out-of-my-control the pleasure and exhilaration felt. It literally took my breath away.

I felt kind of inhibited from talking about my practice last night because other people in the group all had the same problem of being self-critical and being unable to have metta for themselves, and many life problems. I worried that if I shared about my crazy experiences that tend towards ecstasy that it would be off-putting to them.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/6/23 5:32 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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I have often had aversion towards physical belongings in my life- because of ADHD, I find it overwhelming and difficult to clean, organize, care for and not lose my belongings. It is a struggle to keep my room and car regularly clean, ie daily tidying instead of every-so-often cleaning binges interspersed with chaos. I don't shop for fun or distraction, I feel like I only buy things when I need them, but I still manage to keep accumulating stuff and it stresses me out.

So for a deep mindfulness practice in my daily life, I have decided to essentially do a long magickal working in which I treat all my physical belongings and spaces as an extension of my body- I will take responsibility for them, care for them, clean and organize them, and also purge that which I no longer need. I will do this while gently noting greed, aversion, and indifference and all resistances. I will especially strive to maintain a constant mindfulness of putting things back in their places as I go through the day, so that at the end of the space looks similar to when it started. 

Cleaning my spaces more than I do now will be a devotional practice, with some magickal resonance of purifying my mindsteam and body with intention. I feel I need all the merit I can get, but also offer it to all sentient beings (for a DND style power booster).

This feels related to the Earth element in many different ways. I recently was learning about planetary magickal workings and after carefully considering what planet I wanted to work with . . . . I realized that it should not be any of the celestial planetary spheres but the Earth itself! I am not well connected to Her at all. I feel that having high mindfulness of Only Now, Just Here, Just Now is very much related to the Earth element, related to humility and groundedness. My recent vow of Asteya (avid attention to which generated so much mindfulness that it launched me into my most recent A+P in a dream), or non-stealing in all of its manifestations, also feels related to the Earth element because it is about integrity and being reliable to oneself and others.

Without a strong Earth element, which also means a relatively purified physical nature, it is not possible to absorb and receive and integrate all of the insights generated by Vipassana.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/6/23 5:41 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Yesterday I had a pretty disturbing experience in which I once again felt so fatigued and toxic and sick, and really thought I might be getting the flu or COVID again. I was near-paralyzed with the fatigue and couldn't work the first half of the day.

I wanted to meditate but was so tired I couldnt crawl to my cushion. So I just sank to the bare floor and crossed my legs (not the most comfortable) and just started to take in the sense doors. Pretty immediately I started experiencing an energy flow from the root chakra up to my head, I heard a whining rushing nada-esque sound, and I had blotches of brightening at the top of the visual field. There were times when it felt like I almost fell asleep, and then an almost-frightening, startling burst of strong piti-sukha would rush up my body and make me fully awake. By the end of the untimed sit (I think about 30 minutes), my feelings of being physically sick were totally gone, replaced by well-being, energy and relief.

Also of note: if I try to do samatha with my mind confined to the anapana spot beneath the nose, I feel instant head pain and tingling. Better to keep attention wide right now.

It feels to me at this point that if I do not meditate for long enough each day, it's as if my energy channels inexorably begin to close and become congested/constipated! This leads to pain and feelings of sickness. I do not know what to make of this, except to note that truly I have passed the point of no return and I must finish this process even if it takes aeons to complete. 

I do wonder whether attaining Stream Entry will stop this energetic weirdness or if it continues all the way to the end of the process.

I am going to post my retreat experience soon, I have it written out and I'm going to do it in "chapters."
George S, modified 1 Year ago at 1/6/23 8:59 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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I doubt that there is an end to energetic weirdness, apart from the obvious one(s). It seems to be a basic function of being alive. If anything my energy has gotten even weirder. Actually I think it's just having greater awareness of the weirdness that's already there. But the process of insight has flipped my relationship to the weirdness. I used to resent it as something that was blocking my way to "the end". Now I embrace it as the juicy undercurrent of life! I've also gotten better at functioning "normally" while the weirdness is going on.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/6/23 9:27 AM
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Went back to sleep after writing those journal entries. As I was falling asleep I meditated lightly and started seeing a bright blue sky with clouds, then an abstract multi-colored folding light that looked like . . .  crumpled laundry made of light. Bursts of piti and sukha and sexual energy. Then fell asleep and had the following dream:

I was in a bright and energy-crackling room full of all the men that I have loved in this life: friends, relatives, former lovers and even a celebrity crush or two. I saw my brother as a five year old, and I bent down to look at him and recognized the purity of the love I had felt for him when he was that age. I saw a former lover that I had had a difficult relationship with but whom I have forgiven. I realized that the love I had for these people could remain, but the attachment I had to each of them was shown with a literal cord floating in the air near them, connected to them. I realized I could redirect these cords.

I saw my mother reclining in a chair, looking at a blank wall. I realized there were layers of paintings on each wall, but to see them you had to activate a special lighting system that one of the celebrities had installed (I will not reveal who that was, that will remain embarrassing even after full enlightenment). I picked up a complicated, shiny, silver remote control and searched for the Power button. When I pressed it, a series of bright lights started illuminating the paintings, which were beautiful landscapes of forests and other complex things. I was woken by my phone ringing just as the lights were powering up.

I woke buzzing with kundalini energy. I think I did not practice enough in the last week and fell back into a light A&P, and I had been hovering somewhere around or maybe just past the Dark Night. I for SURE have more equanimity about this now, but I would not say I'm actually in EQ because I believe that would be overcalling and that is not helpful. I'm just going to reapply myself to gentle mindfulness in daily life and not freak out too much! Practice small e equanimity as much as possible.
 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/6/23 9:32 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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George S I doubt that there is an end to energetic weirdness, apart from the obvious one(s). It seems to be a basic function of being alive. If anything my energy has gotten even weirder. Actually I think it's just having greater awareness of the weirdness that's already there. But the process of insight has flipped my relationship to the weirdness. I used to resent it as something that was blocking my way to "the end". Now I embrace it as the juicy undercurrent of life! I've also gotten better at functioning "normally" while the weirdness is going on.


I appreciate this comment and the fact that you are reading. And yes, this is Shakti (when kundalini actually moves from the root chakra I have heard it is then called this), the feminine fuel of reality manifesting. I do intend to get better at normal functioning while it moves through me, as you can see from my report that I just wrote.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/6/23 10:27 PM
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August 2022 Retreat Part 1:

[Please ignore random bolding of some letters, it is a formatting issue I cannot figure out regarding copying and pasting from Google Documents]

Some background: I am an American woman, 37 years old, from a secular background, happily single with no children, an urban psychotherapist working long hours, and I had never done vipassana except on a few occasions of intense physical suffering. I have been practising traditional samatha meditation with concentration on the breath (anapanasatti) in the Pa Auk Sayadaw lineage of Burma as taught by Tina Rasmussen. In the eyes of this tradition, mastering samatha to your highest karmic potential (because not everyone will have access to the hard jhanas, but one should sincerely try their best) before turning to insight practices imitates the historical Buddha’s own spiritual path to awakening. Ie, the “wet” path of first attaining a jhanically concentrated and purified mindstream and only then aiming that laser-like awareness at analyzing reality through vipassana.  

​​​​​​​I
t is relevant to my report that I have been officially diagnosed with ADHD, a condition that caused endless stress in my youth prior to deciding to consciously work on it. ADHD is no longer considered a “deficit” of concentration by many experts in psychology, as many people with ADHD can concentrate deeply - one might even say they have an inherent capacity to BECOME TOTALLY ABSORBED - when something interests them, but have little ability to direct their mind to unify around a boring object. My lack of ability to concentrate on what I found unstimulating has caused great suffering in my life, which is one reason I feel so drawn to concentration practice. It feels healing and satisfying on many levels. ` 
 
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n this permutation of the practice you focus on the region below the nose  where the breath touches and do not ever sway from that region, and then use the nimitta that arises to enter jhana. Going into this retreat, I had not yet attained “hard” first jhana as defined by Pa Auk Sayadaw’s lineage. According to the softer jhana definitions, I had some clearly qualifying experiences prior to this in two solo retreats (guided by Tina through Zoom) of five and nine days. This retreat was 14 days and was my first-ever retreat with other people due to having started my serious practice during the pandemic.

Although I did not know what to call it until pretty recently, I have crossed the A&P many times, starting from early childhood. In many cases these experiences resulted from intense concentration upon a love object- either unrequited and afar, during sexual/romantic encounters, or in dreams about these scenarios. As Daniel says in his book, we associate magick and specialness with the setting or objects we first experienced the A&P with. This surely accounts for the beginning of my retreat, because of a need to purify desire. Now that I am finally equipped with the maps to get through the Dark Night- and holy smokes, what a Dark Night followed this retreat!- I am very grateful and happy to have the potential to practice past this point in the future. I was a chaotic, precocious and weird little Dark Night Yogi for much of my childhood and got myself into a lot of trouble thereby- I would have benefitted tremendously from encountering this information as a young person. I agree that it should be taught in schools as part of health class. That might also cut down on a lot of drug-taking behavior by young people, but that is a rant for another post. Bless Daniel for that work and may it continue to benefit sentient beings for many years to come.
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August 2022 Retreat Part 2: That Time When The Retreat Started Without Me . . . 
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Two nights before the retreat began, and the night before my flight out to Portland, the A&P flared up spontaneously, without any meditation. In fact, for months before this retreat I had not managed a single second of formal seated practice due to a highly stressful period of life involving a sudden move, 12-14 hour workdays, and a temporary living environment extraordinarily unsuited to contemplation.

After a busy 17-hour day filled with clients and ticking off every item on a thirteen-page to-do list to prepare for being away for two weeks, I fell into bed and had the thought: “now I am ready for the retreat.” Immediately following, a strong explosion of energy ripped out of my root chakra and spilled energy upwards into the second chakra. The energy had a sexual feeling to it but was also totally different than simple sexual arousal from internal or external stimuli. The energy felt extremely turbulent and muddy, full of energetic “garbage.” I began to shake, feel feverish, and had to lie in bed doing anapanasatti with the low level of concentration I could then muster until I could fall asleep.

The following 24 hours of getting to the retreat were extremely difficult, as the shaking, feverish feeling, and surging kundalini energy were highly distressing during travel. Upon getting to the retreat center and settling into my room, the very first formal seated meditation session could best be described as: off to the races. Sitting for 45 minutes at a time was effortless, and each meditation was filled with a feeling of explosive, boiling energy in the first and second chakra. It felt as though many energetic blocks and old traumas were being relentlessly pushed to the surface by the energy.
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August 2022 Retreat Part 3: Thunder and Lightning

The instructions (both from Tina and also from reading Daniel’s book) were to keep as close to 100% awareness on the anapana spot between formal sessions as possible, so I attempted this as diligently as possible and found it quite exhausting for the first three days. Yet it was obvious that it was paying off in spades, because within 48 hours I had reached a steadiness of concentration that I had never achieved before. Because of the explosion of energy in the first two chakras and the many rushing images during meditation, I could not be said to yet be in access concentration yet- momentary at best. It barely felt like meditation, more like holding on for dear life as soon as I sat down and allowed the energy to start boiling up. I simply attempted to ignore these phenomena and keep my mind on the spot. Riding the dragon felt less like a metaphor and more like a dry scientific description of my experience.

To my great surprise, I was able to fall asleep at a normal hour each night and sleep a normal amount of time while this was happening, despite being convinced it would be impossible. It was like trying to fall asleep on an airplane being buffeted by crazy turbulence, yet this mysteriously presented no obstacle.

Throughout the first three days, the sexual quality of the energy was overwhelming and the predominant experience.

On day three, after struggling mightily to keep the mind on this tiny spot below the nose, suddenly there was an expansion of awareness that the air crossing the anapana spot was connected to every other molecule of air all around the planet. Each breath was like breathing in the entire world. The breath itself soon took on an explicitly erotic character in which every breath literally felt like the thrust of a phallus down the throat; like the entire world was “fucking the life into me” with each breath. Although that may sound crude when I write out the words, the quality of the experience felt sacred/holy: a psychedelic experience of the primal, cosmic yang energy. Counting softly between each breath, which was a helpful tool for building concentration before this point, had to be abandoned because it felt like the countdown to an orgasm and was too stimulating.

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The profusion of thoughts, images, bodily energy and sound was so over-the-top that every time walking into the meditation hall took on the emotional quality of a heroic journey. I noted the feelings of bravery and grandiosity and tried not to attach to them as real. For an entire day, I heard, as clear and loud as if it was playing on speakers, the AC/DC song “Thunderstruck” playing as I began each session. It was a struggle not to laugh maniacally in the pristine silence. This was accompanied by full body goosebumps, my hair standing up on end, electricity crackling in the body, a feeling of sheer enormity and knowing there was no turning back

[If this is of interest to anyone with any Western magickal proclivities, my moon is in Aries and I believe the qualities of this period of the retreat  reflect what my unevolved, instinctive and emotional nature prefers- there is a real preoccupation in Aries moon people with heroism, saving people, boldness/bravery, greedy immediacy, and being willing to start seemingly impossible projects that require a level of naive and childlike confidence. Or, more uncharitably, some narcissistic tendencies]

The music and lyrics of the song perfectly capture the larger-than-life excitement, erotic energy buildup, heroic (and decidedly masculine-inflected) grandiosity, and the feeling of unbearable physical pressure in the root and sacral chakras.

Thunder, thunder, thunder, thunder

Thunder, thunder, thunder, thunder

Thunder, thunder

I was caughtIn the middle of a railroad track (thunder)

I looked 'round

And I knew there was no turning back (thunder)

My mind raced

And I thought, what could I do? (Thunder)

And I knew

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There was no help, no help from you (thunder)

Sound of the drums

Beating in my heart

The thunder of guns

Tore me apart

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You've beenThunderstruck
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August 2022 Retreat Part 4: Pan’s Satsang 

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I have some reservations about sharing this part but I want to include it for any other female practitioners that encounter similar things.]

I
was grateful to have read enough about kundalini phenomena to be able to keep some degree of equanimity and calm during this time, but the feeling of “danger” and “temptation” related to “failing this test” grew to a peak of intensity. On the third night, upon laying down for sleep, I had the shock of my life to see (with only the mind’s eye, thank the Lord) the dark and menacing silhouette of a double-horned figure with curly hair crouching at the foot of my bed. My entire body was immediately engulfed in a fiery heatwave and I began having involuntary full-body shaking and writhing.

F
rom the figure a deep, commanding,  and furious voice roared: I AM THE GREAT GOD PAN, AND YOU BELONG TO ME! I COMMAND YOU TO WORSHIP ME!

D
espite abundant warnings and knowledge of this exact territory through reading the spiritual biographies of famous practitioners, I lacked the concentration and self-discipline to utterly ignore the deity and focus back on the anapana spot. I felt my mind being sucked towards paying attention to this figure and regrettably engaged in some dialogue with him, mostly of the bargaining variety (if you leave me alone now, I promise to give you your due later). Pan was extremely insistent that I immediately  leave the retreat, make a Tinder profile [something I have never seriously done in real life],  and have several one-night stands [pretty much ditto] as the only appropriate offering to him. This absurdity helped somewhat and I was able to laugh, but this did nothing to stop the encounter. Craziest of all was that in this moment, it felt extremely difficult not to grab my phone to start making the Tinder profile. Part of me really wanted to leave the retreat and act this out, despite knowing it was the most obvious and crude test.

I
made the mistake of looking directly at the deity, and saw a vision that felt - forgive the Victorian hysteria, but no other phrase comes to mind - madness-inducing, a perfect representation of the potential destructiveness of lust (ie, attachment and desire). Pan, normally depicted in ancient statues with an erect phallus, had not one but four huge erect penises rotating around each other in tight formation, like a very thick drill- all of them in one foreskin, his body the same vibrant dark blue color as the Medicine King Buddha. The symbolism was not lost on me, ie that receiving this visitation was “the medicine I needed.” My heightened concentration was evident in that my inner vision was hyper-clear and easily zoomed in on (alarmingly quickly, so that it gave me a feeling of vertigo). Gazing upon this psychedelic vision felt like the equivalent of allowing sexual contact with the deity, and a minor but disturbing energetic release happened that provided zero relief from the pressure and actually made the rushing kundalini energy even worse.

T
he certain knowledge that nothing normal that I could think of could function as a ripcord to quickly exit this experience caused a huge wave of fear. FUCK, I’m really in this now.

I
attempted to sit up in bed to meditate, and had one of the weirdest experiences of the retreat: it felt/looked like laser beams from an alien spaceship in the sky were being aimed at my body, zapping with painful heat and bright white light along the two vestigial mammary crest lines going up my torso (where multiple nipples would be in a lower mammal) . When the laser beams reached the nipples they lit up like white-hot stars and suddenly became ten times as sensitive as normal. This was definitely frightening rather than exciting. Yes, I know this sounds like one of those hilariously awful fetish e-books you can buy on Amazon for 99 cents, but I swear this actually happened and I am sharing this honestly for the benefit of other practitioners so that they won’t feel crazy if similar things happen to them.


T
his invaded-by-aliens feeling was disturbing, and for about 24 hours afterwards the sensitivity remained and was bothersome- even fabric brushing my chest would almost bring about an orgasm and was intensely distracting during meditation. I received an intuitive download that this had to do with a purification and cleansing of the endocrine and reproductive systems and their associated karmas. And also that all of our sexual responses and preferences are conditioned and malleable, since they are mind-made.

Although I had colluded with being dragged from the anapanasati spot, looking at the “madness-inducing drill” did also initiate many insights about the nature of desire itself and the endless karmas created by desire. I think this is a good example of strong samatha practice producing insights along the way (because my concentration just isn’t good enough to block them out)

I
also realized that this drill was a perfect visual representation of the kundalini energy itself, currently digging upwards with insistent, penetrating force that could only be surrendered to. I was thereby able to keep my witness consciousness and my sanity. It was, overall, still a frightful and agonizing (though it must also be said: fascinating) experience- and also a very direct teaching about the suffering caused by desire. 

O
nly then, sorely regretting my lack of discipline and quite disturbed at how quickly my concentrated mind could be sucked down dark tunnels, did I have the ability to turn back to my meditation object.
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August 2022 Retreat Part 5: The Innocent Courtship 


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had a lucid dream that night. For context, my normal ego self has always been quickly definitive about my romantic and sexual attraction to people; I have never once experienced an “innocent” transition from friends to lovers that grew over time and “took me by surprise.” Yet in the dream, this is precisely what happened - an innocent and gentle interest in a potential partner emerged, and a slow courtship unfolded that included feelings of shyness, tenderness, love and a notable absence of any lust or strong passion. The dream had distinct “Jane Austen vibes” (an author I never liked, too uptight and repressed). I awoke to find that the energy had finally passed through the first and second chakras, to my enormous relief and gratitude
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August 2022 Retreat Part 6: Burning It All Up

O
n the fourth day I got my period- something that normally lasts at least three days and is accompanied by pain and cramping bad enough to warrant taking ibuprofen. Instead I experienced something that felt like what I would read about in an ancient Taoist text: when I sat down to meditate, I would be engulfed in feelings of flame and fire that felt exactly like what I imagine being a chicken rotating in a rotisserie must be like

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hen I would arise, almost no blood would be detectable - it was as though the upward-rushing energy was incinerating both the blood and the cramping. The fiery meditation was pretty painful, but I was able to just ignore the pain and abide in it. This resulted in the shortest and lightest period I can ever recall having. I remembered that the jhana itself can be translated as “burning,” ie something that burns up all your defilements to purify the mindstream.

I
n an interview around this time, the teacher confirmed this as a relatively well-known experience of female meditators engaged in intensive practices
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August 2022 Retreat Part 7: A Rather Stereotypical Forest Satori 

W
ith the energy now boiling in the solar plexus chakra, the kundalini was somewhat easier to handle on a moment-to-moment basis, and some small moments of inner silence started emerging during sits. It also became far easier to keep the mind on the anapana spot during walking and meals

A
fter five days of laboriously putting the mind back on the anapana spot below the nose, constantly reapplying the effort while sitting and walking to meals and grimly trudging through the forest, something extraordinary happened.

A
fter the first post-lunch meditation session, I left the hall to walk through the woods. Mind on the spot, mind on the spot, mind on the spot as I labored. Hindrances arose to distract me at every moment and I put my mind back on the spot, feeling like an exhausted miner longing to put down his pick and shovel

I
noticed that the path I walked through the forest was covered in the softest, most brilliant green moss. Suddenly the bottom of my feet could sense the energy of the forest floor, which bubbled up into my body. I slowed down each step, and to an outside observer I would have looked like someone doing a cartoonish, slow-motion pantomime. The forest floor started to feel like a soft, springy cloud that I was walking on, and the pleasure of this sensation became overwhelming. The air felt like thick golden syrup that I was swimming through, feeling and looking hyper-real. It begain to feel similar to the highest-octane lucid dream.

I
raised my eyes, took my mind off the spot for a moment and experienced a huge shock: within me, almost for the first time in my life:  TOTAL SILENCE. I looked within my mind for the five hindrances, and suddenly could find no obvious desire, no aversion, no doubt, no torpor nor any agitation-regret-remorse. There were still some sparse thoughts- enough to think “there are no hindrances here.” The silence was rich, beautiful, vast and luminous. A feeling of total wonder and awe arose. That I was experiencing this off the cushion, with my eyes open and in the material world, meant definitively that I was beyond any previous level of spiritual experience.

I
saw the lush, height-of-summer,  emerald rainforest around me illuminated by piercing beams of afternoon sunlight streaming through the high and thick canopy, which threw a protective ceiling over the retreat center below. An intensely shimmering white light was present in the air all around me, and it felt in the most literal, visual way that a veil had been ripped off of my perception that had been there all my life. “I have never seen the world before,” came the next thought in that grand silence. “Is this what the wold is really like? How did I live before, never seeing it?” I was looking around in every direction, trying to take this in- it was so new and different that it was hard to process what I was seeing. It was the same and yet totally different.

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f this  experience had lasted for ten seconds, it would have been enough. But to my shock, it just kept continuing. Minute after minute the light, the silence, the hyper-reality, the feeling of enormity and the feeling of seeing the world for the first time with new eyes remained, and no or minimal hindrances arose. For perhaps 20 minutes I kept walking in slow motion on the mossy path, pausing at some of the enormous pine trees and looking straight up, overwhelmed at the beauty and power they held. They were obviously conscious beings, as was the entire forest. Moving in slow motion felt necessary because I could feel every molecule around me, just the feeling of my limbs moving through that thick air felt like the most pleasurable sensation I had ever experienced. The forest had many small and graceful spiders, and the glittering webs illuminated by the sun made it seem like I was walking in a field of jewels

T
houghts arose, each word expanding and unfolding like bombs going off in a vast ocean of shining silence

This . . . path . . . is . . . a . . . true . . .path.”

“The . . . method . . . WORKS.”

“Everything . . . the . . . Buddha . . . said  . . . is . . .true.”

“The  . . . teachings . . . are . . . really . . .true.” 

This felt overwhelming in its vast implications for my life and practice. [Notable to me later was that despite this mystical experience I did not have a fundamentalist conversion experience in which I “became” a Buddhist or thought that this was the only true path. But a permanent shift happened where I knew that “the path” was real, that these specific teachings have the power to take someone all the way. The techne was on point.]

The next part of the experience was a non-verbal feeling that hit right in the gut, and also the heart center (not incidentally, the next place for the energy to start moving- which it did, shortly afterwards): thick, palpable waves of almost unbearable gratitude engulfed me for the yogis, monks, and lay practitioners who had kept this method alive, mind to mind, person to person, for well over five thousand years so that I could be experiencing it in that moment. I felt that they were all there with me in the forest, watching over me.  

This sounds like it might be metaphorical, but I felt a heavy presence of beings (though I didn’t see anyone visually).I sank to the forest floor, overcome with emotion and with tears in my eyes, and bowed with my forehead on the ground. I said prayers of thanks and blessings to them. I felt I had become connected to them, and that I had finally found the door I had been searching for all my life. I was finally one step through the wardrobe, at the entrance to Aladdin’s cave, finally somewhere I could not stop being certain existed but had no proof of. Years spent frantically looking, recklessly spending time, youth and safety to locate this door. It all felt worth it.

The bell for the next meditation period sounded, and the hyper-reality faded as I made my way back to the meditation hall. It was around this event that the thought first arose, with wonder and not much real fear: Ohhhhhhh boy, I wonder what this Dark Night is going to be like after all that?
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August Retreat Part 8: Sleepy Nonsense and More Laser Beams 

Tina gave dharma talks every night, and I appreciated how technical and precise they were in terms of meditation instruction- everything was kept very practical and applicable to the stage of practice we were likely to be at that day. She answered practice questions each night without hesitation. Every person there was far more experienced than me in terms of how many retreats they had been on, and there were many strong practitioners and longtime students of hers there. The meditation hall was deeply quiet most of the time and there was a feeling of warm group cohesion despite the ban on talking.

In the ripening of practice “from first sit to first [hard] jhana,” as Tina says both in her book and at the retreat, there is a mostly similar progression of stages that someone goes through. After the initial turbulence of “getting through the surf zone” of the five hindrances, a deeper level of concentration opens up and the mind begins to be able to stay with the anapana region for longer amounts of time- split seconds turn into seconds, then seconds into minutes. When your mind can stay on the region with little swerving for around 30 minutes, this is often when the nimitta starts to form.

During this middle phase of growing steadiness,, a phenomenon that she and her  Practicing the Jhanas co-author Stephen Snyder call “the starry night” starts to occur. These are visual phenomena of seeing light, with various manifestations: a general brightening of the dark visual field (“as though someone in the hall has turned on a light”), flashes of light, points and sparkles, and eventually a coalescing of light into the nimitta.

In all of my previous practice I had never gotten to this stage, probably because so much energetic garbage was trying to resolve itself in my lower chakras. After my forest experience, with the energy reaching the front of my heart chakra and throat chakra, I could feel that new territory was now possible.

It was at this stage that I began to notice that all of my significant leaps of on-cushion progress happened when the teacher was sitting with us (which she did four times a day, something she said was very important to her to do, and which apparently other yogis informed me later was not always the case at other teacher’s retreats). At first I dismissed this as either a coincidence or some type of unconscious positive transference. But as my energetic sensitivity grew daily, I started to notice how the meditation hall felt when she was there- like a heavier blanket of silence was already present when I began to meditate, which would pull me down into silence faster than I could currently go on my own. 

I started to experience the phenomenon of the visual field going from black to slightly lighter black, and then soon enough a vague general brightening that did seem exactly like the lights had gone up in the meditation hall- I even opened my eyes multiple times to check that this was not the case. And then, during a sitting where the teacher was present, I finally experienced a brilliant white burst of light in my lower left visual field that looked like a sudden lightning strike. Finally the starry night is under way. This was accompanied by a burst of intense emotional excitement that was probably pulled from the same neurological substrate as what a two-year-old feels at seeing and hearing fireworks for the first time. There was a feeling of relief and exultation. This seemed to be sukkha, or mental happiness- one of the jhana factors that arises as the hindrances fall away.

In addition to these small but significant on-the-cushion advances, there were two instances where these brighter-than-anything-in-the-real-world flashes of white lightning would happen not during formal sitting. One time was in a pitch black bathroom in the middle of the night, where the tiny but intense pinpoint of white sparkling light surprised me to the point of letting out a loud gasp and hoping no one else had heard me. Another time I  was lying in bed and trying to sleep when lightning seemed to strike the room with sudden brilliance.

Around this time, the teacher introduced a very simple type of noting practice to be used when we got distracted, even though noting is not part of this samatha practice exactly: she advised us to come up with short and pithy labels for our “top ten hits” of mental patterns that would show up to drag us off the breath. I identified my top three: Selling (mental conversations of trying to persuade someone of something), Telling (storytelling to delight or provoke an interlocutor), and Getting (any scenario which was aimed at obtaining a desired outcome). When these would appear (often compounded with all three present at once!) I would mentally note: “Selling-Telling-Getting” and they would fall away again. I noticed my mind better and better able to “zap” these patterns with awareness and return to the breath as the sittings increased in time.

As the starry night gathered a bit of momentum, I then began having session after session of strange and disturbing content that I tried to have equanimity towards. With the obvious hindrances decreased significantly, we were warned that the three deeper defilements would potentially surface- Desire, Aversion and Delusion. Having dealt with at least one layer of strong Desire earlier in the retreat, I was shocked to find fundamental Delusion becoming clear enough for me to perceive for the first time in my life. 

Let it be noted that I’ve worked in the mental health field for 14 years, often with people who have schizophrenia, bipolar, and various psychotic disorders. I have always thought of myself as very comfortable with the wild and bizarre content from the unconscious, and in my day job I must often deal with frank delusions using skillful means. Here I was being confronted by just a small amount of my own delusional material and it was terrifying. The unwelcome insight arose that some part of the reason I enjoy working with psychotic people is so that by comparison, I would always seem (to myself and others) comparatively sane and grounded. But perhaps I was good at working with delusional people because I myself had some serious delusional capability . . . the thought was very upsetting.

As the beautiful light and swelling happiness feelings waxed and waned, a feeling of almost falling asleep would emerge- the telltale practice sign of this deep and fundamental Delusion. Weird nonsensical verbal phrases in bizarre accents started to bubble up along with the sleepiness: a  plaintive and froglike voice that said “Chapter 2! Buddhism is aaaaaaangry!” and other similar things that would repeat in loops. Psychotic laughter and strange phrases that all sounded very lazy, slow, stretched-out and distorted. I would struggle to snap out of that while keeping my mind on the anapana spot, and I would find it impossible to get these disturbing voices to stop happening. 

It felt like my mind was deep under water, struggling to stay conscious at all, like I had been drugged with a powerful sedative.

In my practice interview, I dubbed this “the sleepy nonsense” but downplayed (without meaning to)  just how disturbing it was and my occasional worry that perhaps a layer of psychotic content lurked in my mind. One of the problems was that during the interview, I would always genuinely feel fine, and since I was so present-moment-heavy it became hard to recall previous problems.

Another notable phenomenon during this time was that I would suddenly think that people in the room, both the teacher and some of the students, were extremely  beautiful, as though I were idealizing them in an abnormal way. I noted :”idealizing,” and tried to ignore it. However, it did occur to me that this was also in line with the infantile, regressed material of Sleepy Nonsense- infants see their caregivers as perfect, all-giving deities and idealize them. The “beautiful faces” were seen in the darkness as if under water, a very murky and eerie experience.

I am not easily prone to anger, but at the peak of the Sleepy Nonsense phase I was suddenly gripped by a feeling of righteous anger. I inwardly screamed at the voices and tried to forcefully wrest control and attention away from them. It felt very much like a hero at the end of a cheesy movie throwing down the gauntlet and taking a last stand against an intolerable villain. Even as I intellectually understood that this aversive and forceful approach would take me further from the arising of  jhana, I could not seem stop myself until I had thoroughly tried and failed . It was a primal rejection of psychotic unconscious material: NO!!! HOW DARE YOU?! GO AWAY! FUCK OFF! It was strange to experience that level of rage. My ego self was definitely wounded by this evidence of mental weakness and the inability to command my mind, and so surfaced the deeper defilement of Aversion.
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August 2022 Retreat Part 9: Banished 

O
n the tenth day of the retreat, the inexorable energy started to creep up my throat and head toward my third eye chakra. During the meditation sessions I could hear a high-pitched noise accompanying this. In the last formal sit of that day, my concentration was the steadiest of the retreat and this made the energy strongly surge, reaching my third eye accompanied by severe pain that felt like a dentist drill was drilling into that energy center (and with the same hideous noise!).

T
he bell rang and the dharma talk began, but the sensation of the dentist drill relentlessly attacking my third eye did not diminish. My body felt strained, hot, and dry, like a machine grinding its gears without enough oil. I experienced a wave of near-panic and left the meditation hall, pacing outside the door and waiting to speak to the teacher after she was done with the talk. I tried to calm and ground myself through all the typically-recommended means, to no avail- I was barely holding back a real panic attack.

T
he teacher, who always left the hall first after talks, was very kind in her response and immediately invited me to speak to her at her residence.`I told her what was happening and that I was currently feeling intense third-eye pain and holding back a massive panic attack. After guiding me through some more conventional grounding techniques that did not work, she asked if I would like her to help me with a direct energetic intervention- of course I said yes!

I
felt her reach into my head with her mental intention/energy and powerfully yank down that drilling energy, which then exited my body through the bottom of my feet and went into the ground- poof, gone! In its place, a feeling of vast, thundering mental silence. She advised me to relax and pull back on meditation intensity for now, and go to sleep.  I thanked her profusely and headed off to bed, obviously immensely relieved. 

B
ut as I was walking up the mountain to my lodge in the pitch dark summer night, I heard the noise of the drill again. With a sinking feeling of horror and a very amateur attempt at equanimity, I felt the energy start to surge up again and the pain return to my third eye. Once again, I was somehow able to go to sleep in this condition despite believing it would be impossible. I was terrified to meditate more lest the pain get worse. I had a feeling of fear that this drill was going to burst through my crown chakra, make me see things I did not wish to see, or otherwise damage me or make me lose my sanity. I began to pray out loud, breaking my silence: PLEASE DON’T LET ME SEE ANYTHING SCARY WITH MY WAKING EYES!

D
uring a previous Dark Night experience that followed a very intense A&P that happened during a group ceremony on the island of Ibiza (we all unexpectedly saw and talked to some aliens, it was great- but inevitably followed by a terrible three weeks of hardcore Dark Nighting), I had had the experience of seeing frightening demonic faces while trying to fall asleep - and then opening my eyes in the dark room and still seeing the faces. That was one of the more frightening things that had ever happened to me and I was suddenly convinced it would happen again. 

I
woke up on the 11th day of the retreat in the same condition and tried to enter the meditation hall for the morning session. I was unable to do so, because the closer I got to the hall, the worse the pain and the high-pitched whine became. I began to feel that the energy was guiding me and  that “it didn’t want me to go in there.” I wandered to the student center, which housed the dining hall and the library. We were not supposed to read during the retreat, but I was feeling tempted to just distract my mind from what was happening- no dice. Although I was able to make myself a cup of tea and drink it, the mere thought of reading a dharma book or approaching the bookshelf sent a blinding blast of pain through my third eye

A
fter writing a note to the teacher informing her that I couldnt go into the hall and would just be walking in the woods today, I retrieved my cell phone from my room and walked off the retreat center property- up onto the rural highway. I made a phone call to my parents, hoping to break the spell and re-enter normal thinking and perception. For the duration of a long phone call, it seemed to work (you will start to notice a theme here!). But then as soon as I hung up the phone, I looked around me and was utterly stunned. Along with the immediate return of the pain and the drill noise, my normal eyes-open vision was totally transformed. Although I knew it was not literally true, it certainly seemed as though I could “see ten thousand miles” all around me. The hyper-reality was back, and this time it included my physical sight. When I looked at a far-away mountain it seemed like I could zoom in on it and perceive objects on it, and my head felt swimming in a vast space that extended infinitely all around me. I walked slowly along the rural highway for miles around the retreat center, looking and looking with the new vision.

S
lowly it dawned on me that I had not meditated in well over 18 hours, and yet I was having a feeling of altered reality that was continuing. 

T
he following thoughts emerged:

A
m I in a meditation psychosis? Should I leave the retreat and check myself into a mental hospital where they can knock me out and put a stop to this? What if I am stuck like this forever? 

I
decided that I would give it more time and simply go where the energy told me to go (within reason!). As I returned to the meditation center’s property I was then seized thoroughly by the energy, which guided me with what seemed like a pain-based echolocation. When I would even think about heading in the direction of the meditation hall, the books, or thinking dharma thoughts (even thinking about consulting the teacher) a sharp blast of pain would rock my third eye

M
y own inner voice translated the message into words: NO! Stop abusing your third eye. Stop using it to block out what is actually happening in your experience. Look at NATURE, not some book. No books. No words. No fancy theories, which you love so much. Open all your eyes and REALLY SEE what is around you! Apparently this is what it takes to get it through your stubborn thick skull! Stop relying on the wisdom of others, even a great teacher like Tina! Take some goddamn responsibility for yourself and learn from the universe, which is constantly sending you teachers that you ignore!

T
he pain had me by the balls- I have tried to think of a more elegant way of saying this, but nothing else can describe it. I would have done anything to make the pain stop, and apparently what made it stop was to use my psychedlically-sharp vision to take in the forest with incredibly rapt attention. Using pain and the cessation of pain to guide me, the energy took me through the paths of the woods and bade me look at different things. When I would comply and gaze at the tree or rock or creature that it wanted me to, the pain would stop and a torrent of insights would start pouring into my awareness. I was being taken to the school of nature- the insights and specific applications for my own life were mind-blowing.

T
his energy felt like it was physically expanding my third eye center, and in the process healing something blocked or unhealthy about my physical eyes- such as my tendency to ignore nature and everyday reality in favor of sticking my nose in a book, a voracious habit and coping mechanism for understimulation since before I could even read (my mother swears that as an infant who could barely sit up unaided that I was kept happy in my crib with magazines that I would carefully examine and turn each page of without tearing it). I was being forced to see the awesome wisdom of nature and to respect all that I could learn from it. And I must admit that nothing less than this terrifying pain would have dragged me out of that meditation hall, away from the attained meditation master and into the forest for days on end.

A
fter wandering the forest all day, with breaks for meals in the dining hall with the other yogis- who I could not help but wonder if they had noticed my absence, I made a major mistake. I should have known that in my current altered, highly-sensitive state that I should not have taken any of my usual supplements, but likely out of a grasping at some type of ordinary ritual to make me feel better, I proceeded to do so.

I
am normally very sensitive to all drugs and substances- and though this might be partially my imagination and partially a highly refined sense of interroception, I always feel (at least the beginning of) the effect of any food, drug, or substance I put in my body immediately. So as soon as I swallowed my usual daily supplements, I immediately knew I had made a mistake. I even fantasized about going into the bathroom and forcing myself to throw them back up, but I decided that was crazy behavior and I would just need to ride it out with mindfulness and equanimity.

I
t was after dinner and I was alone in my room. I could feel the substances being digested and assimilated into my bloodstream and it felt like filthy mud. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw hideous, mud-faced demonic beings cackling at me, and I felt nauseated and trapped in my room. I felt I could not tolerate seeing them with my waking eyes, and fell to my knees praying to my ancestors, the Buddhas and God to keep me from seeing anything that would threaten my sanity that night. I felt sick, alone, and stricken with the knowledge that no one could help me at that moment. I just tried to endure it. I slept with all of the lights on and the covers over my head.
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August 2022 Retreat Part 10: Ears 

W
aking up on the 12th day of the retreat and finding that I was still in this deeply altered state was shocking- it had now been over 36 hours since I had last meditated. I received the following insights as I walked to the forest that morning:You have gone and done it now, Aviva. You came here to have a breakthrough and you have gotten it, more than anything you could have ever hoped for. You can’t go into the meditation hall because you don’t need to meditate right now, it is all happening on its own. It’s like the SpaceX rocket shedding its boosters once it has gotten into orbit- you have reached escape velocity for the first time, so abandon the boosters! You are having a mystical experience that people hope and pray for- are you not getting direct teaching from the universe right now? Enjoy it, be grateful for it, accept what is happening with equanimity and do not grasp anything. This will not last forever, because no state lasts forever. You should be so LUCKY as to have this last forever! It will not. 

The pain in the third eye abated that morning, but it was followed by the energy flooding into my ears instead (which is still the realm of the third eye chakra). Loud gurgling and crunching noises started, and it felt like my ears were full of hot soup. It then seemed like I could “hear for ten thousand miles,” like I could hear the ants walking on the ground and birds flying and chirping miles away. The “forest lessons” that day were all about my sense of hearing, and I had to proceed through the forest carefully listening to everything and stopping for hours to process the insights surrounding the sense of hearing and how I ought to conduct myself in the future (to actually listen to nature and to the concrete things around me).

Throughout this time I was also trying to do all the “grounding techniques” anyone could ever imagine, and I was meeting daily with the teacher. Every technique would work for some amount of time, but the energy would always start to gather again. I remained scared to meditate, and it felt like I was trying to hold back a river with a barely-adequate dam. And because I was not allowing the energy to move any further, it stayed at that energy center and cleansed/purified/drano’d that area pretty thoroughly. 

Many lessons were imparted, especially through the attempts to ground that were ultimately unsuccessful. When trying to ground the energy through my feet, I ended up having an irresistible pull to go down to the ground and start talking to the Earth itself. I felt a churning, hot, bubbling sensation in my heart center and I realized that for this entire lifetime, I had resisted having a relationship with the Earth due to my irritation at being incarnated here. I allowed myself to feel love for the Earth as a conscious being and re-established a relationship, and suddenly the pressure and energy in my head connected through the heart center and came down my body and into the Earth. Although I was relieved, I knew better than to expect it to be permanent- and fifteen minutes later, back it all came.

At this point I spent hours sitting outside, in a lawn chair, looking at the tops of some tall trees being buffeted in the wind. This became a psychedelic vision with many downloads of information, and was extremely beautiful. For as long as I looked at the trees, the energy in my head did not bother me.
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August 2022 Retreat Part 11: Surrender 

I
woke up on the final day of the retreat and felt a sense of worry and defeat at still being in the hyper-real state and still experiencing the head pressure. I also experienced nausea, a racing heart, and full-body tension. There was the pervasive sense of being a machine with grinding, smoking gears desperate for oil

I
decided to attend the final group session, which was where we broke our silence and each shared two minutes about our experience. There were thirty practitioners, and by the end of the first person’s sharing I had tears in my eyes (as did many others). The pent-up emotional, verbal, and social energy of two weeks all came out at once and much of the room was crying for most of the next two hours.

T
hen the teacher shared with us that a student had asked her in an interview: “what must it be like for you, listening to all of us talk about how we are caught in our hindrances and defilements?” She paused in the telling, and looked at us with tears in her eyes and a hitch in her quiet voice: “I told him that I see you all as Buddhas.” It felt like an energetic wave hit my heart center when she said that, as though the words were the carrier of a transmission deeper than any concentration-enhancing intention I had felt in the meditation hall. You could have heard a pin drop in that room. We all looked at one another and saw what she saw in us- a moment I shall never forget

A
t the end of this, I noticed that the crying, catharsis, and intense feeling of connection to others had resulted in a feeling of fullness in the heart chakra that had somewhat decreased the head pressure. I then had to run back to my room to finish cleaning and packing, with less than one hour remaining until the shuttle bus came to take us back to the airport.

I
n the midst of difficult and frantic packing, and seriously wondering what would become of me on the plane and how I would return to my life and work, I finally gave up. I realized that four days of attempting to slow down the rise of this energy had barely worked and this did not feel like it would just fade away. I had run out of the will to resist whatever awful thing seemed to await me.

I
sank to the ground in front of my bed, not even in a meditation posture, just crouching  and consciously surrendered to the energy

“Do what you will, go where you will, I accept whatever happens.”

T
he energy immediately surged and gathered around my third eye and built to the most painful pressure yet. It quickly exploded, taking an unexpected route over the third eye, flowing up to my scalp and around the outside of my head and down my back. The energy was bushwacking through dense and stuck energy as it pushed to complete an orbital circuit, becoming intensely itchy, turbid and audibly crackling. 

A
s soon as it completed its rough orbit, churning like a dirty river as it did, the pain in my head was swept away. The feeling of being an un-oiled robot ceased as well, essentially going in the opposite direction as I started to sweat and feel rubbery and loose. It felt like I had just run a marathon.
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August 2022 Retreat Part 12: Post Retreat 

W
ith the benefits of hindsight, I was clearly in the Dark Night immediately after my forest experience, which was the peak A&P experience of my life thus far at that point.

S
ome Dark Night bullet points of the following six weeks: 


  • Energy pain on the plane throughout the body, correlating with pressure changes.

  • At the exact moment of walking up the stairs to my friends’ house right after my plane landed, my sleeping friend (a magickal practitioner and reiki healer) had an intense lucid dream about us having sex (not a normal occurrence for our friendship) and experienced kundalini-esque symptoms for a few hours after waking from it. She refused to be closer than six feet to me for days, saying that the energy coming off of me felt like a nuclear furnace and was ten times stronger than my normal aura

 
  • For three solid days after returning, I slept nearly continuously on their couch, unable to shower, brush my teeth, or even make it all the way up the stairs to the bedroom. I would sleep a few hours, wake to eat, then fall asleep again. I have never experienced anything even close to that. It almost felt like my body compensating for being “too awake” for two weeks.

 
  • It was all too easy to feel fear for those six weeks. Watching the new Lord of the Rings trilogy felt overwhelming and a bit too scary. Emotions were exaggerated and quick to flare up.

 
  • Eating meat and processed junk food resulted in strong energy pain tingling along the recently opened orbital pathway. The same went for even the tiniest white lie or other sila slip.

  • Eating in general became complicated for this period, with weird things happening like projectile vomiting after eating foods I have always eaten (and worth noting too that I have never had a restrictive eating disorder or bulimia or food aversions). I eventually figured out that every food that my body was rejecting was a food forbidden by the Hindu sattvic meditation diet for yogis- quite weird and surprising. I sought out a qualified ayurvedic practitioner and she put together a daily program for me with bodily purification, dietary changes and the like. This was ultimately what got the Dark Night manifestations to die down and go away. Although now with hindsight I could see the vomiting as a clear sign of Disgust in the Progress of Insight.


In fact, I will just list the most basic/general symptoms I experienced for the Dukkha Nanas (keep in mind I was doing no insight practices and barely any samatha- I just stopped practicing and tried to “get back to normal”):

Dissolution: the sudden break-up of the A&P-induced kundalini energy in the third eye, and also prior to that the dissolution of my retreat plans in and of themselves perhaps- no meditation hall for you! Get thee to the forest!

Fear: fear of losing my mind, fear of being stuck like that forever, fear felt intermittently (especially at night) for the six weeks following the retreat in all kinds of circumstances.

Misery: Trying to work long hours while going through this: top grade misery indeed.

Disgust: Constant vomiting, anyone?

Desire For Deliverance: This drove me to do a lot of research which ultimately led to finding out about the sattvic dietary component and finding the ayurvedic practitioner. I could not bear it.

I do not think I reached anywhere near Equanimity. I think I just fell back into a state of non-practicing. However, the energetic openings and feelings of confidence in the path as a valid path remained, to be picked up again a few months later

Something I understand now, as I begin to do insight practices in earnest, is that in a way this crazy samatha experience was pointing me directly at my five physical senses as something to notice and pay attention to. The sense of touch in the body, and certainly seeing and hearing, were all spotlighted in the most obvious ways. But I was still not ready to fully dive into noting until now, several months later. 

Overall I would call this experience the most important two weeks of my life thus far, something I am glad I did and that gives me motivation to continue. Now that I have started insight practices I think it will all be a lot easier to handle next time.
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It is a relief to have finally posted that monstrous and probably too detailed/overly wordy report. I do not expect anyone at all to read it, but if anyone does and anything catches your eye in terms of wanting to share a similar experience, I would be grateful to hear it.

My main thought after re-reading this is: wow, I am nowhere near Stream Entry and didn't even make it to the first (hard) jhana and all of this happened in the field of awareness! Although the maps show what I am aiming towards, emotionally I feel like: how much more can there possibly be?!

My hypothesis is that strict adherence to morality and cleaning up my diet and physical health will help me bear further iterations. 
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I just did samatha for the first time since six weeks post my August retreat. Untimed sit, maybe 30 minutes. I felt a spontaneous urge to do it while I was doing vipassana. It felt like I had cleared enough blocks out of my upper chakras to chance it, and it was so wonderful. Very complete breath cessation. I believe giving up meat helped me with this.  

Very strong, full, sexual energy piti rising from root chakra and giving a sense of rapturous bliss throughout the torso. It felt like I was a balloon being blown up with bouyant piti and it was stretching my insides and the energy channels. Pleasure beyond anything. The pleasure of insight practice is clear, airy, spacious and sparkling and the pleasure of concentration is rich, warm, full, slow and syrupy, a warm blanket of comfort instead of a minty blast of mountain air.

I forgot what an utter relief it is to abide in jhana (I know it's not an ultra-hard jhana but it's on the road to it so I will say I am abiding in. . . . the foyer of jhana?), and also the definitive knowledge that it simply FEELS better than any worldly pleasure. That feeling of being filled with energy from literally doing no-thing is so much stronger than the fullness and pleasure of food and sex- two things I have historically avidly loved and was a discerning adventurer in. 

I guess I need to have multiple sessions throughout the day of vipassana and samatha, with vipassana during daily life activities. It seems like I am back in an A&Pish phase and I have to just keep going.
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Chris M, modified 1 Year ago at 1/7/23 11:40 AM
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In my early practice, I found and then stuck religiously with a two-session daily mediation practice - 30 minutes of vipassana in the morning and 30 minutes of jhana practice in the evening. I still do both three or four times a week. I don't think the so-called "hard" jhanas are more valuable than the softer versions, which has always been my practice. Hard jhanas require a lot more time and attention, and while they are truly rapture-inducing, the cost/benefit isn't there for me. The softer jhanas are like dipping into a cool spring and floating away to the adventure of the jhanic arc. There is a calming and healing energy to the soft jhanas, and that makes practice enticing and fun, which only helps motivation and the ability to gain the fruits of the practice.
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Thank you very much for this suggestion, I think I will indeed be doing that. I I think one of the confusing things for me is that the rapture I experience with only a soft jhana (ie, no Nimitta has formed from 30+ minutes of unwavering unification) is SO overwhelming and strong that it's confusing as to exactly how to integrate that.
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If rapture (piti) is too strong I focus on bliss (sukha) which calms things down.
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Chris M, modified 1 Year ago at 1/8/23 9:28 AM
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Aviva, I would suggest thinking about this a different way, to your taste, of course. My experience with rapture has overall been positive, although a bit scary at first. I once got into one of the Pure Land jhanas (post-8th jhana) so deeply and rapturously that I lost all contact with thought, with feeling, with anything but the pulsing yellow light that diffused my visual sense. This first experience of that level of rapture was weird and frightening, but fascinating at the same time. I think these raptures are on balance a good thing, though I certainly understand why folks back off from them at first. They're new to the early practitioner, and can seem dangerous in that we lose our "self" inside them, and most, if not all, of our sense experiences at the time they arise. I think there's a valuable lesson in these experiences, however. They can teach us that even this kind of crazy powerful experience is just that - an experience. These are mind effects, as is literally everything else. So this, the almost unbearable rapture while in some jhanas, can help us cope and be equanimous when we encounter overwhelming experiences in our so-called "real life."

JMHO, and to be taken with a grain of salt as you see fit.
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George S If rapture (piti) is too strong I focus on bliss (sukha) which calms things down. 


I have reached a milestone! Yesterday the constant piti was SO strong that it started to feel  . . .  a bit yucky. Too heavy and gross. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I had heard of this happening, but this bodymind has historically been an utter hedonist who never tired of anything rich, full, pleasurable and luxurious. I could distinctly feel the coolness/lightness of sukha compared to piti and PREFERRED it. Just amazing. I can truly see how jhana practice change the relationship to craving and pleasure, you just soak in it so much that it can become slightly icky.
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Chris M:
Aviva, I would suggest thinking about this a different way, to your taste, of course. My experience with rapture has overall been positive, although a bit scary at first. I once got into one of the Pure Land jhanas (post-8th jhana) so deeply and rapturously that I lost all contact with thought, with feeling, with anything but the pulsing yellow light that diffused my visual sense. This first experience of that level of rapture was weird and frightening, but fascinating at the same time. I think these raptures are on balance a good thing, though I certainly understand why folks back off from them at first. They're new to the early practitioner, and can seem dangerous in that we lose our "self" inside them, and most, if not all, of our sense experiences at the time they arise. I think there's a valuable lesson in these experiences, however. They can teach us that even this kind of crazy powerful experience is just that - an experience. These are mind effects, as is literally everything else. So this, the almost unbearable rapture while in some jhanas, can help us cope and be equanimous when we encounter overwhelming experiences in our so-called "real life." JMHO, and to be taken with a grain of salt as you see fit.


Your report of the Pureland jhana is a fascinating one and yes, at my low level of experience I can already feel a growing equanimity and confidence in the fact that experiences are impermanent. 

At this point I am a little confused by my jhana practice. The other day I absolutely was sitting with super-strong piti, strong sukha, sustained attention and applied attention, and decent (not perfect) one-pointedness and it felt that there was barely a self to perceive anything, that there was (almost) just the breath which was super subtle and rapturously beautiful. So all the jhana factors of the first jhana were there, and I think according to Leigh Brasington and the soft jhanas people this was very clearly the first jhana. But according to my teacher's lineage with Pa-Auk Sayadaw, this was merely the appearance of all the jhana factors and I would need to have 30+ minutes of unswerving attention before nimitta would begin to arise (in other words, this state was only 20-30% of the way to the first jhana). I experienced a general brightening of the visual field but no nimitta formation. Ah well, nothing to do but continue and see how it all ripens. My next jhana retreat with my teacher is in August.
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I have not written for a few days because my practice has been rather all-consuming and I am taking whatever time I can just to meditate. While maintaining two full time jobs and a social life of sorts. Lots of tumultuous life stuff around work that feels like it is not affecting me as it would have before.

In the last few days, where I got back to some samatha practice after staying away from it after my Dark Night experience post-retreat, I have found a freedom and new level of confidence in my practice. Starting my baby vipassana practice and doing it in real life as much as possible has been immensely helpful. Some right-now conclusions:

-Vipassana, because it puts attention all over the bodymind, opens energy channels all over the bodymind.

- Samatha is like an oil rig, drilling deep and hard into the root chakra until the energy fountains up like a powerful geyser- powerful but literally concentrated into one stream.

- My Dark Night manifestations were at least partially from the tremendous energy released by samatha having not enough places to flow, so it all flowed into my head and caused pain.

-I've been doing a jhana sandwich: start with vipassana, feel all the head channels open, then sip on samatha lightly until a flood of energy comes up from the root, then end with more vipassana to spread it through the entire body (not by guiding it with visualization! Just the good old six Sense Doors, and then it spreads perfectly on its own.

- If I still have too much energy in my head at the end of a sit, I have started to sweep my awareness down to my feel and the body surface in contact with the cushion. This seems to redistribute it "down" pretty well.

- Tara Springett says that people who have head pain from their kundalini process essentially have some narcissistic traits and some denial of self-critical thoughts going on. I have taken this to heart and I am trying to gently criticize my own behavior (this is good for me, I have a weak super-ego and normally have self-processes that would redound to less responsibility, not a harsh and critical superego). My vow of Asteya or non-stealing actually well covers pretty much all of my remaining moral problems so I need to keep steady on the vow. I do not shoplift or anything, but the subtle selfish meanings of "to steal" such as stealing someone's peace of mind by not getting back to them as immediately as I could, being slightly late to meetings and similar things.

- It seems as if I do not meditate twice a day or more, energy builds up in my body and causes bad physical pain and symptoms that seem like I am sick or injured, but go away with a sufficiently long session. Is this a Dark Night phenomena? I know any psychiatrist would immediately diagnose me with psychosis! I do not feel I am psychotic but this part really can be disconcerting. In many ways I still feel like I am in an extended A+P, with continuing very rapturous meditations filled with light and sexual energy. I feel I may be constantly falling back to A+P, but I will not worry about it and just trust the process. Perhaps my bodymind is simply adjusting me to greater energy levels to continue the physico-energetic cleansing process.

- I seem to need to be temporarily vegan, along with no spices or garlic and onions- nothing stimulating or full of energy! Body is purging. I am losing weight, but I am not being manic and not-eating. I am eating lightly but regularly of mostly grains and vegetables and fruits. Having any "high-energy foods" immediately puts pain and tingling in the terminal ends of the energy channels that are currently opening, like the feet, legs and head. It is scary and painful when it happens. The channels are so full of energy that adding the life-energy of the animal is like juicing up a full circuit with extra electricty and it starts sparking.

-Over the last two days I experienced SEVERE kidney pain that made me think I had a kidney stone, but I knew better somehow. I could barely eat any food and nothing with protein, it would cause terrible pain. But when I sat to meditate, huge energy globs would rise from the root chakra to envelop both kidneys and shooting pains would be driven through the kidney. But in each session I could feel more and more toxic, dark, black ama (the ayurvedic word for toxic energy blockages) being squeezed out of the kidneys, and after two days it seemed to reach a peak and afterwards felt more clear, and suddenly I could eat again. During the process lots of nausea would arise with meditation, it felt like such a classic purge.

To some extent this was like a mini-recapitaluation of what happened six weeks post my retreat, where finally all of the gunk lifted free of my kidneys after much laborious meditation and ayurvedic cleansing. This cycle also began with a sudden A+P, but the entire thing has been shorter and faster to reach the same level. I know I should not be fascinated with this, but I totally am! It's such a weird and wild process to experience, and I have to own my experience as a beginner nowhere near Stream Entry, so yes there is still an illusion of self fascinated by all this.

My job right now is to simply continue as much vipassana in daily life as possible.

-
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- Oh, and I've been having another weird symptom that causes me to NEED to meditate urgently: severe eye pressure and shooting pains in the eye. I know for sure I don't have high blood pressure and this is just from energy, but when I press on my physical eyeball it feels extremely full, swollen and painful like it has been inflated with a bicycle pump! Someone looking at me couldn't tell a difference, although sometimes my eyes become bloodshot temporarily. The pain is STABBING and horrible, it truly feels like an awful eye infection is brewing. But then the moment I sit and start opening the channels at the top of my head with simple vipassana, it all goes away and I open my eyes at the end feeling perfectly normal. But if I go too long without meditating, it can return.

- Adding samatha back in has decreased my motivation and alacrity for the admin details of my job. Doing just vipassana was greatly helping me stay avidly focused on fulfulling my worldly obligations. I do not like this development, I enjoy having an appetite for admin and crossing things off my list. I am guessing this is because (to grossly oversimplify)  jhana practice floods my brain with dopamine and therefore I already have the reward and its not as attractive to get it from my to-do list, whereas vipassana has a DISTINCT "serotonin feel," I feel so productive and steady in my desire to accomplish my obligations.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/13/23 6:47 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 1/13/23 6:47 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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- Maybe I should practice only vipassana during my work week and leave samatha-inclusive sessions for the weekends when I have no work? Even as I type that, I don't think I can put a kundalini awakening process on a schedule like that . . . 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/16/23 10:01 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 1/16/23 10:01 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Yesterday I woke up after six vegan days, ravenous and feeling unwell- the body said "give me animal protein," so I did (but not meat). Ate a lot of dairy and eggs. Physically it felt like a relief and some well-being, but meditatively UGH, I could feel all my little nadis (energy channels) had clogged up and it was not very good. I tried to just note all that, but my concentration and clarity were really notably impacted for the worse.

Back to vegan eating today, and by mid-day my meditation was back at it's previous level with beautiful, "clean," pure-feeling cool sukha and bodily energy prevailing. I could feel the channels becoming unclogged.

I also had my kalyana mitta group last night and shared honestly about my practice, being mindful not to sound too obnoxious, manic or like the starry-eyed A&Per that I clearly am right now. People in the group are kind and polite, but it was clear no one there had any similar experiences and I think I did make some people uncomfortable. Oh well, let the chips fall where they may.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/16/23 10:06 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 1/16/23 10:06 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
Oh, and one more thing: adding vipassana alternating with samatha seems to be taking the edge off the extreme piti. Now that the channels are opened a tiny bit at the top of the head I can do samatha without feeling like I'm going to pop my head right off. I can feel the piti buildup in the central channel from the root chakra but it's much less intense! These cool sensations and refined sense of sukha is definitely pretty brand new in my practice and it's really nice.

I also think all of this childish journaling has helped me clear my channels as well, as it is another form of self-expression for the silly but entirely necesarry to normal functioning selfing process that is, in fact, the central pin to all the dukkha.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/21/23 1:11 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 1/21/23 1:11 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Last night I had a hard time falling asleep because I was seeing surges of light behind my closed eyelids. Took hours to fall asleep.

The night before last, I heard a tremendous crashing sound right before falling asleep- I jumped up to see what had fallen, but nothing had fallen anywhere. I looked this up and it might be Exploding Head Syndrome (I swear this is really a real medical condition!). I think it was from stress.

I think I am starting to suffer from an actual protein deficiency and this vegetarian five weeks (the longest I've ever managed in my life) might be coming to an end sooner rather than later. I am dreading to feel the energy channels closing again from doing that, but I just try to note my attachment to the good feelings and the aversion to "lower" feelings.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/21/23 10:02 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 1/21/23 10:02 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
I was recently offered a different job role at work that will partly involve more ability to work from home and remotely- I think this will have a positive effect on my meditation practice and spiritual development. I won't be so scattered, more time to sit.

I feel a split within about whether to simplify my life more in order to support my practice. I currently work two full-time jobs and I'm trying to pay down my stereotypical Millenial school debt. Paying off my debt IS a high spiritual/karmic priority, but perhaps after that I can re-assess. I predict I am a couple years away from that. Should I try to buy a house? Keep renting? Which is better for spiritual life? I am tempted by the prospect of not owning property as a way to simplify my life, but it is arguable since if I profitted by property ownership that could benefit those I could give the money away to . . . . feels very complicated to figure out the ethics of.

Time for meat today (no red meat, just turkey): I meditated and felt my life force was rather weak. Nice small jets of cool energy and some surges of light, but my concentration is pretty shot and I can feel a tension in my body that I associate with the beginning of protein deficiency. My muscles have noticably shrunk. Still, for someone who previously could hardly go a day vegetarian, five weeks is impressive. But I am still recovering from COVID and I think without animal protein I cannot get my immune system back. What a wild ride this has been.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/24/23 10:24 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 1/24/23 10:24 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
Day Three of re-feeding with meat, and I can cautiously report that it feels like this latest kundalini/insight cycle has come to a close. The first few times eating meat were just awful, energetically- I felt painful pulsing all over my body, yet physically my body responded very positively. Very weird mixed feelings. But I woke up today with a good sense of well-being. I can feel the energy returning to my root chakra- hungry for meat, interested in sex in what feels like a normal way and not a crazy-kundalini way. And also interested in my day job, in money matters, in vanity. Ability to do vipassana in daily life seems to have fallen away, which coincides also with getting my period (fuzzy brain, tired, but also lots of endorphins).

I was resistant to the end of this cycle, but here it is. And considering I didn't even plan this at ALL, and that the A&P event happened in a dream and I simply had to cope with all of this as best I could, I would say it all went pretty well. I think some serious detoxing, clearing, and progress happened. Let me list the points of progress:

Joined a meeting-in-real-life sangha group

Started a vipassana practice for the first time in my life

Cleared out the front part of the superficial orbital energy channel and part of the back of it

Cleared out enough blocks from my third eye that I am no longer experiencing regular pain there, even from things that used to bother it before

Re-started my log here and re-connected with this wonderful community

Was able to do five weeks of eating as the situation demanded, and healed some food issues

Was able to take up samatha again safely because of what vipassana did for me

Improved my physical health

Maintained my job and relationships through Dark Night shenanigans

Got further into the Dark Night with more awareness, concentration and conscious intent than ever before in my life

Gained confidence in my ability to handle the awakening process

I feel lighter and happier

Resolved an old conflict with a mentor that resulted in a huge professional opportunity (this was not the intent, but it quickly happened).

************

My energetically sensitive friend who does reiki told me today that my aura felt much calmer and more normal now that I was back on meat and she said I was no longer radiating sexual-feeling energy from the top of my head. Very interesting stuff, life is certainly never boring anymore.

I feel like something fundamental has shifted in terms of my relationship to the concept of aging. I definitely don't think of it the same way after this. The only thing I care about now is having enough time to get through as much of the awakening process as I can.

Now the trick will be to keep up a regular meditation practice even without a crazy kundalini cycle to cope with. Let's see how I do!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Year ago at 1/25/23 2:01 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 1/25/23 2:01 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 7134 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Sorry for replying so late to this. I just want to mention that equanimity is in line with jhana too, that is, forth jhana and forward. They mellow out quite a bit the further one continues on the arc. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/27/23 10:25 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Thank you, Polly! Jhana seems to be a very vast territory indeed, worthy of a lot of exploration.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/27/23 10:48 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 1/27/23 10:42 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Going up and down the consciousness ladder, what a ride- re-introducing meat has been SO clarifying! 

My body feels really healed and strong, my emotions feel heavier, my energy channels are clogged, and my concentration and motivation to practice have plummeted. Heavy return of feelings of greed, and even flashes of anger which is very unusual for my personality. 

With the return of greed is the return of my high energy/"appetite" for completing worldly tasks related to admin at my job! It's astonishing how much greed motivates me. It is kind of alarming and embaressing. Could I lose the greed and still be this motivated?

I am not a yogi living in a cave, I have two full time jobs, debts to pay, people to care for. The meat and the greed somehow seem tied to all of this, I mean why have two jobs in the first place? GREED! Not even just for money, but for stimulation, excitement, and challenge. This appetite for life that I have is very strong, but is that not the very definition of courting trouble with suffering and samsara?

I like the feeling of lessened greed, higher consciousness, higher conscientiousness, lightness, etc. If the vegetarian diet had not been slowly killing my body I would have continued. 

I have a fantasy that if I get into very good physical shape my body would be able to withstand vegetarianism for longer stretches at a time. And I also know my mind is obsessing about this in a silly way. Will just have to do a lot of noting of greed, desire, obsession, worry. Planning thoughts.

This is where practice drops off and I cannot let it. Noting: desperation, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness. I feel like I've been kicked out of Eden. Noting: East of Eden.

Of course as soon as I note those things, the next note is "Delight," because I am back to being conscious and aware.

******

Edited to add: I just realized part of what is happening is that during the last six weeks, there were a lot of things I could not attend to totally properly when I was coping with crazy A&P manifestions. So now I feel behind on life, on so many dozens of tasks and I feel disorganized (hello ADHD symptom resurgence). 

I need to forgive myself. I did not even ask for or plan this cycle, it really did happen without my doing anything (according to those further on the path than me, this is the way it is for literally everything). I WANT to meet my responsibilities, I want to hold to my vows. I don't know why it is so difficult but this is simply my karma and I must accept that it is mine to work with and holds the answers within the challenges.  

 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 1/28/23 8:20 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 1/28/23 8:20 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Felt heavy and depressed, like I could not meditate. I did so anyway with my friend, the reiki healer. Untimed sit for about 30 minutes.

Somehow, despite heaviness, immediate bright lights happening in the visual field and some nice cool breeze chi. Felt a steady groundedness that I thought was from my friend, and then when we compared notes afterwards she said (before I spoke) that she was seeing lights and feeling energetic breezes. Said she did not typically experience lights during her meditations. She reported a heavy feeling of sexual energy emanating from me, but I was not feeling that at all- perhaps I was ejecting it all outwards?

Afterwards I could not hug her or be physically near her because I would start to experience energy pain in my head and hands, and a feeling of nausea. Did she absorb my energy and my body did not want it back?

Weird stuff, definitely interesting but I'm trying to just ignore it and not find it overly fascinating. 

Very effective: when notcing any selfing thoughts, noting: "silly!" in an affectionate way, as you would say to a toddler.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/4/23 9:53 PM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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It's been an amazing week. The dramatic phenomena of feeling significant energy sucked back down into my root chakra after eating meat resulted in all of the following:

1. Interest in sex, workplace productivity and wordly pleasures: up
2. Concentration: down at first, now returning
3. After six weeks of radical-for- me vegetarian asceticism, when I ate meat again I did not feel a greed for overeating (after three days of high re-feeding that felt very natural).

I have a lifelong tendency towards binge-eating as a stress response, and now for the first time EVER I can follow the moderate-eating plan designed to help me stop binging. And not only is it working, it suddenly requires no willpower!?!? I am really enjoying my Middle Path-esque meal plan of a totally moderate and balanced plate three times a day, no seconds, healthy foods but also small treats.

This feels like the beginning of a monumental and much-needed healing of something that has remained a problem even as many other aspects of my character have been healed over the last few years. Somehow this is one of the most stubborn knots at the center of my ego, a very old response to stress that started with feeling horribly unsafe at school and food being the only comfort within my control.

I am not sure if someone who has never struggled with disordered eating could truly grok this, but to go a whole week without even the URGE to binge or emotionally eat (and not even being high on brain drugs from the A&P!) feels like a piercing no-self epiphany! When I think of and describe "me," that self has included this pattern for as long as I can remember. To exist in this body and mind without binging must mean that the self I identify with is not solid in the way it seems.

I finally have the missing piece to tackle this, ie the ability to clearly identify the subtle and gross arising of dukkha that I try to get away from with food. And to note that dukkha, to investigate it, and to allow it to arise and pass away without adding more suffering and karma. 

I cannot overstate enough what a miracle this feels like for me, something I did not even think about healing because I assumed it was impossible and I would be stuck with it for life. Shows what I know! Feeling immense gratitude.

I feel compelled to add that [oooh, I feel an aversive Daniel-style rant coming on!] the namby-pamby wimpy yoga-voiced "mindfulness" CRAP for eating disorder treatment repelled me utterly and I would not even try it, because I instinctively felt that a problem this deep required a deep and radical practice to heal it and I did not find it until now. Only by aiming very much higher and more grandiosely than whitewashed American mindfulness nonsense (it helps many people! It is doing good in the world! I am not knocking it for anyone else! It just makes my skin crawl with contempt which I will one day dissolve with my mighty vipassana laser beams!) could I accidentally have made a dent in this horrible monkey that's been on my back forever.

-----------------------

I have been reading the blog compilation of all of Shagrol's old posts, and it blows my mind every time. The writing immediately brings me into the present and I feel like it calibrates my attitude correctly for the work. Immensely grateful to this whole community.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/6/23 6:24 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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30 minutes meditation with my parents yesterday. I saw a bunch of wispy faces of relatives, which almost never happens to me, then compared notes and my mother had been seeing vivid faces of relatives the entire time! While it was happening I was suspecting it was from her. 

Yesterday I could not eat lunch just because I was so busy going from place to place. So when I arrived at dinner at a friends house, I basically ate my lunch and dinner portions at the same time. This was not more calories than I was supposed to have in a day, and I promise you that in the past I could've easily eaten three times the amount and not blinked an eye. But soon after I finished eating, I started to feel horrible and alarming energy pain at the terminal ends of the energy channels in my left foot, and I felt really awful and stuffed.

This must be my version of how normal people feel when they overeat?

Even though dinner was not so late at night, I had a really hard time falling asleep and felt a bunch of anxiety that did not feel emotional or mental in origin, but very physical. Again, this is so unusual for me and very surprising. It is as though my body has so quickly gotten used to being moderate in its intake that it really rebelled when I didn't stick to what it needs.

I don't mean this in a dissociative or psychotic way, it is definitely poetic, but since coming back from my most recent retreat my body has not felt like my body. The purification was so intense and difficult that what I currently reside in is something I am still getting to know. Not to mention getting over the effects of COVID, which may be contributing. 

I feel a mental desire to do some short fasts for the healing of COVID effects, but given this incident I'm not sure my body would cooperate. I think this body needs the Middle Path and is letting me know in no uncertain terms.

As an FYI: my binge eating is likely associated with ADHD, which is very common. The reason people with ADHD binge is somewhat different than a purely emotional overeater, it is thought to be primarily about seeking dopamine regulation through food reward and lack of impulse control.

So this is what the healing energy unleashed at the retreat and which I have so struggled to integrate "wants" me to do next. It occurred to me this morning that spiritual revelation and meditative insight is always like this in some way. According to the Kabbalists, when Moses went up the mountain to speak with God, his encounter was so high, so holy, so ineffable and mysterious that it caused his face to  permanently emit a white light that would overwhelm the people who looked at him, so he had to wear a veil for the rest of his life! But more importantly, he came back down with a clunky set of stone tablets laying out rules.... 

The ineffable condenses and concretizes greatly as it comes down the levels of consciousness into this material reality. I can imagine that Moses was shown (or maybe he just meditated up there and it arrived and he attributed it to God) high levels of insight into dependent origination and compassion and the suffering caused by clinging, but to bring it back DOWN to the ordinary people who had not attained this, it had to be concretized into Don't Kill People, Don't Covet That Lady Next Door, etc. 

So four days of wandering the forest in a near-unbearable A+P/Dark night trial and six weeks of integration afterwards resulted in a stone tablet that said: Thou Shalt Not Pig Out, EVER!

It's pretty funny when I think about it. 

Thou Shalt Be Moderate. 

Although it is weird, difficult, and disconcerting to change a deeply stubborn 30-year habit, I am grateful beyond words and in awe of what the path makes possible. Or rather, what my efforts on the path make possible, with the help of all beings ultimately. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/6/23 6:45 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/6/23 6:45 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Oh, and another epiphany related to that:

The reason morality is essential on the path is that one is acting the way one would act who had higher levels of insight than you currently have. If you understood dependent origination much better, you would naturally refrain from  all forms of stealing without inner conflict, etc.So when you refrain from all forms of stealing well before that, you are opening the door to the insights. In kabbalistic terms you are creating the container for the divine light to fill that space once you are worthy to receive it. 

This is why sticking zealously to my vow of no forms of stealing rocketed me so quickly up to an A&P unintentionally. Moral behavior is aping enlightened conduct before you are enlightened, so it acts as the gas- while any immoral behavior acts as the brakes for the very same reason.

Although plain old selfishness and ignorance explains 98% of my previous immoral behavior, I actually suspect that a small part of it was to throw on the brakes- I easily rocket up and down the consciousness ladder and it can be scary, quite frankly. I am sensitive to the effects of everything (likely I am very slightly autistic, a common ADHD force multiplier if you will), and part of me was desperately pumping the brakes with less than stellar behavior to feel grounded and safe from unnerving trips up the ladder.

I have to be careful not to be too zealous. But I do see the spiritual path as being able to tolerate more and more high-frequency states and energy, ultimately letter the Tao flow through you and your actions with no resistance.

My spots of resistance are where I still fear that. 

I need to be humble, small, moderate, earthy. I need to eat moderately and proceed with good but not insanely careful morality until I can better handle the rest!
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/7/23 6:48 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/7/23 6:48 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Yesterday meditated for 30 minutes, during which time I switched between jhana and vipassana throughout to guide the energy through my body in what felt like the needed way. Towards the end I experienced a surge of golden light accompanied by a piti-sukha blast that was large and sudden enough to surprise me. I have not seen golden light before in quite that way. I felt very refreshed for the rest of the day.

My moral sense is certainly becoming more sensitive- for the last two days, whenever I make the smallest ethically questionable choice I have a nightmare about it. Such as: I did not try hard enough to reschedule with two clients who had cancelled and no-showed me, and each night I had an elaborate nightmare about a very bad transgression against them with severe consequences. This goes with my Asteya or non-stealing vow: by not vigorously going after them to reschedule I "stole" income from me and treatment time from them, even though conventional morality (and actually my original training) would say it is just on them to reach out to me. Gotta tighten up the ship!

Yesterday I took some Vitamin D, dividing the capsule into quarters and just taking one quarter- it STILL gave me a surge of energy that felt a little scary. I googled and lo and behold: Vitamin D raises dopamine levels. Guess what else raises endorgenous dopamine production 65% above baseline? That's right, meditation. Too much dopamine can equal psychosis and hallucinations! My dopamine is always either too low (from ADHD) or hovering too close to hallucinations from all of my practices and naturally hypomanic-ish baseline constitution. Thus my affection for Daniel's style of speaking and self-experimentation.

Also found in my research: guess what depletes dopamine levels? PROTEIN DEFICIENCY! Protein is the building block of dopamine in various ways, and vegan protein needs to be virtually doubled from normal to be absorbed in the right amounts, so being vegan without aggressively chugging protein drinks all day almost certainly depletes dopamine. Which makes so much sense that when I entered an intense A+P suddenly I couldn't eat meat at all and barely could tolerate any protein foods! In addition to any spiritual/energetic stuff, I believe my smarter-than-me body was protecting me from psychosis by having me stop eating dopamine-boosting foods during a time when my endogenous levels were peaking sky-high for a number of weeks.

Hyopmania (?) gas: Vitamin D, chocolate, concentration meditation, myo-inositol, following a vow with overzealousness
Hypomania (?) brakes: veganism, a boring regular life
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/7/23 6:59 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/7/23 6:59 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
Oh, and one more thing:

I do the Lesser Banishing and Invoking Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram every morning and evening (invoke in the morning, banish at night), from the western magickal tradition (classic Golden Dawn stuff). Now when I assume the starting position I feel lovely cool windy chi spring up in my hands and start flowing over my body, and I feel energy throughout the ritual- this only happened sporadically before. In fact, I feel it now just thinking and typing about it.

I am not sure if this is purely a product of concentration, or if the ritual itself calls it up by some other mechanism.

When I do not do the LBRP and LBRH in the evening I tend to see a lot of random faces as I fall asleep and have much gnarlier dreams, seemingly full of entities and energies that are not "for my highest good" as people say. My magickal practice has not progressed much beyond this regimen because of tie constraints, but I consider it my version of energetic hygiene, essentially no different from putting on makeup and deoderant in the morning and showering off the day each night. Now I cannot go without them or I feel grubby and things just  . . .  don't seem to go as well. 

I feel an interest in adding the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram, a slightly more elaborate ritual, but I do not feel it is quite the right time. Maybe soon.

One thing that is important to me is that my magick is aimed squarely, only at myself and attaining my True Will, which I believe is somewhere in the territory of Get Enlightened For the Benefit Of All Beings (since we are being grandiose here), or a more humble version might read: clean off all the schmutz and garbage from my consciousness so that I can make the best choices and be as creative and positive as possible with my human endowment this time around.

Magick aimed at material world results feels dubious to me for my own use, but then again I also need to strengthen my relationship with the material world and magickal practice is excellent at that. My conscious will, ambition, and material creativity are actually areas of ego weakness and I think they need to be strengthened before being seen as transparent and empty.

In the words of a book my friend told me about recently: you have to be somebody before you become nobody. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/12/23 6:17 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/12/23 6:17 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Daniel reminding about the Seven Factors of Awakening on Nihila's log made me realize how to frame the fact that I was suddenly frying myself over the last two days!!!

Back in August I blew the goddamn doors off with heavy Concentration, which released intense Energy (I always have lots of Energy pretty much), so I had to back off of that and starting in December I finally added true, on-purpose Mindfulness and Investigation.

In the last two days I was experiencing high levels of guilt, shame, moral perfectionism ( a fascinating development for this lifelong careless slob, but nevertheless imbalanced) and thus a lot of suffering. I was feeling really physically tense and anxious.  I think it is because I finally started overdoing both Mindfulness and Investigation. Have you noticed a theme here, which is that I go overboard, over-intense, over-hard on things? Oy, my lifelong habit. Certainly Equanimity is my very weakest quality and likely will be the last to develop.

Before even conceptualizing it in these ways, I realized that I needed a long untimed sit today where I would let attention do whatever it wanted. And after about 45 minutes of vipassana it wanted to do jhana practice, so I did. It was SO healing, relaxing, and gentle, with energy pouring into my central channel and gently sweeping all the tension away. The energy started massing around the hip sockets, wanting to open up not-yet-opened leg channels, but at that point it had been over 90 minutes and I needed to stop because my legs were falling asleep. [Fun fact: nearly every meditation I have ever done (aside from those that had to end because of time constraints) has ended because my physical body started to be in too much pain from sitting. Mentally and emotionally I nearly always feel like I want and could continue much longer were it not for the legs falling asleep.]

Came out of it feeling like I had just spent a week at a spa and my mind was very happy and relaxed. Needed a big dose of ConcentrationJoy and Tranquility to balance myself out I suppose, in that terminoloy.

 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/16/23 5:00 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/16/23 5:00 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Feeling low, potential Dark Night stuff ongoing. 

Shortly after my last post I did a longer samatha session and once again felt a jarringly strong release of energy from the root chakra- afterwards it was not quite A+P psychedelia, but rather like I had taken a whopping dose of opiates. I felt calm but also somewhat subdued, even slightly depressed, yet it had been blissful. I had some after-shocks throughout the day and the next where something just felt off, I was having a lot of kundalini body pain, random energy pains.

I get this weird pain in the root chakra where it feels like the energy is turbulent and muddy. I have not done vipassana in a couple days, how quickly the habit falls off.

I felt a strong return of normal sexual energy so I had a couple of conventional orgasms and they felt grounding but also . . .. slightly depressing? I can't seem to get the energy to just be balanced and normal.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/16/23 5:08 PM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Which leads me to:

I got Tara Springett's book, Healing Kundalini Symptoms, and I plan to diligently work my way through it, applying the healing method and writing by hand for the self-confrontation stuff.

Her thesis: kundalini energy pain is ALL un-processed emotions, thoughts and beliefs that are not consciously recognized. To make the "weird energy pains" go away you must confront and make conscious all of these things. 

She has a particular emphasis that head pressure pains are from: unrecognized narcissism, overly positive thinking, unwillingness to stand up for what is right, and unrealistic ideas. Guilty on all counts, though much better than when I was younger. I am feeling demoralized, but all in all that is probably a little bit good and part of the process. I am a very optimistic and cheerful person and I think this is required work on the path.

An extreme amount of work stress, ADHD overwhelm, and PMS are all probably contributing to this feeling of a dark cloud over me that I have.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/16/23 5:20 PM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
I also saw/read something that really disturbed and excited me (equanimity, I do not know thee today): I saw someone online (not Tara Springett) saying that kundalini awakenings can happen along nadis/channels other than the sushumna (central) nadi.

He described several kinds of kundalini risings, and the one that resonated the most for me was the "vajrayana nadi" rising- it starts at the second chakra and goes to the crown, primarily stimulating and raising sexual energy. It is not the central channel but runs along the same path in the middle of the body. This is allegedly not a full normal awakening that goes from root to bindu (above the crown chakra leading to full enlightenment) and while it might confer siddhis it will not lead to awakening in the end- it is like a blind alley. To correct it you're supposed to guide the shakti back down into the root and then raise it through the central channel. 

Allegedly this is a sort of awakening that might happen if your karma is dominated by lust (that was certainly true in the past). If your karma is dominated by anger you might experience a right-side channel rising that would cause incredible heat and problems and is not considered very desirable.

I do not know if any of this is true and helpful. I also know it is a Hindu way of looking at it and might not correspond with anything actually happening to me, but it did make me wonder about it. I certainly relate to the sexual energy aspect of it and when I do too much samatha it seems to make the energy out of control.

There is a woman yogini online (Dani Antman) who writes about having this kind of vajrayana nadi kundalini rising and ultimately correcting it. I've decided that I'm going to work all the way through Tara's book before permitting myself the indulgence of even considering trying to reach out to this other woman. I am trying to work on my own wisdom and discernment here, not looking to other people to solve my problems (tempting as it once was, I know it does not work so well in the end).

I know that the Chan/Theravada consensus is that you don't need fancy yogic techniques to try to guide the energy anywhere, just relax into non-clinging and the energies will arise and sort themselves out eventually through enough practice. I am torn between these two ways of looking at the path.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/16/23 5:30 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/16/23 5:30 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
The thing I must really devote myself to on this path at this moment is fixing all my real-world root chakra concerns: 

Re-making my very complicated schedule for my new job- the agony this is causing me during the transition is unbearable and giving me ADHD paralysis.

Taking my company from paper to digital- dozens of hours of work probably, idealing completed by first of March.

Buying furniture for my new office (huge milestone, but also stressful because my interior decorating and spatial skills are not strong)

Finding a new apartment

Diplomatically severing ties with old office and old apartment (fun conversations for this conflict-avoidant people-pleaser!).

I have to keep up a minimal vipassana practice throughout so all these hard-won open channels do not close up entirely and require a cannon-ball of kundalini to open again.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/16/23 5:39 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/16/23 5:36 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
Also wanted to say that I'm so grateful for my therapist, my karma must not be so bad since I managed to connect with this guy! He is a 50-years-of-experience meditator who was a direct student of Mahasi Sayadaw and is definitely post-Stream Entry (he is a good and humble American Buddhist so of course I had to pry this out of him with direct questioning that he eventually was kind enough to give a straight answer to). I can be honest with him about what I am experiencing and I respect what he has to say in return.

Edited to add: although he has clearly had some of the classic A+P experiences from how nonchalantly he reacted to hearing mine, he still was kind of alarmed at the intensity of my kundalini symptoms and was happy to hear I was working with Tara's book. I suspect he may think I have bipolar or hypomania and one of the things Tara's books was good about was delineating the differences between mental illness and awakening. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/17/23 6:27 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/17/23 6:22 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Meditated last night, untimed, vipassana-only, and immediately felt cooling, soothing wind energy rising up and relaxing a lot of the stuck tensions and worries in my mind. I also had immediate brightening of the visual field.

I was then able to do some online work with my friend, which broke me out of the ADHD paralysis and we made a pact to do frequent work together.

I also feel better about the possibility of having a "deflected rising" of kundalini, because I got an intuitive download this morning as I was struggling to unroll a wall calendar in a tube- a lovely gift from a friend showing all the moon phases for 2023.

The tube was tightly rolled in the tube, it was hard to get it out, and then convincing it to unroll long enough to by taped to the wall by its four corners was very annoying. Download: initial pre-A+P experience, the kundalini is just rolled up at the base of your spine, getting it out for the first is the big drama, and then all the rest is just letting previous karmic traces simply relax enough to cohere into a new and more useful shape. It takes many tries, and the four anchors holding down the corners of the calendar (which strongly wants to roll back up because that is the karmic momentum it has built up) are: morality, concentration, investigation, and (for me) balanced householder life activities.

Lesson learned though: I cannot go a day or two without some kind of formal sit, even small. It results in the worst feeling of oppression, dread, stuckness, tightness.  I do have an intuition that I used to suffer more, at baseline, all the time before I took up magick and meditation. I did not know what caused it or how to work with it, so I just tried to lose the bad sensations in food and sex.

​​​​​​​Also, my dreams recently are becoming more richly emotional. I consider this a good thing.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/22/23 5:22 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/22/23 5:22 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
Now when I sit, whether for samatha or vipassana or a combination of both, I very quickly get visual brightening, cool or cold rising wind chi/energy/prana, and a refined and light sense of sukhah that causes a spontaneous smile because of how lovely it is. These things took two full weeks to unfold during my last retreat and now they just seem accessible. Even when I am in the midst of a busy normal day, feeling a lot of stress, all I have to do is mentally recall the sukhah and I can instantly feel it start to rise up.

I am in a very intensely stressful life situation right now involving every aspect of my work, but in the next week or so it should get better. I try to stay with my mind on the spot under my nose frequently throughout the day to generate tranquility and to keep my mind from latching on to where is it generating suffering. Normally this is not the case for me, but because of a sudden increase in responsibilities and chaos, all to the good ultimately but very stressful, my mind has been generating a lot more suffering because of clinging and greed due to the opportunity to make more money.

Also still recovering from COVID and planning to do a water fast in mid-March to heal from it. My mitochondria have been damaged by the virus, and I know this because I cannot exert myself without a horrible stress response the next day that I have never had before. I am feeling some dread and aversion to the idea of doing this fast, although I am convinced that it's going to help me. I think it will be very physically painful, because fasting always highlights your physical problems and they hurt greatly as they are being healed. Some people recapitulate their COVID symptoms pretty exactly when they do a long water fast.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/22/23 9:57 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/22/23 9:54 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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My work stress reached a fever pitch today and I had to work 13 straight hours with no real breaks. So I pulled out all the stops and actually did a modified samatha practice for about half of that. Here is what I did:

When with a client, when they were speaking I paid incredibly close attention to the sound of their voice/meaning of their words, ie taking their voice and the meaning as my concentration object. Obviously I dropped this when it was time to respond. I think this made me a better therapist today, I really let them speak and did not chime in with my words until it was truly called for. Sometimes if they were truly talking for a long time and did not need me to respond (happens more than you might think!) I would switch to my mind on the anapana spot but also their voice. This produced super strong piti, yet I could still focus on them and respond appropriately. I practiced metta for them as well in little bits.

By doing this, I immediately got a flow of piti/sukkha/cool bliss flooding my bodymind, and was able to keep my nervous system in a nice parasympathetic state despite all of these demands. I did the modified concentration practice from 7:50 am until 1 pm, and by the end of that time actually felt physically healed from the stress to a large degree. I felt happy, light, and free, with my body feeling very warm and relaxed. It was really amazing. I feel so grateful for this path and these practices.

Samatha also suppresses appetite a lot- I didn't eat while I was doing it and felt great (normally I would feel ravenous and stressed) but as soon as I stopped I became very hungry and needed a lot of food. But then immediately stopped eating as soon as I was full and didn't eat the rest of the day.

_________

I'm in a one-year mentorship program with my teacher and I have homework: a one-page bio of my practice and my aspirations for the practice. Here is what I wrote tonight:

During my two week samatha retreat with you in August of 2022, I experienced strong, all-pervading piti and kundalini phenomena that took me right to the limit of what I could metabolize (but not beyond, which I attribute to my faith in the teachings, my inner determination, and also your kind guidance). I had a life-changing spiritual vision (eyes open, in the forest-it felt very timeless)  that gave me an unshakeable faith in the Buddha’s path as a (not the only, but ***A***) valid path. I was soon in an altered state that lasted four days, which only ended when I surrendered and stopped trying to slow down the energy, which was champing at the bit to smash through blocks in my channels. It took six weeks of skillful self-work to process the retreat, during which time I consulted an ayurvedic practitioner and made changes to lifelong eating and health patterns that were not serving me and had in fact caused that stagnation.

 
In early December of 2022, in preparation to begin this program, I made another practice vow to practice Asteya, or non-stealing in every possible dimension (such as being very punctual so as not to “steal” time or peace of mind from people, etc). This drastically increased my mindfulness and this heightened awareness re-triggered the kundalini phenomena- after a few weeks of this vow, without much other meditation, I had a dream where I was back in the peak of the altered state I was in during the August 2022 retreat. When I woke up from this dream, I was shockingly still in the altered state in real life and experiencing wild energy flows throughout my body with extremely heightened perception and strong sexual energy pouring out of the root chakra. Without refuge in the teachings I would have been pretty scared- even with that, it was an all-encompassing test of my equanimity and I think I handled it decently well for how unexpected this was.

With my rudimentary understanding of the Progress of Insight map from Mahasi Sayadaw’s tradition, as elucidated by Daniel Ingram, I interpreted this as: I was “accidentally” doing vipassana all day long, paying exquisite attention to everything in the field of consciousness in order to monitor for the arising of impulses to “steal,” and this actually triggered one of the earlier stages on the map called “the Arising and Passing Away”- this stage being the one most prone to visions, fireworks, kundalini and sexual energy. This is always followed by what Daniel Ingram and others call the “Dark Night” or the dukkha nanas, such as Fear, Misery, Disgust etc on the Progress of Insight. I knew the Dark Night would come, so I decided to launch a first-ever on-purpose vipassana practice using the Mahasi-style noting technique. 

For weeks I had to practice my newbie-skills vipassana nearly non-stop while awake (I maintained my normal life with some difficulty) because I found that the open monitoring of all the sense doors had the effect of decreasing the painful aspects of kundalini by opening up many small energy channels in my head. This allowed the energy to spread and move more freely so it was not all massing in one place. The Arising And Passing Away lasted a few weeks: lots of lightening/brightening of the visual field during meditation, spontaneous orgasms, meaningful spiritual dreams, very heightened awareness and bliss/euphoria. I also started experiencing some icy-cold wind energy (it felt very nice, although I’m pretty sure this is “lung” according to the Tibetans) as the nadis in the front of my body (from root to head in the front, not through the middle channel) opened and cleared. It felt like a small recapitulation of the retreat.

I felt I definitely improved my vipassana skills a lot and now I have a daily practice of both vipassana and samatha- I am much better at understanding now how they are two sides of the same coin. I believe if I do not aim at Stream Entry, I will just continue to cycle through the Arising and Passing Away and the Dark Night. I can only resolve to practice well, follow the instructions carefully, and abandon any timeline for this to happen. If it takes ten lifetimes, I am satisfied as long as I have used my time as well as I could for each stage of my development.


Do you have any aspirations for the program for this year? 


My aspiration is to continue the process of anchoring higher frequency states, traits, and behaviors into my life while becoming more grounded. To accomplish this I have to keep refining my sila and live in such a way as to support this possibility. 


Do you have any aspirations or themes in your life, that you want to work with in applying the learnings from this program?


BALANCE AND TRULY LIVING THE MIDDLE PATH ACROSS ALL DOMAINS OF MY LIFE- I am “yelling” because this is so hard for me and always has been. In terms of the Seven Factors of Awakening I have sometimes-too-much energy and joy (my therapist, an experienced 50-year meditator who studied with Mahasi and has attained Stream Entry at least, sometimes wonders if I experience hypomania) and not-yet-strong-enough enough mindfulness, investigation and equanimity (I have ADHD). When I over-do concentration that’s also when I get crazy energy phenomena. In general I am overly intense and over-zealous, and I know this is driven by greed/lust tendencies that I must gradually dissolve if I want to progress safely on the path. I feel I have a lot of karma to clear in this regard and I want to deal with it head-on, without spiritual bypassing.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/22/23 10:04 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/22/23 10:04 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
When I read what I wrote to my teacher, I feel a fleeting, sinking feeling that no one will believe me and think I am just using random jargon. Being articulate can hide the raw emotion, so I have to say it in earnest:

I want to awaken. That's it. I want to wake up to reality, which even at my low level of development I understand is so good it can hardly be stood.

Awakening to me at this time seems like the process of being able to tolerate the full joy, pain, and wonder of existence.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/28/23 12:45 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/28/23 12:45 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
I wanted to do a short fast to help my body heal from COVID faster (3 months post infection and I still can't exercise without post exertional malaise, though slowly getting better), but I can't because it's making me head in a hypomanic direction. Got out of bed to eat a snack to bring me back down.

Did a lot of concentration anapanasati today during normal life and got into some pleasurable and blissful states in the midst of a stressful day. 

I conclude that with my brain amped up from jhana practice and bouncing around in A+P-Dark Night territory, fasting or any kind of extreme is dangerous and could lead to too much kundalini. How many times must I learn to embrace the Middle Path and not deviate from it? 

​​​​​​​I resolve to follow the Middle Path in all of my normal daily activities and in my practice. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 2/28/23 6:32 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 2/28/23 6:32 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
Also noteworthy changes: 

In daily life, I can get an immediate flow of piti-sukha just by directing my mind to the anapanasati spot or focusing just on the Touch sense of the sense doors (all the bodily sensations at once). For sure, this used to take at least 15 to 30 minutes of closed I meditation with all of my effort to focus.

I can see and feel how my brain is changing from meditation, and others can as well. My colleague recently overheard me on the phone for over an hour with the internet provider, who was engaging in Kafka-esque absurdities that would be generally infuriating. I stayed equanimous and patient the whole time and felt no frustration- I took the sound of his voice as a sense door object!

My colleague approached me afterwards and said: how did you stay calm and patient? I would have hung up on him and also I think you would have too In the past. Since I'm pretty close with her I did actually tell her that my meditation practice was making me less reactive to aversive stimuli over time (leaving out a lot of details but that's appropriate!!!). 

I am getting much better at quickly noticing and noting "aversion" in daily life and the simply recognition does liberate some amount of suffering from the experience immediately. I'm better at spotting it in others too.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 3/4/23 11:06 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/4/23 11:06 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
More A+P, more Dark Night. Currently feeling desperate and desiring deliverance and trying to just note that and stay equanimous and gently curious about it.

Did four malas of silently chanting a mantra a few days ago, which is of course a form of concentration meditation. This pretty immediately gave me a huge spontaneous orgasm and flooded my system with piti and I saw brightening with eyes closed, made life a little difficult and then my vipassana session later in the day was amazing and clear.

I need to meditate 3-4 times a day to feel ok. Extremely blissful and amazing during the meditations and then steadily my mood gets worse with every minute after the session ends. 

​​​​​​​
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 3/10/23 8:46 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/10/23 8:46 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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The same thing recapitulated itself exactly from my summer retreat. The troublesome kundalini syndrome stirred up by concentration requires Ayurvedic/yogic techniques to make a dent in, even though I am continuing with vipassana as well.

Morning ayurvedic cleansing of eyes, nose, tongue etc, showers and herbal teas, nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing pranayama) three times a day- especially after meditating in the morning. This seems to calm down the constantly rising piti that can get stuck in various places causing pain.

I am entertaining the notion that I have a Deflected Vajra Kundalini Rising, as described by Dani Antman: https://batgap.com/dani-antman-transcript/

I am also open to Daniel Ingram's take on the Energy Models, ie that they may not actually fully reflect reality and are unsatisfactory. Either way, some regulation and calming of my subtle body seems to be in order.

Then again, I could interpret the Deflected Rising concept as just how these yogis talked about the A+P to Dark Night bounce and repetition. They say if your kundalini rising doesnt go up the central channel, it bounces all around giving the person glimpses of transcendent bliss but it is unstable and kundalini falls back down the root chakra and the person feels sad or down. Sounds like Dark Night to me!

Only a few weeks away from first mentorship meeting with my teacher, which I'm looking forward to.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 3/12/23 10:13 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/12/23 10:13 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
Last night I could not sleep because of intense fluttering sensations in my stomach in one particular spot that is exactly where I got a severe vaccine injury two years ago (I am not an anti-vaxxer, but it happens to be true that the first Pfizer vaccine gave me a mysterious, awful stomach injury that took 1.5 years to heal). I worried that somehow my immune system had been activated again and that the injury was back. 

As I lay there, I suddenly realized this was the exact two year anniversary of the injury, to the day and hour! That's when I decided it was likely more energetic than physical. 

I started to do mental chanting of my recent mantra, and the fluttering was washed away by an upflow of piti while lying in bed. I was able to sleep.

I woke up this morning and spontaneously started meditating again in bed, first lying down and then sitting up, for almost three hours.

Started with silent mantra, moved to anapanasati, then when the piti and concentration was very strong I switched to vipassana.

As soon as the piti hit the stomach spot the pain flared, and I detected an energetic wound. I realized it had to do with an energy cord to and from a certain person that I had been helping, for reasons that were not very healthy. I used both my hands and my imagination to yank out the cord and return to sender, and also to withdraw my own cord. I prayed for the person and myself and sent compassion to them and all sentient beings.

This process gradually washed away the stomach pain in a flood of light and energy. The energy flow balanced so that it was not being stopped up by the wounded spot. I started to feel very beautiful cold-mountain-breeze air flowing up from my root chakra and hands and coming up over my head and starting down my neck in the back.

After three hours I felt I had released the wound, but could feel some of the toxicity had been swept up into my throat and upper palate. I will work on that in the next meditation session.

The self-healing process of meditation is amazing. I am very grateful for these practices and for this community.
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 3/14/23 10:50 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/14/23 10:50 AM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
The purification attained yesterday really translated into the real world- I feel more free, more clear, more present. Suddenly I naturally felt like tackling about ten tasks that before the big purge felt impossible and stressful. Energy freed up. 

I have major dental PTSD from childhood complications, and today I went to the dentist and did silent mantra chanting while I got my teeth drilled. I got waves of piti going in the chair and was able to totally relaxed! After the dentist I felt refreshed and alert, whereas normally I would feel a PTSD flare up that might last half a day and make me feel shaky and with a desire to binge eat.

​​​​​​​
Aviva HaMakom, modified 1 Year ago at 3/22/23 10:37 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/22/23 10:37 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
Sometimes I truly wonder at what I have done to myself.

Did some eyes open vipassana in a noisy cafeteria and IMMEDIATELY got into a mild A+P state: suddenly every color was vivid, every human was beautiful, the fluorescent lights were beautiful (usually they bother me horribly), and I felt rushing cool chi flow up my body and out of my hands too. 

It was a good experience and having access to these states in normal life is becoming less of a big deal and more normalized overall. That is a good thing.

But dark night alert:

if I don't meditate daily I start feeling baaaaaaad physically and emotionally and mentally.

When I am around people who don't have warm intentions towards me and are in fact unfriendly to me, I feel shooting pain in my root chakra (maybe I feel unsafe?). Super sensitive to food and vibes. 
Aviva HaMakom, modified 3 Months ago at 1/13/24 9:11 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 1/13/24 9:11 PM

RE: Aviva's Practice Log

Posts: 101 Join Date: 12/17/22 Recent Posts
Hello Again,

It has been a wild nine months since I last updated here. I would like to start this log back up again.

The major development is that I finally had an audience/interview with the lineage holder of a respected order of Kundalini experts. After reading my entire life history (they really make you tell every significant moment of your life in the application), the lineage holder confirmed what I had already surmised by reading the organization's book about how Kundalini risings can go awry: a diagnosis of a "deflected rising." I've been put on a waiting list for an individualized retreat of between 6 and 12 weeks in either Europe or India, whichever slot opens up first. The wait list is around 4 years, closer to 3 now.

I was given general advice of how to prepare for correcting the Kundalini process:

1. Live a simple life- don't waste prana on anything frivolous, clean up all your moral and ethical behaviors, get your livelihood in order, all without being overly zealous.

2. Get as physically healthy as possible while not going overboard.

3. Think twice about engaging in any heavy and intensive meditation practices, such as long retreats. In my current condition this will likely be counterproductive. Once my Kundalini process is corrected it will be safe to engage in intensive practices again.

4. Engage in prayer and intimacy with the One/Divine, in any way that makes sense to me, without being overly zealous and neglecting householder life (are we noticing a theme here? Middle path!). 

It has taken many months for the effects of my August 2022 retreat to recede enough for daily life to become a little easier. I believe I experienced massive purification and learned a lot, but repeating experiences like that too often will just make regular life difficult.

To this day, even the slightest "spiritually exciting" thought or feeling will send a flood of sensation to my third eye chakra, up to and including pain. I remain very energetically sensitive and even without heavy daily meditation practice, I can easily go deeply into concentration states whenever I incline my mind in that direction even slightly.

I have strong and obvious markers of the Kundalini process I am in, including that sometimes my sexual responsiveness/sensations will move totally away from their normal spot to some higher chakra on my body. Many nights when I lay down to go to sleep, as soon as my mind and body relaxes I have the subjective experience of seeing through my closed eyelids in the pitch-dark room. I still have high energy for doing 12-14 hour work days and feel good at the end of them.

My daily mindfulness of sensations and ability to stay tranquil is pretty strong, and it's better if I "don't try." As soon as I start intending to practice too hard, I start getting strong energetic phenomena that make daily life more challenging.

When I do formally sit these days, I have to have a good long period of literally "doing nothing." No method, no technique, just sitting and letting the mind do whatever the hell it wants to do. Only then can I move on to jhana or vipassana practice, and usually I must end with vipassana. Too much jhana, jhana at the beginning or jhana at the end of a session will result in energetic pain in my third eye, insomnia, and rushing roaring noises as I lay down to go to sleep that  would be frightening if I did not know what they were. But if I make a "jhana sandwich" and its in the middle of an opener of do-nothing and vipassana on either side of it, I can still do concentration practice.

Currently in a serious endeavor to become physically fit- strength training twice a week, doing cardio, losing a small amount of weight every week by tracking my calories and being in a mild deficit. It will take me about a year from now to reach my goal at a moderate/sedate pace.

Currently in a serious endeavor for all of 2024 to clean up every possible sila issue in my life and making sure to dot my i's and cross my t's when it comes to my professional life. Making sure my accounting and finances are accurate and complete, etc. A major clean sweep of all the karma I can identify from this lifetime, in preparation for this retreat in 3 years.

I moved into my own space for the first time in my life, and it has been helping me a lot to just exist and not worry about anyone else's needs. Blissful beyond measure to have domestic peace.

I am involved with a local Buddhist community to some extent, even if I cannot share most of my experiences with them- they are good enough people, and being around wholesome people is more important than anything else when it comes to sangha. I feel deeply grateful to have access to high level teachers when really I need them, but they are not in this local community.

I feel like I know what I need to do this year. I'm glad to be back here.
‎ ‎Nihila, modified 3 Months ago at 1/14/24 5:08 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Welcome back!
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 3 Months ago at 1/14/24 7:08 AM
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RE: Aviva's Practice Log

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Yeah welcome back! 

May you be happy, healthy, safe! And may your practice be fruitful!

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