Kyle’s Practice Log

Kyle T, modified 2 Months ago at 3/6/23 9:27 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/6/23 9:27 PM

Kyle’s Practice Log

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/6/23 Recent Posts
Hello fellow meditators,

I've been meditating on and off for roughly ten years now but I'd say the last 4-5 years doing a consistent  1-2 hours a day. With the past year averaging probably 16-18 hours a week where some days I may be able to squeeze in 3-4 hours and another day or two I may not get an official sit but just do some noting throughout the day. I've been browsing this site for almost a year and decided it's about time I actually start participating to share my experience and hopefully get some feedback from those more experienced as I've been somewhat frustrated with my progress I suppose you could say. I've got probably close to 2500-2600 hours total of meditation under my belt and am honestly not sure exactly where I stand/how far along I should be since I don't have an actual teacher whose reached stream entry I can talk to regularly. I just finished a 9 day solo home retreat averaging about 10-11 hours of practice a day I'll detail the retreat in another post and go into more detail about it but basically leading up to the retreat I've been going through some somewhat serious Dukkha. Not sure if I'd consider it dark night as I went through much more extreme stuff probably 4 years ago but I could be somewhat of a dark night yogi I suppose so hoping to work through some of that in this practice log! Practice has led me to be able to see the 3 characteristics in about almost every avenue of my life which was a bit debilitating giving me somewhat of the blues of thought processes along the lines of "what's the freaking point if it's just unsatisfactory and impermanence in everything? Why are we stuck in this loop in the first place if there's no reprieve?, do we seriously need something like 10k hours on the cushion and living a perfectly harmonious/wholesome life to make the attainments I read about? How the hell am I suppose to do that living in the western world surrounded by what seems like the Kali Yuga!?" Yet I still continue to sit day after day trying to push through. I believe I crossed the A & P roughly 8-9 years ago when I just had gotten started doing yoga and meditation but it took me probably 4- 5 years after that of stumbling around other traditions and teachings until I found culadasa's "the mind illuminated" and started a daily more structured practice. I believe I stumbled upon Daniel's works probably 2 years ago so I've taken a bit of stuff from both of them. If you're familiar with culdasa's work I believe on my last retreat I was able to reach stage 8 in his book basically being able to reach effortlessly stable attention for the most part and reach a state of mental pliancy. A large portion of my practice I would say leaned more towards Shamatha but the past year I've been focusing probably 70-80%  of my efforts towards more vipassana and mahasi style noting when sitting. So the past year on days I can sit 3 hours I'd do one hour sit of vipassana noting, then another hours sit of noting later in the day, and then a 3rd hour sit of Shamatha where I'd aim for reaching jhanic states maybe the last 20-30 minutes of the sit by closely following the breathe unti feeling some piti or sukkah and then focusing on that feeling to enter Jhana.

I just wanted to give that background to my practice log for people to get an idea where I'm coming from. Still feeling a bit "raw" or "vulnerable" I guess you could call it after no electronics or any activity besides meditating the past 9 days so I'll update more tomorrow but wanted to start this tonight as motivation after this last retreat as I've realized I probably would benefit from talking with other people who are pursuing the same goal of stream entry : )
Kyle T, modified 2 Months ago at 3/7/23 8:34 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/7/23 8:27 PM

RE: Kyle’s Practice Log

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/6/23 Recent Posts
9 Day Home Retreat-

Prior to this I've done two separate home retreats that were a bit more structured with a schedule hanging on the wall I pretty much stuck to. For this retreat since I had been going through some pretty serious dukkha leading up to it I decided to try to be a bit more relaxed and just go with the flow. I still stayed vigilant probably 98% of the retreat (if I wasn't on the cushion I tried to be noting) but I def caught myself wandering in thought a few times. Being an introvert naturally I enjoy just thinking about things so I noticed when I'd cut off electronics I'd occasionally just enjoy letting my mind wander (I don't think I let it go more than 20 minutes the entire retreat however). I also cheated a couple times throughout the week and took a peak at my phone/had to answer a call or two from family and an ongoing situation I had going on that popped up prior to the retreat that was somewhat important though I didn't let myself get fixated much on this particular issue. This made me realize for my next retreat I would like to actually go to a meditation center with experienced meditators leading the retreat, where I can let family/friends know I'll be gone and can lock up my phone for the entire duration.

Practice: For this retreat I decided to focus on mostly Shamatha and reaching some deeper jhannic states as I'd read prior to this somewhere that if a teacher notices a student struggling after intensive vipassana it can be benefial to switch back to concentration practices to find some bliss/meditative joy. I think the mahasi style noting throughout the prior year definitely helped me become more aware of certain aspects of different Jhannas which was nice. 

days 1-3: I'd start my days with no specific schedule and get up whenever I felt like it and go to sleep usually around 12:30 pm.

vipassana practice:
The moment I'd wake up I'd try to stay present and start noting "tired, rolling over, mind wandering, breathing, moving arm/adjusting pillow" etc and would notice also how in half asleep states how much easier it is for the mind to wander off and almost into a dream like state when in bed. I'd start my day typically with a cup of coffee and 15 minutes of walking mediation and note every movement while walking, sometimes even noting if my eyes would move "seeing, glancing, hearing" if I'd hear noises or look at something. For my first sit I'd typically do a vipassana session as I notice the caffeine certainly stirs the mind and makes it more prone to monkey mind which isn't what I want for cencetration practices but when doing vipassana it's a chance for me to explore and note the activities/feelings after a cup of coffee. I'd typically feel slightly agitated and the mind would be energized to try to go down rabbit holes that almost always end up relating to some form of either acceptance, control or desire. Before almost every sit I mentally say a little prelude about the sits intentions, what I plan to do during the sit, possible distractions that could occur and a reminder that "in thinking only thought, in hearing only sound, in seeing only color shapes and forms. There is no seer only seeing, there is no hearer only hearing there is no thinker only thinking and the mind is all" to set my mind to get ready to meditate and begin by counting the breaths.

First a count up to 3, then to 7 and once the mind settles some begin turning my minds eye to almost looking inwards to itself so it's almost like looking into the central channel or awareness observing awareness (no self type of deal) and begin noting whatever comes up wether it's bodily sensations, thoughts or emotions. Looking at how thoughts can give rise to emotions vice versa and recently I've begun checking to see if a bodily sensation may come before a thought even arises. 

A big goal of my vipassana lately: has been trying to capture a thought when it arises and see specifically where it comes from, and then where it goes to as I believe I've heard shinzen young say in a talk that if you can really capture a thought or see it arise/ where it comes from, is "source"/god whatever you want to call it. I'm not sure if that's entirely true or verified by other traditions/teachers or if I've even remembered what he said exactly correctly but that's struck a chord with me lately and helped lead to a decently big insight during this retreat which I'll get into later. So with that in prior sits leading up to retreat I've noticed mental image thoughts (I distinguish between mental image, auditory/ self dialogue mind chatter and a a mix between the sensation of movement and mental image) typically seem to arise almost out of what appears like a Nimitta orb of glowing luminous light that's typically comes in the center of the darkness/murk of mind and seems to be almost like a light based hologram is the best I can describe it. 

so the above is a pretty solid description of my vipassana practices which I'd typically do sitting on a couch with a cushion pressed against my back to help keep my back straight (occasionally I'll sit in my recliner at a 45 degree angle for a few sits throughout the day as I find it really hard to sit 10 hours a day in a strictly spine straight upright position). Vipassana sits this retreat were almost always an hour for duration with a few 1.5 hour sits in the recliner here and there when I feel I needed to give my back a break.

I'd typically go straight from a vipassana sit to a Shamatha sit only
if I was feeling extra sore I may do some walking vipassana/noting.

Shamatha practice/techniques: 
so for my Shamatha sits I'd start with stating the same intentions for the sit and no self reminder phrase same as I do for vipassana and do the same counting of the breathes up to 3 then up to 7. I usually do this for about 6-10 minutes to get the mind to settle and from there start paying close attention to the breathe at the nose. I'd do something typically Culadasa calls "close following" which is paying very careful attention to every little sensation or pulse/jerk of the breathe as when you look at it extremely fine you notice the breathe isn't just one giant smooth inhale/exhale and is typically almost like a wave composed of maybe 3-4 pulses on the inhale/pause and then the exhale.  I'd pay extremely close attention to the breathe and if I caught the mind wandering try to appreciate the "AHA" moment of catching the break in concentration and revert back to exploring the breathe. I'd maybe do 5-10 minutes of that and then what I'd decided to do for this retreat especially in the first few days to practice Jhana was do a form of body scans and when focusing on a specific body part such as the abdomen rising and falling paying close attention to see if the breathe effected any of the bodily movements. I typically wouldn't notice a breathe effect on the abdomen but when moving to say the hands, center of chest, top of head, of Face I'd usually begin to feel almost like a tingling that would begin almost like a wave after the exhale which seems to be the beginning of piti. So I'd do the body scans and move around and try to find piti in different parts of the body and when I'd move to a new body part keep any of the prior body parts I'd already scanned in peripheral awareness as I moved to the next body part and continue observing the piti on prior body parts as well as the new ones while making the new body parts the main focus of my attention sort of bouncing awareness around the body part, the piti on that body part and keeping the other body parts in the background with less focus on them. I found doing this while keeping strong concentration would lead to feeling piti typically in waves all over the body but it seemed strongest in my hands, face, top of the head. I'd also start to notice bodily twitches here and there and a lot of times when really in the flow of things what I call "energy pops" which feels almost like a bubble of energy popping somewhere in the body or like a slight muscle spasm (sometimes muscles would legit twitch or spasm for a few second during sits also) this is something I'm used to at this point in my practice but I'd say as the retreat went on the frequency of them may have increased more than what I'd experience during my normal practice. 
A K D, modified 2 Months ago at 3/7/23 8:46 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/7/23 8:46 PM

RE: Kyle’s Practice Log

Posts: 205 Join Date: 1/20/21 Recent Posts
Hello Kyle,
Just wanted to pop in and say that your sharing of your practice here is appreciated and it's great to have such a seasoned practitioner engaging with others on this board! I hope that your time here is fruitful for both yourself and others - looking forward to reading more about your practice! emoticon
Be well! 
Kyle T, modified 2 Months ago at 3/8/23 7:52 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/8/23 7:52 PM

RE: Kyle’s Practice Log

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/6/23 Recent Posts
I appreciate it A K D. I look forward to participating and hope to grow as well as help others along their journey  if I can! I've made plenty of mistakes along the path so hopefully I have a few a bits of wisdom that can prevent others from unnecessary suffering/hang ups and share what's been beneficial for me also. I'll be back with more updates later this week.
Kyle T, modified 2 Months ago at 3/14/23 11:03 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/14/23 11:03 AM

RE: Kyle’s Practice Log

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/6/23 Recent Posts
So the first day of retreat I technically was working from home but was able to do still do 8-9 hours of meditation despite a distraction or two from having to check an email or two. The first few days were actually great, I was highly motivated and could feel my concentration ramping up and being more precise/staying on the meditation objects. I'd say by days3-4 I was also getting into some new territory in jhanic states ie reaching some equanimity I believe. I was reaching some pretty deep jhannas that if I had to describe it in terms of drugs (HIGHLY RECCOMEND AVOIDING DRUGS btw, they are
not conducive to practice in my experience and I used them a lot
in my youth which is part of what lead me to meditation in the first place being interested in altered states as well as abusing them which lead me to a recovery program where I was really introduced to meditation) but anyways some of the jhannic states felt like a mix of taking a benzodiazepine and a weed edible as terms of the body buzz and peace I felt. Another way to describe it is maybe think of a beautiful piece of music that gives you the shivers that run across your body (this is also similar to waves of piti in jhana in my experience) or the peace you may get after a day on vacation with not a care in the world and watching a beautiful sunset over the ocean.  So these were more intense jhanas than I'd probably ever experienced previously.

big insight from the retreat: I believe this occurred roughly around day 5 during a vipassana sit but I'm pretty familiar with the no self concept and was curious what a no self experience or insight would be? Basically what I got was like a flash intuitive thought stream that felt like a piece of myself but also like it was being transmitted to me? Strange and hard to describe but basically what it said was:

"Source emanates sensations from itself and experiences them through the body. body and ego create a false sense of “self” to keep up the illusion of separateness to experience reality through the sense experiencing instrument which is the body.  All thought/reality seems to emanate from the source/ dharma khaya whatever you want to call it."

when I hit around day 5-6 I started running into some dark night territory stuff with shadow sides popping up left and right (one theme in particular I don't want to share with the world lol) but it was a subconscious thing I could tell probably had some importance because it kept coming up like a slap in the face until I finally realized "ok this is something that's a part of your inner dialogue and needs to be accepted and addressed" so I went into acceptance mode instead of trying to just ignore/bury it like in the past and that seemed to help some though it still popped up a few times throughout the rest of the retreat.  I believe day 7 I have no clue what set it off but I had what felt almost like a panic attack where I was just super agitated and feeling a lot of anxiety I decided to do some deep belly breathing and a falling into the earth/healing visualization I'd learned from Reggie rays "mahamudra for the modern world" recordings and man did that really help, the entire episode seemed to resolve itself for the most part after 30 min of this.  

I believe around this day I also began to feel almost like vibrations/heat in my spine that felt almost like a bug or something crawling up my spine or being stuck in a certain area (usually around where the heart chakra would be). This was interesting and made me excited that "oooh maybe I will
get some really cool experience here!" (Noted experience wanting which was somewhat of a common theme throughout this retreat).

So the next day is the next time something difficult popped up it was later in the evening and I was probably 60-65 hours of meditation into the retreat and doing a vipassana sit and it literally felt like my mind was screaming at me "GET UP, DO SOMETHING ELSE THIS IS STUPID, NOTHING IS HAPPENING, NO GRAND A&P EVENTS NO KUNDALINI AWAKENING YOU ARENT ACCOMPLISHING ANYTHING PLEASE GET UP AND MOVE AROUND INSTEAD OF JUST SITTING ON YOUR BUTT!" this was probably 50 min into the sit and I literally kind of just gave up on that session and got up and did some walking/noting meditation.
Kaloyan Stefanov, modified 2 Months ago at 3/18/23 2:04 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/18/23 2:04 PM

RE: Kyle’s Practice Log

Posts: 83 Join Date: 2/18/21 Recent Posts
Hey Kyle, thanks for sharing your notes, I enjoyed reading your description of the 9 day home retreat. I really liked the big insight obviously and how that came up for you emoticon
Wishing you good luck in your practice!
Kyle T, modified 2 Months ago at 3/23/23 9:51 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 3/23/23 9:51 PM

RE: Kyle’s Practice Log

Posts: 5 Join Date: 3/6/23 Recent Posts
Hey thanks Kaloyan! Been busy with work lately so haven't had much time to sit down and write. I guess the next biggest event during the retreat was the last night on one of my last sits I was able to reach a state of physical pliancy and a very deep jhannic state similar to the other jhannas I described earlier however this one seemed to have a bit more equinimity and I was able to sit for roughly 2 hours straight which is one of the longest sits I've had actually sitting straight up and not in a recliner. &nbsp;During this sit I was get some major feelings of energy in the spine and def noticed myself getting excited hoping for an A &amp; P like experience but alas it never came during this retreat (maybe because I was wanting/expecting it?) oh well maybe next retreat. I think I've taken about a week off from meditating post retreat and have started to get back into my groove. Unfortunately it seems like that week off def did more damage than good (I think I remember Daniel saying in MTCTB that it's wise to take somewhat of a break post retreat but maybe a week was too long?). I can't reach near as deep of states as on retreat and my mind seems to be much more active/monkey mindish compared to even how my sits were before the retreat which is odd. Maybe work has caused this due to being busier than previously? Regardless I'm a bit bummed my concentration isn't as strong as I was really enjoying the concentration states I was reaching during this retreat. Maybe that's a sign I should go back to focusing on insight practice as opposed to concentration for awhile? I'll detail a sit or two next week when I have some more time to right. I just tried to do an hour this evening and almost gave up (peaked at my phone at about 45 min in) because I felt quite tired even tho I slept decent last<br />night. My mind seemed to be wandering much more than most and I was almost half falling asleep during my sit to the point I was almost in more of dream like state than meditative. I wasn't even able to reach first jhanna on tonight's sit which was a bit frustrating but oh well maybe I'll have better luck tomorrow.