Nick H's Log

Nicholas H, modified 1 Year ago at 3/14/23 4:17 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/14/23 4:17 PM

Nick H's Log

Posts: 16 Join Date: 7/22/11 Recent Posts
Hello friends!

A bit of background, though more can be found here - I've been practicing for 12 years, almost exclusively samatha/anapanasati. While I practiced pretty seriously the first year or two, my practice waxed and waned over the next decade, up until about a year ago, when I started to get serious again. I completed my first retreat last Sunday (3/5), a ten-day Goenka retreat. I got exactly what I was looking for - the ability to discipline myself more and sit longer. Prior to that retreat, the longest I'd sat was 42 minutes, with most being in the 20-30 range.

On top of that, it was very peaceful and provided my first real opportunity to practice vipassana, as well as to see firsthand some cool insights that up until then, I'd only read and intellectualized about. I was surpised at how smoothly it went and am looking forward to doing other retreats.

Where I'm currently at - I'm currently sitting about 1.5 - 2 hours a day. I'd like to push that to 3 - 5. As far as I'm aware, I have no special abilities or talents in meditation, although I constantly get "you're super chill", so that's gotta count for something, right? Based off of Daniel saying in a few podcasts that those who are "seekers" have likely passed the arising and passing away stage at some point in their lives, I'm guessing that may have occured when I was 21, when I went from your average dude to "no I can't hang, I'm doing yoga and trying to figure out meditation" pretty much overnight. Apologies to my best friend whom I'd just moved in with emoticon Other than that, no special meditative prowess really - yet.

As mentioned in the linked post, I'm taking about a year off, maybe a bit more, to really focus on my sadhana. I've always been fascinated by jhanas so I will spend a few months seriously pursuing those, and will be attending the "Brahma Jhana" retreat at Dharma Treasure at the end of April. Come June, I'll assess where I'm at and see whether I want to keep going the jhana route or to start adding in, or mostly switch to, vipassana. If anyone has any suggestions, come at me!

I'd like to get more serious about my yoga too, but meditation will remain at the forefront. Still, I'll try to include any yoga practices I wind up doing in this log. 

Thank you to any and all who take the time to read or comment.
Nicholas H, modified 1 Year ago at 3/14/23 6:55 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/14/23 6:55 PM

RE: Nick H's Log

Posts: 16 Join Date: 7/22/11 Recent Posts
Last week's log, 3/5 up until yesterday, 3/13. All sessions are anapanasati, unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, 3/5 - Fresh out of my Goenka retreat and struggling to deal with all of the sensory input! I made it back home safely, took care of some things, journaled about the retreat, and sat for 45 minutes at 9 pm.

Monday, 3/6
5 am, 60 mins
9:12 pm, 35 mins

Tuesday, 3/7
5:42 am, 60 mins

I journaled later about some obstacles, one being my phone, and how annoying I now found it, with all the buzzing. I used to love it, I'll admit. Also wrote about how another obstacle was how during meditation, the mind was always looking forward to what was next, and that this manifests in daily life too. Never satisfied to be in the present, this mind. "Trying to relax, breathe, and accept reality as it is, right here, right now." That makes it sound like I'm anxious, but it's more about the mind looking for the next thing to entertain itself with. I also wrote about how I no longer like caffeine, and how pushy it is, even if there is some "pleasurable" aspect to it. Of course, I dislike caffeine withdrawal more, but plan to slowly taper off.
8:36 pm, ~ 15 mins - This was my second day back home, trying to keep the early morning sessions from the retreat, but I didn't get a nap. Showered and laid in bed for my meditation and promptly fell asleep! All other sits are actually sitting upright, unless otherwise noted.

6 am, 36 minutes - No notes on why it was cut short
12:49 pm, 20 minutes of yoga nidra - This is a cool practice that translates to "yogic sleep", and involves progressive relaxation, rotation of consciousness, contrasting sensations (imagining the body as extremely heavy, then light, or hot, then cold, etc), guided imagery, as well as a sankalpa, or resolve. The aim is to reach and maintain a type of hpnogogia, where the body is in a sleeping state, and the mind is still aware. I generally will nap for 20-40 minutes after this, though not always.
8:26 pm, 60 minutes 

4:30 am, 60 mins -
Wrote that it was a good session. I use the mantra "buddho" when the mind is restless, saying "bu" on the inhale, "ddho" on the exhale, and then drop the mantra once the mind settles. Sometimes I'll count breaths to ten instead, paying attention to the inhale, then the exhale, then say "one" mentally. Sometimes I don't need to mentally verbalize, and can keeep count without actually saying the number mentally. I finished with some metta, and it brought me to tears!
12:40 pm, 20 minutes of nidra
9:40 pm, 40 minutes

5:14 am, 60 mins
1:30 pm, 20 mins nidra
9 pm, 20 minutes 
- I decided to cut my sit short and "party", aka stay up an hour later and do some writing. Friday nights, am I right?

8:30 pm, 40 minutes 
- Took this day easy, caught up on real world stuff.

6:30 am, 60 minutes 
- Daylights savings. Decided today that no matter what, from now on, I would do 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evenings, until I leave for a trip Thursday, 3/16, at which point I will just do the best I can given the circumstances. In my journal I wrote, "It's clear to me, despite what I previously had believed, that the early morning session is, indeed, where it's at." Yeah, prior to the retreat my "morning session" consisted of 5-10 minutes in bed before getting up, usually around 8 am - and my mind was always insanely restless and excited for the day. Big difference!
2:50 pm, 16 mins nidra
5:18 pm, 20 mins anapanasati
7:34 pm, 22 mins anapana
9:16 pm, 66 mins - 
Trying to add in short little microsessions throughout the day, and decided to just sit for a few minutes longer at the end. During the final sit, boooy was I tired, and kept nodding off - that hasn't happened in quite a long time, but it was still a very good session.

6:18 am, 68 mins -
"Mind was a-skippin and a-jumpin, but I made sure to generate good feelings, just for doing practice, and made sure to let go of craving towards jhana or what I deemed 'good' practice. Just to be happy I'm sitting, relax, let go of exectations, let go of any thoughts and kindly bring the awareness back, again and again, to the breath, developing a sense of awe, wonder and love for it."
1:57 pm, 23 mins
9:24 pm, 60 mins

First week after the retreat, from 3/5 to 3/12 - 696 minutes, or 11.6 hours! Huge improvement over the 20-50 minutes each day total. I'm proud at the progress, however, a part of me can't help but feel disappointed by how restless my mind was this week. Some sessions went well, some sessions seemed much worse than before the retreat. Not sure why, if anyone has any insight, I'm all ears.

I'll try to update this daily or every few days, thanks to anyone who reads.
Martin, modified 1 Year ago at 3/19/23 2:26 PM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/19/23 2:26 PM

RE: Nick H's Log

Posts: 913 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
"Some sessions went well, some sessions seemed much worse than before the retreat. Not sure why, if anyone has any insight, I'm all ears."

To me, your practice sounds good. You are using a range of techniques and have a lot of engagement throughout the day.

When you talk about sessions going well or going worse than before the retreat, I am not sure whether you mean in terms of concentration or insight.  If you are not staying with the object, or your thoughts or emotions are not the way that you think they should be, that may be an opportunity for insight. You wrote, "another obstacle was how during meditation, the mind was always looking forward to what was next, and that this manifests in daily life too." That is a top-notch insight. No trifling thing to notice. So if that kind of restless dissatisfaction and inclining toward the immediate future (an entirely imaginary thing) comes up in a session, and you notice it, that would be, to me, a very good session. 

This type of insight into the habitual motions of the mind has also helped me in terms of concentration. I noticed that certain mind movements came up in certain orders. For instance, thoughts that are a continuation of the thought stream come up early in the sit, random thoughts and voices come up after the first settling of the mind, doubt about whether the sit is going well comes up in response to random thoughts, impatience comes up near the end of the allotted time, etc. They are like familiar sights on a walk around the neighborhood. When recognized like that, rather than being distracting, they can be seen as reassuring. ("Oh, look, Doubt. Hey, Doubt, 'sup?") This lets the mind return to the chosen object without worry or agitation.

In this sense, the parts that are "bad" in a sit can be seen as "good" in that we are learning what the mind does and getting familiar with those things, which leads to getting comfortable with those things, which leads to a calming of the movements of the mind, which leads to concentration. Meanwhile, if insight is what you are after, in these kinds of sessions, you are there already. 

By those metrics, one possible answer to the question of why your sits are "worse" may be, "because your mind's capacity for insight is growing stronger."
Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/19/23 5:07 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/19/23 5:07 AM

RE: Nick H's Log

Posts: 212 Join Date: 1/31/23 Recent Posts
Awesome, I will subscribe to this thread and read along occasionally. Best of luck with it all!
Aeon , modified 1 Year ago at 3/23/23 5:16 AM
Created 1 Year ago at 3/23/23 5:16 AM

RE: Nick H's Log

Posts: 212 Join Date: 1/31/23 Recent Posts
Suggestion for: "I dislike caffeine withdrawal more, but plan to slowly taper "

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I currently run DLPA and L-tyrosine, and it really makes a massive difference.