Daniel's Practice Thread

Daniel T, modified 9 Years ago.

Daniel's Practice Thread

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts

I made a thread in Middle Paths that was going to be a practice thread, but after getting some helpful advice I was shown how little I'd actually accomplished. Finally understanding I'm still pre-stream entry. Well, live and learn. Fortunately, practice instructions don't change much.

This will be the new practice thread. I'll be trying to follow the same schedule.

My most recent sit:
Timed 30 minutes:
Started relaxed, low mindfulness, felt like I had to put a bunch of effort in to 'start the engine up' so to speak.
Worked with breath, tingling in cheeks/temples, and strong solid sensation around third eye area. Worked on seeing the solid sensation as multiple higher frequency sensations, saw some in sync with the tingling.
Noticed low energy/mindfulness throughout and switched to MCTB's technique of observing impermanence in the fingers. Tried to put in more and more effort, struggled with short 2-5 sec lapses of spacing out.
Eventually was able to focus such that my attention locked in and bounced around between 3 objects: Breath, left index finger, right index finger. Observing progressively finger vibrations and tingling, plus the sensations of attention rapidly jumping between them without my control.
Much of the sit felt forced/tense, but without any strong negative emotions. Keeping attention locked in required a lot of effort to maintain.

This was yesterday, tired but nothing special. Of note is a few things have happened since then that have been very emotional for me. I'm trying to compartmentalize, been getting rest, but left feeling pretty raw and negative. Unsure if this will affect future sits but I'll be following the practice instructions as best I can; treating thoughts related to the "stuff" as mental sensations.

edit: I suppose I'll guess at where I'm at. Seems like pre A&P territory. 3C's or Cause and effect, with A&P not far away because of the energetic/vibratory qualities of the tingling. I'd have to check the book again. Not sure. No big physical discomfort. Sitting isn't hard, it's just effortfull. (sounds like 1st jhana!)
Daniel T, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Daniel's Practice Thread

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
Just got off a timed sit. Here's what happened:

-Focusing on the fingers as vibrations get finer. Sidestepping mental sensations, stumbling at times. Neutral tone.
-More solid sensations on face, eventually noticeable enough to switch primary object and investigate those instead.
-Intermittent pain for short stretches in wrist, then back and lower neck as well. Adjust posture and continue.
-Vibrations in face stronger, pressure building in crown region, then energy/vibrations starting from fingers shoot up shoulders/neck to head and intensify. Noting/investigation speed much faster.
-Vibrations lower intensity and settle into a low tension tingling.
-Pain in ankle and lower back start up, sitting becomes uncomfortable. Wrist pain and posture too.
-I start spacing out, but bring it back for a few minutes of good observation before sit ends.

Tried not to colour the report with my interpretations of stages, but you can probably see hints of it. I'll just refrain from commentary and focus on the sitting from now on.

...and Merry Christmas DhO!
Daniel T, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Daniel's Practice Thread

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
5 Day Retreat, Day 1: Written morning of day 2
Dec 30th
General Notes on yesterday:
-Life sucks. My knees hurt, I haven't been sleeping well, I crave everything and anything consumable. I'm nervous and twitchy, and sort of thankful I have nobody to talk to.
-I've forgotten how hard it is transitioning from lazy overindulgent twit to retreatant. Probably broken enough retreat rules to get me kicked out, but it's my apartment and I'm still here.

On sits:
-First few (2-4) hours involved markings of early stages (notably 3C's odd posturing, especially when walking). Some strong energy stuff where calmness, precision and speed of noting picked up. Reminder here to fill in the gaps in my map terminology. I remember A&P-like energy tingling stuff fairly well though.
-Everything after that was different flavours of physical and mental negativity where I felt "terrible and wanted to stop sitting, but also felt there was nothing to do besides sitting as quitting wouldn't solve anything" interspersed with really brief periods of seemingly 'breaking through' to a spontaneously clear jhana-like state that I investiaged poorly.
-Feels like familiar territory.
Hate to be "that guy" who pegs every slight discomfort as dark night, so I'm open to the idea that I started off with some jhanic bliss and early stages are still kicking my a**.

Possible Attention Wave related stuff:
-I noticed along with a mental representation of sensations, there is a more of a mental-spatial orientation too.
-When you are focused but hear a sound behind you, there a really quick effortless shift to the new object (which I can only describe as a tense "ohmygodwhatwasTHAT" moment, shortened here to omgwwt), then visual representation of what the sound brings to mind(oriented spatially behind and above the eyes), then a mental representation of the sound along with the hearing of the sound (oriented in the general direction of the sound).
-There are definitely things I am missing or mixing up, but the steps going:
-new object
-omgwwt moment
-spatial shift to visual processing area
-spatial shift to specific direction/region of new object
are pretty consistent to me right now.
-The omgwtt occurs in every sensation if you look closely enough, and I interpret that as tension/negativity (it's brief but definitely not fun).

Writing bits of Tarin's guide out on a whiteboard. I'll need it.

And back to the cushion. That's way way more than enough speculating for one day. I'll check back tomorrow to see if anyone can offer guidance. If not, no biggie.
Daniel T, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Daniel's Practice Thread

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
Day2, written morning of day3

-Life doesn't suck at all but has been seen through as tiny little fragments being experienced with negativity and causing more suffering than is necessary.

-Figured out that slow noting (taking one or more seconds to fully see 1 of 3 characteristics in each sensation, repeating for every sensation my attention jumps to) works really well for me in periods of negativity / high tendency to space out.
-Been consistently landing these chilled out, focused, alert periods after negative unfocused intense vibration periods, with navigating those periods being made easier with application of slow noting.
-Unsure of where I am on the maps. I want to call the above low equanimity, 'mild pain', 'weight has been lifted', and 'prolonged sitting easy' fit my experience quite well. More wide-open inclusive attention (not narrow as before), and tendency to see 3C's in background sensations, especially spine/neck more easily.
-I've been also getting an increase in craving of all sorts (food, sex, alcohol), 'sleep need down', blissful periods.

It all gets confusing when I think about possible sub nanas; I read Daniel Ingram's Nanas/Jhanas table again today and remember thinking "dude, those negative periods could easily have been 3Cs or Dark night, I have no clue".
I'm just going to push forward as best I can. I'm making progress and it's encouraging.

I feel like being sure of where I am on the maps would help me direct my attention better, but I don't suppose it's too important.

Good chance I'll get 14-15 hours in today if the lowered need for sleep holds.
Daniel T, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Daniel's Practice Thread

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
Powering hard.

Since last post:
-Most extreme rapture I have experienced in my life, followed by clear dissolution. Practiced over 40 hours in the last 2 days.
-Laughed my way through fear misery and disgust.
-First pass through reobs was easier than 3Cs (slow noting), subsequent passes when falling back from low E terrible.

Hoping I am not reading the maps poorly. Attention is panoramic, vedena pleasant, light.
No hints of formations yet, I'm convinced I've yet to experience them.
Mind is still slow, struggled with that today.
Anticipating...trying to stay focused.
Daniel T, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Daniel's Practice Thread

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
Just got off retreat. Extended it a day because practice was going well.

Happen to be chilling in (what I think is) low equanimity and can't really describe the immense pleasure I took in powering up the laptop (was using the netbook for thread updates) and playing some relaxing music.

Too much content for me to try to summarize right now, but no regrets. Tons of progress. I feel immense gratitude to no one in particular, but the fine folks over here at DhO will do in a pinch.

Thanks especially to everyone who has been in correspondence with me.
Daniel T, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Daniel's Practice Thread

Posts: 69 Join Date: 5/3/11 Recent Posts
Finally getting around to updating. Over 2 months have passed since my last post at the end of the retreat. I haven't stopped practicing. I'm not sure if I'd say I'm making continual progress, as my perspective on a lot of things has changed, but I'll get into all that.

Quick recap of the retreat, crib notes version. If there is interest in an accurate retelling I'll dig up the notes I took immediately after. I think it was 6 days. Mostly alternating between walking/sitting, and reclining when my back/knees started to give. Averaged 10+hrs a day, but it varied from 8-20.

-24-48 hours of building momentum, at times extremely frustrating and effortful.
-Continues, along with lots of vibratory stuff phasing in and out, believing I was in equanimity. I remember naming these fast and slow periods in my head.
-The most intense feeling of rapture, like being pulled backwards out of my cushion by skyhook. Lasted 5-10 minutes, in 2-3 minute bursts. Say, 2-3 minutes of flying backwards, a minute of slowing down, repeat. Slept less than 4 hours that night and locked right back in to practice mode the instant I woke up. Resolved to try to keep doing that, and I feel the attitude was helpful (good mindset to have in daily life too).
-The most intense feeling of fear, lasting probably an hour the first time, but I bounced around to this a fear times afterwards. Featured vivid imagery (grotesque faces, stuff from horror films) I don't normally find particularly scary, but the experience of being extremely afraid was there. I took this and the rapture as a probable fast transition from A&P into Dissolution.
-The rest of (an assumed) dark night more of an uncomfortable, not-fun blur than anything I could separate into some kind of narrative. Some interesting stuff.
-Calm and peaceful (very, very peaceful) periods during which I started to feel lost, and most likely struggled to practice well.
Did more walking practice. I remember using my laptop for the first time somewhere around here, just to login to the DhO and look for help with what I thought was equanimity. I thought Yadid Dee(sp?)'s thread, where someone (I think Beoman) links to an older thread, quite helpful. Daniel was giving some advice about how one is standing in a pond right after a storm (so there are ripples), and the kind of effort you should be applying in eq is such that the bottom of your hand stays yet while the top stays dry. You're destined to fail at this over and over again, but that's the goal.
-This continues, attention widens, perceptual abilities expand. I find it much easier to keep going in eyes open mode, during transitions and walking especially. Some really interesting stuff happens but I don't have a lot of time to write. Like not needing to blink or move at all for 1-2 hours after a sit is over, just quietly and effortlessly watching a stream of rapidly occurring vibrations, thoughts, sounds. This whole time I'm experimenting with different levels of effort, blinking rapidly at times to stay at a moment-by-moment level (TJ Broccoli in Yadid's thread, I think), which as she points out, may or may not have done anything.
-Possible path moment where I clearly perceive two bulbous forms in this 3rd eye space that isn't my visual center, but clearly is 'seen'. Kind of like 3D models of interactions between cells in lower level biology, where each bulbous form is a cell wall. Something moves from the left form to the right one. Visual fades to this kind of very simplistic monochromic tunnel vision, but I don't get the sense I am moving. Perception/"everything" strobes a couple times, 2-4, I'm not sure. There is a gap, and the first sense door to come back is hearing (slight ringing).

This is kind of ballooning into a huge post, and I wish I had more time, as this retreat seems so long ago and I have so many questions/thoughts about more recent stuff.

The 2-3 days after the retreat are sort of this stable period of extreme contentment. I don't talk to anyone but my roommates, and even then briefly. I don't feel up to any kind of work (which put me behind when school started, but that was the last thing on my mind). I would go for long walks, eat alone, listen to music, or just lie in bed for hours at a time, feeling like everything was perfect and somewhat amazed at it all, as I wasn't doing anything I would conventionally call productive.

That will be it for the retreat. I'll post more if there's interest.

I find I keep putting off posting because every time I feel like I need some guidance, I browse through the archives or google some similar terms and sort of follow the breadcrumbs. I feel like anytime I could take an hour or two to type out some thoughts like I'm doing now, I could look a little closer on places like this board and find lots of good advice, or better yet, just sit for an hour. That's the main reason why nobody has really heard from me as of late. I'm more or less a full time student now, with various demands on my time outside of that. Sitting time is scant enough, and I feel I've done a very poor job of utilizing it well. Being 'in the world' (off retreat) and doing stuff in general has had this effect of pushing the priority level of meditative stuff way back (in the moment, like immediately after coming home, perhaps when I'm a little tired or hungry), which I think is common and to be expected, but necessary to compensate for.

recent stuff:
I've been reading a lot of EiS's stuff (his concentration thread is awesome...redefining access concentration, haha), and S. Dunning's advice (lots of it old/archived) in various AF-inspired threads have been really helpful. There have been lots of others, but these are the two that came to mind.
Posts by EiS (and many others) gave me the feeling of observing the progress someone who was really taking this seriously, kind of day in day out incremental improvement that made me examine what I was doing, for the better I think. At times made me question why I wasn't taking more time off to actually learn some useful things. In the things I consider myself better than most people at, all of them have involved this continual cycle of being "on the grind": learning something, experimenting, putting in work to refine it, finding a new perspective from the new abilities, getting a sense of where to go next, and doing it again. Seems like a fair number of people on here are doing that, and it's inspiring.

Partially as a result of managing my time poorly, I've done way more informal than formal sitting as of late.
My daily commute has been amazing, and I'm happy I decided to commit those to practice early on. I wear earplugs, and from the moment I leave the door to the moment I step off the last bus, I'm paying close attention to my experience. Been leaning more towards concentration type stuff, and have some questions related to that I'm going to make a thread about.

I'll say I'm still not sure if I have stream entry. I consistently have gaps I could call fruitions, but have no sense of being able to incline towards specific sense doors. They're just gaps, and the tiny tiny tiny differences in my experience of the moments before and after those gaps, are just that, really tiny. This being able to distinguish and incline towards sense doors is supposed to be really important and normal for a stream enterer, and I can confidently say, I don't have that ability, or if I do, I don't notice/understand it the same way.

I may post more if I have time, but that's what's been happening with me in a nutshell.

Questions/thoughts I was hoping to get some comments on, along with anything you notice in my wording (if someone is kind enough to read so carefully for my benefit) that points towards slight misunderstandings and such:

I mentioned after the retreat there were 2-3 days of blissfulness. Thought I'd mention a bit about the qualities of that.
On distinguishing between degrees and types of perfectness:

There's the A&P-esque "Oh man this is so awesome! It's just PERFECT!". The image in my head is a snowboarder with dreads talking to you immediately after a sick run. "That was gnarly, man!" Kind of too-much pleasure, at times overwhelming, that reminds me a lot of the basic dopamine-heavy orgasm most people are used to.

This is worlds apart from what I was experiencing at the end of my retreat, which has stuck with me, and actually gotten stronger/better understood since. It's like the perfection is so complete, it's not even there. Quiet. Or silent. There is no declarative statement you could or would want to make about it, and to continue to try to search for words would seem somewhat silly, as the searching /mental effort so clearly detracts from the experience. It's like, there is nothing to say, not even that there is nothing to say (which makes describing it near impossible, but I imagine that's the whole damn point). I thought this had a lot of similarities with descriptions of EE, so lately I have been cultivating this and getting better at "letting go" of the tendency to analyze, improve, or funny enough, cultivating it (again pointing out how anything you do, even trying to cultivate, doesn't seem to be of much help with this).

And at that point I stop calling it perfection. Naturally I want to call it something else, so I write a whole paragraph about how it isn't perfection and seemingly this other thing. It should become clear now I'm going in circles, so I'll stop. =p
That's pretty much what I've been doing. I'll note that the A&P-esque version of perfection I describe earlier seems terrible by contrast.

My intuition is that the direction to head is to get the reigns on the part of me that instinctively says "man, this is such a perfect, nice moment". That narration. That removal from the object to admire experience. Following the attention wave seems to help, as if you make the rapid flittering of the mind your object (instead of something solid the mind can flitter away from), sticky sensations seem easier to un-stick...

(In between, I noticed the pleasant qualities of low E are also a little different in their own way, in that the qualities of DN were so close by you feel more relief than anything. Like you're expecting unpleasantness, check for it, maybe wince, and are happy nothing bad is happening. At some point I suppose this deepens into what I'm describing above. Of course, I might just be overthinking the mental noise.)

Finally, I'll note I'm not really sure what the hell I'm doing, haha. I suppose it's not AF as I'm not constantly asking myself haetmoba. It doesn't seem like dry mctb-style insight. I'm just inclining the mind in certain ways as inspired by various people on this board, and the last two months have definitely, permanently (I hope, but it seems like it), improved my life for the better.
Yadid dee, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Daniel's Practice Thread

Posts: 258 Join Date: 9/11/09 Recent Posts
Hi Daniel,

I just read your post, thanks for sharing, it was interesting.
Good luck on your upcoming retreat!