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Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 1/19/12 8:18 PM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 1/21/12 6:27 PM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread C T W 1/22/12 4:32 AM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 1/23/12 8:35 PM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 2/2/12 2:04 PM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 3/11/12 2:48 PM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Don Loristo 3/11/12 3:37 PM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 3/20/12 4:12 AM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Yadid dee 3/20/12 4:46 AM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 3/20/12 6:17 AM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Yadid dee 3/20/12 7:18 AM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 3/20/12 7:36 AM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Yadid dee 3/20/12 7:41 AM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 3/20/12 7:51 AM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Yadid dee 3/20/12 8:07 AM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 3/20/12 8:13 AM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 4/12/12 9:12 PM
RE: Eric's Practice Thread katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 4/12/12 10:47 PM
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RE: Eric's Practice Thread katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks 7/14/12 5:28 PM
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RE: Eric's Practice Thread Eric O 7/23/12 9:18 PM
Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
1/19/12 8:18 PM
So for a little background, check out this thread. I'd also like to say thank you to TJ for the response. I didn't have anything else meaningful to add, so I opted to refrain from replaying just to say thank you, so thank you TJ. emoticon

The past few days have been interesting. I've begun to do a walking meditation on my way to work. It feels like starting over from scratch. I also have tried to follow some instructions for walking meditations, but I think most of them are directed towards people who don't need to be some place at a set time. I have set aside around 40 minutes for my walk into and from work, and that ends up cutting it fairly close, so I'm walking at a brisk pace. The reason I mention that is because I've only been focusing on the sensations of a single (right) foot. I began by noting "pressure" and "lifting" for the single foot, but really struggle to maintain my attention throughout the whole motion of the stride, including the placing of the foot, rolling through the foot, lifting the foot, and bringing it forward. Stopping to check streets or smile and say hello to strangers in the street (I can't help myself - would anyone suggest keeping my head down and ignoring others?) regularly breaks the concentration. I'd say overall concentration is fairly low, although it's only been 4 days of it, so I won't be discouraged.

Tonight's meditation was 55 minutes of sitting. I'm trying a new sitting posture. Previously I had been sitting Burmese style, but my right need has been ending a fair number (although not all) of my meditations extremely tight and with a dull aching pain. Tonight I sat with the cushion between my legs and I was straddling it such as you would a horse. That seems to have similar pain issues near the end, but none that make me worry of permanent damage. I may switch back and forth during alternating sessions until one proves better than the other.

The sit was overall a middle of the road sit. Two days ago I had one of the best sits so far, but the past two have been back to par.

I'm also going to try and learn and record one new thing I've learned about the breath, which is something Jack Kornfield mentions in A Path with Heart. Tonight I was noticing the temperature of the air contacting my nose, and was realizing part of the reason the in breath is more noticeable than the out breath than the out breath is due to the temperature difference on the way in (whereas on the way out there is no difference, so there's less to notice). Two nights ago I realized that when returning to my breath, I had been only returning to "the breath", however, what I needed to be returning to was "the whole breath". I needed to watch the beginning, middle and end of both the in and out breath, and everything in between. This isn't a new concept, but I just had never made the mental commitment to always return to the entire breath, and not just whatever part is most prominent at the moment. Previously, I would return to the breath only to get lost again quickly. This seemed to help two nights ago, but yesterday and today it seemed to lose its effectiveness.

At the end of my sit tonight, I was experiencing a fair amount of discomfort in the areas where the new sitting posture was applying pressure. I was noting "discomfort" and "aversion" pretty much the last ten minutes or so of the sit. Immediately upon standing after I was done, all the pain and discomfort were gone, unlike my knee tightness from previous sits that lasted 2-3 minutes after the sit and required some limbering up.

Kind regards,

Eric

ETA: If someone knows of a meditation teacher in or around La Crosse, WI I think I would like some direct help from someone.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
1/21/12 6:27 PM as a reply to Eric O.
Thing learned about the breath yesterday: on my inhale, my belly begins moving before I have any sensations on my nostrils. At the very end of the inhale, it was not clear which started or ended first - the belly movement or the sensations at the nostrils. On the exhale, the nostril sensation and belly movement appear again to be synchronous, but at the very end of the breath the belly seems to stop moving and I get some final air movement at the nostrils. I'd like to continue searching this to see if I can't start to see what precedes what right in the middle of the entire breath.

Today I saw that, for whatever reason, the out breath tends to only be predominant on the very far end of my nostrils (looking down on them, between 11 and 1 o'clock). The in breath seems to be present about everywhere except where the out breath is present, although it's most noticeable at the far sides of my nose (9 o'clock for my left nostril, and 3 o'clock for my right nostril). I'm not sure why they appear at nearly mutually independent locations. More investigation required there too.

Yesterdays sit was so-so. I began by taking the first 10-15 minutes trying to notice the arising of thoughts as Shaila Catherine describes in her excecise "catching thoughts" on page 84 of her book Focused and Fearless. They are quite sneaky. I really had difficulty noticing when they would begin. I was able to fairly quickly identify them and watch them pass away, but couldn't seem to catch a single one arising. For the remainder of the hour sit I followed the breath, trying to stay with it at every moment and see what I could learn about it. I was not noting because it seemed quite difficult for me to note quickly and accurately while at the same time trying to really see something new in regards to the breath. The entire sit was relatively free of pain or negative distractions, and mostly was neutral with thoughts being the primary distraction.

Today's sit was slightly better. I realized this morning that I had been neglecting my metta practice, so I began with 15 minutes of fairly "intense" metta (I set an interval timer for the first 15 minutes). I tried to maintain a smile throughout the whole thing, and really made an effort to mean what I was thinking, rather than get caught up in a non-mindful repetition of the metta dialog. It went really well, and the 15 minutes went by extremely quickly. By the end I was smiling without much forcing, and was branching off my normal metta sequence ("May I be safe. May I be peaceful. May I be heathly. May I be happy.") when I realized I had mentally said something without really meaning it.

For the next 30 minutes (I peaked at my timer at about 47 minutes, for whatever reason), I was noting my breath, with varying degrees of success. It began fairly strong, and I would note my major distractions, but later I began to just note 4 "in" and 4 "out" sensations and get lost mindlessly and realize fairly quickly that I was doing so. But I never really regained my determination to really follow the breath continuously.

The last 15 minutes was spent doing something that I remember reading about 10-15 years ago when I was young and exploring many of the worlds religions. I noticed that I was getting quite a bit of tension in my shoulders and upper back. I had been noting a dull pain around my left shoulder blade, and each time I noted that, I would realize that my shoulders had tensed up, and I would note "intending" and then "relaxing". But I was doing this maybe once per minute. So for the last 15 minutes I was following the in breath and seeing where it seemed to add energy to my body, or trying to direct it to areas. On the out breath, I was consciously relaxing my entire body, trying to avoid having tension build up on every in breath (where I've noticed it does). So I first followed the energy in and watched it vibrating and pulsing in my feet, but then as I stopped forcing it there, I began to watch where it naturally flowed, which was to my hands. I watched it flow there and build steadily, although the relaxation every out breath seemed to diminish it somewhat. For the last few minutes, I sort of lost all mindfulness and found myself a little startled by the ending bells.

Both nights, I was sitting Burmese style, and my right knee felt a little tight throughout both sittings, but was not very painful or distracting. However, standing up both nights it was really really tight and took a minute or two to limber up. Not sure if that's bad or not, but because the pain was low I'll probably continue to sit that way for the time being.

Kind regards,
Eric

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
1/22/12 4:32 AM as a reply to Eric O.
If you're moving too quickly to note foot sensations, you might want to check out Kenneth Folk's walking meditation method: http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/page/Walking+Meditation

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
1/23/12 8:35 PM as a reply to C T W.
Thanks CTW. I haven't had a chance to do a walking meditation, but I think Kenneth's take on walking meditation is great and I look forward to giving it a try. Should get a chance tomorrow morning!

Two days worth of stuff to report. Yesterday I sat twice. Once for an hour, the other for half an hour. Today I had two 45 minute sits.

But first, I just want to say thank you to anyone who's reading this, regardless of what you're doing with it. I know this is really basic stuff that I'm doing, and hopefully it will start picking up steam soon. My own take on it is that I'm kinda all over the place, but starting to find my way, and I'm just going to assume that until someone tells me to do otherwise, I'm going to keep going down the path I'm on.

So the big thing I recognized in my second sit today - although looking for something new in the breath is useful and does help me with concentration by giving my mind something to do, it's taken me away from Daniels suggestion of investigating the 3Cs. I'm going to try to get back on track with that. Another thing I noticed is that in my trying to find something new, I tend to add some extra thought analysis, which is not helping. So while it has its upside, it also seems to drag me down just as frequently as it boosts me up, if not more. I need to be really careful with that style of investigation.

I also started noticing a strange pulsing sensation on the isthmus (for lack of the proper name) of my nostrils. It seems to come and go, but when it's there, it's not consistent with my breath. It seems to run a parallel track. For instance, as I start my inhale, the sensation seems to quicken it's pulse, but then if I stop and hold the breath for a moment, it will continue on. Then as I let the breath out, and hold the pause at the end, it's still there again. My guess is that I'm noticing the pressure of my heart beat in my nose but two things make me question that. First, I don't know how subtle that would be, and if it is as subtle as I would expect, I'm not sure I'd be able to see that at this point. Maybe it's a fairly common place to notice your heartbeat? Second, it seems slightly too fast to be my heart rate, although I haven't been able to find my heartbeat in any other part of my body for comparison. It does make sense in that it speeds up on the in breath and slows down on the out breath. Further investigation needed!

Everything else has been just mediocre. Concentration hasn't been great. I think part of my problem is that I'm bouncing around a little too much and just need to stay with noting (I've been doing noting about every other sit, and trying out a few other things to see how they work - noting seems to increase my mindfulness the most). The knee and back pain seems to be diminishing, which is nice. I still notice it, but it's definitely not as distracting. It's been about a good month of sitting over 30 minutes, so hopefully my back muscles are getting used to it now, and my knee is just giving up its complaints.

Eric

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
2/2/12 2:04 PM as a reply to Eric O.
So, just for the time being, I'm going to stop posting regular updates until I get the concentration up to at least the first nana. I think I have enough direction and self motivation to get there. I've shifted back away from the walking meditation in the morning to a half hour sit in the morning plus an hour sit in the evening. If the morning sits weren't so groggy and unexceptional, I might consider bumping it to an hour on each end of the day. We'll see what happens.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
3/11/12 2:48 PM as a reply to Eric O.
Alright. So I'm about 3 days out from the 10-day, and wanted to put down some thoughts for the record. I've been sitting for 30 minutes every morning, and between 1-1.5 hours in the afternoons. Last weekend I got to participate in an 8 hour retreat led by Shaila Catherine which really helped me distill my understanding of concentration vs insight. I had a rough road with it because of some back pain (which I'll describe in a minute), but overall it was a really fantastic retreat. I'm a little embarassed to admit that a week or two before the retreat I had still been sitting, but I was doing a lot more daydreaming and was lacking a fair amount of intention and fortitude. That retreat helped to jump start things again.

Since I last posted, my concentration has gotten pretty sharp, and certain sits I feel like I can have a stretch with maybe 15-20 minutes of solid continuous mindfulness/concentration. Maybe a couple lapses that only last a few seconds. I'm fairly confident I'm getting to access concentration when this happens. I don't lose awareness of everything except my breath, but I also only need very gentle goading to keep myself going.

I've been doing breath concentration methods recently and alternate in some noting when the concentration gets difficult. I've started some choice-less awareness sits again recently to get the momentum going for the 10-day, and a few times I have been able to really get going with that. I can note between 2-4 things per second when things are really going well. These are primarily the physical sense doors (5 traditional senses) with the occasional thought/feeling based note thrown in. Many of those thought/feeling based notes feel much more like a "good guess" than they do me clearly seeing them. However, many times this vague impression of a feeling/thought is something I know would have made me move (e.g. scratch an itch or stretch), but because I recognized it, I was able to avoid movement.

BUT. I still don't think I've had any of the major insights or experiences described in MCTB for any of the first four nanas. Part of this may be due to my emphasis on concentration practice, but I do a fair amount of insight practice as well. The closest thing I've been experiencing in those pages is a rather relentless back tension in "the rhomboid and trapezius muscles" (which I had to look up, but Wikipedia's diagram seems to describe the area of tension pretty well). Moving during my sits, including stretching up and bending down, hardly helps at all. The discomfort will last for a while after the sit, but eventually goes away. It's not a sharp pain, just a general widespread dull pain. It isn't throbbing, but tends to come in waves every 1-5 seconds or so. Sometimes I'm able to do a concentration practice and not really let it bother me, sometimes not. Other times I've gotten lost in thought for a few minutes and when I realized it, I was a little surprised the pain didn't pull me back sooner. When I try to watch it, it's fairly difficult to locate a specific area outside a general area of the upper middle of my back. It seems to be almost entirely constrained to the surface, just just under the surface of my skin.

So now I'm going to plow headlong into this thing. My hopes are that I really am in the 3rd nana and can hit the A&P early in the retreat so that I have some time to work with the dark night while I'm there. My intention is to stay focused and mindful for every waking second, and make some serious progress. I'm aiming for stream entry still, but I'm also recognizing that I need to avoid over-efforting (not sure if that's sloth and torpor talking, or me being realistic about the timeframe and what I'm actually trying to accomplish).

I'll report back afterwards.

Regards,
Eric

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
3/11/12 3:37 PM as a reply to Eric O.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
3/20/12 4:12 AM as a reply to Eric O.
Bad news: left the retreat early (Monday 3/19 was the end, it's now 2am, but I drove home). Good news: 99% sure stream entry. Details following.

Day 1
Breath concentration. Specifically, concentration on the flow of air through the "nostrils". Day full of irritation because I was set on following his instructions, but I couldn't do any of my concentration tricks that helped me get good and deep before. So it was pretty poor all day, with TONS of posture adjustments.

Day 2
Breath concentration with the added emphasis on feeling the touch of the air through the nostrils. I didn't realize he didn't want us to do that the first day, so day 2 very closely resembled day 1.

Night of Day 2 + Day 3
So anyone who's done one of these knows he has you work all day then does a 1-1.5 hour long discourse to explain what is going on and what's coming up. They're pretty entertaining. The night of day 2 he was explaining the new concentration practice we would be using. Basically concentration on any sensation within the "limited area" of the triangle with the base as the upper lip up to the top of the nose.

Here's where things picked up. Finally I was doing something that was like what I was expecting for vipassana (although he pronounces it vipashina, as do the assistant teachers and others experienced with it - not sure what's correct, actually). This took off quite quickly. My nose was awash with sensation. Pressure, tingling, itching, bugs crawling...you name it, I probably had it.

Same thing the next morning of day 3. Tons of sensations. Going strong. However, by the afternoon, I started feeling bored with the same thing. I couldn't really stand the constant moving my legs and just crappy practice much longer, and impulsively I switched over to noting. Things really flew from there. It was basically the last 3 or 4 hour sits of the day, and I hammered the noting hard. After Goenkas discourse, I had sensations all over the body, super prominent, and for the next half an hour or so I began a fateful sit. Things were flying, and about 10 minutes in (this is all by memory, so give or take a little time) I hit what I later realized was the 4th nana. I kinda sorta wasn't sure, and I remember thinking "is this it?", as in "so what". So, I don't think I took more than a few seconds before pounding away at the noting again. Next thing I know, every sensation in my body is lit up and the best way I can describe it is an Eric sensation tornado. They were just spinning around like crazy. This was probably the only time during that whole sit where I took a few minutes just to observe. No noting. But, not knowing what it was, I stopped it consciously so I could continue noting. It probably would have been neat to let it play out and see what would have happened (I didn't get the lights show or anything), but I was deadset on making progress at that point. Looking back at it, I probably only had 10 minutes of actual A&P time before the event. I still think that was a little strange.

Day 4
Morning starts out and I'm feeling a little bit guilty about all the noting I had been doing, but that was short lived. I tried to do the concentration stuff we were still doing (still on the triangular area around the nose), but it sucked all of a sudden. The second sit of the day, all of a sudden I felt my heart beating out of my chest. I could feel my heat beat flowing all the way down both arms. Very interesting. Next thing I know: FEAR. Started out fairly gradual, but for the rest of the day I had fear. Sometimes just anxiety, some times so much tightness in my chest it was painful. Not fun, but I knew what had been done. I started doing body scanning and just waiting for the misery to kick in. Nope, just fear. Goenka's got us doing body scanning in the afternoon, and I have just fear and pain (both knees and my butt). Lots of both. Not fun doing his power hour, or sit of strong determination, or whatever. I had been moving about every 10-20 minutes or so before hand because my aversion to pain was so strong, so this really sucked. Definitely wasn't able to make the full hour, and was pure torture.

Day 5
So, at this point, I should mention that I've been reading/listening to a lot of Thanissaro Bhikkhu. He really drives home the point of building discernment and questioning (I'll try to post some specifics later). So in addition to what I had been discussing in previous posts to this one, I was also developing my questioning and probing skills. I can't explain how helpful that was today. So I'm sitting there with the pain and fear, and finally I get a chance to talk to the assistant teacher (AT). He was actually extremely helpful, and helped me realize that both the pain and the fear had at least one thing in common, and that's the self's projection into the future.

So, while basically sitting there waiting (scanning pretty ruthlessly) for misery to kick in (I had felt just the tiniest bit of sadness, but nothing even close to misery), I started questioning which eventually lead to a practice I'll call "moment capturing". Basically, I stopped scanning and was trying to see exactly the sensations of fear and pain (pain was predominant at the time) exactly as they are, in a single moment, without any of the self's future projections. I can still remember walking up to the meditation hall, across a bridge, basically taking screen captures of all my internal and external sensations.

So I'm sitting there, trying this out while the pain and fear were pretty strong. All of a sudden I'm in equanimity. I don't remember how many times I tried it, but it wasn't many. I really had no idea what had happened. I didn't think I was at re-observation, let alone misery, so I was pretty doggone surprised to find myself in this open, spacious, peaceful environment. I could "see" the pain in my knees, but it wasn't bothering me. Then some bright light, not really strobing that I can remember, but kinda gently moving from side to side. I thought, "well this is nice", just being aware of everything, when it hit me that this could be equanimity. Not missing a beat, I starting asking questions like "who am I?" and "what's the center of all this?". I remember Daniel describing turning the attention to the watcher, and basically turning awareness in on itself. So I tried doing just that. I had no recollection of the discussion of formations, and wasn't really looking for them, so not sure if that made this easier or not. But anyways, I basically contorted the internal watcher to try and see in on itself. I probably stuck with this for half an hour or so, and all of a sudden something happened that I don't really have a good recollection of, but I want to say it was like three bars flashing at me suddenly, accompanied by, or extremely quickly followed by a strong pain of fear.

Rather quickly, I believe, that dropped me out of equanimity. I remember thinking that my sense of self still seemed rather in tact, so I just sat there for a few minutes before Goenka starting singing at me to signal our next break. However, when we walked out into the small break room, I definitely noticed something very different. I'm not sure what it was, but everything seemed very alive, and I couldn't help but look at everyone's faces in the room (which almost everyone was looking down or around). It was very pleasant, but I chalked it up to my first time through equanimity.

So, I went back to my room and grabbed MCTB (I had actually gotten it out of my car a few hours earlier to see if I couldn't get any help with why I seemed so stalled with fear - definitely against the rules). I read enough to that was was fairly convinced that I had just experience equanimity, but needed to reproduce it before I believed it. So I sat there, and tried to do my moment capturing. At that point, I had just sat down, so there was very little pain, but the fear/anxiety was quite predominant. So I tried capturing that, and after a few tries, whooop, back up into equanimity. But then I dropped out pretty quickly because I was so focused on my fear, and that was enough to pull be back down. So I tried again, and a little quicker whooop, back into equanimity. Same thing. I dropped out again fairly fast. Over the next half an hour, I did this over and over and over - maybe 50 times or so.

By the end, it was nearly effortless to jump up into equanimity and sometimes started happening on its own. I also realized that the fear was sucking me out of it, other things would, like the desire to explain this new found ability to people on this forum. The desire to be able to use my knowledge to get me back into equanimity later also sucked me out of it. There was clearly a difference between the smooth background texture of equinimity, and the pulsy, almost flashy texture of the third vipassana jhana. I could see quite clearly the difference between the two as I hopped back and forth. So, wanting to validate that experience, I stopped meditating briefly and opened up MCTB. Then a weird thing happened. I noticed a shift in the background, with my eyes open and reading a book. I had clearly just moved from the 3rd Jhana to the 4th. I hadn't tried that at all. I closed the book and my eyes, and it was clear as could be.

So, after all of this, "break time" was over, and back for a power hour. This was a very interesting power hour for me. When I first sat down, I was immediately in what I thought was equanimity. Knees felt great, no fear. Not a huge surprise after the previous bit of work. But after I sat there for a few minutes, trying to "look into the watcher", I realized I had some weird sensations present, as well as a fair amount of desire, which I thought would just zip me out of equanimity. Then, I consciously tried to pull myself out by developing some fear. No dice.

After a bit of puzzling over what was going on, it struck me that I was back in the A&P. I wasn't sure how or why, and because I had spent so little time in the A&P last time, but this was the first time being in it since the night of day 3. Peculiar, I thought, but I knew how to deal with that. But what happened next shocked me. As soon as I started noting sensations, wham, I moved up into the 3rd Vjhana (I definitely am coining this hilarious, and potentially dangerous term, VJhana - I hope no one takes offense). Almost immediately after that I was into equanimity. The time it took from recognizing the A&P to being in equanimity was less than 15 seconds, and that's being conservative. So then, I opened my eyes, looked around for a little while to make sure this was all real, closed my eyes and was back into A&P. Then right back up to equanimity. I can clearly and distinctly see the vibrating, painless nature of the A&P, jumping up to the buzzing, painful and fearful 3rd VJhana, up to the clear and peaceful 4th Jhana. I'm cycling through them as I write. They may be slowing down slightly, but not much. I had a wave of fear earlier while writing this that put me into a slight panic that I screwed up and came home too early, but then it was gone and back to being pretty wonderful.

It's already long as it is, but I've been up for 24 hours straight (they're just now probably realizing I snuck off in the night - not sure if that was the best decision, but I couldn't sleep out of excitement and didn't want to have to drive home tomorrow exhausted. Either way I was planning on leaving...). I'll explain more tomorrow, particularly if people have questions or need any clarifications. I don't really think I need confirmation, but if you'd like to do so, I suppose that 1% of me wouldn't mind, because I know there's probably been plenty of people who have walked this path for much longer and probably thought similar thoughts that I'm thinking.

Sorry this is so disjointed. I'm not going to edit it, so I'm sure it's garbage writing.

Things to keep in mind
  • Even during breaks, I was still trying to go strong. Not always successful, but outside of a few power naps right after breakfasts, I was doing my best to keep some sort of concentration/awareness going.
  • I got into this more as an intellectual curiosity rather than anything. Never been a
  • I joined the "old" students and did not eat any fruit during the tea break at the end of the day. Basically I only ate at 6:30 and 11am. I first tried this as an experiment, because I figured maybe there was a reason why monks had that requirement. But I would say, with the exception of the last night, almost all my major progress happened at the end of the day, after I hadn't eaten for 5 hours or so.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
3/20/12 4:46 AM as a reply to Eric O.
Eric O:

It's already long as it is, but I've been up for 24 hours straight (they're just now probably realizing I snuck off in the night - not sure if that was the best decision, but I couldn't sleep out of excitement and didn't want to have to drive home tomorrow exhausted. Either way I was planning on leaving...).


Hi Eric,

Sounds like an interesting fruitful retreat.

On what day of the retreat did you end up leaving?

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
3/20/12 6:17 AM as a reply to Yadid dee.
Hi Yadid,

I left the same day I had the fruition (fruition at ~3:15pm, left at around 11pm), so exactly half way through the 10-day.

Don Loristo,
Thank you very much for your list. I went over it a few times before the retreat, and found it quite helpful.

All,

One thing I'm a little troubled by is leaving when I did. I laid in bed for approximately 2 hours, and knew I was not sleeping at that point. With only a few hours to go until the morning bell, and the fact that I definitely need time to sort through this (and a strictly regimented course seemed suddenly very unattractive in that regard), I felt like I had no choice. It was probably irrational and I'm not sure how the folks at Dhamma Pakãsa will take it, but it is done. I've already sent them an email trying to explain. I really hope to be able to make a donation to them, because it was a really fabulous experience. Any thoughts?

Also, not sure if this is normal, but I'm really having a tough time sleeping, even after being up for 24 hours...I don't feel tired. My standard ways of falling asleep are to watch my breath and control my thoughts, but that seems to put me squarely in a Vjhana...not sure how this aspect of the thing works...

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
3/20/12 7:18 AM as a reply to Eric O.
Eric O:

Also, not sure if this is normal, but I'm really having a tough time sleeping, even after being up for 24 hours...I don't feel tired. My standard ways of falling asleep are to watch my breath and control my thoughts, but that seems to put me squarely in a Vjhana...not sure how this aspect of the thing works...


In regards to your experience - I'm not in a position to judge whether that was SE or not, you will probably get some good diagnosis from other more experienced folk here.
Personally, I rather err on the side of satety before thinking I attained something, because many times we can fool ourselves, very easily. I take Daniel Ingram's advice to heart about waiting a year and a day before coming to any conclusions, seeing what holds up in daily life.

The Goenka folks will definitely not allow you to give a donation unless you completed a 10-day course till the end in the past, but don't worry, its all good, and if you ever do one till the end, you will be able to give a donation. They will definitely not hold it against you.

I also ran away from a Goenka course once (it was my 2nd), and I remember it was not due to rational thinking.. but what's done is done as you said.

After one of my most intense Goenka courses, I also could not sleep for many hours, and had a very intense time.
It will pass soon, and its probably a good idea to try sleeping for a bit and letting things settle down, as coming off intense retreat can be.. well, intense! emoticon

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
3/20/12 7:36 AM as a reply to Yadid dee.
Yadid dee:
Eric O:

Also, not sure if this is normal, but I'm really having a tough time sleeping, even after being up for 24 hours...I don't feel tired. My standard ways of falling asleep are to watch my breath and control my thoughts, but that seems to put me squarely in a Vjhana...not sure how this aspect of the thing works...


In regards to your experience - I'm not in a position to judge whether that was SE or not, you will probably get some good diagnosis from other more experienced folk here.
Personally, I rather err on the side of satety before thinking I attained something, because many times we can fool ourselves, very easily. I take Daniel Ingram's advice to heart about waiting a year and a day before coming to any conclusions, seeing what holds up in daily life.

The Goenka folks will definitely not allow you to give a donation unless you completed a 10-day course till the end in the past, but don't worry, its all good, and if you ever do one till the end, you will be able to give a donation. They will definitely not hold it against you.

I also ran away from a Goenka course once (it was my 2nd), and I remember it was not due to rational thinking.. but what's done is done as you said.

After one of my most intense Goenka courses, I also could not sleep for many hours, and had a very intense time.
It will pass soon, and its probably a good idea to try sleeping for a bit and letting things settle down, as coming off intense retreat can be.. well, intense! emoticon

Good points. Well, I suppose I'll be waiting and seeing. I guess I would like some feedback from the experienced guys then. Should I place a cross post in diagnosis?

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
3/20/12 7:41 AM as a reply to Eric O.
Eric O:

Good points. Well, I suppose I'll be waiting and seeing. I guess I would like some feedback from the experienced guys then. Should I place a cross post in diagnosis?


I think if you do, you could probably get more attention that way, as the thread's title would probably be something like 'is that streamentry' or something :-)

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
3/20/12 7:51 AM as a reply to Yadid dee.
Well shit. Your post caused a little trigger of fear in me. Hasn't budged in a few minutes. Is this how fast most people come crashing down?

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
3/20/12 8:07 AM as a reply to Eric O.
Eric O:
Well shit. Your post caused a little trigger of fear in me. Hasn't budged in a few minutes. Is this how fast most people come crashing down?


Sorry bro. whatever happened to you on that retreat, it is definitely great progress, and so you have nothing to fear.

From my own experience with coming from an intense retreat like that, it is best to slowly go back into daily stuff, definitely try to get some sleep, and you will wake up much more refreshed and clear.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
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3/20/12 8:13 AM as a reply to Yadid dee.
Oh boy. Here comes the misery. Haha, where do I get my stupid card?

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
4/12/12 9:12 PM as a reply to Eric O.
Just checking back in. After a week off after the retreat, I've been back to sitting at least 30 minutes every morning, with another 30 minutes in the evening if I'm home. I'd say I'm largely normal at the point. I don't feel too terribly dark night-ish, and at this point I'm not sure where I am on the maps, and I'm stopping myself from trying to track them because, as EIS pointed out in my other thread, it was causing a lot of distraction and suffering.

As far as daily life goes, the two main difference before and after the retreat are the ringing in my ears is considerably more noticeable (not sure if it's louder, or I'm just more constantly aware of it) and I have some tightness at the back of my throat, which might otherwise be called a lump in my throat. Sometimes it's high in the throat, almost in my mouth, and other times it drops lower in my neck. For the first few days, I was feeling some general, untargeted sadness, but then as I began to work on my equanimity, it really lost it's power over me and now it's just there and has stopped having much of an effect on my mental life. I notice it every so often, and then I move on.

The mornings I've been primarily doing concentration practice. Slowly but surely it's coming back. Tonight's insight practice consisted of me trying to notice the sensations at any given point on my body. I focused largely on two points of my nose. At first when I watched it, it was subtle and hard to describe, but as I continually brought my attention back to it, I began to feel a repetitive pin-point "tapping" that occured at maybe 5-10 hz. I was noticing this type of sensation almost effortlessly on day 2-3 of the retreat.

Overall, I've learned quite a bit about myself. Although I knew I did it before, I know realize the extent to which I allow my mind to obsess and create scenarios that are not reality, and I'm starting to see those and return myself to the present. I still think I have a long way to go in terms of developing equanimity. To be honest, looking back on what I wrote after the retreat is painful and I obviously had very little equanimity, even during the beginning. While I wish I hadn't left the retreat early, I also think it served as a nice wake-up call for me to figure out my priorities and get myself back on track.

So, as Yadid warned, I'm starting over from scratch after a week break (to some extent I think I needed it to separate myself a little bit and reflect at how far off the path I had strayed), although I've learned quite a bit and I'm determined to keep myself going. I'm also going to try and stop pushing forward as much and really attempt to settle into a sustainable and long term practice habit.

Not sure if regular practice logs at this point would be good for me or not, but I think I'm going to try and start keeping them with some of my general thoughts and attitudes and hopefully some of you experienced guys can set be straight if I start veering too far.

Cheers,
Eric

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
4/12/12 10:47 PM as a reply to Eric O.
HI Eric:


Overall, I've learned quite a bit about myself. Although I knew I did it before, I know realize the extent to which I allow my mind to obsess and create scenarios that are not reality, and I'm starting to see those and return myself to the present. I still think I have a long way to go in terms of developing equanimity. To be honest, looking back on what I wrote after the retreat is painful and I obviously had very little equanimity, even during the beginning. While I wish I hadn't left the retreat early, I also think it served as a nice wake-up call for me to figure out my priorities and get myself back on track.
This is so useful: equanimity is built by letting all those conditioned and habitual scenarios arise and pass, arise and pass, without going for a full swim in them, in both daily mindfulness and in sitting practice. Concentration will come and advance itself in the new areas of mind where you have let thoughts and feelings arise and pass. This is like training a puppy and teaching a child: kindly witness the arising/passing thoughts/feelings and gently bring the mind back to the practice (e.g., anapanasati, washing dishes, etc), gradually building on the duration of the efforts.

So, as Yadid warned, I'm starting over from scratch after a week break
From scratch is the most useful place I know. As far as I can tell, the practice is the same (decent conduct (sila) and mindfulness invite equanimity, equanimity invites concentration, concentration exposes insights)

(to some extent I think I needed it to separate myself a little bit and reflect at how far off the path I had strayed), although I've learned quite a bit and I'm determined to keep myself going. I'm also going to try and stop pushing forward as much and really attempt to settle into a sustainable and long term practice habit.
I understand. I also want to say that while a "long term practice" is probably accurate (even great masters are in life-long practice), if there is assuming that equanimity and concentration will only occur in some long-term, then there is a temporal fabrication and this assumption of "long time" can delay the sincerity and effort of practice (sometimes this is a self-punitive action and/or a preference to stay in a comfort zone). I don't suspect that you intend this, but I just want to consider meanings of "long term" since you raised it.

"Sustainable" practice is another matter: so true. A sincere, diligent, welcoming, kind practice like the one you mention (30 in the a.m. and 30 in the p.m.) makes each moment productive. Mental dullness is reduced with each sincere attention to the in-breathe and mental sharpness is developing where dullness is abated. Who cares how often the mind wanders? Sincere, gentle, effortful, not-over-exerted practices build upon themselves well, efficiently. Mind will stop wandering so much (and so painfully) with gentle training in arising and passing away, returning to the breath. It sounds like you are in a great "mental" space for diligent, sincere practice. Practice is very simple. Very simple, like one little string. However, it is natural that unsettled minds make that simple thread into a big knot at the outset. Starting from scratch -- forming daily life to cause supportive conditions, being equanimous towards thoughts/feelings, following the breathe -- that simplicity is right there again, right away.

Very simple. Breathing in, breathing out. Arising, passing. Mind is collecting itself, etc. Some weeks pass. Daily events may unsettle a person, then the mind feels too uprooted to practice; one doesn't want to sit. One has a new issue to debate, to fret, maybe sitting and mindfulness are put "on hold". If they are not put "on hold" then the practice is an amazing friend, will prevent silly/risky outflows of mental energy, monies, unskillful behaviour. Anyway, those are some of my mistakes when not having that sustained, gentle practice (mindfulness and meditation); that gentle practice naturally builds on itself.

Not sure if regular practice logs at this point would be good for me or not, but I think I'm going to try and start keeping them with some of my general thoughts and attitudes
great

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
4/13/12 7:24 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Thanks Kate. It's good to hear just the general reminder to stay with the basics.

Tonight was a decent insight night. 30 minutes. After doing some reading about direct pointing (specifically some of wylo's threads and one of their ebooks gateless gatecrashers), I've recently started an investigation of anatta. I've done plenty of investigation into impermanence, some into suffering, but virtually no investigation of anatta, so that was the primary focus tonight.

Right now, it seems to me that I can pretty clearly distinguish a lot of things that are not me. The "movie projector" that is my sight (even if it's just a big semi-blank screen when my eyes are closed) is definitely the most prominent thing when I try to find a self. But that fades if I look into other sense doors.

Overall, it feels like "the watcher" is more of a flashlight operating in a dark space. As I look at various things, it illuminates them and makes them prominent. But as I search it's not like the other senses completely disappear, they just fade into the background.

I tried to identify how my mind chose what to pay attention to, but in the absense of some really demanding sensation (e.g. pain, or a loud noise), it seems to just drift around and illuminate various things.

I'm not sure if I'm correctly watching the watcher, or just doing more of a choiceless awareness practice. This is a fairly new and interesting approach, so I seem to have little problem with losing mindfulness, but I'm not sure how to pay attention to what's doing the watching.

I think I'll continue giving this a chance for a little while to see where it takes me.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
4/24/12 7:31 PM as a reply to Eric O.
Alright. I haven't been very good about posting here.

I've switched to doing almost entirely Vippassana practice with an emphasis on annica. I realized the mornings for me are low energy, yet I've been trying to do a concentration practice which requires more energy. I switched to focusing just on my nose, but noticing any and all sensations in the area. That's forcing my concentration up (more than doing a more choice less awareness, I think) while at the same time giving me something that's a little more interesting for the low energy mornings. That practice has spread into the evening session as well (although I do some candle kasina off and on) I start them off with noting, and then test the waters and if my concentration seems high enough I drop it and just follow sensations.

Right now sensations are primarily itchiness and "bug crawling on the skin" sensations. When I zero in on either of them, they are little flickering sensations. Also, when I do that, they tend to lose their irritating-ness, and just become flickering sensations. The amount of sensation, in total, is way down from where I was on retreat, but is slowly returning.

There is also a general area that has a sensation that I can move just by shifting my attention. The sensation is hard to describe. It's probably best described as a very light pressure. But if I want to sense it at the tip of my nose, I can sense it there. If I want to sense it on my cheek, I can sense it there. Sometimes it takes a few seconds of watching, but eventually I can start sensing it wherever I choose.

I'm currently experiencing very little pain. When I do, it generally does not seem to have a very fixed location. I've been trying to just pay attention to the nose area, so I haven't really honed in on the pain, but generally it's pretty tame and doesn't demand attention.

I also still get the throat tightness throughout the day. But I just watch it for a few minutes and it tends to go away. I've definitely been recognizing the feedback action between my mental and physical "feelings". If I don't catch it, I start feeling a little sad (or just a general sense of unpleasantness, generally without a specific cause I'm aware of), which makes the tension stronger, which makes me more sad. I think this feedback loop was the primary reason for my troubles after retreat. I feel like I'm much more able to cut off the mental activity now and just watch the physical sensation until the whole mess goes away. I'm hopeful that this will translate well into dealing with the dark night once I can break through the A&P again.

Best,
Eric

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
5/19/12 5:26 PM as a reply to Eric O.
Just checking in again. Practice is getting better, at least in terms of my ability to watch phenomena. A recent revelation I had was in really distinguishing between sensation and perception. I had understood it conceptually, but I had never really tried to experience the difference between the two. Just recognizing the difference has helped narrow my focus more strictly to sensations, which I think is ratcheting up my practice.

My body is again alive with sensation for the first time since the week off. Sitting here writing this, I can feel the flickering vibrations in my feet most predominantly. There seems to be a slower 1-2 hz pulse that contains a much higher frequency vibration. I can watch the first, but the latter are still a little too fast and are practically continuous. I'm working on trying to break that stream up into discrete chunks, currently.

I think that, although I was still practicing twice a day (with only a few exceptions), for the last few weeks I've allowed sloth and torpor to dominate my practice. The wandering mind has been quite present. I'm going to be trying to notice that and uproot it.

In day to day stuff, I've been noticing the sensations that accompany sadness and fear/anxiety and am able to watch them off, but I'm not trying to delve a little deeper and see if I can't find anything associated with the desire set of mental states. Although at the same time, I'm also planning on trying to stick as strictly as I can to sensations rather than perceptions, which I think tends to be a little easier and ends up pulling me into thought and mind wandering. I'm not terribly sure where I'll head with that, but I think desires are the biggest weakness for me at the moment.

Overall, pain seems relatively at bay still. I get a little discomfort here and there, and the upper back pain/tension seems to only stay temporarily. I actually find myself desiring it at times, because more than anything, watching pain in retreat helped my progress because it gave something for my mind to lock onto. When I can, I'm bumping up my afternoon sessions to 45-60 minutes from the 30 minutes I've been doing recently, and part of that is because I'm somewhat hoping I'll have some pain that I can chew through again, but more so because 30 minutes makes it feel "less important" for some reason. I'm still going to stick with 30 minutes in the morning, because the morning sessions tend to be a little less focused.

Cheers,
Eric

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
5/22/12 5:42 PM as a reply to Eric O.
I think I'm starting to get back into somewhat interesting territory. I just finished a sit where I began to feel the faster vibrations of the breath that seem to change speed with the cycle of the breath. They're slow to non-existent at beginning and end of the in and out breaths, with the fastest vibrations in the middle with the most air going in and out. I watched it for a little while and then got caught up in thoughts of whether I might be back to the A&P and ended up getting a little excited. Still working on that whole equanimity thing...

I remember similar experience during the breakthrough point in the retreat where I went from "everything sucks, my back is killing me, my knees feel like they're going to explode" to something like "whoa, no pain, everything's going quite well, and my concentration seems locked on", which I'm assuming was the transition to the A&P. However, this time through there was no noticeable transition, so I'm reserving judgement.

Vibrations are still present pretty consistently wherever I look, although some places take a little longer to find than others. They seem to be more dispersed (larger area) vibrations when I look at something as large as my hand. However, when I focus on a tiny point like the very end of my index finger, the sensation condenses to a very small point that I've described before as a pulse the size of a sharp pencil tip.

Overall, I think my concentration is still pretty lacking. I'm "spacing out" fairly frequently still (maybe 50% of the time). The time when I am concentrated is split between directly watching the object and cognizing (or interpreting) the object (sorry if I'm not using these terms correctly). Too much cognizing tends to either lead off to daydreaming, or, if I catch it in time, returning to directly watching the object. Directly watching the object seems to occupy a surprisingly small amount of time, because I can't seem to not interpret what I'm sensing. It's a constant fight to strictly watch the sensations as they are.

On the positive side though, because the sensations are fairly prominent, I have tended to spend a fair amount of time in "mental break periods" watching sensations (primarily in my fingers during the day, because that's where I can watch them most easily).

If people are still reading all this stuff - thank you! I think I'm on the right track, but please help nudge me in different directions or ask questions if it looks like I'm confused or going to waste time going down blind alleys.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
5/28/12 8:01 PM as a reply to Eric O.
Well, as I should have guessed, I think I got a little ahead of myself. Since that one sit last week, I can't seem to find those fast taps that fluctuate speed with the in and out breath, so I'm not sure if that was something I had created in my mind or not. Also, the upper back pain has returned and is a dull pain somewhere between my shoulder blades. It's not terribly uncomfortable, and I can usually just watch it when it get's bad enough to become a major distraction. It hasn't reached the point where it really bleeds into my daily life (which I feel like it did pre-retreat), but it's getting more omnipresent during my sits.

My practice took a little bit of a hit this weekend as we were camping with a large group, and the only mosquito free areas were, well, quite loud and distracting (and not to mention really hot on some days). I managed about 15 minutes on Saturday, and then another 15 minutes or so Sunday morning. Today, I got about 45 minutes this afternoon after getting home and getting some things in order.

I've been focusing on the vibrations in the points of my fingers. My tenancy is actually to return to the breath, which is probably a good sign, but the sensations in my fingers are more prominent, so I've been watching those. It's still tingly, and I think I can follow a few per second.

I also watched the first 45 minutes of this video (which was really quite good!). It hit me hard that happiness comes not from getting what we desire, but from the cessation of desire itself. I felt like that resonated well with what I experienced in my short trip into what I believe was Equinimity (but I spent so little time post A&P that I can't really be sure what was what at this point). Contemplating that lead me to begin today's sit with a not-self meditation for about 15 minutes, and the remainder was switching the focus between the breath and my fingers, trying to find a handhold. When my mind would wander, I would try to back up and identify why I was having that particular thought, to see if I can't start hunting down desire in my day to day life. After doing that, I returned to the tingly sensation on my fingers, or in some cases the smoother sensation of the breath.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
6/17/12 10:25 AM as a reply to Eric O.
Some interesting developments since my last post. Noticeably absent in my past few sittings: upper back pain and sensations like bugs crawling slowly on my skin (these tended to be mostly on my face).

This morning I sat and despite only having done some reading, I could really feel my heart pounding. The sensations on my skin were prominent and I would describe them like a more subdued version of an asleep body part. They were quite prominent and neutral to maybe slightly unpleasant (although i'm not sure if calling them unpleasant is something I've done to the memory of those sensations).

I sat with them for 10 minutes or so and bounced between following my breath and following the sensations. At that point, I just decided to relax and watch whatever happens as it happens. When I did that, within a second or two the sensations went from quite prominent to smoother and more subtle. Within a few more seconds, my heart pounding had subsided (although I could still feel most beats throughout my body for a minute or two). I sensed calmness, but also had some curiosity about what had just happened.

When I was on retreat, when I moved from (what I believe/believed to be) the 3rd vipassana jhana to the 4th vipassana jhana, the difference was pretty prominent. I was totally peaceful and I had a white light traverse my visual field very slowly. I unfortunately didn't stay long enough to really get a sense for what the characteristics of both jhanas are like, so I can't be sure whether what I experienced this morning is the same thing or not. I would say today's shift was similar, but it was much less pronounced.

So after sitting with the new more gentle sensations for a while, I lost my focus some and got a little excited about the potential of having gotten back to the 4th vipassana jhana. But that sort of thinking eventually lead me back to the other state, and the more intense tingling returned. The shift was actually preceded by a flickering of the top and bottom edges of the visual field (which was pretty much just darkness). I watched the sharper sensations for a while, mainly in my hands and on the top of my arms, before trying to relax and return to the other state.

So, I'm hopeful that I'm back up in the upper nyana's, but here's my two reasons to be skeptical.

1) I haven't had an A&P event that I can recall. The two possibilities that I wrote off are: First, a morning sitting with fever dream like qualities (heavy extremities, mainly my hands, that paradoxically feel way too big and way to skinny to be my real fingers and just an overall feeling that something is really off. I call them fever dreams because I had this type of sensations many times when I was sick as a child). I was not sick and did not get sick when I had those sesnsations, so that was strange. Second, a time I was sitting in my chair doing some work and out of nowhere it felt like my body was twisting and trying to spin. I had my eyes open, so maybe that's why I didn't have a full on tornado-like event similar to when I was on retreat?

2) My concentration and overall skills are still pretty weak compared to where I was on retreat. In Daniel's Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice I'm somewhere between stages 3 and 4. In Upasaka Culadasa's 10 stage model, I'd say I'm at 3. His description of 3 describes my current ability well.

I've been working on breath concentration over the last few days, with an emphasis on noting only those things that pull me away from it. I've been using noting terms from Shinzen Young's "Focus In" and "Focus out" as that has helped relieve the burden of trying to come up with some proper name for each experience.

I'm not sure if it's best at this point to continue that practice, or to do a more open awareness with some other object. I think I'll stick to the breath concentration unless someone things otherwise...I'd like to get to the point where I get a few sits where mindfulness is (nearly) continuous, but maybe I can continue developing in some other way?

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
6/18/12 7:59 PM as a reply to Eric O.
My sit last night was quite pleasant. I had a bit of a rough start, concentration wise, but things picked up and I started focusing on the visual field in front, and the sensations at the back of the head (I believe I remember this from MCTemoticon. I took a few minutes and asked myself "what's perceiving?" and "where is it". After a few minutes of this, I just stopped any noting or inner questioning and just sat with it. I had the sensation where my visual field got calmer and started wrapping itself around the sides of the perciever. Frustratingly, my timer went off right about then, and because I was sitting with my ladyfriend, I ended up stopping at that point.

I was in quite the good mood for an hour or two, and I realized that I may be being a little dishonest with myself when I keep telling myself that everything is normal and that I'm perfectly happy. While I don't think it's even coming close to causing problems, there's certainly been an edge of unsatisfactoriness that I haven't admitted or even seen up until that point.

That's faded, and this morning's sit, while very productive for a morning sitting (normally I have issues maintaining focus, but not so this morning), had much more noticeable physical sensation than last night. I went through a period where the sensations seemed much more bubbly (the opposite, I guess, of pointed and sharp). During that point, I had the regular itches and even one of my bugs on my face experiences. And for a few minutes, I had some upper back pain (the tense, dull, "I need a back rub" type of pain). Throughout the sit, I tried to take a few seconds to assess where I was in terms of the 7 factors. On the whole, mindfulness was doing well; investigation needs work (I still note for a few minutes and then lose it for a minute or three, even if I'm still being mindful, but eventually I start it up again); energy was good, particularly for a morning session, tranquility was pretty good; I noticed the lack of "joy" or enjoyment a few times - when that happens I try to force a smile and just enjoy things; concentration is mediocre (considering I can't keep my investigation going for more than a few minutes); and equanimity is mediocre (I'm doing better and getting better at recognizing when I'm getting too involved).

This evening, I sat for an hour and began with the full body sensations. They were more pointed and sharp, and occur at maybe 10-15Hz (maybe faster). For the first 15 minutes I focused on my breath, but for whatever reason the sensations on my shins were particularly strong and noticeable. So while I tried to maintain focus on my breath, it ended up being largely a fairly scattered, but mindful initial session. At that point, I let myself go and tried to do noting with whatever came up. I was able to follow sensations for a while, but had about a 15 minute stretch where I really lost my determination and was lost in thought quite frequently. One thing I think I realized was that some of the flickering I had been experiencing was likely due to the twitching of my upper or lower eyelids. Sometimes it's not, because I've seen it with my eyes open and opened them was wide as I could to make sure it wasn't my eyelids. But tonight I noticed a slight physical twitching sensation that went along with the flickering. Near the end, I got a bit better with following things, but I was really struggling with the noting. I probably would only get 30-40 seconds of noting before I'd lose it and recognize it a few minutes later. The last few minutes were primarily focused on the tention that had developed in my shoulders. Quite unpleasant. I tried looking at it, and it was just flickering and didn't have a stable spot, yet I really couldn't develop any equanimity towards it. I just wanted it to be gone. However, despite all of this, when the bell rang, I was a little surprised than an hour had gone past.

I didn't go through the 7 factors to see where I was tonight, but I'm going to try and reflect on it now in hopes that it will helpme to do so during future sits. Mindfulness was OK. The section in the middle was pretty poor, but on both the beginning and tail ends of it I was fairly mindful. Investigation was lackluster. I probably only was noting about 20% of the time when I was intending on noting. Energy was just OK. I'm not falling asleep, but I didn't feel some of the excitement that has really helped me go strong in the past. Joy/rapture was low. Tranquility was medium. I didn't really have any "stuff" coming up - just a laid back sit. Concentration was low. Equanimity was low. I was feeling a little frustrated that the nice experiences that had been fairly easy to produce yesterday were not happening today. I definitely don't think I recognized that while I sat.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
6/29/12 6:59 PM as a reply to Eric O.
Since I last posted, not much happened until two days ago or so. Before that, I was focusing on concentration and that started to improve, but most sessions involved a fair amount of discomfort in the back and especially the neck.

So backing up to my afternoon session two days ago. (Still doing 1/2 hour morning sits and 45-60min afternoon sits) I felt like my concentration had been improving a fair amount. But I still had some significant neck pain/tension. It feels as if I've been strongly shrugging my shoulders and finally letting go. But I'd been constantly relaxing those muscles (on the sides of my neck), so I'm guessing they're practice related. So the beginning of the sit I focused on the pain. After a few minutes, I had pretty solid concentration and just watched the pain move around as soon as I look closely at it.

After a few minutes of that, it broke and just a residue of the pain was there. So I shifted my attention back to my breath (doing noting practice throughout). It was pretty constant noting, and I would start to feel a little bit of the tension returning, and I would just note it and within a few moments it would pass. This happened within the first half of my sit. Maybe not more than 15 minutes or so?

At some point, I started noting a pulling sensation to my right. It got stronger and stronger and for a few minutes it was almost as if I had to fight to stay upright. It felt as if there were a strong magnet (point source) about 4 feet to my right. The pulling was slightly downwards on my head, but slightly upwards from my legs. I think at this point I was noting intermittently because the sensation was so strong that I needed virtually no effort to stay with it.

But after a little while, that broke too. And I started some choiceless awareness (which seems strange to call it that, because it's almost certainly not choiceless, just not centered on any one particular object), and found myself watching the sensations in my hands. After a few more minutes, the sensations basically turned into a big mess of vibrations without much shape. Everything just basically blurred together, and all I had on my lap was a big pool of vibrations. Watched that until the timer went off maybe 5 minutes later. I'm assuming this is what dissolution is describing, because it was very much like the shape of my hands just dissolved. But this is the first time I've really understood what it meant.

That sit had good mindfulness, good investigation, good energy, mediocre tranquility, mediocre joy, good concentration, and decent equanimity (getting better, but still have a ways to go).

So over the past day and a half, nothing too significant has happened. My concentration has been pretty mediocre again in the last few sits, but my mindfulness throughout the day has been steadily making progress. Today at work, I spent quite a bit of time in a very mindful state.

My sit just now was less eventful than that one, but still worth describing. I started out with some pretty shoddy concentration and mindfulness, but after a few pushes I ended up righting the ship. I had a few pangs of tension, right in the center of my chest that even a few months ago would probably have lead into fear or anxiety, but now I just end up watching it. I then had a few minutes where I noted calmness and quietness (mentally, not through the ears). I had a few moments where I really didn't know what to note, and I've started to note those situations, because I think those are the types of situations that really break my concentration on noting. Same with thoughts about mapping (I've been noting "mapping" quite a fair amount, despite the fact that I've realized I really have no idea where the heck I am).

I also had a few mental images/thoughts that I feel like were pulling me out of a mindful state. They end up constricting my mind, and when I notice them and bring my mindfulness back, I realize they were fairly dark (not emotionally, but as in constricted by or encased in darkness). It almost reminded me of falling asleep, and there were a few periods, actually, where I think I may have started to do just that, but the slight "falling" movement of my body jolted me back out of it. For about 10-15 minutes I assumed this was equanimity (and noted mapping a few times), but then I had one of the bug crawling down my face itches. I really didn't have any urge to scratch it, but it was certainly there followed up by a second one originating in about the same location. My investigation was lacking at this point, because normally I watch those and they just turn into a flickering moving sensation that loses all of its power over me, but I didn't this time.

Then in the later portion of my sit, after I think I really spent a fair amount of time spacing out, I started to get some more "sharp" tingly sensations at the skin level, as well as some flickering of the visual field (which I really don't think was caused by movement of my eyelids after watching it for a while, but I can't really tell for sure). The tension in my chest returned as well. All this reignited my noting, but a lot of the remainder of the noting period was me looking forward to being done. I even ended up opening my eyes and looking at the timer (and seeing 0:56) which I don't think I've done for a while.

That sit had decent mindfulness, poor investigation, lower energy, higher tranquility, mediocre joy, medium to low concentration, and mostly good equanimity until the end.

Now I'm sitting here with that tighter feeling in my chest and sharper tingling sensations. I've also had just a light headache for the past week or so, which goes away with attention. The ringing in my ears is still fairly persistent.

I'm also really struggling to know whether I'm forcing my experiences into my preconceived ideas of what the stages of mapping look like, and I'm assuming I'm doing that to a certain extent. But I've been really focusing on noting mapping and dropping it whenever I see myself doing it.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
7/13/12 6:28 PM as a reply to Eric O.
Well. I think I have to throw all my mapping out the window. I'm pretty sure I've been fooling myself this whole time.

My hour long sit tonight ended with a sudden state change where I just popped into a state of full body bliss. Way more substantial than anything I've been sitting with for a few months. I had been doing outloud noting for about half of it, when I got to a fairly peaceful spot, which I had been thinking was equanimity. No blissful sensations, but no really unpleasant symptoms.

I was focusing on the area right behind my eyes and I was just watching, when all of a sudden there was a sudden shift, vision went all funny. Easily the most intense few seconds I've had since the retreat. I can't really explain it because I wasn't paying enough attention to everything because it caught me so off guard. Immediately afterwards, my heart was beating fast (which it hadn't been before), but that settled down fast.

My initial reaction was "was that stream entry?", but then I caught myself mapping and tried to return to noting. I was just rather blissful (all over, but most pronounced in my forearms, lower legs, and face) and peaceful that I had some trouble noting anything, but I was staying with it so I just let it go. I'm guessing this is just my first return to equanimity since the retreat, mainly because I remember it being a pretty pronounced shift, which tonight was and the last few months have not had (just smoother transitions into an OK state). Hence, I've been foolin' myself all along!!

I'm need to exercise and make dinner but I'll try to sit for a second time tonight. I'll try to post specific experiences and the 'phenomenological' descriptions as best I can.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
7/13/12 8:39 PM as a reply to Eric O.
30 minute sit after exercise and eating. I think I dropped right back down into the DN (just realized that could stand for dark night or dukkha nanas - interesting). I started off the sit with a tightness at the back of my throat, which has been pretty characteristic of the last few sits. No bliss or overly pleasant feelings. Some prickly/tingly, almost irritating feelings. Then fear. Heart pounding and anxious feelings all over. I had to open my eyes - that was about 8 minutes in. Lasted about two minutes. That passed and then the remaining time was just prickly/tingly sensations, but less pronounced. Not a terribly great sit.

I'm glad to know this is all DN stuff, and equanimity was as nice as I remember. Gives me a nice kick of motivation emoticon Was fun while it lasted, and now I know that I need to nail it when I get back rather than just flounder in the niceness (I know I was warned).

The only thing that has me a little puzzled is why I really don't seem to go through re-observation. I need to watch closer, perhaps!

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
7/14/12 5:28 PM as a reply to Eric O.
HI there Eric -

30 minute sit after exercise and eating. I think I dropped right back down into the DN (just realized that could stand for dark night or dukkha nanas - interesting). I started off the sit with a tightness at the back of my throat, which has been pretty characteristic of the last few sits. No bliss or overly pleasant feelings. Some prickly/tingly, almost irritating feelings. Then fear. Heart pounding and anxious feelings all over. I had to open my eyes - that was about 8 minutes in. Lasted about two minutes. That passed and then the remaining time was just prickly/tingly sensations, but less pronounced. Not a terribly great sit.
To me, this sounds like a beneficial practice. Here's why I would welcome this sit for myself: the mind is learning over the course of practice, practice, practice that its own mental objects (i.e. fear, anxiety, wanting something, wanting not that xyz-something, even jhanas arising) are not permanent "things" or states. So, in sitting through a fearful or boring sit (or jhana) the mind learns to watch these mental objects come and go ("arise and pass"), not craving more and not craving less. This is the sati of knowing arising and passing away in all apparent forms.

For me, letting things arise and pass without some of my own resistance or pushing has not been as simple as the instructions to watch arising and passing may sound.

This ability for the mind to observe arising and passing away changes the influence that mental objects have on pulling the mind this way and that. For example, when the mind "wants this" (or "wants not-this") then this wanting is said to give rise to craving and the craving gives rise to stress (dukkha) until the wanting is gratified, suppressed or watched in its arising and passing.

So, to me, the above excerpt on on someone's practice (Eric O's) seems like the practice beneficially met with mental objects, saw not-wanting arising in the mind as well (another mental object) and the sit continued until fear passed into sensations. All in just eight minutes! I think that can be very useful training. I would not train, for example, my self or an animal in anything to the point that I (or an animal in training) learned exhaustion or a negative lesson. I would stop right where you did: at the calm, place knowing sensations.

Also: my sits early in the morning before meal time are generally more prone to equanimity and concentration (here the hardest thing I tend to deal with is sleepiness and desire to lay back down), and my post-meal sits and sati are more about vipassana (like watching sati-baseball: all sorts of physical and mental objects coming and going). So, maybe you also observe similar changes on a very empty stomach (like 10-16 hours after last meal) versus a post-meal stomach?

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
7/14/12 9:43 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
katy steger:
HI there Eric -
To me, this sounds like a beneficial practice. Here's why I would welcome this sit for myself: the mind is learning over the course of practice, practice, practice that its own mental objects (i.e. fear, anxiety, wanting something, wanting not that xyz-something, even jhanas arising) are not permanent "things" or states. So, in sitting through a fearful or boring sit (or jhana) the mind learns to watch these mental objects come and go ("arise and pass"), not craving more and not craving less. This is the sati of knowing arising and passing away in all apparent forms.

Thank you Katy! That hit about as hard as a textbook to the face. You said it in a much nicer way, but I clearly was judging this experience and not recognizing it as such. That's ignorance showing itself! It's so hard to see that sort of thing in yourself, but it's clear as day now. I need to begin noting "judging".

katy steger:

For me, letting things arise and pass without some of my own resistance or pushing has not been as simple as the instructions to watch arising and passing may sound.

This ability for the mind to observe arising and passing away changes the influence that mental objects have on pulling the mind this way and that. For example, when the mind "wants this" (or "wants not-this") then this wanting is said to give rise to craving and the craving gives rise to stress (dukkha) until the wanting is gratified, suppressed or watched in its arising and passing.

Absolutely emoticon One thing that I've tried to remind myself recently is "seeing, not seeking". The two are eerily similar both in their spelling as well as their expression in our minds. Just that little pull on the mind is enough to shift you from observing to desire (and is much like letting a little "k" slip into the middle of seeing - tiny change, huge difference in result).

katy steger:

So, to me, the above excerpt on on someone's practice (Eric O's) seems like the practice beneficially met with mental objects, saw not-wanting arising in the mind as well (another mental object) and the sit continued until fear passed into sensations. All in just eight minutes! I think that can be very useful training. I would not train, for example, my self or an animal in anything to the point that I (or an animal in training) learned exhaustion or a negative lesson. I would stop right where you did: at the calm, place knowing sensations.


katy steger:
Also: my sits early in the morning before meal time are generally more prone to equanimity and concentration (here the hardest thing I tend to deal with is sleepiness and desire to lay back down), and my post-meal sits and sati are more about vipassana (like watching sati-baseball: all sorts of physical and mental objects coming and going). So, maybe you also observe similar changes on a very empty stomach (like 10-16 hours after last meal) versus a post-meal stomach?
Oh, that's a good thought. One thing this brings to mind is during my retreat, by biggest breakthroughs almost always were at night, long past the breakfast and lunch had subsided. That's something I should try experimenting with a little more, because my gut says that I've tended to have more concentrated (which I tend to equate with good and bad, for better or worse) sits premeal. I'll pay attention to that. Thanks again!

As for today's sits, I would say that my interest levels have been raised, so concentration has been better (but hardly continuous). Sensations are primarily the prickly vibrations in my arms and hands. Some itches (no scratches). Tension was fairly consistant, primarily in the neck and face (I'm scrunching my face almost as if I'm scowling, but probably more like looking really closely at something). Oh, and a lot of heat and sweating. I'm not sure if it's normal, but when I meditate I tend to overheat (this was true during the winter too). 30 minutes both this morning and a few minutes ago...I always think I'll have more time on weekends, but I always seem to get less meditation in. I think it's just the lack of schedule.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
7/16/12 8:37 PM as a reply to Eric O.
Today at work was a fair amount of tension on the back of my throat. However, I was very mindful throughout the day. It's getting up into the 30-40% of the time in my daily activity I'd estimate. That may be generous, but it's definitely been increasing a fair amount recently.

Tonight's sit started off without the throat tension, however, with a somewhat easy and nice meditation. Sensations were fairly easy to track. I tried to do some breath concentration practice for the first 15 minutes, but my mindfulness was actually fairly strong, and concentration - not so much. So I just shifted into an observational mode (no noting) for a little while. I'd say I just followed internal sensations for a little while. This all lasted probably 20-25 minutes as a guess (I do have a 15 minute interval chime that went off after I had already dropped the concentration practice).

After a while of that, the throat tension and more prickly vibrations started showing up, and my mindfulness slacked off a little so I ended up shifting back into a noting practice for a little while. There was some back pain and itches, but nothing that lasted too long. Mostly just short thought distractions (and many of them were about how well the mindfulness was doing). But due to the mindfulness being a little weak at that point as well as concentration, I stopped noting after a few minutes.

I'm not sure when the noting stopped and a smoother set of sensations came about, but near the end of my sit (last 5-10 minutes - 55 minutes total) I had another pleasant set of sensations. There were vibrations, particularly noticible in my arms and face that were much smoother and very tight, almost as if you had plucked a taut rubber band. Mindfulness was doing better at this point and I just watched these smoother vibrations with a fair amount of ease until the timer went off. Minor things like back pain would appear during this time, but would vanish within a few seconds.

Overall, my mindfulness was very strong throughout this sitting. I maybe veered offtrack a few times in the middle, but I don't think I was distracted for more than a minute on any occasion. I don't even recall much more than 20-30 seconds.

Writing this out, I can't help but wonder if the bliss bath I had a few nights ago was actually the afterglow of a fruition. I can't say I saw one, but something strange did happen right before the bliss occurred (but my memory of it is probably fairly distorted already). And the blissful feelings certainly went away faster than I've read from other peoples reports (many reports I've read have indicated that blissful state lasted for a few days, not just an hour or so). I certainly have my doubts. The primary reason I doubt it is because daily life still seems dark night-ish. Additionally, my other sits since the blissful experience have not seemed to correspond well to cycling from A&P to Equanimity, but mainly sat in the DN. Time will tell, and the instructions don't change.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
7/16/12 11:24 PM as a reply to Eric O.
Hi Eric O,

Today at work was a fair amount of tension on the back of my throat. However, I was very mindful throughout the day. It's getting up into the 30-40% of the time in my daily activity I'd estimate. That may be generous, but it's definitely been increasing a fair amount recently.
I've heard about this from people who get this in response to stress. Here is a three-page selection from from Yoga Journal for tension releasing.

If you decide you like some of these stretches I would encourage that you do them with "no ego" (meaning: do not follow thoughts that say,"I should be able to stretch further than this" and try to go further. No. I just stay where the stretch supports long, slow, deep breathing (5-seconds inhale, 5-second exhale) and wherein I can be in the stretch for about two minutes (without discomfort). Two-minutes is around the time there is a muscle spindle relaxation.

The keys are gentle, long breathes and building up to (if not right away) to at least two minutes in order to trigger physiological relaxation based on muscle spindle releasing.

If you aren't sure where to start in three pages of their suggestions, I would start with the poses on page 2 (gomukasana, seated twist, supta baddha konasana, child's pose - two minutes each pose/each side). i would do this before work and before bed to start. That's about 10 minutes. I really meter two minutes and breathe well (5-sec in/5-sec out): conscious breathing is great for relaxing muscles and vasculature. The two-minute mark (spindle releasing) is when muscles are less likely to retract to the same or greater contraction.

It seems useful/skillful that you also are able take that tension into mindfulness.

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
7/17/12 7:50 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
katy steger:
Hi Eric O,

Today at work was a fair amount of tension on the back of my throat. However, I was very mindful throughout the day. It's getting up into the 30-40% of the time in my daily activity I'd estimate. That may be generous, but it's definitely been increasing a fair amount recently.
I've heard about this from people who get this in response to stress. Here is a three-page selection from from Yoga Journal for tension releasing.

If you decide you like some of these stretches I would encourage that you do them with "no ego" (meaning: do not follow thoughts that say,"I should be able to stretch further than this" and try to go further. No. I just stay where the stretch supports long, slow, deep breathing (5-seconds inhale, 5-second exhale) and wherein I can be in the stretch for about two minutes (without discomfort). Two-minutes is around the time there is a muscle spindle relaxation.

The keys are gentle, long breathes and building up to (if not right away) to at least two minutes in order to trigger physiological relaxation based on muscle spindle releasing.

If you aren't sure where to start in three pages of their suggestions, I would start with the poses on page 2 (gomukasana, seated twist, supta baddha konasana, child's pose - two minutes each pose/each side). i would do this before work and before bed to start. That's about 10 minutes. I really meter two minutes and breathe well (5-sec in/5-sec out): conscious breathing is great for relaxing muscles and vasculature. The two-minute mark (spindle releasing) is when muscles are less likely to retract to the same or greater contraction.

It seems useful/skillful that you also are able take that tension into mindfulness.


Hmm, it's certainly a possibility. I've had this same job for 4 years now, and, if anything, the stress levels should be pretty low now. There's nothing currently that I can think of that would be causing it. I think it better tends to correspond with the tingly sensations, so I'm more inclined to believe it's a result of the DN. But I certainly won't rule it out, because I've been wrong more times in this process than I've been right. By a fair margin.

I need to keep tonight's log fairly brief, because I have a few things left to do tonight. Tonight I started the sit after doing the dishes. As I was doing them, I felt a fairly strong set of bubbly sensations in my fingers. I had no throat tension (actually, that was fairly minimal throughout the day). If I was a betting man, I'd put my money on A&P territory.

So when I began the sit, that's what I started out with. But I wanted to start with a concentration practice for the first 15 minutes (55 total). That was going fine (not great, but not bad either) and I was focusing on the flow of sensations throughout both inhale and exhale. But 12 minutes in (I looked at my timer, because I wanted to accurately describe it), I noticed the sensations went from bubbly to the prickly/sharper sensations (they also tend to shift from primarily on the palms of my hands to the backs of my hands). I went back to the concentration practice. After the last 3 minutes were up, I sat with no noting to see what would happen. I definitely had the prickly/sharper sensations, and I just watched them. After about another 15 minutes of this, I noticed them smooth out a bit. Not quite as tight and refined as last night, but less prickly and not quite bubbly. But then my mind started wandering a fair amount, and I noticed the prickly sensations would come back and after I focused on them for a while, they would smooth out again. That repeated 4-5 times, and then the next thing I know it it was more bubbly sensations again.

No throat tension throughout the whole sit tonight. Quite pleasant really, but no really blissful sensations. Sorry this was a bit rushed.

Eric

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
7/18/12 11:39 AM as a reply to Eric O.
HI Eric,

Hmm, it's certainly a possibility. I've had this same job for 4 years now, and, if anything, the stress levels should be pretty low now. There's nothing currently that I can think of that would be causing it. I think it better tends to correspond with the tingly sensations, so I'm more inclined to believe it's a result of the DN. But I certainly won't rule it out, because I've been wrong more times in this process than I've been right. By a fair margin.
Well, "back at ya", as the expression goes: that's the value of insight practice - one sees for themselves...with clarity coming over time and practice (so say the adept ones). So, I defer to your understanding here. I have only heard of that kind of increasing throat tension in guys when it relates to stress (and there are physical yoga relationships in there at the throat area). Not that I have a huge survey out there... Anyway, people have different responses to chakra-speak, so I thought I would also just include a link in case it interests you: http://www.myyogaonline.com/about-yoga/chakras/ajna. I used to really tense when I heard the word 'chakra', but I think it can be a useful way to ask oneself questions. And when one sits in quietude, to me, it;s quite apparent that energy will sometimes, and out of the blue, with no preconception, just flash up and warm an area or suffuse.




But 12 minutes in (I looked at my timer, because I wanted to accurately describe it), I noticed the sensations went from bubbly to the prickly/sharper sensations (they also tend to shift from primarily on the palms of my hands to the backs of my hands).
This stuck out to me as relating to the overheating you mentioned. Again, it's only my outside view. My first question was, "Well, is overheating new to practice or is this your natural general state, to feel overheated?" Because a common place to "dump" heat energy is in the hands (edit: also in the feet if one is lying down): this is a "safe-feeling" anatomical place to direct and experience a lot of energy (edit: then one can work with the sensations gradually letting that collected area of sensation suffuse with intention, e.g., up the legs, up to the torso, up to the shoulders, into the torso-chest, up the neck/head, suffusing). Whereas if someone experiences a lot of energy early on in practice, perhaps while the mind is still very discursive and analytical/emotional, that heat suffusing or collecting in the chest or head can be a difficulty/alarming.***

Anyway, thanks for sharing your practice notes.



[***edit: Not that I think that is what is happening here! I am just sharing my own understanding and observations from myself and from some other accounts]


__________Added__________
No throat tension throughout the whole sit tonight. Quite pleasant really, but no really blissful sensations.
Nice. So this sort of thing (and your "Vjhana" (as you call itemoticon) tends to keep happening. Are you in a 'furthering exploring these conditions/sensations/states' mode or a mode of reflecting on why this practice causes insight and tackles dukkha?

RE: Eric's Practice Thread
Answer
7/23/12 9:18 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
katy steger:
HI Eric,
Well, "back at ya", as the expression goes: that's the value of insight practice - one sees for themselves...with clarity coming over time and practice (so say the adept ones). So, I defer to your understanding here. I have only heard of that kind of increasing throat tension in guys when it relates to stress (and there are physical yoga relationships in there at the throat area). Not that I have a huge survey out there...

Well it's certainly a possibility. And to be honest, I'm terribly inflexible, so a little regular yoga couldn't hurt.


katy steger:
Anyway, people have different responses to chakra-speak, so I thought I would also just include a link in case it interests you: http://www.myyogaonline.com/about-yoga/chakras/ajna. I used to really tense when I heard the word 'chakra', but I think it can be a useful way to ask oneself questions. And when one sits in quietude, to me, it;s quite apparent that energy will sometimes, and out of the blue, with no preconception, just flash up and warm an area or suffuse.
I don't seem to have much aversion to the concept, but I'm also not terribly enthusiastic about it. I can definitely relate to the idea of energy conjuring itself up out of the blue. I tend to experience it primarily in the visual field (sometimes nearly instantly). Things will be a bit murky and dull, and then all of a sudden, my visual field will become predominant and my energy will increase nearly instantly, which will slowly improve the other 6 factors.

katy steger:
This stuck out to me as relating to the overheating you mentioned. Again, it's only my outside view. My first question was, "Well, is overheating new to practice or is this your natural general state, to feel overheated?"
I'm generally a warm person, and overheating during meditation is not a new thing, but it's also a step up from my everyday body temperature. Even during the winter when I'm sitting in a cold (60F-ish) room, I would start off with a blanket around me on top of being fully dressed, but almost always by the end I would have shed the blanket. As I got further into it, I learned to start off the meditation colder than I would normally like. But now that we're experiencing this heat wave, I tend to sweat fairly continuously throughout my meditations (unless the A/C is on, which is reserved for times when the indoor temperatures get above 85ish). That is not typical, even for me. I'm not sure if any of this is relevant or not, but I suppose it doesn't hurt to describe it, because it's definitely something I've dealt with.


katy steger:
Because a common place to "dump" heat energy is in the hands (edit: also in the feet if one is lying down): this is a "safe-feeling" anatomical place to direct and experience a lot of energy (edit: then one can work with the sensations gradually letting that collected area of sensation suffuse with intention, e.g., up the legs, up to the torso, up to the shoulders, into the torso-chest, up the neck/head, suffusing). Whereas if someone experiences a lot of energy early on in practice, perhaps while the mind is still very discursive and analytical/emotional, that heat suffusing or collecting in the chest or head can be a difficulty/alarming.***

Anyway, thanks for sharing your practice notes.



[***edit: Not that I think that is what is happening here! I am just sharing my own understanding and observations from myself and from some other accounts]
Definitely things worth considering! Normally heat stays primarily in the torso, but that's something to watch.

katy steger:
Nice. So this sort of thing (and your "Vjhana" (as you call itemoticon) tends to keep happening. Are you in a 'furthering exploring these conditions/sensations/states' mode or a mode of reflecting on why this practice causes insight and tackles dukkha?
Generally the former. I try to tend letting reflection occur after meditation, and much of my understanding of this stuff really solidifies when I'm listening to dharma talks or reading books. I tend to learn much more from relating what I'm taking in with what I've experienced.

------

As far as tonight's sit, I'd first like to mention how adding a 15 minute concentration session at the beginning of all my sits helps tremendously. It's much like a warmup for an athlete to me. Some days those 15 minute sessions aren't quite as concentrated as I would hope, but even then it really helps to kick the second portion of the sitting into the next gear.

Tonight the 15 minute concentration started off fairly shaky, but nearing the end of the 15 minutes I was nearly continuously watching the sensations around the nostrils (I have a weird connection with that word after my Goenka retreat) for a few minutes before the timer went off (I have two - one after 15 minutes, and one to end the sit). One thing that's been helping me a lot is to think of the mind like an inchworm. Thanissaro gave this analogy in one of his talks and it really connected with me. He said attention is like this inchworm, and you've placed it on your object (which represents a leaf). But the mind is like a blustery day, and nearby leaves are blowing around, giving the inchworm ample opportunity to detach from one leaf and move to another. Sometimes the inchworm is fully planted on your leaf, but sometimes it's barely hanging on, with a majority of its body just hanging off the leaf ready for the next random leaf to pass by. So I've been watching for the difference between my attention fully on the object, and hanging on perilously waiting to grasp the next interesting thought that passes by. That's been quite helpful.

The second portion of my sit tonight was largely peaceful with high levels of concentration and mindfulness. I didn't do much noting, because my mind was able to stay pretty well locked on. The highlight was something that happened that was followed by a somewhat blissful sensation all over. I want to say that it was similar to the one a week or two ago, but it seemed less intense, and the event was not accompanied by the heart racing. Prior to the event, I actually had caught myself wandering off, and was just letting the visual image be (rather than returning to some other object). Something happened, although it may have just been a transition from one state to another. But it was followed by fairly pleasant sensations all over.

Later in the sit, maybe 5-10 minutes later, I feel like I shifted back into the more prickly sensations. This was preceded by a lack of mindfulness. Not sure if that was due to letting myself go into the pleasantness of the situation, or because I started analyzing. Either way, the last few minutes of the sit I returned to just watching the sensations in my hands.

Daily life seems to be a mix between content/peaceful, and the undercurrent of "something's not quite right" that seems to be accompanied by the throat tension. I'd say it's normally the former during more involved activities, and the latter when I have a little more room for thought and mindfulness. Logically, that seems backwards to me, but that's just what I've noticed. However, in general, I would say things have been more pleasant (or probably more accurately less unpleasant, if that makes sense). I also feel less drive to "get something done", and a lot more willing to just sit with what is happening and observing it.

For the time being I'm trying to convince myself that this is most likely all fairly common with the transition into equanimity. My rational mind says that's the most likely thing happening here. But I'd be lying if I said those two "shakeups" (as that's about the best word I can use to describe them) followed by bliss didn't make me think fruitions. Either way, I certainly feel like I'm making progress have a lot more ahead of me than what I've put behind me...