Curious where I am

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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Learned meditation in Theravadan tradition from Gil Fronsdal in 2000; practiced more or less regularly for 9 years. Mostly walking meditation, observing physical sensations throughout the body (because I had trouble with sleepiness, back pain, and irritability with sitting meditation). Practice slowly deepened but with few insights; main result was feeling more grounded, settled, and present in daily life. Lots of daily life practice during this time as well (whenever I didn't have anything else to do, I paid attention to physical sensations in the present moment). Several retreats of 4-13 days. No unusual meditative experiences.

December 2009: two-week jhana retreat. For first time, experienced meditation as pleasurable and fun. Achieved either deep access concentration or a light first jhana; not sure. Nimitta was weak and unstable. After retreat, became aware of new sensations in the right side of my torso which gradually became stronger and stronger and seemed a kind of waking up of long-held tension.

September-October 2011: two-month retreat with Pa Auk Sayadaw. Did 6 weeks of concentration practice. Did not make progress in Sayadaw's system (did not achieve full absorption in 1st jhana by his rigorous standards) but did develop strong concentration. Then did 2 weeks of mindfulness of breath/body/emotion as I had learned from Gil.

In the 12 weeks since that retreat, my meditation practice has been very powerful, very unlike it had been before the retreat. My need for sleep has gone down from 8 hours (before/during retreat) to 6.5 hours. I wake up early and immediately meditate for 1-2 hours each morning, usually doing mindfulness of breath/body/emotion. And during the past 3 weeks I have also been waking spontaneously at 1 a.m. and going immediately into what feels like a state of strong concentration. I usually lie in bed in this state, which may not be fully awake, and meditate for one to four hours before falling back asleep. Meditating during this time is more powerful than at any other time of day. I watch mental states and physical sensations come and go with clarity unlike any I had before. I see, with increasing clarity, chains of cause and effect. I'm beginning to see that each sense perception is composed of at least two stages. Last two weeks I've had strong bodily experiences of anatta (not-self), where it seems that my bodily motions, such as breathing or scratching my nose, are not being done by "me". And throughout the day, my experience of my body is changed, with a distinct character of anatta. Thoughts are still pretty sticky and seem like they are caused by "me" -- except for one middle-of-the-night session a week ago where I did see each thought appear and disappear, seemingly not caused by "me".

The strong bodily sensations on the right side of my torso, neck, and head have become even more strong. They now seem related to early childhood trauma (which I am exploring with an excellent psychotherapist who is also a meditator in the Theravadan tradition). When I am at all mindful, I feel like my body is enveloped in a kind of energy field that moves with my body, but with a slight delay. Sometimes, especially during meditation, it feels like my head is being sucked forward and I have to exert muscular effort to keep it upright. Waving my hand back and forth mindfully about an inch away from my body creates a physical response within the body, especially at certain points on the body such as the right jaw and throat.

My main practice is mindfulness of breath/body/emotion. I usually do some metta every day, focusing on myself, and occasionally do anapanasati concentration practice using Pa Auk Sayadaw's method. Sometimes I try noting, but I find I resist it. It seems like a lot of trouble and not fun.

Life feels very good. I am happy most of the time. Emotions flow through my body so much more easily than they used to, especially anger and sadness, and I am arguing with my partner way less than I used to.

I'm curious where I might be on the map, and whether I ought to consider any adjustments to my practice.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Terry -

Welcome the DhO.

What do you think you need to do in terms of making adjustments? For myself, I came to a place of relative calm and equanimity, but could detect a restlessness. After several weeks of restlessness, I took up a deepening yoga practice, and the restlessness diffused over another period of several weeks. It is because of this ongoing "reward" of my self-study (how I feel these days) that I incline to your instincts and ask what you think you need to do now.

You mention mindfulness, and if you have an opportunity to just tune into the five senses very sensitively (in a natural spot like woods, garden, window, etc) - letting any "I" interpreter (as in "I feel the breeze on my arm") slip away and letting the senses do the direct messaging of their sensory signaling with the brain (and this slipping away can take some time before the "I" filter seems to drop away), then I recommend this sensate-ness. This sort of practice was quite useful to me over a period of weeks. This 5-senses practice (relieving "I" of any interpretive duties) may be a nice counterbalance to your work with the psychotherapist.
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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Hi Katy,

The five senses practice sounds nice. When I sit in nature to meditation, I'm usually focused on bodily sensations rather than external stimuli. Not sure why, but I'll keep in mind your suggestion.

What adjustment do I think I need for my practice? I'm not sure I need any. But I've not been using what I think of as very technical methods, such as noting or body scans -- just general mindfulness of whatever arises, mostly sensations -- and I am guessing that hardcore DhO people would recommend noting or body scan as being more powerful and more likely to fuel progress and produce results. And I could choose to do those things without DhO people telling me to -- but it sounds like hard work compared to the fun I've been having. And I'm not sure that driving myself toward stream entry is the very best thing I can do for myself. I think I'm a person who needs gentlness. I'm new here. I read Daniel Ingram's book a couple of years ago; need to read it again to refresh myself. And I'd also like to read critiques of thd DhO approach.

So my instincts say that I'm doing just fine for now. Even though an achievement-oriented part of myself would really love to attain stream entry ASAP.

Terry
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I think you are way beyond noting at the moment, which is just one part of the Mahasi thing.

Five sense door advice is good. I would add a few things.

The sensations that waving the hand creates: do they have any very fine tingles or vibrations to them, like subtle interference patterns? Just curious.

Anything shifting, anything subtly pulsing, anything gently presenting, presenting, presenting, anywhere from very fast to very slow, even extremely delicately: noticing that directly just as it pulses, shifts, fluxes, tingles, vibrates, or changes in any way, on its own, just as it is, particularly anything "close to home" as it were, is gold in the attaining stream entry business anyway. Just the motion of attention is this, just the oscillation of intending to attend and attending is this, just the oscillation of observing and comprehending is this, just the asking the question "what is this" directly (I don't mean necessarily thinking or asking those words but just investigating) and the sensate direct answer of that moment's investigation is this, just peace and the recognition of peace oscillating back and forth, just ok-ness and that understanding gently resonating back and forth, just these alternating, shifting, subtly moving, and finally subtly synchronizing, just the subtle present oscillation of goal and reaching for that goal, those are gold.

Daniel
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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Daniel M. Ingram:
I think you are way beyond noting at the moment, which is just one part of the Mahasi thing.


In your book you said you used noting all the way to the threshold of stream entry and that it was the one technique you found most useful. So I don't understand how one can be beyond noting. For me, it feels clunky if I try to do it more than 1x/second, but I wondered if my speed would increase with practice.

The sensations that waving the hand creates: do they have any very fine tingles or vibrations to them, like subtle interference patterns?


Yes!

Anything shifting, anything subtly pulsing, anything gently presenting, presenting, presenting, anywhere from very fast to very slow, even extremely delicately ... those are gold.


Thanks; hadn't yet tried looking at such a subtle level, because I thought I still needed to perceive things more distinctly at a coarser level. Looking at your chapter, The Progress of Insight, it seems I am not yet through stage 2, because during most meditation sessions the distinction between physical and mental sensations is not that clear.

Daniel and Katy: I have begun doing some five sense door practice. Because right now bodily sensations can feel so heavy and can be hard to penetrate (tend to feel solid), the five sense door practice feels light and pleasant by comparison.

Terry
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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Just got up from an hour of noticing subtle vibrations. Before this sitting, I had been waiting for vibrations to make themselves obvious; didn't know it made sense to try to tune into them. Did this in conjunction with five sense door practice, focusing on hearing. (Never was aware before what a constant stream of airplane traffic we had overhead!) It was delightful to have permission to tune into very subtle pulsings.

I also practiced something I gleaned from Daniel's book (which I am re-reading today): appreciation of the hindrances as being rooted in wholesome desire. The wholesome desire to be happy and free of suffering. When I noticed desire to leave the cushion, I looked more deeply into that desire than before, with the attitude that it was wholesome rather than troublesome. Very nice.

How is it that I meditated for 9 years and never knew to look for subtle vibrations?

Terry
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
[edited so that some comments are consolidated in above post]

I'll just re-state (a little differently) that I think your practice, and your attention to it, will expose any adjustments or changes you could make. You seem to have a steady, thoughtful practice, and your written expression seems even-keel (not urgent, for example).

Whatever you have been doing up until joining the DhO has probably had countless results, probably many useful insights, and also points out some ongoing dissatisfaction arising now: wanting stream entry, vague interest in another practice, seeking other's thoughts. All useful!

As you know, to test a method takes repeated experience. Some days you may have more emotional load and/or physical tension than others and those things will color the practice differently. Each session of practice is unique anyway. So, as you test a practice over several days/weeks, then you can see how you are generally responding to it, what insights you are learning about yourself and, eventually, you will exhaust the practice (for a moment) and, in looking for another practice, one will seem very attractive and the process of testing-experiencing-learning-leaving restarts.

---
Are there any aspects of your daily life that you hope "stream-entry" will change? You don't have to answer that here, but it can help to know well what is motivating you (and that can change over the course of various practices).
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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Katy,

I took some time to read your writing on sensateness vs. applying focused attention to the 5 senses. Thanks. I've experimented some with open awareness over the last week. So far I haven't gotten to the point where the chattering mind quiets and the sense of "I" fades away. My mind seems to want to focus on something. But I haven't yet given it a big chunk of time (so far at most 30 minutes). Also, I haven't yet read the Shambala article.

Why do I want stream entry? I can't think of a wholesome reason. In fact, the nice thing about not having SE (or not knowing I have it) is that there is one less spiritual achievement for my ego to latch onto. The main thing I want is to progress in my practice and continue to gain a clearer sense of reality. I'm so happy with my practice these days. I'm glad for each little bit of illusion or delusion that falls away. There is nothing else in life that gives this kind of satisfaction.

Terry
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Terry -

It seems like Daniel's exercises are giving you new ways of looking at your experience:

Daniel:
Anything shifting, anything subtly pulsing, anything gently presenting, presenting, presenting, anywhere from very fast to very slow, even extremely delicately: noticing that directly just as it pulses, shifts, fluxes, tingles, vibrates, or changes in any way, on its own, just as it is, particularly anything "close to home" as it were, is gold in the attaining stream entry business anyway.
Since these seem to be insightful to you, I would keep doing his exercises. [edit: (removed DMT comment: DMT is a divergent topic, but I am often curious to know if it is involved in advance concentration states) Anyway, if you have not had altered states of consciousness, it can start to happen with such concentration, which indeed gives "a clearer sense of reality" (quoting your interest here) if only by breaking down completely what is typically real on a daily basis]

In terms of open sensate state, like you, I tend to use open sensate state off the cushion. Doing this with regularly was also very delightful for me initially, then also provided some unexpected insights.

Between the two gross efforts, mindfulness (open sensate state) off cushion and concentration (attention on the vibrations, fluxes) on the cushion, these both seem like great ways to use the intention and enjoyment you have for practice right now.

Good luck. Your thread and experiences are interesting to read. Thank you.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Terry -

So, I'd like to make clear a distinction between paying attention to the five senses and sensateness. [I removed this description to another thread

This shambala article describes open state as "refer[ing] to a thought-free wakefulness where the mind, as Oser described it, "is open, vast and aware, with no intentional mental activity. The mind is not focused on anything, yet totally present—not in a focused way, just very open and undistracted." The meditator finds open state more effective at neutralizing startling sensations; whereas the observing researchers find the meditator's single-point concentration slightly more effective, in sum.

So, perhaps consider open awareness(aka: sensateness (see link to description established as its own thread), because it uses the brain broadly where as other activities like concentration and psychotherapy can use the brain's narrow-field capacity. I think you may find the open awareness a nice counterbalance and this counterbalance may feel "relaxing" (though concentration is not at all a strain, it's just that it can be a strain when concentrative aspects of the brain are used all day long for days and days on end). The vibratory aspect, to me, is more of a concentration practice, and also useful (as you see with airplane sounds effecting you).

Also, to your point regarding possible critique: I do not find the DhO has a method. Daniel created a site so that myriad actually practiced methods could be shared by their practitioners. Open source contemplative practice-sharing allows for debate (sometimes unpleasant-feeling) without descending into pure argumentation nor descending into false harmony. The later two (argumentation and cloying agreement) do not require a meditative practice; to arrive at several useful practices depends on actual experience. So, sometimes actual practices relayed in words on the DhO are experienced with different outcomes, or are expressed differently, but the authentic dialogue based in actual experience is usefully productive, in my opinion (as opposed to wastefully productive as in deliberate argumentation or cloying agreement). So, if there is a DhO method in the open-source, I have found it so far usefully productive. Internet maturity seems to have evolved this way generally: the initial thrill of a loud-mouth offering no actual content has even modified an archaic mythical word into an actual modern creature: the troll!

Best wishes,
Katy
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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Katy, thanks for your thoughtful and detailed notes. I have read them, but not fully digested them. It may take some days before I do, but I wanted to express my appreciation right away.

Just a couple of sessions spent with five sense-doors practice (and I did begin to lose track of which sense door was receiving any given sensation) has heightened my sensitivity to sights and sounds in daily life, and made it more fun just to walk down the street. Not that fun in daily life is my primary purpose, but it's a nice side effect.

In the way that I am (newly) passionate about Buddhist practice, my partner is passionate about the sport of orienteering. I was at first pleasantly surprised to see the level of supportive commentary I've received here. But then I compared DhO to a similarly supportive community website for orienteering (attackpoint.org), and realized that mutual support is just what people do when they're passionate and engaged about a subject.

Terry
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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Hi Aman, thanks for your response. For me, the sensations in the right side of my body don't trouble me. I see them as a positive sign that some part of me is waking up. Likewise for the energy field--I enjoy the feeling; it makes me feel like something special is happening to me.

Sometimes when I am meditating the sensations on the right side draw my attention like a magnet, and I find myself wanting the feelings to move or change in some way -- to resolve, actually. The desire is uncomfortable. Lately I've tried alternating attention to right/left side, 10 breaths on each side. This seems to bring some balance, similar to your alternating nostril breathing and/or movement exercises, and keeps me from indulging the desire.
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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
I'm still curious about where on the map I am. I can make good arguments for everything from stage 1 to 1st Path!

Katy, I enjoy that you, presumably a woman or someone who identifies as a woman, responded to my post. I considered messaging you to ask if you were really a woman. I am a woman! I am a scientist, so this site's pragmatic approach really appeals to me, and I've been sharing it with all my dharma friends, including the meditation group I've been facilitating at my workplace.

A week or so ago, my practice powered way down and became quite ordinary. No more meditating during sleep, no more getting by on 6.5 hours of sleep per night, no more insights, no more vibrations, no more thoughts like clouds wafting by, no more sensations arising and passing away like TV snow. Just watching sensation ... usually sensation doesn't feel exactly solid, but it doesn't have the TV snow or raindrop quality it used to sometimes have. I've gone back to using the breath as an anchor, because I need an anchor (whereas for many weeks I did fine with wide attention). I can still sit for long periods and can still keep attention on present moment phenomena without too much wandering mind, especially during my 1.5 hour morning sit.

If I didn't know about maps and stages of insight, I'd say that I had very powerful meditations for 12 weeks because they were powered by 6 weeks of concentration practice on retreat ... and that the power has worn off, and my meditation is going to be "ordinary" again until I power it up again with another long concentration retreat.

But I see on this forum that many folks have high-powered practices in daily life with even less than the 1.5-2.0 daily hours I'm putting in. So then I think, did I get to A&P but slide back to the earlier stages? And if so, why did I slide, given that my effort didn't slacken? Or did I pass on to the dukkha stages, and I'm there now, but just without a lot of suffering? Or ... was that little blip of nothingness I fell into 2 weeks ago nibbana, even though I never had anything resembling equanimity? Or, did I have an (unremembered) A&P event as a child, accounting for my strong lifelong spiritual bent, and have been in DN for the past 45 years, accounting for 45 years of continous low-grade dukkha ... and, if so, where would that put me now?

It's so human to be curious about these things. And, from reading on this site and in MCTB, I see that one can beneficially adjust one's practice (level of effort, for example) according to one's stage.

One curious phenomenon that perisists: during meditation or whenever I am quite mindful, even the slightest movement of my body, such as moving one finger or opening an eyelid, is followed immediately by sensations in the torso evocative of sadness or longing. Is this a response to knowledge of anicca? A big exception is breathing; breathing is not associated with these sadness/longing sensations.

After resisting Mahasi-style noting as too cumbersome ( I've done it on and off throughout my practice life, just never really liked it), I've finally decided to give it another try, now that meditation has become slow and ordinary. Last 2 days I've been noting 1x/second to start with. One reason I don't like it is that it eems easy to shift into mantra mode, unwittingly.

Spent last weekend re-reading MCTB and browsing this site. So much to learn.

As long as I'm doing a core dump ... MCTB has given me new insight on my brother's 2003 suicide. One day in 2001, after reading a book on near-death experiences, he had a joyful unitive experience while just walking down the street -- seeing himself as inseparable from all beings. A week later, he phoned me to say he'd become very depressed. He'd never mentioned being depressed ever before in his life, so I assumed he'd snap out of it. He never became undepressed, eventually became delusional, and 2 years after the unitive experience he ended his life. Sounds like he had A&P followed by extremely painful DN. Too bad neither of us knew about the maps. My parents talked to a Catholic priest who said something about possible Dark Night of the Soul, but it didn't mean anything to any of us.

Terry
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)( piscivorous, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 36 Join Date: 12/8/10 Recent Posts
Fantastic thread. I'll be reading this in detail when I get a chance.
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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
After stating that I was shifting to slow noting ... this morning, after about 10 minutes of self-metta, I decided to attend to whatever sensation felt like self. It was really fun and it seemed I got more and more facile with it over the next 70 minutes. It felt like my focus kept going back and back in space (meaning toward the posterior of the head), and my head would tip backward uncomfortably, and then I'd slowly adjust it while continuing to chase the slippery sensation of self. After some time it seemed I was chasing, or unpeeling, the sense of self down to nothing, and then I noticed fear of losing self, so looked at the fear. Then my attention would cycle among noticing the fear, then not finding anything to notice, then noticing the self that wasn't finding anything ... then fear again. Finally during the last 10 minutes I found myself yielding to the apparent content of the fear (needed to get ready for work) and my concentration broke down.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Also, thank you for your mention of mettā application at the outset of meditation. We make use of mettā regularly in a group with whom I sit, however, last night we looked at it a little differently (in the context of Richard Gombrich's relating it to the Pali word mitto. I looked into mettā further as a result of reading your thread here.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Terry,

Yes, I am female! I also spent the earliest part of my professional life as a bona fide scientist (wildlife).

Terry: A week or so ago, my practice powered way down and became quite ordinary.


There are several reasons why this happens: 1) there is simply no need for the mind to stay amped up on concentration practices (unless you are going for mahasiddhi skill, then you may want to really press on); 2) like a marathon, intense concentration practices benefit from a relaxation period, 3) just sitting is vipassana (clearly seeing) - the big other piece of meditation (concentration and clearly seeing).

I think the concentration practices are often reported here more than "just" sitting, because a) there are wow factors, b) concentration is a normal entry-level aspect of meditation, traditionally preceding vipassana and c) people generally arrive at this site because they want to get through/to something and they're focused intention usually attracts focused (concentrated) practices. Sooooo, until there is some release of stuff, then the reported practices are often about the concentration practices.

Also, concentration practices often show the practitioner the mind's capacity (anywhere from wild hallucinations to almost flatline), so that when vipassana begins a practitioner can see how urges arise in the mind, then in the body, and can apply this insight into daily life. Upon what urge is action worthwhile?

Frankly, I think of "just" sitting as "high" practice. How many people do I meet who are just eating, just cleaning, just working? So much is added (so mnay mental urges going into action) and let me be the first to say I add surfeitly to many things that can just be very lightly, wondrously lived. I am going to die someday, there will be nothing to add then, probably nothing to take, so I like extending my any ability to just be in this moment as it is (and I'd push back if harm were happening). It is an extra/ordinary place, it is extra/ordinary to be sentient and to live. When I look and hear directly, it is plenty extra/ordinary.

The longing and sadness you mention: that will work itself up to the surface in practice. I found that doing simple yoga last fall and through the winter helped me pull pull out pockets of tension. As the body seems to follow the mind, those pockets of tension seem to point to stagnate/guarded places in the mind.

I hope that helps. Thanks for sharing your practice.
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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Katy wrote:
I think the concentration practices are often reported here more than "just" sitting


When I use the term "concentration practices", I am referring to practices intended specifically to build concentration. It sounds like you use the term to refer to vipassana practices that are powered by strong concentration. I have done both and to me so far they seem quite different. When I do my standard concentration practice, I focus on the breath at the nostrils and try to perceive it as a continuous entity, and I usually do this for a long period of time. A lot of pleasure may arise, but insights are infrequent. When I do vipassana practice, I may focus on just one thing such as the breath, or on a series of things, but either way I am trying to see those things as non-continuous entities. Pleasure is less apparent, and insights can sometimes be frequent.

What I see reported here under vipassana practice threads are what I call insight practices, presumably performed with the benefit of strong concentration.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Terry - Ok. I [think I] understand your points.

For myself, I don't find just sitting (shikantaza, vipassana, zen, other names) is powered by strong concentration, but that having had a somewhat stable practice of concentration has shown me what the mind can do, what perspectives can occur, and how perspective can change depending on the mind and my own consciousness.

Thus, having had some concentration practice, when I sit, I [may be] there to just watch urges which may be arising on any given morning/evening in order to understand how I may be moved to act in the day. It is like a training to dissolve some habitual propensities/views in favor of being able to act more in line with what is happening at any given moment.


Also, I meant to add that I don't know about the nature of your sadness and longing. I replied more about this last night, but cancelled the post. In responding this morning I failed to take up your point comprehensively: if the feeling is like general malaise or if if it is mostly connected to your brother. When I responded to it this morning, I responded from an assumption that [you may be intending] general malaise.

If the sadness is general malaise, then this I think comes up in vipassana and concentration and [may] work itself to the surface in practice (and can benefit from other tools like writing, yoga, talking to others). One can find out in vipassana why one is carrying ongoing general malaise.

If the sadness is mostly in regards to your brother, then that, for me (based on my own experiences), is different. For myself, similar memories can still evoke a poignant sadness in me and this seems quite reasonable: there is nothing happy about suicide and the memory of one, though I did have a friend who chose hers in an assisted medical setting and this was obviously a bit different.

_____

You: When I do my standard concentration practice, I focus on the breath at the nostrils and try to perceive it as a continuous entity, and I usually do this for a long period of time. A lot of pleasure may arise, but insights are infrequent. When I do vipassana practice, I may focus on just one thing such as the breath, or on a series of things, but either way I am trying to see those things as non-continuous entities.

So, how do you feel about the ordinary practice you mentioned yesterday?

Edit: I replaced some grammar with the optative tense in brackets.
I also wanted to say that I read your other post and saw your 10-minutes of self-metta practice. It sounds like you gave yourself just the right thing.
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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
OK, here's a somewhat rambling post about various things.

Rodney Smith, the leader of our local sangha, today gave a talk on samadhi (concentration). If I understand him correctly, he thinks that, although moderate concentration is essential for productive practice, deep concentration is not useful. He says that deep concentration allows one to see subtler and subtler aspects of form (vibrations, rupa kalapas, etc.), but that one cannot experience the formless by examining ever subtler aspects of form. He warned that the ability to see subtle aspects of form can be seductive.

Katy, I haven't read enough of your posts to learn what your strongest practice influences are; it seems that perhaps you don't come primarily from the Theravadan tradition, since our vocabularies are somewhat different (i.e. your use of the term "concentration practice"). I am wondering what "just sitting" means to you. When just sitting, one must apply some kind of effort, else one's mind will wander, right? Given that effort is required even for just sitting, in order to stay in the present moment, the distinction between just sitting, and insight practices where one tunes into subtle vibrations, seems not at all clear. What (I ask myself) is the quality of attention that allows one to just sit (observe what's happening in the present moment) and how is it different from the quality of attention that senses subtle vibrations? For me, the attention that senses subtle vibrations is penetrating, and it contains the intention of sensing vibrations (and I sometimes wonder whether the vibrations are really there or whether I in part create them with my intention ... if they are really there, why do I need a different quality of attention to see them?).

The sadness/malaise I referred to a week ago is general, not specific with regard to my brother's death.

I looked up alternate nostril breathing in my favorite hatha yoga reference, The Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, by H. David Coulter. He said that if there is an assymmetry of sensation in the body, this practice will tend to make it more prominent. But perhaps this is a necessary prerequisite to the clearing of the assymmetry? I find myself hesitating to incorporate it into my practice routine, probably because it is unfamiliar to me and seems like a chore, and because I'm unclear about its purpose.

Regarding my "ordinary" practice of late -- it's less fascinating than the (seemingly) deeply insightful, dramatic practice -- and I have to apply more self-discipline to do the practice (I usually feel like just lying in bed and have to get over some activation barrier in order to sit) -- but it's usually pretty satisfying.

Last night I awoke at 2 a.m., very hot and physically uncomfortable, a little queasy. I sat up in bed and meditated, and vaguely wondered why I was feeling this way. After about 30 minutes it occurred to me, it was probably a hot flash! Or something similar. Watching the uncomfortable sensations in meditation was a lot more pleasant than tossing and turning in bed with them. In general, actually, sitting in meditation is more pleasant than lying in bed -- what's unpleasant is the moment of deciding to get up and sit, and the physical transition into sitting. The reason I prefer sitting in meditation to lying (unmindfully) in bed is that while lying in bed I usually have unpleasant mental states (fears) along with the pleasant ones (languorous physical pleasure) -- when I sit to meditate, I see the fears as ephemeral and they cease being unpleasant.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Terry,

Rodney Smith, the leader of our local sangha, today gave a talk on samadhi (concentration). If I understand him correctly, he thinks that, although moderate concentration is essential for productive practice, deep concentration is not useful. He says that deep concentration allows one to see subtler and subtler aspects of form (vibrations, rupa kalapas, etc.), but that one cannot experience the formless by examining ever subtler aspects of form. He warned that the ability to see subtle aspects of form can be seductive.


I also find that concentration practices can be seductive and inane at some point. But to be fair, I think all practices taken to an extreme and/or in isolation have this weakness. The strength that comes from that same weakness is in becoming exhausted in that practice. One may wake up and say, "where has this practice gotten me? Am I satisfied or dissatisfied, restless or not restless, longing/not longing" and so forth. That experience clearly isolates a dissatisfied feeling, whereas previously the practice may have been dealing with many feelings which are basically "to want" (e.g., wanting to learn a new practice, wanting to attain some state or freedom, wanting to avoid something, wanting to gain a community, etc).

Thus, desire is seen and deflated. Now, unsatisfactoriness can be studied. What is the unsatisfactoriness that caused my desire (to practice)?

The very same practice that occupied the feeling of "wanting" can be used again, yet now it will be used to look at unsatisfactoriness. If another practice is taken up, that too is fine, however, practice-jumping can be a way to stay in "wanting" and avoiding the urges which underly wanting. I am bringing this up generally; I do not have any thought that you specifically would jump around in practices.


The sadness/malaise I referred to a week ago is general, not specific with regard to my brother's death.


Is this feeling on the cushion and/or in daily life? What does the feeling want?


For me, the attention that senses subtle vibrations is penetrating, and it contains the intention of sensing vibrations (and I sometimes wonder whether the vibrations are really there or whether I in part create them with my intention ... if they are really there, why do I need a different quality of attention to see them?).


Did you intend the word "intention" or "attention" in the above "create them with my intention"?



Regarding my "ordinary" practice of late -- it's less fascinating than the (seemingly) deeply insightful, dramatic practice -- and I have to apply more self-discipline to do the practice (I usually feel like just lying in bed and have to get over some activation barrier in order to sit) -- but it's usually pretty satisfying.


What insights have come from a dramatic practice, and what do those insights say to "ordinary" practice?

_____

Alternate nostril breathing: if it is not worth doing, I wouldn't do it. Like drinking water is only good when one is thirsty, otherwise drinking it is felt to be boring or is actually wasteful or harmful. I like yoga when my own energy (including thinking) needs balancing. I love, for example, inversions, but when those are too much, I enjoy nadi shodhana. It is a light physical practice, that's all.

Katy, I haven't read enough of your posts to learn what your strongest practice influences are; it seems that perhaps you don't come primarily from the Theravadan tradition, since our vocabularies are somewhat different (i.e. your use of the term "concentration practice"). I am wondering what "just sitting" means to you. When just sitting, one must apply some kind of effort, else one's mind will wander, right?


I have taken up many practices since reading Hesse's Siddhartha at age 15. Sometimes, sitting is just sitting. When this happens it is the mental faculty taking up afferent sensations without creating new events. Awareness abides in or very near to afferent sensations (reducing a time gap between awareness and sensing). I am new to this, but I find that here the mental faculty has become satisfied with the senses and ceases to separate itself from the mental faculty-as-afferent-register/participant (thus concentration). Awareness itself may also go dormant here, it seems, and thus arises to find itself getting a glimpse of cessation. That momentary death of awareness seems to offer insight, too. [edit: here I am getting to a point where I have the impression that the mental faculty will enter various states when I train the mental faculty that can give rise to/be invested in narratives to stay close/in the senses as they afferently register; this is how various meditative events have occurred to "me", when I just train the narrative mind to stay close/at what is triggering the sense-faculty. It is like wordless noting in that it requires the narrative mind to just keep pace with as many afferent inputs as it can. Somehow, in this (which I have done now intently for about 9 months), mediative "states" have occurred on their own and I would say it is because narratives have ceased, the I-aspect of mental faculty becomes 'observer' or also ceases.

Does that indicate where my practices influences are at present?

[edit: the specific method I've applied since last spring has been to train attention to place itself on afferent sensations continuously. Thus, over time, the narrative-making capacity of the mind is crowded out by the assignment of its attention to incoming sensations. Affectively, I add friendliness to the effort when it subsides and I add friendliness to the effort at the outset: so seeing sunset, seeing commuter traffic, seeing the kitchen area...all seen with friendly receptivity (I stayed away form harmful or challenging sense-objects, though would apply the technique at work (where lighting was not great, for example, carpets outgased...)). After about 8 weeks of this intent effort single-point concentration occurred spontaneously, and some other aspects of the mind showed themselves. Thus I was able to see that if I take care of my mind that would make narratives and apply conditions by continually replacing the mind on the senses (and by giving the mind pleasant experiences like sunsets and sunrises and water views, and sitting outside from time to time), then the mind itself will deliver the meditative stages about which are written.

Truly, that attention which conditions and forms an "I" must be returned continuously to and subsumed into another task - like attending to afferent sensations, in order for other mental states and the unconditioned to arise. To the extent the mental energy which is attracted to condition an "I" is redirected to another, antithetical object/theme is the extent to which the mind may become unconditioned and reveal (extra)ordinary unconditioning. There is no "I" that can experience this uncovering. I am away for a few weeks and wish you well with your practice.


I'd like to add that I have countless habits that are apparent, but unchanged as yet by practice, even exacerbated!]

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Aman A., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 793 Join Date: 5/24/10 Recent Posts
In the first post you said: "The strong bodily sensations on the right side of my torso, neck, and head have become even more strong."

In responding to my suggestion that you try alternate nostril breathing when you wake up in the morning you said: "For me, the sensations in the right side of my body don't trouble me."

Terry Farrah:
One curious phenomenon that perisists: during meditation or whenever I am quite mindful, even the slightest movement of my body, such as moving one finger or opening an eyelid, is followed immediately by sensations in the torso evocative of sadness or longing. Is this a response to knowledge of anicca? A big exception is breathing; breathing is not associated with these sadness/longing sensations.


Katy: "The longing and sadness you mention: that will work itself up to the surface in practice. I found that doing simple yoga last fall and through the winter helped me pull pull out pockets of tension. As the body seems to follow the mind, those pockets of tension seem to point to stagnate/guarded places in the mind."

In the same way that Katy is saying that simple yoga helped her pull out pockets of tension, alternating nostril breathing will pull out the pockets of tension which in your case are in torso that point to stagnate/guarded places in the mind and will help in healing.

But sometimes guarding is so strong that the mind makes us think that the sensations (which are in the right side of your body) don't trouble us.
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Oh! I want to second that nadi shodhana (alternate nostril recommendation): about three to five minutes of that has effects for me. Very useful.
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Terry Farrah, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 14 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Aman wrote:

But sometimes guarding is so strong that the mind makes us think that the sensations (which are in the right side of your body) don't trouble us.


Yeah, I notice some thinking that tells me I'm special for having these feelings, which may be a manifestation of guarding. Aside from that -- lately, the sensations seem to have grown stagnant, I have grown weary of them, and when I am mindful I notice a longing for the sensations to resolve in some way. Having recently immersed myself in the book MCTB, I have been following Daniel's advice to separate emotional work from meditation practice and to completely ignore content while meditating, so I've not been making any effort to fulfill this longing. Instead, I've been trying to simply notice the sensations of longing.

Nevertheless, I just now went to the quiet room at work and did alternate nostril breathing for 3-5 minutes. No positive or negative effect made itself immediately apparent. However, I was pleased that there was no negative effect, because in the past I have disliked this practice (alternate nostril breathing). I may experiment with this for some days.

Aman, I looked for your response to my initial post (around January 23), but it seems to have disappeared.

Terry
Aman A., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Curious where I am

Posts: 793 Join Date: 5/24/10 Recent Posts
Yes, longing for the sensations to resolve may not be very useful.

I also had to go through a lot of negative effect (lot of pressure in the chest area, almost passing out) when alternate nostril breathing started working for me. But I persisted and the sensations on the right side kept on diminishing with time and now are very minimal and still decreasing. I must add that me practicing some Vajrayana practices has a lot to do with the eventual positive result of this exercise and I don't know how much it will be beneficial with what you are practicing.

I deleted my first reply to you as I thought it may not be of much use to you since your practice and my practice differ. I still don't know that. Maybe I shouldn't have replied to you.