Martin's Log 4

Martin, modified 1 Month ago at 4/20/24 11:13 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 4/20/24 11:13 AM

Martin's Log 4

Posts: 873 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
The last log was getting a bit long. For reference, here are the previous logs. 

Log 1:
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/22024623

Log 2: 
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/22715276

Log 3:
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/23922732


On the cushion:
I have had covid for the past week and a half, which includes coughing, nausea, and tiredness, which all make meditation challenging. I'm satisfied with a half an hour a day. I do get some samadhi going, because I think it is generally speaking good for me and the wider world, but it's pretty basic. I can vipassana-ize  the sensations of sickness but it kind of misses the point. It is in the gestalt that sickness is most remarkable. Nausea is particularly interesting because, unlike pain, it is very hard to localize. If you look at the component parts of nausea, none has a very clear signature, and yet you cannot miss the fact that nausea is present. If you then try to look at it as an overall constructed thing, it slips and slides and morphs to an incredible extent. 

Off the cushion:
I'm still not suffering at a personal level but there is quite a bit of awareness of suffering on a more diffuse level. I was just starting to feel pretty healthy after last month's heart attack when my son came back from vacation and we all came down with covid. Although we all had boosters in December, it has hit us pretty hard. It must be an unfortunate strain. As all three of us are sick together, the inexorable and distributed nature of biological suffering is on display. I am also reminded that we are very lucky, doing this in a warm house with plenty of food, and nobody trying to kill us. 

Speaking of death, it is on my mind. Not in a bad way. I don't have any strong anti-death feelings (or even ant-dying feelings, which used to be a thing for me) but I do think that I usually have a bit of a death blindspot. The future tends to stretch indefinitely far before the mind's eye. Until recently, being a 61-year-old athlete with no health issues, I had somewhere between 20 and 40 years ahead of me. More or less infinity. Now it could still be decades, but it could also be later today. The funny thing is, that doesn't represent a change. We are always on the edge. 

This perspective has interesting tie-ins with desire. To want something or to be reluctant to lose something is to want a particular future but the future that is desired is itself situated longer future. Imagining being very rich, or very right, or very comfortable for just a day is different from imagining these states as potentially infinite, which, I think, is the default perspective. After all, we have all been, relatively speaking, rich, right, and comfortable and moments in our lives. There is nothing super special about those states. But when those states are in the future they look different. 

When I shift my background view of the future from infinite to finite, it has a different feel. Oddly, it becomes less tangible, less demanding of investment and protection. For one thing, the future is not finite in the sense of having a known end. It's not like the distance from here to the end of the street. The more specifically you try to make predictions about it, the more clearly lacking in reliability the predictions become. And the end is not just unknown, it actually does not, and will not, exist. It's not like the world stops when local consciousness stops. Looking at the whole wide world, and all the consciousness in it, it's clear that local consciousness stops millions of times a day. Probably millions of times a second. That doesn't seem to be much of a problem for the world at large. Only in the narrative version of life is the end so very important.

These are the views and perspectives that are flitting through my mind. I have no answers, which is a blessing. 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 1 Month ago at 4/20/24 6:07 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 4/20/24 6:05 PM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 2860 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Oh, emoticon I love you man! emoticon Im 49 yo but I feel you big time! 

Yeah, that realization that death is inevitable. And it will happen to me. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe whatever emoticon But it will happen.

We are not all the same it seems. To me after the 1st path cessation, the "death thing" is more like "oh, this non-existence is not really scary at all". To me life-ing is more of a suffering thing than Not-consciousness emoticon But even that is more like ... oh, is this yet again a trance of sorts? ... oh, of course it is ... wonder ... dont know ... stuffing ... is ... this ... oops, again some sort of a trance dwelling state ... wonder ... dont know ... is ... ummm ... peace bra emoticon ... trance/dwelling state ... oh! I see! ... what know I ... dunno ... 

emoticon 
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Bahiya Baby, modified 1 Month ago at 4/22/24 5:15 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 4/22/24 5:15 AM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 523 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
Wishing you good health, a speedy recovery and blistering insight. 

Death has been on my mind. 
Martin, modified 1 Month ago at 4/22/24 11:16 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 4/22/24 11:16 AM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 873 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
I'm curious as to whether the sorts of things that you think of when you think of death have changed over time. For me, not being worried about it, and so not trying to push it away, particularly now that it has come so close, has made it possible to think about it more, and that is where all this thought about the finite nature of future experience comes from. Has your way of looking at it changed? 
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Bahiya Baby, modified 1 Month ago at 4/22/24 9:36 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 4/22/24 9:36 PM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 523 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
Yeah so I understand or relate to the infinite wave horizon of time collapsing into a finite hour glass deal.

But lately it's something different. It's like when I really relax, when I really get down to it then death is just here. Through the room, through the body, through the heart. It has nothing to do with time really. 

I was a very sickly kid. I spent a lot of my early life in and out of hospital and the first few weeks of my existence in an incubator. 

I see now that my struggling against life has its roots in my early struggle to live. Once I start letting go of that struggle death arrives, or is seen to have always been right here, right through me.

It is frankly a rather unsettling experience emoticon 

​​​​​​​The last few years I've had some health struggles and I am now enjoying a patch of relative healthfulness. I wish the same for you. 
Martin, modified 1 Month ago at 4/23/24 10:45 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 4/23/24 10:45 AM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 873 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Thanks, Bahiya. It was good of you to share that. That does sound unsettling and also very penetrating. 

I'm glad your health is better at the moment. Health problems can shape life at such a basic level. I always found it interesting that, in the suttas, the monks were allowed their robes, their bowls, and their medicine, because, two and a half thousand years ago, managing health problems was part of life for many monks. 
Martin, modified 1 Month ago at 5/12/24 3:05 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/12/24 3:05 PM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 873 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
On the cushion:
Back to meditating in the garage as of yesterday, for the first time since my heart attack two months ago. It feels good to go into what I think of as a dedicated space to do a dedicated activity. My concentration is, however, very poor, even in the garage. This morning I lost my count in my warmup. I usually count out 100 breaths at the start of my sit, but my mind wandered and I forgot to count. That is the first time that has happened to me in years. Samadhi is weak at the moment. Instead of a clear jhanic arc, there is more of a jhanic wave with rising (first/second) and falling (third/fourth) components. Mindfulness is not too bad. There are a lot of disparate objects arising without continuity. Body discomfort, sound, breath, body discomfort, visual image, breath, body pleasure, breath, sound... The implied space between the disparate things feels restful, reassuring.

Off the cushion: 
It turns out I have heart failure which has meant going from 16-hour days of working, running, swimming, seeing friends, and getting things done, to being happy if I have a day where I can go to the shops and take a 20 minute walk without ending up laying on the couch with nausea so bad I can't even watch TV at the end of the day. That is probably going to get better over the coming weeks, but I also have a different collection of probable futures now and different things that I need to pay attention to. Oddly though, it's all the same. There are things that seem desirable and things that seem undesirable, positive and negative vedena, planning, frustration, accomplishment. It's all there, even if the objects are different. Sometimes there is some dukkha with it but if I remember to turn toward it as an arising phenomenon and allow sadness, it is self-liberating. 

It's funny, I avoided sadness for almost all my life. I treated it as something that just absolutely must not be allowed. But now I know that sadness is the emotion of release and allowing. It is the feeling of emerging freedom. 
shargrol, modified 1 Month ago at 5/15/24 8:28 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/15/24 8:28 AM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 2523 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Sorry to hear about the health complications ☹️  
Martin, modified 1 Month ago at 5/15/24 12:24 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/15/24 12:24 PM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 873 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Thanks, Shargrol. It's one of the downsides of our experience being based on a self-assembling/self-destructing aggregate of cells. But downsides are part of the adventure :-) I will start a rehab program soon, where I get to go to the gym and improve my heart function, so there are lots of upsides too. 
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Pepe ·, modified 1 Month ago at 5/15/24 12:51 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/15/24 12:51 PM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 734 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
May your recovery be smooth and speedy Martin!
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Chris M, modified 1 Month ago at 5/16/24 6:57 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/16/24 6:57 AM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 5269 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Wishing you health, Martin.
Martin, modified 1 Month ago at 5/16/24 8:33 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/16/24 8:33 PM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 873 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
On the cushion: 
Some improvement in concentration. The mind is still prone to wandering, but it is stabilizing and better remembering how things go. There is a state which I call nimitta space, which is basically a concentration state in which small, irregular, but often very beautiful nimittas arise. After the weak jhana cycle (jhana waves), at about the 30 minute mark onward, I have been spending some time in nimitta space. There is very intense joy in the beautiful nimittas, but no stability. It's like a little playground to run around in for a while. But I see no harm in having fun. 

With the strengthening of concentration, there is more mindfulness on the way in, and more mindfulness after the sit. I think I may add some walking after the sit, and see how mindfulness does in that environment. 

Off the cushion:
I'm kinda having fun. Maybe it is because I am feeling a bit better physically. But even when I don't feel well, or when I have a nervous reaction to symptoms, or calls from the doctor's office, there is no getting lost in that, just very bright awareness of how it feels. It's something like the "look how it ..." practice, but it's not a structured practice. It just is engaging to see the experiences around both ill-health and good fortune unfold, and there is no need to take it personally, and no clinging to specific outcomes. When things come up, I turn into them. And I don't mean that I face the challenge head-on with the intention of finding a solution (a way to an outcome). I mean that I watch the emotion shine and appreciate the intensity of it, for what it is, in that moment. Of course, there is some pragmatic good luck behind my attitude. My family would be financially OK without me. They are also, emotionally/spiritually/pragmatically in a pretty good place. I also have a fairly low chance of getting critically ill or dying in the very immediate future. If that were not all OK, the whole business of not clinging to outcomes might not unfold in the same way. It's hard to tell, of course. If there really is no clinging, then there is no clinging no matter what the situation. I have no way of knowing what things would be like if I were in a different situation. 

I am noticing and enjoying automaticity. Stuff unfolds and this Martin thing unfolds with it, but also my wife unfolds with it, my son unfolds with it, birds and clouds unfold with it. The world spins, traffic hums, trees grow. All automatically. 

I noticed this strongly when I was zipping around in ambulances and hanging out in hospitals. At that time, there was also a great sense of connection, or unity, or whatever we might call it. After, when I was at home and unwell, that sense of unity seemed lacking. Perhaps I just missed the in-your-face immediacy of hospital drama. Now the sense of lack has retreated and the brightness of the unity is showing up again, including short passages of nondual perception, which had been pushed aside for the past few months. 
Martin, modified 28 Days ago at 5/19/24 10:47 PM
Created 28 Days ago at 5/19/24 10:47 PM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 873 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
On the cushion: Not much to report. I keep having things get in the way of my morning sits. Evening sits are not really a substitute. 

Off the cushion: I am back to looking at sensual desire. I am trying to notice the initial desire, which is to say, the orientation of the mind toward an object before clinging sets in. One way of seeing, which I have been playing with, is seeing the interaction as mutual, with the ice cream and the human experiencing desire for ice cream as peers, in the same way a sodium ion and a chlorine ion are peers. You cannot have sensual desire without an object. Sensual desire is the greatest driver of animal behavior. All of the sentient creatures, slithering, burrowing, running, swimming, and flying over the earth are doing so, for the most part, out of sensual desire. But the desires are in no way uniform. Birds are drawn to seeds, bears are not. Bears are drawn to salmon, snakes are not. And, of course, when it comes to mates, there is essentially no overlap. Sensual desires, then, are an evolved interaction between an object and a sentient being. Sometimes, the object, such as a seed-bearing fruit, benefits from the interaction, and other times it's harder to see the benefit to the object, such as in the case of a hawk and a mouse interacting. But, thinking back to sodium ions, which is what is driving all of this behavior anyway (via action potentials in nerve cells) there does not have to be a benefit for things to be drawn into each other.

It's such a big thing: beautiful, mysterious. It is the wind filling the sails of the animal world. And we can see it happen. We can tease it apart from vedena on one side and upadana on the other. So cool.
Martin, modified 18 Days ago at 5/30/24 11:58 AM
Created 18 Days ago at 5/30/24 11:58 AM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 873 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
On the cushion: A lot of sits with weak concentration and, in those cases, I switch to noticing, but even noticing is less clear with weak concentration. I am also continuing to miss some morning sits because of being ill or being behind on other things due to being ill. I probably need to develop a practice that is more suited to low-energy situations. Having always been a high-energy guy, my standard sit is based on kneeling with a straight spine and setting an intention of high-energy focus. When I am weak and lightheaded or nauseous, that doesn't work so well. If anyone has any experience in meditating while ill, I'd be interested to hear any tips they may have. I do have Shinzen Young's book on the subject, but it really seems to focus on pain, and I don't have a problem dealing with pain. 

Off the cushion: I'm still not very good at allowing/integrating nausea. I still experience ill will towards it. It's not a deliberate thing but that orientation arises toward the sensation of nausea and I have to consciously notice it and release it. Fortunately, nausea is really only there for a fairly small percentage of the time. Other than that, I am still having a good time. A nice thing about being ill is that anatta is really clear. There is nobody calling for unpleasant sensations to arise and pass. It's just biology, and biology is a shared experience. There is no separation. What is happening here is not produced or controlled by me. It is a feature of the world. I notice this when I eat. It's cliche, but I am aware of the massive web of life in which food is entwined, and I am aware of how that awareness is also an emergent phenomenon in that web. This is a very pleasant experience, with a sense of loving/belonging, which is fundamentally natural. There is also quite a bit of nondual perception interspersed throughout the day, so the conceptual and the perceptual support each other. 

Speaking of concepts, I often find myself noticing the role of the future in aversion and desire. Aversion and desire can seem very immediate but, when I look at them, they are actually future-oriented. Desire is obviously so, because I want to get something (a sensation in the case of sensual desire) that I do not currently have, or I want to continue getting something that I have. If there were no future, there would be no desire. Desire assumes a future which, of course, is imaginary. Aversion is a little less obvious because the sensation is often currently present. But, here again, the point of aversion is getting rid of the sensation in the (usually immediate) future. In both cases, seeing the empty nature of the future immediately removes the fuel for aversion and desire. 
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Bahiya Baby, modified 15 Days ago at 6/2/24 4:59 AM
Created 15 Days ago at 6/2/24 4:59 AM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 523 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
Meditate in bed or on the couch if you can do so without falling asleep. 

Your insight about the future is so on the money. 

Continue to heal up, the nausea and illness will pass. 

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Martin, modified 15 Days ago at 6/2/24 11:49 AM
Created 15 Days ago at 6/2/24 11:49 AM

RE: Martin's Log 4

Posts: 873 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Yes, I do meditate on the couch. I don't fall asleep, but my concentration is usually poor, with a lot of mind-wandering. That may be because I associate laying on the couch with ordinary default-mode thinking. I keep meaning to make a formal go of it with a yoga mat and hands pointing upwards at my sides. Yesterday I tried flipping the vedena of the nausea and noticing the energetic features of it. I will keep playing around with that because, although it is possible the nausea and illness will pass, heart failure generally progresses, rather than healing up, so there are probably advantages to making friends with the symptoms. On the up-side, I saw a cardiologist this week who will be managing my exercise rehab and he has cleared me to start doing aerobic exercise which is likely to make me feel better. I did a couple of walking hill repeats yesterday and I am hoping to go for a super-easy swim today. (Man, I love swimming!) Being really into exercise is a lucky disposition to have for this disease. 

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