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Adam L's Practice Journal

Adam L's Practice Journal
Answer
4/11/12 11:57 AM
Some background on motive:

After soliciting some advice on the DhO a few weeks ago (http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/2995052) I received a few private messages suggesting that I find a teacher and recommending some names. Heeding this wisdom, I sought out a teacher who, during our first session, said that it may be helpful to start a practice log on the KFD or DhO sites (or both). At first, I was hesitant (mostly due to ego/self-consciousness) so I created the log in a place where only he and I could view. After spending more time reading logs and seeing the wealth of advice, I've decided to make my practice log "public".

My first couple posts below are the aggregate of log entries and a couple practice questions from the past couple weeks. As such, I apologize in advance for the initial wall-of-text.

Some background on my practice: I cover this territory a bit in my original DhO post...

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/2995052

Somehow "goals" seem a bit strange, even counterproductive, but perhaps I should mention that I am working to attain first path and would like to do so with as much efficiency as possible, but without much dramatic adverse effects to my close personal relationships (namely, my wife, kids, other family, and close friends...again, see the aforementioned DhO post for more context in this vein). In the very short term, I'm trying to build up some insight "momentum" in preparation for my first retreat, a 10-day Goenka retreat at the end of June. I spending about an hour with my teacher every one or two weeks.

I would be absolutely thrilled if anyone would mind commenting on my practice, suggesting "tips", or making technical recommendations...or if you just want to say "hi" emoticon

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal
Answer
4/11/12 11:57 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Practice Notes 3/27/2012
Late afternoon sits on 3/25/2012 and 3/26/2012 of initial samatha practice (30-50%) followed by insight practice for remainder. Both sessions had a duration of roughly 1 hr.

Observations: Concentration on both sits were flimsy at best and more difficult to establish than is usual. Externally-speaking, there have been lots of tasks and "stress"-type content which I surmise has been contributing to a lack of sleep and hence a bit of low energy levels (by "low energy", I mean I've been tired, I'm still unsure at to whether there are other contexts for this expression when I read it from others). Leading up to the a more solid concentration state I felt physically uncomfortable, like my back had pain and or like I couldn't find a comfortable posture. It would seem comfortable for a few seconds then almost feel like my spine was twisted or curved and that I should adjust the way I was sitting. I would adjust and the same thing would happen again. I gave up on 'getting comfortable' and moved to focusing on the sensations of the breath passing the nostrils. Access concentration(?) follows after perhaps 10-20 mins manifesting as a sinking sensation in my awareness "center" -- this "center" seems to be analogous to my eyes or in the same "spot".

This sinking is fairly poignant and often unexpected, I have not yet ascertained the composite "steps" to attain this efficiently. In addition to this sinking sensation, there is the sensation that other "stuff" like (five) sensory distractions (sounds, etc) and mental distractions like thoughts are "far away" and easy to ignore, but more like they have no pull on my awareness. I recall feeling/thinking that I was amused or that it was almost humorous that thought/mental chatter is such a dominant part of my daily life. Accompanying this sinking was also a feeling/sense of relief or peace. Maintaining awareness on the breath is exceptionally easy and felt a bit 'vibratory' or choppy in rapid succession. Leading up to this 'state' there were lots of psychedelic-type mental imagery, similar to black and white pinwheel or swirly type images. Once this sinking sensation occurred, mental imagery turned into a hazy grey, almost like very fine 'static', sometimes morphing color to a pearly white or beige. It was kind of like being in a room that was brightly and evenly lit with eyes closed, but somehow the light permeating the eyelids was perceived as static-y.

At some point I felt "compelled" to move to noting practice in both of these sits. I noted aloud. Would note physical sensations like "itch" (which often occurs on my right cheek when I sit, for some strange reasons), "back pain", "leg switch", "fan sound", "knocking sound" as well as mental sensations with "planning", "fear", "lust", "love", and "judgement" being the dominant things I noticed and noted. Noting the mental phenomena seems harder to remember to do for some reason, it's was far easier to scan my physical senses and note awareness on these. I think I may be trying too hard. I'm a bit puzzled by "what is supposed to happen" during insight practices. Concentration practice seems so simple and the "what is happening" seems much more obvious than the subtle things that occur during insight practice. Another thing that seems to happen during insight practice when I happened to do it with my eyes open (first sit) was that my visual senses seem very "jerky" almost like I was just perceiving snapshot...or like they were fluid and then "jerk"...it reminded me of the way a graphical operating system behaves when the CPU gets overutilized, say for example, when you try to move a window with your mouse cursor, only to have it temporarily 'freeze' and then catch up to the movement when it needs to process other threads. The overall tone of the senses and feelings when I switch to insight practice is kind of/subtly stoney, slowed-down, a bit pleasant, and "wondrous"/mesmerizing (like realizing I'm seeing things "for the first time")...this tone makes for something I inadvertently try to grasp at when I 'feel' it slipping, at which it fades and concentration needs to be reestablished.

I want to figure out a way to just let these things flow without trying to manipulate it, but I feel "out of control" in this regard.

This was a long log entry to fully explain these sensations for the first time (which often manifest in a similar manner during sits). In future posts, I hope to focus just on simple comparisons and contrasts of these general patterns.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal
Answer
4/11/12 11:57 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Practice Notes 3/27/2012
No seated practice. Hectic and busy day made even informal mindfulness practice sporadic at best.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal
Answer
4/11/12 11:58 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Practice Notes 3/29/2012
Late afternoon formal seated practice lasting approx. 45 minutes. Started with samatha practice focusing on breath at upper lip/nostrils. After concentration settled, spent several minutes maintaining this state. About half way through the sit, I switched to observing sensations while maintaining a loose focus on awareness of breathing. No extraordinary events during the sit. Felt no real 'insight', whatever that is supposed to feel like. Overall tone of the sit was one of periods of focus, intertwined with short periods of distraction. The only real distinction in this sit was that These distractions had almost a dream-like quality to them, as opposed to the usual 'planning' type thoughts that sometimes arise. These were more ethereal and wispy, with my awareness observing for a moment these dreamlike qualities with interest upon realizing the distraction before shifting back to watching the breathing process.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal
Answer
4/11/12 11:58 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Practice Notes 3/30/2012
Late afternoon formal seated practice lasting 45 mins. Same pattern starting with concentration practice and into insight practice (mindfulness of breath/noting). Feel like sensations are tough to find when noting, like there are none. I end up noting things like 'rising' and 'falling' but it seems like it's a habit and not something I'm inherently experiencing. I don't know how to explain it but I tried to exert more effort or force into my awareness, almost like trying to burst my awareness outward and felt a change in sensory awareness. My bodily boundary awareness became more distinct. I could actually feel my hands folded in my lap if I chose to try to feel them, as opposed to just knowing they were there. This was a nice change because it felt like non-contrived awareness. Not sure if these observations are even relevant or if I'm fabricating these things. I just ended my sit maybe five minutes ago and like most of my sits recently, I feel very strange afterwards. Not really good, not really bad, but sort of shaken. Like I'm watching my fingers type these characters, but "I'm" not really controlling it. The emotional tone of the way I feel is a bit detached or disassociated...again, but maybe I'm fabricating these experiences...describing them makes them seem almost trite. Random question, why is it that almost without any volition I open my eyes between 45 seconds to 1 minute before my little alarm goes off? Is this coincidence? It seems like it happens ever time I sit now...I don't even really find myself asking...ummm..."myself"... whether or not I should open them...I just do. Then I sit and soak the visual simulations for several seconds before looking at my timer and observing this thing...anyway, it's probably unimportant.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal
Answer
4/11/12 11:59 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Practice Notes 4/4/2012
Seated practice has been pretty tough for some reason. Feeling lots of aversion and find my thoughts wandering in a strange way (similar to the wispy/dream like wandering mentioned earlier). Spent the last couple days reading about noting practice and now I try to subvocalize the sensations in my awareness as much as possible and as I remember. I try to verbally not "louder" when I'm in a space that permits it, like walking to my office from a bus stop or while showering, etc. I'm finding difficulty doing this however when I'm trying to listen or focus...e.g. in a conversation, while reading, while watching a video, etc. Not sure if I should be 'turning off' the noting practice during these activities or if I'll get better at doing both simultaneously. Right now, if I note while needing to focus on the activity, I end up focusing on the noting and not hearing the activity...if that makes any sense.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal
Answer
4/11/12 11:59 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Practice Notes 4/5/2012
Seated practice: one ~20 min seated subvocalized Mahasi-style noting practice in the morning. one ~45 min seated Mahasi-style noting practice in the early evening. Diving right in to noting, as opposed to building up concentration doing samatha then switching to noting seemed much more..."productive" (i.e. less tendency for my thoughts and focus to drift off for some reason). I think I'll be switching to this strategy.

A couple minutes into the sit, noting rising and falling of the breath, I felt an abrupt dropping mental sensation accompanied by a flash and rotation of a TV-static type mental vision. Then I felt a distinct shift in awareness, almost like how one feels when you "wake up" while after realizing you've been daydreaming and ask "have I even been paying attention to the road"...it's like I noticed that I am almost never "paying attention"...but now I can, at least for the moment. After this 'drop' I felt a distinct separation between what was happening in the traditional senses and the 'who' that was sensing these things. Some euphoric sensations (like when one crests a roller coaster) came and went several times during the longer sit.

Spent a good chunk of my day doing un-vocalizded noting during daily activities. This is getting much easier to do (and to remember to do).

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal
Answer
4/11/12 12:00 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Practice Notes 4/9/2012
No formal seated practice over the weekend. Spent a lot of time bringing myself back to noting during "normal" daily activity. Noticing that noting speed and accuracy is increasing, also noticing that I'm "inadvertently" being more specific while noting. For example, for the past couple weeks I've been mostly noting things like "sight", "sound", "touch", "step", "rise", "fall", etc...the past couple days have been more like "fan" (sound), "brake lights" (sight), "cold" (touch). I think this is progress, but I'm not sure.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal
Answer
4/11/12 12:00 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Practice Notes 4/10/2012
Short formal sit today (~25 mins). Focused on noting the sensations related to the breath. Starting to notice some patterns during these sits...like a visual flash and stronger focus, there always seems a period of physical discomfort (e.g. my back hurts/posture feels off), there always seems to be a period where things go (visually) black. I plan on trying to pay closer attention to this phenomena to see if I can get a hold of their order or significance. I noticed now that when I begin to feel elated, I easily remember to just let it happen (as opposed to my previous propensity of "trying" to cultivate the feeling into something magnified).

Second late-afternoon sit (~35 mins). Nothing additional to add to previous entry.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal (A Couple Questions)
Answer
4/11/12 12:01 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Practice Question
When doing seated/formal noting practice sessions, should I be focusing exclusively on breath-related sensations? Should I allow for my awareness to "note" other sensations, like when I am hear the fan or other noises, when I swallow and feel these related bodily sensations? Or, rather, should I concentrate on keeping my awareness as tightly centered as possible on breath-related sensations and "ignore" or "keep my awareness off" other sensations?

Practice Question
When doing noting practice during daily activity I'm noticing that my noting is speeding up to the point that I'm often noticing a few (three to six) sensations and thoughts for every one explicit "note" I perform. Is it better to try to speed the noting up and make them more inclusive or slow it down and place more awareness on the particular sensation being noted, "ignoring" or relegating the others.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal (A Couple Questions)
Answer
4/11/12 2:54 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Hi Adam,

Practice Question
When doing seated/formal noting practice sessions, should I be focusing exclusively on breath-related sensations? Should I allow for my awareness to "note" other sensations, like when I am hear the fan or other noises, when I swallow and feel these related bodily sensations? Or, rather, should I concentrate on keeping my awareness as tightly centered as possible on breath-related sensations and "ignore" or "keep my awareness off" other sensations?

A point about your question, "Should I be focusing exclusively on...?"
The ability to "focus exclusively" is a skill of quite an adept practitioner -- one who can pick their thoughts and have those alone (without considering an exclusionary effort). Such adeptness may grow by sustaining sincere, consistent, friendly efforts in meditation and mindfulness and supportive choices (like causing supportive conditions for meditation/mindfulness)

In the training for such skillful adeptness, frequent and buffeting changes in attention are reported (i.e., awareness is no longer on the breath but has entered a thought or feeling). Hence, the promise and appeal of meditation: the ability to recognize an uprooted, calamitous/unsettled mind and to train it for settledness, skill and receptivity.

To your question of should your awareness be allowed to "note" other sensations...?
If you perceive anything other than the breath (such as the fan noises you mention), then verbally noting that sound is not necessary. The acts of hearing and your returning to the breath are acknowledgement of the diversion.

If it helps you to note verbally (internally or out loud) the diversion and the return to the breath, that's fine; however, noting should not become a self-congratulatory series of noting "achievement". If one feels pride of "good noting", then that can be noted...

...in this way, noting can be very helpful in revealing one's own conditioning and cravings, the patterns of arising and passing thoughts and feelings. This revelation of one's habitual arising and passing thoughts/feelings uncovers how one is conditioning perceptions and actions, and allows one to develop apt spontaneity of an open mind. A tall order, unless it is seen as a step-by-gentle-effortful-step process. One sincere, gentle, effortful step at a time is very efficient.

About "keeping awareness as tightly centered as possible on breathe" and ignoring anything else: adding mental tightness is needlessly adding tension. While one may strive to stay with the breath, that diligent effort is not helped by adding a "tight" centering requirement. A friendly, effortful practice that naturally attracts one to return to the practice again and again by its gentle, friendly, supportive way. The mind often has enough difficult, habitual thoughts and feelings that adding a force will evoke a consequence of force, such as resistance and/or avoidance.

About ignoring something or "keeping awareness off of sensations": when the mind recognizes that it is no longer with its initial focus -- the breath, in this case -- that recognition is already a "note". Awareness has already moved to i) a sensation, ii) to realizing its change of focus (from breath to sensation), and iii) it will move back to the breath if the breathing meditation is continued (e.g., fulfilling a timed sit of x-minutes). Adding a fourth step to "ignore" any of this would need to have some benefit (as addressed above with the caveat about noting becoming a source of pride/other clinging).

(You have mentioned a capacity for jhana in the other thread, so I am not getting into sensation in regards to jhana here. Besides, the skill developed in stable breathing meditation directly relates to stable jhana).

To study sincerely breathing meditation settles the mind and shows the mind a lifelong, settling companion: the actual breath [edit: if there is pain/fear in breath that is another matter and calls upon creating supportive conditions for meditation/mindfulness, such as breathing supports and/or using other objects to develop the mind's stability and calm. This relates also to the emphasis on practicing sincerely and diligently , taking advantage of fortunate circumstances while fortunate circumstances exist, such as healthy body, supportive environs, etc].


Practice Question
When doing noting practice during daily activity I'm noticing that my noting is speeding up to the point that I'm often noticing a few (three to six) sensations and thoughts for every one explicit "note" I perform. Is it better to try to speed the noting up and make them more inclusive or slow it down and place more awareness on the particular sensation being noted, "ignoring" or relegating the others.
Noting can get very fast. Noting is quite useful to see one's own patterns of habitual thinking/feeling, and noting can show just how much the mind is chatting away in every direction, diffusing its energy everywhere like fireworks. Noting is not necessary if one has loosened attachment to/belief in the arising and passing spray of thoughts and feelings and has a sense of the habitual patterns; at this point, the recognition of not being with one's object of concentration (e.g., the breath) serves to return one to breathing (or another object) to support a continuously settled mind.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal (A Couple Questions)
Answer
4/11/12 4:10 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Hello Katy,

Wow. First of all, thank you for such a thoughtful response. It is humbling to realize people give so freely their time and wisdom.

katy steger:
noting can be very helpful in revealing one's own conditioning and cravings, the patterns of arising and passing thoughts and feelings.

...

Noting is quite useful to see one's own patterns of habitual thinking/feeling, and noting can show just how much the mind is chatting away in every direction, diffusing its energy everywhere like fireworks.


I think I understand what you're eluding to here. I don't recall from where I heard the technique, but while practicing mindfulness and noting during "normal" daily activities, I've started noting "feeling tones" alongside noting the sensory phenomena (though, I have to admit that this is much subtler and somehow "harder"). Despite being a bit disconcerted by how frequently I'm noting "negative" feeling tones like "judgement" alongside images, sounds, etc (though this may just be a byproduct of selection bias, I'm still investigating this notion), it seems to me like thoughts and "feelings" (are the two different, btw?) are distinct phenomena that are informed by the other senses. Hmm...I'm trying to explain this correctly...it's as if, for example, I see something (e.g. a small toddler playing unsupervised near a road), then notice/have a series of "thoughts" (e.g. "I really hope that boy doesn't get hit by a car", "where are his parents", etc, etc...I'm starting to notice some consistent/frequent patterns in these thoughts, but I'm not certain of them yet), followed by a series of physical and emotional "feelings" (e.g. fear/anger/judgement accompanied by physical sensations like a feeling of surging heat up the skin near my upper spine, what feels like increased blood pressure/elevated heart rate/et al. physiological phenomena). Is there a relationship between all these phenomena that pertains to insight practice? I'm a bit confused by what I've read/interpreted of things arising and passing from and into nothing. I'm inferring a bit from your post that you're sort of telling me to "relax" (i.e. avoid efforts that lead to tension)...so, am I over thinking this?

Forgive my obtuse-ness, but would it be accurate to say that the "point" of noting is to consume mental bandwidth in order to stay in the present moment, as opposed to dwelling in thoughts of the past or grasping at thoughts of the future? It's strange to me how things seem to have simultaneously sped up and slowed down since I've begun spending considerable time in my daily routine "noting". Even stranger are the recent sensations where I feel sometimes that the "I" with whom I normally associate as "me" (ugh, this is awkward to describe) is "moving" or even like "I" am "observing" what I've normally associated as the "observer". Wow, trying to describe this makes me think I'm going crazy. Does this make any sense? Is there a technique for coping with or even utilize this changing paradigm, particularly when it "feels" acute, for the purposes of gaining wisdom? I sometimes feel like I'm tip-toeing around some sort of breakthrough in understanding... emoticon ... I'm laughing at how ridiculous and almost pretensious this all sounds ... ugh, I'll leave this rambling for the sake of posterity ...

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal (A Couple Questions)
Answer
4/11/12 8:13 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Hi Adam,

You are not overthinking "this" (unless you think you areemoticon ), and I can assure you that I can be the 'Obtusiest' in any dialogue.

Noting has many benefits and techniques. Mahasi Sayadaw's instructions are online and classic, vetted, superb instruction. Here is my digression on noting:

One benefit of noting is to see the pattern of one's own thinking and feeling and how those pattern create beliefs reifying an "I am .../I am not ..."
The technique might be to note, "there's that low opinion again; that is 'low opinion', that is not a "me' nor an "I"
Or just note: "low opinion"

Another benefit is to just see how a restless/uprooted/unsettled mind may leap nervously at everything - jumping from any content (one's own patterns, new thoughts/feelings/anything), just craving a solid-like anchor of thoughts/feelings/one true thing
The technique might be to note: "restless. wanting permanency"
Or just note: "wanting"

Another benefit may be to learn to feel the actual sensation of clinging when the mind attaches to something (such as another thought or feeling). The technique might be to note: "tension. clinging"
Or just: [releasing tension]

Another benefit may be to just quickly detect mental distraction and/or mental clinging and simply return to the object of attention without any concern for the form of the distraction and without clinging.

The mind gets more and more subtle and, I think, so too the methods of noting. Actual worded noting (e.g., "pouring water") leads the mind to finer and finer observations and noting eventually takes wordless forms.

No technique is better than the other; the techniques just seem to occur progressively with a tendency towards increasing subtlety. However, that subtly does not seem subtle subjectively: no matter how subtle, a person is still noticing something relatively gross unto their frame of reference. So, actual worded noting and some other wordless noting action are the same skill and equally depend on sincere and diligent effort.

It is as if one is standing on the banks of one's own mind - a sometimes torrid river of thoughts/feelings/sensations, and getting less and less swept away by them, while the river also seems more placid.

Forgive my obtuse-ness, but would it be accurate to say that the "point" of noting is to consume mental bandwidth in order to stay in the present moment, as opposed to dwelling in thoughts of the past or grasping at thoughts of the future?
You are not obtuse. You have written clearly as far as I am concerned. Forgive my many words.

I think diligent noting does consume mental bandwidth in longer and longer swaths of activity. The effect of a diligent, saturated noting practice is that when one rests afterward in normal 'habitual' activities (i.e., one is not noting), the mind is more awake to its own thoughts/feelings and little insights about them arise naturally. [Edit: you can stay in the present moment with a sensate practice, too, such as placing the mind on each of the sense bases, and this is facilitated by pleasant sense-base activities, like being in nice landscapes or paying attention to one's head resting on the pillow at night, paying attention to the sense bases during any comforts whatsoever: pleasant smells, breezes, and progressively being receptive to seemingly neutral sense-base activities - like hearing traffic, tapping keyboard, etc. This practice can also cause clinging to comforts if one is not careful]

This is just like after an intense period of concentration, when the concentration practice ostensibly stops, one suddenly finds that even the elevator buttons (for example) are just incredibly COMPELLING.

This is mental training: just as balanced muscle training makes lifting one's old steel bike feel lighter, balanced mental training definitely changes mentation, and can lighten a heavy thoughts and a weighed/fixed sense of self.

I sometimes feel like I'm tip-toeing around some sort of breakthrough in understanding... ... I'm laughing at how ridiculous and almost pretensious this all sounds ... ugh
I understand: I sometimes go through quite an "afterbirth" after these posts wondering how I can possibly express any of this well, without sounding like a know-it-all blowhard (I certainly do not know it all and enjoy that a lot more now!), nor just being irrelevant to the person's post. Then I recall that the DhO - with many levels of practitioners and our respective fluxes - has been very helpful to me.

I hope you keep reporting on your efforts and practice. I read that you are going on a Goenka retreat in June and that you are a parent who does not want any Dark Night experience (the knowledges of suffering) to adversely effect the family. There are many parents on the site and their efforts and insights are agreat support to my own practice and efforts.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal (A Couple Questions)
Answer
4/11/12 8:50 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Hi again, Adam -

I see something (e.g. a small toddler playing unsupervised near a road), then notice/have a series of "thoughts" (e.g. "I really hope that boy doesn't get hit by a car", "where are his parents", etc, etc...I'm starting to notice some consistent/frequent patterns in these thoughts, but I'm not certain of them yet), followed by a series of physical and emotional "feelings" (e.g. fear/anger/judgement accompanied by physical sensations like a feeling of surging heat up the skin near my upper spine, what feels like increased blood pressure/elevated heart rate/et al. physiological phenomena). Is there a relationship between all these phenomena that pertains to insight practice? I'm a bit confused by what I've read/interpreted of things arising and passing from and into nothing. I'm inferring a bit from your post that you're sort of telling me to "relax" (i.e. avoid efforts that lead to tension)...so, am I over thinking this?
There is a relationship between all these phenomena and insight practice.

First there is the relationship one has without the insight practice: the contact between an aspect of mind and an object.
For example, the faculty of hearing is an aspect of mind and horn-sound may be its object.
Further, the mind may have a craving-contact in regards to hearing and hearing's objects (like horns): the craving-contact may be "no horns!" or it may be "want horns!".

Why am I saying "craving contact"? It is said that mental hindrances arise form craving (tanha) and that tanha arises between sense-bases and their objects.

Second, then the insight practice is added to the above events; there is still the normal event of contact between sense-base and sense-base's object (and that contact is likely to have a craving attribute ...craving more, craving less of object), yet now there is awareness of the event and the sensations. Sometimes awareness causes new sensations because awareness can just be a thrill, a surprise or even disorienting and alarming. When I was little I did not like becoming aware of my own heart beat: it made me nervous for a bit, and this caused the heart to race a little!

So, there is a relationship. I am not telling you to relax - though by all means, do support the body's relaxation and health with exercise/yoga/swimming/etc and sleep and decent food and water if you have it, but I am saying that all these thoughts and feelings and sensations that become apparent in insight practice are definitely just thoughts, feelings and sensations. With proper training, you could swiftly become brain-host to another set of thoughts and feelings and related sensations. These thoughts, feelings and sensations are creating your sense of self where you take them with more than awareness and act on them. As we must take some action throughout the day, it is likely we take the actions dictated by our mind and its patterns. Sooooo, insight practice is a time during the day to just look at thoughts and feelings and NOT IDENTIFY with them during the practice. After the practice, one may then find that one's range of action is expanding, becoming more open, more apt...but this expectation can also lead to a disappointing trap of perfectionism ("If I practice, I'll be perfect.").

So, just be gently with yourself, be diligent and consistent with the practice and you will become a good teacher to yourself and continue to pose useful questions to our peers here and elsewhere.

Thanks and good luck!

[edits for spelling. when is the DhO Spelling Bee, anyway?]

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/11/2012
Answer
4/13/12 9:21 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Late morning sit ~30 mins. Five minutes or so counting breaths to establish a 'comfortable' level of concentration. Remainder of time spent noting. Nothing remarkable to report other than my concentration levels seem much easier to establish early in the day, before I've had anything to eat. I feel less prone to lengthy daydream-y tangents during pre-lunch sits. I may need to figure out how to tweak my schedule to allow for lengthier sit times in the morning with a shorter "tune up" session in the late afternoon/evening...

Late afternoon sit ~40 mins. Five minutes or so counting breaths to establish a 'comfortable' level of concentration. Sat with the intention of letting things flow in a more relaxed, trying to stay mindful of habits or thought patterns that ratchet up tension. Remainder of time was spent noting simple sensory phenomena. Two interesting/strange things happened during this session that sticks out in my memory, the first was a distinct dropping feeling immediately after noticing that I had digressed into "planning" type thoughts (i.e. right before I was about to note "planning"). For a fraction of a second I felt as if I was falling, like when abruptly drops on a roller coaster or like I fell through a trap door or something. Perhaps irrelevant, but striking nonetheless. The second interesting thing that happened was that a "thought" appeared almost as a distinct image or bubble of images that I could mentally follow (is that even possible to mentally follow thoughts? it seems like a fallacy, of sorts), as soon as I notices that I was "following" this "thought bubble" it disappeared and completely ceased to exist, as if it 'popped' out of existence ... though the memory has a slight tinge of trancey-ness it's possible that I silently giggled when I noticed this, for some reason...I don't recall the nature of this thought.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal (A Couple Questions)
Answer
4/11/12 9:27 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
There are so many helpful points in your posts that I must abstain from commenting and digest...well, abstain with the exception of extending my sincerest gratitude.

RE: Adam L's Practice Journal (A Couple Questions)
Answer
4/12/12 7:21 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Your comments and practice are helpful to me as well, and I thank you for sharing them.

Here is a short quote from Bhante Gunaratana, page 141, in regards to "seeing things as they really are":
"Equanimity is the balancing factor. Concentration is the sharpening factor. Mindfulness is the seeing factor."


For a while noting is an equanimity training tool - just seeing thoughts and feelings and sensations arise and pass without immersion in them. Here are cognitive insights ("ah, these are my patterns. Must I keep them? Am I just thought patterns? Can I choose to be wholesome, skillful patterns? Ah, the mind is generating thinking, restlessness, searching..." etc)

The diligent, friendly, sincere efforts of noting (worded and wordless) naturally fosters strong attention, concentration (i.e., one follows the breath very well in anapanasati). Here insights may seem peculiar, supramundane.

Then concentrated attention - where there is no clinging for its results - opens to broad, profoundly calm awareness from which other insights come.

I am by no means adept in this, so take my words (if at all) as an effort to encourage our sincerity and diligence in this moment: the skill of diligent, consistent willingness for one's own practice of one's own mind at any moment remains the necessary skill along the path.

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/12/2012
Answer
4/13/12 10:10 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Pre-lunch sit. ~45 mins. Several "strange" or new things happened during this formal sitting. As is usual these days, the first few minutes of formal practice are marked by discomfort in body/back/posture. I have decided to diligently NOT adjust my position in order to investigate how this discomfort plays out. In lieu of adjusting, I just not the pain or discomfort and move on. My concentration must be improving a bit because I can now notice and note this pain/discomfort (which sometimes manifest itself as almost stabbing/pin prick type sensation) then, as if this pain is a figment of my imagination, it just disappears, with sort of a fizzing or dispersing sensation. This "time frame" culminates with me noticing small pain/discomfort sensations increasing in quantity (usually in/on my back, but sometimes as an itchy feeling on my lip or cheek), until they all just cease happening. When this occurs, I begin to feel (mentally) a bit of peace (perhaps because I'm comfortable now...very comfortable, like I don't "want to" or need to move a millimeter). This "comfort shift" is also marked by a distinct feeling of elation/exhilaration...this feeling seems to be both physical and mental...it's like an acute version of all the sensations one feels during a time period of "falling in love" when one thinks about the object of one's affection. Pretty cool, really...

One first time experience during this sit happened in the last last third or so of the practice (post-"comfort shift" above). I began to note twitching or jerking sensations occurring everywhere in/on the body (from the feet to shoulders and head). These twitching and jerking movements/sensations started getting so frequent that for every one that I could note with a "twi", several more (maybe a dozen) went noticed but unnoted. This occurred for several minutes 5-10 before settling down into another feeling of peace and mild detachment/apathy...where I felt compelled to slowly observe sensations with an emphasis on noting subtle sensations/thoughts/feelings with depth as opposed to breadth.

Planned on sitting again in the afternoon, but "life" got in the way emoticon

Continuing 24/7 attempts at mindfulness and noting during daily activities.

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/15/2012
Answer
4/16/12 11:16 AM as a reply to Adam L.
This week's meeting with my teacher we discussed some observations and techniques related to investigating expansion and contraction that seemed to really resonate my practice and reveal some previously unnoticed tensions that were likely impeding progress a bit. Formal sitting practice (~45 mins), noting and investigating thoughts as they arise but more often (for some reason) when they are about to cease. Sensory 'patterns' are becoming much less subtle and regular. During my sit, I quickly (within the first 5-10 mins) began experiencing the some fairly dramatic twitching/jerking/spasms throughout my body, most notably in my torso and shoulders, but also sometimes in my neck/head area as well as legs/feet. Concentration feels like it's narrowing during this time. Noting is not easy/flowing but it's not too terribly hard either (it's quite easy to note twitch,twitch,twitch 2-5 times per second emoticon). After about five or ten more minutes, this twitching seems to slow down fairly quickly (not abruptly, but from a revving pace to an idle pace) and ceases after another minute or two of deceleration. Then the pattern seems to be a large number of tactile and emotional sensations related to exhilaration. This time feels not-so peaceful, but not unpleasant...actually fairly pleasant. These sensations are followed by a dramatic slowdown in my mind and body. Things somehow "feel" peaceful and somehow not. My awareness seems to be more "interested" in looking inward at thoughts and feelings as opposed to physical sensations like tactile, visual, auditory, etc. Sometimes, particularly when my awareness "moves" to investigating the thinker/investigator, everything gets jerky and wonky like there's some aversion (anxious and fearful emotional sensations) related to a seeming paradox of the watcher watching the watcher (that doesn't seem to make sense, but I'm not sure how to explain it better).

My "daily life" practice feels like it's progressing nicely even though I've decided not to be too mechanical/systematic about it. When I "feel like" it's a good time to do a systematic noting, I'll do that. Otherwise, I'm just noticing that my thoughts are constantly returning to asking myself the questions "what are you doing right now? what are you experiencing right now? are you noticing these things? are you daydreaming? if so, what does that feel like?". The transition from being "lost" in fantasies and daydreaming or planning to being mindful (still not sure if this is the correct context for this term, ironically, I feel like I'm getting more and more confused about what "mindfulness" is) of the present moment is very fascinating. I have this desire to try to figure out what evokes this shift in perspective (i.e. why do I go from daydreaming to present moment awareness? what is the catalyst for this?).

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/16/2012 (with question)
Answer
4/17/12 10:28 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Formal sitting practice was very different than the past few. No twitchy phase, no exhilarating phase. Maybe my concentration is crap. It seemed like, from the beginning, my consciousness was on some day-dreamy schizophrenic journey; stories/imagery of people and places, some real some imaginary(?). I would notice these daydreams within a few seconds and "gently" investigate pertinent details (via noting "feelings" surrounding the stories). This unfocused mish mash of thoughts (the thoughts themselves seemed remarkably clear, FWIW) carried a feeling tone of pressure, guilt, etc...even if the theme of the imagery did not reflect these feelings. It was like I was mad at myself, for no clear reason...seemed related to the imagery, but that wasn't clear based on what I was observing from the senses. It's a bit confusing. This went on for about 45 minutes. The last 15 or so minutes of my formal sit still seemed a bit focused, but it was very peaceful. I felt like I could continue indefinitely, though ended my session after my timer went off at the 1 hr mark.

UPDATE: Late afternoon formal session (~40 mins). Same pattern as this morning. During the last 10-15 minutes of the sit it, when the relaxed "phase" kicked in (very little tension, very little grasping, very little aversion) , I felt as if I dropped into an absorption state, that felt like descriptions of jhana (perhaps, even later formed jhanic states, if that is even possible to "skip" earlier ones). I would slip in and out of this state every couple minutes like a sinusoidal wave pattern over time.

Question: when one is moving through insight stages, is it possible or even "normal" to not "fall back" to the beginning between sits? Perhaps when coupled with a diligent practice during one's day?