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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?]

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 - 4/11/2012
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.

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
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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)
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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?

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/17/2012
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4/18/12 10:26 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Late morning formal sit (~1hr). Very similar to yesterday's post. Thoughts are much less subtle though. Nice long communte on bus/train (1+hr each way) giving tons of extra time for practice. Ugh, today, on the otherhand (4/18), I'm don't even feel taking the time to post (also long public trans commute day). Feels like all my negative type thoughts and feelings are magnified and beating my skull in. Anxious/fearful thoughts and feelings, judgemental thoughts and feelings of myself and everything else, sad thoughts and feelings...the only good news is that all these thoughts and feelings seem very "tangible" if that makes any sense...which makes them easy to note....I suppose that's something, right? I simultaneously want to go do a nice long formal sitting practice this morning, but also don't.

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/18/2012
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4/18/12 7:42 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Morning formal sit (~50 mins) was preceded by a rough 12 hour patch or so (see previous entry). This the tone of this sit was a welcome change from the past few which seemed punctuated by flimsy concentration; breakthrough-ish, this practice session felt well concentrated (sort of...it's a different feeling of concentration than has been experienced over the past 4-6 months). Phenomenologically speaking, I sank into a markedly peaceful (dare I say equanimous?) feeling where noting felt a bit ... umm ... effortful, but accurate and rather than being drawn to physical sensations, my awareness seemed drawn to more tangible emotional tones and thoughts. On advice from my teacher, I focused on where my awareness was drawn and then, with the act of "letting go" or relaxing, tried to bring awareness to the (expansion qualities) of the entire experience. At this point I felt as if I (almost immediately, within 20 seconds of "building") dropped into an jhanic state. The "building" period of this was dominated by an almost visual and tactile sense of "openness" or "opening up", as if I was covered by a thick curtain that was being removed. The time that followed this phase was very much dominated by a sense of relaxed peacefulness / "equanimity" ... I'm putting that term in quotes because, despite much of the evidence/signs being present and being filtered by my own brand of self-doubting skepticism, I have a real hard time believing that I am capable of progressing to this stage so ...umm...well, progressing to that stage at all, if I am being honest ... a huge chunk of my adult life has been dominated by feelings very akin to those given in descriptions of the dark night, the last thing I want to do is begin believing I'm "out of those woods" only to have my...anyway, anyone reading this probably gets the idea...and I'm not sure who I'm even writing to other than myself. The remainder of the sit was a cycling of the aforementioned phenomena: basically, what felt to be building levels of concentration, wanting to relax in the peaceful but resolving to investigate/note, feeling an "expansive" quality to my awareness that was my queue to "let go" whereby I would become absorbed in feelings of peace and equanimity, where I just, "let things be" but was somehow still able to watch/investigate with an almost detached level of interest, "falling out" for unknown but somehow un-frustrating reasons, rinse, repeat the cycles occurring perhaps 3 or 4 times during an almost 1 hour session. There's so much more I can describe about the phenomena, but I just don't feel like I have the time right now ... (e.g. a strange "chunky" and sometimes vibratory sense to off-the-cushion reality similar to my experiences months ago...things, particularly people, seeming to exist in a high level of definition...). Whatever this is, if anything or nothing of importance, it sure is nice to be free from anxiety/fear/doubt/etc/etc/etc...even if it only lasts today.

Afternoon sit (~40 mins): practically a carbon copy of the morning sit. Time for a long commute where I plan to get lots more practice in...

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/19/2012
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4/19/12 9:02 PM as a reply to Adam L.
General notes: My "content"/"stuff" during daily activity has been quite volatile for the past few days...nights have been disturbed sleep dominated by fearful anxious physiological phenomena (e.g. waking up with a racing heart) but without the accompanied emotional "feelings" of fear...very strange dichotomy, that also includes other "stuff" in similar ways...I'm noticing lots of physical sensations that are usually associated to feelings of guilt and sadness/etc that don't have the accompanied emotional feelings. Hmmm...I'm going to just keep noting, but I'd be lying if I said it's been easy to stay grounded/keep perspective. I do have lots of faith in this process (for some reason) which may be why I'm not flying off the deep end emotionally...I don't know.

Morning sit formal (~1 hr), phenomenologically very similar to yesterday's sits. Emotional tone for the first 20 mins-ish was very negative and was accompanied by physical nausea..Nausea perhaps unrelated or from a meal perhaps. Concentration seemed good during this initial period, but there was a weird negative vibrational undercurrent...tough to explain without getting real ambiguous or full of psycho-babble. However, about a third-ish way into the session, the "absorption"-like state I described yesterday occurred again, only this time it was *very* stable and completely effortless...peripheral distractions (e.g. a door closing in another room) didn't really seem far off but did not pull my attention at all...the sounds that I perceived were simply noticed and noted). I sat like a stone for 40ish minutes. I could get very descriptive of the state but it would largely be an exercise in tedium. It was like my awareness became fairly open and wide, with clear outer boundaries that seemed to extend all the way around and behind me (very three dimensional whereas previous awareness seemed pretty focused or concentrated in single points in space). This awareness was something I felt like I could "aim" in an amorphous three dimensional "blob" of concentration (hmmm?) if I chose, or I could just sit (and bask) in a wide feeling of open awareness. It was also noted that I could "leave" (move?) the point in my head that I normally associate as the "me" perceiving and examine the very clearly defined outline of my body in space, but this was far less interesting/compelling than just remaining open. Very nice. Very peaceful. I came out feeling ... nice and peaceful, which was a fairly stark contrast from how I went in.

Going to try to catch another 30-60 minutes of formal practice this afternoon that I probably won't be able to journal until tomorrow. Then I'm off to jiu jitsu training for a few hours where I plan to destroy myself physically in an attempt to let go of any residual nervous tension (though, I must say that I'm feeling remarkably at ease after my formal sits...it's not until late night/early next day that things get wonky again).

Late afternoon sit: Very even, nothing remarkable. Just well-focused noting.

RE: Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/19/2012
Answer
4/19/12 9:40 PM as a reply to Adam L.
whatever that mental movement of getting absorbed was - can you keep inclining further and further in that way? what you describe sounds familiar and when i practiced in this way the next step ended up being seeing just how far i could incline towards that absorption and that sense of stillness, towards the 'background'.'

another thing i recall exploring in this type of concentration is the sense that i was pointed forward, that the face/chest/stomach was forward and the back of the head, back of the neck, and the back was backwards... see if you can get rid of this fabrication of 'pointing' somewhere and instead have 360 degree awareness that doesn't point in any direction

RE: Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/19/2012
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4/19/12 9:55 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Hey Adam, First of all, thanks for commenting emoticon To answer your question (though I'm not sure if I'm misreading it, by "way" do you mean spacially? as in direction? or "further and further" as in "increased" intensity?) I did feel like I could incline toward cultivating this absorbsion state (seemed as simple as intending to infuse the sensations with more of the peaceful/restful tone). However, I admit was more interested in investigating the sensations that were making up the state, so this is most of what I did. I am not sure if "state" is even the right word for it, I've not had enough experience exploring samatha jhanas to say for certain, but it seemed quite similar to the many descriptions I've read. Also, the state felt well and effortlessly established, like in order to sustain it, it "needed" nothing but for me to not muck with it much...this quality of effortlessness sustaining could have been why the nature of the experience was so peaceful.

RE: Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/19/2012
Answer
4/20/12 5:49 AM as a reply to Adam L.
I did feel like I could incline toward cultivating this absorbsion state (seemed as simple as intending to infuse the sensations with more of the peaceful/restful tone).


what you said in that quote is what i meant about inclining further. you can become more and more absorbed if you keep 'inclining' in this direction, and the more absorbed you are the higher your potential for understanding, so that is one direction to pursue, but not the only one.

when i got into something sounding like this i simply trying to figure out what in this state was still suffering and what it's cause was and what was the end of its cause, which got me to the following approaches:

- relaxing as completely as possible, going through the body and finding any tension and deliberately relaxing it
- trying to make attention look at everything at once without a sense of pointing anywhere - which i mentioned in my last post
- trying to become more absorbed - less thoughts, less cognition, simply inclining towards more of the background stillness which seems to exist 'beneath' everything

hopefully you have time to explore all these things, and hopefully they will open up some control over some cause of some aspect of suffering which you can work on. don't worry too much about whether it was jhana, and don't assume that just getting to jhana is enough, you have to figure out how to keep going into better and better concentration and/or figure out some cause of suffering in the moment.

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/22/2012
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4/22/12 9:02 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Formal sitting practice (~1 hr) was subtly rich but lacked all dramatics of the preceding months of practice sessions. Concentration is continuing to improve and there has been a shift in "tone" from trying to direct awareness to simply exploring and investigating the experience that is arising and passing. There is a quality of surrender to this 'style' or MO of practice that is not only peaceful, but makes more accessible the qualities of expansion and contraction in the experience. This naturally lends one to be able to quickly identify the various bits of tension one is carrying into practice. Introduced the question "what is aware of this experience' into my practice, both into formal and 'daily life' practices...

RE: Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/22/2012 (questions)
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4/22/12 11:51 PM as a reply to Adam L.
ONE ADDITION THING AND SOME QUESTIONS

I forgot to mention in my last entry some strange phenomena that occurred. About halfway through my formal practice session, I was "allowing" my awareness (I use this term loosely, I'm not entirely convinced I "allow" anything to happen when it comes to awareness/experience) to drift between various daydreams and watching the associated thoughts arise and pass, at which at some point in time my experience just blanked out for a fraction of a second, sort of like the inverse of a camera aperture on a slow shutter speed. All sensations went "blank" for a brief instant. I don't think this could have been a fruition because I didn't feel any paradigm shift afterward. Can anyone comment on what this might have been? Is it even relevant? Was it just one of various tricks of the consciousness? It only happened once during the session but was mildly intriguing. I vaguely remember reading something in MCTB that may be related to formations? but I am a laymen when it comes to the theory and don't recall the specifics?

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/23/2012
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4/24/12 11:02 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Early morning formal sitting practice (~50 mins). Spent a few minutes establishing concentration, them moved to some formal noting. Dropped noting after 15 mins or to observe the movement of awareness. During this time I continued asking the question "what is it that is aware of this experience?" It seems that the effects of asking this question include a inclination for my "eyes"(?) or perhaps visual/imagery 'thing' to want to roll back into my head and neck. Also there is a very subtle tension in my forehead. Upon releasing this tension, the tension immediately (e.g. within a fraction of a second) returns upon which it is "release" again. This cycle continues as long as I incline my awareness to it, and "feels" physically like a tension that's oscillating back and forth like a wave in my forehead area...hmmm. My formal sits continue to include periods of relaxed and open peaceful state of being.

Evening formal sitting practice (~30 mins): about the same as morning, only shorter.

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/25/2012
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4/26/12 10:39 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Formal sitting practice (~50 mins). Continued noting practice, dropping into a state of observing experience without explicitly labeling sensations. Sensations have been experienced as a very clear vibratory composition, even during "normal" daily activities. Despite being very busy with circumstances that would otherwise be deemed "stressful", the emotional tone of my experience continues to be largely dominated by an open state of peacefulness. The separation of the experience of formal seated practice versus daily life practice seems to be shrinking. Not sure if it's just my obsessive character bend, but all (well, most emoticon) things seem to correspond to insight practice now. Again, not sure if it's my obsessive character bend, but my mind is now constantly checking in on trying to pin down exactly what it is that is "being" aware of the experience.

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/26/2012
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4/27/12 4:12 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Early morning formal sitting practice (~45 mins). First half of the practice could be described as a maintenance phase. This seemed necessary to establish adequate concentration to really get down to business. Very subtle phenomena (e.g. thoughts and "feelings") are becoming much easier to observe.

Evening formal sitting practice (~40 mins) was very similar to this mornings with a 'shorter' ramp up to time sufficient concentration to watching things arising and passing. I have nothing really to add other than the observation that "getting out of my own way" by just allowing the experience to unfold has been an invaluable lesson. Nikolai's article "Riding the Wave" (http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/yogi-experiment-riding-wave.html) finally makes sense at a level greater than a simple intellectual resonance. I'm unsure of the actual mechanics involved, but in my practice the process of *simply and just* allowing experience to unfold, seems to be somehow related to "letting go"...the mechanics of how one "lets go" may not end up being very valuable in terms of actual insight (though undoubtedly interesting) but knowing how, at a minimum, may help iron out the small kinks (inefficiencies).

RE: Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/26/2012
Answer
4/28/12 9:06 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Adam L:
are becoming much easier to observe.



Hi Adam
I just came to your thread to look to your journal. I wish I could write it.

RE: Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/26/2012
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4/28/12 9:59 AM as a reply to The Meditator.
Hello, (fellow) Meditator emoticon

The Meditator:
I wish I could write it.


I'm not sure I know what you mean. Can you explain?

-adam

RE: Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/26/2012
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4/28/12 7:26 PM as a reply to Adam L.
I wish I could write in my practis thread that I am getting better as you wrote that you are getting better to observe your thoughts.

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/27/2012
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4/28/12 10:15 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Morning sitting practice (~1 hr). Concentration established quickly and spent a nice majority of this time noting and noticing while a very absorbed state. My thoughts have been inclined at exploring what makes it "no self" and "empty". Awareness also seems "interested" in body composition. At times during my sits it seems that the outline of my body is well defined and "solid". During most recent formal practice session, the body seems to be distinctly made of discrete vibrations or sort of like pulses of "static". I was a bit disappointed when my timer jolted me out of this state where I felt like I was really zeroing in on something profound, but I knew better than to chase after it...

Evening sitting practice (30 mins). Previously "easy to establish" concentration was non-existent during this session. Nothing of note to journal other than weak concentration and *lots* of planning type thoughts.

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/29/2012
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4/30/12 2:22 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Afternoon sitting practice (~1 hr). Ah, just when things were beginning to make sense, practice changes once again into an unpredictable "beast". I don't even really know how to document things. Concentration seems trickier to establish some how, but also not. Letting go seems more difficult some how, but also not. Absorbed states from which I have been practicing seem somehow shallow, but also deeper than they were before. Practice experiences lately often seem paradoxical (but also not emoticon haha)...

[Hesitantly adding that:] I think it's possible that I experienced a fruition last week (last Sunday afternoon, to be precise), but it's yet to happen again (that I've noticed, anyway), but I also feel like I'm experiencing/traversing a lot of the same (insight) territory used to dominate my practice sessions early on (only from a slightly altered paradigm from before). Though, since I've not noticed another "blank out" moment, I remain fairly skeptical that this was, in fact, a fruition. Perhaps I've regressed from Equanimity to dark night territory again (though the place I'm "mentally" is very different than before, these dark night-y type emotions/feelings are mostly "interesting", as opposed to paralyzing). Perhaps I am far further behind in progress than I thought. I don't suppose it doesn't really matter, though I have to remind myself of that in order for "map obsession" not to become a major obstacle during practice (formal or otherwise). It's strange though, much about my experience feels somehow (subtly but markedly) different, but also the same (haha, ok, I promise I'm done with these...for now emoticon)

Short evening practice, prone (~25 mins). A bit more of the same.

Adam L - Journal Entry - 4/30/2012
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5/1/12 10:26 AM as a reply to Adam L.
Morning practice (~45 mins). Began to enter "familiar" territory more akin to the general formal practice experience trend of ~2 weeks ago. This session was marked by culminating physical and mental tension (an overall feeling of deepening contraction) for the first ~90%. The remainder of the session was marked by a release of this tension/contraction, into a state where things (physical and mental sensations) open up and feel tranquil and expansive.

Evening practice (~45 mins). Ahhhhhhhhh (haha). Deeply absorbed and peaceful session. The vibrations/pulses that make up sensory phenomena are subtle but back and, and growing more obvious. The end of this session (literally, in perhaps the last second before my timer went off) I had another moment where all things "blank out" for the tiniest amount of time (maybe???...time didn't really seem to register...but my mind wants to fill in the blank with a sub-second time span), similar to what happened last during a formal practice session Sunday. This experience, like many others I'm ...umm...experiencing... is fairly subtle, lacking all dramatics other than "huh, wonder what that was?". Like the last time, it seemed to correspond to a period of time where my mind was "drifting" between dreamy thoughts.

I "felt" particularly buoyant and "good" the rest of the day...but this could be indicative of nothing other more than a great and relatively stress-free day with good practice sessions emoticon

Adam L - Journal Entry - 5/1/2012
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5/2/12 3:08 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Morning practice session (~40 mins). Simply put, I couldn't sit. My body felt wretched and ... ummm.... best way I can explain is "blobby" and uncomfortable. Laid down and felt a little better. Quickly entered a dreamy and trance-like absorbed state that was a bit uncomfortable because of it's intensity. Breathing was punctuated by vibratory sensations, sort of like I was perceiving every individual sensation that made up the breath. Also, at the end of almost every out-breath was a strange full body/mind pulse-like sensation (similar to the "blank" out sensation I've described a couple times, but not identical). I think I fell asleep about 30 mins into the session.

Evening session (~20 mins). Not uncomfortable like morning session, but not comfortable either. This time, however, it was easier to enter the "letting go"/expansive mode I've been trying to explore/cultivate. After a short time, I was able to note/notice sensations from a deeply peaceful/equanimous state of being. A high-frequency flickering/vibration seemed to accompany tactile sense awareness. Same for auditory sensations, but that may have been a trick of the high frequency fan noise that was operating nearby.

Adam L - Journal Entry - 5/2/2012
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5/3/12 2:59 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Morning formal sitting practice (~45 mins). Practice began with strong concentration that was likely cultivated and "held through" from an earlier practice session (if that's possible...regardless, a relatively strong sense of concentration was remarkably easy/quick to establish. Awareness seemed "parked" in a state of loosely absorbed peace, equanimity, and feelings of expansion. Tactile senses were clear and somehow harmonious in "tone", sounds were clear but a bit vibratory and somehow also harmonious in tone, eyes were closed but imagery akin to being a dim glowing light (among other various bits of mental imagery). About 10 mins into this session, a subtle "blank out" happened again and the tone shifted (almost immediately) to a state of mildly absorbed awe (A&P?). Over the remaining 30 mins or so, the experience transitioned (a few distinct times) to something akin to my original sense of equanimous peace.

Also, did semi-"formal" practice for the majority of my long commute today (1 hr, each way by bus/train). Focused on establishing adequate concentration, to noting, then, once I felt like I was tuned in and mental "chatter" was minimal, (i.e. this corresponds to when the vibrations/sensory flickers become more obvious) to a mode of "raw experiencing". What's notable, I suppose, is that this MO is becoming more and more like my day-in, day-out experience. I may have said it before, but the gap between "practice" and "life" seems to be narrowing more and more every day, to the point where it's beginning to feel non-existent.

Side Note: "My relationship to" or "the paradigm of" practice clearly has changed somehow in the past few weeks. Reporting on the experiences in both formal sitting practice sessions or daily life "practice" seems a bit trite. There is so much noticed/happening and the velocity at which the experience is both occurring and accelerating (changing...both positive and negative acceleration) is very easily too much to accurately journal. As such, I've been trying to give a general tone of the way the experience unfolds, but this even seems to miss the mark.

Can anyone offer advice as to how I can continue to journal this experience in a meaningful and helpful (to mine own practice, or ?others) way?

Adam L - Journal Entry - 5/4/2012
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5/4/12 2:41 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Formal sitting practice (~55 mins). Mixing today's practice up a bit by starting with establishing deeper levels of concentration before moving to insight techniques. As expected this session took on a much more "samatha"-esque quality to it than my usual sitting MO. Spent approximately 20-30 minutes establishing concentration by poignant focus of breath-related sensations occurring at or near my nostrils. Not "letting" my awareness drift to peripheral sensory phenomena was difficult at first, but once the concentration "locked in" it became more-or-less effortless, needing only minor corrections when small drifting occurred. It's been several weeks since the last time I practiced purely samatha technique and it was interesting to see how much stronger my concentration was than the last time. ... ... Trying to recall accurate details of today's (and yesterday's) practice sessions is difficult...I think I'll refrain from adding anything else to avoid possibility of fabrication.

Side Note: Tension levels today seem much more elevated than the recent usual and while I wouldn't say I am experiencing high levels of emotional anxiety, I will say that I'm experiencing a lot of the same physiological effects that accompany a traditional (very) mild panic attack (e.g. elevated heart rate/bp, tightness in breath, flighty though patterns, etc). In other words, much of this morning has been like a panic attack without the emotional component. Whatever is the cause of this tension, it seems to somehow be related to feelings of either aversion or grasping. These sensations (akin to fear) that are dominant today (and at a few other times at varying intervals over the past few weeks) while not as "gripping" as they were several weeks ago, are still strong enough to be noticeable...I'm at a loss for a more descriptive version of this experience as I think I'm still sorting it out. My shoulder injury has forced me to take a week off of intense training, maybe it's somehow related to a lack of physical exertion...

RE: Adam L - Journal Entry - 5/4/2012
Answer
5/4/12 3:12 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Tension levels today seem much more elevated than the recent usual and while I wouldn't say I am experiencing high levels of emotional anxiety, I will say that I'm experiencing a lot of the same physiological effects that accompany a traditional (very) mild panic attack (e.g. elevated heart rate/bp, tightness in breath, flighty though patterns, etc). In other words, much of this morning has been like a panic attack without the emotional component.


maybe you did experience high levels of emotional anxiety except you perceived them very clearly. you noticed tightness and elevated heart patterns, what else is anxiety? i would guess that the only difference between what you experienced and high anxiety is that you didn't 'glom' those phenomena together into "anxiety" and simply experienced them with some clarity and equanimity, rather than buying into and believing the truth of the thoughts and becoming 'anxious.'

RE: Adam L - Journal Entry - 5/4/2012
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5/4/12 3:52 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Hi Adam emoticon

Yes, I think you're right on the money, so to speak, with your observations. The somewhat crippling "anxiety" I experienced for many years was Anxiety; of late, during these short intervals I mentioned, what I experience are a myriad of phenomena, physical and "mental", that seem to be the phenomenological constituents of this capital-A-nxiety. The root "cause" of the phenomena, remains a bit unclear to me at the moment, but I think (at least a big part of) it relates to habitual future planning, something I was incessantly doing (to say the least) in the past and, likewise, something I've done very little of (relatively speaking) in recent weeks.

What's so strange is these negative intervals seem to have a "mind of their own", there are no causal patterns that I've been able to discern. Also, "mixed in with" or "nearby" these anxious phenomena, are usually phenomena related to "guilt" and "self judgement"...these too I've been able to find little/no causal patterns. Perhaps I'm too close to the "problem" to see it clearly? Perhaps they've always been occurring in intervals and I'm exercising some selection bias or something? Hmmmm...haha, I'm probably over-analyzing this nonsense anyway, which is a long held character defect of mine emoticon Well, at least they don't last very long (anymore?). As of this moment, they have largely abated and an overall even-keeled emotional tone resounds.

Thanks for replying! I'm a bit blown away when I find out someone's has read these banal ramblings...

-adam

RE: Adam L - Journal Entry - 5/4/2012
Answer
5/4/12 4:07 PM as a reply to Adam L.
Also, "mixed in with" or "nearby" these anxious phenomena, are usually phenomena related to "guilt" and "self judgement"...these too I've been able to find little/no causal patterns. Perhaps I'm too close to the "problem" to see it clearly? Perhaps they've always been occurring in intervals and I'm exercising some selection bias or something?


keep watching (and relaxing/relinquishing/letting go if possible) and i'm sure something will give. the insights will just manifest as letting go of what you realized you were holding on to, not as a complicated theory which you have to think up.