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Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)

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To make a long story short I am fed up with myself and disappointed with my practice (been practicing for 2 years now). My practice has been really variable and it's always been the case that when it goes down it is out of lack of effort. For this reason I am starting to take the 8 precepts today so that i basically have no choice but to meditate all the time. I'm going to do a really simple mindfulness of the body but I am going to really try to live up to this simile:

Suppose, monks, that a large crowd of people comes thronging together, saying, 'The beauty queen! The beauty queen!' And suppose that the beauty queen is highly accomplished at singing & dancing, so that an even greater crowd comes thronging, saying, 'The beauty queen is singing! The beauty queen is dancing!' Then a man comes along, desiring life & shrinking from death, desiring pleasure & abhorring pain. They say to him, 'Now look here, mister. You must take this bowl filled to the brim with oil and carry it on your head in between the great crowd & the beauty queen. A man with a raised sword will follow right behind you, and wherever you spill even a drop of oil, right there will he cut off your head.' Now what do you think, monks: Will that man, not paying attention to the bowl of oil, let himself get distracted outside?


The main way I judge my practice these days is by whether or not the hinderances are suppressed, so basically my standard of practice is going to be having the hinderances suppressed 24/7. Also I am going to try to report each day on whether I kept the precepts and how suppressed the hinderances were during that day. I've had little spurts of motivation like this in the past but I hope by writing this down and reporting daily I will manage to keep this up.

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
Answer
12/11/12 11:28 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam..:
The main way I judge my practice these days is by whether or not the hinderances are suppressed, so basically my standard of practice is going to be having the hindrances suppressed 24/7.

While that may be a fine objective to have and aspire to, please be mindful of the fact that the hindrances are generally mentioned in the discourses in terms of one's intent to practice meditation and not necessarily in daily living.

That's not to say that the effort to attenuate sensuous lust, aversion and ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and skeptical doubt aren't worthwhile endeavors outside of the meditation setting. If you're able to maintain that kind of mindfulness, then it will have been reflected in your sittings. But, yes, use whatever motivation you can in order to attain your goal.

Use that motivation to assist you in maintaining your practice in meditation (maintaining its regularity), which if done properly will assist you in re-conditioning the mind to become more mindful in situations outside of formal meditation.

"For this reason I am starting to take the 8 precepts today so that i basically have no choice but to meditate all the time." That kind of resolve will work because it's coming from an inner commitment. Just don't become discouraged if it doesn't always work out the way you would like. Stay with it (be consistent in your resolve and efforts), and you will begin to see positive results.

Good luck with your efforts!

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
Answer
12/16/12 4:49 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Thanks Ian

Day 1 I successfully kept the 8 precepts (i am going to write this down every single day I keep the precepts, because I have discipline issues, but I will just edit those reports in to this post so as not to spam. if anything interesting happens I will make a new post for it)

Day 2 successful

Day 3 successful

Day 4 successful

Day 5 successful

Day 6 fail! broke the eating and sex one... considering dropping these because they dont seem to help meditation too much... there is a lot of just sitting there wanting to eat when i am keeping them, there is definitely some benefit but i just dont think it is worth it, i am definitely going to keep up the original five and the entertainment one because distracting myself with random bullshit like videogames has probably been the single biggest hinderance to my practice...

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
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12/15/12 12:29 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
struggling with strong urges to break the restraint precepts but on the whole feeling much better than I was before taking the 8 precepts. Tons of contentment and gratitude. All my work is geared towards improvement of the emotions, and the best way to do that it seems is to simply be aware of them in the body and allowing them to cease. It seems that the moment one is totally equanimous towards an emotion it dissolves, this is apparently because when one is caught up in some reactive loop regarding the emotion, one continues fabricating it to serve as a basis for one's identity. To be totally equanimous to something means that one is no longer identifying with it as "mine" or related to "me" and so one simply stops fabricating it because one has no reason to do so any more.

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
Answer
12/19/12 3:08 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
the way I am approaching my practice right now after listening to a very informative series of talks on breath meditation by thanissaro bhikku is to get up 4th jhana (i.e. after rapture and pleasure are fully relaxed and the breath is very subtle or even absent) and then to drop all intentions, fully let go, surrender. Im consistently hitting the 4th now, every sit pretty quickly I can get there. I actually used to be able to get to the exact same state like a full year ago, then I did other practices for a while and basically forgot how. anyway I am gonna try to stick with it this time and just work on letting go from there. daily life practice is just being aware of the whole body with each in & out breath an in general keeping a check on greed and aversion.

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
Answer
12/19/12 11:09 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
All my work is geared towards improvement of the emotions, and the best way to do that it seems is to simply be aware of them in the body and allowing them to cease.

It seems that the moment one is totally equanimous towards an emotion it dissolves, this is apparently because when one is caught up in some reactive loop regarding the emotion, one continues fabricating it to serve as a basis for one's identity.

To be totally equanimous to something means that one is no longer identifying with it as "mine" or related to "me" and so one simply stops fabricating it because one has no reason to do so any more.

Congratulations! It sounds as though your insight practice is going very well. Keep up the good effort! This is exactly the kind of thing you should be becoming aware of in your practice. Well done, Adam!

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
Answer
12/20/12 10:23 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
the way I am approaching my practice right now after listening to a very informative series of talks on breath meditation by thanissaro bhikku is to get up 4th jhana (i.e. after rapture and pleasure are fully relaxed and the breath is very subtle or even absent) and then to drop all intentions, fully let go, surrender.

I'm consistently hitting the 4th now, every sit pretty quickly I can get there.

Thanissaro can be very helpful, can't he.

If you're able to get to 4th dhyana (or appana samadhi) that quickly, this means you're able to access "clarity of mind" rather early on in your sits. If you haven't read it already, I can recommend a book that will help you fill those moments of mental clarity with much food for thought and contemplation which will amply enhance your insight practice. That book is Ven. Analayo's Satipatthana, The Direct Path to Realization. You can have your pick of working with insight regarding rupa or the body, vedana or feeling, mental states or the mind, or phenomena (dhammas or mental objects) like the four noble truths, the six sense spheres, the seven awakening factors, the five hindrances, or my favorite the five aggregates. Examining the five aggregates in more depth will give you insight into the arising and subsiding of the sense of self, helping you to see each attribute as being empty or without self. It can be very rewarding, and of practical assistance in your daily life.

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
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12/20/12 12:42 AM as a reply to Ian And.
For some reason that link sent me to a different book, but I managed to find Analayo's book, thanks for the recommendation.

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
Answer
12/20/12 10:57 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
For some reason that link sent me to a different book, but I managed to find Analayo's book, thanks for the recommendation.

Thanks for the heads up. Amazon must have changed their code since I originally saved that link a few years ago. I corrected the link in my post above if anyone else wants to check it out.

I posted that recommendation before reading your thread on "the OTHER thanissaro bhikkhu talks." For others who are interested in this approach, you should check out these talks. I haven't had an opportunity yet to download and listen to them, but both Adam and Bagpuss seem to be getting a great benefit from the information that Thanissaro shares!

Adam, if you are getting into studying about the significance of papanca and related items of the Dhamma then you are certainly on the right track to achieving your goal of awakening. Analayo's book will just help to reinforce what you are already studying and learning and put all these practices into perspective so that you can obtain an overall view and appreciation of their practice in addition to the talks that you are listening to by Thanissaro. It's all great stuff and it helps to put the whole picture of examining the mind together for the practitioner. Once you get through it, it should all make good sense!

If you're interested in reading an analogous take on papanca, pick up Bhikkhu Nanananda's small book called [url=http://amazon.com/o/ASIN/9552401364/thomelio-20" title="Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought"]Concept and Reality in Early Buddhist Thought. It contains sutta designations and a lot of great insight into how the mind works.

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
Answer
12/20/12 11:47 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Just to add my +1 for Analayo. Seriously good. I recommend it often.

I think Eric would benefit from this if he's reading also.

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
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12/21/12 8:58 AM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Bagpuss The Gnome:


I think Eric would benefit from this if he's reading also.


I will fetch it from the book shelf where it has been collecting dust when I walk upstairsemoticon

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
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12/21/12 8:59 PM as a reply to Eric B.
Tonight I had a serious upwelling of negative emotions, disgust and anger mostly. I have just returned to my family for christmas break from college and some relatively innocuous things made me feel like my dad was judging me about various things, set off all these emotions. Managed to keep a lid on any unwholesome verbal or bodily actions but plenty of mental ones.

I ended up just going to my room, sat for a bit, but couldn't bring myself to do concentration, just sort of being in the present with the bodily affect. Ended up falling asleep, seemingly as a way of getting out of the experience of those emotions. Tried to distract myself a bit after waking up 30 minutes later.. I knew I was going to have to really do battle with those defilements though so I sat down and forced myself to do concentration.

Went through whole body breathing, relaxing and bringing up rapture. Relaxing and refining the rapture, relaxing and refining the pleasure. Getting into a soft fourth and willing my mind to be still as much as possible to harden the fourth. There are lots of directions I can take a medium-hardness fourth jhana, but at this point what I really wanted was some relief so I just willed my mind to as much stillness as I could manage.

As I sat in 4th just enjoying the stillness some thoughts came to me, dispassion towards desire itself. I thought, If I never get into a mental state such as the one described above ever again in my life I would be pretty happy. Started trying to analyze the subtle versions of that state, trying to really figure out what caused desire to come into being. Noticed some mental images of things other than the present moment's meditation, clearly mental stress arose with the image, was the answer simply that I was creating this image and that it was stressful? I am still not sure.

Next I started looking into tension around the body, mostly it could be found in the head. I tried just willing it to relax but it wouldn't, tried observing it non-reactively and it began to budge. A technique that has been mentioned here which seems to work at dissolving tensions via amping up non-reactivity is "juxtaposing". I tried this and it worked. For me this basically means feeling the 'problem sensations' and feeling 'non-problem sensations' at the same time and trying to alter your perceptions regarding them such that they are equal. I worked through the tensions by juxtaposing them with the sensation of my tongue against the roof of my mouth for a while but as the tension would relax a new tension (less tense though) would seem to just replace it. As each layer was worked through it became slower to work through the next layer, requiring more uninterrupted juxtaposition and eventually it seemed I couldn't get my mind still enough to work through any more of the tension.

Then I tried to maximize the sense of non reactivity and letting go for a while but it seemed that I would just get scared of letting go entirely and I would apparently fall out of concentration if I kept letting go. It didn't occur to me until writing this that I could just take that letting go as far as it would go and not worry if I fall out of concentration.

I am hoping for some direction here: where does stress start? How to investigate it when my mind is still again?

Feeling equanimous, mindful, but somehow defeated, like I just don't know what to do to make progress. I will try resting in the stillness for a while then surrendering through the fear.

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
Answer
12/21/12 11:04 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
After sitting more it seems that surrendering through the 'fear of loss of control' reflex looks promising, but I would still like any tips on the above-mentioned stuff.

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
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12/22/12 11:55 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Concentration is improving... ALOT. I just got done with easily the most pleasurable and amazing sit of my career. I had just read Gunaratana's essay "Should We Come Out of Jhana to Practice Vipassana?" and had a couple new things to try.

1. Stabilizing states prior to the 4th jhana
2. Simply paying bare awareness to everything at once in jhana as the main form of practice.

So I went up first two jhanas, sticking around longer that usual. I realized that I could stay in them through some subtle holding of "mental posture" then I stuck in 3rd for a really long time and it was just incredibly pleasant, things were just harder than I had ever gotten them. I relaxed into 4th and then started paying bare attention to the whole body panorama and got this incredibly strange effect of being zoomed in like a microscope while at the same time seeing the whole body at once. Things got harder and harder as I held this pose and eventually I recognized that hearing and breath sensations had been absent (with that recognition it came back though). Then I decided to go for infinite space and just started focusing on the sense of expansion, I couldn't really get that to go anywhere so I just went back to fourth and stuck with the bare attention.

I am really surprised people don't talk more about the jhanas, though I really think I might be doing something different. For one thing I a using full body breathing, manipulating the breath alot and doing other stuff totally different from MCTB, also I think I might just be going harder than most people usually do and not using noting at all. Or maybe I am just seeing what everyone else thinks is normal for the first time though I doubt that. I would really like to go on full retreat now and work through this stuff, take each jhana as hard as it can go, figure out all the different mind-inclinations etc.

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
Answer
12/23/12 2:04 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
2. Simply paying bare awareness to everything at once in jhana as the main form of practice.


Funny you should say that. I didn't even know that was a "practice". Just something Nikolai asked me about in an older practice thread once. I've actually been experimenting with this as well once I think I'm in 4th jhana. It seems like it might be quite promising practice...

Regards letting go: I've found that you just need to keep probing at the edges of experience. Over time you are able to let go more. To trust more. Forcing it only seems to produce stress and fear. Easing into it bit by bit seems to be the way forward.

RE: Time to force things (Adam's practice journal)
Answer
12/23/12 10:41 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
Concentration is improving... ALOT. I just got done with easily the most pleasurable and amazing sit of my career. I had just read Gunaratana's essay "Should We Come Out of Jhana to Practice Vipassana?" and had a couple new things to try.

1. Stabilizing states prior to the 4th jhana
2. Simply paying bare awareness to everything at once in jhana as the main form of practice.

You might want to check out a new thread I started (inspired by your conversation) entitled Bare Attention and Its Uses. It may provide you with some good ideas and practice methods that you are seeking.