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Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes

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Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 1/25/13 9:12 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 12/28/12 4:23 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 12/28/12 5:59 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Rod C 12/28/12 5:00 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Mind over easy 12/28/12 4:30 PM
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RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 1/18/13 2:47 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 1/19/13 6:23 AM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Mind over easy 1/20/13 12:57 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Ben H 1/21/13 2:21 AM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 1/21/13 4:00 PM
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RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 1/23/13 11:03 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 1/24/13 4:26 AM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 1/25/13 3:42 AM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Mind over easy 1/25/13 11:35 AM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Mind over easy 1/25/13 1:04 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 1/25/13 5:07 PM
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RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 2/5/13 12:33 AM
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RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 2/20/13 1:23 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Dan G 2/20/13 12:24 PM
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RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 2/21/13 11:31 AM
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RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 2/26/13 9:28 PM
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RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 2/27/13 10:45 AM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Jigme Sengye 2/27/13 9:41 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 2/28/13 1:43 AM
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RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Cedric . 4/8/13 7:16 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 12/8/14 9:06 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 2/27/13 3:40 PM
RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes Alan Smithee 3/8/13 4:56 PM
In my spare time when I'm not reading horror novels or watching X-Files with my girlfriend, I'm going for stream entry. It has been recommended to me that I start taking notes on my insight meditation practice, and that is what I'm doin'.

I live in the Chicago area and am in my thirties, and after more than a decade of school I completed my teaching credentials as well as my MA in British/American literature. I feel that now is really the time to really go for 1st Path, as when I start teaching all my time will go bye bye.

My dad introduced me to shinkantaza meditation when I was a kid, and as a result I got really interested in Buddhism, especially after also getting into the Beats. My practice, however, was erratic and not particularly deep. Then I read Daniel Ingram’s MCToB in 2010. I started by practicing anapanasati meditation so as to strengthen my concentration and achieve 1st jhana, but I never managed to enter absorption [I think I have an aborted concentration practice log around this forum somewhere...].

After being encouraged by some folks on this forum to try vipassana, I decided to switch. And although I started a noting practice, I never got past the first three nanas. In June 2012, however, a friend and I attended a 10-day Goenka vipassana retreat and it was there that I made my first serious progress...

On the retreat I managed to build up strong concentration and experienced sensations of squeezing at the temples, throbbing and pulsations at the third eye location on my head, and a feeling which I can best describe as akin to having wet clay placed on top of my skull. I shot through the A+P on day 4 in a pretty spectacular fashion; on day 5 and 6 hit Dark Night and thought I'd imagined the whole thing, lost all my concentration, etc.; on day 7 got into Equanimity territory and pretty much stayed there for the remainder of the retreat.

In the following weeks I managed to convince myself that real progress was only possible while on a retreat, and as a result I stopped meditation for about six months.

But "insight disease" got the better of me, and in December 2012 I began a daily practice of 2 sits per day [morning and night]. I also try to note when driving or walking around at work. The progress I made on the retreat was remarkable and a good start, but it is now time to muscle up and down and all around the territory and really get to know it and master my technique(s). That said, I’ve got a 3-day retreat planned for February and another 10-day in June. I'm also trying to line up some conversations with a meditation teacher, and we'll see how that works out.

My goal is to get path before the end of the summer 2013. I've heard a lot of people say that getting 1st Path is a natural and obtainable goal, and that all you have to do is follow the instruction and put in the time, etc. Well, I'm going to take them at their word and do exactly that. I've got a major adventure ahead of me, and I plan to document it all right here on this thread. Join me, friends!: Learn from my mistakes and accomplishments, and/or help me learn from yours. Let's get enlightened...not just in this very life, but in this very year!

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
12/28/12 4:23 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
This is a record of my formal sitting meditation practices since starting daily vipassana practice this past month:

12/7 - 3hrs
12/8 - 2 hrs 15 min
12/9 - 0
12/10 - 5 hrs
12/11 - 3 hrs
12/12 - 3 hrs
12/13 - 3 hrs
12/14 - 3 hrs
12/15 - 1 hr 30 min
12/16 - 2 hrs 30 min
12/17 - 2 hrs 15 min
12/18 - 2 hrs 45 min
12/19 - 2 hrs 30 min
12/20 - 1 hr 45 min
12/21 - 2 hrs 15 min
12/22 - 1 hr 30 min
12/23 - 2 hrs
12/24 - 30 min
12/25 - 0
12/26 - 2 hrs
12/27 - 2 hrs 30 min

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
12/28/12 4:30 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Hey dude! I hope all is going well for you. How's practice going? From that other thread, it sounds like you're really close to stream entry.

I think I got it! I highly recommend poking around Kenneth Folk's work. He claims that once someone passes the A&P, the meditator should focus on concentration, since he claims that concentration is what enables someone to penetrate higher strata of mind, including path. Upon reading this, I started following the breath when I practiced, and I got stream entry that very day! It was like I was spinning my wheels so hard on the investigation front, but lacking the concentration required to really get a grip on the pavement.

I'm wishing you well! Your practice sounds solid and I'm really interested in following your thread up to stream entry. emoticon

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
12/28/12 5:59 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Notes I took 12/27, as reminders, points of focus, etc.

* If fatigued or tired or sluggish, sit on a zafu instead of a chair or bed, or take a quick shower, or pound some coffee or an energy drink, but do what needs to be done to make a sit productive and valuable.

* Remember to orient the mind towards anicca, anatta, dukkha. Try not to just note sensations without also noting whether they are impermanent, indicative of no-self, or suffering.

* Disembed - Use "Passenger"-style noting: "See how it..." Abstract or enter an equanimous, scientific state of mind where one does not identify with the sensations. If it can be objectified, it is not "I."

* Start with anapanasati. Focus on the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits the nostrils. For every inhalation and exhalation count 1, then 2, etc., up to 10. If can count a complete cycle 3 or more times without getting lost, and the mind is calm, and I'm getting the head squeezies, then start vipassana.

* Switch to intensive sweeping, slowing going over all the parts of the body until they "wake up" and sensations can be felt all over. Once the concentration is strong, then switch to...

* Relatively fast, detailed, focused, passenger-style noting. If concentration gets real strong, and focus gets real wide, switch to...

* Choiceless awareness, in which one sits with the focus relatively wide, perhaps encompassing the whole body at once, or the field of awareness without the body, just noticing sensations without aggressive noting. [Or, perhaps as one teacher suggested, continue noting but slower, at a rate of one note per five to seven seconds.]

* If concentration/mindfulness/focus wanes, downshift from choiceless awareness to noting, or to sweeping, or anapanasati if need be.

* If having difficulty focusing while trying to noting [getting lost in images/dreams/fantasies/memories/etc.], try a structured Four Foundations noting rotation, switching systematically between noting sensations/phenomenon at the ears, eyes, nose, tongue, skin/body, mind, and feeling tones, noting whatever appears at that sense door until mindfulness/concentration is established.

* Practice noting whenever driving or doing chores, walking around, etc. Create a linkage/continuity between sitting practice and rest of day.

* Experiment with meditating with a primary object while noting secondary phenomenon. "Anchored" meditation could help build concentration, which is vital.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
12/28/12 5:00 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Hi Alan,

As 'newbie' I have currently been building my concentration and now looking to develop the Vipassana side of things more and so I find your notes here a great 'toolkit' to utilise - thanks and may you have fast and strong progress.


Rodemoticon

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/4/13 4:00 AM as a reply to Mind over easy.
Since my last entry, I have practiced these hours:

12/28: 2 hrs 30 min
12/29: 1 hour 30 min
12/30: 0 hours
12/31: 1 hour 30 min
01/01: 1 hour
01/02: 1 hour 30 min
01/03: 2 hrs

Getting practice in during weekends and holidays can be a real bitch sometimes, mostly 'cause I see more of my friends and loved-ones at these times, so my practice kinda took a small dip these last few weeks, but I always tried to get some quality time in nonetheless. Now that we post-holidays, I expect to get back to my normal practice schedule which usually is around 2, 2 and 1/2, or 3 hours a day.

I find it difficult to articulate a report of my meditations. I'm often not sure what exactly I'm experiencing, or how to place them on the maps, etc. For instance, it is never really clear to me which vipassana jhana I'm in.

Basically, my sittings usually have the same pattern. I begin by doing some concentration meditation ala focusing on the breath and counting. I'll do this 30-50 times until I feel some degree of concentration arise. Usually I'll experience some throbbing between my eyes, and/or a sensation of squeezing at my temples.

Then I'll try to cultivate some mindfulness by doing noting. I'll note body sensations, thoughts which occur, and sounds, mainly. At some point I'll feel my concentration develop a little more and I'll switch to intense and slow body scanning.

I start at the very top of my head and try to feel sensations at that very specific spot. When I'm able to do this I'll try to then feel sensation over the entire top of my skull. I'll then try to feel my ears. Then I'll feel my face. At time point I often have a lot of activity in my face, lots of more subtle sensations, or what I think of as subtle sensations. In addition to the concentration squeezies between my eyes and at my temples, I'll feel sensations like champagne bubbles on my cheeks, on my lips, etc. I'll then continue down and try to feel sensations on my neck, then my shoulders. I'll then work my way down my left arm, slowly, until I can feel that my arm existence, to wake it up, so to speak, until I get down to my fingers. My fingers usually have lots doing on there at that point, such as throbbing, pulsing, tingling, etc. I'll then start on the right shoulder and work my way down to the right arm, and then feel each finger individually.

I then usually take a moment or two and focus all my attention on all the sensations taking place in both arms and hands simultaneously. Sometimes at this point I'll play Dan's finger game, where I'll try to feel the sensations taking place in both index fingers simultaneously.

I'll then try to feel the sensations in my back. When I do, I'll focus my attention on my chest and stomach. I'll then work my way down my left leg to the foot, then I'll scan down my right leg to the foot. Then I'll take a moment or two and try to feel all the sensations taking place in both legs and feet simultaneously.

At this point I may begin the whole process again, or, I'll pull my focus back, so to speak, and try to experience all the sensations taking place at the same time all throughout my torso, hands, and head [my top half, I guess]. I'll just sit there and try to feel everything taking place all throughout that region.

When I 'm scanning I don't really note. I just feel. My focus is really tight and if my concentration is decent my mind doesn't wander much, so I'm not noting thoughts, etc. If a thought does occur and it distracts me, or some other distraction arises [sound, whatever], I will note it until it goes away, but while I'm scanning I'm just trying to be aware without too much labeling.

I think usually by this time I'm in the A+P, or Dissolution. I don't get any spectacular light-shows or energetic phenomenon or bliss or anything, nor does my body dissolve into billions of arising and passing sparks or pulsations. The commentaries, etc., mention seeing phenomenon only passing away, not arising, at this point. I don't really know what this means, or what this would look like. My concentration simply builds and then I feel sensations on my body that I normally don't notice and that's it. I've come to look at the maps in a much more subtle way. At first I thought that each individual stage would be hugely obvious, like a neon sign. I think the first time I went through the A+P from meditation [at a June 2012 10-day Goenka retreat] I got a serious bliss wave, but that doesn't happen anymore, but I assume I'm still getting to the A+P, it's just subtler.

At this point I start doing some straight-up noting. I'll note everything which comes in through the sense doors for, oh, I don't know, ten minutes or so. What I'm trying to do is transition away from tight scanning of body sensations to something broader and more inclusive. At some point I begin to feel my focus being drawn away from my body and more towards the horizon, so to speak. My eyes are shut, but it is like I'm lookout out towards the distance. I don't notice going through any dark night dukkas. It is usually a seamless and smooth transition from the body scanning, then to sense door noting noting, to a more expansive thing, like I go from pre A+P, to A+P, to Equanimity, usually pretty easily and smoothly.

I stop noting at this point because I'm not really sure what I'm experiencing. I'm not focusing on the body so much anymore, and I guess I'm feeling body stuff, but it's just tingles, etc., but I don't think I'm really aware of the body at this point. I switch to a choiceless awareness where I just try to experience everything which is taking place all at the same time. If my mindfulness and concentration are decent at this point, I'm not really having thoughts, memories, fantasies, etc., all that much, so I don't have to note them 'cause they're not really occurring in a distracting way. I get into a really mellow groove here. Sitting is very easy, comfortable, it feels good, etc. Afterward I'll notice that my feet will almost always have been asleep, but it doesn't both me in the slightest when I'm at this point. I'm guessing this is Equanimity.

Sometimes I get an increase in the body sensations at this point. Other times I get sensations kinda like my concentration or focus or whatever is zooming in and out. I get lots of pulsing, flashing lights at this point as well. Not nimitta stuff, just eyes closed swirling vortex of lights stuff. Sometimes my eyes will flutter and kind of open and close really fast. Sometimes I get what seems like flashing, rapid flickering. [However, I'm well aware of having read numerous accounts of how flickering is a sign of near stream, so I'm not sure if I'm fooling myself by something inducing flickering in some kind of unconscious way, or if it is genuine flickering, etc.] Sometimes I get a sensation which feels like a pressure in my head, almost like a kind of headache, which comes and goes; I usually attribute this as some kind of concentration thing. I alternate intense investigation with a looser hangin' out relaxed mindfulness, and sometimes go back and forth, seeing what happens when I play around. Sometimes I go back and do some body scanning again, and usually the body sensations are more intense and easier to find at this point. Then I'll revert back to choiceless awareness.

In Equanimity I don't really consciously label stuff anatta, dukkha, or anicca. I just try and sense whatever is happening. I don't know if this is flawed, since many people mention looking for this or looking for that, but basically I just try to be aware of what is going down and hope that my concentration and mindfulness grows stronger, etc.

Usually around the 50 minute mark I'll wonder what time it is and then check. I'll then continue to sit for another 10 minutes or whatever. When I stop sitting I'm usually feeling really quite good. I attribute this as an Equanimity bleed-over. If this was a morning sit, I will then try to do noting on my way to work, and then at work, etc., but my job is kinda a hellhole so maintaining a real continuity of mindfulness is impossible to sustain the entire workday, but I do what I can. If it was the nighttime sit, I try to sustain my mindfulness and dwell in the state of Equanimity until I go to sleep. [It occurred to me today that if folks who have achieved path can enter any nana at any point easily, then they can induce Equanimity at will, which would be a terrific thing to do when stressed out, etc. I'd love to be able to enter High Equanimity at the drop of a hat, say during a work or whatever.]

On a side note, I've written a couple letters to some meditation teachers seeking advice, possible Skypes, etc., but have received no replies. I'm just rollin' with it and keeping my practice going. I figure that sustained practice will probably answer most questions in time, anyway.

So that is what I'm doing and what happens when I do it. I'm just gonna keeping practicing and hoping for the best. I have a 3-day retreat set up for Feb, and a 10-day for June. I'd love to get stream sooner rather than later, of course, but I'm not going to freak out about it. I'm just gonna practice and practice and practice and see what happens. If I get to Feb and no stream, then I'll do my 3-day and see what happens. If it doesn't happen then, then I'll just keep practicing and practicing and practicing, and, if nothing happens by June, then I've got my 10-day, and then we'll see what happens there. Hope for the best, and practice everyday.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/8/13 4:00 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1/4: 2 hrs 15 min
1/5: 1 hour
1/6: 2 hrs
1/7: 4 hrs

Practicing, practicing, practicing. Investigating, investigating, investigation.

It is hard to talk about my sits because not a lot different happens than what I've already stated above: I do some counting of the breath to get me situated, then I do scanning which gets me pretty concentrated and gets me past the A+P, then I do some noting to get me through the dark night dukkas and my focus widens, and then I do choiceless awareness while in Equanimity until I get bored and/or tired and then I stop.

While in Equanimity I am usually not all that aware of my body [this is not where my focus naturally draws] but my focus pulls towards what I call the horizon, in that it is like I'm lying on the ground looking off into the sky. It feels relatively wide and expansive. I try to be aware of everything which is occurring all at the same time, whether it is body, mind, etc., all the thoughts and all the tiny sensations all at the same time - that is my goal at this point. If my mindfulness is good, then there really isn't a lot in the way of thoughts to notice [obtrusive thoughts, that is], and my body awareness is diminished, so what I am left with is what I think of as the "sky," "horizon," or whatever it is, which sometimes is pretty placid and calm [like the surface on an undisturbed lake], and at other times it seems to churn and writhe around [like the surface of a lake being hit by water drops]. Sometimes the colors of the horizon are uniform, and sometimes there are a lot of changing colors, like clouds, with intense black within. Sometimes things seem to flicker, sometimes my actual eyes are flickering. Sometimes I get a kind of headache, a cold, hard sensation in my forehead when doing vipassana. I will try to note and/or investigate subtle mindstates, periphery stuff, but things are tricker to distinguish at this juncture -- you know, the horizon/lake-type analogy -- but sometimes I try it nonetheless, and at other times I just hang out and try to let the mind concentrate or do stuff on its own, etc.

The only somewhat new thing to report was that today while in Equanimity I start getting the sensation on my face which I can only compare to that of someone gently blowing on my forehead/nose. I started focusing on the sensation and I became pretty concentrated as a result. I have no idea what that was about. For all I know it could have actually been a light breeze of some type, or it could have been purely the result of my insight meditation. At one point my muscles got tense and my neck got rigid. Again, this happens from time to time and I'm not sure if I am doing this myself as a result of "straining" for insight/stream/etc., or if it is a vipassana jhanic thing, or whatever. Sometimes I go with it and at other times I try to relax.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/23/13 1:13 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1/8: 3 hrs 30 min
1/9: 3 hrs 30 min
1/10: 2 hrs 30 min
1/11: 2 hrs 30 min
1/12: 1 hour
1/13: 3 hours
1/14: 2 hrs 30 min
1/15: 3 hours
1/16: 2 hrs 30 min

So I haven't updated my practice log in a while because I'm practicing twice a day (generally), and it was becoming kind of cumbersome to write a novel detailing each session, especially when I'm trying to devote as much of my spare time to meditating as possible, not writing, etc. It occurred to me, however, that I could create a template which could easily be filled out within a few minutes, and would be detailed enough to provide pertinent/interesting data/information. Here is what I came up with, which I will try to use henceforth. I will try to give it a whirl after tonight's session. I will, of course, modify the template as needed to make it work best, etc.

Date:

Length of Sit:

Where/Posture:

Pre-Meditative Context:

Cutting Edge Insight Stage:

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized:

What Worked? What Didn’t?:

Unique or Unusual Sensations/Phenomenon:

General Thoughts/Reflections:

Goal(s) for Next Session:

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/23/13 1:11 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/18

Length of Sit: 1st: 1hr 10 min [3:20pm-4:30pm]; 2nd 1 hr [2:10am-3:10am]; 3rd 30 min 4:20am-4:50am.

Where/Posture: 1st and 2nd sit in loft on zafu; 3rd in bed.

Pre-Meditative Context: Before 2nd session, pounded a Monster energy drink.

Cutting Edge Insight Stage: Equanimity

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: All three sessions: 1) started by focusing on the sensation of the breath as it entered and exited the nostrils. Did this for roughly ten minutes. 2) Did noting until I felt a continuity of attention build, as well as my concentration. 3) I then did some slow scanning from the top of my head down to my toes, until I could feel vibrations and sensations arise throughout the body. 4) Then did noting again. I continued doing noting until I felt that I was in an expansive state of Equanimity. In the past I usually would switch to choiceless awareness, but I tried to keep a consistent noting going the whole time.

What Occurred? How was It Noted? What Happened to It? [Brief Description of Session]: After scanning I felt vibrations arise throughout the body, but I felt them most distinctly on my face and head, like crackles of energy, and as pressure and release, squeezing and then dissipations. I usually noted these as pressure, pressure, or squeezing, squeezing, or release, release, or energy, energy, or electric, electric. On my arms, the sensations was more like an light energy aura, or hum. I’d note this as hum, hum. After scanning my focus generally stayed pretty tight for about ten minutes until it became more expansive. I like to note sounds because it broadens my worldview. I have a highway nearby, so I’d note cars, cars, etc. I sat like a rock for about 40 minutes and then I started having a lot of desire for stream come up so I started noting desire, desire, or anticipation, anticipation.
I felt like I could sit for a long time, but also felt that perhaps I should take a short break, and then afterward sit another session. My legs were totally dead, something which used to irk me to no end, but I don’t seem to notice now on my sits. I experienced some aches and pains on my morning sit, more than usual as late, but almost none during my evening sit, as if I went straight to Equanimity.

Unique or Unusual Sensations/Phenomenon:
I experience a lot of pulsation at the third eye location, and squeezing and releasing on the crown of my head. I also sometimes get a not too painful pressure in my head while doing vipassana. I’ve read a few posts when folks have suggested that this is kundalini energy. Also, that possibly the vibrations, or electric sensations experienced throughout the body are kundalini. I have no intention of manipulating this energy, but I know nothing about kundalini theory, etc. Is it a consensus that the fore mentioned stuff is kundalini related?

What Worked? What Didn’t?:
I notice that sometimes when I get to Equanimity my mind can wander a bit. I really want to prevent this so I’m going with some Equanimity stage noting. If I’m having a difficult patch, or whatever, I’m trying noting anchored in the breath, so as to keep my mind occupied. I think that I am going to try sticking with noting in Equanimity for the time being, as opposed to switching to choiceless awareness.

General Thoughts/Reflections:
I feel like my technique is pretty good, but, obviously, it could always be better. I’m meditating twice a day, which I think is a good strategy because it builds some continuity of mindfulness. That being said, I was in my second session, noting my behind off, feeling like I was in a pretty solid state of Equanimity, and wondering what the extra push was that I needed to put me over the edge into stream. My thought was that I need to meditate even more. A retreat would be ideal – and I have a three-day planned for Feb, and a ten-day for June – but what I may also try to do is sit two sessions at night [when possible], an hour sit, then a break, then another hour sit. We’ll see what effect this has. Also, I noticed that my night sits seem to go better: more focused, more activity from the vibrations, etc. I’m not sure why this is, but it seems to be the case. I have less “wow” sessions during that day, but, obviously, I’m going to continue sitting them. Also, drinking an energy drink really seems to help me. Less nodding off, and thus one less hindrance to worry about.

Goal(s) for Next Session: Noting during Equanimity instead of choiceless awareness. Do two one hour sessions at night. [assuming time and stamina permits {this will be impossible on the weekends, etc.}].

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/18/13 2:47 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/18

Length of Sit: 1 hr 45 min [12:20pm-2:05pm]

Where/Posture: 1 hr 20 on zafu, 25 minutes on chair

Pre-Meditative Context: tired and groggy going into session

Cutting Edge Insight Stage: Equanimity

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Started with 15 minutes anapanasati meditation focusing on the sensation of the breath as they entered and exited the nostrils. Switched to noting. Then I did some halfhearted scanning, after which I went back to noting. After a ton of trouble focusing I did some verbal noting, and eventually anchored noting. Eventually I did some choiceless awareness.

General Thoughts/Reflections: My daytime sit is the most difficult. It takes me longer to achieve Equanimity, and it is generally a lower Equanimity. The sensations are more muted as well, and my mind wants to wander. The only thing which seems to combat this engaging in a longer sit, plain and simple, where I just take the time to work through all the stages and hindrances. At night I sometimes get to Equanimity within minutes, but for some reason the daytime is more difficult. Perhaps I’m more tried, perhaps since I haven’t been to work yet my mind is unconsciously unsettled, etc., who knows.

What Worked? What Didn’t?: I initially tried meditating with a blindfold, but I found that this muted and masked the subtle sensations in the face so I eventually took it off. The verbal noting really helped me regain focus after struggling for a while, but I kinda find it tiring to sustain for some reason, nevertheless I need to remember to use this technique when I’m floundering, as it really works to bring one into present moment awareness. The anchored noting really helped me focus as well. Starting with an extended concentration session (15 minutes of anapanasati) didn’t seem to help this time at all. I think just counting to 10 five or so times is enough to center me to begin practice. Also, when I’m fatigued I find scanning difficult, as it seems to require more energy and concentration than noting, but at the same time the payoff is a solid A+P upon which to build up to the other nanas. I kinda skipped scanning this time, which could account for why it took me longer to hit a solid Equanimity. For some reason, noting doesn't get a really strong A+P going, which either means 1) scanning is just really good for this particular purpose, 2) my noting technique needs work, or 3) both. To develop my noting technique, I try noting when I drive and walk around, etc. At one point in the sit I tried a more complex noting: I’d note the sensation, then whether it was pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, and then see if there were any thoughts associated with the sensation. This kept my mind from wandering, but I also began to fear that I was spending too much time with sensations which already had long past, and was missing sensations taking place in the now, which meant I wasn’t really developing present moment awareness.

Goal(s) for Next Session: Longer morning time sits seem to work, so, instead of an hour, I’m gonna go for 1 hr 30 min to 2 hrs. Also, remember to use verbal noting and/or anchored noting when floundering.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/19/13 6:23 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/19

Length of Sit: 2:30am-3:30am, and 5:00am-6:00am.

Where/Posture: loft/zafu

Pre-Meditative Context: drank energy drink

Cutting Edge Insight Stage: Equanimity

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Counted breath up and down maybe 100 times. Switched to intense scanning/noting combo, switched to a more expansive noting for duration of sit.

What Worked? What Didn’t?: This time when I did my initial slow and super-close focused, tight and intense body scanning I also noted everything I scanned. I really liked this hybrid technique. I really feel like I get a lot out of scanning, but I also want to note as much as possible, and build and develop my noting technique. What I like about noting is that when I do it my mind isn’t not wandering. Also, if I’m noting, I’m in the present moment, which is where I need to me. So, continuing into the future, when I scan I will also note. It is just really important to lightly note, so that I can really focus on feeling and experiencing the sensations I am noting.

Unique or Unusual Sensations/Phenomenon: Strobbing/flickering. I’ve been getting this lately and I’m not entirely sure what to do with this. The strobing/flickering started this time almost as soon as I switched from scanning to a more expansive, panoramic noting. I alternate between trying to pay close attention to the strobing/flickering and trying to be equanimous with them. I tried noting their “ends,” etc., and I also tried rolling my eyes back into my head, fluttering my eyes lids, etc.

A few times I felt pressure building in my neck and head, and I’d feel my head being gently but firmly pulled back, such that my face would eventually be pointed towards the ceiling. It would feel like a build-up but nothing would come of it, so eventually I’d return my face to the forward position and try to relax my muscles so as to avoid neck strain.

Goal(s) for Next Session: When scanning, note what I scan.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/20/13 12:57 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Hey there!

I noticed you were talking about wandering mind in equanimity. It is my understanding that this is actually kind of a good thing. In the latest stages of equanimity, the mind seems to wander, doze off, get lost in things, then you're just like, whoa! I tuned out! Then ya tune back in, thinking you lost mindfulness. But I think it's helpful to consider what you're trying to do. Using the idea that in the dissolution process, the ending of sensations become clear and that cessation is seeing the cessation of all sensations, maybe this "nodding off', "tuning out", "losing mindfulness" is actually a sign of something else. Equanimity is very unbound, like the glue holding together sensations is slowly losing it's stick. So naturally, things can get murky, vague, ghost-like, and absent. From what I can conclude, the first few times I had a fruition, it seemed to happen after reaching equanimity, hanging out there for awhile, and then having many of these moments where I tuned out, alternating with moments of clarity. Here's a post by Jane Carrington, talking about that:

For the longest time, what happens to me in Equanimity is that for every sit I get dreamy images and then suddenly the mind clears and I experience my whole body as gentle vibrations. Then it's back to dreamland, then it's more vibrations. Lather, rinse, repeat.


and another excellent post she made in the same thread:

One clue is that you say when you move your attention away things settle down. I'd experiment with letting things settle down for awhile. The fact that they're settling down doesn't mean nothing is happening, or that progress is being reversed. Try just for this one sit--or several in a row--to just let things settle if that's what they seem to be doing on their own. The practice of choiceless awareness is just that--not exercising any choice. You're probably worried about missing the boat if you're too relaxed about things. You could out of mere curiosity suspend that worry for a sit or two; it won't be the end of the world. See what happens.


This is from MCTB:
Separating the early stages of Equanimity from its mature stage, there tends to be a “near miss,” moment when we get very close to the fruit of the path, which serves to really chill one out, as it were. From this point enlightenment is likely to be attained quickly as long as the meditator continues to simply practice and gently fine-tune their awareness and precision, paying gentle attention to things like thoughts of progress and satisfaction with equanimity. At some point even this becomes boring, and a certain cool apathy and even forgetfulness arises. Around this part of Equanimity there can arise the feeling that we are not really there, or that somehow we are completely out of phase with reality. Conducting our ordinary business may be difficult in this phase if we are out in the world rather than on the cushion, but it tends to last only tens of minutes at most. The sense that one is practicing or trying to get anywhere just vanishes, and yet this may hardly be noticeable at all. We sort of come back, with luminosity again growing predominant. Then we get lost in thoughts about something, some strangely clear reverie, vision, object, or flight of fancy. By really buying in, we get set up to check out.


My advice is to really groove into the thing, in a hybrid jhana/vipassana way. Meaning, you want to have the sensitivity to the 3 C's as in vipassana practice, but you also want to be able to sink into the reveries, the flights of fancy, the feeling of tuning in to tuning out, the feeling of chilling out and making wide, broad, ever-inclusive strokes with your attention, to the extent that it all loses meaning. In my experience, you have enough of these tune-outs or reveries or whatever, and eventually, one of them happens so fully, shocking you and giving you a sense of "was that it?".

In short: the losing mindfulness and tuning out thing is likely a good thing if you're in equanimity, and probably a good thing to pursue, groove into, let go of, and work with.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/21/13 2:21 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
Strobbing/flickering. I’ve been getting this lately and I’m not entirely sure what to do with this. The strobing/flickering started this time almost as soon as I switched from scanning to a more expansive, panoramic noting. I alternate between trying to pay close attention to the strobing/flickering and trying to be equanimous with them. I tried noting their “ends,” etc., and I also tried rolling my eyes back into my head, fluttering my eyes lids, etc.

A few times I felt pressure building in my neck and head, and I’d feel my head being gently but firmly pulled back, such that my face would eventually be pointed towards the ceiling. It would feel like a build-up but nothing would come of it, so eventually I’d return my face to the forward position and try to relax my muscles so as to avoid neck strain.


Does the strobing sensation have any particular location in the body? You mentioned a pressure/sensations in the 3rd eye area in an earlier post, and pressure in the neck in this post. What you're experiencing sounds a lot like some stuff I experienced leading up to SE (still not sure it was actually SE, but it was definitely a major shift) - for me, I started feeling a subtle pulsing sensation in my 3rd eye region a few weeks into Dissolution. During the DN, there was a pressure in my neck, which seemed to somehow be related to the pulsing in my 3rd eye. As I progressed, the pulsing in the 3rd eye became more and more intense, and almost unbearable if I focused on it, so I started ignoring it and doing other practices. I then did a 10day Goenka retreat, so I was mainly trying to focus on the scanning techinque, but the whole time my 3rd eye was going crazy. On about the 7th day, I gave in and focused on my 3rd eye, 2 minutes later, boom, had a fruition, and the pulsing sensation was GONE. It's only recently started returning a few months later. I'm not really sure where I am in the cycle, I'd say somewhere around Dissolution, so I'm beginning to think cycling may be related to the sensation.

I'd be interested to see what happens if you tried a technique I fooled around with relating to the pulsing/flickering sensation a bit pre-SE. Basically what I do is find the spot in my head where the pulsing is most intense (near the surface of my forehead, inbetween the eyes), and kind of move my point of focus in and out of my head seeing what it did to the pulsing sensation. I noticed that as I brought my focus inward, the pulsing would become more and more intense, but at a certain point, near the center of my head, it would suddenly change - it would sort of "explode" into a more relaxed subtler "flow" - the only way I can explain the shift is it is the same as the difference between 3rd and 4th jhana, or the DN and EQ.

Anyway, that was what I was doing when I got SE, and it may be some personal idiosyncracy, but I'd be interested to see what happens if others who are near SE (and it sounds like you are to me) try the technique.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/21/13 4:00 PM as a reply to Ben H.
So, keeping it real, I need to state right off the bat that I didn't meditate at all over the weekend. On Sat 01/19 I ran some errands with my girlfriend and then hung out with some good friends in the city around 4m, all the while cavorting, drank red wine, and getting high. We discussed life, the universe, and everything; walked around the seething streets for a while; got a bite at the Pick Me Up Cafe; and then watched The Holy Mountain and Goodbye, Uncle Tom. Those are mind-blowing films, by the way! Highly recommended. Both movies are in my top ten, for sure. Jodorowsky, particularly, is one of my favorite directors, and I also love El Topo, Santa Sangre, and Fando y Lis. On Sun 01/20, I did some chores, watched some Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and then visited my folks. I'd fully intended to meditate late on Sunday night but I crashed hard on account of deep-down tiredness. The weekends are the most difficult for me to meditate on account of the fact that usually the entire time is devoted to either chores and errands AND/OR rest and relaxation as well as spending quality time with my girlfriend [who I don't get to see nearly enough during the week], friends, family, etc.

Ben H: Thanks for the suggestions. I'm gonna make up for lost time and do a few sessions today, and I plan to experiment with the pulsations, just for shits and giggles. In the past, it has sometimes felt like I could do little things to change the rate of the pulsations -- for instance, fast to slow, slow to fast -- so I'll mess around with it a bit. I don't real like I could manipulate the strobbing, however. I try to observe them closely, but I don't feel like I can produce to strobbing, or make them appear faster or slower. They tend to come in little clusters of five or six flashes.

Mind Over Easy: That is really interesting advice! Thanks. It's kinda weird, though, cause, obviously, the idea up to that point is to maintain mindfulness of everything which is happening, to not miss a second, etc., but nevertheless something qualitatively different does seem to take place. Sometimes I "come to" after a little mini bout of forgetfulness, and I wonder whether I was in one of these reveries, or whether I just zoned out. Hard to tell the difference. I liked Dan's description of a cool apathy. I'll keep examining this territory and its idiosyncrasies...

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/21/13 5:02 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/21

Length of Sit: 1st: 1 hour [11:30am-12:30pm]; 2nd: 1 hour 20 min [2pm-3:20pm].

Where/Posture: 1st: 1 hour on zafu in lost; 2nd: 1 hour on zafu, then 20 min on chair.

Pre-Meditative Context: Drank an energy drink before the first session. The sits today came after a weekend of not meditating at all, but some cavorting and carousing.

Cutting Edge Insight Stage: Low, low, low Equanimity [I think].

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: In both bases, started by counting the breaths in and out up to ten, and I did this 5 or six times. I then did noting briefly before switching to a scanning/noting combo, after which I switched to noting, and occasionally choiceless awareness when I got lazy.

General Thoughts/Reflections: Had trouble keeping my attention focused. During the first sit I only finally got my mind relatively centered towards the end of the hour. During the 2nd sit, I had an easier time maintaining focus but I never got into High Equanimity territory, but then again, for some reason, I generally have my best sits at night anyway, so this could be more of the same.

What Worked? What Didn’t?: I am turning off the heater now when I sit because the furnace and the blower are located up in the loft and when I’m sitting there it can really be an incredible racket, and it drowns out distant noises like cars passing which I like to focus on to make my attention expand and get broader. I tried verbal noting but I was tired and started going into micro sleeps and then I’d be noting the nonsensical images which came up in those dreamy moments. I also focused on my breath as a primary object and then noted everything else as secondary objects, to help me focus and help maintain concentration. It makes the mind do more [focus on more] and therefore helps build concentration, etc. Good to use when the mind is slothy and monkey-like.

Unique or Unusual Sensations/Phenomenon: Didn’t get much in the way of flickering during either two sits. At the very end of the second sit I got a few pulses/batches of flickers, but I’ll have to wait to explore them when they are coming harder and more intensely, hopefully during tonight’s sits.

Goal(s) for Next Session: Really maintain my focus and concentration on the object of my attention. Build back up some of the mojo I lost over the weekend.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/22/13 3:50 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/22

Length of Sit: 1 hour 30 minutes [1am – 2:30am]

Where/Posture: Loft/zafu

Cutting Edge Insight Stage: High Equanimity

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Started by counting the breaths in and out up to 10, and I did this about five times. I then did scanning from the top of my head all the way down to my feet, until I’d passed the A+P.I then started noting, but relatively quickly found myself in Equanimity. I started to find noting burdensome, therefore I switched to choiceless awareness. Although my focus was pretty strong, I started to find that my mind was wandering, so I anchored my attention in the breath [while also maintaining a wide attention on as much phenomenon taking place simultaneously as possible].

What Worked? What Didn’t?: This session I got into a deep and wide Equanimity, and I partially attribute this to the technique of anchoring my attention in the breath. I found that anchoring the attention in the breath [while continuing to investigate and be aware of secondary phenomenon] filled the brain with activity and subsequently helped build concentration. I found that anchoring the attention while also noticing secondary phenomenon made the act of noting difficult or cumbersome, so I dropped it. I know that noting is a gold standard technique for a lot of accomplished meditators, so I feel kinda weird when I don’t utilize it, like I’m sabotaging my practice or something, but the fact remains that scanning is what gets me through the A+P the best, and it builds up the strongest initial concentration for me, and then when I get into Equanimity territory, the anchored attention in the breath mixed with choiceless awareness of the secondary objects may ultimately work best for me. We’ll see. I’m going to continue to experiment with the technique. Kenneth Folk has mentioned somewhere that post A+P yogis are well served by integrating some kind of samatha practice. But I’ve been doing so much vipassana lately, doing something like solely focusing on the breath feels unnatural, as I want to start noting secondary phenomenon almost immediately and being vipassana. So I like this technique because it serves the dual purpose of 1) seems to build the concentration, and 2) helps keep my mind focused so that my mind doesn’t wander.

Unique or Unusual Sensations/Phenomenon: Lots and lots of flickering. I started to notice that there was flickering with each breath. I began to wonder if this wasn’t actually a vipassana related“my mind is tuning into the ends of sensations” thingy and was maybe jhana related. If the former, then it seems that I should be focusing on the gaps in the pulses to try and align my mind with cessassion. If the latter, I should just ignore it. I think I’ll just generally try to ignore it and let my mind do its own thing, as too much striving or activity seems to defeat the purpose of Equanimity, which is to be equanimous.

Goal(s) for Next Session: Continue to anchor my attention in the breath and see where that gets me.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/22/13 6:37 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/22

Length of Sit: 1 hour 20 min [2pm-3:20pm]

Where/Posture: Loft/on zafu

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session: Low Equanimity

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Focused on the sensation of the breath as it entered and exited the nostrils, and, counted once for every in and out breath, up to 10, and I repeated this cycle about five or six times. After this I slowly scanning my body starting at the crown of my head going down to my toes, while also using the breath as an anchor as well as noting the sensations as I became aware of them. After this I did breath-anchored noting, while sometimes switching to breath-anchored choiceless awareness [non-noting, but noticing, awareness].

What Worked? What Didn’t?: I really liked the scanning/noting/breath anchored combo, as I felt it built concentration up nicely and kept me focused/mind didn’t wander.

As for the breath-anchored noting and breath-anchored choiceless awareness techniques, I like them and want to continue to utilize them. Kenneth Folk recommended primary/secondary object-style meditation somewhere on his site, and Mahasi Sayadaw suggests something similar [except his primary object is the abdomen]. Other DhO members have suggested the technique as well, such as Jackson Wilshire. My only reservation is what Daniel Ingram has critiqued about the technique, which is that, in High Equanimity, all sensations and phenomenon become formations, and therefore latching onto the breath becomes kinda nonsensical at this point. I don’t want to get so fixated on the breath that I prevent a smooth transition into awareness of formations. Therefore, if I am to continue utilizing the technique, I should he very sensitive to the point where I should just drop it and switch to choiceless awareness.

I also need to experiment with varying degrees of focus on the breath [primary object] as opposed to everything else [secondary object]: I can have a very strong focus on the breath with a light focus on everything else, I can have a 60/40-type focus approach, or a 40/60, or I can let my mind roam choicelessly and occasionally return to the breath if I feel my focus slipping, etc. As with any technique, I will need to play with this to try to find the maximal ways to utilize it.

Also, I need to find the right balance of adding noting into the primary/secondary mix. I am uncomfortable totally dropping noting – as it has been such a successful technique for so many hardcore practitioners – so I want to continue to incorporate it into the mix, although, with all the primary and secondary stuff, the noting will probably be slower [1 note every 3-6 seconds, type of thing]. That being said, I should also try to remain flexible to drop everything and just note, if the occasion calls for it.

What I am trying to do, and attempting to balance, is remain flexible enough to utilize a variety and/or mix of techniques so as to be able to do what is most effective for the occasion, without falling into the trap of not really committing to any technique and therefore never becoming proficient at it.

Goal(s) for Next Session: Continue to develop and balance techniques involving the combo/mix of scanning, noting, primary/secondary focus, and choiceless awareness.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/23/13 4:42 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 1/23

Length of Sit: 1 hour 30 min [2am-3:30am]. [I really meditated until around 4am, but I don’t think that last 30 min was too productive so I’m not really counting it.]

Where/Posture: Loft/zafu [50 min]; loft/floor leaning on chair [40 min].

Pre-Meditative Context: Didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. After I’d been asleep for only a few hours, I was woken up by my girlfriend because her car wouldn’t start [The weather is freezing in Chicago-land]. After getting her on the road, and falling back to sleep, I never really recovered my sleep deficient [I already tend to get minimal sleep as it is]. Also, I had a pretty big dinner about an hour before meditating: Never a good idea. Plus, work sucked. So the point is, that I was tired going into this sit. Even an energy drink couldn’t save me.

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session: Equanimity

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Counting the breath 50 or so times; breath-anchored scanning/noting; then breath-anchored noting; then breath-anchored choiceless awareness.

General Thoughts/Reflections: Not my best sit. I got into a pretty deep Equanimity, and my concentration built up, but I was fatigued, and tended to zonk out, and have micro-sleeps. In other words, my mindfulness was lacking, and I wasn’t able to fully apply all my attention to the objects under investigation.

What Worked? What Didn’t?: I tried to modulate and experiment with different levels of primary/secondary attention, but wasn’t really able to fine tune and explore due to fatigue. Mostly just remained in a state of choiceless awareness and tried not to let my attention slip; but investigation was minimal.

Unique or Unusual Sensations/Phenomenon: Got some flickering. Noticed that for a while it seemed to happen on each out-breath, but later it seemed to happen on in-breaths as well. Still not sure if I should be focusing on the flicking [Ron Crouch: “The whole field of attention begins vibrating in a way that is stronger and more clear in the mind. Some people describe a ‘tapping,’ ‘silent popping’ or ‘rushing in and out’ that occurs at this point. What is happening is that the mind naturally begins to focus on the moments in the vibration when there is nothing rather than something”], or whether this particular flickering/pulsing is jhana related.

Got very strong sensations of pressure inside my head. I’ve felt sensations like this before. They always fool one into believing that something “big” is about to happen, like the tension which builds before an orgasm, except here the pressure builds and builds and then nothing. I don’t know if these are so called “near misses,” or are just sensations to be ignored .

Goal(s) for Next Session: Continue to balance and experiment with breath-anchored noting/ scanning/choiceless awareness.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/23/13 6:00 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:

Got very strong sensations of pressure inside my head. I’ve felt sensations like this before. They always fool one into believing that something “big” is about to happen, like the tension which builds before an orgasm, except here the pressure builds and builds and then nothing. I don’t know if these are so called “near misses,” or are just sensations to be ignored .


I think I've experienced something similar - and more recently in my case it seems that it's actually the expecting of something big to happen which has been driving the sensations. I try to bring my attention to this 'expecting' and often this results in the 'build up' fading, leaving what I guess is more of a tranquil equanimity, if that makes sense.

Not sure if it's the same thing as what you are describing but maybe it could be worth investigating.

cheers

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/23/13 11:03 PM as a reply to Scott 808.
Scott 808:
Alan Smithee:

Got very strong sensations of pressure inside my head. I’ve felt sensations like this before. They always fool one into believing that something “big” is about to happen, like the tension which builds before an orgasm, except here the pressure builds and builds and then nothing. I don’t know if these are so called “near misses,” or are just sensations to be ignored .


I think I've experienced something similar - and more recently in my case it seems that it's actually the expecting of something big to happen which has been driving the sensations. I try to bring my attention to this 'expecting' and often this results in the 'build up' fading, leaving what I guess is more of a tranquil equanimity, if that makes sense.

Not sure if it's the same thing as what you are describing but maybe it could be worth investigating.

cheers


Yes, I think you are right on with your advice. My natural tendency, of course, is to apply pressure and force to the sensations, as if it will pop like an enlightenment zit, or a bottle of enlightenment champagne. This cannot be right, by all accounts, so I appreciate the reminder to relax and just note the shit out of it.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/24/13 4:26 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/23 – 01/24

Length of Sit: 1st: 1 hour 15 min [12:45pm-2pm]; 2nd: 1 hour 45 min [2am-3:45].

Where/Posture: 1st: bedroom on bed, back straight against the wall propped up with pillow; 2nd: 1 hour on zafu, 45min on chair.

Pre-Meditative Context:

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session: 1st: Low Equanimity; 2nd: High Equanimity

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Counting the breath while focusing on the sensations of the breath as it entered and exited the nostrils; breath-anchored scanning [while also noting]; breath-anchored noting; choiceless awareness with some light noting utilizing the prefix “See how it…”

What Worked? What Didn’t?: 1st sit wasn’t particularly noteworthy. I think resting my back on the wall encouraged sloth-torpor. I will continue, in the future, when the option is available, to sit on the zafu with my back unsupported.

Again, I noticed that my morning/afternoon sits don’t seem to be as deep as my night sits. I wonder if the reasons are bio-chemical, related to cycles of rest/sleep and stress/activity hardwired into the brain. I’m not sure. Sometimes I imagine that the earlier sit is what potentially makes the later sit deeper, etc. Anyway, who knows. I’m just going to continue to sit twice a day regardless since this is what I have time.

During 2nd sit, obtained what felt to be a very deep level of Equanimity. Started off the sit by counting breaths [anapanasati-style] in and out up to about 100. I felt like this really started off the session on a solid foundation of concentration.

I continued by doing breath-anchored scanning [where I also noted], and then transitioned into breath-anchored noting. I felt that this was very successful in building some good concentration into the meditation.

I got into Equanimity territory relatively quickly and then mostly utilized choiceless awareness, which simply felt the most appropriate. My mind wasn’t really wandering too much at this point, and it felt comfortable to just try to take it all in. That said, I’d occasionally note sensations and phenomenon, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the situation. Anything unusual got a note.

I tried to de-bed consciousness by noting in this manner: “See how it…”. Sometimes I feel that even in High Equanimity I am not dis-embedding enough, so by adding “See how it…” as a prefix to whatever I note, it helps stick a wedge between my identification with everything I am noticing/noting, etc.

Unique or Unusual Sensations/Phenomenon:
During 2nd sit, a lot of muscle contortion. My head gets pulled far back, to the point where my face is pointed towards the ceiling. From time to time I have to forcibly drop my head and try to relax my muscles. By the end of the session, my shoulders and neck muscles were quite sore. Tension, tension, tension in the neck/shoulder area. The head pulling back thing has happened many times in the past. It was part of the reason I eventually transition into the easy chair recliner after an hour, because in this position my body was much more relaxed, but when I meditate in a reclined manner I tend to sacrifice mindfulness.

Lots of voidy, spacious stuff. Felt very formless realms jhana-y. Many folks mention zoning out in High Equanimity, and I wonder if this is because they are getting into the formless realm of Neither Perception Nor Non-Perception.

Goal(s) for Next Session: When in Equanimity, continue noting with the prefix: “See how it…”, so as to better dis-embed and discourage the “selfing” process. Keep utilizing breath-anchored noting and scanning, as this seems to help deepen concentration. Also, try a longer initial session of counting the breath [for instance, up to 100 or so], as this seemed to help as well.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/25/13 3:42 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/24-01/25

Length of Sit: 1st: 1 hour 30 min [2pm-3:30pm]; 2nd: 1 hour and 30 min [1:30am-3am]

Where/Posture: 1st: zafu; 2nd: 45 zafu, 45 chair.

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session: 1st: Equanimity; 2nd: High Equanimity.

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Counting the breath, scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, mantra-type thingy.

What Worked? What Didn’t?:

1st: I found I prefer counting in/out 1, in/out 2, etc., up to 10 and then starting over again at 1, rather than straight-up counting up to 100. For some reason, at this point, the previous method feels more natural, and I tend to focus less on the counting and more on the sensation of the breath. It’s a small thing, but I’m going to stick with the couting-up-to-ten-and-then-start-over-at-1 method in the future.

At a certain point in my sit, I was having some degree of trouble maintaining mindfulness due to the fact I was getting sucked into micro-dreams, so I started verbal noting. In the past I have found verbal noting fatiguing or clumsy, but it really worked nicely this time. I didn’t utilize the technique for the entire duration of the sit, but just until I’d regained mindfulness and then I switched back to silent noting. After using the verbal noting technique a while, I found myself in a deep and stable Equanimity, which surprised me because, as previously mentioned, my daytime sits tend to have a cutting edge of Low Equanimity.

2nd: At one point in High Equanimity, I just started repeating “anicca, anicca” over and over again in my head. It became a kind of mantra. It took the place of noting, because at this point everything was just wacko-weird High EQ stuff anyway, and I noticed that repeating “anicca, anicca” kept be totally focused in the present moment, and my mind didn’t wonder at all. As a result I grew very concentrated. At one point I switched the word to “anatta, anatta” to keep things fresh. Really though, I could have been repeating “grab-ass, grab-ass” and it would have served the same function: the specific word made no difference, but saying it kept me centered in the moment. I believe this really worked well in High EQ because mindfulness is already established, and saying something at this point is better than saying nothing, but during the earlier nanas actually noting real things and switching it up probably would works much better.

Unique or Unusual Sensations/Phenomenon: Lots of bobbing head stuff, my head pulling back until my face is pointed towards the ceiling, really tight muscles in the shoulders and neck, alternating sensations of super tightness in my head alternating with sensations of release and even stretching and elongation. I also got some of the flickering and pulsations, but at this point they are losing their fascination for me as they don’t seem to be indicative of anything other than perhaps decent concentration.

Goal(s) for Next Session: Try using the mantra thingy again, perhaps even at some earlier nanas, and see what effect it has on mindfulness.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/25/13 11:35 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I was getting sucked into micro-dreams


What's that all about?

Heh, I can't remember where I read it, but I read a SE account where someone had a dream they were on a pirate ship or something, and the pirates told him they were going to throw him off the edge into nibbana. LOL!


On reading some of your entries, I think it's possible that there is over exertion going on in your practice. I would recommend not being so interested in finding out what exertion will push you over the edge. I think it's more a matter of looking at where there is intention and expectation occurring, and finding a way to drop that. It isn't that there aren't great techniques and tweaks and things to "do" that may further progress, but it's just that in order to get cessation of sensations, you have to do your best to bring cessation to intention. It's counter-intuitive because you can basically use intention all the way up to equanimity, but then, you have to let go of the intention as well. Actually, on the subject of micro-dreams, I had one where I saw my hand holding on to something vague in EQ. I noticed that even though it was just a random, spontaneous image in the inner eye, there was subtle intention involved. So I let go of it, and let go of whatever it was in the vision! There was a marked increase in relaxation.

So I recommend looking more at where you're expecting, looking at where you're trying to do things, looking at where you feel like you need to do something. Notice that all of these things are taking some effort to do, and that you can let go of them and feel better. That may help!

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/25/13 1:04 PM as a reply to Mind over easy.
Here's my understanding of cessation:

All the way up to EQ, you make progress by manipulating intention in a way that reveals more and more subtle sensations, sensations that you dis-embed from by seeing the 3c's in. However, once you're to EQ, you're able to see the entirety of the sensation canvas. Once you're at that point, the gold is in simply looking at where you're still investing effort into intention, investigation, expectation, emotions, and importantly, equanimity itself.

Daniel Ingram was telling me how in EQ, there's a sense of something trying to observe something else, but when the trying happens, the something else sneaks away and you don't see it clearly. The problem is that by making a dichotomy between the thing observing (self) and the things observed (the field of sensations, or formations), you leave out the sensations on the observing side, instinctively assuming that the point is for the observing side to see the cessation of the field of sensations. So, rather than thinking that you need to adjust, tweak, and control your technique, you just need to include the sensations of adjusting, tweaking, controlling your technique. When you get too caught up in wondering what the right technique is, or what it is that you're not doing that you need to do, you fail to see that the side trying to "make it happen" is the final roadblock. I mean, since you're investigating, you can't remove 100% of your intention. But it won't happen until you stop investing your interest, attention, and energy into the observer side.

So, simplified, I'm suggesting that I think you're trying too hard when EQ doesn't require that sort of trying. It'd be better to stop yourself in your tracks when in EQ and say, why am I trying to stay anchored? Why am I trying to stay equanimious? Why am I trying to apply this method? I'll look for some quotes...

At a certain point in my sit, I was having some degree of trouble maintaining mindfulness due to the fact I was getting sucked into micro-dreams, so I started verbal noting. In the past I have found verbal noting fatiguing or clumsy, but it really worked nicely this time. I didn’t utilize the technique for the entire duration of the sit, but just until I’d regained mindfulness and then I switched back to silent noting. After using the verbal noting technique a while, I found myself in a deep and stable Equanimity, which surprised me because, as previously mentioned, my daytime sits tend to have a cutting edge of Low Equanimity.


I suggest that you aren't necessarily having trouble maintaining mindfulness. Mindfulness can seem really solid when you're on top of the game, actively looking for sensations and actively separating them from you. But what about when the sensations behind subtle and core mental processes become clear, and the processes seem to break down? How would you know you were mindful if the very mechanism that judges mindfulness was being broken down into meaningless sensations? How could you get the feeling of mindfulness if you're investigating that very feeling and breaking it down into sensations? Maybe you're solidifying sensations that feel like mindfulness, then they start to break down (as everything breaks down) in EQ, then you think, oh, mindfulness is breaking, I must go back to that! I remind you that EQ can be murky, vague, unclear, meaningless, scattered, dreamlike, and non-focused. Thus, it would be better to just be aware of whenever things seem any certain way, and refrain from trying to "do" something to adjust the situation. I mean, sometimes you're in the low nanas and mindfulness/effort/investigation/whatever have to be ramped up in order to make progress, but at EQ, you're at the end of the line. You're not trying to sustain EQ or any of the factors in it. You're trying to let go of the intentions, which will naturally lead to deconstruction. You just get out of the way, step away from the controls, and stop manipulating the field of sensations, since by manipulating, you are making the dichotomy between the field and the one who experiences, manipulates, and progresses.

At one point in High Equanimity, I just started repeating “anicca, anicca” over and over again in my head. It became a kind of mantra. It took the place of noting, because at this point everything was just wacko-weird High EQ stuff anyway, and I noticed that repeating “anicca, anicca” kept be totally focused in the present moment, and my mind didn’t wonder at all. As a result I grew very concentrated. At one point I switched the word to “anatta, anatta” to keep things fresh. Really though, I could have been repeating “grab-ass, grab-ass” and it would have served the same function: the specific word made no difference, but saying it kept me centered in the moment


So, trying to stay centered? If you're making it into EQ consistently, I'd assume your concentration is fairly solid. Rather than trying to stay centered, I suggest investigating the very fact that you feel you need to stay centered. What does being centered even consist of? In trying to view a flux of formations, what sensations are you trying to center? Is there worry of not being centered? Why is it so hard to stay centered? Most importantly, can you find the intention to stay centered and then abandon it? Is there some sense of responsibility for staying centered? What would happen if instead of trying to stay centered, you deliberately let go of the intention to stay centered? Emphasis on investigating and removing intention.


I tried to de-bed consciousness by noting in this manner: “See how it…”. Sometimes I feel that even in High Equanimity I am not dis-embedding enough, so by adding “See how it…” as a prefix to whatever I note, it helps stick a wedge between my identification with everything I am noticing/noting, etc.


A tricky balance to strike: the goal is indeed to dis-embed, but in trying to get there, you have to release every intention and expectation to dis-embed. It's like a mirror. You can never move your position on this side and expect the reflection to stay still. When you feel like you're not dis-embedding enough, rather than looking for the tweak to dis-embed more, you have to investigate the very sense that you are not dis-embedding enough. At the point of EQ, you're not trying to apply a technique to dis-embed. Being embedded is not a sickness or a condition we were born with. It's a real-time process where intention and expectation obscure the cessation of sensations. You're not trying to pry away the condition of being embedded, you're trying to see the sense of intention that leads to the embedding, and then dropping that. Before you can get yourself out of it, you have to see how in every moment, your intentions are getting you in. Hence, the Zen schools that emphasize that you are already Buddha, meaning that you don't have to change anything to get enlightened, you just have to 1. be vigilant of experience and see how you're participating, doing, intending, fashioning, and 2. drop the participation, doing, intending, fashioning to see the whole thing more clearly.

Got very strong sensations of pressure inside my head. I’ve felt sensations like this before. They always fool one into believing that something “big” is about to happen, like the tension which builds before an orgasm, except here the pressure builds and builds and then nothing. I don’t know if these are so called “near misses,” or are just sensations to be ignored .


Maybe both! If you're still getting that kind of stuff, you ought to look less into the tensions and physical sensations, and more into how you relate to this stuff, just as an experiment to try. When it happens, pay attention to self. Does it put pressure on you to "catch the bus" when you think something is going to happen? Do you get the sense as though you need to do something with these moments to "catch the bus"? Is there disappointment when the bus leaves? For the sake of experimentation, you should try to see if you can abandon ALL interest in these moments, ALL expectation of nirvana, ALL intention to do something with it. Don't just ignore it, but pretend it's a bear that walked into your tent. It's dangerous to be unaware of the bear, but it's also dangerous to get excited or make any action. You're powerless in the situation. Pretend that you can't ever get nibbana. Pretend it doesn't exist. What would you be striving for in this case, and how far could the vipassana technique take you? What feelings of interest, expectation, or manipulation would you feel you could abandon or let go of if there was no nibbana to get to? Be honest with yourself and really examine that, because when you make a foot towards it, you find it's a foot away. When you make an inch towards it, you find that it's an inch away. I'm suggesting you examine what it is you feel you're doing that will get you to nibbana, and dropping the intentions around those things entirely.

Wow, that ended up being a wordy post. Hopefully it will be of some use to you though! emoticon

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/25/13 5:07 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/25

Length of Sit: 1 hour 30 min;

Where/Posture: 1 hour on zafu, 30 min on chair

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session: High EQ

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Counting the breath, scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, chillin’ the fuck out a bit.

Unique or Unusual Sensations/Phenomenon: I got to a place of High EQ during my daytime sit, which doesn’t happen all that often. I was surprised. Perhaps my ability to get High EQ during a day sit was a result of chillin’ out some, and starting to turn my investigation towards intentionality and/or striving. See below…

What Worked? What Didn’t?: I am going to try to switch my approach some. For a while I had assumed that since intense investigation and mindfulness and concentration had gotten me up to EQ, it would also work in EQ. I’d thought that what I needed was to concentrate deeper and deeper, and penetrate farther and farther, until I burrowed all the way to the end of sensations right into cessassion. Like a Bunker Buster missile. I have been advised by a number of sources, however, that perhaps I should chill the fuck out.

My good dharma-pal Mind Over Easy had this advice regarding my practice: “For the sake of experimentation, you should try to see if you can abandon ALL interest in these moments, ALL expectation of nirvana, ALL intention to do something with it. Don't just ignore it, but pretend it's a bear that walked into your tent. It's dangerous to be unaware of the bear, but it's also dangerous to get excited or make any action. You're powerless in the situation. Pretend that you can't ever get nibbana. Pretend it doesn't exist. What would you be striving for in this case, and how far could the vipassana technique take you? What feelings of interest, expectation, or manipulation would you feel you could abandon or let go of if there was no nibbana to get to? Be honest with yourself and really examine that, because when you make a foot towards it, you find it's a foot away. When you make an inch towards it, you find that it's an inch away. I'm suggesting you examine what it is you feel you're doing that will get you to nibbana, and dropping the intentions around those things entirely.”

This sounds like super solid advice to me, especially ‘cause striving isn’t really getting me anywhere in EQ. Mind Over Easy also makes some other really interesting points: “You're not trying to pry away the condition of being embedded, you're trying to see the sense of intention that leads to the embedding, and then dropping that. Before you can get yourself out of it, you have to see how in every moment, your intentions are getting you in. Hence, the Zen schools that emphasize that you are already Buddha, meaning that you don't have to change anything to get enlightened, you just have to 1. be vigilant of experience and see how you're participating, doing, intending, fashioning, and 2. drop the participation, doing, intending, fashioning to see the whole thing more clearly.”

After discovering MCToB, I really wondered what the deal with Soto Zen schools was with all their non-intentionality, etc. But I think that perhaps their method, as suggested by Mind Over Easy, is really good for EQ. It’s not that investigation will end at this point, but that the investigation should now be turned upon everything which it took to get up to this point.

It may indeed be the case that in my efforts to create a laser-cutter-like mindfulness, I’m solidifying the sense of self: “Maybe you're solidifying sensations that feel like mindfulness, then they start to break down (as everything breaks down) in EQ, then you think, oh, mindfulness is breaking, I must go back to that! I remind you that EQ can be murky, vague, unclear, meaningless, scattered, dreamlike, and non-focused […]In trying to view a flux of formations, what sensations are you trying to center? Is there worry of not being centered? Why is it so hard to stay centered? Most importantly, can you find the intention to stay centered and then abandon it? Is there some sense of responsibility for staying centered? What would happen if instead of trying to stay centered, you deliberately let go of the intention to stay centered? Emphasis on investigating and removing intention.” I will therefore note whenever “I”seem appear on the stage, with all my baggage, etc.

Russell wrote: “It usually happens when you least expect it, when you truly let go. You cannot know when it will happen, or what it will be like. You especially cannot MAKE it happen, so just keep practicing.”

Nikolai wrote: “RELAX and let go of the desire for the shift to occur. Let go of 'your desire' for it and/or at least include such a subjective reaction as just another aspect of the mass/field of experience/phenomena 'noticed' (and noted). Practice as per usual but from that relaxed 'come what may' viewpoint and let it do itself. Step out of the way i.e. relax, pay attention to all the movements of mind, lending no mental weight to any of it (such as craving the shift) and let it all synch up itself.”

Daniel Wrote: “Relax too much, like to the point of totally vanishing. Definitely.”

Rob wrote: “The web of causality that creates the mind-state you’re in is huge and complex, and what you are doing now is only a small piece of it. It extends back into causes and conditions that you couldn’t possibly know the origin of. The result? The same technique applied with equal skill on 2 different days can give totally different results, and no adjustment to your technique can change that. If your baseline is Equanimity, there is really nothing left for you to do by choice or willpower, other than to continue with your sound technique. In Equanimity, “vipassana” is happening faster than your conscious, analytical mind can keep up with. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a state of really fine investigation and a state of dreamy torpor. So when you’re sitting, and you’ve reached the point where you’re confident that you’re really doing “choiceless awareness”, try just… letting that continue…, even when you’re “losing” the concentration. Just go ahead and let your mind sink. Maybe it’s torpor, maybe it’s something else. Yes, maybe you are just dozing off emoticon If so, well, no harm done emoticon Just go back to the technique. Getting SE is exactly like what Douglas Adams said about how to learn to fly: “Keep throwing yourself at the ground, until you miss”.

Goal(s) for Next Session: Continue in the above direction. I’m not talking about meditating less, or slacking, but investigating striving and intentionality.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/25/13 8:38 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
Unique or Unusual Sensations/Phenomenon: I got to a place of High EQ during my daytime sit, which doesn’t happen all that often. I was surprised. Perhaps my ability to get High EQ during a day sit was a result of chillin’ out some, and starting to turn my investigation towards intentionality and/or striving.




When you get up into what you are calling 'high equanimity', is their a tendency to overlay/assign the mental weight of 'unique' or 'unusual' to certain sensations/phenomena over other phenomena? If so, is such a segregation of the field of experience (i.e. some phenomena unique, other phenomena not unqiue) noticed (and thus noted)? Or is such a tendency to section off aspects of the field of experience and relate to them subjectively as 'unique' going unnoticed? or is it more so, an evaluation occuring in hindsight and not at the very moment of 'high equanimity'? If so, carry on. Just be aware that such a tendency, if gone unnoticed/unnoted, could be a source of frustration and obstacle.

If going unnoticed, perhaps including such manifestations as part and parcel of the wide, panoramic, 100% inclusive awareness (a defining factor of 11th nana/4th jhana territory, at least right before the infamous 'blip', cessation, fruition, shift seems to occur to do the desired damage) will get things moving along to where the mind forgets/ceases to assign any mental weight whatsoever to any of it,where it all just mixes together as one mass/borderless blob of phenomena, mental movements, sensations, just the field of experience, where sensations of 'self'/'me-ness' get lost in that same mass of experience/phenomena. Ideal synching up territory.

Is any aspect of experience being held differently (assigned mental weight such as 'unique') to other aspects'? If so, noticing and noting such a tendency/manifestation will usually lead to letting go of it, and letting go of it all, the entire field of experience, borderless mass of phenomena, is the cause for the cessation of all the senses (i.e. the cessation of the entire field of experience). If some aspect is being assigned mental weight within the mind, such as 'unique', there is a tendency to hold onto that thus evaluated 'object', not a letting go of it. Letting go of it all is key in high Eq.

My 2 baht.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/25/13 8:46 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
It may indeed be the case that in my efforts to create a laser-cutter-like mindfulness, I’m solidifying the sense of self: “Maybe you're solidifying sensations that feel like mindfulness, then they start to break down (as everything breaks down) in EQ, then you think, oh, mindfulness is breaking, I must go back to that! I remind you that EQ can be murky, vague, unclear, meaningless, scattered, dreamlike, and non-focused […]In trying to view a flux of formations, what sensations are you trying to center? Is there worry of not being centered? Why is it so hard to stay centered? Most importantly, can you find the intention to stay centered and then abandon it? Is there some sense of responsibility for staying centered? What would happen if instead of trying to stay centered, you deliberately let go of the intention to stay centered? Emphasis on investigating and removing intention.” I will therefore note whenever “I”seem appear on the stage, with all my baggage, etc.


When you note try to note without labels for some of the subtle mind movements if it obscures your full experience. View thoughts like you view sensations. View how thoughts without labels (especially emotionally charged thoughts) arise and pass away. Notice thoughts like paying attention to the sensation of water across your skull. No mental talk is necessary. Just passively noticing the sensations. When lost in thoughts and if find out you are lost emoticon you are already back. Don't create a "pay attention!" alarm. Let it move through you like you don't control it. Do that throughout daily life.

If you decide to do verbal labels then try and note different kinds of thoughts (verbal/pictures/mental movies). Break down the sensations of "I" into smaller parts. All that stuff is known to consciousness. Thoughts and consciousness can't both be selves. That quiet of equanimity should make the sense of self (pain) clearer. Look at the knowing part of the mind and how it knows it's seeing/hearing/thinking/etc.. If and when a cessation creeps up on you notice how that consciousness is also impermanent after it happens. Consciousness needs an object and senses. With strong concentration, consistent gentle letting go of painful addictive thoughts, the senses should fade and time feel less apparent. (Cribing from Rob Burbea).emoticon

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/26/13 5:43 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/26

Length of Sit: 1st: 30 min [1:30am-2am]; 2nd: 1 hour 30 min [1:50pm-3:20pm]

Where/Posture: 1st: zafu; 2nd: 1 hour 10 min zafu, 20 min reclined

Pre-Meditative Context:

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session: 1st: EQ; 2nd: EQ

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Counting breaths, scanning/noting, noting.

General Thoughts/Reflections: During my first sit, I was overcome with torpor after about 30 min. I actually meditated for somewhat longer, but I don’t remember a lot about it, and suspect I was nodding off for the bulk of it, so I’m only counting the first half-hour as being productive.

During my second sit I hit a relatively deep EQ, even though it was a daytime sit. I think it was because of some adjustments to my focus and approach.

What Worked? What Didn’t?: Some of the objectives of my last few sits has been to: 1) once in EQ, “let go” as much as possible, 2) note anything which solidifies my sense of “self”; meaning, anything which pulls me back into self-consciousness from the undifferentiated squiggly/pulse-y/wave-y field which is High EQ; 3) try to dissolve an desires for stream which arise; since gross and subtle anticipations are probably a hindrance at this point [This is, in reality, basically a subset of #2, since such desires return me to a sense of self and pull me out of the ocean of Equanimity; 4) note the shit out of body tensions [head, neck] when they appear, in the attempt to penetrate and dissolve them [These are either chakra/kundalini-type stuff, or the body’s attempt to once again solidify a sense of self with all kinds of distracting tensions, etc.].

The activity of noting whenever a sense of self appeared indeed felt different from 1) noting subtle sensation on the body [scanning, etc.], 2) noting mind distractions [images, memories, desires, dreams, fantasies, etc.], and 3) noting “outside” phenomenon as it appeared to me through the sense doors [sounds, smells, feelings produced by the environment, etc.]. While in the undifferentiated field of High EQ, I had always felt that there wasn’t much to note, since, well, it’s an undifferentiated field. But now that my approach is to seek out whatever gross or subtle sensations/phenomenon are creating a sense of self, or are pulling me out of the field of formations and my equanimous relationship to it all, things have become much more subtle. Like pulling off the individual layers of a baklava with tweezers.

What Sensations/Phenomenon Arose, How Were They Noted, and What Happened to It?

When sharp pressure appeared within the skull, or extreme tension arose in my shoulders/neck, I noted these as dukkha, since they were a kind of tension, an unsatisfactoriness, which seemed to pull me back out of EQ into a sense of self. I can’t really remember what happened to them after noting them this way, but I believe the tension would dissolve temporarily.

When desire for stream appeared in the form of bodily excitation such as a rapid heart-beat, I again noted this as dukkha. When stream-entry thoughts appeared, I noted these as “anticipation” or “duhhka,” as they would dissolve at this point.

Goal(s) for Next Session: Keeping doing everything I discussed in the What Worked/What Didn’t Work section, but even more skillfully.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/29/13 6:00 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/28; 01/29

Length of Sit: 1st: 1 hour [12:30pm-1:30pm]; 2nd: 1 hour 10 min [1:20am-2:30am]; 3rd: 1 hour 30 min [1:30pm-3pm]; 4th 2 hours [3am-5am].

Where/Posture: 1st: zafu; 2nd: zafu; 3rd: 1 hour zafu, 30 chair; 4th: 1 hour zafu, 1 hour chair.

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session: 1st: EQ; 2nd: EQ; 3rd: low EQ; 4th EQ.

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Following and counting the breath; scanning, scanning up and down chakras, spinal breathing, noting.

What Worked? What Didn’t?: During my 4th sit, I added 30 min of anapanasati meditation. I think moving forward I am going to add 30 minutes of concentration meditation before each daily 1 hour and 30 min vipassana sit, for a total for 2 hours per session [4 hours per day]. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in EQ at this point, so I’m looking for ways to give me that extra momentum to push me over the edge into stream.

During the scanning portions of my sits, as I’m slowly going over all the parts of my body, I’ve added some special focus on the chakras. I’m not trying to manipulate them, or the kundalini or anything, I’m just spending a few extra moments dwelling on those parts of the body. During my scanning, I’ve noticed that typically the lower half of my body tends to have more dead-zones, so I’m trying to spend a little extra time trying to “waking them up.” Then after scanning is completed, I spend about five minutes doing spinal breathing. If anything, these extra steps are just helping with my concentration by giving me more to focus on, and more subtle sensations to look for. Plus, I get a lot of energetic phenomenon at the brow and crown, so I’m kind of interested to see if I can develop some more sensations at the other chakras.

General Thoughts/Reflections: I’m really looking forward to a Goenka 3-day retreat I have coming up Feb 13-17, and the opportunity to mediate all day without interruption. I’m curious to see where I can get in that time, with all the momentum I’ve built up in my daily practice. I’ve never been on a Goenka 3-day, so I’m not sure what to expect exactly. You have to have been on the 10-day to attend, so I’m hoping we just jump right in with the vipassana, although perhaps we’ll spend a full day doing anapanasati. I also hope we aren’t allowed to speak on the last day, ‘cause frankly I’d prefer to keep my momentum up, and I don’t need a day to readjust to speaking, etc. I can’t wait, I can’t wait! Just a few weeks away!

Goal(s) for Next Session: Keep doing what I’m doing, but with the extra anapanasati sessions and the extra chakra focus during scanning.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
1/31/13 5:41 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/29 - 01/30 - 01/31

Length of Sit: 1st: 1 hour and 30 min [1:30pm-3pm]; 2nd: 1 hour [2am-3am]; 3rd: 1 hour [12:30pm-1:30pm]; 4th: 1 hour [3pm-4pm]; 5th: 1 hour [2am-3am]; 6th: 45 min [4:45am-5:30am].

Where/Posture: 1st: 1 hour on zafu, 30 min in chair; 2nd: 1 hour on zafu; 3rd: 1 hour on zafu; 4th; 1 hour in bed; 5th: 1 hour on zafu; 6th: 30 on zafu, 15 reclined on floor.

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session: 1st: EQ; 2nd: High EQ; 3rd: something crap; 4th: Low EQ; 5th: High EQ; 6th: EQ.

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Scanning, noting.

General Thoughts/Reflections: I’ve noticed that during my hour and a half hour sits, the last half hour is extremely variable in quality: sometimes it is extremely productive, but more so I think, I tend to zonk out [lose my focus], or fall into micro-sleeps. And yet I will persist with a cruddy sit, because I want to clock the hours. Because of this, I am going to try switching to four one hour sits daily [except on the weekends, when I’m lucky to get even an hour of practice].

What Worked? What Didn’t?: Never meditate in bed: Sleep is the result, even if you are sitting up, dang blang it!

On my 5th sit, I did some intensive noting in EQ, which bumped me up to High EQ. I think, moving forward, that instead of drifting about in choiceless awareness, I’m going to go for some fast noting. It strikes me sometimes as well that it doesn’t really matter what I’m saying, or if I’m noting anything in particular. Sometimes the simple act of silently grunting some kind of word or whatever is enough to keep me present moment centered, and I can feel my concentration build. I know that folks have advised chilling out in High EQ, but my chilling out tends to equate losing focus, and even zoning out. Anyway, I’m going to go with the fast noting thing in High EQ for a while and see what happens. If anything, it may be like riding a rocket into deep space [fast noting], at which point the thrusters cease and then when I’m drifting at least I’m doing it in deeper and darker territory.

Goal(s) for Next Session: Keep on keepin’ on.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/1/13 4:46 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 01/31/13 – 02/01/13

Length of Sit: 1st: 1 hour [3pm-4pm]; 2nd: 1 hour [1:40am-2:40am]; 3rd: 1 hour [5am-6am].

Where/Posture: 1st: zafu; 2nd: zafu; 3rd: in bed, sitting up.

Pre-Meditative Context: Drank a Monster energy drink before 2nd sit. Per usual, this seems to annihilate the hindrance of sloth/torpor, which often plagues my morning sits, even after drinking coffee.

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session: 1st; EQ; 2nd: High EQ; 3rd: High EQ.

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Awareness of the breath [primary object] and everything else [secondary objects]; counting the breath; scanning; noting; choiceless awareness.

What Worked? What Didn’t?: For some reason, it is harder to see the results with noting, as opposed to scanning. When I scan I tend to get very focused and mindful, and if I am doing it “right,” I can sense subtle sensations, or at least gross sensations, wherever I put my attention. When I note, it is harder to tell if I am doing it right. As Tarin stated in his interview with Britton about when he first started noting, it feels like nothing is happening. And like I said, my mind feels like it goes into thoughts/images/fantasies/memories/planning/etc. more when I note. Well, what can you do? I’ve yet to hear or read how scanning scan be used in EQ to gain stream, so I’ll just keep on practicing noting and hope that I’m either wrong about “doing it wrong,” or my skills improve.

On my 2nd sit, I started with a very tight focused scanning. This really got my concentration going and worked up a really frothy A+P lather. I then switched to noting – but a somewhat more free and easy noting style, more relaxed than say shootin’ aliens – and pretty soon I was in a solid High EQ. Instead of pulling way back and just trying to be aware of the field of awareness, like I usually tend to do, I kept the body in the picture, but also tried to be aware of the field of awareness. Noting felt really superfluous at this point, as my mind was calm and noticing tons of stuff going on. From time to time, however, I’d just silently state “present moment, present moment,” so as to help center me right smack dab in the, you guessed it, present moment.

When I began to feel my attention starting to falter – starting to wonder how long I’d been sitting, etc. -- then I started noting again so as to try and keep myself in the moment, as opposed to slipping off into la la land.

What Sensations/Phenomenon Arose, and How Were They Noted: During my second sit, and after scanning, I’d really managed to get my sensations roiling into a classic A+P. I experienced sensations which felt like little webs of electricity dancing all over, but particularly on my face. Sometimes they were so strong they tickled my nose, and made me want to sneeze. I noted these as “energy.” After noting them they tended to disappear.

After getting into High EQ, in addition to noting the physical sensations of the body, I also tried to be aware of and note subtle sensations of the mind. If my awareness felt expansive, I noted “space.”

Sometimes I experienced brief pulsations of light, of about five pulses per round. These usually occurred at the base of my visual field. I noted these as “pulsations.”

At times I was just sitting back and taking everything in at once, as much as I was able. At these times I occasionally noted “awareness.”

As stated above, sometimes I was aware of being aware of being in the present moment. This I noted “present moment.”

Goal(s) for Next Session: Don’t obsess too much about noting super-fast or really elaborately. Note, yes, but do so deliberately and decisively, with the sole function of keeping myself grounded in the present moment, and aware of what is going down as it is going down. Whether I utilize scanning, noting, or choiceless awareness depends on 1) the stability of my mindfulness, and 2) the vipassana jhana I am in. All the fore mentioned techniques simply serve the purpose of developing mindfulness, directing focus, and building concentration.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/1/13 8:29 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Try and note "joy" or "relief" when hindrances vanish. That should help with too much striving and increase tranquility which is a factor of awakening. Keep up the consistency which is needed.

Here's Gil Fronsdal's description of noting:

Gil Fronsdal - Noting

In contrast to most thinking, noting is not discursive. It does not involve analysis or judgment. Rather, we simply give our current experience a one-word label. For example, upon hearing a sound we note ‘hearing’ without thinking further about the sound. Other common mental notes are ‘seeing’, ‘touching’, ‘feeling’, and ‘thinking’.

Some experiences may be given more descriptive labels. For example, sensations may be noted as ‘warmth’, ‘coolness’, ‘pressure’, ‘tightness’, and so on. Emotions may be named: ‘happiness’, ‘sadness’, ‘excitement’, ‘fear’. Mental activity may be recognized as ‘wanting’, ‘planning’, ‘resisting’, and the like. With mindfulness of breathing a common note is ‘rising’ as the belly or chest lifts on the inhalation, and ‘falling’ as we exhale.

Usually, a specific note is repeated until the experience being noted disappears, is sufficiently acknowledged, or is no longer predominant.

Noting in meditation has many functions. The primary one is keeping the meditator present – sometimes it is called an ‘anchor’ to the present. The mind is less likely to wander off if one keeps up a steady stream of relaxed noting. If the mind does wander, the noting practice can make it easier to reestablish mindfulness.

Another function of noting is to better acknowledge or recognize what is occurring: the clearer one’s recognition, the more effective one’s mindfulness. Naming can strengthen recognition. Sometimes this can be a kind of truth-telling, when we are reluctant to admit something about ourselves or about what is happening.

A third function of noting is to help recognize patterns in one’s experience. A frequently-repeated note reveals a frequently-recurring experience. For example, persistent worriers may not realize it until they see how often they note ‘worry’.

And fourth, as described above, mental noting gives the thinking mind something to do rather than leaving it to its own devices.

A fifth function is disentangling us from being preoccupied or overly identified with experience. Noting can help us ‘step away’ so that we might see more clearly. For example, noting ‘wanting’ might pull us out of the preoccupation with something we want. This may not be immediate, but by repeatedly noting ‘wanting, wanting,’ one may be able to be aware of the wanting without being caught by it. As an antidote to drowning in strong emotion or obsessive thinking, mental noting is sometimes called a ‘life preserver’.

Noting can also help maintain a non-reactive form of attention. Calmly and equanimously noting what is happening, we are less likely to get caught up in emotional reactions. The stories of Mara, the god of temptation and distraction, visiting the Buddha illustrate this. The Buddha does not chase Mara away, nor does he give in. He simply looks at him directly and says, “Mara, I see you.” With this, Mara runs away. Similarly, noting ‘fear’ can be like saying, “Fear, I see you.” Noting helps us to see mindfully while remaining free of what we see.

The tone of the inner voice that notes may reveal less-than-equanimous reactions to what we are trying to be mindful of. The noting may sound harsh, bored, scared, hesitant, or excited, to name just a few possibilities. By noticing and adjusting the tone, we may become more balanced and equanimous.

Each person needs to find his or her own way of noting – it isn’t a fixed technique. And as circumstances change, how one notes may change. Sometimes, what is most useful is calmly noting everything one is being mindful of. Other times, noting may be useful when one is easily distracted but not when one is settled. Some people only use noting when being mindful of particular experiences, such as thinking or feeling emotions. Others limit their noting to naming only what is distracting. And some people find that it is never helpful to use mental noting; they prefer a more silent form of knowing.

The noting practice has a number of pitfalls. It can become rote or mechanical. When one notices this, it’s often useful to pause and relax before starting again. Another hazard is focusing too much on noting at the expense of being mindful. One version of this is the ‘check-list approach’ to mindfulness – one believes it is enough to simply note an experience. Noting is mostly a slight nudge to encourage mindfulness, so that attentiveness to the felt experience increases. Another pitfall is that noting may become an attempt to control or drive one’s experience instead of simply recognizing it. Or it may be used to create an artificial distance from experience: naming becomes a substitute for feeling. Relaxing and allowing the mindfulness to become more receptive can help with this.

Noting can become a hindrance to meditation if one starts thinking about what word to use. Sometimes beginners to mental noting are too concerned with the ‘right’ note. The most obvious label is good enough. If a vague note like “here” or “this” helps one stay present, it has fulfilled its primary function. While precision in noting can sometimes sharpen mindfulness and help with insight, there is no need to analyze one’s way to greater precision.

Some people find that as the mind becomes more peaceful in meditation they may need to adjust the relative ‘loudness’ or ‘intensity’ of the noting to keep it in harmony with the meditative stillness. As the mind becomes quieter, so should the mental noting. It can become a softer and softer whisper. At times words are no longer needed – a soft “hmm” may suffice.

A basic principle for the practice of mental noting is to use it when it is helpful and to avoid it when it is not. Mindfulness practice aims to cultivate awareness, insight and liberation. It can be quite satisfying when noting supports these aims. It can be a reminder that all of one’s faculties can be used in the service of freedom, including our cognitive functions such as naming our experience.


Using the consciousness (knowing faculty) in noting is the most important thing. Boy I haven't read this in a long time. emoticon I can definitely use some of the alternative noting styles. One always needs a reminder of good practice.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/2/13 1:23 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:
Try and note "joy" or "relief" when hindrances vanish. That should help with too much striving and increase tranquility which is a factor of awakening. Keep up the consistency which is needed.

Here's Gil Fronsdal's description of noting:

Gil Fronsdal - Noting

In contrast to most thinking, noting is not discursive. It does not involve analysis or judgment. Rather, we simply give our current experience a one-word label. For example, upon hearing a sound we note ‘hearing’ without thinking further about the sound. Other common mental notes are ‘seeing’, ‘touching’, ‘feeling’, and ‘thinking’.

Some experiences may be given more descriptive labels. For example, sensations may be noted as ‘warmth’, ‘coolness’, ‘pressure’, ‘tightness’, and so on. Emotions may be named: ‘happiness’, ‘sadness’, ‘excitement’, ‘fear’. Mental activity may be recognized as ‘wanting’, ‘planning’, ‘resisting’, and the like. With mindfulness of breathing a common note is ‘rising’ as the belly or chest lifts on the inhalation, and ‘falling’ as we exhale.

Usually, a specific note is repeated until the experience being noted disappears, is sufficiently acknowledged, or is no longer predominant.

Noting in meditation has many functions. The primary one is keeping the meditator present – sometimes it is called an ‘anchor’ to the present. The mind is less likely to wander off if one keeps up a steady stream of relaxed noting. If the mind does wander, the noting practice can make it easier to reestablish mindfulness.

Another function of noting is to better acknowledge or recognize what is occurring: the clearer one’s recognition, the more effective one’s mindfulness. Naming can strengthen recognition. Sometimes this can be a kind of truth-telling, when we are reluctant to admit something about ourselves or about what is happening.

A third function of noting is to help recognize patterns in one’s experience. A frequently-repeated note reveals a frequently-recurring experience. For example, persistent worriers may not realize it until they see how often they note ‘worry’.

And fourth, as described above, mental noting gives the thinking mind something to do rather than leaving it to its own devices.

A fifth function is disentangling us from being preoccupied or overly identified with experience. Noting can help us ‘step away’ so that we might see more clearly. For example, noting ‘wanting’ might pull us out of the preoccupation with something we want. This may not be immediate, but by repeatedly noting ‘wanting, wanting,’ one may be able to be aware of the wanting without being caught by it. As an antidote to drowning in strong emotion or obsessive thinking, mental noting is sometimes called a ‘life preserver’.

Noting can also help maintain a non-reactive form of attention. Calmly and equanimously noting what is happening, we are less likely to get caught up in emotional reactions. The stories of Mara, the god of temptation and distraction, visiting the Buddha illustrate this. The Buddha does not chase Mara away, nor does he give in. He simply looks at him directly and says, “Mara, I see you.” With this, Mara runs away. Similarly, noting ‘fear’ can be like saying, “Fear, I see you.” Noting helps us to see mindfully while remaining free of what we see.

The tone of the inner voice that notes may reveal less-than-equanimous reactions to what we are trying to be mindful of. The noting may sound harsh, bored, scared, hesitant, or excited, to name just a few possibilities. By noticing and adjusting the tone, we may become more balanced and equanimous.

Each person needs to find his or her own way of noting – it isn’t a fixed technique. And as circumstances change, how one notes may change. Sometimes, what is most useful is calmly noting everything one is being mindful of. Other times, noting may be useful when one is easily distracted but not when one is settled. Some people only use noting when being mindful of particular experiences, such as thinking or feeling emotions. Others limit their noting to naming only what is distracting. And some people find that it is never helpful to use mental noting; they prefer a more silent form of knowing.

The noting practice has a number of pitfalls. It can become rote or mechanical. When one notices this, it’s often useful to pause and relax before starting again. Another hazard is focusing too much on noting at the expense of being mindful. One version of this is the ‘check-list approach’ to mindfulness – one believes it is enough to simply note an experience. Noting is mostly a slight nudge to encourage mindfulness, so that attentiveness to the felt experience increases. Another pitfall is that noting may become an attempt to control or drive one’s experience instead of simply recognizing it. Or it may be used to create an artificial distance from experience: naming becomes a substitute for feeling. Relaxing and allowing the mindfulness to become more receptive can help with this.

Noting can become a hindrance to meditation if one starts thinking about what word to use. Sometimes beginners to mental noting are too concerned with the ‘right’ note. The most obvious label is good enough. If a vague note like “here” or “this” helps one stay present, it has fulfilled its primary function. While precision in noting can sometimes sharpen mindfulness and help with insight, there is no need to analyze one’s way to greater precision.

Some people find that as the mind becomes more peaceful in meditation they may need to adjust the relative ‘loudness’ or ‘intensity’ of the noting to keep it in harmony with the meditative stillness. As the mind becomes quieter, so should the mental noting. It can become a softer and softer whisper. At times words are no longer needed – a soft “hmm” may suffice.

A basic principle for the practice of mental noting is to use it when it is helpful and to avoid it when it is not. Mindfulness practice aims to cultivate awareness, insight and liberation. It can be quite satisfying when noting supports these aims. It can be a reminder that all of one’s faculties can be used in the service of freedom, including our cognitive functions such as naming our experience.


Using the consciousness (knowing faculty) in noting is the most important thing. Boy I haven't read this in a long time. emoticon I can definitely use some of the alternative noting styles. One always needs a reminder of good practice.


That's about as lucid and concise an explication of noting as I've read. Thanks for sharing it with me. I've printed it out and added it to my meditation notes binder.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/2/13 11:22 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
That's about as lucid and concise an explication of noting as I've read. Thanks for sharing it with me. I've printed it out and added it to my meditation notes binder.


No problem. I kind of got to that place already but it's nice to just use the consciousness knowing faculty and start noting faster when energy lags. Sometimes slow noting of mindstates at work is enough.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/5/13 12:33 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 02/01/13 - 2/04/2013

Length of Sit: 1st: 1 hour [12:30pm-1:30pm on 02/01]; 2nd: 1 hour [4pm-5pm on 02/01]; 3rd: 1 hour 30 min [2:30pm-4pm on 02/02]; 4th: 1 hour 20 min [2pm-3:20pm on 02/04]

Where/Posture: 1st: zafu; 2nd: 30 min zafu, 30 min chair; 3rd: zafu; 4th: zafu

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session: 1st: EQ; 2nd: EQ; 3rd:EQ; 4th: EQ

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Awareness of the breath, scanning, verbal noting, silent noting, noting the “ends” of sensations and phenomenon.

What Worked? What Didn’t?: During my first sit, I had a little trouble concentrating, so I used verbal noting. It worked extremely well this time. I found that it really kept me in present moment awareness. I noted with a firm, decisive voice. In the past, I’d try to whisper, as if speaking too loud would scare mindfulness away. But I’ve learned: Mindfulness can take it.

During my second sit, I had a little trouble concentrating, so I noted the ends of phenomenon and situation. For some reason, in the past, I never really got what this was about, or how to do it. But this time, it just clicked: Whatever it was that I was observing – a sound, a sensation, a feeling, or even a thought – I just keep observing it until it ended, and then I’d note “end.” And I just did this over and over again. Looking for stuff to end. This game my brain something interesting to do, and it kept it occupied, and it kept me smack dab in present moment awareness.

A productive day has indeed transpired when I learn how to utilize two effective techniques [which I’d had trouble with in the past] and I add them to my toolbox.

I wasn’t able to sit on Sunday, so I feel like I’ve lost momentum. Whether I really have or not, I’m not sure, as this feeling could just be psychosomatic. Nevertheless, I really don’t like to miss any days.

What Sensations/Phenomenon Arose, and How Were They Noted:
An example of noting ends: I’d hear a car driving by, and then I’d listen and listen until the very moment which I ceased hearing it, and at the precise moment I’d note “end.”

Goal(s) for Next Session: Continue to utilize noting “ends” and also verbal noting whenever I feel that my mindfulness if shoddy.

Get ready for my 3-day retreat coming up next week by building momentum.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/8/13 3:39 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
It has been a crazy week. Some big LIFE stuff happening. My brain has been flooded with planning thoughts, some degree of anxieties, etc. I've tried to be equanimous with it all. Sometimes I've been success, sometimes not so much. I may also be cycling more than typical lately: Down into some Dark Night stuff during the day for a bit, then up into EQ, then back down for a little visit, than back out, etc. Getting EQ in my sits helps create more stability for a while, but the Equanimity tends to burn off relatively quickly when the day's stress front comes roaring in. Nevertheless, I've been maintaining my practice. Stress/anxieties go way down to nonexistent/almost nonexistent levels after sitting a while.

In other news I've got a Goenka 3-day retreat coming up 02/13-02/17. I plan to meditate my ass off, noting n' stuff both on and off the cushion all day and night while conscious, etc. I'm really curious to see where I get with all the momentum I've built with 3 solid days of hardcore practice. I'm really stoked about the opportunity, to say the least. I've been making the most out of my daily practice, but it will be nice to have the full experience for a handful of days. I also have a 10-day in June. Considering how much progress I made last time, I really can't wait for the next 10-day, especially now that I've got more experience, etc.

1 hour 30 min [2-3:30am][02/05];
1 hour 30 min [3-4:30pm][02/05];

45 min [4-4:45am][02/06];
1 hour [2:30pm-3:30pm][02/06];

2 hours [2am-4am][02/07];
1 hour 30 min [3-4:30pm][02/07];

1 hour [1:30am-2:30am][02/08]

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/8/13 3:05 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Good luck with the retreat Alan. Will you be switching to a fully goenka body scanning practice once there? I have a 10 day coming up and am currently practicing choiceless awareness mostly, with some noting and am wondering whether a different technique might help or hinder progress.

I also experience a big difference between sitting in the evening and the day, its such a big difference for me that I feel it may be biochemical, feel like if all my sits were as 'strong' as my evening ones I would progress twice as fast!

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/8/13 11:03 PM as a reply to Scott P.
Scott P:
Good luck with the retreat Alan. Will you be switching to a fully goenka body scanning practice once there? I have a 10 day coming up and am currently practicing choiceless awareness mostly, with some noting and am wondering whether a different technique might help or hinder progress.

I also experience a big difference between sitting in the evening and the day, its such a big difference for me that I feel it may be biochemical, feel like if all my sits were as 'strong' as my evening ones I would progress twice as fast!


I have never been to a 3-day Goenka retreat, and therefore don't know what to expect, exactly. It is only for "old students," meaning, those who have completed at least 1 ten-day, so therefore I'm assumining they will not spend time giving instructions on the scanning technique. I'm guessing that they will either: 1) spend a half or full day (or so) doing anapanasati, to develop concentration, or 2) launch directly into vipassana.

I plan to practice anapanasati [focusing on the sensation of the breath as it enters and exists the nostrils] for however long they instruct. When I went on the 10-day, I found the four or so days we spent doing this were invaluable. When I go on the 10-day again, I plan to do this again, even though I now have a fairly rigerous daily practice.

In my daily practice, I use scanning almost every time. I find it a powerful technique for developing concentration and getting me up past A+P territory. Sometimes scanning gets me up into EQ territory, as well. It is an essential skill in my toolbox. I highly recomend learning it and utilizing it while on your retreat, and on your daily practice. See if you like it! It was scanning which gave me my first serious breakthroughs: Past the A+P and into High EQ territory, so I have a certain fondness and belief in the effectiveness of the technique.

That said, when I feel my focus straining to become wide, panoramic, and spacious, I will switch to noting or choiceless awareness. You can almost feel the focus pulling farther and father back. When your concentration is strong, and you are getting into 4th vipassana jhana territory or formless realm territory, then it no longer makes sense to scan, since the body becomes very abstract, and almost far away feeling. Your focus wants to pay attention to the ocean of pulsing sensations/phenomenon. At this point, either noting or choiceless awareness works. Folks seem to use either. I switch, depending on what feels most productive. If your mind feels bright and strong and focused, then noting isn't really necessary, as noting simply helps you stay present moment aware.

Oh, and yeah, it's weird. During my morning sit, sometimes it will take me 45 or 50 minutes to get into a solid EQ. At night, sometimes it feels almost effortless, and I'll get into a deep EQ within ten or fifteen minutes. I have no explanation for this. I do tend to be a night person, though. I love nighttime. I love the feeling of freedom I get when I can just read, watch movies, think, meditate, or whatever, all while the rest of humanity sleeps. I feel peaceful and most alive at night. It is MY time. Daytime is for business. Nighttime is for dreamers. This probably plays some part in my meditation cycles...

The best to you in your practice!!

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/12/13 4:58 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Best of luck in your retreat, Alan!

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/13/13 12:22 AM as a reply to PP.
Pablo . P:
Best of luck in your retreat, Alan!


Thank you kindly, my brother. I'll report all the shenanigan's when I return!

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/17/13 10:51 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Cool, yeah I'm definitely going to go along with the instructions there and am excited about learning a new technique. I just think I might find it strange to just practice concentration for 4 days, and maybe might even lose some momentum. My concentration is pretty dire tho so maybe its for the best!

During most of my sits these days feelings of the body arent very strong like you mentioned and i'm mostly drawn to swirling/moving/drifting etc sensations in my visual field/mind... might just have to roll with that when it comes up?

Hope your retreat went well, please do share!

Oh and I always thought I was a morning person!

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/20/13 1:23 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Three-Day Retreat Summary [Wart n' all] [Note: All relations to persons living or dead is purely coincidental]

So, on 02/13 I went to the Illinois Vipassana Center in Pecatonica, IL [a Goenka center], meditated for roughly ten or eleven hours a day for three days, and then returned home on 02/17.

Here is what happened...

But first, I have to discuss what happened before I went on the retreat. At around 3am early Tuesday morning, I thought that maybe I'd gotten stream entry. I'd practiced for an hour on the zafu, and then switched to a chair. I'd been practicing for about thirty minutes when I had some strange experiences. My brain told me that it was stream entry. When I came out of it, I'd thought that I'd fallen asleep, and dreamt that I'd gotten stream. Then I wondered if I'd been meditating in my sleep and possible gotten stream in my sleep. Or perhaps it wasn't sleep, but a deep deep EQ? Regardless, I didn't put too much stock in it and went to bed. The next day in the afternoon, I decided to meditate again and, if I was able to induce a fruition, I'd know if it had been stream. About an hour in, I suddenly experienced a staccato of flashes, and a feeling of falling into a void. Was this a fruition? Wait, had I fallen asleep again?

At work, I eagerly anticipated leaving and getting home so I could try, once again, to induce a fruition. Did I feel different? Was my perspective different? I wasn't sure. Once I got home, however, I'd be able to figure out if it was for realsies. After getting home and practicing again, however, I found I was unable to induce a fruition. I hadn't gotten stream. I was all a false alarm.

I then had the retreat the very next day. I felt disappointed, and a little stupid, but decided that I had to rally quickly. It was important to make the most out of the retreat experience. I couldn't let this misunderstanding effect that.

So I drove to the center and registered and unpacked. Upon walking down the familiar paths of the center, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the Goenka folks. What they did was a great service. I determined to make the most out of the opportunity. We took the vow of silence [Noble Silence], and, the next day at 3:55am, the retreat began.

Let me preface this by stating that my normal hours are such that I work until around 10pm. I usually eat dinner around midnight. I relax for a bit, and then meditate for an hour or so, and then crash typically around 5am...

And now I was waking UP at 3:55am.

And eating my last meal at 11am, which is usually when I am having my breakfast coffee.

Let's just say that, on retreat, my rhythms were thrown into disarray, and I didn't have much time to adjust. I was unable to fall asleep, and ended up getting only two hours of sleep. Then I got exhaustively tired in the morning, when I normally sleep. I got severe hunger pangs at night [when I normally eat my primary and biggest meal], which further made it difficult to sleep.

Nevertheless, I went to every session, more or less.

But these are some hardcore sessions! I can easily sit for one hour on my zafu, but when you sit two hours, or two and a half hours, it is a different matter. I started having pain in my knees. Sit for an hour, take a five minute break, sit for another hour, etc. No walking meditations. All sitting.

I started to notice something else: I became very judgmental of those around me. Here is an exact excerpt from some notes I took while having insomnia:

"The men here are a miserable representation of the species. My roomate is like an Indian version of Woody Allen from his early films but without the humor and charm, just spastic and awkward. I saw him drop an entire cube of cornbread on the floor. Then he tried to take a drink of water and poured it down his shirt. Then, when unable to locate the macaroni and cheese listed on the menu, I heard him emit a whimper/whine. He always seems to be taking a shit in the bathroom during my agreed upon shower time. And when I pass his door, sometimes he'll retreat back in, pulling the door shut slightly, like a crab scared back into its hole."

I started labeling the people around my. For instance, the "Cro-Magnon Man," who, to me, with his sloped forehead, exactly reminded me of those wax figures of cavemen I often saw at the Field Museum as a kid. During lunch, his eyes occasionally met mine, and it appeared to me that he wanted to pick and eat fleas off of me.

Again, from my notes: "During sits, the Cro-Magnon Man yawns constantly and incessantly. At one point, I was so distracted, I started counting the seconds in between his yawns. I shit you not, he yawned every 15 to 25 seconds. And not a polite, muffled yawn, but a loud full blooded yawn, followed by lip smacking, some saliva slurping, and occasionally a burp or two."

Another guy whose mere presence started irritating me was a bloke who "looked like he should have been on the Adam's family. He was tall, over six foot, gaunt, angular face, black floppy hair parted to the side, balding at the crown, really wide slumped shoulders tapering down into the smallest most non-existent ass I've ever seen [whose non-existence was accentuated by the silver jogging pants he wore every day]. With his black floppy hair, he also strikes me as looking like a long lost member of the Ramones, who became totally strung out on drugs, and now lives in a perceptually eternal succession of Goenka retreats." [Note: In this last regard I wasn't too far off. As it turns out, he claims to have attended roughly eighteen ten-day Goenka retreats, but possibly more. He'd lost count.]

There were three hippes on the retreat. All of whom: 1) wore flannel, 2) goofy yarn hats, and 3) had beards. I also wrote this in my notes: "Beware hippies chatting you up before a retreat. Especially if they are smiling like lunatics and appear to be trying to charm you. Be especially wary if you ask them where they live, and they say something like 'I'm in transition,' or 'I live on the road,' or something to that effect. They are probably trying to land a mark to get a ride somewhere after the retreat. Thus all the schmoozing."

There was also a guy who constantly tried sitting in different postures: a zafu, a bench, a chair, etc. Constantly, constantly moving around. Of course I felt enormously superior to him, with my simple and elegant zafu [except that my knees felt like they were about to snap].

What I realized was that, as important as Noble Silence is to a retreat, it has its shadow side, which is that when people cannot communicate with each other -- either verbally or non-verbally -- then tend to become distilled down into their most annoying attributes. At least this seems to be the case with me. All these descriptions, you may notice, are of men. This is simply because, at the Goenka centers you are segregated by sex. I have heard that the flip-side of distilling people into their negative attributes is the "vipassana romance," in which someone becomes enormously idealized in one's brain, and all kinds of sexual and attractive attributes projected onto them. I could easily see how this could happen.

On night two I found myself racked with disturbing thoughts about the human body, and my body in particular. I obsessed about illness and sickness. I couldn't get these things out of my mind. It suddenly occurred to me -- after a long long while, mind you, I think the next morning in the pre-dawn hours -- that I was in the Dark Night. Particularly Disgust and Desire for Deliverance. But how was this possible!? In my daily at home practice, I rarely if ever get Dark Night stuff, and regularly get Equanimity, and even High Equanimity! I thought that while on retreat, I'd be getting EQ every sit, and possibly have a breakthrough. But what happened was that I slid back. Why?

I think I slid back because, well, if you are at home and you are sitting and you have to take a shit, you simply get up, shit, and then return to the cushion. But on retreat, particularly on Goenka, you aren't supposed to move. If I find that I have to go to the bathroom, my mind start racing: "God this is painful. How long has it been? Can I make it until the end of the sit? My stomach is making crazy sounds. Can everyone hear? If I get up, everyone will think I suck. I'll be embarrassed before the entire group. Maybe even the Student Manager will chase me down and ask why I'm leaving. He may even tell me to come back. Ahhhh! I am in hell!" Your sit is now ruined.

Or, at home if your legs start hurting, you can simply change position, sit on a chair, lie down, etc., do whatever you need to do to become comfortable to maintain the integrity of the practice. But on a Goenka retreat, you aren't supposed to move. So you tend to experience a lot of pain which can pull you down in the DK stuff.

Also, as you can tell, the other people can distract and annoy you as well, with their burping and yawning and farting and shifting and just about everything they do-ness.

At home, you can create optimal conditions for a sit. If you are uncomfortable, you move. You can have silence, darkness, adjust the temperature, etc., whereas on retreat, you have to adjust to conditions as they are, and abide by the rules and dictates of the retreat, which means that, as in my case, I fell back in my practice to lower nanas than I get while at home.

I became annoyed that I saw the Student Manages slumping in his meditation chair, sleeping. I became annoyed at the female Student Manager who constantly and loudly cleared her throat in a loud staccato, like a machine gun. I became distracted by the phlegmy snot suckers and the flabby gaseous bowels and the high pitched tight-assed farts.

In the morning after my Digust trip, I decided the only thing to do was go to the hall at 4:30am and meditate my ass off. If there is anything I've learned from MCToB and the DhO, etc., it is that you need to work your way through Dark Night stuff. And that means getting that ass on the cushion, and noting noting noting the despair, misery, disgust, mind-states, etc. And that is what I did.

I went to the hall. The early morning sits are my favorite anyway. Almost no-one is there. It is still dark out. There is a rich, deep quality to the meditation hall at this time. So I meditated, meditated, meditated. First I did anapana. Goenka had stated that anapana is the knife which cuts through the knots of the mind. I did this a while and then started noting my ass off. I noted the anxiety and disgust. A few hours later, I came out of it. I went outside. Dawn was emerging. It was beautiful and cold. I felt like I'd been on a struggle to the death, but survived. I'd gotten out of it. If I got nothing else out of the retreat, I felt that just winning this battle would be enough. A real victory. The Dark Night stuff reminded me of years ago, having a "bad trip." It has felt very similar. As Hunter Thompson had put it, an "introspective nightmare." Whereby stuff we normally shrug off becomes fraught with existential implication, and the locus of a deep crisis. I suddenly wondered if those ol' bad trips had been Dark Night related. It felt plausible.

My conclusion is that retreats probably produce a lot of Dark Night nanas in people, even folks who don't normally get it in their civilian life and practice.

So I felt revitalized. After breakfast I walked down to the ponds. The center had become occupied by literally hundreds of geese. The ponds on the property were heated, and the geese were obviously attracted to this. The geese tolerated their human interlopers, if only slightly. Geese are ungainly and bulky people, always getting into raucous shenanigans, and going berserk with their trumpet-like honkings. I enjoyed their presence to no end.

So I walked amongst the geese and was observing them when I noticed something which shocked me: A goose, swimming in the pond, WITH AN ARROW THROUGH ITS BUTT. The neon green arrow was stuck completely through the goose's hindquarters. I broke Noble Silence and told the Student Manager about it. He told me that this goose had been there for two months and Wildlife Services could not catch it. He could fly, and appeared to be unperturbed by the arrow. The wound appeared to be a flesh-wound, which had healed around the arrow, and didn't seriously affect the goose's mobility. He also said the kitchen staff fed it regularly.

All this disturbed the hell out of me. I wondered how the shooter would like to be pierced by an arrow and forced to live with it for the rest of his days. Negative thoughts about hunters, and people who take pleasure in hurting other less defenseless beings filled my mind. Sick fucks! I felt enormous gratitude to the Goenka people for caring for the creature. I then went back to the hall and meditated on dukkha. After a while, the goose came to represent something different in my mind: "A buddha. Happy and contented despite the seemingly terrible affliction." I then began to wonder if the other geese thought that the arrow was a beautiful tail, and worshiped him. Or if the goose treated the arrow like a really punk rock piercing. After meditating, I went out and looked for the goose again. It was gone. He'd flown away and I didn't see it him for the rest of the retreat.

I jerked off a total of two times. The first time was not for pleasure, but for the hope it would help me fall asleep the night I had insomnia. It didn't by the way. The second time was due to sheer boredom. I'm a terrible Buddhist.

The food at a Goenka center is delicious. Wonderful! But is also makes me very gassy. The Beano I brought was only of marginal help.

After breaking Noble Silence, I made the unnerving discovery that nine out of ten of the people who I'd thought were the dregs of humanity were in fact intelligent, kind and sweet, and much more interesting than I'd previously given them credit for. Sometimes I found myself deliberately trying to avoid talking to people, because there is a part of me which wanted them to remain caricatures. Nevertheless, Indian Woody Allen? Smart and thoughtful. He was struggling with a bad back. Cro-Magnon man? Sweet and works at a university. Sleeping Student Manager Guy? Charismatic and an old student of Shinzen Young. Hippies? Told me about their DMT experiences with shamans, which was fascinating.

One out of ten times, however, people ARE just as bad as you thought. Worse, even. The ex-Ramone was one of these. He was as tiresome as he looked.

After breaking Noble Silence, I had my best sit of the retreat, my "fuck yeah" sit, and it was one of the last sits of the retreat. I finally got into High EQ territory. Wouldn't it be ironic if I got stream now, I thought? I noted the thought. I didn't get stream.

Was it a coincidence that my best sit came after breaking Noble Silence, and the atmosphere lightened a bit? I don't know, but I don't think so. If my good final sit was indicative of a new trend of equanimous sits, it would have meant that, had I been on a ten-day retreat, I'd now have seven more days to explore the territory. As it stood, however, it was now time to go home...

My conclusion is that, well, the first three days of a retreat is usually the roughest: adjusting to the schedule, the environment. the people, the etc. Once you finally get used to all this, on a three-day, it is now time to go home. On the ten-day, it was around day four or so that I started to notice some real changes and progress. I don't think I'll be doing a three-day again in a retreat-like setting. A three-day solo retreat might be very productive, but when doing it at a center, with the inevitable fallback, you are just getting into interesting territory when it is time to leave. I'm probably going to still take a ten-day in June, but I'm considering doing a solo retreat. But, to be frank, it is cheaper to do the Goenka than get a motel room for ten days. Just the plain and simple truth of my current situation.

If I got anything else out of the retreat, it was this: Super intensive noting works great. Don't scan vs note, just note intensely, in a directed way, bit by bit. Then broaden the focus out. It doesn't always have to be undirected noting. Also, note or describe in great detail that which the focus gets directed towards. Regardless of what the object is doing, describe it. Describe exactly what is, in as much detail as possible. Also, it is okay to think, just note the thoughts. Also also, intensely note whatever the mind is doing or not doing. Investigate. Don't just note objects which appear into the forefront of awareness. Note unremarkable things as well.

When I got home on Sunday I dedicated the entire day to my girlfriend. We talked and laughed and made love and ate at Flat Top Grill. We celebrated my birthday, which was the next day. It was great. Full of love. I was also extremely tired and fatigued. I came down with a cold. On Monday and Tuesday, my cold got worse. My sleeping and eating schedule was out of wack. I went to a doctor's appointment, did my taxes, did laundry and unpacked and did chores around the house. I called my ma and dad. I watched Dances with Wolves and then Street Trash. I worked. I wrote this report. I took a couple days off from meditating. I needed the break. But now I'm ready to jump back into the fray. It's all we can do, us vipassana junkies. Just make sure you note it...

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/20/13 12:24 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan,

Been following your practice log of late and enjoy your writing style. I am a pre-stream entry yogi as well. This entry was great. I laughed out loud several times. Enjoyed the humanity. I'm sure it is somewhat common, but caricatures that develop over a retreat can be so funny. Thanks for sharing. Dan

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/20/13 8:32 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan that was an amazing post emoticon nice one.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/21/13 9:52 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Hi Alan,

I also like your thread. It's motivating and you indeed have a good writing style.

On Goenka retreats. Have you not had access to an individual meditation cell? They give it to 'old' students, and in my experience it's really very conducive to 'good' meditation. This, to me, counter-balances the negatives of the Goenka retreats you mentioned. (It's true though that I have never been to any other retreat than the Goenka type.)

As for the sitting position and pain, I agree that one naturally experiences more phyisical pain at a Goenka retreat than off-retreat because of the almost continuous sitting. But I think one can change sitting position and this can help. I'm not talking about changing continuously pose - which btw can be quite disturbing for the others - but simply being able to draw the line between equanimously observing one's physical sensations and self-torturing. Off-retreat, I always sit in the same cross-legged position and rarely have serious physical pain (I sit 2x1 hour per day). On retreat, most of the time I use the cross-legged pose and occasionally switch to another where I put my soles next to each other on the floor, close to my butt, and wrap my arms around my knees/legs.

As for seeing other people in more negative light during the Noble Silence part of the retreat than in the last day, I tend to agree. But I also have the impression that there are some people who are indeed strange. In my last retreat, one of my roommates, who also sat next to me in the main hall, was constantly burping and yawning. Moreover, during nightimes he practiced some strange breath exercise which I named in myself as nose-masturbation. One night I broke the Noble Silence and asked him to stop. He stopped. For a while... In the last day he explained that he hadn't even noticed that he had been doing that. I still think that this was BS. (Though I probably should have just asked the course manager to put me in a different room without breaking NS and disturbing my roommate.) My other roommate started doing a quite loud yoga-type breathing exercise during group sittings in the last few days. He later explained that it'd come spontaneously, though he admitted that he had not follow the practice instructions. I don't think that being sensitive to and disturbed by this during retreat is entirely the product of being in the Dark Night. After all, Goenka himself emphasises that we should not disturb the others - he must have a reason for this.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/21/13 11:19 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Hey, you may well write a stand up comedy monologue with all you and other fellow DhO posters retreat experiences: real or imaginary grotesque yogis, un-enlightened coaches looking down on attendants reports, complaining about the shitty food emoticon A friend of mine did several Goenka retreats and he couldn't believe how a guy yelled to the coach complaining about the "toxic shit food" they were serving!

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/21/13 11:31 AM as a reply to Zed Z.
Zed Z:
Hi Alan,

I also like your thread. It's motivating and you indeed have a good writing style.

On Goenka retreats. Have you not had access to an individual meditation cell? They give it to 'old' students, and in my experience it's really very conducive to 'good' meditation. This, to me, counter-balances the negatives of the Goenka retreats you mentioned. (It's true though that I have never been to any other retreat than the Goenka type.)

As for the sitting position and pain, I agree that one naturally experiences more phyisical pain at a Goenka retreat than off-retreat because of the almost continuous sitting. But I think one can change sitting position and this can help. I'm not talking about changing continuously pose - which btw can be quite disturbing for the others - but simply being able to draw the line between equanimously observing one's physical sensations and self-torturing. Off-retreat, I always sit in the same cross-legged position and rarely have serious physical pain (I sit 2x1 hour per day). On retreat, most of the time I use the cross-legged pose and occasionally switch to another where I put my soles next to each other on the floor, close to my butt, and wrap my arms around my knees/legs.

As for seeing other people in more negative light during the Noble Silence part of the retreat than in the last day, I tend to agree. But I also have the impression that there are some people who are indeed strange. In my last retreat, one of my roommates, who also sat next to me in the main hall, was constantly burping and yawning. Moreover, during nightimes he practiced some strange breath exercise which I named in myself as nose-masturbation. One night I broke the Noble Silence and asked him to stop. He stopped. For a while... In the last day he explained that he hadn't even noticed that he had been doing that. I still think that this was BS. (Though I probably should have just asked the course manager to put me in a different room without breaking NS and disturbing my roommate.) My other roommate started doing a quite loud yoga-type breathing exercise during group sittings in the last few days. He later explained that it'd come spontaneously, though he admitted that he had not follow the practice instructions. I don't think that being sensitive to and disturbed by this during retreat is entirely the product of being in the Dark Night. After all, Goenka himself emphasises that we should not disturb the others - he must have a reason for this.


You know, it's funny, the thing about the private meditation cell: When I went on my 10-day back in June 2012, the experience I had was that every time I made a "breakthrough," I was in the meditation hall, not my private room. For instance, when I first passed the A+P, I was in the hall; when I first got to High EQ, I was in the hall; after dropping down in to Dark Night for two days, when I finally emerged into a consistent EQ was while struggling with pain in the hall. The times I stayed in me room, however, I almost question if I'd wasted those times. I think it was "too" relaxing there, with me meditating on the bed, back against the wall, etc. I had my zabuton in there, but I guess with all the leg pain already the idea of sitting-cross legged on the floor in my cell felt like defeating the purpose and opportunity of sitting alone in the cell, which was to give my legs a rest. But as a result, my best sits were always in the hall, which is why, this time, I really tried to sit in there as often as possible. I know one can get a chair to sit in, but you have to "formally request" it, and I am always reticent to do that for some reason, plus, I don't want to be one of those "chair people," and therefore I end up putting myself in more pain, probably unnecessarily so.

Yes, on my 10-day there were some "interesting" people as well. My first 10-day, I was lucky enough to get a private room [always register on the 1st day!], but I hear some interesting stories from guys who were in bunk bed rooms. One guy told me his roomie talked in his sleep, but not just that, he made formal addresses, as if trying to get your attention, which woke you up even more. For instance, he'd repeat "Dude. Dude. Dude!", or "Hey bro!, Bro! Bro!!, Hey bro!"

On that first retreat, there had been a weird breather as well. The guy directly behind me, like you said, on the last few days, started doing this frantic rapid nose breathing thingy. Like a dog panting really hard through the nose. The Student Manager had to come and ask him to relax his breathing. Later he claimed to not be able to help it. At the time I wondered if he was trying to deal with extreme pain. Now I wonder if it wasn't a kind of yogic fire breathing or something. But Daniel also mentions that weird breathing patterns can emerge in the early nanas.

The most annoying guy on that particular retreat was who I'd dubbed "Phlem Boy." Here is an account of our first meeting, from my notes. This was the first morning of the retreat: "It was 4am, misty and cool, beautiful. The light just coming out on the horizon. I walked towards the meditation hall, and was pervaded by a deep sense of peace and tranquility. The hall sat silently between three small ponds, and was accessed by a little bridge. I felt truly happy. Just then, the door opened to the hall, and a guy stepped out. He hocked a huge snot filled lugy, and spat it onto the grass, then went back inside. My utopian moment was ruined. This was "Phlem Boy." For the rest of the 10 days he would be a constant source of hacking, snorting, wheezing, and snot sucking at the back of the hall. Many times my mind would scream: "This guy is clearly sick. Why don't they tell him to leave!? If I catch his disease, my retreat is going to be ruined!" He would always skip the first 2 hour sit, staying, presumably to sleep in his room, and I'd find him first in line for breakfast, having waited outside the dining hall for the bell, while I meditated. It always irked me to see him grabbing the food before him, as he never bothered to sterilize his hands with the disinfectant hand stuff. This guy would be a thorn in my side for the entire retreat. One time he broke Noble Silence with a fart. One time he barfed on the grass."

Food-stuff was a real source of annoyance: "The guy next to me this morning slurps everything, whether it is cereal, tea, or the wallpaper-glue oatmeal. This morning, Phlem Boy ran past me in the food line and into the bathroom to retch. He then came back into line with heave moistened eyes to slather his illness all over the buffet table. I've noticed that two guys on this retreat -- Big Black Guy and Little Dweeby White Guy -- both wear those sandals with the toes build into them. Awful. Whoever invented instant coffee must be bound into a thousand lifetimes of samsara! Are people looking down at me for eating too much? I don't know. Goenka said that if you normally eat one plate in the outside world, then eat three quarters a plate while on retreat. We'll just let people imagine that I normally eat four plates while in the outside world, so that two here is very austere."

Looking through my notes, apparently my roommate last time annoyed me as well. Here is a brief excerpt: "My roommate produces huge piles of long, thick, wiry body hair, which I find all over the bathroom stuck to everything, for instance, the shower wall, or on the floor, later to be found on my feet from having stepped on them. Note: In comparison MY body hair is positively thin and soft and luxurious.

At the time, when asked to explain to others what the experience was like, I told them that it was best understood as mixing some of the qualities of a utopian socialist commune, a boot camp, a lunatic asylum, and a cult [admittedly, a cult you WANT to be indoctrinated into, but the qualities of systematic indoctrination are there].

And let me remind everyone that overall I had a very positive experience on my 10-day! I made real progress there. My notes make a distinct turn around day four and almost all of it starts to focus on the phenomenology of the practice from that point forward, with just a lil' gripping thrown in from time to time...

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/26/13 9:28 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
So, last week was kinda crazy. I came back from the 3-day retreat and I was totally burnt. And then as the week progressed I went from totally burnt to totally fried. This was due to a confluence of factors which include, but are not limited to, lots of work, lots of meditatin', thinking that I maybe got stream, realizing that I didn't have stream, going on retreat. getting very little sleep on said retreat, getting sick the day I returned home and then remaining sick all week, celebrating my birthday [two times], going to doctor appointments, getting ready for and then attending an educator's job fair, making some initial steps towards possibly moving this June, getting my computer back from repair and getting all that in order, doing a deep cleaning to the apartment, etc.

So what it comes down to is that I took a short break from meditating. I needed to just chill for a bit. And frankly, get other life stuff done. It isn't that I didn't meditate at all last week, I just did about 1/4 what I was doing before. Maybe less.

BUT NOW I'M BACK! And ready to ride this horse all the way to stream.

And I do have something pretty amazing to report. I worked with my first meditation teacher, and it was a fantastic experience. I Skyped with Jigme Sengye, who I connected with via this site. I'd been impressed with some of his posts in the past [to the point where I printed some of them out and put them in my meditation notebook], and when he offered on the forum to give some consultations to yogis, I leapt at the opportunity. I am very grateful for his generosity and expertise.

It was an important session, because it was the first time I've ever received formal "noting" training. I've been given formal in Goenka's scanning technique while on retreat, but I've never actually worked with someone on noting. I was very glad for the experience, because, frankly, my noting was all over the place. I'd always felt that I needed to improve my noting skills, and now I have the foundation to do so. I was given instruction in what is called "The Four Foundations Noting." It is a very formalized structure based on the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, and I believe the incarnation I learned was initially developed by Kenneth Folk.

So now, in my current practice, I am going to work on strengthening my noting practice. In the mornings I am going to practice each foundation separately for about 15 minutes each, and then, if I have time, about 30 minutes with them integrated. And then in the evenings I will go whole hog and practice the entire session with all the foundations integrated. Practicing the foundations separately is an initial training practice to help develop proficiency and fluidity with the technique. I will probably only do it for about a month, and then switch to full integrating for each practice.

Here are some notes I wrote, based on my session with Jigme. Practice notes to follow:

Four Foundation Noting aka Bare Sensation Noting

1) Body Sensations [anything related to eyes, ears, taste, touch, smell]: pressure, coolness, warmth, tightness, contraction, release, pulsation, itch, stinging, pulsing, throbbing, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, etc.

2) Feeling-Tones: Pleasant, unpleasant, neutral

3) Mind-States [aka emotions]: happiness, investigation, curiosity, irritation, calm, self-pity, dullness, anxiety, excitement, anger, restless, judgmental, craving, aversion, etc.

4) Objects of Mind [aka thoughts]: intending thought, planning thought, memory thought, image thought, speculating thought, wondering thought, questioning thought, fantasy thought, recrimination thought, rehearsing thought, etc.

The Theory:

In contrast to most thinking, noting does not involve analysis, judgment, narrative, and, as much as possible, no craving and aversion. It should be an impartial, objective cataloging of the sensations or phenomenon which makes up our moment to moment experience.

GET AWAY FROM CONSCIOUS INVESTIGATION. Don’t worry about consciously investigating/ identifying the 3-Characteristics. Don’t consciously try to disembed. If you use the technique of noting bare sensations, then you ARE investigating the 3-Characteristics, and you ARE disembedding [but without the all intentionality and narrativizing]. It is almost a mechanical process. Learn the technique and apply it, and the present moment awareness of the bare sensations which results will get you there.

Practice and practice the technique until pulling up the “labels” become effortless. That way, less thoughts get used “trying to figure out the right label,” etc., and more awareness can be focused on being aware of the sensations which arise and pass away in the present moment.

Avoid noting Processes. Note Bare Sensations:

For bare sensations noting, as much as possible, avoid noting processes [Definition of process: a collection of sensations taking place over a continuum of time, connected in the yogi’s mind by a narrative explanation]. That is getting lost in content. Note the sensations which make up that process. For instance, don’t note “swallow,” but cool, pressure, flow, etc., whatever occurs.

Noting processes [for example, “opening the door,” or “putting on my pants”] is okay at those times when, due to distractions, it is nearly impossible to focus on bare sensations -- while at work, for example. Process noting is better than not noting at all, and, as a result, losing all present moment awareness. Nevertheless, always strive for bare sensations noting, since processes always involve more content.

Also, as much as possible, note the sensation, not the object being sensed. For instance, note “hearing,” as opposed to car horn, or “sweet,” as opposed to cake, etc.

Try not to note something AFTER it has occurred. Retroactive noting, or retcon noting, so to speak. If something occurs, and you missed noting it, then note the RESULTS of that 1st phenomenon.

It is useful to practice noting the four foundations separately. For instance, one hour of four separate fifteen minute sessions each focusing on a different foundation [and then, later, one hour integrating them all]. Or, four different ten minutes sessions each focusing on a different foundation, and then forty-five minutes or an hour of them all integrated.

Multi-Part Noting:

To get more traction – Definition of traction: engaged satisfaction – in one’s noting, a yogi can try couplet noting, or triplet noting, or quadruplet noting.

For instance, body sensations AND feeling-tones.

Or body sensations AND feeling-tones AND mind-states.

Or body sensations AND feeling-tones AND mind-states AND thoughts.

Assorted Technical Tips:

It doesn’t matter what you note – for example, gross, intensified sensations, or subtle sensations – as long as you note continuously and you note something that you are actually experiencing. The usual set of instructions is to note the most obvious sensation that you are feeling.

There is no need to force a fast pace. The key is to just hit whatever shows up when it is there, and not get side tracked by thoughts.

There is nothing wrong with thinking, as long as you note the thinking.

Do more verbal noting. Also, Ping-Pong noting.

Develop the flexibility to know when to drop noting in exchange for choiceless awareness [for instance, in High EQ].

How often you notice and then note a particular foundation [sensations, feeling-tones, mind-states, objects of mind] depends on such factors as concentration, mindfulness, insight stage, etc. It is not unusual, however to skew heavily towards sensations: for instance, 90% sensations, and then the last 10% comprised of feeling-tones, emotions, and thoughts.

The Function of Noting:

1) It is a tool for keeping a yogi present moment aware;
2) It is a tool for penetrating seemingly “solid” sensations and phenomenon;
3) It is a tool for developing a non-reactive form of attention, or an equanimous attention, of scientific-type objectivity;
4) It is a tool for disembedding from sensations and phenomenon;
5) It is a tool for focusing awareness towards the 3-Characteristics of all sensations and phenomenon;
6) It is a tool for recognizing patterns in one’s experience, and ultimately, the patterns which comprise the insight stages;
7) It is a tool for creating traction.


RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/27/13 3:40 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
After a few more practice sessions using the Four Foundations noting, here are some additional thoughts/notes I've made on the practice...

As one begins to practice Four Foundations noting, it is useful to start with one’s notations being as simple as possible. Not so simple that everything is dat, dat, dat, but a simplified version of the Four Foundations: for example,

1) For Sense Doors: sensation;
2) For Feeling Tones: pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral;
3) For Mind-States: emotion;
4) For Objects of Mind: thought.

Keep in mind that, in the end, the function of the noting – in regards to its detail, specificity, or descriptiveness – should be: 1) to create traction [engaged satisfaction] with the practice; and 2) be a tool to help recognize mind/body patterns.

If certain sensations, mind-states, or thoughts appear with persistent regularity, and one feels dissatisfied with a simplified notation being utilized to signify that particular sensation and/or phenomenon, then create a more specific, descriptive, or detailed notation for that sensation/phenomenon.

Dissatisfaction with a notation could be the result of 1) weak traction [it isn’t sufficiently interesting a descriptor], and/or 2) the realization that the simplified notation system is limiting the yogi’s ability to recognize patterns.

Notations, after a reasonable amount of practice, should easily be recallable instantaneously the instant a particular sensation and/or phenomenon arises and passes: Notations should never become so baroque, complex, or excessively detailed that present moment awareness is sacrificed in order to think of the “right” notation.

Only make your system of notations as complex as is necessary to retain sufficient traction to perform the practice, and to gain insight into the processes of the mind/body. Always strive however, for simplicity.

My List of Notations [subject to change and development]

Sensations
Ears: hearing, listening
Nose: smelling
Taste: tasting
Eyes: seeing, observing, light, dark, color , flickering, pulsing
Touch: pressure, contraction, tightness, release, warmth, cold, dry, wet, itch, pinch, tingling, throbbing, crawling, twitch, vibration, pulsation, “sensation”

Feeling Tones:
pleasant
unpleasant
neutral

Mind-States [aka emotions]:
happy
calm
equanimous
spacious
dukkha
dull
sleep
anxious
startled
noticing
craving
averse

Objects of Mind [aka thoughts]:
theorizing
narrativising
speculating
questioning
judging
planning
fantasizing
memory
image
dream
anticipating
intending
dukkha
chattering

Misc: Occasionally, we are “startled” by an unexpected sensation and/or phenomenon. It is okay to quickly give it whatever notation most quickly arises in the mind. Also, sometimes a phenomenon doesn’t seem sufficiently signified by a notation which describes only one of its elements. In this case a “process” notation can be used. For example, occasionally I’d get gas bubbles burbling throughout my abdomen. Noting it as pressure, or something never seemed right. So now I just note it as “gas.” Or, when swallowing, I tried stuff like “cool,” but it always left me dissatisfied, so now I just note “swallow.” While striving to describe only “bare sensations,” in the words of Daniel Ingram, it is also important not to get too neurotic about this stuff. In the end, whatever creates traction and allows you to note patterns in the present moment is fine, just fine.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/26/13 3:19 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee, Jigme Sengye:

Try not to note something AFTER it has occurred. Retroactive noting, or retcon noting, so to speak. If something occurs, and you missed noting it, then note the RESULTS of that 1st phenomenon.

It is useful to practice noting the four foundations separately. For instance, one hour of four separate fifteen minute sessions each focusing on a different foundation [and then, later, one hour integrating them all]. Or, four different ten minutes sessions each focusing on a different foundation, and then forty-five minutes or an hour of them all integrated.


There's lot of gems in your notes, but these ones are just what I'm needing now. I was trying to note pairs and triplets without having done the foundation exercises first... I owe both of you big time! emoticon


.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/27/13 10:45 AM as a reply to PP.
Date and Length of Sit
02/26: 1 hour 20 min [2:10pm – 3:30pm]

Where/Posture:
02/26: zafu

Pre-Meditative Context:
It has been frustrating to me that, strangely enough, I still haven’t fully rebounded/recovered from the Goenka retreat [waking up at 3:55am each morning]. For instance, I’m having trouble staying away for my usual late night sits [usually my most productive sit]. I’ve been falling asleep much earlier, and when I have managed to get my ass on the cushion after work at say 2:30am, I’ve been drowsy and dull. Last night I drank a full can of Monster, and then promptly fell asleep. This probably hasn’t been helped by there being a number of mornings recently which required me to wake up extra early, for instance Monday when I attended an educator’s job fair. My hope is that soon I’ll be staying awake longer, and I’ll be more awake during those hours. Night is usually a good time for me ‘cause my lovely girlfriend is asleep, no-one is calling me or needing me, the day’s responsibilities are done, etc.

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized:
Four Foundations Noting. 10 minutes sensations, 10 minutes feeling tones, 10 minutes mind-states, 10 minutes thoughts, and then 40 all-together. [The idea being that I do this in the morning, and then my night sit will be a full blown Four Foundations all-together session].

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session:
Not sure. I may have been getting into EQ territory towards the end of the “all together” 40 minute session, but I’m not sure.

General Thoughts/Reflections:
I’ve been working on Four Foundations noting, which is basically new to me. After a few practice sessions, I realized that it would be helpful to formally develop the notations, so that I wasn’t wasting cushion time trying to figure out the “right” notation. To do this I began with the most basic, most simple, most refined notations I could come up with, and then slowly and carefully developed them from there, as needed. I’ve been updating my list in the post above this one. It has been a fascinating project to attempt to develop the most simple, most refined, most basic set of notations possible which can encompass sensations and phenomenon which phenomenological occur [all within the Buddha’s useful axiomatic framework of the Four Foundations, of course]. As a result of all this, I’ve learned a great deal! For instance, how feeling tones accompany all sensations, They simply arise, unconsciously and automatically. They aren’t a choice or judgment. Mind-states are interesting as well, and also, typically, arise unconsciously and automatically, and precede thoughts. After a mind-state arises, a thoughts will then follow which tried to “explain” or “justify” it, and seemingly to take credit for the mind-state. One also quickly realizes that “emotions” doesn’t quite cover this category, since a mind-state usually occurs before a thought, and influences thought [it inspires them]. For instance, being “startled” or “surprised”: Say the apartment buzzer goes off, and I jump out of my skin, and all of a sudden a certain quality of heightened awareness comes into being. I didn’t hear the buzzer and then “think,” I need to become surprised by this, etc. Therefore, being startled by an external stimuli is a mind-state.

Things can get quite complicated as well. For instance, hearing is a sensation, easy, but what about “listening,” which involves a mind-state of open receptivity, the sense door of the ears and related hearing apparatuses in the nervous system and brain, and a thought which motivates the listening and informs what is potentially being listened for. In the end I simply categorized “listening” under sense door, but added “anticipating”under thoughts, depending on whether I seem to be doing more active listening or more active anticipating of what I am trying to hear, etc.

In other news, I’m also trying to actively memorizing all my notations. That way, when I try to apply them when meditatin’, they will be easier to recall. To do this, I’ve printed out the list of my notations and then study it, and then try to recall them all from memory. Like I’m studying for a test, or somethin’..

What Worked? What Didn’t?:
My concentration hasn’t been building up to the same levels they were before going on retreat and before switching to a Four Foundations-style, but I figure this is because I am new to the practice and still getting a feel for it and getting comfortable with it, etc. It has occurred to me that one of the reasons I tend to get very strong A+P-related body sensations as a result of Goenka-style scanning is because of the tight focus, the close attention to body sensations, and the very directed nature of this technique. It will be interesting to see if similar levels of concentration can be built up via a practice which isn’t directed, but takes as its object whatever arises into perception. Presumably it CAN, since many people use and have used noting to build strong concentration and develop strong A+P body sensations, etc., but I need to get to that point. My temptation is to start a session with scanning, get the concentration up, get those subtle sensations rolling, and the switch to noting. This is what I have been doing all along. But I want my noting technique to develop and stand on its own legs, so I’m going to completely forego scanning for at least a month or so [a while, at least] to give myself ample time to learn and become proficient at the new technique, etc.

I’ve noticed that when I do separate foundations noting -- for instance stating with sensations, then noting feeling tones, then mind-states, then thoughts – when I get to feeling tones, my mind becomes very dull. I think this is because, in itself, feeling tones aren’t as interesting as sensations, mind-states, or thoughts. It has less traction. Since feeling tones are pretty easy to recognize, I think that moving forwards, after 10 minutes or so of noting sensations, I’ll switch to couplet noting of sensations AND feeling tones.

Goal(s) for Next Session:
Keeping practicing Four Foundations noting, memorize my new notations, etc. Also, try to get back into my old rhythms – particularly doing a regular and productive late-night meditation session.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/27/13 9:41 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Since you're listing noting vocabulary, here's an archive of Kenneth's original article listing some of his noting vocabulary: Archive.org backup of the old Kenneth Folk Dharma front page.

As you were observing, there's more to mind states than emotions, even though emotions make up most of the mind states that come to mind. I note a fair amount of drowsiness and alertness. I'm not sure that curiosity is an emotion, but it is a mind state. Dullness also comes to mind.

You've listed dukkha. Do you mean dissatisfaction, disgust or something else? Could you describe how that feels? I see that you've listed it in both mind states and thoughts. Do you feel a distinction between the two ways of feeling it? How would you characterize that?

You've also listed that you note feeling equanimous. How do you feel that? When that's happening, do you feel calm, acceptance or mild enjoyment with an absence of aversion? Is it something else or some other set of things? How would you characterize it? I ask because when I feel what I think of as equanimity, I feel that certain emotional variables have changed in intensity. Calm goes up, contentment and happiness may or may not go up, depending on my mental state and aversion and physical tension go down. Upon examination I'm sure that I'd find more to note about it. Does any of that describe what you're feeling? Is it that there's a clearly distinguishable sensation of equanimity as opposed to a combination of other things?

The level of detail and precision in your practice notes is really impressive!

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
2/28/13 1:43 AM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Jigme Sengye:
Since you're listing noting vocabulary, here's an archive of Kenneth's original article listing some of his noting vocabulary: Archive.org backup of the old Kenneth Folk Dharma front page.

As you were observing, there's more to mind states than emotions, even though emotions make up most of the mind states that come to mind. I note a fair amount of drowsiness and alertness. I'm not sure that curiosity is an emotion, but it is a mind state. Dullness also comes to mind.

You've listed dukkha. Do you mean dissatisfaction, disgust or something else? Could you describe how that feels? I see that you've listed it in both mind states and thoughts. Do you feel a distinction between the two ways of feeling it? How would you characterize that?

You've also listed that you note feeling equanimous. How do you feel that? When that's happening, do you feel calm, acceptance or mild enjoyment with an absence of aversion? Is it something else or some other set of things? How would you characterize it? I ask because when I feel what I think of as equanimity, I feel that certain emotional variables have changed in intensity. Calm goes up, contentment and happiness may or may not go up, depending on my mental state and aversion and physical tension go down. Upon examination I'm sure that I'd find more to note about it. Does any of that describe what you're feeling? Is it that there's a clearly distinguishable sensation of equanimity as opposed to a combination of other things?

The level of detail and precision in your practice notes is really impressive!


Yes, good questions. First of all, the way I think of dukkha is suffering, plain and simple, but that sort of heavy, deep sadness which sits like poured concrete in the chest and abdomen, pervading our entire being with the feeling that there will never be any escape. It isn't the same as anxiety, for instance, because for me anxiety has a lighter feel to it, as it sort of can appear quickly, and it is sort of electric, as it shoots right up from the heart into the brain into the thoughts, colonizing them, causing them to ricochet around in the brain.

I placed both anxiety and dukkha in the mind-states column because sometimes anxiety and dukkha arises without a thought referent, at least at first. For instance, the other day I was noting as I was walking into work. I was noting "calm," "calm," "calm," when all of a sudden I felt anxiety arise. I noted "anxiety." Suddenly, afterward, a "thought" arose to explain or justify the mind-state of anxiety, which was that perhaps that day I would be assigned to do some kind of terrible task, etc., but the anxiety was not the result of the thought, the thought was the result of the mind-state. Similarly, sometimes dukkha arises without a referent [as a mind-state] only to afterward be followed by a series of thoughts which dwell within and further produce dukkha , deepening it, reinforcing it, etc. If anxiety, as a mind-state, produces a thought, one where the anxiety is dwelled upon, explored, deepened, reinforced, then eventually that thought becomes, at its worst, dukkha, or, if it is mild, then just speculating, judging, narrativizing, etc. The mind-state of dukkha is suffering not produced by thought. The thought version of dukkha is suffering produced - or at least reinforced, deepened, or explored -- by thought.

For me, equanimity is a mind-state, never a thought. I can not "think" my way into equanimity. It can only be produced by meditation, and it is simply a state of mind. It isn't the same as happiness, because happiness, generally, is a passion. Suffering is always lurking around happiness. Happiness is a temporary victory over suffering, but it rests in the knowledge that suffering will soon be back. Equanimity embraces suffering and happiness simultaneously and pierces through them with its power. Happiness and suffering become like little harmless children cradled in the arms of equanimity. And equanimity isn't the same as calm, because I can be calm but not be happy with what is happening. I can be calm in an emergency, but still be, on a certain level, freaked out with what is happening. There is certainly an element of calm in an equanimous state, but I can also be calm and not be equanimous.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
3/5/13 11:34 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
That's some great stuff there Alan, thanks so much for taking the time to write it all up. I'm definitely going to give this 4 foundations thing a try, feel like I need to be more systematic in my approach, ever since I hit EQ I started dropping noting more often and generally being more lax. at first I thought this was the right approach, but I think I may have taken it too far haha and now feel I have slipped back somewhat.

I just have one question, do you use a primary object with this form of noting? I've always found using a primary object i.e. the breath as a-bit awkward, even tho it does seem to build concentration, as such I've often not used one and just stayed with the bare sensations. What are your thoughts?

Keep up the good work, enjoy reading your notes!

Scott

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
3/8/13 11:21 AM as a reply to Scott P.
Scott P:
That's some great stuff there Alan, thanks so much for taking the time to write it all up. I'm definitely going to give this 4 foundations thing a try, feel like I need to be more systematic in my approach, ever since I hit EQ I started dropping noting more often and generally being more lax. at first I thought this was the right approach, but I think I may have taken it too far haha and now feel I have slipped back somewhat.

I just have one question, do you use a primary object with this form of noting? I've always found using a primary object i.e. the breath as a-bit awkward, even tho it does seem to build concentration, as such I've often not used one and just stayed with the bare sensations. What are your thoughts?

Keep up the good work, enjoy reading your notes!

Scott


Sorry brother, I didn't "note" [ha!] your post until just now. Regarding having a primary object [the breath] or not, I don't tend to. I've experimented with it, but I don't use it regularly or with any degree of frequency. Having a primary object doesn't really jibe with the whole Four Foundations noting system I'm trying to develop, because with the 4FN you are really just noting whatever appears prominently in awareness. It isn't a directed noting system. Since a lot of my previous experience was with scanning -- which is heavily directed and intentionally focused system -- the nondirected 4FN system was a big of change, and one I'ms till trying to get used to, but I'm going with it and that's that. But here is the thing, I'm sure one COULD make progress by meditating with a primary object [breath, belly, etc.], or by having an intentionally focused noting system, or by just noting objects which appear prominently into consciousness, or by fast noting, or slow noting, or any other numbers of techniques, etc., but eventually one has to settle on a technique and take it the distance and stop second guessing oneself. That is why I am happy to have finally settled on 4FN which Jigme taught me, even though I've taken a few steps back because I'm new to the technique. I've finally decided on this technique and I can now stop second guessing myself and wasting time trying to decide if I want to note fast, slow, verbal, silent, non-labels, simple labels, complex labels, directed, non-directed, etc., and wondering the whole time if whatever I'm not currently doing is the better technique, etc. I don't get the sense that a lot of people on the DhO or Kenneth's Folks site use a primary object. I'm sure some do, but that's my impression, for what it's worth. Keep on keepin' on!

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
3/8/13 4:56 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Date: 3/8

Length of Sit: 60 min [9:10am-10:10am]; 60 min [3:50pm-4:50pm]

Where/Posture: 40 min zafu + 20 min chair

Cutting Edge Insight Stage of the Session: Low EQ? A+P? Dissolution? Fucked if I know. A calm-y semi-spacious-y though not very jhana-y type space.

Meditative Technique(s) Utilized: Focusing on the sensation of the breath at the nostrils and counting breaths 1-10 about 5 or 6 rounds; slow silent scanning from top of head down to toes for about fifteen minutes; Four Foundations noting for about 25 minutes; Choiceless Awareness for about 15 minutes.

General Thoughts/Reflections: After going on my 3-day retreat in mid-February, my practice has gone to hell. I think that perhaps I just got totally burned out. My Dark Night stuff on retreat really sucked the motivation out of me, and the exhaustion I experienced from lack of sleep just totally kicked my ass.

If you recall, before going on the retreat I’d typically meditate once in the afternoon and once at night, the night sit usually taking place around 2 or 3am, and then I’d generally go to sleep around 5:30am. Well, on retreat I was waking UP at 3:55am. All this just blitzed my internal clock, and I found that after the retreat I was unable to do any kind of productive night sit, and that I was falling asleep much earlier. And every time this happened, I told myself that I just need time to get used to staying up late again, etc., and then I would start doing a good night sit again, and so forth.

Well, this just doesn’t seem to be happening. A few times I’d drink an entire Monster energy drink when I got home from work, and then fall asleep! I’ve also been getting home a little later each night as a result of being trained in a new job at work. So I’ve made a formal decision. Sometimes when you experience a blockage, you just need to push through and see what lies on the other side. Instead of fighting my internal clock, I will start going to bed earlier – say, around 1:30am or 2am or even earlier– and then I’ll wake up when my girlfriend leaves for work [around 7:30am] and then I’ll do a sit around 9am, and then a second sit around 2pm.

That is the new schedule. A sit in the morning, and then a sit in the afternoon. No more super late night sits.

I also noticed something else which has affected my practice. I am a huge reader. I read voraciously and deeply. My brain loves nothing more than to be stimulated by weird fiction, gothic novels, trippy sci-fi, crazy memoirs, cutting edge philosophy, feminist manifestos, postmodern lit, etc. I read Marxist philosophy, psychoanalysis, literary and critical theory, etc., all for fun and edification. Well, when I started my hardcore practice back in December 2012, I basically stopped reading. This was because I was using all my spare time to meditate. Well, this could only last so long before a backlash occurred. After the retreat, I started feeling deeply compelled to read, read, read. And I’d read instead of sit. The last few days I’ve also been working to develop a book club for me and my friends – The Unicorn Gulag Book Club. Well, the club has now been unveiled/unleashed and we will be reading Geek Love by Katherine Dunn and will be discussing it in May. The point I have come to realize is that my practice was unbalanced because I was cutting other things out of my life in order to practice, which eventually made my practice unsustainable. But if I leave my nights open, I can read when I get home after work. And if I get up early enough, I can read after my first sit and before the second sit.

Goal(s) for Next Session: One of my goals, as stated above, is to get back into a regular practice: A morning sit, and then an afternoon sit. I’d like to get into a regular thing NOW, but I can’t due to the awesomeness happening tomorrow , which is I am going to a 24-hour sci-fi movie festival! It starts at noon on Sat and goes until 1pm on Sun. I’m stayin’ the entire time. Then on Monday morning I have a doctor’s appointment, so I probably won’t get into my new practice routine until Tuesday.

Also, it is my goal to allow myself more time to read, which had been pushed aside by my practice. If I don’t read I’ll get burned out and my practice will be affected.

It is also my goal to do some Ping-Pong Noting with other practioners via Skype. This is a terrific way to reinforce one’s practice, and to maintain a Sangha. I have also had the idea to post a thread on the DhO and Kenneth Folk’s site where people interested in noting together can connect. I will probably post something along these lines within the next few days. If anyone reading this is interested in noting together via Skype, give me a personal message via the “messages” function on the DhO, and we’ll see what we can work out! My best time to do something like this is M-F, in the mornings/afternoons. Weekends are sketchy because I get overloaded with stuff to do, but Saturday sessions can sometimes be worked out. I’m central time, by the way.

It is also my goal to build up my concentration and meditative powers once again. My concentration is a bit weaker than it was before the retreat, and I noticed that I started to get antsy after only 40 minutes of sitting, which is just because I’ve slipped. With verbal noting I find that after a while I get fatigued and switch to silent noting or choiceless awareness, but I’d like to keep practicing my verbal noting until I can do it for a solid hour.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
3/11/13 12:40 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:


Sorry brother, I didn't "note" [ha!] your post until just now. Regarding having a primary object [the breath] or not, I don't tend to. I've experimented with it, but I don't use it regularly or with any degree of frequency. Having a primary object doesn't really jibe with the whole Four Foundations noting system I'm trying to develop, because with the 4FN you are really just noting whatever appears prominently in awareness. It isn't a directed noting system. Since a lot of my previous experience was with scanning -- which is heavily directed and intentionally focused system -- the nondirected 4FN system was a big of change, and one I'ms till trying to get used to, but I'm going with it and that's that. But here is the thing, I'm sure one COULD make progress by meditating with a primary object [breath, belly, etc.], or by having an intentionally focused noting system, or by just noting objects which appear prominently into consciousness, or by fast noting, or slow noting, or any other numbers of techniques, etc., but eventually one has to settle on a technique and take it the distance and stop second guessing oneself. That is why I am happy to have finally settled on 4FN which Jigme taught me, even though I've taken a few steps back because I'm new to the technique. I've finally decided on this technique and I can now stop second guessing myself and wasting time trying to decide if I want to note fast, slow, verbal, silent, non-labels, simple labels, complex labels, directed, non-directed, etc., and wondering the whole time if whatever I'm not currently doing is the better technique, etc. I don't get the sense that a lot of people on the DhO or Kenneth's Folks site use a primary object. I'm sure some do, but that's my impression, for what it's worth. Keep on keepin' on!


Cool thanks Alan, I'm going along without a primary object too. As an aside - geek love is one of my favourite books! I used to read loads and dont really because of meditation now, ah well.

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
4/8/13 7:16 PM as a reply to Scott P.
Hey, I'd be game for some outloud skype noting: contact me at brandwach at yahoo com
thanks

RE: Alan's [enter catchy title here] Meditation Notes
Answer
12/8/14 9:06 PM as a reply to Cedric ..
I'm back!! But in a greatly diminished state.  My brains are shit.  

When I last had a consistent practice [early 2013] I was regularly getting into deep and sustained High Equanimity.  Since then I finally got my dream job teaching in the public school.  One of the side effects, however, has been that I've been working upward of 80 hours a week.  

There is no balance in my life between work, sleep, and recreation.  I sleep about four or five hours a night.  I work constantly, and when I'm not working I'm thinking about working.  The time I'm not working or thinking about working, I'm getting ready to work, driving to or from work, eating, or grabbbing a few minutes to watch a show [or some such]. I used to read about a book a week, meditate regularly, go to plays, watch movies.  Now I work.   

The first year of teaching is akin, they say, to a medical residency, or military bootcamp, or something else totally all encompassing and consuming.  That first year my mother also died.  And I got married!

My wife tells me that I am far less stress, year two.  This may be true, but I'm not working any less.  I organize a film club, and am mentoring a first year teacher in the class I've only been teaching for one year.  The other class I teach, we are creating as we go.  I wouldn't give up my job for anything, but there is no balance in my life.

The dharma has been calling.  The dharma always beckons me when I need it most.  The siren call of practice has been ringing in my ears.  I've been looking through those old books, listening to dharma talks online, reading the DO forum posts everyday, once again. 

I had a bit of a breakthrough.  Because I am unable to practice three or four hours a day [what I wass doing before], I felt like it was pointless to practice at all.  But now I realize, you have to do what you can.  15 minutes is far better than nothing...

So I am trying to meditate for 15 minutes in the morning.  Somedays I run behind, and am unable,  but if I manage my time, I can fit it in.  I've also realized that I can meditate for 15 minutes during my 25 minute lunch break;  if I plan ahead, I can fit a meditation into the middle of the day.  I've also realized that I can mediate for 15-20 minutes in my classroom before I leave; I can just shut the door and fit another sit in.  I can also meditate for a shortie right before I go to sleep.  But this one is trickie, because I tend to conk out. 
When I can remember, I note.  Such as walking from one place to another. 

I am being assaulted by the hinderances.  Mainly sloth/torpor.  I am so tired all the time, when I mediate, I often fall asleep.  But you do what you can.

When I started regular sits again last week, I did noting.  In the past, I'd always start with a little anapana. I was shocked to discoved that I could barely focus on the breath and count to ten without losing track and going into a dream/fantasy!! So, until I am able to  build my concentration, I will be doing anapana by focusing on the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits the nostrils.  In-out ONE, in-out TWO, etc., up to ten, and then counting backward in-out TEN, in-out NINE, etc.  When I can do this THREE TIMES [up to ten and then back down] without losing focus, I'll switch to noting or scanning.  But until then, I'm going to be focusing on the breath.  

I'll be try to regularly update with my progress -- how far I've managed to get in my counting and focus, things I've experienced, etc.

On a positive note, I do get a few months off in the summer, so I can REALLY up the mediation ante at that time to insane amounts of mediation per day.  My wife is very supportive of my practice, but I don't think I'll be able to go away on a retreat this summer because my wife is pregnant and due in early July.  This will be our first child.  

Balance.  Must find balance.     

It feels good to be practicing again.  I'll never give up on the practice.