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Lara's practice log
Answer
2/22/13 9:27 PM
Hi everyone,

I'm still relatively new to meditation in general. I've dabbled with it here and there, but my practice is still a bit disorganized. I read MTCB for the first time a few weeks ago and it was a real eye opener. I'd been searching for a more definitive guide to meditation and it was precisely what I found / wanted.

Currently, my daily goal is to practice for between hour to two per day, divided up into morning and evening sessions. I've crossed what I believe is the A&P a few times, mostly in the form of lucid dreaming, but I haven't yet gotten to that point in my seated meditation. Additionally, I think that I've reached the third or fourth samatha jhanas before, but I'm still at the early stages in terms of my noting/insight practices. The latter has been my focus for the past week or so and I'm attempting to cultivate more mindfulness through my daily activities.

I have not yet had a chance to go on any retreats, though I'm hoping to do so in the future. I'm also hoping to sign up for a Life Retreat within the next week or two. For those who don't know or who might be interested, it's an internet based class organized by the same folks who do Buddhist Geeks. I'm looking forward to it and the prospect of getting a bit more individualized guidance and instruction.

Anyhow, I'm making this log to hopefully track my progress, give myself a chance to "analyze" to my heart's content [and save myself the trouble "on the cushion"], and potentially get some feedback from other practitioners who have gone through the same process. Feel free to comment, if you'd like. I'll do my best to check back every once in awhile. emoticon

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
2/23/13 9:33 PM as a reply to Lara D.
OK, so this entry is for yesterday and today.

I was tired last night so I noticed that my concentration kept drifting in and out. Whenever I noticed this was happening, I would bring my attention back to the breath and away from day-to-day thoughts. After I'd sat for maybe 20 minutes, my mind quieted down and I moved to more "insight practice" territory.

I've been a bit fascinated lately with trying to feel the sensations of the body, in particular the heartbeat / pulsing. I took a bath a few days ago and noticed for the first time that I couldn't keep the water from rippling, even when I tried to sit very still or when I stopped breathing. I took it mean that even stillness is a bit illusory. During my seated meditation, I tried to focus on that "pulsing" that I felt in addition to the breath meditation that I do.

When doing noting practices, I tend to oscillate between trying to get a general overview of the sensation and trying to focus on just one individual sensation at a time. I find both to be helpful. Particularly, though, I'm noticing that the pulse effect tends to ripple, much like what would happen after tapping a solid surface. The effect doesn't just stay in one spot and seems to radiate out. I am hoping to further resolve these sensations as I keep going.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
2/25/13 12:16 PM as a reply to Lara D.
FYI - it's easier to tell what's going on in your sits (and to give constructive feedback) if you keep to a step-by-step phenomenological account rather than saying conceptual things like "insight practice territory". Here's an example of the kind of reporting that's most helpful:

The first 15 minutes were pleasant and calm after I settled in. A lot of openness and acceptance. At one point it felt like my visual field expanded behind my eyes, and there was a great open expanse before me. Saw some visuals, what looked like geometric shapes, pentagrams, hexagrams.

Things were less pleasant during the second 15 minutes. My left foot went completely numb, and I had to stretch out my legs and switch positions. Impatience started creeping in. I started to feel more heat/coolness and itching. My throat started to become sore. I struggled with tiredness.

The last 15 minutes were agony. I was noting loudly, just trying to keep myself awake. My throat finally got so sore that I stopped noting out loud and switched to silent noting. There was a great deal of aversion. I began thinking about things I had to do and feeling miserable. I noted the suffering. I tried to open up, just notice everything that was going on. This calmed me a bit. Saw some fields of color, vibrating along the edges.

Checked body for vibrations throughout the entire session but didn’t really notice anything. Was most aware of heat, itching, numbness, and soreness in my throat. I checked my throat in the mirror after the session - it’s fine. Doesn’t hurt anymore. Legs were very sore and numb by the end.


It's very easy for someone who knows the maps to chart progress up and down the ñanas when they're presented with this kind of detailed, first-person, bare facts description of the sit.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
2/25/13 1:22 PM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
Hi, thanks for replying! I liked that quote. Haha. I will work on being more descriptive when I write up the logs. emoticon I'm still learning some of the terminology so it might take a few tries before I am able to report where I'm at more faithfully. I also have some trouble remembering what I do, so being more mindful will also help.


--

Last night I tried lucid dreaming as I was going to bed. I've had it happen more than a few times, but this was the first time I have tried inducing it on purpose.

I was lying flat on my back and trying to stay aware of the pulsing. I did a few body scans and tried to stay as still as possible. I noticed a few itching sensations, which I did my best to note. I also felt like my foot was going to sleep, though that normally doesn't happen except during seated meditation.

I know that I "woke up" with a jolt at least one time and so I had to refocus my thoughts and try again. When I noticed my consciousness fading, I would refocus attention on the body again. When I would do so, it would feel a lot like burning. Intense and a bit uncomfortable, but no pain associated.

I finally did get what were the beginnings of a lucid dream. I felt like I was traveling through a vortex, a little bit like going through a tunnel slide.

However, it was very unsteady and it seemed to dissolve into nothingness very soon after it began. I probably dozed off to sleep for real after that point. It's possible that this phenomena was A&P related as I did wake up with a bit of a headache and a neck ache. But I don't think I'm in dark night territory yet though so I'm not sure.

I'll try again later and hopefully find time for some more formal mediation practices too.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
2/26/13 1:41 PM as a reply to Lara D.
Well, it turns out that I probably AM dark nighting. I’ve been in this spot before and not known what it was and I will do my best not to bleed through into other people’s lives. But yep, I woke up this morning feeling achey and tired, accompanied by general malaise. Haha. I’ve also been getting a very strong urge to pack up and leave for a long retreat.

Which would be great, except for the bit that I can’t just abandon where I’m at due to finances, classes, and other obligations. I can do my best to practice every day for an hour or two and I will make a point to do so... but it doesn’t sound like that will be sufficient for any real progress. So, I don’t really know what to do.

I wonder how I can resolve this conundrum! emoticon At least I feel like I'm in a better spot now to be able to make an informed decision than other times in the past.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
2/26/13 9:51 PM as a reply to Lara D.
HI Lara,

I can do my best to practice every day for an hour or two and I will make a point to do so... but it doesn’t sound like that will be sufficient for any real progress. So, I don’t really know what to do.
That would be an excellent practice, in my opinion, and that kind of commitment is not easy per se. The up-side is that one is "just sitting" while retreats may build expectations.

Well, it turns out that I probably AM dark nighting.
These are very, very useful nanas ("knowledges"). Awesome. It's very, very natural to want to get out of these -- get through them (not that you do. I'm waxing generally now). To sit in and feel and study these knowledges -- what the mind is doing, why/when and how it is affecting the body and actions taken -- without becoming subsumed and overcome by them is the source of developing metta and insight. A friend told me once that it sounded like I was describing myself as I described the sick thinking that they were acting on; I agreed immediately that they were absolutely right: I could not possibly understand a sick mind without understanding how those very same conditions/seeds have existed/can exist in my own mind. Dukkha nanas: super-important source of understanding.

So whatever time you have to sit and attend to the mind and see how it's working in a simple environment (e.g., sitting) that's bound to be useful for informing what it is doing in more complex settings. And that's the tip of the iceberg.

I enjoy your notes. Good luck!

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
2/26/13 10:23 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
katy steger:
HI Lara,

I can do my best to practice every day for an hour or two and I will make a point to do so... but it doesn’t sound like that will be sufficient for any real progress. So, I don’t really know what to do.
That would be an excellent practice, in my opinion, and that kind of commitment is not easy per se. The up-side is that one is "just sitting" while retreats may build expectations.

Well, it turns out that I probably AM dark nighting.
These are very, very useful nanas ("knowledges"). Awesome. It's very, very natural to want to get out of these -- get through them (not that you do. I'm waxing generally now). To sit in and feel and study these knowledges -- what the mind is doing, why/when and how it is affecting the body and actions taken -- without becoming subsumed and overcome by them is the source of developing metta and insight. A friend told me once that it sounded like I was describing myself as I described the sick thinking that they were acting on; I agreed immediately that they were absolutely right: I could not possibly understand a sick mind without understanding how those very same conditions/seeds have existed/can exist in my own mind. Dukkha nanas: super-important source of understanding.

So whatever time you have to sit and attend to the mind and see how it's working in a simple environment (e.g., sitting) that's bound to be useful for informing what it is doing in more complex settings. And that's the tip of the iceberg.

I enjoy your notes. Good luck!

Hi, thanks for the reply!

That's a good point with the sitting. I can tell I already had the notion/expectation that retreats would mean faster progress. Which, while it may be the case, it's not necessary that A follows from B. That said, I've decided that I will work on paying down all debts and saving up for a retreat, even if it's only for a few weeks. Regardless of progress, it would be nice to have some quiet time with nothing to do but meditation. I think it would do me a world of good. Maybe I can plan for something this summer when I (hopefully) will not have a bunch of other obligations.

It means that I probably am stuck where I am for awhile (mentally, physically), but at least there is something to shoot for in the future.

In the meantime, I will do my best to incorporate daily meditation practice into my life and try to study what the dark night experience has to offer. I wish that it wouldn't interfere with my daily life, but seeing how it's here, I don't really have much choice in the matter. It's like a forced trip to the slow lane of life. Haha. Oh well. Best work on accepting the experience as it is.

On another note, I've recently started going to yoga class. I just got back from it tonight and this is my second session. While I still feel crappy and my poses are very shaky at best, I expect it to be helpful... at the very least, to maintain physical health. I just need to force myself to go regularly. emoticon That's the key with everything, I suspect. Regular practice!!

Thanks again. I'll post more later when I get a chance.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
2/27/13 7:09 AM as a reply to Lara D.
In the meantime, I will do my best to incorporate daily meditation practice into my life and try to study what the dark night experience has to offer. I wish that it wouldn't interfere with my daily life, but seeing how it's here, I don't really have much choice in the matter. It's like a forced trip to the slow lane of life. Haha. Oh well. Best work on accepting the experience as it is.

On another note, I've recently started going to yoga class. I just got back from it tonight and this is my second session. While I still feel crappy and my poses are very shaky at best, I expect it to be helpful... at the very least, to maintain physical health. I just need to force myself to go regularly. That's the key with everything, I suspect. Regular practice!!
Yes, ma'am, this is the harder stuff: setting up a good field around meditation.

Yoga: great idea. If you can get some cardio in as well -- say jump on an elliptical and get your heart rate up with 10-sec sprints throughout a 20-120 minute fast-walking cardio, that is very useful. 1) It shows the mind in something like euphoric dukkha nanas (amazing problem-solving mode): a lot of people when they hit a cardio peak or two will start thinking very, very optimistically and start making awesome plans. Quite actually, this mind is like the "dark night" ñāṇas, but revealing the positive flip side of mind's perseverating into joyous perseverance. 2) And cardio and yoga will remove some tension, 3) and 'course it's long-term healthy, what a human animal needs to do...


So to facilitate meditation during any challenging period (e.g., dukkha ñāṇas, aka "dark night") here's a little sequence: some cardio (say 20-30 minutes with several 10s sprints), some good yoga (which to me are postures held for 2.5-5minutes with long, slow, deep breathing so the body can slowly elongate into the stretch while strengthening antagonistic muscles...see Ray Long, MD), a fist-sized healthy snack, then the meditation session. If a person can do one hour, that's usually useful for showing the rising up thinking mind, the bored impatient mind, the falling asleep mind, then the re-alert mind.

[Edit: in this alert mind that is somewhat balanced now by exercise and some apres-nutrition, dukkha ñāṇas are "cleaner" or easier to actually sit in and observe without being overwhelmed or lost in them and the associated sensations are now coming up from a more neutralized landscape.

And someone who is starting to follow such a practical routine/steady effort is showing the start of equanimity.]


This kind of sequence is not necessary at all, but it's very, very useful to bring the mind to studying and developing itself in a friendly, fail-free way.

Okay, cheers, girl!

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
2/27/13 10:32 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Yes! I fought with routines for a long time. I'm starting to get to the point where I find them to be helpful, though. I'm still a beginner in terms of yoga as well, but I'd like to make a daily habit of it.

Thanks for the suggestion with the cardio, too! I always want to avoid that particular type of exercise- no idea why! I think it's a lingering aftermath of a stage I went through when I didn't want to do anything "unpleasant". I've since then matured, but the aversion still remains to a certain degree. I've been going to the gym every once in awhile, though, to remedy that! I just need to subtly remind myself that I need to go more often! emoticon

---

This morning it felt as though I'd cried myself to sleep, only to wake up in the morning unable to remember what had been so sad or upsetting. It was an odd feeling, a bit like recovering from a cold or an injury. I felt like laughing, but at the same time, it was a bit tentative and guarded.

I meditated this morning with a certain degree of clarity for about an hour. There were a few unpleasant sensations such as my foot falling asleep and mild itching. However, the more difficult part was just wading through a sort of "dullness" and "tiredness" that had crept in. It lacked the negative backdrop from two days ago and instead was relatively clear and empty. I spent some time noting, but I felt that I was too lacking in energy to do it justice. Next time I think I will see if I can't investigate that dullness. It too might have some insight to offer.

Overall, my mood was much improved from yesterday.

That said, a Big Issue came up during the day, something I've been struggling with for months now. I think it's set me back a bit, though I'm trying not to let it get to me too badly. Effectively, I am trying to sort out a problem of ethics/morality where my ideals and sense of compassion are coming up against a rather grim reality. Long story short, the problem isn't going anywhere for so long as I am in my current line of work and there isn't anything I can do about it, except maybe to get out and do something else. While I'd like to make a change in my life, I am caught up in an internal conflict with regard to how I am to practically go about doing that, especially with regards to future goals. Thinking and mulling over this Big Issue doesn't help and instead, I keep going around in circles with the mental tapes. I am hopeful that gaining more clarity through meditation will help shed some light and perspective on the situation.

Here's hoping!

Anyhow, I am off to do my evening meditation...

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
2/28/13 9:09 AM as a reply to Lara D.
OK, I've come to the conclusion that mind loops are ineffective and not valuable for problem solving. They are doing nothing but perpetuating yet another cycle of suffering. Additionally, I don't yet have all of the information I need regarding my ethical/moral dilemma. The mental loops make it nearly impossible to see the "big picture". Therefore, I promise to fore-go dwelling on the Big Issue until such time as I can devote more clarity and equanimity to it. Instead, I will resume my investigation of the Three Characteristics and dedicate my efforts to gaining more insight.

--

This morning I spent half an hour doing noting practices and body scans. I focused mainly on the pulse and breath again. I've noticed that my ability to feel the pulses are sometimes hindered by my breathing and vice versa. When I stop breathing, I can note with more ease and clarity. It's as if stopping the breath also stops some of the mental "noise". I'm guessing that it may have something to do with an infusion of "will". When I exert more energy and conscious effort, such as is required to stop breathing, it helps to block out some of the distractions.

I guess this is another something worthy of investigation.

Oh, and I've also noticed that sometimes I feel as though I am shaking or vibrating, ever so lightly. I'm not always able to tune into it, but it's been an interesting phenomena. It's borderline unnerving, but not otherwise bothersome.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
3/1/13 9:01 AM as a reply to Lara D.
Well, the clarity is back. I feel more balanced than I have in quite some time! I'll be going to yoga again today... emoticon

I spent some time last night and this morning in meditation, about an hour total. My practice has been steady, but I wouldn't say that it's felt overly "inspired" and that is okay too. I have just enough motivation to get started. Once again, some mildly discomforting sensations such as feet falling asleep arose, but it hasn't felt overly compelling. I feel relaxed and at ease, like I could hold concentration for a long time. I haven't yet put that to practice yet, though. I think I need to spend some time working on my concentration again. I've been mostly doing just noting practices thus far.

I also had an interesting dream this morning. I dreamt that I was sitting in another room of my doing something. I felt something drift by and through me. Suddenly, I had a flash of insight that, if I stand up and concentrate, I'd be able to see into another world. When I did that, I awoke to find that I was in bed. My body was tingling all over and very much at peace. I also had this odd feeling that I'd forgotten something, like there had been some discontinuity in my frame of reality. The term "unknowing event" popped into my head to describe it, but I don't really know how accurate that is.

Anyhow, will write more later!

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
3/1/13 9:56 PM as a reply to Lara D.
I had a productive session with the concentration practice. I'm still hitting a wall with regards to entering the formless realms. Maybe that's a good thing for now, though, as maybe it indicates that I'm not quite ready. Regardless, I didn't experience many distractions during this session and I focused on a combination of breathing and blank mental images. My feet didn't fall asleep this time, though my back and arms did get a bit stiff/sore.

During one of the shifts between jhanas (I think it was to the 2nd or 3rd jhana, not sure which) I tried expending a bit more energy by putting a little "will" or "effort" into it. My hands tingled for a bit, but it kicked the progress into gear and my breathing and heart rate shot up a bit. I've experienced this state before. My breath seemed to cycle between high and low rates in a slightly unnerving manner. However, this time it was steadily higher. Eventually, the breath/heart rate calmed down as I moved on to a different jhana.

I think this might have been my first time in the 4th jhana and it felt really expansive. A bit like peering into a wide open space. I felt like my vision had expanded all around me and I imagined that I could draw big circles around me to form spheres. I stayed in that state for some time before attempting to move on. As I already said, though, I hit a bit of a wall. I tried some insight practice from there with what I could feel of the body and then decided to take a break.

Overall, I'd say this was a helpful sit. I'm starting to learn how to navigate the different jhanas.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
3/3/13 4:34 PM as a reply to Lara D.
I went on a three hour hike yesterday with some friends, so today I woke up this morning sore and tired. I had some serious cravings for food and I ended up eating a chicken teriyaki bowl, a bowl of cinnamon chex cereal, blueberries, spicy beef jerky, a few squares of chocolate, and I made myself a cup of black tea with sugar in it (and later a cup of Bengal Spice tea which, as the name suggests, spicy), all within the span of a few hours. emoticon

And so now I'm feeling restless and bored... and I also am feeling that I don't want to practice, study, or do anything productive. Haha. So, instead of giving into my normal pattern of just wasting the rest of the day, I thought I would do some insight meditation to see if I can't get some wisdom into what I'm feeling and my current state.

I also had the realization that I've been perhaps too "goal" oriented with my practice. It's really not the number of jhanas I'm able to successfully cultivate. It's the depth and subtlety with which I'm able to discern, experience, and master everything. Hence, I will do my best to be more descriptive with my logs. I feel like I've gone off track a bit and I'd like to think I do take advice, even if I sometimes struggle with implementing it.

----


Well, I spent about 20 minutes before I got interrupted by my cat. I focused on the breath for the first 5 minutes or so, accompanied by some light visualization. I saw some color (red/yellow) that flowed in time with my breathing and seemed to converge at the mid/top center of my vision. After that, I switched to noting. A few itching sensations came up, one on my foot and the other on my left cheek. I felt irritation and the urge to scratch, but I continued noting.

After the first ten minutes, I switched positions for no apparent reason. (My leg wasn't falling asleep yet. ) I continued to note some more. I tried to pay attention to the aches and pains that I felt as well as the burning in my stomach (due to this morning's poor eating). I also noted the pulse behind my eyes and it feels like it starts at the mouth and travels upward to my ears and then eyes in an arc.

I also noted the slightly sluggish nature of my mind and how it felt just a bit like everything was going on in slow-motion. I tried infusing a bit more effort/energy, but with minimal success.

Some thoughts during the session included wanting to get up and do something else (restlessness), hunger for more food (cravings), and feeling like I want to go nap (fatigue).

Ok, that's all for now. emoticon

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
3/9/13 7:00 PM as a reply to Lara D.
Just a quick update to say that I haven't stopped practicing and I haven't abandoned the site. ;) It's been a busy week, though, and I've had a take home exam to do among other things.

I have had some time to meditate, but it hasn't been quite as productive. No particularly notable experiences, just some more wacky non-lucid dreams. I've been getting in the habit of waking up around 5-5:30 every morning to get in some quiet time. We'll see if it pays off.

On the bright side, I've been going to yoga and getting some exercise.... and on other news, I will be officially starting the Life Retreat in a few days. Looking forward to getting some face-to-face feedback! emoticon

Will post a more detailed log later when I have more specifics to share...

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
3/9/13 9:18 PM as a reply to Lara D.
Looking forward to hearing more about your practice, especially with the Life Retreat. Keep us posted! -Laurel

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
3/12/13 11:12 PM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
Jane Laurel Carrington:
Looking forward to hearing more about your practice, especially with the Life Retreat. Keep us posted! -Laurel

Hi, thanks! Saturday will be the big day as far as the life retreat goes! emoticon

---

I've been very tired lately due to my exam (finally finished now!), so practice has been a bit uneventful. But anyhow, I went to bed last night after meditating for about half an hour. Instead of falling asleep immediately, I tried doing more noting practices. I laid in bed practicing my slow, deliberate breathing. I took times cycling between each of the Three Characteristics. For a bit I focused on impermanence... so, I would ask myself, am I experiencing impermanence right now? And then I would do my best to shut off the mind chatter for a bit to take note and just let everything come and go.

I still feel a bit stuck on the concept of no-self (probably I'm over-thinking it), so instead of analyzing too much, I tried just relaxing and letting go a bit.

Anyhow, I ended up in a very second jhana-ish state- full body tingling/burning again with heightened awareness. It felt a bit like a hybrid of insight and concentration practice... not really sure where to categorize it. It also had a bit of a sleep paralysis feel to it complete with disconnected but sharp awareness. I didn't actually try to move my body and I'm not sure if I would have been able to. When I took note of the feeling, I experienced an accompanying feeling of dread, most likely due to previously bad memories associated with sleep paralysis. (It used to freak me out badly that I couldn't move my body.) This time, though, I was aware enough of what was going on that there was no panicking and I was able to change the emotion through focus. So I instead cultivated a feeling of joy and it turned into a bit of a game.

What I found most interesting was simply the level of clarity that I felt. In some ways it was a bit A&P like in terms of experiencing sensations, but no flashing lights or other exciting phenomena... and I'm not Dark Nighting right now, so I think it was something different. Anyhow! I thought it worthy to put into my log book. I'll see if I can't "repeat" the experiment soon.

Sorry again about another not so perfectly written entry. ;)

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
3/20/13 9:31 AM as a reply to Lara D.
Well, it's been a few days since I posted anything.

I've been making a habit still of sitting everyday.

The Life Retreat should be interesting. I started on Saturday with both a group and individual session. It was mostly just the introduction sessions, though, so there wasn't a lot of time for detailed discussion. In terms of the process, I think it will be good to have some formalized "structure". I'm paying for this, so there's an added boost of motivation to do what I need to do!

--

As per my instruction, I've been focusing on mindfulness/ body awareness meditation again. By this I mean trying to really look into the nature of sensations. My concentration typically starts off a bit poor (distracted thoughts showing up), but gradually gets better. I'm trying to let the breath do its own thing, since that's not my focus, but typically that means trying to keep everything slow and steady. I don't know why, but when I stop breathing for a time, that seems to heighten my awareness of the sensations. I don't want to get into the habit of constantly depriving myself of oxygen, but it's certainly an interesting phenomena. I'm also trying to focus on my stance more and trying to really ground myself. Posture is a problem still because I don't really like the asymmetrical sitting positions. Half lotus, Burmese, and seiza all hurt my legs when I try to sit for longer. Chair meditation I've had the most luck with, but there's the danger of falling asleep. Thinking of investing in a better cushion or something. I'm hoping yoga will help with either becoming able to do full lotus or in finding another good seated position.

Another phenomena that I'm increasingly curious about is that I can put more "energy" into my body if I try. I don't know how to describe it, but the sensation of having a hand will go from just a "few" prickling sensations to full-on tingling and increased awareness. I can do this for other parts of the body, though it usually isn't easy to sustain on a full-body scale. Maybe that will improve with practice, I don't know. Regardless, I feel like I'm normally in a slightly lazier / lower baseline energy state and that I don't always put my full will/effort into what I do. But with just a little concentration, I can try to raise the bar a bit. I'm probably still overshooting my mark, though. Little awareness -> lots of awareness -> little awareness --> etc... Guess this is gonna take some work to balance things out.

Anyhow, it's been a very busy week and it will only get worse. Will try to find time to do more practice later.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
3/21/13 8:14 AM as a reply to Lara D.
Sat again this morning, but only for about 20 min. Tried cultivating a more steady awareness of the body rather than a "spiked" one. I think it was helpful. I still need to work up to longer sits. I recognize that being uncomfortable on some level is all part of the process. I have a break from class coming up next week, so I'm hoping I can spend a bit more time then.

Most notable phenomena was just seeing some subtle flickering lights as I sat.

In terms of the path, I keep wondering if I'm in early equanimity. Very little bothers me anymore and I feel very balanced. I get little flickers of annoyance or anxiety through the day (and sometimes physical sensations that are uncomfortable come up), but mostly I feel peace. I still have a general tendency to avoid unpleasant situations, but I'm trying to work on that aspect too. It feels like a holding pattern, kind of. I know I haven't yet found what I'm looking for, but it feels like I'll find it if I just keep steadily seeking and practicing.

Anyhow, that's all for today.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
3/24/13 11:13 AM as a reply to Lara D.
Going on vacation for the week... should be a good time. If possible, I plan to do some practicing while I'm away.

Life retreat is going well. It's brought up some very interesting points related to practice and I think I'm slowly becoming aware of some of the more common mental traps that I get stuck in. One is that I have a strong tendency toward avoidance of unpleasant feelings/sensations/whatever. I also have noticed that I seem to go through cycles of awareness. Unconscious --> conscious --> unconscious, etc. By unconscious, I mean that I go on auto-pilot or that I get stuck in thought loops. I realize that I probably can't prevent that from happening all the time, but what I can do is become more aware of the process.

Anyhow, I've been able to keep my daily practice going with at least 30 min a day. Today I meditated for about an hour.

A few aspects of today's session: I was working on noting practices, but my concentration was a bit poor. I kept getting distracted by thoughts and feelings. I also kept wanting to fidget and change positions. I noted that too. One thing that I'm becoming more and more aware of is that there are layers and layers of subtlety to every emotion or sensation. A category like "pain" doesn't even seem to cut it. There's often varying levels of intensity, quality, breadth, etc... I'm only now beginning to tease out some of the differences.

I've also noticed that the sense of body can change from time to time. Sometimes I'm able to tune into the breath, the pulsing sensations, and then tingling, and other times my awareness just feels dull and scattered. I'm not sure why that happens, but maybe it's another aspect of impermanence at work. Might be worthy of investigation next time I notice it. Maybe there is something that the scattered feeling can teach, too, given enough mindfulness.

Will post again later.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
4/15/13 9:45 PM as a reply to Lara D.
Oops! I guess I forgot to update my practice log. I got back from my vacation safely. The Life Retreat is going well, too, and I've slowly been making progress with my insight meditation. I've mostly given up my formal concentration practices, though I've been using some of the "meditation" techniques to aid in my studies. I think it's been helpful.

I've been struggling with how to accurately describe or log my activities. On one hand, I could probably "describe" a typical meditation session, but it just doesn't feel like my descriptions will really do the experience justice. I'm also questioning the purpose of trying to keep a log in the first place.

Anyhow, I will see if I can't describe some of my more recent thoughts with regards to practice.

I think I am somewhere near the Three Characteristics stage. My muscles on my back and neck were pretty sore these past few days. Practice seems to help a bit, but not completely. Last week I was also dealing with restlessness, to the degree that I didn't want to sit at all. I'd try noting the desire to get up and do something, but a few times I just had to concede defeat. ;) I had more luck this weekend and was able to sit for longer again. I've also been obsessing over posture a bit, even though I know intuitively that it won't make a difference. I'm sure it is related to the muscle soreness (but at a deeper level, it's probably related to this stage of my insight practice).

I have plans to sit again this evening and I'm trying to average at least 30 minutes a day, preferably an hour. I'm happy that it's been fairly consistent. I wish I had a bit more time to devote to practice, but at least for now it'll probably have to wait.

I've also made a few significant changes to my diet. Mainly, I'm switching to a more vegetarian (near vegan) diet. For those who are interested, I found a few interesting programs / lectures about diet and exercise:

http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/apr/02/eat-fast-and-live-longer-michael-mosley/ (fasting)
http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/apr/08/truth-about-exercise-michael-mosley/ (exercise)
http://lateralaction.com/articles/internet-brain/ (internet usage & brain function)
http://nutritionfacts.org/video/uprooting-the-leading-causes-of-death/ (leading causes of death in the US... related to consumption of animal products)

I'm still working on improving my life habits in other ways, so that includes yoga. It's been an adventure.

Regardless, I'm still fairly hopeful and am actually pretty excited to be practicing at all. I wish I'd discovered some of these techniques earlier. I'm sure I could have avoided some unnecessary suffering. emoticon But as that isn't how everything went, I am forced to just admit that it was all part of the process. I can only look to the future from here!

That's all for today... maybe I can try again with writing an "actual" log tomorrow, if I get a chance.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
4/22/13 9:32 PM as a reply to Lara D.
I learned about metta meditation for the first time this weekend. So I started reading a book now by the name of Lovingkindess by Sharon Salzberg. It's actually been really helpful for a lot of things. I'm about 2/3rds of the way finished now.

So I think I'll be taking a short break from insight meditation and switching to metta. Eventually I'd like to practice both (not at the same time, obviously). I am also working on using my studies and classwork as my new object for concentration meditation. I will see how it goes...

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
4/22/13 11:32 PM as a reply to Lara D.
Just a little advice (or alotemoticon ). Concentration blocks thoughts so a mild insight practice would be better for studying. Thinking isn't a problem, it's the kind of thinking (especially over likes and dislikes). Secondly, when you are doing some higher computation it will be hard to do that and constant vipassana noting at the same time. I would use something like this to improve your concentration while still being normal:

Pomodoro technique
Time-boxing

It would also be good to do some Myers-Briggs and compare that to learning style.

Learning styles of Myers Briggs type indicators

• ISTJ were considered natural organizers and saw the world in terms of tangible
facts (Sensing), which they handled objectively (Thinking) through structure
(Judging). Others often considered them aloof and cool (Introverted) (p. 14).
• ISFJ were committed to getting the job done. They were comfortable working
quietly (Introverted) in a structured environment (Judging). They had a realistic
view of the world (Sensing) and made decisions based on interpersonal factors
(Feeling) (p. 15).
• INFJ were considered inspired leaders and followers. They were reflective
(Introverted) and saw life as full of possibilities (iNtuitive). They made
subjective decisions regarding these possibilities (Feeling), which they
implemented in an orderly, scheduled manner (Judging).
• INTI were independent thinkers, who reflected on ideas (Introverted) and saw the
world in endless possibilities (iNtuitive). They translated these ideas and
possibilities into objective decisions (Thinking), which they implemented through
a structured order (Judging) (p. 17).
• ISTP were known for their ability to get things done. They were often difficult to
read (Introverted), lived in the present, and perceived the world in tangible terms
(Sensing). They made objective decisions (Thinking) on the spur of the moment
(Perceiving) (p. 18) 22
• ISFP thought that an individual's actions spoke louder than their words, and
believed that plans and actions should be thought out in an orderly manner
(Introverted). They saw the world as tactile (Sensing) but made subjective
decisions (Feeling). They liked to keep their options open (Perceiving) (p. 19),
rather than corning to a decision.
• INFP had a gentle personality that enjoyed contemplation (Introverted) integrated
with imagination (iNtuitive). They used personal values to make decisions
(Feeling), and they enjoyed keeping things flexible (Perceiving) (p. 20).
• INTP liked to resolve problems by reflecting (Introverted) on the possibilities
(iNtuitive), which was a basis to make objective decisions (Thinking). At the
same time, they were easygoing and adaptable (Perceiving) (p. 21 ).
• ESTP made the most of the moment by scanning the external environment
(Extraverted) and looking at it in a factual and grounded fashion (Sensing). They
used this information to make objective decisions (Thinking) for whatever was
happening in the immediate moment (Perceiving) (p. 22) .
• ESFP enjoyed fun through an outgoing nature (Extraverted) and had a realistic
outlook (Sensing). They made subjective decisions (Feeling) in a spontaneous
manner (Perceiving), and were very flexible (p. 23).
• ENFP were people oriented who enjoyed social interactions (Extraverted) and
were searched for endless possibilities (iNtuitive). They made decisions based on
their interpersonal interactions (Feeling), while keeping their options open
(Perceiving) (p. 24). • ENTP enjoyed the external world of people (Extraverted) and the endless
possibilities of theoretical connections (iNtuitive). These theoretical connections
were objectively filtered (Thinking) but not binding, as they continued to consider
new options (Perceiving) (p. 25).
• ESTJ were natural administrators because of their outgoing and direct manner
(Extraverted), but they saw the world in a practical and realistic way (Sensing).
They used this information to make impersonal, analytical decisions (Thinking)
and implemented them in a structured manner (Judging) (p. 26).
• ESFJ were considered trusted friends who interacted with others easily
(Extraverted). They paid close attention to personal details (Sensing), and used
this information in an interpersonal way (Feeling) through a scheduled order
(Judging) (p. 27).
• ENFJ were natural persuaders who were socially oriented (Extraverted),
considered the possibilities (iNtuitive), and made subjective decisions (Feeling).
They used these attributes in a structured manner (Judging) that made them
excellent at networking (p. 28).
• ENTJ were considered natural leaders with people oriented skills (Extraverted).
In seeing connections and possibilities (iNtuitive), they were able to analyze them
objectively (Thinking) and implemented them in an organized fashion (Judging)
(p. 29).


Keisey
MBTI Types Temperaments Goley's LP Styles
ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ESFJ SJ Actual-Routine Learners (ARL)
ISTP, ISFP, ESTP, ESFP SP Actual-Spontaneous Leamer (ASL)
INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, ENTP NT Conceptual-Specific Leamer (CSL)
INFJ, INFP, ENFJ, ENFP NF Conceptual-Global Leamer (CGL)


Eg. Global versus Analytical.

Learning Styles and Strategies

If you want to add as much vipassana as possible (which increases concentration as well) I would recommend noting feeling tones (pleasant/neutral/unpleasant) and perception of likes and dislikes when you get distracted. Basically, don't act on them when they show up and watch the sensations pass away.

I also learned some other things from positive psychology on how the brain likes to go into the path of least resistance. By increasing barriers to addictive distractions (sometimes you need to increase the barriers in a major way for it to work) and decrease barriers to your task you will greatly reduce mental distraction.

Another trick is to purposely create desire and use that in your favor by paying attention to just the positive imaginings related to your goal. Dwelling on the negative is demotivaing.

Lastly, it's known that the amount of hours you spend (more = better) will have a greater success for you. Using time efficiently (like with Pomodoro technique) will help breakdown the goal into smaller parts and make it easier to see progress.

Try the above techinques in whatever combination works best for you.

Hopefully you find something useful.

RE: Lara's practice log
Answer
4/23/13 11:04 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Hi, thank you! I will take some time to go through all the material you've suggested. emoticon

I use a variation on the Pomodoro Technique and find it to be quite helpful. It's nice that I don't just tell myself I'm gonna study for 12 hours straight without breaks anymore. Haha.

I hadn't thought about the personality types influencing study/learning habits, but that makes a lot of sense. I'll see if I can't use it to my advantage!

Thanks again... will post again later to let you know more indepth feedback and/or how it goes.

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