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Kevin's Practice log
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6/21/13 8:09 PM
Gonna start a practice log. Basically using Shinzen's system, I'm going to start by focusing on Just Note Gone, and Nurture Positive, my two most difficult "subjects". More to follow...

RE: Kevin's Practice log
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6/22/13 10:02 AM as a reply to Kevin C.
Hi Kevin C.,

Welcome :]

Katy

RE: Kevin's Practice log
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6/22/13 6:27 PM as a reply to Kevin C.
Ok, so I have a fairly extensive informal spiritual practice. It basically centers around lifelong introspection, religious upbringing, and some dalliances with a couple of different guru-types. I don't know much traditional buddhist terminology, and I will try to stay with descriptive language. I can point to countless A&P, dukkha, and equanimity moments in my life but I really don't know where I am "on the map".

This morning I joined a local group for a 3 hour workshop. When we started practicing we did a supine body scan which lead to a state of feeling an inky-black fullness in my body. It felt like boiling tar, with a slightly warm sensation. Very pleasurable experience to be absorbed in. We then switched to a sitting practice where the instruction was to generate a "sacred word". I used part of my nurture-positive practice and meditated on the word "presence". I felt very physically embodied, and returned easily to the mantra during the short 15 minute sit.

Later this afternoon I did my practice at home. I began with 20 minutes of Just note gone, which is challenging for me. During the meditation there were lots of high-intensity shame and disgust emotions. They were very persistant emotions and I had to note my "gones" in the periphery of that experience. I was aware of vanishings in the see-in and hear-in thought space while the unpleasant emotions remained. For the first time I realized this is why this practice has been so hard for me. When I note the emotions directly they seem to shift sooner, but waiting for "gone" is a long wait. I made use of Tarver's suggestion to use the word "not" sometimes. If I was absorbed in an emotion and could find no other sensory experience, I used the note "Not", until I was able to experience a "gone" and I found this very useful.

I then switched to "do nothing" which I find very pleasurable. I get absorbed in flow states or fantasies and don't worry about it either way.

Lastly I finished up with Nurture Positive, and worked with my positive expression in the feel-in, hear-in, and see-in dimensions. My distractions often involved remembrances of times when I have failed to stay present. I would reassert my mantra, and would often feel a deep, thin, rising line of energy move up through the center of my body. I have no real conclusions about this experience, but there it is. Day one down!

RE: Kevin's Practice log
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6/22/13 8:17 PM as a reply to Kevin C.
Kevin C:
I then switched to "do nothing" which I find very pleasurable. I get absorbed in flow states or fantasies and don't worry about it either way.


Looks like a good set of practices. Just make sure that you don't get too absorbed in concentration states doing Shikatanza (just sitting/do nothing). The danger is not seeing enough detail (3 characteristics) and zooming in on an object like the breath and just absorbing with it. Otherwise you have a fabulous foundation. Shinzen's practices, especially Shikatanza, helped me a lot when I was too attached to jhanas. There is often too much manipulation in meditation practices and the "do nothing" practice helps you see that. For example I would sometimes go into the 4th jhana without trying simply because it became conditioned from past practice. Trying to repress emotions and mindstates to create jhanas was another thing that would just happen simply because I did it before many times. Some of the "Who am I?" and HAIETMOBA practices also helped by adding some non-noting practices to relieve the tension from intense noting and labeling.

You may have already read this from Shinzen's writings, but the do nothing practice helps when there's too much energy from noting that can create restlessness. When there's too much sloth and torpor a noting practice helps to energize you. Depending how you feel in a particular sitting you can use which practice keeps you balanced.

Here's another good run down of noting practice that counteracts some myths and bad habits that can come from it:

Gil Fronsdal - Mental Noting

Good luck!

RE: Kevin's Practice log
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6/29/13 6:53 PM as a reply to Kevin C.
Thanks for the welcome Katy and Richard! Much appreciated...

Had a crazy week with almost no practice, but it is time to assert a practice goal. For now I commit to sitting a minimum of twice a week for as long as I want, using any practice style that I want. I'm still trying to find the rhythm and style of practice that best suits me. So this is designed to be an exceed-able type of goal.

I sat for an hour yesterday and today, roughly broken down into:
30 minutes - Just note gone
20 minutes - Do nothing
10 minutes - Nurture positive

The noting gone practice seemed to bring up a lot of confusion and fairly intense, quickly shifting experiences for me. As I note 'gone', I will slip into fantasy more easily than other types of noting. When I realize I'm in fantasy, part of the fantasy is immediately recedes, but then I'm aware of subtle processing that is trying to create 'gone'. When I become aware of that, I often find that subtle processing vanishes for a moment, and there is some rest. In the rest space (I don't note anything here at this point) I often perceive shifts. It feels similar to an optometrist shifting immediately from one test lens to the other, but with no perceptible dropout between the two. I note 'gone' here based on the vanishing of the first 'lens'. It's not strictly a visual experience. It feels like shifts in internal visual, auditory, and feeling space simultaneously.

Also as I'm now trying to log my practice, there is often a lot of internal sensation around "how am I going to describe this". So far I just use that as the background through which to find "gone'. "But wait, did I just force that last 'gone'? "....gone.

At this point sitting an hour feels like a exhaustingly long period of time without being in a group or on retreat. Breaking it up into three sections makes it infinitely more doable.

RE: Kevin's Practice log
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7/1/13 10:05 AM as a reply to Kevin C.
A few words about "Not": the idea is to understand the margins of your practice, in order "Not" to go there (or beyond there) except in extreme circumstances or in the case of nice yummy breakthroughs which do happen from time to time exactly as if "out of the blue", Not-space being "the blue", as it were. The technically correct label in Basic Mindfulness for an absence of experience within a given focus space is "Rest". As soon as you admit that you are in Not-space on purpose, for example by using it to actually note the failure to find what you are looking for within your defined focus space, by definition you are not doing the practice you set out to do. "Not" (as I have imagined it) is used by (a) understanding it, and then (b) abstaining from using it. A metaphor might be psycho-logical rumble strips on the highway of mindfulness. You don't drive on them -- in fact, you try NOT to. That's what they are there for, NOT to get driven on, even though sometimes (rarely, but sometimes) one does, and this calls attention to itself as a problem. At any rate you say you found "Not" useful, so that's great, I'm glad you found it helpful.

Just Note Gone is an interesting case. The space of "not-Gone" is everything in one's experience, active or restful, that happens not to be vanishing and getting noticed as such right now. JNG is designed to facilitate figure-ground reversals, and "Not" is an anti-label for conceptual clarity about what is outside the focus space of practice. I was thinking more about regular noting practice than JNG when I got the idea of tying up "everything else" as "Not". But how Not relates to JNG I'm not exactly sure, and will have to think about (or try in practice) some more. So far, although I am very aware of Not at other times, it doesn't come up for me in JNG. Fascinating. Like I said, I will play with it some more myself, and let's compare notes, so to speak.

When you say you get absorbed in "flow states or fantasies" do you mean Csikszentmihalyi-esque flow, or Shinzen-esque flow? The former would be more like a classical absorption state with an unselfconscious merging with the activity you are performing (which could be daydreaming), whereas the latter would be more of an awareness of the impermanence of experience. I suspect the former, but the distinction is important if we are using Basic Mindfulness terms.

An aside: The link that Richard posted makes clear that noting is best customized to suit one's proclivities. Another thing about that link is that labels are described as "one word" which I think is a very good idea, notwithstanding the recommendation for two-word labels in Shinzen's current Practice Manual. The operative distinction (as I see it) is between perceptual clarity and conceptual clarity. Reading about, discussing, logging one's practice, yes, go for all the conceptual clarity you can find, and defining focus spaces with two-word descriptors contributes to that. WITHIN practice, however, the objective is to get perceptual clarity, and I am pretty sure that the upper limit for labels there is one word (ideally, one morpheme actually).

RE: Kevin's Practice log
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7/1/13 10:15 AM as a reply to Kevin C.
I trust the craziness of your week went well, and that everything got picked up and put where it (more or less) belongs.

Good on you for asserting a practice commitment! As always, keep it SMART, which it looks like you have. One query: is logging the practice part of your commitment?

I like the JNG followed by DN. As you sort out the subtleties of the perceptual shifts you describe, especially as JNG is challenging for you, the contrast between these two practices should be helpful because they span the range of "effort" to "no effort". I think of DN as "cut the power and coast". Just remember (I mean of course to keep in mind at some level, not to actively try) not to interfere with any Concentration, Clarity, and/or Equanimity that may emerge in the Do Nothing phase. And of course, if you happen to enjoy it that's great, but you are not allowed to try to get that to happen either; that's for the Nurture Positive wrap-up. emoticon I have to admit, sometimes I am really good at it but at other times I have great trouble maintaining the discipline to stick with what I set out to do. I find that no matter how long I set the timer for, I regularly "come out" 5 minutes before time. If you are doing a set drill, with the three parts as you have described, with that kind of contrast between them, I am very curious if you will run into this and start anticipating the next practice and how that will play out for you? And then beyond that, I am also curious how you will play that edge given the "exceed-able" practice goal you have set.

Your report of wondering "how am I going to describe this" is exactly on point. Being witnessed accentuates self-presence, go figure. Use this to your advantage.

RE: Kevin's Practice log
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7/2/13 9:05 PM as a reply to Tarver .
Thanks Tarver!

Form me, using the word flow: I'm describing an inner experience of "energy". There is no daydream in this state. I feel myself as undulating, expanding/contracting energy....often times similar to a lava lamp. I usually experience it in the image and feel spaces simultaneously. I'm not sure whether that meets Shinzen's version of flow the way you described it. I wasn't using the term to mean "absorbed in fantasy". I don't have a term for thatemoticon

It is handy for now that I'm only noting with the one word "gone". When I get back to noting others experiences I will use the one word versions of feel, image, talk, etc...

RE: Kevin's Practice log
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7/2/13 9:11 PM as a reply to Kevin C.
Kevin C:
I feel myself as undulating, expanding/contracting energy....often times similar to a lava lamp. ... I'm not sure whether that meets Shinzen's version of flow the way you described it.

Shinzen-esque flow exactly. Funny, I heard someone just the other week also use the image of a lava lamp. Blooo-oooooo-ooop. emoticon