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My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety

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My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 7/30/13 6:20 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety fivebells . 7/30/13 7:22 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 7/30/13 8:29 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 7/31/13 7:47 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 8/6/13 11:02 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 8/8/13 2:30 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 9/9/13 10:44 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Dan From Virginia 10/8/13 3:16 AM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 1/13/14 10:33 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 1/24/14 9:15 AM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Ian And 1/25/14 12:26 AM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 1/28/14 11:27 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 1/30/14 9:54 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 1/31/14 8:13 AM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 4/21/14 10:17 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 5/8/14 8:14 AM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 5/19/14 7:04 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Zyndo Zyhion 5/19/14 9:42 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 6/8/14 11:26 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Zyndo Zyhion 6/8/14 11:26 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Travis Gene McKinstry 6/9/14 2:14 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 6/9/14 2:29 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Travis Gene McKinstry 6/9/14 2:37 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 6/9/14 5:49 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Travis Gene McKinstry 6/14/14 5:49 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety This Good Self 6/15/14 3:57 AM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Dream Walker 6/14/14 11:05 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 6/17/14 10:35 PM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 7/24/14 8:43 AM
RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety Elijah Smith 7/28/14 10:54 PM
I figured I'd post up a practice log since I've been slacking on my private one and am about to hit an intense period in my life (starting grad school) and want to make sure I'm staying on track with my meditation.

I've been meditating steadily for 40 minutes a day or more for nearly two years at this point with a heavy emphasis on mindfulness of every day activities. I got into meditation as a result of developing a medium amount of social anxiety after a couple tramatic experiences. Thus far, my journey has liberated some of my emotions but introduced other new ones. For a while I didn't understand why I wasn't rapidly improving given my intense effort and all of the scientific research I read. I got a teacher, but didn't find the interactions to be that helpful.

I saw Daniel's book over a year ago, but the intro turned me off since I wasn't really interested in "enlightenment" but rather just wanted to reduce my psychological suffering. I instead kept practicing while reading from more psychologically oriented teachers. I think most people are in this camp... my local practice group has a mentoring program, and I was told the mentors who stated they were also therapists were getting exponentially more requests from potential students. However, I've started to realize that a lot of people who are very diligent for long periods of time are going to encounter periods of psychological distress caused by meditation, and that a lot of mainstream mindfulness teachers ignore this fact. It would have been helpful to me to have been made aware of this earlier, but it makes some sense why they would ignore this; perhaps they don't want to turn people off from the practice or suggest to them that they will encounter these emotions, given that it is already difficult for many people to get the motivation to practice. Furthermore, most of the research on mindfulness is either on monks, who have probably dealt with these issues already, or beginning meditators, who are experiencing a honeymoon phase.

As of now, my practice consists of either brief periods of choiceless awareness cycling with brief periods of concentration, noting practice, or occasionally metta. I am intentionally avoiding long periods of noting or concentration practice since they can be destabilizing. In the future I plan to do them, but for now, I am doing a lot of choiceless awareness since I find it stabilizing and I've been getting brief insight from it.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
7/30/13 7:22 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
There is probably another way to practice concentration which is not destabilizing. How you are practicing it at the moment?

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
7/30/13 8:29 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
I did concentration in the way that it is typically taught; anapanasati, with the intent of being with the breath for its full cycle. The last time I was practicing concentration intensely I had a huge surge of doubt and worry that lasted a few days; whether it was definitely a result of the concentration practice I can't say for sure but since stopping I haven't felt that way.

I also posted a video a few days ago in which Willoughby Britton, a researcher who looks at negative side effects from meditation, interviewed Leigh Brashington. They both seemed to agree that concentration tended to derepress psychological content, which is often destabilizing. I was actually surprised by this as well and it was what led me to make the above connection (though once again it could be spurious).

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
7/31/13 7:47 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Two twenty minute sessions today.

First: short few minutes of breath awareness followed by choiceless awareness for the rest of the time. Towards the end of the practice the sense of a solid self at the center of experience starting to dissolve.

Second: ten minutes of noting followed by ten minutes choiceless awareness. Feeling some doubt during the choiceless awareness. The questions I ask myself are is this doing anything, and am I far enough to be doing this practice fruitfully? This is the one bothersome thing about the practice and a reason I'm looking for a teacher who has experience with shikantaza. On a few occasions I have gone very deep and felt vibrations while doing it however. This reassures me.

Edit: That night I actually had some weird feelings that I would say felt sort of like what I expected DN would... a sort of unpleasant anatta. The day after they were gone but while I was at the gym and after the sense of self was greatly diminished. Thoughts would come, I'd see them as not self, then they'd quickly vanish. Shikantaza seems to give this effect, even though I haven't experienced A/P. Helps to clear up some of my doubts.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
8/6/13 11:02 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Haven't been meditating too much due to just moving. Roughly thirty minutes a day. My stuff has been coming up a fair amount the past few days but i am overall adapting to the move quite well. Tonight I did about eight minutes of noting before I felt like I might be going into AP. Since I don't want that rightnow I opened my eyes and stopped noting for a minute, then switched to shikantaza, occasionally asking myself the question "what is this?" After a bit I felt what I thought the second jhana would feel like, though I didn't really notice a first; a profound feeling of sukha. This was quite a motivating experience. I did my best to continue open awareness.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
8/8/13 2:30 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
I got to the same 2nd-jhana-like state again last night. I am not sure if it is really a jhana or what. My breathing slows down greatly which feels quite weird. The first night I think I could have sustained it for quite a while but last night it wasn't as solid and I got up right at minute 20.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
9/9/13 10:44 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Long time no post - been busy, and going through a break up. I've continued to practice in the same manner, and had rather great success over the past month through acceptance/opening. The emotions I used to experience still come up but often aren't as sticky. What I've been doing is saying to myself internally "yes," "opening" or "softening" and internally let whatever the feeling is do whatever it wants to. Sometimes I will even say "do your worst" or "let it cut me" and feelings that I used to get stuck with will loosen or even dissolve. Interestingly I never used to give any credit to techniques that were simply saying some phrase internally, but I've found that words can serve as a way to bring me to a place of acceptance.

Occasionally I won't be able to open to some feeling, and I'll go down the vortex of negative thoughts. Once in the vortex, I find not much works but just waiting it out, it seems meditation is most effective at preventing the vortex from happening in the first place.

When difficult experiences come up during formal meditation, I'm also finding it more useful to drop the anchor, and just "let things be" with loose awareness.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
10/8/13 3:16 AM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Wishing you only the best and perhaps even a little luck (as it never hurt anyone...as far as I know.)

Dan from Virginia

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
1/13/14 10:33 PM as a reply to Dan From Virginia.
Thanks! I appreciate the Feynman avatar. Haven't posted in a while but I've been keeping up the practice. I think I am in DN territory and had no idea because I hadn't read much about it up until recently. I think what I thought was jhana may have actually been A&P experiences, I've had several of them over my span meditating and they've left me mind blown. The weirdness of the sensations I've been having, and reading others testimonies make it seem like I might be dark nighting, especially since I never felt anything of this sort prior to meditating.

I've been able to conquer a lot of the fear I've experienced through completely opening and surrendering. I think I am going to just start noting practice in place of what I was doing since I find it quite high powered, and was only avoiding it because I was scared of the DN.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
1/24/14 9:15 AM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
I just took a look back at the log I was keeping for myself from a year ago. A lot has really changed since then, primarily for the better. It seemed from a recent meditation experience that I was cycling through DN/EQ. (clear transitions from fear to misery to EQ). However, in the grander scheme, it appears that I've moved from fear to misery. The persistent anxiety/worry that I used to feel has diminished greatly, however, now I am more sensitive to self-consciousness. I often feel long-lasting experiences of tension/pain in my head area. (The latter is often triggered when I have to study very intense topics for hours a day)

Other changes: I now feel emotions in the body (especially the feet, strangely enough), previously I felt them almost exclusively in the head. I think this has been a result of the open awareness practice.

In my last post I mentioned I was going to go to straight noting, I had some negative reactions which I couldn't explain (it got me very amped up one night, couldn't sleep for a while due to the negative feelings). There seems to be something special about open awareness meditation for me.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
1/25/14 12:26 AM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Elijah Smith:

I've been meditating steadily for 40 minutes a day or more for nearly two years at this point with a heavy emphasis on mindfulness of every day activities. I got into meditation as a result of developing a medium amount of social anxiety after a couple traumatic experiences. Thus far, my journey has liberated some of my emotions but introduced other new ones. For a while I didn't understand why I wasn't rapidly improving given my intense effort and all of the scientific research I read. I got a teacher, but didn't find the interactions to be that helpful.

I saw Daniel's book over a year ago, but the intro turned me off since I wasn't really interested in "enlightenment" but rather just wanted to reduce my psychological suffering....

As of now, my practice consists of either brief periods of choiceless awareness cycling with brief periods of concentration, noting practice, or occasionally metta. I am intentionally avoiding long periods of noting or concentration practice since they can be destabilizing. In the future I plan to do them, but for now, I am doing a lot of choiceless awareness since I find it stabilizing and I've been getting brief insight from it....

You said in the past that you aren't really interested in "enlightenment," but rather that you "just wanted to reduce your psychological suffering."

Yet you seem not to have made the connection between gaining self-knowledge and a reduction in general dissatisfaction. If you know what is causing your dissatisfaction (dukkha), isn't knowing that a pathway to an enlightened state? If you don't know what is causing you pain, how are you ever going to relieve it? Meaning, if you know the cause of unsatisfactoriness, and are able to see it for what it is (anatta or its without-self nature), through renunciation you take its power away to harm you. It no longer can affect you in the way that it once did.

Perhaps your definition/perception of the concept of enlightenment needs to expand. You think?

Elijah Smith:

A lot has really changed since then, primarily for the better. It seemed from a recent meditation experience that I was cycling through DN/EQ. (clear transitions from fear to misery to EQ). However, in the grander scheme, it appears that I've moved from fear to misery. The persistent anxiety/worry that I used to feel has diminished greatly, however, now I am more sensitive to self-consciousness. I often feel long-lasting experiences of tension/pain in my head area. (The latter is often triggered when I have to study very intense topics for hours a day)

Moving from fear to misery could be seen as a move in the right direction. If by fear you mean that you lost a sense of empowerment, of being able to be pro-active about reducing the fear, feeling helpless. Misery can become a motivating factor to want to move beyond the misery itself. And to find release.

The heightened sensitivity to self-consciousness is a positive development. It means you have an opportunity to recognize the source of your dissatisfaction and anxiety and to root it out with wisdom.

The sensation of tension or pressure in your head is indicative of an increase in the level of concentration. Use that sensation wisely to let you know when your mind has become concentrated so that you can use that state to examine (contemplate) the content of your mind in an effort to see things clearly.

Ideally, the practice of meditation is meant to help one develop and cultivate the mind. If you are truly interested in learning how to "reduce psychological suffering," then use this skill that you are developing to assist you in reaching that clarity of mind which helps you to put an end to the suffering you are causing yourself by shining a light on it so that you can let go of it!

By developing the four establishments of mindfulness -– namely, contemplation of the body (rupa), contemplation of feeling (vedana), contemplation of mind states (cittanupassana), and contemplation of phenomena (dhammas) – you begin the journey to discover the source of your unsatisfactoriness. Letting go of attachment to and developing equanimity toward these sources of misery leads one to final release and eventual enlightenment. That's all enlightenment is. It is all that Gotama ever promised could be accomplished through practice of his Dhamma.

"Formerly, Anuradha, and also now, I make known only suffering and the cessation of suffering." (SN 22.86) (MN 22.38)

"The mind imbued with wisdom becomes completely free from the corruptions, that is, from the corruption of sensuality, of becoming, of false views, and of ignorance." (DN 16.4.4)

"Nothing is fit to be clung to. If a monk has learnt that nothing is fit to be clung to, he directly knows everything; by directly knowing everything he fully understands everything..." (AN 7.58)

Here is a hint he gave about the contemplation of feeling (vedana). See if you can use it in your practice. "Is feeling permanent or impermanent? . . . Is what is impermanent suffering or happiness? . . . Is what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, This I am. This is myself'?" (SN 22.59)

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
1/28/14 11:27 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Thanks a lot for the detailed response.

I made a post about a week ago saying that I was sure I was in DN, but really I am not. I don't see the suffering I feel stemming from an insight into impermanence or no self, even if it often doesn't seem to have much of a base in anything in the real world. I still think I very well may have crossed the A/P at some point. I imagine I am not going to arrive at any hard answers and frankly it doesn't matter since I will probably do the same practices either way.

Today I did some metta since I was recommended it on here. I hadn't done it in a while and it felt quite good.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
1/30/14 9:54 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Interesting meditation tonight. I was doing open awareness and switched into mind watching for a while. I started to have a bunch of weird thoughts that would just repeat themselves. Then I started repeatedly blinking and feeling the muscles around my eyes contracting over and over (this has happened before, its quite strange). I just kept watching the thoughts and they started to lose the sense of an I. I felt a dissipation of self after a while of doing it. Things feel different now, my mental space is very light and I feel centerless, I am pretty sure this is first path. Its subtle and hard to describe but the word I would use is centerless. I am laughing for no reason. Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and be back to normal and feel like an idiot, but who knows.

This is wild because the past couple days I was really stuck in misery. I was just doing metta. Then today I switch to this practice and boom.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
1/31/14 8:13 AM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Another strange thing about it. My 10 minute meditation bell rang, then I kept going and all this happened, I was sure I had been meditating for an additional 20 minutes, and I had just tuned out the second bell, but I looked down and only 8 minutes had passed! It blew my mind.

Edit: Next morning. I feel like my center is mostly returned. This is probably not first path, whatever happened was still very outside the range of my prior meditative experience though.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
4/21/14 10:17 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
I've been doing a lot of low effort practice and haven't been doing enough formal practice. It's harder to get the motivation when I am so busy now. To some extent I feel like I am going in circles. I would certainly practice consistently 2 hours a day, if I thought it would help, but I am not entirely sure given that in the past when I practiced too much the results were not always beneficial.

Since I really started doing a lot of open awareness and completely opening to fear and distress, I noticed a lot of changes. A lot of the anxiety subsided. However, in its place is a new set of sensations, more along the lines of pain than anxiety. One weird and strong one is tension in my feet. Historically I always felt emotions in my head, and very rarely in my body. I feel them more in my body now, but they center often in my feet. Strange!

Second, I have a certain scary thought that repeats itself in my head, I don't believe the thought at all but it is almost like a song that I can't control. It isn't that distressful because I don't believe it, but it's weird and the only thing I could compare it to is something I found called pure O OCD. It also often just turns into movement with no words (don't know how else to describe it)

Finally, there's this sharp tension in my head that sometimes forms, especially when I am distressed or frustrated. I have to study 60 hours a week and this very often aggravates it, as you might expect!

I don't know if these effects are a result of insight meditation or something else. I didn't really experience anything of this sort pre-meditation, but many of the negative effects I experienced pre-meditation I can now handle better now.

Time to go do 20 minutes of breath awareness.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
5/8/14 8:14 AM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Last night I hit a really strong A/P. I was doing concentration practice using the breath, and around the twenty minute mark I started to get very tranquil. Then I switched to a noting practice and within about a minute or two a bunch of energy expoded. I noted that I had definitely had similar experiences in the past, but last night the new thing was that the energy remained around for a long time. I was lying in bed afterwards feeling giddy.

I still feel it to some extent. Usually in the past it has gone away within ten minutes or so (if I recall correctly).

It is unclear to me how this surge of energy described in the A/P is different from the arising of piti in first jhana. How is it possible to differentiate the two?

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
5/19/14 7:04 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Pretty steep in the dark night. Feeling a persistent tension and period squeezing in the head with no outside cause for hours on end. This causes a lot of doubt. Noting seems to give temporary relief but possibly makes the feeling stick around longer (I'm not entirely sure because I don't have a clear counterfactual).

It makes concentration practice a lot harder. I can still place my attention on the breath, but to do so with more than a reasonable amount of effort does not feel good, so I end up doing a very light effort and not getting that deep. Open awareness feels like the most natural practice to do but I'm not sure if I'm making any progress doing that.

Doubt has been and continues to be probably the biggest obstacle in my practice. The most painful thoughts I have tend to be related to whether I will ever be able to find peace.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
5/19/14 9:42 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Hi Elijah,

You need to do 1 hour a day, an hour is the minimum standard for a sit, that they encourage everyone to develope to in retreat. I admire you regularity and its discipline, being a bit haphazard myself. Lately Holosync is quite good for help me sink into a sit on a days I'm having trouble with dark night and being willing to be with what is; fully. In my last retreat, I was often doing 1 and 1/2 hours sit, before my next retreat I will work up to 1 hr and 3/4 and hopefully to 2 hr sits. If I can regularly do 2 hr sit, with only about 15 minutes of discomfort at the end then khanika damadhi will be improving, which it need to if I want to attain stream entry. Sitting with 15minutes of pain and discomfort is very good for concentration and for equanimity!

Kind Regards Neem

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
6/8/14 11:26 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
I have been practicing an hour plus a day for about a month now, this is quite a step up from where I was. I've been going through the dark night still, still in the seeming misery phase. I've been doing mostly concentration practice, focusing on the breath for 30 minutes at a time, trying to see clearly the begininning and end. Making an effort to see clearly the beginning of each breath has really improved my ability to concentrate (saw this in the Culadasa notes). 

I am not sure whether it is possible to get out of the dark night into a more consistent EQ or stream entry without retreats. I have a fear of going on retreat though, being completely free of distraction for that long of a time. I'm really not sure I am ready for it at this point. 

I've also been looking at thoughts in daily life, and realized a lot of the weird sensations I've talked about above seem to be due to repressed thoughts. If I look at my thoughts when I am feeling pain, they are really highly aversive, and I think a lot of these aversive thoughts have been suppressed subconsciously. They say things like, I can't stand this, I hate this, how am I supposed to live with this stupid pain, etc.

I should probably start a new practice log because the title isn't really fitting anymore. Anxiety is no longer the main focus of my practice.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
6/8/14 11:26 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
"I have been practicing an hour plus a day for about a month now, this is quite a step up from where I was. I've been going through the dark night still, still in the seeming misery phase. I've been doing mostly concentration practice, focusing on the breath for 30 minutes at a time, trying to see clearly the beginning and end."

Hey there Elijah, That's great that your doing a full hour and even better that your doing it every day! 

Insight practice can be done in a way that strengthens the concentration aspect of the practice, but this is still insight practice. This is why in the Mahasi tradition; instead of the broad sweeping and part by part and piece by piece style of Goenkha; there is an emphasis on watching the rising and falling of the breath. In this process, one will be told amongst other things, to be aware of the start and finish of the breath. 
Often when insight process is running, it is hard to slip back into pure samadhi practice, so it is better to do samadhi first, if you want to practice it along with insight. 
In the developmental stages of samadhi practice, at the beginning and middle stages, it requires a fair amount of mindfulness and insight. This is because, one needs to be mindful of tensions and relax them, to be mindful of thoughts and return to the present moment, to be mindful of pleasant sensations and connect to and with them, without grasping to them, as that will interfere with the development of the samadhi practice. 
So you are still doing insight practice most likely, but in a concentrated fashion, as you are watching thing as they are; rather than ignoring unpleasant sensations and cultivating pleasant sensation or states, such as calm, peace and spaciousness. 

"I am not sure whether it is possible to get out of the dark night into a more consistent EQ or stream entry without retreats. I have a fear of going on retreat though, being completely free of distraction for that long of a time. I'm really not sure I am ready for it at this point."

Your damed if you do and damed if you don't. http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5534867 this thread on insight disease discusses the dilemma. Are you looking for a balance point and end, a point that doesn't change and is good pleasant and safe?

"If I look at my thoughts when I am feeling pain, they are really highly aversive, and I think a lot of these aversive thoughts have been suppressed subconsciously. They say things like, I can't stand this, I hate this, how am I supposed to live with this stupid pain, etc."

Maybe some people have more intense insight than others, because of things like depression. Also maybe people with depression are more likely to find insight awakening that samadhi awakening/kundalini awakening. This impicit question is a difficult one to answer, please let me share with you a few threads that have helped me orientate around, this issue.
http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2008/06/bg-077-transhumanism-and-the-authentic-self/  (Transhumansim and the authentic self and the following short talks)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpHiFqXCYKc (Brain Development & Addiction with Gabor Mate) 
 
There are a few thoughts. Well wishes from Neem.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
6/9/14 2:14 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Elijah Smith:
I figured I'd post up a practice log since I've been slacking on my private one and am about to hit an intense period in my life (starting grad school) and want to make sure I'm staying on track with my meditation.

I've been meditating steadily for 40 minutes a day or more for nearly two years at this point with a heavy emphasis on mindfulness of every day activities. I got into meditation as a result of developing a medium amount of social anxiety after a couple tramatic experiences. Thus far, my journey has liberated some of my emotions but introduced other new ones. For a while I didn't understand why I wasn't rapidly improving given my intense effort and all of the scientific research I read. I got a teacher, but didn't find the interactions to be that helpful.

I saw Daniel's book over a year ago, but the intro turned me off since I wasn't really interested in "enlightenment" but rather just wanted to reduce my psychological suffering. I instead kept practicing while reading from more psychologically oriented teachers. I think most people are in this camp... my local practice group has a mentoring program, and I was told the mentors who stated they were also therapists were getting exponentially more requests from potential students. However, I've started to realize that a lot of people who are very diligent for long periods of time are going to encounter periods of psychological distress caused by meditation, and that a lot of mainstream mindfulness teachers ignore this fact. It would have been helpful to me to have been made aware of this earlier, but it makes some sense why they would ignore this; perhaps they don't want to turn people off from the practice or suggest to them that they will encounter these emotions, given that it is already difficult for many people to get the motivation to practice. Furthermore, most of the research on mindfulness is either on monks, who have probably dealt with these issues already, or beginning meditators, who are experiencing a honeymoon phase.

As of now, my practice consists of either brief periods of choiceless awareness cycling with brief periods of concentration, noting practice, or occasionally metta. I am intentionally avoiding long periods of noting or concentration practice since they can be destabilizing. In the future I plan to do them, but for now, I am doing a lot of choiceless awareness since I find it stabilizing and I've been getting brief insight from it.

Elijah,

Sounds like you got a solid technique of meditation on your life now. Keep it up emoticon and thank you for your commitment.

Small point; someone pointed this out earlier but have you read MCTB completely yet? I think it might be a good idea. In it Daniel explains that meditation/SE/Enlightenment should not be sought after as a 'cure' for certain mental illnesses, diseases, problems, etc. I know it's horribly tempting, but one should not expect meditation/SE/Enlightenment to fix those problems. It may, or it may dramatically reduce them, but be aware that meditation might not even reduce it a little bit.

Your practice seems solid; 1 hour a day everyday. Keep up the practice log. There are those of us in this community who care deeply about your practice, and whether or not you are practicing. 

The path is about erradicating an illusion of a separate-self (among other things). So don't forget; we don't do this for ourselves. This is for the liberation of all beings.
Best of luck emoticon

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
6/9/14 2:29 PM as a reply to Travis Gene McKinstry.
Thanks for the kind words. My views have changed a lot since the original post. A lot of the psychological pain I am working with now I did not have before I started meditating. I never experienced any depressive feelings prior to meditating; only anxiety, and that stemmed from a bad experience with mushrooms. Prior to that, I was a generally very happy person (I remember having thoughts about how I couldn't imagine being unhappy). I also have most of the practical details of my life in good order; I have a very successful career path in the making, exercise regularly, have a healthy relationship, etc. The reason I mention all this is because I simply don't think I have any choice other than meditation to work with my ails, unfortunately. They aren't really based on anything in the real world. I feel as though I have opened up a can of worms between the mushrooms experience and then my meditaiton practice such that I have to put all of my eggs in the meditation basket.

As a result, immediately upon reading someone saying that meditation may not hold the answers, I feel a surge of doubt. In general it seems other people have found relief on this forum and elsewhere from similar issues via meditation progress though. Reading their stories tends to keep me motivated. 

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
6/9/14 2:37 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Elijah,

Thank you for replying.

Keeping strong motivation is very important. I guess I was just trying to illustrate an experience I once had which was having high expectations and being let down tremendously. You seem like a hard worker. Keep it up and the 'blip' will happen. Stay mindful as much as you can everyday and try to fit in as much meditaiton as you can. This is how I hit stream entry. I was meditating upwards of 3-4 hours a day. You can do it. I had a job and was in school full time. You can do it emoticon

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
6/9/14 5:49 PM as a reply to Travis Gene McKinstry.
Wow that is impressive! I do have time to meditate more, but it really takes a lot of motivation to put that much time in day in and day out. At some point I'm hoping to start doing longer sittings/mini 3-4 hour retreats on the weekends to assess what impact more time on the cushion would have. 

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
Answer
6/14/14 5:49 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Elijah Smith:
Wow that is impressive! I do have time to meditate more, but it really takes a lot of motivation to put that much time in day in and day out. At some point I'm hoping to start doing longer sittings/mini 3-4 hour retreats on the weekends to assess what impact more time on the cushion would have. 


I'm sure you got the point but just in case.... I was mearly stating my experience to motivate you and show you it is possible. I am a real live person, and I got it. This was a big point to my SE, I didn't believe in it enough. I didn't actually think it was possible. It is. I'm a 'regular' person; I work at Jimmy Johns and go to school. You can do it emoticon

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
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6/14/14 11:05 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Elijah Smith:
Thanks for the kind words. My views have changed a lot since the original post. A lot of the psychological pain I am working with now I did not have before I started meditating. I never experienced any depressive feelings prior to meditating; only anxiety, and that stemmed from a bad experience with mushrooms. 
I feel as though I have opened up a can of worms between the mushrooms experience and then my meditaiton practice such that I have to put all of my eggs in the meditation basket.


bad experience with mushrooms - A&P
anxiety - Knowledge of fear
depressive feelings - Knowledge of misery

Sounds like you are moving along slow and steady. Do you like the speed it is unfolding? Noting might be a bit more destabilizing (maybe) but this could be explained by it being more effective and faster way to get to the root of the matter. If you are tired of the DN stage I would recommend noting yer butt off. Of course in the DN nothing "seems" to be working, so you are kinda screwed (sorry) but I've found getting the hell out of it the best thing to do. Get to EQ as fast as you can by seeing the reality that is presenting itself to you as clearly as you can...including the uncomfortable sensations.
Oh, I would recommend that you stop making stories out of the crappy sensations. If you want to deal with your psychological "stuff" do it from a place of EQ not while in the thick of DN.
I don't mean to harsh yer groove, just some thoughts
Good luck,
~D
Edit: choiceless awareness is totally great too....But i see this as noting without the noting part. If you are good at noting phenominon as it arises then you can drop the second part about the words....if you can keep the content from slipping in.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
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6/15/14 3:57 AM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Looks like your only successful meditation involved watching your thoughts.  But then you went back and did all sorts of other meditations which didn't work!

What about going back to what works? 

Or try getting out your laptop, open a word processor and write down the stream of thoughts as they happen.   It's what I do.  Thought watching.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
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6/17/14 10:35 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Thanks for the advice everyone.

Travis McKinistry - Thanks for the motivation! Jimmy John's is good stuff emoticon

Dreamwalker - I will probably move to noting at some point. I've been trying to focus on concentration practice for now, with open awareness (which, as you mention, the way I practice is quite like noting) occassionally interspersed when concentration is just creating tension. I also agree with the possible timeline you laid out. I've also had several obvious A/P experiences interspersed since I started meditating, which are often followed by cycling. I didn't see it for a while, but when I finally got to reading the relevant parts of MCTB it became pretty clear to me that my experiences map well into the dark night. It took a few times of me going through A/P experiences, followed by fear, followed by nasty sensations, after having read about the stages to see this. Looking back it makes sense too, I can recall a little over a year ago hitting the A/P, thinking it was some kind of jhanic state, then having a ton of anxiety about nothing, which confused the hell out of me at the time, since I expected jhana to be calming! 

CCC - I have been having a lot more success with concentration practice lately. I'm also naturally inclined towards choiceless awareness. I think you are right though that watching thoughts has been a really powerful practice for me, it seems like if I watch thoughts for a while before doing another practice for instance, the latter practice yields more insight. Watching thoughts can really turn off the selfing mechanism quickly.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
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7/24/14 8:43 AM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
Coming to log another meditative experience.

I was doing some open awareness last night which is usually pretty calming but by the end of it for whatever reason there was some sticky fear coming up, existential and accompanied by doubt of the practice. My typical strategy of surrendering to it was actually not really having working in that the fear seemed to be stuck and getting worse, I was having pretty wild thoughts about dropping out of my PhD program and living with my parents, haha. I stopped and went to bed, but it was still there so I continued to try to surrender and do metta.

Eventually out of nowhere I started to feel some sort of transformation into calm, when this started I felt like I was going to have an out of body experience or something. I guess this was me hitting equanimity again, it was quite shocking because I really didn't feel like this was a maps experience until this transformation occured. I am still a bit destabilized from the experience, as I thought I had moved on from such existential fear from learning to surrender. Damn you, ReOb.

RE: My practice log - Meditation & working with anxiety
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7/28/14 10:54 PM as a reply to Elijah Smith.
I just hit a strong A/P experience again and it is really beautiful. It started with surges of energy in my spine during practice; this had been happening the past week but wasn't always pleasant. This time it was and felt like an orgasm. Now I have the classic heightened energy that accompanies the A/P. It feels a bit different than past A/P's, though the differences are tough to put a finger on. No self is seen more clearly each time I go through these cycles. The after effects have lasted longer the last few times I've hit the A/P.  

I am gaining confidence in that the maps have some validity each time I pass through as well, though I don't always see each of the nanas in the order they are described and seem to skip around.

Practice wise, I have been doing primarily a combination of open awareness with occasional light concentration on the breath. I move to the breath when it feels good to do so.