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Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/11/13 8:32 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/11/13 8:44 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 12/12/13 5:19 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/12/13 4:40 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 12/12/13 5:40 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/12/13 5:46 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 12/12/13 5:38 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/13/13 6:34 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 12/13/13 7:08 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 12/13/13 7:13 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/13/13 7:33 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/15/13 3:08 AM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/16/13 3:32 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/16/13 6:41 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/17/13 7:07 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/19/13 9:04 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/19/13 9:05 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/20/13 10:12 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/22/13 4:10 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/25/13 4:04 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/26/13 3:49 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 12/26/13 4:07 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/27/13 8:06 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 12/28/13 3:59 AM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/27/13 7:53 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/28/13 7:15 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/29/13 9:30 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 12/31/13 4:46 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/31/13 9:10 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 12/31/13 9:08 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/1/14 8:04 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 1/1/14 8:41 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/3/14 9:26 AM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 1/3/14 4:29 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 1/3/14 3:52 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/3/14 9:18 AM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/4/14 4:40 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/8/14 12:48 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/8/14 3:40 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/10/14 6:05 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/10/14 6:06 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 1/10/14 8:02 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/11/14 10:19 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 1/14/14 9:39 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/16/14 8:40 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Nikolai . 1/17/14 2:53 AM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/11/14 8:48 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/14/14 7:09 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/16/14 8:38 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/19/14 12:52 AM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/21/14 6:58 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/27/14 12:58 AM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/30/14 7:01 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 1/31/14 7:49 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 2/4/14 9:00 PM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 2/10/14 11:32 AM
RE: Andrew's Practice Log Andrew Mayer 2/13/14 10:06 PM
Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/11/13 8:32 PM
Who and where I (think) I am:

I'm 48 and I've been meditating on and off for 30 years(since 18). Most of that has been "still mind" or visualization. A mish-mash of whatever was available to me. I only got into serious insight practice after I attended a 10-day Goenka retreat in May 2012. I found Goenka's scanning very slow going, but stuck with it for over a year. The retreat did have some profound experiences for me however, and I believe my disciplined work while I was there was very useful.

I probably had my first arising and passing away at around 13. That's the event I can remember. Not as strange as it may sound when you a father who had a thought-centered practice, and who had been involved in heavily mind-based "occult" practice in the 50's.

I've followed numerous spiritual techniques, with a deep turn to Huna magick and Shamanism in the late 90s, along with NLP training, and Chaos Magick training. Lots of powers, but eventually dark night overwhelm led me to mostly abandon those skills in the mid-2000's.

I first discovered MCTB on a farm in southern New Zealand in early 2011, but only set down to read the book after having some profound realizations with The Power of Now earlier this year. I ignored Tollé's advice to not meditate because my meditation practice has always been incredibly anchoring, and without it bad things tend to happen.

Now I usually meditate for an hour a day, and am doing my best to work on noting along with general Dharma work.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/11/13 8:44 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
12/11/2012

Focus on breathing. Having trouble focusing. What if I increase the rate of focus?
Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise
Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall

Find sensations at that speed. Push to note at the rate of attention.
Thoughts coming in. Feelings coming in.
Noting. Noting. What if everything is breathing? What if there is only breath, and everything is part of breath?
What if thoughts are breath?
More thoughts. More thinking.
I am not these thoughts. They are here, they are now, but they are not me?
What if my attention is rising and passing? What if everything I am aware of is the three truths? What if that thought is also the truths?

Everything is gone? Simply having thoughts and training attention upon them.
Body is vanishing. Shootin' Aliens.
What if there is only rising and passing away? What if every sensation is simply that one sensation?

Knock Knock Knock

Someone is at the door. I open my eyes. I grab my glasses.
I should answer. I'm waiting for a package!
I am meditating. But not anymore. Thrown back to reality.

Disappointment. Cast back into my body. Back into thoughts.

Back to breathing.
Grrr. Why did that happen? Why couldn't I stay there.

Knock Knock Knock

Go away! Let me meditate!
Focus on breathing. I am meditating. Let it go.
Noises everywhere. Who is there? What is happening?
Why am I grasping? This is what happened.

Back to breathing.
Focus on breathing. Focus on everything being one thing, like before.

Yeah, right

Focus on breathing.
Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise
Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall
Nope. Nope. Nope.

Okay. Maybe. Better.
And what's this?

I gotta pee. Badly

Pain! Pain! Pain!

Should I go pee? ( Isn't it dangerous not to pee?)
Focus on breathing. Focus through then pain.

Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall

How long left?
How long should I wait?
(Noting the desire for this to end.)
What if I hurt myself?

Focus through the pain. Focus on the pain.

What is pain? Pain is rising and passing away.
We can only sense what rises and passes away.

THAT is sensation. THAT is awareness.

DING! Time is up.

And now I can pee. Except I don't need to pee.
So what was the pain?

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/12/13 5:19 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Andrew Mayer:
12/11/2012

Focus on breathing. Having trouble focusing. What if I increase the rate of focus?
Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise
Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall

Find sensations at that speed. Push to note at the rate of attention.
Thoughts coming in. Feelings coming in.
Noting. Noting. What if everything is breathing? What if there is only breath, and everything is part of breath?
What if thoughts are breath?
More thoughts. More thinking.
I am not these thoughts. They are here, they are now, but they are not me?
What if my attention is rising and passing? What if everything I am aware of is the three truths? What if that thought is also the truths?

Everything is gone? Simply having thoughts and training attention upon them.
Body is vanishing. Shootin' Aliens.
What if there is only rising and passing away? What if every sensation is simply that one sensation?


What if 'sensation' , the actual idea of, was just an actual idea only. What would experience of a sensation be like without being mentally designated a 'sensation'? I like your furious questioning mind Keep doing that. It will take you far.

Knock Knock Knock

Someone is at the door. I open my eyes. I grab my glasses.
I should answer. I'm waiting for a package!
I am meditating. But not anymore. Thrown back to reality.


Why is 'reality' not simply an extension of what one is doing in practice? Why is 'meditating' relegated simple to a sitting position? Can the act of 'meditation' move to also encompass getting up, putting on glasses and answering the door? If not how can one modify the act of paying attention so that there are no gaps in momentum an practice?

]Disappointment. Cast back into my body. Back into thoughts.


Is dissapointment interrupting the 'meditation' ? How can one co-opt the arising of dissapointment into a continuation of gapless practice?

Back to breathing.
Grrr. Why did that happen? Why couldn't I stay there.]


How can the "grrrr" be co-opted into a gapless practice?

Knock Knock Knock

Go away! Let me meditate!
Focus on breathing. I am meditating. Let it go.
Noises everywhere. Who is there? What is happening?
Why am I grasping? This is what happened.


How can the act of grasping and supposed interruptions be co-opted into a gapless practice?

Back to breathing.
Focus on breathing. Focus on everything being one thing, like before.


How can a lack of focus on "everything being one thing" be co-opted into a gapless practice? How can one shift perception of some aspect of the field of experience so that it ceases to 'be' an interruption?

Yeah, right

Focus on breathing.
Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise
Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall
Nope. Nope. Nope.

Okay. Maybe. Better.
And what's this?

I gotta pee. Badly

Pain! Pain! Pain!

Should I go pee? ( Isn't it dangerous not to pee?)
Focus on breathing. Focus through then pain.

Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall

How long left?
How long should I wait?
(Noting the desire for this to end.)
What if I hurt myself?

Focus through the pain. Focus on the pain.

What is pain? Pain is rising and passing away.
We can only sense what rises and passes away.

THAT is sensation. THAT is awareness.

DING! Time is up.

And now I can pee. Except I don't need to pee.
So what was the pain?



How can peein......you get the point. ;-)

Nick

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/12/13 4:40 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2013-12-12

Shorter session today. Half an hour as I have 40 minute public sit on Thursday evenings.

Reread Nikolai's response and decided to take the intention of "gapless" practice into the meditation today.

Started with "have I begun?" as I sat down.

Focusing on the breath.
Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise
Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall
Lots of distractions. Am I meditating? Bring them in.
Examine them.
Distracting thoughts. Bring them in. Focus on the thoughts.
Faster faster. More sensations. Bring them in. Make them all part of it.
Expanding the field. Faster Faster. Take it all in. Move beyond response and feel the bare sensation.
Go faster than the echo can respond. What wait for the response? Why do I need to "validate" the sensation instead of just moving onto the next one?
Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise
Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall
What am noting? Noting the noting. Noting the sensations. Up and down the body. Feeling the full field of self.
For a moment everything is clear, as if I'm hanging in the air at the top of a leap. Sensations. *Is this flickering?*And then crashing back down.
Gapless practice. I am back, but where is back. This is meditating.
Focus on the breath.
Then thoughts creep in. Little movies. Little thoughts. Distracting stories.
Gapless practice! This is what is happening. Note the distractions. Return to the breath.
Somewhere outside a saw starts up. Visualizing the saw. Note the visualization. Hear the silences in between. Note the silences. Hear the shape of the sound. Note that.
Back to breathing. Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall
Quickly the thoughts come back. Thoughts flow into narratives. I try to speed up, but things fall back into thoughts. Try to return to breathing, but things turn back into thoughts. Is this meditating?
Balancing between thoughts, the feeling of having thoughts, reacting to thoughts, noting the reaction to thoughts.
*Gong!* The time is up.
Am I still meditating?

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/12/13 5:40 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Andrew Mayer:
2013-12-12

Shorter session today. Half an hour as I have 40 minute public sit on Thursday evenings.

Reread Nikolai's response and decided to take the intention of "gapless" practice into the meditation today.

Started with "have I begun?" as I sat down.

Focusing on the breath.
Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise
Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall
Lots of distractions. Am I meditating? Bring them in.
Examine them.
Distracting thoughts. Bring them in. Focus on the thoughts.
Faster faster. More sensations. Bring them in. Make them all part of it.
Expanding the field. Faster Faster. Take it all in. Move beyond response and feel the bare sensation.
Go faster than the echo can respond. What wait for the response? Why do I need to "validate" the sensation instead of just moving onto the next one?
Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise
Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall
What am noting? Noting the noting. Noting the sensations. Up and down the body. Feeling the full field of self.
For a moment everything is clear, as if I'm hanging in the air at the top of a leap. Sensations. *Is this flickering?*And then crashing back down.
Gapless practice. I am back, but where is back. This is meditating.
Focus on the breath.
Then thoughts creep in. Little movies. Little thoughts. Distracting stories.
Gapless practice! This is what is happening. Note the distractions. Return to the breath.
Somewhere outside a saw starts up. Visualizing the saw. Note the visualization. Hear the silences in between. Note the silences. Hear the shape of the sound. Note that.
Back to breathing. Rise-rise-rise-rise-rise Fall-fall-fall-fall-fall
Quickly the thoughts come back. Thoughts flow into narratives. I try to speed up, but things fall back into thoughts. Try to return to breathing, but things turn back into thoughts. Is this meditating?
Balancing between thoughts, the feeling of having thoughts, reacting to thoughts, noting the reaction to thoughts.
*Gong!* The time is up.
Am I still meditating?


Nice. Experiment with making the *Gong!* simply a sign to change positions not a sign to stop 'paying attention'. Take the 'paying attention' intention from the act of sitting in meditation posture to all postures and situations.

One thing to contemplate is that there are no interruptions to practice as long as the mind does not habitually assign that meaning (of 'interruption') to some arising and passing phenomena or lack there of some aspect of the field of experience deemed 'special' by the mind. These movements, or rather all movements of mind, can be part of practice. This is where the big baseline shifts gain a foothold in my own experience and practice.

There are only 'gaps' in practice if there are aspects of the field of experience ignored or averted from or craved. To avert from some aspect of the field of experience is to ignore the links in the chain of cause and effect. If craved, one is ignoring the links in the chain of cause and effect.

If nothing is ignored, and there is curiosity for EVERY movement, every arising and passing phenomena of the entire field of experience, that is when cause and effect chains that bind are able to unravel and lose their sequence of links. They stay firmly linked when those links are ignored. And to not ignore them is to not ignore the ENTIRE field of possible experience. There are no interruptions to 'meditation'. Even a change in posture. We assign meaning to and thus create 'things'. Those 'things' then are given the designation of 'interruption'. We create interruptions ourselves. Simply shift perception to the opposite. They are not an interruption, but a continuation of 'paying attention'. Any posture, any phenomena, any compoundings can be paid attention to. "Regardless of evaluation, this phenomena of 'thought', 'thoughtloop', 'image', sensation with a mental feeling tone of unpleasant, pleasant, neutral, whatever, visual fodder, audial fodder, tongue fodder, smells, regardless, all are NOT more sacred or less sacred than other phenomena. We assign habitually mental shape, concept, name, and weight to previously unborn, unsegregated, uncreated, not conceived aspects/distinctions of the whole field of experience. Then assigned with evaluation of good, bad or meh!, they can become 'interruptions' unless we shift the naming and shaping (by not being ignorant of this link in the chain of binding and interruption)

This will get the fireworks going in my experience and shift perception.

Nick's cent.

Edited because I got carried away, representative of current baseline
Carry on!

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/12/13 5:38 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Andrew Mayer:

Quickly the thoughts come back. Thoughts flow into narratives. I try to speed up, but things fall back into thoughts. Try to return to breathing, but things turn back into thoughts.


Is the act of 'trying' and the compounding phenomena that are habitually read as 'trying' also paid attention to/noticed?

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/12/13 5:46 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Thanks Nik. So much gratitude for your time and attention! These are inspiring responses, and I'll looking to take them as intentions for my practice.

Interestingly, as I can read them I can feel some fear and tension in my body/mind:
What if I do this? What if I'm doing this all the time?
What will other people think? What will become of me?

I can feel it: tension crawling across my skin, and a twisting in my stomach.

I think I see the cushion as a place of safety and propriety. I desperately want that moment of Transformation! But I keep finding the truth is in the mundane, in the expanding field of the ordinary, and I'm resisting that.

And noting the resistance.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/13/13 6:34 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2o13-12-13

I read Nik's advice from yesterday out loud a few times until it makes some kind of sense.

I sit with intention: To see *all* phenomena as equally worth noting and to note *all* shifting of the mind.

Started noting as usual. Started the breath as usual. I have a thing I've been doing where the attention itself breaks things down.
Back to the breath.
Stepping back. Stepping back.

Thoughts are coming now. Taking me away. Lost in thoughts.
Then they pass. Like a wave (I'll realize that later). No reaction. This is what's happening.

Everything softened. Not flickering anymore, but pulsing, flowing. Rising, fading. No discrete edges of events, but simply everything moving and and through each other.

Thoughts coming. Big thoughts. No fighting. No feeling. Just exploring.

Open it up. Open it up.

Thoughts. Breathing. Thoughts.

I've been looking for discrete moments all this time. Subtler, but isolated.
Now things start flowing. What if I let it flow?

Back to breathing. Everything pulsing. Eyes are closed by everything felt visual.

Flowing. Flowing. Something is happening. Getting excited! Note the exciement. Sound flows in and out.

No longer noting with words at all. I try it. "Pain." But I don't need it. The mind is following now.

Thoughts.
Why am I stepping *away* from these experiences, when I can step into them?

Why am I moving when I can be observing? Thoughts start to vanish now.
So much to see in the moment.

So strange to be able to form concepts inside of this. What am I really thinking about? What if I turn the attention back on itself. Let it go higher. Let it flow.

Where am I? Now. Now. Now. Now. Let it get bigger.
Sounds move in and sounds move out.

Everything flowing. Everything breathing. Everything pulsing. Eyes are closed by everything felt visual. Sound flows in and out.

Fear. What's happening to me. Feel the fear. Let it flow.
Feel it moving, changing.
Pain. There is pain. Feel it flowing through me. Rising up through me. Changing.

Feeling like I'm looking forward. Look back. Open it up.
Where is the sensation? It seems slow.
What if I go deeper deeper deeper? Subtler subtler.

Everything seems glowing and light. I am facing the sun, so it is bright through my eyes. What would this be like in the darkness? I'll have to try it some time.

I stay here for a while. I play with things here. Is my time almost up? Usually that sends me out, but I can let it flow. It's almost funny.

What if I can't hold onto this? What does it feel like to feel that?

What will it be like when I open my eyes?

Is this Jhana? Can I look at the arising and passing away of all this? I can? I can!
It flows. It moves.

Then the gong. I let it flow. I remind myself that I am simply shifting position, not ending the meditation.

I stand up I write this. I can feel the flow.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/13/13 7:08 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Excellent. Now simply rinse and repeat. And see what happens when you take it to all situations, positions and truly gapless as much as possible. If there is slipping, don't worry too much about it. It is a gradual development towards it being 24/7. But to get there, you simply keep doing what you describe above. I'd keep at it. See where it takes your practice. Curiosity kills the 'I' (making)

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/13/13 7:13 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
When in doubt: "There is nothing worth ignoring. Every experience, whether unpleasant, pleasant or neutral, is perfectly ok to pay attention to. ANY experience is accepted as the manifestation of this moment, and this one, and this and this, this this this this etc.

Play and experiment with it. What happens when you switch from paying attention from this all accepting viewpoint to one that segregates and averts or craves some aspect/s of experience over others. Is there a difference in result? Switch back and forth from these two differing approaches. If there is a difference, show the brain that difference over and over.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/13/13 7:33 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Thanks again. I'm kind of in awe of how much a difference your advice from yesterday made.

What happens when you switch from paying attention from this all accepting viewpoint to one that segregates and averts or craves some aspect/s of experience over others


Just had a taste of that. I found myself chasing the "flow", rather than being in the moment. I quickly realized that you don't go anywhere that way...

I am going to see if what happens with walking meditation. It would be good to spend some deeply intentioned time off the cushion and see where it takes me.

And I'll see what happens as I expand the field of sensation during the day.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/15/13 3:08 AM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
In another location today. No cushion, no zafu, just the couch and a few pillows. A different position. Also at a different, later time of day.

I start with just noting today. I remember yesterday. I note my desire to return to the equanimity of yesterday.

I hear the nearby highway. I note that.

Thoughts come. They wash over me. When they recede I note that I was lost in thought. Gapless practice. More thoughts.

The gas heater flares. I note
my reaction.

My mind has shifted. The thought waves stop. I concentrate on the breath. I try to open the field of mind, to find the flickering. It doesn't come. Everything is slower today. My back hurts. I let myself shift. I note that. Gapless practice.

I sit noting. The sound of the highway. The heater. A loud car. My thought image of that car. The pain. It all goes slowly. No broadening. No flickering. I note my frustration.

More pain in my hip. I feel my mind shift. It tells me that the time is up and that I can get up. It's a trick it plays on me often. I note it.

I'm waiting for the flow to return. I note my desire. I breathe. I feel myself wanting to get up. The pain grows. I shift. I shift. Gapless practice.

The desire to quit grows, then it passes. I note the passing. Colors appear on the back if my eyes.

The pain passes the pain rises.

Then the field starts to expand. I chase the flow. I note the chasing. It grows.
Then it settles. I note the settling.
The pain grows. I shift. Gapless practice.

Gong. I wait for a moment. I open my eyes.
I write this.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/16/13 3:32 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
I didn't do a blow by blow of my practice yesterday because it was awful. I barely was able to attain the minimum of concentration. Lots of trembling, shaking, and thoughts mixed with what I'm starting to think of as "blank spots" where there seems to be no sense of self at all. I might as well be asleep.

Earlier in the day I had what I considered to be a major insight: listening to Jack Kornfield's "Buddhism for Beginners", I was struck with a deep understanding of the concept that everything (and the only thing) that our senses perceive are the arising and passing away. Given some of the movement forward I've had in my meditation practice over the last week it was revelatory. I had some direction and motivation. I was excited to get on the cushion.The world seemed to be alive in a new way.

The sit itself was, as I mentioned above, terrible. I was distracted, and I either got lost in thought, or gone completely. I didn't feel like writing up the experience.

I sat the hour, but I came out of it feeling bewildered and agitated.

The agitation increased over the next few hours, and after a blissful feeling that afternoon, I was angry by the end of the night. I worked to get aware and present, but despite attempting mindfulness it was hard to come by.

Eventually I got out of the house and saw a friend. The feelings passed soon after that, and I regained some equanimity.

I'm glad my girlfriend wasn't home that evening. I would have had a hard time both explaining what I felt, and containing my emotions.

Definitely made me think about this quote from MCTB:

“I will make time for insight practices and retreats during which time I will simply see the true nature of the sensations of whatever arises, however horrible or compelling, and not indulge in the content of my stuff for one skinny instant if this is within the limits of my strength and power. In this way, I will be able to navigate this territory skillfully and not damage my daily life. Should I fail, I will actively seek help from those who are skilled in helping people keep a healthy perspective in the face of dark issues until such time as I can face the Dark Night as recommended.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/16/13 6:41 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2013-12-16

I sit, a little nervous at first. I close my eyes. The bell rings.
My head feels clear, my thoughts focused.
My intention today is to find more depth and subtlety in my breath. I accept that I have "slid back" from whatever it was that happened a few days ago. I let myself find equanimity with that, even just a little bit, and begin to focus on noting.
I let my awareness expand. I note with more intention today. I hear, I feel, come back to my breath. I find more in it.
There is lots of twitching today. I note the twitching. I breathe. I look deeper into the breathing.
The concentration fades, thoughts come. I note them. As the thoughts pass away and I return to now, I bring my mind back to my breath. I try not to lead the noting, but instead bring my concentration to more subtlety in the breath.
In-in-in, every time I become aware. Out-out-out, every time I become aware.
A catch in the breath. I note it. I feel my stomach move, I note it. I feel a pulse under the breathing. I note that.
After a while thoughts c0me. I note them.
I return to breathing. I let it flow.
It is not an ecstatic experience, but I simply note that.
Sounds come and go. I note that.
Thoughts come. I let them. I note them. And when they pass, I return to breathing.
The mind plays its trick on me, pretending that the bell has rung. It wants me to open my eyes. I note that.
At some point, in the middle of a thought the desire to be done comes, but it is mild. The agitation is mild. I note that. I return to breathing.
I am not fighting the mind, or directing it. I am letting it flow. It is resisting the meditation, but it is not being forced anymore, just observed, and when awareness grows I return to my breath and look for more.
The bell rings. I set my intention to bring my awareness from this state to the next one.
I open my eyes, and give a second to note the field of vision.
I move my legs and note the sensation of feeling returning to them.
I stand up and note the pain in my knees as I do it.
I write this.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/17/13 7:07 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Today I take 10 minutes to work on concentration before I head into noting. I sit and switch focus between my left and right index fingers.
Occasionally distractions drift in, and I note them.

The bell rings and I start noting. I give myself the intention of Concentration. My goal is to pay deeper attention to the breath.
For a while it goes well, but I find myself "distracted". I let the attention go with it, and switch to whole body sweeping and noting. I can feel the tingling across my skin. I note it.
Thoughts come. I let them. I fall into them, but I don't fall "away" today.
As their intensity recedes I note them.
I watch them, and try to search deeper into my thoughts them for the three characteristics.
Is that really a "face" I'm seeing in my minds eye? I watch it drift apart and note it.
I have a new term for things I can't describe: "That."
For an instant I see a terrifying fall. I note the terror. But am I "seeing" anything? It is simply "that". I note the change.
I come back to breathing as I can, looking deeper into the breath. Where in the breath is everyone finding so much to focus on?
I note the sounds. I note the sensations. I note the rising and the falling. I look for subtler sensations.
The mind plays its trick on me again: "The bell has rung!"
But I am aware now that it is the thought of a bell. I note it "rings" only once. The trick is getting weaker.
I go back to breathing.
I flow through thoughts, but my concentration doesn't vanish today.
I feel the agitation that comes when the time on the cushion is almost up. It is weaker today. Almost as if the mind is starting to give up trying.
There is some pain. It is mild. I note it.
I pay attention to my breathing.
I wonder how much longer I have on the cushion. I note that.
The bell rings, and I note the external sound. I set the intention of continuous practice and stand up.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/19/13 9:04 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2013-12-18

Different format, as I didn't have time to write this up right after the session.

Two attempts:

1) I'm discovering that putting in a few minutes of Daniel's simple concentration exercise (attention back and forth between index fingers) is having powerful results. Training my attention a bit before doing the insight work seems to be keeping me from spinning off into "blackout" territory.

I decided to go back to some hardcore noting work. Heavily focused on finding and noting subtlety in the breath to increase speed.

Solid noting of thoughts as thoughts. Deep examination of the thoughts themselves.

Definitely getting into some powerful states. Starting to move into solid insight territory, widening the field of perception and blasting aliens when...

I was interrupted by the early return of my girlfriend from her 5 day art retreat. I tried to stay open to a continuous mediation state.

A friend calls. Will have to hit the cushion later.

2) Back onto the cushion.

5 minutes of concentration work, and then into a half hour meditation.
Again I focused on subtle breath noting.
Lots more thoughts this time. I worked to keep noting them as "thoughts" when I came back into consciousness, but it didn't seem to have the same effect. They were stronger and more overwhelming. Definitely went "under" more than I have before.

I find myself feeling that a retreat is really what is needed right now. Prolonged engagement with the insight state, and getting some real work done in examining my self/no-self, would, I think, make a difference.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/19/13 9:05 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2013-12-19

Decided to add an extra 5 minutes today.
Started with a 10 minute concentration exercise.

The mind was very squirrelly today from the start. Lots of thoughts coming in and out, waves washing over the attempt to give attention to the fingers.

Managed some back and forth while letting the thoughts come and go.
Worked to note the thoughts as they come and go.
The noting can sometimes feel like chasing: "Oh, that was just a thought! 'thought'".

"Ding!"
Concentration time over. Into the breathing. Looking to find subtlety. Trying to let the sensations lead the noting, and not the other way around...
In-in...in...in-in.
Out...out-out...out.

Lots of thought forms. I note them. I feel disappointed. I note the disappointment.
LOTS of jerking today. It feels like I'm falling asleep. A few times I'm *definitely* keeling over and catching myself.

I sneeze. I try to note overwhelming sensations in its wake. Sneezing is actually kind of amazing in that way.

At some point I'm feeling numbing in my groin. I decide it's worth shifting. I work to maintain meditation in the shift. My hands on the sides of the mat, the cushion underneath me.

I push harder to open up my senses. Wider. Shoot more aliens. For a few moments I can feel something opening up.

I keep waiting for some kind of uplift to come. It feels almost as if a hand is reaching down to me that I can't grasp. Did I note that?

There are thoughts. I note the thoughts.

The bell rings. I note the sound. I write this.

As rough as the meditation sessions have been the last week, I do feel like I'm having more "meditation moments" in daily life. I'm beginning to realize just how similar all the sense are. Seeing seemed so special, but I'm realizing its limits as I'm beginning to deconstruct the mind's eye.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/20/13 10:12 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2013-12-20

Listened to Jack Kornfield being interviewed by Duncan Trussell, today, and there was some good words on self-love and insight that struck me deeply. I also asked some questions over on Buddhist Geeks, that got an interesting answer.

In light of that I've decided that I've been trying to get "over" or "around" my thought forms, and that's the wrong relationship. I need to accept them, and note them. Stop pushing them out of the way, and instead into them, and then beyond them.

I also think I've lost some of the curiosity I've had before and replaced it with a form of "wanting" that's bringing agitation into my meditation.

I decided to bring the intention to deeply and subtlety note those things onto the cushion with me today.

There was some bizarre turbulence during my initial concentration session at the beginning. Some deep emotions coming up, as well as some terrifying visions. I noted them as they came, and returned my attention gently to the sensations in the fingers.

The I went into the full noting session. My goal was to note deeply, with subtlety, and return to the breath. And as thought forms came I let them flow. If they flowed over me, when they retreated I noted them as best I could.

There was definitely s0me luminance behind my eyelids that was interesting, and I noted that. I kept pushing generally for subtler and deeper sensations using curiosity as my guide.

I've also decided to deeply explore the feelings in my chest. Fear? Anxiety? Wanting? I'm naming that knot of sensation as best I can and seeing where it goes.

Pushing to keep going deeper, and also playing around with moving fully out of my head. I actually tried to see if I could note the sensations, but not be in my body. Expand the field of awareness and move it around. If it's not me, why not have it be mobile?

It was a far more equanimous experience than I've had in a while.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/22/13 4:10 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2013-12-21

It was my Birthday yesterday, and enough people wanted to spend time with me that I didn't have time a formal session.

Interestingly my interactions gave me a chance to note a couple of things during my day:

1) My natural tendency to try and "escape" from negative emotions as the occur is being replaced by a tendency to note them instead:

"What is this? It's fear!" Then I dig down into that feeling. "What does fear feel like?"

It's a good practice, but I'm sometimes struggling with naming things.

I still carry a lot of emotional pain in my heart/chest, and I've been spending time trying to untangle those feelings and name them. Honestly there's something there almost all the time (and always has been). It was the great thundering echoes of chest pain that drove me to the Goenka retreat 18 months ago. I actually thought I was having a heart attack one morning three years ago, purely from stress pain.

As a practice during the day, "noting the knot" seems to have value for me, especially as I try to feel the subtleties there. I'm going to stick with it.

Meanwhile, I had a regular on hour sit today. Most of the work now seems to be in understanding the waves of thoughts that come and go, and using the tools of noting to begin to separate consciousness from thinking.

I'm still trying to use breath as my object, but I really have trouble finding subtlety in breathe. Also, as was the case today, it can be very easy to get overwhelmed with thinking while I'm doing. I might be better off with something else for a while, except that breathe is a very useful thing to *return* to.

At the present time it's my best tool for gaining and losing focus.

As with my "knot noting" practice, I also seem to struggle with naming things.

I've been trying to speed things up generally, as there's a powerful experience that comes when I can note with speed that really puts me in touch with more raw sensation, and gets me out of the chains of causality that come with slower noting.

There was also an interesting experience as I begin to try and "catch" experiences. A sort of "oh, that just happened, shouldn't I note it?" And then I note the desire to note it. A weird little echo of a feeling...

If I find myself longing for achievement in all this, it would be to develop a strong sense of "direction" and an opening of the field of awareness. I'm focusing on following the sensations and not leading them, but there's a strong desire to do that.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/25/13 4:04 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2013-12-24

I started off the session thinking about the concept of the Strange Attractor.
I began to perceive consciousness as a tendency of thought, an idea that responds the things that it is aware of, but is only the response, and without a center.

Soon after I'm pulling my attention in through the field of awareness, and not the other way around. The awareness is constant, and things move into the field. I am observing what I have a tendency to observe.

There is no I because the awareness is my tendency to be aware. I am what I experience, and not the other way around. There is a tendency to react with in a state, and I can ultimately cycle myself around and pull myself up through my own insight.

The experiences I have is, at least on this level, the fuel of that awareness.
Now what are the jhanas? My need to keep cycling?

Before I know what's happening, I'm flipping the donut

And then, my girlfriend decides to interrupt me, and pulls me out of the state.

It is what happened, but this is twice I've been pulled out at a moment of deep insight. It's incredibly frustrating. I'm examine that feeling of frustration. I'm giving myself a chance to observe the anger. But there is anger and frustration.

2013-12-25
As I expected, today is a chasing day.
Another half hour. Uninterrupted this time.

The experience from yesterday has given me some tools and some awareness that I didn't have before. At the same time, I find myself bringing insight to desire.

I can feel the edges of the doughnut forming. I can feel that awareness of awareness, but if *I* chase it, then it cannot be reached.

I have more stability in equanimity. My focus and concentration are growing.

I focus on the fact that thoughts are simply a sense door. I find comfort in the fact that I can maintain awareness in thought much better now.

I examine the comfort.

I let the sounds come, the feelings come. I examine them. I see my own awareness. THere is no I, only a tendency, only the focus.

Great ideas for my novel come. I want them! I let them pass.

I focus on my breathing. I lose the doughnut. *I* am back.

I focus on my breathing.

The bell rings. I listen to the bell. I hear the flickering.

I practice a little Loving Kindness. It's Christmas!

May all creatures be peaceful and content.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/26/13 3:49 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2013-12-26

Intention: Work on noting. When noticing thought move to sensation. Find subtlety.

"Back to Basics"
I've been trying to take a lot of ideas onto the cushion with me. This has led to some insights, but also some frustration.
I also notice that when I have a very insightful session, especially one that it interrupted, I tend to bounce around a lot over the next week. Rather than fighting that process I am trying to lean into it.

With that in mind I am looking to empower my concentration and sharpen my insight.

On the cushion:
Lots of thoughts today. The challenges seem to be from knowing what to do when I come back to mindfulness from thinking.

I note them. I move into deeper noting. I focus back on the breath. I focus on sensations as they come.


Insights:

Much faster movement back into deeper states after jarring external phenomena. Nikolai's efforts to perceive meditation as a continuos process have been very fruitful.
There is no exclusion, just more challenging opportunities.

My experiences of self as a "strange attractor" are permanent on some level. It has felt like a real shift, and developed some powerful equanimity.

Looking forward to finding a full hour on the cushion soon.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/26/13 4:07 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Andrew Mayer:
2013-12-26
Insights:



My experiences of self as a "strange attractor" are permanent on some level. It has felt like a real shift, and developed some powerful equanimity.

Looking forward to finding a full hour on the cushion soon.



Can you expand on the above a little andrew? What do you mean by "strange attractor". And why does it seem "permanent"?

Nick

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/27/13 7:53 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2013-12-27

Intention: Look for subtlety and deeper noting.

On the cushion:
A good start. I'm really enjoying the "back of the head, front of the head" exercise, and do it for 10 minutes before the start.

I move my attention around my head, and feel the sensations from different vantage points. There is the sensation, and the observations of the sensations.

I go into the noting.
Lots of distraction lately, lots of thoughts.
I'm realizing the shaking is essentially falling asleep on the cushion, and me being jerked back into consciousness as my body falls.
Lots of twitching today. Focus seems hard to find.
I try to let it flow. I want to find equanimity in this.
Every time I head back into breathing I find myself leading instead of following with noting. "In in in" as a mantra, and not as a a note.

I look for subtler sensations, I fall into distraction.

When I come out of distraction everything feels very *solid* today. I focus on the three aspects, or I try to focus on them.

Finding difficulty focusing on my breathing I try to expand the field of awareness and the speed of noting. It works for a bit, but only for a bit.

As the field expands distractions come, thoughts follow. The waves of thought are big today. The water is rough.

I have the "false finish" for the first time in a week or so. There is pain. I note the pain.

I follow the noting with noting, and not with with cause. If there is only small sensations, then I note the sensations.

I rise, I sink, I breath, I note.

The bell rings, and I listen deeply to the bell. I note the vibrations.

Insights:
I'm starting to think that the skill is somehow stacking the noting. Having the skill to note every turn, like driving a car down a racetrack filled with obstacles and steering around them instead of into them.

There is frustration. I'm noting that. The effort is to keep with it. To get back onto the cushion with myself.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/27/13 8:06 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:

Can you expand on the above a little andrew? What do you mean by "strange attractor". And why does it seem "permanent"?

Nick


As I understand it, the Strange Attractor is a center that doesn't exist. It's the tendency for a system to circle in a pattern that has a center that is only defined from the pattern the object makes around it, but there is nothing holding it there but the pattern that trajectory makes. And it never takes exactly the same path twice.

It's the eye of the hurricane, or the funnel of a tornado.

That opened me up to see my attention as *tendency* for an I as a process, but without a solid me of any sort in the center. That has really opened up the ability for me to move the attention around.

It's also been really calming and reduced fear as a limitation:There's nothing there, so there's "nothing to lose".

I can, at this point, sort of tap into that idea and expand the field of attention and move it around a lot more, since there's a whole where I used to be.

As you can see from the notes above, it hasn't really "flipped the script", but it's definitely set a new baseline for my experience.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/28/13 3:59 AM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Andrew Mayer:
Nikolai .:

Can you expand on the above a little andrew? What do you mean by "strange attractor". And why does it seem "permanent"?

Nick


As I understand it, the Strange Attractor is a center that doesn't exist. It's the tendency for a system to circle in a pattern that has a center that is only defined from the pattern the object makes around it, but there is nothing holding it there but the pattern that trajectory makes. And it never takes exactly the same path twice.

It's the eye of the hurricane, or the funnel of a tornado.

That opened me up to see my attention as *tendency* for an I as a process, but without a solid me of any sort in the center. That has really opened up the ability for me to move the attention around.

It's also been really calming and reduced fear as a limitation:There's nothing there, so there's "nothing to lose".

I can, at this point, sort of tap into that idea and expand the field of attention and move it around a lot more, since there's a whole where I used to be.

As you can see from the notes above, it hasn't really "flipped the script", but it's definitely set a new baseline for my experience.


Nice one! Keep tapping.

Nick

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/28/13 7:15 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2012-12-28

Intention: Taking a cue from Nikolai I decided to focus on the hole where the I is.

On the cushion:
A very relaxing, peaceful session from start to finish.

No explosion of insight, but a very steady experience with minimal "fade out". Was able to move the awareness around pretty easily, although things seem to have become more mundane from doing so.

I found it particularly effective to name some of the thoughts as "distractions". That seemed to produce a pleasant sensation of having named them, but without any negative feelings.

Without the distraction I was able to move through lots of sensations, finding new subtlety in the breathe and body. I'm noticing that the "tingling" on my skin can now be felt almost any time I bring awareness to it rather than a "sweeping" sensation that comes over my skin. It's as if I've tapped into a lower level of feeling sensation that is pretty much constant. "This is what skin *feels like*.

As I got near the end of the session I was able to use the sensations of pain and desire for the session to end as tools for further insight. My naming also seemed to be picking up some speed.

There was also an interesting moment where bright colors appeared in against my eyelids visual field sven though I felt very present and grounded otherwise.

Insight: I seem to be going through a period of grounding, where I'm becoming more and more present, and staying in that state longer and longer.

Rather than looking for explosions, I'm diving into that subtlety and seeing where that takes me. It as if I'm getting smaller and smaller when my expectation was that I would get bigger.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/29/13 9:30 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2013-12-29

Intention: To note more intentions. To feel the 3 characteristics more intensely.

I've just finished reading Mahasi Sayadaw's Fundamentals, (Thanks again, Nikolai!) and I wanted to take some of those thoughts in with me. In particular those about returning to the rising and falling, and noting the intention to do something before you actually do it.

On the Cushion:

There's no doubt that overall there's a lot more equanimity. I'm much less "upset" by things on the cushion now, and much more calm as I move in and out of states. Meditation seems constant, and I try to bring everything in instead of considering it as an interruption. This has had good results during my day to day experiences.

I miss the ecstatic states of few weeks ago, but I am assuming that they will come and go at this point.

I'm wondering if the wheel on the cart that needs more effort now is energy, as I found myself deeply overwhelmed by thinking today, almost immediately after starting.

I brought myself back to breathing quickly when awareness returned, but focus seemed lacking. I was also washed over by wave after wave of thinking.

Some moments it almost seems as if there are two streams going on: the stream of attention, and the stream of thoughts chattering away in the background, like a buzz in the distance somewhere. If that's a good thing, I'm unsure of what to do with it.

Insights:

It seems as if simply learning how to fully note is the challenge now. Finding better ways to call out more subtler things, using noting as a way to get to base sensations as thoughts try to cram their way in. Noting as much as possible, and noting more quickly.

Definitely feels like work these days, although I like the general effects of better concentration, and much easier access to mindfulness.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/31/13 4:46 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
You could try a more detailed approach to noting. It may or may not suit your temperament. Experiment.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/31/13 9:08 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
12/30 -1 hour
INTENTION:
Focus on my finding depth in my breath and let the thoughtstream flow below awareness.

ON THE CUSHION:
Probably my single most frustrating day.
Utterly distracted. Large sections of the meditation completely wiped away by narrative thoughts.
Focus on the breathe could only be maintained for a matter of seconds before it was wiped away.
At points it almost seemed like the mind was aggressively charging back, thundering through my intentions and dragging me away from mindfulness.

Still, *every* time I was returned from the mind pulling me away I went back to the breathe, and back to looking for deeper insight.

Also, I found that expanding the field of awareness and speed of noting could quiet the mind a bit.

The ending bell *rocked* me, sending a spasm through my body. Not sure why.

INSIGHTS:
• I'm starting a new novel, so there's *lots* of food for the narrative portion of my brain right now, and it really wants to flex it strength.
• Despite all the *setbacks* I have a lot more distance and perspective on my frustration. To put it another way: it isn't *my* frustration nearly as much as it used to be. It's just *frustration*, and I can note that.

12/31 30 minutes
INTENTION:
Concentrate on the breath.

ON THE CUSHION:
After yesterday's "struggle" I decided to simplify things.
I didn't do any concentration exercises for the first part, and went immediately into noting. This seemed to produce a much more even and focused session.

I was able to note the breath much more evenly and deeply, finding new areas.

There were still "blackouts" today, but they were pleasant and deep rather than noisy and surface.

Thinking about the 5 spiritual faculties I decided that I need to up concentration. I used posture as a way to ground and focus that particular element. Each time concentration was lost, or was overwhelmed by thoughts, the posture was improved, working to find that space between upright and relaxed, knowing that there is no perfect space, and that each position found will also pass away.

This seemed to help things immensely. In contrast to the previous day the ending bell sent an ecstatic wave through my body so pleasant I found myself longing for the second ring.

INSIGHT:
• I find myself chasing a lot less, and doing a lot more *fixing* these days.
• I'm more aware of the meditation as a process rather than a goal, and something that has rough edges. Moreover, those rough can be interesting and pleasant when approached with equanimity.
• I find myself wondering if this is insight meditation, or I'm slipping over into concentration exercises. Perhaps the two need to be balanced more to progress in either. The goal now is to use the cushion time to find out.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
12/31/13 9:10 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
You could try a more detailed approach to noting. It may or may not suit your temperament. Experiment.


Interesting! I'll give it a try.

Many thanks and much gratitude!

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/1/14 8:04 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2014-01-01
40 Minutes

INTENTION:
Meditate use the Detailed Noting technique and no particular object.

It's worth recording that I experimented with it during a shower, and found it was very powerful way to begin to breakdown actions into a series of sensations and results. Also interesting to being to see how simple things such drying myself are actually a series of actions that involve an interplay of thoughts, emotions, desires, and physical sensations.

ON THE CUSHION:
Generally I was better able to maintain focus, with fewer blackout states.

Allowing myself to go more slowly gave me less chance to judge my experiences, and more to discern the noting actions, and break things down a bit.

The time seemed to path smoothly and pleasantly, although things felt much "muddier" than they had in the shower, and occasionally I had time finding experiences.

I still feel like my emotional/mind responses are the most difficult to catch and not.

When I felt myself falling into deep thought states I brought myself back into mindfulness, and steered myself away from thought objects, finding the breathe whenever that happened, but not holding focus on the breathe once I was there.

I found that I tended to name body parts along with the sense doors "Foot-tingling-tightness-feeling). I'm assuming this is harmless.


Going forward I'm going to try and focus on the sensations and not on the location, but the session itself went well, and without the usual false-ring or sense of discomfort.

I also tried to focus on emotions and reactions, although I feel as if access to that is harder. There is more to discover and penetrate there.

INSIGHT:
Reading more on the Hamilton Project it's nice to get descriptions of the experiences of noting that are very basic, and clearly point "This way".

I'm going to stick with this for a while and see where it gets me.

I'm still wrestling with my "wide-open" experiences of a few weeks ago, and my muddy/stuck feelings currently.

Noting the wrestling. Staying on the cushion.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/1/14 8:41 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Andrew Mayer:


I found that I tended to name body parts along with the sense doors "Foot-tingling-tightness-feeling). I'm assuming this is harmless.


Yes harmless. Though when you do note the location do you perhaps also notice a very fast afterimage of the "foot" in question in the mind's eye? When you note a location, pay attention to any mental images that may spring up. They can be fast and subtle, but it gets interesting when it comes to notions of 'self'. Mental imagery it seems is a result of segregating and cutting out shapes from the previously unnamed, uncut, unsegregated field of experience.

Nick

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/3/14 9:18 AM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2014-01-02
Session 1: 1 Hour
Session 2: 40 Minutes

INTENTION: Focus on Noting

Having read Nikolai's posts on The Hamilton Project again, and by working on practicing noting more during mundane daily activities, I sat down with a strong intention to do straight, high speed noting today.

I am also keeping in mind that detailed noting is a useful tool if the high-speed noting is difficult.

ON THE CUSHION:
Things are focused. There are still lapses into mindlessness, but I've added in a few techniques that seem to have helped:
• Asking the mind to politely *stop* when it starts weaving narrative into my experience of mindfulness. (Essentially steering me away from the moment by steering me into some imaginary story).
• When needed, return to the breath as a centering point.

There were some strong tremors in the body. Although these mostly feel as if I'm nodding off, there was one that threw me forwards, forcing me to open my eyes.
Totally different, and a little scary. (Afraid, afraid).

I also got to do a second sit at the Berkeley Sangha. I'm really coming to love these sits as all the coughing, sneezing, zipping, walking, etc. that used to annoy me is now becoming material to note, along with attitudes about those sounds. "Annoyed, angry, upset" etc. It feels like good practice, and after a while I begin to settle in to subtler and subtler phenomena.

INSIGHT:
I'm still dealing with distraction, images, and what I'm noting as "narrative", but less and less lost in those sensations.

Noting definitely feels like work. I'd love to think that I'm going to achieve wild new states, but I really don't know what I'm shooting for beyond quieting the mind and firming up concentration through noting.

I tasted something before, but it also threw me off for weeks. Guess it's safe to say it was an intense A&P.

My goal now is to become better at noting as a skill, smoothing out the bumps when I think I don't have a word to describe something, or "realize" that I've missed noting a deeper experience.

Where there was a lot of "flow" before, this feels very solid. Not what I was expecting, but what I am exploring.

I have, occasionally, been trying to expand the field of awareness, but it feels very small right now.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/3/14 9:26 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
Andrew Mayer:


I found that I tended to name body parts along with the sense doors "Foot-tingling-tightness-feeling). I'm assuming this is harmless.


Yes harmless. Though when you do note the location do you perhaps also notice a very fast afterimage of the "foot" in question in the mind's eye? When you note a location, pay attention to any mental images that may spring up. They can be fast and subtle, but it gets interesting when it comes to notions of 'self'. Mental imagery it seems is a result of segregating and cutting out shapes from the previously unnamed, uncut, unsegregated field of experience.

Nick


I noticed you mentioned this in one of your Hamilton Project posts, and I love the idea of this.

Here's my first thoughts: Right now the work is getting deeper insight into recognizing the base sensations. Focusing on subtler phenomena within those sensations tends to throw off concentration. Those are the moments when images or narrative are most likely to overwhelm attention. IE, there isn't yet the concentration needed to stop those shapes from becoming doorways to vast and distracting experiences of "I" that can take seconds or minutes to come out of.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/3/14 4:29 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Andrew Mayer:
Nikolai .:
Andrew Mayer:


I found that I tended to name body parts along with the sense doors "Foot-tingling-tightness-feeling). I'm assuming this is harmless.


Yes harmless. Though when you do note the location do you perhaps also notice a very fast afterimage of the "foot" in question in the mind's eye? When you note a location, pay attention to any mental images that may spring up. They can be fast and subtle, but it gets interesting when it comes to notions of 'self'. Mental imagery it seems is a result of segregating and cutting out shapes from the previously unnamed, uncut, unsegregated field of experience.

Nick


I noticed you mentioned this in one of your Hamilton Project posts, and I love the idea of this.

Here's my first thoughts: Right now the work is getting deeper insight into recognizing the base sensations. Focusing on subtler phenomena within those sensations tends to throw off concentration. Those are the moments when images or narrative are most likely to overwhelm attention. IE, there isn't yet the concentration needed to stop those shapes from becoming doorways to vast and distracting experiences of "I" that can take seconds or minutes to come out of.


In my own experience, the trick was NOT to want to stop those shapes doing their thing but to simple recognise it all as it does take shape (and become doorways to such and such). We think 'we' or 'I' can stop phenomena and bring about their cessation. But really, to me, it seems that the only way to do this is to notice all those tendencies, poses, postures, stances, views, movements, formations (such as wanting to stop the wanting and shaping) and just accept and allow them to be, arising and passing in and of themselves. A specific neutrality that does not lend weight to such phenomena either as something to 'want to dissapear' nor to 'want to continue', and if either wanting is seen to arise, then it also seen from such specific neutrality (a middle ground stance/viewpoint rather than a 'feeling' of equanimity).

This, in my experience, seems to do what originally we wanted to happen. This act of recognition and acceptance (via specific neutrality) coupled perhaps with becoming curious as to what is arising, how and why, will allow the mind to cease its habitual reaction to such shapes, colours and movements of mind. And when this happens, those shapes and colours and movements of mind lose the source of their movement, which as far as I see in the chain of dependent origination is the 'ignorance' of their arising. When there is no ignorance of their movement, their cessation naturally presents in and of itself.

So the trick again, even though there is a want for such occurrences to cease, is to notice/recognise even the movement to want those shapes to cease and accept such arisings as they do their own thing, as well as investigating what, how and why, and developing that very conducive mental middle ground of non-reaction and specific neutrality neither craving their demise, nor craving their continuance. A gentle curiosity interrupts the 'I' (making) in my experience.A wanting it to stop or wanting it to continue simple fuels it more. Tricky stuff.

R.A.I.N

Recognition
Acceptance
Investigation
Non-reaction

Nick

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/3/14 3:52 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Andrew Mayer:
Those are the moments when images or narrative are most likely to overwhelm attention. IE, there isn't yet the concentration needed to stop those shapes from becoming doorways to vast and distracting experiences of "I" that can take seconds or minutes to come out of.


Here's what I would do when experiencing such arisings and passings.

R.A.I.N

Recognise/notice and note the phenomena compounding to give the impression of 'overwhelmed attention' and 'not enough concentration'. "This is overwhelmed attention, let me get curious about how it manifests in and of itself." "Ooh, not enough concentration, I accept it as the current manifestation of this moment, how does it manifest, what is it made up of, ah, stepping back from it, it does what it does." Past a specific baseline shift for myself, there was a continuance of 'paying attention' even when the phenomena arising and passing took the name and shape of 'overwhelmed attention' or 'lack of concentration'. I think its a good idea to start training the mind at any stage to.....

Accept such moments as they are, in and of themselves. A middle ground informed by curiosity for it rather than craving for its continuance or disappearance.

Investigate it, allow curiosity to inform how such moments of supposed lack of concentration and overwhelmed attention manifest in and of themselves. Investigate the want for their continuance or disappearance.

Non-reaction/specific neutrality will result from such curiosity and allow phenomena to do its thing, arising and passing without the fuel of 'ignorance' fuelling more arisings and thus allowing the fire to burn itself out.

Nick

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/4/14 4:40 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2014-01-03:
40 Minutes

Intention: Focus on Noting

ON THE CUSHION:
This was a pretty straightforward session. I hadn't yet read Nikolai's notes on looking for insight and subtlety in the transition area of noting and overwhelming thought forms.

There's definitely been more stability in my session, and I find myself stepping "down" my experiences so that I can better note what's going on. It seems like I'm moving up into a place where the experiences themselves are becoming more vague, but the noting gets floaty as well.

Not sure if I'm heading in the right direction. I'm taking the maxim "when in doubt note it out" to heart here, and erring on the side of cranking up concentration and noting into that experience.

There was *lots*of pain near the end of the session. At the point where I couldn't contain my desire to stretch, I used something I had read in Mahasi Sayadaw's instructions, and did my best to notice each intention before action. (See more on this in insights.)

When the bell rang, I turned my noting to the sound of the bell, noting the silences in the ringing.

INSIGHTS:
It seems like there are only a small number of actual forms to note. I'm noting that I'm searching for new feelings and excitement, as well as noting the boredom, and searching into that realization for more subtlety.

I've also been noting more experiences during my day to day actions, and discovering that there is incredibly of subtlety in the transition from "intention" to "action". It happens so quickly that I can't seem to yet note it as separate actions.

If I'm washing dishes, for example, what is it that lets me know a dish is clean? The seeing? The feeling? When did the desire rise to give the counter one last scan? To grab the sponge. To clean the counter?

What is the nature of the shift between intention and action? Where does the mind hand off the decision to the limb, and when limb return the message to the mind that it has accomplished the task?

How does a decision rise, pass into action, rise, pass into completion, etc?

The cacophony makes the cushion seem like a refuge of clarity.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/8/14 12:48 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Logging the last few days:

2014-01-04

ON THE CUSHION:
Good noting from a technical perspective. I was able to find my attention a lot more easily, even as I slid in and out of blank and distracted states.

Overall a solid foundational session.

Beyond Nikolai's always excellent feedback, I found this post by____ was really helpful. Thinking of noting as a means to an end is really interesting and useful.

I was able to surf the edges of some overwhelm experiences, although I noticed that with that came far more powerful physical tremors than I have been used to up to now.

2014-01-05
Although I didn't have a formal session today, I have been trying to practice noting more and more during regular activities.

I had an interesting experience yesterday evening before bed. Rather than widening the field, I focused it, worrying less on description, and more on the speed. I used that to "drill" down into a specific experience.

At some point it began to "loop in" around itself. For a short while, before I fell asleep, I was able to focus more and more deeply into a sensation, finding subtlety within it.

2014-01-7
INTENTION:
Deep noting of "distracting" or "vanishing" experiences.

ON THE CUSHION:
Continuing my run of very "basic" noting experiences, today seemed simple and grounded. That said, the the general experience and constancy of noting is improving, and has been steadily for the last week.

The "blank" or overwhelm experiences are getting shorter or shorter, and I can come out of them directly into noting physical experiences.
If things feel too overwhelming I can note that, and then focus attention back on my breathing for a while.

Still lots of "swaying" and a good bit of shaking these days, although nothing as intense as it has been the last couple of days.

I'd say that I'm noting at roughly 3-5 times a second. A big breakthrough was that I can notice "pulses" of the same experience, which gives the whole thing a far more steady focus.

When the visualizations and thinning do come, I can quickly note them, and move onto physical sensations.

I'm also much better at keeping equanimity if I do "decide-decide" to stretch, swallow, shift, etc. In all those cases I do my best to note the intention before taking the action, although I find this a decidedly slippery action to take.

INSIGHT
I do find myself "desiring-desiring" for more exciting experiences. Things seem very dull and mundane, although there were moments where I was looking at subtler and more colorful experiences.

That said, there still seems to be a lot of moments of clinging and fear when ego does start to dissolve. A part of me would love to take off, and another wants to hold on. I'm noting both of these feelings as I can.

I want to go back and read more on the states and see if there's something there I'm missing. I am, of course, noting my desire to do that.

To the degree that I'm able to focus back down into deeper mindfulness from more mindless states, there's definitely a sense of concentration that is new, and I'm letting that experience settle and get more solid. I'm also using that as a way to stop and have more "open" noting practice during different activities during the day.

That's clearly resulted in better focus on the cushion.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/8/14 3:40 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
1014-01-08

INTENTION:
Note more deeply into thought forms with R.A.I.N.
Use curiosity as tool to overcome distraction.

ON THE CUSHION:
The session started very similarly to many of my recent sessions.
For the most part there is good steady noting, but occasional lapses into deeper thought patterns that overwhelmed noting.

As I came out of these patterns I spent more time noting the edges of the patterns, and attempting to not more deeply the sensation around these patterns.

I also attempted to note any stray phenomena around these patterns, and then increase the speed of noting.

At some point this become rote and I was in a circle of thought patterns with deeper noting. After noting some disappointment, I settled in, assuming that I would continue to circle this pattern off moving in and out of thought for the rest of the session, as I have for a number of previous sessions.

At some point things began to shift. First, my field of attention grew much larger. I began to see images that were more external than internal, and the field of physical sensations were covering larger and larger senses of self . I noted these as images. There was also colors in my vision.

Seeing myself as the light being.

There was till mind, and still noting, but at some point this felt more like a phenomena that was occurring beneath the point of focus.

At this point the usual fear kicked in, and I pushed harder to note these sensations in a way that was similar to the distractions that I had been noting earlier.

Noting got faster and faster, and rather than moving my attention around, it formed what could best be described as "a crucible of thought" where I could cast everything into.

At some point the noting got faster and faster, and those things that I couldn't describe became not only "hm"s, but "I-I-I-I" and "self-self-self". There was a sense of vibration or humming with the rate o that self that I could cast into that.

There was also a sense of fear, but I was quick to note that fear, and at some point, despite occasional (noted) concerns that me fear would drive me out of this state, I felt locked into that state. There was some big body tremors, but they passed and I remained in state.

The luminous nature remained constant for quite a while. There were visions (labeled as "image"), including a pair of eyes that stared back at me from the upper left corner of my vision field for a while.

Occasional thoughts flickered in about time left on the cushion, and desires to understand what was happening to me. I kept firmly focused on noting those rapidly.

Pain was minimal, as was outside phenomena. Occasional sounds would penetrate as well as body sensations.

By the end of the session I was fairly "locked in" and felt that I could have maintained that state for much longer.

As I noted the vibrations in the bell, I clearly saw colors in my vision.

INSIGHTS
Being able to maintain a consistent noting state is clearly beginning to have benefits, as is hewing to increased noting as the answer to every question I have about "what to do next".

It was interesting to me that the transition came so quickly after my disappointment moment, although I suppose that I clearly reached a point of equanimity at that moment.

The RAIN technique was useful to set intention and focus, making the transition in and out of thought forms more smooth.

I'm still getting lost from time to time, but it's a flow in and out rather than a cycle of disappointment. I couldn't tell you how long I've been inane and out, but it's clear that more and more of each session is spent noting.

This wasn't as wide a field as I've experienced in the past higher level experiences. If I was pressed to describe the differences between previous similar states, I'd call it more "lo-res". There was always clear sense that basic reality and the droning mind of self was lingering just below me, and remaining in awareness. However, it was also far more stable a state than I've ever been in before.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/10/14 6:05 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2014-01-09
1 Hour
INTENTION:
Better focus and easier access to states.

ON THE CUSHION:
Insanely distracting mental chatter today.
Definitely felt like a ride.
So many visuals and narratives that I had a very hard time actually focusing.

At every point I tried to double down on noting those experiences, but it seemed that the mind wanted to chatter today. Enough so that it probably wasn't until somewhere in the last half hour or of the experience that I felt like I was getting any serious noting done.

In the end it felt like I was a bucking bronco. Noting the breath was the only thing I had to hang onto. I tried to extend the periods of concentration, but I doubt I made it more than five or six breaths before the mind-a-whirl started up again.

I did my best to note the experiences, and to dig deeper into them.

I also to move my perspective around a little, and widen the field of attention. At one point was able to get my attention outside of my body. It didn't last long.

I did find some equanimity by the end. Since I can clearly note my anxiousness on the cushion now it passes fairly quickly, so I was able to comfortably sit in the wild-brain stew for the full hour.

INSIGHTS:
The most surprising part of this whole adventure has been how "reactive" (to borrow a phrase) the mind can become sometimes.

I've definitely improved my noting abilities in those moments I can maintain concentration.

There's a second, public session tonight. I'll be interested in seeing how it goes.

SESSION 2:
Pretty much the same. Hard to avoid distraction.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/10/14 6:06 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2014-01-10
1 Hour

INTENTION:
I did a bit of meditation during a walk today, basically noting while walking, and tuning that noting. Afterwards (and a bit during, to be honest), I had a few thoughts based on something I had read in "A Path With Heart".

Specifically Kornfield discusses concentration training as "training puppies", and it occurred to me that as in dog training, it's important to have the experience feel positive and rewarding, but at the same time be firm and guiding.

To that end, I thought of the the idea of understanding that noting isn't the "outside" experience, it's the standard one. I'm not trying to "get into" the insight mode, I'm training to see mode as a comfortable place that I can spend more and more time in.

In that way, it's the curiosity of a puppy that I'm nurturing. What if my mind is moving towards a place where bare sensation is the *reward?*, Then, curiosity brings me forward into that place in new and delightful ways.

As I settled in on the cushion, another thought arose: the noting isn't there as a goal. The goal is bare sensation. The noting essentially acts as "padding". It's something I insert in not to note the *echo* of the sensation, but to essentially act *as* the echo of sensation.

The mind rings after every sensation it becomes aware of. The noting acts to capture, and lessen the impact against the mind so that it doesn't ring out as a series of distracting thought forms that can (and often do) multiply on each other, until sensation is completely lost in the echo chamber.

Every note is a finger against the bell of thought, lessening the chance that the reaction the dinging of the gong of awareness will be a full blown mind event. And that even when they do occur, I can soften the echoes when the chance presents itself.

With that in mind, my intention quickly became to maintain focus on the breathing. Other sensations would come, and I would note them, but the breathing would be the "blanket" for the "puppy mind". Noting is the guiding hand, keeping the puppy on the blanket.

ON THE CUSHION:
The experience of the above intention was an interesting one. The whole thing took on a very different quality.

Instead of yelling, or pushing myself, this was more guided. Each note was there to help me maintain my focus, and to guide me back to my breathing with minimal shock.

Even when the occasional wave of thought washed over me, I was able to come out of it and use noting as a way to dry me off, and get me back on the "blanket" where I could concentrate on breathe.

After a while the mind felt calm, and I was able to capture much more subtle notes in the breath. Fast enough that I was simply able to "hm" five or six "beats" before the breathe moved into the other direction. I was also able to stay concentrated far longer.

There was a brief sensation of "melting" or "fizzing" in the center of my forehead. I noted it and moved on, but it felt powerful.

Overall this was a very good experience, and direction I hope that will lead me to more insight.

INSIGHT:
People often talk about boredom being of a state being what springs you to a higher Jana. Is it that boredom (and/or equanimity) that shifts you into the first Jana?

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/10/14 8:02 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
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RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/11/14 8:48 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2014-01-11
1 Hour

INTENTION:
Increase focus on breathe.
Let the noting follow the experience.

The goal today was to use curiosity and mindfulness to maintain concentration on the breathe, but to be careful to not let "rise-rise-rise" and "fall-fall-fall" become a mantra the concentration I was following.

Also, I would use curiosity to constantly be seeking out new experiences within the breath that I could then note.

I also would "nudge" rather than push the focus back into breathing. Kornfield's "puppies" were the intention here. I am training the mind, *not* punishing it.

ON THE CUSHION:
Very intense experience today, with a wide variety of experiences.

There was lots of clarity and immediacy early on. A sort of buzzing feeling that I think was heavily rapture focused.

Soon after I started definitely a few points where the waves of thinking washed over me. As soon as they passed I noted them, in particular noting how I was coming out of those thoughts, and and rather than falling into this state as the goal, I pushed back into deeper mindfulness, letting go of the rapture state to come back into a more solid sense of the moment. Not as exciting, but definitely not as prone to thought overwhelm.

After the early experiences there was surprisingly little overwhelm. With curiosity and mindfulness being focused the mind seemed willing to stay far more present.

I also followed images more deeply, noting how they faded for a bit, before returning attention to noting breathing.

Once breathing was stabilized I maintained focus and curiosity to examine as much of the breath as possible. What were the sounds of the breath? How did the heartbeat mix into breath?

At some point my consciousness seemed to "float higher," almost as if I was in a very small room. An image of the top half of the buddha's face was in there with me. I immediately noted that as an image, and let it fade.

When I came out of it, I pushed back deeply into mindfulness. Best to come to a slower more focused space than get lost in waves.

Then, at some point, I was "riding" the breath. Powerful sense of sensation, with noting acting as a way to keep focus on that sensation. Very powerful moments at the top and bottom of the breath: what am I noting in the breath when the breath stops? That moment before it begins again is very deep and very open.

For a few instants I had reached that point where attention is a crucible where experience goes inside of it. It wasn't very deep, and I couldn't move it around. It didn't last. This had been a high point previously, but it was much more muted.

Eventually I felt bored. I noted that emotion, and the desire to come out of the meditation. I also pushed to note how it would pass away. Eventually it did.

Then back to breathing.

There was pain, and I did allow myself to stretch. It was an amazingly intense experience, as I pushed to note (as best I could) the need/intention to move before allowing myself to move.

After that passed I found a fairly steady state. Mostly worked to find more subtlety in the breath, and keep the noting following experience.

INSIGHT:
When necessary was definitely better to slow the noting and refocus whenever I caught myself noting impulsively rather than reacting to experience.

I don't seem to have control, but there is more familiarity with a variety of experiences, and I'm getting far better at noting into them.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/11/14 10:19 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
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RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/14/14 7:09 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2014-01-13

INTENTION:
I had missed Sunday, so I wanted to get an hour in. Started at 8pm, which is probably the latest I have started a meditation in months.

My intention today was to clearly fill the "reactionary" space to base sensations with noting.

ON THE CUSHION:
A good, balanced, session.

There were moments where thoughts overwhelmed, but no moments of blackout anymore.

The early part of the session was the most "active", with lots of rapid noting and good concentration.

After a while thought forms came in. At this point it was sort of a ping-pong match: As I come back from thought forms to noting, I use curiosity to try and note, and then move to the breath. If I "miss" something and go back, I let myself go back, but note that is what I'm doing.

At some point things turned very calm and "liquid". I tried to push my attention to a "harder" more focused state where I could note faster, but it seemed difficult to get there without thought forms starting to intensify quickly.

Eventually I started working to focus more on subtle forms of the breath. I seem to be able to do this, but not with prolonged focus, and not at speed.

Sometimes when thought forms do come. I try to note cleanly and then maintain focus on the breathe. At these moments I tried to balance out my "cart" of the 5 Spiritual Facilities.

I've also noticed that since I'm no longer dropping off into "blackouts" the hour "feels" longer than it did before. At some point near the last quarter of the session I start to get restless. I actually enjoy this now because this unsettled state is something something I can really watch arise and pass away as it comes up.

INSIGHT:
It seems at this point that I need to add more into concentration.

I'm enjoying my general pursuit of trying to observe and note how desire/intention turns into action. It still seems very subtle to me.

2-14-01-14

INTENTION:
Respond to experience with noting and curiosity.

ON THE CUSHION:
Today's session was probably less totally focused than yesterdays, although the pattern of rapid focus, thought forms, detailed noting, and then a sort of "slow" period seems even more pronounced.

There were probably more thought forms today than yesterday, including some erotic ones in the second quarter of the experience.

Generally I seem to be able to maintain a certain level of concentration, and recognize thought forms before getting too lost in them.

There were many visuals today, and I did my best to concentrate on them as the occur so that I could notice their passing away.

There was a few episodes of body twitching today. Probably the first I've had in the five or six days.

The "liquid" state of the slow period was harder to climb out of. I pushed hard into the breath, working to note it's qualities across as many senses as possible. That said, it's very stable. Voices can be noted. Even conversations can come and go and equanimity is easy to maintain.

I'm also working to notice thoughts fade as I come out of them.

Once again there were episodes of restlessness near the end, which seem to have replaced the "false completion bells" that the mind was attempting to send out a few weeks ago.

INSIGHTS:
More questions: Is this working? Am I noting fast enough?
What can I do to note faster? More senses?

Things aren't bad here, and I seem to be maintaing curiosity.
I figure that I just need to work harder on building concentration, and am doing my best to constantly find more subtlety in the breathe.

There may be limits to what I can do with 1 hour per day.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/14/14 9:39 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Andrew Mayer:
Nikolai .:

INSIGHT:
I find the first two factors to be the most vital components of fashioning the 1st jhana, vitakka and vicara. Boredom or disenchantment for the factors of each jhana though can lead to turning away from them which can lead to their cessation and giving shape to the next jhana on up though.....all in my own experience.


However quick search of those terms tells me I have more to uncover...



When you observe the incoming and outgoing breath, is there a difference in experience between first simply staring at/observing the incoming and outgoing breath VERSUS observing the incoming and outgoing breath AND actively paying attention/bringing to mind continuously the length of the incoming and outgoing breath at the same time?

Nick

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/16/14 8:38 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Went to sit with Richard Shankman's group in Berkeley, since I won't be able to sit with my usual Sangha this week.

It was a pleasant sit and talk, with some interesting states.

I focused deeply on my breath, and began to explore the "balancing the pole" idea that I outline in more detail below.

One thing that came out of this session was the idea of "compassion for yourself and equanimity", which I think is a useful tool as I can sometimes undermine concentration with doubt and subtle self-criticism.

2014-01-16
1 Hour

INTENTION
To Fully Note the Breath and "Balance the Pole"

I had read something interesting on Vittaka and Vikara that described the breath as a pole that you can tether attention to:
[http://theravadin.wordpress.com/2008/03/23/vitakka-vicara-what-do-they-mean/]
With that in mind today, I started to think of the meditation as practice more deeply.

Thoughts *will* appear, the mind will wander. And when my mind wandered, I noted that, but when I returned my attention to the breath I took a moment to "right the pole" with fresh focus and energy. Rather than punishing myself for failure I simply practiced again and again when the "pole" fell over, like a patient parent supporting a child.

ON THE CUSHION
A solid start, as usual, and then quickly off into distraction and image land.

Each time I returned and "righted the pole"

At first it happened often, but at some point during the session I was able to keep it righted it for a bit. Following Nikolai's instructions I tried to keep some awareness of the entire length of the breath along with other aspects. At first this aspect seemed distracting, but at some point there was an "object" called the breath that I could see parts of as it moved through it's stages. It wasn't visual, but it had solidity that I could feel and experience.

I'm not sure how long I held this, but it had a "strong" feeling to it.

Eventually I lost focus.

Then there were other issues with my sit tonight, since I was in a different place that I usually sit, and I needed to shift position completely.

Although I tried to do that with as much noting and mindfulness as possible it set up a strong wave of restlessness. I was able to let that pass and return to "righting the pole" before the gong rang.

INSIGHT:
At the end I found myself, as I often do when I get into concentrated states, trying to note faster and more discretely. This can lead to issues with me noting in anticipation rather than in response.

One thing about being the more "solid" state of breathing was that it was easier to note in response as the breath was easier to experience/examine.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/16/14 8:40 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:

When you observe the incoming and outgoing breath, is there a difference in experience between first simply staring at/observing the incoming and outgoing breath VERSUS observing the incoming and outgoing breath AND actively paying attention/bringing to mind continuously the length of the incoming and outgoing breath at the same time?

Nick


I gave that a try the last few days. At first it sent me into thought overwhelm faster, but it got me into deeper stability as I practiced it more. I go into detail in the log above.

Thanks so much for your input.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/17/14 2:53 AM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Andrew Mayer:
Nikolai .:

When you observe the incoming and outgoing breath, is there a difference in experience between first simply staring at/observing the incoming and outgoing breath VERSUS observing the incoming and outgoing breath AND actively paying attention/bringing to mind continuously the length of the incoming and outgoing breath at the same time?

Nick


I gave that a try the last few days. At first it sent me into thought overwhelm faster, but it got me into deeper stability as I practiced it more. I go into detail in the log above.

Thanks so much for your input.


No worries. I go into more detail here.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/19/14 12:52 AM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
2014-01-18
35 Minutes

INTENTION:
Short, late, session tonight.
I wanted to build focus, and keep the momentum of being on the cushion

ON THE CUSHION
I found myself immediately able to focus much more clearly than I have before.
After a few minutes I was able to bring tremendous focus onto the breath. I pushed deeper into it, using curiosity and mindfulness to dig deeper into anything that felt open, or empty, or "spacious".

This seemed to be a good direction, and I expanded the field of attention across multiple senses, but kept it on the breath as much as possible.

As thoughts aros, I was able to deal with them quickly, bringing that focus to the nature of thought, and fluttering between the return to breath and the edges of though with focus.

At some point, as things felt stable and solid, I began to notice that there was a limited sense in which I could penetrate the granularity of breath. As I examined it more deeply, it seemed to me that was what was limiting my ability to focus more deeply was the sense of self. The need to attach an "I" to those experiences was defining and limiting the edge of my attention.

With that in mind I turned the noting this feeling of "I"ness. That led to a period of noting where I was simply noting "I" over and over again. I looked for the 3 truths in that sense of I. Interestingly the "I" seemed fairly stable, although I could get a sense of the pulse of I as I noted.

I was able to bring some ferocious focus to this, and seemed to be able to note a variety of sensations in this state without feeling that the sensations were overwhelming. Despite an attempt to flip the "I" a bit, and move outside of that perception, it remained mostly solid, with a few brief moments of being able to see "I" without I.

With this in mind I tried to look deeper into the nature of bare sensation, stripping away as much reaction as possible, and digging deeper into the granularity of the experience.

Eventually the bell rang.

INSIGHTS
In retrospect it seems clear that I could have started noting that arising and passing away between the pulses of I, although that didn't come to me on the cushion.

This seems like a good path, and one that has lots of promise. There also clearly seems to be some skills developing from the focus that I am able to bring now.

I may not get another hour on the cushion until Monday. I'm looking forward to seeing if this stability can be built on to go deeper.

Overall, insights that come from deeper concentration seem less likely to cause a strong reaction of ego than my previous insights have. Slow and steady seems to be more powerful than my initial "leaps" were.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/21/14 6:58 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
01-20-2014
45 Minutes.

The whole thing was a distracting mess. Bad enough that I felt like putting it out of my head.

In the end it was a good practice to push for equanimity, but frustrating enough that I didn't feel at all like writing about it.

01-21-2014
1 Hour

INTENTION:
Pushing to equanimity. Focusing on the breath. Finding more concentration.

After the previous days distracted experience, filled with doubt and torpor, I came to this with a renewed sense of intention and focus.

ON THE CUSHION:
There were moments of focus, but the difficulty seems to be increasing noting to a rate where the attention can become fixed.

I pushed hard to push back to the breath today. Each time my attention wandered I pushed back into breathing, and tried to head farther into noting in the breathing.

There were other moments that it felt like a battle, where I would take a few breaths and then "space out", then come back in, and then space out again.

In this moment my intention was widen the breath, to expand my focus, to increase the speed of noting.

For a while I worked to rebuild the "pole" of breath to attach thought and noting too.

And in the moments that I could, I pushed for find equanimity in that lack of focus and note that feeling. When they came they were fleeting.

INSIGHT:
I'm now grasping for a sense of concentration; a new level of focus that I could use to build other practices on. I've felt it enough times that I wish it was something I could rely on. I've been noting that feeling when I an.

There were periods of deep thinking, and a surprising amount of images, although I was mediating with the sun directly on my face, and I wonder if that may not be stimulating more images than I might get from doing it in darkness.

I'm glad that I'm back on the cushion for an hour today. It's enough time that it gives me a variety of experiences to work with, and let's me focus on getting insights that occurring in deeper more inward states.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/27/14 12:58 AM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
1/23-1/25

There has been a subtle but powerful shift over the last few days based on something I read in Jack Kornfield's book: a Path With Heart.

In particular he describes the sensations of vipassana practice and what struck me as a more "flow focused" understanding of the base sensation, in particular how each passing away of a sensation is the seed of the next one.

This had a powerful effect on my breath focus. Over the last few weeks I've been trying to not the difference between a "conscious" directed breath, and an "unconscious" one. But it suddenly dawned on me that I couldn't stop breathing if I wanted to, or at least, if I did stop breathing, one way or the other, it wouldn't be for very long.

With that in mind the breath has become more grounding in my practice. When I return to it, I know it is there, and that is *has always been there*, from the moment of birth, and will be there until it and I pass away.

This has allowed me to focus on much more subtle elements. I'm not sure if I'm at the flickering level, although the stretches of concentration are becoming much longer and much finer.

The other part of the realization that has come with that is the sheer amount of experience that surrounds me constantly: the "3D snow" that Daniel describes. That even with my eyes closed there is an overwhelming field of sensation that is happening around me at all times, and that my concentration is moving from awareness of what is constantly surrounding me.

I know that there is something deeper in all this with what Nikolai has described earlier in this thread as the "chains of cause and effect". I'm bringing my focus to that intently, and seeing where it will lead.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/30/14 7:01 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
1/30/2014
45 Minutes

INTENTION
Read a post by Ian And this morning in this thread.
I had a blast of insight as I read these words:

"This is not me, this is not mine, this is not myself." Do these words mean anything to you? You spend too much time being tied up and invested in the concepts of your life's story without seeing it as it is, and thus seeking release through that insight. In other words, this insight hasn't occurred to you yet. We'll see whether or not this provides any food for further thought. "

I had to sit down for a minute after that...

Here's what I wrote this morning after reading those words:

"The attempt to find a sense of self is the the thing that my concentration could be turned on.

The desire for security of self is what is holding me back, and any attempt to 'understand' this in the concept of a me is, in itself, I making.

The deeper insight is that there is no I to understand. The fear *is* the result of looking for an reason or a context.

Every time I move beyond a desire for an I, there is also a fear of not an I.

That desire to maintain a me is binds me into the chains of karma, because I am looking for a way to maintain a self in each event as it arises and passes. But if i can turn my attention to that desire *within* the events, I can recognize that they will happen with or without that response and sense of self that I have been inserting into them.

Instead note that 3 truths of that desire. Note the 3 truths of the insight into that desire.

In every moment I can turn the attention can turn to investigation of the sense of self that is looking to arise in response to every experience that I note.

There is no me to be held back."

With that in mind I brought the intention to the cushion today to investigate the echoes of self that come from awareness of base sensations with great intensity.

My intention was to focus, with a balance of the 5 spiritual facilities, on the elements of self (particularly the fear of the dissolution of self that I now believe is the element binding me into karma) as possible.

ON THE CUSHION
Definitely an interesting session today.

After a short time working on the breath to establish some base concentration, I moved my attention to the self. At every point, as I felt any sense of limitation or self appearing, the attention was turned onto that sense of self.

Rather than trying to open the doughnut of dissolution through rapture I worked to come to it from focus, using concentration to remove concentration from the moorings of a sense of self. (Recognizing the I making that is the binding force in the karmic chain.)

At some point I simply was noting everything as "self self self", seeing every element of perception as an echo of self rather than simply raw perception.

At points, where focus was lost I moved focus back to breath as a steadying state, and when I found that balance I returned to the self as the concentration object.

While it may not have been as intense as some of the sessions I've had previously it felt far more equanimous than I had previously.

I came out of the session feeling focused and calm.

INSIGHT
I'm guessing at some point I'll need to get even finer in my awareness of perception so that I can begin to fully tease self from the raw perception. Right now I'm just beginning to examine the cracks in-between the two.

I feel like at this point I have a practice that I can follow for a while. There is a sense of "balance" and tranquility to it that hasn't existed after previous moves forward. That is, this came from something intended, and not from something I backed into.

There is a public session tonight that I'll be attending. I'm interested in seeing what happens there and where it goes.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
1/31/14 7:49 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
1/31/2014

INTENTION:
Focus concentration on the self.

ON THE CUSHION

Lots of tingling and visual states today with great visuals against the back of the eyelids.

At moments I found it hard retain concentration as I tried to look hard at the sense of self in moments of thought and narrative as they arose.

I also did more "pushing" to try and reach states I have achieved previously.

One thing I did was move the attention around, trying to observe the observer, and then observe that observer. Eventually I created a sort of halo of attention, although doing it this way led quickly to visualizations and a short blackout.

The other thing I tried was to intentionally open a doughnut around the perception of self. The results here were mixed, although I'm starting to think that this might become a regular part of the meditation, as I felt that with practice it is something I can improve.

Like many of the days that have come after heavy insight days, the mind was wildly attempting to put out stories and images. However the experience of it was much more tranquil and less reactive.

At some points I simply let it come and go, working to use the breath as a focus object, before working noting the self as I rebuilt concentration.

INSIGHT
I feel as if my concentration is improving rapidly.
States that used to make me react wildly now seem interesting objects for possible insight.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
2/4/14 9:00 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
1/4/2014

INTENTION
Went back to my notes and focused on concentration on the sense of self within the experiences. Also was focused on getting down into finer experiences.

ON THE CUSHION
The session was going well. Tranquil with ins and outs. Heavy focus on breathing, with intensity focused on the rising/falling of the abdomen, and looking at the top and bottom of the rising experience.

I was also looking at breathing to lead the noting, no matter what speed it happened, but also pushing focus to "dig into" the experience, and find finer experience.

I had heard a good description of the field of awareness today, describing it as only staining the water of experience around us, and decided to see if I could expand my concentration outwards beyond my own need to feel involved in that phenomena in some.

At some point I both began to find on finer and finer sensation, pushing to reach the point of flickering, and to focus on the 3 truths in that flickering, and to bring *all* sensory phenomenon into that field of the flickering 3 truths.

At the point I started to feel that occurring, I stabilized, and expanded my awareness, extending it outwards from myself, and actively pushing to open my concentration, rather then let it be passive. Then I "held" it open.

At some point I realized that it wasn't just the energy of the concentration that I could use to hold it open, but the structure of it. That is to say, it wasn't just the amount of energy I was pouring into it that could work to hold it ope, but my ability to create a stable "structure" of opening that I could let the phenomena pulse through.

Fear appeared, but this time I quickly brought that into the field of attention, instead of reacting to it. That allowed me to opened all my senses equally in the structure of awareness, taking in everything, but letting everything have equal weight.

This continued to grow as I pushed to expand the field and include as much of the sphere of awareness as possible with every type of sensory experience feeding that field.

There was an intense "peak" that led to a point where I realized that I was feeling something beyond life itself. I remember a vague thought that I might be dead, or beyond life, and I pushed that thought into the perception field as well.

After a while in this state, I started to come back. I continued to push on widening the field, but emotions were coming in, and the field felt like it was "collapsing".

At some point I began to push my concentration further and farther, but I couldn't maintain the field. Rather than forcing it, I focused on breath, and felt myself feeling intense irritation about being on the cushion.

I was frustrated I was out of the intense self-perpetuating experience, and wanted to be off the cushion.

That feeling grew, and I turned that sensation into my focus object, looking into it to find the 3 truths into that frustration, and to see how far I could dig into that.

After a long bit of sitting there with that, I eventually launched into a different type of experience, where the sensory field seemed to surround me, although this time there was still more of an "I" at the center of it that the consciousness was connected to, anchored by emotions that I seemed less capable of fully bringing into the experience. That sphere of experience "felt blue", if that makes any sense...

I played around with these states, looking for finer phenomenon, and pushing the concentration into those states

Eventually the bell rang.

INSIGHTS:
Definitely a "woah" day. First time that I've felt like I've had any sense of impact on those states, rather than them simply washing over me.

Being able to push open perception and feed all sensations (internal *and* external) into that, had a big effect.

I felt like I was riding the wave, rather than having the wave wash over me, and was able to find equanimity in the sensory field by letting them all be equal.

I'll be processing this for a while. It was amazing.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
2/10/14 11:32 AM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
Over the last week been working more on understanding and accepting the states that I've been in. As I've been doing meditation with intention and concentration for the last few months I've begun to recognize the states more clearly, and I am getting some idea of where I may be at in all this.

I've decided it would be helpful for me to practice access concentration, and I've decided to add in a 10 minute period of focus on the breath in my nostrils before I start the noting.

This didn't turn out so great last time, but it was a couple of months ago, and I'm curious to see what will happen if I push it further.

2/5/2014
40 Minutes

Public sit.

I'm learning to really enjoy these public sits, especially if I get there early. The slow quieting as people slowly pass from talking, to shuffling, to sitting, to quieting, to meditating is very pleasant, and I love the way it moves my state along.

The occasional sneezes and other noises are opportunities for compassion and insight into my own sense of self in relation to others.

2/6/2014

Full sit of focus on access concentration. Was able to get about 10 minutes of good focus in before everything slid away. After that I was chasing concentration for the rest of the sit.

In some ways this is more difficult than straight noting is, because once concentration is lost I'm less sure of what I'm returning to. I need to learn to get more focused on the breath.

2/7/2014
1 HOUR

The first 10 minutes were access concentration.
This went okay. 5 minutes of good concentration, and the more and more distraction as it went along.

The rest of the sit was fairly distracted. As concentration came I tried to build focus on the complete breath and better noting.

Since last week I've noticed that my noting has been less precise.

I'm unable to find a rhythm, although my periods of distraction are not nearly as intense as they were a few weeks ago. That said, I remain I'm far better able to incorporate distractions into my practice, including our new cat who decided he'd had enough of my quiet sitting.

INSIGHT:
I need to build back up to more precise, detailed noting. If I try to do it from the get go it never happens at all. I need to let the focus "warm up", pushing it only once I've built up a solid rhythm of concentration.

In some ways knowing what I'm capable of has become a distraction in and of itself.

More concentration and more faith are needed in the mix right now.

RE: Andrew's Practice Log
Answer
2/13/14 10:06 PM as a reply to Andrew Mayer.
I decided to spend some time working on anapanasati to improve my concentration, and this seems to have had some positive effects. I'm still working on being able to move into 1st and 2nd Jhana more intentionally, but I've been focusing deeply on the "puzzle pieces" that make it up, as well as my own response (fear in particular) that seem to be distracting me from those states, or leading me in the wrong direction.

One thing that's beginning to become clear as I spend more time in meditation is that the goal isn't to go "up" or "out" of my experiences, but to go deeper into the moment. That's probably obvious to many folks here, but I'm guessing that for those who have done magickal practices, discovering insight through grounded rather than "transcendent" states can be very difficult. I'm beginning to have insight into how the present moment is a doorway to the new experiences, and the goal isn't going "up", it's going deeper into the now, and being able to effectively find that moment of dissolving that seems to occur as you hit the ability to effectively not at the the resolution of the senses.

Getting into and maintaining that state is the doorway of a more open perception.

The fear that I've been feeling when I enter into any of the more intense states is, at least at the level that I'm at now, something that is heavily concerned with the dissolution of self as I pass through the doorway into a more intense state. I understand that the goal here is to note "fear", and I am. But I'm realizing to find equanimity with that fear demands something that I haven't quite captured the knack of of.

I wonder if, without the ability of having faith in buddha nature, it is possible to move deeper into insight. Up until now I've had difficulty in understanding how faith works as part of the 5 Spiritual Faculties, but I'm beginning to think this is where bringing in more faith will be a powerful tool for moving forwards as I find refuge in that, and bring that refuge into my practice.

As with many things in my experience of meditation over the last few months, I'm beginning to see that what I've thought of as "blocks" or "challenges" are part of the path.

2014/02/12
Went to the Hot Springs today, and had an amazingly powerful session in one of the warm pools.

Deep insights into fear, and a strong sense of roundedness and base sensations.

2014/02/13

Did 20 minutes of walking meditation today. This was my first time doing it on a small path, and I was a bit incredulous that this would be as useful as cushion time, but I quickly saw the value. Torpor is almost nonexistent, and keeping a brisk pace can bring your whole body in line with the meditation. Also, there is plenty of experience to note. I definitely want to see if I can add this in as a more general part of my mediation.

The rest of my meditation was done on a bench outdoors. Interesting experience, although I found myself lost in thought more than usual.