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Bruno's 2014 retreat

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Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/8/14 2:14 PM
I will begin my retreat on a daily-job-like schedule next Monday the 10th of February.

I am simultaneously doing my driver's license. My initial plan was to have it done by the end of February, and start the retreat on March 1, but this got delayed because the driving school was uncooperative. So I have decided to start the retreat sooner, while doing one or two hours of driving lessons a day, until it is over, which I predict will be mid-late March. At that time I should have my driving license, which should allow me to move to a more standard retreat schedule.

I will keep a 9-to-9 schedule on most days, something like this:

7:30 wake up, exercise, shower, eat, read my motivations and intentions.
9:00 begin meditation
12:00 or 13:00 eat
16:00, 17:00 or 18:00 eat again
21:00 end official meditation period
21:00 - 24:00 meditate or read or listen to talks or go to sleep earlier

This leaves 7:30 - 12:00 hours for sleeping. I expect I should never need 12 hours, but I sometimes do, and I definitely do not want to be sleep deprived.

The schedule may be interrupted once a day for driving lessons and eating.

I will be doing breath-meditation, focusing at first mostly on the body, then eventually include feelings, thought processes and mental qualities (link describing practice).

From 9am to 9pm portuguese / uk / GMT+00 time of every day, I welcome anyone who wishes to do a group meditation through video conference. I do this because I find it more meaningful to meditate in company, and this helps practice in several ways. Maybe you feel the same way.

I will be using Google Hangouts, more specifically, this permanent link:

Online Meditation Room

(To join the room all you have to do is follow the link above. In order to get video working you may need to install a plugin for your browser. The link was borrowed from this thread.)

The way this works is simple:
  1. You post in this thread the time and date you would like to have the meditation session (in London time please), and you do this at least 1 day in advance. Please pick something like 10:00 ---- 11:00 but not 10:15-11:15.
  2. Then around 9-10pm of that day I come and visit this thread and confirm the time, which I should always do unless I have some driving lesson at that time.
  3. Then we both follow the Online Meditation Room link above, at the appointed time, and we can meditate together. Each person follows his or her own practice. I will have a timer that starts at 5 minutes past the hour, and ends at the hour mark, for however many hours the session lasts.


So, I hope to see you there emoticon

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/11/14 4:32 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
All the best, Bruno. May it bring you maximum benefit with as little pain as possible.

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/27/14 2:29 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
The retreat has been interesting so far. I have a hurdle, which came up a few times, and today very strongly. I thought of asking if anyone has any ideas.

I have been meditating roughly 12 hours a day for 17 days now. Today I have become WAAY too sensitive, and the volatile energy unbalance thing (see below) started happening really strongly, the crown chakra was releasing wildly... This has led to really bad places in the past, so I decided to take a small break, had a chat with mom, programmed a little bit, posting this here.

I am reposting the advice for this situation I gave Jen Pearly on [url=]this thread. I hope it works.

Bruno Loff:
My assessment of your situation is basically that you suffer from an energetic imbalance. I have had periods during which I experienced similar states, and I am still prone to them nowadays, but I think that I am better at handling them when they happen.

See if these descriptions resonate with you:
  • you feel that there is an excess of energetic activity
  • you feel that chi / energy is volatile, explosive
  • moving energy might be pleasurable at first, but as it becomes more volatile it also becomes more scary, like everything is changing too quickly
  • you sometimes feel your head spinning very fast, and you think very many things very intensely
  • you are prone to euphoria and great flashes of energy
  • it's like moving through a floor that is permanently shifting, and trapped with geisers (you sometimes press somewhere and WOOSH)


The key word is probably "volatile," in all it's meanings:
  1. evaporating rapidly; passing off readily in the form of vapor.
  2. tending or threatening to break out into open violence; explosive.
  3. changeable; mercurial; flighty: a volatile disposition.
  4. tending to fluctuate sharply and regularly.
  5. fleeting; transient.


If it seems to you that this fits with what you are experiencing, then you may be interested in what I have to say this kind of energy imbalance. In my case I don't experience this kind of imbalance all the time. It seems to me that I alternate between three or four kinds of imbalances, two could be said to be of a "depressive" kind, and two of a "euphoric" kind, and the experience I have just alluded to is of the latter kind. So my situation is different than yours in that this isn't happening all the time.

The general advice I have received is very helpful: do grounding activities. Here something calm like manual work (DIYing, knitting, fixing things, etc) works quite well, but also exercising for a long session.

In terms of practices, anything that increases yin factors and downward flow is very helpful. Working with the lower part of the body: the legs, the abs, the feet, ankles and knees (at this point I always like to reference "The three amigos of rooting", which have helped me during a particularly difficult phase).

These two things are good to balance things out, they serve to mitigate the problem, though I don't think that they can solve it in a definite way.

So now to the core of the matter: what is happening? I hesitated whether to go into this, because my response is mainly conjectural, don't make the mistake of interpreting it as advice when it is actually too theoretical to serve as such.

My conjecture is that there is something intentional happening under the hood at some point in the process, something subtle and not easy to see, which gives the process momentum up to the point of imbalance.

This conjecture was formed from the following experience, which happens repeatedly when I get into one of these "volatile" phases. During such a phase, stuff "comes loose" very easily: if there is a bit of tension there, then all it takes is for me to focus on it for a little while, and it will start "breaking apart." This is followed by pleasure and relief at first, but this pleasure is accompanied/made of increasing energy, and this increased energy promotes even more effective and faster "breaking apart" of tense spots in the body, which in turn come loose and cause an increase in energy on their own.

This positive feedback loop accelerates and feeds itself, and very quickly the feeling of pleasure is replace with a sense of thrill, and if the process becomes too strong, thrill is replaced with anxiety and fear, which injects even more energy into the process and feeds it more, except at this point things are no longer pleasant at all.

At the very extreme of the process (at least the most extreme I have personally experienced it), it feels a bit like being raped by the universe. For instance, it is impossible to be in a public place because of the noise, as things that would usually be filtered such as banging of tableware are now felt banging my ear drums in the most intrusive of ways. Here I have reached extreme imbalance.

I have tried to be impartial in describing this process, but already in the way I have described it, you might think that maybe, just maybe, there is a way out. [1] Again I should warn you that not only my description of the process is itself somewhat theoretical (because although I have had the experiences above, I am of course not certain I am describing them in the most skillful way), and I have only been able to apply my "solution" two or three times, but if I am not mistaken then there is a specific point where it is possible to intervene in the process somewhat:

When something comes loose, or flows explosively from one place to another, pay attention to the quality of the sensations immediately as they happen; there is an energetic shit, the area feels energized, tingling, volatile, a bit like it was "on fire." I personally find some similarity with the electric-like sensations one might get when near orgasm. Several things can be done at that moment, and my natural tendency is to either:
  1. Surf on the sensation, focusing on it and sucking pleasure out of it, much like I would ride a wave of orgasmic pleasure; this is very tempting but should be avoided at least past a certain point.
  2. If the process is advanced, one thing that sometimes happens is that I tense the area again, in order to prevent it from building up more. I never actually tried to do this on purpose, but it has happened spontaneously on one occasion.
  3. it also may happen that I freak out, become anxious, and then an energetic thing of its own will start in the guts, adding energy to the whole system (which is usually very conductive at this point). This only makes things worst and can sometimes be avoided with a bit of skill (repeated intent + determination).




The way to avoid doing (1), I have found, is to notice that there is something unsettling about the kind of pleasure in question. It doesn't feel safe. Even in the beginning stages, before the process gains momentum, the feeling of fiery volatility is already there, and then it helps remembering where that feeling leads, and that will make me want to give up the orgasmic-like approach to handling these feelings.

And that is exactly the right thing to do at this point. I observe the sensations in the area that was released with an intention that reads like "I prefer the feeling of serenity to this feeling of fiery pleasure." When I incline into calmness that way, the sensations tend to slowly settle, yet leaving the area more alive and open than it was before the release. However I must maintain mindfulness, because like I said my natural tendency is to do (1-3) depending on the phase the process is in.

The corresponding gross attitude for me is to feel that I no longer desire to be euphoric. As in, I see the disadvantages in that. This attitude translates into all sorts of other things in life, such as in my attitude towards food (it is OK if I don't have super-mouth-watering food that often, if instead I am eating healthy-but-more-bland food that helps me stay healthy and more balanced).

In the context of a buddhist path, it seems to make complete sense — basically it is a skillful way of abandoning.

So far, this has worked quite well for me.

[1] Also, by the way I have described it, you can if you like imagine its complete opposite, which I have also experienced personally, where everything feels dull and stuck, the mind is prevented from moving anywhere, but neither is it comfortable where it is lying because it is hard and tense.



I will also try a four-elements type of practice, which I discovered existed due to some talk by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Apparently it is the form of insight meditation taught by Pa-Auk Sayadaw (link to book).

[quote=(adapted from) Pa-Auk Sayadaw]The elements will for some meditators not be balanced, some elements may become excessive and unbearable. Particularly hardness, heat, and pushing can become excessively strong.

If this occurs, you should pay more attention to the quality opposite the one that is in excess, and continue to develop concentration in that way.

You may find that this will balance the elements again, and it is for this reason twelve characteristics were taught in the first place. When
the elements are balanced it is easier to attain concentration.

For balancing the elements the opposites are:

Hardness and softness,

Roughness and Smoothness

Heaviness and Lightness

Flowing and Cohesion

Heat and Coldness

Supporting and Pushing.

If one member of these pairs is in excess, balance it by paying attention to its opposite. For example, if flowing is in excess pay more attention to cohesion, or if supporting is in excess pay more attention to pushing. The rest can be treated in a similar way.


My guess would be that I have too much "flowing" and I will try to focus on "cohesion".

More suggestions are welcome.

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/26/14 5:10 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:

My guess would be that I have too much "flowing" and I will try to focus on "cohesion".

More suggestions are welcome.


Can you frame your experience as if there's an untroubled background against which it's all occurring, or an arena in which it's all happening, and the background/arena is untouched by anything that happens within it? (Flow within stillness?) And then give attention to the qualities of the background?

I don't know this from meditation, but whenever I was tripping really hard and couldn't get a handle on the phenomenal parts, this was a reliable refuge, something I could trust deeply, relax into deeply, and almost 'die' into. And from there all the more superficial phenomena became fascinating and harmless... and beautiful.... and often funny.

One way to tap into that 'background' that works for me in normal waking life: if deep, dreamless sleep is consciousness with only itself as object -- (and you can work with it that way whether it 'is' or not) -- there's always somewhere to rest. And indeed some aspect of you is at rest there right now [no matter what else is going on].

[Oh, and if the 'background' isn't readily apparent 'inside' you, or as you, how about out there in the room, and beyond? Somewhere, something non-agitated is containing all the agitation, and maybe tapping into the qualities of that something will tip the balance from flow back toward cohesion].

Hope it works. Wishing you well.

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/27/14 4:07 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Thank you John for the friendly wishes :-)

I have tried implementing something like focusing on the background, and although this sometimes seems to help somewhat, I can find nothing that comes close to the mega-background you describe.

As I spent a large part of the night awake, I have been able to observe a bit more.

The condition is accompanied by an alertness that is due to anxiety. Even though I maintain myself outwardly calm and composed, and my thoughts are for the most part reasonable, the anxiety builds up by itself, simply in response to things coming loose :-(

In fact, yesterday I did several sessions with an effective way of objectively measuring anxiety - basically anxiety correlates to sympathetic nervous system activity which correlates with how sweaty your skin is which correlates with how conductive your skin is, so by measuring skin resistance you get an idea of how anxious you are: the higher the resistence, the least sweat, hence the less anxious, and the other way around. This is called Galvanic Skin Response, and I have a device called Thoughtstream USB to measure it.

And it was really clear and obvious: I would concentrate more and more trying to feel relaxed and chilled, and the meter would go up (higher skin res., lower anxiety). I would start feeling really nice and relaxed.

Then, from that deep relaxation, some energy blockage would go loose. Maybe I would feel some energy shifting in the brain up to the crown, or I would feel the blockage in my neck loosening up a little, and BAM the meeter would go down abruptly.

This was very interesting because at first the anxiety is not apparent, even with me being all concentrated and introspective like that. But then, over the duration of a minute or two, I would notice that I was feeling more and more alert, in an unpleasant almost uncanny way.

But I would relax more, getting the meter back up. This would be nice and soothing, and then BAM another release, again the same.

This would repeat until eventually I was no longer able to get the meter back up, and I ended up feeling really wired and unbalanced, a bit like a bad trip, with many energy blockages releasing inside at the same time, and having one "fruition" after another uncontrolably in the crown, thoughts shifting really fast and concentration utterly out of reach (it is no wonder anxiety is considered a hindrance to concentration, it causes the mind to jumpt very very quickly from one thing to the next; it is unreasonable the number of times I interrupted writing this text, for instance).

This is not a nice situation. I am unsure what to do. I will take it really lightly for a few days, do a lot of exercise, eat, meditate less (maybe way less), and we'll see.

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/27/14 6:47 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
you now should figure out how to balance yourself energetically, that means find the middle channel, if you find it all your energy will go there and your practice will be on a new stage. If you were already in the middle channel then there will be a kind of breakthrough event to next stage and it is one time event and it won't repeat. Working in middle channel may feel like you push your energy and it will may feel like your head will explode, pressure in the head.

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/27/14 7:46 AM as a reply to Banned For waht?.
Rist thank you for your comment.

I think I already did that in my 2009-2010 retreat (12 days). At the time the kundalini energy went up from the root to the crown. After that I did get into a new stage in my practice, in fact I had to back off from practice because things were getting too intense. Intense in the same way they are now.

I basically have an ongoing background anxiety which really blows up when things get refined and silent. I don't know why, or what to do about it :-(

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/27/14 10:36 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:
Rist thank you for your comment.

I think I already did that in my 2009-2010 retreat (12 days). At the time the kundalini energy went up from the root to the crown. After that I did get into a new stage in my practice, in fact I had to back off from practice because things were getting too intense. Intense in the same way they are now.

I basically have an ongoing background anxiety which really blows up when things get refined and silent. I don't know why, or what to do about it :-(


I think anxiety does not go away. It is inherent in earth, in ourselves, it is like a mating call to your energies to start creating, and the result will be satisfaction. But when we don't use our energy it starts to build up and therefore also the call get stronger, energies will find its way out eventually unless it is turned into higher energy.
When we use our energies this will cause false happiness. When we don't it causes suffering. So the idea is to open the middle channel and create a stove into a lower abdomen that energies could be cooked into higher. Now we just need to cultivate this "suffering", when we don't cling to this suffering it is just pain, sometimes its burning hot. When we cling to it we blame ourselves.

I am a screwup in modern society, nice more fuel to my stove. I have noticed when i did gain some hope in this world to succeed then there came automatically false happyness and its impossible to cultivate this way, at least i can't.
One way to get to know if we have a stove is that we can stop mating with the world/turn senses inward, stay in the now moment, emptiness.
What i do is i cultivate this emptiness, i also try to resolve blocks or whatever there is on my own effort. When block got released then also latent energy will get released, then i just stay in emptiness absorbing the energies and pretty soon after a day etc there is that silence and suffering start to build up again. =)

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/28/14 3:54 AM as a reply to Banned For waht?.
That seems similar to what I am describing, in that there does seem to be an excess of energy just flowing freely, when a chi blockage is released.

But, furthermore, there is energy that is added by the anxiety itself. It can actually be felt being released by the kidneys, and then flowing through the rest of the body, as a sort of ultra-alertness with very strong restlessness. I.e., anxiety.

Also, I do not know what is this process of "cooking" energies into their "higher" form, which you refer. I did try to focus on the lower dantien to see if it would calm things down (it has worked in the past), but to no avail.

Yesterday was quite horrible. I am much better today, though. What I did was simply exercise.

I am now on a regime of exercising 15-20 minutes every couple of hours (cardio, running on the eliptical machine). Other than that I try to take it easy.

In five or six days, if all goes well, I should start the retreat again. I hope that I can approach the problem gently, like I sometimes do when slowly entering a very cold pool.

I was very sad at having to step back (cried and everything, and it was the first time since the retreat started, which is unusual in itself). But maybe, hopefully, I will learn something important in the process.

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/28/14 6:39 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:

In five or six days, if all goes well, I should start the retreat again. I hope that I can approach the problem gently, like I sometimes do when slowly entering a very cold pool.


Pending any better advice from the experts, that sounds sensible. And the retreat wasn't just about meditation and concentration. One of your aims was: "I will train for peace." So you're still on retreat :-)

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/28/14 3:10 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:

The condition is accompanied by an alertness that is due to anxiety. Even though I maintain myself outwardly calm and composed, and my thoughts are for the most part reasonable, the anxiety builds up by itself, simply in response to things coming loose :-(


Have you ever experienced a dissolution of sorts that turns out to be totally harmless, and not what you feared it would be? Like when the agitation builds to a point beyond your ability to control or contain it, you have no choice but to go with it all the way, surrender into it? And in doing so, both the experience and the 'you' that was resisting it, dissolve at the same time? But nothing has actually happened.... and suddenly you're clear of it. And then, over time, it might start up again, but this time you have confidence that you can surrender into it and it's not going to kill you or blow your fuses.

Again, this is not something I know from meditation (I'd imagine this happens quite a lot during the A&P phases). It happened a lot during my most intense trips, and there was quite a pattern to it. There was vivid eidetic imagery (weird symbolic stuff that involved my whole 'being'). It would gradually become more and more complex, dense, frenetic, and eventually an overwhelming, unbearable cacophany. But when I just gave up all control and let go into it, that particular configuration of experience would dissolve along with me and my resistance to it. (Sometimes it was like the whole thing crumbling away into billions of tiny cubes and dissipating into nothing. Other times it was like the whole thing was a hoax, a sham, and the apparent 'world' that I'd been trapped in was like a yoyo dangling at the end of a string from some laughing charlatan/ magician's finger, and I'd be laughing along).

And then over time the whole thing would repeat itself. There'd be a new phase. Fresh imagery would begin to form, would often be very beautiful, very interesting, over time becoming more complex, more dense, more fast paced... and so on. The first time you really think you might die or lose your mind for good, and it's no joke, but when you discover that doesn't happen, you never quite fear it the same way again, and you know what to do.

The reason I'm mentioning this is because I was thinking of your curious phrase "raped by the universe" and what it means in this context... and I'm just wondering if you've ever, well, given consent, or given up resistance when you couldn't win..... and then found unexpectedly that there was nothing to fear because you and your resistance were an integral part of it.

This may be miles away from anything helpful or relevant here, but in every experience I've ever had that fear was a factor, it was the feeling of "okay, do your worst", that led to its dissolution.... and I'm just wondering if you've already had that experience in some way.

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/28/14 5:10 PM as a reply to John Wilde.
Hmm its hard to say. I do know what you are talking about: I remember I used to have an irrational fear of scorpions when I was a kid. Lying in bed at night, I would try to cover myself as much as possible, wrapping the sheets over my head and making sure that they left no holes on the sides, hoping that I left no crack open that would allow a scorpion to creep in to kill me (scorpions simply do not exist in Portugal, by the way, this was all a feverish imagination owning to a story about Africa that my grandmother once told my mother, sufficiently loud that I heard it behind the door when lying awake in bed at night).

This proceeded until one day I said: FUCK IT, IF YOU WANT TO KILL ME, COME ON!!! They never did come, and within one day or two I was no longer afraid of them.

The only time I had a period with this specific problem, I did let it go much further than I did this time. I didn't have a "fuck it" attitude, though.

The energy levels peaked two times before I was able to come back to a level low enough to have some form of day-to-day life. The first time I peaked it was an explosion of Kundalini ecstasy rising up the spine (I remember my eyes were as wide as if I'd taken LSD), which then brought on the anxiety and became just too strong to be pleasant... or, put another way, it became quite obvious how pleasure, if strong enough, resembles pain in many ways.

The second peak, I remember the date precisely because it was queen's day in Amsterdam - April 30 2010 - I became so utterly alert and wired that I could no longer tolerate even small background sounds, and had to take refuge in a silent, semi-lit room.

But I do recognize the possibility that this is all simply anxiety, and the energy moving itself is not the problem. I already had that impression, but the fact that this time I actually measured it using a gadget made it quite clear. Release leads to anxiety (gadget beeps) leads to wired feeling.

And the problem is that the anxiety leads to real health problems, mainly bad gut function (IBS), which I have been suffering since roughly october 2010. To give an example, after all the anxiety of two days ago, the next day I had diarrhea, gut pain, and other symptoms.

So I really could take the dive, really just let it rip, and if it works, then great. But if it doesn't work, if it happens like it did last time, I am looking at months of severe consequences.

It is a gamble I think I would rather not do, at least as long as I think I have alternatives.

To continue the metaphor into a strange direction, instead of consenting to being raped, I would rather consent to being tenderly and slowly penetrated he he emoticon

Though I will keep that possibility open. I am utterly sick of a life of distractions, and though I can put up with it for a few more years, in the hope that I can progress in a sane and balanced way, my samvega grows more urgent and more oppressive every day, and truly ordinary life goals seem more and more utterly irrelevant, and this will eventually lead me to just let it rip, let it be either peace of mind or sheer madness, etc, if no other option remains.

Oh, and thank you for your attention emoticon

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
2/28/14 5:47 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:

So I really could take the dive, really just let it rip, and if it works, then great. But if it doesn't work, if it happens like it did last time, I am looking at months of severe consequences.

It is a gamble I think I would rather not do, at least as long as I think I have alternatives.


In that case, like you said, going slowly into the icy water seems the best idea...

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
3/2/14 10:38 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Hi Bruno,

I will join morning through 3/27 for the time of 06:30 - 8:00 EST.

This is 11:30 - 13:00 UTC/GMT.

My practice is generally somewhere between anapanasati, shikantaza and sensate actuality.


Thanks for hosting, B-Lo ;)

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
3/2/14 1:19 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
gaw emoticon I have a driving lesson exactly at 12:00-13:00 emoticon

Would you consider doing it another day? I am now grounded enough to slowly return to the retreat.

Also this week Wednesday 11-12:00 and friday 13-14:00. Other than that I'm free.

RE: Bruno's 2014 retreat
Answer
3/3/14 7:19 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Hey there, speed racer,

[edited for focus! Good luck with driving...]

Yeah, I intend to be there every day through 3/27 (there will be a few days of absence coming up around a March weekend though, I just learned tonight).

If you/ no one's there; I close the hangout if I'm the only one. Sitting in a hangout alone is not a great use of my computer's life.


okay, stay warm, shtah frio here,
Katy