Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
In the beginning:

* Coming off a week or so of relaxing, tuning, balancing, building 'concentration' (see below) using breath as object. Usually pretty good concentration, pretty stable, but occasional wandering off into dreamlike ideation / line dropping out / junkie on the nod.

* Early change in perspective: mind isn't a thing that focuses attention on the breath. Breath makes itself known, and so do the layers of phenomena that constitute the so-called mind. Mind doesn't concentrate. Mind is more like a stream of interferences. When these settle down, a more still and stable knowing ensues.

* But on seeing that mind is a stream of interferences, the breath itself began to break down into similar stuff. What was I actually knowing? The breath, or some mental image of the body breathing? What exactly is the breath? Breath became like a field of rapidly shifting bodily sensations and mental impressions. Boundaries between breathing sensations and not-breathing sensations became less distinct. (But mindfulness persisted).

* Uncertainty about what is being experienced and where.

* Answers: This. Here. Remembered Dan's oft-repeated words about sensations happening "where they are".

* Sensations sometimes took on a mildly unpleasant and disturbing tinge, related to the knowledge that I'm not in control of what arises. Episodes of mild fear and mild nausea, giving way to serenity. Repeated a few times.

* Strange shift of breath location at one point. Seemed to be breathing with my head. Acute awareness of air moving in the back of the nasal passages and seeming to fill the skull. Had never thought of breathing as being done by and for the brain, but seemed that way for a while.

* Overall, nothing particularly unusual happened. Had intended to spend more time developing stable concentration and relaxation, but seem to have moved spontaneously toward a more vipassana-like approach. Will not force it. Will see what happens.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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- Concentration nosedived after last post.
- Variable ever since; mostly poor; lots of wandering, interference, distraction.
- Appreciating the importance of being able to stay with an object. If attention can't stay with something as gross and obvious as the breath, what chance of a taking good, long look at something more subtle and elusive?
- The notion of a central agent/controller (a meditator in charge) doesn't match current experience very well.
- And yet, a persistent, stable, overarching intention clearly counts for something.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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- Convinced of the value of laying solid foundations
- Attending to breath, tuning and balancing mind state.
- Five hindrances, five faculties
- Results variable. Sometimes signs of improvement, sometimes none.
- Breath slowing... long pauses before inhaling.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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- Signs of modest improvement
- Periods where it's easy to calmly and clearly stay with the breath for longer durations.
- Getting better at noticing distractions and keeping some portion of attention tethered to breath throughout.
- Thanissaro helpful: mindfulness as remembrance of intent, alertness as real-time awareness of object, ardency as willingness to make the right effort as often as necessary.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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- Mind becoming increasingly calm, clear and durable in relation to breath.
- Getting to know the four frames of reference.
- Emphasis on patience, getting slowly accustomed to these frames of reference while still tethered to breath.
- Not always succeeding but often doing okay.
- Getting more sensitive to the states of balance and imbalance implied by the five hindrances / five faculties.
- Continuing to work with mindfulness, alertness, ardency (in Thanissaro's terms, as above).
- Seems to be good balance between actively doing and passively knowing.
- Continue patiently in this way.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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- Continuing steadily as above.
- Getting a feel for what it means to cross the flood without rushing ahead, without standing still.
- Bringing same attitude into daily life.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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- Ideas about mindfulness of object often usurping actual mindfulness of object.
- Remedy: emphasise alertness (out of mindfulness, alertness, ardency) as the most direct experience of object.
- Mixed results:
- some sits steady and quietly satisfying and interesting
- others boring, carried off by thoughts, line dropping out, junkie on the nod.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

Reflections on Practice - John Wilde

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(Following Sawfoot's lead of having a sub-thread for reflections embedded within a practice log)

What I'm noticing from meditation so far is that stances, evaluations, attitudes, opinions, positions, views, etc, are a dime a dozen. I can better understand now why seasoned meditators take such a dim view of swirling around in such content. Even a short amount of time in formal meditation has made this clearer than it was before... probably because the shifting and shuffling of attitudes, positions, stances, strategies, is happening so fast and with so little distraction that the futility of it becomes apparent more quickly and clearly. (Futility as in lack of ability to bring lasting clarity and satisfaction).

I've also started appreciating the ability to skillfully fabricate states better than I did before. I've always been motivated more by glimpses of something unconditioned, pure, effortless, and have not had much respect for careful and skillful cultivation (at least, not in this way). This is changing. I'm beginning to see how, in order for one thing to be freed or enabled or clarified, something else probably has to be restrained or tamed or cultivated. Early days yet, but a definite shift in that direction... and I wish I'd done it sooner.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Reflections on Practice - John Wilde

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While reflecting on the relationship between insight and shamatha, I re-read Ian's sticky thread "The Practical Aspects of Establishing Mindfulness", which at the time didn't have any practical significance for me, but does now. (Thank you, Ian).

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1286373

This in particular....

"Ian And":

What was important for me personally to recognize was that for insight to arise, I needed a calm mind; I needed first to create the condition and space for insight to arise before it would arise on a relatively consistent basis. Yet even so, insight nevertheless arose during my practice to develop calm; it arose in the form of being able to clearly see what was needed in order to enter absorption. So, in that sense, insight (clear seeing or vipassana) into the process of absorbing the mind in an object (a samatha practice) was necessary in order to develop jhana so that I could turn around and use that to explore insight into phenomena.


.... sounds good to me for several reasons:

1) More enjoyable than raw noting (or similar dry vipassana).

2) More accessible from where I am.

3) More consistent with my reading of the suttas than Mahasi style vipassana or similar.

4) I'm leery of the explicit depersonalisation technique of noting + 3Cs. Would rather have insights arise naturally, organically, in the context of realising what needs to be cultivated and/or abandoned and/or understood in order to get at the roots of affliction and ignorance ---- even if they end up being the same insights in the end. (And even more so if they're not!)

5) Seems to be a more open-ended option, broader foundation for later practices, with less initial lock-in.

So be it.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Reflections on Practice - John Wilde

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John Wilde:


1) More enjoyable than raw noting (or similar dry vipassana).

2) More accessible from where I am.

3) More consistent with my reading of the suttas than Mahasi style vipassana or similar.

4) I'm leery of the explicit depersonalisation technique of noting + 3Cs. Would rather have insights arise naturally, organically, in the context of realising what needs to be cultivated and/or abandoned and/or understood in order to get at the roots of affliction and ignorance ---- even if they end up being the same insights in the end. (And even more so if they're not!)

5) Seems to be a more open-ended option, broader foundation for later practices, with less initial lock-in.

So be it.


I think that people have different kinds of minds (hard to know for sure, as I have only the experience of one). I recall reading somewhere that some eastern monks were almost too good at samatha, and explicit vipassana was needed to break out of relatively thoughtless locked in calm states. In my own experience, trying to get good at samatha is very much about insight. And at the same time, you get good at samatha, which is nice. So two for the price of one - bargain! And I also think the 3C obsession with the Therevadans/MCTB is an article of faith, though I presume it is a useful practice tool and way of framing experience.

I like the way thanissaro bhikkhu talks about it (in each of every breath)
http://www.dhammatalks.org/ebook_index.html
Of using samatha and the breath as like an experimental lab. I didn't get that far with it last time I took that approach as you need to have a pretty stable base (i.e. access concentration) to engage in that kind of practice and I lacked that at the time. But I think it is a good practice for my insight prone mind, for similar reasons to what you list above.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Reflections on Practice - John Wilde

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
sawfoot _:

I like the way thanissaro bhikkhu talks about it (in each of every breath)
http://www.dhammatalks.org/ebook_index.html
Of using samatha and the breath as like an experimental lab. I didn't get that far with it last time I took that approach as you need to have a pretty stable base (i.e. access concentration) to engage in that kind of practice and I lacked that at the time. But I think it is a good practice for my insight prone mind, for similar reasons to what you list above.


I have a lot of respect for that guy; he makes a lot of good sense.

I'll always be more drawn to Dzogchen and Mahamudra because I've been lucky enough to have spontaneous glimpses of what they talk about, and it really defines my overall orientation. But I've definitely reached a point where I know that grace and good fortune isn't enough. And when it comes to doing some ground work, laying some really solid foundations, I like what Thanissaro teaches. He doesn't talk much about what the fruits of the path, what lies beyond fabrication, but he certainly explains the fabrication process in a way that makes it a viable form of ngöndro for me. (Not sure if that's the right use of the term, but you know what I mean).

Anyway, enough prattling from me. I'm going to spend the next couple of months practising and traveling, and should be back some time in June for an update. It's been fun talking with you this last while..... hope all goes well for you.

Until June...
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Reflections on Practice - John Wilde

Posts: 507 Join Date: 3/11/13 Recent Posts
John Wilde:
sawfoot _:

I like the way thanissaro bhikkhu talks about it (in each of every breath)
http://www.dhammatalks.org/ebook_index.html
Of using samatha and the breath as like an experimental lab. I didn't get that far with it last time I took that approach as you need to have a pretty stable base (i.e. access concentration) to engage in that kind of practice and I lacked that at the time. But I think it is a good practice for my insight prone mind, for similar reasons to what you list above.


I have a lot of respect for that guy; he makes a lot of good sense.

I'll always be more drawn to Dzogchen and Mahamudra because I've been lucky enough to have spontaneous glimpses of what they talk about, and it really defines my overall orientation. But I've definitely reached a point where I know that grace and good fortune isn't enough. And when it comes to doing some ground work, laying some really solid foundations, I like what Thanissaro teaches. He doesn't talk much about what the fruits of the path, what lies beyond fabrication, but he certainly explains the fabrication process in a way that makes it a viable form of ngöndro for me. (Not sure if that's the right use of the term, but you know what I mean).

Anyway, enough prattling from me. I'm going to spend the next couple of months practising and traveling, and should be back some time in June for an update. It's been fun talking with you this last while..... hope all goes well for you.

Until June...


Yep, same perspective here. Just need to put the hours in for that ground work to go in that direction.

I am trying to engage more in the "real world" and am aware that forum interactions are a poor substitute for that. So I sent a private message if you want to stay in touch via email and engage in some "human connection".

Old saw
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Reflections on Practice - John Wilde

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John Wilde:

4) I'm leery of the explicit depersonalisation technique of noting + 3Cs. Would rather have insights arise naturally, organically, in the context of realising what needs to be cultivated and/or abandoned and/or understood in order to get at the roots of affliction and ignorance ---- even if they end up being the same insights in the end. (And even more so if they're not!)


Actually, that was a pretty unreasonable and uninformed characterisation of what noting and recognition of 3Cs is about. I'm sure it can be used as a kind of radical and direct route to dissociation and depersonalisation, but that would be a crude use of the technique -- and probably wouldn't lead to anything good in the long run.

On further reflection, I can see that the only way people could get anything deeply and lastingly beneficial out of it -- which they clearly do -- is if it enables them to see through and/or abandon whatever it is that turns experience into affliction at a pretty fundamental level. So I guess it's just a case of how one goes about it; and each to their own. Apologies for my crude thinking and blathering on this.

[PS. Thanks, old saw, got your PM; will be in touch]
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Reflections on Practice - John Wilde

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Identity and relationship are inseparable. When there's no one standing in relation to anything, there is still diversity, there's an infinite variety of things with distinct characteristics and relative locations, but there's no feeling of separation (or unity) anywhere to be found.

It's always more radical yet 'obviously so' than one remembers it.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
Plan for April:

Continue as above, using breath as anchor to develop calm concentration.

Augment with a three pronged approach incorporating elements of shamatha, vipassana and [something else].

1) Awakening to reality: emphasis on clear discernment of whatever arises in this moment.
2) Appreciating this moment: emphasis on appreciative immersion in whatever's happening.
3) Seeding the future: emphasis on abandoning causes of affliction and cultivating causes of happiness.

Sounds okay in theory; let's see how it works in practice.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
John Wilde:

1) Awakening to reality: emphasis on clear discernment of whatever arises in this moment.
2) Appreciating this moment: emphasis on appreciative immersion in whatever's happening.
3) Seeding the future: emphasis on abandoning causes of affliction and cultivating causes of happiness.
Sounds okay in theory; let's see how it works in practice.


An on-cushion instance of (2) above:
- Brief warmup, 3x10 breaths.
- Put aside "greed & distress with reference to the world" (apt words).
- Mind one's own business completely (four frames of reference).
- Be one's own refuge.
- Breathe.
- Groove on bliss of seclusion and self-containment.
Excellent: deeply soothing, delightful, refreshing as deep sleep, but wide awake and aware.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
John Wilde:

1) Awakening to reality: emphasis on clear discernment of whatever arises in this moment.
2) Appreciating this moment: emphasis on appreciative immersion in whatever's happening.
3) Seeding the future: emphasis on abandoning causes of affliction and cultivating causes of happiness.


Snapshot of 1 as of today:
- Warmup 3x10 breaths
- Mindfulness established, choicelessly attending to whatever arises.
- Bodily sensations quite smooth but finely tingly, made of tiny effervescences.
- Discernment must be pretty poor because I find the following very hard to describe.
- Throbs and blobs of hard-to-describe 'stuff'... rising up against background of stable clarity.
- Throbbing, shimmering, pulsing something -- composed partly of image/light and partly of feeling/sensation.
- Cloaks of ignorance, arising, obscuring, moving around, going away, against background of stability and clarity.
- There's a rhythm to it all, or rather, several rhythms... not synchronised but not chaotic either.
- Sense the potential for this to be really annoying and frustrating, but not today.
- Can feel the mind framing and re-framing, trying to find the right, best, true perspective. (Again, could easily be frustrating on other occasions but not today).
- Overall affective tone: general well-being, equanimity, wry amusement.
- Mindfulness pretty strong, feel I could keep it up indefinitely.
- Don't particularly want to, but only mild aversion to the thought.
- Alternating between, hmmm, interesting... and "is that all? is this how it stays?"
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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- Used breath counting to objectively assess mindfulness / concentration.
- It's better objectively than it seems subjectively.
- Used following method: count 10 breaths, then count 9 breaths, then count 8 breaths, then 7... 6... 5 (...) 1 ... then back up... 2 breaths, 3 breaths, 4 breaths, 5... (...) 10 breaths. Then back down again, and so on. Got through two complete cycles of this without losing count, and could have continued.
- So mindfulness (using Thanissaro's definition) is coming along pretty well.
- However, smoothness/continuity of alertness to every part of each breath does not seem as good.
- Have had periods where attention locks in effortlessly on breath, and awareness stays smooth and continuous for a while, but this is not usually the case. Usually has an intermittently jerky or jumpy or squirmy quality.
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Bruno Loff, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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Also, I found that there is something in the counting which can cause me to trance into it, so that I can keep on counting even when distracted.

As far as what is possible, I often measure concentration through a table from the book "Attention Revolution" by B. Alan Wallace (attached).

I get to stage 2 at best.
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Chris G, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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Bruno Loff:
As far as what is possible, I often measure concentration through a table from the book "Attention Revolution" by B. Alan Wallace (attached).


Thanks Bruno!

There is another rendition of the same stages by a different author, Culadasa, here:

http://dharmatreasure.com/wp-content/uploads/LightOnMeditationHandout.pdf

He also has some very detailed notes with instructions for stage 1-6 available in a few separate PDFs. Easily the best material on concentration meditation I've ever read. Can forward to you if you're interested.

Edit: I'm not sure if Culadasa would like people redistributing his writings publicly, so I'm going to defer people to his jhana_insight Yahoo group (google for "jhana_insight"). If you create a Yahoo account, then request membership to his group, you can find the PDFs in the Files section. (At least I think so -- it's been a while since I was a member of that group, as my Yahoo ID expired.) They're called "Plain English - XXX.pdf", where XXX is "introduction", "Part I", things like that.

It's definitely worth the effort -- highly recommended. He has a book which should be coming out shortly, but it was edited for popular consumption and I'm not sure if the quality is the same. So get the PDFs while you can.

Cheers,
Chris
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. Jake ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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I love Culadasa's presentation of this stuff, I was going to link to it on this thread today as well. I would be very interested in checking out the PDFs that cover the first six stages in greater detail as well if possible. Thanks!
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Nikolai ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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Chris G:
Bruno Loff:
As far as what is possible, I often measure concentration through a table from the book "Attention Revolution" by B. Alan Wallace (attached).


Thanks Bruno!

There is another rendition of the same stages by a different author, Culadasa, here:

http://dharmatreasure.com/wp-content/uploads/LightOnMeditationHandout.pdf

He also has some very detailed notes with instructions for stage 1-6 available in a few separate PDFs. Easily the best material on concentration meditation I've ever read. Can forward to you if you're interested.

Edit: I'm not sure if Culadasa would like people redistributing his writings publicly, so I'm going to defer people to his jhana_insight Yahoo group (google for "jhana_insight"). If you create a Yahoo account, then request membership to his group, you can find the PDFs in the Files section. (At least I think so -- it's been a while since I was a member of that group, as my Yahoo ID expired.) They're called "Plain English - XXX.pdf", where XXX is "introduction", "Part I", things like that.

It's definitely worth the effort -- highly recommended. He has a book which should be coming out shortly, but it was edited for popular consumption and I'm not sure if the quality is the same. So get the PDFs while you can.

Cheers,
Chris


Tommy, I think, once sent a message to Culadasa asking if it was ok to share his teachings. he said in reply to please share everything he teaches on that jhana yahoo list as he doesn't know how long he has left on this earth. So share away for the good of all.

Nick
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Chris G, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

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Thanks Nick. Just to be sure I sent a message to Culadasa and got his permission. So I made a new post in the Concentration section with some of his writings, including these PDFs.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice Snapshots - John Wilde

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
Since last update:

- Sitting at least four times a day for at least 45 minutes per sit (often more, especially at night).
- Ability to focus on breath was fluctuating from session to session.
- Put aside all other strategies and decided to follow it like someone lost in the desert would follow the only path.
- This worked very well. Before long, attending to breath was happening better than my conscious intentions, as if it (the process) was one step ahead of me (the supposed doer).
- After consolidating this gain for a while, turned a portion of attention to mind state, while using breath as anchor.
- Paid particular attention to the five hindrances. Finding them excellent guides on which variables to adjust in order to balance and tune the mind.
- Results very good: able to stay with the breath for large parts of a sit, and getting a much better feel for energetic/ attentional balances and imbalances.
- Have found that that my instrument was previously tuned too low.
- Raised the pitch somewhat, and this has made quite a difference.
- Interesting to see how higher energy + equipoise results in greater tranquility and clarity than having a more relaxed approach.

Off cushion:
- Have been remaining attentive to what's happening, balancing physical and mental energies while doing my thing.
- Getting better at noticing impulses before they manifest as words and deeds.
- Improved ability to stop and choose whether to (re)act or not.
- Improved ability to keep resolutions.
- Five hindrances apply off cushion too.
- Intimations of new (but somehow familiar) possibilities. (Details separately in due course, if it amounts to anything real and enduring).
- Overall: Really pleased to be doing this. No earth-shattering revelations so far, but the process is teaching me a lot, and it's percolating through into other aspects of life.

(PS. Thanks for the Culadasa stuff).

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