verbalizing my practice (despite the futility of doing so)

C M D, modified 8 Years ago at 3/25/14 11:34 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 3/25/14 11:34 PM

verbalizing my practice (despite the futility of doing so)

Post: 1 Join Date: 3/29/11 Recent Posts
I've been practicing without any real guidance for quite a while now and thought I would share with all of you to see if anyone has advice, comments on where I might be at, etc. Have been poking around the site since I met Daniel a number of years ago and read his book, but haven't ever posted. A friend asked me how my practice was going recently and I was somewhat lost for words (see below...), so I decided to actually do some reflection, pull out the old practice journal, and post it here for feedback.

The last intensive period of practice I had was a 6 week retreat in late 2012. It felt like a game changer for my practice and like it took my understanding, at least of the grosser levels of mind, beyond the level of conceptuality. Also, in some ways, it took me to a place that is at once deeply confusing and also somehow not very oppressive in its confusion, if that makes any sense. Confusing because I feel like I consistently fail to accurately communicate my experience not only about meditation, but also about any conversation concerning the relativism of moral judgement and the human value system... This is often accompanied by feelings of futility, and a real disenchantment when it comes to engaging in those types of conversations (most of the time, at least). But this is also accompanied by a feeling of deep understanding that it's not inherently problematic that I fail to communicate what seems "true" to me in this regard. It is almost funny, at times, watching myself try to fumble through an explanation and being left with the feeling that I totally missed the mark, and that this is somehow the normal state of human affairs, and is still totally workable. Oddly, people are often satisfied with the results anyway. I can really relate to the sense of loneliness, of feeling alien, that people occasionally talk about encountering in life after extended practice (but again, am not particularly bothered by it and it doesn't interfere with my life insofar as I obviously know that trying to explain it to the wrong people is pointless). Anyway, that is sort of how my practice has informed my life up until now.

On to the nitty gritty: generally, as far as insight practice goes, I use the Mahasi style noting practice, though I am less anchored to the breath than is traditional. Currently, a typical sit for me might look something like this: starting off slowly with ~one note per second, breathing, hearing, seeing, it really is more noting open awareness, increasing speed to 3-4 hz and I will start to notice the pronounced tendency of awareness to get "stuck" on the back of the eyelids, notice tension, some thought, back to hearing something, white noise in ear, getting faster, and body starts to really tingle and speed up (after a number of minutes, but in a focused sit, somewhat early on, 5-10 minutes in). I usually get a pretty pleasant, yet not overwhelming, tingling that starts in my spine and englufs my body, usually only once, occasionally more than that. I notice all of these sensations come, go, not really fully seeming to cancel each other out, but the arising of one blip obscures awareness of the previous. And then what often happens is things start to get pretty diffuse, awareness starts to feel like it's lagging behind the sensations, and there is a feeling of frustration that I somehow can't get aligned properly. Lately, I end up petering out in this stage and end up feeling like I'm sort of in a sedated, lethargic, gooey mess of awareness, probably because continuing to investigate the out of sync-ness feels like it's effort intensive and forced. Since I haven't made time to sit for very long lately to push past this (<45 mins at a time), this is pretty much where I get stuck, and seems pretty dark night transitioning into just a sort of lazy awareness, often accompanied by wandering thoughts. The transition of stages seem much clearer to me than they did when I first encountered them, more recognizable, if very subtle. Thoughts on this? Now that I write it out, it seems like I should pick the notes back up so I don't fuzz out...

For reference, the deepest level (I think) I've touched, was on the 6 week retreat, as I was waiting for a teacher interview sitting in a chair doing a very open noting. At a certain point I dropped the notes (which I forgot to mention above that I do, around when the tingling sensations come on) and just sort of followed awareness as it seemed to "jump" from one object to another, like in a pinball machine. I was able to stay with each sensation consistently, and eventually what happened was that awareness split off and "I" was all of a sudden looking back at the thing that was looking. It felt like I was on both sides of the split at once, both subject and object, and the minute this happened, there was a sort of blink of awareness (mind went blank), and then the immediate feeling of "holy shit, I wasn't supposed to see that..." No real fireworks or overly pleasant sensations afterward, but a profound sense of having deconstructed mind and the whole thing seeming kind of like a house of cards... And it must have been only a fraction of a second (and didn't feel any longer). Have not experienced that since, but it was so subtle I almost feel like I could have missed it...

Just some reflections. Am open to any kind of feedback, advice, whatever. It is clear to me that I need to up my game and actually try to organize my schedule (and internal priorities) so that I can get some longer sitting time in to move through where I'm stuck. Attempting to verbalize this is a huge help in seeing where I am at and making myself accountable, in any event.