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Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?

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First, here's a summary of my practice (log coming soon...): I've been meditating at least weekly (usually a few times) for the past 6 months, and almost daily for the past 6-7~ weeks. I usually practice noting/'do nothing' and occasionally concentration practice or a stab at metta. A typical insight sit goes like this: I make a resolve, start out with mindfulness of breath noting 'rise' and 'fall' for 2-3 minutes, then I note in aggregates -- feel/see/hear-in/out for 5-10 minutes, then I drop most noting to tweak my attention more finely and balance effort/acceptance for 10-20 minutes until I feel a weight lift, unpleasant vibrations dissolve (many from my navel), I feel an upward pull and I'm in low EQ. With daily practice of at least 45 minutes I can reach low EQ with reasonable reproducibility. Once I reach EQ my thoughts often become too seductive and subtle for me to catch and I get lost and sometimes fall back. But, I've had some success from low EQ with a mixture of gentle mindfulness, 'do nothing', and cultivating 'specific neutrality'. There was a period of a week or so when I was consistently reaching states from (mid-high?) EQ that seemed formless-y. I would get a markedly increased sense of space (even more so than my normal EQ) and gradually I would feel my body image almost completely disappear. The first few times the feeling was disconcerting; I had a few moments of sudden grasping along the lines of 'Ahh, where am I?' But the grasping was fleeting and mostly amusing at the time. One time I was so tuned out from my body that I genuinely wondered if my alarm was set loud enough to scare the death out of me. I've also had many times in EQ where I feel a sudden rush of energy upwards, then it's gone. The rush is never unpleasant, usually neutral, and once or twice has been pleasant.

My concentration is pretty garbage. If I've attained first jhana at all it was for all of 5-10 seconds. While recently rereading MCTB I decided that my concentration was insufficient for SE. Daniel writes that first jhana is usually the prerequisite for SE, although it's possible to attain it the 'dry' way. I like bliss as much as the next guy, and I haven't experienced much progress in EQ so I decided I'd practice concentration more frequently.

Now, in the past week I've been doing just that. I believe I'm getting access concentration: I feel a rhythm build, distractions take a back seat, my attention feels more automatic, and I feel minor/mild pleasure. Now, here's the problem. Once the bliss rises to a certain threshold I feel like it's being blocked. Here's how it goes: I feel a pleasurable sense of bliss-anticipation build in my navel center and heart center, I let it build naturally or focus on it to coax it into building in a metta-like way, then I get the feeling it should be exploding outwards into bodily bliss but instead I feel a lump build in the top of my throat/base of my head area accompanied by the continued feeling that the bliss is being blocked and welling of tears in my eyes. Often the throat lump will make me yawn or feel like I want to yawn. The entire bliss-block is very similar to the maddening feeling of having to sneeze but being unable. The last time I remember feeling the bliss spill over without blockage was described here. But, it should be noted I've only noticed the block this last week of putting more effort into concentration.

Personal info: I'm almost certainly emotionally repressed. I had minor trauma in my childhood that likely caused some blockage, and I lived in a state of almost constant depression and anhedonia for ~2 years. I also identify pretty strongly with the MBTI definition of an INTP; according to function theory Extroverted Feeling is the INTP's least understood function (for an uncomfortably accurate glimpse into my emotions check out this). I've also been doing Reichian exercises consistently for the past couple months, and the exercises are intended to dredge up 'stuff'. Essentially, my emotional intelligence is horrid and it's probable that trapped emotions are bubbling underneath the surface causing the trouble.

Okay, here's my question barrage. How do I remove the bliss-block? What are some alternative explanations? Daniel writes that concentration tends to bring out our stuff, why? Why does concentration tend to bring out our stuff? Does the bliss of concentration disappear when our stuff appears?

Rereading the thread it seems like more metta is the obvious answer, but I experience this bliss blockage when doing metta also. I feel the goodwill well in my heart then the feeling of blocked bliss, lump in throat etc. Should I try some more specific guided metta exercises? Forgiveness? Evoke challenging material? MDMA? And, in general, how do I increase emotional intelligence?

Any suggestions or comments are appreciated
Thanks

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/15/14 12:57 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.

Okay, here's my question barrage. How do I remove the bliss-block? What are some alternative explanations? Daniel writes that concentration tends to bring out our stuff, why? Why does concentration tend to bring out our stuff? Does the bliss of concentration disappear when our stuff appears?

I can't answer for the bliss block but I can answer for concentration bringing up our stuff.

According to Jung, the psyche is a closed system. So, if you withdraw energy from every day awareness, the energy goes to the unconscious instead. Thus, our stuff comes up.

Working with our stuff is complicated and can take a lifetime... Better, I think, to notice the three characteristics of the sensations that make up our stuff, and attain enlightenment thereby.

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/15/14 1:12 PM as a reply to Eric M W.
Eric M W:

Okay, here's my question barrage. How do I remove the bliss-block? What are some alternative explanations? Daniel writes that concentration tends to bring out our stuff, why? Why does concentration tend to bring out our stuff? Does the bliss of concentration disappear when our stuff appears?

I can't answer for the bliss block but I can answer for concentration bringing up our stuff.

According to Jung, the psyche is a closed system. So, if you withdraw energy from every day awareness, the energy goes to the unconscious instead. Thus, our stuff comes up.

Working with our stuff is complicated and can take a lifetime... Better, I think, to notice the three characteristics of the sensations that make up our stuff, and attain enlightenment thereby.


Ah, thanks. That theory sounds plausible and a lot like dreaming. Only, why do negative aspects of our unconscious manifest? Does concentration tend to indiscriminately manifest images from our unconscious, some of which may be our negative 'stuff'? In other words, is either positive or negative 'stuff' more likely to manifest during concentration?

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/15/14 1:40 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Droll Dedekind:
How do I remove the bliss-block?

Rereading the thread it seems like more metta is the obvious answer, but I experience this bliss blockage when doing metta also. I feel the goodwill well in my heart then the feeling of blocked bliss, lump in throat etc. Should I try some more specific guided metta exercises?
Lump in throat? Try crying/or not resisting the feelings that accompany this.
As far as metta try to generate the giddy feeling you get in your stomach on a swing. Say "may I be happy". Generate the giddy feeling of opening a gift as a kid. With each breath expand the feeling in your stomach. When the bubble gets big enough it will move up to the heart chakra and you can change to loving kindness. When that bubble gets big it may move to the throat. Try it and see. Start with words but it is about the feelings not the phrases.
Good Luck,
~D

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/15/14 1:44 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
The bliss block is something I have encountered quite frequently in my practice. I just got it while writing this.

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/15/14 1:46 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Droll Dedekind:
Eric M W:

Okay, here's my question barrage. How do I remove the bliss-block? What are some alternative explanations? Daniel writes that concentration tends to bring out our stuff, why? Why does concentration tend to bring out our stuff? Does the bliss of concentration disappear when our stuff appears?

I can't answer for the bliss block but I can answer for concentration bringing up our stuff.

According to Jung, the psyche is a closed system. So, if you withdraw energy from every day awareness, the energy goes to the unconscious instead. Thus, our stuff comes up.

Working with our stuff is complicated and can take a lifetime... Better, I think, to notice the three characteristics of the sensations that make up our stuff, and attain enlightenment thereby.


Ah, thanks. That theory sounds plausible and a lot like dreaming. Only, why do negative aspects of our unconscious manifest? Does concentration tend to indiscriminately manifest images from our unconscious, some of which may be our negative 'stuff'? In other words, is either positive or negative 'stuff' more likely to manifest during concentration?

I'm not sure why dark stuff tends to come up. I think it's because the psyche is inherently self-healing, and the stuff that needs to be healed naturally is the stuff that comes up.

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/15/14 2:31 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Been sitting here with your post and http://www.wikihow.com/Cry-and-Let-It-All-Out open trying to cry for 5 minutes. Says adult men cry on average 7 times a year. I remember crying two times in the past four years. This is hard.

Just found
The medical literature is quite clear on the subject of emotion and hyperventilation. The mere fact of prolonged hyperventilation results in a general tendency to emotion (likely due to the oxygen deprivation of the cortex) and especially to crying (weeping), anxiety, and anger.

in this Reichian manual. I'm gonna give crying a try after some Reichian breathing.

Also, the instructions you gave for metta are more or less the same instructions I follow when I get the bliss block. I feel a restrained welling of emotion in my navel and heart, then I feel my throat lump. I'll give it a try though.

Adam:
I can't tell if your post is sarcastic. But, if it's not, then I'm interested to hear how/when it manifests for you?

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/15/14 7:27 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
This might be an obvious statement, but the bliss block is probably happening because of basic wanting. If you are trying to coax it, even with metta, you are basically trying to manipulate your experience. Bliss that comes from withdrawing from desire and manipulation... will go away if you have desires and try to manipulate the experience of bliss.

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/15/14 10:17 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
I have experienced something similar, not necessarily wholly bliss related, but sometimes in practice there was a feeling like I was pushing on this barrier. Up against this barrier, pushing against it so hard, like I was so close to getting somewhere I could almost feel the other side. Of course you want to break the barrier; if it feels like a barrier, it's a barrier for pete's sake, and barriers were made to be broken. However, consider that you may not be able to just get over it.

The biggest barrier we all face is the dualistic barrier, the feeling of separation from reality. You can't just get over that, it takes time and a whole path. So don't struggle too hard is my advice, just set realistic goals and strive for what you know you can overcome.

Speaking of which, you say you are hanging out in equanimity a lot. Are you trying for stream entry? Because it seems like you're in a pretty good place practice wise. Don't worry too much about concentration, I couldn't access the jhana's before stream entry and I don't think this is wholly unusual. The main thing is just noticing sensations as they are to the maximum extent and relaxing in equanimity.

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/16/14 7:43 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Droll Dedekind:
First, here's a summary of my practice (log coming soon...): I've been meditating at least weekly (usually a few times) for the past 6 months, and almost daily for the past 6-7~ weeks. I usually practice noting/'do nothing' and occasionally concentration practice or a stab at metta. A typical insight sit goes like this: I make a resolve, start out with mindfulness of breath noting 'rise' and 'fall' for 2-3 minutes, then I note in aggregates -- feel/see/hear-in/out for 5-10 minutes, then I drop most noting to tweak my attention more finely and balance effort/acceptance for 10-20 minutes until I feel a weight lift, unpleasant vibrations dissolve (many from my navel), I feel an upward pull and I'm in low EQ. With daily practice of at least 45 minutes I can reach low EQ with reasonable reproducibility. Once I reach EQ my thoughts often become too seductive and subtle for me to catch and I get lost and sometimes fall back. But, I've had some success from low EQ with a mixture of gentle mindfulness, 'do nothing', and cultivating 'specific neutrality'. There was a period of a week or so when I was consistently reaching states from (mid-high?) EQ that seemed formless-y. I would get a markedly increased sense of space (even more so than my normal EQ) and gradually I would feel my body image almost completely disappear. The first few times the feeling was disconcerting; I had a few moments of sudden grasping along the lines of 'Ahh, where am I?' But the grasping was fleeting and mostly amusing at the time. One time I was so tuned out from my body that I genuinely wondered if my alarm was set loud enough to scare the death out of me. I've also had many times in EQ where I feel a sudden rush of energy upwards, then it's gone. The rush is never unpleasant, usually neutral, and once or twice has been pleasant.

My concentration is pretty garbage. If I've attained first jhana at all it was for all of 5-10 seconds. While recently rereading MCTB I decided that my concentration was insufficient for SE. Daniel writes that first jhana is usually the prerequisite for SE, although it's possible to attain it the 'dry' way. I like bliss as much as the next guy, and I haven't experienced much progress in EQ so I decided I'd practice concentration more frequently.

Now, in the past week I've been doing just that. I believe I'm getting access concentration: I feel a rhythm build, distractions take a back seat, my attention feels more automatic, and I feel minor/mild pleasure. Now, here's the problem. Once the bliss rises to a certain threshold I feel like it's being blocked. Here's how it goes: I feel a pleasurable sense of bliss-anticipation build in my navel center and heart center, I let it build naturally or focus on it to coax it into building in a metta-like way, then I get the feeling it should be exploding outwards into bodily bliss but instead I feel a lump build in the top of my throat/base of my head area accompanied by the continued feeling that the bliss is being blocked and welling of tears in my eyes. Often the throat lump will make me yawn or feel like I want to yawn. The entire bliss-block is very similar to the maddening feeling of having to sneeze but being unable. The last time I remember feeling the bliss spill over without blockage was described here. But, it should be noted I've only noticed the block this last week of putting more effort into concentration.

Personal info: I'm almost certainly emotionally repressed. I had minor trauma in my childhood that likely caused some blockage, and I lived in a state of almost constant depression and anhedonia for ~2 years. I also identify pretty strongly with the MBTI definition of an INTP; according to function theory Extroverted Feeling is the INTP's least understood function (for an uncomfortably accurate glimpse into my emotions check out this). I've also been doing Reichian exercises consistently for the past couple months, and the exercises are intended to dredge up 'stuff'. Essentially, my emotional intelligence is horrid and it's probable that trapped emotions are bubbling underneath the surface causing the trouble.

Okay, here's my question barrage. How do I remove the bliss-block? What are some alternative explanations? Daniel writes that concentration tends to bring out our stuff, why? Why does concentration tend to bring out our stuff? Does the bliss of concentration disappear when our stuff appears?

Rereading the thread it seems like more metta is the obvious answer, but I experience this bliss blockage when doing metta also. I feel the goodwill well in my heart then the feeling of blocked bliss, lump in throat etc. Should I try some more specific guided metta exercises? Forgiveness? Evoke challenging material? MDMA? And, in general, how do I increase emotional intelligence?

Any suggestions or comments are appreciated
Thanks


Hello

See the warning bellow.

The way I deal with emotional blockages is by doing metta and applying equanimity. If you practice metta regularly, once you are reasonably focused and filled with metta, direct the kindness to the specific blocked spot. Another way of doing it is with equanimity: paying atention to the sensations in the blocked area with a minimum of attachment and aversion. These two strategies complement each other. One more useful tip: sometimes the sensations in the blocked area are hard to scrutinise. What I do in those situations is to think "Whatever I am attached to, or have aversion to, let go, let be."

Warning: there might arise very unpleasant stuff. Since you are at EQ it seems that you can deal with them with some skill. Nevertheless, be sure you're seen by a therapist. I mean this.

EDIT: Don't tuch the MDMA's and such nonsense. It won't do you any good.

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/16/14 8:10 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
The bliss block is, the way I understand it, the body's way of saying, "I can't do any more bliss." I have no idea of how it works, but if I had a guess, it would be something along the lines of getting pretty darn close to wanting to make the heart stop. Kind of a desire for annihilation secretly disguised behind a wish for eternal life.

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/16/14 11:32 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
T DC:
I have experienced something similar, not necessarily wholly bliss related, but sometimes in practice there was a feeling like I was pushing on this barrier. Up against this barrier, pushing against it so hard, like I was so close to getting somewhere I could almost feel the other side. Of course you want to break the barrier; if it feels like a barrier, it's a barrier for pete's sake, and barriers were made to be broken. However, consider that you may not be able to just get over it.

The biggest barrier we all face is the dualistic barrier, the feeling of separation from reality. You can't just get over that, it takes time and a whole path. So don't struggle too hard is my advice, just set realistic goals and strive for what you know you can overcome.

Speaking of which, you say you are hanging out in equanimity a lot. Are you trying for stream entry? Because it seems like you're in a pretty good place practice wise. Don't worry too much about concentration, I couldn't access the jhana's before stream entry and I don't think this is wholly unusual. The main thing is just noticing sensations as they are to the maximum extent and relaxing in equanimity.


Your post was perfectly reassuring. I plan to work at breaking the barrier. And, I'm relieved to hear that it's not uncommon to get SE without jhana access. Anyone have some estimates on that figure?

PaweĊ‚ K:
I have something similar (blockade) in my chest (heart chakra) and up to the point that its felt as strong pressure with pain. Throat too not so good...

I work with it just feeling it and placing awareness on it without pushing anything. I try to feel world through it and it work revealing some content of blockades. Interesting thing is that a lot of it is not so bad but felt more like I was clinging to it too much. Anyhow it feels like it is helping when I do that. Sure it takes its time but I do not expect to be over with it in one sitting...

BTW. you do not need jhanas and strong concentration to get SE but you probably want to because concentration tend to make experiences more vivid and defined.


I usually try to move my awareness along my spine in the appropriate region. If I persist I feel a mildly uncomfortable pressure. I've never tried placing my awareness on one spot patiently. I'll give it a go emoticon

My plan is to maintain my insight baseline while adding concentration time every day until I break through and at least deepen my access concentration if not attain a soft first jhana.

Blue Jay:

Hello

See the warning bellow.

The way I deal with emotional blockages is by doing metta and applying equanimity. If you practice metta regularly, once you are reasonably focused and filled with metta, direct the kindness to the specific blocked spot. Another way of doing it is with equanimity: paying atention to the sensations in the blocked area with a minimum of attachment and aversion. These two strategies complement each other. One more useful tip: sometimes the sensations in the blocked area are hard to scrutinise. What I do in those situations is to think "Whatever I am attached to, or have aversion to, let go, let be."

Warning: there might arise very unpleasant stuff. Since you are at EQ it seems that you can deal with them with some skill. Nevertheless, be sure you're seen by a therapist. I mean this.

EDIT: Don't tuch the MDMA's and such nonsense. It won't do you any good.


My experiences with metta have been promising but I honestly have never persisted in a daily metta practice. If I continue feeling a blockage in my heart chakra then I'll have to make it my primary concentration practice. Thanks for the tips and concern. And, I respect your advice on the MDMA. Although, research and anecdote suggest it works well with psychotherapy under the proper conditions; I have reservations about the neurotoxicity though.

Thanks all. The results are to be recorded in a soon-to-be-created practice log.

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/17/14 8:52 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Droll Dedekind:

Your post was perfectly reassuring. I plan to work at breaking the barrier. And, I'm relieved to hear that it's not uncommon to get SE without jhana access. Anyone have some estimates on that figure?

I don't know about figures but the Burmese do it all the time. The trouble is, it can be a rough ride without the mental stability that the jhanas provide, as anyone who has been through the dark night probably knows.

As has been mentioned, metta is good for clearing blocks. I wouldn't use MDMA without the guidance of a trained therapist. I would even say that MDMA is unnecessary because I reckon SE blows out a lot of blocks on its own.

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
4/20/14 5:19 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Hey Droll,

I've had a lot of success with the jhanas recently and I think it really comes down to the meditation method and the mindset. What method have you been using for jhana practice specifically? I know Jhana and samatha are generally referred to as concentration, but a much better way to think of them, IMHO, is "absorption." Concentration implies effort to me, and jhana is basically the practice of becoming effortless. Think about the effort we expend to watch TV. We don't sit there trying really hard to stop our thinking and follow the plot line, we just watch with a comfortable attention and generally lose track of our thoughts. In fact, most people use TV to unwind after a long day because they can become engrossed in it and be separated from their problems - this is exactly what jhana does. It separates us from the 5 hindrances temporarily by giving us something very interesting to distract us away from them. Have you ever had someone get mad at you because you unintentionally ignored them while watching something? You were doing jhana at that moment!

I feel a pleasurable sense of bliss-anticipation build in my navel center and heart center, I let it build naturally or focus on it to coax it into building in a metta-like way, then I get the feeling it should be exploding outwards into bodily bliss but instead I feel a lump build in the top of my throat/base of my head area accompanied by the continued feeling that the bliss is being blocked and welling of tears in my eyes.


I had something similar when I first started hitting the jhanas. This is caused by too much "doing" I think. I was trying to help it along, but that's just not how it works. You need to relax into the moment. Something that helped me was saying to myself, "Even this little bit of bliss is nice. If it increases, great, but if it doesn't, I'll just sit here and enjoy the comfort." If you're focusing on the lump in your throat, you're not watching the bliss itself, so the bliss fades away. More than anything, you could call this The Practice of Ignoring Unpleasant Things. If there's anything that's distracting you, just accept it as it is, leave it alone, and place your attention back onto the pleasant feelings. Eventually those nice feelings will just suck you in!

The best method I've found to enter jhana is body scanning. The first jhana involves strong bodily sensations, so body scanning is a kind of direct entry method. It's also what the buddha suggested:

[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[2] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.' [5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html

What I usually do is this: breathe into the feet, inhale from the feet, breathe into the lower legs, inhale from the lower legs, breathe into the upper legs, inhale from the upper legs, and onward to pelvis, hands, lower arms, upper arms, stomach, chest, neck, and head. If you breath in and out while watching a body part, it has a specific feeling to it, almost like it's pulling and pushing. This will cause a tingling feeling in that area of the body. That tingling is exactly the same feeling that the bliss of the first jhana is, and all you need to do is become absorbed into it like it was a good TV show. After you make a few passes through the body, you will develop a kind of full body awareness. Try holding the whole feeling of your body for a few breaths. If you get distracted, just do another pass. Remember to let go of everything - pretend you aren't meditating and you have no goals, you're just sitting and relaxing after a hard day. Just because it feels good doesn't mean it has to be difficult, just unwind, let go, and take a little vacation. If it doesn't work right away, at least you'll come out of relaxed and feeling nice. Think of yourself yourself as a soft fluffy kitten curled up on a big easy chair in front of the fireplace. I usually do jhana after a shower because I feel more relaxed. Fill you mind with comfort and serenity.

As for distraction, don't worry about thinking. The voice in your head won't prevent you from entering jhana. We have a kind of foreground and background attention we can keep on things. If you can keep at least 50% of your attention on your bodily sensations, the blissful feelings will rise on their own. There's nothing much to do except relax and watch. If you feel excited when things start to happen, that's no big deal, just treat it like any other thought and let it go back into the background awareness.

If you happen to get to the first, and you notice the feelings of bliss are fading away, don't get disappointed or try to increase them, this is just the natural progression to the next jhana. If you cling to the first/second, you'll actually skip the third and end up in the fourth one in a very weak form - I used to do that a lot. Instead, if the rapture starts to fade, just watch how it moves and dissipates. I've found it tends to settle into the heart/stomach area and create a warm contentment which is actually nicer than the bliss. Just keep in mind, once the ride's started, you don't have to do much of anything to keep it going. The jhanas will come and go on their own as long as you stay seated with your eyes closed and your hands behind the saftey rail. XD

I hope this was helpful! I wish everyone could do jhana; the world would be a much nicer place.

P.s. As an afterthought, you can do this method while walking around too. I've been using these ideas to get rid of my anxiety. You just have to remember that bad feelings can be absorptions just like good feelings. If you want them to go away, you just accept them as they are, and then allow your attention to rest on something else and become absorbed into that. I've found a general attention on the space around me can trigger pleasant feelings pretty quickly - that whole "stay in the moment" thing.

RE: Bliss block? Concentration and our Stuff?
Answer
8/15/14 10:13 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Almost all the bliss I experienced early in my practice is gone now. It has been very difficult. Currently I am adapting my strategies to better handle very exausting content that occurs daily.

Bliss cannot be a guide, because it naturally will find ways to spend itself. And yet I still want to follow it.


Perhaps now I have found something new. But it is only shades of grey. And maybe a drop or splash of color or two or three.

Good night.