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Practice log Pjotr
Answer
7/8/14 1:53 PM
Dear reader,

I am quite unexperienced in meditation and over the past years have not been really goal orientated and have been mixing things up a bit. I am reading MCTB at the moment, and this explains a lot but also some questions on my current practice and planned practice have come up.
I will give a short summary of what I have been practicing, my character and plans. At the end some questions that came up after reading MCTB. Any ideas or feedback on this would be highly appreciated. 

Over the past couple of years I did two 10 day vipassana (Goenka) retreats, and a mindfulness and mindfulness based compassionate living course. The last 1,5 year I have meditated twice a day, averaging 1 hour a day. I started with bodyscanning for about a year. For the last half year I have been practicing Shamatha (breath as object) as I became a bit frustrated with the scanning. My motivation for meditating was to be happier, and over the past couple years I have overall become happier and less stressed.

I am a highly motivated person, I have a tendency to give myself for 200% when I have goals, also I am a quite sensitive person. (Without going into details my first retreat was rather mind blowing my second retreat which I just complete was much more stable and earthly).

Looking at the maps in MCTB I do not really have a clue where I am or may have been. I am however highly motivated to continue insight practices. I am planning to study MCTB into greater depth the coming weeks, and want to get my current position and goals clearer.

At the end of  august I am doing an Mahasi Sayadaw style retreat. In my practice I want to continue with body scanning (one hour in the morning and one hour in evening). After the retreat I want to choose to continue scanning or change to a noting practice (I think noting might be a faster way of gaining insight at this moment).

Any general ideas, advice, or opinions especially on the following questions which I ask myself would be highly appreciated.
  • Should I add some concentration practices (and when yes how much and how often) or solely focus on insight meditation?
  • Would it be a good idea to already switch from scanning to noting to give myself a head start for my upcoming retreat?
  • Would it be smarter to solely focus my daily practice on concentration in preparation for the retreat?
Thanks for reading my first log.
Kind regards!

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
7/13/14 1:30 PM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
After some more reading in mctb and the forum, i have decided to switch to noting instead of scanning.

I decide to make the switch because body scanning becomes a routine for me i can easily scan and drift away into thinking at the same time, I experimented with noting and as more activity is involved it is easier for me to be aware with this technique for me.

Until my next retreat at the end of august i plan to do 2 hours of meditation each day. 20 minutes of concentration to start with, and then 40 minutes of noting.

I will give it all i've got and than evaluate my daily practice again in september after the retreat.

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
7/14/14 9:01 AM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
Pjotr Hill:

At the end of  august I am doing an Mahasi Sayadaw style retreat. 

Any general ideas, advice, or opinions especially on the following questions which I ask myself would be highly appreciated.
  • Should I add some concentration practices (and when yes how much and how often) or solely focus on insight meditation?
  • Would it be a good idea to already switch from scanning to noting to give myself a head start for my upcoming retreat?
  • Would it be smarter to solely focus my daily practice on concentration in preparation for the retreat?
Thanks for reading my first log.
Kind regards!

Great, best choise to go for a Mahasi retreat (sorry I just don't really know the othersemoticon

I would recommend to read Mahasi Sayadaw book "Practical Vipassana Exercises" 
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/mahasit1.pdf

also Daniel advise on retreats is a must:
http://integrateddaniel.info/retreats/

from MCTB:
Part I. Fundamentals
(and of course the rest but don't be lost to much analysing your state etc. can cause to much frustration) 

I think until the retreat is also good to start practicing the noting technique and not only in formal meditation but also in daily life(!) as much as you can. It will help a lot. So be mindful as much as you can.
I am not familiar with pure concentration practises but I think everything what you do can support you later.
This is only my advise according to my experience (5 years of vipassana practice; 8 months of intense retreat)

hope it helps
good luck

 

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
7/14/14 1:41 PM as a reply to Noting Monkey.
Thanks for the advice.

The retreat tips are really useful, as is the book.

I will start trying to note while doing daily activities. I think i'll start with a few regular activities: dish washing and doing the groceries. 

I will post on my progress with the noting practice in a week or so.

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
7/21/14 10:50 AM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
The last week i have started with noting instead of bodyscan meditation. The concentration during my practice varied, and over the weekend i didn'practice at all (which is really unusual for me). I think starting with two hours a day was to ambitious, as I am very busy with work at the moment. The coming week i will aim for 30 minutes a day, and on the busiest day do concentration meditation instead of noting.

Overall the noting practice felt as a good technique for me. As i said my concentration really varied, sometimes i was noting rapidly and precise, while at other times i drifted of in thinking. This week I wil try to make most of the 30 minutes a day, and evaluate again next week.

 

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
7/23/14 4:31 AM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
Shorter but more focused sittings are also good. 5-30 min will do also good for you.
Concentration is sometimes better sometimes not so note it when is better and note it when is worst. This way you can see that concentration is also impermanent etc. Don't worry about to much. When you give the right effort to be mindful then concentration will arise. 
And yes if you have only shorter time maybe better just focus on one object like the breath.

More mindful you are in daily life better your progress will be. In the beginning it is good to make a "note&come back to the body" habit. 
(e.g. when you walk keep your awareness on your feet and try to cut away the thoughts or sitting somewhere just note the breath.
If you make it happen only for some seconds it is more then nothing. slowly your mind will see the benefits of the present moment.
the progress is slow but every small effort counts).
So start only with a little today is better then make huge plans for the future.


"Don't feel you are practising only when sitting still, cross-legged. Some of you have complained that there is not enough time to meditate. Is there enough time to breathe? This is your meditation: mindfulness, naturalness in whatever you do..."
(Ajahn Chah)

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
8/3/14 11:01 AM as a reply to Noting Monkey.
Thanks for the reply, helpfull again.

As i have shortened my sessions, I can  bring up the discipline to do two 20 minut sessions a day. As i do concentration practice it often feels quiet blissfull, and i can maintain awareness of the breath for most of the time. 

So I will continue with this practice routine till my retreat which will start in 3 weeks. After the retreat i hope i will be able to shift to insight practice.

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
8/17/14 2:15 PM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
This weekend i had some more time and have been in nature which made me feel relaxed, so I decided with my retreat coming in a week i will do some insight practice.

I did some meditation sessions noting. At first i noted the falling and rising of the belly. When other sensations arose i noted them as well. 

During my last session i switched from a single note to continously and as fastly noting as prossible. While doing this it was easier to observe sensations clearly so i went from something like:
falling, rising, falling rising, itching, hearing  to --> falling falling falling rissing rising rising itiching itching itching hearing itching etc...

This seemed to energize my practice. So this week as a preparation to my retreat i will try to do two 30 minut sessions a day with this fast noting.

I feel really motivated and look forward to going to the retreat and giving all i've got.

To be continued emoticon

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
8/18/14 9:39 PM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
While doing this it was easier to observe sensations clearly so i went from something like:
falling, rising, falling rising, itching, hearing  to --> falling falling falling rissing rising rising itiching itching itching hearing itching etc...
emoticon Very relatable 


I feel really motivated and look forward to going to the retreat and giving all i've got.

Nice.

Best wishes on your work.

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
8/22/14 11:40 AM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
Enjoy! If things getting hard don't forgett: suffering is always welcome...emoticon
Good luck for your retreat!!! 

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
9/4/14 3:25 AM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
Thanks for the reactions.

My retreat has been good. I will give a short description of my practice.

The first 5 days were physical torture, a lot of suffering indeed. However I found that with the noting it was much easier for me to drop content develop equanimity and look into impermenance and suffering than in the Goenka retreats i did. Apart from the physical problems I mentally felt peaceful most of the time.

The last 2 days the physical pain shifted. I was sitting in bliss most of the time, sometimes a pain came up and I could look clearly to it. Pain shifting to pulsing burning sensations that than dissolved. I noted that i got very euphoric feelings because of this, but noting these feelings returned the peacefull feelings once again. The last few days my practice and daily awareness has still been strong. 

Most importantly I have seen positive changes in my attitude and behaviour in daily life. I am trying to be equanimous to these changes and not to get attached to that, as I know that would set me up for more suffering.

I got a lot of faith out of the retreat as well, which inspires me in my daily practice. I am already planning and looking forward to new retreat(s) emoticon.

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
9/4/14 7:07 PM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
Great to hear that your practice was effective and could progress well!
Keep going!

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
9/7/14 12:42 PM as a reply to Noting Monkey.
A week has passed since returning from retreat. A week in which I mostly practiced 2 hours a day.

Since returning I find it much easier to stay mindfull during the day and do my formal practice. During my daily sitting I experience my breath most of the time I think (hard to measure...) and sometimes switch to secondary objects, mainly some pain, mental states and outside sounds. The pain sensations have become less subtle than at the end of the retreat. During some of my sittings I experience the feeling of bliss I had at the end of the retreat. During my meditation it than feels like i plunge deeper into it, and i have a sort of heavy bliss feeling with some pressure and wave like feelings in my head. When this happens I note it as bliss and try not to get attached to it, I however have to admit I like the experience...

One day this week i went to a nearby park/forest with a stream and did a couple of hours of walking meditation. I really enjoyed it and noticed a lot of beautiful things in the forest (mushrooms, big trees). I sat 40 minuts next to a small river meditating with my eyes open looking into the waves and eddies in the water, and looking into impermenance as i noticed everything changing all the time. 

My motivation for practice and faith is still strong emoticon. The Mahasi method feels like a much better fit for me than Goenka, and I have decided that I will stay with this method and practise insight meditation for at least a few years. 

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
9/19/14 1:07 PM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
Nearly three weeks past since my retreat. Second week i continued my practice with ease as well.

A week ago I suddenly stopt practicing. And I didnt't practice at all for six days. Also I felt a lot of anxiety in daily life, and the feeling that I just wanted to get away from everything. Also a lot of old issues popped up... I feel i really need to practice but I just do not do it...It feels a bit like I just cannot face it and instead of practice I just go to bed or do useless stuff. 

I assume that i got the arising and passing away at the retreat, and am wondering if I am now in the  dark knight (I guess I might already have been a dark knight yogi for a year or two)? Or maybe 2 hours daily is just to much to combine with my daily life?

From this evening on I will really try to start practicing again. I am also thinking about going to Myanmar and do a half year retreat, as I think i might not be able to get through the dark knight stages in daily life.

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
9/22/14 9:08 PM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
Hi Pjotr,

motivation going down is also normal. Most of the time we are in the DN. This is the practice to "master" it so if you can practice some time combined with daily life is great. If you have only 20 min use it out. Try not to stop completely. Your mind will trick you all the time that going to sleep or doing something else is better. Try not to follow it and just do the practice. If you can't sit then set a timer for 10 min and do walking meditation. Maybe your mind calms down and after you go easier for a sit. 
Whenever you give time to bring your mind back to the present with whatever technique makes only good for you.
If you can manage the time and money to go for a long retreat then go for it. You will learn a lot.
But the cycles never really stop so it is good to deal with them outside also. 
 

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
9/28/14 2:25 PM as a reply to Noting Monkey.
Thanks for the encouragement againemoticon!

I have been practicing again, and have been happy again as well the last week. It seems like meditation amplifies all my feelings especially while I am not meditating. Positive and negative, I do my best to remain equanimous with both, but find this difficult while under stress (work). 

My concentration is still much stronger then before my last retreat. This weekend I did a two day metta retreat, and I think I really benefit from metta meditation, so i will try to add some metta to my practice. 

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
10/2/14 2:19 PM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
Practice this week has been good. Between the noting i often do some metta practice, and doing metta practice gives me a very peaceful pleasent feeling. As my week is rather busy/stressed this seems to help a lot to relax. During the day I do some noting during daily activities.

This week my daily life seems to have speeded up. A lot of new projects at work, met new interesting people and experienced some posititve coincedences. I wonder if this is related to my metta retreat this weekend, maybe this gave me a more open and positive attitude which reflects in daily life.

The last two day's I often experience a tingling sensation in my head between my eye browes. Especially when in situations when i experience emotions , stress or decision making this sensation intensifies. I had this sensation very strongly during my first retreat and the year after I often experienced it. Probably this sensation pops up when a lot of things happen in my life. I try not to give it much attention and treat it like an ordinary sensation, allthough I must admit I find it interesting and pleasant. If anyone had similar experiences or have an idea why these sensations happen I would be interested in knowing something about it.

Thanks for reading!

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
10/9/14 2:04 PM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
Still practicing twice a day. As I am doing a mindfulness teacher course, I have included some bodyscanning in my training as homework. My daily practice is still mostly noting and some metta. During my meditation I often have really pleasurable experiences. Tingling and pressure between my eyes, and the feeling of waves of energy passing through me with my breath. I experience the same sensations during daily life pretty often as well.

The spillover in my daily life is great. I am highly productive and get feedback from other people that the noticed a positive change in me. What is most remarkable is that my confidence has very much increased in the last weeks. And while i used to have regular anxiety that also seem to have disappeared. So I am motivated to keep practicing, and also am taking good care of myself: enough sleep eating healthy and regular exercise. 

I am a bit puzzled about where i am at maps. Probably best just to keep practicing...

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
10/19/14 7:25 AM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
My practice has been a pleasure for the last couple of weeks, and my motivation is still high.

Last week i talked to someone about the pressure/pulling sensations i experience between my eyes. She asked what that feeling was telling me. At that time I didn't really know. But the question stayed in my head for a while. I later realized that the sensations just wants to be experienced. So after i realized that I have been making contact with my body regularly. Feeling my breath and my body. The sensations between my eyes have since then largely dissapeared, and i feel much more grounded.

I am still including a lot of metta in my meditation. This really seems to work for me. When i focus my attention on my heart, i often feel myself opening up floating in bliss. emoticon

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
10/19/14 9:10 AM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
Pjotr wrote:  "... I later realized that the sensations just wants to be experienced. "

I love that viewpoint -- I get it now, thank you.

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
11/11/14 3:54 AM as a reply to Colleen Peltomaa.
Thank you Colleen.

My daily practice is still strong. It has shifted a bit. I feel equanimous, balanced and peaceful, during meditation, while the very strong blissfull sensations have subsided a bit. I am still doing at least two daily sittings, mostly noting and sometimes including some metta. What i also have been doing is some choiceless awareness meditation, whenever i feel "difficult" emotions like stress, restlesness or sadness during daily live. If time and location permits I take 20 to 30 minuts just to sit and feel the emotions, and to see what is going on in my body. Instead of running away from them by for instance watching television. What than mostly happens is that the difficult emotions and sensations when embraced subside and make place for a  sort of peaceful feeling of spaciousness. Also during daily life i try to accept and even embrace everything that comes up. This seems to really be making a big difference in how i feel. Also i try to be aware of my body and bodily sensations as often as possible during daily life.

The coming weeks I will continue with this. In the december and january i have both an 8 and a 15 day Mahasi retreat coming up. Looking forward to that very much. I am highly motivated to really give it everything i got, and stay with the noting and awareness of my body all the time. I am feeling a loth of faith and confidence in my practice. I feel grattitude i found this forum to share and also to read experiences of others!

Thanks for reading!

RE: Practice log Pjotr
Answer
11/27/14 11:57 PM as a reply to Pjotr Hill.
Still practising twice a day. Over the last week i have experienced sensations of sadness. Both during meditation and sometimes during daily life. But I am feeling quite peaceful and equanimous. During meditation it is possible to connect to my sadness and feel it in my body, while not getting overwhelmed. The "difficult" emotions seem to float in a much larger awareness / spaciousness. I am a bit puzzled how much I should connect to and investigate this sadness, which I know is coupled to my biggest "issue" (at least biggest issue which I am aware of ;-) ). I feel like I can handle to investigate it during formal practice, but the sadness than lingers for a day or two. So i wonder if it is a good idea to purposefully connect and investigate this say for 1 or 2 sittings a week. Or better not to connect with it on purpose, but let it unfold on it's own. Any suggestions?

During metta meditations I experience a lot of bliss and flowing energy like sensations especially in the heart and head area.

The coming weeks i will focus my practice on metta and some vipassana meditation. I am looking forward very much to my upcoming retreats. I feel a lot of faith and motivation to nail it. ( whatever it might be ;-) )

Thanks for reading, with metta!