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Matt Sextons practice thread intro

Matt Sextons practice thread intro
10/23/14 12:23 AM
My practice thread introduction:

I'm 55, semi-retired, married with a 2.5 year old son, went from zero mmph (meditation miles per hour) to 60mmph in December 2013, admire the DhO community, so here I am.  I'm looking for experienced eyes on my practice and guidance on a non-linear, dynamic and spirited trek to the top of the first mountain.

My first real sitting meditation experience was a Goenka ‘10-day’ in Kaufman Texas:

Day One was painful and interesting as I found out what sitting is like.  I managed posture pain by moving my legs around, changing the tilt of my spine and neck, changing cushions between sits.

Day Two: still dealing with posture pain.  I really settled in to the focus on breath at the nose. I was distracted by a sense pressure between my eyebrows.  In the middle of the day I became aware of a rising tension/pressure/potential around the base of my spine.  Without thinking about it, I did a little squeeze down there, and *whoosh* came a wash of tingling rushing up my spine, it was really nice, I almost fell of my small stack of cushions.  It was all over in a few seconds.

Day 3: In the evening I felt a tingling all over my body, including my teeth.  I tapped my teeth in disbelief, trying to figure out what I was feeling.  Switching to body scanning… Day 3 was my peak sensuality day, sexual fantasies abounded.

Day 4 highlights: Sitting became much easier, seemed too easy, I started removing cushions, got down to the one thin pad before deciding to stick with a pillow on top of a pad.

Day 5: sitting became effortless, I felt like an amazing pro, sat with ‘strong determination’ easily, once for a solid 90 minutes.

A number of things happened over the rest of the 11 day retreat, roughly in this order:

Environmental things started really bugging me: the noises of things around me in the meditation hall and the residence quarters.  In the non-instruction hours I’d move my sitting from place to place to find a little less noise.

One evening I had a strong and detailed awareness of my heart squirming around in my chest.  It was disconcerting, I stopped meditating to get away from the feeling.  Later my torso filled with a bright, tingling, roiling cloud of pleasure.  Mindful of Goenkas warning about enjoying anything too much, I somehow disengaged from the situation.   As similar thing happened to me with strong feelings in my head/face, and again I shook it off.

A night later I had the feeling I was a miniscule body dropped into a sea of energy.  All awareness and sensation except a very slight tingling instantly clicked off, then things came back on.  I did have a sense that it only lasted a second or two.  I don’t remember having any special feeling of a difference afterwards.

By around day 8 I was completely fed up with the distractions of noises.  I kind of decided to simply show up, but gave up on good concentration, I spend a number of hours just letting my mind wander.  Goenka’s instructions were getting increasingly complex and I found it hard to know what I was supposed to be doing.  I experienced paranoia about the people around me, I thought there were parties going on out of my sight, and there was drug dealing going on.  At one point I was trying to use some ‘off hours’ to meditate in the large hall.  I heard someone walk in behind me, felt paranoid, they stumbled on a little meditation chair and the sound turned into an electrical bolt that traveled from my ears, through my spine, and radiated around my chest along each of the spaces between my ribs.  It only took a second, and by body did not move a bit.  Looking back on it, I don’t think there was any good reason to think any parties or drugs was going on.

Day 11: the last hour of sitting in the large hall: I noticed I did not care one little bit that people were cracking their knuckles, sniffing and snorting, clearing their throats.  It felt wonderful.  I thought, finally I’ve regained my maturity.  I figured it was really just because ‘graduation’ was coming in a half an hour.

Day 11 in the airport walking to my flight was freaky.  Attractive people, candy bars drifted across my line of sight, elicited many bodily sensations that I was acutely aware of and I noticed not doing all the other things I usually did in those situations.  I felt like a zombie.

Post Goenka practice to follow….

RE: Matt Sextons practice thread intro
10/23/14 11:42 AM as a reply to Matt.
Hello, Matt

Well, that was very interesting, thank you.   You talked a bit about somatics and thoughts and emotions and I was curious to know if any scenes from childhood or later ever played out in your mind while you were meditating?

It was also encouraging to know that the initial discomfort of sitting posture eventually becomes a non-issue.

RE: Matt Sextons practice thread intro
10/23/14 5:00 PM as a reply to Colleen Peltomaa.
Colleen Karalee Peltomaa:

... I was curious to know if any scenes from childhood or later ever played out in your mind while you were meditating?...

When my mind wandered the subject was usually about current events or plans for the future. I also had some batsh$t crazy thoughts. I dont remember any ruminations about the past but I'll bet there were some.

I have a friend who told me that his whole retreat consisted of a replay of his entire life history.

Of course, to follow Goenka's instructions means nipping all that wandering in the bud and returning attention to non judgemental, non reactive awareness of present moment bodily sensations.

RE: Matt Sextons practice thread intro
10/24/14 12:18 AM as a reply to Matt.
Continuing with the narrative to bring you-all up to date:

My post Goenka state of mind was fragile, I was afraid to sit more than just a bit.  But after a week or so I found motivation and started sitting for an hour twice a day, practicing body scanning.

I was right back in the freaky sensation area.  Intense single point source tingling on my face that goes splat when I move equanimous awareness to that point.  The last point source experience was interesting, as I moved my attention to the point source of tingling, my awareness of point of view suddenly pancaked into the point of tingling.
  It felt like a realiazation about no-self.

Long story short: I couldn’t find a Goenka community where I live, in Albuquerque, ended up shifting focus to Mahasi, under the influence of MCTB and DhO, went through another A&P and dark night phase.

My current state seems like low EQ: It’s easy to sit for an hour and the experience is mildly interesting.  Whether I sit a couple times per day or every day or two it makes not much difference.

Attended Buddhist Geeks 2014, which got me all fired up to get with the practice log program.

RE: Matt Sextons practice thread intro
10/24/14 5:21 PM as a reply to Matt.
Hey Matt,
  Glad to see you started a log.  What you describe towards the end of the course with your extreme irritibility does sound like it could be re-ob, and what you describe on day 11 could be EQ.  However, on day 10 and 11, the intesity of the retreat goes way down and so does your sensitivity.  The first time I experienced EQ was very profound.  Especially on retreat it can feel so relieving.  Could you make an try at recording what happens during a typical sit?

Looking forward to hearing more.
Good luck,

RE: Matt Sextons practice thread intro
10/25/14 2:56 AM as a reply to Teague.
Could you make an try at recording what happens during a typical sit?
Thanks for asking Teague!  I’ve been hesitant to describe my recent experiences because:
  • I’ve been under the influence of the idea that it’s distracting and unskillful to ruminate on meditative experience, or try to categorize my experience.
  • Since I just started meditating only 10 months ago, I’ve felt like I just don’t have enough time on the job to actually attain states that require or deserve subtle description.
But, thankfully, all the one-on-one contact at Buddhist Geeks has shook me out of that mode.

Tonights sit was not typical, but it was interesting.  I usually sit downstairs in a storeroom converted to meditation cave.  Tonight was different, I fell asleep next to my son, which meant when I woke up at midnight I got to join my wife in our bed, a nice change to the routine. I lay down next to her and felt a really nice ‘ahhhh’(my experience,not hers, she was asleep).

I took the ‘ahhh’-bliss as object.  It was a very casual, effortless inspection of my experience, I actually thought, ‘this is the way mediation should always be!’

The first thing to notice was the spacious aspect, like relaxing allowed my brain space to flow outward into a volume around me.  Then I noticed the normal ringing in my ears, and the dim-but-not-dull reddish glow of the dim room light filtering through my eyelids.  I just beheld all these things, and it was nice.  Then I looked closer, and noticed the normal slight oscillations of the frequency of the ringing in my ear, then that also my sense of spaciousness was also fluctuating in a correlated fashion, and also that the reddish glow was fluctuating in the same way.  Tuning into the visual glow, there was somehow a brightness in the variations of the glow was also in the spacious fluctuation aspect.  ‘Space’ fluctuations being ‘bright’ does not make sense to me, but thats the best description I have for it.

Then it was there, I felt that those 3 senses, a sense of volume, of vision, a sense of sound, were all tied together, ‘hey, am I experiencing a formation’?  The thought did not move me very far out of the experience, I rolled over and could still feel it a bit.  Then I wondered, what about smell and taste.  I don’t usually have any sense of smell or taste when meditating.  I tuned into my nose and immediately noticed that the end of my nose was cold, and inhaling accentuated that feeling, and that feeling was contributing to the sense of *freshness* that played into, was a factor in my overall sense of niceness-of-the-moment.  That thought shook me out of the whole experience, I had to get up and write about it.

Thanks again for asking!

RE: Matt Sextons practice thread intro
11/6/14 1:59 AM as a reply to Teague.
Could you make an try at recording what happens during a typical sit?
Sitting has been variable lately.  Here is a hodge podge of reports:

Despite a surge in interest after BGeeks, my sitting has been erratic .  The easiest thing to do has been to ‘sit’ after laying down for sleep, and again after waking up.  I set a timer for 30-60 minutes, then lay down.  Despite it being the end of the day, I don’t fall asleep till after the timer goes off.

I’ve had quite a run of episodes of ‘The Icky-Sticky Creepy-Crawlyt-Doesn't-Really-Hurt-But-I-Can't-Stand-It Feeling.’ (  It’s been happening about 75% of my late-night reclined sitting.  It starts on the left side of my body near the shoulder and spreads around, often covering my whole body.  I first felt this in upright sitting months ago, it chased me off the cushion and followed me into bed where I'd really have to make an effort to shake it off.  At that time, I read the above Shinzen article and decided I should just avoid sitting too close to bedtime.  However, reading it again recently, I decided I should welcome the experience and sit right through it, set a goal of finding equanimity in the experience.  After about 5 experiences I find it not a really bad experience, equanimous awareness really shifts the feeling to one of dramatic swirling and tingling, still on the yucky side but interesting and easy to tolerate.

The yucky business seems like a bit of distraction so tonight I sat ‘regular’, earlier, on a cushion in my meditation cave, along with the swept concrete floor, draped shelves and roach traps tucked into the corners.

I’ve felt what my meditation technique is does not matter, but tonight I decided keeping to a format would make it easier to report what’s going on.  I started with a few minutes of awareness of breath at the upper lip, then a body scan top/bottom/top.  At each major body segment (head hair, face, back torso, front torso, each arm, each leg) I felt large swaths of subtle tingling.  At any point of the skin, as soon as I imagine the patch I imagine I feel pressure from clothing or just tension in the skin itself in the form of slight tingling.  I ‘glance’ into the deep tissue there and there’s always a spot with more obvious sensation, a whooshing/tingling that i can’t help imaging is the sensation of blood flow in a vessel, though I don’t feel a pulse there.  It’s like my awareness has the power to illuminate the sensations at a spot.  I used to think that my breath was sending pulses of sensation outward from my diaphragm that I could follow to the extremities.  Now I realize that I can have that heightened awareness wherever I wanted to sense the nerves, just by directing my attention to the area.  However, these sensations are nothing as detailed as they were months ago, when I felt my heart wriggling around, pressure waves from breathing outlining internal structures, detailed mapping of the base of my spine.

Tonight I spent 5 minutes focusing with effort on the base of my spine, felt a noticeable tingling, but again, nothing like the intricate feelings I had once months ago.

After 10-30 minutes, I shift to the sound of ringing in my ears and much much lower frequencies that center  behind my sinuses.  After a few minutes a broader sensation arises, as if the general tingling of my brain is sort of being reflected or echoed by a larger volume that extends outside my head.  (Pausing a few moments as I type, I can re-experience that feeling but it’s doesn’t seem outside of my head, just a larger space that’s inside my head).  From that point, I felt a step change where my focus quickly becomes easier and broader and somehow cooler.  At that point my body feels only like vague swath of tingling, unless I really look then the body gains more solidity.  This lighter broader feeling  lasts seconds or a minute, then I wander and fall back to the sensations of noises in my head.  I only got there a few times.

Tonight, over the 60 minutes, I swallowed twice.  I felt a bit of dull ache in my right hip 2 or 3 times.  I’d notice the ache then, with some effort to start the movement, I’d lean back just ever so slightly.

The 60 minute timer went off, I turned on my cellphone blue/bright/bright LED, stared at it for a minute, then turned it off.  (The room is completely dark).  I closed my eyes and watched the small bright yellow image form over a few minutes, it was pretty easy to get a clear stable look at it.  After the few minutes it was solid in the middle, the border was circular or shifting to diamondy with thin blue/purple border, then all black .  I could get a good stable stare at it for 5 or 10 seconds and I’d see a stable circular line of about 15 dots (pretty small but they seem to be miniature line circles in themselves) concentric with the border.  I’d get a clear look at them, then they’d go blank and things would go wobbly for 10 seconds or so, then steady down again.  This repeated about 5 times over several minutes, then I quit for the night.

In the last week or two, I’ve thought that my practice is vague and slippery, maybe I’ve regressed or never really ‘been anywhere’.  Driving down the street I noticed the early darkness and brown-turning leaves, feel the world was turning dark.  In one sit, this theme was kind of rattling around my head, i was kind of worrying about it, when it suddenly came into focus as -not me-, -‘this is suffering’-, and the suffering shrunk and kind of receded away, and that felt good.  It felt like I was gaining awareness of inner/subtler layers of my feeling experience.

Perhaps my next post will be in a new thread titled “Matthew Sextons practice log”