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Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log

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Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/8/14 10:26 AM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Bill F. 11/8/14 8:46 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/9/14 2:05 AM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Bill F. 11/9/14 12:37 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/9/14 4:01 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Bill F. 11/9/14 8:02 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/10/14 11:41 AM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/14/14 11:44 AM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Bill F. 11/14/14 8:22 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/14/14 8:43 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Bill F. 11/14/14 9:27 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/14/14 11:13 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Bill F. 11/15/14 11:38 AM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log J C 12/29/14 2:07 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 12/29/14 8:20 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Noah 5/20/15 6:44 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 5/22/15 6:05 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Noah 5/22/15 6:23 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/16/14 12:10 AM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/27/14 12:41 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 12/3/14 2:28 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 12/28/14 3:20 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 5/10/15 3:32 PM
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RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Small Steps 6/22/15 11:59 AM
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RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Eva Nie 7/4/15 9:02 PM
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RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 6/23/15 8:43 AM
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RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 7/9/15 8:37 AM
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RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Noah 10/13/15 10:41 PM
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RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 10/14/15 1:09 AM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Noah 10/14/15 5:35 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 10/14/15 7:13 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/8/15 3:26 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/14/15 11:17 AM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/17/15 7:36 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 11/21/15 11:12 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 1/26/16 1:02 PM
RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log Richard Zen 3/27/16 10:41 AM
This log is mainly aimed at pushing my cutting edge of the 4th jhana into the formless jhanas. I know this is going to be hard work so it'll take some time. It'll also be interesting because I'm not needy about concentration like I used to be which can lead to a slippery mind. Metta to me is included and will often be the opening practice to start up concentration. Happiness supports concentration.

For concentration I'll be using different lists I've found over the years:

http://www.leighb.com/jhana2a.htm


I can't find the link to Kenneth's instructions for arupa jhanas but I printed it out before and will look into it. I was thinking about Shaila Catherine's Focused and Fearless but I'm not sure that's right for me because I don't use the nose or a kasina.

Avoid traps of self-measurement like in here:

http://www.dharmaseed.org/talks/audio_player/210/9550.html

I like these instructions for Metta:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5556399

I still like metta along with insight so giving metta to body and mind will continue. An interesting experiment would be to give metta to intentions and consciousness or attention. 

I'll also keep this in mind so I don't screw up:emoticon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHopJHSlVo4

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/8/14 8:46 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Hi Richard,

        Glad you found the instructions useful. I have been experimenting with practicing somatic metta heavily and different mahamudra shamatha practices as heavily, alternating between the two. If you are at all curious just ask to join the facebook group "Mahamudra for the Modern World", and there's a free download of Reggie Ray's Mahamudra course with several hours of Mahamudra shamatha practices. If not, cool, but will be excited to hear what comes of your practice.

Bill

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/9/14 2:05 AM as a reply to Bill F..
Thanks! I like Mahamudra. It seems to have filled out some of the cracks in my practice and smooth it out.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/9/14 12:37 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
You're welcome. I discovered it's not a publicly accessible group so if it's something you're interested in just let me know and I will get you the audio.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/9/14 4:01 PM as a reply to Bill F..
I'm very interested thanks!

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/9/14 8:02 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
You're welcome. Sent through message.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/10/14 11:41 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
My first attempts were very slippery. The mind is not stressed when I'm on the breath or not. The insight practice really reduces stress so the concentration doesn't feel needed. The neediness is just less but on the other hand the if the mind is wandering or concentrating with no pain it'll have to relearn concentration with a different goal which is more in service of insight.

These are my tweaked instructions for concentration to enter 1st jhana based on Leigh Brasington and William's Mahamudra instructions:
  • Relax the body
  • Pay attention to the entire body along with the breath
  • Do Method 1 of Somatic Metta
  • Watch the breath with no wandering for 3 full breaths, then 7 full breaths, then just stay with the breath
  • The ocean of awareness and the waves of the breath are interdependent
  • Smile and enjoy the pleasure of the breath when arriving at 1st jhana

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/14/14 11:44 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Defintitely things are different now. I'm currently getting a light 1st jhana but the brain is just not that into it. emoticon It'll be interesting to see how this progresses.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/14/14 8:22 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Interesting. What do you think is the cause of the lack of interest? 

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/14/14 8:43 PM as a reply to Bill F..
Doing lots of insight practices creating disenchantment. The brain is like "why do you need this?" The good thing is that it's not hurting like it used to when I was striving to maintain equanimity. Earlier benefits of Vipassana made absorption states seem so coarse. I'm sure the skill also goes into atrophy so you have to keep developing it to get back to those states.

My attitude towards thoughts is leagues better than before. Clarifying the Natural State and the Moonlight Mahamudra books (plus some of Andrea Fella's and Daniel's instructions) made normal experience of thinking much more healthy. The only obvious thing I need to develop further is letting go of some left-over rehearsing and meditation examination. Some of these habits come from defensiveness with aggressive people in my past.

It's best to keep practicing because the conditioning of the muscle of awareness happens even if you don't get mind-blowing experiences. I also think that doing a Tibetan meditation practice that is less object oriented is different from my one-pointed on the belly practice. It's like learning a new skill.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/14/14 9:27 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I understand. I have been using the "shamatha without an object" and the following prctices from the course and have found them to be more useful at times than directing the attention towards an object. I do find there is a level of responsiveness necessary and it's most useful to use different techniques at different times so I return to object oriented practices intermittently. I don't mean to hijack your thread, but out of curiosity, how long have you been practicing? Any noticeable shifts?

Also I picked up "The Cycle of Day and Night" by Namkhai Norbu at the bookstore today. Have you read that? He is doing a worldwide transmission webcast this monday morning at 7 and I plan to continue the Mahamudra Shamatha and explore Dzogchen practice for a little and see what comes up.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/14/14 11:13 PM as a reply to Bill F..
I've been practicing insight since around 2010. Lots of little insights adding up.

1st insight: Noting while in the car and having a slight noticing of consciousness over here and objects over there (including thinking but very crude). Thinking is still a self at this point. Noting while walking and finding everything seeming holographic but trying to maintain this without success.
2nd insight: Arising and Passing Away vibrations and lights leading to euphoria. I've had many explosive AP's up until the summer of 2013. It's like the brain can't handle the happiness. I also enjoyed jogging and paying attention to my footfalls and going into jhana with them.
3rd insight: Passing Away causing some disenchantment.
4th insight: Miserable withdrawal symptoms for a few weeks.
5th insight: Vipassana Equanimity plus concentration equanimity with a sense of self disappearing (but still conscious). I remember eating a salmon sandwich and having a good time with non-duality. It was like non-dual sandwich eating. Both concentration on objects, noting, and awareness of awareness/2nd gear practices being used. The concentration attainment of course faded and crashed back into reobservation.
6th shift: Was addicted to concentration practices but was aware of stress in trying to maintain them. Was then introduced to AF by Nikolai. Really skeptical but admitted that I was addicted to jhanas. Read some stuff from Tarin and really got into his flowcharts.
7th insight: Tried AF and remember doing HAIETMOBA while running and going into temporary experiences of bliss. Doing more AF while hiking and driving and losing emotions briefly (also less stress) but freaking out and abandoning it. That was the closest to being like Spock and I didn't like it.
8th insight: Returned to vipassana and going through reobservation and equanimity over and over again. Did lots of Shikantaza which helped deal with being a concenptual meditator. Letting go of the conceptual meditator was a nice relief. Gave up looking for cessation non-experience. There was obviously too much striving and solidifying into jhana even in Shikantaza simply because of the conditioning.
9th insight: Moved to Direct Path practices of Ramana Maharshi and Greg Goode and found awareness like a container for experience but a sense of consciousness-self over here and objects over there. Emotions could return and arise and pass away. Very strong emotions starting to erupt. Talked to psychologists about my practice. They said "We like it but don't be a door-mat." "Please add cognitive therapy to it." Did some cognitive therapy to reduce some exagerrated beliefs and it helped. Cognitive Therapy (especially REBT) is still helping.
10th insight: Resting in awareness and almost giving up. Ian And pointing out dependent origination and this helped with understanding perception. More relief. Getting obsessed about dependent origination and treating it too linear.
11th insight: Nikolai getting me to look further than equanimity because the feeling good was making me give up. Started interrupting negative thought streams with "why?" and getting more relief. I remember jogging and doing this over and over again and finding this better than absorbing with footfalls.
12th insight: Daniel teaching someone else to stop manipulating their attention and thinking. They didn't understand it but I tried it and liked it much more. Listened to Andrea Fella "If you're aware that your mind wandered you're already back." Then I really let go of restricting thoughts. I went into the scariest withdrawal symptoms where my mental talk and real talk went out of sync for a few weeks. Then when I recovered (very gradually) I felt much better and thoughts were more integrated.
13th insight: Standing on a street corner and noticing that a chunk of the self-referencing habit isn't coming back. It seemed amazing but understated at the same time.
14th insight: Going back over Right Effort and Mahamudra and Rob Burbea and gaining lots insights but mostly intellectual. Trying fading my senses and succeeded a little but not enough like on a retreat which I haven't had any urge to do. Any measurement of objects can bring stress, and even the intention to pay attention can have stress embedded in there. Time is basically short-term memory.
15th insight: This is more recent like in the last few months. Welcoming, and letting go of examinating the practice and gaining huge relief and it keeps getting better so that many of left-over self-judgments are not just dull from prior insights but releasing quicker.
16th insight: Consciousness has no shape or colour or location. Consciousness is simply there if phenomenon is happening so no need to find a location to escape to or attach to. Consciousness-objects.
17th insight: Habits are weakened but still repetitive because habitual intentions are fast and not being let go of fast enough. Experimenting with doing things different than preference and gaining some shifts in habits. This is where I am now and as far as insight I still need to disidentify with intentions. As Rob Burbea says I'll have to stay mindful constantly until the entire illusion of inherent existence is seen through. It's all a hologram. This promises to disenchant me further.

That's the best I can do from memory. I remember the Cycle of Day and Night and it seemed good at the time but I don't remember much about it anymore which shows how little impact it had on me. emoticon

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/15/14 11:38 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Ha, that's pretty good from memory.

Sounds great. Will look forward to hearing more of what you discover as I believe it will be useful for myself and others. I am particularly interested in hearing about ways you find to deepen the shamatha practice as that's one of the areas on interest to me now.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/16/14 12:10 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Did 1 hour meditation. The absorption didn't happen right away but I had no pressure on anything happening. Some absorption started up and fell away. I remembered the intention to pay attention and relaxed it. The absorption flashed into the 1st jhana and lasted a few minutes and went away. I didn't cling to it and it was okay to let go of results. This was an insight in that in the past I might cling to making the absorption last longer and there would be stress and striving. Now it's okay whatever it does.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
11/27/14 12:41 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Currently I'm getting brighter nimittas and a deeper result. Still it's strange with non-clinging so I'm still having trouble with labelling the jhanas. It seems to help to say "not me, not mine, not self" towards the automatic intention to pay attention. This calms the mental fabrications allow further progress in absorption.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
12/3/14 2:28 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I just experimented with Rob Burbea's instructions on fading of senses to see what jhanic results could occur. Because I already understand the 3Cs I just looked at all experiences (including space and time) as 'empty' to facilitate letting go. I went up the jhanas to the 4th jhana and I had a slight experience of body borders expanding like in the fifth jhana. I got too excited and bounced out of it but the results were the best so far in a long time. I just have to heed this particular instruction further:
Even as an object fades, experiment with sustaining the way of looking unremittingly on whatever more refined perception replaces the initial one.
Yep!

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
12/28/14 3:20 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I've been getting some good results with jhanas by using Right Effort on my thinking patterns. When I'm imagining giving metta to people I dislike and the mind interrupts with argumentation with some of those people I interrupt it because of it's lack of usefulness. Then I continue with the metta practice. The intent is to rewire the conditioning towards those difficult people.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
12/29/14 2:07 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Thanks for this - I found it really helpful. I just started reading Rob Burbea's "Seeing That Frees" and it seems like exactly what I need at this stage - what other works of his have you found helpful?

I have a couple questions, if you don't mind:

Richard Zen:

Read some stuff from Tarin and really got into his flowcharts.

Moved to Direct Path practices of Ramana Maharshi and Greg Goode and found awareness like a container for experience but a sense of consciousness-self over here and objects over there. Emotions could return and arise and pass away. Very strong emotions starting to erupt. Talked to psychologists about my practice. They said "We like it but don't be a door-mat." "Please add cognitive therapy to it." Did some cognitive therapy to reduce some exagerrated beliefs and it helped. Cognitive Therapy (especially REBT) is still helping.


Daniel teaching someone else to stop manipulating their attention and thinking. They didn't understand it but I tried it and liked it much more. Listened to Andrea Fella "If you're aware that your mind wandered you're already back." Then I really let go of restricting thoughts. I went into the scariest withdrawal symptoms where my mental talk and real talk went out of sync for a few weeks. Then when I recovered (very gradually) I felt much better and thoughts were more integrated.


What are Tarin's flowcharts about? Do you have a link?

Could you elaborate about where/how the strong emotions came from and what the psychologists' concern about being a doormat was, and how you addressed that?
(I've done a great deal of Cognitive Therapy but I dislike the "counteractive" aspect of it and have moved to Coherence Therapy - the difference is that in Cognitive Therapy you actively fight or counteract the thoughts or feelings, but in Coherence Therapy you delve into them, feel them, accept them, take them on, and try to listen, empathize, and understand their point of view.)

Could you explain how you stopped manipulating your attention/thoughts and what happened/what it was like when your mental talk and real talk were out of sync? I'm not sure what you mean by "mental talk" vs. "real talk."

Thanks again for this post!

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
12/29/14 8:20 PM as a reply to J C.
J C:
Thanks for this - I found it really helpful. I just started reading Rob Burbea's "Seeing That Frees" and it seems like exactly what I need at this stage - what other works of his have you found helpful?

I have a couple questions, if you don't mind:

Richard Zen:

Read some stuff from Tarin and really got into his flowcharts.

Moved to Direct Path practices of Ramana Maharshi and Greg Goode and found awareness like a container for experience but a sense of consciousness-self over here and objects over there. Emotions could return and arise and pass away. Very strong emotions starting to erupt. Talked to psychologists about my practice. They said "We like it but don't be a door-mat." "Please add cognitive therapy to it." Did some cognitive therapy to reduce some exagerrated beliefs and it helped. Cognitive Therapy (especially REBT) is still helping.


Daniel teaching someone else to stop manipulating their attention and thinking. They didn't understand it but I tried it and liked it much more. Listened to Andrea Fella "If you're aware that your mind wandered you're already back." Then I really let go of restricting thoughts. I went into the scariest withdrawal symptoms where my mental talk and real talk went out of sync for a few weeks. Then when I recovered (very gradually) I felt much better and thoughts were more integrated.


What are Tarin's flowcharts about? Do you have a link?

Could you elaborate about where/how the strong emotions came from and what the psychologists' concern about being a doormat was, and how you addressed that?
(I've done a great deal of Cognitive Therapy but I dislike the "counteractive" aspect of it and have moved to Coherence Therapy - the difference is that in Cognitive Therapy you actively fight or counteract the thoughts or feelings, but in Coherence Therapy you delve into them, feel them, accept them, take them on, and try to listen, empathize, and understand their point of view.)

Could you explain how you stopped manipulating your attention/thoughts and what happened/what it was like when your mental talk and real talk were out of sync? I'm not sure what you mean by "mental talk" vs. "real talk."

Thanks again for this post!




The strong emotions come from the insight practice itself because as you become more passive and relaxed the brain goes "what about this thing that's a problem? And I don't like that this happened..etc." The way to deal with it is to see thoughts as objects arising and passing away. By not adding to it and trying to look for something permanent in thoughts all you find is unfindability so repressing it or adding to it is pointless. I also find that welcoming has helped quite a lot. Just welcoming consistently did more for me than metta.

The psychologist I was talking about just worried that if I became too passive (eg. think of AF types talking about "happy and harmless") people could walk all over me. This was a correct insight on his part and I'm doing some other things in order to become more aggressive while still maintaining morality. I did some of this during a study group in French practice. A native French speaker wanted to interrupt our practice (one of many) and I made sure he didn't get to. He said "you have a strong personality". LOL! It's really weird when you're angry and it doesn't hurt your head much but people still project all kinds of stuff because they can't tell how little stress is left in your mind. Emotions are still there but a lot of the pain is gone. Facial expression habits will still fool people.

During that period when my mental talk and real speaking went out of sync (thoughts seemed to go too fast for the mouth to understand how to behave), it was due to my clinging to having a thought free mind. Much of those habits came with jhana practice and aggressive noting to prevent thinking. As I was allowing thinking more often it was pretty clear that when the mind wanders and I noticed this, then I'm already back. I don't need an extra aversion impulse to repress thinking or punish myself for letting my mind wander. The relief of letting go of this repression opened the floodgates and the brain seems to feel pain when there's some period of adjustment when habits are rewiring. Any perception of "that shouldn't happen" etc is a stress button. I learned to stop pressing the button so much.

I've done some coherence therapy but I felt more stressed from it because two different voices would be battling it out for who's right but because there often isn't enough information to go on nothing is resolved. With cognitive therapy I would look at "musts" and "shoulds" that don't match with cause and effect in reality and abandon them for something more realistic. I could also look at beliefs behind any action or inaction. Beliefs have to be challenged because they often harbor things like low frustration tolerance, or awfulizing which are operating under the surface.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
5/10/15 3:32 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Well this goal has been taking a backseat to imagery practices and just plain old vipassana.  I'm still getting jhanas but there's less indulging in them. The way they are happening now is coming from the sky-gazing practice that Rob Burbea mentions. It's really no different than welcoming/metta to phenomena/allowing etc. It's just that different descriptions of practices give a different angle on the same practice which is to let go of rumination as soon as it happens. Jhanas sometimes happen and sometimes not.

With sky-gazing you just let the mind fixate on perceptions (because the brain is reacting pretty quickly to perceptions of objects) and then let go of the fixation as soon as you can. There's quite a bit of fading that's happening now where the space of awareness becomes the focal point because every other focal point is dropped. 

Naturally the mind rebels and pops up streams of thought that distract. This was so much so that I walked out of the pharmacy with my bill but left my aftershave behind. I had to be reminded. The check counter people smiled and I had to laugh and note "embarrassment", but the strange thing is that there wasn't that much. By seeing it as cause and effect it becomes not something you need to ruminate about "I'm a forgetful person etc" and all that bullshit.

When sky-gazing and just simply walking down streets and ravine footpaths the results are the same. The space becomes more forefront and objects less so. If the fading continues further then I'll have to be careful that I don't do something stupid like walk into a post or stub my toe. emoticon

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
5/19/15 8:26 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I did an hour and one half of concentration this morning. Slipped through light jhanas up to the forth. What I liked about it this time was that I could see the controlling being let go of so it's full circle for me. Jhanas now are not something to have aversion over but something that is a tool.

Though this is a weak tool because more practice is needed but it's a good marker on how much less aversion I have overall than in the past. As usual practice must continue forever to see how far it goes. Development is endless.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
5/20/15 6:44 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
[quote=Richard Zen

]I've done some coherence therapy but I felt more stressed from it because two different voices would be battling it out for who's right but because there often isn't enough information to go on nothing is resolved. With cognitive therapy I would look at "musts" and "shoulds" that don't match with cause and effect in reality and abandon them for something more realistic. I could also look at beliefs behind any action or inaction. Beliefs have to be challenged because they often harbor things like low frustration tolerance, or awfulizing which are operating under the surface.


Thanks for sharing, Richard.  I find it very interesting that you have been influenced by the Actualism method.  I've spoken with others who have benefitted from Tarin's AF coaching/thoughts in relation to it.  The whole reason I practice is to develop the sensitivity and balance to be able to challenge belief's that mask low frustration tolerance (although for me this isn't very far beneath the surface at all).  I love the clarity that Vipassana gives me, but whenever I practice Actualism (or my version of it), I can feel how it does something different that can be even more beneficial.  

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
5/22/15 6:05 PM as a reply to Noah.
I benefited from the feedback loop questioning, but asking HAIETMOBA provided a relief that was unemotional in a way I didn't like. I've moved beyond it because I can notice fabrication easier and you just stop fabricating when you need to, and I fabricate skillfully when it makes sense to.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
5/22/15 6:23 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Yea, I think I get what your saying.  It sounds more real and skillful.  There is definitely a way of practicing Actualism techniques that is too simple and limited.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
6/5/15 9:23 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I'm getting used to doing the skygazing practice of relaxing reactivity as it happens. The salience of objects in space is less and space becomes more prominent. The stress relief from this has normalized. It's helped with reducing aversion to extremely low levels. I can see how fabrication (projections) feel like an unnecessary mental contraction. As stress has reduced down far I've returned to Brahamaviharas practices just for fun. It's replacing other enjoyments. I recently tried a practice I heard on a Buddhist Geeks episode of just saying "I am wonderful" and seeing any inner critic trying to react. What's interesting is that there's no inner critic doing this so I'm not sure if I need this practice.

Being "open to joy" and being "open to joy in others" is a fun practice because it makes you think more skillfully about your speech. I start wondering "how can I say something that brings joy in others and how can I reduce stress in others?" When giving bad news I try to spin it in a positive light, or even better I try to solve the problem if it's easy enough to do.

At work I'm noticing employees getting irritated when bosses interrupt their work with a change of direction and I can see how preferences cause stress. Any change from their "zone" and it's back to aversion. I remember doing the same mistakes and I don't want to go back. One of the best workers quit his job to raise animals and live self-sufficiently. He plainly said he wanted a more simple life but I can see that it's just aversion again. This is much the same as meditators that crave simplicity and stillness. They haven't seen how preferences are activating aversion pretty quickly. I wouldn't expect most people to think about these insights but the cause and effect is clear. I'm slowly getting out of this trap myself and feeling more functional than ever.

This is making me think how people always feel the grass is greener on the other side when in fact it's possible to change your lifestyle to something you think is better (it might actually be better) but still find dukkha all over the place. This amygdala is a trap. Yet with an attitude change of looking at the benefits of achieving goals it's possible to have healthy motivation and to push for problem solving and different forms of living even if permanent satisfaction is never found. If the employee who wants self-sufficiency could see that he does a lot of farming work that is harder than his current job, but because he likes it, it's not a stressor. The attitude adjustment could be made by seeing the benefits of his current job that he's good at.

The one area where I'm still getting lots of passion is writing my speeches. I tend to get into certain modes of researching and writing where I look like a man who's discovered the cure to cancer and then in other moments I don't need to do anything and watching the breath is just fine. I'm a regular at university libraries researching different kinds of CBT. It's very daunting trying to simplify all these techniques but I think I'll have to just try the many techniques individually and just see if I can get good at all of them or just drop the ones I don't need.

I'm also passionate about travel but after visiting Japan (last on my bucket list) I feel a weird satisfaction where vacations themselves aren't as important as they used to be. My photos and videos do create a lot of savouring that's valuable. Completing a big life goal does have it's rewards and the sense of completion means the burning need is gone. I will probably still visit more places but I'll have to be creative with photography and storytelling to make future vacations more interesting or else I'll bore myself to death.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
6/6/15 4:42 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I've been working with Padesky's New System and it highlighted what I'm already doing right, yet it makes it clear that one has to just let go of thinking there's something else. I've been spinning so long on different methods, so it's nice to park with the following for some time to come.

1. Start with Brahmaviharas. I liked Daniel's list compared to some of the others on the internet.
  • For Loving-Kindness: May _____ be happy. May ____ be peaceful.  May _____ be safe. May _____ live with ease.
  • For Compassion: May _____ be free from suffering.
  • For Sympathetic Joy: May the happiness and good fortune of _____ always increase.
  • For Equanimity: People's happiness depends upon their actions and not my wishes
2. Cost vs. benefit imagery
3. Let go of fabricating old ways.
4. Remind oneself of the purpose of what is being done (Courtesy of Heidegger):
  • I am working “with _____”
  • “In/at ______”
  • “In-order-to”
  • Aimed “towards-_______”
  • “For-the-sake-of-_______”
Rinse and repeat. By returning to the Brahmaviharas one can use this to replace other pointless activities, yet imagery and motivation are not completely abandoned.

Most importantly the goal is to practice resilience as opposed to guaranteeing outcomes.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
6/10/15 10:48 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:
I've been working with Padesky's New System and it highlighted what I'm already doing right, yet it makes it clear that one has to just let go of thinking there's something else. I've been spinning so long on different methods, so it's nice to park with the following for some time to come.

1. Start with Brahmaviharas. I liked Daniel's list compared to some of the others on the internet.
  • For Loving-Kindness: May _____ be happy. May ____ be peaceful.  May _____ be safe. May _____ live with ease.
  • For Compassion: May _____ be free from suffering.
  • For Sympathetic Joy: May the happiness and good fortune of _____ always increase.
  • For Equanimity: People's happiness depends upon their actions and not my wishes
2. Cost vs. benefit imagery
3. Let go of fabricating old ways.
4. Remind oneself of the purpose of what is being done (Courtesy of Heidegger):
  • I am working “with _____”
  • “In/at ______”
  • “In-order-to”
  • Aimed “towards-_______”
  • “For-the-sake-of-_______”
Rinse and repeat. By returning to the Brahmaviharas one can use this to replace other pointless activities, yet imagery and motivation are not completely abandoned.

Most importantly the goal is to practice resilience as opposed to guaranteeing outcomes.

These above practices are working really well and offsetting areas that each individual practice will miss.

The Brahmaviharas strengths are to deal with the natural rivalry of competition in this world. It eliminates the need to dominate, control and to indulge in cruelty. The great insight I've got from these practices is that much of conventional happiness that people indulge in seems to require dominating a competitor and prevailing. Yet any temporary "win" could easily be succeeded by many "losses" making that happiness very fleeting. The Brahmaviharas are harmonious with others. It shouldn't be subversive but that's what it feels like.

Cost vs. Benefit imagery is helping at work where it's easy to get caught up in one task and then to get interrupted in others. To quickly think "what is the benefit of getting this task done?" it's possible to shift gears and get newly motivated in the new task just the same as the earlier task. Some of this comes from letting go of preferences. There is much that can be explored as any activity could have some potential benefit to it.

Letting go of fabricating. When all else fails I can just drop all projections including meditation related projections. Just relax reactivity to objects in space until the space is the foreground. This especially works when the brain is getting stuck in irritating thoughts, useless thoughts, destructive thoughts, aimless thoughts, and especially controlling thoughts

Reminding oneself of the purpose of what one is doing. This practice can alleviate thoughts that I need to be doing something else than what I'm doing right now. Other times I can't find a large higher purpose. It's a complete blank. The brain wants an ultimate good to follow but there are so many choices depending on the time of day and the context of what  you are doing. Today going for a walk and smelling spring flowers my mind just felt the higher purpose was to savour life. I particularly liked the smell of lilacs when they get a little sweet and "grapy". The background musical track in my head was Boards of Canada Tears from a compound eye adding to the savouring.

I'm also noticing that I can smell the flowers and get my fill quickly enough and move on without a desire to linger too much. Enjoyment is great when it's there and when it's not there, that's okay too.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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6/12/15 6:20 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Well I had a challenge to my equanimity today when a co-worker took my words out of context on a blase business phonecall. He didn't even know what the context of the phonecall was about. Unfortunately for him he took things too out of context so that nobody could believe it. I erupted in an argument with him and he continued not understanding context no matter how I explained it. To actually have a person bold-face lying about you to you and putting words in your mouth is a pretty good test for someone's equanimity. 

I ruminated a little over lunch until the boss had to come back and have a talk with both of us. Partly because I was in the right and partly because I didn't back down I felt little stress compared to some years ago when I first started meditating. There was this acceptance that people will play games with you and you have to be bold and confident in response to them. The boss knew of this employee's past behaviour and how he tries to "test", albeit quite pathetic test, new employees so he was actually expecting something. 

It's really a reminder that we can do Brahmaviharas as much as we can but we must include some compassionate wrath where we can look at least a little dangerous or else we look like easy targets for bullies. I wish this employee wasn't a jealous, insecure, entitled brat (this guy is over 50 years old), but I don't expect any change in behaviour.

At the end of the day I said "have a good weekend" in as normal a tone as possible. The look on his face was priceless but I understood that I didn't want to change any of my past behaviour because of this incident. I want to continue my goals as if nothing happened because these bullies like to live in your mind rent free causing distractions, and I want to enjoy my weekend like nothing happened because I cannot control idiots from being what they are. Sometimes we have to let go so we can fight.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
6/21/15 4:08 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:

4. Remind oneself of the purpose of what is being done (Courtesy of Heidegger):
  • I am working “with _____”
  • “In/at ______”
  • “In-order-to”
  • Aimed “towards-_______”
  • “For-the-sake-of-_______”


I'm really into my speech writing and it's just another example of how when interest and motivation take over it doesn't feel like work. As I was working on one speech I noticed how the above "meaning reminders" could be easily answered up to "Aimed towards __________" but I've been stuck on the last one. This one seems to require a summum bonum (greater good) motivation. For now I think it's: 
  • I am working “with _____”
  • “In/at ______”
  • “In-order-to______”
  • Aimed “towards-_______”
  • “For-the-sake-of-happiness for one self and for others"
The major goal or motivation can be happiness or virtue or something religious in a lofty way. What it does when you can answer it, is cause you to reassess the lower motivations to see if it aligns with the final one. You can see that you are already doing some of what you want and see where you go off the rails.

For jhanas and insight I'm finding that Brahmaviharas are better suited to imagery practices and will start to imagine helping people instead of reciting and relaxing the body. By imagining people being happy, imagining they are free from suffering, imagining they are able to gain good fortune, and finally imagining that they guide their lives better than in the past, I'll be tapping into those motivational chemicals (oxytocin?) and see what happens.

I'm also considering what the Dalai Lama says about developing compassion in as many actions as possible to make a deeper habit.

Currently jhanas are coming from insight. The skygazing practice and letting go of attention to objects is allowing shifts into the first jhana and up to the 4th.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
6/22/15 11:59 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard,
I'm curious if you found that your ability to visualize, or use imagery grew and became more "real" as you deepened your concentration practices. For myself, this definitely seemed to happen over time. A story: about six months ago, on retreat, I suddenly decided to visualize layers of myself peeling away to reveal a brilliant buddha figure beneath. As this was happening, the breathing became very regulated, piti arose, the body went into tremulations, all feelings I'd normally put towards a slightly altered state of being rising from concentration deepening.

Come to find out visualization of deities is common practice in Vajrayana, aka yidam practice.

I've come to use quite a bit of mental imagery now as I go through the metta categories. Quite helpful, but I still prefer being able to access the felt sense of love and heart while doing the practice (although not always as available emoticon

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
6/22/15 12:49 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
This is a newer area for me, but I noticed that as I reduced overall dukkha it was easier to visualize enough to achieve more goals. In the past visualization wouldn't be enough because the habitual negative images and thoughts simply overpowered it. I'm definitely going to do more visualization with Brahmaviharas. Yesterday I got the 1st jhana just imagining people at ease and safe. It was nice.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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6/23/15 1:40 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:

It's really a reminder that we can do Brahmaviharas as much as we can but we must include some compassionate wrath where we can look at least a little dangerous or else we look like easy targets for bullies.
In Metta practice lately I've found that it induces a lot of  what could be 'compassionate wrath' automatically, without me intending that.
Is that your experience, too, or have you found some other way to intentionally cultivate that?

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
6/23/15 8:43 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:
Richard Zen:

It's really a reminder that we can do Brahmaviharas as much as we can but we must include some compassionate wrath where we can look at least a little dangerous or else we look like easy targets for bullies.
In Metta practice lately I've found that it induces a lot of  what could be 'compassionate wrath' automatically, without me intending that.
Is that your experience, too, or have you found some other way to intentionally cultivate that?
I think the anger would be automatic but I made it okay to be angry. Everybody has that domineering reptilian part of the limbic system (where hypocrisy comes from) and we can't ignore that we can be doormats if we're not careful.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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7/4/15 5:17 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
The past couple of weeks have been stretching my use of the sky-gazing practice (letting go of attention to objects) and learned some insights. I've been doing some hiking last week. First day was Mount Baldy. It was hot and I got moderate dehydration (which felt pretty severe to me). Before that I got to an area where I would have to traverse one large rocky hill to another with lots of falling exposure inbetween. I lost my GPS unit which fell a long way down to a steep part of the mountain full of scree. I was quite happy it was my GPS and not my body. As I reminded myself "maybe survival is more important at this point" I turned around. As I was descending the mountain my water was out and there was little shade. I was so ill prepared I didn't have hiking poles so I was going down very slow and even sliding down some scree. After a couple of hours I was very dehydrated despite being near the parking lot. My arms were going numb and I was in trouble. A nice guy and his kids lent me some water and even waited for me to finally descend to the parking lot to make sure I was okay. His wife went through something similar on a multi-day hike. It took me some minutes to drink the water before I could start walking again. As anyone who's been through this, a nausea can creep in and stop you. My car was so hot that my core temperature wasn't recovering (no air conditioning). I managed to make it to an air conditioned hotel. I parked and collapsed near a tree with some shade. It gave me enough to recover and go to the hotel. Some people could recognize heat-stroke/dehydration. I was drinking up the complementary water and then ordered lots of orange juice and water at a restaurant until I finally recovered. One of the waitresses was chatting me up about hikes as she was new to Alberta. I ordered some spicy liquid brie like cheese dip and Tostitos. She could see I was eating more "when the temperature cools down the hunger returns." emoticon

Throughout this ordeal the letting go of reactivity to objects did reduce the stress even if the pain would be the same otherwise. I had to be careful because I wanted to let go into unconsciousness back at the mountain which wouldn't be wise. Despite that it allowed me more acceptance so I was more focused on problem solving instead of ruminating. I could literally notice the survival part of the brain really does try to keep me conscious. I also noticed that when I was letting go of reactivity while I was walking and scrambling up steeper parts of the mountains I could go past my usual fear and comfort-zone. Flipping back and forth between reactivity and letting go and seeing the energy levels improve is an eye-opener.

As I was driving back to find my bed and breakfast I got hit by huge construction related traffic. It blocked off most entrance ways into western Calgary. I had to join many other drivers into massive detours, but I kept throwing metta all around and witht the Canadian solstice sunset there was extra sun and many detour drives, through farming locations I hadn't seen before, were outstandingly beautiful. I was able to enjoy savouring despite irritating traffic problems that could have ruined my metta and equanimity. I also drove past some rich people's mansions which had amazing views of the sunset and lifted my spirits from the anger. When I got close to the bed and breakfast my ipad had no data and the google map wasn't perfect. I needed help from a lady on her nighly neighborhood jog. With her iPhone I finally found the place and I was able to take a late shower and collapse on the bed.

The next day I endeavoured to make it better despite being discouraged and wanting to go home. I went back to the Rockies and decided to revisit my favourite place, Sunshine Meadows. I had gone here in the past and wanted to explore different areas. It was hotter this day than the last but my experience was much better. With well maintained hiking trails and beautiful refreshing surroundings I was enjoying myself again. The purple flours weren't quite all back yet but the various shades of green were vibrant and fragrant. Filling up my waterbottle with remenents of snow just added to the refreshing nature of the hike. On my return I could actually feel my brain switch from desire to satisfaction. It was a reminder that these are the moments I enjoy most in a conventional way. That is the flow state. It reminded me of the hike in Panum Crater near Mono Lake and how it wasn't too challenging or too easy. That's when the brain responds. I also noticed this at work recently. When I was taking on more duties I was always on the go and as I focused on one goal at a time the passion would return and the stress would fall away. I was bumping into this flow state and learning about how it works. Even at a restaurant recently I was talking to a couple and the guy talked about how his skiing would improve if he focused just with the next mogul. As soon as he thought farther ahead his performance suffered. Bingo! His wife interjected "that's what life is, one thing at a time." The fun thing about flow states is that when you're in one it doesn't matter what level of skill you are at. It's just as good for anyone as long as it is at the right level of challenge for the individual.

Towards the end of my hike and returning home it was so clear how interdependent a lot of external happiness is to other people. If I wasn't lent water at the right time I could easily be dead. On the other hand I've been around negative people who purposely bring me down and are like a nightmare. It's clear that being around positive people with the right attitude is a conditioning factor for happiness. Weeding negative people out of your life to me is a form of Right Effort.
____________________________________________________________________________________________

Today I wanted to fade my senses further with letting go for 6 hours. I ended up cycling through 4 jhanas very quickly but continuing to let go of attention to all of them. At some point I went into a lucid dream where I was in a space suit flying in the cosmos (I hope I'm not turning into a space cadet:wackoemoticon. I found a star that I was afraid of but strangely attracted to it. I fell right into it and it felt good (due to endorphins). I was hoping to get to the 5th jhana via letting go, but not yet.

The unconditioned is so far from where I'm at it's hilarious. The interdependence that consciousness has with any experience is so clear and all pervasive it's like a trap. The brain is just not ready to let go of space and time. It's like Rob Burbea says, that inherent existence can be as subtle as witness, objects and the present moment. In truth objects cannot exist without time, and the self either becomes a witness to objects and time or turns into a story about the object with larger distances of time/memory.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
7/4/15 9:02 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:
In the past visualization wouldn't be enough because the habitual negative images and thoughts simply overpowered it. I'm definitely going to do more visualization with Brahmaviharas.
Can you explain the difference between visualization and negative images, is it just that in the first one, you choose what you see? 
-Eva

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
7/4/15 9:08 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Eva M Nie:
Richard Zen:
In the past visualization wouldn't be enough because the habitual negative images and thoughts simply overpowered it. I'm definitely going to do more visualization with Brahmaviharas.
Can you explain the difference between visualization and negative images, is it just that in the first one, you choose what you see? 
-Eva

They were just stonger negative images from being indulged in more in the past. Depression was a part of my past. Whatever is more repeated is going to be stronger.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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7/5/15 12:21 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I enjoy and appreciate your posts, Richard, especially the book reviews you give. I really like this post a lot: the description of exhaustion/borderline heatstroke, the effects of survival and recovering, brain-switching modes, and when letting go gives energy-- so true, a friend calls this "ego distress", complete with fatique and head pressures, body tensions, till he moves to sensate awareness. 
Anyway, this post --- thank you. It's not only a good read to me, but also a really neat way of showing awareness of mental switching and effects during really different conditions in a couple days time.

Relatedly, reading about your passing through pleasant farm country and the pleasantness of this, once on a drive to retreat I just into the pleasant sensations of driving with the setting sun, till I realized five hours later that I was supposed to be driving east. It was a very funny mental jolt when I realized I had gone well into the wrong direction soaking up the pleasant drive, and how quickly my mind changed to the challenge of five more hours of driving after dark in the mountains to the east...

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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7/5/15 10:33 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
katy steger:
I enjoy and appreciate your posts, Richard, especially the book reviews you give. I really like this post a lot: the description of exhaustion/borderline heatstroke, the effects of survival and recovering, brain-switching modes, and when letting go gives energy-- so true, a friend calls this "ego distress", complete with fatique and head pressures, body tensions, till he moves to sensate awareness. 
Anyway, this post --- thank you. It's not only a good read to me, but also a really neat way of showing awareness of mental switching and effects during really different conditions in a couple days time.

Relatedly, reading about your passing through pleasant farm country and the pleasantness of this, once on a drive to retreat I just into the pleasant sensations of driving with the setting sun, till I realized five hours later that I was supposed to be driving east. It was a very funny mental jolt when I realized I had gone well into the wrong direction soaking up the pleasant drive, and how quickly my mind changed to the challenge of five more hours of driving after dark in the mountains to the east...
Thanks Katy. I've been noticing how stress affects energy for sometime but moving from noting, to welcoming and now to just letting go of attention to objects it effects on energy are easier to see.

Boy that was a long detour you made. If you're in the U.S. you probably moved across a state at least.

Oh well you have some good company (jokingemoticon)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbYan4RbKQ0

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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7/9/15 8:37 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Now that I've clearly seen the brain switch from desire to satisfaction I decided to do the same with Metta. After a couple of hours I could actually feel a switch to satisfaction. This reminds me of what psychologists say about giving enough love to children so they feel secure. That includes those horrible studies with monkeys and their mothers and comparing those with a mother and those without. It also matches Breuning's book on neurotransmitters in that it's healthy to seek out the ones you don't get enough of.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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9/14/15 8:15 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I've been using concentration throughout my move and it's been an enormous help. In the end the move wasn't that stressful. Just doing things one at a time benefitted me greatly. There's physical sweat and heavy lifting but ultimately the mind is totally equanimous.

Sleeping on the floor has also improved my spine. It's ironic that an expensive bed is too soft and the back needs to reset the vertibrae before getting up. When getting up off the floor my back felt 100 times better.

I hope to dig into Brasington's new book next month. I find that getting to the 5th jhana so difficult. My latest 4th jhana has made me slump over but it was the heaviest and most enjoyable jhana I've had in years. Trying to expand my body limits has been fruitless. I know that trying to do anything is precisely the problem but all the instructions point at a different focus. The instructions do contain hints that one should let go of diversity and so I'll continue doing that, since it resembles the sky-gazing practice. 

Currently the same pattern of images and voices appearing and getting louder happens just before a switch to the next jhana. Then a quiescence replaces it. Just keep going no matter what experiences happen. They will cessate if you leave them alone.

EDIT: Trying again I got weird images. I was following some of Matthew Horn's ideas of just imagining the edge of the universe along with my body sensations. An image of a white door and white wall in great detail appeared but it didn't feel like I was "here" and the door was "there", yet I didn't feel like I was in the door. It just felt like a non-dual experience. I kept falling out of the 4th jhana back to the lower ones. Still very restful.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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9/22/15 8:57 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Yep! Just keep with the breath no matter what happens.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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9/28/15 1:28 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
As I keep with my concentration throughout the day I find that enjoying the breath is the marker for whether you will look for external pleasure or not. If I'm not enjoying the breath then habits tend to be the same (eating out/drinking/entertainment), but when I'm feeling enjoyment from the breath those needs go away. Concentration is now more fun and can be used for practical improvements in one's actions instead of an end in of itself.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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10/13/15 7:54 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
This insight is going a little further. Basically there's always a little stress because if the breath is not enough then the brain goes "what's next?" "This moment isn't good enough" in subtle ways and we are off to the races. Any preference of any kind has a small bit of barely detectable stress that nudges us towards comfort habits. Why do I do anything at all? Some of these preferences should be cultivated but many are just forms of escapism.

EDIT: This means that any action in daily life that involves pursuing a desire is becuase there's at least a little small bit of disatisfaction motivating the searching for neurotransmitters. It means that unless the amygdala is active (which it is in healthy brains) the skillful thing to do is to let go of blameful desires and replace them with blameless desires.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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10/13/15 10:41 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Why do I do anything at all? Some of these preferences should be cultivated but many are just forms of escapism.


I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this because it is the single biggest theme of my practice as of late: how to sort out desires/impulses.  I have tried to uncover the motivations behind them and find out which one's are based on factual logic and which are based on emotions, which has been fairly successful.  Could you give some examples from your own life of how you sort preferences?

Thanks,
Noah

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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10/13/15 11:29 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:
Why do I do anything at all? Some of these preferences should be cultivated but many are just forms of escapism.


I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this because it is the single biggest theme of my practice as of late: how to sort out desires/impulses.  I have tried to uncover the motivations behind them and find out which one's are based on factual logic and which are based on emotions, which has been fairly successful.  Could you give some examples from your own life of how you sort preferences?

Thanks,
Noah

Yeah, beyond that, how do you decide what to do with yourself all day?  How to decide which task to embark on?  Is it better to just do work all day then?  There are some days when I feel like I'm under the influence of some narcotic, my brain feels like kinda fuzzy and blank and really good.  During those times, I tend to forget to do anything, thinking seems kinda unwanted, nothing can compare with the good narcotic feeling so why bother?  Other times, everything seems a tad boring, even stuff I used to like sometimes seems just boring.  It's not really depression as there is no huge angst or anything just like a general ennui.  Ironically in those times, I get a lot done because if everything is going to be slightly boring anyway, may as well tackle the most useful chores and get them done.  Plus there are a few other weird moods and various ones in between.  I am not sure which one, if any, is the one that is supposed to be good.  The narcotic one feels the best but I haven't been contributing much to society when in that one.  

Now that the old desires and whatnot are kind of weak compared to the past, it's like there is their is this weird rollercoaster of strange moods.  It's not really a bad thing and I'm not complaining, overall it's a very good thing compared to the past and it's interesting to observe, but for the first time in a long time, I no longer clearly see a major target and goal in front of me to work at.  Should I just go with the flow and just continue to work on the remainder of unskillful thoughts/feelings?  Seems like a likely plan.  But at some point, I am not sure if the goal is to try to eliminate ALL preferences and if I will still feel like doing anything other than sitting around if that happens (like when I am in the narcotic mood and tend to do very little unless someone prods me).  Or maybe this will all sort itself out given more time?  That could very well be as well.  Maybe the moods will integrate with eachother over time, might be a good guess?  Anyway, would not be a bad thing to go on like this into the future, but I am curious what others have come up with for things like this, might give me some ideas.   
-Eva

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
Answer
10/14/15 1:09 AM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:
Why do I do anything at all? Some of these preferences should be cultivated but many are just forms of escapism.


I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this because it is the single biggest theme of my practice as of late: how to sort out desires/impulses.  I have tried to uncover the motivations behind them and find out which one's are based on factual logic and which are based on emotions, which has been fairly successful.  Could you give some examples from your own life of how you sort preferences?

Thanks,
Noah

Ironically I find that my goals haven't changed so much. I originally wanted meditation to be used to help with changing habits and enjoyment of life and that's exactly what it showed me. It shows that one must find blameless enjoyments (especially concentration) and be on the lookout for enjoyments that hurt others and oneself. Now my lifestyle is less TV and internet oriented. I'm more intellectual and working on speeches and being creative and entering flow states (highly recommended those Flow states). Those neurotransmitters and how habit wiring is formed are still forefront. What is it? 45 days to create a new habit? Learning to develop skills to get boring things done by sometimes asking "is this enough?" "Does it have to be more?" Using concentration and welcoming practices while doing chores just makes them a non-problem.

The meditation practices are more like tools instead of an end in themselves. The domination part of the mind can corrupt the meditation but when they are used as tools to employ for the right problems then we are getting at their proper uses. It's more about functioning properly and achieving goals again but with the right attitude.

For example when hiking in the mountains and finding the proper challenge to fit my skills the mind goes into an enjoyable flow state but with the sensitivity of meditation I can feel the satiation of the pleasure (which many people call spoiling or boredom), and let go of any clinging to it. If the neurotransmitters are naturally being prevented by the brain but without clinging then it's more like satisfaction instead of spoiling. This way I can enjoy conventional enjoyments but not release a fight or flight response (the brain attempting to control the environment response) and be totally okay.

Boredom is an energetic state in psychology and when there's nothing interesting there's a clinging ennui response. But meditation as a tool relaxes the energy so that boredom evaporates simply by following the breath. This makes the Flow graph widen a bit because both boredom and anxiety aren't as problematic when challenges are too high or too low. Practices like Atammayata or Sky-gazing or relaxing the attention to pay attention (which is constantly flitting around) have all helped to reduce both anxiety and boredom. Once those practices have given their relief one can return to the enjoyments in a conventional way and return to flow states. Dark-night symptoms of the past seem so foggy and painful compared to how my brain is now. I'm so aware of useless fight or flight responses (I'm talking subtle stresses here of how the brain labels objects in a comparing way), and the brain is ever more convinced they should be abandoned. It's better to focus on increasing skills to handle anxiety and increasing challenges to handle boredom. When the dopamine and serotonin are flowing then a lot of "problems" disappear and problems themselves become like fun puzzles instead of as Kurt Cobain said "Something in the way."

The biggest problems for me is eating-out too much and I have a brainstorming style of mind that creates lots but needs conscientiousness to tame. The goal with concentration is to do conscientiousness that doesn't feel so aversive and harsh like many people behave. The big ice cube has melted and I'm now just dealing with smaller chunks of ice that need more melting. I'm looking for that conscientiousness with little or no pain. emoticon Whatever happens I can just return to the breath because sometimes that is enough.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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10/14/15 5:35 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Thanks.  Read and re-read, still absorbing.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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10/14/15 7:13 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:
Thanks.  Read and re-read, still absorbing.

Haha! I guess I put lots of references that people might not get. Atammayata is focusing less on the object's "thingness". Sky-gazing is simply letting go of sticky labels/perceptions so it's similar to Atammayata. Then relaxing the attention to pay attention is another way to do the same thing. Everytime the attention span moves there's a little bit of stress (sometimes very hard to detect).

The flow diagram is like this:



The boredom part of the graph is easily dealt with by using concentration to soothe this energetic state. Boredom is energy that has no place interesting to put it.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201209/what-is-boredom

Of course once the stress or boredom disappears then re-engage in some activity (hopefully something that is originally boring or irritating) and create flow with it. This means having a goal to improve skills with the promise of flow when they meet the challenges.

The satiation I was talking about is when the brain just starts to switch to boredom but because of sensitivity from doing meditation for years a person can just accept the situation instead of cling/ruminate/obsess over getting more neurotransmitters. The brain needs to prevent them so we find creativity and multiple sources of enjoyment otherwise a mammal's survival would be threatened if it couldn't stop an activity. 

I actually noticed the same thing when I was enjoying amazing sushi in Japan. There was a point where I was so into piece after piece of sushi and then the brain metaphorically said "Okay! Enough! It's awesome, but time to move on!" LOL! 

The other reference to Kurt Cobain simply what the song is about and that's simply trying to do things in life but always finding "something in the way." It's an attitude that has to be fought to avoid depression.

Hopefully that makes more sense.

Richard

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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11/8/15 3:26 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
As my brain is adjusting to how intentions work I'm now coming back to Myers-Briggs to reduce my choices. When conditioning is understood it's easy to get overwhelmed by the choices. To narrow it down, the highest level of skills are, according to the Hartzler's in Type Development:

Sensing Extrovert: "When involved in a sport I am able to "be the ball," and/or when driving I am able to "be the car."
Sensing Introvert: "I attempt to do tasks as efficiently as possible, thus conserving energy."
Extroverted Intuition: "I usually find something positive to see in situations."
Introverted Intuation: "I interpret the intent behind situations, communications, or happenings."
Extraverted Thinking:"I evaluate performance against measurable goals and standards."
Introverted Thinking: "I use precise language to try to get the world to understand logical conceptual models and/or blueprints."
Extraverted Feeling: "I attempt to educate others as to the appropriate behaviours that will help them fit in."
Introverted Feeling: "I crusade for what is right even if it creates tension with the external world and may endanger a personal relationship."

The bold letters I am good at to a fault but the blue ones are weaker.

My concentration/intention practice will have to be a form of intending and acting followed by a form of savouring to reinforce the good results of these actions. The Brahmaviharas has to be included to keep these actions from unnecessary conflict. I also have to remind myself that the Brahmaviharas have helped to reduce conflict in my thinking which is a big reason why my stress is lower and my energy is up to act on goals more.

My first actions were Extraverted Thinking actions and that included cleaning my apartment and organizing it. I enjoyed the results (which is something I strugged to do not that long ago) but especially enjoyed how I didn't have much stress while doing it and have to thank Metta, Mindfulness, and Concentration for that. I can see that this will be a fulfilling part of that path for me. I'm already desiring to organize things (unthininkable not that long ago). The goal is being able to do Extraverted Thinking and Sensing Introversion without all the constant stress that people needlessly go through because they are unaware of awareness practices.

This may be the happiest moments of my life right now; to see real change in my thinking patterns; new voices popping up and new motivations.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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11/14/15 11:17 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I'm having fun with my MBTI "J" practices of just getting things done one at a time. Just make everything into a meditation "dishes meditation", "take out the trash meditation" etc.

Yesterday I meditated with the intent of giving love to God and thankfulness for everything I had. It was a pretty amazing experience almost like a clean ecstacy of oxytocin and dopamine. I relished in it and felt every sensation in my experience and felt a corelessness. Very fun and extremely healthy. The only difficulty is that it's easy to cling when the neurotransmitters run out and it's important to have equanimity to bring in when pleasure ends.

Have pleasure and then throw in some equanimity when it's over. 

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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11/17/15 7:36 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
This selfless giving of love is creating feelings of purification, elatededness, and in some ways weans you further from external objects. It feels so healthy and is starting to nudge those negative thinking tendencies. My skull feels great. It feels like a giddy happiness but because of my equanimity it's not too giddy if that makes sense. I'll have to get used to this.

It's just another example of how the brain's attitude can be affected by cause and effect.

What a nice way to come home from work and do some yoga and create bursts of well-wishing.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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11/21/15 11:12 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I'm starting to try and dress better and put more of a positive attitude. It's interesting in that some of the selfing/negativity does return as one pursues new goals but this time the schemas feel less like concrete but more like a thick fog. There's some give. I'm going to be back at relationships again but it's nice to know that any extinction practices (just basically gaining more experience and going into new directions in life) are easier to deal with than before. It's important to keep improving oneself even if there's ridicule (you're a loser, you aren't successful, etc the usual attribution theory crap that people believe in). Never improve oneself because of coercion, but because of internal motivation, liking, and wanting improvements.

The typical INFP sensitivity to criticism is much less, but the only way forward is to have more and more new experiences and meet new people regardless of whether I should like them or not. Action. Movement. The self-rating part of the brain is not as much an obstacle.

I'm starting to enjoy basic yoga now and I'm getting ever so slightly more flexible. Some of this has to do with the weight I lost. It's nice to do some exercise with intrinsic motivation instead of the usual toiling attitude.

My concentration practice has improved by analyzing the interruptions more often. Any arguments that appear I look at as "virtual reality" as Gil Fronsdal puts it. I'm reacting to scenarios that aren't real so I continue a metta practice to diffuse it and return to the breath. Those interruptions become opportunities to practice instead of a "problem" with my meditation practice.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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1/26/16 1:02 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I'm finding in my metta practice that I must not exclude anyone for it to really work. I rationalize this as understanding everything to be cause and effect including those who do wrong. I have to wish that those who are on the wrong path find their way and become a happy ending. When this happens the love radiates much more. Including thankfulness into the practice is just perfect for me and makes the metta more intense and loving. Feels great.

RE: Richard Zen's Concentration and Metta Log
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3/27/16 10:41 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I'm really enjoying learning to use less force on the breath I find it's easier to relax all of the body and easier to track when doing other things. You can really see the connecton between the breath and the fight or flight responses in the attention span. I'm really going to have to get back to the tetrads.