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Small steps on a long path

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Small steps on a long path Small Steps 1/2/15 7:27 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Pejn . 1/2/15 11:22 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 1/3/15 12:32 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 1/3/15 12:44 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 1/3/15 11:40 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 1/4/15 10:36 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 1/6/15 12:10 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 1/8/15 10:16 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 2/9/15 2:57 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 2/9/15 3:49 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 2/9/15 3:53 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 2/9/15 7:30 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 2/14/15 4:00 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 4/7/15 7:56 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 4/19/15 11:13 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 4/20/15 4:14 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 4/28/15 5:23 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Ben V. 8/12/15 6:35 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 8/12/15 7:18 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Ben V. 8/14/15 6:53 AM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 9/18/15 10:17 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 9/20/15 12:12 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 9/22/15 11:30 AM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 10/2/15 2:02 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Eric B 10/2/15 2:28 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 10/2/15 2:49 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 10/2/15 2:17 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 10/5/15 1:16 AM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 3/11/16 5:25 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path Small Steps 5/21/16 10:44 PM
RE: Small steps on a long path shargrol 5/22/16 6:45 AM
Small steps on a long path
Answer
1/2/15 7:27 PM
My first attempt at a practice log. Perhaps some of this will be of benefit to someone, somewhere emoticon. The current incarnation of my practice is about 3 years old. For 2014 my goal was to create a daily practice that was self sustaining. The subtext of this was: sit at least 30 minutes a day. This was accomplished -- some combination of a sitting/walking/standing/martial arts practice was done daily for the year, and as it stands, practice time is usually about 60 - 90 minutes aggregated over a day.

My particular goals for 2015 are not that firm yet, but I am very interested in furthering my explorations into bare awareness. I am also curious to see what can be learned with sincere efforts in applying awareness in a martial arts context.

Very simple sequence for sitting practice: use samatha of the breath to establish a suitable level of concentration. Once established, attend to awareness in a choiceless manner, simply noticing sensations at the six sense doors arising and passing away. Once choiceless awareness is flowing, allow awareness to simply be open and attentive to any and all sensations.

For standing practice: Stand using wuji zhan zhuang pose and relaxedly create a frame for the body (what I'll term “energizing” in notes to follow) and use awareness to attend to the feelings that arise within the body.

Descriptions of walking/movement/kung fu practice to follow.

Jan 1
Standing - 30 minutes
  • Stood in wuji for approximately 30 minutes. Was interrupted twice by conversation, each lasting approximately 2 minutes, taking me out of the stance and meditation.
  • Started each standing period by placing hands on top of each other, with the thumb in the navel. This was to help locate the dan tien.
  • Within a minute of standing, felt heaviness in arms and a tingling sensation which extended down into the fingers.
  • Played with “energizing the body” and maintaining awareness of the body’s form in general. Near the end of the period, experimented with reducing the amount of intention in energy and allowing the body to “energized” to about 80% of previous effort.
  • At the end of the official practice period, moved arms very slowly into zhan zhuang “hugging belly” position and was aware of the feeing of heaviness of the arms.
  • Thoughts came and went during this time, mostly about standing and kung fu practice.

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
1/2/15 11:22 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Zhan zhuang, nice!
I have just recently incorporated ZZ into my practice and I like it a lot.
What kind of Kung Fu do you practice? (I do Sun style Taiji, Xing Yi and some Bagua since 2 years.)

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
1/3/15 12:32 PM as a reply to Pejn ..
Pejn .:
Zhan zhuang, nice!
I have just recently incorporated ZZ into my practice and I like it a lot.
What kind of Kung Fu do you practice? (I do Sun style Taiji, Xing Yi and some Bagua since 2 years.)
I have been practicing wing chun kuen for some eighteen years. As you may know, there's no explicit zhan zhuang practice prescribed in the wing chun forms. Nevertheless, I feel there is great benefit to standing practice, chiefly in mindfulness of body (kayanupassana satipatthana) as well as building a frame for the kind of unitive movement I think all martial arts should possess.

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
1/3/15 12:44 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Jan 2

Sitting - 40 minutes (am)
  • Intention was to work on awareness of body while seated.
  • Many thoughts came and went during this sitting period, again mostly about kung fu practice. Mind was busy due to watching kung fu videos on youtube and being very judgmental of others’ practice.
  • Noticed and acknowledged these thoughts before allowing them to pass away or transform into another thought.
  • When thoughts were not predominant, was aware of sound and body sensations. Any time the neck was felt to be tilted, moved it back into position and tucked the chin. Pulling the head upwards and elongating the neck activates some tingling and pulsing sensations in the area of the groin/perineum.

Standing - 25 minutes (pm)
  • Stood in wuji and very quickly felt tingling/buzzing sensations mainly in the left hand.
  • After about 15 minutes, legs started to tremble. Noted discomfort and the unpleasant feeling (vedana) of the sensations.
  • Hands were very cold and the tingling also began to feel unpleasant. Near the 20 minute mark, began to move the arms slowly in the hopes that circulation would bring some ease (which it did).
  • Was able to maintain a pretty consistent level of awareness of the body throughout the standing.
  • May try to stand for shorter periods of time to allow continuity of body awareness to build (before unpleasant vedana takes the stage).

Walking - 20 minutes
  • Walked very slowly and deliberately, holding a walking posture for about 90 seconds (mid-stride)
  • Again, a pretty consistent level of awareness of the body during the period.
  • Also noticed some trembling as the legs were tired after standing. Also, hands were very cold. When the attention went to the unpleasantness of the cold, the trembling went completely unnoticed for a time.

Sitting - 35 minutes
  • Used an mp3 of Joseph Goldstein’s guided instructions for Big Mind meditation.
  • The instructions are about 45 minutes long, but one of my cats decided to come “wake me up” because he wanted dinner, so I cut things short at 35 minutes
  • This talk has been very helpful to me in creating and maintaining a sense of open, sensate reality.

I realize that I probably won't be able to maintain as detailed a log for the long haul, but am really enjoying the bardo of this magical time between the last year and the new one. While I am motivated to be expressive, I'll take it! emoticon

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
1/3/15 11:40 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Jan 3
Standing - 20 minutes (pm)
  • Wuji stance, felt tingling in the fingers/hands quickly. The hands were also very cold due to the present weather conditions. The tingling went away after a few minutes.
  • A few thoughts arose regarding standing practice, the most dominant being, “It’s interesting how just a small stress on the body can create a great sense of discomfort.” Then, the unpleasantness of the present moment, the coldness of the hands, the uneasiness of standing with slightly bent knees were noted.
  • In the last few minutes, a new sensation of heaviness around the hands was noticed. The first sensation to arise here was around the area where the radius meets the rest of the hand (scaphold?). There were a few pulsing sensations that were felt around the hand/fingers.

Sitting - 42 minutes
  • Used Goldstein’s guided meditation.
  • After a short period, noticed some brightness in the visual field, even with eyes closed. This brightness seemed to more prevalent when in the process of letting go (reminders via the guided talk).
  • Tried to allow awareness to be omni-present, the body and mind to be “empty.”
  • Thoughts regarding practice and reporting (per this very post) came and went, as did some thoughts regarding kung fu practice.
  • Some sensations of itching (more like insects crawling across the skin) was detected around the cheek and corners of the mouth.
  • During this practice, the “energy” of thoughts feels like it is knowable.

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
1/4/15 10:36 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Jan 4

Standing - 20 minutes (pm)
  • Stood in wuji and felt the whole body as a system. Started with hands over the dan tien area.
  • Usual feelings of tingling in the hands presented themselves. This time, there was tingling in both left and right hands again with left hand more predominantly felt. The tingling has a buzzing, electric feel to it and is present in the fingers and palm.
  • When I remembered to, tried “pulling” the spine up and down by straightening the neck and pulling the tail bone down. Also tried the effect the feeling as of dangling from the crown of the head.
  • Near the last five minutes of the period, moved the hands back over dan tien and then into the hugging belly position. Felt the heaviness of the hands/arms as they cradled a large imaginary ball.

Walking - 27 minutes
  • Walked at a normal pace instead of holding the mid-step position.
  • Many thoughts came and went, but as I spied the cover of the book at one end of my walking path in the living room, Thoughts are Not the Enemy, I thought some more: “Well, okay.” emoticon
  • Played a bit with moving with the dan tien engaged. Not sure if this is anything close to correct, but tried to move with an (imaginary) sense of the dan tien rolling and the legs caught in the motion. Then I imagined a cycle/wave perpetually moving, and the dan tien/legs catching on to the wave whenever I was able to connect it this way.
  • Set timer for 20 minutes, but didn’t hear it go off, so near the end of the walking, I thought, “This feels kind of long for 20 minutes.” Lo and behold.

Sitting - 40 minutes
  • Sat with the breath initially to stabilize concentration. This was for the first few minutes.
  • Then moved on to perception of sound, body sensations and thoughts. Opened the eyes a few times during the sit just to give the sense of sight some exercise too.
  • At some point, moved on to a more open awareness and just tried to observe all sensations arise and pass at once en masse (didn’t really work).
  • Did notice a brightening of the visual sense with eyes closed. Abiding in this seems to be something pleasant. At times like this, the sensations of thought feel somewhat clumsy.

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
1/6/15 12:10 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Jan 5

Sitting - 25 minutes (pm; at work)
  • Sat in a quiet room at work.
  • Tried to focus on the breath for a while to quiet things down, but as things have been rather disrupted in waking life in the past day, the operative hindrances were: restlesness and remorse, as well as doubt. Not so much about the path, but very much about other aspects of life.
  • Despite a noisy mind, there was some ability to tap into the plumb line of the body, wherein the breath feels like it’s dropping down into the body, all the way down to the sacral chakra(?), which pulses in recognition. There was also some slight twitching of the arms.

Sitting - 15 minutes
  • A guided meditation at a yoga class. Simple samatha, bringing the attention back to the breath instructions.
  • I opted to do this for a few minutes and then just allow the brightness to arise in the visual field and try to rest in it.
  • There was still a proliferation of restless thoughts. I suspect this may continue for a while.

Standing - 20 minutes
  • Similar sequence as yesterday. Hands on dan tien -> wuji -> hands on dan tien -> holding belly.
  • Tingling felt in both hands. After a while, the tingling stopped and there emerged a few minutes later a profound coolness in the hands. Not uncomfortable as I’d felt in past days from the general Winter cold, and a bit hard to describe.
Later in the evening, at wing chun class, while practicing the first form, I started to feel some tingling/pulsing feeling that was clearly familiar/similar to those felt while in standing practice. While I’ve felt this in the past, it is not something that has occurred with as much regularity in recent times. Some kinds of connection are being made.

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
1/8/15 10:16 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Some unfortunate life circumstances have reared their ugly head(s) and so I'm left with a lot of residual aversion and confusion. This is in the realm of work and personal (romantic) relationships. It sucks, but I am handling it a lot better than I might have in the past (I think). That said, here's some quick notes from the last few days. I am afraid that as life "intrudes," I may be better served just reporting dates and times in general and then throwing in some quick notes whenever anything interesting shows up. Hopefully, the notes thus far give a general sense of how I'm practicing and what is coming up.


Jan 6
Sitting - 30 minutes (pm)
  • Sat in a quiet room at work in the afternoon. Focused on sensations of the breath for the first few minutes, then worked with whatever thoughts, sensations, sounds, etc. that arose.
  • The mind was a bit busy, but not as busy as the previous day. At some point someone walked in and also sat down to meditate, but I just acknowledged the sound and presence without opening the eyes to look.
  • A few minutes after sitting down, the brightness in the field of vision was noticeable, so I tried to work that in as an object of awareness. A time or two, the ability to merge or “dive into” the brightness seemed to present itself, but there was a holding back from going too deeply. Probably due to being at work, perhaps I didn’t want to find out what might happen.
Standing - 20 minutes

Sitting - 35 minutes

Jan 7

Standing - 20 minutes

Sitting - 30 minutes
  • Sat with a local Dharma group. The sit was guided, but very sparsely. I continued on with my own practice of awareness through concentration on the breath, then opening to sounds, thoughts and sensations.
  • I did notice that there was a pulsing/cycling sensation in the body just as the meditation began. Also, there was a lot of apparent brightness in the visual field. Since there were some fluorescent lights in the room (though dimmed), I am beginning to wonder if this is somehow affecting my experience, as this seems to be a common occurrence at this location. Something to watch in the future.

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
2/9/15 2:57 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Haven't had time to update this as frequently as I'd hoped. Life just gets in the way of posting. Though happily, not practice. More updates to follow. Will try to post more experiential details, as this is more along the lines of a sitting log right now.

Jan 8
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 43 minutes (used Goldstein’s big sky guided talk)
Jan 9
Standing - 30 minutes (two sessions, 20 + 10 minutes); Sitting - 55 minutes (two sessions, 45 + 10 minutes)
Jan 10
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 30 minutes

That week I also finished listening to  Rodney Smith’s series on Time and TimelessnessI very much enjoyed this series, which expands on Smith's ideas regarding the timelessness of the awakening experience. I'd recommend this as well as his book, Awakening: A Paradigm Shift of the Heart.

Week of Jan 11 -  Jan 17
Read Larry Rosenberg’s Three Steps to Awakening and Anam Thubten’s The Magic of Awareness. Found them to be very enjoyable. Thubten's book illustrates how awareness and presence can bring one to a realization of nirvana in the midst of the moment (often otherwise samsara). Rosenberg's book gives a process wherein one can go from mindfulness of the breath to using the breath as anchor, to a more open awareness style of practice. Both these books were helpful in providing insight as my practice shifts into this mode more now.

Jan 11
Sitting - 90 minutes
  • Sat with a local group. The period was actually 45 mins sit, followed by 15 minutes walking, then 30 minutes sit before the dharma talk, but I just sat the whole time. Since it was in a chair, it was much more tolerable. The first 25 minutes or so was chock full of aversion. I am still reacting to the events of the week and distressed about a particular work issue. At that point, I switched from breath awareness to dedicated metta practice. This helped ease the heart a fair bit and I just set the focus to offer metta in particular to difficult people.
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 60 minutes

Jan 12

Sitting - 45 minutes; Standing - 20 minutes

Jan 13
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 22m53s minutes; Sitting - 19m49s minutes

Jan 14
Sitting - 30 minutes; Sitting - 42 minutes (at local dharma group)

Jan 15

Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 45 minutes; Sitting - 20 minutes

Jan 16
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 50 minutes; Sitting - 45 minutes

Jan 17
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 20 minutes


Jan 17 - 24: Dog and house sitting for a friend. Was a bit out of my element this week but tried to make the most of the unfamiliar setting and situation. Opportunities for practice in an unfamiliar setting, while attending to the needs of some other conciousnesses (4 small dogs).

Week of Jan 18 - Jan 24
Read Ajahn Buddhadasa's Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree. This is transcribed from a talk he gave on suññatā. Many good concepts and ideas contained herein. My read is that he is likening suññatā, the state of "voidness" to nibbāna, so the highest "goal." I also found it interesting how he pointed out the dukkha of being... anything is still dukkha. Of course there's more to this book, but I would highly recommend reading for yourself (as I'll be re-reading in the future).

Jan 18
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 30 minutes

Jan 19
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 33m24s- Sat using guided meditation from Adyashanti's True Meditation audio book.

Jan 20
Standing - 20 minutes
Sitting - 22m58s; Sitting - 22m46s- Sat again using True Meditation guided tracks.

Jan 21
Standing - 20 minutes- Started playing with the idea of opening and closing*; Sitting - 10 minutes
* opening: opening all aspects of being, all joints and connections (physically), all concepts, thoughts and mental moments to expand outwards into the infinite. closing: moving in the reverse, pulling all things inwards into the core (also infinite), using my human form as the center.

Jan 22
Standing - 20 minutes- Continued playing with the sensations of opening and closing near the end of the period; Walking - 20 minutes; Sitting - 38 minutes (out of 40 planned)- Basically hit some fear and freaked myself out. Stopped a few minutes short of the timer going off to go check on the fridge, which I was convinced was in the throes of a meltdown (of course not).

Jan 23
Standing - 20 minutes- Continued playing with the sensations of opening and closing near the end of the period; Walking - 20 minutes; Sitting - 22m23s

Jan 24
Standing - 20 minutes; Walking - 20 minutes; Sitting - 30 minutes

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
2/9/15 3:49 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Week of Jan 25 - Jan 31

Jan 25
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 45 minutes (x2)

Jan 26
Standing - 20 minues; Walking - 20 minutes; Sitting - 20 minutes

Jan 27
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 45 minutes

Jan 28
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 45 minutes; Standing - 20 minutes

Jan 29
Standing - 20 minues; Walking - 20 minutes; Sitting - 30 minutes (x2); Sitting - 44 minutes (guided big mind meditation)

Jan 30
Standing - 20 minues; Sitting - 60 minutes; Sitting - 30 minutes

Jan 31
Standing - 20 minues; Sitting - 45 minutes

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
2/9/15 3:53 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Week of Feb 1 - Feb 7

This week I listened to Eckhart Tolle’s audio series, Creating a New Earth. I was a bit surprised at how “sensible” his talks are, though I suppose some of my former incredulity was based on nothing more than his association with Oprah and his appearance as some sort of new age-y ‘guru.’ His talks are largely geared around bringing presence into the present moment (related to Power of Now, I’ll wager, though I haven’t read that) and some simple ideas on how to do that. Apart from some simple meditation, he largely advocates just living in the moment (my words: feel your body, feel the life in the body, feel the life in the things around you; connect to life. Start here; go deep). I also think as one practices more, the simple truths (dharmas) of other teachers along the path can’t help but resonate.

I also read Bill Hamilton’s Saints and Psychopaths. Bill was a mentor to both Daniel Ingram and Kenneth Folk, IIRC. The book is an interesting look at his life, his practice, and his relationship(s) to some psychopathic elements met through both. A large component of the book also deals with the Progress of Insight model and some simple Theravadan teachings. I think if I had read this prior to becoming interested in practice and walking the path, it would have had a larger impact. Still noteworthy if nothing more than providing insight into the lineage of the “pragmatic dharma” moment/movement.

Feb 1
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 60 minutes; Standing - 20 minutes

Feb 2
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 50 minutes

Feb 3
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 30 minutes; Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 30 minutes

Feb 4
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 45 minutes

Feb 5
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 29m13s; Sitting - 45 minutes; Standing - 10 minutes

Feb 6
Sitting - 43m14s (used Guy Armstrong big mind guided meditation); Sitting - 30 minutes; Standing - 20 minutes

Feb 7
Sitting - 30 minutes; Standing - 20 minutes

Feb 8
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 38m9s; Standing - 20 minutes

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
2/9/15 7:30 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Report: My practice has been shifting gradually since around November of last year. Where I used to spend a significant portion of formal sits gathering and concentrating the mind, I find that this isn’t called for at the moment. Over the last month especially, more time has been practicing in what might be called “choiceless awareness,” where I just observe and qualify whatever object comes into focus, or “open awareness,” where there is no object of investigation but closer to a bare noting of phenomena as it arises and passes.

The shift towards this mode of practice seems quiet natural. Through the use of “big mind” (aka "big sky") style guided meditations (esp. these two, from Joseph Goldstein and Guy Armstrong), I've found myself getting calmer and quieter. I can report a feeling of thoughts subsiding to the level that an arising thought can be seen as it forms, presents itself, and then fades away. I was initially quite surprised by how much effort goes into forming thought, something that I had no conception of before.

The other significant influence during this time has been study of the Bahiya Sutta. I think the Buddha’s instruction therein is a critical teaching: allow experience to just be experience. Coupling this with the idea of the "big mind," the mind that is so vast that it contains all things (that is, all things that arise can find the mind has space for it), has also led to increasing acceptance of the experience of each moment.

Nuts and bolts: still standing in wu ji with attention paid to the whole body as much as possible, sitting has mostly been in a chair due to a lingering knee problem, walking has been ignored too much, down to maybe one day a week. Still attending wing chun class regularly, where there is also an opportunity to bring awareness practice into a partnered drill (chi sao).

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
2/14/15 4:00 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Week of Feb 8 - Feb 14
This week I read Leonard Jacobson’s Journey Into Now, which I found to be easy to digest. Jacobson’s teachings are basically to open to presence, which I understand to mean the full embodiment of the present moment. The book is essentially some thoughts on how to do this, as well as what might take one out of this sense of presence once there is awakening.

His teachings feel similar to what others like Tolle and Adyashanti seem to espouse, so I suppose closer to the non-dual path than the Buddhist one. At some point, I can see how one may support the other, which may be why I get so much out of these ideas at the moment. Quite enjoyed his perspective as well as his take on the second phase or step once when can get to that state of presence. Here’s a few good youtube talks by him that I find escapsulates well his basic teachings.

Feb 8: Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 38m9s; Standing - 20 minutes;

Feb 9: 
Standing - 20 minutes; Walking - 20 minutes; Sitting - 30 minutes

Feb 10: 
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 30 minutes; Sitting - 30 minutes

Feb 11: 
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 42 minutes*

Feb 12: 
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 42 minutes*

Feb 13: 
Standing - 20 minutes; Sitting - 40 minutes

*While listening to Guy Armstrong’s guided “big sky” meditation

I'm heading out of town for a few weeks, travel time includes some long trans-Pacific flights. I'm a little bit dreading being cooped up in "steerage" for 14 hours, but at the same time I'm sure I'm stable enough that I'll be able to use some of this time to practice as well. If I think of it as a mini-retreat... ;)

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
4/7/15 7:56 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Reading through the former posts in this log, it's a bit dry. Yes, I've been practicing daily and listening to dharma and reading various books on dharma and awakening, but what how am I practicing these days, and what am I feeling?

In the weeks since mid-February, I've steadily been continuing with the daily regimen of standing/walking/sitting practices. In recent weeks I attended a retreat and since getting home, have been amping up the routine. Since I have the time, inclination and momentum, I'm practicing between 2.5 - 3 hours each day.

While on retreat, I heard a helpful talk on the seven factors of awakening, and that's been largely the guiding theme for the last 3 or so weeks. Since it seemed worthy, I found and downloaded a few more talks from various teachers on DharmaSeed. One of the most helpful examinations from a talk is that these seven factors are to be nurtured and matured. Each factor (or factors in aggregate) supports the rest or the other or the one in need. It's wholesome and mutually supportive. When all the seven factors have come to wholesome states, then mindfulness is said to be mature, and then the mind is ready to let go. Then the doing is done, and the rest is up to...

That's all very romantic, but it does hold a glimmer of truth in my experience.

I've found that my concentration is still pretty sharp, coming off the retreat some weeks back. Despite this, I usually start with metta practice, going through the usual subjects. The effect of having this developed concentration is that the metta flows very naturally. There is a visceral heartfelt quality during the practice. On occasion, the concentration develops to the point where piti starts to present itself. The feeling is usually of the breath going down into the body, sinking down as though on a plumb line. When it hits the bottom, which is somewhere in the area of the perineum, it creates a pulsing, tingling sensation in that area. A general feeling of pleasure and happiness then is felt in the body. Sometimes at this point, the piti wants to make itself more present, and I surrender to this. It can become very intense and orgasmic at times. Enjoyable, but not worth seeking out, as the overwhelm of it all is pretty well known and somewhat tiresome at this point. When piti is this strong, the after effects are an incredibly calm tranquility. This peace then leads very naturally to equanimity, which then allows sensations to be known without any push and pull. All the while, there is mindfulness and investigation going on: knowing and feeling.

I have confidence that this is a useful way to practice for me at the moment. Upon review after each sit, there's some examination into which factors are present or absent, how they are known. I'll keep working on this and see where I wind up.

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
4/19/15 11:13 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
For the last few weeks, I've been spending about three hours a day on average in formal meditation. I usually start the first sit of the day by chanting the homage, three refuges and five precepts. Then follow this up with about 45 minutes of Brahma Vihara practice. Usually, it's metta, but I sometimes will mix with or do another practice (e.g. equanimity) altogether. Following on this, is usually about 30 minutes of walking. Then another 30 or 45 minute sit follows, sometimes right after the walking, or during another period in the day. The subsequent sits vary in style, but I usually do some form of concentration in the beginning of the sit, then follow on with choiceless awareness.

Walking meditation has been particularly compelling. I often start each walking period with about 10-15 minutes of standing, then move right into walking back and forth in my dining room (when at home). I'll often begin with a slow pace in three or four deliberate parts: lifting, moving, (shifting), placing, e.g. The pace may shift or evolve over the duration of the session, sometimes slower, sometimes faster. If my mind is very discursive, I may explicitly note the distinct parts to start (or as needed, really).

During walking, I've started to notice the feeling of ease and happiness that often arises. This used to be much more apparent while sitting, but not quite as much while standing or walking. There's also often a buzzing or tingling sensation that accompanies this feeling of well-being. This is not usually localized, and I'll feel it in different parts of the body. Sometimes the legs, the chest or the back of the neck/base of the skull.

Also while walking I've started to do the following practice: start by being aware of physical sensations. When the physical awareness feels stable, start adding sensations at another door. When that sensation feels stable by itself and in conjunction with the other door's sensations, add the next until all five (physical) doors are active and awareness is engaged in keeping track of it all. I've found that when the mind is concentrated and at ease, this is not as hard as it might sound. Often at this point, I've noticed that the discursive mind takes a break and the awareness feels very fresh, bright and engaged. There's also a very distinct thrill and joyful feeling that arises when the mind takes on these qualities. There've been a few moments when this thrill/joy felt incredibly liberating and opening. Hard to describe, but not dissimilar to some other large "openings" I've felt during sits.

RE: Small steps on a long path
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4/20/15 4:14 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
I recently sat a daylong retreat on Mindfulness of the Mind with local teacher Andrea Fella. This was her interpretation of the teachings of Sayadaw U Tejaniya. To summarize, the instructions were largely to be mindful/aware at all times and to examine the nature of this awareness. It was really relevant to my current interest in, and practice of choiceless awareness. I made the connection in my mind to the Thai forest teachings that I'm more familiar with.

I liked the instruction for walking meditation, to just walk normally through the neighborhood and see what one was aware of. Drop in the question every now and then, "Aware...?" and maybe follow up with, "...of what?" Actually, this gentle inquiry can be used while sitting also. This style of walking is a little less structured, but no less effective, I've found. I think one's state of mind or general ease with practice is likely to be more relevant.

The talks from that day are available here.

Audio Dharma is another great resource, akin to Dharma Seed. These talks are freely given and freely available, but I'd like to encourage people to support these teachers with a donation if you're able to (look at the teacher's page on Dharma Seed to see if they have a donate button, or here for Audio Dharma). Most of the Western Insight (Spirit Rock and IMS lineage) teachers subsist almost solely on dana, which I find to be a noble effort.

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
4/28/15 5:23 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
As mentioned in an earlier post, I've been practicing for a while now with the seven factors of awakening in mind. Which are present? Which are absent? How to cultivate the absent; how to maintain the present? etc. One of the seven factors is piti, joy or rapture. Incidentally, piti is also a jhanic factor, when present onward leading to the first jhana. It's not strange, I think, to find this as a commonality, since piti naturally arises in the absence of the five hindrances, which is a necessary condition for both concentration and insight practice.

Piti seems to arise very naturally at this point, but this certainly wasn't always the case. As I've noted elsewhere in this thread, to manifest it, there's a process of relaxing, allowing the breath to drop in a visualized line down and into the body, like a straight plumb line. At some point it hits the area around the perineum and there is a resulting tingling and vibration that occurs. From here on, there is a knowing of a pleasant, happy feeling, which can often take on a more excitable quality. I would characterize the first feeling perhaps more akin to sukha, while the latter is more piti-like. I'm basing this assumption on a helpful description I've read, "Piti is like the excitement of receiving a present on Christmas day. Sukha is like the happiness of having and enjoying the present one has received." A simple analogy, but helpful to me.

Coming back to the idea of the hindrances being supressed as a matter of practice. I started to realize how important this was as it seemed to be the starting point to both deeper states of concentration and insight. When the hindrances are in abeyance is when the real meat of the practice seems to fall off the bone (or be gnashed off the bone, if that's more your carnivorous thing :-)

Two modes of practice for me, then:
Concentration
  • Sit and concentrate on the breath at the anapana spot
  • Allow the body and mind to relax
  • Once relaxed, drop the line down as mentioned above
  • When things start to tingle/vibrate/resonate, allow the feelings of happiness and joy to suffuse and permeate the body
  • When the four factors of vitakka, vicara, piti and sukha are present, is this first jhana? Maybe, maybe not. Usually this state is sufficiently enjoyable and nourishing that an answer to the question becomes irrelevant.
Insight
  • Sit and concentrate on the breath at the anapana spot
  • Allow the body and mind to relax
  • Once relaxed, drop the line down as mentioned above
  • When things start to tingle/vibrate/resonate, allow the feelings of happiness and joy to suffuse and permeate the body
  • Start to examine phenomena as it presents itself at the six sense doors. Perhaps start with the feeling of joy, then move to sensations of breathing at anapana spot (or abdomen)
  • As awareness continues to examine phenomena, what are the categories of experience that then arise?

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
8/12/15 6:35 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Hello Small Steps,

Interesting thread! I also practiced wing chun a long time ago as well as Qi-Gong. Can you say more about how you meditate in the standing posture? You use a qi-gong posture and do insight practice in it?

metta,

Benoit

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
8/12/15 7:18 PM as a reply to Ben V..
It varies, but that is one practice: stand in wu ji or a variant and just attend to the sensations at the six sense gates as they arise. This can then lead into vipassana jhana territory, or as an exercise in noticing the three characteristics, or into more choiceless/open awareness.

Another might be to use intention to rotate the energetic dan tien (third chakra, I guess) while standing thusly. In that case, it's an intentional and not so much insight practice, though where the line lies is sometimes blurry. Yet another practice would be to "move" the qi through the microcosmic orbit in line with the movement of the dan tien.

Piti and sukha often arises as a result of this type of practice nowadays, though since it is quite present during sitting practice, this isn't entirely unexpected. It's just interesting that it didn't manifest quite so readily as when seated.

Hope that's helpful.

RE: Small steps on a long path
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8/14/15 6:53 AM as a reply to Small Steps.
Thanks for sharing that!

RE: Small steps on a long path
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9/18/15 10:17 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
I haven't updated this journal in a while, but I have been practicing all along, about two hours a day on average. In addition, for the past two months or so, I've been going to regular yoga and qi gong classes. I've gotten into the habit of turning off the Internet on Sundays and doing a half day of practice, usually starting around 10am till about 4 or 5pm. There's also a nice retreat center not too far away run by the SF Vedanta folks. I occasionally drive up there and do a self retreat for a half a day. It's one of the nicer locations and extremely quiet. Finally, I also attended a week long retreat at Spirit Rock in June. 

So these days, practice at home is a combination of the following: sitting, and mindful movement in the form of walking meditation, yoga and qi gong. I usually set the timer between 30 and 60 minutes when I sit, with mindful movement exercises around 20 - 30 minutes.

Sitting practice is also a mixed bag, but pretty familiar territory, broadly samatha and vipassana. I was inspired a few weeks ago by a post by Chris Macie, so I've been trying to do more consistent samadhi practice, with the intention of doing either a self retreat focusing on the commentarial jhana prescription or attending a residential retreat with one of the teachers trained in this tradition in the future. Generally, however, the practice periods are usually getting worked in this format: samatha (either concentration at the anapana spot or Metta) to attain some level of quiesence of mind, going into choiceless awareness or noting (more the former than the latter), leading to open awareness and a letting go of the center.

Sometimes I go through this sequence in a single session, dividing a 60 minute session roughly into 20 minute sub-periods, or I might do 45 minutes of each as I work through an afternoon or evening of practice. The idea, generally, is to allow the mind to get progressively quieter and quieter, with open awareness being a broad, open sky-like mind wherein all experience just arises and passes. I generally go through a practice period like this, though I find it's not always necessary as...

...I had a nice moment at the June retreat where I was doing walking meditation near a meadow, just looking at my surroundings, the grass, trees, dirt and gravel, listening to some sounds of construction (they are building a new community meditation hall at Spirit Rock, if you didn't know), and it just struck me that I could definitively know the quality of awareness that was being aware of the flow of experience. It literally stopped me in my tracks, and after that moment it feels like getting to the center-less, open awareness hasn't really been difficult in most circumstances.

Often it feels like there's some kind of internal inclination, and then the sense of self as center drops away. At that point, awareness feels very bright ("luminous is this mind" after all), and there is an effervescensce in the present experience. The body feels very energized and happy.

I still do a fair amount of formal practice as detailed above, but am incorporating into daily life practice dropping of the self and letting awareness be the primary factor. This is nice to do on a train or bus or airplane (just got home from visiting family), or when I'm washing dishes, chopping vegetables or petting cats, etc. All in all, practice just rolls on and feels pretty effortless, even when it isn't fun or the mind is busy. 

RE: Small steps on a long path
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9/20/15 12:12 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Just a reminder to myself that opening into oneness/allness is worth exploring, resting in, etc. but may not be the end of the journey, depending on the point of view. Per Than Geoff in several talks, this is just a resting point, a way station. I think it was Ajahn Maha Boowa who also got "stuck" in a similar place before his final awakening.

That said, some teachers think this is the whole point of it, knowing oneness, having access to it, and then resting in the general nourishment of the love and 'good vibes' available (may be those more from Tibetan or Advaita based backgrounds). I think it's worth seeking some clarification regarding this. Nevertheless, all things arise and pass, so I'm perfectly fine with moving on from here when the time is right and I'm called to. Until then, there's some fertile ground worth exploring and good for planting some seeds.

RE: Small steps on a long path
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9/22/15 11:30 AM as a reply to Small Steps.
Been sick for a few days with flu-like symptoms. While sitting yesterday morning at home, waiting for the doctor's appointment to draw near, I found that while concentrating and getting to a basic sense of awareness of phenomena, the suffering was greatly reduced. Discomfort became just discomfort, and after a while that faded into just awareness of body sensations.

To me, this is some measure of evidence that I've grown a bit along this path. While outside of meditation, there was certainly dukkha in the reality of the discomfort brought about by fever, aches, etc. There was also an understanding, "Ah yes, illness."

I also appreciated greatly the relief brought about quickly through the prescription of antibiotics for what's likely a case of bronchitis.

RE: Small steps on a long path
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10/2/15 2:02 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
A few interesting books I picked up in the last few weeks:
Beyond Mindfulness by Stephan Bodian
Shift into Freedom by Loch Kelly
Small Boat Great Mountain by Ajahn Amaro

Each of these books (to a greater or lesser degree) considers the idea of awakened awareness and how one can train to recognize, realize, repeat the process and eventually abide in it. The first two books contain meditations and ideas on how to do this, while the third book is much more an exporation of how these ideas are expressed in the Theravadin world, as compared/contrasted with Vajrayana Dzogchen teachings. In all cases, there is an operative principle of "small glimpses, many times."

I think in my own practice, this is essentially where things are heading. More and more, as I rest quietly and drop the center of experience, the mind settles and the feeling of spaciousness, ease and well-being come to the forefront. This isn't to say that there's any lessening or lack of motivation to do "proper" practice. In fact, I'm almost certain there is a correlation between having a strong base in concentration and the ease in which this state becomes known/accessible.

Last Sunday, e.g. I did about four hours of concentration practice. Later that evening, as I walked through the food mart, looking for a potato to boil for dinner, I looked around and felt a total wonderment and ease at all sensations. I spent the next 10 minutes just walking up and down the isles, totally feeling happy and natural.

A couple of days later, while sitting in a coffee shop, I set aside the book I was reading and just continued listening to some music and looking at all the people as they sat near by and walked in and out of the shop. Again, the center fell away and was replaced by a sense of ease and well being as I just allowed experience to happen.

Perhaps I'll try some experiments in not doing formal meditation one of these weeks and see if I can just use resting in awareness as the training. This seems to be where the Dzogchen/Mahamudra style of practice points to(?), and it is also the basis of Bodian's book (mindfulness is not an end in and of itself). Not to overlook also the Thai forest tradition, certainly... especially as taught by Sumedho/Amaro, my understanding is that there is an emphasis on the idea of being "the One who knows."

For those interested in direct path or direct pointing practices, both the books by Bodian and Kelly contain many exercises which you may find helpful.

RE: Small steps on a long path
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10/2/15 2:17 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
A useful "koan" posed by Ajahn Chah, as related by Ajahn Amaro in Small Boat Great Mountain:

If you can't go forwards, and you can't go back, and you can't stand still, where do you go?

RE: Small steps on a long path
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10/2/15 2:28 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
I'd been meaning to do a post here about Loch Kelly's "Shift into Freedom" but haven't gotten around to it yet.  I've attended a number of day-long sessions with Loch over the past couple of years, and have always found his exerices to be extremely effective.  The last one of these I did back in April really "blew" everything open.  I did a 5 day retreat with him at the Omega Institute in July, before the book came out, to an even greater effect.  Loch was authorized to teach sutra mahamudra by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.

I found the recorded exercises to be very efffective, especially when done in sets of 3 or 4 at a time.

I can appreciate what you say about the direction your practice is headeding--mine is trending in a similar way.  I haven't done any formal sitting in the past week and a half.

RE: Small steps on a long path
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10/2/15 2:49 PM as a reply to Eric B.
Oh, I thought I remembered a post or two where you mentioned working with him. Very cool. He comes across very well in a few interviews I've listened to with him. Also, I really like a lot of the exercises he's presenting. Things have organically been opening for me over the last 6 or 8 months, so I like having some specific techniques and ideas to use to help the process along.

It's interesting how closely Bodian and Kelly shared their expression of a few core concepts. They are both tied pretty closely to Adyashanti though, so perhaps that's his influence on them.

I actually like the benefits of meditation, so I don't know if I'm ready to let go of it just yet. Yes, probably some clinging and that needs to be abandoned... all things in their own time, I suppose. emoticon Maybe couching it in the terms of: "just do the experiment for a week and see" will loosen the grip.

RE: Small steps on a long path
Answer
10/5/15 1:16 AM as a reply to Small Steps.
Today being Sunday, it's usually my big practice day (read that as laying off the Internet till after 5pm; and doing as much or as little formal practice as I like). Today, it consisted of a qi gong class in the morning, about 3 and a half hours aggregated of sitting and walking meditation during the day, working my way through the book Kundalini Awakening (by Lawrence Edwards) and a yoga class in the evening.

The meditation started with metta in the morning, actually prior to going to qi gong, then I followed up with the usual mix of concentration, investigation and awareness. Since I've been reading the book on Kundalini and there was some focus during qi gong on the energetic centers, I paid a little more attention to these during the sitting periods. It was not unfamiliar territory, but I tried to pay more attention to the feeling of opening or movement in the energetic zones, especially as piti began to manifest.

The vibration and pulsation in what I'll call the root chakra is pretty obvious at this point. That it's followed up with a lot of sexually charged mental imagery and fantasy as it moves into and through the second chakra is something I've always just glossed over. In the past, when I'm aware of it, I've always just thought, "Well, maybe not so skillful; let's see if we can move past this." Today, I just tried to pay attention to the fantasy I was indulging in and allow it to fade away as I moved into the next energetic area, which I'll call the dan tian.

This is the primary energetic locus in tai ji and consequently the qi gong I'm studying. As sexual feelings fell away, and focus moved to the dan tian, I visualized a glowing ball set about an inch below the navel and an inch and a half within the body and allowed it to rotate. As it did, I also found myself moving awareness up and down the microcosmic orbit; up the back channel and down the front (also in the other direction). I do a fair bit of this type of exercise, powering the orbit with the rotation of the dan tian during qi gong practice, so I'm not surprised it's arising during meditation. This lasted for a little while, and as always piti was present as awareness circulated.

After a while the piti subsided and there was a feeling of serenity, so I transitioned to the area of the heart. This was ccompanied by feelings of love and good vibes, as if I had been doing metta practice.

I know this isn't strict chakra meditation, so I'll just categorize this as a mix of concentration, visualization and awareness practices.

Along with these shenanigans, I also tried the following: allow a nimitta to arise; identify awareness; allow awareness to be aware of the nimitta; drop the witnesser. Pretty neat trick for an instant, kinda/sorta absorbed experience.

Finally, I switched over to doing inquiry/insight. The main question I would keep in the background was inspired by Than Geoff's description of Stream Entry (see some other posts) and Ajahn Amaro's koan (see above). In essence, "Is there still some stress here? Can I let it go?" I kept at it for a while.

Yes, there was still some stress, and I guess I couldn't let it all go today emoticon Nevertheless, it was fun. I think meditation doesn't always have to be a grind.

RE: Small steps on a long path
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3/11/16 5:25 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
Ah, long time no update...

Since the last post, I've gone back to work, after having taken myself out of the work force for about 13 months. I did about 33 days of retreat in 2015, and according to my timer about 1000 hours of formal practice. I also did a few hundred hours of mindful movement practice in the form of kung fu and yoga.

In essence, I was living as a renunciate: geographically flung from my family of origin, no romantic ties, no family, no job. I just tried to leave myself a lot of time and room to explore the path. I didn't quite see it that way, or understand the profundity of the opportunity till very recently. That said, I'm grateful that I didn't take it lightly at all either... I guess I found myself naturally hewing to the middle way in some fashion.

I learned a tremendous amount about my practice and my relationship with the world. I guess I am lucky in that all the niceties that are supposed to happen along the way seem to have happened. It provides a very real counterbalance to the general grossness of things like crowded commuter trains, uncertainty in budding relationships, recent health issues (none too serious thankfully/hopefully), and getting rained on (they say we need it here in California). If it sounds like I just accepted that life is to be lived, that would not be far from the mark. It's something I've been saying since my late teens, but I think I've finally started to understand what is required.

Nuts and bolts-wise: currently, I try to get about 45 minutes of formal sitting in with at least 20-30 minutes of mindful movement daily. I also turn off the iPod and just sit and do metta for my fellow travelers during the 12 minutes it takes me to commute between the home and work stations via our lovely overcrowded and underserved BART system.

All tremendously mundane, but I wouldn't have it any other way emoticon

RE: Small steps on a long path
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5/21/16 10:44 PM as a reply to Small Steps.
In week seven of an eight week course called "Compassion Cultivation and Training," offered by the Stanford Medical school. The course was developed by Thupten Jinpa, principal translator for HH the Dalai Lama. It's a wonderful introduction to metta and compassion as contemplative practice. I had always wanted more systematic and in depth training in this, and the course has been very helpful.

Jinpa's book, A Fearless Heart is the textbook for the course, and there are weekly guided meditations that move through the usual system of practice, going from the personal to the expansive. I like to think I'm a pretty solid meditator these days, but I find something new to appreciate weekly.

My daily practice is divided into two or three periods for the past two months or so. Every morning, I've been sitting and doing this Brahmavihara work for 30 minutes, then I practice about 20 - 30 minutes of mindful movement in the evenings, followed by another 30 - 45 minutes of what usually winds up being insight practice leading to open awareness. Sometimes I just sit and "do nothing," if you know what I mean.

Apart from that, I try to get to a formal yoga class at least once a week, and still manage to drag my ass to kung fu class regularly. 

RE: Small steps on a long path
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5/22/16 6:45 AM as a reply to Small Steps.
I just read through your journal for the first time. Really good stuff. Thank you!