Message Boards Message Boards

Practice Logs

Cultivating Diligence, Coughing up Phlegm and Listening to the Heater

Toggle
Intro: first read MCTB 2 1/2 years ago, practiced sporadically since then - at least since last year I think I've been floating between dark night and EQ, on reaching EQ practice would begin to dwindle and I'd start feeling shitty again. (Why? Didn't really think I was cycling, didn't think I was that far ahead, thought I needed to tinker with my life direction to break out of my funk).

Back in September I'd just quit my job and moved abroad and found myself very clearly in DN territory. Resolved to practive every day - I also quit drinking to remind myself to follow the spiritual path (and to prove I could apply discipline when I wanted to). I did practice every day for about 6 weeks, but often only for 5 minutes before bed, and very rarely over 30 minutes. Eventually I realised this was not productive and I felt as though my subconcious said to my concious "OK, I'm not going to work with you on this until you can set aside enough time every day".

Since then off-cushion my life has been a combination of adventurous, chaotic, stressful, energising and tiring: I've been working with a few guys on an online business and living/travelling through about 5 countries. Again, this has shown me that no amount of tinkering with life off-cushion can fix the fundamental crisis of identity. Since last weekend I resolved to really look into the heart of suffering, just accept things as they are, and really push myself to ground myself in EQ and then go for SE.

(The log below is the notes I wrote immediately after each sit. Can you guess what country I'm in now?).


2nd Feb:

Sat for 62 mins in room, from 9:31 - 10:33pm. Had a very nice spot against the wall, had just the lamp on so the light was dim and very pleasant. Noticed how time seemed to move a lot more slowly when sitting.

A mix of very distractable/lost in thought and realising “I can really do this quite well, I just need faith in my own abilities”. About midway through resolved to really blast up as fast as possible, had a strong feeling that because my conscious mind was already so sold on emptiness/no-self, that I could use my conscious mind to really push my subconscious into accepting the three characteristics; ended up focusing on sensations in head, felt like my head was strobing, thought “shit, can I self-induce a stroke or some kind of bipolar attack?”, realised I should save analysing the neurochemistry of meditation for my empty time off the cushion; let the movement happen as it will; felt the top of my head open up and golden light stream in.

Rest of sit was uneventful, realised after a big event it’s harder to get back to basics.

Feel very calm and equanimitous afterwards - made me remember the last year and a half has moved back and forth between dark-night and equanimity like territory.

3rd Feb:

Set for 40 mins, from 8:30 to 9:10 am. Concentration practice on breath, focused on chest/heart chakra. Noticed a strong anxiety that focusing attention there could cause my heart to stop, as though that whole area of my body is murky and I don’t like to look there for fear the act of looking is dangerous in itself.

4th Feb

Sat for 60 mins in evening, focused on sound of heater. Felt very relaxed and equanimous but this made me go on long trains of thought relating to career plans. When I was trying to focus, my focus was good.

5th Feb:

Set for 20 + 10 mins on the couch in the morning. Focused on breath at nose. Felt like I was able to pay attention to basic suffering - noticed how my distractibility is related to aversion to basic experience (which is lessened when I’m chasing a train of thought, or occupied in some engrossing activity). Like an extra baseline hum/buzz which covers all experience, sometimes grasping, sometimes loosening grip.

Later stood for 30 mins in a local monastery, in front of a golden statue of the fat smiling Buddha of the future. Really tried to cultivate faith aspect of practice and focus on technique, over trying to figure out how to do things myself. I bowed to the statue 9 times, twice, focusing on how the Buddha was a real man who lived millenia ago and the dharma exists as a real force in this world which is very old and powerful. Focused on sounds, especially sound of woman doing walking meditation. Noted how my mind created this whole image of her from a few scattered sound waves.

60 mins at home. Had an experience which was possibly, possibly stream entry? Quite a distractible sit but could get a decent amount of equanimity and balance when I could focus, though my emotions were definitely a “hopeless equanimity” (like little possibility of lasting happiness, just avoidance of suffering). Remember hearing three bleeps - can’t remember if it was a sound from outside or imagined - but afterwards a feeling of “could that have been it”? It was in the middle of a distracting thought, but I know people got SE on retreat when not sitting or changing activities or something else.

(The thought related to my ordinary work and how that effects my energy levels, I don’t remember the details. But I feel there’s definitely some emotional blocks around work (as there was previously with relationships) which should be worked on off-cushion or they’ll keep holding me back).

On the other hand, I only just started meditating seriously again, but maybe enough blockage had cleared over the last few months that I could really apply myself. Definitely in the monastery I was cultivating the mindset that SE could come at any moment and I should be diligent and prepared. My rational mind says it's probably not SE and I'm not as far ahead as I thought.


6th Jan

Felt a bit shitty again this morning. Possibilities:

a) It wasn't stream entry, and I’m still hovering between re-observation/equanimity

b) It’s a new cycle of insight and I’m 3rd nana, three characteristics (shiftiness feels more like that than dark night)

b2) I'm in 3rd nana but I didn't achieve SE and this is my first "proper" cycle of insight. (As Daniel says is common, I'm very convinced I had at least one A&P experience without meditation. Do I still need to go through a "meditative" A&P and dark night to complete the first cycle?)

c) I’m just getting sick from the air pollution here

On reflection, b) still seems like a possibility. Most of my mental rumination right now relates to life situation/work. After the event last night those issues didn’t go away but I did feel I had a clearer perspective. Also want to approach my work with renewed diligence (right now, it’s less of a “let’s get motivated and achieve victory!” and more “work hard and focus to avoid the problems caused by not doing so”). I also want to ensure I focus on the technique and let my subconscious naturally sort out its mental blocks, rather than try and fix my mind by constantly ruminating.

Sit itself was tired and distractible, though I found focusing on sound better than focusing on breath. (Breath at stomach is murky, breath at nostrils seems to amp up my mental activity as I’ve heard elsewhere).

RE: Cultivating Diligence, Coughing up Phlegm and Listening to the Heater
Answer
2/5/15 9:36 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
From your logs here it sounds like you're in a fairly steady negative state.  Equanimity is a very wholesome and "healing" type of feeling.  With equanimity, you can start to see how these negative things aren't so...significant? and this makes it easy to let go of them and just be at ease.

When you are stuck like this, concentration practice is very helpful.  It seems like you need a bit of mental stability and a bit of tranquility.  I think you made a good point at the end - ruminations don't really solve anything, and they are actually a piece of the problem.

Think of it this way - if you feel mired or sluggish and you have a hard time even meditating, you need some more "power" to get out of the mud.  That power comes from concentration.  A stable mind is able to solve one problem at a time without getting swamped by a whole pile of things.

Thanks for the advice, I'll devote some sessions to pure concentration practice and see how I get on.

"I think you made a good point at the end - ruminations don't really solve anything, and they are actually a piece of the problem."

This is something I've became more and more aware of. The challenge is to bring this awareness into habits, ie stop ruminating so much. I'm getting better though, over the last few months my mind has started to say "OK, you've thought these thoughts 1000 times before, just accept the current situation and stop looking for the answer".

"A stable mind is able to solve one problem at a time without getting swamped by a whole pile of things."

Definitely part of my problem.

RE: Cultivating Diligence, Coughing up Phlegm and Listening to the Heater
Answer
2/6/15 3:07 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
I'll add that when wondering about SE, recall that the moment itself is followed by review. There's often a honeymoon feeling afterwards; also, post-path you can get a tingly, bubbling sensation in and around your whole body the minute you sit to meditate, or conversely, a sense of being deeply submerged. A teacher can help diagnose it for you. Sometimes the event itself is hard to spot. 

That was a lovely description of your head opening up to let in golden light. Happy trails!

RE: Cultivating Diligence, Coughing up Phlegm and Listening to the Heater
Answer
2/6/15 4:54 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
Mindspace M,

       Thank you for proving your notes. Some of what you write reminded me of a period of difficult in practice where I would experience pronounced anxiety: Your description of the looking being dangerous reminded me very much of that period. Stream entry as defined here does not involve hearing anything, so if it was the experience of hearing something that wasn't stream entry as defined here. Which is not the same as saying you didn't hit stream entry. I think Not Tao's advice is probably useful to incoporate more concentration (which will bring more calm and clarity with which to see your experience) and Jane's response also agress with my own experience.

RE: Cultivating Diligence, Coughing up Phlegm and Listening to the Heater
Answer
2/6/15 7:36 PM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
I'll add that when wondering about SE, recall that the moment itself is followed by review. There's often a honeymoon feeling afterwards; also, post-path you can get a tingly, bubbling sensation in and around your whole body the minute you sit to meditate, or conversely, a sense of being deeply submerged. A teacher can help diagnose it for you. Sometimes the event itself is hard to spot. 

That was a lovely description of your head opening up to let in golden light. Happy trails!

Thanks for this. I'm pretty sure now it wasn't SE. (I also feel a bit silly given the standard advice about overconfidently putting oneself on the map).

Bill F.:
Mindspace M,

       Thank you for proving your notes. Some of what you write reminded me of a period of difficult in practice where I would experience pronounced anxiety: Your description of the looking being dangerous reminded me very much of that period.

Care to go into more detail?

RE: Cultivating Diligence, Coughing up Phlegm and Listening to the Heater
Answer
2/6/15 10:26 PM as a reply to Mindspace M.
Hi. For sure.

There was a period where my practice seemed to open up. I had a deep, and profound experience and for a while practice was very easy, experience felt very light.

After a short time when I began sit I would experience anxiety. It was beginning to enter more in my daily life, but I noticed it in particular when I sat down to practice. There was a feeling of anxiety related to practicing, and related to looking deeper into my experience, that in retrospect, I believe to be respresent of the stages of "arising and passing away" and "the knowledge of fear".

At other times along the way practice felt destabilizing so at these times I ran into some fear related to practice, i.e believing practicing more would lead to an increase in destabilization. If you need more info, happy to flesh it out.