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Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log

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So, thought about posting on a retreat I just finished recently. As it contains lots of practice recollections, decided to stick in the practice logs section. It may then motivate me to continue posting practice logs here but probably randomly. 

I attended the 60 day course at Panditarama Forest Meditation Centre and then stayed on another 3 weeks.

Throughout my entire stay I suffered from exhaustion, at times a weakness/feeling sickly that left me unable to do anything bar sitting in a chair for an hour or more till I recovered somewhat. Although I would have rather collapsed into bed I was determined to at least remain in the meditation hall. This kind of episode occurred about twice a week. In addition I had times thought I would faint in line up for lunch a handful of times. Indeed a couple of people did indeed collapse on a couple of mornings.
So I know exhaustion and physical difficulties are quite common with many Yogis (for those not familiar, Yogi is the term they use for meditators in Burma, maybe elsewhere too).

I just managed to get by on 5 hours or even slightly less. And zealously attempted to stick to the schedule day by day.

For the first 45 days or so, despite the aforementioned difficulties, I managed to build up some concentration and even experience a certain degree of Samadhi at times.
I'll recount some experiences:

Last sit of the evening 8pm and usually a tough one (as was last 3-4 hrs generally) having been up 18 hrs already. This was only after about 2 weeks. Aching tiredness but sat down anyways more or less expecting to "blob out". So after about 20-30 mins concentration was good with the rising and falling then suddenly the breath became erratic (nothing new there this had happened before many times) but on this occasion my whole body tensed as if being squashed or pushed in from every direction then breath stopped or was very subtle difficulty breathing. Then, I can only describe it this way - huge intake of breath and it was as though the mind "dropped down". Staying with the object rising and falling abdomen now became effortless and I didn't need to note it anymore. I was just with it along with calmness/stillness never experienced before. Difficult to explain but at the same time I did still notice some very slight edginess and tension like the whole body's muscles were aching. But this was very peripheral to the main experience.

Felt very good, and happily chanted the metta passages with a vigour I'm not usually prone to.
As the evening came to a close I walked back to my room - a 10 or so min walk at a slowish pace in a state of wonder. I could not think & did not note anymore, just in a state of bare awareness.

However this state being impermanent I was soon back next day to the more prosaic noting again.

I had a couple more similar experiences, but perhaps not with quite the same intensity, although maybe it just seemed that way because it wasn't the first time.

As my concentration began to improve - in every posture - although I was by no means free from wandering mind, it just happened less and I could catch it more quickly. Also, for the first time I began to experience some piti (rapture) and sukha (happiness/good feeling) not every sit in fact not most sits and not for the whole duration either but it was a taste. Most memorably quite a wave of Piti in unison with the breath and lasting bout 20 or 30 mins.

I'm still somewhat surprised as to how some of my best concentration states and good feelings arose at a time when I went to sit feeling utterly exhausted. A wreck in fact!
Maybe it was because of that I was able to let go a little more than I would have otherwise.

I had this day when concentration seemed so good every sitting, walking, eating, bathing etc all day long until suddenly the last sit of the day when it was shot to pieces. All over the place. It was so bizarre for that to happen after what had just preceded it that I was left in a state of some confusion upon retiring for the night.

At my next interview, my teacher was very unfussed and just said Anatta. Not self. Not you. You have no control over these states. Maybe true, however Sayadaw U Pandita does mention in his Dhamma talks about reaching a state in the higher nanas when concentration never wavers and is steadfast as the insights come thick and fast and the mind is very sharp.

This seemed to be a turning point of the retreat, although I did not know that yet. Suddenly concentration came and went. Wandering mind increased and further, strangely first few weeks I had hardly any pain of note and would have to sit beyond an hour to examine painful feelings. But pain began to appear more and more. Calmness was gone. Piti was a thing of the past. Everything seemed now to be dram drudgery and boredom.

Before it had seemed like a bit of an adventure but now every sit and every day began to take on a familiar tone.

I couldn't understand it but another teacher said to me that I had not regressed but that as you go deeper more and more impurities are revealed.

This didn't soften the effects and now far from wishing to continue beyond the 60 day special retreat I was beginning to regret making that decision a month into my stay. (At that time thinking I'd be crazy to leave when all the conditions are in place and I'd already done the legwork with flights n travel etc). But I hate to quit some thing I've committed to. So, another 3 weeks "loomed".

I tried to muster some more effort. Some fighting spirit but my will just seemed to be gone. I was just going through the motions. I really was in a desert. Dry land. Then one morning with 11 days to go, I returned to the hall after breakfast as usual and this overwhelming urge to leave gripped me and I decided to leave very next day. But before going I wanted to give some thing to this other Yogi who is there for six months. I had spoken to him a couple of times at the end of the 60 days when there was quite a lot of disturbance in the air with majority of Yogis leaving amidst much anticipation and excitement etc. Other than that I had steadfastly stuck to noble silence.

So, I approached him, said I was leaving and wanting to give him something before I departed. He said "don't leave on a whim, give it two more full days and if the feeling is still there so strongly then, okay leave. But you have so little time left relatively, you might regret leaving early and also once back in the " real world " within a week or even less you'll soon disenchanted with that again..."

He was right of course. So again I decided to stick it out. By evening I felt differently. More proof mad mind cannot be trusted. However things did not get any easier and then I heard a Dhamma talk one evening - a recording of Sayadaw U Pandita giving a talk a few years back. It seemed to explain somewhat what I was going through.

To summarise what he said:
Progress begins to be made, some insights arise (roughly correlates to first half of my time there).
Yogi has expectations for further progress. These very expectations cause the mind to contract. Experiences that follow do not match expectations. Mind contracts further. Every day becomes the same. No further progress is made. He terms this CHRONIC YOGI syndrome!
The contracted mind cannot note properly or continuously. Objects are missed. Sati does not develop. Without Sati, Samadhi cannot arise. Without Samadhi, Yogi is bored and frustrated and wants to leave.

Yikes. I became a chronic yogi! 

With just one week left, it just came to me to practice acceptance. Acceptance of what is. Not what I like or wish to happen but just to try and accept the present moment as it is. So obvious really.
So, I continued and not that anything seemed to change that last week except attitude. Important of course and I still didn't find it easy to accept the boredom, frustration, lack of concentration etc but I tried.

A positive aside perhaps: Having done many retreats over the last 13 years, most of them have also had an awful lot of emotional crap to deal with. Viz intense feelings at times of loneliness, sadness, depression etc
I can remember one 21-day Mahasi retreat I did in 2010 in Thailand, where the depth of sadness/loneliness I felt for days and days was just incredible that some one can feel that and for what I don't know. I haven't even experienced great tragedy in my life like some people. No death of a loved one, no loss of a spouse or child. No major serious illness has afflicted this body.

On this retreat for the first time (there's been a few firsts on this one!). 80 days and I hardly had any of that. I did experience a fair bit of anxiety even panic at times but it never lasted that long as I noted it off and got back to main object viz lifting-moving-placing or rising-falling. Once I recall an intense feeling of anxiety in which I sttod still for about 10 mins just noting it and being with the feeling before it subsided enough to continue. Another time I remember depression arose and I looked it squarely in the eye and said to myself "oh not you again, you're so f*** ing boring. Just piss off." Seemed to work as the mood lifted very quickly. You won't find that instruction in a typical Dharma manual. ☺ 

If you made it this far. Thank You For Reading!
Any comments welcome.

Metta, Piers. 

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/5/15 7:25 AM as a reply to Piers M.
The first bit where you describe dropping into the breath sounds to me like attaining a 'hard' jhana that was then maintained off the cushion for a bit. The fact that you can attain it /more/ easily when exhausted strongly suggests that the rest of the time you're directiong your attention too forcefully and/or at the wrong thing. I'd have a read of Ken Folk's rather wonderful parable of the chickens.

From your overall description it sounds to me like you've already crossed the A&P at least once and you describe experienceing 'dissolution' and 'fear' in your log. This means your undelying insight stage is unlikely to correspond to the second jhana which is the 'laser like attention to the centre of attention' one. It'll be a higher jhana, probably third which is the 'gently watch what's going on around the periphery with a dark area in the middle' one, so because your concept of 'concentration' is only the second jhana kind I'd guess you're probably going into third jhana and then actually forcing yourself down to one of the lower jhanas with your strong attention on the centre point which can then deepen into a hard jhana becasue that's the kind of effort you're applying

Try some candle flame kasina practices. I'd predict you'll find it hard to get a good clear 'red dot' and instead your afterimage will quite quickly develop into a dark void with tv snow around the periphery and you will start to feel a sharp pain near the centre of your body or really gritty watery eyes. Also try ditching the noting and just use something gentle to steady the attention starting with a visual focus, add mindfulness of breathing if that's not steady enough and then add a very simple repetive noting eg. rising, falling if that's still not enough to keep you occupied. Once the watery eyes etc. pass the next transition is the centre point coming back and floating out in the distance, I find a nearly dark room with eyes open easier becasue you brain is more primed to see things 'out there'.

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/6/15 2:19 AM as a reply to Alexander Rice.
Alexander Rice:
The first bit where you describe dropping into the breath sounds to me like attaining a 'hard' jhana that was then maintained off the cushion for a bit. The fact that you can attain it /more/ easily when exhausted strongly suggests that the rest of the time you're directiong your attention too forcefully and/or at the wrong thing. I'd have a read of Ken Folk's rather wonderful parable of the chickens.

From your overall description it sounds to me like you've already crossed the A&P at least once and you describe experienceing 'dissolution' and 'fear' in your log. This means your undelying insight stage is unlikely to correspond to the second jhana which is the 'laser like attention to the centre of attention' one. It'll be a higher jhana, probably third which is the 'gently watch what's going on around the periphery with a dark area in the middle' one, so because your concept of 'concentration' is only the second jhana kind I'd guess you're probably going into third jhana and then actually forcing yourself down to one of the lower jhanas with your strong attention on the centre point which can then deepen into a hard jhana becasue that's the kind of effort you're applying

Try some candle flame kasina practices. I'd predict you'll find it hard to get a good clear 'red dot' and instead your afterimage will quite quickly develop into a dark void with tv snow around the periphery and you will start to feel a sharp pain near the centre of your body or really gritty watery eyes. Also try ditching the noting and just use something gentle to steady the attention starting with a visual focus, add mindfulness of breathing if that's not steady enough and then add a very simple repetive noting eg. rising, falling if that's still not enough to keep you occupied. Once the watery eyes etc. pass the next transition is the centre point coming back and floating out in the distance, I find a nearly dark room with eyes open easier becasue you brain is more primed to see things 'out there'.

Hi Alexander,

I did try some candle flame Kasina last year and posted about it here

Have you a lot of experience with fire Kasina practice? I didn't get very far with it because I didn't (yet?) have a chance to practice extensively as Daniel suggested. I was only managing a couple of hrs a day then for a couple of weeks not so. I didn't either feel sharp pain at the centre of my body (or anywhere) - what's that indicative of? - nor was I troubled by watery eyes.

In the light of my retreat report, what reason are you recommending candle flame Kasina in particular?

Will come back to some other points later...when time.

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/6/15 6:00 AM as a reply to Piers M.
I only picked up using the trick of using bright light to create really luminous objects of the mind relatively recently and I've maybe dedicated 10h or so to playing with it in perfect conditions; but I also cheated somewhat and used DMT to boost me into a higher jhana than I could attain under normal conditions and did it right at the end of an insight cycle so it was very 'high quality' time.

The reason I suggested it is becasue it's fun and provides rapid feedback, it has worked much better for me than anything else and I think you're having reasonably similar experiences to me.

As I understand it you've put much more effort in then I have, but not reached stream entry. I think it's because you've not develped an intuitive feel for the different jhanas, what kind of effort each one needs and what the natural pull to the next state up the sequence feels like.The mind moves when the pull of jhana is stronger than your suffering at that precise moment.

Think about it this: When you're standing on the very brink of cessation and time, space and everything that makes up 'you' has largely ceased to exist, will 'you' be able to push the mind over the edge? 

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/6/15 6:57 AM as a reply to Alexander Rice.
Thanks for the Kenneth Folk Chicken Parable link. I think I'll need to re-read it a few times.

As a matter of fact, I've been considering for some time moving more in the direction of concentration practice's. From tomorrow I'm going to spend a week or two at a temple near Bangkok where I expect to practice a fair degree of anapanasati as well as four foundations of mindfulness. It's not a Mahasi place, so not sure how they will instruct. Will report back afterwards.

You say: "The fact that you can attain it /more/ easily when exhausted strongly suggests that the rest of the time you're directing your attention too forcefully and/or at the wrong thing."

Would you care to elaborate? I'm really not sure what/how to change this.
It has been this way for 13 years on retreats, even my first few Goenka long before I'd even heard of Mahasi and noting.

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/6/15 7:05 AM as a reply to Alexander Rice.
Also, as a matter of interest. I have heard that over at Pa Auk's place they will teach fire (and maybe other) Kasina practices but not until you have mastered first 4 Samatha Jhanas through the breath first. Not sure why though.

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/6/15 8:07 AM as a reply to Piers M.
From the Ken Folk article:

"The five phases of chicken herding correspond to the five phases of concentration. My wife pointed out to me the other day that if I wanted to talk about concentration I should carefully explain what I mean by the word, as many people think that concentration only refers to the very tight focus that I refer to as phase two. She is right that this must be very explicitly taught, because if a yogi believes that only a very tight focus qualifies as true concentration he or she will never relax enough to let the higher phases develop."

"Burmese yogis very quickly attain a deeply concentrated state and it is all the teachers can do to get them to look clearly at an object. Westerners, on the other hand, have no concentration whatsoever. We watch television, drink coffee, and obsess endlessly about our careers and our relationships. We are so goal-oriented that if you so much as suggest to us that there is something to gain by striving we will strive from here to eternity. When Burmese monks give instructions that were designed for Burmese yogis to American yogis, the result is too much effort and too little concentration. Without concentration, the strata of mind that contain advanced insight are never reached. This leads to the chronic achiever, as Bill Hamilton put it, the yogi that has attained to the all important fourth ñana, but is unable, year after year, to attain to the Paths."

I don't think I could notice and label 3x a second if I wanted to, but I can still navigate the path. You are being blinded by your own ideas about how difficult the task is. Drop the noting for a bit, let the mind wander if that's what the mind is doing at that moment, look around your body for bits that feel tense, give them a little bit of nice breathing to calm them down. Play, enjoy, seduce... maybe with a few glasses of wine or some nice local hashish if that's an option.

Remeber that this is something that people throuout the ages have figured out quite by accident, including my girlfriend who can do all the jhanas to fruition without ever having heard of buddhism or meditation becuase it is FUN to play around inside your mind.

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/6/15 12:01 PM as a reply to Piers M.
Piers M:
So, thought about posting on a retreat I just finished recently. As it contains lots of practice recollections, decided to stick in the practice logs section. It may then motivate me to continue posting practice logs here but probably randomly. 

I attended the 60 day course at Panditarama Forest Meditation Centre and then stayed on another 3 weeks.

Throughout my entire stay I suffered from exhaustion, at times a weakness/feeling sickly that left me unable to do anything bar sitting in a chair for an hour or more till I recovered somewhat. Although I would have rather collapsed into bed I was determined to at least remain in the meditation hall. This kind of episode occurred about twice a week. In addition I had times thought I would faint in line up for lunch a handful of times. Indeed a couple of people did indeed collapse on a couple of mornings.
So I know exhaustion and physical difficulties are quite common with many Yogis (for those not familiar, Yogi is the term they use for meditators in Burma, maybe elsewhere too).

I just managed to get by on 5 hours or even slightly less. And zealously attempted to stick to the schedule day by day.

For the first 45 days or so, despite the aforementioned difficulties, I managed to build up some concentration and even experience a certain degree of Samadhi at times.
I'll recount some experiences:

Last sit of the evening 8pm and usually a tough one (as was last 3-4 hrs generally) having been up 18 hrs already. This was only after about 2 weeks. Aching tiredness but sat down anyways more or less expecting to "blob out". So after about 20-30 mins concentration was good with the rising and falling then suddenly the breath became erratic (nothing new there this had happened before many times) but on this occasion my whole body tensed as if being squashed or pushed in from every direction then breath stopped or was very subtle difficulty breathing. Then, I can only describe it this way - huge intake of breath and it was as though the mind "dropped down". Staying with the object rising and falling abdomen now became effortless and I didn't need to note it anymore. I was just with it along with calmness/stillness never experienced before. Difficult to explain but at the same time I did still notice some very slight edginess and tension like the whole body's muscles were aching. But this was very peripheral to the main experience.

Felt very good, and happily chanted the metta passages with a vigour I'm not usually prone to.
As the evening came to a close I walked back to my room - a 10 or so min walk at a slowish pace in a state of wonder. I could not think & did not note anymore, just in a state of bare awareness.

However this state being impermanent I was soon back next day to the more prosaic noting again.

I had a couple more similar experiences, but perhaps not with quite the same intensity, although maybe it just seemed that way because it wasn't the first time.

As my concentration began to improve - in every posture - although I was by no means free from wandering mind, it just happened less and I could catch it more quickly. Also, for the first time I began to experience some piti (rapture) and sukha (happiness/good feeling) not every sit in fact not most sits and not for the whole duration either but it was a taste. Most memorably quite a wave of Piti in unison with the breath and lasting bout 20 or 30 mins.

I'm still somewhat surprised as to how some of my best concentration states and good feelings arose at a time when I went to sit feeling utterly exhausted. A wreck in fact!
Maybe it was because of that I was able to let go a little more than I would have otherwise.

I had this day when concentration seemed so good every sitting, walking, eating, bathing etc all day long until suddenly the last sit of the day when it was shot to pieces. All over the place. It was so bizarre for that to happen after what had just preceded it that I was left in a state of some confusion upon retiring for the night.

At my next interview, my teacher was very unfussed and just said Anatta. Not self. Not you. You have no control over these states. Maybe true, however Sayadaw U Pandita does mention in his Dhamma talks about reaching a state in the higher nanas when concentration never wavers and is steadfast as the insights come thick and fast and the mind is very sharp.

This seemed to be a turning point of the retreat, although I did not know that yet. Suddenly concentration came and went. Wandering mind increased and further, strangely first few weeks I had hardly any pain of note and would have to sit beyond an hour to examine painful feelings. But pain began to appear more and more. Calmness was gone. Piti was a thing of the past. Everything seemed now to be dram drudgery and boredom.

Before it had seemed like a bit of an adventure but now every sit and every day began to take on a familiar tone.

I couldn't understand it but another teacher said to me that I had not regressed but that as you go deeper more and more impurities are revealed.

This didn't soften the effects and now far from wishing to continue beyond the 60 day special retreat I was beginning to regret making that decision a month into my stay. (At that time thinking I'd be crazy to leave when all the conditions are in place and I'd already done the legwork with flights n travel etc). But I hate to quit some thing I've committed to. So, another 3 weeks "loomed".

I tried to muster some more effort. Some fighting spirit but my will just seemed to be gone. I was just going through the motions. I really was in a desert. Dry land. Then one morning with 11 days to go, I returned to the hall after breakfast as usual and this overwhelming urge to leave gripped me and I decided to leave very next day. But before going I wanted to give some thing to this other Yogi who is there for six months. I had spoken to him a couple of times at the end of the 60 days when there was quite a lot of disturbance in the air with majority of Yogis leaving amidst much anticipation and excitement etc. Other than that I had steadfastly stuck to noble silence.

So, I approached him, said I was leaving and wanting to give him something before I departed. He said "don't leave on a whim, give it two more full days and if the feeling is still there so strongly then, okay leave. But you have so little time left relatively, you might regret leaving early and also once back in the " real world " within a week or even less you'll soon disenchanted with that again..."

He was right of course. So again I decided to stick it out. By evening I felt differently. More proof mad mind cannot be trusted. However things did not get any easier and then I heard a Dhamma talk one evening - a recording of Sayadaw U Pandita giving a talk a few years back. It seemed to explain somewhat what I was going through.

To summarise what he said:
Progress begins to be made, some insights arise (roughly correlates to first half of my time there).
Yogi has expectations for further progress. These very expectations cause the mind to contract. Experiences that follow do not match expectations. Mind contracts further. Every day becomes the same. No further progress is made. He terms this CHRONIC YOGI syndrome!
The contracted mind cannot note properly or continuously. Objects are missed. Sati does not develop. Without Sati, Samadhi cannot arise. Without Samadhi, Yogi is bored and frustrated and wants to leave.

Yikes. I became a chronic yogi! 

With just one week left, it just came to me to practice acceptance. Acceptance of what is. Not what I like or wish to happen but just to try and accept the present moment as it is. So obvious really.
So, I continued and not that anything seemed to change that last week except attitude. Important of course and I still didn't find it easy to accept the boredom, frustration, lack of concentration etc but I tried.

A positive aside perhaps: Having done many retreats over the last 13 years, most of them have also had an awful lot of emotional crap to deal with. Viz intense feelings at times of loneliness, sadness, depression etc
I can remember one 21-day Mahasi retreat I did in 2010 in Thailand, where the depth of sadness/loneliness I felt for days and days was just incredible that some one can feel that and for what I don't know. I haven't even experienced great tragedy in my life like some people. No death of a loved one, no loss of a spouse or child. No major serious illness has afflicted this body.

On this retreat for the first time (there's been a few firsts on this one!). 80 days and I hardly had any of that. I did experience a fair bit of anxiety even panic at times but it never lasted that long as I noted it off and got back to main object viz lifting-moving-placing or rising-falling. Once I recall an intense feeling of anxiety in which I sttod still for about 10 mins just noting it and being with the feeling before it subsided enough to continue. Another time I remember depression arose and I looked it squarely in the eye and said to myself "oh not you again, you're so f*** ing boring. Just piss off." Seemed to work as the mood lifted very quickly. You won't find that instruction in a typical Dharma manual. ☺ 

If you made it this far. Thank You For Reading!
Any comments welcome.

Metta, Piers. 


Thanks Piers - good to read and glad you got through and stayed on.

So just wondering about some other parts of the retreat... What made you choose this centre?What was the food like? How many people on retreat? How was it communicating? Was everything mainly in English? Were there discourses every evening? Were they insightful and helpful or mainly dogmatic?

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/9/15 6:11 AM as a reply to Alexander Rice.
Alexander Rice: Think about it this: When you're standing on the very brink of cessation and time, space and everything that makes up 'you' has largely ceased to exist, will 'you' be able to push the mind over the edge? 

From what I've heard from those who have crossed the line eg Sayadaw U Pandita, you don't have to work anymore in the higher nanas (whereas b4 you had to keep applying and reapplying 'yourself'). As you move to the 'brink' of cessation it's pretty much effortless and automatic. The 'you' doing anything has gone and it's just a process. Even a formality beyond a certain point.

Alexander Rice:I don't think I could notice and label 3x a second if I wanted to, but I can still navigate the path. You are being blinded by your own ideas about how difficult the task is. Drop the noting for a bit, let the mind wander if that's what the mind is doing at that moment, look around your body for bits that feel tense, give them a little bit of nice breathing to calm them down. Play, enjoy, seduce...

This is good advice. Thanks.

Alexander Rice:maybe with a few glasses of wine or some nice local hashish if that's an option. 

But, that's bad advice IMO.

And whilst this site can attest to the fact drugs have had their part to play for some people in giving them insight or a strange/profound whacky experience leading to self enquiry, I wonder if ultimately sustained use, even at moderate levels gives cause to prevent stream entry from occuring...

Alexander Rice:Remember that this is something that people throughout the ages have figured out quite by accident, including my girlfriend who can do all the jhanas to fruition without ever having heard of buddhism or meditation because it is FUN to play around inside your mind.

I don't believe in accidents in this way. I do believe in cause and effect. Therefore, quite likely your girlfriend "played around" with these states of mind in one or several previous existences and is now benefitting.

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/9/15 8:00 AM as a reply to Alexander Rice.
Alexander Rice: Think about it this: When you're standing on the very brink of cessation and time, space and everything that makes up 'you' has largely ceased to exist, will 'you' be able to push the mind over the edge? 

From what I've heard from those who have crossed the line eg Sayadaw U Pandita, you don't have to work anymore in the higher nanas (whereas b4 you had to keep applying and reapplying 'yourself'). As you move to the 'brink' of cessation it's pretty much effortless and automatic. The 'you' doing anything has gone and it's just a process. Even a formality beyond a certain point.
Alexander Rice: I don't think I could notice and label 3x a second if I wanted to, but I can still navigate the path. You are being blinded by your own ideas about how difficult the task is. Drop the noting for a bit, let the mind wander if that's what the mind is doing at that moment, look around your body for bits that feel tense, give them a little bit of nice breathing to calm them down. Play, enjoy, seduce...

This is good advice. Thanks.

Alexander Rice: maybe with a few glasses of wine or some nice local hashish if that's an option. 

But, that's bad advice IMO.

And whilst this site can attest to the fact drugs have had their part to play for some people in giving them insight or a strange/profound whacky experience leading to self enquiry, I wonder if ultimately sustained use, even at moderate levels gives cause to prevent stream entry from occuring...

Alexander Rice: Remember that this is something that people throughout the ages have figured out quite by accident, including my girlfriend who can do all the jhanas to fruition without ever having heard of buddhism or meditation because it is FUN to play around inside your mind.

I don't believe in accidents in this way. I do believe in cause and effect. Therefore, quite likely your girlfriend "played around" with these states of mind in one or several previous existences and is now benefitting.

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/9/15 9:52 AM as a reply to b man.
Hello b man,

Thanks Piers - good to read and glad you got through and stayed on. 

So just wondering about some other parts of the retreat... What made you choose this centre?


The appeal of the "special 60-day" course I'd heard about held every year Dec/Jan. 
Plus of course the reputation of Sayadaw U Pandita. If you know your Mahasi history, he's a major player but for how much longer? He's 93.

What was the food like? 

Great. Especially when considering the large numbers being catered for - around 200+ including servers. Veggies well taken care of too.


How many people on retreat? 

Numbers fluctuated but roughly around 175 from 28 nationalities.
However sexes were split and about 50 males in a large enough Male Hall so as not to be overcrowded.


How was it communicating? Was everything mainly in English? 

This centre is geared for foreigners all year round. So, English not a problem. Some monks English was pretty good. On occasion the odd pronunciation was difficult to understand.


Were there discourse a every evening? 

Yes, every evening of the 60-days Sayadaw U Pandita himself gave a talk in Burmese which was ably translated by an American nun. (After the retreat was over and regular season commenced, recordings from previous years were played. All talks including translations about an hour in duration). 
Actually apart from not having the presence of U Pandita or his live talks I preferred regular season because numbers are down and you could actually practice a couple hours more due to schedule changes.

Were they insightful and helpful or mainly dogmatic?

Yes, I'd say they were helpful. He has a very particular style of delivery which you may/may not resonate with. His talks are quite straight. Dry you might say. He doesn't pull his punches. He's not there to comfort you. He's most definitely pushing you to forsake everything for the ultimate goal of human existence.
However, at times, and I'm speaking not just for myself because I know this from more than one other Yogi, he says something which really winds you up. Gets your goat. At the time it can perplex you or even infuriate.
But upon reflection I saw that as simply another spotlight on ones own misunderstandings. Or you might say that the Kilesas were riled.

Dogmatic? He wants you follow his instruction to the letter because it has been proven to work for many people over time. So he doesn't want you to mix techniques...

Hope this helps....

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/9/15 10:19 AM as a reply to b man.
b man, you might also like to read Sayadaw U Pandita's book "In this very life". I don't know which part of the world you are but there are some branch centres of Panditarama in a few countries. That I know of in the West: UK (Manchester), USA (San Jose), Australia ( Melbourne). Germany might have one too... Best email the HQ in Yangon for more info. If so inclined you could retreat just a week (or more if time) which would give you a flavour of the practice and the Dhamma talks...
All Panditarama Centres run by Dana only. It is also possible to do retreats run by Panditarama monks at other venues for which you might have to pay. Good luck.

RE: Piers Retreat Report(s) and practice log
Answer
3/9/15 6:27 PM as a reply to Piers M.
Piers M:
b man, you might also like to read Sayadaw U Pandita's book "In this very life". I don't know which part of the world you are but there are some branch centres of Panditarama in a few countries. That I know of in the West: UK (Manchester), USA (San Jose), Australia ( Melbourne). Germany might have one too... Best email the HQ in Yangon for more info. If so inclined you could retreat just a week (or more if time) which would give you a flavour of the practice and the Dhamma talks...
All Panditarama Centres run by Dana only. It is also possible to do retreats run by Panditarama monks at other venues for which you might have to pay. Good luck.
Hi Piers - thanks for the filling in the details on the retreat. Sounds great. I can really see why you went, the fact that he still gives talks himself at 93 makes me have a lot of respect. I still feel a little duped by being told that Mother Samagyi would be at a retreat that I went to on my second 10 day course and when I got there she was "here" but we never saw her, so that was a little misleading I felt but I guess you got the real deal. It sounds like they know what they are doing there as well.

Thanks for the tip on the book. I will look it up. And might well also look into paying that UK centre a visit. I'll let you know how I get on, thanks again. 

Edit - just found the book in PDF format online here - http://panditarama.net/ebooks/inthisverylife.pdf