Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
I wanted to start a practice log since I frequently end up journalling my thoughts and experiences privately anyway.  If these end up being helpful to people, so be it.  If not, it'll just be some solid participation in the DHO community.

Edit: Commentary is welcome!

Here's some practice history:

-started dabbling in various techniques throughout early childhood/ late adolescense 
-practice got more serious after my first A&P whose afterglow was trippy, energetic, and lasted almost a week (summer 2011, age 20)
-practiced irregularly after this with a Rinzai zen group and also with a AYP teacher who provided an effective and reliable shaktipat-type energy
-started Mahasi noting regularly in daily life and some formal sitting in October of 2013
-started meeting with pragmatic vipassana teacher every two weeks in late 2014
-stream entry occurred a few days into January of this year, followed by Review phase for the rest of January
-2nd path was ridiculously fast, occurring about 2 weeks into February of this year, with 2nd path review phase lasting the rest of February (much shorter than the first review phase)
-3rd path, 1st cycle was even faster than 2nd path, lasting about 1 week... no review phase, as cycle, but not path, was completed....
leading up to now, where I am working on 3rd path, 2nd cycle
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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1st Vipassana Jhana took me so long this cycle, almost 2 weeks!  Finally started getting early kundalini/early A&P at the beginning of this week, and have been progressing through A&P as my cutting edge throughout the week.

This cycle, I experienced 2nd Nana, Cause & Effect, extremely strongly... had various epiphanies into how past situations create current ones, and how parents transfer their negative traits to their kids- a stream of human suffering that can be traced infinitely back to our human ancestors..

The energy of the 4th Nana has been pretty strong, although it did not affect me conceptually at all.  Haven't had many strong effects from the dark night, although I'm pretty my cutting edge is somewhere between Nana 5 and 10.  My teacher says that although I may not experience each Nana as strongly as I experienced Cause & Effect in this cycle, eventually (in order to attain to 4th path) I will experience each Nana very strongly across the all the cycles.

Oddly enough, (although I place my cutting edge in the dark night) in my mediation just now, it really felt like strong Equanimity energy, in which the kundalini was much more relaxed and pleasant and a generalized sense of pleasure pervaded my perception.  Furthermore, the energy matured to reach my skull/third eye area which affected my clarity in the same way that previous fruitions have.  If I did just experience a fruition, that would mean the dark night only lasted 2 days, while the A&P lasted about week and the first vipassana jhana lasted 2 weeks.  The cycles have become so weird!
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Just as a note to help clarify potential question:  I practice Mahasi noting all the time in daily life except when I am doing activities that require my complete intellectual/cognitive engagement.  The distinction between daily life practice and formal sitting is very blurry.  Therefore, I mention the duration of certain meditation stages in terms of "days" and not "number of sits" or duration of those sits.  Furthermore, while I am noting in daily life, I am not closely tracking which insight stages are occurring at which times.  This type of analysis usually occurs in retrospect.  Therefore, when I say a certain stage took days or weeks, what I mean is that it took that long for my cycling to reach a new cutting edge (not that I remained in that insight knowledge statically for an extended period).
Oochdd, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Hi Noah, this is great stuff, please keep it up! Would be very interested in reading more about your progress. Could you tell a little bit more about how you distinguish the first three nana's? (A&P is kind of obvious, the dukkha nanas also in some respects, and equanimity as well, but I wouldn't be able to clearly distinguish the first three in my practice right now)

Cheers
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Oochdd-

The most obvious one is Cause & Effect because some insight about the sit usually pops up in my thinking mind when I get distracted.  Three Characteristics would be whatever happens after this stage and before the A&P.  Also, lately the 3 C's has been really long, boring, and I have a lot trouble focusing. But yeah, thats all I really have at this point.  I agree that the first three basically blend together.  

Jake-

I'm happy my previous advice was helpful.  I'll keep sharing.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Notes from today (Saturday, 3.28.15):

Earlier in day, definitely hit mid to high equanimity.  Felt the instinct to drop not just noting, but all meditative effort, and just experience the day as it was.  While driving to work, marvelled at the beauty of the canal beside me and at the freedom of a hawk soaring through the air.  Also had the thought that Equanimity as a factor of enlightenment/ fruit of the path is like a big, impersonal, tidal wave that will wash away my internal blockages and tensions.  It is not as if the meditative process is one in which personal, specific solutions are found to treat one's personal issues, but rather that the process will tend to help everyone, regardless of their specific, psycho-emotional difficulties.

Later, throughout my shift at work, hit hard dark night symptoms: agitation, annoyance, disorganization, etc.
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Jake WM, modified 3 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Nice thread so far Noah and thanks again for the advice you gave me in my other post.

Noah:
Life is supposed to become easy: really, really easy.  The more I relax within myself and turn down the intensity of my spirit, the more I can feel this.  I have struggled with bipolar disorder for long enough that it is hard to believe in the possibility of real progress.  And yet, real progress is happening.  I am certainly grateful.

That sounds amazing. 
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Using magick to help with insight progress:

Haven't gotten into solid equanimity for an extended period in the past few days, even though I shot up into it quickly on Friday.  Going to try a little magick: the experiment is to carry around a notecard in my pocket that says "I will attain to Third Path in under a month."  Even though that is a very unrealistic goal, the importance is in the positive emotions it generates when I think of getting it that fast.  Also, it's good to imprint a new mindset on my outlook which says that the attainment is coming fast in general, regardless of how long it actually takes.  These are just little bits of how magick/law of attraction may or may not work (as I understand it).
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Today I have a day off from work.

I have dead ants next to my bed because I set a trap.  I have an ant problem.

I woke up at 11:30 am, below the A&P, and started noting.
By 12:30 pm, I'm in the dark night, and the ants really bother me.  I start to obsess about them.
By 1:30 pm, I'm in low EQ, and the ants don't seem like a problem anymore.
It is now past 2:30 pm, and I am still in EQ.  Very boring.  Very tedious work.  But I really, really, want to finish the cycle asap.  

I want to make the ants disappear.
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Jake WM, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Don't finish this thing too fast Noah emoticon Good entries, I enjoy reading about your progress.

How are you able to tell so easily which stages you are in? Do you notice certain thoughts arise, feelings, does your perception change? I ask because I have a tough time seeing where I am on the map so what I do is forget about it and just note throughout the day. Seems like you have a pretty solid grasp on where you are at. I am thinking the stages might be more easily spotted post stream entry. Not sure though.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Hey Jake,

Thanks again for the input man.  Here are a couple things that have helped me self-diagnose:
-generally, you probably start at the first nana during a sit unless you're meditating in daily life
-you cycle up and down between this point and your cutting edge at least a couple times during a sit
-the afterglow from your cutting edge might be affecting your moods, perceptions, etc. after the sit (this might help you figure out your cutting edge)
-try to identify the major shifts rather than individual nanas (I always feel kundalini as tingling in my spine during the A&P and also during parts of equanimity, the entrance to EQ feels like a global sense of relaxation/ lubrication in my body and mind, dark night as a whole feels like restlessness and agitation through my limbs)

That being said, I think the map is worthless unless you need added motivation to keep pushing forward.  Otherwise, why not just keep noting relentlessly without knowing where you are?  

It's just a big push for the a&p, then a big push for EQ, then a big push for fruition... then repeat
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Been reading Nikolai's journal from 1st to 4th path on the hamiltonproject ( http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2011/06/yogis-journal-from-1st-to-4th-path.html )... what an incredible resource and testament! (thanks Nick)

Anyway, think I found his third path experience.. very inspiring to read about the legitimate change in baseline perception/mood/etc.  Also, lots of realistic focus on fruitions/third-eye-activity as it really occurs.  Basically just stuff that gives me hope.

And then there is his AF journal on KFD dharma, which makes me think of how many lightyears I have left emoticon
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Just had an insight that I wanted to quickly note before I continue sitting:

The appearance of solidity of phenomena is just that, appearance only.  So even when a mood or thought or sensation of "sense of self" is
continuous over a long period of hours-days-weeks, eventually, if you zoomed out, you would be able to see how it had a beginning, middle
and end.  So whether or not your individualized attention is able to cognize that impermanence within a given span of time, it does not change the fact that you ARE perceiving impermanence, you might just be too close up to a huge mass to notice.  Furthermore, as the 12 links of
dependant origination guide us to understand, the attention and its object are inextricably linked as a collective process, a verb (not separate nouns).  Therefore, the fact that a seemingly permanent, stable and unchanging attention is percieving something that is inherently in flow,
means that that attention on the other end is also inherently in flow.  Guilty by association.

Edit: maybe attention is a quality of all of phenomanal reality, not a separate phenomena within it... that would help me understand Daniel's description of fourth path which stresses "utter centerlessness".  If attention itself is the only thing that is going on (i.e. there isn't necessarily a relevant world outside of our awareness [within a fundamental buddhist context at least]) then why is there a patterned subconscious?  And why does my subconscious feel so personal/ it feels like it IS ME??  Maybe this is the next thing I have to let go of.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Various experiences the past few day:

-I have a general sense of the utter normalcy, plainness, blandness of this reality and this life.  All I will ever have are the five sense doors.  There is no point in trying to experience anything outside of that.  More and more, I am convincing myself to just give up.  When I note, frequently it seems like nothing happens for hours.  This further reinforces the sense of boredom.  I either do quick, one-word notes or full notes with a sense door and an object.

-Had fruition-like effects just now walking in wawa.  It felt like I might just be swept of my feet, flipped halfway upside down by an invisible force, and then brought back to normal.  Very open, and energized and clear, but there is a background sense of it not being a special experience, but rather a different version of my previously delusional experience.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Still just noting with relatively little happening.  That has been the theme for the past two weeks.  I will say that my teacher has been trying to get me to notice an increased sense of well-being.  Despite my seeming lack of progress, I do, in some sense, feel an increased sense of well-being.  I meet with him tomorrow morning and should get a better sense of were I am in the current cycle.

That all being said, here are a few thoughts:
-To get stream-entry, it seemed that my koan, or key thought that sort of "unlocked my energy", was 'How can I allow the perception of reality to be inherently pleasurable, regardless of whether a given phenomenon is negative or positive?' .... ... the answer was to just step aside, and when I thought this, the path moment occurred.
-Right before my second path moment, the thought I had was 'How can I incorporate not just my conscious process of perception, but also my subconscious, with this generally pleasurable sense of allowing?'.... ... right after thinking that, I felt like my entire mind (surface and deep) was one big container that was just being allowed to do its thing... ... then I had fruition and second path.

I have had a couple cycles since then.

For third path, I keep thinking of the first line of the famous (but very distasteful) Jimmy Soul song: "If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life"...  The big shift now is to really figure out how to do that in a major way.  Honestly, as I lie in bed, it seems that I have to really, really, deeply stop giving a shit about my external affairs.  Fuck my personal relationships, my physical health and my financial well-being.  Just let it all go!  Just drop it completely and totally in this moment.  That is the only way I can continuously view the world with no filters.  And viewing the world with no filters IS third path AKA "cognizing emptiness in real time."

I'm basically saying there has to be a change in personal philosophy, a commitment to a different worldview and attitude which will facilitate a commitment to a different perceptual baseline.  Its not enough to just note and get jhana... I think if I only meditate without this psychological change then I will just keep cycling without getting path.
Small Steps, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Have you read Ajahn Maha Boowa's book Arahattamagga Arahattaphala? I'm pretty certain he details his attainments to both anagami- and arahant-ship. You get a detailed description of how he destroyed the fetters of aversion and desire. Very inspiring.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Hi Small Steps, 

I found a pdf of the book on the internet and have been sifting through it.  Thanks for pointing it out! Lots of great theory so far but I can't find the personal experiences yet.  I'll keep searching because it sounds really interesting and relevant to me right now.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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I might have gotten third path yesterday or I might just be getting close.  I have no huge energetic/perceptual shift to report.  It seems like some people get a 'popping' of the ball of attention in the head.  For me, I am experiencing not a removal of the center of self, but a removal of the center of caring...  a 'popping' of the ball of attachment.

My personality is pre-programmed.  Even if I had 1000 years to improve it, I would never be perfectly satisfied.  It's basic nature is "materiality and mentality", as Tuangpulu Sayadaw would say.  Mind-Brain-Body-Environment.  Just bipolar Noah doing his thing.  According to the Buddha, all my personal development and life in general is preprogrammed.  The only thing I can do to change any of it is to change my perception of it: to break the links of dependent origination (I think there is one specific link but I'm not that well schooled in Abhidharmma.

The events in my mind are one in the same with events in mother nature.  There is one process going on.  I don't have to destroy the sense of me.  I just have to stop caring that there is such a sense and stop treating the personallness as royalty.  Beyond that, there is not much to do, it seems.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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I get kundalini up the spine, through the head and neck, ala fruition.  However, it doesn't feel like the completeness of a frutiion.  Normally, I would sense a preference for a stronger, more complete energetic experience that I could definitely define as a fruition.  I would describe this as an opening in the head area; after stream entry I felt like Edward Norton's character in Fight Club when he blows Tyler Durden out of his head.  But I am not getting those types of effects right now.

I am, however, noticing a total-OK-ness with the lack of fruition.  I thought to myself, "maybe this is how the fruition or energetic event is supposed to feel for me, at this moment.  Maybe this IS as far as the energy goes.  Maybe that is okay, for it to be only half as dramatic as it has been in the past.  Maybe I don't need to modify my experience.  Maybe my partial, unsatisfying, personal experience is a complete one."  I suppose that in this case, completion means as far as it can possibly go, as much as can be expressed, given the factors of the situation.  The factors are delivered from previous situations, and so the process of cause and effect determines all of reality in each moment.  It is a complete process that we don't need to add anything to.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

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An hour after my previous post, I was meditating and did have a big fruition.  Then I walked outside and looked out at the trees lit up by the sunlight and blowing in the wind.  I felt an innate sense of connection with what I was looking at.  I had the thought of three things that are somehow connected: 1) I have an awareness of things, 2) there is no me outside of this awareness, aka I am this awareness, 3) reality, for all intents and purposes, IS this awareness, therefore objects of awareness cannot be held as seperate from it... it is somehow the glue holding everything together and maybe the things themselves (or maybe not).

After having this thought it felt like a bubble from inside my torso expanded outward way beyond my body to include the entire sensory field.  I had the distinct feeling of association with this entire sensory field (as opposed to the subject that is me- as seperate from the field itself).  I then continued analyzing/obsessing but felt like I should try to stop the mind and tolerate the trans-rational ambiguity of these moments.  Amidst this intent to stop conceptualizing, I got up and looked at my reflection in the glass sliding door.  Looking in my own eyes, it was perfectly obvious that I was a ghost or an illusion and the ultimate reality as it is, as this awareness, is a perfect, complete and singular thing.  There is no need for my existence as a separate or additional construct creating an artificial relationship with this complete reality. 
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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I've been doing more philosophizing:

Perhaps one could think of the progress of insight in terms of degrees to which one does not know.  For instance, the fundamental illusion we are trying to break is that of a separate self.  At first, we KNOW, in our gut, our mind, and our heart, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is a separate, continuous, independent self.  Eventually, at technical fourth path, this illusion is fully and permanantly broken.  In other words, we firmly, do not know that there is a separate self.  However, just because we know what isn't true, doesn't mean we know what IS.  Meaning, we can't say for sure what the true nature of consciousness, rigpa, god, spirit, void, source, etc., is.  After technical fourth path, there are definitely more improvements to be made.  These could be modelled in terms of the fetters, or perhaps in terms of the Actualism method.  Either way, one might know there is no self, but still think that greed/hatred/delusion/passion/affect/etc., are still skillful in certain situations.  The purification process which limits this things might be an unknowing of the use of these things, in other words, seeing that they suck.  The practitioner no longer knows, for sure, why she should keep these processes on board.  

I feel like a lot of the debating, however intellegent, that goes on on the DHO, is, in some sense, the antithesis of insight.  When someone refuses to be wrong, and posits their point over and over, the are reinforcing the mechanism of stubborness and certainty within them.  They are "practicing" that samskara.  But what if the elimination of that certainty mechanism IS enlightenment?  Taezen Maezumi was asked what enlightenment is, he sighed, leaned back casually, and answered (sarcastically) "I suppose enlightenment is the elimination of the difference between enlightenment and unenlightenment."  Likewise, Kabir famously wrote "out beyond ideas of Islam and unbelief, there is a field, meet me there".  

We need to start practicing being willing to be wrong, while maintaining our intellectual sharpness.
Small Steps, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Noah, nice thoughts. This reminds me of the Zen concept of beginner's mind or sometimes I've heard it called don't know mind also. The more I practice, I find I have less need for absolute certainty. This is a nice way to be in the world. Beyond our need for certainty, security, safety, surety lies the beauty of a moment just waiting to be born.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Small Steps, I heard an accomplished pragmatic dharma yogi (was it Owen Becker?) say that you have to 'lose your mind' a bit in this process.  Thats what I'm feeling now.  But I think its important that I did a ton of straight-up, dry vipassana to get to this point.  I read Suzuki Roshi years ago but didn't feel, in my body, this current sense of losing my grasp on things overall to become more comfortable in the moment.  So I think the pragmatic dharma idea of effort and goal setting at the beginning is also relevant.
Small Steps, modified 6 Years ago.

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I agree with the bare sentiment behind, "you have to lose your mind a bit in this process," though I interpret it to mean there's a point wherein one just starts to let the mind get out of the way. It took me a long while of daily practice before this letting go started to happen. However, rather than dry vipassana, I've tried to be more balanced in my practice, with what is hopefully equal parts samatha and vipassana.

I had a question about piti in your practice, but I'll shelve it for now. Might write more about it in my own practice thread when I get to it later, and then circle back around.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

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Small Steps, it made me laugh that you had a question about "joy" in my practice, because my teacher has sort of scolded me multiple times for being so goal oriented.  I'd like to hear your interpretation when you're ready.  Also, my lack of samatha is a glaring hole, which is why I'm starting to explore it.
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Jean B., modified 6 Years ago.

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Thanks for this up-to-date and inspiring thread!
I'm still pre-SE but it's good to read reports from co-meditants on the path.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

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Your welcome Jean, and thank you for yours as well!  You posted about riding the jhanic arc on Sunday.  This is pretty inspiring for me since it is a hole in my practice.  I'll keep tuning in and will have to read back on some of your earlier posts.
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Il Matto, modified 6 Years ago.

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I was pondering my recent meditations while trying to see sufferring as all of reality.  Suddenly, in review of my recent meditations, I acknowledged that 'all that arises, passes, on its own', the two parts of this statement cover impermanence and no-self, but not sufferring.  

All that arises, passes, on its own, and this undermines the basis for my existence sense I will never be truly secure.  Thinking this, I suddenly felt ten feet removed from within my head.  Walking outside on my street, my vision wavered back and forth a bit.  
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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re: Il Matto (4/17/15 2:13 PM as a reply to Il Matto.)

(Is "Il Matto" to be used in addressing "Noah" now?  Nice picture. Looks medieval. A mendicant? What's the background?)

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/integrityofemptiness.html
That's one of Than-Geof's I find especially useful.

"In another article, entitled "The Healing Power of the Precepts"…"
His take on the precepts has gradually led me to juxtapose it to MCTB / Daniel's, and perhaps 'pragmaticists' more broadly, seeming rejection of aspiring for 'perfection'. I see no good reason to take either side dogmatically, but the tension, perhaps paradox, I'm coming to think can be a useful case-study in discernment.

To clarify, I interpret the idea of the precepts (as TG explains it) to be indicating the pragmatic value of aiming at something like 'perfection'. That is to say, yes, the chances of most of us actually embodying any kind of perfection, 24/7, are slim, but, on the other hand, human nature, when not pushing itself (related perhaps to your "exercising willpower") in that direction tends, by enertia and the weight of conditioning, to flatten out the practice with a sort of contentment with imperfection, the status quo.

(Perhaps like the downside of the"mindfulness" fad, being co-opted by social and economic forces that rely on the status quo, i.e. no substantive change, and just profit off the fad.)

Put another way, 'idealism' (referring to Daniel's use of the idea) can be a helpful, a pragmatic tool to help us get off our butts.

Than-Geof's characteristic emphasis on "ardency", on "diligence" (as in the Buddha's last words) I find particularly helpful, a sort of kick in the butt. This emphasis is perhaps a personal trait of his, but comes also from his lineage. He cites Ajahn Fuang (his mentor) stating that there is one thing to adamantly cling to, as long as necessary – the desire for liberation.

Another thing he (TG) stresses (also in re your next post and how to really change behavior) is to avoid trying to beat it down, trying to suppress habits that hinder one -- it doesn't work --  but rather to seek and ardently cultivate better habits that will squeeze out the old ones -- just practicing the new ones so much there's no time to fall into the old patterns. (This approach, admittedly, is easier for a total (non-secular) renunciate.)

btw: great practice thread!
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Il Matto, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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Hi Chris,

Initial reading of your responses has already been helpful, thanks!  
          Calling me Noah is fine, I just feel a little sketched out about posting lots of personal stuff within the context of my oncoming professional career.  But I kinda have to post personal stuff since my meditation practice is so intertwined with introspection.
          Il Matto just means "the fool" in Italian.  Its a tarot card referring to openness, beginner's mind, being adventurous, etc.  As corny as it is, I have some "spiritual" tattoos.  The fool is a symbol for the beginning of the path.  I have a tattoo of "the buddha eyes" which symbolizes wisdom, or the end of the path.  The fool is numbered "0" in the tarot.  The nose on the buddha eyes is the nepalese symbol for "1".  Between 0 and 1 lie all the possible permutations and experiences in the universe (as in binary code, but you are a programmer I think, so you already know that).
          I also loved the integrity of emptiness article.  When it comes to his view on the precepts and morality in general, I basically think he has the best version of pragmatic/hardcore sila out there.  

I actually am kind of disguisted about how my practice thread has become an outlet for shameless obsessing, so I'm glad to hear you actually like it. 

Cheers,
Noah
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

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re: Il Matto (4/18/15 5:12 PM as a reply to Chris J Macie.)

"I just feel a little sketched out about posting lots of personal stuff within the context of my oncoming professional career.  But I kinda have to post personal stuff since my meditation practice is so intertwined with introspection"

Realistic point. This possible rationale for using an avatar hadn't occurred to me before. One can assume that, for instance, prospective employers will have access to (can buy from data-mining enterprises) everything on the internet connected with one's name, PLUS the results of interpretive algorhythms that grade and rank that information according to whatever criteria – psychological, political, economic, etc. It's actually moving beyond 1984 (George Orwell's book). (On the other hand, this samsaric given makes a pretty good argument for the value of pursuing deep equanimity and relinquishment, for establishing a happiness that's not dependent on anything out there.)

"I actually am kind of disguisted about how my practice thread has become an outlet for shameless obsessing, so I'm glad to hear you actually like it."

While not being any kind of expert orguru, I see evidence that you're willing face whatever, work with it reflectively, and explore, employ various pragmatic tools and techniques, both ancient and modern. From my limited POV, makes for a good prognosis.*

* Using the term "prognosis" purely as habit from the professional lingo in classical Chinese medicine; in no way intending to address "bipolar disorder" or any other particulars in what you present.
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Il Matto, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Okay, so if I did get third path last week, one way to judge is that I should be able to call of soft/scripted versions of jhanas 1 through 8 with ease.  In addition, the possibility is there to do the same with the Pure Lands and with Nirodha Sammapati.  This is my experience of that:

"1st jhana please" (is what I ask the mind): generalized openness, still somewhat tight.

2nd: now becoming wider, obviously still contained within the general body area.  More pleasure.

3rd: this is actually always the nicest of rupas.  I truly have no cares in this state.  Sometimes I feel the same width as the 2nd but more depth in that I'm moving away from my experience.

4th: actually not as nice as 3rd.  The attitude is recognition of what is.  External physical stimuli are recognized very clearly whereas in 2nd and 3rd the energy overlay way dampening the outside.  Now both in and out exist in unison.

5th: Woooo!  Okay, I can actually do these formless ones now.  Starts with kundalini as I go "up".  Then it continues to develop over a 30 second period or so.  Eventually, the me is the space as a humongous wall.  I'm more towards the back of my field of sensation as this big, big wall covering everything.  The wall is sort of like a huge glass lense or something.

6th: Once again, took some time to develop, but holy shit once it did.  The same sort of wall effect was there as my awareness, but the big difference was that I was literally cut off from my body.  I swear that my circulation slowed down and my legs started to fall asleep.  And I was witnessing it from my perch above.

7th: I actually have an affinity for this one.  Its like putting on "nothingness" goggles.  The whole mental screen becomes like a white noise/greyed out television.  Also, the space awareness is sharper and more forward, like I am a funnel in the sense field.

8th: Click, click, in and out I go.  I can now sort of "lean forward" into this funnel and kind of forget myself for moments at a time.  Once again, I have an affinity for this one too.  Or it might be more accurate to say that there is something pressing backwards into my skull.  Its actually like two horizontal cones on either side of my third eye, and when the press, I dissappear for a moment.

"Okay mind, its a little scary, but nows not the time to quit.  Lets go for Pure Land one" (the instruction is to imagine a point a foot or two above your head).  Waiting....

Zzzwwwoooop.  The sense field becomes maaad big, opening up in front of me and behind me (on the coronal plane; I realize I need anatomical terms to describe this stuff).  And it is wide open, free space.  Its like the cowboys on the frontier, a new, fresh land where one could go in any directions (pardon the distasteful/ignorant reference point).  Like the sense field is now not Noah's general field of awareness, but rather a whole other big, impersonal room, a field that is not my own.  Anyhoo, because of this creepy otherwordliness, it is thrilling and pleasurable and the heart starts to open up.  I don't know how many pure land levels there are, but it gets more refined and complex at the same time (according to expert testimony).
_____________________
This is my experience with Niroddha.  Daniel called this "Niroddha Lite" in his mind map.  I definitely cant do the full blown thing yet.  The instruction is to imagine a flashlight moving around inside my head.  When the light touches a certain spot, everything starts to slow down.  By pressing that spot like a button, niroddha happens.

Okay, so I really like 7, 8 and Niroddha (basically all the nothingness stuff).  Whats been happening is there is a blank, black screen in front of me and I move into/towards it.  Theres a bit of pressure on the head in general, not necessarily the third eye.  The brightness or clarity of my mind dims way down, but I am still percieving externally through the sense doors.  I have to specifically ask the mind to go beyond this, and then I think I really do sort of blip out for little moments, but its hard to verify.    

p.s.: These are all soft jhanas.  So I didn't do a concentration technique to get here and they aren't nearly as dissociating and overpowering as the hard jhanas that I've experienced by "earning it" through hours of concentrated meditation.  Instead, I just kind of ask my mind and wait for a response.  A sense of confidence helps to encourage, but there is definitely something integral and natural happening beyond my mind's ability to script it.  In other words, "I couldn't make this shit up".
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Il Matto, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Doing breathing to calm the mind and body, not to get nana or jhana.  It appears that these three things are actually seperate for me at this time.   After twenty minutes of moving the breath energy into various parts of the body, there is a slight shift towards relaxation, but then it levels off.  This is frustrating, and it feels like I've hit a wall.  However, because of my experiences with vipassana, I have faith that there are better levels or stages for everything when it comes to meditation.  So I believe there is a deeper level of relaxation I can tap in to.  I will keep going.
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Il Matto, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Okay, so I think I've figured something out.  Whenever I try to do techniques that keep my mind in one place (i.e. mantra, rinzai abdominal-breath-counting, mahasi-noting-focused on belly rising and falling, etc.), I basically get restless and go crazy.  This can go on for hours, days and weeks, as I discovered at a 10 day zen sesshin I did a couple months ago.  My mind is very stubborn and will never calm down this way.

But when I do a technique that allows my attention to keep moving, my mind loves it and this actually channels my restless energy and makes it an advantage.  This is why I have found success with freestyle mahasi noting in daily life.  Not only can my mind focus and move as it wishes, but there are always new things to focus on, depending on what I am doing.  

I have always thought that concentration techniques had to involve doing the same thing repeatedly and focused.  But I think I've discovered a technique which will lead to calmness and relaxation but still allows my mind to do its thing.  It involves using the breath as a tool to channel calming, silky energy into objects as they arise, one by one.  

Most people think of their attention as a single object which can be focused on the breath.  My attention always feels like it has ten different things going on (solidified witness/observer+obsessive mental talk+tense mental "atmosphere+restless energy manifesting in body, etc.).  When I pretend that all of these things are unified and try to bring them collectively (as my 'attention') to the breath, the dissonance drives me nuts.  

Instead, I need to do the opposite: bring the breath to different aspects of the attention as they arise.  Also, bring the breath to different objects of the attention as they arise.  Also, bring the breath to different parts of the body as they become relevant.  Always, the emphasis is on a silky, smooth, calming, soothingness.  Its always about lowering the intensity.  Dimming the activity of the mind.  Giving it a deep tissue massage.

My theory is that if I do this for hours every day, I can rewire my brain and effectively heal my bipolar disorder.  

p.s., I think the only reason this is possible is because vipassana practice has created enough space for such calming to occur.  This wouldn't have worked for me two years ago.
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Il Matto, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Unfortunately, there are several aspects of my lifestyle and habits which cause me to have some trouble breathing at times.  In order to use the calming technique most effectively, my lungs have to be as healthy as possible.  Here are some lifestyle changes which I am resolved to enact in order to facilitate improved breathing:

-take albuterol (asthma inhaler-quick treatment) as needed
-take flovent (asthma inhaler-midterm treatment) twice daily until breathing improves
-titrate down off welbutrin under guidance of my shrink (although this med has helped me, shortness of breathing is a known side-effect)
-do cardio every day
-improve diet
-cut down on alcohol intake

In general, it would be good to improve my physical state, as that would be conducive to comfortable sitting meditations (which I don't often do), which would eventually allow me to spread relaxation into deeper levels of my mind.
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Il Matto, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
technique: breath calming
duration: 30 minutes, give or take

I ask the mind to take my up the jhanic arc, one by one.  The mind responds, opening more and more and taking me farther and farther away.  I notice that there is a tension between the sense of me as a separate side, witnessing the unification that is going on on that side.  I use my intention to bring calming energy to the gap.  I then start to just enjoy the fluxing, luminous inner sensory field, as it is.  

Eventually restlessness arises, and I have the instinct to stop meditating.  I remind myself that it will probably take a long time to reprogram this instinct.  I then bring the calming energy to this restless instinct.  I also send the calming energy forward, into the fluxing field that I am observing.  This strikes a nerve and feels good.  

Later, various obsessive thoughts begin to arise.  I try to bring the energy to them with just the intention of my mind, but it isn't enough.  However, my breathing is feeling good on a physical level, so I start to deepen it.  The power of the breath combined with the intention is enough, and slowly the obsessive thoughts seem to collapse onto themselves.  Its like they implode in slow motion.  

Then there is a momentary gap between the thoughts themselves and the deeper source of the thinking process.  With the combined power of breath and intention, I funnel calming energy down into this hole.  It feels creepy and thrilling at the same time, and I belive I got physical goose bumps.  Its like wispy trails of light are crawling under my skin and into my brain.  I know to trust it.  

These penetrating effects subside and I am back to observing the more predictable effects of the jhana on the sense field.  Soon after I decide to come out of the meditation.
______________________

p.s.- I think this new paradigm (the breath isn't confined to the physical airway passages but is rather an energy that can flow anywhere and can be influenced by the attention) will be a major shift for me.  I'm very excited about it.
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Il Matto, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
have the courage to really "let go" deeper...  I hit a wall with my relaxation...  I think this wall must be brought down my becoming vulnerable to the "letting go" energy.  Meaning, let it seep behind my mind and work its way into my perception.  Let my whole personality be reprogrammed.  I may question the ways I commonly deal with the world, the ways in which I think.  These may have to go.
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Il Matto, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
While doing the calming breath, I was thinking about how I probably have changed in terms of outer affect in many situations.  Meaning, I am probably calmer and less reactive in general these days.  And also, probably more loose and light-hearted with most people.  However, I believe that I would be triggered to be grumpy by say, my mother or a challenging life transition, in the same old way.  So I asked myself, what is it that needs to happen to my mind for me to eradicate even these deepest triggers?  

I then decided to openly rest with my field of consciousness instead of taking the breath as an object.  When I did this, I felt something.  I got the sense that my mind is like a big room.  When I play with jhana, as I have been doing lately, I am exploring various basement levels of the building.  The same thing is occurring with vipassana, although the manner of exploration is different.

I detected that there is a space outside of the building of my mind.  I asked to contact that space and it felt like a door opening and I also got the chills, physically.  It was spooky.  I then heard my neighbors talking through my window.  The thought came to me that I am having all of these mental fabrications, which is the entire building of my mind, everything I have ever known.  Furthermore, the people who's voices I was hearing also have their own fabricated mental structures, through which they experience everything.

But both of our experiences are being generated by a force.  Our minds share common characteristics.  I was thinking of the mahamudra pointers that the mind is "bright" and "lucid."  Also, the mind is creative, i.e. the power of the imagination.  This force, the seed of our minds, seems to be one and the same with this open space that is outside the building of my consciousness.
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Chris J Macie, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 863 Join Date: 8/17/14 Recent Posts
re: Il Matto (4/12/15 7:50 AM as a reply to Il Matto.)

(Please excuse if I offer some parallel comments, not claiming any personal authority, and talk some about words/concepts, as symbols of lived experiences rather than as abstractions… This I composed earlier (4/16); if you think it doesn't belong in your practice thread, let me know and I will delete it, or any of my posts.)

"According to the Buddha, all
my personal development and life in general is preprogrammed."

You have probably already considered something like "conditioned" for "preprogrammed"? The rigidity of programming, like machines and algorhythms, is self-evident to us, but perhaps not quite so much 2500 years ago. Programming has such a deterministically mechanical feel to it.

'Conditioned', on the other hand, implies that there are unchangable forces at play -- we can't go back and change their origins or escape that they impinge on us. The forces are inescapable, but the emergent results, the way they become framed in moment-to-moment experience – intentions, reactions – here something more flexible is going on, more wiggle room. Which you nail in your next statement:
"The only thing I can do to change any of it is to change my perception of it:…"
Phenomenologically, one may have little control over the fact that a phenomenon arises (from conditioned forces), but the way we perceive "it" is a co-determinative force in shaping the meaning and the result (how it affects our own and others experience) of "its" arising. One of the key phenomnological insights (which I believe parallels some of the Buddha's insights), is that, in lived human experience, the very manner, the way of perceiving is every much, if not more, crucial in determining the result, the significance of the phenomenal sensations that impinge on us, every much if not more crucial than whatever the "it" may be behind the appearance.
"…to break the links of dependent origination (I think there is one specific link but I'm not that well schooled in Abhidharmma.)"
A common, also pragmatic interpretation is that "contact" (phassa - impact of some conditioned force) inescapably ellicits (the 6th link) "feeling" (vedana), the primal organic sense of pleasant / unpleasant; and the NEXT (7th) link, "feeling" to "craving" (tanha -- to actually intending, taking mental action in reaction to what was contacted), is the point of greatest leverage, where the whole chain can be broken apart.

Which is just like what you said (paraphrasing): conditions being the way they are (pre-programmed), something arises, where the DNA and having been raised as a human being gives it an inherent feel of attractive or adversive (can also be neither/nor); THEN at the point where perception shapes it, and leans into action, that's exactly where
"When a wise person, established well in Virtue,
Develops Consciousness and Understanding,
Then as one ardent and sagacious,
He
succeeds in disentangling this tangle" (S.i.13)
(That's the opening lines of theVisudhimagga (I.I.1.1.), and forms the outline of the wholerest of it's 850 pages, which spell-out how to do it. – Couldn't resist quoting that, finding it profoundly inspiring, though may be it has such an effect only after having plowed through all 850 pages.)

(In case you're not already familiar with them, a readable classic hardcore Therevadan interpretation of dependent co-arising is Thanissaro Bhikku's "The Shape of Suffering", and the classic secular, pragmatic interpretation is Linda Blanchard's "Dependent Arising in Context" – both of which, if my memory serves, bring out that aspect of leverage at link 7.)

Otherwise, it sounds like you (meaning that particular and individual formation of bundles of conditioned moment-to-moment sensations experiencing awakening) are doing great!

P.S. Don't fret about jhana. From something you mentioned, I gather that you're 20-something years old. I didn't even learn the word until in my mid-60's, but was still able to find and appreciate it – as not the goal, but a significant helper on the way…
"…so he…standing on the ground of virtue, and taking up with the hand of protective-understanding, exerted by the power of energy, the knife of insight-understanding well-sharpened on the stone of concentration, might disentangle, cut away and demolish all the tangle of craving that had overgrown his own life's continuity… it is at the moment of the Path that he is said to be disentangling that tangle : at the moment of fruition he has disentangled the tangle… That is why the Blessed One said:
    'When a wise man, established well in Virtue,
    'Develops Consciousness and Understanding,
    'Then as a bhikkhu ardent and sagacious,
    'He succeeds in disentangling this tangle'
"
Visudhimagga
(I.I.1.7. Nanamoli translation, emphasis added)
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Il Matto, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Chris,

Your points are super helpful in my shifting and evolving conceptual paradigm.  "Conditioned" is superior to "programmed" for your aforementioned reason(s) (i.e. wiggle room).  

I am continuously shaping my future.  I am continuosly percieving my present moment conditions, and, in that perception, making choices.  My past actions and perceptions are shaping my current conditions.  

I have to work more on my understanding of the links of perception, but your pointers are an excellent start.  Craving is the link that is affected by these practices.  It makes sense that contact (Phassa), of some kind (however minimal), is inevitable.  Initial preference (Vedana), although a little more volitional, is probably automatic.  Vedana, in fact, does seem like a concept to which the descriptor "programmed" could be applied.   Meaning, perhaps the dualistic or binary nature of vedana is extremely simplistic and generalizing in some dumb, trained, even Pavlovian sense. 

Wikipedia says Tanha (clinging) is the main factor responsible for Dukkha.  When I look at various tables containing all twelve links, they seem to be relatively complicated/sophisticated.  It seems that Dukkha is an overall machine, made up of the moving parts of each link of causation.  In other words, Dukkha is really, really complex and profound.  So its definitely a significant or bold statement to declare the Tanha specifically is the key to ending Dukkha (as opposed to, say Vedana or Upadana [the more refined product of clinging called attachment] ).  

Thannissaro's vision of how the various aspects of the Dharma come together is very much like a game of strategy whose overall purpose is to undermine the enemy of craving.  The picture of the world that the Buddha paints (according to this canonical interpretation), is one which is impersonal and morally nuetral, but inherently good in the sense that it has so much potential for happiness.  The "points" in this game come from the elimination of craving on various levels (not just the fundamental-perceptual-duality, but also behavioral, biochemical-physiological, psycho-emotional, etc).  

I have found vipassana practice to result in mental shifts which have created sufficient open space so as to practice dispassion on other levels.  Meaning, I can breathe into tension as it occurs in the moment.  I can read these canonical interpretations and immediately start relating them to my own life without pomp and circumstance.  Romanticization of my struggle with thick overlays of personal narrative used to prevent me from benefitting from such dry, pragmatic writing.  

There is value in the initial consideration, "maybe I shouldn't be so into this sensual activity....", "maybe I should consider performing this disciplined external action, while staying relaxed, soft and open on the inside....", etc.  Maybe these types of behavioral changes are exactly the way this happiness hack works.

Please keep this commentary coming, if you wish... My goal is to move beyond the need for such intense analysis.  There is craving for the shelter contained in this intellectual-type play.  I am resolved to open to deeper spaces, pockets of the heart, etc.  I can ride these concepts all the way down into the volcano.  

Btw, I reflect only on my side of this activity, not positing some objective judgement of it.  
Small Steps, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 249 Join Date: 2/12/14 Recent Posts
I thought he spoke pretty plainly throughout. It was particularly striking how he finally used viewing the body and human form as asubha as a meditation technique to rid himself of the fetter of sensual desire. All his talk about hand to hand combat with the mind was inspiring also.
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Noah Starbuck, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Small Self,
I agree that he speaks very plainly throughout the book.  Regardless of whether or not he is speaking about his own phenomenological experience, the whole text is incredibly pragmatic and truthfull.  I loved this quote, for instance (it really relates to where I am right now):

"The difference between the emptiness of the avijjã-citta and the emptiness of the pure citta, free of avijjã, can be illustrated by imagining a person in an empty room. Standing in the middle of the room, admiring its emptiness, that person forgets about himself. Seeing that there is nothing around him in the room, he reflects only on the emptiness he perceives and not on the fact that he is occupying a central position in that space. As long as someone is in the room, it is not truly empty. When he finally realizes that the room can never be truly empty until he departs, that is the moment when avijjã disintegrates and the pure citta arises. Once the citta has let go of phenomena of every sort, the citta appears supremely empty; but the one who admires the emptiness, who is awestruck by the emptiness, that one still survives. The self as reference point, which is the essence of avijjã, remains integrated into the citta’s knowing nature. This is the genuine avijjã. One’s “self” is the real impediment at that moment. As soon as it disintegrates and disappears, no more impediments remain. Everything is empty: the external world is empty, and the interior of the citta is empty. As in the case of a person in an empty room, we can only truly say that the room is empty when the person leaves the room. The citta that has gained a comprehensive understanding of all external matters, and all matters pertaining to itself, this citta is said to be totally empty. True emptiness occurs when every single trace of conventional reality has disappeared from the citta."

Anyways, thanks for showing it to me, I have a feeling it may become one of my favorite, long term dharma books.
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Il Matto, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Noah's Practice Log Through The Middle Paths

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
I met with my teacher this morning.  It appears that the fruition experience on Tuesday the 12th (described earlier in this log) was Third Path.  Regardless of any judgements of changes to my baseline, I'm exhibiting Review symptoms, calling up increasingly strong formless jhanas, and even dabbling in 'Niroddha lite'.  You can't have Review without Path, so I got Path.

Specifically, in the session, I started using verbal labels to note, but then dropped them and just tuned into the flickering, tingling sensory field in its various forms.  This immediately locked me into first jhana.  What happened next was fascinating and has never happened to me before; I progressed up through the jhanas, and not the nanas.  By just tuning into the Vipassana lense (in a loose way), I naturally moved up through them until fourth.  Then had a very pleasant fruition with waves of bliss and relaxation afterwords.  Felt like the possibility was there to naturally move into hard formless jhanas.  I've been really bad at the deepest levels of absorption, but perhaps the tables are starting to turn for me.

Anyway, I should be moving into Review B, and then the beginning of Fourth Path, Cycle One, as early as next week and as late as two weeks.  My teacher explained that many people who have mood disorders, depression, adhd, etc., find their problems vanish at Fourth Path.  However, there is also another group; these people's symptoms don't vanish, but they are 100X more workable then they previously were.  I believe I am going to fall into this group because, although a layer has been peeled away from my perception and my mind feels like a huge room when I close my eyes, I do not feel more stable or less prone to agitation.  This is where Sila will come into play.  I am starting a project of really digging deep into it with an academic approach of "studying".

This will probably be my last post for this log.  I'll start a new one for Fourth Path, as has been the tradition on pragmatic dharma boards in the past. 

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