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Jeff's Practice Log
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8/28/15 9:22 PM
Jeff's Practice Log

I decided to start keeping a meditation journal to have a record of what I'm going through, and maybe act as a kind of troubleshooting device when I get stuck or am having difficulties in my practice.

I have been meditating daily since Jan 1 of this year (2015). Before that, I was a sometimes-meditator, but for some reason decided to 'get serious' about meditation and my spirituality with the turning of the new year. It's been an interesting ride so far, and I've learned a lot. Been reading avidly, starting with the Buddhism Stack Exchange forums, where I got turned in to MCTB, which turned me on to Mahasi noting, which hooked me up with Theravada in general. So far this year I've tried concentration meditation (trying to get into the 1st jhana, at which I pretty much failed); noting (for a brief period of time); kasina meditation; and for the past few months have sorta gravitated fulltime towards Metta using the TWIM approach (http://www.dhammasukha.org/). I've come to really love the gentleness and openness of the metta meditation that they recommend.

I am keeping my journal in paper form as well, but will transcribe those notes here to (a) remind myself of my progress, and (b) to be a more permanent and shareable resource.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
8/28/15 12:23 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
I've got a few days' worth of catching up to do. Here is my first entry.

8/24/2015
3 sits today; all 45 min in length.

First at arising (630am), from what I recall as I write this at the end of the day...it was OK. Somewhat prone to mental wandering (as usual), but sat through duration with little to no discomfort like I have been having.* Seem to be getting used to sitting longer, and becoming more adept at 6R-ing off the pain.

Second sit right after work, 430pm. Very scattered. Could not stay on object of meditation (which is Metta). Frustrating.

Final sit (945pm) was good. Halfway through I almost gave up because - as usual - mind was all over the palce. But I kept up with 6R-ing. Then I made a decision to make relaxation my object of meditation instead of Metta. I guess this could be considered a 'skillful & uplifting' object, as in "May I be at peace. May I be relaxed.' In any case I was able to get quite a bit deeper than I have in a while. There was a tangible 'dropping down' of my being, a part of which was physical, but at the same time I made sure to keep spine extended and upright so as to maintain integrity of posture while simultaneously entering a deep state. I hesitate to say "concentration" (Bhante Vimalaramsi hates that term)...but most definitely a collectedness that I will explore further. Lost most sense of physical body as well, which I have read is a sigh of one jhana or another.



* I have several injuries that make sitting longer periods of time difficult. I fell off a skateboard ramp in Feb 2013 and broke several ribs, tearing up my shoulder and rotor cuff in the process. That has resulted in in continual persistent pain and neck problems due to my body trying to compensate all the time. I also fell and jammed my right sit-bone into a cement stair while helping my brother move some furniture in early 2014. This manifests in stabbing pain in my right buttbone after I sit on it for about 45 minutes, and I can't sit in a car and drive for long periods of time anymore.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
8/28/15 12:54 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
8/25/2015

After consultation with Sister Khema at DSMC - who did not mince any words - it is clear that my newfound practice is not in accordance with the method they teach, so I have returned to Happiness/Joy/Peace as my manifestation of Metta. It is not valid to use relaxation.* I learned all this during the day, however, so my morning session was (incorrectly) focused on Relaxation. That, too, was a definitely absorbed session - but absorption is not TWIM. SO my afternoon sit and my nighttime sit were back to using Happiness as manifestation of Metta. I used the memory of a dog (a poodlge) that I met one time in Virginia Beach, and that helped to stoke the happiness fires. I also re-listened to the basic Metta meditation instruction videos again. Good sessions overall, rather collected.

* The full message thread can be viewed on the Dhamma Sukkha list on Yahoo groups under the title '"Relaxation" as an object of meditation'.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
8/28/15 9:27 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
8/26/15

AM: After waking up pissed off because the stupid cat puked all over the carpet (in two separate places), I sat. It was "OK" - started off well (focused), but lost it towards the end. It was hard to stay with the feeling of happiness. Actually came out of my normally steadfast seated position a minute early due to unbearable pain in the old right butt cheek. Felt disappointed because I knew I was close to the end - AHH! missed it by one minute! Must persist in the future. In theory, you just sit there and 'let that pain be there,' right? It has to be OK for it to be there, because that's the truth, right? Sounds great on paper.

PM sit #1: Not too bad. Started with a great feeling of love & happiness but then succumbed to the usualy mental distractions. Fought hard to regain concentration and collectedness (including NOT FIGHTING) and actually had a bit of success. Ended at bell on the first R of the 6Rs - RECOGNIZE - so was pleased to see that I am holding to the practice and dispensing with the hindrances as they arise as I should be.

ASCII rating for this sit (this is perceived Metta strength over time...):
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PM #2 (30m): Good session. Happiness & joy seemed to come right up in the first couple of minutes, and I had little distraction. Similar graph as above! Slipped a bit midway through the sit though, and at one point decided to follow Mind for at least 3 consecutive, discursive thought flows before RECOGNIZING and then coming back. WTF??? That said, joy emanating to my spiritual friend* was especially strong.

Been wondering a bit about the inclusion of some feelings of melancholy within the overall feeling of compassionate joy. I sense another post on the Dhamma Sukha list coming on...the inclusion of a touch of sadness within the overall feeling of joy gives it a much stronger, more poignant feel, but at the expense of introducing noticeable tension in my scalp and brow and jaw. With this added tension, I feel I have to consciously invoke the RELAX step to get rid of it....and then it decreases. 

I also definitely started to feel a shift in the joy/happiness from my heart/chest area upwards in my body. It seemed to grow outwards from my heart, enveloping my entire spine, then making its way upwards towards my head - but as soon as I started to 'notice' this, it abated. This has been mentioned in passing on the DS Yahoo group messages so I wonder what that is all about - does it signify something? Time will tell...

*In TWIM, we are instructed to radiate loving-kindness to ourselves for the first ten miniutes of each session, then send that same feeling out to a trusted, close Spiritual Friend (SF) for the rest of the session. This way we are not so focused on "What do I get out of it?" like may happen if all Metta was only directed inwards. No need to become a Jahna Junkie!

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
8/28/15 9:30 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
8/27/2015

530am: Not a particularly focused sit. :-( 30 minutes. Mind* very active, and I willingly followed it about (instead of 6R-ing it like I'm supposed to) - Mind seems to like to pretend talking about many things, engaging in faux conversations, giving interviews/talks/lectures, etc. Mind is quite impressed with itself, apparantly...why, I cannot say, because the things it tends to latch into are usually trvial and tiresome. Really difficult to feel much piti in the face of all this distraction.

500pm: just SHIT   cannot stay on object of meditation - 1/10 rating at best.  :-(  

930pm: better!   Noticed that listening to BV's basic instructions ahead of time really seems to help, even though I've read through these a dozen times and listened to other, very similar audio files - the few minutes investment in time up front made it so that my session was quite nice, actually. Some joy in this sit, though not particularly strong nor focused - but I'll take it. :-)

* I use the term "Mind" in stead of "my mind" because it really does seem to be completely out of my control. I think this is in keeping with the Buddhist view of there being 6 sense doors: 5 physical senses, and the mind. Thoughts just kind of come and go as they please. My job, according to the TWIM instructions, is simply to notice how these thoughts do come and go and observe how I process them.

aside: I've requested a 'guide' from [url=]Liberation Unleashed today. I'm working with 'Sandra' in order to hopefully help me see first-hand non-self (anatta).

I've been thinking about the concept of Self. It earlier dawned on me that no matter what label I put on myself (father; husband; worker; musician; thinker), it fails to describe the full Me. That it is impossible in anu moment to do so, because I am dynamic and "porous": if you point to me and say "You are that" (or even better, if I point to Me and say "I am that"), the finger pointing goes right through the fabric of Me and totally misses my essence. I am much more than just one facet and I am always in change.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
8/31/15 2:31 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
8/28

530am: 50 min. Had a bit more focus this morning, and was able to conjusr up a bit of joy/happiness in my sit, internalize it, and even send it out to my Spiritual Friend (SF). I do tend to still wander & get caught up in a lot of content. (Recalling Daniel saying that "content is a killer" somewhere...) Subsequent thoughts of Sorrento and the happy times spent there, however, made things better. Some amount of pain in the right sit bone continues to persist and seemd to start asserint itself as early as 30 minutes. Overall a good session, 4/10 (leaving plenty of room for improvement)

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10:30pm: Another mediocre sitting. I'm getting really frustrated with my inability to concentrate on such a damned simple thing as a positive feeling for any meaningful length of time before succumbing to the idiotic, trite content of Mind's wandering. The thoughts popping up are some random, and often so stupid and pointless. I mean, at one point I was actually intensely thinking over the finer points of how best to measure flour. Should I use the 2-cup measurer or just the 1-cup? Would a sifting cup be better? And what colo bowl should I put it in? It is ridiculous and quite frustrating.

I wonder how much my scatteredness has to do with how tired I am all the time. My day job is very frustrating and often stressful, so after getting home, prepping and eating dinner for the family, maybe taking a run and then getting the kids into bed, I'm not nearly at 100% either physically or mentally. At the other end of the workday, getting up at 530am on weekdays ain't no walk in the park either.

But that said, I am not convinced that 8 hours of sleep will make all that much difference. I tend to get very easily distracted anyway...my wife (a psychologist) has always maintained I Have ADD and I totally believe it after having read the usual symptoms. Is it possible that some people just can't concentrate sufficiently to even get to the first m*therf***ing jhana?

It's late and I'm tired and I'm going to go to sleep. I'll be at the Zen College tomorrow morning for a couple of hours.

P.S. no reply to my post on LU.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/6/15 2:01 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
Playing a little catch-up here.

8/29 9am @ American Zen College
3x35m + 5 min walking meditation in between each

Began the sesions with some amount of serenity ... the meditation hall (which I think doubles as a Korean temple) is gorgeous, bedecked with dozens of images of the Buddha, flowers, and the grounds surrounding the buildings were in full late-summer splendor. Fans whirring overhhead w/ the windows open and the coolness of the morning still in the air before the heat of the day can take hold.

My instructions are so simple: remember a time when I was truly happy. Feel that happiness and let it permeate my heart.  Make a wish to myself: May I Be Happy. May I Be Filled With Loving-Kindness. May I Be Filled With Joy. Now just keep going while relaxing and maintaining focus on the metta feeling. How hard could it be?

The reality, however, is that my mind is usually so active that it interrupts an of the aforementioned serenity, and I just follow Mind's meanderings down paths of definite Not-Here and Not-Now. 

The first and second sits were actually quite nice...once I opened up to the *feeling* instead of just repeating the phrase and turning it into a mantra. Feel love! Feel joy! Feel happiness! I began to notice that it makes better sense to me, and I connect more readily to the feeling, when I change the wording slightly to May I *Feel* Happy (instead of May I *Be* Happy) - emphasizing that fact that I am supposed to be feeling here, not attaining a state. Very subtle difference, but important.

Towards the end of the third sitting my butt bone (which I think I have mentioned is bruised after falling on some cement stairs a couple years ago) started really bothering me, and even though I tried to 6R the pain away, it got too much and I was fidgety and ended up moving and stretching a bit, shifting my position to alleviate the pain. And of course after I did this, I perceived that I was a "failure," and started in with the self-flagellating, self-reprimanding, etc., which obviously is not conducive to maintaining metta. So either I need to toughen up and push through this shit when it occurs, or just open up, be kinder to myself, recognize that my body is aging, is injured, and there is a limitation on what I can do as a human. Hmmm...which path to choose? :-)

OH WAIT how about do what the Buddha advocates, and take that middle road?? Kush thru as much as I possibly can, but recognize when enough is enough, and cut myself a break if I have to move. And stop with the self-talk.

After the sessions were over I skipped out on the dharma talk, went home, got the kids (I have two boys, ages 10 & 12), and we met up with some of the sangha for lunch afterwards. Normally my kids are a bit aloof - especially the 12 year old, because I mean at 12, haven't you already kind of seen and done it all? - but both boys engaged in the conversation at the table, and seemed a interested in this different way of thinking than they normally get from their Christian mother (from whom I'm divorced). So maybe there's hope there after all. :-)

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/6/15 2:14 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
8/30 and 8/31 - daily sits


Yesterday I only sat for one 20-minute session. Today, I sat for 30 minutes in the afternoon. Both sessions were really pretty good. I think maybe knowing that I "only" had to sit for a shorter period of time - in which I know I can make it through without physical pain - took some of the pressure off me and allowed my mind to focus on my object of meditation instead of worrying about if I'm going to be able to make it to the bell, or if the wife will be upset because I am taking too much time for myself, or whatever. 


The 20 minute sit from yesterday actually started out quite strong, fading just a bit over the course of the session. Today was a bit more subdued, but pleasant, and I had very few distractions popping up. Quite stable and collected, minimal mind-motion. One thing I made sure to do was to sit *before* dinner so that I wouldn't be all sleepy (I hate that sloth/torpor!). Seemed to make a real difference, so I will continue this trend. 

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/6/15 2:18 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/1 530am (30m)

Sleepy. Got up anyway. Had significant neck pain that was tough to bear towards the end, forcing me to stop 5 minutes early and work with the Neck King. I really should be using that thing on myself daily no matter what, to keep the kinks worked out proactively. I also started lifting weights again last night so maybe that had something to do with it. In any case, the session was nice - not as focused and calm and joyful as last night, but close. I am enjoying these non-pressured 30 minute sessions. I could actually sit longer if I wanted to, but wife seems to want to spend time with me so this is a life balance thing.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/6/15 2:30 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/2 - 5:30am - 30 min

A really strong, sustained sit. Almost immediately had great amounts of joy enveloping my heart, and was able to keep it going for almost the entire duration of my session. It did abate a bit towards the end, but I was real good about 6R-ing the hindrances and distractions as they arose. Seems like changing these sit times to 30 minutes has taken away some unconscious stress around them - I know I can sit for that long! 

9/2 - 4:30pm - 30 min

Yet another good session! Quite pleased! Perhaps not quite as string as this morning's but solid nonetheless. It seems as if just letting things be, and allowing metta to arise (and to really feel it) helps things along quite a bit. 

Had a brief flirtation with bodiless-ness like I've experienced a few times before when focusing on relaxation in stead of metta. Ended on an upwards spiral of joy as the bell rung and even continued for a few minutes afterwards, since it was so positive a feeling. Would have sat much longer if I didn't have the wife waiting for me with dinner downstairs  :-)

One item: I need to pull in my SF (Spiritual Friend) to the metta more consistently. Bhante Vimalaramsi has made a point that sending out metta to others is more important than bathing ourselves in it...this prevents the practice from being selfish, and all about me. 

One other item: started to investigate (look at) what is happening before any hindaraces arises. There us supposed to be something there that will be clear to me once my observation becomes finer and keener (according to various talks by B.V.). I'm not seeing anything there yet, however.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/7/15 1:55 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/6 (Sat) 12:00pm (30m)

What a wonderful, positive sit! I started this session immediately growing metta, thinking of my kids in general, how much love they bring into my life. I was pretty much able to stay on that object of meditation for a while, without getting totally distracted. Natrually, when the kids are running around the house, my mind starts going off in that direction, worrying they might come up and interrupt me; or that they're doing something that I will want to stop or control. But today I just 6R'd them, realizing tha tlike all things, their actions will arise comtinually, persist for some time, and then naturally fade away (just as will my thoughts of them). I kept returning to the phrase I found on an actualist website I've been reading - How am I experiencing reality right now?

My joy grew quite intense, say 8/10 (although as I understand it from BV and other sources, this can grow without bound if I allow it, to ∞/10, so either I'm going to have to make this an open ended scale just just allow 'overrun' beyond 10)! The capcity of the heart for metaa is seemeingly without limit.

I was easily able to bring in SF and keep him / hold him with me.

At one point, a distinct image, ilke an eye, arose and presented itself within my 'field of vision' (even though my eyes were closed). It floated about for a few seconds before I 6R'd it, then it went away. Meanwhile, metta grew, and later there were colored ribbon images, like bright auorora borealis of blue-yellow-red-orange-green. Again, after musing over them for a few seconds, I 6R'd them.

At the gong, I was Recognizing a thought that had arisen, and preparing to Release it. I ended with a deep sense of joy and gratitude. I noticed that my legs had absolutely no feeling of being asleep, as they usuallly do, and I came out of my sitting into some gentle yoga stretches, full of happiness and love. I recall from reading Katy Stiegers "Stream Entry" post that she also does a lot of yoga; I really want to make that part of my regular routinge again, of for nothing else thatn the peace of mind and body it gives me. This body that houses 'me' deserves to b kept well and happy. emoticon

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/7/15 4:46 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
Hello,

I continue my daily Metta sits (about 30 minutes twice a day). I have noticed a couple of 'things' that I'm wondering about in the past couple of days.

Yesterday, as I began my session, the joy grew quite intense, say 8/10 (although as I understand it from BV and other sources, this can grow without bound if I allow it). I was easily able to bring in SF and keep him / hold him with me.

At one point, a distinct image, like an eye, arose and presented itself within my 'field of vision' (even though my eyes were closed). It floated about for a few seconds before I 6R'd it, then it went away. Meanwhile, metta grew, and later there were colored ribbon images, like bright auorora borealis of blue-yellow-red-orange-green. Again, after musing over them for a few seconds, I 6R'd them.

Last night's session there was a distinct pressure in the forehead that persisted for perhaps 15 seconds, then abated (I don't recall if I 6R'd this - I was curious about it and trying to figure out was it an itch? Something else).

Today, I had a very nice and VERY interesting sit. I began with a fairly strong feeling of metta (let's call it a 6/10, of we're quantitizing it). The thought again occurred to me that Metta can increase without bound - I mean, this was very evident and clear, not just a theory of a belief. I was having a VERY active Mind but I kept after it and tidied up the continually arising hindrances/thoughts/sensations with consistent ^R-ing. 

About 20 minutes in, metta started to increase to the point where I was literally on the verge of bursting out laughing...spreading from my heart/chest area to my shoulders, my neck, and then my face/ears. What was interesting is that this was not an internal spreading but seemed to be on my body's surface. Almost a tingly feeling. I kept 6R-ing.

Then, I discerned a very distinct, fluttering vibration (maybe 10-20 Hz) in my hearing that sounded/felt like a helicopter in the distance. This stayed constant (not overwhelming but definitely noticeable) for about 60-90 seconds. I continued to 6R it but it stuck around for some time. By the time my bell went off a few minutes later, I was grinning, 6R-ing all thoughts & sensations, yet very curious about that phenomenon.

I asked both my wife and both my kids (who were outside at the time) if they had heard any helicopter sounds, but they had not.

Hmmm.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/8/15 12:52 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/7 (Mon) 2300 hrs (30m)

Nothing much to report here. A mundane sit. Lots of distractions, almost all mental. Some 6R'd well, others not. Hard to 'focus' on Metta when you've just endured a round of fear-based screaming at the hands of your partner. Went for a long, long walk to cool off...beautiful night...the universe spins and continally arises and passes away. No big deal.

9/8 (Tues) 0530 hrs (30m)

See above. Still spinning off into thought. Trying to break thru to her with kindness emanation in the night.

9/8 (Tues) 1145 hrs (28m)

Walking meditation over lunchtime. Nice! emoticon Lots of Metta swelling up from within. Thinking about the old apartment in GT when I first moved back here, with the kids (3 years younger) tucked into their bunk bed, me reading them a bedtime story. Smokey (the cat) sitting next to me and batting at my hand as I teased him. Love/happiness/joy wells up and was really a solid 8/10 (as long as we're keeping score here). There was a bit of variance - actually a LOT of variance - subject to the vagaries of and external disturbances one would expect when one's walking route takes one through a hospital still being constructed. Trucks and vans zooming around, banging. But I was grinning like a fool for most of the time, and when I walked by Stoic Russian Guy (who has this very pronounced amble that sends off the air of "don't fuck with me!"), he must have thought to himself "This guy's an idiot. What is he smiling about all the time?" I feel for that guy. I wonder what he's protecting.

In general, I'm starting to see that walking meditation is going to be more important than sitting. If you can take your practice out into the real world and emanate Metta in the face of everything that's thrown at you, it's a lot more powerful than being a recluse who 'attains' to a vey high level of refinement in solitude!

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/9/15 1:28 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/9/2015 (Wed) 6:00am (33min)

Bumping up my sit time just a little bit. It's always a balancing act between time available in between sleep, work, and family; and taking into account my physical limitations. But if it is true - as it seems based on recent sits - that I only start to get into deeper levels of concentration and development of Metta at about 20 minutes - then wanting to stay in the sweet spot longer, I have to extend my sit times. Either that or figure out how to get into the sweet spot more quickly. I think this will largely become a factor of time spent, and since my daily practice is only months, rather than years old, I can't expect too much. Like many things I expect this will come organically and nonlinearly.

Anyway, decent session, but nothing spectacular or particularly noteworthy. Mind pretty active, but able to 6R pretty consistently and with good success. That habit seems to be sinking in to good effect. Good overall Metta feeling, and I've noticed (again) that teh physical act of smiling really seems to amplify! Very little stiffness or pain, although legs martially asleep at the bell (as they have been in each session since the one I noted a few days ago where I had *no* leg-asleep sensation at all). I wonder if it's some subtle positioning of the legs as I fold them that makes the difference, or if it's something to do with my depth of practice.

9/9/2015 (Wed) 11:35am (31m)

Walking meditation. The usual route around the new hospital. Hotter than Georgia asphalt out there, and humid, so by the time I got back I was pretty well sweting through my work clothes. Luckly I work in a nice raised-floor, A/C computer lab, so cooling off is not an issue when I return.

Feh. 5/10 self-rating on ability to concentrate on Metta while walking. Mind is quite bouncy today. Wonder if I should cut down on the caeffeine?

Nah!

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/14/15 9:10 AM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
Catching up a bit here. I don't seem to have written down my meditations from 9/10 (last Thurs). I don't always have time to write as I should, directly after each session, due to the realities of job, family life, etc.

9/11 (Fri)

My sits in the past couple of days since I last wrote have been pretty standard fare. Metta fluctuations from session to session and also within each session. Mind loves to go off into self-important content and ruminate. I am settling - for now - on slightly increased sit times of 35 min.

Had email correspondence w/ David at the DSMC. Hes the one who will be guiding me during my upcoming online retreat, wihch starts late next week. After reading some of my journal entries, he informed me that I am definitely progressing, and instructed me to change the format of my sits a bit. Instead of focusing Metta just on myself and on my spiritual friend John, I should now 'break the barriers' and include 3 more SFs (Erik, Scott, Tony); 4 family members (wife brother mother father); 4 neutral persons (Russian Tough Guy, Sofia the Cafeteria Lady, John the Retiree, and I'll need to pick one more); and finally, any 'enemies': ex-wife, co-worker, boss. These are people with whom I've had difficulty in the past.

Anywa, did two sessions (9/10 930pm and 9/11 540am) in this new format. Neither was very strong in the Metta department, and I was pretty distracted and felt very unfocused. I have written to DJ telling him this but I really feel more sits are needed here.

Making *some* insight into the whole not-self thing over at Liberation Unleashed. Also started reading Brutal Beginnings. I don't know how good I feel at the abuse and caustic language used, but this passage really did resonate with me:

    "Your thoughts are writing you.
    Experience is writing your thoughts.
    You are being written by experience."
    
There is no me. Is it true? When I look - what do I see?

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/14/15 12:00 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/11  (Fri) 100pm (30m)

I took a walking meditation walk at lunchtime and put to use some new instruction. I need to focus on my 'enemies' a bit more before moving on. This - for me - specifically means my ex-wife (named witheld to protect the guilty). I dedicated thsi walk to thoughts of koving-kindness, and once well established in myself, invited her in. I guess there is no harm in that - on reflection, there may be *some* good qualities in her - which I will begrudginly admit. Anyway, my ealier practice in Metta shows me that It Goes To Eleven, and there is plenty of room in here for her. That certainly doesn't mean I have to get all gushy feeling over her - I definitely still dislike her as a person and I dislike many of her choices and actions - but I wish her the best and want her to be happy. I was able to envision us smilin at one anohter so that's good.

It was a gorgeous (no, STUNNING) late summer day, in the low 80s and not very humid. Huge blue sky (reminds me of Colorado), and not a cloud in sight. Life is really amazing when you stop and look around. Life just is.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/14/15 12:45 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/12 (Sat) 800am (35m)

Rainy day - more Metta meditation re; the ex. Not hard to do. Just not pleasant. I still don't like her and probably never will. Nevertheless, I am willing to do the right thing and put in the work.

9/12 (Sat) 1000pm (35m)

David from DSMC has given me the go-ahead to alter my Metta meditation again somewhat, based on the 'breaking down the barriers' of the past couple of days. Now I am to being about that positive, happy feeling of Metta, but instead of radiating it inwards to myself, or to my SF, I am to radiate it ourwards to the 6 directions - front back left right up down. 5 minutes for each direction, and then the remainder of the session radiating in all directions at the same time. Starting in any given direction, radiating outward from the heart and head, expanding outside the body, then outside my room, beyond the house, past the block where I live, beyond this city, state, country, planet...solar system...galaxy...universe...and beyond that (!). Sounds really interesting and fun and I am excited to give this a whirl.

So, after actually having done this new practice for the first time, I can report that it was a lot more easeful than any of my previous sessions. Radiating that feeling of happiness and loving-kindness out to all beings in every direction just seemed to click and feel right, feels really good. Not a partciularly strong sense of joy but definitely positive and quite even and solid.

This will apparantly be my practice now as I begin to progress through the jhanas (this is how it has been presented to me - I'm not sure where I am according to anyone's 'map,' and it's not clear to me if this is just for the 4 mundane jhanas, or also includes the supramundane ("formless") jhanas as well...time willl tell, I guess).

I am excited about a 9-day 'online retreat' hosted by DSMC that I will be participating in starting next week. It starts 9/18, and have arranged to have the wife out of town for the duration with only a brief couple of visits from the kids. Since I'll be essentially alone beginning Tues 9/15 I am planning to start really ramping things up at that point to start the retreat-proper in high gear. I'm pretty excited to be able to have the opportunity to focus on my practice for this extended period of time, and it's probably about as close as I'm gonna get to a 'real' retreat for the forseeable future. I will continue to work my job everyday, but will be taking the precepts each morning, meditatiing 3x a day (morning sit, lunchtime walking meditation, evening sit); evening dhamma talk; daily check-in/report with avid. No TV, no video games, no music, no other-subject reading, just a complete focus on my practice. I don't really know what to expect - I did a 3-day stay-at-home pretreat earlier this year but wasn't sure about any progress I made at that time - but that was also before I discovered TWIM, which really resonates with me. Bhante Vimalaramsi maintains that TWIM can be used to reach nibbana...I have no reason to disbelieve him.

It's 1:00am - time for bed.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/15/15 12:35 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/13 (Sun) 10:100am (35m)

This 6-Directions practice is reallly quite interesting. As I sat and channeled Metta to the left & right, I specifically started to include beings to whom I would not nromally think to send Metta - neighbors of certain religious persuasions, for example. Or, when sending it downwards, I started thinking about all the things inside the earth: bugs & worms, tree roots, fungi. Today's practice was not all that good from an "absorption" persepctive, but that's OK. I'm still getting used to it and also, not all sessions can be peak experiences.  4/10 rating.

Metta:

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RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/15/15 12:44 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/14 (Mon) 0600 (35m)

Metta to the 6 directions. Started out pretty well, channeling to the front, and had some really good strong Metta almost immiediately...out past my head, the room, the neighborhood, the city in which I live...state, across the Atlantci to Europe, and especially to Africa and the Middle East where there is so much suffering. Then beyond Earth, up and out, past the moon, past all the inner and outer planets, way beyond our solar system...past our nearest star (Proxima Centarui)---ut beyond the galaxy, and our whole universes. There was a very deep sense of wonder & awe, and that of peace - with a tinge of melancholy mixed in - the vastness and emptiness and loneliness - wow.

Metta seemed to move from a state of joy to something much more stable and at ease - I hesitate to use the term "equanimous," but it's apt - and my body felt very light, almost not-there - yet I was able to keep my posture with ease.

And then that damn term "equanimous" started bouncing around my brain pulling me right the fuck back down into discursive thought. I've probably read too much about the state of equanimity and the jhanas for my own good at this point in the game - because quite honestly, I would assess myself as MAYBE having got into first jhana a couple of times - but I started asking myself "Is this what the jhanas feel like? Can I keep this up? I hope I don't lose this feeling... 'I', 'I', 'I'..." and then WHAM - it was gone.  :-(

The rest of the session was spent 6R-ing all the thoughts bubbling up in my overactive Mind.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/15/15 2:36 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/13 1200pm (lunchtime meditation walking)

Quite a few interruptions, as expected when walking outside -- but every session helps, right? It's a bit of a mental feat 'steert' metta expansion in any one direction, and each direction seems to be unique in its challenges and overall feel...not to mention the final 'all directions at once' phase. Overall, however, it just plain feels good to feel good, which is what this practice does. I am starting to get weird looks from people, andI can only imagine what they think if the crazy smiling 50 year old guy as he walks around with a shit eating grin on his face all the time! But maybe I give them some sort of lift in their day - even if it's "Man, at least I'm not like that guy."

9/14 530pm (35 min sitting)

6 Directions Metta. Started out really quite strongly, but got sidetracked in content halfway through the session. Ended well on a positive note, however.

9/15 545am (35 min sitting)

Pretty crummy session. Mind all over the place, and I seemed to be compelled to follow the content rather than just Recognize it and Release. Could not get Metta past my head, let alone out the room or into the rest of the Universe. Felt like just logging my time today. OTOH - Bhante V. talks about viewing the hindrances (which in this case are obviously Restlessness) as friends who are teaching you where your cravings lie.

Obviously, then, I have a lot of craving around child support legal agreements, because that's where I spent about a half hour today.  :-0

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/15/15 5:35 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/14 (Tues) 445pm (35m)

This marks the beginning of my online retreat (for the next 11 days). Although the retreat doesn't officially start until Friday, we did receive initial instruction via email today and since the wife is now out of town until it's over, and I only have brief visits from the kids, I have decided to get a jump on things and make tonite my first day of the retreat.

A really nice sit. Solid, growing metta from the starting gun, with only minor digressions into thought content. Was able to 6R everything that came up. It is becoming apparent that I need to allow metta to go out to the 6 directions on its own, rather than trying to 'force' it or actively 'channel' it. To that end, I envisioned that I am simply 'opening the door' in whatever direction is in focus at the moment, and just let metta do its own thing. I think the less "I" that is involved the better...which is entirely in keeping with my other inquiries into anatta.

One thing I am beginning to notice is that really *feeling* the feeling of metta is key. I think I talked about this here before, but it is important that I conjure up some sort of loving feeling in my heart for any such feeling to start radiating outwards. The main way of doing this that is recommended by BV is to think of a time in your life when you were really happy; feel that happiness; and then use that as a 'primer' to get the metta fires going. When my happiness is really bug, I notice that there is an almost "crying with joy" quality to it...a tinge of sadness, almost, but still sweet...almost like adding in the major seventh to a major triad (if you know what I'm talking about musically). Sad and happy at the same time. 

I also played with invoking happiness/joy by intentioanlly oversmiling to the point of forcing a ridiculous grin across my face. The key is to make sure the eyes are smiling, too (in other words, make sure you're creating a Duchenne smile, not a fake smile with mouth only). This causes joy to start pecolating throught the mind and body and leads to increased metta. I do recall that there is a scientific reason behind this - they've run some experiments where subjects were forced to hold a pencil in their teeth (not just in their lips), which mimics the Duchenne smile since it uses the same muscle groups.

One final thing that I forgot to put in earlier entries in this journal. Yesterday morning in the cool air, my coffee was giving off wicked swirls of steam as I sat on the deck at work. I distinctly noticed something I've never noticed before: the steam is actually made up of individual, super tiny droplets of water vapor Was this obsevsation made possible  because I finally started wearing reading glasses and I can clearly see things up close now? Or are my powers of observation getting keener, and I'm starting to be able to see the actual makeup of our real world?

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/17/15 9:02 AM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
No posts recently because my previous 4 sessions (3 sitting and one walking) were all pretty lousy. Having a really hard time either keeping Mind from pulling me away from metta, or from nodding off. Part of this is due to lack of sleep and a harried schedule, part of this is a lifetime of practice of getting up into my own head and staying there.

This morning (5:10am for 40 minutes) was a nudge in the right direction. The metta was more pronounced and I was able to 'fed off' the distractions of discursive thought with a modicum of success. This probably sounds pathetic to other more advanced practitioners, but I feel pretty good if I'm able to keep metta front and center for 30 seconds straight. Anyway - I'm not quitting. Every sit is a new opportunity to put to use my mindfulness and to practice TWIM.

I'm diving headfirst into this retreat and I'm giving it my best shot. Trying to remove all expectation, trust the process, and just let the results be what they are. I'm going to stick with this instead of jumping around trying to find the 'silver bullet' (the right combination of circumstance and technique) to Get Enlightened as soon as possible.

Read some fascinating and very illuminating articles on emptiness of self yesterday and this morning. Letting all that trickle in as well. Perhaps the Flash Of Illumination will happen at some point...or, maybe this is just one of those awakenings of the educational variety. Time will tell.

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/18/15 7:53 AM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/17 (Thur) 6:00pm (40m) - Metta to the 6 Directions [ MTT6D(tm) ]

Pretty decent. I was able to keep a fairly good focus on my OOM (object of meditation) - with a bit of divergence intho thought around 30m - but I reeled Minda back in right away an reconnected. Solid 6/10 self-rating. Plenty of practice on the 6R technique (as always). The main differnce being I'm not trying to be enemies with my distractions (hindarnces) anymore. They are my friends, my allies - and they are pointing out where my cravings lie. Apparently, I crave self-indulgent thought. emoticon

9/17 (Thur) 10:00pm (40m)

Jesus Christ. Mind all over the place. Then I fell asleep. So freakin' tired. Abandoned 25 min in and went to bed.

9/18 (Fri) 5:00am (40m)

This was a reasonable seession preceded by 35 minutes of gentle yoga. I'd call it another 6/10. Not a really high metta level and there were plenty of distractions, but I'm being quite diligent about the 6Rs and am able to return to OOM within a few seconds of going off somewhere else.

It seems each "R" is critically important in and of itself. At this point I pretty well do the first 2 Rs (Recognize, Release) automatically as soon as I'm mindful enough to see I'm off in the weeds. But I am still having to consciously do the rest, especially the Relax step...it's important for me to relax both physically (my ENTIRE body...looking for little hidden areas of tension, which seem to reside in the jaw, legs); and mentally (especially the area right in between the two hemispheres my my brain). I don't know how true the whole "meninges" explanation offered by BV is, but there is definitely a mental component to relaxation. When I entirely relax, it is quite easy to return to metta and begin anew.

I also seem to forget quite often that metta is supposed to be directed. I'm still in the old mode of just letting it sit there. It's good to let it grow but I need to share it with the rest of the universe as well!  Overall good session. I continue to trust the process and 'do the do,' and am confident in making progress.

I have also put my other inquiries into anatta on hold (the whole LU thing has led me around in circles for weeks). The Buddha said that one who discerns dependent origination discerns the 3 characteristics...but not necessarily the other way around. Since I was originally trying to 'get' anatta as a way to move along the path to direct realization of DO, doesn't it make more sense for me to follow the TWIM path that does lead to direct knowing of DO, and then just get anatta as a side-effect?

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
9/18/15 9:50 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
9/18 (Fri) noon walking

Feh - not a very good 'session' (although the weather was stunning)...no real concentration and a lot of distractions pulled me away. This walking meditation - as a transition and training grounds for meditation as a way of daily life - is still deininfely a work in progress.

9/18 (Fri) 5:00pm (40m)

Good! Started quite strong with the metta, temporarily and briefly lost it, then recovered and powered though for the rest of the session really well. I forgot to mention, in the past couple of days I've been experimenting with eyes-open (have always sat with eyes closed up till now). It really seems to curb the tendency to drift off to torpor-land. or into "content." Anyway, towards the end of the sit (last 10 min), things really seemed to settle in, and and I started getting that floaty, ethereal, where's-my-body feeling that I've felt a few times recently. This was accompanied by a deepening of the metta feeling. I've been really trying to let metta just kind of grow on its own without forcing anything - this time seeing if it might fill the room - not successful in all directions but when radiating to all directions, definitely. And it feels really good. 

9/18 (Fri) 10:00pm (attempted 40m, completed 25)

Another late-night fail/abandon. This is the second day in a row I quit halfway thru a late night attempt. No more of these from now on if I'm getting up at 5am the same day. I keep falling asleep and I can't concentrate at all. I know I'd benefit a lot more from a good night's sleep than adding a bunch of low-quality sit time just for the sake of it. Pushing through a slothful pseudo-session is not helping me at all. I'm also considering moving my main meal of the day to lunchtime and even toying with the idea of taking the precept to not eat after noon, at least for the duration of this retreat. A little gnawing hunger seems to keep me on my toes. :-)

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
10/13/15 8:46 AM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
Just as an update for anyone who actually was following along: I completed my DSMC 9-day home retreat (which I loved, BTW), and continue with daily metta practice using TWIM. I plan to distill my 'notes' from that experience into a longer post here, for completion's sake, but have not yet done so...life has been quite hectic since 'returning to the real world.'

I basically stopped my daily postings on recommendation from my retreat guide, who claimed that I was way over-analyzing everything and that this was acting as a hindrance to my progress. I don't disagree. I tend to get caught up in the minutia and don't always see the 'forest for the trees.'

Since taking a more laid-back approach to the practice, I have been able to more and more get into the jhanas and, most importantly, am really enjoying my sessions. It seems that, as with most other things, a balance is needed between effort and relaxation. What's that thing the Buddha always says about the middle way, or something? emoticon

RE: Jeff's Practice Log
Answer
10/13/15 8:21 PM as a reply to Jeff Wright.
The following several posts are meant to document my recent 9-day, online-administered home retreat thru the Dhamma Sukha Meditation Centre (DSMC). The course instructor was David Johnson. He's a great guy and he really helped me thru the process with patience and humor. http://www.dhammasukha.org/online-retreats-david-johnson.html.

After Day 0 and some initial correspondence, I was told point-blank to stop my daily journaling and just focus on the retreat. Since I had already taken some pains to ensure that this would be as close to an in-person retreat as I could make it (I had sent the wife and kids away for 8 of the 9 days), I took that advice to heart. I mean, in a real retreat you don't get to write, read, play on your iphone, or whatever. 

Because of this, any records I have of the daily happenings are in the form of what I wrote in the daily submission forms, and David's responses to me. Rather than try to sift through it all and sort it out into a more presentable format, I'm just going to more or less copy and paste directly here. Might not be the cleanest thing in the world, but it's real.