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Gilbert's Practice Log

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Gilbert's Practice Log
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10/3/15 10:00 PM
Intro: Hello everyone. I decided to register and start posting a progress log on these forums. I started meditating about a year ago and am trying to solidify a daily practice. I figure this will help motivate my practice and encourage me to continue and deepen it. 

Purpose: My ultimate goal is to try to follow the way of the bodhisattva. I take this to mean working to reduce suffering, working to attain enlightenment, and helping other in a grounded and reality based way. I see meditative pratice as the primary intentional way to achieve this goal. I'm also trying to take care of my health and practice good morality. 

Methods: In meditative practice I am working on developing concentration, dedicating time cultivating and resting in the brahmaviharas, and slowly developing my ability to note all phenomena, developing my ability to sit zazen, developing my ability to do energy work, and doing some koan work. 

My current inspirations: Right now I'll share some youtube talks that have been helpful to me right now:
Pain as purification by Shinzen Young
https://youtu.be/ac4TUSU4u4Y
This is especially helpful for me as I work on trying to consistently sit for one hour. I try to be careful not harm my body in longer sits, but I don't think there is any getting around some "pain" as one's body gets accustomed to longer sits. I started out very unflexible and have seen gradual improvements in my flexibility. I alternate between sitting on a seiza bench and sitting burmese style with elevated hips. At some point and time it would be cool to sit half-lotus, but I know my body is not ready for that yet.

NeuroDharma: Praticing with the Brain in Mind - Rick Hansen (Buddhist Geeks)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGhgzcH9sCU
To me this encourages my practice of dwelling in the divine abodes. Right away I started noticing the benefits of the divine abodes and they feel really good. I hope to continue practicing and deeping the Brahmaviharas. 

Today's practice: Today I sat for just about 1 hour trying to some concentration/energy work. Sat burmese style. There was some significant pain and I decided had to stop just shy of the full hour. Didn't hit any obvious major progress milestones, but I think it was some good concentration work. (Concentration wise I'm able to achieve access concentration when I'm focusing on my breath and sitting seiza position.) I'm in the learning and experimental stages with developing concentration states further and also with energy work. 

Afterwards I practiced the Brahmaviharas as I took care of errands.  Brahmaviharas were very good and helped to ground and connect me. Immediately after my 1 hour concentration/energy work sit I was feeling a little dispassionate and disconnected.

Conventional realization: One epihany I had while practicing the brahmaviharas is that one can adopt the perspective that taking care of life responsibilities is an act of service to others. Even the more mundane accounting aspects of my job, afffect others positively or negatively. When I take care of my accounting responsibilities, I make things easier for my work supervisor and the workers in the actual finance wing. I will try to carry this epihany and perspective with me as motivation to tackle the less enjoyable aspects of my job.   

Plan: Tomorrow, I plan to sit for one hour, practice some brahmaviharas off the cushion and take care of some life responsibilities/job work. 

RE: Gilbert's Practice Log
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10/5/15 8:11 AM as a reply to Gilbert.
Practice: 1) Sat for 45 minutes. Did concentration work with a candle flame. I wish I had read thread on Shamatha practices with Kasinas. I realized there were more things to try such, as closing ones eyes and focusing on after-burn in the retina. After practice feld a little teary eyed and eye strained.

2)+ 3) Sat twice for 30 minutes each. Praticed trying to be still and be in my body. Maybe it was because of my previous concentration practice or maybe it was just development over time, but today I felt incredibly embodied and still. 

Conventional insight: Sometimes it's best to just slog through unpleasant tasks than trying to make them more pleasant. This means not waiting until you want to do it. This means also limiting distractions like music, which one might think might help make it more pleasant. The downside major downside of such attempts to make the unpleasant more pleasant is that it can distract one from "flow". Time spent noticing the music, is time spent not doing the work. It also may encourages discursive complaining in the head. 

RE: Gilbert's Practice Log
Answer
10/6/15 12:16 AM as a reply to Gilbert.
Practice: 1) (15) Sat for 15 minutes candle concentration practice. Nothing much to report. Ended the sit early because I was feeling too tired to stay awake. Went back to sleep and napped for an extra 15.

2(30) 3(30) Open eyed choiceless awareness. Noticed a development in choicelessness. Ie, my awareness felt more grounded/stable and also less focused/strained. Also noticed my mind at some periods to solidify in a way similar to when I've done more decidated concentrated Kasina practice and also to sometimes get more wobbily where I would perceive vibrations of different senses. 

Thoughts: 1) Listening to a repetitive white noise track did indeed help my focus at work. Also noticed I became sick of white noise at the end of the day. 

2)Started thinking about progress of insight and whether I was maybe further along and had passed the A&P before. After thinking about it, I figured the probability of that was very very low. I've just barely started to experience vibratory phenomena and it definitely doesn't feel like it's taken off. I've considered dedicating myself to noting practice, although I don't much like the labeling component. When I really get going, I feel like phenomena arise too fast to even try to mentally note experience. It becomes something like 6-7 flashes a second and I'm only able to somewhat mentally label 2-3/ sec of them. It seems like it makes more sense to aim for an awareness of the 6-7, without trying to pin down the number or type of experience. I'm not sure... I'll have to read more about noting on this forum and keep practicing. 

RE: Gilbert's Practice Log
Answer
6/5/16 2:47 PM as a reply to Gilbert.
Hello everyone. It's been awhile since I last posted. My hope is to summarize past experiences and at a later date update the practice log more with my current experiences. 

I've continued practicing and my practice really took off a couple of months ago during a 10 day vipassana retreat. On that retreat my mind's perceptual abilities increased greatly along with the arising of unexpected sensations out of nowhere. On retreat, I know that I experienced A&P and I know that I experienced the dark night. Since the retreat, I don't know how much further I've gone. I experienced what seemed to be a convincing full cycle along with a review phase that lasted 1-2 weeks. My experience matches up well except that my fruitions seem to be so uneventful. Over time I'm sure I'll get to some greater certainty as currently my sits seem to be re-visting or entering "interesting" territory. Given my retreat experience of the dark night, I'm not really so interested in "interesting" experiences. I really hope that im able move through any future dark nights in an expedient manner with no unnecessary suffering.

Dark Night: Terror
Terror really hit me hard and I initially could not stay with the bodily sensations. The terror was so strong and unexpected that I thought it would overwhelm me and the result would be either going crazy or non-stop panic attacks. When it first came up, I knew what I was supposed to do with it (be mindful and equanimous), but I didn't think I could. For the next several day, I ended up working up the willpower to be with it sporadically and retreating to a concentration type practice. I noticed that mindful attention would reduce it to a type of manageable level, but I was "unable to kill it". Once I stopped with the mindful attention it would come back and then start to build again. This was a really hard time because I thought that my sanity was at stake.

Luckily after the retreat, I was able to move on. I moved on, not from "killing it", but from surrendering to it. This meant surrendering to possibility of getting overwhelmed by the fear. Then once I really accepted the fear, it seems like the fear could pass. Since that initial terror, the fear and anxiety has returned sporadically, but I now know how to be with it. I learned that if I truly accept it and welcome it as my current companion it's not a problem. I also learned that if I sit with the fear with the subtle desire to make it go away, I am only either prolonging the suffering or creating the conditions for worse suffering down the road. Its like saying "I'll grudgingly accept you this time fear, but you'd better not come back". "Cause if you come back next time, I may not be able to deal with you." Or in another way, "Please go away this time, and next time I'll let you stay longer." 

Over these last 2 months I've developed and maintained a daily practice. I now sit anywhere from 30mins -3 hours a day.