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John's Body Scan Practice Log

John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 6/16/16 10:18 AM
First vipassana jhana John B 6/16/16 10:36 AM
Second vipassana jhana John B 6/17/16 7:04 AM
Third vipassana jhana John B 6/16/16 1:23 PM
Fourth vipassana jhana John B 6/17/16 7:08 AM
Practice so far since returning home John B 6/16/16 2:42 PM
6/17/2016 John B 6/17/16 7:33 AM
Round two John B 6/20/16 2:29 PM
Perspective change John B 6/22/16 4:18 PM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log shargrol 6/23/16 6:00 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 6/26/16 12:27 PM
Metal rod John B 6/26/16 1:07 PM
Integration John B 7/3/16 8:40 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log shargrol 7/4/16 10:10 AM
Relaxed, alert John B 7/6/16 8:27 AM
Daily life cont. John B 7/11/16 6:10 PM
Informal vs formal John B 7/31/16 9:53 AM
Long dark night John B 7/31/16 10:10 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 8/10/16 9:54 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 8/22/16 9:04 PM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 9/4/16 8:24 PM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log shargrol 9/5/16 5:41 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log Simon Liu 9/5/16 7:09 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 9/5/16 7:45 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log Simon Liu 9/5/16 9:53 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 9/5/16 11:42 AM
Continuing the noself journey John B 9/12/16 11:05 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log Simon Liu 9/12/16 1:02 PM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 9/13/16 6:35 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log Simon Liu 9/14/16 11:00 PM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 9/15/16 6:10 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log Simon Liu 9/16/16 12:49 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 9/16/16 11:54 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log shargrol 9/17/16 6:43 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 9/17/16 8:54 AM
RE: Continuing the noself journey John B 9/20/16 12:42 PM
RE: Continuing the noself journey Simon Liu 9/20/16 3:00 PM
RE: Continuing the noself journey John B 9/20/16 4:59 PM
RE: Continuing the noself journey John B 9/29/16 7:57 AM
Continuing in EQ John B 10/11/16 7:12 AM
Thought layers John B 10/25/16 8:04 AM
Recommitment John B 11/1/16 3:39 PM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log shargrol 11/2/16 5:21 AM
No self continuation John B 11/16/16 7:25 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log shargrol 11/16/16 8:35 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 11/17/16 7:49 AM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log John B 12/1/16 3:55 PM
holiday sits John B 1/7/17 8:59 AM
Mini retreat John B 1/25/17 11:59 AM
Keep on keeping on John B 4/1/17 10:44 AM
RE: Keep on keeping on shargrol 4/3/17 9:58 PM
RE: Keep on keeping on John B 4/3/17 10:22 PM
RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log shargrol 4/4/17 6:20 AM
John's Body Scan Practice Log
6/16/16 10:18 AM
To start, this is my first post on dharmaoverground despite spending time reading MCTB and forum topics almost daily for the last couple of years. Thank you to Daniel and everyone who makes this community what it is! I recently went on my first retreat, made some real changes in my life and progress along the path, and am excited to share my experiences and get comments and help as I continue forward.

A quick overview of my practice pre-retreat.  I was introduced to tai chi and began a sitting meditation about 12 years ago in high school, which I found generally helpful in terms of concentration, and lessening fatigue and headaches. I am a musician, and noticed more general benefits in helping out my creativity as a jazzer.  I continued practice off and on, having periods of several months or so with daily 30 minute sits.  My interest in meditation once again peaked a couple years back in grad school, when I started working on ways of combining mindfulness with music listening/playing, sort of in an MBSR vein. That helped me stay committed to a daily 45-60 minute practice the last two years, mostly with a focus on concentration.  I did pursue jhanic states for about 6-9 months in there with not much luck, however, the experiences helped me learn how to get fairly solid access concentration.  

I decided about 6 months ago to switch to a vipassana-focused practice by doing sitting/walking meditations and noticing impermance, in sensations of the breath or feet, as quickly and accurately as possible. I started noticing some pulsation-sensations in the area of the nostrils, and figured I was approaching cause and effect area, but didn't make any more real progress. That is, until I had time to commit to a 10-day Goenka retreat that I recently returned from. In an effort to remember/share my retreat experiences and also join the dharmaoverground community, I decided to do this post. I think I'll break up the posts in terms of the four vippasana jhanas as I think I experienced them. With all of the varying views here and the big focus on noting, it seems like describing the path of insight in terms of sensations during body scanning could be helpful to some extent.

I'll emphasize that I am a beginner in all of this, so I don't mean to come off as any way but excited about vipassana, transparant about my practice, and hopeful to continue to progress in terms of discovering truth/who-I-am/compassion/gratitude/all-of-the-good-stuff on and off the cushion.

First vipassana jhana
6/16/16 10:36 AM as a reply to John B.
The first four days of the retreat I hung out in the first vipassana jhana, although the three stages aren't extremely distinct for me. Starting out, I resolved that I would work consistently every chance I got, and that I would use every moment to meditate or assist in meditation - eating/napping/sleeping for energy, and the rest of the time on the cushion in the hall where I wouldn't fall asleep.

The first three days are spent watching physical sensations of the breath with an increasingly smaller area of focus.  On day three I decided to narrow my focus to the little crook under my nose/above the upper lip, about 1/2 an inch wide, because, according to Goenka, the smaller the area the sharper the focus.  My mind had quieted down by day 2, so most of the time on the cushion was spent working with few distractions.  I was excited to possibly explore some jhanic states when I found out about the inital focus on concentration, which hopes weren't fulfilled as I focused more on the subtle sensations felt in that area, and the rapid changes/impermance of them.  Went through different sensations of pulsation, feeling like the mind/head area was expanding and contracting with the breath, and general tingly sensations.

On day four we started the body scanning technique - noticing any sensations, gross or subtle, as we had earlier under the nostril but this time throughout the body, and doing so with equanimity by noticing the impermance/constant changes of those sensations.  Two experiences stand out on day four.  The first happened while scanning the head. I would scan an area like the scalp, keep noticing the sensations there while adding sensations of the face by tracing thick lines across each area with my attention, adding in the back of the head, and then adding sensations inside the head.  Once my whole head was filled with tingly sensations, a verbal thought popped into my mind, and I was able to place it spatially somewhere outside of my head. Although I had already sensed my thoughts as separate before, this time it was much clearer that when I heard thoughts of 'myself' talking to myself I could place them anywhere in my aural field, and that thoughts were simple using the sense of hearing to portray a softer version of sensation. By drawing up visual and tactile and other memories, I could see how the mind simply uses the 5 senses to inform the 6th sense of thinking. The other experiences I found very helpful were the addhitana sits, or sits of strong determination - basically trying to sit for one hour with no movement.  I didn't mind sitting in intense pain after a couple of them because I noticed that they were jump starting my equanimity, by noticing sensations that make up the pain, and being able to continue body scanning despite background or intense pain.

In terms of the body scanning, it was slow, required a lot of patience, and would often feel like my brain was twisting in different ways to discover sensations in a previously unexplored area, like the right uppr back, or the lower back and stomach, or behind the kneecaps. With patience and lots of staring with awareness, eventually sensations came, often with the help of clothing or air touching the skin.

As a side note, I had some interesting visual images that would pop up during my body scan, and changed throughout days 4-6.  When first beginning, I would notice images of dead bugs (which I was seeing a lot of outside), and didn't think much of it, until the images began to develop in terms of color, clarity, and movement. As I became more sensitive to different body I areas I would get quick visual flashes of something like a centipide crawling up my back, or like hundreds of tiny people walking along my shoulder with poles that morphed into blue/purple flowers. I didn't pay much attention to it as it seemed like my brain was making sense of the new physical sensations. It was entertaining regardless.

Second vipassana jhana
6/17/16 7:04 AM as a reply to John B.
I spent most of day 5 of the retreat exploring the second vipassana jhana, or the arising and passing away stage. I suspected I was in this territory, but didn't really know for sure until encountering the dark night the following two days. Even then I didn't expect to progress to those stages when I did, so I sort of let myself think I was somewhere in the first vipassana jhana until I was in a solid equanimity/high equanimity stage later on.

After asking the teacher about relaxation during the practice, which he responded with the advice to be relaxed but alert, my body scanning took off. It became much easier for me to observe subtle sensations throughout the body.  My initial question came because I had one sit where I used very strong attention that intensified pain tension, and grossness of sensation in the body. After I had a much more relaxed sit where subtle sensations came much more easily.  I questioned doing straightup scanning from head to toe over and over again, and decided to be extra detailed about my practice.  I was starting to feel like I had infinite patience and that any amount of work didn't matter, so I narrowed my attention to a circle with a diameter about the size of a centimeter, and, starting with my right foot, traced the outline of the foot noticing the change of subtle sensations in that area, then drew small lines up and down the bottom of the foot to 'color it in,' then continuing with the top of the foot. It took about two hours to go throughout the entire surface of the body, but I didn't mind because I figured thoroughness would pay off.  At this point I'm not sure if it did, but my actions were more of a reflection of the hyped up mood I was in.  

I don't recall a mind blowing A&P event, however, by the end of the day, I was sweeping quickly through the exterior and interior of the body, and could hold the entire body in view, noticing lots and lots of tiny tingling sensations mixed with bigger sensations of pain or itching in some places, with overall a a very pleasant feeling to it.  In addition, the visual images I would see complimented very nicely to the complexity of sensations I was able to observe.  Eventually the images left, but before that, they developed into very colorful and intricate patterns of flowers and shapes morphing seamlessly into other flowers and shapes, like a Windows desktop screensaver but in HD. Those images changed into stable images of statue-like/buddha-like/seated-person-meditating-like images that seemed firm and stable as my confidence in the practice grew.

I wanted to add another interesting mental component that occurred through a few of the sits, either during day 5 or day 6. My verbal thoughts took on the persona of this cartoon character that I'm familiar with who is has a very hopeful attitude and only talks in rhymes as if he were constantly rapping.  Needless to say, I was a bit surprised when my internal dialogue was constantly trying to rhyme with itself in rhythm (and I'm not good at rhyming in the first place) and I remember thinking if anyone stepped into my thoughts that moment they would be completely whacked out. Again, it was probably a reflection of the excited and positive mood I was feeling, a reflection of the general attitude of the character I was mimicking.

Since returning home, I was able to reread some more details about the different stages, finding out that sexuality and dreams that might make you uncomfortable if you're not used to bisexuality can occur.  That evening I had several dreams in succession where I was different people, a new person for each scene, with some of the scenes dealing with homosexuality (I'm married so that was surprising), death, conferences, and other randomness.

Another comment - it seems like Goenka's instructions that lead up to sweeping the body with attention indicated he thinks that most people will reach the stage of arising and passing away and possibly start in on the dark night during the 10-day retreat.  By that I mean that when one is able to view sensations throughout the entire body easily and with equanimity, it seems that attention to the sheer number of sensations occurring will facilitate progress to or through A&P.  Talking to others on day 10, many people were at varying places, and the one person who was able to sweep very well had obviously started in on the dark night.  The emphasis on the first vipassana jhana is further emphasized by the adhittana sits which emphasize physical pain, which didn't seem to be an issue for me after day 5. Just a guess at why Goenka structured the 10-day retreats the way he did.

Third vipassana jhana
6/16/16 1:23 PM as a reply to John B.
Days 6 and 7 of the retreat I spent working through the third vipassana jhana.  I'll write down what I experienced, as I wasn't sure which experiences correlate with which stages exactly, with some emotions/sensations being more intense than others. Most of my progress through the rest of the retreat I attribute to a few things during body scanning - the first being the sweeping method as instructed, the second being taking the entire body as an object and filling in gaps where I wasn't sensing sensations at the moment, and the third being an open and curious attitude about new sensations appearing in the body, and seeing how they either spread throughout the body or remained localized, morphing within that space. Also, I'll mention that I stagnated on the beggining of day 6 and a couple of other times because I felt slightly guilty about not performing the sweeping exactly as instructed. When I went back to straight sweeping, it would be pleasant but not a lot would happen. Later on I spoke with the teacher about taking the body as an object and most of my fourth vipassana jhana experiences and he told me it sounded like I was working correctly within the framework of the body, so to keep doing like I was doing.

The first notable experience day 6 was when a very hard, connected, and heavy metal-like sensation showed up on my left shoulder.  I waited for it to pass, but when it didn't, I checked out the rest of my body and it spread around my whole body like a suit of tight armor.  Examining closely I was able to see very light particles vibrating on the exterior of the hard surface I was experiencing.  I was pretty excited for something new to happen, so the sensation stayed there for the 45 minute sit. In a later sit, the feeling returned to cover the whole body, and I was less enthralled with it, more closely examining its impermanent qualities, until it evaporated away into a light and slightly cool airy sensation. Rereading from MCTB it was interesting to see that Daniel said you can't go through the dark night with armor on, and in a way these sensations helped me drop my guard a bit.

As my sits continued, I noticed a cool sensation arising in my back, which at a later sit would eventually spread through my whole body. I was becoming more sensitive to temperature, and after hearing about the four categories of sensation the evening before (earth - weight, wind - movement, water - togetherness/uniformity, and fire - temperature) it helped me to have four different ways to look at impermanence. In another sit, I started obsessing over the fact that my neighbor in front of me might recognize my feet were touching his cushion and beat the sh*t out of me, and then realized that was just a thought representing a group of sensations in the pit of my stomach I recognized as fear. Because it's already been a week or so I don't remember how fear was expressed in the entire body, but that it mostly originated somewhere low in the stomach and would brew around in that area, sometimes rising higher towards the chest area, with pressure and tightness in the chest/throat. Eventually I saw through those sensations and in another sit dwelt on what seemed like depression. The sensations were very heavy but floaty at the same time, and impossible to pin down to a single spot. As soon as I got a close look at one area it would pop up nearby. To overcome this I found that taking the entire body as object and then viewing the unique sensations in that context was helpful.  First, that helped remind me that everything was constantly changing, and second, covering a larger area seemed to diminish the popping up in other spots. I used that technique several times and have since I've returned home when dealing with similar dark night things like disgust or overall rawness.

After that, the rest of the day was not as intense, as things started to even out. I wasn't sure if I was moving into equanimity yet (I wasn't) and so I started to get impatient.  I found that I had to work through impatience as sensations expressed through key points in the body.  Then later, boredom arose and I dealt with that as different sensations.  Either that evening or the next morning fatigue and tiredness also arose, and I observed the different sensations like pressure in the eyes, sharp pains in the center of the head, droopiness in the face and other places, and eventually that passed as well. The next morning I started feeling very down that I would probably not reach first path on the retreat, even though I didn't exactly expect to in the first place, so I observed the emotion and then sensations behind it, which was mostly dissapointment and failure.  It was a strong emotion that took a couple hours of work, with unique negative sensations that eventually diminished to the tip of the pit of my stomach.  It changed into a feeling I would label as wounded, where I recognized similar sensations when feeling attacked, taken advantage of, etc. I spent a long time here, eventually feeling a sense of closure, however, a subtle feeling of aversion in that area did not completely disappear.  Due to this, I spent a lot of time working slowly through the back, chest, and stomach area examining any notable sensations of physical or emotional pain. After a couple of hours, I realized that some of the pain was due to posture and that I was over analyzing, and started moving forward from there.

During some of the dark night, and how I've re-experienced some similar things spending a little time in the dark night again at home, is that sensations tend to slow down throughout the body, with little subtle sensations popping up here and there.  Investing closer there were still subtle movements, a slightly warm temperature at times, and sometimes airy-type sensations or sometimes slight irritation, all pointing to impermance throughout the body, just in less obvious ways than during A&P.

Fourth vipassana jhana
6/17/16 7:08 AM as a reply to John B.
Days 8-10 of the retreat had some very interesting experience for me along the lines of equanimity, powerful positive emotions, and some interesting formations. I've been pondering over changes since then to determine whether or not I reached stream entry, and have been practicing regardless since.

After spending a lot of time body sweeping during day 8 I finally decided to spend some more time taking the entire body as an object. I don't recall exactly which day, but at some point a cool sensation, like a cool gel, had spread throughout my entire body. It was almost like a pleasant balm following the dark night.  I remember thinking, I don't need to practice metta at the end of this retreat, because my body is helping take care of some of the wounds I opened up. I'm not sure if that was the beginning of equanimity, but high equanimity seemed to be a version of that but much stronger, as in a freezing cold sensaiton throughout the body. Another interesting experience that I don't remember the exact order, was noticing certain points of pressure, very small, throughout the face. They were very distinct and I remember counting them, but it's been a while so let's see - I believe two points above the upper lip, one below each eye, one in the third eye area, one above each eye, and possibly some points a little wider out along the jaw line and in the area of the temples.  It was just interesting because they all felt like connected areas of energy, and the sensation stuck around for awhile, maybe 30 minutes or so as I examined it.

When I took the whole body as object I began to feel tired because my head would droop down.  I realized that I wasn't tired and observed the drooping closer the next times it happened. As I did, the sensation, mostly in the third eye area, slowed down and turned much harder. I remember a couple more drooping sensations happening at some point but I maintained body awareness as a much colder sensation spread, like sitting in a freezer, but with no shiverring. I thought, this is cool, I'm probably experiencing one of the absorption jhanas finally, and I stayed there for a couple hours, examining the impermance of the state as best I could.  Sensations in the body really calmed down, although there were little bits of tingles here and there. The most apparant sensation was the ice cold sensation that had spread through the entire body, and the three inch rock that had taken residence in my third eye area. I had noticed pressure there plenty of times before, but never this solid. As I got up for tea time, I didn't really feel the need to move, but when I did, my body had to go so slow. I couldn't have made it move any faster if I tried (and I did), and it took me forever to walk the 100 ft to the dining hall and back. It was like being stuck in some sort of slow motion device. Returning back to the hall I resumed sitting with similar concentration, or at least no real need to move the body in any way.

The morning of day 9 I remember realizing I hadn't spent nearly as much time examining sensations throughout the core of the body, like where the bones would be, as I had the outer layers, and feeling frustration about that. I worked through the feelings of frustration for one of the sits, and then worked through sensations throughout the center of the body, following along where I thought my bones might be. During the first hour of internal exploration many of the sensations felt slightly heavier, connected, and had fewer subtle movements. It wasn't until I returned for the next sit and had a better flow of subtle sensations internally that I realized I was mixing subtle tension with my attention in those internal ares, and after seeing through its impermance, found the same gentle flow of subtle vibrations throughout the body, internal and external.

Further in the day I was toying with the idea of returning to the lite jhana absorption state because I felt I could, but wasn't sure if that was the best option for my insight progress. Needless to say, after a few hours of body sweeping and what not in a general pleasant state, I finally settled in the afternoon to seeing the complete body as an object again and followed the drooping sensation into what I believe was first jhana. The rock in my third eye area was somewhat wobbly, and after a bit it finally firmed up, which I believe was second jhana. My body started turning ice cold again, and eventually most body vibrations and tingling sensations died away. I believe I was hanging out in a lite third or fourth jhana because rapture throughout the body definitely died down (although there was never super intense bliss involved, maybe becuase equanimity was the main object), I didn't have strong emotional bliss either, but I felt rock hard in the third eye and no desire to move any part of my body. Regardless, it was only my second time in a state like that so I just took it as it came.

I was happy to move into the jhana state because it gave me more time to investigate the impermant qualities of it, which for me, were primarily the subtle changes in the ice cold temperature, and the slight tinglings throughout the body that still occurred. Also, the togetherness and weight of the rock in the third eye area had its own slight changes, even if they were subtle.

Soon after this jhana sit, I began body sweeping and taking the body as object with nothing happening at first.  Eventually I finally asked Dharma, or my body, or the universe to show me what was next. In essence I was developing an attitude of oppenness and curiosity once again, which immediately brought me to the following series of whole-body sensations/emotions. The first was love, which started as a slight visual of me with my wife (I love my wife, phew), and then the sensations of it in the body developed quickly into a general rising of pleasant particles that were connected and wavelike. After investigating its impermanence, the sensations generally stayed the same but with a downward motion in the stomach area and the rising sensations remaining in the chest and and back. I recognized this feeling as compassionate love. Soon, those sensations changed to an intense bliss throughout the body, and a feeling like the there was no top on my head and light was shooting out of it in every upward direction. I recognized these sensations as joy, most likely sympathetic joy, and these sensations eventually left as I investigated them.  They were followed by an awareness of nothingness extending out in all directions from my body. I saw that nothingness appeared to have a physical quality of darkness yet being very light-weight and still being impermanent. I explored this state until it eventually fell away.

I believe it was around this time that I became curious about investigating intention and its effect on sensation. Through much of the retreat I was seeing if I could observe intention, which I guess it doesn't have a physical sensation per se. I observed the intention to direct my attention to sensations in a particular part of the body, seeing that a certain number of arisings and passing would happen across time before the intention was realized. I also tried to figure out if equanimity was a separate intention from attention to subtle sensations, but found that it was most likely one intention, at least according to my little experiments at the time. Too much time would pass after intending to view subtle sensations to then intend to see how they arise and pass away, so it most likely is one intention of observing the arising and passing away of subtle sensations.  I played around with some other things at the time, and eventually found the desire to commit myself to the truths I had learned and was learning at the time, in a general sense. I felt some of the gravity of what I was experiencing, and the need to commit myself to being true to the experience of equanimity towards sensation, and the wisdom developed from it. It just felt right at the time, so I did it, and it speaks to the importance I felt in the practice at the time.

Day 9 I had spent 12-13 hours in meditation and was exhausted, but excited to use every minute the next morning to continue my practice before the noble silence ended and metta practices started. I had asked the teacher earlier if I would need to make any changes in my practice if approaching stream entry, but he said no, just keep on working. So I kept on working, but with a few things in the back of my mind I had remembered reading - like taking a more expansive focus,something about consciousness, and the idea of an observer being just another set of sensations. With that in mind, in my practice the morning of day 10 I explored the boundaries of body sensations, seeing how I could sense nothingness extending out. Something about that experience led me to look at sensations in the third eye area, which appeared somewhat similar to the nothingness I was experiencing around me. As I viewed these sensations in the third eye area, which may have been some type of consciouness, I'm not certain, but I noticed that they were constantly exapnding as they arose and passed away. I thought that if I could see it expanding, I could also contract it down to a single point. I tried, but it didn't work. That led me to believe that an innate quality of arising and passing away, at least in this area of consciousness, was that of continual expansion.

I thought it would be neat if I could view those consciouness sensations at the same time as my physical subtle sensations, so I tried taking my body as object and 'placing' them into the expansive consciousness region in my third eye. That didn't work, so instead I decided to try and go inside of it. I mean, hey, if it was constantly expanding there was probably room for me.  So there was a sensation of my head going inside, but something about the pressure of the sensations didn't let me go in that easily, so I had to fully commit, and I felt the entire consciousness sensations come over me like a vacuum from my head down to my feet.  In this place it felt right, because I could see not only my entire physical sensations but also the expanding consciousness sensations expanding out in all directions. I thought that it was a good time to check out to see if I could find an observer, seeing as how I was probably inside my own consciousness somehow, and so I looked back towards those sensations, was immediately kicked out of whatever state I was in, had a brief moment of blackness, then intense bliss covered my body for about 8-10 seconds, before dying down to a moderate bliss and feeling of relief that hung around for the next hour or so. I had been working nonstop up until that point, and felt the fatigue in a strong way all of a sudden. I wanted to take a little break from all the work. I figured if that were stream entry, then I could chill for a bit. I remember checking to see if I could see sensations of an observer, and I couldn't find them. However, as I've checked back occasionally since then I think they are just more subtle now, but I can't quite remember how strong they were before in the first place. In terms of fetters I can definitely see the truth in the basics of what was taught by the Buddha, certainly have no atachment to outward rites or rituals, even in relationship to my christian church, and have noticed a lot more oppenness in terms of discussing my personal views about this experience and how they are impacting my life. Anyways, because of the wierd and volitional yet intuitive nature of the entire experience, I couldn't decide if it was stream entry, and when bringing up these experiences with the teacher later in the day, he just said he hadn't had those experiences but it sounded like I was working correctly within the framework of the body. I figured I'd have to work it out later and see how my practice progressed.

Another thing I did during the end of the day 10 morning sit was set some general intentions for my life. I set them in relation to my vipassana practice, family, work and career, general well being, and so on.

The rest of day 10 when I decided to put some more effort back into meditation I had some interesting thoughts on metta and how directing metta towards myself would be like directing love to every sensation whether positive or negative, which means equanimity would be involved, which meant it would involve separate intentions of directing metta than equanimity, so how it is possible that a form of metta towards the self is just directing equanimity. Obviously loving-kindness feels much different, but it was more of an intellectual issue I was having at the time. Also, as I continued to practice, I explored the boundaries more intimately of the physical sensations of the body, and found it helped me tune into lighter subtle sensations on the outside of the obvious ones, like the lightness of the air. As I got a little impatient I found that I could recognize my perception of the passing of time come and go in many instants, recognizing how that was a source of suffering for me when I had aversion/craving for it. Just some last minute experiences before mostly doing metta practice and talking with everyone else about their experiences once noble silence ended.

As all this was very new and exciting for me, I wanted to share it with others who may be able to relate, who are working on a similar path, or have already been down this path and have advice or comments. My wonderment will probably fade as I go through similar experiences however many times, but for now I'm enjoying seeing how the effects of this practice are already influencing my daily life.

Practice so far since returning home
6/16/16 2:42 PM as a reply to John B.
I took the evening off after driving home from the retreat, and resumed practice the next morning. I've been practice about a total of 1.5-2 hours daily the last several days. The first day returning home there was a lot of bliss involved with rediscovering the body. It look a little time to find sensitivity to body sensations throughout, but after some work I did, and it was all very blissfull. Another day I started noticing some type of aversion in the pit of my stomach. Working on it a few times, as I dug down to its core, I noticed it was disgust. After taking the whole body as object and checking out those sensations it changed to dislike, then annoyance, then faded over time. As I have kept working I've noticed that I'm most likely going through some dark night sensations, although most of the rawness is gone as I think I've gone through most of desire for deliverance and reobservation. Anyways, I didn't know I would end up here so quickly, and if I had either cycled back down from high equanimity or if I had restarted a cycle from A&P after a possible fruition. My practice continues, and I've already put some intentions in place to help separate the extreme (pleasant/unpleasant) effects of some sits bleeding over into daily life. Overall, I've experienced a lot more openness, honesty with myself, sensitivity to sensations, and gratitude since the retreat. I've also had more general bliss when listening to great music or watching my favorite shows. I've also had more energy to work, or I should say less resistance to doing all the errands/work that I would normall put off for as long as possible. Anyways, good stuff, and I plan to keep posting as my practice continues.

6/17/16 7:33 AM as a reply to John B.
Continued about 2 hours of daily practice this week. It is interesting to me that I approached the dark night so quickly, and that different parts of it were emphasized.  Disgust was particularly strong, which I didn't recognize fully until I noticed it was leaking into my daily relationships (sorry wife!) and promptly took care of that by sitting as soon as possible.  It was almost as if I could travel down my throat as far down as I could go to a little pocket of dark and dense sensations there, and if I went into the sensations I would have a feeling of nausea and notice a gag reflex. That's what helped me realize it was disgust in the first place. I spent a good deal of time with the isolated sensations, but it wasn't until later in the day I realized that bringing in the rest of the subtle sensations of the body would help me out, and it did. There was a lot of relief as the disgust sensations decreased to dislike, discomort, annoyance, and eventually fully passed away.

I did deal with some general raw, uncomfortable, edgy feelings for a couple of sits, before last night and this morning coming to dwell in a low equanimity. It reminded me of some of how my mind was operating during this stage on retreat, in that it was easy for me to get comfortable and start day dreaming. This morning it wasn't the typical mind wandering, but a goal-oriented/hopeful mind wandering of things I wanted to accomplish, accompanied by an excitement of pressure sensations in the chest and head, and a slight restlessness manifested by rocking in the body. It was like I was experiencing hope and excitement at the same time. It definitely had a slight agitation to it, and by the end of 1.5 hours it started to calm a bit into a more peaceful flow. The subtle sensations in the body were not strong. They were more of a wave-like slight contraction or pulsation throughout the body, and a slight warmness that eventually spread throughout.

I definitely recognize some of the agitation now where I feel like there are many things I want to accomplish but at the same time recognize a slight resistance to accomplishing any of them.

Round two
6/20/16 2:29 PM as a reply to John B.
I had a very interesting dream/sit experience today that was very similar to an experience I had 8 days ago, the last evening on the retreat I recently returned from. On the retreat, after working high equanimity and possibly having an experience of stream entry in the morning, I went to sleep that evening and awoke occasionally in the night, first waking to subtle sensations in different parts of the body, mostly in the torso area, before fully waking up and recognizing where I was. That had happened for a couple nights, but right before waking the next morning I had an interesting dream involving some family members, and at the end I woke up as if someone had just given me a shot of adrenaline. At first I recognized the sensations of fear, but saw that they were empty, so it was more sensations of shock or surprise, or something related. It took several hours for the emotional/phsyical effects of the dream to fully fall away. What also was interesting is that I was the persona of my wife in the dream, and the overall mood and some content of the dream matched some experiences she had that week which I heard nothing about until the following day when the retreat ended.

Last night I had an even more powerful dream with similar effects. Before waking I was dreaming as myself, and was struggling to accomplish some task by jumping up a rope. I realized I wasn't tall enough but had to try anyways. Immediately when jumping for the rope I heard someone telling me that it was enough, because I had the full truth inside of me. At that moment I had a fruition experience in my dream, or at least what I imagine someone would describe as one, with some weird static noise for about half a second, my mind did something loopy in the dream which I can't exactly put my finger on, but the most intense part was immediately waking to the same feeling as a week before, as if someone had just given me a shot of adrenaline. I did feel some fear, but I think mostly because of my unfamiliarity with what was going on. I felt a tightness in my chest and lungs and like someone had just kicked me in my gut emotionally. I got up and read for about an hour before going back to sleep around 3 AM. When I got up I felt the after effects of the shock until around 9 AM moderately strong, and in a light way even until now, about 12 hours later.

After the dream, I woke this morning and had a two hour sit, which had its own unique experiences.  Most of the time my attention was drawn towards sensations of emptiness in and throughout my body. When staying with them long enough, they would 'fill' with a blissful, fast tingly sensation that would fill my head and spread down the spine. This happened countless times during the meditation, and for most of it I worked to maintain equanimity. I had an interesting realization during the sit, where I was really investigating the idea of suffering in more depth, moreso than the idea of impermance. I found the practical connection during the sit by noticing craving, aversion, or ignorance to impermanence itself.  I realized that to reduce my suffering I needed to eliminate ignorance by having a clear view of impermance consistently throughout the body, viewing as much of the body as I could (which interestingly, it was difficult for me to hold even most of the body in my awareness during the sit this morning). With ignorance taken care of, I could see impermance clearly, and check my attitude/intentions to be sure I was totally cool with impermance, having no aversion or craving for its existence. Working on that, I felt a sense of calmness in the body, and thought that was an interesting way to eradicate suffering at a very basic level and somewhat thoroughly.

Perspective change
6/22/16 4:18 PM as a reply to John B.
I took a day off sorta after not really wanting to jump straight back into body scanning, plus my concentration wasn't great. Returning back to practice it was similar to about a week ago when, I assume, I began a buildup back to the A&P stage. It took some effort, but not quite as much as last week, to become sensitive to subtle sensations throughout the body, really starting with gross sensations as an aid, but achieving fairly good sensitivity after an hour or a bit more.

I realized a big change in perspective that has been around for several days at least if not more, but I finally noticed it. I first recognized it as an inability to view my body as a whole as I could on retreat. I noticed that I could only view a few body parts at a time. As I explored that a bit more today, I realized that the difference was not a change in concentration, but a change in my perspective, or an area I might consider the observer. On retreat it was farther back, and I was able to look almost completely at the whole body. Since retreat, it moved much more forward, so I am definitely more on the inside of my head, and just closer to the body in general. My guess is that there is less of a 'separate me' as I move in closer to the sensations occuring in the body.

The above realization came as a result of my desire to focus this round on my perception of 'I' including important sensations related to it. I decided to begin my approach to it by recognizing how every impermanent sensation is me - really cueing me in to the cause and effect of every sensation and how I am a continuation of all of those.  I also see how I am not just any one sensation, because it of course passes away. So I see how I am lots of instances of arising and passing away, and seeing if that gives me new perspective on the characteristic no-self. I would say on retreat my main focus was on noticing impermance, which I still need constant reminders of, espeically during the day. I started to add in the idea of suffering by not only having equanimity towards positive/negative sensations, but to the experience/idea of impermance itself. Now I'm adding in this no-self approach to see if it adds some more depth to my practice.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
6/23/16 6:00 AM as a reply to John B.
Really nice posts! Hope you'll keep up the consist practice. A lot can happen off-retreat if you keep the pot simmering.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
6/26/16 12:27 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Hey shargrol, you are definitely right about that one. I had no idea how much the retreat would jumpstart my daily practice at home!

Metal rod
6/26/16 1:07 PM as a reply to John B.
I've had a few interesting sits the last few days. The first sit was a shorter, a re-entry back into A&P. I know it's usually the A&P because when I go to sleep that night my dreams will typically be very sexual and very long, although the dream content mixed a little bit into EQ just last night as well. I think I was going through the first vipassana jhana this first sit because I had mild irritation that wanted to stick with me throughout the day. This was the sit I talked about in my last post. What was interesting to me was recognizing the first vipassana jhana in the part of my practice that is like redeveloping sensitivity to sensations.

The next sit I had, I was very excited and motivated to have a good sit. I had slept well the night before, hadn't had a long sit the day before, and was ready to get to work. My sit started somewhere in the middle of A&P, which ramped up to a good flow of sensations and a fair amount of blissful sensations in the body. I did a 90 minute sit and went through subtle, but definitive experiences, of A&P, the dark night stages, and equanimity. Each stage was a little more subtle than I'm used to, but clear enough, especially as everything stabalized in equanimity.  I actually spent a fair amount of time in equanimity during this sit and explored the body. During this exploration I investigated in detail the sensations I associated with me as an observer. I found very tight, hard, even metallic-like sensations in the shape of a small rod extending from the head to the upper neck in a jagged-like manner. Keeping awareness with those sensations was difficult, because they didn't seem to move that much and it was somewhat jarring to my whole body to mess with them. I worked with it for a bit until it had mostly dissolved into more subtle sensations.

After the second sit I wasn't physically tired, but it felt almost like emotional exhaust was coming out of my chest. I was surprised at how quickly I moved through everything, but was definitely feeling it, like I had just done an emotional workout. I had to sit there for a while just to digest everything.

The third and most recent sit was a good one as I spent most of my time in what I think was the stage of high equanimity. When first noticing sensations throughout the body, a sort of empty, amorphous, and dense sensation spread throughout most of the body, although there were bits and pieces of bright and fast sensations here and there.  As I explored the center of these darker sensations it almost seemed like a dark hole that could go on forever. Most of the sit I explored those sensations in relationship to the whole body, noticing the variety of senstions, but mostly the all-pervasiveness of this dark foggyness that pervaded throughout the body. It was difficult to see its impermanence because the closer/deeper I looked it, it just continued on into more of the same. The slight tingles in other parts of the body helped to keep perspective of impermance. In the spirit of exploring my identity, I continued working in the area of the observer, or middle/back of the head. The iron-like rod was not there anymore, but interestingly as I observed closely I found a sense of pulsation that caused a perception of pulsation throughout the entire body. I have noticed pulsations like that before when observing subtle sensations under the nostrils, and then they appeared to affect the area of my head. This time they pulsed the entire view of my body, over and over. It was difficult to stay with it, as if when I looked to far to the right or left, and not dead-center, I would miss it. And my mind was somehow flimsy at this point, like it was a balancing act to stay on the area of pulsations. As I stayed with this area longer, the sensations changed to a wave-like pulsation. In other words, pulsations with less force that were more connected, and were like waves rocking my entire body, but originating from this 'observer' area.

As the sit ended I didn't have any aftereffects like the day before, I had my normal energy to continue with the day. Part of my practice now is making clear intentions to have fruitions so that I can begin experiencing them and inclining back to them, which is the part of my practice that is still very unclear to me. I hope as I continue poking and prodding around while keeping to the basics that things will keep getting clearer.

7/3/16 8:40 AM as a reply to John B.
I haven't had as much time for longer formal sits the past week due to moving, but when I have taken 30-45 minutes to sit I've noticed that sensations and emotions are directly related to emotions and events of the day, and less cycling somewhere in the maps. As I continued investigating the switch, I started thinking and reading a little bit more about how I should go about integrating my practice into daily life. Usually I keep attention on a limb or two of subtle sensations, keeping that as a reminder of impermanence in the body. I was noticing that more and more of my pre-retreat behavioral tendencies were coming back, and it seemed related to having less and less awareness during the day of subtle sensations in the body. When realizing that, I decided to put more effort into lessenign the gap of formal and informal practice, and realized that it is much easier for me now after progressing a bit in my practice to keep at least a slight awareness of subtle sensations in most of the body, through much of the day, especially in passive activities. Keeping that awareness in just an arm or a leg isn't good enough. Even if the clarity isn't as high, it seems keeping a bigger picture of awareness of the body through the day immediately brings a sense of calm, helps me act wiser, and helps me keep an investigative and inquisitive attitude.

Sitting this morning I had a mix of carryover emotions from the day, then it seemed like moving through a brief dark night with emphasis on fear, disgust, and re-observtion into equanimity. In equanimity I have to deal some with mental states like boredom, which leads to drifting in my thoughts, but the more observant I am of it then I move on to the next thing, usually with little bliss waves connected to a sense of relief.

Leaving the formal sit, my goal is to keep a light sense of awareness of most of the body throughout the day, which will hopefully bring some more lasting positive changes, due to the sheer amount of time of working on maintaining a sharp concentration and relaxed body, and maintaining some equanimity with it.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
7/4/16 10:10 AM as a reply to John B.
Sounds good! emoticon

Relaxed, alert
7/6/16 8:27 AM as a reply to John B.
The last couple of sits, especially yesterday, were revealing about coping and defense mechanisms I use to hide certain sensations or emotions. In the past I've dealt with some digestional issues related to cramping in the stomach area. These sensations came to the forefront in yesterday's sit, but eventually shifted into a deep and profound sadness. It carried over into today's sit as well, and showed me that some of the potent physical sensations I've experienced the last few months are related to or covering some other, painful sensations. My mind did a lot to try and avoid just sitting today and returning to some similar sensations in terms of restlessness, jumping to other things, and not wanting to settle down. It has also affected my daily-activity practice, in terms of being less sensitive to senstions. It's like being willing to open up to another group of sensations (mostly dealing with sadness), and letting those be a significant part of experience over time. There is also a lot of relief that comes from bringing attention to them.

Working with sensitivity to subtle sensations today, I found that relaxed alertness can be two separate functions implemented separately. Applying attention to an area sometimes feels like a slight pressure in that area, and it's easy to see how a firm or strict attention could unknowingly create tension, thus hiding less obvious subtle sensations. Then relaxation, for me, is a purposeful release of the muscles that ensures the attention to the body is not creating additional resistance. 

Daily life cont.
7/11/16 6:10 PM as a reply to John B.
As I've been adjusting to life in a new place my daily sits have reflected a lot of the emotions tied to adjusting and the excitmeent/anxiety of starting new things. This morning my sit was very pleasurable, with a lot of blissful sensations arising as I brought attention to places deep in the neck, the back of the head, the chest, and then the rest of the body.

The majority of my work this past week has been maintaining awareness of sensations throughout the body off the cushion. It has gotten a little easier over the course of a week to do this. One thing that helps that I have to remind myself to do is notice the subtle and gross sensations. Some of the obvious sensations like pressure on my feet when standing, or the feeling of my clothes, etc. combined with any other more subtle moving sensations paints a more complete picture for me. Getting up from my sit this morning I had a much more keen awareness of some of the emotional complexities while eating and moving. It is interesting to see the interaction between emotions and thoughts and how quickly they can change and be affected by what I am doing.

Another focus of mine is regaining some concentration during my sits. On retreat I would wake up with a strong sensitivity through my body, which hasn't happened since, despite consistent practice formally and informally. I've taken some time at the beginning of sits to rest with the breath, or rest on a very small portion of the body, letting the mind get a bit sharper around that point, before moving throughout the body. The fluctuation in sensitivity to sensations due to lack of concentration seems to be the biggest difference of informal practice, because I don't have 100% of my focus on the body.

I recently read an analogy spoken by Buddha about balancing a full jar of oil on one's head so that even one drop does not spill, as compared to maintaining mindfulness of the entire body constantly. I love the analogy because it speaks to the caution and carefulness that someone should have to maintain that mindfulness, which is definitely something I could put even more effort into.

Informal vs formal
7/31/16 9:53 AM as a reply to John B.
It's been a while since my last post since I've been moving/creating a new website. Feeling a little more settled in now and have some time to write. I think I've been moving back and forth in different parts of the dark night in my formal and informal sits. I don't know if anyone else has experienced this, but sometimes it feels like I'm at a different place on the map in my formal sits than when I'm practicing mindfulness throughout the day informally. I think it might be that I might move forward during a sit, and then take half a step back and hang out in some territory through the rest of the day with little movement on the map. Or it may be that I've moved backward a bit before I actually sit, and so I'm recovering some ground everyday.

My experience of the dark night is a little different this time round. It's been a long time that I've been in it, all in between fear and reobservation. It was only just today that I began spending more time in the back of the head/neck area, as it feels like I have sensations there connected with nausea, or that feeling you get when turning around too many times. It might be some sort of disorientation happening when losing my frame of reference. I'm looking forward to getting the hang of it because it is sort of keeping me stuck in this area for a while. I do feel a lot of relief when exploring these areas, so it may be that I'm on the right track.

My daily informal practice is continuing to expand and change. Some days are better than others, but I'm starting to get a pretty good sense of keeping some type of full body awareness. I have long stretches where I totally forget to, but then remember when sitting down or listening or slowing down, and then get back on it. It feels like when staying focused on the breath in meditation and getting lost in thoughts, and watching the gap between having thoughts get longer and longer. Or the other way of looking at it, watching how I catch myself sooner when getting lost in thoughts. Speaking of which, I've had some really nice sessions beginning with a focus in concentration, and getting the hang of calming the mind more and more. I can always jump into vipassana work, but it's always different when starting with or doing a complete formal sit of concentration using a very small portion of the body/breath. It feels like fine tuning every time, and I know I could benefit a lot from sharpening the ole mind on a regular basis. So, to bring it back to my informal practice, it's almost like gaps where I don't have body awareness during the day are slowly getting smaller. It's on such a longer scale that it's a bit more difficult to notice, but it is certainly worthwhile.

I had an interesting experience performing on trumpet the other day where I played for a couple of hours and had some intense stomach pain afterward from constant tension. I sort of lost awareness through a lot of the playing, and was wondering if that was pain I had always experienced when doing intense/emotional performances like that, but had never been sensitive enough to notice before, or if I'm out of practice and am experiencing a consequence of that. Either way, I'm continuing to see how my informal mindfulness practice during music playing can help me have a healthy relationship with music and keep my body/mind healthy when immersed in it.

Long dark night
7/31/16 10:10 AM as a reply to John B.
I'm regaining confidence again in my practice, especially as I've been more settled in and had some longer and more focused sits during the week. I realized I've been in a pretty long dark night for the past two weeks at least, if not longer. I finally confirmed it again as I dove into some strong sensations of sadness in a recent sit, examining its impermance and trying to see the different aspects it was made up of - mainly pressure in the eyes connected to sinking feelings in the pit of the stomach, sometimes rising up higher in the chest. As I worked through it I came upon feelings of restlessness that were fairly strong, and that was my signal that I was moving on a bit. In my sit today I moved on further with some feelings of tiredness/boredom, but mostly a distractability that I've come to recognize around this point. I try and take a wider view, seeing the big picture. I also had a moment of giving up, but it was more like I was saying goodbye to a part of myself and was somewhat sad to let it go. The part of myself that was leaving was some of my will, and being able to say goodbye to it seemed like a natural result of working through the dark night this time. It was interesting discovering how I considered a piece of myself, or my personality, as contained in that willpower or drive that I had to let go of in order to move on.

As I've pondered how to view noself in my present moment experience, I decided to frame it as seeing how one feeling is made up of many sensations, and how those sensations are made up of many more sensations, and how they are all happening at slightly different yet related times, creating an image of wholeness. It makes sense for me to see it that way, and recently reading some of Thich Nhat Hanh writings about interdependence helped me realize that. It makes sense for me to see noself that way, because instead of seeing myself as one unchanging entity, I see the many changing parts making up that entity, and that is true down to the smallest degree. It also helps me view impermanence and noself at the same time, without having to really conceptualize it. I can just observe the multifaceted and constantly changing nature of sensation. I'm sure there are many other ways to look at it, but this is working for me so far.

I know that nanas take different amounts of time when cycling through, so I'm curious to see if equanimity takes longer this time. It's been interesting being in the dark night for so long and maintaing an informal practice, because the main difference is intensity. I'm not as affected during the day because the degree of intensity and focus is much less, but I found that during formal practice, if I give 100% effort, I make true progress and continue to move forward. Afterwards I'll feel some after-effects of the strong emotions and need some time to recover, but to make true and lasting changes seems to take renewed commitment for each sit.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
8/10/16 9:54 AM as a reply to John B.
It looks like I need to start replying to the main thread now so that the posts aren't so skinny on my desktop. A little plug here - I've recently updated my website and blog to talk all about the intersection of mindfulness with music performance and music therapy. As I deepen my meditation practice more I am definitely finding more meaningful ways it influences everything I do, including my musical journey.

It seems like my long foray in the dark night is coming to a close as I move into equanimity. I'm not positive if I am completely out of it because I am out of town and I missed out on doing a formal sit yesterday. But my last sit I was able to rest in first jhana for the duration of my sit, almost an hour or so, and it was definitely a relief after so many different types of dark night sits over the last few weeks. However, during the day and informal practice the last couple of days I have noticed some different sensations of unease. It could be that I am in a gap between desire for deliverance and reobservation. I only say that because I've noticed that while everything has sort of been stretched out and taking longer, maybe as a result of only really sitting for an hour a day, some of my sits are more like a break in between the dukkah ñanas, and then the next sit throws me back into the fray. I am very grateful for that type of progression right now, because my last sit - having the first jhana arise - was like a soothing balm after everything that's been going on. I try to be cool with whatever my sits bring, but there is definitely a desire to be moving solidly into the stage of equanimity.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
8/22/16 9:04 PM as a reply to John B.
I've had some productive sits and some overall boring-ish equanimity sits as well the last week to week and a half. One of the most interesting being a sit last week where I was interested in returning to observing sensations in areas in the back of my head/neck that initially felt like a solid rod several weeks ago, but now are more like very strong pulsations mixed with a strong collection of hard-like sensations. After spending an entire sit with those sensations, I found that they really softened up and are much weaker. The sensations really extended down into my upper back and were also tied into slight feelings of nausea or unease in my stomach area. It was nice to rediscover and work on those sensations, watching them break up and soften.

It seems like when I am in equanimity long enough I have very interesting dreams. In fact, I have had some sort of powerful eye-opening dream just about every time I've been in high equanimity. My dream this time was two nights ago, where I was being threatened with death by some natural disaster and everyone around me was dying. A lot of us were escaping over some hill and I escaped successfully for awhile on a bike before running into someone. I supposedly knew this someone in the dream and they decided to end my life because my suffering was too great and I would probably die anyways. I told them that was fine, but right before they did so I told them it was okay to kill me, as long as in future lives they promised never to end someone's life just because they were suffering. Then there were a couple moments where I essentially let go, had a slight struggle with it, but then was able to fully let go into darkness, and then woke up. In these dreams there seem to be some sort of phrase or event that really hits home, and then I feel some emotional impact of it for hours after, although this time when I woke up I didn't feel any huge aftershocks. So I just continued about my normal sits and didn't think too much of it.

I attended a group meditation sit earlier and the teacher spoke about our sense of control and time and how sometimes the vulnerability of the present moment presents us from fully being in it. It helped me put the dream in perspective, recognizing my need to practice letting go in my formal sits and throughout my daily life. Lately I have felt rushed and began falling into the trap of rushing between activities. Seeing how letting go can help me out during my informal practice lets me know there is a good deal of work for me to do in my formal practice as well. I'm looking forward to focusing on letting go during equanimity, because its gentle pleasantness and evenness can sometimes leave me wondering what to do with it.

My informal practice is continuing well and I am making an effort to notice impermance all the time in my body and experiences, rather than just being mindful of body sensations for the sake of being mindful of them.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/4/16 8:24 PM as a reply to John B.
I've been a bit sick off and on the past couple of weeks and my practice time has been a lot less because of that. The times I have gotten to sit have mainly been focused on noself and watching sensations break apart, seeing multiple layers to sensations, and occasionally trying to find the observer point from my head or body. I noticed after some good work on noself that I had some times during the day where compassion would arise naturally and more than usual. I'm not sure if it is directly related but seems like it could be. Besides that I've been hanging out somewhere in equanimity and trying to get a better handle on noself. I've also had some sits where my main focus was calming the mind in samatha because my sits have been so irregular. I've gotten to sit the last couple of das and I'm looking forward to getting back into the groove.

In one of my recent sits I spent a good deal of time working in the area of my uper and lower back, stomach, and chest. I've noticed over the last several weeks that those areas have been generally more difficult for me to recognize sensation in and I've been a little lazy about spending time with those areas. It was nice to work in those areas a bit more, especially because they make up a huge part of my sensate experience. Sticking with the head, arms, and feet isn't quite enough. Even though the sensations in my torso I am observing are a bit more gross, they are still clear enough where I can see them break apart a bit and see impermance and noself in them. The torso will be a good area for me to focus on this week so that I'm not neglecting sensations based on lack of sensitivity and lack of patience.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/5/16 5:41 AM as a reply to John B.
Sound real good John!

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/5/16 7:09 AM as a reply to John B.

Amazing that you can remember so much details from the retreat. I can only remember generally what happened, not on a daily basis.

I stopped practicing the body scan three months after the retreat. It was great for equanimity training while at the retreat, but body scan is a technique that made my meditation worse the more I body scan. My mind becomes noiser with thoughts with successive scans. I resorted back to anapanasati as my daily meditation.

For me, it is not much different from qi meditation in terms of principle of the technique. Because of revisiting the same areas for sensation, it is possible that sensation comes from memory of the previous scan or from induced sensation.

Where the mind's intention is on the body, qi will flow followed by blood. This is induced sensation. I prefer passive vipassana. Breathing is the basis of awareness, then observe impermanence of objects or sensation from whereever it may come from. That way I know the sensation is not induced by my mental intention of subconcious anticipation of sensation from the area that the mind is waiting on.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/5/16 7:45 AM as a reply to Simon Liu.
Thanks - it's not totally accurate, but the switching from anapanasati to the body scan on retreat and remembering the last couple of days helped me remember the general order of events with everything else happening in between.

That's an interesting idea of induced sensation. I guess I figured that if I approached my body with the same mental and physical relaxation that any sensation going on is just what is going on, not induced by me. I'm not sure what you mean by qi either. All I know are the same subtle sensations that I've experienced since the retreat and they tend to change generally depending on where I'm at on the map. Also, in general, there are very familiar subtle sensations occuring all throoughout the body that seem pretty consistent between sits, but I've found that finding overall themes, thought patterns, and attitudes during a sit help me see the big picture and move through.

When I return to anapanasati after the body scan I typically keep a full body awareness regardless. Feels more fun that way anyhow.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/5/16 9:53 AM as a reply to John B.
It is great that you find body scan useful to you. Of course, body scan is only one of two wings. The other wing is to be aware of bodily sensation when not doing body scan. Body scan helps you become more sensitive to subtle sensations. After body scan, you observe the body all the time. This is where vipassana is activated in the body scan technique. In mental noting, vipassana is activated at the time of doing mental noting.

In Taoism, the wisdom is that mental intention guides qi (prana or orgone) flow which causes blood flow.

If I were to have fracture in area where blood doesnt quite flow to,  I would use mental intention to feel that area to induce blood to flow to that area.

I know this because I used to cultivate qi. I do a meditation that the Shaolin monk taught me. It enables qi to flow around my arms that are in embracing circular posture. Just by feeling my arm and hand, I can feel immediate sensation there. I can feel bulk of energy moving randomly inside my arm.

Body scan puts the mind in an area then the mind waits to feel that area. This induces sensation.

In passive vipassana, your mind is not focused on any body part. When you feel bodily sensation, you know that is natural sensation, not initiated by the mind. 

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/5/16 11:42 AM as a reply to Simon Liu.
I appreciate your perspective, I just see things more in terms of how they were presented at the Goenka retreat at this point, and confirmed by my experience as well. To do the body scan does require directing awareness to areas of the body, but that is true for any vipassana technique. If sensations are occuring throughout the entire body 24/7, then directing attention to that area doesn't cause the sensation, just brings it to awareness. At retreat it was emphasized that we try to not change or create a specific sensation, but see what is always there. For me, it is the intention to obsere, and then the observation takes place. If I were trying to create sensations during the body scan I doubt I would move through the vipassana jhanas. In other words, for me the body scan is passive.

I don't know if you've had the experience of trying to create subtle sensations in the body, but I've certainly tried and it just doesn't work. And I've found the passive version you are talking about, for me, ends up in a lot of areas of the body being neglected. That's why I choose to be thorough, or at other times be purposeful in exploring certain areas, but to not neglect areas just because I don't recognize sensation right away. It could just be that those neural connections aren't as strong and I need more time in that area.

I've found that certain areas of the body are already more sensitive, possibly due to blood flow for some, but for others not. Either way, vipassana occurs at all times when recognizing the 3Cs in the experience. For me, bringing in the concept of qi complicates matters a bit. There is no way for me to define qi because as far as I've experienced there is no separation between the feeling of qi and subtle sensations that are occuring all the time anyways.

So I see things fundamentally a bit differently, which is okay. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

Continuing the noself journey
9/12/16 11:05 AM as a reply to John B.
I've continued to do the best I can to incorporate noself into my sits. I appreciate any advice out there because the whole thing seems amorphous to me. I'll sit for a while watching impermanence in body sensations and sometimes incorporating thoughts into the mix, then I'll notice how sensations are rapidly going by, and seeing how my awareness sits there. I will start to disidentify myself with whatever I am watching. Then I'll start to notice how it seems like I'm looking at my sensations from somewhere (the observer) and I'll try and notice any sensations related to that, a sense of watching, a direction, general stuff. Then I've noticed that if I really widen my view and try and incorporate more of awareness in my awareness, which is probably just more of sensations related to consciousness and not the awareness itself. Anways, as I do that, it gets much mroe challenging for me to pinpoint a specific location of where the 'observer' is after widening the view. Maybe spending more time with the general sense of consciousness and those sensations would help me.

With all that I've been hanging around in equanimity still, and it's been a while now.Since I'm still pretty unsure about the stream entri/fruition process I'm hoping that this time round things happen slowly and clearly and I get a good sense of what's going on with all that. I was also able to deal with some extra stressors so I've been able to start sitting regularly again. My sits also incorporate emotions about the day as I've noticed before. Also, for my informal practice I'm trying to do awareness of body sensations and thoughts simultaneously. It's a way for me to broaden my focus and hopefully bring some more wisdom, compassion, and awareness to what's going on throughout the day.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/12/16 1:02 PM as a reply to John B.
I am glad that it is working for you. Whatever works, keep doing it.  I will just say few words from another perspective, not as debate but as sharing.

Awareness in passive vipassana is not the same as in body scan. In passive, you have no idea where sensation will come from. You are aware of it only when it has arisen, so the sensation is impossible to be sense impression from memory or induced. In body scan, the attention is directed repeatedly, so there is potential for a sensed sensation to be derived from those two cases.

For me, just relaxing and feeling the existence of my hands can cause sensations to arise. When I have two palms facing each other without touching  and rotate one palm around, I can feel sensation in the other palm that is in synchronicity of the moving palm's movement. When you try to feel your ear, you are causing blood to flow so that you can feel the sensation of the ear. In passive vipassana, you have no idea where sensation will come from. You know it only after it has arisen, so the sensation is naturally formed.

The other point is that vipassana is about observing 3Cs not how much coverage of body you can experience 3Cs; hence, it doesn't matter if in passive vipassana you don't experience sensation from the chest or the back or etc.

I dislike body scan because when my mind is trying to know where is certain area in my body the visualization of that area in the context of the larger area causes imagination and bends my body posture subconsciously. With repeated scan, I cannot say definitively if the sensation I think I am feeling came from sense impression of the memory from previous scan or real or induced.

I would start with anapanasati and have real calm mind, but then after the second or third body scan I can see my mind doing two things - body scan and meandering in thoughts at the same time. The more I do body scan, the more meandering of thoughts there are. I don't have this problem with passive vipassana because concentration is the base and when there is sensation I just focus on that sensation until it is gone. If another sensation arises, I go to that otherwise I go back to concentration of breathing or tummy.

Buddha really taught doing concentration and viapssana in tandem. I asked AT why the teaching doesn't talk about attaining access concentration before switching to vipassana. He just put me off by saying that it will be addressed in the next few days. Never happened.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/13/16 6:35 AM as a reply to Simon Liu.
Hey Simon, glad to hear from you again. Since you brought a couple of the same points again I'll try to address them in a different way. The body scan is the same as open awareness of the entire body, just on a smaller scale. When you choose to let sensations from the entire body arise, that is your frame of focus. If the arm is the frame of focus, you can let whatever sensation in your arm arise. Any qualms you have about memory or inducing sensation could also happen during your version of passive vipassana - the only difference is a wider range of attention. If how you practice passive vipassana also includes other senses, it's a slightly different story, but it sounds like you watch mostly body sensations and occasionally thoughts. But this is why vipassana can be done using any object, as long as the 3Cs are noticed with precision. We choose our object of attention, or attentional frame, and work within those limits. During the body scan we just happen to be a bit more fluid with that frame of attention while moving through the body. Personally, I often allow my entire body to be the frame of attention, which might be how you're describing passive vipassana, and find that helpful when applying new techniques.

I don't quite see sensation and blood flow the same. While an increase of blood flow can cause an increase in pressure, heat, and other sensations, it is not the only cause of sensation in the body. The many variety of nerve endings throughout the body are the cause of percieved sensation. When I choose to notice sensation throughout the entire body in a concentrated state, I can tune into sensations throughout the entire body at once - so it doesn't follow that blood flow increases throughout the entire body. There's only so much increased blood flow to go around.

Being able to view subtle sensations is actually fairly important when it comes to practicing vipassana using the body. When concentration is weak, only gross sensations or no sensation is felt in particular areas. In order to gain insight, the speed of sensations must eventually be very high so that the meditator can observe impermanence quickly and consistently. When choosing to use the body as a means of vipassana, a strong and sensitive conentration will lead to percieved subtle sensations throughout the body. If only gross sensations are available, and you are choosing to view whichever ones pop up strong enough to grab your attention, as Goenka explained in one of his recordings, the mind will tend towards only gross sensations, and not develop the concentration needed for more subtle sensations.

It sounds like your access concentration isn't as strong as you'd like it to be during the body scan, but that your momentary concentration is stronger during open awareness. In order to do the body scan more effectively, you may want to work on your concentration. Whenever I need to, I focus only on sensations as they pop up on a small section of my upper lip - I found it to be effective on retreat and since then for improving concentration while also preparing well for further vipassana work because it's the same work as the body scan, just on a very small scale. It helps the mind learn to recognize subtler sensations. Additionally, if you are worried about imaginary or memory sensations, then you may have a lack of sensation in the particular area you are working on, indicating a need to improve concentration a bit and be patient with that area.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/14/16 11:00 PM as a reply to John B.
Hi John,

On different topic, do you not try to imagine the chest and the back when you body scan? Accordingly, based on the block size suggested by Goenkaj, the front or back is easily dividable into 9 blocks of area to sense sensation from. Do you not try to imagine where that area is within the front or back? When the whole front is blind, it is hard to scan block by block of the front without the mind trying to figure where that block is at. 

In body scan, my head easily tighten up with progressive body scan. I have not yet attained access concentration from a scripture perspective. However, no matter how concentrating I am, body scan causes my mind to become scattered quickly. I can do the same thing with mental noting vipassana meditation, my mind would be very concentrating.

Head, limbs, and lower body parts are easy to scan, but front and back are slabs of blind granite area. To divide that into smaller areas to feel sensations cause too much imagination to figure out where that area is. I think consequently my head begins to have tighter and tighter sensation.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/15/16 6:10 AM as a reply to Simon Liu.
Hey Simon. Yep, at first it was quite difficult to feel any sensation in many areas. I treated the process as if I were a stroke or TBI patient in recovery and was extremely meticulous about the process. Sometimes it felt like my brain was doing mental gymnastics. Through the process i practiced exerting mental effort while relaxing the body. That helped me and still does to be more sensitive to sensations. Additionally, there is always the feeling of clothes on the skin or the air touching the skin. I realize that many times when I feel like an area has nothing going on, there are some basic sensations from touch, pressure, etc that I was skipping over. Now there is a lot less mental effort just to notice sensation for me.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/16/16 12:49 AM as a reply to John B.
Does your head have strong or tightening sensation? I got that the more I did that.
I suspect it was me trying to imagine how many areas my chest can hold. I think the mind was trying to figure out how big the chest or back is and how many blocks of areas there are.  It caused exaggerated sense of the front and the back.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/16/16 11:54 AM as a reply to Simon Liu.
When beginning I did have wierd sensations in my head, sometimes tightening or felt like being tied in a knot or trying to loop around a corner, all as a result of the effor that went in. I didn't mind putting in the mental effort because I knew it was just because I was geting the hag of being sensitive to my body. It required mental effort, however, physical relaxation at the same time was important.

I kind of see what you mean about diving up areas, but you don't have to divide areas. You can start just by looking at the entire upper back or chest and waiting for whatever comes up. No need to make additional sections or areas when the reality of it is much more fluid and boundaryless. 

As far as an exaggerated sense, that is also true for me when spedinging time with a certain area - sometimes it can feel like my attention is much closer to it so the sensations appear bigger, clearer, or stronger. And that all changes depending on concentration and perspective.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/17/16 6:43 AM as a reply to John B.
There can be a lot of opinions on the right way to do body scanning and noting practice...  in the end, all the meditation methods are approaches that keep the practioner interested in the fine tuning of awareness.

In the progress of insight model, remember that the last stages are Equanimity -- which is accepting and dwelling in things as they are. The moment before Stream Entry is Conformity -- which is an instance of perfectly experiencing the current moment that includes fully experiencing sensations of self and other all at once (without identifying with self sensations and without separating from the other sensations) --- a flash of seeing the non-duality of the moment.

Similarly, in "nature of mind" models, the focus isn't on particular experiences, but rather to see the >nature< of any experience.

My own opinion is sometimes we get sidetracked by how a particular practice is supposed to appear on the cushion, but we forget that the goal is to get sensitive enough just to see this moment, any moment, just as it is. Sometimes our thoughts about perfect practice will actually send us on a quest that sends us away from resting in the clear experience of this moment. 

Well, at least that happened to me a lot! So I'm probably just projecting and if so, please disregard! 

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
9/17/16 8:54 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol, thanks a lot for your comment. I hadn't heard Conformity explained  exactly that way before, and it makes a lot of sense, especially for where my practice has led recently. I've been spending a lot more time focusing on noself rather than on impermanence exclusively and trying to navigate how to do so, but that comment helps a lot. Actually, your comment got me reading about the three doors a bit more and I finally made sense of what I believe my stream entry experience was and a fruition a week later, which is the "gut-wrenching" version through the suffering door related to attachment. It just clicked how my practice had been focused on impermanence and noticing craving and aversion, which I guess is how I've chosen to view the suffering characteristic. Anyways, thank you! I think I have the voculabulary/understanding I need to post in the 'attainments' part of this forum to get others' opinions.

In terms of a right or wrong way of body scanning, I totally agree. I found that having an attitude of curiosity and experimentation is a key element that helped me begin making progress and continues to push me forward. The conversation before this one on this thread is geared towards the first two days I seriously started learning a body scan method. The three months since then have definitely built on that.

I actually had a related reminder earlier this week, that the goal was just to see things as they are. It helped me focus my practice much more and was comforting and reassuring, because you're right, we can get lost sometimes in trying to practice the right way. When it comes down to just looking clearly at what's happening in the moment, the practice is much simpler and straightforward.

RE: Continuing the noself journey
9/20/16 12:42 PM as a reply to John B.
I've had some good sits the past week as I've really focused on noself and tried to find out what that means for me experientially. Reading through this thread helped me a bit too. I have been spending more time with the idea of a watcher and trying to examine the experience of that while sitting. At first I was really identifying the watcher as a self, and even had a decently long sit where I continued to do that, but found that it caused alot of tension in my chest like a know, and increased overall aversion I was feeling. That was enought o teach me not to identify with any sensations, even that of a watcher, and in my sits since then have found that disidentifying with those sensations of a watcher brings a lot of relief. In fact, I think it has helped me tune into a good amount of aversion I typically carry around with me but wasn't necessarily aware of.

When watching the watcher, I typically begin by paying attention to impermanence in body sensations, then notice how there appears to be distance between me and the sensation. I'll notice if there is some thought or mental idea of that space, and I'll notice how there seems to be a vantage point between me and any sensation - whether it be in the body, a thought, or another sense. I try and see how that sense of distance between perception and the sensation is passing through time, appears to change depending ont he object, and now I'm getting better sat noticing that it is always there. It's more challenging to see it as impermanent, and somewhat challenging in disitenfying wiht it. But as I continue to see it as noself along wiht everything else, I am finding relief and recognizing how that identification causes tension and stress.

Continuing the process, I'm beginning to see how most of the time I am using that vantage point of an observer and tying it in with other perceptions of a self, as if I tie in certain sensations in the body with it. For example, noticing a feeling in the back of the neck and jaw and eyes all connected to the observer, and for that moment is my sense of self. And it changes and I can go in and view the different aspects and objectify the experience. Hopefully as I continue the process the idea of observing the observer and not identifying with it becomes easier.

RE: Continuing the noself journey
9/20/16 3:00 PM as a reply to John B.

I tried body scan for 30 minutes during lunch for the past two days. I awakened myself to the fact that I can adjust the technique that best fits my way, just like breathing meditation we adjust our breathing and focusing to find the best way as lonng as it is complying with the general principle of that particular approach.

With regard to not-self, walking meditation is a real good meditation for that. It is said that walking meditation can lead to enlightenment. You can use walking meditation for concentration or for inisght meditation.
For concentration, you focus the mind on the movement of steps.

For insight, you focus the mind on the mental intention and the arising and disappearing of the sensation as you walk.

Also, you can end up doing concentration and insight in tandem in walking meditation.


RE: Continuing the noself journey
9/20/16 4:59 PM as a reply to Simon Liu.
Cool, thanks Simon. That's a good suggestion. I haven't done much walking meditation lately and it would be good to pick it up again with the new focus on noself. I've been thinking of doing some more active meditations involving movement and postures and walking is an easy one to pick up anytime.

RE: Continuing the noself journey
9/29/16 7:57 AM as a reply to John B.
My sits have been fairly consistent, typically 60-90 minutes a day, missing a day or here there. As I spend more time in equanimity I've begun to notic how the nanas become a bit more fluid and there are tastes of different experiences that come and go. I've also noticed at times how certain expereinces during the day/night can set off strong emotions or reactions that require a lot of equanimity to work through, or at least constant awareness of them. I can see now how certain strong expereinces in equanimity might appear like stream entry but are actually just experiences along the way to keep applying equanimity to.

In one sit recently I had a dichotomy of very warm temperatures in the first half, with a cooler sense in the second half. It felt like a subtle first jhana with a light coolness that reminded me of 3rd jhana, but wasn't nearly as strong. The whole sit required equanimity, but like with some other sits since then, I've found that my sense of equanimity during sits and during the day has grown stronger. As a result, some sits have been very pleasant, very peaceful, and had a pleasant stillness to them. During one sit the typical subtle sensations I pay attention to weren't noticeable, but a smaller layer of smaller sensations buzzing on the top were. It seemed like a finer layer of sensations that I could be aware of.

It appears I am continuing in equanimity despite dips within dark night, interesting feelings of aversion in many varieties that arise, along with the more pleasant states that also seem to come and go. With some longer sits I think I could establish much stronger equanimity, but for now I'll do what I can and keep awareness of impermancence throughout they day.

Continuing in EQ
10/11/16 7:12 AM as a reply to John B.
After some recent advice from DhO members, I'm pretty sure I haven't had stream entry yet, but for some reason this is my third time working through the cycle of insight. For some reason sometime around mid or high EQ I have had some sort of A&P-like experience that made me start to bounce around the nanas, slacken my practice, and somehow end up back working slowly towards A&P again for real. This time is much different, as I've expected all kinds of experiences while in EQ - pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral, which has really helped me stay the course during my sits.

Last week I went back to my own basics with some body scan, fulll body awareness, and recognizing basic emotions arising in my experience with equanimity. In one sit I was very encouraged as I moved through sensations dealing with hope, irritation, joy, ease, anger, and several others. I also spent time recognizing the seven factors of enlightment in my sits, to see what was there. I've noticed that ramping but my energy and investigation would cause an imbalance, making it difficult to remain concentrated. My mind would start wandering more easily. At the same time, I recognized that just sitting in open awareness in EQ wasn't enough direction for me, and my mind would be more likely to wander than investigate the 3Cs.

So, yesterday I had a great sit where I feel like I made some breakthroughs in maintaining that balance. First, I noticed that as everything is evenning out, there weren't too many pleasant or unpleasant sensations taking the center stage. At this point, it seems like neutral sensations are the star of my sits. That seems to be most difficult for me, as my disposition I believe is ignorance (as opposed to craving or aversion), so neutral sensations are the last for me to notice. On the other hand, I know I'll have even stronger equanimity once I can sit with them. Yesterday I sat with the neutral sensations, noticing the mind wandering, then upping investigation and energy to really see what was going on, and then dealing with mind wandering my constantly redirecting attention back to neutral sensations, and very subtle neutral sensations. My mind wants to be very concentrated at this point, which, for me, means noticing the subtlest of sensations and fine-grained changes, especially in the body. This highlighted a song loop playing in my mind, but an improvised one, so i knew there was volition behind it. So I spent time noticing that and allowing that to loosen up a bit. I was able to continually return to neutral sensations and my mind did quiet down, tranquility and concentration finally caught up, and after the sit, it was like coming out of a deep and restful state. Not jhanic, but fairly well concentrated, which was nice for an hour sit.

This was a nice development for me, because I had been trying to sit and notice thoughts, intentions, the body, vision, hearing - letting anything come up at all. However, that led to daydreaming or just feeling like I was wandering, not really my style. Hopefully this new direction is helping me settle into EQ with neutral sensations, which will hopefully strengthen my own equanimity with my experience. I am really noticing the flexibility of EQ this time, and how experiences can be all over the place, but also now how everything can settle into a neutral evenness.

Thought layers
10/25/16 8:04 AM as a reply to John B.
I've been able to keep up with my sits pretty well, although last week I missed a couple of days and had a couple of shorter sits closer to 30 mins. My formal and informal practice has dealt a lot with noticing thoughts, especially thoughts that appear to be at a layer under the normal level of conscious thought. These thoughts appear to be more automatic than conscious thought, and don't always quiet down when I watch them. They are more fragmented and seem to have a steady/random flow, like they are a just a function of the brain. That being said, in a couple of my sits they do seem to quiet down even more as I really rest into them, but I'm not sure if my attention is sinking more into the body so my attention doesn't have as much room for those thoughts, or if my attention is resting more on my state of mind and helping distill those thoughts even more, looking at a more clear layer beneath even those. Not sure if that makes sense, but has been a good object of investigation for me.

I've had a lot of fatigue in general lately, but after a sit last night I'm not sure how much is arising in practice due to practice, and how much is the rest of life. It's becoming harder to make that distinction as much lately. I had a strong fatigue in a sit yesterday but did my best to keep a high degree of mindfulness. As a result my body temperature rose and I felt heat throughout most of the sit. My attention found spaces behind the eyes that seemed to be the biggest indicators of fatigue. When I investigated those spaces I was in a space in my mind where it seemed liek all around that area in the head was fuzzy, and I was surrounding by fog-like sensations. I tried to be specific in recognizing specific sensations, but they were so amorphous and unclear I mostly had to be okay with that and just notice the sensations as they were. After the sit was a short dharma talk adn I was very tired during it with droopy eyes and all, but afterwards I was much clearer and had almost none of those sensations that had come up during the sit. That is what made me second guess the experience of fatigue nad start to see through it a bit more. I'll also add I've been getting good sleep lately, trying to make sure I stay on top of the whole tired experience. Overall, my focus for the sit was to maintain euqanimity, which felt right and seemed to put me in the right direction.

I've experiecned recognizing tiredness and fatigue before in retreat and since then, even recently when in low/mid equanimity, but this experience was much more intense. I'm going to continue to practice, investigating whatever comes up in my sits, and to be extra aware during informal practice throughout the day.

11/1/16 3:39 PM as a reply to John B.
I spent some time recently reading through some past posts on equanimity and the work before stream entry. Most of my sits have been in the vicinity of mid EQ lately, with some in the high EQ area too. I found a few pieces of good advice that have helped reinvigorate my practice - one is to make resolutions to reach stream entry. Doing this brought about the realization of the gravity of the whole thing and made me recognize my own fear/uncertainty about the whole process. Facing that helped me move over a hurdle I didn't really know was there. I also foun some advice about continuing to just do what I've been doing thus far, and let this practice carry itself. This led to me continue my focus on the 3Cs, especially impermanence within the framework of the body, and to continue to follow that with even subtler sensations and wherever my mind wants to take me. I've recognized that there are periods of sits where this energy helps me to get somewhere, and then for a good of sits I'll have a sort of spaced out vibe where sensations become more cloudy and focus is more difficult. I read some other good advice about have a nondirectional complete open awareness and let the body/mind show me what sensations it wants to. I think that is helpful for this part of practice, when it is difficult to zoom in on a specific area, but really there is a general dream-like feel that I'm trying to navigate.

I had a little realization about no self this past week practicing as well, where I saw sensations pass by and saw them as a "momentary self." That's the best way I can describe it anyways. I recognized that whatever I was looking at was passing away so quickly, that when I looked at the sensations without reference to the past, I could get a somewhat clearer image of a momentary self, or a snapshot of what I who I was, moment by moment. There was still some "me" in there, but less than usual.

I plan to continue to practice with resolutions at the beginning of sits and to try and navigate the amount of energy different parts of each sit needs.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
11/2/16 5:21 AM as a reply to John B.
Nice, good plan!

No self continuation
11/16/16 7:25 AM as a reply to John B.
I've focused a lot on no self in my sits recently and have learned a lot in my sits and from som dharma talks. I was checking out some of Guy Armstrong's talks on no self and the five aggregates which helped me to clarify consciousness of sensing as a quality of sensation that occurrs simultaneously with the sensation's other qualities. This makes sense in my own experience - I can see consciousneess of a sensationrro I can look at a quality of the sensation like its location, intensity, etc. This helps me view consciousness of sensing as its own quality to disembed with, or to not identify with. For me that is one thing that creates the strong sense of a separate observer.

In a sit over the weekend I had a fun moment when looking at concscioussness of sensations, in seeing that pass by moment by moment, that awareness of the sensation wouldn't happen without the sensation, and seeing how the two rely on each other. I had heard that before but not really seen it in my own practice until that point. Somehow that helps me see how me defining myself depends on sense objects around me, and breaks apart the illusion of a solid self a little bit more.

I also have a objective no self view point - a type of "no self observation" I can click on when viewing sensations that helps me not attach to them. I've also really clued in to clinging and aversion how it relates to an idea of me, and that I really cling to those sensations to form a self. I've continued to view impermanence in my practice as well to see how no form is solid, but continually changing. As I sit, sometimes I go into a half-way dream/fluid place where sensations are muddled together, or perhaps it's my observation that seems muddled, but the mindfulness is there. It's hard to describe, but when I stop my sits it's like I come back from wherever that mind state was.

For my informal practice and occasionally at the beginning of sits, I'll go through the seven factors of enlightenment, try and identify each one or set an intention to produce each one. Doing this has helped me identify craving/aversion when one of the factors aren't present.

My body has shown mixed reactions to identifying and pursuing the observation of no self in my practice - at first it was fear. Then it was aversion/ resistance. Then it was/ is sadness at times, and at other times a release accompanied by piti and a feeling of lightness. I've also seen how it is easier to drop aversion when I don't identify with it or notice that it is some projection of self causing it - some sort of self trying to cling onto a situation or set of sensations.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
11/16/16 8:35 AM as a reply to John B.
Great practice! One way of inducing the no-self view is to sequentially: focus on the breath, add the sensations of the body that are around the bbreath, add the domain of listening, add the domain of seeing, and make all of that one field of experience.

You're so right that all sorts of reactions come up. It really shows where we cling, avoid, and ignore. One tradition talks about non-dual awareness as awareness without greed, aversion, or ignorance -- it's what happens when that "one field of experience" really settles in without the subtle reactivity.

Hope that helps!

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
11/17/16 7:49 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks shargrol. I like the sequential practice idea, looking forward to trying that out. I can relate to the idea of no self when there is experience without craving, aversion, ignorance. It's much clearer to see how I cling to certain aspects of experience now and turn that into a permanent self.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
12/1/16 3:55 PM as a reply to John B.
My sits are progressing slowly but surely. I haven't gotten as much daily practice as I'd like, but have been able to do at least 30 minutes most days. I've been trying to work in mor einformal practice throughout the day since my time for sits has been less with the holidays around. I've found keeping attention on body sensations helps me stay grounded throughout the day and really makes a difference in my state of mind. I found myself working through the seven factors of enlightment, inviting them into my experience, and even just getting through mindfulness and investigation makes a big difference in how I approach the day.

In terms of sits I have experimented some with layering the breath with other body sensations, then hearing, then sight. My experience with it has changed as I've been getting lost less in the experience, where before I may get drowsy or daydreamy. Recently I have tried to be more accurate in my noting/noticing and quick, which I think has helped my practice be more worthwhile.  The time I actually sit is fairly intense and I work hard and focused noting. I think the rate of sensations I notice are typically 5-6 per second, while sometimes there will be more vibration-like sensations that are too fast to note individually.

It seems like every sense has constant information coming into it, including thoughts, and it's just a matter of directing attention to notice the constant stream of sensation. No wonder it's easy to get caught up in sensations, because the consciousness that arises with sensation is happening just as constant. I'm doing my best to note consciousness of sensation as part of the stream of noticing, and disembedding more and more from that.

Overall I'm looking forward to having more time to sit, but until then, making the most of the sits that I have and continuing with informal noting throughout the day.

holiday sits
1/7/17 8:59 AM as a reply to John B.
Practice has been hit or miss due to traveling, the holidays, and life transitions, but I've been able to sit almost everyday for 20-60 minutes. I begin most sits with a focus on body sensations, slowly transitioning to an open awareness of any physical or mental object that pops up. This strategy works okay for me, but I tend to grab onto the most exciting and salient sensations, rather than noticing positive, negative, and neutral equally. In a couple of my sits I have had a very strong sense of equanimity in one, and then strong senses of peace and comfort in another, resting insome very pleasant states. In another sit I had an odd experience of feeling like my mind was on a roller coaster, moving all around, almost like my awareness was going up and down and all around, despite my body being still and unmoving. This lasted for around 30 minutes. I wasn't sure what to make of it, so I just noticed it. 

In my practice I had been focusing so much on not craving by grasping onto pleasant states that my aversion level has risen to the point where it's automatic and seeping into other areas. Really focusing is on the pleasantness or unpleasantness and looking for any type of greed or aversion helps me to balance out my mindfulness. I'm able to tune into all kinds of sensations, but I think the delusion comes in when I'm not looking at the pleasantness or unpleasantness, and then the resulting craving. My goal for practice now is to find that mindfulness state that is completely open to any type of sensation, recognize the pleasantness or unpleasantness of sensations as they pass by, and then rest/sink into that state, recognizing the peacefulness of it. Listening to a few more Guy Armstrong talks online has helped me to refocus my practice in this way.

Mini retreat
1/25/17 11:59 AM as a reply to John B.
Since I've had some free time recently I've been able to sit between 2-5 hours everyday the last week and a half. It's been great to put so much time in, and a bit frustrating occasionally as I try to figure stuff out. I had a sit a couple of weeks ago where I really noticed myself moving through the nanas, taking about 20 minutes ot move into equanimity. It was some reassurance that I am still making progress and moving along where I generally think I am.

As I've tried to figure out what to focus on, I've spent more time trying to do completely open sits where I practice awareness of body sensations, the mind, hearing, and sight. It's a lot to switch between them and it's also difficult to try and keep them all in one big picture of awareness. In fact, I had a moment in a sit where I thought I would try the attitude of giving up, which ended up not sitting well with me, and in a later sit, I found increasing my energy really improved my concentration. Since then, I have had several sits where I go trhoguh the seven factors of enlightenment one by one, noticing them and strengthening them. While doing that today, I noticed how they were all mental factors I could observe and were not mine, but were passing states. I was able to separate a little bit more clearly today mental states and where they occur as opposed to physical sensations. Yesterday I was able to slip into what seemed to be a light first jhana, where it was very easy for me to stay concentrated on light body sensations and to continue sitting for some time. Increasing the energy in my practice is very helpful, but having the relief of entering into a jhanic state definitely takes some of the pressure off.

All that being said, I'm still figuring out how best to approach my sits and how to continue making progress. For being in equanimity, it seems like my equanimity could be stronger and would like to focus on upping that even more. After noticing and encouraging the seven factors, trying to deepen equanimity even more is a little challenging for me. Hopefully all this focus on the seven factors will lead me in the right direction and voerall it seems like it is - my mind is brighter/concentrated and body more relaxed during sits, but the movement is more slow going than I'd like. Also, having a completely open awareness to all sensations is difficult for me to manage, since I end up focusing on one type of sensation. Keeping them all in view is somewhat possible with a good deal of effort and for short periods of time.

Keep on keeping on
4/1/17 10:44 AM as a reply to John B.
It's been a little while since I last posted, although I've been keeping up with daily sits around 45-60 min daily. Overall I feel like my practice has stagnated although I have little bits of interesting things here and there. I had a few sits last week in a row that helped me recognize physical/emotional tension and "I-ness" related to my sense of vision. I began to recognize that 90% of the "me" I was putting in my head was actually my sense of vision and that investigating my vision along with whtever else came up in awareness helped me work through some different emotions/sensations seemingly related to my vision, but not in my vision itself - tension in the stomach, resistance, sadness, and overall unsettledness. 

My most recent sits have emphasized relaxation at the beginning and observing phenomena as they are. Relaxing at the beginning of sits helps me rest in the body and see a lot more buzzy sensations throughout. I have a tendency to try and break up reality more than I am actually seeing it break up - in other words trying to get my sense of awareness itself to flicker, which is too much effort to begin with, and then it just makes it harder to see whatever I'm observing. Sometimes I wonder if just observing the transient phenomena in my awareness is enough, because I have the memory of what happened a couple seconds before and then see what continues after, so I question if I am creating the perception for myself of a continuation of phenomena that isn't necessarily there.

Today I noticed a bit clearer how there is constant mental and physical sensations simultaneously and that the interaction between the two is so immediate that if I am viewing a physical sensation and not noticing any mental sensation before or after that is related then I am probably missing something. It also helps me dissolve the idea of a solid/core 'me' somewhere. For example, sometimes I'll notice the mental urge to do something and my body doesn't do it right away. Or I'll have the mental urge to really not do something, but then my body will start making actions towards it. It makes me wonder which part of the mental activity is really 'me' - the part that has the desires or the part that more subtly stops or starts the behaviors.

I figure I'm still in equanimity somewhere, but with some of the difficulties emotionally I've had in the last couple of weeks it makes me think I slide back occasionally into the dark night as I try to add different elements into my practice. I don't necessarily get bored in my practice, although sometimes beforehand I will feel ancy and resistant. It's more that I feel like I'm watching the same ole stuff, same ole sensations over and over - it's not like it was on retreat or after when I was clearly going through stages of insight - it's more like I'm wandering and not sure if I'm moving in any sort of right direction or just slowing myself down by bring different things into my practice, like incorporating all five senses, trying to find 'me' or 'mine,' checking out even subtler low tones in my hearing that seem to be connected to a deeper core in my body, maintaining awareness of my head and neck while awareness of other sensations come through, trying to find a deeper relaxation, looking for even subtler sensations in the body than I am finding, working on the impatience I feel at times, examining any unpleasant sensation and trying to find relationships to other places in the body. I'll typically do one or two of these in a sit, and then review after the sit what I noticed and maybe take some notes.

I'd like to say that after putting in so many hours I'm just relaxing into it and letting it go at it's own pace, but I'm not doing that totally - part of me still thinks that whatever effort and sharp observation that got me this far can take me through stream entry. When I relax to much or just try to 'accept everything' that comes into my awareness, my attention eventually wanders and I feel like I'm wasting practice time. Although in a least two recent sits I've had some good experience cultivating acceptance towards absolutely everything - it helped tame certain unpleasant sensations/emotions and gave my practice a sense of floatiness, ease, and comfort. I've read that that is very important when in equanimity if going the jhana route to stream entry, so perhaps that's another thing I should add to the list of things to try.  I have started once a week solely doing 1-2 hours of metta practice to help lighten things up.

Any feedback/comments/help is welcome.

RE: Keep on keeping on
4/3/17 9:58 PM as a reply to John B.
John B:
It's been a little while since I last posted, although I've been keeping up with daily sits around 45-60 min daily. Overall I feel like my practice has stagnated... 

It's good to notice this.

... My most recent sits have emphasized relaxation at the beginning and observing phenomena as they are. Relaxing at the beginning of sits helps me rest in the body and see a lot more buzzy sensations throughout. I have a tendency to try and break up reality more than I am actually seeing it break up - in other words trying to get my sense of awareness itself to flicker, which is too much effort to begin with, and then it just makes it harder to see whatever I'm observing.

Yes, that's the essential insight -- you are trying to make progress happen by controlling how things happen (making awareness itself flicker).

I figure I'm still in equanimity somewhere, but with some of the difficulties emotionally I've had in the last couple of weeks it makes me think I slide back occasionally into the dark night as I try to add different elements into my practice. I don't necessarily get bored in my practice, although sometimes beforehand I will feel ancy and resistant. It's more that I feel like I'm watching the same ole stuff, same ole sensations over and over - it's not like it was on retreat or after when I was clearly going through stages of insight - it's more like I'm wandering and not sure if I'm moving in any sort of right direction or just slowing myself down by bring different things into my practice, like incorporating all five senses, trying to find 'me' or 'mine,' checking out even subtler low tones in my hearing that seem to be connected to a deeper core in my body, maintaining awareness of my head and neck while awareness of other sensations come through, trying to find a deeper relaxation, looking for even subtler sensations in the body than I am finding, working on the impatience I feel at times, examining any unpleasant sensation and trying to find relationships to other places in the body. I'll typically do one or two of these in a sit, and then review after the sit what I noticed and maybe take some notes. 

It's okay to experiment this way, nothing inherently wrong with it.

I'd like to say that after putting in so many hours I'm just relaxing into it and letting it go at it's own pace, but I'm not doing that totally - part of me still thinks that whatever effort and sharp observation that got me this far can take me through stream entry. When I relax to much or just try to 'accept everything' that comes into my awareness, my attention eventually wanders and I feel like I'm wasting practice time. Although in a least two recent sits I've had some good experience cultivating acceptance towards absolutely everything - it helped tame certain unpleasant sensations/emotions and gave my practice a sense of floatiness, ease, and comfort.

Okay, here's the other essential insight. That cultivating acceptance towards absolutely everything let's your practice float in ease and comfort. That's the gateway to High EQ and eventually Stream Entry.

So overall, you are a bit conflicted. Part of you thinks that the effort of investigation will get you to Stream Entry, but part of you recognizes that this kind of effort seems to maybe slow things down by just adding things into practice. This is kind of an obvious statement, but I hope it makes you feel better --- I really don't know any other way to be able to radically accept everything, except by first trying all sorts of different ways to game the meditation and failing at it. No one is just going to radically give up on their first sit and BAM -- stream entry!

Rather, all of our sits are ways that we slowly learn to ease up and let reality happen without manipulation and without instinctively creating an observer-observed duality ("I'm over here, looking at reality over there"). Slowly, over time, we can eventually move into radical acceptance and then we notice -- oh, seeing sees! hearing hears! feeling feels!  And in High EQ we start noticing how -- oh, thinking thinks! 

Again, no one just starts sitting and says, okay I'll treat thinking as a mind object and see it as not-self and BAM -- stream entry! It takes time. 

At this point in your practice, keep doing what you are doing, exploring the things your exploring, but also build in about 10 minute or so when you are your most established in presence (usually about 30 minutes in) and just notice how seeing see, hearing hears, feeling feels, and thinking thinks. It will be awkward at first, but if you can just let awkward be awkward, you might find yourself moving into the somewhat fuzzy, floating, dreamy-but-still-present High EQ. 

No one spends lots of time in High EQ, but multiple visits over multiple sits seems to make falling into Stream Entry more likely. And it's a fun nana, no pressure, lots of ease, kinda blissy.

Keep doing what your doing, but keep exploring radical acceptance of everything -- especially when all the gross problems seem to fade away and you find yourself basically "okay" but with maybe a slight feeling of subtle resistance.

Hope that helps!

RE: Keep on keeping on
4/3/17 10:22 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks shargrol. As usual, you are spot on with some helpful advice. It's much appreciated!

A couple questions. First, by thinking thinks, would that also include awareness is aware? Overall, I feel like I'm not tied down to too many mental objects - especially the 'auditory' or 'visual' ones.

Second, is practicing radical acceptance similar to the seeing sees, thinking thinks, etc. exercise? It seems like radical acceptance is a good method for me towards high EQ. It's encouraging to hear about not expecting too much time in that territory, necessarily. Also, you are definitely right about my stubborness to consistently bring that in. I guess after doing several 3-4 hour sits a couple months back with that as my main focus I was unsure if it was the right approach for my practice. But the idea of hitting it for short amounts of time over many sits seems like a healthy way to bring it in.

Also, I've been exploring space and openness as a way of widening attention (at least trying to), and think that might help bring in some additional ease to whatever objects are popping up in awareness.

RE: John's Body Scan Practice Log
4/4/17 6:20 AM as a reply to John B.
Good, yes -- awareness is aware is a great way to include everthing allat once with less struggle. And yes, its accomplished by acceptance of everything. Well said. emoticon