Message Boards Message Boards

Miscellaneous

Iain's practice log

Toggle
Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/12/16 6:50 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/12/16 8:20 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/13/16 2:19 PM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 9/14/16 5:49 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/14/16 11:36 AM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 9/14/16 4:35 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/15/16 3:56 AM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 9/15/16 6:03 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/15/16 9:18 AM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 9/15/16 10:13 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/15/16 4:09 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/16/16 9:35 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/16/16 11:35 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/16/16 4:26 PM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 9/16/16 7:02 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/17/16 3:54 AM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 9/17/16 6:23 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/17/16 7:37 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/17/16 9:17 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/17/16 11:06 AM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 9/17/16 11:55 AM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 9/17/16 12:28 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/17/16 1:09 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/18/16 4:21 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/19/16 7:58 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/21/16 4:03 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/24/16 4:56 PM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 9/25/16 1:10 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/25/16 4:31 PM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 9/25/16 5:02 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/26/16 5:38 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Noah D 9/25/16 5:05 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/26/16 5:45 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Noah D 9/26/16 9:49 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 9/29/16 4:58 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 10/1/16 4:00 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 10/7/16 10:04 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 10/21/16 3:00 PM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 10/21/16 7:55 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Noah D 10/22/16 2:06 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Dream Walker 10/22/16 2:07 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 10/24/16 9:09 AM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 10/24/16 7:23 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 10/25/16 1:38 PM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 10/26/16 5:58 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 11/23/16 8:53 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 11/23/16 8:57 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 11/27/16 4:43 AM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 11/27/16 8:19 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 11/27/16 10:50 AM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 11/27/16 4:48 PM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 11/28/16 5:50 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 1/15/18 6:09 AM
RE: Iain's practice log shargrol 1/15/18 7:05 AM
RE: Iain's practice log Iain Macleod 1/15/18 8:41 AM
Iain's practice log
Answer
9/12/16 6:50 AM
Hi all. First post here. Anyway, just thought I would share my experience with meditation so far and hopefully get some feedback.

I started meditation 1 year ago exactly. Having read meditation for beginners by Jack Kornfield, I applied the technique he suggests and tried to follow my breath for 15 min each day. The reason I started doing this was because I was on a self improvement kick where I was adding anything to my life I thought would help me study.

3 months later, I had a life changing experience. I was at a friends house and ended up eating some weed brownies. I can't remember the details of what I experienced as it was so long ago, but I know that I went through some sort of intense experience which fundamentally altered the way I percieved the world.

The weeks following this event, my personality changed quite drastically. I became a full on extravert, whereas before I was definately an introvert. I felt strong empathy for everyone, and could connect with everyone I spoke to. This is something I had struggled with before as I very rarely felt strong emotions. However, I now was experiencing a full range of emotions. I felt a strong presence of energy at my heart centre and this energy would transform into various emotions all through out the day. I would go through extreme highs and also extreme lows. But the lows didn't really bother me because they were feelings of deep sadness, yet they were not inherently negative. It was a kind of joyful sadness. I felt at one with the universe and a lot of spiritual concepts started to make sense. Before this, I regarded spirituality as unneccessary and I was a firm Agnostic.

This state lasted for about 2-3 weeks before I slowly slipped back into something that resembled my old self. However, I did take away quite a lot from the experience and still felt permanently changed. Over the next few months I started to read into various spiritual concepts. I had lost my motivation to study and decided to not go to University, which is what I had planned to do in August 2016, and instead stay at home and advance myself spiritually, living off of savings.

Beginning from June 2016, I started a serious routine of 4 hours sitting meditation and 2 hours walking meditation each day. I started reading various books on Buddhism, as this was the tradition that appealed most to me. I also have ADHD and take medication for it, but during this period I stopped taking it as I thought it would hinder my spiritual progress.

The past few months have been tough, and most of my meditation practice has been an aversive experience. I relied heavily on willpower and strong determination to get through each sit, but gradually I started to lose my conviction and my practice started to slip. I also experienced a lot of negative feelings such as doubt and fear (due to not knowing what I'm doing with my life). I eventually reached the end of my tether and decided to go back on my meds and start thinking about a career again. I now see that this is the right decision for me, as having a decent livliehood is important.

I am still determined to progress with my meditation, as I feel as though I have passed the point of no return and I have to keep pushing on. My meditation practice has changed somewhat as I now no longer feel such aversion to practice and most of the time it is quite a pleasant experience. I read "The Mind Illuminated" and found the advice in that book really accelerated my progress. I learned to not have such high expectations and just learn to cultivate feelings of joy and happiness as much as possible during each session. Before hand I was really striving to achieve Jhana, and this led me to feel disappointed during and after each sit. I now try to stay as open as possible, and welcome anything that comes during my meditation. It's all a learning experience, and I try to maintain a keen interest in whatever is happening in my mind and body. This change in attitude has really made such a difference.

I also had a skype session with Kenneth Folk and he gave some surprising advice. He mentioned that the experience I had last year sounds like a typical A&P event, and that I have been going through the dark night. I had no idea, and even now I am still not 100% convinced this was the case. I thought I was a long way away from the stages of insight. I think it's possible he is right but I just don't know for sure.

Something else I should mention is that I now feel quite disenchanted with life in general. I find it difficult to relate to people. The world of sense pleasures has lost all it's appeal and I now see the things most people chase after in order to be happy as quite pointless. I now see that I had a lifelong habit of constantly clinging to ideas of what would make me happy, only to discover that when I get the thing I'm chasing I realise "oh, this isn't it". I then temporarily sink into a depressive state before clinging onto a new thing to pursue, and this cycle has gone on and on my full life as far as I can remember. So, now I don't see the point in clinging to anything, but I do feel this sense of lack, some sort of void deep within me that I think only meditation will be able to fix. I'm not sure if this exists within everyone or just me. Perhaps it is the sense of isolation from the rest of the universe caused by the ego's sense of seperate self?

I think that's enough for now. I'll continue to post with updates if anyone is interested. I have got around 11 months of free time in order to advance my practice as much as possible before I go to Uni next year (after which I will probably need to cut down to maybe 1 hour a day). Right now, I try to get 3 hours of meditation in, with 3x1 hour sits. I plan on doing increasingly more.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/12/16 8:20 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
I'll also give a more detailed report of my current practice.

Usually I do 2-3 1 hour sits dispersed throughout the day. I make a statement out loud at the beginning of each sit about what I intend to do and why. I then alow a few minutes to settle into the meditation. I start by relaxing any tensions in my body and allowing all stimulus to soak into my awarenesss. I then focus just on body sensations and thoughts. I try to get the jist of what my mind is doing and be aware of my current mood/temperment and any prominent thoughts. I then focus only on breath related sensations for a minute or two. Finally, I start to follow in breath at the tip of the nose and I begin to count each breath 1-10 then from 10-1 and repeat. I do this until I feel my attention is locked on the breath, Sometimes this takes 10-20 min. I then stop the counting and I begin to thoroughly investigate the sensations that make up the breath. I sometimes try to create a visualization that helps me understand what I am percieving. Other times, I just notice little minute details of the breath such as how the intensity of the coolness changes through each in and out breath. Noticing the differences between the in and out breath. Being aware of the beginning, middle and end of each breath. Trying to penetrate and notice sensations of the breath as distinct vibrations passing one at a time (I haven't been able to do this successfully yet). I also try to maintain peripheral awareness of what my mind is doing to watch out for any potential distracting thoughts. If I notice a thought/feeling I try to label it as thinking, remembering, planning, impatience, aversion, irritation, itch, etc.When I notice many thoughts arising, I expand my scope of focus to breath sensations that encompass the entire body. I do this for a while which helps quiet the mind and then go back to sensations just at the nose.

For the most part, my focus is pretty good. Very rarely do I get distracted from the breath, and when I do I notice it almost immediately. Sometimes certain feelings of sensations arise that can't be ignored and so I change my object of meditation to those sensations and try and learn as much about them as I can. For example, knee pain or feelings/thoughts of aversion due to pain. I don't experience any piti, and don't think I have ever entered Jhana yet. My original plan was to get to 4th Jhana then begin insight practice, but now I just go with the flow and see where I am at during each session without expectation or judgement.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/13/16 2:19 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
I've seen some real progress in the past few days. Today especially.

Managed 3 x 1 hr sits so far today and going for a 4th, perhaps even a 5th if I feel up to it. I'm feeling more and more motivated. I think I will try and get 4 hours to be my norm from now on.

Each time I meditate it's like a whole new experience each time. Today on my 2nd sit I started to experience a feeling of sadness out of the blue. The sensations were distracting me from my breath so I decided to note "sad" and explore all these sensations.

I also have been experienced quite intense knee pain during the last 15 min or so of each sit, but again I just focused on the sensations of stinging, throbbing, pulsing, aversion, etc and it was no problem. I used to get frustrated when pain arose because I thought it was ruining my meditation, but now I see it as a gift because it's so easy to maintain focus on the pain and it really quiets my mind and gives me good insight into suffering. I saw the arising of aversion (like a swirling feeling in my stomach that gets deper and deeper) and subsequent intention to end my meditation due to the initial stimulus of pain, and this cycle would repeat periodically but I just observed it.

I'm reading "The Science of Enlightenment" at the moment and and it is a great book. I find Shinzen Young's approach to noting very helpful. I was always quite aversive to noting because I tended to get lost in content deciding what label to give everything and also focusing more on the label than the actual sensations. Shinzen Young gives a very clear and concise way to label that makes the whole process much easier.

This brings me to another point. Today I've been thinking about a quote by Bruce Lee and I think it applies well to meditation. "You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend". I now realise the importance of being flexible in meditation. I used to have certain expectations of what would happen during each session and when the conditions did not meet my expectations I would write it off as just a bad session, but now I see that I must change my approach each time to accomodate the conditions. And this is where learning different skills is helpful such as body-scanning, noting, one-pointed focus, etc, but ultimately whatever arises, just observe and if you don't have the skills to match the conditions, that's ok, just be aware of that and observe. Then after the session you can have a think about what you can do next time to be better prepared should the same situation come up. Well, that's my amatuer take on it anyway.

Another thing I've been noticing recently is a general mild feeling of fear. Not sure where this is coming from. Maybe unrelated to progress of insight. Usually it peaks in the evening. Don't feel it tonight though. 

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/14/16 5:49 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
It sure sounds like you are going through the nanas -- up and down and up and down, which is normal -- and your peak is Equanimity. The multiple one hour sits and even the "water in a cup" insight is very diagnositic of EQ.

This phase of going through the nanas and touching EQ is very much like a purification. You become less interested in material things, while becoming much more interested in dharma and the practice. There is a growing trust in the process...

Usually the best advice for meditators that are touching EQ to is simply keep a consistent practice and let you sits take you where they will. There is no need for anything heroic. The process is smarter that you and will show you what you need to see. Notice how awareness seems to happen on its own (like water filling the particular shape of a cup in each moment) and stay curious how experiences arise and pass away on their own. Let yourself relax, notice awareness itself doesn't take any effort, while staying gently curious about your meditation.

In the early nanas, usually we're facinated with all the things that arise in awareness. In the dark night nanas, usually we're uncomfortable with how everything is imperminant and subject to an end. In EQ, we begin to appreciate the way things arise and pass on their own and there is a growing sense of the Source/Zero out of which everything comes and goes (to use Shinzen's terminology).

Stay curious about where things come from and where things go.

Best wishes!

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/14/16 11:36 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Wow. Thanks a lot. Really helpful advice. I had no idea you could dip in and out of the nanas like you describe. The whole concept of nanas is really new and exciting for me because I thought I was a long way away from even experiencing the first "body and mind". Although I read through the descriptions in MCTB, for some reason I didn't see the parallels in my own experience but it is clear they are there. Descriptions Daniel gives like reality dissolving and experiencing reality in terms of frames per second convinced me I was a long way away. I guess perhaps it's quite subtle? Because I have started to notice certain things but it's subtle it's not earth shattering like I originally imagined.

I read over the description of body and mind today and I know that I have that insight, but I don't exactly know how, if that makes sense. The idea of body sensate experiences and mind sensate experiences being seperate is now obvious to me. Not sure when I first realised this, perhaps it just snuck up on me insidiously. The same goes for other nanas I was reading through, but certain descriptions in for example the dark knight, like experiencing the ending of sensations very clearly and having memories of past lives, etc, I can't say I have experienced in fullness, but maybe in a subtle way.

It really is encouraging that I might be touching upon EQ and I guess stream entry is not far. Thank you so much for encouraging me. I really needed that.

My meditation today has been insightful. Managed to get 2 hours 50 min so far. Gonna shoot for 4 hours today. When I woke up I had this vague feeling of hopelessness and aversion to meditation. I think this might be quite a regular experience for me in the morning but as the day progresses I get more and more motivated. All the aversion I experience now is just before meditation. Once I sit down and start it all just melts away and I enjoy the entire process.

I keep having these thoughts and feelings, mainly when not meditation. I feel like..."I just want this all to be over." For example, I was eating lunch and I noticed how I wasn't actually experiencing the sensations of the food I was just thinking "mmm good feeling". Such mindlessness really sickens me now. But then I started to focus on the sensations and I started to notice how it's all just vibrations! Very little actual taste and mostly just texture, feelings of hotness/coldness, and some taste sensations...but they are all just the same, just vibrations of different frequency. What the hell. This really disturbs me, how the human experience is essentially aversion/desire to god damn vibrations. It is quite comical and also utterly insane. I can't go back to that mindset of chasing vibrations and deluding myself that it will make me happy but I also don't like this current mindset of knowing, yet being kind of trapped. The only thing that helps is being mindful and aware of the sensations.

I feel so detatched from the world. I hope someday soon I will be at a more balanced place where I can integrate what i've learned into the real world. I am reminded of that quote in Daniel's book "better not start. Once start...better finnish". The only thing left for me to do is meditate. Everything else seems like a waste of time until I get some better perspective. All my time now I just spend meditating, reading dharma books, thinking about dharma, eating, sleeping, washing up and doing some exercise. Maybe I am getting impatient but I can't wait for this to be over. I hope this doesn't drag on for years.

Anywya, back to my practice. Today I felt really determined to push on and get through this shit so I thought I would try a 2 hour sit and just push through the pain and observe/note it all. I only managed 1 hour 5 min haha. But the idea that I might sit through 2 hours changed my perspective and I felt like I achieved way more in that sit than others. I have so much spare time but can't do as much meditation as I would like because of the pain. In the book "the mind illuminated" it says that there comes a point where physical pliancy develops from total pacification of the physical senses, and once this happens one can sit for hours. Hopefully this stage will come soon for me. I haven'y yet devloped full mental pliancy but I think I am getting there. Thoughts appear on occasion but I always see them rise instantly and note them. Focusing on full body breath sensations I think speeds up the mental pacification process. Also I've started to let go of effort sometimes. Instead of really focusing on the breath so intensely in order to prevent myself getting distracted, I have started to just relax a bit more and found that I usually can just focus on the breath automatically. It's a feeling like I am no longer meditating, but meditation is doing me. However, doing this I do sometimes notice subtle distractions crop up a bit more so if that happens I either do breath sensation body scans or tighten up my focus on the breath and remain vigilant of distraction. The benefit of the effortless focus is I have more energy to spend on peripheral awareness of the minds activity and remaining mindful in general.

I've also been doing more noting today than usual. I find Shinzen Young's noting style really helpful, but I also add my own spin on it. I try to note as quickly as possible so I use the broadest terms possible at first - think, feel, taste, smell, hear, see. I subdivide the think into "hear-in" which is mental talk or "see-in" which is mental image. Also if I want to get even more specific I will do plan, remember, fantasize, evaluate. I only do whatever comes to mind first so its almost like a reflex. For feel, it can be feel-physical (itch, touch, pressure, tightness, contract, pain, sting, etc) or feel-emotional (sad, anger, happy, excited, fear, etc). Usually I just note feel unless it's obvious what it is. Also I don't repeat the note like a mantra, I just note once and then either return to breath or if it is too strong I will then explore the physical sensations that make it up. Oh and for hearing external sounds I note hear-out and if I see some sort of visual thing like light or something I will note see-out.

On another note (pardon the pun), can anyone give me an estimate of how far I have to go for stream entry, or at least until EQ when things are supposed to get pleasant? I know these things are different for everyone but an average would be helpful.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/14/16 4:35 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
I wish there was an easy way to predict--- but it is impossible to know when SE will happen.


By the way, try re-reading your post and then compare some of the ideas to the "Desire for Deliverance" nana. It seems like that might be your current off-cushion state. Can you see that?

Part of the challenge of these maps is seeing how they translate into our individual experiences. I remember when I was describing things to Kenneth as being "not in a state, just practice is no big deal" and he said "you're in equanimity, it's a state"... and then suddenly I saw it as a state! That's what you have to do to pick up on the nanas, it requires really studying them and comparing your experience to the general description. And even then, it still isn't always clear where we are.

In a way, were we are doesn't matter (except it's comforting to know). Practice is the same. Relax, breathe, and note. emoticon 

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/15/16 3:56 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Yeah you might be right. Not sure. I seem to identify with alot of the dark night stages. I think I am cycling through them. Seems like whenever I maditate I can make it to EQ and then I slowly start to fall back down into dark night.

I now see the irony in my previous post. I am complaining about wanting to be past the dark night but that desire in itself is probably what is preventing me from doing so. It wasn't long ago that I thought I wasn't on the path of insight at all and I had to master access concentration and deal with hindrances before I would reach any of the nanas. I remember thinking "I can't wait until I start to actually tangibly see progress" and now it's just another desire of "I can't wait until I reach steam entry".

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/15/16 6:03 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
I'm not sure either, but it is totally normally to go up, down, and all around until SE itself happens.

What basically happens is as mindfulness increases, you experence higher nanas, but to the extent that you don't really "get" the insights of nanas, you will have to revisit it again and again. No big deal, that's what it takes to learn these nanas. 

So for example, if you go through misery and note it as consisting of particular mental and emotional and physical characteristics, and note how it's purpose seems to be to comfort us in a strange way like a baby crying itself to sleep at night, and also notice how these sensations change and flow, and ultimate the state comes and goes -- then you won't be tricked my misery anymore. You won't buy into the "my life really is miserable" orientation, even though your thoughts, emotions, and body might >feel< that way. 

That's what makes this practice so powerful. It puts a little bit of breathing room inside of states that would normally snare us.

So when desire for deliverance happens, you can go -- oh yeah, look at how my thoughts are focused on some future goal, look at how my body is restless and would love to get up and walk around all enlightened, look at how my emotions are full of desire and craving for something that I don't even really know what it is... oh, this is "desire for deliverance"! Oh, this orientation seems to be a great motivator, but if I really buy into it, I'll be acting like I can control what happens in a sit and what progress I make, and that's just a recipe for burn out and feelings of failure. 

You see how it works?

Reobservation, for example, is even less cognitive -- it feels like all of your personal triggers are being pushed and you are extremely reactive and just want it all to stop. It's like ultimate frustration and agitation and there is nothing you can do about it.  No big deal! Just watch the body and mind get frustrated, look at it reacting to stories and feelings as if they were really happening, notice how those are all the ways your current sense of identity gets defensive -- and let it all play out, but stay on the cushion. It's the hardest nana, but actually the easiest because it's like watching a guided tour to your personal hang-ups.

We never learn these lessons the first time through a nana, so it takes time and we revisit them again and again --- but as we begin to "get it" we aren't as effected by it and we move through it more quickly and we reach our highest nana faster.

Equanimity can actually be kind of difficult, just because not that much happens. Same thing, sit and note things like "not much happening" "relief" "boredom" "plainness" "spaciousness" etc.


A good homework assignment would be to read through people's practice logs, especially beginners, and make your own guesses which nanas they are moving through. This is why practice logs are so helpful, they help the person and they help others who are going through the same territory.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/15/16 9:18 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Yeah I'll maybe try that out. Although I prefer to avoid surfing through forums as an information source as much as I can because I find it so easy to get overwhelmed with info.

Got 1 hour 50 min of meditation so far today in 2 sits. Been switching between right and left leg for half lotus and can't manage a full hour with left leg. I felt quite irritable during my first sit. However both sits were mostly uneventful. I can relate to your experience of equanimity. It feels easy most of the time, but rather dry. I notice thoughts arising on occasion, but just note them. I think I have been introducing a lot of changes in my practice recently in order to counter the monotany. On the other hand, I definately feel I have made tons of progress in the last few weeks.

Not sure if this would be considered an "insight" or not, but I did make a discovery. I was out running and I started to explore the sensations of each foot hitting the floor. It was happening so fast I was struggling to break it down into components. I noticed myself starting to conceptualize the process by thinking about what was actually happening, ie. the sole of my foot pressing down on the ground, the tensing of the calf muscle, etc, and then trying to paste this conceptualization onto my experience so I could feel it easier. I notice myself trying to do this with the breath and everything else. Makes me think, is it actually possible to know an experience using conceptions? You can just observe the physical sensations without labelling anything, but that doesn't really leave a tangible impression you can really know, but it is the most accurate way of experiencing anything in the moment I guess. Reminds me of something I heard, I think by Alan Watts. Something like "try to explain to someone who can't smell, what a rose smells like. It's impossible".

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/15/16 10:13 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
"is it actually possible to know an experience using conceptions"

Not really. Meditation/noting is not about developing new intellectual models. It's about seeing the pieces of experience that make up what we normally "think" is happening. So noting should be about sensations, subtle positive/negative/neutral tones, emotions/moods, and categories of thoughts.

If you are running the notes might be "pressing" "tensing" "hitting" "conceptual thoughts" "imagining thoughts" "difficulty" "questioning thoughts" "practice method thoughts" "pressing" "press" "press" "comparing thoughts" "judging thoughts", etc.

As you said, you can't really keep up in complete realtime, it's more like every so often you are labeling just one piece of what is being experienced as a way to check to see if you are mindful. If you stop noting for 10 or 30 seconds, chances are you dropped out of mindfulness during that time. But if you note every second or two or three, chances are you are maintaining mindfulness.

Hope that helps!

Hope this helps!

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/15/16 4:09 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Very helpful, thanks. Although, I am more samatha at the moment and less noting. I try to direct and sustain attention on the one thing and just note something if it distracts me from the original object which is breath most of the time.

Had a weird feeling of panic today. I started skimming through "mindfulness of breathing" by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and I started to feel like my meditation skills are just scratching the surface and that I have a looooong way to go. Not sure if this is accurate or my perception was skewed for some reason. I also read something in it about loving kindness meditation and it critcised the "May I be happy, may I be free of suffering, etc" type of mantra because it reflects fear and self love. I have been doing 20 min of loving kindness meditation for about 1 week now and it involves these very phrases this book scolds. I got my metta phrases from various books and I never questioned them. Lately I have been feeling quite confident about my practice but this made me feel some self doubt about my progress. 

Regardless of this, I sat down for my 3rd session, which went fine. Towards the end I noticed a strong sensation at the heart chakra. Felt like a ball of energy. Not sure if it was a good or bad feeling. Also stared to notice a heavy feeling around the eyes. Like sadness and eyes started tearing up a little. Really strange. I made these sensations my object of meditation.

My 4th sit did not go so well. I felt quite aversive before hand for some reason. Once I started I felt like there was this haze covering my perception of senses. I couldn't clearly percieve my breath, and my thoughts were so quiet, like whispers, it was hard to notice them. This caught me off guard for a while and wasn't quite sure what to do. I started to realise that I could hear this defeaning ringing sound that was in my head and not a real sound. I think maybe that was why I couldn't percieve other things so clearly. I decided to just focus on that noise. Did that for a while but felt some aversion and ended up stopping after 40 min. I know I should have sat through it and just observed but it was just one of those days.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/16/16 9:35 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Feels like I am being bombared by the senses whenever I meditate. Finding it a struggle to maintain focus on one thing, so I have just been doing noting. Feelings in the stomach & the chest, pains in the legs, buzzing/ringing in the ears of all different frequencies, muscles twitching, thoughts, external noises...

Read something interesting in Shinzen Young's book. He says that everything is basically just expansion and contraction, for example when you inhale, there is expansion of the lungs and contraction of the muscles around the lungs, and this occurs with everything. He says that they combine to annihiliate one another creating "zero" or rather they return to the source of nothingness. The thing I don't understand is why they don't immediately cancel each other out? Expansion and contraction are polar opposites and they occur at the same time, one implies the other, so why don't they just cancel out straight away? A lot of questions cropping up in my head, like what is the difference between a wave and a vibration? I guess they are the same thing. What causes the change of direction from the wave crest down to the trough and then back to the centre? If expansion and contraction are equal then it's like a zero vector, or balanced force, so no motion. One has to be greater to cause motion but then to change direction the other has to be greater than that even. Maybe I just answered my own question, that they are out of phase.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/16/16 11:35 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Progress!

Spent most of the early part of today feeling at ease (guess I was in high equanimity). I remember at one point being amazed just by looking at the particles of dust floating around my room in the light. But sure enough, there came a feeling of fear and unease later on. I was feeling aversion to meditation despite feeling highly motivated early on, but I decided to get on with my 3rd sit. Started out focusing on the breath but couldn't quite get the sharp focus I wanted to I decided to start noting. I focused on the ringing sound I could hear for a while and tried to notice anything else arising into awareness. Then for some reason I decided to focus back on the breath. The sensations were sooo faint and I noticed a kind of sleepy feeling around my eyes. Felt quite nice but I took at as a bad sign of dullness. Anyway I really relaxed and just placed my attention onto the whisper quiet like qualities of my breathing without trying to make them any more clear. I also brought that relaxed sleepy feeling to my attention as well and I noticed it was growing along with feelings of pleasure around the body. These feelings were getting more and more intense it felt like pure bliss. This lasted the full duration of my meditation. I guess this was the 1st pleasure jhana? There was no counterpart sign so probably not luminous jhana. 

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/16/16 4:26 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Just had another 1 hr sit. I was kind of hesitant to start because I wasn't sure if I'd be able to repeat what I experienced last session and might be disappointed, but I thought I would just observe the feeling of disappointment anyway if it turns out that way. As soon as I started I knew something similar was gonna happen and thought "ok, here we go again". Focused on my breathing in a relaxed manner and started to notice feelings of pleasure arising in peripheral awareness. I switched my focus onto the feelings and they got bigger and bigger, until I started to shake and laugh with pleasure. It was too intense and I lost my focus. Repeated the same process only this time I focused a bit more on the stomach area where I started to feel pleasure and it felt like a balloon was being blown in my lower belly, but it was nice. Noticed my stomach muscles really tensing up and then I started to think that maybe this isn't Jhana and maybe it's some sort of kundalini thing. Got a bit worried and excited at the same time because a few months ago I got really into kundalini and wanted to activate it, but ended up changing my mind due to all the warnings of the potential risks and thought buddhist practice was more what i was looking for. Very interesting experience though. I am excited to see what tomorrows meditation will bring. Looking back, I don't think it was kundalini because it seemed to be more navel chakra rather than muladhara, which is where kundalini lies.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/16/16 7:02 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
There is a great prayer:

May I awaken, but gently please.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/17/16 3:54 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
There is a great prayer:

May I awaken, but gently please.


Is that for kundalini awakening? Have you had a kundalini experience?

My view is that I don't want to actively try to arouse kundalini, but if it happens it happens and I won't resist it. The annoying thing about kundalini is that it's so wrapped up in hinduism and thus is very much a cultural thing and difficult to practice in a systematic way like buddhism. A lot of the books on kundalini are pretty hard to understand as a westerner. Plus, it's so secretive and difficult to find solid info on it.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/17/16 6:23 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Sorry, my sense of humor didn't come across! emoticon  I'm actually just responding to the urgency in your practice and saying, progress is great, but don't worry so much about making big progress each sit. 

Fast progress tends to be fairly energetic and distruptive. And I'm just making a joke that while in the beginning we want to make fast progress, after we've experience what fast progress does to the body and mind, most experience meditators say something like "I hope things are gentle" rather than "I hope I make fast progress".

Obviously when you have to explain humor, it doesn't seem quite as funny... oh well. emoticon

Meditation pretty much always opens up psychological and physiological stuff, including physical effects that are variously described as kundalini, chakras, etc. While perhaps some people have textbook kundalini awakenings, the vast majority of meditators will go through various stages where it feels like the body is rewiring and all sorts of different sensations, spontanious movements, energetic feeling will happen.

As always, don't try to fit your experiences into a model or expect that things will happen one way or another, just because some book or tradition says so. There is a lot of variation. And when there is a lot of openings, insights, new territory being uncovered, it is also more likely that the extreme stuff (that Daniel cautions about in his book) is possible. 

So don't be in a rush, just treat each sit as just a sit. As Kenneth Folk says "consistency, not heroics"  emoticon

I'm enjoying reading about your practice, it sounds great and is on track...but from my own experience, I was motivated to express having some caution and making sure you keep a lighthearted sense of humor about practice. 

You have the right attitude about kundalini. If physical/energetic stuff shows up, don't resist, let it do it's thing. And if it seems like too much, trust your conscience, slow down or stop practicing, walk around, see a movie, hang out with friends, chill for a bit.

A big part of becoming a meditator is learning how to adjust the intensity of practice so the pot keeps simmering rather than boiling over. 

Best wishes and good luck!

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/17/16 7:37 AM as a reply to shargrol.
haha, I understand what you mean now emoticon.  If it gets too much I will try to slow down a bit.

The way I'm looking at, since I have so much spare time until I go to University next fall, I might aswell make good use of it. Like 1 big long retreat. Ideally would like to be out of the dark night by then.

As far as my meditation today goes, it was similar to yesterday. Noticed these energy manifestations and just observed them. There was less pleasurable feelings today but I still had the tensing of the abdomen thing going on and felt a ball of energy arise at the solar plexus.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/17/16 9:17 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Another 1 hour meditation session. Same deal again. Felt my abdominal muscle getting really tense. Feels like a balloon being inflated in my stomach. This remained for a long time and then I decided I would try and intentionally move the energy. I started to breathe deeper and this energy began to rise and my whole body started shaking. I felt pleasure all over and the energy was going up and up. Felt in my chest and in my head. I moved my eyes up to the third eye and that seemed to pull the energy up even more. This continued for a while, I lost track of time. My hands were sweating. After my alarm went off, much of the energy dissipated, but feel this afterglow like effect. Not quite sure what just happened.



RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/17/16 11:06 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Due to that rapture I experienced I was eager to meditate again. Sat down and began trying to recreate what I experienced but then I realised that I was clinging onto pleasure. During that ecstatic fit I wasn't particularly mindful of what was going on, so what's the point? So, I refrained from doing that again. Instead ended up focusing on knee pain and kept mindfulness. I saw that there isn't really that much difference between intense pain and intense pleasure, only our reaction to it.

I think I was or I still am in A&P possibly? Felt this mild euphoria all day, and an inner restlessness. What I am experiencing is similar to that first A&P event I had but milder. This time is different though because back then I really got carrier away with it and identified with all the emotions I experienced, thinking I had reached this enlightened state and I had discovered the key to life. So, i suppose the lesson here is not to grasp.

Not sure how these cycles work. Do they go back to the very beginning or just go back some stages? I'll need to reread MCTB.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/17/16 11:55 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Nice! I'm glad you saw your practice was getting tempted by clinging to pleasure. Well done!

When practice gets motivated by greed --- or ambition/"gaining" --- it quickly becomes spiritual materialism and out of balance. It can be disasterous when practice is moving into the energetic phases. Honestly, pushing too hard can _fuck_you_up_.  No joke.

A general rule is to let pleasure or energy build and fade as it will and go where it wants. The body/mind is smarter than our little ambition ego. Whenever you feel like changing or manipulating practice. Note it. You can experiment a little, but do so very slowly, verymindfully and be very aware that you are trying to change or manipulate things. 

Honestly, the fastest progress is made by letting whatever experience is happening and noting it mindfully. That's it. 

Another way to think of it is that all of our subtle forms of suffering are very hard to see. If we try to consciously manipulate things, we aren't looking at what were already doing almost unconsciously. So sitting practice is a chance to watch how experiences arise, how we react to experience, and how subtle greed, aversion, or ignoring is the root of all the bigger more obvious forms of suffering.

Again, nice insight!

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/17/16 12:28 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Oh, and the general theory on nanas is:

Life off-cushion is so busy and chaotic and unmindfull that we go back to the first nana each sit. (Not always true if you are on retreat or able to note throughout the day off cushion). 

We move quickly through the territory we understand, we move more slowly to the nanas near our cutting edge.

Mindfulness seems to have a bit of a cycle to it, growing stronger and seeing more, then growing weaker and resting more. So during sits, it's common to go up and down, depending on experience, general energy levels (i.e. awake/sleepy), familiarity with the lower nanas, etc.

The nice thing is you don't need to know what nana you are in to do noting practice. Just note what happens. The maps are really only used to diagnose things when you feel especially blocked. 

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/17/16 1:09 PM as a reply to shargrol.
ahhh, thanks! That has cleared up a lot. emoticon

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/18/16 4:21 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Well, it has been a productive day indeed.

Managed to do 5 hours 40 min of meditation. I now am definately into Jhana territory. My last couple of hour long sits were full on Jhana pretty much from start to finnsih. But this is pleasure jhana not the luminous jhana. Maybe 2nd jhana, not sure yet. Will have to do more exploring to tell the difference. But it is pure bliss. Thoughts have become totally silent and all I percieve is pleasure. I do get the occasionally whisper of a thought, but mindfulness is strong. Even when knee pain starts to come in, I can quite happily sit through it. I even tried to focus on the pain but jhana just pulls me right back into the vortex of bliss.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/19/16 7:58 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
I think stream entry is near. I can feel it! emoticon

Able to quickly cycle through the jhana's now straight through to 4th. Been using it to then switch to noting practice, but After 4th jhana there is no need to even note. Awareness is so acute that many sensations can be percieved easily, so all I really need to do is simply be aware and enjoy the show of stuff arising and passing in quick succession. My experience was something like this:

1st Jhana: focus on pleasurable sensation causing it to intensify and attention fixates on it, but there is effort. Much like when focusing on the breath. 

2nd Jhana: Drop the effort and sink into the feelings of pleasure (physical), happiness (mental) and rapture (energetic sensations). Awareness then is consumed by these sensations and there is no attention focused anywhere, only awareness.

3rd Jhana: Focus on just the subtle pleasure and happiness and the strong feelings of rapture die away so there is just contentment.

4th jhana: Pleasure and happiness disappear I am left with this feeling "whatever", just pure acceptance of the present moment.

Equanimity is at an all time high. Been reading through some books and a lot of things are starting to make much more sense. Before now I was able to understand that craving is the cause of suffering intellectually but now I get it on a much deeper level. Also I now understand the process of the nanas a bit better. I now see the dark night is just natures way of getting us to accept suffering.

I guess equanimity is basically the magic bullet that grants access to see the no-self and the progress of insight is just about developing it. "The Mind illuminated" gives a really interesting description of what actually occurs in the brain during a cessation event. I will paraphrase a little, but it says that something arises in the mind that would normally cause craving, and instead of triggering aversion/clinging the brain responds by doing absolutely nothing due to equanimity. This causes nothing further to be projected into consciousness and thus the mind experiences nothingness. 

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/21/16 4:03 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
4 hrs meditation today. Same deal each session. Get to 4th jhana, stay in it for a while then exit jhana and observe sensations without noting.

Feels like a lot of good insights were achieved today. One thing I noticed is just how sticky the thought process is. Usually when I did noting whenever a thought popped up it was like "bang!" Note that sucker, and the thought stream gets obliterated. Without noting I noticed that I started seeing all sense perception as "other" and thinking as "me". Then I started to question "well what am I ?" But that question in itself is silly because it is a thought and if thoughts aren't me then how can thoughts refer to "me". Only thing I can do is just observe everything, thoughts included, and view them as just any other sense perception. 

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/24/16 4:56 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Had a hellish time the past few days.

Wednesday I freaked out a bit. Started to panic about what I'm doing in life and my plans for the future career wise. I then decided that I need to engage more with the world and start thinking about what I will study next year at university and what sort of job I am aiming for after that. After thinking about this a bit I felt a huge relief, but it was definately me clutching at straws.

Thursday I took a trip to a university to try and get info on career prospects for different degrees but couldn't find anyone who could help. Think I went at a bad time. Felt anxious all day. The fear was back. I normally don't worry about this kind of thing. Later I spent a few hours frantically reading through various websites to try and find info. This made me feel the exact opposite of mindful. Got a couple of hours of meditation but I noticed a huge drop in quality due to all this worrying.

Friday was similar, although I did a bit more meditation. Still felt like crap but not as bad as before. I remember wondering how most people seem reasonably happy. Do they know something I don't? My only explanation I could come up with is that most people have so many fake pursuits of happiness going on at once that they never realise how empty each pursuit is of actual happiness, and if they do, it's ok because they have all these other things going on. Maybe that's not true but I don't see any alternative.

Today was a huge improvement. Managed to get back into equanimity towards the later part of the day (I think), so I guess all this fear and badness was just due to dark night symptoms. I feel determined to really push through this. I read through all the stages of insight and took a lot of notes to summarize each stage so that I can be more clear of which stage I am in. Also plan on doing walking meditation alternated with sitting so that I can do more meditation in total. The main obstacle to that was the knee pain from sitting so this should allow me to get 6 hours minimum per day and possibly more.

Lately during my meditation I've been trying to observe the mind in a detatched way without noting, which has proven to be very difficult. This tactic has lead me to actually start buying into my thoughts ironically and I noticed a decrease in overall mindfulness. Today I changed my strategy a bit. I observe whatever comes up (choiceless awareness?) without noting, but if it's a thought or a feeling, I note it. This has really simplified things and I felt my meditation was much more on point. Trying to observe the mind really opens up all sorts of cans of worms, especially when the thoughts are non-verbal symbolic. These thoughts are so subtle that you really need to be extra vigilant, to the point where I was constantly thinking stuff like "watch closely for thoughts", "oh that was a thought", "and that!" "and that!". My goal was to be able to watch thoughts the same way I could watch sensations arise and pass, but the tendency to identify thoughts as "me" is just too strong. Maybe I need to hone my mindfulness a bit more before I can do this sort of thing.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/25/16 1:10 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Meditating on the mindstream is very hard. It isn't like most othe objects. It is both slippery and sticky, hard to grasp and hard to hold, totally paradoxical. So do what you can but don't beat yourself up over it.

Whenever you feel tempted to do a very difficult mediation practice, be sure to ask: is it helpful? Sometimes we just try to do the hardest thing, thinking it will fix everything. But actually mastering meditation is done by mastering the basics. Mindfulness of the body breathing itself. Mindfulness of thoughts thinking themselves. The specific body sensations and the specific thoughts are almost unimportant. Look at how the body is an experiencing machine. Look at how the mind is a thinking machine. Simple. Not-self, impermenant... and it's suffering if we try to judge and micromanage everything.

Hopefully you can see how your last report is somewhat classic dark night, especially Reobservation: a mindset where all of your buttons get pushed and your mind freaks out. The tricky thing is seeing it >as a freak out< and letting it fizzle out. Sure, you should definitely be responsible for your education and future career, but thinking about it calmly, coming up with a few options to check out, step by step, etc. Reobservation contains a lot of truth, but it is just a desperate attempt to fix everything all at once. 

Reobservation will happen many times in your meditation practice, so learn to recognize it, learn to just let it be, learn to note during it rather than buying into it (look a the paniced thoughts, look at the desperation, look at the adreneline dump, look at the short term thinking, etc.). Basically, you need to see the suffering that's created in reobservation so that your primitive mind gets the truth: "this is a horribly impractical and ineffective way to attempt to improve my life". emoticon

People can be happy because everyone has access to moments without greed, aversion, or indifference. When that happens, life is sweet, life is no problem.

Consistent practice is good, but remember you don't need to fix anything. Just see what is happening. No need to "push through". Instead "see clearly". It's possible to go through the dark night nanas without much trouble, by observing it, noting it, seeing that the stages are all some ind of self-protective mechanism and also seeing that there is suffering because the stages attempt to reinforce some kind of "soild" self and world that needs fixing. And then the attempts at fixing reinforce the sense of self and the sense of needing to do even more fixing, etc. etc. etc.  

It can help to take a big step back and think about meditation practice. Okay, so you are well fed, safe, and have nothing to do for some period of time. You sit down and you observer your body and mind. Anything that comes up is going to be some kind of mind pattern or habit that really has very little to the situation. You are sitting doing nothing in a safe place, so shouldn't just the body sensations be of just sitting? Shouldn't the mind be calm and perhaps somewhat bored? Why does the body and brain freak out?

What happens in meditation are all the old mind patterns and habits that we've collected as we grew up start arising on their own, in the empty space of meditation. What happens is going to be standard (hence the general meditation maps), and part of it is going to be a result of what our life has been like (your karma so to speak). Meditation is sitting with all of these automatic patterns, letting them play out, and finally arriving at a place where they can just happen and lose their impact -- which is equanimity. 

Best wishes! Keep practicing, but take it easy. Don't be in a rush to get "past" anything. Look clearly at what is actually happening.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/25/16 4:31 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks. I'll take that on board. 

You mentioned re-observation specifically, but when I was reading through the descriptions of the dark night stages in MCTB there didn't seem to be any hugely defining characteristics of re-observation. Daniel mentions aversion to meditation - "rolling up the mat stage", depression like symptoms, murky centre of attention, harsh vibrations....but these are all mentioned in previous dark night stages as well? For example, the aversion is mentioned in dissolution, harsh vibrations in disgust, etc

Today I really went gung-ho mode and did 7 and a half hours of meditation including walking and will do 20 min of metta before I go to sleep. The good thing about doing so much meditation in 1 day is I could clearly see the transitions between some stages. I woke up assuming I was in equanimity because that's where I believed myself to be the night before. After a while of meditating I felt the dark night descend upon me. Started to feel like my meditation was bad and felt all this fear and sadness. I think it was after around 2 hours that I got into equanimity and at around the 4 hour mark I saw a huge shift into new territory. Felt totally blissed out, focused and serene. Now I see that it doesn't matter what technique I'm doing, if I'm in the dark night I usually think I am doing it wrong and when in equanimity I think I have found the perfect technique. Also been doing a lot more noting throughout the day when not meditation so I don't backslide so much. Also had this experience where I felt like something big was about to happen. Felt like everything just turned to vibrations and my eyes started move in strange ways. I thought my whole perception was going to collapse or something.

Oh, another question. If people usually go all the way back to the start between sits, how is it possible that there are "dark night yogis"? especially the ones who stop practicing and get stuck there forever haunted by it. Wouldn't that mean they go back to the start if they did that? I'm guessing that it's not quite that simple and once you are in dark night territory, it will affect your perception some way or another until you reach SE. I can seem get to equanimity but the effects don't seem to last very long before all this dark night stuff comes raging back and it doesn't go away.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/25/16 5:02 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Iain Macleod:
Now I see that it doesn't matter what technique I'm doing, if I'm in the dark night I usually think I am doing it wrong and when in equanimity I think I have found the perfect technique. Also been doing a lot more noting throughout the day when not meditation so I don't backslide so much. Also had this experience where I felt like something big was about to happen. Felt like everything just turned to vibrations and my eyes started move in strange ways. I thought my whole perception was going to collapse or something.


Awesome. Seeing the "I can't seem do anything right in dark night" is exactly right. So you just do the practice, note what is happening, including the thoughts that you can't do everything right.

So can you see how all these are just states that are experienced? Dark night, EQ, and even Medium and High EQ are states. When you can recognize them, then you aren't embedded in them. So even when things feel like something big is going to happen, that's a state. After that happens and things seem kinda normally and day dreamy, that's a state. Stream Entry happens when you go through the entire territory and don't buy into any one of the states along the way (or at least you don't buy in for long).

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/25/16 5:05 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Iain:
there didn't seem to be any hugely defining characteristics of re-observation. [...] but these are all mentioned in previous dark night stages as well? 

At the risk of oversimplifying it, ReObs could be thought of as a combo of all the previous stages, and with the dial of intensity or sharpness turned up.    
Started to feel like my meditation was bad and felt all this fear and sadness. I think it was after around 2 hours that I got into equanimity and at around the 4 hour mark I saw a huge shift into new territory.

Fear, Misery, Low EQ -> next stage of Low EQ.  In this case, Disguist, Desire for Deliverance & ReObs were not as prominent.  This is a good example of how different Nanas will take prominence at different times: your mind showing you what needs to be disembedded from next.
if I'm in the dark night I usually think I am doing it wrong and when in equanimity I think I have found the perfect technique

Very valuable observation.
how is it possible that there are "dark night yogis"? especially the ones who stop practicing and get stuck there forever haunted by it. 

There are multiple factors.  The Dukkha Nanas interface with one's life situation, any current mental illness, or may surface subconscious traumas, etc.  Certain people will have above average sensitivity to off-cushion cycling as well.  In general, I believe that if someone stops meditating and contemplating for awhile, they will eventually stop cycling. 
it will affect your perception some way or another until you reach SE.

Yes, SE will provide you with a stable platform of disembeddedness from which to experience phenomena.  For some, this may be enough to stop practicing.  If it is not, it will make further progress much quicker anyway: a win-win.  

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/26/16 5:38 AM as a reply to shargrol.
So can you see how all these are just states that are experienced? Dark night, EQ, and even Medium and High EQ are states. When you can recognize them, then you aren't embedded in them. So even when things feel like something big is going to happen, that's a state. After that happens and things seem kinda normally and day dreamy, that's a state. Stream Entry happens when you go through the entire territory and don't buy into any one of the states along the way (or at least you don't buy in for long).

Yeah definately. Now I know for sure these are just temporary states I find it much easier to be objective.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/26/16 5:45 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D::

There are multiple factors.  The Dukkha Nanas interface with one's life situation, any current mental illness, or may surface subconscious traumas, etc.  Certain people will have above average sensitivity to off-cushion cycling as well.  In general, I believe that if someone stops meditating and contemplating for awhile, they will eventually stop cycling. 


Hmm interesting. In my case I kind of feel like the unsatisfactoriness aspect of the dark night has always been present to some degree even before I started meditating, but now it is much more pronounced.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/26/16 9:49 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
I agree.  My awareness of fundamental unsatisfactoriness was present long before my first a&p.  It can be helpful to view these states as "knowledges" that can be experienced out of order, and also by non meditators.  For instance, when Dan Harris interviewed Steve Armstrong (Mahasi ex monk), Steve confirmed that Dan was probably experiencing the 6th Nana (immature), as a result of marijuana use, from a young age.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
9/29/16 4:58 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Things have been going well the past few days. Averaging around 5-6 hours of sitting/walking. Now I can clearly see the progression through the nanas. The DN nanas barely phase me anymore. Not sure if this is because I am more aware or because they have actually diminished in intensity. Most of the time I am in equanimity on and off cushion. 

I also realised I was starting to strive too much with regard to achieving stream entry and I was getting a bit impatient. Reminded me of the time when all I wanted was to achieve jhana and that really hampered my progress. So, to rememdy this I have been doing more concentration practice and trying not to think too much about stream entry. 

On reflection of my experience over the past 3-4 months I realise how badly things could have gone. I didn't realise I was in the dark night at the time but I clearly was. It was a good thing that I was so determined and stayed consistent with my practice, even when it was so uncomfortable. The DN could have dragged on for aloooot longer than it did and it could have really caused all sorts of turmoil if I was going through it while trying to do other things like studying. Now I see why having a teacher is so important.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
10/1/16 4:00 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Hmm, think I've been maybe looking at everything all wrong. I need to re-evaluate. Today I had a bit of a bad start to the day as I cycled over 5 miles to go to a university open day but turns out it's next saturday and I got the date wrong. I wasn't too bothered though. Cycled home and got on with my meditation. Did 1 sessions of 1 hr 15 min and then shortly after began another, but this time I felt this urge to just call it quits today, phone a pizza and watch a movie or something.

I used to have a bad habit of binge eating like 2 years ago, but I stopped that and I am very strict about what I eat. Actually, before that it was online gaming I was addicted to but once I quit that, the binge eating replaced it. I managed to keep all my bad habits at bay last year while at college because I knew how destructive it was to studying and I also didn't indulge in any of that after I finished college. But today I felt the urge, and for some reason, I listened to it. I felt like I had no reason not to. I gave in and ordered a large pizza and spent the day watching useless videos and eating more junk.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to the feeling of craving (desire/aversion), and wanting that feeling to go away because it is so uncomfortable. I have been looking forward to this goal of stream entry, when things will be perfect and I will have no more problems. Now I feel like I need to learn to be ok with feeling uncomfortable. Although lately my meditation mainly feels good and life off cushion is just fine. I think I should have relished the dark night more, which i would have done had I known I was actually in it, but something tells me I have more pain to come. Although, to be honest, I welcome it. I need to learn. 

That is my goal really for my practice and always has been. To be able to feel negative feelings, to know I am feeling negative feelings and be fine with that. And I guess the same goes for positive feelings, but not to become attatched to them. I think I am quite good with the nonattatchment part, but I do still have a tendency to give in to aversion.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
10/7/16 10:04 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Been doing around 7 hours each day of sitting since last saturday. Don't really know what to say except things seem to be progressing nicely. Usually each sit is very pleasant. 

One thing I have noticed is that when I am aware of all sensations, progression through the nanas is much faster, but if I don't do any concentration practice then it becomes quite slow and tedious. If I spend a good amount of time building concentration first, I seem to blast straight through to equanimity when I switch to vipassana.

Also I notice that I cycle through all the stages usually twice per day. In the morning I appear to be back at the beginning and progression is at it's slowest early on in the day. Once my concentration picks up and I get to equanimity there comes a point when I am suddenly back in the dark night and need to get back through it again, but it's much easier/faster by this time.

Off cushion I am much more aware of what I'm feeling. I have been noticing when I am feeling anything negative and how desires then start popping up to indulge in stuff that will make the bad feeling go away. I'm finding it much easier to just sit with the bad feeling because I know that reacting to aversion will always cause more suffering in the end. 

Actually I've pretty much put a stop to a certain behaviour pattern where I would have a plan for what I was going to do that day, but once things start going wrong or if I start to feel something negative like tired or lazy I would just say to myself "oh well, it's just a bad day, tomorrow will be better" and then use that as an excuse to not fully try my hardest. I now realise it's much better to just be aware I'm feeling whatever and do what I was planning anyway because feelings/mindsets change like direction of the wind. 

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
10/21/16 3:00 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Haven't been motivated to keep up with the practice log lately. If any big developments occur, I'll be sure to post an update. A couple of weeks ago I started being able to enter into deep jhanic states with the nimitta phenomenon clearly visable. After that, I had a few days where I got a bit complacent and slacked off a bit. Now I kinda feel like the dark night is more prevalent. Don't really want to make any statements about where I'm at because it will probably be wrong. Things seem so confusing and unpredictable so I think there's no point trying to guess what stage I'm at or anything like that. One moment I feel bliss and the next I feel terrible and it seems to go up and down, up and down with no fixed pattern that I can tell. I'll keep at it anyway, nothing else to do but keep moving forward.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
10/21/16 7:55 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Consistent practice is all you need to worry about. Keep hanging in there. Think of this as a lifetime practice, not something you rush through. Sometimes investigate deeply, sometimes stand back and kinda look at the big picture. It will all work itself out.

Be sure to ask questions when it seems appropriate. 

Best wishes!

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
10/22/16 2:06 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Hi Iain, you posted this five weeks ago:
Now I see that it doesn't matter what technique I'm doing, if I'm in the dark night I usually think I am doing it wrong and when in equanimity I think I have found the perfect technique.

Now you're posting this (emphasis mine):
One moment I feel bliss and the next I feel terrible and it seems to go up and down, up and down with no fixed pattern that I can tell.

For me, one of the beauties of mapping is that it eventually becomes clear what can not be mapped in a given period of time.  You are good at identifying the stages of insight, which is wonderful.  However, there are aspects of them that are still lurking behind the scenes, like little machine bugs pulling the strings on your brain.  But spotting these lurkers can be a joyful hunt!

The patterns can emerge through practice logging.  You may want to set a goal to log only every 1, 2 or 4 weeks, at minimum (or not).  Either way, pattern recognition can be a key competency here.  Keep going at it, good things will happen emoticon

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
10/22/16 2:07 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Iain Macleod:
I think stream entry is near. I can feel it! emoticon

Able to quickly cycle through the jhana's now straight through to 4th. Been using it to then switch to noting practice, but After 4th jhana there is no need to even note. Awareness is so acute that many sensations can be percieved easily, so all I really need to do is simply be aware and enjoy the show of stuff arising and passing in quick succession. My experience was something like this:

1st Jhana: focus on pleasurable sensation causing it to intensify and attention fixates on it, but there is effort. Much like when focusing on the breath. 

2nd Jhana: Drop the effort and sink into the feelings of pleasure (physical), happiness (mental) and rapture (energetic sensations). Awareness then is consumed by these sensations and there is no attention focused anywhere, only awareness.

3rd Jhana: Focus on just the subtle pleasure and happiness and the strong feelings of rapture die away so there is just contentment.

4th jhana: Pleasure and happiness disappear I am left with this feeling "whatever", just pure acceptance of the present moment.

Equanimity is at an all time high. Been reading through some books and a lot of things are starting to make much more sense. Before now I was able to understand that craving is the cause of suffering intellectually but now I get it on a much deeper level. Also I now understand the process of the nanas a bit better. I now see the dark night is just natures way of getting us to accept suffering.

I guess equanimity is basically the magic bullet that grants access to see the no-self and the progress of insight is just about developing it. "The Mind illuminated" gives a really interesting description of what actually occurs in the brain during a cessation event. I will paraphrase a little, but it says that something arises in the mind that would normally cause craving, and instead of triggering aversion/clinging the brain responds by doing absolutely nothing due to equanimity. This causes nothing further to be projected into consciousness and thus the mind experiences nothingness. 
This is what my daily practice looked like for quite a while. I would wake up in re-ob and meditate by moving up the jhanas to EQ then noting.
Sometimes I would move back and start the nanas from the beginning and have to note all the way thru them again to EQ but then I could do the short cut and just jhana my way up to EQ again. It took me aprox 8 months of daily Re-Obs to EQ, slide back down to re-ob, meditate again from Re-Obs to EQ again before I hit stream entry.
After a certain point of familiarity with the nanas I just stopped caring, I was in EQ or it was a bunch of crap. That simplified things a lot.
Your doing quite well so far.
~D

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
10/24/16 9:09 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Thanks for these helpful comments. I do actually have a question. If anyone is able to answer that would be great.

Is there any scientific/logical way of explaining the purpose of these stages of insight and why it happens in such a predictable way for everyone? Shargol stated in an earlier post that it is a "self-protective mechanism". What is it protecting? The ego? 

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
10/24/16 7:23 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Ultimately, it's something very paradoxical like the "I" protecting itself from things that seem to hurt the "I" -- which is a wierd thing, how does this "I" that stands apart from experience get impacted? So it's kind of like a hand that is squeezing tight because of the pain it feels, yet when the hand opens up, there's nothing there -- it was the squeezing of the hand that caused the pain. 

I'm not aware of any logical way of explaining the purpose of these stages beyond saying it seems to be kind of like a purification. You go through it until you stop fighting it and then you pass through. There isn't a bitterness to it, more like the opposite, you are thankful for all the ways that meditation shows you how we overly defend ourselves and overly resist experience that is already happening anyway.

Ultimately, it's not really predictable, except at a macro level. The nuances are very personal and each person has to go through what they specifically go though. While there are simularities, no two paths are alike. Remember that this very general patterns have been worked out only by maybe thousands (certainly not millions) of people going through this process. The sample size is still quite small. And there is a lot of noise to the data. For example, take a look at all the odd things that are included in the historical descriptions of the path:

http://www.vipassanadhura.com/sixteen.html 

Just imagine all the different meditator stories that the teachers finally got together and said let's add this to the map: "Hallucinations such as seeing an elephant may occur."  emoticon

Best wishes Iain!

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
10/25/16 1:38 PM as a reply to shargrol.
That's a really good analogy. Similar to something I keep thinking about. I imagine the ego to be like a person with many arms and hands and each hand is closed, so the person thinks they have many things in their hands, but once they take a look inside one hand they discover there is nothing there. They get a bit upset but they manage to calm themself because they have all these other hands with things inside them. Once they look in another hand they get another nasty surprise because there's nothing there either. So, they start looking inside more hands and find nothing. but by this time the first hands have already closed again and the person forgets they looked inside there so the cycle goes on and on and on.

Also, great website. Good to get another perspective on each stage.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
10/26/16 5:58 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
I like your analogy! Yeah, after enough practice, we have experienced and remember that all the hands are empty, even if they aren't all open at any given time. It's nice because then you can appreciate closed hands for what they are, just empty closed hands, not hands that are potentially holding something scary that you need to worry about. 

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
11/23/16 8:53 AM as a reply to shargrol.
My apologies for not posting recently. I find that using the internet in general causes me to lose focus and my meditation suffers a bit. So, I prefer to keep internet usage, especially reading forums, to a minimum. I will post a quick update on how things have been going and I also have a couple of questions if anyone is able to answer.

Difficult to gauge my progress. Each day seems somewhat similar to the last, so progress feels quite seamless. I have been doing 7 hours on average each day of meditation. It usually takes me about 2 hours to get to the first EQ, then I am back in the dark night, and then 4 hours in I usually arrive into the second EQ phase, but it is much stronger. My practice is consists of sitting in Jhana for the first 4 hours and then after that I can just relax and make impermanence the object of my meditation. At this second EQ it feels like a jhana state even though I am not focusing on anything in particular. I also notice that after this stage I again seem to regress back into the dark night, but the intense effortless attention persists. Not sure how many cycles of DN to EQ I am getting through. Perhaps 3 or 4. It gets harder to notice after the 2nd one.

Something I was wondering about. I recently started reading the book "mindfulness of breathing", and the instructions seem quite over the top. For example it says that while practicing you should basically renounce family and go off to live under a tree. I just wonder, why do these old texts suggest such austere methods? I know that progress will obviously be much faster, but is it really necessary? Seems like there are a few people on this forum who have reached even 4th path while holding down a job and living a relatively normal life. So, what's all the fuss about living a life of renunciation? Also, in Shinzen Young's book "the science of enlightenment" he says that arhats are extremely rare and he has only met 3 or 4 masters who were arhats. From this forum and looking at others in the online buddhist community, it seems that 4th path isn't as difficult to reach as it's sometimes made out to be, or is this a case of people having different definitions? 

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
11/23/16 8:57 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Oh and something else I was concerned about. When I enter Jhana in my practice, I notice that I can also have some thoughts going on at the same time. Especially earlier in the day during the dukka nanas. These thoughts dont pull my attention, they just arise and pass away. But apparently jhana should involve no thought? This definately feels like jhana though with all the 4 distrinct stages. When I get to the second EQ stage and I enter jhana I notice that there is usually no thought at all but I generally dont do jhana at this stage anyway.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
11/27/16 4:43 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Discovered yesterday that all this time I've not actually been reaching 4th jhana and instead what I've been doing is getting to 3rd and then going back to 1st then 2nd and mistaking this for 4th. However, yesterday and today I have been able to reach the real 4th jhana (I hope). The mistake I made was directing my attention to a different spot after reaching 3rd rather than just letting go. 4th jhana really makes a huge difference and I think this will now allow me to progress much faster as this jhana seems perfect for observing impermanence.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
11/27/16 8:19 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Nice! Yeah the 4th Vipassina jhana is similar to the simplicity of the 1st or 2nd, except that openness, expansiveness, panoramic-ness predominates. Thoughts can occur in 4th, but there is a sense of them coming and going within the space of equanimity.  

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
11/27/16 10:50 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Oh I was meaning samatha jhana, although im not entirely sure of the difference. I thought vipassana jhana was just a way of grouping the stages of insight. I was definately reaching equanimity before, but samatha wise I was mostly stayng in 2nd until I reached EQ where I would just leave jhana because EQ I find to have jhana like qualities in that there is very little thought even without directing attention. Now though, I am using 4th jhana through all stages. It feels easy to be aware of all sensations in 4th, dont see the need to leave it to practice vipassana. Reason I mention this is because some texts recommend leaving jhana but others say theres no need as long as you can maintain mindfulness.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
11/27/16 4:48 PM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
I admit that I don't quite follow, but it sounds like solid practice! Sorry if my comment was confusing, please ignore.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
11/28/16 5:50 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Ah, well I just meant that I'm not too familiar with the vipassana jhana concept. Whenever I mention jhanas its always samatha jhana. I do remember reading a little bit about it in mctb. From what I remember, the first 3 nanas are likened to the 1st samatha jhana, the a&p is likened to the 2nd jhana due to raptures and effortless comcentration, the DN nanas are likened to the 3rd jhana due to the hazy centre of attention while EQ is likened to the 4th jhana due to strong equanimity and panoramic perspective. I was just meaning that I was generally staying in 2nd samatha jhana through all the nanas, thinking that I was in 4th samatha jhana. Hope that makes a bit more sense.

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
1/15/18 6:09 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
First off, my apologies for not posting in over a year. The reason I am posting now is because I think I may have achieved stream entry, but I'm not 100% certain.

Two nights ago, I was doing noting meditation late at night, right before bed. I felt quite tired so wasn't really expecting much. About 20 minutes into it, I had this very strange experience of completely withdrawing from all senses and there was no longer any feeling of "me" existing. It seemed to only last a few seconds and afterward I just thought to myself "oh well, I guess that's stream entry" and continued with the meditation. It threw me as a surprise because it was not what I expected stream entry to be like. From the descriptions I read, I always imagined a cessation event to be almost like going unconscious, and I thought it would be this huge experience. At the time it happened I also felt like I was percieving sounds, feelings, etc but it was like I chose not to experience them. After I got up from the meditation, I felt quite excited and euphoric, and I just kept saying to myself "there is no me" and laughing.

The next day (yesterday) I also experienced this at least twice again. I also feel more stable and haven't noticed any dark night symptoms since then. This is all the detail I can really think of at the moment. 

Is this stream entry?

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
1/15/18 7:05 AM as a reply to Iain Macleod.
Probably a near miss. These tend to happen more frequently when EQ is becoming stable and SE is close. In this particular case, it sounds more like a momentary and partial experience of a formless jhana, where the body drops away while the mind is still active. It gives a particular flavor of losing the "me" while there being an experiencer that notices the loss of me.

I think MCTB has a passage in it... "somewhere in EQ there is a unknowning event that really chills us out..." and "SE is inevitable if we just keep practicing..." That's my guess for where you are on the map. I could be wrong of course.

Definitely keep regular practice going. If you are close to SE it would be a shame to lose your momentum. And if it was SE, then practicing more isn't a big deal. emoticon

RE: Iain's practice log
Answer
1/15/18 8:41 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Probably a near miss. These tend to happen more frequently when EQ is becoming stable and SE is close. In this particular case, it sounds more like a momentary and partial experience of a formless jhana, where the body drops away while the mind is still active. It gives a particular flavor of losing the "me" while there being an experiencer that notices the loss of me.

That does sound quite accurate. The fact that I was there to experience this lack of self did confuse me a little. It felt like a state that I was sustaining through unconscious intention not to percieve. Also I haven't noticed any significant difference in myself since then apart from feeling more stable and calm. Makes me wonder just what the hell the experience of a cessation actually is like, but I guess I will find out when the times comes.