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Gerry's new practice log

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Gerry's new practice log
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9/17/16 10:06 PM
I'm back to posting my practice journals on the DhO again. I lost motivation to practice and took a break for a few months. Yesterday I had a good talk with Dreamwalker and he helped me understand things I had doubts and questions on. That was basically enough for me to start doing consistent practice again. Pretty cool to actually speak to someone from here, face to face, and talk about practice and life. Really motivated me. 

9/17/16:

~40 minute sit: Focused on my breath the entire sit. In the beginning I tried to make it a pure concentration practice by imagining my breath going in and out of my body, but I just don't think I have that ability right now. Instead I focused on the sensations of the breath however they came. If something else popped up, like heat, pressure, pain, I'd notice it but continue to have my breath at the forefront. Basically aware of all that was presenting with my breath as the anchor. 1st maybe 10 minutes were kinda shitty heat and pressure sensations but the mind and breath calmed down. Breath slowed down a bit and I started to get distracted by thoughts, so I increased effort a bit, which helped, but still random thoughts would pull me away for awhile. Ended the sit with a slight pressure at the eye level which I noticed while following the breath.


That was all for today. I have a question though. Does this kind of practice sound conducive to insight? As long as I pay attention to the sensations of the breath and body it seems like a good practice to me, thoughts? Any recommended reads? Or am I ok with what I'm doing?
Sorry for all the questions emoticon
I just really want to get through this DN phase this time

Thanks

RE: Gerry's new practice log
Answer
9/18/16 3:24 AM as a reply to Gerry V.
Gerry V:

That was all for today. I have a question though. Does this kind of practice sound conducive to insight? As long as I pay attention to the sensations of the breath and body it seems like a good practice to me, thoughts? Any recommended reads? Or am I ok with what I'm doing?


Welcome back!  I can't remember, do you have any retreat experience?  Are you able to consder taking the time for retreat?

Yes, that sounds like good practice, to me. Here's a new (for me) line of reasoning for my answer:

I've been reading Shinzen Youngs new book, it has *an equation* in it:

Concentration + Sensory Clarity + Equanmity + Time = Insight + Purification

So, any path by which you accumulate the stuff up there on the left, (concentration, sensory clarity, equanimity, time) will lead you towards the goal.  The biggest challange is simply finding a collection of motivations and cirumstances that lead to practice.  Actually meeting DhO guys was instrumental in my progress, so good on you for taking that step.

Have at it! emoticon

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/18/16 7:28 AM as a reply to Matt.
Good job, nice practice! Yeah people make things too hard for themselves by trying to do perfect concentration practice or perfect awareness-without-thought practice. The important thing as Matthew/Shinzen points out is exploring your experience with greater and greater clarity and precision.

Two comments:

1) It's okay to have thoughts occuring, just be aware you are thinking. (This is where adding noting practice can be really helpful. It can be hard to be aware of thoughts without getting sucked in, but if you also note the category of thought, for example when your thoughts are analyzing your practice during a sit, you can notice and note "analyzing thought" or if you are judging your sit you can notice and note "judging thought" or "comparing thought"). But ultimatley, thoughts are not a hindrance to insight, Stream Entry, or awakening, etc. Thoughts are just "sounds" from within your mind, you could say emoticon 

2) Don't think of Dark Night as something you get "past", but something you go "into and through". This phase of sitting is about going into the experience of Dark Night with great clarity and precision -- that's what allows insights to happen. Many times people are unconsciously trying to avoid Dark Night sensations/feelings/thoughts, when then need to be >fully< experiencing those things. 

...so, the whole point of any practice in the Dark Night is to see how Dark Night experiences (sensations, feelings, moods, thoughts) arise and pass on their own, beyond our direct control, and only cause problems when we try to push them away, or grab on to them, or experience them with weak mindfulness (which means we don't have claity or precision).

To say it in the buddhist way, if we have aversion, greed, or ignorance, then experiences seem to cause problems, but if we see things as they really are, then there is a relief from suffering.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/18/16 4:10 PM as a reply to Matt.
Hey Matthew, thanks! It feels good to be back.

I haven't done a retreat yet and at the moment it's really not possible for me to do that, but sometime after busy season at work ends I'll look into at least a 3 day retreat. I'm guesstimating that's not gonna be until mid October at the earliest.

I really like that Shinzen piece, seems like a good thing to keep in mind when I doubt things. I also agree, finding motivation is the biggest obstacle, especially during the Dark Night. You feel like shit most of the time, and yet people tell you to pay attention to it and good things will happen. Seems counter intuitive. Also speaking to someone face to face really just makes this meditation shit more real. It really motivated me to start practicing again.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/18/16 4:33 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you for your feedback and encourgament. emoticon

1) I think I'll try those notes out. My issue yesterday's sit was that I wouldn't notice I was involved in a thought or fantasy for anywhere from a few seconds up to a few minutes. I think I just need to be more proactive when I start gettting carried away with thoughts. Those notes you mentioned should be helpful.

2) I've been noticing the DN sensations for awhile now and nothing really advanced in my practice, just shitty feelings, that's why I stopped practicing last time. This time I'm anchoring myself with the breath but still noticing other things that pop up. Shitty sensation comes up? Observe it and the breath, if shitty sensation passes, switch to only breath. Yesterday was more like, place attention on breath, feel shitty sensations come up at the periphery of my awareness, pay attention to shitty sensation and breath until things change, pay attention to next thing that pops up along with breath. Just paying attention to whatever pops up, shitty sensations included, with the breath as the anchor.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/18/16 4:59 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
Good plan!

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/18/16 7:57 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
9/18/16

~50 minute sit: Focused on the breath during the 1st 20-30 minutes. Felt pain and pressure feelings, bit of fearful sensations, observed those along with the breath. Breath calmed down, felt good, so I switched to paying attention to whatever showed up. Felt some pressure sensations in the head, heat sensations in the body, pressure, noticed all of those. Went back to the breath while continuing attending to sensations that showed up. Sensations died down a bit so focused on space a bit and asked "who's watching" and noted the corresponding sensations.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/19/16 10:10 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
9/19/16:

~35 minute sit: Very tired today. Focused on breath but felt almost like I was gonna fall asleep. Awareness was murky, not my best mindful day, but did what I could. Got distracted a lot by daydreams, thoughts and memories. Snapped out as quick as I could and noticed whatever showed up. Noticed a bit of fear today, some heat but mostly going off on daydreams. I think I'm just really tired from work tbh.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/20/16 10:12 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
~35 minute sit: Focused on breath. Not much shitty sensations today, just a lot of mind wandering off into thoughts and stories in my head. Lots of sleepiness too. Focus on breath was not good at first, few minutes later was really good then my mind got bored and sleepy and focus got not so good. Increased effort but wasn't too helpful. Gotta just keep at it.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/21/16 7:10 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
9/21/16:
40 minute sit: Counted breaths,in 1, out 2, up to 20 to start the session. Went to a choiceless, whatever comes notice it. Was struggling a lot with thoughts, but actually caught myself in the process of forming a thought, right before it started, pretty cool. Had lots of thoughts about the bullshit today at work. That was the main of my thoughts. Tried to notice the thoughts as best I could but I coulda probably done much better. Asked myself, "what going on right now?" when I was getting dull and lazy to notice what was happening in the moment besides the thoughts, more body sensations based. 

I have a question if anyone's reading this. Are thoughts body based? Are they sensations of the body which get caught up and then made into thoughts? I don't know if that makes sense, if not then forget it.

I was just asking because I caught myself thinking and I could almost feel the thought in my head, a subtle sensation. Might just be a mistaken impression. Thought I'd ask.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/22/16 6:38 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
9/22/16

45-55 minute sit: Counted breaths, inhale 1, exhale 2 all the way to 20. Noticed whatever else came up in the body and mind while going up to 20. After that went to noticing whatever arose. If I got distracted I'd go back to noticing the breath, either counting the breath or noting the inhale and exhale. Alternated between these two modes throughout the sit. I'm leaning more towards just following the breath and seeing where it takes me, but I don't wanna miss out on choiceless awareness, so I do both. Still noticing everything that comes up regardless of if I'm following the breath or not, but without the breath anchor I tend to daydream and fantasize more, which I'm getting better at noticing. Experienced a lot of body pains and some heat today.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/25/16 8:28 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
9/23/16
30 minute sit: Lots of sleepiness. Fell asleep with lights on during latter half of sit.

9/24/16
50-60 minute sit

9/25/16
~40 minute sit: Lots of sleepy, bored type sensations which are really hard to note (label). Having a hard time noting things at the moment, so I stick to breath concentration. So much mind wandering and sleepiness going on at the moment. It's hard to notice when my mind drifts off into daydreams and fantasies at times. I'm hoping this is an effect of me advancing along the nanas. They say you need to learn to concentrate again in equanimity, which I feel I'm getting to. Body pains seem to be going down as well. Not completely absent, but better at dissolving when I focus on em.

That's it for now, gonna keep on truckin' and hope I make progress along the way.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/26/16 10:03 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
9/26/16

45 minute sit: Focused on the breath, 1 inhale, 2 exhale all the way to 20 or so. So many damn memories/thoughts/daydreams/distractions. Even counting breaths is getting hard to do. The mind territory I worked with today was dreamy and distractable. It's been like this for the past few days actually. I hope it's just a phase. My only hope to maintain awareness during these drift-offs are to actively count the breath or note it. My intuition is telling me this is the way forward. Stick to breath, be aware of breath and whatever else shows up, notice whatever comes up. Yeah thats basically it. Practice doesn't feel productive cuz of all these thought distractions, but maybe this is progress. Maybe new mind territory I have to work with. Who knows.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/26/16 11:36 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
Hi Gerry!

IMHO, I agree with you, you are on the path forward.  Those distractive sits are still good exercise, are still building the notice-and-return muscles.  Further, the collection of aspects that feel like 'no progress' are in themselves valid targets for awareness.  And, resigning yourself to having 'no progress' sits that you no longer expect something else is a step towards equanimity.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/27/16 5:01 PM as a reply to Matt.
Gerry, as a new meditator myself, I'm finding your experiences are much like mine.   I am following you with interest.  emoticon

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/27/16 7:55 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
9/27/16
~45 minute sit: Plenty of body pain and discomfort today, but the awareness was there. I pretty much was aware of what was going on for the whole sit. Lots of chest, back, stomach, throat and head discomfort this sit and today in general. Focused on the breath most of the time but spent a good chunk of the sit just basking in whatever sensation came up, being aware of it. Not much else today other than I'm looking forward to when busy season at work is done so I can start doing multiple sits per day.
P.S. Also spent a lot of the day at work just being mindful of sensations as they showed up, so plenty of mindfulness today.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/27/16 7:58 PM as a reply to Matt.
Hey thanks for the support Matthew! I appreciate it. Today felt like a completely different day when it came to my sitting experience. My basic rule is just sit with whatever comes, usually with the breath as support.The breath does wonders for my awareness if I'm feeling foggy or sleepy, plus I feel more structured, which I like.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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9/30/16 10:21 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
9/28/16
~1 hour practice: Didn't sit, but while trying to sleep after work, and failing,I stayed in bed and was aware of everything that was going on including the breath and whatever else showed up. Basically a lying down meditation.

9/29/16
20 minute sit: Wish I coulda done more, but something is something I suppose

9/30/16
40 minute sit: Followed breath, in and out were the notes. Few minutes later counted breaths. Was aware of sleepiness and some body pains. Head pressure was noticed as well as occasional fear sensations. Got to what I think is Equanimity, quiet spacious, not much body pain at all, occasional thought distraction.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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10/3/16 9:34 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
10/1/16
~30 minute sit

10/2/16
~40 minute sit

10/3/16
~40 minute sit

Experiencing a lot of anxiety lately, been sitting with that the past couple days and generally being mindful throughout the day. Making it a habit to sit for at least half an hour after I get back from work. Sitting late is really hard for me, I tend to almost fall asleep. I felt like I was "progressing", but this anxiety threw me off. I'm used to anxiety but I had been doing pretty well the past few days. I am dealing with the anxiety better I feel though, generally being mindful of the sensations of anxiety and following the breath if difficulties arise. Hopefully tomorrow and the next coming days are better. If I have the energy or motivation, I'll be more descriptive and post near daily. I feel more commited than ever so I'm gonna continue with the momentum.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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10/6/16 3:40 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
10/4/16
~30 minute sit

10/5/16
Not much, just laying down being mindful, maybe 20 minutes

10/6/16
~40 minute sit

Started off my sit feeling a bit hopeless, having thoughts of why I'm even doing this and if I'm even capable of achieving Stream Entry. Followed my breath and noted in and out. Also began verbally noting things again. There was some heat and discomfort in the beginning but then this turned into pleasurable feelings in the head. Was noting sensations in the "observer" area behind the eyes. I'd also note after I got lost in thoughts, "I was thinking right now". Noted a few thoughts before they began to carry me away again. Noted more observer sensations as those were the ones that were presenting themselves. Felt some energetic sensation around my head and noted and sticked onto those, had a few thoughts of "what if something is happening, like Stream Entry". Pretty quickly let go of those thoughts and noted whatever else showed up. 
Note To Self: Verbally note more, seems to be helpful in keeping me mindful and aware of what's happening. Keeps me engaged and busy therefore also decreases time spent in thoughts.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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10/7/16 8:46 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
10/7/16
30 minute sit

Noted quite a bit anxiety this sit. Noted whatever came up instead of focusing on the breath, although I noted in and out breaths during times nothing significant was going on. Noted tension around the chest and around the throat. Noted pulsing around the throat and occasionally noted heartbeat, but ignored that because I've read it's not good to focus on heartbeats. In general just verbalized whatever came up. Really have to work on that more, helps me not get lost. Also occasionally got lost in thoughts and fantasies but I'd note when I could. Noted dreaminess towards the end of the sit. Ended the sit at 30 minutes because it felt right.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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10/8/16 8:56 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
10/8/16
~30 minute sit

Spent the entire sit focusing on the breath with other sensations as background. Started off counting in's 1, out's 2. Went up to 30. Switched to noting in and out. Focused on breath but other sensations were going on as well. Breath slowed down considerably and it was hard to keep track of. Thoughts would distract me from time to time but I did pretty well to stay on the subtle sensations of the breath. As I settled on the breath, sensations of heat on my face would occasionally show up. Ended the sit in a pretty calm place.

I'm starting to doubt myself again, I'm not going to lie, I really don't know if I'm doing things correctly. My strategy at the moment is to stick on the breath and notice all that comes along with it and see what happens. I feel like I've been here before, so I feel bad for even posting this, I just have no marker that I'm making progress. So frustrating.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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3/29/17 7:20 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
It's been a few months since posting and that's due to me not sitting for a few months. 2 weeks or so ago I got motivated to practice again due to some posts that I read and I'm back sitting like never before. I've been sitting about 2 hours total a day, hour in the day hour in the night. I'm back to noticing things and not trying to ignore them, I can now see how mistaken I was to think the way forward was ignoring things. I'm going fully into things now.

Nowadays I think my baseline is around Low Equanimity, this happening as of around yesterday and today after working with Reobservation these past couple weeks. I think I'm hitting mid-EQ in my sits, and the reason I think so is because of all these damn slippery and seductive thoughts and daydreams I'm having. I'll start off observing a body sensation or whatever pops up, after a bit these sensations tend to die down by observing them equanimously. What happens next is what I like to call "boredom". This state feels very "normal", not much seems to be happening except for thoughts and daydreams, not even shitty body sensations. I try and be proactive especially during this phase and inquire about it. I might ask "What's going on right now?', or "Can you observe what's happening at the moment?" . I tend to ask these questions when I wake up from whatever fantasy or dream I was lodged in. The night before last night, my mind was going crazy, so much dialogue going on but I seemed to detach from it for most of the sit and I could kinda see it for some crazy audio making "thing", just observing the weird noises coming out and seeing it for what it was. Today I seem to be overcome with a boredom during my sits and I seem to be latching onto thoughts a lot. When I catch myself I start inquiring about my experience and observe these thoughts or observe the observing. Inquiry and being active in my sits is what keeps me motivated. I need something to do. Observing sensations is enough, but when I get to this "boredom" territory, I need to remind myself to remain engaged and not get stuck in daydreams. I think I read somewhere this can happen in Mid-EQ, but I could be wrong. 

So yeah, thats whats going on, lots of sitting. I think if I keep up being engaged with what's going on, especially during the boring sits, I think I can continue progressing, just gotta keep at it.

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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3/29/17 9:51 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
Gerry V:
...I need something to do. Observing sensations is enough, but when I get to this "boredom" territory, I need to remind myself to remain engaged and not get stuck in daydreams. I think I read somewhere this can happen in Mid-EQ, but I could be wrong. ...
I started out on Goenka (like you too, I think).  Here's a sort of scan thing I dreamed up, inspired by Goenka body scanning but more interesting and challenging, for times when you feel like you need something to do and you want to experiment. I guess you'd call it a concentration practice.  It's a scan that runs through the 6 sensation types in and around the head, in a non Goenka, non vipassana way, like this:
  1. notice the regular sensations at the left eye lid, eye ball.  It might be muscle tension, itching, pressure between eye lid and eye ball, air movement, etc
  2. notice the actual visual content from the left eye, even if you're in a dark room.  (At that phase of practice I always practiced in a dark room so that any visual information I saw was indicative of my brain state as opposed to something happening outside of my body)
  3. notice what it feels like inside the brain where the optical information is actually landing.  You may feel like there are sensations all over the brain coming and going, but this part is about the sensations that are in the brain because of the optical information coming in. I know 'they' say there are no nerve endings in the brain, but just go with me on this. emoticon
  4. notice how awareness of that optical information makes you feel.  You might be happy you are aware of it, surprised about it, indifferent...
  5. repeat for the right eye.
  6. repeat for the right ear and audio information.  Audio content, even in a quiet room is pretty easy to pick up, it's a rich channel.
  7. repeat for the left ear
  8. repeat for the nose and olfactoray information.  Sensations of breath in the nose is easy to feel of course.  The next easy target is the temperature of the air.  It's hard to notice the actual smell if you've been breathing that air for a while, but you might be surprised to come up with something.  My meditation room smells like dry cardboard, not surprisingly.
  9. repeat for the tip of the tongue and the sensation of taste.  You might not come up with a taste, but there is still information there that you can zero in on if you spend the time
If you play with this, do it in any way you want, of course.  I spent maybe a half a minute or so on each individual step (that's 4 steps per sensor which adds up to 24 steps all together), just long enough to feel like I'd given the item due consideration.  If it's interesting, spend more time at a given step.  It all counts as conenctration.

If this seems like a screwy waste of time, please don't spend a second on it.  emoticon

RE: Gerry's new practice log
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5/10/17 8:54 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
Just wanted to update this saying I am still alive and still practicing, 1 to 2 hours a day, most days 2 sessions of about an hour.

Not much has changed, dramatically at least, which is why theres been a lack of posts from me. I don't want to post a lot when not much is going on, I'd rather just post if things change or something.

The vast majority of my sits are at least Low Equanimity, I'd say. Some shitty reobservation feelings but with an attitude of not minding them and being mindful of them. This usually leads to a much quieter sense space, and at times I'll sorta alternate with a few moments of reobservation, quickly to low equanimity then to my cutting edge somewhere in Equanimity. Much of the time I get the sense of this space with not much going on. This is actually moreso a lack of shitty reobservation feeling with me just witnessing this quietness. When I get to this stage I tend to explore what I'm not paying attention to. Many times it's the sense of watching that I'm missing so I'll pay attenton to that. A lot of the time this leads to a feeling of the observer widening. Like a circle of attention expanding to what I like to call awareness, whereas attention is a more contracted sense of awareness. Also the observer and the sense of space with objects in them feels like the same thing. Like awareness is the whole thing. Whether looked at through the scope of being the sense of space or the observer of space, to me it seems to be very similar. I also feel like my sits would probably be better if I cut down the time a bit, to maybe 45-50 minutes, then maybe increase that to 3 sessions a day, but I'll see, might have to experiment.

As a note, I'll say that being inquisitive about what I'm missing paying attention to is what I seemed to be missing before. I feel like my equanimity is growing steadily and I have something "to do" so to speak, instead of just sitting there till I get to Equanimity then day dreaming the rest of the sit, not really progressiing the equanimity. I feel I'm closer than ever, and I say that honestly. When I'm not sitting I tend to wonder how much longer I need to be in equanmity till I hit stream entry but I know that's probably mostly out of my control, except for practice, so I try and be consistent with that.

That's all for now, wish me luck

RE: Gerry's new practice log
Answer
5/10/17 8:56 PM as a reply to Matt.
Thanks for the reply Matthew, I'll have to try this out sometime when I feel is concentration is bad. Hope all is well.