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Gerry's new practice log

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

RE: Gerry's new practice log
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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.