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Noah's Monthly Update

Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 10/4/16 1:17 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:21 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:23 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:25 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:26 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:27 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:29 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:31 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:33 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:34 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/31/17 10:52 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:38 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:39 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:40 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:42 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/31/17 10:52 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/31/17 10:54 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:47 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:49 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/31/17 10:54 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 1:53 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/31/17 10:55 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/31/17 10:56 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Oochdd 9/19/16 5:32 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/19/16 9:55 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/31/17 10:57 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 4/1/17 1:18 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/31/17 10:57 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/31/17 10:58 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/31/17 11:02 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 3/1/17 8:39 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 4/1/17 1:16 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update T DC 4/5/17 4:06 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 4/5/17 6:50 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Jay Douglass 4/23/17 11:19 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 4/24/17 7:58 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 4/30/17 11:30 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 6/3/17 2:15 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 6/7/17 9:59 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 7/2/17 9:11 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 8/6/17 8:16 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 8/31/17 9:41 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 10/1/17 2:35 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 11/4/17 7:38 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 12/2/17 10:20 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 12/29/17 11:05 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 2/4/18 4:15 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 3/26/18 8:18 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 4/8/18 10:00 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 6/3/18 2:42 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 6/3/18 3:25 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 7/28/18 5:19 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/22/18 7:29 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/22/18 8:02 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 10/21/18 2:53 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 11/12/18 11:31 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/8/19 1:51 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 1/8/19 1:50 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 2/3/19 12:56 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 3/31/19 11:31 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 4/2/19 5:51 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 5/13/19 8:29 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 5/13/19 8:40 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 5/13/19 12:54 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 6/5/19 12:49 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 11/7/19 4:49 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 11/7/19 5:23 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 11/7/19 6:01 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update T DC 11/7/19 11:01 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 11/8/19 5:14 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 11/8/19 5:55 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 11/8/19 5:16 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 11/8/19 7:13 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 3/4/20 9:48 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Zachary 3/6/20 6:06 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 3/7/20 4:07 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 3/14/20 7:16 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 3/19/20 8:22 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 3/24/20 8:33 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Not two, not one 3/25/20 12:28 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 3/26/20 7:52 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 4/19/20 11:31 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 6/23/20 7:37 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/5/20 7:23 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/5/20 8:49 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Nick O 9/5/20 11:34 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/6/20 10:45 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update shargrol 9/6/20 11:26 AM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/6/20 1:40 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update shargrol 9/6/20 6:39 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/7/20 7:37 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update shargrol 9/8/20 8:13 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/8/20 10:55 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 9/8/20 10:56 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 12/24/20 10:38 PM
RE: Noah's Monthly Update Noah D 12/27/20 1:54 PM
Noah's Monthly Update
10/4/16 1:17 PM
I've also put this writing in blog format (alongside some other info) here:

Mid-2013 & Earlier Summary

My parents are both psychotherapists and old hippies.  I grew up in an environment where meditation and the mind were known and discussed.  Early stressors came from interactions with my older sister and father (who would yell and generally display instability, which I blamed myself for).  I started out with a hypersensitive and overly empathetic temperament.  This would later develop into highly obsessive tendencies.  

The first signs of major instability came with depression in 6th grade.  In 8th grade I started smoking pot once a week.  This habit eventually developed into once a day, and by 11th grade I had tried most recreational drugs other than major narcotics.  

Sitting in Physics class, Spring of 2008, I felt a wave of negative emotion come over me that was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  I was so agitated I wanted to crawl out of my skin.  I am fairly sure that this was triggered by a combination of early stressors, sensitive temperament, and drug usage. This was my first encounter with bipolar disorder, a disease that I would still be struggling with over 8 years later (upon writing this).

In my preteen years I would fantasize about being a Samurai.  This led me to read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and I eventually moved on to classics such as Be Here Now.  I occasionally practiced mindfulness, teetering on access concentration.  In college I began to attend a Rinzai Zen meditation group.  I also worked in a Shaktipat tradition, with a man named Stuart Perrin.  

I crossed the A&P in the Summer of 2011, while on retreat with Amma, the Hugging Saint.  I had been silently doing Puja with the mantra she gave me while walking around.  I said a resolution that I wanted to have a powerful experience.  While sitting on the floor near the stage she was teaching from, I locked eyes with her for a moment and saw glint of light pass between us.  Later, when she answered a question about reincarnation, her words triggered a sobbing fit that evolved into a 3-day hallucinogenic experience.  

After this experience, I became obsessed with the law of attraction, and began to wonder how I could heal myself.  I suspect my work with resolution during this time serendipitously led me to pragmatic dharma by Mid 2013.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:21 PM as a reply to Noah D.
2013 Summary

Although I had occasionally lurked on the Dharma Overground since 2010, I didn’t understand what pragmatic dharma was until late 2013.  Around October, I had an epiphany about what a map was; that the spiritual path could be tracked in an impersonal and objective manner.  I then realized this meant I could reliably make progress within a system, and therefore heal my bipolar disorder beyond what I’d already done with medications and therapy.  

The idea that sealed the deal for me was Mahasi noting: that there was an option to meditate in a more active way, rather than the boring mindfulness I had previously engaged in.  Furthermore, Mahasi noting could be done with low levels of concentration, meaning outside of formal meditation, which would become my bread and butter for awhile.

I started doing “freestyle, off-cushion, noting with mental labels” constantly, morning to night, in daily life.  I was working as a waiter, and studying as a 4th year Junior in college.  While I don’t have much record of this time, I believe I was below the A&P for at least the first 3 months of constant, daily noting (the end of 2013).  On New Year’s Eve of 2013, I made a resolution to attain Stream Entry within the year.  It would almost come to pass.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:23 PM as a reply to Noah D.
2014 Summary

My situation was similar in 2014:  restaurant job whilst working towards my Bachelor’s in HR.  In the summer’s I would do online, community college coursework.  I didn’t have a family, major responsibilities, or a challenging job.  Later, when I would start to take on more responsibilities, I would be grateful that I used my time this way.  

This situation allowed me to continue with the relentless noting of my experience.  I was too impatient to do sitting meditation, but would note for at least 3 hours of every day.  My average was probably closer to 6.  

Outside of noting, I would do tons of obsessive investigation, trying to combine my insights from Vipassana with the law-of-attraction practices I had learned from the Mental Science tradition.  This mode of combining philosophical investigation with the somatic-energetic experience of the Insight Knowledges would serve me well through to reaching Technical 4th Path in late 2015.

Although I did not regularly journal during this period, I remember a tedious period of attempting to reach the A&P through the winter.  When I finally did, it was not nearly as dramatic as my first experience of it at the Amma retreat.  

In contrast, when I got into the 5th Nana for the first time, it was very dramatic.  I started to feel horrifically anxious at work, and asked to leave early.  My entire sensory field was dissolving like descending pixels on a computer screen.  Driving home, I got a flat tire on the highway (and my cell phone had died, and it was pitch black outside) and had to change using my shitty car jack.  I took this as a message from the Universe: Welcome to the dark night, bitch.

This lasted for around 4 months.  Because my baseline was already one of irritation and anxiety (Bipolar symptoms), I don’t know that the Dukkha Nanas were that much different from my mixed states.  Obviously, I do remember reaching each Insight Knowledge as a cutting edge: particularly Fear, Misery, Disgust and Reobservation.  They all panned out exactly as their labels described.

The first time I popped into Low EQ from ReObs, I had ironically taken a break from the noting technique.  I was working at the restaurant when I had the thought that I should start noting again.  With this came a sensation best compared to some Kool-Aid or Jolly Rancher commercial in which a psychedelic wall of color invades a person’s normal sensory reality.  It felt like a bubble popped in some other dimension.  I immediately knew I had finally broken through.

If I remember correctly, that was in July, and I practiced constant, daily noting from then until November, when I decided to get in touch with Ron Crouch.  Ron didn’t believe I was getting into the 11th Nana, without a teacher and any formal practice regimen.  In our second session, I noted aloud for him for 45 minutes.  At the end he said “Woah - You are getting into Equanimity!”  He proceeded to blow my mind with a sophisticated explanation of how the sit progressed.  Up until that point, I had a fairly primitive, macro-level understanding of how cycling occurs.  

While many people are against scripting or self-dharma diagnosis, I found the perspective and information I got from Ron to be incredibly empowering.  Suddenly I began to understand how fractalized all the sub-stages of the Equanimity Nana are, and how to get through them with the proper adjustments of technique.  Towards the end of December, I was in High Equanimity.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:25 PM as a reply to Noah D.
January 2015

At the start of 2015, I was still working at the restaurant.  I had finally finished college.  Pressure to leave my parent’s house was mounting.  I was planning a move from NJ to Seattle, WA, where my high school friend was already living.

By late December of 2014, High EQ was getting very intense and trippy.  I had been navigating the sub-stages of the 11th Nana for six months, noting all day, every day.  I was having weird, sexually charged visions.  Random, seemingly alien beliefs were popping up out of nowhere.  I experienced the peak of these things as I spent New Years in Niagara Falls.  Although I hadn’t gotten SE yet, I resolved to get as much progress along the insight access as possible, within the year.

At the beginning of 2014, I had resolved for SE within 12 months.  Coincidentally, it did happen 3 days after New Years.  I was talking to my Mom about meditation while sitting with my eyes closed.  I was trying this need I felt to allow reality to be inherently pleasurable, forever.  As I thought this, it felt like someone blew a hole in my crown chakra (I think of Fight Club’s final scene in which Tyler Durden shoots himself in the head).  

I would later confirm, and then reconfirm, with Ron, that this was indeed Stream Entry.  An interesting effect that he highlighted was my newfound ability to easily fabricate soft jhanas.  Also, the cycles in Review phase were ridiculously fast.  It seemed comedic, given how much freakin’ time I had spent working my through each Vipassana Jhana.  What previously took 5 months would now happen in 5 minutes of meditation.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:26 PM as a reply to Noah D.
February 2015

By the end of January, the cycling had slowed to a halt, with the last bit of Review B segueing into the 1st Insight Knowledge of 2nd Path.  I don’t have much to say about this time, other than the fact that consistent practice combined with Ron’s practical know-how allowed me to finish 2nd Path by February 12th.

As Ron said, it was “a footnote” compared to 1st Path.  Both involved some obvious rewiring of the energy system, and some consistent, peripheral-intuitive knowing of the 3 C’s.  2nd Path Review was much shorter than the 1st one, lasting two weeks.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:27 PM as a reply to Noah D.
March 2015

In March I experienced an oddity that I knew was part of this process, yet surprised me nonetheless.  After consistently noting in daily life, I completed another cycle of insight in about two weeks.  However, after the Fruition-Cessation, I just restarted in Mind & Body.  It was not momentous and there was no Review.  

This was the beginning of my experience of the fractal model of cycles, and would set the stage for the next five months of practice.  In fact, after this point, the Insight Knowledges no longer seemed inherently important, and the experience of them was not nearly as dramatic.  I worked through the 2nd cycle of Technical 3rd path for the rest of the month.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:29 PM as a reply to Noah D.
April 2015

In April, I continued to note continuously, off-cushion, under Ron’s guidance.  My goals at this time were to get Technical 4th Path and then AF as quickly as possible to ‘delete’ bipolar disorder.  There was a small amount of fireworks in the month; I recorded heavy A&P experiences and dramatic fruitions, as well as deep seated restlessness.  More so, however, it was marked by a sense of boredom and uneventful neutrality as I went about my days doing the constant noting technique I had crafted for myself.  

On the 11th of the month, it felt like a bubble of attention and clinging inside my skull cavity popped.  The next day, I was standing in my backyard when an even bigger bubble extended from inside my torso, out of my body, to include the entire sense field.  It felt very significant at the time.  I couldn’t tell at the time, but this was the Technical 3rd Path moment.

I met with Ron on the 23rd, who said that I was exhibiting symptoms of Review A after I spent 45 minutes noting out loud for him.  He guided me through soft or fabricated versions of the Formless and Pure Land Jhanas, which was a unique and powerful experience.  My ability to “ride the jhanic arc” in a soft and fabricated way was greatly enhanced after the Technical 3rd Path event.  I could access an equivalent version of “Nirodha Lite” as well.

Also, there was a slight upgrade in sensory clarity and a slight reduction in restlessness, as had been the case with the previous 2 shifts.  Finally, the experience of Kundalini changed from being a tight, jarring series of shocks to a warm and wide flow up through the crown.

Ron explained to me that there are 2 possibilities with regards to the intersection of mental illness and Technical 4th Path: 1) The symptoms disappear entirely, or 2) The symptoms remain, but become much more workable.  I correctly predicted that I would belong to the 2nd group.  

By the end of April, I was in the thick of Review B, and had trouble discerning a single Insight Knowledge even after an hour of formal meditation.  A familiar confusion ensued as I began to dip below the A&P throughout the day, indicating the system reboot seemed like it was almost over.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:31 PM as a reply to Noah D.
May 2015

In the beginning of May, I was still in Review (of Technical 3rd Path), despite it seeming like it was on the tail end in April.  It continued until May 14th, when I had an obvious experience of the first Insight Knowledge.  Ron explained that I simply had the outlier experience of a drawn out, six week Review phase.

My main technique this month was constant, off-cushion noting in daily life: mostly one word labels, but sometimes a verb-object combo.  I also did a lot of philosophical investigation of the three characteristics.  I was pleased to find that Technical 3rd Path had delivered a major blow to my bipolar symptoms.  Checking in throughout the days, I noted a dramatically decreased sense of basic irritation.

In the second half of the month, my investigations favored an attitude of surrender and choiceless awareness that would later set me up for Technical 4th Path.  I completed the first cycle through the Insight Knowledges of Technical 4th Path very quickly (the 14th through the 19th).  Then things really slowed down, and I spent ten days working within the fractal of the first Vipassana Jhana.  When I met with Ron again, he complimented me on my mindfulness, and encouraged me to keep going, despite the boredom inherent in Pre-A&P territory.  He also discouraged me from switching techniques, as I wanted to go to 2nd Gear.  In retrospect, I can see how valuable that advice was; the active approach of noting was a necessary “disembedding” mechanism for me, at this time.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:33 PM as a reply to Noah D.
June 2015

I want to make sure I note that at this phase of my life I was still very low functioning.  I was protected by the fact that I was still living with my parents, working an unchallenging job, and connected to a network of high school and college friends.  That being said, Technical 3rd Path was the first continuous and permanent relief I had ever had from bipolar symptoms.  I was feeling motivated to live in healthier ways for the first time in my life.  

Throughout June, I cycled through the Insight Knowledges in a very somatic or physio-energetic way.  To compliment this, I did a ton of different types of philosophical inquiries into different aspects of experience.  What had started as investigations into surrender in May were quickly evolving into the subject of a more pervasive nonduality.  

For the first ten days of the month, I experienced an intense fractal of the 3rd and 4th Insight Knowledges.  This seemed to do some heavy rewiring.  Ron had told me that I would need to become familiar with all the Insight Knowledges, and this was coming to pass.

On June 13th, I had a sort of “near miss” of Technical 4th Path, which caused a stir on the DhO after I posted about it.  This event left me basking in the cutting edge of High EQ for the rest of the month, even as I cycled through the Dukkha Nanas multiple times.

When I met with Ron again, he emphasized the importance of Grace and letting go.  I seemed to be grasping at qualities that were beyond the cycles (and all the relative or mundane events at the Vipassana level of mind).  Around this team, a variety of DhO yogis came out of the woodwork to encourage me to relax my intense approach to the path.  Little did they (or I) know that such a perspective would remain unavailable to me despite many more months of intense practice.   

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:34 PM as a reply to Noah D.
July 2015

In July, adulthood became more “real” as I solidified plans to move out of my parent’s house in NJ and into an apartment in Seattle, WA.  In the meantime, I was working at a restaurant and doing a ton of off-cushion practice.  Looking back, the Insight Knowledge fractal I went through during this period is very confusing.  It seems that I had exhausted a wide range of techniques and investigations throughout June, and was basically cruising with a sense of boredom through the first half of July.  

For much of the month, I practiced Shinzen’s “Do Nothing” technique via many short sits throughout the day.  DhO participants had convinced me to relax my effort, and this is how I chose to do it.  In truth, there was basically no chance that I would be capable of relaxing at this point.  

On the 18th of the month, I was driving to work and had an odd series of energetic phenomena in my skull cavity.  When I got to work and parked, I was thinking about the suffering characteristic of reality, and how I hoped to let life be inherently pleasurable at all times.  An idea popped into my head; the stuff inside my body is the same as the stuff outside of it.  The tension associated with fundamental duality arises out of a perceived dissonance between inside and outside.  If I could let my inner field vibrate at the same frequency as the external field, like a tuning fork, then life really could be inherently pleasurable.  There was a warm, shaking, pillow of energy that arose through my body.  Then it felt like I released a large amount of psychic waste from my system.  After this moment, everything became much more quiet.  

I didn’t make much of this event (as I had been having a variety of weird, meditation effects at this time) until I met with Ron on the 23rd and he diagnosed it as Technical 4th Path.  Four days later, I moved to Seattle.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/31/17 10:52 PM as a reply to Noah D.
August 2015

At the beginning of August, I had just started living in Seattle with my friend from high school, and working with him on a daytime tour boat.  The after effects of Technical 4th Path were clear: an increase in sensory clarity, a decrease in the hindrances, and a dropping of the subtle tension associated with artificial duality.  While this realization was with me all the time, it was peripheral or intuitive in nature.

After Ron diagnosed me at technical 4th path in late July, I decided to try Actualism practice, as was my plan all along.  This decision was based on the idea that Actual Freedom is the next “level” after technical 4th path.  Furthermore, I was determined to go to the source of the method (the Actual Freedom Trust and Actualism Yahoo Group) and attempt it as the founders intended, rather than fusing it with Buddhism, as other had done.  Writing this 13 months later, I can see how deeply flawed all of this reasoning was.

Although I no longer believe in, or agree with anything related to Actualism, I would like to outline some of my experiences.  On the negative end, I was deeply destabilized this month.  Immediately after the move, I started experiencing depression and isolation.  My roommate and best friend from high school was unsupportive, and I was in a tough job that I hated.  The Actualism method lacked the specificity and force that I needed.  

On the positive end, the Actualism method helped me begin to investigate some issues that would lay the groundwork for my tutelage under Richard.  I started to prioritize happiness over all else.  I tried to live in the moment.  I investigated thought processes, emotions, and survival instincts.  I began to ponder how I wanted to live as a newly independent, young adult.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:38 PM as a reply to Noah D.
September 2015

In September, I continued to practice the Actualism method.  The positive elements of my efforts all involved forms of investigation which I would continue when I returned to Buddhist practice: libido, deep seated restlessness, social conventions, ill will, etc.  I was able to make a positive change externally by moving from my job on a daytime tour boat, to more familiar work as a bartender.  I continued to struggle with the insomnia, depression and isolation related to trying to “make it” in a new city.  There was an obvious lack of direction and the tools to make meaningful change in my life.  

I met with Ron Crouch to review the results of my work with him.  He confirmed that the July 2015 event was Technical 4th Path, but that it can be experienced in a variety of different ways.

I got in arguments on the DhO with multiple people about the relevance of this shift, given that I was still experiencing so many problems.  What it seemed to highlight for me is that I started out with a degree of continuous hindrance that is way above the average, even amongst meditators.  

Of note was that I had a visionary experience of a childhood PCE which seemed to provide me with some subtle, positive reverberations and a sense of hope or inspiration.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:39 PM as a reply to Noah D.
October 2015

In October, I continued with my attempt at the Actualism method.  The investigations of previous months continued.  Writing this now, it seems unlikely that they provided any lasting effect, and certainly did not work at the time.  I was struggling with social anxiety, depression and insomnia.  My functioning was relatively low as I struggled to complete daily tasks and eat a healthy diet.  I went through a phase of practicing certain social skills in an unbalanced way.  

Much of my work with the Actualism method seems to have been attempts at scripting myself into a desired progression that did not match up with the realities I was facing.  By the end of October, I was considering moving back into meditation as I was craving a more efficacious way.  I can see that I was struggling with certain storylines that still continue now, 11 months later.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:40 PM as a reply to Noah D.
November 2015

In November, I continued with Actualism.  This involved the same types of investigation that occurred in previous months.  In addition to depression, I obviously cycled through mixed states of agitation and manic upswings.  My functioning was low, I was phobic of applying for HR jobs (still bartending) and I struggled to deal with the social isolation of being new to a city.  I continued to write walls of obsessive text on the DhO.  Throughout October and November, I had gradually titrated down off of my mood stabilizers and was suffering for it.

I had a series of conversations with DreamWalker that helped me see a light at the end of the tunnel: further shifts to be had through spiritual practice (beyond Technical 4th Path).  I also met with Ron Crouch for a second time since he had graduated me from his training.  We reconfirmed that what I had experienced was technical 4th path.  I told him I wanted to keep advancing along the Wisdom axis.  He referred me to a Mahamudra practitioner.  Coincidentally, this person was a student in the same tradition as DreamWalker.  To use Actualist jargon, I was officially a “Spiritualist” again.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:42 PM as a reply to Noah D.
December 2015

By the beginning of December, I was basically done with Actualism practice.  Despite still believing some of the core concepts, I could not afford to continue with an ineffectual life philosophy while in the throes of bipolar disorder.  I was still phobic of applying for HR jobs, generally low functioning, and very obsessive.

I spoke with two different meditation teachers in this month, one of them being the Mahamudra practitioner Ron had introduced me to.  Neither one ended up working for me.  After doing some amatuer reading about the Mahamudra tradition, I tried and failed to whip up an off-cushion version for myself.  It became clear that Awareness practices do not work like Vipassana practices at all.  My attempts mostly ended up causing a hypervigilant suppression.  Reading back on this month, I can tell that I lacked an understanding of how Morality and Wisdom need to be integrated (which I would gain in 2016).  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/31/17 10:52 PM as a reply to Noah D.
January 2016

Feeling desperate, I said a spiritual mind treatment (with my father’s help), to find a sense of direction in my contemplative path.  Synchronously, a man named Dhammarato (or Richard) contacted me via e-mail after I posted a meditation question on a Yahoo group.  In our first skype session, he explained to me that I could learn to work with the breath in specific ways to generate joy and mindfulness, while eliminating the hindrances that I was still struggling with (despite huge improvements).  

I started gladdening the mind all day long, and by the middle of the month, I was doing short meditation sits which were previously prevented by impatience.  In the third week of the month, I began to act with discipline to do household chores and the early stages of life projects.  Richard had convinced me that no amount of magical, wishful, or karmically-based thinking would ‘save the day’, and that I would need to learn to gradually build up habits the old fashioned way: one task at a time.  Although I had heard this message before, I needed to receive it within a Buddhist framework to actually get me off my ass.  By the end of the month I was sitting for an hour, which would mostly be constant gladdening-the-mind.  

I also finally started applying for HR jobs. Gladdening the mind gave me the strength to overcome my phobia of this.   

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/31/17 10:54 PM as a reply to Noah D.
February 2016

At the start of February, I was inconsistently sitting for up to an hour at a time, still needing to gladden the mind constantly to stave off agitation.  I was continuing to act with discipline in a somewhat consistent way, for the first time since childhood (when I was into martial arts and fantasized about being a Samurai).  I also started to inquire about the nature of my seemingly untamable libido, from the viewpoint of Buddhadasa (Richard’s lineage).

Richard introduced me to his teachings on Mudita.  It is commonly translated as “sympathetic joy” and branded as a counter to jealousy.  Richard’s version contrasted with this, and involved developing a large cache of Piti within oneself, and then spreading it to others via smiles, conversation, and body language (his translation is “shared joy”).  

Likewise, he explained his approach to bodywork.  Whenever sitting, be as still as possible, and “watch the stillness” of the body.  Whenever walking, focus on the flowy, water-like qualities of the movement, and “watch the flow.”  Whenever conversing, notice the habits of gesticulation and facial expression which automatically arise, and drop them immediately.  He called this “hands and feet.”

By the end of the month, I was sometimes able to focus on my breath while in sitting meditation, without needing to gladden the mind.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:47 PM as a reply to Noah D.
March 2016

My new set of tools had allowed me to apply for a variety of HR positions throughout January and February.  By March, I was in an unpaid internship, which was an important stepping stone. At least I was no longer "frozen."

At the beginning of March, I realized that the primary arena for the Anapanasati is off the cushion, not on.  While on-cushion practice is like the gym, off-cushion is applying that strength for life tasks.  For three weeks, I was inspired by Culadasa’s The Mind Illuminated, and tried to develop stabilized, continuous breath focus off-cushion.  It ended up causing more hindrances than it reduced, but it was a worthwhile experiment.

I started to integrate Richard’s explanations of Supramundane Right View into my practice paradigms.  Right View is to have no views.  Right Morality is to have no artificial rules, but instead to always respond to actual causes and conditions, and target optimal effects based on them.  This helped support the disciplined action I had begun earlier.

I tried Lama Tsultrim Allione’s technique of feeding one’s inner demons, which is her interpretation of the classic, Tibetan Chod practice.  Although the process didn’t quite ‘stick’ with me, it did seem to make me question my obsessive thinking for the first time in my life.  Maybe overthinking things does more harm than good, and is not worth the comfort and security feelings it brings?  I had never considered this before.  

In my inconsistent sitting practice, I began to attempt complete, physical stillness, and refusal to check the timer.  I also started emphasizing the celebration of the remembrance of the breath, rather than the continuity discussed by Culadasa.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:49 PM as a reply to Noah D.
April 2016

At the beginning of April, I was doing two formal, 30 minute sits daily (still a couch yogi).  I was able to focus on my breath much of the time without needing to gladden the mind.  Off-cushion practice heavily emphasized the Supramundane investigation of the ‘bottomless pit’ inside all humans, and the delusional attempts I make to fill it.  These queries bolstered my confidence in Piti accumulation: something I can really count on.  Mid-month I felt a similar confidence increase with regards to self-control and my ability to act with discipline.

I had a five day ‘preview’ of a new sensory baseline that would not stabilize for another four months.  Although it didn’t last, the luminosity and spaciousness were thrilling.  

Throughout the month, I moved my twice daily sits from the couch to a recently purchased zafu and zabuton.  I gradually lengthened them from 30 minutes, to 45 minutes, to 60.   I took a lot pride in my newfound ability to practice sitting meditation, as I had always felt that my brand of off-cushion practice was somehow inferior.  As my breath-focus became more reliable, I was able to add in “watch the stillness/flow” concurrent with the sensations of the breath (on & off cushion).  

I started thinking of habit formation in a more systematic way, creating lists of my goals.  I learned to adapt to waves of agitation at my unpaid internship by taking short breaks between work periods.  However, more pervasive blockages (such as lust and obsessing) can not be broken on the external/behavioral level.  Instead, the inputs need to be cut off.  I began to do this by averting my eyes from attractive women on the street, and practicing the techniques outlined in the “Removal of Distracting Thoughts Sutta.”

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/31/17 10:54 PM as a reply to Noah D.
May 2016

In May I dealt with a lot of emotional issues and processes.  Practicing Buddhadasa’s “Insight By The Nature Method” (via Richard) seems to gradually peel back not just layers of subtle, perceptual skin (ala Vipassana/Progress of Insight), but also many thoughts, emotions and behaviors.  In getting accustomed to this, I questioned my views on the necessity of social connection and how that interfaces with having one’s own stash of Piti.  There were also considerations of the limits (or lack thereof) of habit formation and discipline.  

Also, when I told him about my feelings of dissociation whilst talking to others and practicing Anapana, Richard told me to stop all breath meditation (at those times), and focus entirely on listening.  This helped clarify the Nature Method’s ruthlessly literal approach to solving life’s issues.

I understood how this method led to the awareness preview last month, and how it promises a continuous baseline eventually, by removing all the obstacles to clarity.  

The twice daily, 60 minute sits on my zafu continued, and I struggled to watch the stillness of the body as deeper layers of agitation began to surface.  The removal of distracting thoughts was a staple practice, and helped me deal with a dating situation that would previously have triggered uncontrolled obsessing.  The importance of Right Lifestyle was highlighted as I started the transition from bartending/unpaid internship to bartending/professional job search.  A regular sleep schedule could be seen as a cornerstone of the 8fold path.  

In addition to crushing thoughts, I started to counter my pessimistic tendencies with more relaxed and zestful affirmative statements.  This thought-based reprogramming would continue to be a valuable asset to me in coming months.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 1:53 PM as a reply to Noah D.
June 2016

In June I began to interview for my first professional job, and by the end of the month I accepted an offer.  This was a huge victory for Right Lifestyle, and a significant turning point in my path as a whole.  An increase in off-cushion patience solidified, which reduced the irritated tendencies that had plagued me in previous months at my internship.  However, I was still getting destabilized by lack of sleep and alcohol consumption.  

Throughout the month I had a couple “preview” experiences of more refined awareness.  One seemed to match the Actualist description of the PCE, while others seemed to match nondualist descriptions by Buddhist traditions.  

My work in the removal of distracting thoughts also began to stabilize and the overall volume of obsessions were reduced.  For the first time in my pragmatic meditation career, I struggled with motivation as my mental quiet became a comfortable new normal.  I continued to sit on my zafu, twice daily for 60 minutes (as much as possible).  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/31/17 10:55 PM as a reply to Noah D.
July 2016

I started my first 9 to 5 on the 6th of the month, which changed everything.  By July 10th, I had stopped all formal sits, but increased off cushion practice.  I started having trouble sleeping, and this would continue until 6 weeks into the job, when my body would finally adapt to the schedule.  Despite this, I had stellar job performance, due in huge part to all the training I had done in recent months.

Throughout the month, I struggled with understanding the path itself, particularly the intersection of Right Lifestyle and Right View.  Many false dichotomies arose: Buddhism vs Secular Materialism, Insight By the Nature Method vs Insight By Organized Training, Right Effort vs stressful striving, etc.  Richard told me that once the mind is free of hindrances (which is roughly where I was at at this point), the task is to investigate the eightfold path as a whole.  

I began to question the way forum participation was causing unneeded stress, and decided to take a break from it.  I noticed that despite huge improvements in multiple areas, the intensity of my libido and obsessive thinking had not abated.  This would set the stage for later techniques that would begin to work (in September).  

On July 23rd, I was having a conversation with DreamWalker when he said that “selfing processes have 3 characteristics: permanency, satisfactoriness, and self-ness.”  A voice inside my head whispered “stop organizing your reality.”  Objects in my visual and auditory surroundings started rapidly vibrating out of synch with the rest of the field.  This marked the beginning of my first meditation shift involving big change to walking around perception, and the fifth major shift overall.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/31/17 10:56 PM as a reply to Noah D.
August 2016

This was a big month for practice.  I’m grateful to have had another opening that seems at least as impactful as the previous 4 shifts that I’ve experienced.  Various aspects of the sensory field became more clear though off-cushion investigation over the course of 4 weeks, starting July 23rd.  My current experience is a lot different than before.  The sense of processing from within the body is greatly reduced, and the sense of being ‘out there’ with the field has been enhanced.  The internal world also is greatly freed to just be itself and bear its own significance in the psychic space.  Emotional tenor has improved with spaciousness and increased sampling rate of surrender.  The beauty of life is obvious and in my face.

As an alternate description, there is a sense of floating consciousness not necessarily confined to time and space.  Access to this quality of experience seems to greatly reduce the basic pain of ‘being here’ that I've struggled with from an early age.

This is my best attempt to describe what I’ve experienced.  I’m not interested in making claims or expressing certainties.  As always, my experience is in relative terms or grayscale, and language is an imperfect method of sharing data.  I’m trying to keep my writing short but would be happy to elaborate if that was deemed helpful.

In addition, I continued with Richard’s instructions (off-cushion) throughout the month.  These include, but are not limited to: Gladdening the Mind, mindfulness of breath, Removal of Distracting Thoughts, Supramundane Right View & Lifestyle, etc.  I suspect that the shift is closely related to my efforts in these areas since January.

Earlier this month, I read Cook Greuter’s 9 Stages of Ego Development, which helped me appreciate the importance of meta-systemic perspectives.  

I also made an initial attempt at a technique from The Fountainhead School, called ‘The Dialectic.’  I was guided through this by a senior student there.

As part of lifestyle, I have found increases in patience and wisdom that have allowed me to structure my life through budget, meal planning, chore schedules and exercise regimens.  These changes have been a long time coming, but would not have previously been possibly, without the aforementioned tools, as well as the stability gained from the major path shifts.

Finally, as a testament to the wonders of meditation, I noticed how much freaking resilience and joy I have gained over the past few years, during the week my parents visited on vacation.  Sometimes it takes a framing situation like that to notice progress.  I am grateful for it all.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 5:32 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Awesome! Great reporting. Congrats on all the progress!

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/19/16 9:55 PM as a reply to Oochdd.
Awesome! Great reporting. Congrats on all the progress!
Danke schon!

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/31/17 10:57 PM as a reply to Noah D.
September 2016

The new perceptual shift is holding up, and developing, two months later.  I’ve been working with purposely combining formless aspects of the sensory field with heart chakra warmth and processing (thanks Dream Walker).  In August, the panoramic width of the visual field and the ‘knowing’ depth of space seemed like separate non dualities.  Around mid September, this heart chakra technique mushed them into one thing.  There also seems to be another development related to the wild energy of all objects inhabiting their own space, not being ‘considered’ from a reference point.  The inner and outer worlds are sort of like 5th/6th jhana, but there is no ‘container’ to hold them like there is an a jhana.  They just echo forever, no ceiling, no floor.  I’d like to bring this formlessness more to the fore in my day to day.  The stress relief I get from the penetrating spaciousness is quite wonderful.  Also, I keep getting really hard cessations, some maybe as long as five seconds.  I don’t know if that’s significant.   

Late last month I discovered the efficacy of Hinayana repulsion meditations as a “trigger practice” (i.e. Shinzen).  Whenever gluttony arises, spend five seconds calling forth an image of moldy, rotten food.  Do the same with libido and diseased or dead human bodies.  This can be extended to personality traits, i.e. if I’m feeling self absorbed, think about the obsessive narcissists I know and dislike.  This exercise seems to be effective in providing enough mental space to see through the subtle reification that is trapped in such blind spots.  Similarly, when I feel critical of others or myself, I name 10 things I like about the person instead.  When I am thinking in dramatic or grandiose terms, I substitute for easygoing, encompassing storylines.  I believe my work with the removal of distracting thoughts has created enough leeway to practice this more refined adjustment.  

I did a couple more Fountainhead dialectics on detailed dreams.  They seem to be revealing themes about self-identity, guilt vs success, power vs insecurity, etc.  Each time I dig into a detailed dream with the method, it releases a geyser of feelings.  I’m not sure exactly what it’s doing to me yet, but it seems positive.  

I’ve continued with all my disciplined ("right") lifestyle projects: food plan/shopping/prep, budget, chores/cleaning, exercise (hot yoga), sleep schedule, etc.  This feels like a period of “paying my dues” in terms of wiring in these habits.  They’ll be autopilot soon enough.  Until then, there seems to be a precarious balancing act between working too hard and falling back into laziness.  To navigate this, I try to stick with what has been working for me throughout my path: pragmatism, methodicalness, following a teacher’s (or the Buddha himself) instructions, being lighthearted, etc.  

I discovered a new way of framing practice which encompasses the differing approaches I learned from Ron and Richard.  It categorizes types of transformations: major path shifts, minor shifts (the ones that are hard to pinpoint) and gradual reductions.  The same for measuring systems: there are maps which only measure integration of shifts (synergy between the input of technique and output of positive side effects) and maps which measure the shifts themselves.  Different traditions produce different intermediate results, but complete mastery would necessarily look similar across the board.  Thinking this way has been really helpful, as it allows me to understand my own practice, and that of others.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
4/1/17 1:18 AM as a reply to Noah D.
October 2016

I had a few more mini shifts in the first week of the month that have persisted as baseline adjustments.  The first two occurred through powerful cessations.  One felt like it switched the circuit-breaker of my automatic vedana from “aversion” to “neutral,” loosening my irritation.  The other increased equanimity around negative emotions and thoughts; I suddenly feel like I can invite all the paradoxes, irritations, thrills, joys and fears into one room to sit on the couch as one happy family.  This set the stage for the third, which was more major.  I was sitting at work, talking to my higher self, when this still, small voice told me: you need to give this life a chance, and stop assuming that everything is a problem, it’s not “bipolar disorder,” it’s called having a freakin’ personality, relax, breathe… welcome to Earth.  I took the deepest, most joyful breath of my life, and looked out the window, seeing some birds flying next to swaying trees.  Energetically, it didn’t feel like an insight knowledge, maybe low-eq.  But sensorially, something synched up.  The vastness of the sensory field seamlessly fused with the crystal-clear, clean knowingness taking place as this attentional process.  It felt like the attention plugged into the wall socket of background awareness.  Now it feels like the two are an inseparable feedback loop of infinity: a figure eight of sorts.

Since this time, doing mundane life things has become easier.  Don’t get me wrong; I still work my ass off to improve myself, but that is just who I am.  I’m doing a lot of mind hacks and life hacks.

The mind hacks are a Theravadan “antidote method” of sorts.  Obsessing?  Block it out.  Horny?  Think of disgusting bodies.  Gluttonous?  Think of disgusting food.  Self-absorbed?  Learn about others.  Etc., down the line.  I do this method every time an undesirable trait comes up (sometimes 30 times a day for one technique).  In two months, I’ve dramatically decreased many  of them. 

The life hacks are my own inventions to adapt to circumstances.  I’ve designed and enacted, chore lists, meal plans (2 weeks of them now), career development plans,  nifty ways to cheaply improve home decor,  easy access exercise (hot yoga, 3x weekly), practicing certain dating skills to finally ‘master’ this area (despite inconsistent, past success), increasing my fund of knowledge by watching YouTube vids, etc. 

I drew a couple sketchy diagrams illustrating this habit formation here:

The point of all these hacks is to live the supramundane 8fold path: reduce stress on every level (not just fundamental duality) for myself and others; gain enough skills so that life can go on autopilot and the light of awareness can always shine forth but also build detachment, contentment and equanimity alongside success to balance it all out.

I still practice anapana and bodywork constantly off-cushion, but it’s become second nature to me: it doesn’t feel ‘constant’ it feels like something my mind wants to do.  I still get waves of dukkha nanas/bipolar mixed states during the day some days, but I am able to either observe them equanimously, or delete them within 30 minutes via gladdening the mind.

Towards the end of the month I got hired at a major company in my city, which I symbolically feel like a sort of reward for all the hard work and improvements I’ve made.  It’s going to be intense and competitive but lots of fun.  I’m ready now where I never was before.

Also, I had a weird shaktipat-like event when I met a Tibetan Tulku named Lobsang Rinpoche after he gave a talk at a spiritual book shop.  He was extremely down-to-earth, shook my hand, and made tongue-in-cheek comments about the book store.  On the energetic level, it felt like I absorbed some of his relaxed, warm-melty mind-field into my own, which was cool.  

Here’s the original link:

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/31/17 10:57 PM as a reply to Noah D.
November 2016

This month, I struggled to balance the tension of effort with the release of letting go.  I talked to Shargrol, who recommended that I be more like a “loose racecar,” as in Formula One, where they have to balance control with speed.  I also spoke with Richard, who said that I’m probably experiencing a psychological driver, ala the Transactional Analysis school of psychology: something below the surface personality but above the animal instinct level.  These pointers helped me recognize the need for balance.

I moved to a new house in a nicer neighborhood and started working for a large company in a job that is very fast paced and challenging.  I’ve earned praise from my manager for my hard work at this job, which I definitely would not have been able to do without the adjustments I’ve made to my mind over the past few years.  However, I am not able to do any off-cushion joy or mindfulness because of the high level of focus required.  Also my life improvements had to be paused to make ‘space’ for the job, although I’ve continued them when I could.  Nothing major happened on the sensory-perceptual level: just a couple A&P’s that I didn’t buy into.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/31/17 10:58 PM as a reply to Noah D.
December 2016

I restarted the meditation and other efforts once I got used to the job.  I had strong reactions to a couple challenging situations which highlighted a need to develop more detachment.  After a 12 hour work day, I deeply noticed the absurdity of perfectionism.  The power of this observation left a prolonged afterglow.

I was inspired after hearing a talk which included steps from ‘technical’ 4th path to buddhahood.  I began off-cushion awareness practices, resolving to move along this axis.  I have been successful in combining spaciousness, clarity of details, fusion of the 5 senses into one sphere, and disembedding from the witness so that the subject-object field merges effortlessly.  My hope is that by ‘holding’ this experience, it will begin to develop.

I wrote a chapter for a book written by Richard’s students, which helped bring perspective to the training I’ve done this past year.  The main lesson is that I control my actions, emotions and thoughts, which paradoxically can help me detach from the need to control them in the 1st place.  

Richard poked a hole in my perfectionistic approach and made me see how I am still being driven by materialism.  I have decided to drop the self improvement efforts which cause more stress than happiness.  I feel a great joy in knowing that I have a lot of self control but do not need to always exercise all of it.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/31/17 11:02 PM as a reply to Noah D.
January 2017

I keep having what I call “micro-shifts” through the off-cushion investigations I’ve been doing lately.  These are not as significant as noticeable path shifts, yet I do feel something dislodge inside and it does not return.  The practices I’ve been doing are basically my own inventions but are inspired by bits and pieces of Mahamudra that I’ve assembled through talking to students, reading books and watching videos.  I admire this tradition for its ability to discriminate between different levels of awareness and different qualities within a given level.  Most of my “meditation-proper” recently has been around investigating a given quality off the cushion.  On cushion practice is more of an exercise in grounding and patience for me, whereas off cushion is where things get “deep.”

That being the case, this month it felt like there were the following “micro-shifts:”
  • Time → timelessness/eternality
  • Separation/distance to objects in field → luminosity/knowingness at objects in field
  • Contracted thoughts → expanding into the “ground” of stillness between thoughts
  • Contracted emotion → expanding into the “ground” of calmness between emotions
  • Proprioceptive balance/inner compass → No vector/directionality in space

Each time these things shift I think “Eureka!”  Then days or weeks later I can see that more clean-up is required.  Thus I notice a certain ‘spiral’ structure to my path as of late: the need to return to the same investigations repeatedly, but at a deeper level each time.

In the other arena(s), Richard encouraged me to a develop more detachment, triggering a realization of how materialism has been affecting me.  I realize that healing individual psychodynamics is not enough if I still maintain the collective-cultural value system I grew up with.  It felt like I let go of many identifications surrounding this value system over a two week period.  These particular fruits have made this the least stressful month of my adult life.

When I returned to him with my findings, he pointed out an even more powerful detachment: whenever the “elephant” of hindrance arises in the mind, immediately chase it out, without requiring the reference/context to the emptiness of materialism.  He also mentioned abandoning clocks, maps and other physical artifacts of culture and ego (while still functioning in the world).  My cutting edge on this axis would be figuring out how to still “love and work” (ala Freud) without the emotional guidance system, cultural value system or other partialization processes in these arenas.  

Also, a fun convergence is occurring: about seven people popped out of the virtual woodwork this month and we now have little Seattle-pragmatic-dharma community going, with weekly meetups.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
3/1/17 8:39 AM as a reply to Noah D.
February 2017

A note on “micro shifts” - It seems that these types of things are happening so commonly now (about 5 a month) that they it is imprecise to call them “shifts.”  I suppose this is just a pattern of gradual progression.  That being said, I did seem to have some newfound clarity on the emotional end of things at the beginning of this month.  I had an interaction with a person that triggered a feeling of connection.  After investigating for 4 days I noticed that I had slightly more baseline access to metta than before.

On the 9th I met a new spiritual friend that I will be working with in addition to Richard.  This friend suggested that I try a visualization exercise which is to imagine the “perfect parent.”  This is a 2nd-person, relational mode of meditation, which is new to me.  The main points are to feel protection, attunement and love.  

I started by focusing on an amorphous sense of beingness which was transmitting these three qualities.  After about 10 days of doing this technique fairly continuously, something “popped.”  A 15 foot eagle-like creature had appeared (somewhat faintly) in my mental space.  With research, I found that this being seemed to match the description of the Tibetan Khyung.  Before researching, I had noticed the being breathed fire and flew in outer space.  I later found that these qualities are associated with the Khyung.  I worked on relating to this being for a week. These included visions of flying on the being’s back in outer space, merging with the being and experiencing the being purifying family trauma and pockets of tension in my body.

Since then I’ve switched to just imagining human parents which feels a lot more intimate, attachment-oriented and “deeply human” (which is the point of the exercise anyway).  I’ve been doing this fairly relentlessly off cushion so it will be good to see what another month does.  There does seem to be some feeling of safety and warmth developing.

The detachment I’ve gained in previous months is definitely holding up.  Whenever I go to criticize myself about certain materialistic things now (i.e. not making enough money, poor style or physique, messy room, etc) I notice my mind automatically rerouting into appreciation at the things I do have and a certain light airiness around the criticism.  There is the sense that I have lost capability of fully buying into storylines which do not have to deal with the direct cause-and-effect of survival needs.  Whatever this is, it is a nice add-on, since these types of details could take up quite a bit of bandwidth in the recent past.

In terms of morality, I am definitely getting closer to the “good enough” point where I can coast on autopilot.  I discovered I have hypertension and am working with a doctor on lifestyle changes to bring that number down.  And the financials are still slow to come as my career is in it’s very early stages.  However, it would have been just 1.5 years ago that either of these two situations would have crippled me with anxiety.  Now they are quite workable.  Once these two aspects fall in line, working detachment, appreciation and discipline can take care of the rest of mundane life.

As a last note: our local pragmatic dharma group continues to expand!  It’s been a lot of fun meeting these new friends and it is an exciting experiment which may be beginning to show that this thing can consistently work off-line.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
4/1/17 1:16 AM as a reply to Noah D.
March 2017

Note: I also had another huge perceptual shift, which I describe at the bottom of this log.

One thing I forgot to mention about last month is that I had 5 nightmares in a row at one point, but this effect has not continued (I don’t usually remember my dreams).  As mentioned at the end of my previous log, I switched to imagining humans only throughout this month.  I began to explore the 3rd phase of the technique, which is to perfect parent all beings.  I imagined lots of loving hugs, kisses, attending to different people, attending to all people, etc.  I had some powerful visuals & energetics at times.  I then discovered the “logic” of the 2nd phase (become the perfect parent): if I can powerfully imagine that I am the child of these beings, then I do not have any bad karma, trauma, blockages, etc.  How does that feel in my body and mind?  That became the 2nd phase.  

I began to rotate between the 1st, 2nd & 3rd phases, doing one full day of on/off cushion for each.  The logical sequencing of the phases is obvious: these beings love me → I’m their child so I’m made of the same ‘stuff’→ I perform the same function as them.  I did between 3 & 8 hours  of formal meditation per week (fairly inconsistent).  I continued to have powerful, “firework” type experiences as well as tapping into a sense of deep love and trust with all 3 phases.  At one point I started uncontrollably crying in a group sit when I thought of my family dog from my childhood.

A salient feature of practice this month has been heavy, noticeable cycling between a&p & dukkha nanas.  The concentration aspect of the technique seemed to cause them.  What is wonderful is that I am able to work, have friendships and otherwise function in the world during these cycles now.  I truly, truly could not be maintaining a professional position & living independently without the support of both my therapy/morality shifts & my perceptual/wisdom insights.  What is not so wonderful is that the dukkha nanas arose in conjunction with a major job interview I had coming up.  I actually had to stop meditating for 5 days to preserve my ‘bandwidth’/energy.  

I met with my spiritual friend again & told him all about these occurrences.  He advised me to keep  going with the technique and reinforced the notion that perceptual/insight progress is not enough if the self-structure is not made whole.  He suggested a few targeted improvements to the technique, including adding metta phrases & visualizing the different chakras when I ‘become’ the perfect parent.  

And now for the good part: the shift (which happened in 2 parts)!   

Part One: On Saturday the 18th, I was sitting talking to 2 friends and I leaned back to close my eyes.  I felt this psychic force turn inwards.  In that moment, I realized that force was extra effort.  It did not need to be there; there need not be a ‘force’ that works to turn inwards.  It is all one continuous space.  The body is a hollow tube in empty physicality, leading into the mind.  With the dropping away of this force, the two big “rooms” (inner and outer) seem to have become one big room.  For context, this one was just as impactful as any of the ‘technical paths’, which expanded the sense of inner space.  My investigation from July ‘16 to March ‘17 expanded the sense of external space.  Now they’re one emoticon

Part Two: Then, on the 23rd, I was walking to the bus stop and I noticed how intensely bright all the colors were around me.  It was as if someone had turned up the saturation knob in Photoshop.  I felt pure, exquisite delight looking at these colors and it was as if all the objects that contained them were somehow alive and possessed with my identical ‘spirit’ or ‘consciousness.’  Also, it was like spatial ‘contrast’ was turned up as well: everything was no longer one huge space, but rather, everything was occupying its own unique x/y/z coordinates in space and the inherent value of each of these coordinates on the grid became much more obvious -- and the sense of referencing between coordinates became much less pronounced because each cube is “good enough” right where it is in the hologram.   In short: the awareness is in the object - everywhere, all at once.  This is combined with the effects from part 1.

P.S. - Our local group (SPUDS) is growing strong.  We gain new members each month through the forums or word-of-mouth.  All of our members have incredible meditation practices going.  Many of them have gotten 1st & 2nd path already.  I suspect we will become one of the longest running, largest, most attained, pragmatic dharma meetups ever.  Our stated goal is to become “one of the best sanghas since the original sangha” emoticon

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
4/5/17 4:06 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Hi Noah!  Thanks for posting this, it is interesting to read!  It seems you are majorly kicking ass and giving it your all, which is awesome!  Just wanted to say good work and goodluck!  If you ever want to talk I can definately relate with the desire for a morality autopilot, and the experience of continued progressive shifts; looking at your timeline I do see an interesting similarity to my own journey.  All the best!

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
4/5/17 6:50 PM as a reply to T DC.
Thanks.  Yea I'd be interested in talking.  I sent you a pm.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
4/23/17 11:19 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Hi, I found your posts on DhO when searching about persistent agitation/tension. I was intrigued further when I read about your bipolar diagnosis. I was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder for many years, and while I no longer believe that label applies to me (I no longer take medication or suffer mood swings), I still struggle with the residual psychological damage. My main focus with my meditation practice is to heal this damage.

I'm highly interested in the techniques you have written about. I'm looking over your posts and blog entries, but I would also appreciate a PM so that we could get in touch.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
4/24/17 7:58 AM as a reply to Jay Douglass.
Hi Jay- sent you a pm.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
4/30/17 11:30 PM as a reply to Noah D.
April 2017

To start, some notes on daily life: I got converted from contractor to FTE in my current job, which is a huge relief (job security) & allowed me to focus on practice much more.  I also started daily spiritual mind treatments for physical health, career, finance & social wellbeing.  In the last 10 days of the month, I began to try a neurogenerative nootropic with promising, healing benefits.  

I also wanted to add this in at the beginning to avoid this entry looking to much like a brag sheet - I had plenty of agitation, anxiety, restlessness, mania, narcissistic tendencies & other defilements come up this month (as in all other months).  I’m still on low levels of two mood stabilizers and struggle with medicating myself through other means such as stress eating.

That being said, I started hosting daylong retreats at my house with the SPUDS.  We do this schedule twice: 3 hour-long sits, separated by 2 15-minute walks.  The total practice time is 7 hours.  I found that by doing errands after work, or weekend mornings, I can comfortably do this schedule every Saturday & Sunday while still leading a functional, productive life. I also started meditating 1 hour in the mornings & an additional hour at night whenever I have time.  I clocked 80 hours on Insight Timer this month.  Paradoxically, I’m conventionally functioning better now than I ever have before.

I have continued with the perfect parent meditation, cycling through the 3 phases (one each day). On the retreat days I do one each sit.  Temporary effects/patterns included purification sensations, heart chakra volcanos and lots of vivid imagery. After I described my perceptual shift last month, my spiritual friend made it clear to me that insight is not enough and the goal with this practice is therapeutic in nature.  

It feels like the perfect parent technique is ‘crowbarring’ my heart open.  I tend to not care about intimacy, vulnerability and connection but I am stabilizing these qualities through the practice anyway.  In that spirit, I seemed to have had two, deep, therapy insights this month which feel like “permanent shifts” on the psycho-emotional level:
  1. This one occurred gradually through my daylong sits.  It feels like I am coming to know my internal world (heart) with extreme vividness.  Thus, this understanding has matured - all parts of my mind-heart (internal family members) are like living organisms.  Therefore, they all deserve respect and it is an active of violence to try to silence one of them and promote another (which is what I have been doing up to this time).  
  2. The second one occurred when I was imagining spending time with a perfect son.  Then my perfect father & grandfather appeared and I felt an overwhelming sense of lineage, connection and intimacy.  Suddenly, many more humans appeared.  My mental screen went white -- then a cessation.  Afterwards,it felt like the movie “Inception” in that a new belief was present in my mind: ‘All humans are one family.’  Some subtle sense of separation/pressure/tension surrounding being with (or thinking of) others has disappeared.  

Early in the month, I spoke with Daniel Ingram, who advised me to project the sense of agency out onto the holodeck of experience.  I noticed I was able to do this and after about 4 days of continuous investigation, I believe I got a micro shift.  I suspect I got other micro shifts in terms of reduced emotional reactivity from the perfect parent practice this month.  I have also been experiencing harder versions of the lite version of nirodha samapatti that I learned from Ron.  In these experiences, I truly black out for what might be five or ten seconds and I feel quite dazed and drunk for two to five minutes afterwards  I don’t know if this bears any significance, but it keeps happening.  

The perceptual shift from last month has continued.  It is odd to be in this level of nondual awareness at all times. The world seems much more “real” yet much more ephemeral at the same time.  There is a continuous “knowing” of all objects within the field right where they are and with marked clarity.  This seems to be nicely combined with the open spaciousness that had matured previously.  In my a&p experiences, it feels like I get a sneak peak at the next level beyond; all points watching all other points -- everything is watched from nowhere in particular -- the most subtle possible selfing processes are easily taken as part of the field with a diamond-like clarity.  

P.S. - SPUDS is rocking it!  Continuing to practice & hang out weekly. We’re starting to get recognition from mainstream teachers (Tuere Sala from SIMS has praised us & Tucker Peck from Dharma Treasure has agreed to host a retreat for us in May).  The reddit SE moderator Coach_Atlus came to visit us.  He is interested in doing a pragmatic dharma conference in Seattle.  The future is bright.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
6/3/17 2:15 AM as a reply to Noah D.
May 2017 

This was a month of integration.  The recent perceptual shifts have remained.  The nootropic I started last month has continued to yield great benefits.  I started re-cultivating healthy habits such as diet, exercise, cleaning, gratitude statements, qigong and consuming quality media.  I have also restarted reading a bit of the pali canon every day. 

My job has provided me ample shaky ground to work with.  From what I can tell, morality is about the union of discipline and pleasure.  It is the way of acting appropriately in all situations, independent of egoic push-pull (while still connecting deeply with all aspects of humanness).  It arises from a very deep grokking of what gives rise to stress on all levels and what gives rise to happiness on all levels.  The commitment shifts from the former to the latter through the gradual process of sub-mind conversion. 

I was able to confirm with Dhammarato that I am getting closer to 10 fetter stream entry.  It feels increasingly like there is no other choice but to act in line with external conditions for the reduction of suffering in myself and others.  When this clear-seeing/acting combo becomes an automatic algorithm that occurs at all times, that is the sotapanna stage.  From one lens, this makes the rest of the 10 fetter stages inevitable.    

I met with my spiritual friend this month and he gave me an add-on to the perfect parent practice.  I have not had much chance to practice it yet and it is somewhat confusing to me.  It involves trusting the illogical magick of the universe as I call in all of space/time, connect with dukkha in my body and manifest as the buddha.  Hope to have more on that next month. 

I went on a retreat with the SPUDS and some friends, taught by Tucker Peck.  Tucker is a wonderful teacher: wise, honest & funny.  He answered all of our questions about a wide range of topics from magick to path shifts to techno-enlightenment.  I felt like I got as much air-time as I wanted, which is rare for a retreat, in my limited experience.  Afterwards we went to see Amma (whom I got my first a&p from in 2011) and a technique to balance libido popped into my head.  I’ll write more about that next month if it sticks. 

P.S. - SPUDS is now plotting how to save the world ;)

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
6/7/17 9:59 AM as a reply to Noah D.

Heres a chat between me & Dhammarato about some of what happened this month.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
7/2/17 9:11 PM as a reply to Noah D.
June 2017 

Another month of integration.  I kept practicing a technique I thought of at Amma’s last month.  It involved fusing my libido energy with the object of the energy.  The implementation was similar to the 3 steps of the perfect parent technique.  I belief that about five days of doing it produced a ‘micro-shift’ in that I now feel more balance & less impulse within my lower chakras. 

Out of that, I have noticed a dramatic decrease in barriers to romantic connection.  I’m able to more skillfully express my interest in potential partners very easily.  I am working on expanding that expression.   

I also got off of seroquel, which I have been using to fall asleep for the past nine years of my life.  I was doing Reggie Ray’s somatic descent practice one night & noticed that it relaxed my body.  The next night, I skipped the seroquel & relied totally on the somatic practice.  

After a week, I was able to fall asleep without that practice. I’ve continued with the nootropic.  The energy of it has clearly given my efforts in the dhamma a boost in recent months.  I had a couple difficult assignments at my job which showed me the value of working smarter not harder & releasing certain OCD work habits because they take too much time to maintain.  This re-prioritization has crept into other life areas & I notice myself gaining an overall thicker skin as I get more responsibility.   

For most of the month, I was maintaining regular habits of diet & exercise, cleanliness, qigong, affirmative prayer, gratitude statements & better media consumption.  SPUDS is working on releasing a website as a foundation for other other projects.  I began to work on publishing a morality map online since I do not believe that Buddhist morality training has truly been unpacked in a pragmatic & hardcore way.  Here’s the link to that - 

Overall, I feel a shift away from any sense of survival need or danger & towards the optimization of skill as the only metric or direction for my life.  There is an increasing sense of automaticity in the mind-body as well as the refusal to do unhealthy things.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
8/6/17 8:16 PM as a reply to Noah D.
July 2017

I continued with the same regular habits from last month, for most of this one.  I took a break from the nootropic for 3 weeks & noticed that it’s positive effects have remained.  The increasing automaticity & reduction of suffering has continued.  I am finding that my preferences are switching from unhealthy to healthy, unskillful to skillful: broccoli is the new ice cream, exercise is the new netflix, cleanliness is the new indulgence, etc.

My insecurity around partnership took a big hit when my friend introduced me to the idea of non-monogamy, defined by an absence of rules, expectations & structures, rather than a presence of some “alternative lifestyle” or special identity.  I am in the process of investigating how this can be carried out in a way that optimizes connection with others & my own 8fold path.  It feels like a huge weight dropped from my shoulders when I understood that my obstacle here may no longer be some narcissistic wound (as modern psychology would have one believe), but rather a basic delusion around what skillful lifestyle entails & what unconscious belief systems I have been holding on to.

I did have some noteworthy meditative experiences.  I feel that I am basically set up to have the perceptual center point drop away, as each major type of nondual perception is fairly prominent at all times in waking life.  However, there are states in which one or more of these senses deepen dramatically.  One happened when I felt a sense of calmness & serenity fusing my entire sense field together & amplifying the cloud of floating consciousness that is my normal experience these days.  I started laughing at the imax-like clarity that a caterpillar hanging from a tree took on.  Subtle wisps of restlessness completely shut down in my body for a few hours.  It was interesting.

I had a big insight into the need to prioritize life “buckets.”  Last October, I visualized these areas as circular:  I am realizing that they are functionally more like a pyramid whose layers are proportional to their importance.  The order would be physical health, career/finance, spirituality/intellect, relationships, hobbies.  Viewing the 5th limb of the 8fold path in this way has caused me to rethink how I spend my time in a more realistic, sustainable manner.  I understand that this process of transformation is limited by relative time & space, as well as the imperfect resources & conditions I possess as a human.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
8/31/17 9:41 PM as a reply to Noah D.
August 2017

I had another big perceptual shift.  Leading up to it, I was practicing trying to not let coarse stress arise even for a moment by shutting it down immediately.  This is one strategy in the Thai system I have trained in.  Anyway, this latest perceptual shift has “scratched the itch” more than any other has.  Although I don’t value it as a diagnostic criteria, I do feel much closer to a sense of “doneness” per the KF school of thought.  It feels like I have just come home from a long journey & also that I now recognize, at all times, that I am just “little me” inside a larger version, “big me”, that is the world.  This shift was much moreso about processing what is “out there” but it put a big dent in my internal reactivity, which I think happens as “out there” becomes increasingly magical/wondrous.   

Here’s some phenomonology: In late 2016 I started experiencing big space around me at all times, as if my consciousness was that space.  Then in March this year, the objects within that space took on extreme vibrancy & seemed “possessed.”   This month, those two aspects effortlessly fused together such that I no longer was able to toggle between the two modes of nonduality.  Also, the vibrancy of objects previously took place on the surface of the object.  It has now deepened into a volumetric knowing which penetrates into the depth of everything.  There is a visceral, uncanny familiarity to the outside world, as if I were looking at parts of my own body or my own reflection in a mirror.  It feels like I’m “zoomed in”, as if I were looking through a microscope lens or maybe moving forward out of head & into the air around me (hard to express).  It is very pleasant.  

Subtle bodily sensations in my head & torso which previously activated when I would sense the external world (self-referencing) seem to have disappeared by about 70%.  There is slightly increased space & calmness around the body vibes which remain.  There is more space around proto-thoughts & emotions as well.  Put simply, thoughts & feelings are whispier, lighter, pass through more quickly, etc.

After this shift, I ordered & started reading the new translation of “Manual of Insight” by Mahasi Sayadaw.  I immediately recognized how much integration/conduct & concentration work is missing from the modern interpretations of this work that I have read previously.  I believe the book has a lot of what is needed to actually uproot the fetters.  In my recent efforts to break the first 3 fetters, I’ve been trying to wire in healthy habits at a deep enough level such that they permanently sustain themselves.  I realized that this is doing extra work if fetters 4 through 10 are not weakened.  So I started investigating all of them & noting which ones were most prominent in my experience at a given time.  This led to some moments of insight, which I will describe below.  

I had multiple “micro-shifts.”  These take the form of off-cushion contemplation of a given topic, paired with sensory investigation of the related patterns.  Then a rush of energy will occur through my body & it will feel like I am about to fall off a cliff (adrenaline).  If no one is watching, I will close my eyes & have a cessation.  Immediately after, when I check back in, I can ‘feel around’ & tell that something is different.  Over the next few days & weeks, I will keep checking in to confirm.  

My “micro-shifts” were related to the structural-content level.  One reduced lust & general sensory desire.  Another increased baseline attentional stability & receptivity.  Others had to do with investigating the fetters, including one around weakening all doubt & a second related to reducing the basic personhood implied by the top 5 fetters.  They’ve all stuck around but are subtle.  While these mini-dislodgings that occur through cessations are not new for me, their effect on the fetters is.

Problems & difficulties this month include a fair amount of insomnia & some stress at work.  I also continue to be unable to tackle multiple life projects at once.  For instance, I will either intensely go at meditation or intensely go at “life stuff.”  I think this is the lower 3 fetters: my OCD/perfectionism of 1 thing at a time is attachment to rites & rituals, which I have because I doubt my ability to do multiple things at once (doubt), which I have because it feels like there is someone I have to protect inside (personality view).  

I am very excited to be rid of these lower three.  I suspect that it will be so good that I will have the option to take a break from dharma for awhile.  Not that I would ever take such an option….. ;)
As a final note - Everything I’ve previously gotten from the perfect parent practice, renunciation techniques, conventional “epiphanies” & psychoemotional healings has stuck around.  There is a definite snowball effect with all of these seemingly disparate realizations synergizing.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
10/1/17 2:35 PM as a reply to Noah D.
September 2017

There were fun, fleeting cessations, insight experiences & fireworks off-the-cushion.  There was an investigation of the upper fetters.  Also I noticed a sense of awkwardness in a group setting, highlighting that my heart was still encased in duality.  Seemed to open outwards in a subtle but sustained way for the past 3 weeks or so.  I have noticed automatic, increased concern for other’s wellbeing & a general drive to do service.

There was frustration around trying to improve/work on too many life things at once.  I decided to layer in only 2 habits at a time, every 2 weeks.  I’ve done 2 rounds so far, focusing on reducing physical laziness (slouching), attentional restlessness (no tv/music), financial & health waste (no heavily processed food, shop at supermarket) & isolation (get back into dating with more consistency).  These are moreso “70% of the time” type attempts rather than 100%.  Don’t want to be perfectionistic & reify the process itself. Reading the new Manual of Insight translation helped inspire this.

I hope I am psychologically learning around work, sex & money.  I spoke with Dhammarato around my accidental misinterpretation of the 8fold path as a productivity tool.  It is actually an “unproductivity” tool in that you learn to do less.  Less self improvement, less need to change things, more just working with what already is.  At work I realized I am a “yes man” & need to put a hard stop on that.  “Most people think ‘You’re OK, I’m not’ -- the truth is ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ (from Dhammarato).  This only came up now that I am comfortable at my job, I think.  It links to the early dhamma such as the rhinoceros sutta: healthy boundaries of independence & the core truth that each person’s intention is their own way to happiness (this does not exclude basic kindness & structural-societal change).  My stress as work is preventing me from sleeping multiple nights in a row.  I can be miserable on one level (sleep deprivation) & OK on another now (awareness), which is interesting.

With dating I need to become more patient, insist on naturally occurring connection & not try to “improve myself.”  The money piece relates to the 4 requisites (food, shelter, clothing, medicine): seeing how the sneaking ego attempts to bargain & ask for more than the basics.  I think gaining financial independence is key to curing my insomnia & work stress.  Not being a wimp at work by remembering that there are multiple other things I could be doing to make money (bartending, office, etc) at any given time.  Doing less is the key overall phrase for these lessons.

I have enjoyed facilitating & participating in various local/regional “pragmatic dharma” (defined loosely) gatherings.  Some are in person & others virtual.  Will be good to see where that goes.  I believe setting up a network of people hanging out with each other in real space rather than on text chat & forums is feasible & beneficial at scale.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
11/4/17 7:38 AM as a reply to Noah D.
October 2017

I didn’t take very good notes this month so I suppose I’ll just write from where I am.  There was quite a bit of insomnia.  I’m going back on a medication for it that I have been off of for about eight months or so.  It was a point of pride for me that I got off of it, but perhaps it is biological after all.  I’ve tried quite a few ‘natural’ methods to treat it and none of them worked for longer than two weeks.  It’s an odd thing.

I’m certainly not too ‘awakened’ to have insomnia or a host of other obstacles.  I smoked MJ for the first time in a couple of years.  It is legal where I live and I was trying it as a last-ditch effort for the insomnia.  A side effect was a strikingly high degree of paranoia and anxiety, which is how it has affected me historically.   I then did it a second time to purposely work with that negative energy.  There was high resolution and lucidity around my own self-critical and self-conscious, potential patterns.  I’ve resolved to be nicer to myself and practice the choiceless surrender approach that I’ve typically looked down on.  

There are some basic structural qualities to my personality and ego that are slow to change and I’m having a hard time accepting them.  Things like being closed off to others, self absorbed and reactive in my personality.  Part of this is that I am not seeing my own strengths, the diversity of qualities in others and the bigger picture in general.  This personality vortex tends to pull me in repeatedly.  It has not been ‘sealed as empty,’ to borrow from Mahamudra parlance.  A lot of my work so far has been to learn to manage these feelings; now I’m ok meeting them eye-to-eye.

I feel much more confident at work now, having learned to say “no” since last month.  This little drama helped open the door to the aforementioned psychological content.  I’m looking more into financial independence as well, having been inspired by the blog ‘Mr. Money Mustache.’  I also listened to some of Tim Ferris’ stuff about time management.  These life-hack approaches interface well with the Pali Canon’s focus on mindful and frugal use of all resources one has access to.  The general theme is ‘glass half full’ in the sense of being mindful of every dollar one spends, every hour one uses, the words formed, etc.  In contrast to ‘glass half empty’ by assuming one’s current habits are standard (when really it is not, modern western living is incredibly wasteful) and then expecting it to take unreasonable discipline to reduce consumption.

Looking back at my log, it seems like I’ve applied a different strategy for this resource consumption every month and none of them last long.  However, with the perspective of where I was a few years ago, there is an obvious and large net gain in wise behavior.  So something is sticking.

The quality of my immediate sensory experience these days is quite nice.  Whatever happened in August has remained.  There is a volumetric knowing suffusing the entire sphere of information.  The various senses are at least partially fused.  Sounds, sights, touch all occur at the location in which they arise, rather than being referenced from a location ‘on this side.’  When I close my eyes, it feels like there either is no inner space, or it is not separate from the outer space.  There is an integral, hedonic silence to consciousness.  No one of these qualities tends to ‘pop out’ over the rest, which was not the case before August.  It is all a bit exhilarating, but at the same time feels quite smooth and familiar.  These aspects of experience seem to be hardwired, requiring no conscious upkeep from me.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
12/2/17 10:20 PM as a reply to Noah D.
November 2017

I am feeling less goal-oriented, like I don’t need to force things to happen.  The path is long & I feel a need to accept my place in it.  Each step is a realization in & of itself.  This entire reality is the buddha mind.

I’m relaxing & letting go more both on & off cushion.  I spent a lot of time just watching a whole range of feelings & opinions come up & pass in daily life instead of antidoting them, as I have in the past.  Antidoting is skillful but only with a higher quotient of acceptance behind it.  

My spiritual friend assigned me a new sequence for formal practice: perfect parent -> calm abiding on the body -> calm abiding on the breath -> earth descent.  Opening to the support of the ground beneath feels like riding a large spaceship or floating in the stars at times.  There has been a tranquil afterglow for hours after some of the sits.

I did have another deepening of perception.  It is an enhancement of the spaciousness aspect & seems at times like the energy of my consciousness is dissolving into the area around my body like a continuous waterfall.  Things seem more hollow & transparent as well.  The movement of my attention within the field is felt in wispier, more fleeting manner, as if it has been loosened somehow.  

My friend Jenny said it could be another layer to the initial spaciousness shift that occurred in July 2016, with the first one being related to the element of boundless space & this one being related to that of boundless consciousness.  This would parallel the fact that there have been two layers to the clarity (‘luminosity’) realization, with the first one (March 2017) relating to brilliance on the surface of sense objects & a more recent one (August 2017) involving volumetric penetration into the depth of sense objects.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
12/29/17 11:05 AM as a reply to Noah D.
December 2017

Another eventful month.  I will do my best to describe what has occurred without sounding like a striver.  I am aware that, no matter how little clinging is involved in my practice, the perception of it will remain for some readers, due to my word choice.  Summarized below are the primary points of progress, in rough chronological order.

1 - I have continued reading Manual of Insight by Mahasi Sayadaw & find it to be quite valuable.  Specifically, the pervasive importance of the three characteristics, not just in perception or formal meditation, but at every level of being, struck out to me.  Mahasi calls this “inferential knowledge” as contrasted with “empirical knowledge” one gains in meditation.  It is clear that because things change, they can not be relied upon.  Because they can not be relied upon, they are not satisfying.  This is basically like a logical chain in programming; it applies to all things.

2 - Relatedly, I found that my repulsion practice was greatly boosted by this understanding.  While the systematic cultivation of disgust towards unskillful objects & habits has been a practice of mine for awhile, part of me was hoping that the resulting upgrade to my mind-body would be somehow permanent or satisfying.  However, I now realize that nothing is permanent or satisfying, so the only reason to do disenchantment practice is to cultivate a personality & worldview which sees this ever-more clearly.  This supercharged my disgust practice into something I am calling my “disenchantment gun.”  When I point this imaginal weapon at an unskillful object, I can feel these rays emerging & bathing the object in space, as if my inner self is backing away from it while still facing it.  This means giving it space & seeing it as it is, rather than fighting or ignoring it.  

3 - I started doing certain life hacks to decrease the activation energy required for healthy habits & increase for unhealthy habits.  For instance, I moved my trash closer to my bed to avoid leaving things on the floor.  I opened my hamper near my door to avoid throwing clothes around.  I put sticky reminders telling myself to do push ups before leaving my room rather than trying to do in-depth exercise routines.  I focused on just getting into the supermarket to get any food I wanted there, since anything there will be cheaper than eating out.  Once inside the supermarket, I navigate to the produce section to decrease the activation energy of eating healthier foods.  At work I got a standing desk to allow myself to automate exercise into my day even more by staying standing.

4 - A layer of depression seems to have lifted.  I was watching Mind of a Chef on Netflix.  Magnus Nillson was on, demonstrating extreme interest & reasoning behind everything he was doing in the kitchen.  I realized that all of life should be like this: something which is interesting.  Not necessarily super emotionally exciting, but at least intellectually interesting.  With this thought, it’s like a dampening blanket was removed from my body.  For the past two weeks, I have actually enjoyed doing chores, self care & non-dharma hobbies.  Not in any identifiable hypo-manic or super-EQ way, just in a normal-person-who-is-interested-in-life-way.

5 - I went to some bars with a friend who I usually do that sort of thing with & had a few too many drinks.  Honestly, our purpose was to go out & flirt with the opposite sex.  In the week after, I continued to feel the sort of “mental imprint” that experience left on my mind.  I have realized that I have a sort of aggression energy that manifests through certain situations.  It’s nothing about physical harm or even being verbally hostile to other people, but rather something much more subtle about seeking control of the environment.  I suddenly saw that there is absolutely nothing wrong with sexual energy or wanting to connect with other people, but these pure elements are quite unrelated to the type of anger energy which can be brought into play with alcohol & unwholesome intention.  I now have the desire to avoid creating any more mental imprints such as that one & avoiding the triggers which foster this fire-like trait.

6 - Related to the point above, I have realized that it will be most skillful to learn to channel these energies inside of me - especially if I truly wish to no longer act out subtle controlling impulses upon others.  The best way I know to do this is the technique I wrote about in my June & July entries, which I thought of when I went to see Amma, the hugging saint.  It involves imagining a consort with the desired qualities, dissolving them into a ball of light & bringing them through your chakras starting with the crown.  Then you become them & imagine yourself as their perfect consort, with whatever positive qualities you possess.  Then you do the light-ball process & reform as yourself.  What this seems to do is satisfy the sexual urge without external manifestation.  I am extremely surprised at this, but it seems to be working to recirculate this flow in daily life.  So far, this is allowing me to objectify the opposite sex much less than I normally would.  

7 - With the distancing from aggression & management of sexual energy, it feels like my heart chakra is really blooming in my chest.  There is this warm energy which is mixing with the outside world.  I really want other people to be happy & feel good.  Distinctly, I do not feel driven to analyze this or provide precise phenomenlogical description.  All of that stuff feels like it takes place above the neck whereas this warmth activity has a separate home base (the torso).  In my sits I have felt this increased silence & spaciousness.  It feels so good to just relax into the vast backdrop of my mind that is my baseline now.  I used my aforementioned “disenchantment gun” on physical & mental restlessness which seems to have greatly reduced them, allowing me to just enjoy formal practice.  I also used it on self centeredness & noticed that the only way to truly connect with people is to really be interested in what they are saying, no matter they are talking about.  I have been amazed to discover that it feels good to listen to people talk about things that are totally uninteresting to me.  I realized that I have had trouble making friends because I only listen to people if they are talking about dhamma or if I am romantically attracted to them.  It’s a great gift to be able to broaden that scope so that everyone is worth listening to.

8 - In terms of life logistics, I feel quite comfortable at my job;  I am learning “hacks” to make self care easier; Same “hack” approach to diet, exercise & financials.  When I met with Dhammarato & explained all of these nice practice developments, he congratulated me but also pointed out that there will continue to be new puzzles to deal with for the rest of my life & I will have to learn to stay “light on my feet”, always pivoting & adapting to whatever new types of dukkha life throws at me.  I am beginning to see that an arahant is one with the most fluid ego & personality structure of all, one who has mastered the ability to “be like water” & with this power, maintain complete happiness in spite of all conditions.

I suspect that some will read this & think I am “trying too hard” or “clinging at changing myself or my situation” & that I “just need to accept that this is all completely normal for my life stage” & such.  It bears repeating that I am quite happy, not clinging & simply enjoy this wonderful adventure of transformation.  Also, I suspect most people who think the dhamma is only about releasing subtle striving at its core (& not much else) do not have the same goals as me ;)

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
2/4/18 4:15 PM as a reply to Noah D.
January 2018
At the beginning of the month, I had various psychological insights, energetic experiences & perceptual explorations.  I think none of these have stuck around.  The following types of progress from last month have continued: some depression has gone, unskillful lust has reduced, my heart is more open, chores are easier to do.

I think my detachment is developing.  I feel a new sense of total-view on samsara.  My entire motivational structure & identity, including all of my memories from this life, are a part of the conditioned existence which is subject to impermanence, not self & suffering.  All large & small things are a part of this, on all levels.  The perceptual field feels completely open & unidentifed between reference points but I’m sure more nondualities will reveal themselves over time.  There is a new sense of utterly not engaging with the vast clarity it provides.  

Furthermore, I can see more easily which goals are dharmic & which are not.  Many material goals are being seen through.  Basic maintenance of the body as well as the resources necessary to do that are what matters - not much else.  Also, helping other people see this for themselves matters.  When I say something like this, the context is that I still live with other people, hold down a job, have multiple hobbies & social relationships, etc.

On cushion I have been doing perfect parent visualization followed by breath meditation.  The instruction from my spiritual friend has been to keep the breath interesting by noticing different aspects of the way it expands in the abdominal cavity, as well as mixing it with the loving metacognition of the perfect parent & the perceptual ground from which all percepts arise.  This approach is working on trust: specifically the metacognitive awareness which guides attention to stay on the object by allowing it to feel safe.  This necessitates accepting whatever arises, including bad feelings.  I’ve done a few daylong sits with other SPUDS on the weekend & plan to continue that to allow this trust in the breath to build.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
3/26/18 8:18 AM as a reply to Noah D.
February 2018

Heavy focus on morality this month.  Keeping a tighter consistency with the discipline.  Including housekeeping, self care, finance, career, service, hobbies.  Since December (when some depression went away) this has been easier. Now just buttoning it all up to connect the days, weeks & months.  Wiring it in, step by step. I can feel the mind shifting ever-more in favor of health & wellness, away from the desire to wallow away in disorganized, indulgent zombiehood.  There is not a value judgement in this; I don’t think I’m “good” for doing these “good” activities. Rather, they just feel really positive & lead to efficacious results.

Formal practice was this sequence: visualizing perfect parent -> focus on breath at abdomen (circular) -> then breath on top & bottom (spherical) -> then “mix” the backdrop/ground in -> then open eyes & “mix” lucidity in -> repeat.   Towards the end of the month, I started working with a new spiritual friend who has agreed to help me integrate the fruits of meditation with the yet-unresolved, internal knots around sexuality. Very excited to see how that unfolds.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
4/8/18 10:00 PM as a reply to Noah D.
March 2018

Same formal practices from last month (visualization & breath focus).  I also began to speak with a new mindfulness coach, learning aspects of integrating sexuality with insight.  These exercises have included specific forms of mindfulness, bodywork, creativity, journalling & more practical advice.  Beyond that, I continued to keep a tight alignment with chores & discipline. I noticed this equilibrium can be quickly compromised through not caring for the body.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
6/3/18 2:42 AM as a reply to Noah D.
April 2018

My gut told me a new season of insight practice was coming.  I started to investigate time, after encouragement from a friend.  This led to some new perceptions, which I shared with my spiritual friend, who in turn assigned me some new insight practices that I have been waiting for a long period to receive.  My spiritual friend remarked that I have been very patient & I felt like a new set of possibilities had opened up.

I began to practice these intensively off-cushion, as I tend to do.  First exploring a type of vipassana for several days, then moving into the space or ground of each sense door, then noticing that the sense doors are actually all fused together in one.  These are all deepenings of things I already have & the last one felt poignant. I spent hours just “mushing” panoramic-vision & support-of-earth together, or body-as-whole & silence-between-sounds together.  There were several “micro shifts” as these things clicked into place. What was weird about doing this overall set of instructions is that it launched me into a heavy insight cycle. I went through the POI twice between 4.16 & 4.30, with insightful C&E’s, hypomanic A&P’s, miserable dark nights & crystalline EQ’s.  Haven’t had that for awhile.

After the sequence described above, I began to feel into this vast, hollow room beyond anything I had known before.  I was compelled to investigate memories of dreaming, as well as the sensation of falling asleep, to understand that all states of consciousness take place in this room.  The “hollowness” of everything was much more in my face, even than space or vastness beyond space. Within that cold hollowness, the display of reality (including myself) seemed like a kind of puppet show (weird detachment effects).  

I also played with a lens of infinite inner world, infinite outer.

Then I had a sense of this work cutting through a sense of caring about my life.  I investigated different avoidance mechanisms (death, pain, etc). Then I had a newfound type of renunciation where I decided I was just going to meditate & not do morality anymore.

I thought a lot: about drinking, dating, right speech & finance.  I drank too much a couple times, suffered hangovers & reflected on how stupid it is that I continue to do this occasionally.  My habit of making stream-of-consciousness public posts with potentially unskillful material caught up with me: I had 2 interactions of people reaching out to critique my emphasis on maps.  I also decided to just focus on meditation for awhile & stop doing all the morality stuff I’ve been working on.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
6/3/18 3:25 AM as a reply to Noah D.
May 2018

I had a major shift.  I was talking to one of my mentors & felt the inner camera meet a bodily sensation where it arose.  This was not only non-dual interoceptive consciousness (a type of luminosity - which I’ve had since March 2017).  It wasn’t just that the object was awake in it’s own quadrant. Rather, the attentional correlate on “my side” was dancing with it - meeting it perfectly as it arose & passed away.  A machine part had loosened.

After poking at this for a few days, I realized ‘the camera always moves with the movie frame.’  In other words, I can’t tell what comes first: the thing witnessed or the witness. They effortlessly swing to & fro together.  After that, things got weird. This new dance evolved into consciousness modalities such as:
  • Like my sensory apparatus is a wormhole/vortex bending outwards/inwards to reality but also reality collapses back into my lens from behind
  • Like the light of sentience shining through “me” as a magnifying glass which then refracts into the inner & outer world, displaying them

After this shift early in the month, I was lucky to attend a shaktipat transmission for 3 days with other SPUDS, taught by a master in the lineage of Bhagawan Nityananda.  I was surprised to find that the open-eyes transmission brought me into my body & not further ‘out’ into spacious awareness. Once I was more internalized, I started crying & realized that I have a lot of work to do in the somatic arena.

That got me started on feeling my body, which my mentor helped me do by playing with things like tone of voice, posture & muscle relaxation.  I’ve been feeling early childhood memories (& seeing-hearing them) & the emotions in my body associated with them. Trying to keep it in muscle & bone, not in ‘energy language.’   

Related to that, I’m really trying to be physically & energetically healthy.  I think my remaining mood symptoms could be arising from things like nutritional imbalance & somatic tension.

Also - I’ve really stopped caring about morality.  For the first time, I just want to work on accepting & becoming more aware of myself & world, rather than changing it.  

I’ve also been doing formal, seated practice & work to integrate sexuality that I stated a couple months ago.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
7/28/18 5:19 AM as a reply to Noah D.
June 2018

The shift from May continued.  The ‘looseness’ of the attentional unit, dancing & mirroring the world ‘out there.’  It has been greatly freeing to recognize the way this part of the field is just happening.  

A practice theme this month was vulnerability, transparency & self-acceptance.  Challenging self to be more honest than is necessarily comfortable, both internally & in dialogue with others.  Feeling the emotions that this brings up in the body, while actively relaxing the muscles & general body structure.  This led to thoughts about the relationship between my irritation-agitation patterns & the outside world, with the possibility of ‘unhooking’ those two things from each other.  I also felt more in tune with my frustrations around libido & the ego knots which have been tied around that.

Relatedly, I worked more on bodily relaxation with my mentor, expanding that to the head’s position, my ribs & abdomen, & pelvic floor. It was surprising to see how I have been tensing subconsciously in daily life, particularly in the abdominal armoring.  Wiring in the ability to stay relaxed most of the time is a long-term project. I notice I feel mentally tranquilized when doing this, but have not yet been able to do it every day.

I went to see Amma & had a similar experience to one I had last year while seeing her: somehow her presence triggers the image of a rotating galaxy-vortex thingy in outer space (which looks like the machine from the movie Contact).   Last year I saw it in her & this year I saw-felt it in me. This experience reoccurred over the next week or so & developed into a sense that spaciousness was collapsing first into a flat screen & then folding into a tiny cube. As a parallel image, there was a synesthesia of different planes of sensation twisting into each other, i.e. the silence between sounds becoming a physical point, or a visual object expanding into the body as a whole.  The experience has not continued into July, which makes me think it is a preview of coming attractions, within an A&P, or something of that general nature.

I also did a journey, with the help of a substance & some friends.  There was an intelligence present which seemed to confirm the validity of my space-collapsing experience as being worthwhile.  Soon after, I began to sense a new being when I did perfect parent practice. Through the visualization, the being was clarified over a the next week or so.  It's human form was a tall, gaunt, tattooed, old, native american warrior with green eyes. It carried a sword & tended to hang out by campfires, playing a didgeridoo (yes I know my cultures don't line up) with female figures dancing in the vicinity.  These all occurred in spontaneous visions. This entity seems to have 2 characteristics: loving tenderness & raw power (like 2 streams blending to become a river).

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/22/18 7:29 PM as a reply to Noah D.
July 2018

In the first week of July, I attended a retreat (alongside other SPUDS) with the spiritual friend that I have been working with since February 2017.  Interacting in person allowed me to pick up aspects of body-language & general integration that I would not have otherwise. The concepts taught helped guide me towards a more service-oriented view of the path, as well as a matured understanding of the intersection of personal practice & society.  The techniques taught helped me understand the nuances of motivation, emotional stability, concentration, investigation & choiceless awareness. I specifically realized that I could use my facility with freestyle noting to “hack” breath concentration.

Some of the deepest psychotherapeutic healing I’ve ever had occurred & have continued over 2 months later (time of this writing).  I found myself crying multiple times as early life memories arose & evaporated, leaving a greater sense of independence & confidence in my ability to navigate the world.  It felt like maybe 5 layers of baggage were lifted. With new self-love came the desire for more honest self-expression (include being ‘ok’ with feeling anger) & release of power-dynamics.  

One major perceptual shift happened, which actually seems more like a completion of the half-baked one that started in May.  The sense of total knowing of the whole sphere of consciousness at any given time synced up with itself. I was surprised that it reminded me more of dullness, but later realized this was due to the dropping away of extra monitoring that was sneakily hiding in the background.  This knowing only lasted for about 30 minutes & then I found my attention-muscle split off into the field again.

After I left the retreat, I kept using my intuition & the retreat instructions to feel my way back into that total-knowing space.  Getting back into it felt like a combination of allowing myself to conventionally space out, feel 5th jhana subaspects & repeat the teacher’s pointers mentally.  After moving in & out of it throughout the day, for a couple weeks, I was able to make it the new baseline.

Once home, a meeting with my newer mentor prompted me to start pondering the importance of creativity & the “right brain” - both for my inner life & my communication with others.  The self-acceptance kick continued as I let myself feel new waves of kindness that I probably would have tried to previously block out. There was also a sense of newfound perforation in the experiences of lust & hunger, reducing the ‘grab’ those invoked.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/22/18 8:02 PM as a reply to Noah D.
August 2018

During the beginning of August, the shift into whole-knowing from July continued.  However, the knowing did not seem to be fully bloomed or unfolded into the expansive screen upon which experiences arises.  I practiced toggling back & forth between these foreground & background consciousnesses until they seemed to partially blend together.  This took place off cushion, over two weeks.

In the second half of August, I did more formal sitting, practicing the sequence from the July retreat.  The instructions on investigation of boundaries proved to be fruitful. Even while direct perception seemed fairly open, the secondary conceptual structures of personality, emotion, body, other people, society, the world, time, personal meaning & the path seemed to bust open when I pointed my awareness at them.  Through the course of maybe 15 or 20 repetitions of the retreat instructions, it felt as if I was “clearing the fields.” This left the sense of a melted spread of non-identity thinly distributed across the gestalt of experience, with much less grasping at any particular points within it.

As a result, certain morality tasks started to become less painful.  More visibility into the ‘bracing’ mechanism that wants to protect me from stress emerged.  I began to feel too lazy to resist my responsibilities (whereas before I was too lazy to act on them).  Out of this, a light-hearted playfulness seemed to suffuse even the condensed drama of triggering situations.  The exercise of willpower began to seem like an expression of play.

I also got off of the medication I take for insomnia in August, which I have been taking for nearly 10 years for sleep.  Since that time, I have been able to sleep consistently every night. I attribute this to starting acupuncture treatment & also the psychological trick of asking for permission to gain entry into my subconscious at night.  

A new exemplar figure emerged around this time & seem to have both mythical & human components.  Symbols of fire, flying, masculinity & swords have accompanied this figure. There is a greater sense of meaning & connection in the perfect parent as a result of this event.

I began to have memories that were not mine & that were of experiences in different historical periods & life situations.  Regardless of the ontological nature or provenance of these memories, investigating them for solidity proved valuable for gaining perspective that my life is just one among many & not worth getting too worked up about.  There was also quite a bit of emotional release involved in recalling these. Some of that has continued to be of benefit through September.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
10/21/18 2:53 PM as a reply to Noah D.
September 2018

The insomnia cure continued from August.  I also got off my other medication this month, accomplishing a goal I’ve been working towards since starting this path in 2013.  I felt a mild uptick in grumpiness in the first couple weeks, but then that went away & I didn’t feel any different from being on the meds.  I started using light therapy & melatonin (low dose, early) to further optimize my sleep, increase daytime energy & decrease lingering irritation.  Energy from the light allowed reduced caffeine intake.

Things have been very slow moving around ‘getting things done.’  In a debate with my newer mentor, I concluded that nondual perception won’t fix my aversion & there is no replacement for executive functioning.  I was able to do chores slightly more consistently & narrowed down my recurring task list, but still feel obstacles around motivation, time & energy.  I obsessed a lot around dating & psychology stuff. Also slow moving, but tension around that does seem to be slowly eroding.

The new exemplar has continued to emerge in practice & the whole-field-knowing remained baseline perception.  There was successful clean-up work around secondary conceptual proliferation patterns that had yet to match to primary perspective.  This involved seeing push-pull around past-future thinking & basic-delusion around present aversion to chores. Perhaps repeating August meditation at a slightly deeper level.  I tried lucid dreaming using reminders & journaling. It didn’t really work, but I’ll keep trying. The powersy experiences from August didn't continue but it feels like I might still have access if I tried.  I continued off cushion muscle relaxation.

Heading into a new practice-phase after the July opening, I revisited my practice plan moving forward.  There are various mind-body systems to integrate, with an emphasis on surrender. A friend who is a couple steps ahead of me shared an inspiring practice report: a ‘sweet spot’ of metacognition giving rise to high-speed processing & non-referencing in terms of identity & space helped inspire these thoughts.

On 9/8 my spiritual friend (who I was on July retreat with) assigned a new practice of engaging in the wholistic knowing & then doing short intervals of distracted activity from within that.  This practice needs to be done on-cushion to reach high concentration & specific setup factors. I noticed that I got goosebumps & rushing euphoria each time I engaged in the intervals (effect occurred across nanas, moods & life situations).  The clarity of all sensory data greatly increased & it would feel like I was swimming through air when I moved. When I would engage thought, I was see-hearing the thoughts appear in front of me as part of the field. After a few weeks of this I got a micro shift of increased clarity in the entire field which continued into October.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
11/12/18 11:31 PM as a reply to Noah D.
October 2018

These things continued from prior months: new baseline perception; good sleep; no medications; new exemplar; formal practice of intense mindfulness intervals.  I went on retreat with the same curriculum & teacher as the one from July. It was clear that I had mastered a good deal of the material. I also got insight into the importance of concentration as an off cushion operating system.  I had various minor clarifications of the warmth, omnidirectionality & centerlessness of knowing.

I began to understand the importance of altruism & how the bodhisattva path looks in a literal, contemporary, pragmatic way.  Generosity is more than just a practice to create space in one’s mind & express the emptiness in one’s immediate life: it is also about how you affect the larger field.  I noticed this begin to make it easier to be productive & disciplined. These insights led into burgeoning thoughts on the map of ego development, which continued into November.  

At the advice of a mentor, I spent time looking at ‘microselfing’ occurring when see, hear & feel congeal.  This led to a microshift of it stopping. Talking with the same mentor helped me clarify how my value system has changed & how I can be more transparent about that, particularly around interpersonal relationships.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/8/19 1:51 PM as a reply to Noah D.
November 2018

A lot happened in November.  There were many aspects of practice coming forward.  In general, there was a greater focus on new kinds of integration & much conventional “success.”

Working with one of my mentors, I have begun to embrace the importance of ego development, which is evolving the conceptual mind into an expression of perceptual nonduality.  By rewatching an online series called Crash Course, on history, I discovered many moments of contemplation which seemed to be reordering my inner paradigms & belief systems. There is a particular sense of the overall patterning of human activity, the tendency for history to repeat itself, the tendency for apocalyptic attitudes in each generation, for humans to seek for good-bad things to grab onto rather than the inconvenient ambiguity of reality.  Alongside this, there is a greater sense of ease unfolding; seeing everyone as basically similar, all members of the human family in the animal kingdom (including myriad biological impulses), a stripping of encrusted layers of preconception of how I expect other people to be & greater space for the many varieties of people in all of their diversification.

Parallel to all of that, there is more acceptance of my own inner diversity.  Libido continued to be a struggle in this month. The basic pattern of strategizing on how to ‘get my needs met’ stayed.  It creeps into seemingly benign contemplation. I am aware that this focus is completely normal for males in their twenties & I do deeply accept this.  There were a couple days were a new exemplar seemed to be revealed, related to this. That did not last. There was also more journaling (also looking at one cartoonist’s work to spur the writing) & letting go of old structures, memories, value systems - guided by another mentor.  Seeing all of the gifts I have been given & how rich my life has become, but also how there are certain things I have deeply yearned for that have not been delivered - letting those things be washed away in the flow of this vast consciousness.

In a similar vein, the importance of service is becoming more obvious for me.  I had previously understood that generosity was useful to create space in the mind & service/gratitude were useful to help move forward these dharma teachings which have helped me so much.  But it also extends much farther than that. Service can be something which is vital, even if it does not create personal benefit or help specifically further Buddhist teachings. I am inspired by the Effective Altruism movement & their focus on the most efficient ways to save as many lives as possible on earth with one’s time & money.  I have pledged 10% of my income for one year to Giving What We Can program. This is a trial period but I would aspire to give more & take the lifetime pledge. I am also learning to code python & would like to learn to take any business skills I have, pair them with meditation & technical skills & work pro bono for non profits or other good causes.  More immediately, I started saying spiritual mind treatments for a few friends for health & spiritual progression & have seen great success within days in each instance. I have also been helping in other ways where I can, such as participating in a study on bipolar & meditative healing or submitting a short article on how stream entry helped heal me to a popular blog.  There seems to be a great momentum involved in this service orientation, like a reliable trade wind for a sailboat.

On a conventional level, I got promoted in November.  I have also stayed off of medication for months now & have had no insomnia.  This was my most consistent month ever for healthy habits, self care, housekeeping, etc.  Likely the healthiest I have ever been physically & there seems to be an emerging relationship with spiritual practice & the cleansing of the physical system.  For instance I had a weird kriya this month which involved the involuntary tensing of shallow chest muscles & my internal solar plexus. I have never felt these muscles & tendons move like that before & afterwards that area felt very relaxed & open.  I also decided to do less open journaling online, as I feel that there are aspects of my practice now which are likely to be confusing to some readers or at least difficult to explain in a daily journal format. A dharma friend pointed me to a speaker named Mitch Horowitz, who has inspired me to take a refreshed view on the New Thought/Mental Science tradition that I like.

In terms of meditation practice, I am mostly focused on off cushion mindfulness.  There is a clear process of the ego-activity becoming saturated with this mindfulness in every nook & cranny.  Effort is becoming enfolded into the ocean of presence. My body & attentional system are none other than arms & hands of this larger creature (to put it in fantastical terms).  There is a sense of riding a flow of some greater current that is out there. A sense of easeful flowing through the open doors of the sense apparatus which itself is also the flow is here each moment.  There are no sensations of center point in terms of attention. However, there is some geospatial referencing going on in me. I suspect that might drop away or change at some point, but not yet. Also, there are many faces of this oceanic presence.  Sometimes the way of seeing through causality chains is prominent, other times the blaring peace & quiet is most obvious, or the great sense of falling is at the fore, or the transparency of seeming solid reality, etc. These do seem to be different characteristics.  My work now is to fuse them all into one overtaste such that their basic emptiness is most prominent.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
1/8/19 1:50 PM as a reply to Noah D.
December 2018

As I continued the mindfulness this month, the slight problemness of space (from last month) dissolved in a cessation & did not return.  The sense of directional axes (i.e. facing forward) went away in one fell swoop, like the last bit of solid food being processed in a blender.  It feels now like the blooming of cognizance is fused or molded into the space it occupies in a more refined manner that is less tainted by size & orientation.  In general, the “noise volume” of the field has allowed me to tolerate negative emotions, physical pain & craving more effectively.

This “noise volume” effect is continuing to cause consistent therapy-type shifts.  Early knots being resolved, ever-increasing openness in relationships, self-acceptance & a good “letting go” cry here and there.  These things really do seem to cause reductions in conventional tension which abide & stabilize, which is pretty cool. Particularly since that weird chest kriya from last month I can frequently feel my solar plexus more loosely moving & shifting like an octopus, particularly in moments of love, vulnerability & conflict.

I tried taking several adaptogens & going off of coffee.  This worked for several weeks but I eventually switched off the supplements & back on coffee when I had slight, sleep disturbance & less energy in the morning.  I am still working through slightly high blood pressure as a lingering health obstacle. I’m trying out intermittent fasting also. For the first time, I was able to reduce the frequency of a personal habit that has caused me to obsess & lack energy over the course of my life.  I’m trying to become more of a muggle for fun (although this rarely ends up staying as a habit), doing non-spiritual things like hiking, swing dance & exploring local restaurants.

I got to hang out with Daniel Ingram & the SPUDS in October & again this month, which was super cool (thanks Daniel for being so generous with your time & wisdom!).  I went to a talk by Dza Kilung Rinpoche, which was illuminating. That talk, paired with a Keith Dowman weekend retreat from a couple months ago have confirmed that the understandings I have formed on awareness practices are likely in line with “the tradition” (used loosely).

The following things from last month have continued: expanding fund-of-knowledge for ego development; service as a primary motivator; off medications & insomnia; consistently good habits; sense of cleansing body (I went to a hot-cold bathhouse several times this month also -- highly recommended for somatic opening); reduced journaling; the “many faces” of presence rotating.  These “many faces” are typically revealed in A&P events & include: seeing this reality as an illusion, deepening bliss/peace/ease throughout body-field oneness & potential psychic stuff like sensing other’s emotions, collective consciousness & deja vu. In October & November, it felt as if the process of integrating the movements of the attention muscle with the overall field-awareness was resolved, at least at one level.  This was through the “intense mindfulness” practice during these months, assigned by my spiritual friend.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
2/3/19 12:56 PM as a reply to Noah D.
January 2019

I had a weird new shift: the attention as a floating, spherical magnifying glass, lighting up whatever object it travels to as the center of the field.  The location in the body is no longer “home base” since it now flows around in a dance-like dynamic. Said another way, there is an enhanced sense of physical displacement, merging with objects of attention & knowledge of/connection with them.  

With this comes newfound connections between objects dancing together.  An intangible relationship between points in the field which are touching (despite apparent distance) or at least connected via living strings of electricity.  There were some moments when it seemed that planes of space were bending around me, or that it all became a level surface, like the movie Flatland.

This all seems to be a natural clarification & extension of vast, clear, centerlessness, rather than a conflict with it.  Things are where they are in space, from their vantage point, the center of the whole & there are always infinite numbers of these centerpoints being fabricated within perception.  The engine of this consciousness is one (in that there is individuated experience) but also many (with these co-occurring vantage points). Within this dialectic, there is relationship between points, knowledge of them as part of the totality but also as unique bits of data. I am excited to continue to explore the ramifications of it for the path as a whole & wisdom/insight axis in specific.  

I also began to play with the lens of agencylessness, which is an element of the awakened perspective that has not emerged strongly for me thus far.  What I have found is that intentions are “preferred sensations” that are not fully observed as just more causally arising phenomena. This obscuration emerges due to a hidden vedana tied up with the sense of control: owning “good” things, disowning “bad” things.  When the vedana is brought into the light, there is a sense of relief & freedom in vedana, intention & action all just springing forth & then washing away. I will continue to explore this one.

The following things continued from December: no-problemness-of-space shift; intermittent fasting; continuations from November also.  I was not able to stay with the reduced personal habit from last month - it seems that certain coping mechanisms are slower to drop away than others (not that they need to drop away or should be at all rejected).  My projects related to service have been delayed/paused, but the sense that service is “the most important thing” has deepened.

For ego development I have continued daily reading, Crash Course videos & news intake.  I find various moments of insight into the collective creation of samsara, intersection of human instinct & culture over time, generally becoming more pluralistic in my view of the world.  Specifically, Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment by Leticia Nieto is blowing my mind, opening up newfound potential for humanity stripped of boundaries/labels while also acknowledging the reality of oppression & my place in the social system.

I paused meetings with the mentor who I started with in 2018: that work has yielded awesome results & now is a good time to reconsolidate.  I’ve been practicing a more immediate type of positive feeling after seeing that my mental science practice is getting sloppy due to times when I allow negative proliferation.  An instant, nonconceptual, nonspecific vibration of “yes” is superior to a mental exercise of seeking the positivity in a series of moments. I’ve enjoyed non-spiritual hobbies & friendships this month & plan to stay with this momentum.  I went on a couple days of retreat with my spiritual friend, whose talks helped me to conceptually integrate an understanding of energy & imagination into practice: how certain esoteric practices are really pragmatic means of transformation that can be understood in a modern context & without watering down traditional details. The importance of the body, relationships, culture & generally using various tools & activities wisely to embody awakening has been clarified.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
3/31/19 11:31 PM as a reply to Noah D.
February 2019

The shift from last month seemed to sublimate or become absorbed into a new normal over a period of a couple weeks.  The insights & “point” of it are still present, but the obvious collapsing & bending of space is not happening. What has become more important is to relax into whatever types of perception are revealing themselves at a given time, including the various flavors of nonduality & centerlessness.  I think this transition away from “perception itself” & more into “my relationship with perception” is probably the most important February practice event. I’m gradually letting go of the idea that there is some hyper-esoteric new layer to practice that will reveal itself after the culminating shift that occurred last summer.

Points from session with spiritual friend: confirmed my approaches to sexual energy with the visualized consort are correct; encouraging me to bring more imaginal, magickal elements into practice to allow for higher identity formation; magick as the bridge between morality & wisdom; also how to transmit into the world… this transmission is a more advanced form of mental science/new thought in that it involves complete congruency in each area of life as well as a specific service orientation.  

I did some meditations on collective intimacy & shared space off cushion.  I read some Dzogchen texts & felt guided by their emphasis on the view as the vantage point from which experience is processed, rather than any type of experience, even very subtle ones.  Trusting this more & more as a continuous way to live. There were various types of physical kriyas & the sense of the chakras (particularly lower 3) integrating with the rest of the nervous system & each other in different directions.  There were weird A&Pish experiences of merging with everything.

With morality, sense of accomplishment & consistency.  Continued discipline fairly easily the whole month: cooking, cleaning, hygiene/grooming, diet & exercise (losing weight), tracking to lower blood pressure, sleep, etc.  With this pinnacle has come a sense of wanting to go on long retreat, which has risen & fallen recently. I’d love to sit in a cabin for several months & dig into sleep lucidity, visionary practice, inner heat practice & the like.  

I did some reflecting on what it means to “function” & what my “good enough” point is, now that I am essentially there.  Sensing that there’s a part of me still in the past “survival mode’ but that is slowly coming out. Practicing ways of communicating in relationship with others, what connection means for me, what I want out of my friendships & what I have to offer.  A few therapy microshifts occurred coming out of fruition, relating to these themes + reduction of ego-based reactivity (pride & envy). Continued reading a great book on oppression & ally work & other forms of healthy media consumption.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
4/2/19 5:51 AM as a reply to Noah D.
March 2019

Relatively not much happened that was new.  I spent time philosophizing. I had weird kriyas & physioenergetic rewirings.  I noticed that I am becoming increasingly physically sensitive as I get healthier & that I need to maintain this equilibrium with care.  I didn’t continue the meditations from last month. Instead, I felt drawn to continue breath counting, a basic meditation I learned years ago.  I continued to think about what the “good enough’ point is & what the future holds. The habits from last month continued. I lost weight. I did acupuncture & cupping weekly, which makes me body feel continuously amazing.  I got off of the CPAP machine that I got on a few months ago. I stopped drinking alcohol & coffee. I increased blood pressure medication with my doc & for the first time in a few years, I had no high blood pressure for every reading for over a week & no other notable health problems or unhealthy habits.  I had a microshift around layers of reactivity dissolving & the blazingness of mindfulness increasing about halfway through the month… the results of which have stayed so far. The microshifts from last month seem to have stayed as things are overall greatly improving, but I can’t consciously detect what was changed.  I spent a lot of off cushion time just being mindful all day long.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
5/13/19 8:29 AM as a reply to Noah D.
April 2019

No major baseline shifts happened in April.  The process for quite awhile now has continued at a steady pace - refining behavioral discipline, defining my ‘good enough’ with that discipline, reducing resistance/inner critic, increasing mindfulness throughout.  Specifically, I have stayed off of alcohol & coffee, for the most part. I continued with acupuncture & cupping + most of the other modifications from prior months. I’ve achieved my health goals at this point & it feels good to walk around in a relaxed body with a fairly open & flowing energy system.  I spent a lot of time on refining a set of communication/relational capacities that are outside the scope of this log, but deserve mentioning due to the bandwidth they take up & their intersection with general self improvement.

I notice much less insecurity now in interacting with all ranges of people, including those spiritually & materially accomplished in various ways.  Little pockets of resistance & distance in conversing with others have gone away, replaced with a sense of connection & enjoyment. I suspect this is because I have done a fair amount of contemplation of material success & mature functioning, seeing that I am somewhat close to meeting my own bar.  Also, I sometimes talk to people about practice & they share that my training in conventional life actually surpasses theirs in certain areas. This is a new experience for me, as in the past these people would have praised me for my improvements to bipolar symptoms, but not said that my own habits were actually more cleaned up than theirs.  This comparison is useful not as a value judgement, but instead as a temper to perfectionism & an encouragement of self-compassion.

As perfectionism reduces, many ‘hard edges’ are becoming shaved off & this is manifesting materially.  Physical reflexes/reactivity, obsessive thinking & voluminous speech are patterns that have partially deleted.  I’m actually getting worse at my job because some of that ‘edge’ was fueling my prior success. I also listened to a few soul-retrieval recordings, which seemed to do useful things for this healing axis, in a indirect & surrendered way.

As a replacement to some of that tension-fuel, I’ve done a bit of theorizing on how manifestation occurs.  My spiritual friend has frequently said that ideas manifest through the head’s awareness, are concretized in the throat & expressed from the heart.  While this idea had previously not made sense directly, I did begin to experience it. Specifically, I’ve started to ‘transmit’ loving-awareness to others/the general atmosphere as an off-cushion practice, while in public.  A friend in SPUDS mentioned that since everyone is always transmitting anyway, one might as well do it positively. This creative, head-throat-heart process also helps tie up the ‘good enough’ point I’ve been seeking by allowing that vision of my ‘good enough’ self to naturally emerge through surrender, rather than manipulation.  That same self is also the one that wishes to be of service, but in a balanced that way that is congruent with awakening-ease, which may mean being of less objective help as some of the tension-fuel has been exhausted.

I went to a couple public talks with Garchen Rinpoche & felt a very powerful energetic transmission occur.  He has a very heroic story, seems very awake & is worthy of googling for any readers of this entry. My sense was that other members of the crowd experienced something similar.  The results of this energetic alchemy was some personality purification stuff, integrations of sensory clarity magickal & tantric theory, letting go of certain ‘advanced practices’ as outside of my experience & further refining my sense of the centrality of service.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
5/13/19 8:40 AM as a reply to Noah D.
I don’t know what counts as baseline shifts spritually speaking, but with regard to dealing with the challenges of human life, this sounds like a significant shift to me and also like great relief. I’m happy for you. Reading this was inspiring.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
5/13/19 12:54 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Thank you!  FWIW, these are some examples of what I consider baseline shifts spiritually -

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
6/5/19 12:49 PM as a reply to Noah D.
May 2019

In May, my on cushion practice was calm abiding on the breath & a pranayama technique I got from a book called “Mohini Vidya Sadhana & Siddhi.”  The pranayama practice makes me feel really energetically durable in the face of external pressures. I’ll be excited to see where it goes.

I had a session with my spiritual friend where they recommended I study Ayurveda.  This sent me into a perfectionistic tailspin followed by a deeper sense of surrender into the wholeness of life.  We also discussed general development & integration & that it is important that I nail down my conventional life stuff while young before I become more awakened so that I don’t become an unintegrated S.O.B. like many of those marred by scandal.  

My off cushion practice has centered on going beyond phenomenology (description in terms of color, shape, texture, frame rate, proprioception, chronoception, etc) & into levels of knowing that are independent of anything I could easily conjure words to describe.  Specifically I find that using dialectical self pointers helps with this. These are the madhyamaka-type nonduality (freedom from extremes).

I’ve been trying self hypnosis youtube videos to good effect.  They are helping clean up lingering negative scripts in my mind.  This, plus the pranayama practice is helping bolster the ongoing project of gaining certain social skills.   I had some ideas for future service that I didn’t act on but could in the future, like starting an effective altruism club at the large company I work at.  I went on one of the first vacations I’ve ever planned in my life. It was fun. I’ve never had the mental space to plan & implement that type of thing before.  

I got some clarification on a proposed map forward from a friend.  The order in which things become cleaned up being perception, emotion, thought & conduct.  I had some interesting energy body purifications, specifically around the lower chakras. I had 2 semi lucid dreams & a handful of seeming “past life memories” spontaneously arise in meditation (quoted because taken with a grain of salt).  I found stoicism interesting for a about a week. This is the first time I’ve been able to feel bad & take right action anyway, without antidoting the bad feeling in some subtle way first

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
11/7/19 4:49 PM as a reply to Noah D.
June 2019

The new sense of surrender from May continued.  I continued for a week with the pranayama practice from May.  I took some teachings from Swami Khecaranatha, which were awesome as usual.  I then decided to go back to doing mostly open awareness practice inspired by Dzogchen.  I tried to practice a visionary technique but was unsuccessful.  

I then became interested in actualism again after hearing about a friend who seemed to have recently achieved a result in the neighborhood of actual freedom.  A tarot card reading further reinforced that retrying this practice might be a good idea. I did not fully accept all the claims of the actualism method but I wanted to retry it anyway.  I was pleased to see that there were members of the actual freedom yahoo group who seemed to have attained it since I had last visited. In the first couple weeks of this, I had some microshifts preceded by dramatic kriyas in various areas of psychology & perception.  I investigated the cultural & societal structures that may be affecting my suffering. I had a few experiences that I think were ‘PCE’s’ in actualism parlance. I had a slightly more obvious baseline shift which caused a dropping away of the sense of density of the inner world & more immediacy of the outer world.  Month’s later, I do still feel this shift is present.

I investigated minimalism, rationality and considered a new set of goals that for my life that I could consider attainable.  I felt a bit depressed at times and considered going back on medication (but did not).  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
11/7/19 5:23 PM as a reply to Noah D.
July 2019

I continued with actualism in the beginning of the month.  I looked at all the things that were keeping me from feeling good in the moment.  I also felt some depression, similar to last month. I investigated some unexamined high expectations I have of myself.  I had another experience that seemed to be a ‘PCE’ in actualism parlance, while on a hike. I also felt some energetic rewiring sensations at different times.

I confronted a deep sense of disappointment with spirituality, noticing that some of the reasons/goals that I started the path seriously in 2013 still seem to be out of my reach.  I spent some time examining the downsides of striving. I felt a wave of stress about my job and money although nothing particularly was wrong. I retried taking a neurogenerative nootropic (that I mentioned earlier in my practice log) for a couple weeks.  Mostly it seemed to make me more emotional & a bit crazy, so I stopped. I also went to a naturopath, which I wanted to go to as part of a consideration of going back on medication. I took a neurotransmitter test with her. The results were revealed at the end of the month, showing that all of my happy chemicals are well below normal.  The naturopath was surprised by them, saying that I should be much lower functioning in life then I am based on the reading. This was very validating that the mood swings I was continuing to experience were based on biochemistry.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
11/7/19 6:01 PM as a reply to Noah D.
August 2019

In July I started hiking and I began to look at other things I could do with my time & energy.  Over the past few months I had become increasingly productive and was finding menial everyday tasks easier.  I also analyzed some of the ways I wish for automaticity of habits and how that can be limiting.

The results from my neurotransmitter test in July represented a major perspective shift and a revived sense of faith & inspiration in the meditative path.  Since my happy chemicals were so low and I wasn’t on medication at all, the only way to explain how I had become increasingly high functioning over the past few years was contemplative development.  

The naturopath gave me amino acids precursors for serotonin and gaba.  I felt the effects in the first few days. They seemed to work better than previous times I had taken aminos, presumably because of the more expensive/fancy formulas from the particular brands.

Based on this confidence, I began to practice open awareness off-cushion again.  I also looked at how to think and act as an expression of awareness, rather than just perceive from it.  This reframing of awareness as a basis for solution, rather than the solution itself, was helpful. I examined some of the downsides of thinking of ‘shifts’ as static or binary entities.  The amino acids helped me take a view of everything as ghostlike, transitory and perfect. This caused me to practice gladdening the mind and gratitude off cushion. After a couple weeks of this practice, I had a micro shift of a baseline increase to gratitude and positivity.  The benefits from this are still around a few months later. I also looked more at awareness mixing practice - how all experience is suffuse with consciousness and visa versa. I also had some interesting experiences around nonduality of smell & taste + a decrease in mental talk + an insight into a psychodynamic narrative of feeling ‘left out.’

Towards the end of the month I began to read the Blue Cliff record of zen koans.  I also thought about the paradigm of expansion and contraction quite a bit. My parents came to visit during this time frame.  I got less sleep as a result and also tried a machine my mom brought called the ‘alpha stim.’ Both of these factors made me feel quite agitated for a few days. 

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
11/7/19 11:01 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Nice reporting on your path Noah, always interesting to read.  Let's try and Skype sometime if you're down.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
11/8/19 5:55 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Interesting to read, especially since I also need to supplement my neurotransmittors, or perhaps move them around; one of my diagnoses is often described as having to do with too much dopamine whereas another of them is said to mean lack of dopamine, and yet it is common to have them both. Hm... maybe that's what balancing energies and stuff is about? Moving around misplaced neurotransmittors? That's a thought. 

I combine 5-htp with antidepressants. My psychiatrist knows about it and doesn't protest, which I'm grateful for. The combination makes it possible for me to take care of myself too, with meditation and yoga. I used to have chronic fatigue, but that went away when I started my daily practice. Or rather, the meditation helped enough to enable me to get around to doing yoga, and the yoga took away the rest of the fatigue and enabled me to meditate more. Apparently I have also lowered my blood pressure considerably since I took up this practice. Still have attention deficit, though. Luckily, it doesn't mean awareness deficit. 

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
11/8/19 5:14 PM as a reply to T DC.
Nice reporting on your path Noah, always interesting to read.  Let's try and Skype sometime if you're down.

Sure thing.  Send me an email or hangouts message to plan something.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
11/8/19 5:16 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Interesting to read, especially since I also need to supplement my neurotransmittors, or perhaps move them around; one of my diagnoses is often described as having to do with too much dopamine whereas another of them is said to mean lack of dopamine, and yet it is common to have them both. Hm... maybe that's what balancing energies and stuff is about? Moving around misplaced neurotransmittors? That's a thought. 

I combine 5-htp with antidepressants. My psychiatrist knows about it and doesn't protest, which I'm grateful for. The combination makes it possible for me to take care of myself too, with meditation and yoga. I used to have chronic fatigue, but that went away when I started my daily practice. Or rather, the meditation helped enough to enable me to get around to doing yoga, and the yoga took away the rest of the fatigue and enabled me to meditate more. Apparently I have also lowered my blood pressure considerably since I took up this practice. Still have attention deficit, though. Luckily, it doesn't mean awareness deficit. 
Interesting.  I have been so surprised at how "fancy" amino + vitamin combinations work so well.  They are really pricey, but this is well worth it.  It is also my experience that there is a feedback loop between lifestyle, meds/supplements, meditation, etc.  Good to hear your progress similarly!

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
11/8/19 7:13 PM as a reply to Noah D.
September 2019

Over Labor Day weekend I went on a retreat with the SPUDS led by Tucker Peck, similar to past years.  It was awesome. I meditated on the breath and also on the “bouncy zen”/zen spontaneity pointed to by the expansion & contraction paradigm Shinzen Young talks about.  I also looked at mixing awareness with all levels of being and also having those levels seen as expressions of awareness. I found that I was able to sit more still than I have in past retreats.

Post retreat, I felt inspired to go back & look at aspects of traditional dharma I may have ignored.  For instance, I had never previously considered taking the precepts or trying to practice right lifestyle in ways that would inconvenience me.  Instead, I had considered that there must be modernized & pragmatic versions of all these traditional methods but somehow these interpretations have always ended up being what feels good & what is most convenient (go figure).  With the returned faith in dharma from last month, I decided to take the rest of the traditional material more seriously.

I then began to investigate traditional dharma cosmology and concepts including: rebirth, karma, temporal cosmology, horizontal cosmology, vertical cosmology, scopes of the lam rim, refuge, merit, ngondro, tantra, etc.  I worked to incorporate these ideas into my existing map for pragmatic dharma. Relatedly, I examined some theories on metacognition and contemplative practice. I began to mental model the ideas of karma & rebirth as being literally true the way they are described in classic Buddhist texts.  How would this change my approach to practice? I read Bhikku Bodhi’s In the Buddha’s Words and then moved on to reviewing Dr. Berzin’s long exposition of the lam rim on the Study Buddhism website.  The motivation section of the lam rim (initial scope) immediately began to cause a deeper sense of alignment towards dharma practice.

I spoke with my spiritual friend about my study of the lam rim.  We discussed the importance of patience and long term view in this context.  He advised me not to lose sight of my “pragmatic roots” as I delve deeper into the traditional side of things.  We also spoke about debates between different schools around ‘holding the view’ being sufficient vs specific character development training.  He nudged me more towards an integral view including all human knowledge, but this did not speak to me as much as the traditional approach.

I also found out this month that I had had a promotion at my job delayed.  This really messed with my head for several weeks. It ended up helping to reinforce the notion of samsara as being literally and definitely unsatisfactory in a way that I had previously ignored.  I also went back to the naturopath & got further supplements for the excitatory neurotransmitters. These gave me insomnia + a sense of agitated pressure for a week but then I got used to them & they ended up helping provide more energy throughout the day. 

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
3/4/20 9:48 PM as a reply to Noah D.
October 2019

I met again with my spiritual friend & continued to notice a contrast between their more integral approach & my increasingly traditional dharmic approach.  I began to research how to formally take refuge. I pondered what this means & how it fits in with my previous eclectic, pan-mystical perspective.  

I pondered how detachment can be applied to my traditional dharma studies.  I continued studying the Lam Rim, weaving other aspects of ‘integral’ & ‘pragmatic dharma’ into the LR framework.  I continued to feel irritated/disturbed by my work promotion being delayed, although pondering it helped to deepen detachment & my Lam Rim studies.  These studies also focused on karma & having a healthy sense of self at the initial scope of dharma. I also continued to study Buddhist cosmology, finding some logical proofs (karma = idealist  proof, rebirth = realist proof) that were helpful.

I increased some of the existing supplements with the naturopath. For formal practice, I continued with concentration.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
3/6/20 6:06 PM as a reply to Noah D.
I began to research how to formally take refuge. I pondered what this means & how it fits in with my previous eclectic, pan-mystical perspective.  

If you care to share, I'm curious to read more about your research, motivations and thoughts regarding taking refuge. Within the "PD" circles I haven't seen anyone go this route so it'd be interesting to hear from you. 

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
3/7/20 4:07 PM as a reply to Zachary.
I began to research how to formally take refuge. I pondered what this means & how it fits in with my previous eclectic, pan-mystical perspective.  

If you care to share, I'm curious to read more about your research, motivations and thoughts regarding taking refuge. Within the "PD" circles I haven't seen anyone go this route so it'd be interesting to hear from you. 
For motivation, I think I just felt that I had squeezed all the juice out what I would call "the pragmatic dharma approach" (put in quotations since there are many different definitions of that & I'm just talking about my own experience).  I just started to feel that the mechanics of reality beyond my direct perception of it actually do matter - rebirth, karma, cosmology.  Furthermore, when I think of the beings that have definitely awakened well past a point that I have - they typically fall in the realm of "traditional dharma practitioners."  These thoughts caused my motivtation to slowly change.

In terms of research, I have found to be really helpful.  Berzin has a pretty grounded approach to making sense of traditional dharma.  I think it's important to understand the reason for all the chanting, hand signs & images in any Buddhist environment.  They each are symbolic of some important thing & they each perform a function - both on the psychological/perceptual levels (the "pragmatic dharma level") but also on the multi-lifetime/cosmological/magickal level.  Finding the balance between the traditional & the innovative has been a central theme for me lately.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
3/14/20 7:16 PM as a reply to Noah D.
November 2019

In November I investigated a range of random resources.  These included the Chinese mountain hermits from the Amongst White Clouds documentary, through which I had some renunciation-related micro-shifts.  Also the FPMT teachers & materials on the lam rim, which got me thinking more about how modern dharma is really nested inside traditional dharma. It also inspired me to draft up a new ‘traditional dharma’ long term practice plan.  And even Albert Ellis’s Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy modality, which provided some insights around not taking emotions too seriously. This also led to an insight about how libido has interfered with human connection for me. 

Formal practice was TMI breath meditation, where I ramped up sitting time to over 3 hours per day, even during the week.  I was in stage 4 primarily, but started to get into 5 for the 1st time, with a couple sits going even further past that. I obsessed about stages a little bit too much (but that didn’t continue into future months).  I played around briefly with another, unrelated practice that involves stimulating entoptic visions, but it didn’t stick. I randomly had a week of semi-lucid dreams, including some that I could start to control, but then they stopped.  I started doing the qigong practice of horse stance & lower dan tien stirring to get more grounded.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
3/19/20 8:22 PM as a reply to Noah D.
December 2019

In December, I continued with calm abiding breath practice, inspired by TMI.  I had a decent shift a few weeks in, likely related to doing this practice steadily for a couple months by that time.  Somehow a layer of dukkha tied up in the very movement of attention itself (regardless of object) came uncovered. It also probably helped that by this time I had been on the neurotransmitter supplements for almost 6 months.  Specifically, I saw that I will always need to deal with a degree of frustration in my life & basic friction of day to day circumstances (see “samsara”). So I shouldn’t rely on habituation to gradually make things easier until pain disappears & I shouldn’t expect some Super-Surrender (™) to eventually open my chakras fully.  Instead, I need to use grounded, rational thinking to manage my emotions & have reasonable expectations for things. After this - doing a lot of manual tasks & chores became much easier. This benefit is still in place as I write this, 3 months later.

In terms of calm abiding technique, I was doing the connecting tactic from TMI.  I had some passing observation of what it’s like to not control the breath (maybe 2nd nana).  I sat quite a bit, 2 or more hours a day. I got in some weird moods also - looking up things related to Western Magick & Tummo (on separate occasions).  I spent more time philosophizing: on traditional vs integral dharma; how the 3 yanas fit together; how to prove or disprove the existence of karma & rebirth; that traditional dharma “starts” when one is practicing to benefit future lives.  I think, in this time, I was trying the “traditional dharma glasses” on for size, playing with ideas. I also add some semi serious thoughts - probably related to the insight in the first paragraph, about the possibility of ordaining as a Buddhist monk in the future.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
3/24/20 8:33 PM as a reply to Noah D.
January 2020

In January, I increased a supplement called UBQH, which had multiple very positive effects.  Specifically, I had an increase in outgoingness at work; a sudden inspiration to restart skateboarding (which I tried but didn’t continue with); some more insights similar to last month about reason vs emotions; the beginnings of a change in my relationship to hunger & libido that would continue to evolve over the next few months.  I must have had some CoQ10 deficit for years that was strongly contributing to my mood symptoms, which is now being addressed.  

I continued to practice TMI, sitting for several hours a day in many cases.  I stayed in stage 4, with more previews of 5 & 6 occasionally. I continued to notice that my off cushion life was improving greatly even though I did not seem to be improving at calm abiding that much.  I contemplated & worked with different types of dullness & distraction a lot.  

I started attending a traditional, local dharma center more frequently.  I participated in a refuge ceremony there, formally becoming a Budddhist.  I also attended various classes. I began to find hanging around other ‘traditional Buddhists’ to be somewhat grounding, in that the values of devotion, kindness, service & community are more strongly expressed than they are in the ‘pragmatic dharma’ circles I had previously hung out in.  The prior ‘allergic reaction’ I had to ‘mushroom culture’ was no longer there & I could see the benefits of both traditional & pragmatic approaches for the first time.

I also read more Alex Berzin stuff on karma, contemplated the bardos & got 2 acupuncture/cupping appointments in which I experienced weird central channel/chakra stuff both times.  I visited home in NJ for a week, which was fun & relaxing (where it might have previously been stressful).  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
3/25/20 12:28 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
January 2020

I started attending a traditional, local dharma center more frequently.  I participated in a refuge ceremony there, formally becoming a Budddhist. 

Nice, Noah.  Congrats.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
3/26/20 7:52 PM as a reply to Noah D.
February 2020

In February, formal practice continued as calm abiding generally inspired by TMI.  I started to see how difficult calm abiding practice really is for me. Not that the experience of doing it is unpleasant in any way, but rather that I am simply not able to place my attention on one object, continuously, for extended periods of time (even after several months of regular practice).  For whatever karmic or other reason, my progress in insight-heavy practices has been much faster than concentration-heavy. Not a “problem”, just an observation. In order to boost my off cushion concentration, I started wearing a smartwatch that buzzed every 5 minutes. I increased this to every 1 minute by the end of the month & found that it helped me maintain continuity of concentration off cushion.  

I read the Magus of Java & started to research Neikung, which led me to restart a daily grounding practice of horse stance for 15 minutes with lower dan tien stirring at the end.  I tracked this using a habit tracker app that I started earlier in the month. I completed 12 healthy habits daily throughout February using this app & continued it into March. I noticed the maintenance of a pattern: as my basic life functioning increases, my heart opens more & I just become a nicer person.  

I met with my spiritual friend & we spoke about calm abiding practice.  They thought that by working with my chi more through various means, I could accelerate by progress in calm abiding.  Since I was already working with horse stance, I figured I was covered on that front. They had other theories about how calm abiding practice could be reframed or understood from different perspectives & that could help progress.  None of these suggestions had a big impact for me.  

I attended a variety of group practices at the local dharma center.  I also continued classes there & learned ‘how to be a Buddhist’ (i.e. things related to ritual, etiquette, etc).  I added in refuge, bodhicitta & 7 limbed prayer before daily formal practice & dedication after. As of this writing, I plan to continue with that, or something like it, moving forward.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
4/19/20 11:31 PM as a reply to Noah D.
March 2020

I noticed the POI prominently.  March started with a strong a&p experience where I felt my consciousness “thin out” & expand beyond the limits of space.  This event has repeated itself several times & I can access it in other nanas, so I think it could be a legitimate preview of some powersy future baseline.  

I then felt guided to investigate thought as an obstacle to calm abiding progress.  I looked at teachers like Gary Weber & Vinay Gupta, who claim to have eliminated thoughts entirely.  I had some micro shifts related to seeing through the conceptual self. I also spun around in circles for a week until I realized that thought isn’t going anywhere (lol).  On a separate note, I tried sleeping significantly less for a week, thinking that my body chemistry had changed. Then I crashed & got grumpy (albeit only for about 3 hours - whereas it used to be 3 months).  

On cushion practice remained calm-abiding inspired by TMI.  I tried body scanning as a way to increase overall conscious power, with lukewarm results.  I played around a couple times with guru yoga & kasinas (in separate sessions) - they didn’t stick.  I maintained the off cushion practice with the smartwatch buzzer. I tried to find new off cushion strategies but they didn’t stick.

I had more thoughts on traditional vs progressive vs integral dharma, building on patterns from prior months.  It does feel like I’m slowly creating a more refined & useful conceptual framework. I also had some thoughts on possibly ordaining in the future.  I talked to Dhammarato about this & about how to integrate oneself at traditional dharma centers. His advice was helpful as always.

In terms of daily life, I began the process of starting an effective altruism club at my job.  This is a potential way to get a lot of donations to the most effective charities on the planet.  I had some more refined, healthy & balanced thoughts about pursuing a long term relationship (as compared to past attitudes).  I continued with a habit tracker app & over 10 healthy habits daily (including horse stance & stirring). It feels rewarding to have some of the self mastery that was my goal in starting the path 7 years ago. 

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
6/23/20 7:37 PM as a reply to Noah D.
April 2020

April was a fairly eventful month.  On the morality front, I continued with the same habits from prior months but added more, such as house cleaning routine split up throughout the month.  I also switched to a different habit tracker app (called "Done").  I had some back pain which I resolved through a calisthenics & stretching regimen throughout the week that I've continued into late June as of writing this.  I had some tiredness due to low blood pressure which stopped when I dropped my hypertension med.  I had some other health & wellness opportunities open up - all things I would never have thought of in the past because I was lower on Maslow's hierarchy

I talked 2 times to a TMI teacher whose granular instructions on mindful set up, checking in on quality of attention, really breaking down the sub elements of the breath with curiosity, as well exercises before & after each session, all helped boost my stage 4 practice.  It gave me a great blueprint for developing concentration in the future.  I did a lot of that practice for the 1st 3 weeks of April, sometimes for 3 to 4 hours per day.   I extended sit times to 70 minutes for convenience, which has gone up to 90 as of this writing (a longer sit once a day rather than multiple).  I practiced in quarter lotus posture and/or burmese, for longer periods of time, for the first time.  I also started doing the 9 purification breaths & 5 tsa lung exercises towards the end of the month, which I’ve also continued through May & June.  

On the studying front I read more Berzin stuff on lam rim & karma, as well as looking up the cognitive obscurations.  I had some strong A&P mappy-type thoughts & journaling.  I did some fun DIY red tara practice & some scrying-type synchronicities occurred.  

I did a 4 day home retreat where I had a couple big insights.  One was more on the ‘ultimate’ level, which involved seeing that negative emotions are a ‘choice’ in the sense that they arise out of a conceptual value system, even if that is subconscious.  This insight was helped by watching talks from Ajahn Sona & Ajahn Sumedho.  Behind every negative emotion, there is some original decision to care about something.  So if one stays mindful of this, it is possible to cause them not to arise.  This actually worked for me for about a month, including through most of May, I think.  Ultimately though, it didn’t last - probably because it contrasts with the fact that I’m living a complex & active life in the world.  I think it was also related to a meta-cycle of EQ (although there were definitely smaller cycles in there).  

The other insight seems to have effected a lasting change (at least for the past 2 months since April), but on a more ‘relative’ level.  It was around my masculine identity, intimacy, dating & relationships.  Seeing how I have self-sabotaged in this arena, not due to ‘trauma’ or ‘psychodynamics’, but rather a basic misunderstanding of the role of self in relationship with others & specifically how communication must be tailored to foster meaningful connections in life.  Without going into too much detail, some ‘problems’ have been ‘solved’ that have been an annoyance for over 10 years now.  I do believe this one will stick because it involves technical observations & mechanical adjustments that can be practiced, rather than positive moods, emotions & beliefs.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/5/20 7:23 PM as a reply to Noah D.
May 2020

In May, my relative insight from April around relationships & communication deepened.  There were more epiphanies about ownership of my identity & desires.  I explored some perfect-parent type practices with other friend & family figures to help round out some of these insights.  I contemplated the “agent-arena match”: how one must present a different self depending on the situation in life.  I also mused about the shortcomings of individualist culture & how total well-being can be deepened by harkening back to the hunter-gatherer roots of humanity.  This line of inquiry led me back to Integral-type writing for the first time in a while & I thought about how the ideal future civilization would be able to combine technological advance with basic collectivist values & connectivity.

I met with my spiritual friend who gave my practice the stamp of approval.  To my surprise, they encouraged my “no emotions” line of inquiry from April, framing it as a healthy hatred for samsara & a tantric repurposing of aggression.  They agreed with this approach because we have done a lot of the “feeling emotions” line of work already, so they know I am not unskillfully repressing.  Unfortunately, the effects of this insight did fizzle out in June.  

I continued with all healthy habits from prior months, except for 2 days, twice in May, when work stress overpowered my discipline.  I also started hiking more consistently.  It has been nice to get more into muggle life in this sort of way.  The 2020 pattern of being drawn towards traditional dharma continued, as I had some fleeting inspiration to take up a traditional ngondro.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/5/20 8:49 PM as a reply to Noah D.
June 2020

In June, the themes around communication & identity continued.  I contemplated what authentic communication looks like & how it rests on all parties having some inner alignment (connecting with the agent-arena contemplations from last month).  The exploration of culture also continued, as I saw how introvert tendancies can reinforce the poisons of individualist culture.  To counter this, I meditated more on how to maximize “hunter gatherer happiness”, reading “Awakened Ape” by pragmatic dharma participant Jevan Pradas.  This linked up with my newfound hiking habit, as I absorbed nature/outdoorsy books & tv shows.  

I pondered the importance of accepting hardship as a vital facet of life rather than a phenomena to be rejected.  I also read “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger & found his valuing of loyalty & group membership to be a nice rebalancing.  The importance of social ritual in strengthening community came up, given that I was raised to see it as inauthentic.  Related to “Tribe’, I started reading a book called “Bowling Alone” about the decline of American community since the 1970’s.  Interesting correlations with the O’Fallon STAGES ego development model in that book. 

Like for so many others, BLM caused me to continue to explore how agent & target membership inequality informs so many aspects of everyday life & invisibly so (for agents).  I’ve used the book “Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment” as my map for this inquiry for several years now & will continue to do so.

On the meditation front, the “no emotions” insight that started in late April, fizzled out in early June.  I briefly explored stoic negative visualization practice & kurukulle practices from May.  I continued with 90 minute sits which were mostly focused on energy body stuff, but also incorporated various flavors of “do nothing” practice.

My habits were disrupted for multiple days, 2 times in June.  One occurrence may have been a reaction to alcohol consumption, but I’m not positive.  Regardless, these disruptions caused me to obsess a bit about how I could avoid them, including how investigation of how attitude plays a part.  I also thought about all the areas mentioned above might contribute - how subtle dukkha permeates many different areas of life.   Ultimately I found these inner patterns tiring & switched my regular habit goals from 7/7 days/week to 5/7 (which has continued to be a useful framing).  

In response to the habits I also fiddled with my amino supplements, which I actually think made things worse (increasing 1 happy chem can actually decrease others) & reinforced the need to just trust my naturopath.  Later in the month, I got a follow up neurotransmitter test which showed great improvements in my levels since the start of the year.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/5/20 11:34 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
June 2020

as I saw how introvert tendancies can reinforce the poisons of individualist culture.  

Yep. And COVID-19 has unfortunately given us even more excuses ;)

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/6/20 10:45 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:
Noah D:
June 2020

as I saw how introvert tendancies can reinforce the poisons of individualist culture.  

Yep. And COVID-19 has unfortunately given us even more excuses ;)

Indeed.  Although introverts generally are having an easier time of quarantine from the spread of folks I've talked to.  I think pandemic or not, the bodhisattvas goal should be to either be a sociall adept introvert or an extrovert who can switch into quiet alone time without being exhausted.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/6/20 11:26 AM as a reply to Noah D.
why not the middle path between introvert and extrovert? emoticon

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/6/20 1:40 PM as a reply to shargrol.
why not the middle path between introvert and extrovert? emoticon

Lol I think that's synonymous with what I said above.  But in terms of the psychology, I don't think there is such a thing.  One either recharges /decompresses via alone time or socializing.  

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/6/20 6:39 PM as a reply to Noah D.
The concept of psychology are clear, I guess...  but it would be really interesting if there was a way to test it other than self reporting.

I've noticed that many people who say they decompress during alone time actually just slowly get frantic by themselves and then seem recharged only when the can let themselvesgo when they are finally back among peers. I've noticed that many self-reported extroverts are the ones who really can be lazily alone without the contrivance of "alone time" or "personal projects" to keep them distracted.

So I think these types are as much part of self perception as behavior...  These days I'm noticing that it's a matter of balance, sometimes recharging for me happens socially, sometimes in the middle of the wilderness... so I don't quite know what to call that.

Anyway, I notice a lot of paradoxes/grey areas in these simple labels. I guess I need to see the data.  emoticon

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/7/20 7:37 PM as a reply to shargrol.
The concept of psychology are clear, I guess...  but it would be really interesting if there was a way to test it other than self reporting.

I've noticed that many people who say they decompress during alone time actually just slowly get frantic by themselves and then seem recharged only when the can let themselvesgo when they are finally back among peers. I've noticed that many self-reported extroverts are the ones who really can be lazily alone without the contrivance of "alone time" or "personal projects" to keep them distracted.

So I think these types are as much part of self perception as behavior...  These days I'm noticing that it's a matter of balance, sometimes recharging for me happens socially, sometimes in the middle of the wilderness... so I don't quite know what to call that.

Anyway, I notice a lot of paradoxes/grey areas in these simple labels. I guess I need to see the data.  emoticon
Makes sense.

I guess the categories of introvert & extrovert are actually empty constructions of mind :p

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/8/20 8:13 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Nice! Yes, I guess that's what I was trying to say, but you said it better. emoticon

I was reading something in the bathtub tonight (Chinul, Korean zen) and it reminded me of this conversation. It's a zen book, so it has the typical zen vibe... it said:

"It is tragic. People have been deluded for so long. They do not recognize that their own minds are the true buddhas. They do not recognize that their own natures are the true dharma. They want to search for the dharma, yet they still look far away for holy ones. They want to search for the Buddha yet they will not observe their own minds." 

In this context, I'm linking "the Buddhas" as the awakening to the nature of mind aspect, but the "own natures are true dharma" as the action aspect. Whether someone else would label someone as introvert or extrovert -- or even if we label ourselves with one or the other -- when we look at the action itself, there isn't a label. The action either fits (the situation and the person) or it doesn't, so to speak.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/8/20 10:55 PM as a reply to shargrol.
That's some good commentary right there!  

"Our own nature" = temperament (in this case)

Something as close to the vest as temperament isn't so easily captured by language 

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
9/8/20 10:56 PM as a reply to Noah D.
July 2020

I dropped the habits again for about 9 days at the beginning of July, due to work stress.  This caused me to get a bit reactive & obsessive about how to prevent further “relapses”.  As work stress was the cause, I decided to switch teams under the same employer, a move I completed in September.  

I met with my spiritual friend & asked them for advice about how to prevent further habit disruptions.  They advised me to focus on the “up” (aspect of transcendence/dignity/optimism) & “right” (aspect of getting things done) energies of the torso/heart chakra area.  While I was doubtful this would work, as I could not find reference to it in any Buddhadharma source, they grounded it in the dharma, as a method of stabilizing the 5 prana vayu.  They also explained that focusing on the heart area in this way helps to manage the overall energy of one’s being & integrate the personality/ego with more subtle levels.  They expanded that this is likely what is being pointed to with the centrality of bodhicitta in Tibetan Buddhist teaching.  They also pointed out that my ego (frustration/resistance in this case) is “hiding inside” my perceptual clarity/awareness & thus is not integrated/aligned.

These explanations convinced me to give the up/right mindfulness a go.  I went at it, on & off cushion.  Miraculously, it worked.  The sensation of being able to redirect the energy of frustration by triggering these more pure pathways has been liberating.  As of writing this entry, I have not had a habit “relapse” in 8 weeks.  

In other areas, I continued with my exploration of racial equity from prior months, contemplating how this fits in with bodhisattva altruism.  I also found myself exploring talks by Soryu Forall & other members of the Monastic Academy.  I find their hard-nosed proof-in-pudding style of pragmatic integral Mahayana to be very inspiring.  

I got a follow up neurotransmitter test & was pleased to see that 6 months of amino acid therapy had brought serotonin, epinephrine & norepinephrine to healthy levels, while leaving room for improvement with gabba & dopamine.  With my naturopath’s guidance, I increased the gabba supplement & added an additional one for dopamine - these adjustments seem to be working quite nicely.  The improvements to my mood & behavioral stability allowed me to continue with healthy habit development, as I started overnight backpacking & surfing.

In more miscellaneous notes, I did some more kurukulle practice; I took an online Lama Surya Das retreat that was really good & led to some micro shift relating to altruism; I noticed interesting tingling effects from the vase breath portion of the 5 tsa lung exercises; I mused on how certain esoteric tantra practices are actually destabilizing for me despite their allure; I continued to deepen thinking around identity & desire from prior months. 

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
12/24/20 10:38 PM as a reply to Noah D.
August 2020

In August, I went on a solo road trip through Washington, Oregon & California.  It was awesome & I had never done something like that - fully of my own volition before.  It was part of the recent trend of engaging in adventurous, healthy activities that don’t have to do with self improvement.  On the trip I was also spending the mornings attending a Dzogchen retreat live.  The teaching revolved around a Dzogchen root text & clarified very technical, precise, scholarly aspects of understanding right view & the basis in Dzogchen.  It helped me see how one’s beliefs about the way reality actually works can not be separated from the effects of meditation techniques.  For me, this was a useful divergence from the pragmatic but inaccurate mindset I had previously cultivated which focused more on the idea of a core set of techniques wrapped up in various layers of culture & ritual.

After the road trip, I started an online tummo retreat which gave me the courage to try the practice out with pleasant results.  Like Mahasi noting from years earlier, I found that tummo utilized the momentum of my high-energy mind rather than trying to work against it or contain it.  There were a lot of helpful pointers in the retreat about containing the fire in the tummo spot (rather than letting it rush up/out) & cultivating a deep, rich, dense texture to it with visualization, physical movement & breathing.  I didn’t immediately start doing the practice regularly, but would in later months.  

I also started doing overnight backpacking trips in April in the Cascade mountains.  I enjoyed practicing while watching mountain sunsets & by alpine lakes.  On one of these trips, I read Karmamudra by Dr Nida, a non restricted text.  I discovered that the technique of thigle breathing at the end of the book ran with nice parallels to the tummo techniques.  I did start doing the thigle practice somewhat regularly & quickly found that the white thigle in the upper chakra gave me head aches.  In order to ground this I moved the camera of witnessing down to the stomach & shifted to keeping the white thigle in the heart not the head.  I checked in with my spiritual friend about this via email & they approved.  It also makes sense as an adjustment because the ultimate goal of both tummo & karmamudra is to allow the white thigle bliss to pervade the entire body, with each of the chakras as intermediate steps.  I found that the thigle breathing was able to get me into reliable bliss states.  Perhaps what I had hoped breath based samatha practice would yield but never did.  I’ve continued the practice in future months.

The work with tummo & thigle breathing made me think of how far I have come with regards to dealing with libido but also how much work there was still left to do.  I found myself continuing to have various contemplations of dating & communication.  In related areas of struggle, I continued to worry about keeping the consistency of my healthy habits.  I started to fantasize about pivoting towards a more radically altruistic lifestyle, inspired by talks from the Monastic Academy.

As side notes, I started getting into half lotus in formal sitting, a position I’ve been gradually working towards in 2020.  I enjoyed Vinay Gupta talks, obsessively listing out integral maps, researching the practices of Yantra Yoga & thogal & studying the 5 wisdom energies.

RE: Noah's Monthly Update
12/27/20 1:54 PM as a reply to Noah D.
September 2020

In formal practice, I continued following the instructions from the tummo retreat.  I learned more about the early signs of success in the practice which involve the ability to call up & maintain the heat in the tummo spot with intention, at any time.  This is all before getting to the melting of white thigle.  I would begin to notice this after a few months of daily practice.  I also completed setting up a traditional buddist altar & continued working on my sitting posture & flexibility.

In informal practice, I maintained the mindfulness of up & right torso energy from July & August, but started to notice it’s limitations in not always regulating my mood for habit consistency.  This led me to ponder the importance of controlling one's feelings to free up space both for personal functioning & interpersonal service.  I also worked with mindfulness of the earth & water elements which I had started in August as a balance for working with fire.  I would call up images & feelings associated with earth & water & then allow them to absorb into my mind-body.  Lastly, I started playing with the instructions from stage 6 in Thusness/AEN’s 7 stage map.  I believe stage 6 is my cutting edge in fundamental perception.  I haven’t continued consistently with this but it definitely feels like something I want to eventually nail down.

I had a meeting with my spiritual friend, where I asked about how to further harmonize lust energy.  They advised me to enjoy the act of desiring itself; to feel the satisfaction that is already present in that; in simply relating to or even just sharing physical vicinity with others.  They explained that this practice is connected to the Kriya Tantra & the 1st stage of Karmamudra practice; I later verified this through hearing a talk from Dr Nida.  They also explained how this desire is generated by the 2nd chakra, concentrated into the self by the 3rd & radiated by the 4th, all within the context of intersecting toroidal energy fields of people.   I began to quickly have a subjective somatic verification of this explanation when I tried the practice.  I felt a warmth radiate from the pelvis up through the navel & then spread out when it hit the heart.  This seemed related to but not the same as the tummo heat.  I began to practice this every time lustful desire arose & have continued over the next months.  I believe this has marked the true beginning of the end of this particular “big issue.” 

I continued my other studies, including the aforementioned tummo retreat, as well as a longer Vajrayana retreat covering all aspects of a particular cycle in a Rime tradition.  I found that I could relate to this cycle, as it was associated with an integral approach to dharma & life, the potential for rapid progress on the path, a loosening of some of the rigid secrecy & a lack of threats around vajra hell.  I also listened to more talks from the Monastic Academy on the hardcore-total ethics approach they take, reflecting on both the strengths & limitations of that.  I particularly found their explicit rejection of humanist philosophy to be refreshing, having not encountered that elsewhere.  I read more to round out my foundation of Mahayana sutra knowledge, finding common themes throughout all schools which helped to strengthen faith in the authenticity of Vajrayana teachings.  I started reading How to Be An Anti Racist with a book club from the traditional dharma center where I took refuge. 

I went on a road trip with a friend through Idaho & Montana that included ATV’ing, Kayak camping & multi-day backpacking in Glacier National Park.  Glacier in particular was the most breathtaking nature I have ever encountered, including ancient mountains, lakes, flowery meadows & animal sightings (grizzlies, goats, marmots, hawks).  I can feel these adventures doing good things to my mind although I can’t pin down exactly what.  When I came back, there was wildfire smoke in my carpet which caused asthma symptoms & mood instability in turn, revealing the precarious equilibrium I continue to work with.

In other areas, I met with my naturopath & we decided to stay the course of current supplements with another neurotransmitter test planned for late November (the 6 month mark).  I continued with a series of microneedling sessions & basic skin care regimen new in 2020, finding it refreshing to have the inner space to do this & a relief to not have occasional cystic acne.  I had more, similar thoughts on gender roles & communication, meeting with a mentor (who I didn’t continue with) who expressed interesting alternate perspectives.  My habits were disrupted a few times, once relating to alcohol consumption (albeit only a few drinks over dinner).  My naturopath recommended bioavailable curcumin to counter this, which appears to have worked in later instances.  I also began to think about adding in the last layer of habits I have planned, which includes things around creativity, reading & socializing. 

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