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Noah's Monthly Update

Noah's Monthly Update
Answer
10/4/16 1:17 PM
I've also put this writing in blog format (alongside some other info) here: Noahsmonthlyupdate.blogspot.com

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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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
Answer
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.