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Stream Entry or Die Tryin'

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Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
2/25/17 2:26 PM
I have quite an intense daily practise. Learning about pragmatic dharma, the maps and getting interesting ideas from forum members has certainly given my practise new life. Before this, I was grinding hard but found it difficult to quantify how much progress and understand how practise could be measured/optimized. My goal is stream entry as soon as possible.


In terms of background, I took a Goenka course and have been practising body scan vipassana for 1.5 years. Since then, I took four additional retreats and average about 4 hours of daily strong determination style vipassana. I think my ceiling so far is probably high-ish equanimity, although 80%+ of the time it's been dark night. I had several cessation type discontinuities, but lack of persistent after-effects failed to convince me that it was the real thing (although I'm not 100% on the definition of stream entry). A&P type events were triggered around ages 8-11 by curiosity, spontaneous self-inquiry and messing around with  kundalini-type breathing practises in an old book I came across.  I'm mid twenties now, so overall I've been in various intensities of dark night for over a decade. After such a long time suffering, knowing neither what had happened or the way out, I'm very keen to finish the job and enter the mystical stream of honey and eternal bliss. Recently, I've been feeling a visceral pull to sit longer and longer. Meditation is a big priority in my life, so it's not unusual for me to sit for a continuous 6-7 hours. 


Lately, I started to realize that a lot of content was being missed during Goenka body scanning. Presumably because stuff was missed, a lot of the selfing process associated with the stuff was also missed. Stuff missed included hearing, sights, smells, thoughts, quality of mind states (e.g. dullness, clarity, quickness) as well as sensations that were significant or central within my attention but overlooked because they weren't within the specific area I was trying to scan (e.g. peripheral bracing type sensations). Often it felt like a bizarre colouring in game and it took a lot of mental effort + associated strain to go part to part to part to part in a conceptually linear fashion, rather than following the natural arising of phenomena. Early on, I added some noting to my scans to address this, but a few days ago, switched to just noting everything and it seems better so far. It's also more familiar and tested in this necks of the woods, which gives me both faith in the technique and a higher probably of more useful feedback.  


At the start of my sessions I've also added some more body practises (bioenergetics stuff) and increased loving-kindness. The time trade-off seems worth it since it cuts through the restless sludge layer quicker, increases focus and seems to result in better insight sessions.


In terms of what I'm working on right now:
-Improving the steadiness, speed and clarity of attention (as always). 
-Getting used to noting all experience I left out in body scanning + noting faster.
-Making sure I'm understanding and investigating the 3 characteristics in the right way.  
-Improving continuity in off-cushion practise.
-Understanding the maps well enough to see where I am, when I should push hard and when I should be patient. 
-Understanding what would be the most useful stuff here for both self-learning and to help others give fruitful insight. 


During my last few sits: 
-I've followed the format of: 30m bioenergetic/shaking type stuff -> 40-60m metta -> 2 to 5hours vipassana. 
-During vipassana I've felt vibrations throughout almost all the body from start to end, usually with simultaneous gross unpleasant sensations and relatively few pleasant sensations. I've been noticing how deep aversion goes with some sensation, and noting stuff like "bracing", "tensing", "recoiling", "limiting breathing", "distracting" has been much more useful than body scanning in deidentifying with this. Generally, if something occupies a large amount of attention space or time, I'll try my hardest to investigate the 3 characteristics until I'm experiencing it flickering and objectifying the dissatisfactoriness/aversion as separate from observation.
-Interesting stuff has included super intense swelling, throbbing, pulsing and hatching type sensations in my neck. These have been super persistent and seem to increase throughout the session. It feels like some high-pressure energy has been contained and must burst through the walls of a dam, or maybe that some alien creature is about to hatch in my neck and break through the skin (please no). During the most overwhelming period of this, an intense tingling feeling very slowly rose from my belly-button area to my mouth and as it got there, produced an intense feeling of drowning before it dissipated. Just more sensations, but still, interesting/strange. 
-Briefly and near the end of sessions, all physical sensations have tended to dissolve into pleasant flowiness. 
-Concentration has generally been good, with 1-3 notes per second. The main thing I'm not catching quick is thoughts (sometimes can be 5-10s or so before I notice). 
-I read something mentioned about Kenneth folk's eyes rolling up and flickering thing to induce fruitions. Just out of curiosity, I tried it mid-session. No fruition, but it seemed to induce quite a deep state of absorption (a warm crystalline whole body fine vibration feeling with solid concentration). Something similar has happened in the past when focusing between the eyebrows. But maybe I was expecting something. 

-----------

Also, if anyone's interested I'm a neuroscientist, so I'm interested from the outside in as well as the inside out. I'm curious about the neural correlates (changes in structure, activity, and metabolism of brain regions) for all the different maps, stages, and types of meditation e.g. open monitoring Dzogchen type stuff, granular vipassana type stuff, pure concentration and affective metta type stuff. Sometime in future, I think neuroscience could deeply inform optimum practise for everyone. E.g. finding out the differing effects of each practise, scanning the same person at time intervals to see if their practise is working for them, etc. And with a strong scientific backbone, there's a big group of people that might start meditating - which is pretty beneficial for them and for the world. 

-Wing

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
12/13/16 6:14 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Sounds good Wing. For what it's worth, a few bits of advice for consideration -- only adopt these ideas if they seem to make sense for your practice...

It sounds like you are pretty darn good at "penetrating" sensations. You can go into stuff that is curious or unpleasant and investigate until they dissolve into component sensations or even vibrations. You aren't afraid of the yucky stuff. One of the biggest challenges for a skilled dark night yogi with your history (very similar to mine, for what it's worth) is that it can be hard to balance vipassina (investigation) with samatha (ease, release, absorption). I would advise that you do two experiments when appropriate: 

1) during moments of pleasurable sensations (or, when it seems somewhat easy to do:induce pleasurable sensations by giving yourself the heart-felt permission to feel pleasure, and then roll the eyes or do whatever helps induce blissy feelings), spend some time hanging out in the blissy space of meditation. Let yourself experience that without guilt. These experiences can help balance the mind and, frankly, tend to be more like the mind condition that leads to Stream Entry after one has already gone through the A&P. So it's very much win-win. Enjoy the pleasure while conditioning the mind for SE.

2) during the yuckiest most difficult sits, experiment with giving up on effort. You might be amazed that you vipassina habit continues to investigate and do all of the deconstructing on its own. Watch how mearly observing sensations leads to vipassina. Get used to being a passenger instead of the driver. This kind of experience helps balance efforting and once again tens to be more like the mind condition that leads to Stream Entry.  This will help you get past Reobservation, where it feels like all your buttons are being pushed, everything you try fails, and you can't meditate well anymore. During that time, you need to just watch how all of that is arising on it's own and passing on its own. You don't need to do anything. Eventually meditation will lead you to the space where the "meditating self" becomes an object of investigation, but to get there you need to learn how to allow things to happen.

So to summarize: try going into and dwelling in pleasurable sensations, try letting go and noticing how sensations arise and pass on their own without needing a lot of vipassina effort.


The next suggestion, based on your past focus on sensations and difficulty with thoughts, is to do some structured sits where you investigate the four types of mind objects. Again, do it as an experiment. Take 10 minutes just to get settled and then spend 10 minutes each on specifically investigating:
1) body sensations
2) primal sensations of attraction, aversion, or ignoring. This is actually different than sensations. Notice that there are sensations and an attitude toward them. There can be discomfort and aversion (typical), but also discomfort and ignoring (also common), and also discomfort and attraction (actually quite common for dark night yogi who focus on investigating dukka). Try noticing attraction, aversion, and ignoring. Traditionally it's said that "clinging" occurs right at this point. If you have pain as-it-is, there is no suffering. If you have pain plus attraction, or aversion, or ignoring -- then that is suffering. If you have pleasure as-it-is, there is no suffering. If you have pleasure plus attraction, or aversion, or ignoring -- then that is suffering. Definitely spend some time on this and see if you can see it. If you can, the rest of the entire path to awakening is just a matter of time! emoticon
3) emotions/moods - these are non-verbal emotions like feeling happy, depressed, joyful, etc. 
4) categories of thoughts -- don't try to catch a single thought at first, but rather just notice when thinking is going down a particular path of thinking. If you think, "I think I'm really understanding these four categories of thought and soon I think I will hit equanimity" simply note "mapping thought" or "judging thought" -- something simple like that. The intention here is to simply get experiencing in noticing thinking as mind objects. If you can note every 3-4 seconds about what group of thoughts you just had, e.g. "planning thought", "workplace thought", "politics thoughts", "food thoughts" -- that's enough and will be sufficient to build the skills you need to eventually be able to take the mindstream itself as a object (for short moments in time). And that's enough for Stream Entry.

Hope this helps. Basically, try a few intentional practices to expand your skills... and practice using less and less effort. EQ and SE is all about having meditation do itself (by the natural wisdom inherent in the mind) and being gently curious about what the self acutally is if all this experience is occuring on its own. Paradoxically, it takes practice to get to this low-effort and naturally curious state, so consistent daily practice is essential.

Best wishes!

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
12/13/16 11:04 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Hi Wing,

You can sit for 6 or 7 hours straight? Is that on a cusion? I'm impressed!
Jeff

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
12/15/16 2:44 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
@shargol

Thanks for all the useful feedback, I will bear it in mind for practise and try to implement it all. 
  • You're definitely correct about cultivating ease/release. Extended dark night is probably a strong reason (used to contracting against unpleasantness in order to function), as is the temperament to just try super hard at everything and brute force my way to goals. I'm very new to reading about any buddhist theory, but came across the 7 enlightenment factors a few days ago. Of them, concentration, investigation, courageous effort and mindfulness seem pretty strong. Equanimity and rapture seem weaker. But way down there is the gutter is definitely tranquilty. It seems like one of those situations where working specifically on the area of weakness both has the greatest effect and supports improvement in the other factors, so I'll definitely be focussing on this. 
  • Experimenting with giving up effort is also a good point and very much in support of your first. I have noticed that when stopping effort it seems to do itself and default to a open-monitoring type whole body awareness that notices most stuff that arises. Kind of like lying on your back in a field at night and watching stars and shooting stars. It doesn't take much effort to notice the stars in a peripheral way and with a little presence shooting stars naturally get noticed. I will default to this when sits get really difficult or I feel I'm over-trying. 
  • You mention investigating of the 4 types of mind object, then list body sensations, primal sensations (aversion/craving/delusion), emotional tone and thought categories. I understand all this but am not sure what you mean by "mind object", on first reading I had assumed types of thoughts, but then you list body sensations as a mind object? I'm just eager to understand terminology so I don't get confused in future. I understand all your points and will bear them in mind. In terms of thought categories, I came across U Panditas simple breakdown today of thinking, remembering, imagining, planning, visualizing. I think I'll use those then simply note everything else as "feeling, hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling" to keep it simple. The only things I'll be more specific about will be objects where there is a strong sense of your "primal sensations of aversion/craving/ignoring", because then it seems like a really specific label will help deidentification. I noticed that sometimes when a sensation I'm averse to arises, I will label it "feeling" but simultaneously notice that I don't quite have clarity about what it is. E.g. stuff that happens really rapidly, like a really indescribable crawling type sensation throughout the body.  I'll try to work on being more speciific. 
  • Overall, thanks again for putting so much effort and detail into your reply, I'm very grateful. 
@Kilroy

Yes but definitely in a chair. I just bought a super comfortable one for practise. Before that it was sitting cross legged playing the game of pain endurance and imagining I was getting somewhere with it. But in reflection I think that's only useful a few times as a specific investigation, and in the context of the enlightenment factors (above) I can only see how it would increase "courageous effort" while decreasing just about every other, especially tranquility, which is my problem area. 

14/12/16
  • Total length of sit(s): 6 hours. 1 bodywork/metta, 1 concentration, 3 + 1 vipassana
  • During metta, I was able to generate more of a pleasant feeling tone in the body than usual. However, there are definitely still little many little areas of unpleasantness in the body while I'm doing it. Sometimes when I'm trying to focus upon and increase a solid sensation of pleasantness, I can't help but vipassanaize it into flickery suffering. It's like my attention deconstructs the pleasantness and sees the dissatisfactoriness of it. I'm sure it is just a question of skillful training to flip between these modes. Any tips? Generally metta is getting better but I still feel far away from some metta sessions on retreat where I felt like I "dropped in" or broke through to a feeling of total pervading warmth/compassion. I noticed this state arose from a stage of equanimity in previous retreats, so maybe this is the necessary foundation of great metta practise. Although interestingly, once it happened spontaneously while talking to someone, a huge nuclear heart explosion and I felt totally blissed out/drunk on lovingness for the following few hours. 
  • During vipassana. Moderate vibrations arose quickly through the body and stayed the entirety of the session. The dominant flavours of sensation were definitely fear and disgust. Most of the sessions were spent investigating specific unpleasant sensations that arose within this background. This was very continual, chaotic and unpleasant. Of interest were many bracing/tensing type peripheral sensations that seem to function to limit the experience of sensation in other parts of the body, but were also themselves unpleasant. Whenever a sensation e.g. crawling restlessness would arise in my chest, I tried to give it a descriptive label to aid clarity, then noticed how the quick mental judgement of dislike arose, then noticed how a peripheral contraction/tension around the crawling sensation would seem to fire up to limit the experience of the original sensation. Some sensations (like combinations of a feeling of crawling ants and hollowness occuring in a small area) are super hard to describe. I noticed that describing them as a general category of "feeling" sometimes means I'm tallying off another note, but skipping over total clarity on what exactly they are. Sometimes I can't find the words for what they are, but I'm trying to be more precise so that they are seen as objects. Equanimity was fairly high. I noticed that the quicker I caught and labelled unpleasant sensations, the more equanimous I could stay to them (perhaps by cutting off the downstream mental/emotional reactions to them). Sometimes there was a feeling of trance and a defaulting to an open monitoring of the whole body without noting, although I could have been better at noting this change in state itself. A lot of the work right now seems to be just working on tranquilty/letting go + catching unpleasant sensations as they arise. 
  • Informal practise: when walking, I managed to remember to pay attention to sensations maybe only 20% of the time. There's loads of stuff I miss. Often I'll sit for 4-5 hours solidly noting phenomena, then get up to do something and notice that mindfulness of sensations abruptly and totally ended. I think this is both habit and maybe a symptom of a lack of ease in practise, since if there wasn't a feeling of effort and tension while noting, there wouldn't be a sense of permission to stop or get away from noting at the end of the session. Lots of hugely unpleasant sensations of fear and discomfort (e.g. crawling, tingling, bracing and depersonalisation) arose while walking around. These seemed to be triggered a lot by the sheer sensory overload of the city. It reminded me of leaving my last retreat, where it was a total nightmare being in noisy places, driving, etc due to the heightened sensitivity to everything. At one point today it was actually quite difficult to walk without panic, so I sat down on a bench and vipassana'd until sensations composing it had been investigated and the peak of anxiety had passed. One key thing I keep noticing again is that things freak me out while walking/doing stuff that would never freak me out on the cushion. I think this is directly related to the speed of noting specific phenomena that ceases during walking/doing? 

I should make future logs more concise to make them sustainable long term. What's the most useful stuff to log? Whats most helpful to read when giving someone feedback? 

- Wing



RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
12/17/16 6:44 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Wing Biddlebaum:

    "You mention investigating of the 4 types of mind object, then list body sensations, primal sensations (aversion/craving/delusion), emotional tone and thought categories. I understand all this but am not sure what you mean by "mind object", on first reading I had assumed types of thoughts, but then you list body sensations as a mind object? I'm just eager to understand terminology so I don't get confused in future."



This might sound snarky, but it really isn't... All experiences are mind objects. (It's worth contemplating that.)  emoticon

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
12/17/16 1:42 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Rist Ei:
people who don't know how to pay debts.


To who?

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
12/17/16 4:09 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Since you are a nueroscientist, I will give you some inputs.

I tried Goenka technique for 2 months, then gave it up. The more I body scan, the more noisy my mind becomes. 

Mahasi technique is applicable to noting thought, which I have tried for over a year. Mental noting of movements is not practical in daily life. One can note walking steps but everything else is not practical.

Dynamic vipassana is constant arm movements to keep the mind in conscious present moment. It really helps the mind from wandering off. 

Awareness of awareness is something that is extremely effective because thoughts have no chance. As soon as there is thought, you are aware of it and the thought stops. Thoughts are ego's tool to keep you from becoming enlightened. Thoughts require words to surface. Babies have pure awareness because they don't know any language yet. Once you learn a language your mind is filled with thoughts.

Awareness of awareness brings you back to awareness without language. 

Satipatthana objective is to maintain mindfulness of existence 24/7. If you practice like this, then why do you need to meditate. You can do awareness of awareness during activities and during sitting on cushion.

You just do it without desire of attaining stream entry, because you need to surrender or let go of everything.

If you let go and practice persistently without constantly measuring progress, you will attain stream entry.

When I do awareness of awareness and naturally let go, I can immediately feel free flow in my hands.

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
12/17/16 4:25 PM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:
Rist Ei:
people who don't know how to pay debts.


To who?
from a point of view "deeds are done now its time to pay them back". It is from thinking like if you do something there is effect so then thinking there must be some kind of effect going on right now too despite of nothing is seen just gotta find the seed of future effect.

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
12/19/16 1:23 PM as a reply to Banned For waht?.
Rist Ei:
Stirling Campbell:
Rist Ei:
people who don't know how to pay debts.


To who?
from a point of view "deeds are done now its time to pay them back". It is from thinking like if you do something there is effect so then thinking there must be some kind of effect going on right now too despite of nothing is seen just gotta find the seed of future effect.

Things just happen. That is all. 

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
2/25/17 12:18 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
@Simon and Rist Ei:

I'm not particularly sure how what either of you are saying relates to this log. My intention with this log is to understand noting style vipasssana and practise it as well as possible.

As far as noting during movement is concerned, I think the principles are more important than the actual noting. That is, seeing phenomena with increasing clarity, speed and steadiness of concentration - such that there is insight into the 3 characteristics. To me, noting is just a tool to increase deidentification with phenomena, to enhance clarity of phenomena (ie what exactly is this sensation, how clearly can it be seen, how can I note it accurately?), and to ensure consistent concentration (ie it's easier to notice a lapse in autidory noting inside your head than a lapse in raw concentration). 

I experience no "awareness of awareness". My experience is that awareness is simply a composite of subtle mental and physical phenomena. I think there's lots of imagination around the concept of awareness, awareness of awareness, awareness of awareness of awareness, etc. It sounds nice, especially when it's talked about by some softly spoken nonduality youtube guy wearing soft cosy pastel coloured clothes and sitting next to some gentle-looking plants. For many people, I think "awareness" can simply become a new uninvestigated coathook for "self". 

My experience is that all qualities of "awareness" that I can notice can be broken down into distinct mental/physical phenomena. Qualities of clearness, smoothness, spaciousness, transparency are all composites of subtle mental/physical sensations. I only have experiences, not awareness. We might have the valid inference into the existence of awareness, but since I practise vipassana, any word with a hint of imagination or bloatedness is rejected and I'm going to note such inference as "thinking". 


@Stirling:

Yes, I agree. 


15 to 19/12/16
  • Average daily sitting time ~4 hours. 
  • I spent some time learning about the 7 factors of enlightenment and the hindrances in order to understand sticking points in my practise and overcome them effectively. I had the idea that it's good to see these factors as a bar chart, where (a) net volume of all the bars = potential for progress of insight (2) there are diminishing returns on enhancing any given factor i.e. going from 20% to 30% relaxation is much easier than 70% to 80%. (c) As a result, there's much more expected value for time investment spent improving the lowest % factors. In contrast to effort, which is really high, lack of relaxation and tranquility seems to the ones that are really limiting my practise, so I will focus on improving these. I need to chill out. 
  • My approach to this has involved (1) spending significantly longer on jhana + metta at the start of my sensations (generating and spreading a feeling of relaxation/love/warmth/wellbeing) (2) improving the clarity of noting of phenomena composing states of stress/tension. Switching to noting over body scanning has definitely increased my ability to do this. (3) consciously modifying my breathing rate both during sits and throughout the day. I noticed that sometimes I'm overbreathing a lot during sits and if I reduce this I can actually get to a concentrated state much faster than if I simply tried to concentrate on some object. I've spent the last 15 years with quite a high level of anxiety, so I think at baseline I'm quite fight or flighty and probably breathing too fast. I think breathing is a little discussed gateway to concentration/absorption, but may be hugely beneficial + but super easy/fast to rectify. I also notice that when I wake up in the morning I'm often close to hyperventilating, so I think retraining breathing will probably improve my sleep too. 
  • Vipassana has been around 2 hours per day. It's continued to be coloured by tones of fear and discomfort, so I think I'm predominantly in "fear" / "misery" stages. I've been trying to keep continuity during walking/moving and am definitely doing this better since starting noting last week. When I have some fear/disgust type nuclear blowup during walking vipassana I first try and note the shit out of it, but then just soften + focus on comfortable/restful areas of the body. This seems much more effective than my old strategy of trying to persist at any cost, but getting caught in a cycle sometimes anyway, partly because focussing/persistance induces a lot of strain in itself. 
  • Generally, noting is getting faster and I'm including more stuff (noticing sights, sounds, tastes, smells, thoughts were all new to me). Specifically, I'm picking up thoughts much faster than before and quickly putting them in their bins of thinking/remembering/imagining/planning/visualizing. It seems like there's always a slight lag in noticing the thought, even if I catch it really really quick, it's already started a little. With thoughts its somewhat difficult to see that the very very start of the arising of spontaneous (unplanned) intention/thought can be observed in a similar way to body sensations. I'm reading the book "in this very life" by U Pandita in order to improve my noting practise and have begun looking through some Mahasi Sayadaw PDFs. 
  • Vipassana is taking something of a backseat until I feel more relaxation/tranquility. I'm more than willing to power through in a really brute force way and sit all day, but I want to first make sure the practise is skillful + has the right foundation. 

-Wing

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
12/19/16 5:05 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Nice!

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
12/19/16 7:08 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Vipassana is taking something of a backseat until I feel more relaxation/tranquility. I'm more than willing to power through in a really brute force way and sit all day, but I want to first make sure the practise is skillful + has the right foundation. 

Why yes!

And if I may intercede for just one moment, Wink, you might want to take care not to overdo practice. The desire to succeed at all costs can become a barrier to progress. Everyone is different and has a different tolerance level for sitting and meditating, but everyone has a practical limit, too.

I wish you all the best.

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
2/25/17 12:23 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Update after 2 months away.

Jan + Feb

This log is going to be less about practise itself and more about the work I've done to improve practise. 

  • Continued intense practise and found myself sitting in equanimity repeatedly. After a long period of waiting, I began to feel I was stuck and unable to move into higher equanimity or stream entry. I identified this as a subtle psychological strain and a definite lack of relaxation in my body. This reconfirmed my view (in past posts) of lacking tranquillity as a barrier to progress. I didn't address this in the past because I could make progress through sheer will power. But likewise, it wasn’t necessary to sit through such extreme unpleasantness and to some degree, I believed that difficulty was proof I was getting somewhere.
  • I decided to reduce vipassana and spend more time investigating + addressing the components of this lack of relaxation. This isn’t a trait limited to vipassana, but applies to my whole life. From young I've struggled with a generalized (never specific to situations) anxiety and insomnia. I've always felt a sense of strain when trying to work or make myself do things. Despite success in what I've done, the self-bombardment required to get there limited a lot of enjoyment. So, I think addressing this problem can help both the progress of insight and the rest of my life.



  • To start with, the investigation involved attempts to release muscular tension through practises like bioenergetics, Rolfing, shaking, etc. Generally, these had short term efficacy, some interesting endorphin type releases, crazy spasms, or useful entry states for meditation arose. However, I felt like effects were temporary and returned to baseline after some hours/days. I had the sense that upstream factors were maintaining general tension.  
  • Secondly, I did loads of pure concentration and some long sits listening to (allegedly) relaxing theta frequency binaural beats. I got into cosy womb-like jhanic states, some of extroardinary stillness and delicacy. But both entering and sustaining them was very unpredictable. Again, it felt transient and I don't think it had a significant effect on baseline state hours/days later.
  • Thirdly, I did an enlightenment tour of my city, I went to public talks and private meetings in the houses of teachers. Mainly nonduality/advaita guys. I sat and listened to them, definitely felt something palpable with a few of them (either a sense of increasing expansiveness or increasing contractedness. I secretly did vipassana while they suggesting there was nothing to do, no-one to do it, and definitely no point in coming to the meeting. I generally found myself in peaceful states after seeing some of them. I've carried on seeing a few, even if it's a more a curious form of entertainment than anything else. 
  • Lastly, I began to pay way more attention to my breathing. I've thought for a long time that many of the benefits of meditation are tied directly to the modulation in breathing rate, since it tends to slow significantly in focussed sits, often resulting in spontaneous long pauses. "The perfect man breathes as if he is not breathing" - Lao Tzu. On a physiological level, it also makes intuitive sense that relaxation of the nervous system = less jumpy/distracted attention. And also that a stronger perceived threat to survival = a stronger sense of self. Culudasa also states that improving mindfulness (i.e. a mind capable of stream entry) is about creating a better relationship between focussed attention and peripheral awareness ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk2XQFwESIk 44:30 onward), so it makes sense to focus on improving physiological factors that influence this. 



  • I observed my own breathing throughout the day, during meditation and read everything I could find on optimum breathing. Practically, I observed (1) attempts to focus attention during daily work or meditation often resulted in either a holding of the breath or an increase in rate of breath (2) increase in rate of breath also made it difficult to retain focus (3) a lot of the strain I feel when working or sitting through unpleasantness is specific tension/holding in the diaphragm. (4) Successful focus (i.e. absorption or consistent/fast noting) was often, but not always associated with a reduction in breathing volume (5) Unsuccessful focus was always associated with a fast/irregular breathing rate. (6) Consciously slowing down breathing at the start of sits greatly improved them and gave me a replicable technique for entering strong concentration and (7) Studies on breathing + self-observation showed that I'm breathing approximately 3 times more than is healthy on average. This was a huge insight into the cause of general anxiety/insomnia. (8) Automatic/unconscious breathing rate is determined by detection of a certain co2 level by the medulla, causing discomfort/air hunger if a breath is not taken. co2 performs the vital function of releasing oxygen from haemoglobin via the bohr effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohr_effect), so both too little and too high co2 = reduced oxygenation of the tissues. In the case of long term hyperventilation (for whatever reason, e.g. anxiety, PTSD, disease, etc.) this is often habituated way too low, and perpetuates the cycle of sympathetic arousal. (9) You can retrain your default co2 level detection by consciously reducing breathing volume. This might look like chopping off the top 5% of every inhalation and maintaining a small but not unpleasant degree of air hunger while working. After some time, your body knows it’s safe and habituates. Free diving routines are also different means to achieve the same end of retraining co2 detection. 
  • I've been doing this for 2-3 hours a day while working and it's been successful so far. Baseline fight or flight type symptoms are decreasing. Sleep has seen some improvement. While doing this for long periods, areas of muscular tension will sometimes begin to quiver and release (i.e. breathing rate maintains tension). Relaxation / tranquillity during meditation is improving. And without any specific effort to improve focus (e.g. with anapana), it's automatically improved because of changing my baseline physiology. 
  • This has all been interesting and there is a lot more I'm playing with that I’ll write about in future posts. For starters, (a) it implies that pure concentration practises may only be as efficient as their downstream effects on physiology/breathing, which for many individuals they may not influence either consistently or long term. Whereas targeting physiological relaxation directly instead may directly/efficiently enhance concentration. (b) Likewise, it could also be the case that downstream physiological relaxation results in some aspects of progress, rather than what the meditator thinks he is doing. And (c) I also have a developing theory that a lot of classical dark night symptoms (and their persistence) are the result of insight arising in the context of a physiologically tense / sympathetically aroused body.

Overall, I'm much more optimistic about ramping up the hours again and finishing the job. 

-Wing

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
2/23/17 9:11 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Since you mentioned Culadasa, are you reading his TMI?

If so, what stage are you at?

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
2/23/17 9:38 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Jinxed P:
Since you mentioned Culadasa, are you reading his TMI?

If so, what stage are you at?


No, I just watched some of his talks.

I'm keeping practise ultra simple at this point. Referring only to U Pandita's "in this very life" and MTCB chapters on the 3 characteristics. I feel the temptation to swallow yet another framework like Culadasa's TMI, but I've swallowed a lot already and more information isn't the solution. 

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
2/24/17 11:17 PM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Hi Wing. Your log is very inspiring to read, I love your systematic and scientific approach. I'm trying to bring my own practice up to your level. 6-7 hours is amazing to me, even in a chair. Do you recommend a particular chair/posture for that?

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
2/25/17 5:27 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
hey Wing,
As a neuroscientist, I wonder whether you are up to date on the literature and could pass on links/references to what is currently the state of knowledge with regards:

'Acupuncture Speed Unique'

The second paragraph down at:
http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/816-deqitcm140

I did have a link to an article describing how effects of needling acupuncture points resulted in measurable effects far faster than neuron transmission speeds...but I cant find it, doh!

cheers...

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
2/25/17 7:01 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
Okay Wing! That is some serious investigation, well done.

You really do have all the tools to get this done. I suspect it's mostly going to be about "getting out of your own way." I agree, you don't really need new models or maps. You're exactly where you need to be.

To put it kind of poetically, now you need to let yourself die in Equanimity. I don't mean anything dramatic, actually more like a slow easy death. When you have a lot of intellectual power and a lot of self-actualization, the hardest thing is to _just_be_in_equanimity. Ironically, it can feel awful to someone who is used to accomplishing things, but you really have to get past that shit. Give up the attitude, give up the control, give up the scheming, give up the triangulating and strategy, and just sit in equanimity.

What tends to happen is jhanas arise as a sort of protective/comforting mechanisms. Great, no problem! Sit in the comfort of jhana and _just_be_in_jhana. 

Many people have a kind of purtanical aversion to just sitting in equanimity or jhana. Watch your mind and see all the ways it trys to trick you out of just sitting there. There is nothing wrong with taking time and just sitting, so why all the aversion? This is also the domain of some deep and primal psychological insights, which is part of why meditation is so transformative. But don't get tricked into making the investigation a new form of avoidance or aversion! (You will get tricked, but eventually you'll get better at noticing when it happens. emoticon ) Let your mind be naturally curious about your aversion or ill will toward experience, but don't turn it into an intellectual exercise.

When in doubt, stay with the sensations of breathing and the sensations of body.You can never go wrong by making those your "anchor". 

If you want the next stages you have to really make friends with the do-nothing accomplishments of dwelling in equanimity and jhana. Ironically, when all your "doing/judging/strategizing" weakens and you start really enjoying accomplishing nothing during your sits, then all the next stages happen.


Hope this helps! Keep going... or "Straight Ahead!", like they say in Zen.

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
3/1/17 1:46 AM as a reply to Doctor Avocado.
There was a year where I was overly analytical and strategic. I wore myself out. All I could do at that point is just relax. I had to drop all the practices and JUST RELAX. Any time I thought about trying a technique, or making lists, or analyzing my practice I would look for tension in the body and keep relaxing it until the thoughts passed.

Right now you're very strongly identified with the trying aspect of ego. What you need to be doing now is spending 99% of your time relaxing. However, you may need to wear yourself out before you get to the point where you are sick of trying. It can be really difficult to just give up. We shall see.

Friends, exercise, taking care of my health, and play is what has kept me in EQ and out of DN. Now doing anything but relaxing and lightly noting experience seems absurd.

Do you have friends, hobbies, or athletic pursuits that you like?

RE: Stream Entry or Die Tryin'
Answer
3/5/17 7:02 PM as a reply to Rainbow.
Rainbow:
Hi Wing. Your log is very inspiring to read, I love your systematic and scientific approach. I'm trying to bring my own practice up to your level. 6-7 hours is amazing to me, even in a chair. Do you recommend a particular chair/posture for that?
Thanks Rainbow. Motivation came from conviction and urgency. Proving that the path was a real thing through experience killed 99% of doubt, the 1% left was doubt about the most effective way to progress. Likewise, urgency came from a sense that death could come at any future moment and awareness of the suffering going on in each moment. I also think it's really rare to be able to arrange your life for a lot of practise and also understand the right way to practise. Most people on the planet have one or neither, so there's definitely gratitude for that. 

On the other hand, I learned the hard way that going to extremes can also create strain/anxiety/burnout, so now I'm undoing a few bad habits I previously imagined were dedication. 

I have an IKEA "poang" chair, highly recommend it, you can sit on it 6+ hours and feel good. 


supaluqi:
hey Wing,
As a neuroscientist, I wonder whether you are up to date on the literature and could pass on links/references to what is currently the state of knowledge with regards:

'Acupuncture Speed Unique'

The second paragraph down at:
http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/816-deqitcm140

I did have a link to an article describing how effects of needling acupuncture points resulted in measurable effects far faster than neuron transmission speeds...but I cant find it, doh!

cheers...
I've never looked at this before but it looks interesting. I'll let you know if I come across anything in future.
shargrol:
Okay Wing! That is some serious investigation, well done.

You really do have all the tools to get this done. I suspect it's mostly going to be about "getting out of your own way." I agree, you don't really need new models or maps. You're exactly where you need to be.

To put it kind of poetically, now you need to let yourself die in Equanimity. I don't mean anything dramatic, actually more like a slow easy death. When you have a lot of intellectual power and a lot of self-actualization, the hardest thing is to _just_be_in_equanimity. Ironically, it can feel awful to someone who is used to accomplishing things, but you really have to get past that shit. Give up the attitude, give up the control, give up the scheming, give up the triangulating and strategy, and just sit in equanimity.

What tends to happen is jhanas arise as a sort of protective/comforting mechanisms. Great, no problem! Sit in the comfort of jhana and _just_be_in_jhana. 

Many people have a kind of purtanical aversion to just sitting in equanimity or jhana. Watch your mind and see all the ways it trys to trick you out of just sitting there. There is nothing wrong with taking time and just sitting, so why all the aversion? This is also the domain of some deep and primal psychological insights, which is part of why meditation is so transformative. But don't get tricked into making the investigation a new form of avoidance or aversion! (You will get tricked, but eventually you'll get better at noticing when it happens. emoticon ) Let your mind be naturally curious about your aversion or ill will toward experience, but don't turn it into an intellectual exercise. 

When in doubt, stay with the sensations of breathing and the sensations of body.You can never go wrong by making those your "anchor". 

If you want the next stages you have to really make friends with the do-nothing accomplishments of dwelling in equanimity and jhana. Ironically, when all your "doing/judging/strategizing" weakens and you start really enjoying accomplishing nothing during your sits, then all the next stages happen.


Hope this helps! Keep going... or "Straight Ahead!", like they say in Zen.
Thanks shargrol, I usually find your posts insightful and practical.

You're right. I'll definitely bear in mind "dying in equanimity" next time I find myself there. I'm definitely guilty of getting impatient and trying to find a way out or just do something, somehow, which isn't always good and is definitely sometimes aversion. I commit to doing nothing more often.

And thanks for the optimism and encouragement.


ivory:
There was a year where I was overly analytical and strategic. I wore myself out. All I could do at that point is just relax. I had to drop all the practices and JUST RELAX. Any time I thought about trying a technique, or making lists, or analyzing my practice I would look for tension in the body and keep relaxing it until the thoughts passed.

Right now you're very strongly identified with the trying aspect of ego. What you need to be doing now is spending 99% of your time relaxing. However, you may need to wear yourself out before you get to the point where you are sick of trying. It can be really difficult to just give up. We shall see.

Friends, exercise, taking care of my health, and play is what has kept me in EQ and out of DN. Now doing anything but relaxing and lightly noting experience seems absurd.

Do you have friends, hobbies, or athletic pursuits that you like?

Good points. I realized this a few months ago, hence my last few posts on focussing on tranquility, reducing breathing, hanging about in jhana, etc. I'm pretty analytical, but it's directed towards relaxing more at the moment, so I think I can keep the ugly undertones of overanalysis in check. And yeah I have a pretty full life outside of practise. I'll bear in mind your point about noticing tension in the body when being analytical about anything, including relaxation. 

-Wing