Message Boards Message Boards

Practice Logs

Rainbow's Practice Log

Rainbow's Practice Log
12/20/16 7:56 AM

Rainbow's Practice Log

I'm creating a practice log to,
  1. Help keep myself accountable.
  2. Provide perspective to future me as memory is unreliable.

I'll add more detail later, but I feel the need to post this now, perfection being the enemy of the good.

About Me:

  • Have messed around for with western mindfulness for ~ 4 years.
  • First serious practice began January 2016 with 1 x 10 Day Goenka Retreat. This is the only retreat practice I have done.
  • I loved the retreat even though it was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Easily one of the best experiences of my life. If I could somehow just put life on pause for 3 months to a year and do it, I would.
  • I have one close friend who I got into meditation after attending retreat. No others to talk/practice with. Family and friends think it is woo.
  • Huge amounts of anxiety in daily life.
  • Books read
-Mindfulness in plain English
-Practical Insight Meditation
-Finding Peace in a Frantic World
-Path With Heart
-Wherever you go there you are
-Waking Up
-The Science of Enlightenment
  • Podcasts,
-Audio Dharma
-Buddist Geeks
  • Favourite Teachers
-Shinzen Young
-Gil Fronsdal (Talks)
-Sam Harris
-Tara Brach


Long Term:
  • Stream Entry. I want this A LOT. But I have a great deal of trouble sacrificing other parts of my life to put in the time/effort required.
-Unsure how long this will take to reach. Unsure if I will continue seeking higher paths after attainment.
  • Cultivate more compassion for myself and others. This goal is vague as I have little idea how to do this.
-Short Term:
  • Visit Panditarama Meditation Centre. Check if visiting for short periods is possible. -
  • Commit to a longer term retreat. 10 days minimum. Ideally 1 to 3 months.
-Would love to do this here at the Manohara Centre in April if I can manage -
-Possibly visit MBMC ( if I can find out more information about who is teaching there and how exactly I apply, how long I can stay etc.
  • Install 5 minute minimum Daily Metta Practice.

Current Practice: 
  • Practice is sporadic - cannot sustain mindfulness in daily life.
  • I am able to maintain 10 minutes upon waking and 10 minutes before bed. Attempts at installing more serious practice habits have so far failed.
  • Trying to install a habit of a longer (30min-1hour) sit every second day.
-Sitting for that amount of time has not been a problem since retreat. Finding the time and motivation do it is is my current block.
  • Currently reading Shinzen Young trying to better understand his basic mindfulness system.
  • Really busy with work 60+ hours a week so hard to find time.
  • Installed Headspace for a trial run to see if that helps with motivation.
  • I'm currently very averse to any kind of discomfort physical or mental. Trying to bring more mindfulness to pattern of behaviour.

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
12/29/16 11:42 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
How's it going, Rainbow? Did the longer sit work out for you?

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
3/30/17 4:23 PM as a reply to Rainbow.
Thanks for the nudge housecrow. I can do longer sits now. Here are some updates on my practice.

Progress. Motivation to practice is higher than it's been in months. I am able and eager to sit, even if once I sit down the session isn't always pleasant. I think in part this stems from a lot of aversion to life. I just want this thing done, hit the a path and tick it off my list, and never have to worry about it again. I know this isn't how it works, practice never ends, "life is about stuff" from MCTB comes to mind, but I still feel this way.

I've managed to get a handle on my anxiety. It is nothing like the problem it was. It's still causing some avoidant behaviour in me, but it's not painful like it used to be. Headspace's Anxiety series has been incredibly useful for this.

I'm usually sitting for 30min-1.5 hours a day split into 1-3 sits usually at the lower end unless I have a fair bit of free time that day. I follow Shinzen's noting schema most of the time with some occasional Goenka body scanning if sensation starts to flow and the whim takes me. Quick noting is difficult. Feeling stupid is the biggest obstacle. When my concentration is high and I'm quickly noting change my labes will fall over each other. "In. Out. In, In. Out, Out. In in in in. Out out out. Ininininnnnnnnnuhnuhnuh...." Feels silly and I don't really see the point. I'm trying to reserve judgement and continue though.

Daily Life practice has been amazingly successful. Shinzens advice to always have some kind of practice running in the background was very helpful. I'm now mindful maybe 20% of the day, which is huge for me, I was at maybe 0.5% before. It feels different to be aware much the time. Its been really helpful for building concentration. I might do noting, nuture positive, or rest in body sensation. Its great to have a bunch of options so that I can be doing something no matter where I am. I was at the gym the other day and was very into my body sensation. I decided to sit down breifly and meditate and in less than a couple of minutes I was able to replicate the flowing energy like sensation that Goenka body scanning produced when I was on retreat last January. I haven't been able to do that since I was deep on like day 7-8 of the retreat last year, so that feels like a great sign to me.

Also running a thread on Liberation Unleashed. Honestly, LU seems a bit unreal. Something feels a little off about the place, like it's culty or scammy or something. I can't put my finger on it. I'm putting aside judgement though and giving it a go. What's the harm? Downside is I waste a couple of hours and upside is potentially massive.

Lot's of research. I am a skeptic, perfectionist and an optimiser so I've been doing lots of research into finding the best meditation. Probably should be practicing more instead of researching, but whatever, this feels useful and not just mental masturbation. Reread MCTB front to back. Learned a heck of a lot that way rather than jumping about. Re-Read draft MCTB2 aswell which is fantastic. I can't wait until whole thing comes out. Listened to a whole bunch of Shinzen. Rob Burbea and Culadasa are next on the cards. Been reading lots of papers on Meditation seeing what the science has to say. Neurological correlates of enlightenment and the like. There isn't anywhere near as much data as I would like, but there is more than I expected.

Current Blocks. Sleepiness. I'm not always sleeping and I'm sometimes nodding off in practice. Pain is sometimes a problem in longer sits too. I will resolve not to move but it will happen involuntarily anyway. I would like to do more duration training but it is hard both in difficulty, commiting and finding the time. Distractability is a moderate problem, but I feel like on average my concerntration is higher than it has been for a long time now that my daily life practice is better. Its strange, I can be locked on the breath for 5 minutes without pause and then be lost in thought for 5 minutes. It's like concentration and distractability are both high. I don't really understand the maps, even after reading MCTB and Progress of Insight by Mahasi. None of the stages seem to really fit my experience. Maybe I haven't had enough practice to hit even the first stage, though I would be surprised if that were true.

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
1/18/17 9:08 PM as a reply to Rainbow.
Weird things that sometimes happen during practice

I try to not make a big deal out of these things when they happen. I just note them and continue. This isn't too difficult because I have no idea what they mean anyway, though they can be fascinating in the moment. They don't really seem to correspond to the Jhana's or nana's AFAICT however it has never been obvious to me that I have experienced either.

Center point shifts
Sometimes when I'm focusing on the breath at the tip of my nose the place I feel 'I' am located in space - the point just behind my eyes - moves around. OR sometimes the location of my breath moves around. Today during practice it happened 4-5times. Sometimes it felt like my the breath through my nose was located where my knee usually was. Or my centre point would shift just outside to the left of my body. I had a very disorienting experience where it felt like I was upside down a few days ago and I had a lot of trouble not opening my eyes or moving to reorient myself because it felt like gravity was continuously pulling me over. It's very strange.

Spaciousness fluctuations
The space that I am concious of sometimes flucuates without my intending it to. It might narrow very tightly onto the breath so that it is like that is the only thing that exists. Or it might widen beyond the edges of my body (how could I be sensing space outside my body? And what does it even mean to 'sense' space? Space is empty. That is just what it feels like.) and the breath is just a small part of awareness.

Pleasure and Relaxation Waves
Sometimes this is intentional. I'll become aware that I am unecesarrily clenching part of my body in response to a pain or to maintain a certain posture and when I relax and let it go the pressure release from that holding onto something is wonderful. It can be the breath sometimes to, I'll notice I'm trying to force it to be a certain way and just letting it be is relaxing. Letting the breath be is something I struggle immensely with. It's as if I am modifying it by the sheer act of paying attention to it. When it's like that I don't even know how to breath naturally. But sometimes I don't do anything intentionally and there'll be a wave of relaxtion or pleasure or both. Often but not always it is accompanied by a spacial fluctuation. It feels subjectively like letting go, but I have no idea what I am letting go of. 

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
1/27/17 11:07 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
8 Hours

I think the way Synelg records hours is fantastic, so I'm stealing it for my log. Recorded using QuietMind App. It doesn't accurately represent my practice as 90% of my practice is daily life noting and/or awareness, but it should be mostly accurate for my formal long sits. I'm heading on a one day urban retreat tomorrow so it feels like a good time to log a journal. I'll keep it short because sleep calls.

Slippery Habits. Having trouble maintaining a formal sit every day. My schedule is very erratic. Shinzen and Culadasa's teachings on this have been helpful, but I have more work to do on this front. I just broke a 5 day streak. Daily life practice continues well though.

Automaticity. I work a manual labour job stock filling. I've been doing it a while now, and I can basically do it without concious effort, it's all muscle memory. What is weird is that I started noting Kenneth Folk style for the first time during work today and I actually saw the automaticity happening. I've never seen that before. It struck me that there is just too much happening with my body for me to conciously control, and that many (most?) of my movements where happening without my intending them too. This seems rather obvious in hindsight, as I am usually listening to an audiobook and not paying any attention at all while I work, but actually seeing first hand my body move without intending it too was - exciting, scary, creepy and amazing. A keen interest arrived in just watching my experience, like I was in the passenger seat. It was weird. Is weird. It's happening while I type this sometimes.

Practice causing Bicep Pain? Again? After around day 5 on my first and only so far Goenka retreat there began to be a sharp point of pain in the centre of my  left bicep. It felt like an ordinary sprain, but the weird thing is, it only showed up after about 20 minutes into a formal sitting. It was barely noticeable if at all when walking around, and faded quickly after hoping up. This lasted until the end of the retreat, I just tried to go into equanimity with it. Now, here is what is weird, about a week ago or two ago, I hit what my teacher at the retreat called 'bhanga' again while at the gym doing deadlifts. Champagne bubbles all over the skin, scanning the body becomes easy as sensations begin to flow. It was unexpected - as I've never been able to do it since retreat - but welcome. Now, a couple of days ago, my bicep pain is back, and it's around almost all the time. It hurts! I'm not ruling out a physiological cause, if it continues to hang around I'll see a doctor, but I can't help but think it's connected to my practice because a) it was the dominant feature of many of my sits when on retreat b) it's in exactly the same spot c) it's come back right after I hit 'bhanga' d) there was no obvious physiological cause back then, and none now. This stuff is so weird. It'll be interesting to explore in the future. If anyone is reading this and knows what is going on that would be great. I would normally just try and be equanimous with it, but it is bad enough that I have to skip going the gym, which is frustrating, as that helps fight depression that sometimes arises in me.

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
1/27/17 11:13 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
Working a physical job (restaurant work) was a huge advantage for me for 2 years. I found that it was possible to note all day long, including at home, commute and at work.  As you say, the motions become effortless, allowing more bandwidth for off cushion practice.  I would encourage anyone with a similar opportunity to seize it.

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
1/28/17 8:22 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
Working a physical job (restaurant work) was a huge advantage for me for 2 years. I found that it was possible to note all day long, including at home, commute and at work.  As you say, the motions become effortless, allowing more bandwidth for off cushion practice.  I would encourage anyone with a similar opportunity to seize it.

I'm glad to hear you had a similar experience - and that it was of such benefit to you. That's very encouraging.

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
1/28/17 10:34 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
8 Hours

Went to a one day retreat with a local Insight group. Probably not going to go back. Got a fair bit of meditation in which was nice, and the people seemed nice, but the sangha and I aren't interested in the same things I think. I am after stream entry, and they are all there to deal with their pyschological stuff. Enlightenment is the stuff of legend. Doubt was massively present during sitting. "Was that a vibration? Probably not." "Their walking meditation is so much better than mine." "I can't get concentrated, I can't do this." "How long is this going to take?" It was incessant. I sank into it for a while before I realised what my mind was doing.

I listened to some of the Hamilton Project Podcast today. It's really inspiring to hear people talk about the maps in such a frank way. So much of what they are saying resonates with my experience (fireworks, except for the magical stuff). Sometimes I'll listen and think I made it all the way up to Equanimity on my Goenka retreat, but I am still too new to this to know. There was an amazing quote I love in the middle talking about escaping the dark night and because I'm kind of depressed right now and everything kind of sucks this was really inspiring.

"There is no fix other than going forward and getting it done. Note your ass off. Get your game up to to the level where your first note of the day is your first breath."

Challenge accepted.

Testing out tracking some metrics.

From Progress of Insight Maps
 Distance from Normal (-4 to 4)
Motivation to Practice3
Sleep Need1
Mind Speed-1
Clarity of Centre of Attention0
Clarity of Periphery1
Body Temperature1

Other Metrics 1-10 (10 is high)
Calmness                                4
Alertness                                 3
Strength of preoccupation       6
Ability to let go                         5
Motivation                                7
Enjoyment                                2
Sensitivity to the body             2
Concentration                         3
Effort                                       8
Quietness of thinking mind     2

Hindrances 1-10 (10 is high)
Desire                            9                                
Aversion                        6
Lethargy/weariness       7
Restlessness/anxiety    3
Doubt                             10

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
2/11/17 12:26 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
17 Hours

Progress. I feel like I am getting a better handle on my practice. This thread was incredibly helpful in nailing down my understanding of what's going on with the stages of insight. I'm happy with my level of practice but not content. I'm managing to get some time in every day, 10 minutes at least because Shinzen says that's the minimum, but usually 30min - 2 hours.

Had a couple of interesting long sits. One was a miserable 45minutes where I was too hot, uncomfortable, mind racing, pains everywhere, involuntary movement but I sat it out. It was liking riding out a storm as waves of pain, unpleasant thought and other discomforts washed over me. I was able to feel some stability amongst all that, some distance from it all. It really made me appreciate the saying "the only bad meditation is the one you didn't do." I had basically zero concentration the entire time, it made me feel like a complete rookie, but I tried to go into equanimity with that and had little but some success. I think it helped build my capacity for tolerating discomfort among other things so very useful even if I didn't explore my experience all that much.

I did 30 minutes of walking meditation today, it's hard to find space to do it in privacy so I end up just doing it along the street a bit away from my house. I get anxious because it looks a bit weird, pacing slowly up and down in front of peoples houses, social anxiety is an issue for me, but being with that and noting it I found really helpful. That I could just allow that to be there. It didn't go away, but I could sit with it. At one point this child playing ball came up behind me and said to their friend, "Look at that. They are walking so slowly." It was a relief. I had been seen, I had been judged, and it was fine. Who cares? The world didn't come crashing down, it didn't affect me at all. I get strange looks almost every time I do it now, I try to treat it as equanimity training.

I had an hour sit soon after. I took a couple of nootropics to help with tiredness before sitting and it was a wonderful sit. From the first moment I sat down in formal posture, it was just a nice experience. Pleasant sensations on the skin, joy at setting aside the time, strong concentration on the breath. Just really lovely. All the anxiety I built up slowly dissolved over the sit, I'm still feeling a bit of glow as I write this. I got pretty deep into concentration. I made a strong resolve at the beginning to stay locked onto the breath like a rabid dog and that helped a lot as a few times my mind wanted to wander and explore other sensations. I just wanted to explore the breath sensations and equanamise other sensations in the background. I think I began to get some sense of what vibrations are, but I'll continue to explore that. Also think I'm beginning to get a sense of what people talk about when they say moving up the nana/jhanas are like moving to different rooms but still new, will continue to explore. (EDIT: I think this sit was the first time I experienced the breath becoming everthing. The only thing in awareness was the sensations of the breath, and all sense of I dissappeared. It's like I have a limited number of slots in attention and all those slots got filled with the sensations of the breath leaving no room for anyting else. I don't have a good understanding of what happened or what it means, so I'll leave off further commentary.)

My thread  at Liberation Unleashed seems to be coming to a close. I certainly haven't hit stream entry or anything like that. The guidance feels very intellectual and wordplay based. It's hasn't been fruitless. The most useful thing has probably been identifying how the self is constructed, all the different parts that make up that sense. I'm still in the strongly in it's grip moment to moment though. It only loosens when I meditate. The forum guidance is nothing like the direct experience of my mediation practice. I'm doing and "Who am I?" inquiry based practice on a home retreat with Shinzen this coming weekend so maybe that will be more fruitful.

Current Obstacles. Maintaining attention in daily life has fallen off somewhat. I've stopped making progress on that front so motivation has fallen. I still try to have some technique going at all times as Shinzen recommends, but I'm actually sustaining it less. I'm not sure how to deal with this.

Discomfort, restlessness and doubt are all predominant at the moment. Wrestling with these.

Balancing my regular life with my meditation practice is hard. I just want to go off to a monastery somewhere and 'get it done'. Tick the box and be done with this. The more time I put into practice and research the more benefit I see, but the more the rest of my life suffers. Putting effort into my regular life doesn't leave enough time to give my practice the time I feel it deserves. Finding the middle way is a struggle and it is tempting to go to one extreme or the other.

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
2/11/17 12:12 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
22 hours

Most recent sit. Just did an hour an 5 minute long sit after 10 minutes walking. (Aside: Increasing by 5 minutes each time at least to increase sitting time to 4 hours eventually. Taking Shinzens advice that strong determination sitting is th quickest way to enlightenment). So much came up. A lot of what I've mentioned in from previous sits. Pleasure/relaxtion waves, strong pain becoming present and then fading away, the sense of moving to different rooms or spaciousness fluctuations, centre point shifts. There was some thoughts about "what stage is this?", "what was that?" trying to pin down everything that was happening. I found that when I followed those thoughts and tried to identify where I was I got lost in the content so I did my best to just let it all happen as it did, and when I did that I moved through all the "stuff/content" more quickly. It's easier to not get attached to all this stuff when you've gone through it before so that you don't make a big deal of it. Ended the sit on a high, made my way through a persistent pain for the second time and just wanted to sit in it. Let that go too. Really want to do longer sits.

Recent Helpful things for good practice. 
  • Setting strong resolve at the beginning of sits.
  • Intermittent short 4 hour - 1 day retreats to break up the practice.
  • Longer retreats to look forward to and prepare for (3 days next week, possibly one month in April)
  • Inspiration from others success.
  • Nailing down exactly WTF people are talking about when I'm confused.
  • "Locking Onto" the breath sensations like a fighter pilot on a enemy.
  • Breaking down breath into temperature, pressure, location (nose, chest, abdomen).
  • Letting go of what I think is supposed to happen.
  • Making sure to sit formally at least once every day in addition to life practice.
  • Nootropics - Caffiene, L-theanine, Phenylpiracetam

Current Obstacle - Walking Meditation Difficulties.
Continuing to have thoughts that I'm doing walking meditation wrong. I hear that walking meditation time should equal sitting time so I'm trying to increase it. It's hard because you can't just drop into it anywhere like you can with some other techniques. It's also a whole lot less fun then sitting, and I feel like I make less progress, so motivation is low. I've gotten conflicting advice (from IMC, Traditional Mahasi, IMS, Culadasa, Shinzen, Various others - all places I have a lot of respect for) about where to look, how fast to walk, object of concentration, what to note, whether the walking should stop when distraction arises, how fast to note etc. I've never done walking meditation on retreat except for a 1 day urban retreat so I don't have a good sense of how it should feel. No expectations. I realise in some sense that "beginners mind" is good, so I am trying to keep a sense of that, but my technique is all over the place while I try to find something I can settle into. Trying to identify what seems to work and what doesn't. Nothing like the deep concentration states that arise when I'm sitting happen when walking.

Current Obstacle - Life Balance. Many of my other goals in life have fallen away while I'm trying to "figure this out". I've let go of my fitness, career and social goals. There just isn't enough time in the day. Even if I wasn't meditating I wouldn't have enough time in each of those dimensions to do justice to each of those things. I'm doing enough to maintain my relationships and maintain my finances to make sure things don't implode in those areas, though they will degrade slowly if I don't pay more attention to them eventually. Fitness has fallen off completely due to injury not voluntary choice (which has left more time for practice yay!), strong desire to begin again soon after I'm healed.

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
2/13/17 5:32 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
24 Hours

  • Learned Self Inquiry on Shinzens Home Practice Program. He is a wonderful teacher for a technique that was very difficult to learn, and doing the practice releases lots of happy chemicals in my brain. It's instant relief. I feel like with this, together with Kenneth Folks teaching on the direct path, there's no reason for me to ever be lost in suffering again. I can just bring attention to it or ask 'who feels this?' and it's no longer a problem. It's amazing. I'm amazed. I forget to maintain it all the time though. And I don't think it's possible or perhaps inadvisable to run both those techniques and insight at the same time. I still want a path though to make meditation easier and tick it off.
  • Serving on a 3-4 Day Goenka Retreat this weekend. That'll be fun.
  • Mindfulness++ starts this weekend. Also fun. emoticon
  • Did a 1 hour 30 min continuous sit. My longest so far. Nothing special happened, except for a lot of pain at the end. I have enough equanimity/tolerance/experience to sit through it. It's not fun though. Makes me want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on one of these meditation chairs and fall deep into spiritual materialism. emoticon (I poke fun but they look damn comfy. Craving arises.)

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
2/16/17 1:32 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
hi Rainbow...
Just to throw something out there, so to speak...

You write: '"Locking Onto" the breath sensations like a fighter pilot on a enemy'

I'd be curious how a different metaphor might strike you:
The breath as a shy beautiful woman (fed up with being hit upon all the time), that you want to lock onto you, by becoming an irresistible being, say, attentive to everything she does, demonstrating a non-grabby type admiration and fascination, say. Accepting her exactly as she is in every moment... I would wager she would be more likely to show her silkiness and reveal her secrets.

Compare and contrast...what think you?

Also perhaps bear in mind, Pawel K wrote
"every single thing you see, hear, touch, etc. is like its own reality, have its own mind which is specific to it. Not as part of larger field but on its own like nothing else existed and there was no cognition such as that anything else is or could be there. Basically listening to parts of your nervous system 'as they are'"

I thought that was really interesting!

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
2/16/17 2:04 AM as a reply to supaluqi.
Hi supaluqi! Thanks for commenting on my log.

I really like your alternative metaphor. It's more accepting, inquisitive, interested than mine. Not to mention non-hostile! Haha. Enemy was definitely the wrong word there. I'll definitely try and incorporate some of those things into my practice, as I think they may be lacking. Especially holding the breath gently.

The trouble I run into is when I hold the breath gently, it's also a little loose and it falls out. emoticon My mind loves to wander. I've recently felt like I've had some success in developing my concentration (I feel like I'm touching some Jhana-like states - but it is early and I may be deluding myself) and I feel like it is due in large part to this one pointed concentration. One pointed concentration on a woman - is a little creepy when I imagine it, and I'll have to modify the metaphor a little before it could work. This may be related to the balance between the energy and concentration faculties.

What Pawel K wrote is interesting, I think I have had a little experience of every sensation arising indepently when I'm deep in meditation two or three times maybe - like tiny fireworks going off unexpectedly in various places and then disappearing - but it's a little over my head for now I think. I can only kind of intellectually grasp it.

Thanks supaluqi! Metta

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
2/16/17 3:09 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
Ive been impressed by Thanissaro Bhikku's emphasis of 'ingenuity' as a quality one needs to develop in ones practice.

Its hard to spot ones own attitude, its easier to see in others. After I read your 'enemy' metaphor, I realised my own when I 'hunted' down my inferred self identification within the sensorium. No wonder it kept running and hiding!! hahaha

How I interpreted Pawel K's comment was a kind of technical explanation of the 'a part'-iness aspect of the organs, their semi independence, thus it would be 'ingenious' to have the 'mind' of the breath and the 'mind' which attempts to follow mutually incline towards each other. Save a lot of that effort and struggle which leads to aversion, disinclination to practice etc which must be overcome, persevered with etc...

Ingenuity is helped by insight of course, but also with her, discover ways to make her as comfortable as possible (Thanissaro's suggestion), surely she would want to be with you?

One would almost want to meditate!! emoticon

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
2/20/17 3:46 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
28 Hours

Back from retreat. Lots of insights, new friends. Better handle on Nana's and Jhana's - I think I spent a lot of time in fear and misery. I'm trying so hard but vibrations are still not clear. Sometimes noting just doesn't seem to work. Scattered, flailing, mislabeling, frustrating. The only two notes I can use are 'frustation' and 'chaos', theough even remembering to do that is hard. Managed 2 hours 15min of Strong Determination before I knocked a cushion over and I broke posture trying to fix it to ease the pain. Not enough time. Would post more but I feel the need to attend to life.

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
3/30/17 4:20 PM as a reply to Rainbow.
55 hours(new timer 39 hours)

I've switced the app I'm using to track time so it'll be the later time from now on.

I'm heading on retreat with Sayadaw U Pandita (Junior) for a month in a couple of days. I'm pretty nervous as this will be my first retreat in the Mahasi and I really want to land a path. Ambitious, I'm aware, but this will be my best shot for a while - It'll be like 4-500 hours of practice or something like that compared to the 55 I have so far. I don't want to experience the feeling of coming off retreat with nothing changed to the exact same life and the exact same experiences. I know on some level that everything will be exactly the same, I'll just be seeing reality more clearly, but everyone talks about the suffering that's lifted and the Jhana's you can access and how meditation becomes so much easier.... craving, craving, craving.... I want that. I want to suffer less.

Feeling a little demotivated with practice. Talked with Kenneth who said that some peoples brains might just not be wired for Mahasi style stream entry, and that awakening if it happens at all can take all sorts of forms. Listened to an interview with Jack Kornfield who said the nana's that people talk about in this forum are different from what's experienced only occasionally by people on multi-month or year retreats. I felt like I had such a clear goal before and now it seems so nebulous. Like I don't know if what I'm practicing for is possible, or what it even is.

Started experimenting with some candle flame practice. I can see the red dot, but none of the other effects talked about on the firekasina site. Mindfulness++ is also coming to an end, which is sad, I've enjoyed the sangha formed from that course and I'll miss Emily and Vince. I've a new relationship to feeling tone (as an insight into equanimity), perspectice on emotion and constant body awareness that's due to them which I'm grateful for. Emily helped me to let go of my grasping around achieving goals a little more too.

I'm a little sleep deprived, which could be colouring the mood of this entry.

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
3/31/17 6:42 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
55 hours(new timer 39 hours)

I'm heading on retreat with Sayadaw U Pandita (Junior) for a month in a couple of days. I'm pretty nervous as this will be my first retreat in the Mahasi and I really want to land a path. Ambitious, I'm aware, but this will be my best shot for a while - It'll be like 4-500 hours of practice or something like that compared to the 55 I have so far.

Just for context, you should know that what you are doing is very very very hardcore. A month is a seriously long retreat, especially for someone with ambition. The odds are that if you continue to strive for that length of time, it's more likely going to end badly than be of value.

It's basically like being in solitary confinement. What happens to most people under those conditions? 

Retreats are designed in a way that opportunities for progress is almost guaranteed. It's much more likely that someone will burn out and quit. Or become manic and have a mental break. Or become so depressed they give up. Or it becomes so hard that they do another practice to entertain themselves. I hope you appreciate my honesty here. 

I wouldn't advise a month long retreat to a beginner. My advice to someone with very little experience going on a month long retreat would be: TAKE IT SLOW. 

Honestly, if you treat it more like a vacation than a retreat, you are almost guaranteed to have more benefit than if you practice like your hair is on fire. Simply do the retreat, but don't strive --- just be a human body and a human mind on retreat, and notice what happens.

I don't want to experience the feeling of coming off retreat with nothing changed to the exact same life and the exact same experiences. I know on some level that everything will be exactly the same, I'll just be seeing reality more clearly, but everyone talks about the suffering that's lifted and the Jhana's you can access and how meditation becomes so much easier.... craving, craving, craving.... I want that. I want to suffer less.
I've noticed that with all the talk of the maps, people are completely forgetting that very valuable, very healing insights happen all along the way. You don't need paths or jhanas to improve your life. They aren't a miracle cure.

I can guarantee that you absolutely won't feel like nothing changed, no matter what. You will absolutely be confronted with all the ways your mind creates unnecessary problems on retreat. It will be like a month long psychological therapy session, where you can't avoid seeing your own mind. 

It's probably better to assume you >don't know< what will happen or how you will change or not. Can you see how you are going into this with a lot of prejudices and unfounded beliefs? Treat it more like an experiment, rather than something you assume you know how to do and what will happen.

It's okay to want relief, but it's important to remember that the relief from meditation means going right into the experience of suffering and confusion. It often gets worse before it gets better. If you can maintain curiosity and a sense of joy, then the purification goes okay. You suffer and see that your suffering is caused by clinging to ideas and craving things to be different than they are. But nearly everyone resists this, they deny the problems they are having on retreat and then a few days or a week into retreat all the repressed material comes up and they crash, sometimes they crash hard.

In a certain sense, meditation does become easier, but ironically it is easier because we aren't making such a big f**king deal about it. Meditation becomes not resisting sitting and walking and sleeping on schedule, and not resisting what comes up while sitting and walking. 

If you can let yourself just "hang out" and observe while sitting and just "go for a walk" while walking, then you might be able to survive a month long retreat. Keep the intensity as mellow as possible. I guarantee you it will get intense all by itself. You don't need to add any intensity.

If you get overwhelmed and can just chill out by going for a long walk or sleeping through a sitting session --- then do it. Don't push yourself beyond what you can do. 

Feeling a little demotivated with practice. Talked with Kenneth who said that some peoples brains might just not be wired for Mahasi style stream entry, and that awakening if it happens at all can take all sorts of forms. Listened to an interview with Jack Kornfield who said the nana's that people talk about in this forum are different from what's experienced only occasionally by people on multi-month or year retreats. I felt like I had such a clear goal before and now it seems so nebulous. Like I don't know if what I'm practicing for is possible, or what it even is.

In a way, this is very good. People who have overly clear maps of awakening always seem to miss the point. Being demotivated means that you are confronting the actual reality of your practice and not seeing it through the idealized maps that exist. The maps are only there for helping people when they get stuck, kinda like a doctor treating an illness. When you are not sick, you don't need to go to the doctor.

The whole point of meditation is this... You go to a safe place, with no need to find food or shelter, and you sit down. In theory, you should be having no problems. You are just sitting in a safe place and there is nothing you need to do. But look at your mind! Notice how it seems to prevent you from just being able to sit there. Something is wrong, you need to do something to change things, your mind is too busy, etc etc etc.  But it's not true at all. Nothing is wrong. You don't need to do something. Your mind is fine the way it is.

I know it sounds strange to say your mind is fine the way it is --- but what I'm talking about is your mind on retreat, in that exact moment. Sure we might have worries about life, or fears, or bad psychological patterns, but when these show up in meditation --- no problem. Obviously they aren't real. Obviously they aren't really happening, right? They are just like a movie that is playing while you are sitting on a cushion. So now it your chance just to watch it happen, no big deal. But people make a big deal of their "psychological stuff" on retreat by striving and craving and resisting what is actually occuring. If you were able to let things be, you wouldn't have a problem.

This eventually gets beat into your head. Just let the body and mind do its thing, no big deal, no problem.

Do you see how simple this is? You notice how you resist what is happening and then you soften your craving and desires (and body and breath) and just LET IT BE. If you do this for a month, you will be so much more aware of your own psychological defense mechanism, so much more aware of your "fetters", and you will have learned that resisting things doesn't help. You welcome the contents of your mind to arise, hang out, and go when they want to. You let everything arise and pass without resistance.

Your natural intelligence is always working. It's always watching and already noticing "oh, this approach to life leads to stress and suffering" or "this welcoming and compassionate attitude leads to less stress and suffering". The problem with normal life is things go by so fast that we don't notice our own habits of mind, they are basically unconscious. We need many hours on the cushion to see this stuff clearly. 

... I've a new relationship to feeling tone (as an insight into equanimity), perspectice on emotion and constant body awareness that's due to them which I'm grateful for. Emily helped me to let go of my grasping around achieving goals a little more too.

I'm a little sleep deprived, which could be colouring the mood of this entry.

I honestly wouldn't advise going on retreat unless you feel you can take your 1) relationship to feeling tone and 2) letting go of grasping goals into retreat with you. Those two skills are basically essential. Over the course of retreat, there are many many times where you need to accept the tonality of your body and mind, and there are many many many many many many times where you need to let go of your goals and just be HERE.

HERE is the goal. Equanimity with exactly what is appearing right NOW. The whole point of retreat is to let the mind do what it does and notice that it all comes back to the present moment. And when you are back to the present moment, you notice that there is a simplicity and calmness and easiness that is available if we just let ourselves let go of clinging and just sit, just walk, just eat, just shower/bathe, just sleep, just shit, just pee, just burp. 

Retreats are for learning all the ways we make things difficult for ourselves. And when we actually stop making things difficult, all the nanas come and go by themselves. You don't need to make nanas or jhanas or paths happen. They occur on their own. Forcing it or craving faster progress will almost guarantee suffering, exhaustion, and burn out.

Best wishes Rainbow!

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
3/31/17 8:00 PM as a reply to shargrol.
I'm resonating a lot with your post shargrol, thank you. I have about 2 weeks experience on retreat all together, so I'm not a complete beginner. I have been reading a little Culadasa also cultivating Samatha. I am quite full of goal orientation and striving. I am a little concerned about giving that up, after reading all the talk about,

"Believe that it is possible."
"Work diligently, continually, every second from the moment you wake up to the moment you sleep."
"The time in retreat is precious."

If I'm reading you correctly, it's about 1) balancing the factors of effort and relaxation​ and 2) as a beginner on intensive retreat, perhaps pay focus more on relaxation. The thought I have then is about Tarin Greco's advice when he says, "99% of people are on the side of to little effort. If you're not a little neurotic occasionally about how intently you are practicing you are probably not putting in enough effort."

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
4/1/17 7:29 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
It's important to understand what "work diligently, continually, every second from the moment you wake up to the moment you sleep" means.

It's not about effort as we conventionally think of it. It's not about intensity, straining, grunting, grabbing, or intellectually investigating. If it was like that, then almost every philosopher or psychologist or professional athlete or soldier would be enlightened. Those four categories of people spend many hours a day investigating their mind, their mind-body connections, and/or their environment with an intensity beyond what 99.9% of the people in the world do.

Many pre-stream entry meditator think that effort is the way to get through the dark night, but when you look closely at what is going on --- they actually are using the idea of effort and willpower as a way to address their underlying doubts and fears that they will never make progress. The greater the doubt, the greater they need to believe that "they can make it happen with effort."

That's fine for establishing a personal practice at home. No one created a new habit of daily meditation without effort, that's true.

But let's talk about advanced meditation, meditation that goes beyond basic mindfulness, that goes through dark night, that withstands Reobservation, that continues into Equanimity, that persists and persists through many ups and downs into EQ down to DN back up into EQ for many cycles, that continues to stay practicing when nothing much is happening in EQ and into the daydreamy High EQ, and is confident enough to let the mind seem to drift in High EQ --- and suddently falls into Stream Entry.

Traversing the whole Stream Entry path isn't about conventional effort. It's about consistent practice.

There is no way any human can maintain practice for 16 hours a day for 30 days with conventional effort. But the nice thing is the mind is naturally aware, so really it's about letting the mind do it's thing and being objective about what is happening.

All that has to be done is for the breathing body to be felt and to note a single mind object (sensation, urge, emotion, thought) occuring in experience on every outbreath. About 12 notes a minute.


This doesn't take conventional effort. It simply is a matter of simple noting. To be aware is effortless, to note is like barely lifting a finger. Almost no effort is needed.

But it gets difficult because the mind-body will want to resist or fix what is happening in experience (body aches, primitive urges, uncomfortable moods, unsettling thoughts). This is where it gets complicated. You need to actually see those desires, rather than being under their spell. You need to see them objectively and note them. 

You will momentarily go into trance (being embedded in body aches, primitive urges, uncomfortable moods, unsettling thoughts). There is no preventing that. You can't fight that basic aspect of human nature. But when you return to presence, what you do next is very important.

If you use effort to try and prevent ever going into trance again or prevent ever becoming embedded again --- then you are meeting resistance with resistance and over hours and days, your practice will go into an extreme (manic, depressive, apathy, extreme doubt).

But if you come out of trance and RELAX and simply note what happened and note what is happening in presence. Then you maintain a simple and consistent practice. You are keeping it simple and fresh.

That's the kind of practice... 
* that will stay practicing when the body rebels during Three Characteristics,
* that will naturally fall into super short mind moments in Arising and Passing,
* that will keep practicing through the apathy of Dissoultion,
* that will see fear as fear and not anthing more in Fear,
* that will understand that sadness is a simple way of self-comforting in Misery,
* that will notice how the mind lashes out as a way of self-protection in Disgust,
* that will notice how we try to "game the system by developing elaborate practice ideas" in Desire for Deliverance,
* that will simple watch with fascination how all of our personal trigger-issues come up during Reobservation,
* that will give up trying to force practice and simply sit and do the basics and enter Low Equanimity, 
* that will notice that giving up and not trying to change things is Equanimity
* that will notice that Equanimity can extend to any state or mood, even if it seems like you are falling back into Dark Night or cycling through the nanas
* that will finally understand that the mind does its thing, there is no effort or control that is needed, even when thoughts are dreamy or wispy in High Equanimity
* that will allow effortless, natural awareness to be just as it is... which allows the mind for the first time to notice the >nothing< that supports all experiences instead of >something< that we notice in our tangible experience, which is Stream Entry.

So the entire time you are on retreat, you are training yourself to be perfectly accepting, intimate, and effortlessly aware of what is occuring, so that by the time you get into High Equanimity, it's your natural instinct to let go and fall into emptiness.

So be very clear about what "effort" is needed. It's the kind of effort that simply remembers to note something in the present moment on each outbreath. It's the kind of effort that remembers to note what distracted us when we come out of a trance. It's the kind of effort that remembers to continue practicing again by note something in the present moment again. 

That's the effort you need. It's a bit of a paradox, which is why I think it's important to say it.

Again, the paradox is: the effort you need to apply is the effort of not applying too much effort. The paradox is the effort you need to apply is the effort to keep things simple and fresh.

Hope this helps in some way!


RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
4/1/17 9:21 PM as a reply to shargrol.
That's definitely helpful shargrol, maybe one of the most helpful things I have read here. I'd never seen it put that way before. I'll do my best to put it into practice here.

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
4/2/17 7:01 AM as a reply to Rainbow.

Just do your best to notice how body sensations, urges, emotions, and thoughts bubble up all on their own. Enjoy watching it like a movie. Use noting to help you watch the movie and remember it is a movie.

No big deal if the move makes you flinch or get angry or feel disgusted or gets boring. Just notice what that feels like (i.e., don't push it away, but rather actually experience those body and mindstates) and give it a label (i.e., note it) to remind yourself it's a mind object occuring within your mind.

Be respectful of your limitations. Sometimes you might need to back off, that's not a failure. 

Be respectful of what a rare opportunity being on retreat is. Sometimes you might need to re-dedicate yourself. When you are feeling dull or bored, keep sitting/walking, use straighter posture, and turn dullness and boredom into an active investigation: "what does dullness and boredom actually feel like in my body? where are the sensations? is it stable or do they arise and pass away? do they flow or move?" etc.

Above all, keep it simple and try to enjoy this opportunty to learn about the finer aspects of your mind. It's a great adventure.

When in doubt, the sensations of breathing are always in the present moment. If you are feeling the sensations of breathing, you are practicing. That can be your refuge if things get confusing or difficult.

Good luck Rainbow!! 

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
4/2/17 9:34 PM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol, I don't want to be a burden as you've been so helpful already. But I was wondering if you could clarify what you mean when you say,

"All that has to be done is for the breathing body to be felt and to note a single mind object (sensation, urge, emotion, thought) occuring in experience on every outbreath. About 12 notes a minute."

And what Daniel Ingram says,

"Note 1-10 times per second. Note at the cutting edge of your ability to notice sensations."

Are you talking about different things or the same thing in a different way?

RE: Rainbow's Practice Log
4/3/17 7:23 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
Thank you for the chance to clarify. By note, I mean "label with a word".

What I'm saying is if I had one sentence of advice, it would be to clearly label something with a word at least every outbreath for the entire retreat.

Sometimes people mean "noticing" when they use the word note. Obviously noticing can go faster than labeling with a word can go. I personally don't think it makes sense to establish a fast target for noticing --- it already occurs at the speed of mind, so why put a number on it?

Everyone I personally know that has tried to sustain very fast noting/noticing has just made themselves neurotic and burnt out, so I just suggest a minimum practice pace, not an ideal pace, nor a maximum pace. Over 30 days, you will have many opportunities to explore different paces. Be creative and explore. Notice what happens with your mind and body when you note/notice at different rates. Make practice your own.