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Geoff's Practice Log Geoff 3/1/17 11:23 AM
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Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/1/17 11:23 AM
Hello all,

Fortuitously stumbled upon this community through an auspicious meeting of redditors.  Beginning an e-practice log seems like as good a place to start as any, so here we are.

Background / Introduction

At the time of writing, I am a 27 28 year old male resident of Seattle, born in Chicagoland.  I have a lifelong history of depression and anxiety, the worst period of which was my Junior year of college, in which I retreated from the world entirely and stopped caring about grades, my health, or my social relationships.  I picked up a solid drinking habit and spent most of the year inebriated and eating fast food.  By the time I was forced to move home b/c I couldn't afford rent any longer, I weighed ~270-280lbs, was a depressive alcoholic, and didn't have much to say for myself.

At home, I began meditating along with a variety of other hobbies.  I mostly learned what I could from introductory meditation classes offered at www.audiodharma.org, taught by Gil Fronsdal.  Buddhism and the dharma was of immense comfort to me, and while I didn't make significant progress in meditation, I saw its immense value and vowed to keep it in my life as much as I could.  

I picked up bicycling, which is an entirely different story, but that hobby turned into a lifestyle, I lost 80-100lbs, went completely sober from alcohol, and celebrated my achievements by taking a 6 month bicycle tour from Maine to San Francisco.  I stopped meditating during the trip, but I felt on top of the world and in total control of my being with all the freedom I had offered to me.

After the bike trip, I moved to Seattle and picked up a job as a project manager at a start-up, where I work today.  This is the most demanding job I've held in my life, and I reverted back to doubt and anxiety - I burnt out at the job and began seeing a therapist to talk about some problems that clearly weren't solved by riding a bike.  

I also met my ex-fiancee during 2015, who moved into my apartment and became my first significant, long-term relationship.  We were engaged for most of 2016, but for a number of reasons, not the least of which being attachment issues and significant emotional barriers, we broke up in December of 2016.  Again, more problems I didn't even realize I had that I thought I had bicycled away, but alas - it's not that easy.

After the initial numbness of the break-up wore off, I encountered immense pain and loss.  Lost in a spiral, I grasped out for meditation, the practice that had previously brought me relief and guidance.  I discovered Culadasa's The Mind Illuminated online, ordered a copy, and began sitting again on December 8th.  Since then, I have sat for 30 minutes twice a day and not missed a session.  I am actively pursuing involvement in local meditation communities, including meeting a few members of this site.  

Log Format / Goals

My concrete goal for meditation is to attain stream entry and beyond.  I also want to learn how to handle my depression and anxiety with equanimity, and to learn how to overcome the emotional barriers I face that prevent me from participating meaningfully in a relationship.

I'm more of a hand-writer than a typer when it comes to journaling, so I think I will do this Practice Log in a weekly format.  Meditation already takes up a lot of time - I hope I am able to stay motivated to jot down notes and experiences from my sits.  I see how it will be valuable to look back on later and identify patterns and stages as I experienced them.

Here's to 2017!

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
1/8/17 11:33 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 15-22

Postures: Seiza bench / kneeling
Methods: Shamatha (and a few brief periods of noting)
TMI Stages: Stage 2

This week felt like a slight step backwards from last week.  I had a few energetic experiences last week and felt like I touched upon Stage 3 a few times.  This week, monkey mind ruled the day and dominated most of my sits.  I also had a hard time sleeping for the earlier part of the week, and that sleep deprivation definitely had a negative impact on my sits.

I'm still wrestling some with the concept of intention, and trying to generate genuine intentions / actually FEEL the intention.  By the end of the week, I was sick of wrestling a philosophical question and calmed down to focus on my breath again -- this felt like a "win".  I re-read the intro to Mind Illuminated where Culadasa says Stage 2's goal re:intentions is to hold the intention to appreciate when I remember my breath again - this has also calmed my striving down a little bit.  I can't jump straight to enlightenment from where I'm at - I just have to put in the time and effort.  I've started "rewarding" myself with a little half-smile and dopamine release when I come back to my breath, so hopefully my subconscious takes the hint soon and starts taking up the slack.

Near the later half of the week, I started using my exhale to "let go" of whatever thoughts had me bound... kind of like exhaling or pushing back whatever the monkey mind had clung on to.  It felt like noting, in a sense.... I had to be honest with myself about what background processes were taking place that weren't my breath.  It felt intense in my head, like pressure, or straining.  I probably won't keep this up all week.

I've been to the Seattle Shambhala center for the last couple weeks, and it's nice to get a longer sit in away from my cats, with other people, and to participate in dharma discussion with other folks.  It's a little "lighter" than some of the stuff discussed around here, but as a newbie seeking community, it's a welcome change from the same-old.

Goals for this next week:

1. Reward myself when I come back to my breath
2. Use noting as a tool to supplement concentration when needed
3. Get more sleep

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
1/10/17 6:53 AM as a reply to Geoff.
howdy geoff,
i am allowing myself to comment and hope thats ok.

first of all i loved your story and your bicycle break out into freedom.  very gumpesque.  you're lucky to have done that.  something to carry with you your whole life and to repeat if necessary.

i came to culadasa's teaching pretty late but love them.  between this site, daniel's book and culadasa's work you have plents of good tools to put your determination to work.

if i can give any general advice it would be:  1) take the long view and 2) enjoy the trip 3) KISS - keep it simple stupid

the "stupid" part of that is meant to bring a smile and to help take the self criticism down a notch and is applied more to myself than to you..

you noticed that when the meditation wasn't going "how you imagined it should", you dropped some of the mental baggage and went back to "simply following the breath".  this is a go-to maxim for me.  the nature of the mind is movement, curiosity, proposition etc. and these can be so subtle that we don't recognize them as such.  we don't realize we are "thinking" or "following up on suggestions" and soon we are in full blown distraction. 

as you mentioned, this is ok.  and your recognition of that, and the reward is a great tactic and sets the stage for quicker recognition of the drifting and more consistent focus. 

so i hope this is helpful and seen as just a note of encouragement as it seems to me you are on the right track.

ride forest ride

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
1/10/17 3:58 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
Hi Tom!

Thanks for the response - feel free to comment as you see fit, and if anyone else reads this, I love feedback and discussion of blind spots I may not be seeing.

I think you're dead on with KISS - I jumped straight into the deep end with DhO / streamentry / stages / maps and have to remind myself that this whole process takes time, and that reading an article on enlightenment doesn't get me enlightened.

Thank you for the encouragement!  I'll keep gumpin'.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
1/15/17 10:11 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 22-29

Postures: Seiza bench / kneeling
Methods: Shamatha (and a few brief periods of noting)
TMI Stages: Stage 3 / 4

After re-reading Stages 2-4 in The Mind Illuminated, I believe I am steadily practicing around Stage 3 with more and more frequent forays into Stage 4.  For the non-TMI folks, that just means that I am able to keep my breath as the meditation object for the duration of a sit - I rarely, if ever, "forget" the breath completely or revert to non-aware mind wandering.  My breath does fall behind gross distractions during sits, but I can still feel the breath in the periphery, I still "know" that I'm meditating, even while distracted.  Slowly, those moments of gross distraction are being replaced by the slow syrupy struggle of strong dullness.  

As concentration grows, dullness sets in -- I consider it progress that I can see the slow fogging of my mind...like semi-translucent drapes being pulled over my awareness one by one until I'm totally fogged up and drift into hypnagogia and sleep.  This is pretty new, so I'm still dealing with it and trying to catch subtle dullness before it progresses.  I might not be enough into Stage 4 to be wholly successful yet, so I've been going over Stage 3 practice, doing the "drills", expanding external and internal awareness so I can start seeing what arises as an outside observer ot the process. 

if I find that I am clearly able to follow breath sensation from inhale to exhale to inhale (repeat) I start opening my mind up to practice holding peripheral awareness at the same time as my attention is focused on my breath.  The simile I've used to describe this is that of a tightly rolled map -- I can "unroll the map" so it lies flat on the table when I hold it down, but if I let go, it snaps back into its rolled-up shape.  I'm slowly working the creases out so it lies flatter and flatter -- I am able to hold peripheral awareness more clearly and stably over long periods of time as I practice.

I had one particularly cool moment this week that I believe was my first real piti sensation (but maybe not).  At therapy this week
 I had a b,ig, intense emotional release -- joy, embarrassment, sadness, all opened their taps at the same time and superimposed themselves in an intense moment for me.  After that, I felt pretty calm and focused for the rest of the day, which carried over to my evening sit.  While sitting, I felt like something rolled forward into place at the front of my skull, and it felt like the energy around my head pulled forward into my nose, chin, and arms in a tingly, showery sensation.  My breath felt more like tingles down my chin and face for the rest of the sit, as opposed to the usual sensation at the tip of my nose.  For a day or two afterwards, I could feel kind of a keening electricity / tension all over my skin, especially my spine -- sort of like right before an ASMR release, or how it feels right when you're about to shiver.  I'm not putting too much importance into it other than it was a cool thing to have happen, but it may align with Culadasa's description of purification.  Either way, pretty neat - I'll keep sitting.

I must admit to some impatience as I spend most of my time reading / discussing the Stages of Insight in communities like this one, but am not exactly doing Insight practice.  I'm going to start trying to do off-cushion noting as I remember to, but also try to cultivate some patience and equanimity about progressing as I progress and not stressing about how far / how fast.

Onwards and upwards.

Goals for this next week:

1. Go to yoga every time I say I'm going to
2. Get MCTB onto my e-reader
3. Start off-cushion noting (as I remember to)

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
1/22/17 9:58 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 29-36

Postures: Seiza bench / kneeling
Methods: Shamatha (and a few brief periods of noting)
TMI Stages: Stage 3 / 4

Practice felt like a grind this week.  I'm coming to realize that fully mastering Stage 3 and 4 of TMI is going to take a long time and be an uphill battle.  I hit a point in the middle of the week where I felt like a petulant teenager about practice...."It doesn't matter, my progress this far was bullshit, these maps are bullshit, doesn't even matter where I am on the maps anyways, I'm nowhere on the maps" etc etc.  I wish I could say that I took those moments as opportunities to cultivate equanimity and watch my agitated mind at work, but I hit "eject" a couple times while sitting and had to bail on the session.  I was very resistant to noting, even as I knew it could help me out.  I just felt annoyed by practice and annoyed at how I felt and annoyed about that -- shooting arrows into my arrow-wounds.

Later in the week, I had a couple good hangouts with the local pragmatic dharma crew and that helped me settle down and refocus me on my practice.  It's OK that some parts of the practice take a long time.  People work on this stuff for years.  Hanging out with people who are much more attained than I am, and reading all the maps and forums and such on stream-entry, makes it hard to feel OK with where I'm at as a (relatively) total beginner.  I want that blip and I want it now!  Heh.  I think getting all pissy about it earlier in the week actually helped me a lot in that I was able to detach from the maps somewhat.  Frustration with being unable to place myself within a nana, and lack of confidence that I could reasonably claim ANY nana, made me throw up my arms and say "Fuck it, what happens happens."  One friend told me, "Here's the simplified map:  Are you in equanimity?  No?  Then it doesn't matter."  Which makes some intuitive sense to me.

Moved into long sits at the end of the week.  I'm feeling more and more like sitting is the most productive use of my free time on weekends, assuming all real-life obligations are handled.  Sat for two one-hour sessions on Saturday, up from two 30-minute sessions, and will have sat for 2.5-3hrs by the end of today.  It's a long road ahead, but I still firmly believe it is worth it and will continue to be so, even if my attitude is less-than-optimal sometimes.

Goals for this next week:
1. Work more 1-hour sits into my week
2. Don't "eject" from any tough sits
3. Go to yoga every time I say I will

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
1/29/17 11:15 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 36-43

Postures: Seiza bench / kneeling
Methods: Soupy vipassana?  Unsure what I'd call this week.  "Insight."
TMI Stages: N/A

Not sure what to make of practice this week.  Part of me wants to stop "making" anything of practice and just do it...whatever happens, happens.  Maybe I'm somewhere on a map, maybe I'm not, maybe there's not actually anywhere to "BE" at all.  If last week was me throwing up my hands about obsessing over the Insight stages, then this week was me throwing up my hands about the TMI stages as well.  Not that this week was all bad.... parts of it were really good and felt useful.  Other parts were frustrating, but I'm trying to keep my head a little higher out of that water to watch the experience of "bad" instead of participating in it.  Can't say I'm too successful yet.

For actual practice, I got a little lost in insight / vipassana type practice, watching whatever was arising that was most compelling.  With TMI as my entry point, I'm trying to (and sometimes able to) hold extrospective awareness gently alongside my breath, but when I bring introspection into awareness, I get lost real quick.  I wrestle with the content of my thoughts / sentences / anything running through my mind as being "me" or being something I'm "saying", which quickly pulls them into gross distraction and mind-wandering territory.  I'd spend my sits doing this dance of getting lost and coming back, but would lose focus on that TMI entry point and just start letting attention drift around to whatever there was, which was interesting, but didn't seem to get anywhere.

I also had a bunch of sits with distracting energy / vibration / itching / buzzing / whatever you'd call it, and got really into trying to make that energy do different things.  A few days later I got a little annoyed at myself for veering off the TMI path and frolicking around in the dandelions for so long.  I guess I'd keep thinking of Kenneth Folk's statement about itches being the "kiss of concentration" to pull you through A&P, so I'd get all excited and hamfisted about these sensations and try to examine them really closely to "provoke" A&P, but nothing really.  I did have one sit where intense itches became intense electric sensations and got the sense that my other sensations (knees, sitting on bench, pressure, emotions in chest) could also be deconstructed into that same buzzing sensation, but that insight lasted only a fraction of a fraction of a second.  I'm also throwing my hands up about electric buzzy sensations, ha!  if they're here, that's fine, but how's my breath?

Anyways, I see a lot of room for me to calm down and stop agitating the muddy water all the time.  Still too focused on thinking about practice while practicing.  Some things really really far back in my head do feel like they're shifting verrrrry slightly, and I do think I'm better off at the end of this week than I was at the beginning, but I'm not sure I could say how yet.  Something about getting agitated enough to see how unhelpful all this agitation is, and maybe I can put it down.

Goals for this next week:
1. Maybe try to chill out about things
2. Do anapanasati off cushion instead of noting

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/5/17 6:41 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 43-50

Happy 50 days!  Woohoo!

Postures: Seiza bench / kneeling
Methods: Back to Shamatha on cushion, noting off cushion (when I remember to)
TMI Stages: Stage 3

If the last two weeks were me stuck in circles of agitation, I think that wobbling, spinning top is coming to a brief rest.  My obsessive sense of striving, a result of euphoria and excitement about finding the maps / pragmatic dharma / my Seattle pragmatic dharma friend group, is slowly fading away, and I'm being left with the basic truths of practice.  Namely, that practice itself is an enjoyable thing to do, and that so long as I stay honest and  dedicated, progress is basically inevitable.

As my agitation settled, I found myself back at early TMI Stage 2 for a few days - annoyed, fuzzy, mind-wandering, not fully dedicated to the object on the cushion, feeling kind of lazy, feeling kind of detached, just going through the motions.  I upped my sit time to 45 minutes and added an extra hour-long sit during the middle of the day on Saturday and Sunday, and I think I'm back to practicing at Stage 3 and 4.  I'm following my breath again, though feeling a bit dull about it, and I had a few spontaneous feelings of happiness and gratefulness for taking the time to sit on the cushion and really be there.  The longer sits also mean I face recurring moments of impatience, where I want to stand up and look at the timer on my phone, but I'm sitting through 3-4 of those per sit without moving.  I felt really good during my last sit when I fended off all those impulses all the way to the final bell.

The quality of my sits feels steadier and calmer, more passive, more accepting.  I have less crazy energy feelings going on, but I'm no longer encouraging or amplifying phenomena unrelated to my breath.

If I get agitated and impatient again, I hope I remember what the last few weeks were like for me, and find myself participating it in it less.  It sucked, but I think I've learned a few good lessons from all this.


Goals for this next week:

1. Increase noting / anapanasati time off the cushion
2. Improve / increase deditation to the object while on the cushion
3. Make mindful decisions around my compulsions

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/9/17 1:18 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Gonna experiment with including my "more phenomenological" journal entries between weekly summaries. we'll see if it gets too cluttered.

2 FEB, 2017

10:00AM-10:30AM
Hypnagogia - frustration and impatience. Not wanting to do the work..doubting that I can do the work. body sensations were fine, just drifting in and out o fconcentration. Weak breath sensation. Tried eyes open, eyes too dry to work. Frustrated!!!
---------------------------------------------

3 FEB, 2017

7:30AM - 8:00AM
Started the sit calm and accepting. Back to positive reinforcement for mind wandering. Drifted during the middle of the sit, came and went from the breath. "snapped" back to attention maybe 5 min from bell. Need more sleep...not sure if the dullness I'm experience is practice or sleep related.
-----------------------------------

5 FEB, 2017

9:00AM - 9:45AM
Longer sit. Feels like I'm suffering/stressing less about perceived progress with practice. Focusing on breath again...earnestly and honestly doing drills to bring attention back. Stage 3/4 sit - fending off gross distraction, but some mind wandering and boredom in end. Fought off 4 separate instances of "stand up" urges. Happy to hit the final bell without quitting.

8:15PM - 9:00PM
Very scattered...had to go to the bathroom 10min in...after that, mind wandering...stood up early to go move my laundry from the communal washer for housemate. Obsessive with posture to compensate for hurt foot.
------------------------------------

6 FEB, 2017

8:45-9:30AM
Pretty clear focus on breath. Some mind wandering near end. Minor body discomfort. I sat tailor posture instead of seiza, but not bad. Leg fell asleep twice - 2nd time went to move it and it felt strange/separated from me. Crow caw came "in" to my mind as a weird vibrating grind until perception put it together as a crow caw. Final bell startled me, but I kind of "saw" the movement of startled through my head.

8:45PM - 9:30PM
Mind wandering fairly consistently. Legs fell asleep reallll bad. Felt like I sat with it for at least 20min. Got super intense, almost felt like I was going to shift gears on it, but naw. Extended legs maybe 5min from sit completion. Repeatedly hit a fairly "equanimous" point of observation on leg pain, and watched it take hold of my mind again. Back and forth.
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7 FEB, 2017

6:45AM - 7:30AM
Sleepy at start. Dullness between me and breath. Lots of gross distraction and some mind wandering. Had to take a "constitutional" during, but held back. That caused some stress and distress. Vague hints of agitation in background...impatience about practice.

9:45PM - 10:30PM
Wow, sleepy. Very sleepy. Intense itches popped up repeatedly. At one point opened my eyes and visual field was throbbing slowly. plenty of hypnagogic imagery / sleepiness / dullness.
------------------------------

8 FEB, 2017

6:45am - 7:30am
Very sleepy. Mind wandering in the truest sense. Some moments of fleeting concentration. Had a few strong emotions come up but tried not to participate - separated body-reaction from mind-story. Definitely need more sleep.

9:00PM-9:45PM
Good sit... gross distraction, back and forth from breath to distraction...felt like I got "deep" a couple times. Lots of face buzzing, had a ramp-up / expansion sensation as I considered each inhale/exhale is a finite,temporary experience..noticing the complete "goneness" of that inhale/exhale during the space between the next inhale/exhale. Got too excited about the sensation and lost it. Couple other weird proprioceptive moments. Got a little lost searching for an experience after that...tried to note if I was scripting or efforting too hard for an experience. Came "back" from what was apparently a deeper state in a synchronous way with my timer...right before the bell went off. The change was from more internal exploration to surface observation. External awareness that had collapsed expanded again, but internal awareness closed back up.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/9/17 10:48 PM as a reply to Geoff.
9 FEB, 2017

7:00AM - 7:40AM
Standard gross distraction practice. Came and went throughout. Maybe more distraction than not. Some old memories came up at the end - not much bodily reaction to anything. Experienced some hypnogogic / dullness imagery..slippery and fast paced.

7:30PM - 8:15PM
Knew I was going to be fighting dullness before I even sat down, so a friend recommended I stand and meditate. Gave standing a shot....was a lot like sitting, except new bodily discomfort at the end. Gross distraction the entire time...I don't think i could have focused for a 10 count of breath. The breath was still there, I just wasn't paying it much attention. Body was shaking and uncomfortable by the last 10 minutes...knees hurt...noticed a lot of agitation and frustration about the body and how distracted I was. When I was present, face tingles and warm hands. It's wild how fast and seamless the transition is from presence to being utterly convinced by my mind that I need to pay attention to something. It feels like it's my own thought process taking me down an important road, but it's some random sleepy vision telling me this or that. Breaking back through the wall of sleepy images only gets harder and harder as the sit goes on. This is tough stuff. Going to bed early tonight.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/12/17 8:13 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10 FEB, 2017

7:00AM - 7:45AM
Fairly calm and relaxed. Was able to count multiple 10-breaths in a row, though a gross distraction often appeared around counts 7-10. Multiple instances of stress, anxiety, fear, irritation popped up around the distractions as they arose. Maybe some metta t the beginning of a sit would be beneficial. Breath was generally present, body sensations felt fine, didn't get overly dull. Caffeine helps.

Evening Sit
Had one but didn't write anything down about it.

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11 FEB, 2017

7:00AM - 7:20AM
Felt focused and present, but plenty of gross distraction. Didn't "forget" the breath at all, though, by TMI parlance. Mild nose/face tingling. Realized my lip was being held in a tense position halfway through and relaxed. Wish I had more time to keep sitting.

8:45PM - 9:30PM
Thought I was going to sit w/ dullness but was surprisingly concentrated at the start of the sit. As I tried following my breath from one to the next, dullness set in. Fortunately, I actually managed to successfully chase it off a few times by using the TMI antidotes (exhale forcefully through mouth, tense all muscles, flex perineim while sucking gut in sharply). Once the thick veil of sleepiness had been pulled off, I found I was able to ramp up my mental energy and hold a stronger intention to follow each inhale/exhale and notice the spaces in between.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/13/17 11:57 AM as a reply to Geoff.
12 FEB, 2017

10:30AM - 12:00PM 1:30hr
Long sit. Dealt with dullness the whole time. Slipping in and out of hypnagogic distraction. Got pretty concentrated @ 40min. Felt an OK balance of intro/extro while walking for 10min in the middle. Head got a dense feeling, participation/presence in the world faded in and out in pieces. Got to a decent, calm concentrated place for 20min after I sat back down. Seemed like my eyelids got brighter and my brain quieted down. Surprisingly little "background noise", but very seductive dullness - slipped in before I could see anything, transformed my breath counting/focus into the object of DISTRACTION instead of attention. Got impatient and uncomfortable near the end...bent forward and backward twice to relieve back pain.

10:00PM-10:45PM 45min
Read a good comment online correlating my previous sit's slippery dullness with boredom. I tried to firmly renew my intention at the breath when I came back to it. Felt like I stayed with the breath a fair amount, but definitely lots of dullness pushing and pulling. Got impatient near the end...foot and back pain.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/13/17 11:58 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 50-57

TMI Stages: Stage 3-4

Feels like the "honeymoon" of picking up meditation practice has well and truly worn off, and now it's just me and the work to be done. I don't mean that to sound overly negative -- I'm proud and happy that practice is now a pillar of my daily life, and feel calm and steady around my effort to keep improving. I have a lot of work to do on concentration "fundamentals", and will continue to reduce my striving and comparing thoughts as much as possible. This could take me a long time - years - so I had better learn to enjoy the moment 

Dullness was the name of the game this week. Especially during the latter half - I'm not having a problem forgetting my breath, but am definitely getting bored and distracted from following it while I sit. This invites all sorts of sleepy, slippery fantasies to set in, and soon I'm having a grand old time whizzing around in my head with the idea of breath in the background. I'm practicing renewing my intention as I come back from a distraction, practicing feeling what a strong intention actually feels like, and trying to practice ramping up mental energy on my own without needing external forces to do it for me.

Not a whole lot of words to say about last week. I'm looking forward to this week.

Goals for this next week:
1. Increase noting / anapanasati time off the cushion
2. Improve / increase deditation to the object while on the cushion
3. Make mindful decisions around my compulsions

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/14/17 12:07 PM as a reply to Geoff.
13 FEB, 2017

7:20AM-7:50AM 30min
Nice sit. Felt stable and concentrated...took the mind back from distraction firmly and gently. Body felt strong and stable. May have been some "dull abiding"... I didn't do much breath investigation or extro/intro awareness, but it felt nice. Drifted near the end.

10:00PM-10:45PM 45min
Cloudy pea soup. Everything felt strained...even my breath felt like it was trying to squeeze itself through a tight place. Neck and head tension. Lots of dullness, didn't actively participate in anything, just floated aimlessly. Didn't get drowsy, though. Bell came up really fast, which I hear is a clear indicator of dullness.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/15/17 11:55 AM as a reply to Geoff.
14 FEB, 2017

8:00AM-8:30AM 30min
Wow! Cultivated concentration by counting 10's for 10min -- got 4-5 10's in a row consistently. Breath focus was strong. Renewed intention for outbreath on top of inbreath, and vice versa. Had a proprioceptive insight that I've been watching my breath from the "left" side so tried watching from the "right" instead, and then tried "above". Got a little dull in the 2nd half, but was able to come back to the breath reliably. Nice!

10:00PM-10:45PM 45min
Started dull, thought "It would be a miracle if I got concentrated". Counted 10's over and over...after 15 min and with some metta/cultivation of joy, I managed to get something like concentration. Dullness came and went as an overlay on the breath, but I was at least mostly there. Didn't completely forget the breath, but it definitely slid to the back a few times. Faded some towards the middle and end...noticed my face kept creeping into weird twisted tense shapes. My bottom lip kept pushing up into a pouty shape...had to keep relaxing my chin.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/17/17 10:43 AM as a reply to Geoff.
16 FEB, 2017

7:45-815AM
A bit dull and drifty. Some tension and guilt about decisions I made yesterday. Found myself clinging to my breath as a life raft from the anxiety spin. Hit a "cutting edge" type feeling of awareness/attention balance, but couldn't keep it up for very long. Didn't have the mouth tension thing happening this sit. Felt nice and collected when the bell went off.

6:00PM-6:45PM
Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy. Met with a meditation teacher earlier who gave some good general advice about TMi, but I didn't carry any of that into the sit. Just nodded off the whole time...felt hard to get my intention to cut through the muck. I ate a bunch of candy right before I sat so maybe my blood sugar was being wonky. zzzzz.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/18/17 1:07 PM as a reply to Geoff.
17 FEB, 2017

7:00-7:45AM
Pretty dull, carried anxiety about work into the sit which spun around and made me more and more anxious. Tried to sit "above" the anxiety..."nothing is happening, nothing is happening", which seemed to diminish the feeling a bit. Missed 2 days of my anti-anxiety meds, which may have something to do with it. I tried to sit in my feelings as they arose, but got confused around concentration vs insight efforts. Looked at the phone w/ 3 minutes left.

5:45-6:30PM
Interesting. After a day of stressing, I sat down fairly agitated and said, "I don't give a fuck!" about distraction, dullnes, etc. Invited it all in. If it wants to play, come play. My brain went absolutely haywire for 5 minutes or so, total white noise banging and screaming and whirling around, but interestingly enough, I was able to "reside" on my breath in the middle and watch it all spin around me. The rest of the sit was fairly distracted from that point, but it felt good to not try so hard for a sit.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/18/17 10:46 PM as a reply to Geoff.
18 FEB, 2017

7:30AM-8:15AM
Mood was stable. Calm and collected for most of the sit. Distractions came and went, though more distracted than not. Experimented with not efforting distractions away from my breath like yesterday's "fuck it" sit. Not sure if this is "doing it right" or not.

12:00PM - 12:30PM
Stable and strong. Breaths were deep, regular, and easy to follow. Felt a deepening of concentration and awareness....I guess meaning thoughts "slowed down", body awareness got tuned up. Stayed with the breath while not rejecting distractions a la "fuck it." Bell rang after 20min but felt good so I kept sitting. Felt like something might happen, but was just a nice, solid sit.

7:45PM-8:30PM
Was yawning 2x a minute before I sat down. I dreaded practicing with the dullness/sleepiness. However, first 15 minutes became very solid, steady feeling of concentration on my breath and sense of awareness. Strong pressure sensations in my nose during this time, but breath wasn't affected. Everything felt heavy. Heavy mind, heavy body, heavy attention. Did some "connecting": per Culadasa...keeping the intention to notice what sensations were new/different in each inhale than the one before it, same for exhales. This got pretty intense in my head...buzzing, nose vibration, was concerned about losing the strong concentration so I backed off the connecting a little bit. Nose feeling dissipated after 15min and things became "lighter", less concentrated. Spent most of the sit between dullness visions and coming back to the breath. Awareness was not strong after the first 15min. Got startled twice by the fridge going off/on.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/18/17 11:27 PM as a reply to Geoff.
hey Geoff!
Solid persistent practice Geoff...

"Had a proprioceptive insight that I've been watching my breath from the "left" side so tried watching from the "right" instead, and then tried "above"."

I was wondering did you follow up on what was going on with that? Hint, hint emoticon

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/19/17 11:44 PM as a reply to supaluqi.
I was wondering did you follow up on what was going on with that? Hint, hint emoticon
No, not quite...I'm trying to keep my focus on shamatha practice for now while I build concentration.  I plan to "swap over" to vipassana once I feel ready, or once it starts arising on its own during concentration practice.  I understand both practices are hard to keep separated emoticon

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/20/17 12:55 AM as a reply to Geoff.
19 FEB, 2017

10:00AM - 11:00AM
Public sit at the local Shambhala center. First half of the sit was nicely concentrated on breath, sort of how my last few sits have been. At the break for walking meditation, I was a bit drifty trying to keep focus on feet sensations. One thing of note was that as I walked by Noah, I saw the mental concept of "Noah" rise up in my head more clearly than the "real" Noah walking past me. The second part of the sit was pretty distracted...public sit problems. Coughing, shuffling, loud biological noises of all sorts.

Hanging out afterwards at a busy coffee shop, I was doing anapana seemingly automatically and it felt like everything looked really intense, detailed, and clear. I felt very grounded and centered on my stool and kept a strong, rigid posture throughout. It was difficult to engage meaningfully in conversation because all the details kept popping out, or I'd get really into seeing how clear everything looked/sounded/felt., and I didn't want to say much a lot of the time. I was able to listen very clearly, though, and found myself laughing naturally and easily at stuff I thought was funny. In a way it felt like a come-up on shrooms....that same sort of flushed happiness / hummy / expectant feeling. It lasted the whole time I was at the coffee shop, and for most of the walk to my car.

3:00PM-3:30PM
I couldn't keep focus on the cushion at all. I got very agitated and impatient a few times, but tried to sit it out. I looked at my phone after 20 minutes. My eyes snapped open a few times, mind completely on "normal stuff", ready to stand up. I bailed early on the sit after this happened a couple more times and the impatience / agitation won the day.

*edit* had a third sit

10:20PM - 10:50PM
Concentration was about the same as usual...generally some distractions and dullness, but this sit (and earlier in the day) was characterized by strong tightness in what feels like my sternocleidomastoid muscles (the long muscles going from your jaw to your clavicle down both sides of your neck). Felt really tight starting behind my jawbone and going down the length of the muscle. Both sides of my neck would twitch and throb on occasion. My lower lip did the tensing up thing so all together it was like my face wanted to lock into some kind of grimace. I mostly just tried to keep my lip relaxed and used the neck sensation as an object instead of my nose. Altogether kind of unpleasant.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/20/17 12:26 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Geoff:
I'm trying to keep my focus on shamatha practice for now while I build concentration.  I plan to "swap over" to vipassana once I feel ready, or once it starts arising on its own during concentration practice.  I understand both practices are hard to keep separated emoticon

You're absolutely right... totally solid!

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/20/17 9:55 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Just realized I forgot to do the weekly summary yesterday. 3 day weekend...let's just call this Sunday. I'm also coloring this post because I had a hard time finding my last weekly one amidst the other bold title text.

Days 57-64

TMI Stages: Stage 3-4

Some interesting things seem to be happening on and off the cushion. I've had a few moments where practice seemed to auto-start while I was doing other things, and I'm generally noticing a greater awareness of, and attention to, how my body moves through space. I've had a few sits of weird sensations as well - tightness and twitching and muscle spasms in places that are fine when I'm not sitting. Had a day of intense detail off-cushion and strong attention to people/things/sensation. I'm noticing that even though I'm self-proclaiming a separation from the progress of Insight, I'm at some level excited about having sensations that might appear on the map, and the little voice that wants to diagnose and locate my practice is whispering to me again. I'm doing my best to stick to measuring progress via my pal DW's simplified map -- 1. Not in EQ 2. In EQ. I think all I can really do is keep sitting and keep my intentions strong.

I danced with over-efforting / under-efforting a few times this week, which was interesting and illuminating for me. It seems that there are some moments where it's good to let the guard down, so long as I can generally stay present and aware while the guard's down. And hey, if I can't, that's fine too.

I'm also noticing that since these other distracting things are happening, I'm not being as fastidious with my TMI practice as I probably should be. "Shoulding" isn't a great thing to get in the habit of, but I need to remember to use the lower-level Stage practices for the lower-level difficulties I'm encountering - distraction, dullness, and forgetting. That's my goal this week - let whatever random sensations happen as they do, but keep the intention strong to work on my shamatha goals.

Goals for this next week:
1. Solid shamatha practice

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/20/17 9:58 PM as a reply to Geoff.
20 FEB, 2017

12:30PM-1:15PM
Abiding in distraction. Neck muscle twitched a lot, but not as tense as yesterday. Distractions and dullness abound.

7:00PM - 7:45PM
Dull, distracted. Neck got really tight and twitchy again. Mouth kept wanting to twist into weird shapes. Breath was steady in awareness, but just as binary inhale/exhale - couldn't stay deep with it for very long, or discern many subtle sensations. Hypnagogic imagery. Tried doing the various dullness antitotes to no real avail. I think my intentions could use some strengthening / refreshing.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/23/17 12:26 AM as a reply to Geoff.
21 FEB, 2017

Forgot to journal entirely. Still sat twice as usual. I mostly remember distractions, but the PM sit was a little more in the balance of concentrated vs. distracted.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/23/17 12:26 AM as a reply to Geoff.
22 FEB, 2017

7:15AM - 7:55AM
Trying to up my intention power again. Trying to remember the basic procedural loops in TMI...gladden the mind...joy at returning. This week feels like a regression. This sit was concentrated at the beginning but drifted in the middle. Bathroom urges came knocking so bailed 6min before the bell. Working on staying "present" and calming down the past/future obsessing per some advice I got. There's lots of comparing / evaluating going on all the time as I sit.

9:45PM-10:15PM
Distractions. Tried doing some mental insight games. Imagined the movement of my experience as individual frames in a film projector. Tried to see the lens I'm using to see my lens with. Very distracted. Or, dull? My breath is there but it's always being distorted and used for fantasies and stories and nonsensical thoughts. Lots of itches tonight, like crazy. Intense ones. One went from a strong stabbing buzz feeling to a cool, dull pulling sensation in a quick 180. Tried to see the impermanence in that. Must gladden the mind.....

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/24/17 11:02 AM as a reply to Geoff.
23 FEB, 2017

7:15AM - 8:00AM
Nice sit this morning. Did the six-step intention setting exercise from TMI and ironed out some wrinkles in my expectations vs. goals vs. reality. Held a strong intention to cultivate joy when I dropped the breath or got distracted. Even if I didn't manage to "make more" joy, the net result of not ADDING more negativity was just as good. Nose sensation disappeared for a bit, so I focused on belly movement, and had a strong experience of my center of attention shifting into my torso and out of my face, where I had apparently thought it resided. I sensed a clear separation of the attention in my belly vs. the observer in my head. I kept baiting my annoyed/perfectionist mind into attention with reminders about "this is the present", visualizing the frames of experience as they went by, clearly saw from one side of my head how the annoyance/perfectionism was a separate process on the other side of my head, as opposed to an overlay or lens on observation.

10:15-10:35PM
Past my bedtime. Did the 6 step intention thing again. No focus this sit, but that's OK. I felt hot and still and crackly, kind of like the beginning of a cold. What distractions there were weren't concrete ones, and the dullness that was present wasn't slippery and was less of a narrative as usual. More abstract floating in bodily sensation than anything. My face felt hot, tight, and bloated. Moving my mouth to smile at a return from distraction felt mechanical and awkward, like my eye muscles weren't willing to do their part in the smile and I couldn't remember how to flex them. Sticky, slow mind.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/25/17 10:07 AM as a reply to Geoff.
24 FEB, 2017

7:15AM - 8:00AM
Lots of body anxiety. Probably overcaffeinated. Felt like I was trying to keep a lot of energy contained in a box that wasn't big enough. Cool thing was that I didn't suffer about it - kept ot my breath as best as I could, did some investigation of the feeling vs the emotion. Had a tiny, tiny flash where I saw how there wasn't any anxiety "in" my tense jaw...like the concept of anxiety was not physically located in my face. Distractions and dullness came and went. Feeling happy post-sit about how nicely this joy cultivation thing seems to be working.

9:15PM-9:45PM
Took a trip to Vancouver so am testing out sitting in a "muggle" group house environment. Seems fine so far. After a long day of driving, this sit showed me what Culadasa warns about meditating w/ dullness - felt nice, stable, calm, relaxed, but also completely aimless.....drifting, not paying attention to anything in particular. Had some neck tightness and head pressure when I did manage to come to the breath. Final bell came up quite quickly.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/26/17 10:07 PM as a reply to Geoff.
25 FEB, 2017

7:15AM - 7:45AM
Decent sit, trying to get it done before everyone woke up. Heard some noise upstairs and watched the increase in thought speed / brain agitation considering folks coming downstairs to "find me" on the bench. Sit "work" was good - cultivating joy, feeling into how nice the breath is to reside in. Nose sensations were pretty minimal so I tried to feel into the torso as well. Not much dullness, but definitely some distraction.

12:15AM - 12:35AM
Late night back from going out. Sit was fairly concentrated all the same. My jaw has been so tight and tense when I sit recently, and carries over off the cushion, and vice versa. My neck felt tight as I sat, and moving my head around felt really awkward and uncomfortable. It was like my head either didn't want to move at my command, or if it did move, the muscles couldn't coordinate to do it smoothly. My neck felt like it would "snap back" into a certain position like my head was held by rubber bands. As I concentrated on the breath, the muscles at the base of my skull got rigid and my head kept wanting to shift into slightly skewed positions.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/26/17 10:07 PM as a reply to Geoff.
26 FEB, 2017

7:15AM - 7:45AM
Tired from being up too late. Couldn't get concentrated. Jaw tightness still prevalent.

7:15PM - 7:45PM
Set intent to catch a few distractions before they took me away this sit. Mind felt pretty tired, but "bigger" than usual. Nice and stable watching my breath. A couple times it felt like I had changed gears or slipped a level deeper into something, but I climbed "out" to stay with the breath, so it was probably dullness. Later in the sit it happened again so I decided to let it be, whatever it was, and stay with the breath if I could. My jaw was, once again, super-fucking-tight. I tried to examine that deeply. It felt like I could breath through my jaw muscles after some investigation. I did some "jaw muscle breathing" for a bit and eventually a blob of buzzy pressure arose in my right eyebrow and moved to settle between my eyebrows. Had a brief second where it felt like a ton of tiny pinpricks of experience were appearing in my head very quickly, or something like that. I tried not to clench around whatever was happening but probably clenched around not clenching and lost it. Drifted further out as the sit progressed and zen lurched twice right before the bell.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/26/17 10:17 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 64-71

TMI Stages: Stage 3-4

More interesting stuff seems to be happening, but I'm trying not to script and I'm trying not to get too excited / expectant / self-narrative when something different occurs. I'm trying to keep true to TMI practice as I go as well...still have a lot of work to do with intro/extrospective awareness, noticing distractions before they take over my attention, and so on.

Going to experiment with lowering caffeine consumption this week to take a variable out of my tight jaw problems, and do some nightly stretching. Jaw stretches are hilarious.

Also doing a fair bit of consideration of the Eightfold Path and thinking about bringing more of that kind of moral structure into my life. If the pyramid of practice goes Moral Hygiene -> Concentration -> Insight -> ??? it'd be cool to have a nice, solid base. I know I feel more stable and present if I don't have anxieties or issues I'm avoiding. Of course, I could also learn to sit with that anxiety  Plenty to do.

Goals for this next week:
1. Get good sleep
2. Jaw stretches
3. Catch distractions before they nab attention (as much as I can, and be cool with it if I can't)

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
2/28/17 12:40 PM as a reply to Geoff.
27 FEB, 2017

7:30AM - 8:00AM
Subtle breath sensations. Mood was generally good, dullness overrode concentration a few times. Worked on punching my way out of the hypnagogic shell that kept settling in around me. I worked on connecting breaths, comparing inhale to the prior inhale and exhale to the prior exhale. Jaw only tightened up near the end, when dullness dropped in some work thoughts.

10:25PM - 10:55PM
Feel a little like I have a cold. Scratchy throat, dry eyes, flushed face. Thought I might just drift around all sit, but I was able to stay with the breath pleasantly the whole time. Some distractions came up but I never wandered very far. Not much jaw tightness...the lower half of my skull/head/jaw felt very airy and spacious. Breathing "sensation" happened in my jaw muscles, spread to my cheeks, and eventually it was like my cheeks disappeared and became the breath themselves. Some dullness settled in about halfway through. Nose sensations were kind of weak throughout but were replaced by the face breathing sensations.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/1/17 11:22 AM as a reply to Geoff.
28 FEB, 2017

AM
Whoops, completely forgot to journal this sit. That's what I got for sitting right until the last second I need to run for the bus 

9:20PM - 10:00PM
Started out focusing on breath, felt good and "together" at the beginning, but dullness soon had me in its grasp. I tried various antidotes - gut sucking in + perineum flex, tightening all body muscles, and exhaling forcefully through pursed lips - but nothing stuck. I just wanted to sleep. I eventually stood up for the last 15 minutes, noticed how my balance got sloppy when dullness set in. I called it with 5 minutes left to go because I just totally wasn't there anymore. Gonna put that 5 minutes towards sleep and call it practice, heh.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/2/17 12:53 AM as a reply to Geoff.
7:30AM-8:00AM
Felt pretty light and calm while sitting. Breath was really, really subtle throughout. I thought about switching to torso observation but instead opted to see how subtle of sensations I could observe. Even if I couldn't "feel" anything in my nostrils, I still knew I was exhaling, so where was that coming from? I felt some very subtle pressure on the exhale, at least. Lots of distraction and dullness mid-sit. I think I spend a lot of my day in dullness. I'd like to break through that off cushion as well. Rest of the sit was very subtle sensations...kept extrospective awareness up but as a result I never felt like I got "deep". Had some nice concentration 5min from the end.

10:10PM-10:40PM
Immediately felt straight and rigid as I sat down, like my skeleton was an unmoving metal structure and I was draped around it. My breath focus had that same rigidity to it, which felt quite helpful if a bit overeffort-ish. Breath was like an anchor while getting washed around by distractions. My breath had more of an "object" quality to it this sit....I had a 3rd person view of it, felt more like I was holding onto it, not breathing it. I think that's where I get the anchor view from...had a mental image of holding onto a heavy thing like a kettle bell underwater while my body tried floating upwards. Breath sensation was clear throughout the sit, even if distractions came in front of it. Breath got really fast at one point and I felt intense, almost like fight or flight. A dog outside made a very startling and strange yelp at one point. Near the end, I noticed I was sorta just hanging out, so I tried to redirect intention towards following my breath and catching distractions before they overtook the breath. Can't say I'm great at that yet, but that's OK 

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/2/17 2:51 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Geoff:
my skeleton was an unmoving metal structure and I was draped around it...Breath was like an anchor while getting washed around by distractions. My breath had more of an "object" quality to it this sit....I had a 3rd person view of it, felt more like I was holding onto it, not breathing it. I think that's where I get the anchor view from...had a mental image of holding onto a heavy thing like a kettle bell underwater while my body tried floating upwards.
Interesting spontaneous 'grounding' imagery... earth and water elements dominate.

Sometimes I get the spontaneous image of one of those skydancer inflatables with a raggedy shirt, tethered to the ground, but swaying around, the feeling of the uprush of air and the shirt fluttering wildly! Mostly 'hot air' element emoticon

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/3/17 12:51 PM as a reply to Geoff.
2 MAR, 2017

7:15AM - 8:00AM
Started out feeling very still and very calm, labeling the distractions that took me away from the breath. Eventually, the distractions quieted down and I fetl very still and quiet on the breath. I was able to call out and prevent distractions as they arose, which was rad - that's been one of my main intentions going into each sit. Unfortunately, as I sat in the quiet calm, I saw dullness take the opportunity to come sliding on in. And so it did. I spent the second half of the sit sinking and trying to swim back up to the surface. I notice that I hold the intention to really "see" the three bell strikes at the end of the sit and watching my breath while the bells ring is really grounding / brings me back into focus. Might try some sound meditation to see how that works for me.

9:45PM - 10:15PM
Very dull, very distracted. Probably ate too much before I sat. Even my six-step intention setting was half-hearted and scattered. Had Joseph Goldstein's voice in my head saying, "A bhikku abides, ardent, clearly knowing...." which perked me up for a second, but right back down I went. I do notice that I'm sorta writing this practice log in my head as I sit, or doing that level of evaluation as I sit, which feels a little problematic. Not sure what to do about that one quite yet - I like keeping the journal.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/3/17 12:52 PM as a reply to supaluqi.
Sometimes I get the spontaneous image of one of those skydancer inflatables with a raggedy shirt, tethered to the ground, but swaying around, the feeling of the uprush of air and the shirt fluttering wildly! Mostly 'hot air' element emoticon


wacky waving inflatable-arm flailing tube-yogi? emoticon

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/3/17 6:34 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Geoff:

wacky waving inflatable-arm flailing tube-yogi? emoticon


ummm, yeah you probably nailed it...occasionally becomes untethered and deflates ascending in loops towards the heavens with a fart sound before falling back to earth to start again!

Welcome to my personal samsara....need more nails for that tether!

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/5/17 12:27 AM as a reply to Geoff.
3 MAR, 2017

Forgot to journal today. I do remember that both sits were very, very dull. Hypnagogia out the wazoo. I tried moving my focus from nostrils to stomach during the morning sit and found that I had a really hard time getting my attention to reside anywhere but my face. I just kept going back to trying to see my breath like a habitual reaction. If I could get my torso attention up, it felt kind of stressful / uncomfortable.


4 MAR, 2017

9:50AM - 10:20AM
Pretty distracted. Tried not to think about specific things that I'd have to journal about later, and now I can't remember much of what happened. Seemed like I wasn't all there - lots and lots of distraction. Having a hard time breaking through that and getting back to concentration....it's been a few days like this now, hopefully the pendulum swings back soon. Jaw got really tight again and so did some muscles at the back of my skull.

9:30PM-10:00PM
Started out feeling very...thick, and heavy, but concentrated. Stayed with my breath for maybe half the sit or so, and then dullness slept into the calm spaces and I started drifting. Some mild face breathing sensations and buzzing around my nostrils/jaw/face. Jaw got a little tight at the end.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/6/17 12:32 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 71-78

Sleepy, sleepy, distracted week. Don't feel like much of anything got done this week. Just drifting and falling asleep. I'm going to try and make some lifestyle changes to accommodate greater energy....watch what I eat, maybe, and sit earlier in the day. Zzzz....I feel lethargic even writing about this. I'm sleepy now, and haven't sit yet for the evening....I bet I am sleepy on the cushion tonight as well...... zzzzzzzzz

Goals for this next week:
1. Sleep
2. Hopefully wake up

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/6/17 12:34 PM as a reply to Geoff.
5 MAR, 2017

AM
No AM sit today - got up at 5AM to go hiking and didn't have time. Fortunately, I don't feel guilty about it and am not beating myself up for missing a sit, which feels good - not striving/clinging to some arbitrary perfectionism on "2 a day every day", though I still hold a strong intention to do so.

9:30PM-10:00PM
Still but soupy - tried immersing myself in the distractions again instead of fighting them off. Got concentrated a few times, very briefly, throughout. Can't follow my breath to 10 clearly and consistently lately. Neck pain.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/7/17 12:14 PM as a reply to Geoff.
6 MAR, 2017

7:15AM - 8:00AM
Very drifty and distracted. "Sinking mind". Surprisingly unfocused for me lately, and that's considering how unfocused I've felt recently. Mind wandering. Pain in my neck and at the back of my head. Near the end of the sit I could come back to the breath once or twice a minute but straight back to distraction without my noticing.

10:30PM-10:55PM
Woof. Sat down sleepy and basically fell asleep. Got off the cushion w/5min to go because I'd rather sleep in my bed.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/8/17 12:58 PM as a reply to Geoff.
7 MAR, 2017

7:30AM - 8:00AM
Hey hey, this went OK. I could actually count the times I got pulled away from the breath (4-5) so I KNOW I spent more time concentrated than not. I'm trying not to force concentration any more than I need to. Keeping external awareness up and clear seems like it helps keep the rest of the stuff in order.

9:30PM - 10:15PM
Body kept nice and still. First 15min was consistently concentrated. Mind wandered in the second 15min, but I managed to come back by the end. I had some anxiety thoughts creep in and my breath started racing, fight or flight, but I watched that happen and watched the breaths slowly get longer and slower as I calmed back down. Some shaking/jerking when I try to keep my mind "following" each breath without missing a moment. Seems like I tense up or shake around the top/bottom of the breath when I renew my intention. Maybe over-efforting?

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/13/17 1:36 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Moving back to a weekly summary format so I do less mental practice logging while I should be practicing.

Days 78-85

Weird week. Hindrances of Doubt and Aversion are strong. I kept sitting, but had no real idea why I was doing it. It seemed like I'd sit and have no clue what I was doing anymore. All the TMI instructions, whatever I've read, all the advice I've gotten more or less just fizzled into deep, deep dullness. Not even sleepy-type dullness, just sitting and looking at my breath and not knowing why and not believing I was going to get any answers. I tried setting intentions, but didn't believe them. I even ditched one or two sits, justified by overtiredness but with the subtle understanding that I just didn't want to do it.

Met with Tucker Peck on Thursday and talked to him about my last week of impenetrable distraction, and he said it sounds like I'm repressing something. His instructions were to set the intention to observe whatever arises as compelling in my awareness -- that there's some unconscious process that wants to keep me from seeing something, so I have to try to counter that with a conscious process.

The thought of repressing something made me feel very sad, so I tried sitting with sad, but it never really felt like it changed or went anywhere. I'm still trying to do that - I notice that the "investigative angle" helps me stay a little more focused and less bored/hopeless about my breath concentration. The next couple days were full of almost despair type sadness - maximum doubt - unhelpful thoughts about not "getting it" and never "getting it". It's made me pretty averse to sitting and having to go through more of that - which is funny, because I see how that's more repression/aversion to the aversion and so on in a big recursive mess.

That all being said, tonight was a decent sit. I went to the Compline service at our local episcopalian cathedral. It's a lovely sung service, traditionally the last chants of the monks for the week, though this is just a choir. Idk if it needs to be said, but I don't identify as Christian, but I do really enjoy OLD church choir music and gregorian chant type stuff. Very peaceful and contemplative for me. Sitting there was very relaxing, and it felt like my concentration got deep, especially at the beginning. My eyes were half open but my visual field faded to murky black/red and for once my eyes weren't jerking around reflexively with each thought disturbance. It felt good to sit there calm and collected for once in what feels like forever.

Gonna stop this entry before I continue to wax on the theme of "woe is me", but I'm; hoping this week shows me some signs that whatever I'm doing is still in the right direction.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/29/17 12:13 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Fallen a bit behind here.

Days 85-92

I got pretty distracted this week by another hobby of mine (this phone game Ingress) that made my regular-ish schedule highly irregular. I've mostly only sat in the morning, and not for as long as usual. My sleep schedule is all kinds of screwed up, so I've gotten a nice insight into what it's like to try to practice with deep sleep deprivation.

Not any big news to report this week, other than me generally not stressing about missing some sits. It's nice to not beat yourself up about something. I've also noticed a slight downtick in hypnagogic dullness in my sits - even while as sleep deprived as I am, it feels more like a slightly heavier blanket of subtle dullness. That weird sense of physical dissonance you get when despondently tired. Not falling asleep, not drifting in weird dreamtown, but generally present. I tried experimenting with body-breathing during a few sits where distractions and dullness quieted down. I think I'm going to read Stage 5 in TMI soon and start trying some of that out on the off chance my sits are calm and collected. It seems like it happens more than it used to.

One sit, I noticed that I'm still having dissatisfied thoughts about hitting deeper concentration in practice - like I get to a stable spot and then think, "ok so now what?" Like I impatiently want everything to work like a big stack of dominos all in an instant. Felt nice to notice it rather than participate too much in it - if it happens again, I'll keep watching and see what that's all about.

Goals for this week are to get enough sleep and to get back to sitting twice a day. I don't want to slowly weasel my way out of this habit I've worked to hard to establish. I'm so tired...



Days 92-99

Got lots of sleep and am feeling a bit better about things this Sunday.

Still felt pretty stuck earlier in the week.... kept doing attention at the nose, trying to keep spirits up. I hit another low "despair" point of this cycle on Tuesday or Wednesday, at which point I realized this was my sixth or so cycle of "Perceive Progress = Success" to "Perceive Regression = Failure". It's just a thing that keeps happening. Talked to my therapist about it and she laughed a bit, and pointed out that the "cycle" isn't practice, and doesn't really have anything to do with practice. It's my experience of my personal lens of "not good enough".... My buddy Dominic pointed out that it's not the discomfort that's the problem, but my relation to the discomfort... so there's a theme going here. That stuff is starting to make sense.

Talked with Tucker Peck about practice on Thursday. I guess he's my teacher now. He wanted to know what indicators of progress were for me, so I said "the consistency with which I can do TMI "following" on my breath without interruption" and "dullness doesn't seem hypnagogic anymore". He was like, "You need to work on your awareness." So my practice now is to set an intention to NOT focus on my nostril breath sensations so hard, and instead set an intention to see what arises in my awareness as it arises.. or in other words, vipassana. This threw me for another loop even though he said "It's going to be uncomfortable at first, like using your triceps when you're used to using your biceps." I still spent the first couple days like "UGH AWARENESS, WHAT EVEN IS IT? WHY AM I SO BAD AT THIS" before I chilled out. The SPUDS crew was very encouraging and helpful at our Friday meeting about this. It's funny that when I started TMI, I was impatient to do vipassana b/c I wanted to see the Progress of Insight, but now that I'm doing vipassana, I'm annoyed and want to go back to straight samatha. This is all kind of funny, and I have to laugh at myself.

As far as that practice is going, I started out trying to feel external sensations, body sensations, and then turn it inwards to see what's going on in my head. It's that introspective awareness that's tricky for me. It's hard to feel like I'm checking in as a meditator and not just generating another thought about it. I tried noticing emotions as they arose, and tried neutering them with a lense of "calm observation", but really I was just suppressing the feelings. Now I think I have a decent grasp on what it means to just sit and watch anger / frustration / annoyance / sadness. Not trying to change anything at all about the experience... just to be aware that I'm having that experience. I think Tucker was right about my awareness being weak, and I'm excited to see how this practice progresses throughout this week.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
3/29/17 12:14 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Got some clarification from Tucker on what he wants me to do.

Basically, I'm not "noting" or doing straight vipassana.... I will still try to hold my breath in the center of attention, but try to keep a stronger focus on the stuff in the periphery. So "see/hear/feel" but out of the corner of my "eye" as it were. This does seem a little more TMI-ish than what I was trying to do, which is what Shargrol essentially described.

From the source:

"the idea here is to kind of see the "see/hear/feel" space almost out of the corner of your eye. The labeling involves directly engaging with it. The idea is to try to keep the breath in the center of your attention -- eventually -- and while you're building up to that, to put more emphasis into awareness than attention."

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
4/2/17 10:12 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 99-106

Tried doing Tucker's "out of the corner of your eye" practice all week, with wildly varying degrees of success. Wednesday morning/evening I got so incredibly agitated, upset with practice, mad at myself, mad at my cats, all the good spiraling things a brain out of control will do, and bailed early on the sit (just a few minutes) both times. I wish I had stayed longer, but it was powerful bad stuff. Now I'm wishing it would happen again, almost... might be "purifications" around Stage 4 and I need to sit and let them happen... might be my Wellbutrin prescription acting up on me, who knows. A SPUDS buddy mentioned I might be grieving (my ex) and he may very well be right. Thoughts about her keep popping up throughout the day. All good/nice/happy ones that invariably make me sad -- cute things she did, songs we shared, things I know she'd say or find funny. Maybe I never gave myself the time or opportunity to digest all this, even though I got into meditation to allow myself to get through it. Could've just been another distraction in the way.

Bit of a tangent, but either way, I'm trying to keep my breath in the foreground and amp up clarity on mind/body awareness in the background. Trying to let emotions arise and exist as they are when they appear. Trying not to not apply "force" to emotional release.

Both my therapist and meditation teacher told me (independently) that thoughts are anathema for me and I need to stop relying on them. I'll take that as a sign of sorts. Tucker says to treat my thoughts as sound - trying that during practice, I had a sense of "ok, so who's listening to the sound, then?" which made me feel kind of weird, but the mind rebounded from whatever direction that was going in. Not ready for it yet, I guess.

We did a SPUDS daylong this past weekend, and I spent 8 hours in sinking mind strong dullness. It was seriously impossible to get back out of it. Hypnagogia would usher away any focus I had, and I think my brain used dullness as a shield against the various forms of bodily discomfort I felt. I tried all the antidotes I knew, I tried screaming in my head, I tried generating hype, I tried harnessing the feeling of clarity I knew I'd get when I "released" the retreat and got to go home, but nothing stuck. I guess it gave me a view into how little control I actually have over the mind. I'm trying to practice more receptively as a result. I guess it's good that I don't feel super negative or down on myself for being dull all day yesterday. I'm glad I stuck it out. Two phenomenological things of note are that the green-shrinking-ring-of-light behind my eyelids was very sharp and clear as I sat, and moved faster than normal. It also acquired a purple firework in the middle as it congealed. I don't think it means anything, but that's one phenomenon that's been consistent, so I'll keep an eye on it. I also had an experience of it feeling like my face was getting pulled to the left around my face. I opened my mind up to the feeling of "not-pulling" on the right side of my face and merged the two sides together and it went away.

I think meeting with Tucker each week is going to be good for me. Feels like I could be on the cusp of something. Here's hoping the road continues to unfurl before me.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
4/7/17 10:13 AM as a reply to Geoff.
A few mid-week updates. I met with Tucker on Wednesday and he said I had made a lot of progress in the last week. It's easier to believe you're making progress when someone tells you you're making progress. Looking back, though, there have been a few cool road signs.

1. "Who's listening to the sound of thought?" thing I mentioned in the last post
2. General attitude of EQ towards the 8 hours of dullness Saturday (Tucker: "EQ towards lack of concentration is much stickier than concentration.")
3. "Woe is me" walk home from the bus station, feeling melancholy about the impermanence of everything. The city is changing, I have changed, the people I know have changed, nothing seems to last. Watched myself be sad about that.
4. My eyes usually twitch at the beginning of the sit. For a long time, I've been trying to see the thoughts that are making my eyes twitch. The other day I realized it wasn't content-level thoughts doing it, but the rustling fabric of the pre-content mind.
5. Today at therapy, my therapist said I looked "more solid, more here" than the last few weeks.
6. This one's a little longer. I had an interesting perception today that I'm having a hard time describing. Sitting in the therapy room, I saw that I was in that room within my lens of perception. I started to think about what the room would be like from my therapist's perspective -- it's a basement office room in her house. She has familiarity with the chair, with the angle she sits in, she has less mental story around "this is where I go to therapy." I got a clear sense of us being physical objects sitting on other physical objects in a physical location -- more physical awareness of space than mental story. I got this sense again standing on a street corner later. Less story of "waiting for the bus, work, journey, travel" and more "I'm a thing standing on a surface, cars are things on a surface going by me, etc. etc." That might not make sense, I'm not really sure how to explain it.

All in all, cool stuff seems to be happening and I feel OK about practice since the update. I seem to be on a different, or at least more persistent / more gradual "upswing" of the progress/despair cycle. My therapist had a good point about my "cycle" -- the "happy" side and the "despair" side of the pendulum don't move. They don't change. It's me banging in between them that creates the perception of traveling, progressing forward, changing. The "box" I'm in remains motionless, it's just me running into walls. Something to think about.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
4/11/17 12:20 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 107-114

Been practicing the TMI Stage 5 body scan -- gather attention at nose sensations, then shift to torso breathing sensations. Hold the torso sensation in awareness and shift attention to a body part like the top of the foot, or the ankle, or shin, etc. Try and observe sensation and see what changes with the in/out breath. Try to discern breathing sensations in other parts of the body. Once concentration has been held on those sensations for a period, return to nose sensations and notice how much clearer they were than before.

Most of the time my concentration skips a track when shifting from nose sensation to torso sensation, but one sit I got very still and was able to watch some super subtle in-and-out sensation in my arms. I realized there is a lot of sensation in my body that I "take for granted"... not only are top-level sensations ignored, but those top-level sensations have deeper ones to them, and there's a lot going on that I'm not usually seeing. I'm excited to keep trying this practice and see what comes up.

Had what may have been a big purification moment... some unrelated disappointment and agitation from some stuff on Sunday transformed into sadness about my ex on the cushion, and I almost started crying. I didn't spin the stories in my brain out of control, though, and was able to sit and watch the sadness build up and peak, and then slowly, slowly break up into chunks and fall away. I wouldn't say I was happy afterwards, but I did feel much calmer, more grounded. My dreams have been intense and unpleasant lately as well. Last night I was fighting off a murderous and psychopathic Angelina Jolie with a scimitar and it was extremely vivid and violent. I woke up pretty shaken. I haven't had a dream like that in a long time.

I've also noticed a general decrease in motivation to get on the cushion lately. good chance there's something I want to avoid, then, right? It's fine when I sit down, but even now, I'm here writing this entry to avoid sitting for a little while longer. Tricky business.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
4/17/17 11:29 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 114-120

Four months straight! Not bad.

Not much new stuff this week. Feel's like a slide down the slope o' regression. My friend showed me this graph which seems to perfectly illustrate the path of practice for me:



Haven't been doing many "microhits" off cushion this week, and missed my appointment with Tucker, so kind of missing any external feedback/guidance. I'm still trying to do TMI's Stage 5 body scan, but I have a hard time keeping concentration when transitioning my attention from the nose to the torso to the body part I'm trying to "breathe" through. Seems like there's more work to be done on Stage 4. Dullness and distractions are still lurking in the background.

I also had a near-breakthrough at therapy this week, so am making progress on that front. I got some pathology around a long-standing source of my damage, and now there might be a way forward. At least there's something to grasp onto where previously I was stuck in the muck.

One tiny phenomenon that happened was today, during the latter half of SPUDS Shaktipatluck (daylong retreat). So, I've been getting this collapsing ring of light thing going on behind my eyed for a few weeks now, looks almost exactly like this:
Video #1, 20 seconds in
www.religiousvisionsoflight.com/video.html?1

Normally the ring is kind of blobby, it doesn't flow and shrink so much as it congeals towards the center. For one millisecond during today's sit, though, it flashed extremely bright, brighter than I've ever seen before. Seems like that could be a good sign.

Goal this week is to ramp up consistency any way I can.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
4/24/17 1:40 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 120-127

Doing loop-de-loops around hindrances. Or, waltzing with hindrances. Or, walking into a wall of hindrances over and over while the open door of antidotes stands right next to me. "Just a little longer," I keep saying, hoping this time when I run into the wall, I'll break through it.

Lots and lots of doubt and aversion. I don't want to sit and I don't want to "try" when I'm sitting. I'm still battling with future expectations and comparisons, frustrated by "good vs bad", frustrated that I seem to keep forgetting every lesson I've learned when facing problems I've already faced (and thought I "beat"). I don't doubt that practice works, I know from talking to folks for whom it's worked that it does, but I have doubt that it's going to work for me. Let the idea of quitting hang around in my head a little bit today. I didn't seriously entertain it, but there was a little planning / fantasizing / contemplation about what it'd be like if I did quit. I could get more sleep in the morning, I tell myself.

All of that being said, I'm still sitting. I'm still doing the thing. Practice is going alright when on the cushion. Trying for 15min of metta and then 30min of TMI stage practice. Metta isn't easy for me... I keep losing concentration right away, I get bored repeating the same phrases over and over. I'm trying to visualize the things I'm saying to give it that emotional "kick" but it seems like everything that's not focus on nostril sensations is a one-way ticket to Distractiontown. Culadasa apparently says that metta is extremely transformative and can totally rewire your brain, so I will keep doing it in the hopes that that's true.

Concentration practice is going alright - feel a little drifty/unsure of what to be doing. I'm still struggling with body scan concentration, so I'm trying to do Stage 4 following but at my belly. Trying to get the spotlight of generalized attention to be useable, instead of just practicing nostril sensations. This may be part of my doubt/aversion...after practicing nostril sensations for so long, losing concentration at belly sensations feels like a big step backwards. That's kind of interesting.

Trying to remind myself to be present, present, present while concentrating. Physiologically, I've been getting a lot of weird head pulling/tingling/grabbing sensations, as well as neck/jaw tension. Tonight while sitting, it felt like I was able to push another layer of auditory sensation into focus that I hadn't been paying attention to fully. I opened my eyes for a bit, and my glasses were off so everything was a blurry mess, but it looked kind of like a "flat" blurry mess. Like the depth was gone. It looked like a painting, I guess? Less mental construction of "space" and "room", more stripped down visual input. My computer desk / chair looked much closer to me than I know they actually are. Staring without blinking, there was a lot of warping/shifting of shapes and such -- it was interesting to watch, but I chalk that up to glasses being off / weird things your eyes do when you stare unfocused at something for a while.

Bit of a long post here, kind of all over the place. Thanks for bearing with me while I ride the practice rollercoaster down the valley of perceived regression - hopefully I start the climb back out of this soon.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
4/26/17 1:18 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Man, I've gotta be knocking on something's door.   Decided to sit tonight and take a friend's advice from the SE reddit and investigate weird meditation phenomena.  Lots of weird head and body sensations, tried to note them and hold them in awareness with breath at attention, TMI style.  If I noticed striving was narrowing my focus, I went back to expanding awareness to the rest of the room/body.  It kept getting weird and more intense / deeper feeling, especially when pushing awareness out and increasing the number of phenomena I was aware of.  At one point the question "What is awareness practice?" bubbled up and it felt like my mind tried pitching through itself, but I reactively jumped back and the experience didn't peak. Trepidation before a cliff dive.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
5/1/17 2:17 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 127-134

Things have calmed down again this week. Teacher says I'm more blocked by concepts than blocked by techniques, so I'm just doing TMI practice and trying to work on introspective awareness. (Tucker: "It doesn't really matter what you do for practice at this point.") The goal is to work on grokking dependent origination, and seeing the processes by which my hindrances arise. Hearing it put this way has really helped me start to work on introspective awareness in a deeper way than I've been able to thus far. I've strengthened attention, then strengthened extrospective awareness, and thus far have done both of those without paying much attention to the "content" of distractions as I'm pushing them aside. Tucker says "you can't use tanha to fix tanha". Now, I'm trying to note the "vedana" of my current mind state, and see what it's trying to push or pull away from, or if it's just neutral.

Therapy highlighted the same... minor "therapy insight" showed me that I discount / skip over the part of experience where I process an input as Geoff and output emotions/feelings reactions to that. For example, I may have negative feelings about someone, and those negative feelings may be "justified" or "expected" due to past conditioning / processing that I currently do automatically, like interactions with someone putting me in similar emotional states to states from suppressed childhood memories. I skip noticing the processing and come out of it with second-level suffering, like guilt about negative feelings, insecurity about my ability to be a nice/open person, and other various confusions that arise from not noticing/accepting the first-level emotional processing. This seems very similar to not seeing vedana/tanha as it occurs, and if this is true, has clearly been a huge blind spot.

I've had a few sits where it just feel really good and stabilizing to expand awareness and reside where I am, and I've been more frequently able to detach the "place" I'm meditating from in my head from the body/location it's meditating in. Concentration w/ breath and extrospective awareness stay up fairly consistently by themselves, and then i just make it my job to watch and feel what's going on in my mind. Kinda like I've built a big bowl out of shamatha and it's finally time to try filling it with some water. For someone who two weeks ago couldn't recall a sit where I felt better coming out of it than I did going into it, it feels really good to see a "good sit".

SPUDS has been immensely helpful. I've felt a little like an emotional teenager again, grasping out with my "woe is me"'s about practice, and they've been nothing but supportive and helpful. I can't help but laugh when I'm like "if I'm still stuck in a week..." and someone laughs at me, saying "dude, you're not stuck!" and another said that I've been posting a ton of good introspective insights, whereas I just feel annoying / stuck in the mud. Perspective helps. Clearly there's wool in front of my eyes. Some folks mentioned that I might be dark nighting and may have missed a gentle A&P somewhere back there. Or, the first four nanas are just the lite versions of the next ones. Either way, teacher mentioned EQ a lot this week, so whether its the nana or the attitude, my goal this next week is to keep noticing the vedana of things and see where that takes me.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
5/7/17 11:33 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 134-141

I've had live-in guests for two long weekends in a row, so sitting practice has been sidelined a bit. I've done cursory 20min sits in the morning that have been nice, but it definitely feels like maintaining rather than progressing. There's still gross distraction / subtle distraction coming up fairly frequently, though it seems like dullness has been less of a problem recently.

Talking to Tucker on Tuesday, he said it sounded like I'm growing factors of enlightenment that I wasn't previously growing. I mentioned that the vedana/tanha exploration seemed like an intuitive path towards progress, and he told me that starting to foster some self-propulsion in a direction that feels good is another big step down the road in meditation. He also seemed to corroborate that I've been DN'ing, but I'm still not convinced I'm past A&P. It really doesn't matter either way, though. The practice is the practice. It's been harder to get attention enough to explore vedana/tanha while only sitting for 20min a day, so I feel a little like a rodeo bull waiting to be let out of the gate.

My ex and I have been on a mini roller coaster / cycle of sorts, getting close to reconnection and then pulling away. We've been very mature and present/honest about our interactions, and that feels good. I got her a copy of TMI and she's been doing it every day - that's pretty cool of her. It feels good to be present and actually see some ways that meditation is improving my awareness of / relationship to my feelings.

Work anxiety is building. I'm looking forward to not having guests for a little while. I'd like to reset my personal schedule to be familiar again, though as I type that sentence, I see that a tumultuous schedule would be good practice for practicing during times of tumult.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
5/15/17 1:49 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 141-148

A week without guests has been nice for giving me some headspace back, but I have a tendency to rebound how fast/hard I've just expended extrovert energy with how listless/withdrawn I need to be to recharge introvert energy. As such, this week has not been super motivated for "extracurriculars" and I've mostly worked, gone to school, played video games, and slept.

Practice seems pretty good, though, if a bit boring. I'm still dealing with and training for gross distractions and gross dullness, but there seems to be a tiny notch up in how well I can keep awareness going w/ attention at the nose. Talking to my teacher this week, I didn't have much to report - I now understand how TMI will continue to train me to quiet down the background noise so I can get back into things like "vedana watching" and deeper vipassana practices, but the current part of this loop I'm on doesn't seem to have those practices in the cards. I know what I need to do, so I just need to spend more time doing it. I'm trying to up my evening sits to 45-60min minimum, and keep the AM sit at 30min for now. All my worldly distractions still have me procrastinating the final movement of getting off my chair and onto my cushion, though.

Typing that last paragraph, I noticed that I wanted to reference my "cycle of progress and despair" but I'm not really despairing. Practice is distracted and unmotivated, and that carries with it some tinge of worry and annoyance, but I'm not flogging myself nearly as hard as I was a couple weeks ago. It's cool. I want to make sure "it's cool if practice isn't 'great'" doesn't bleed over into "it's cool if I don't practice".

That's it for this week. Nothing sexy to report, but a general air of ease around practice is very nice.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
5/21/17 10:10 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 148-155

If last week was bumping up against low EQ, I am slipping back down into the dark night. Feels like I've slipped back down to Stage 2 and 3, and am consistently dealing with mind wandering, distraction, and dullness. My subconscious is definitely trying to avoid my "being here". I'd like to caveat that even though this is a "negative report", I'm not beating myself up about it. I have a sliver of trust that my progress isn't for naught, and that I'll work my way out of this.

Therapy is continuing to uncover uncomfortable truths about my past conditioning / present condition. I've known this new pathology for about a month, but have been avoiding doing any research or exploration of this because of the pain / potential future implications / seemingly endless knot of hurt to unravel. My therapist pointed out that digging into the pain will hurt, but reduce suffering. Continuing to be avoidant won't hurt the same, but will continue to propagate my suffering.

My homework from the teacher this week is to try and notice positive vedana / generate happiness and contentment whenever I can. AND, I can't set an intention to do that with the expectation of progressing in the TMI stages. It has to be happiness for happiness's sake. This is very hard for me right now, which is forcing me to confront that I am tuned in to negative/neutral vedana and tuning out the good stuff. Every time I try to generate happiness, though, I get a vipassana-style insight into this negative lens I'm wearing. It's like a big "down" (downer) blanket that I'm wrapping myself up in, and wrapping everything else up in as well. I feel safer keeping a watch on bad stuff coming my way, and don't want to let my guard down to see the good stuff.

I finally committed to doing some work on my therapy / meditation teacher stuff this weekend, and the results put me in what I imagine reobservation must be like - my 60 minute sit Friday night was like an angry animal stuck in a cage. Anger and impatience and misery and guilt and all sorts of terrible feelings. I kept checking the timer to see how long I had before I could get up, but I managed to keep my ass to the cushion all the same. I spent Saturday miserable and grieving the things I now see I never had, and tried to accept that I'll never get those things, either.

Today, Sunday, I felt better after getting a lot of sleep. I went and sat with a couple SPUDS for two hours. My first hour was a lot of old memories stirring up and old emotions being brought to bear. Planning and fear around how I'm going to proceed with this situation. My second sit, I saw how my mind was bored with watching the breath when there was so much other juicy stuff to dig into. I tried to keep it entertained by watching the newest sensation of the freshest moment of every breath, and that worked for a bit. I managed to get up to Stage 5 and do some body breathing for 3-5 minutes, which I haven't managed to do in over a week.

SPUDS retreat is next weekend, and my week-long retreat is three days after that. It's going to be interesting.... I'm going in with a lot of charged material to work with.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
5/30/17 2:43 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 155-162 and SPUDS Retreat 2017

This post will encompass what I can remember of the week leading up to the SPUDS retreat, the SPUDS retreat with Tucker Peck, our Memorial Day visit to Amma (the Hugging Saint) and where I am this week.

To be honest, I can't remember a ton about practice leading up to the retreat. I remember feeling excited about the retreat, along with some anxiety about how things would pan out. I don't think anything significant happened. Scrolling back through chat, I see I wrote this:

I think I hit stage 6ish again last night. I got into a pretty EQish place, calm but focused, slow breathing, strong awareness of space and body sensations. Anywhere I directed my attention I could body breathe, including places I couldn't before. Tried doing it in the third eye area, but nothing happened besides buzzy sensation. Felt actually refreshed and happy after the sit which is Fresh

So now I remember I was goofing around with trying to get into EQ and seeing what EQ could feel like.

Cut to the weekend of the retreat. After a logistically hectic morning including grocery shopping, picking up folks all around the city, a SPUD's Vanagon exploding on the side of the highway, rescue rides from other retreat-attendants, and a nice big gathering at the Gold Bar Mountain View Diner, it was time to retreat.

The first evening and most of the first day I spent in what I've both described as "Chasing my breath like a greased-up ice cube" and "Getting thrown around by attention like jiu-jitsu." It was fascinating how unable to concentrate I was, and how persistently that kept going all day. It wasn't even like normal sits where I start out unfocused and slowly drift off in a haze, it was like active redirection by my mind from my breath. I was diligent and had strong intentions, but just couldn't do it. Nothing seemed to work. During the dharma talk that night, Tucker mentioned (again, to me) that you can't use tanha to beat tanha, and he thinks of tanha as the little voice that goes "make it different make it different make it different". So, I spent the evening sits and walks trying to catch my mind when it wanted things to be different, which was like once every half second as I tried to concentrate. I also figured this was either subtle dullness or seeing Stage 6 subtle distractions clearly, so I tried to see "non-perceiving mind moments", which may not be the right term. Basically just trying to wake up whenever I realized my mind had stopped "listening" to input. For example, while walking, I'd try counting steps and notice that my mind was present for 1, 2, 3, and 4, but skipped out for 5, 6, and 7, but came back for 8, 9, and 10. I had physical sensations and sense impressions in memory for 5, 6, and 7, but wasn't "there" to perceive them. It felt good to be able to see this, and it alleviated some of my fear that I was wasting my day due to distraction.

Day two, I got up and was still getting thrown to the mat in this game of distraction jiu-jitsu. I talked to Tucker about it in our interview, and he gave me a few things to unpack and work on. I told him how I was trying to get EQ with the distractions and discomfort, and he said that I should probably do less EQ and more compassion / joy / holding of it. Specifically, instead of observing things from my EQ Ivory Tower up in the brain, to get down behind it in the body and be there with it, hold it, etc. He said a few more interesting things, how outside distractions are the same as inside distractions, and to treat them both like they're just "auditory distraction". Also that if I was truly being diligent, then my mind being this distracted might be the sign of a difficult productive time / purification coming on. I told him about being distracted but trying to watch the "make it different voice", and kind of complained that I'm always looking in one direction but the wisdom comes from the other. How I'd like to be able to "get it right" and not feel like I'm constantly chasing the wrong rabbits. He said at some point, practice is about getting out of your own way so that the deeper wisdom of the larger mind can bubble up. Finally, I told him about how I wish I'd be like some of the other folks who could have big dramatic kriyas / experiences so I could get some faith in the process. He told me that I didn't have doubt in the process, that I believe it works, but that all my doubt is self-doubt and that I don't think I personally can do it. I think this is true, unfortunately. Continuing to work on joy / happiness / compassion should help me with this, as well as continuing to practice in general.

The rest of day two was OK, largely distracted, but I had a couple changes that ended up making big changes near the end. One thing he told us at large is that pragmatic dharma people tend to over-verbalize in their minds, and should work more on non-verbal observation. I told myself to stop using language to analyze and direct my sits, and just tried to sit quietly and watch things happen. Interestingly enough, the distraction jiu-jitsu calmed down and I was then able to catch verbalizing as a distraction instead of immediately getting swept up in it. I had a couple interesting but brief experiences while doing this that felt like slipping into deeper dullness or sleep, kind of a heavy head feeling, but with no loss of clarity in my mind or wherever I'm observing my sits from. Some folks said this might be early signs of access concentration kicking in, but it was very very brief and I couldn't get it to happen again.

At the dharma talk in the evening, Tucker mentioned that his students can spent YEARS in Stages 4, 5, and 6, which hit me like a bag of wet bricks. I was a little in shock for the rest of the talk, and then as we sat in the evening, that began to unpack. If I have to spent the next few years dealing with this doubt, uncertainty, perceived lack of process, distractions, dullness, then I got a sense that I know I would quit. I quit most things within a year or two of picking them up, and why would this be any different? And if I'm putting a lot of faith and hope and trust that this process may be one of the last few things I can do to really effect change in my life and free me from my deepest-seated sources of pain and suffering, and if I'm going to quit, then aren't I basically doomed? And so I got really emotional, but remember what Tucker said about getting behind the emotion, so I moved my attention down behind my chest, behind my ribcage, and just held the sad feelings as they played themselves out. I almost started crying in the middle of the sanctuary hall, but kept it together and sat and felt and felt and felt and felt. It was hard, but as it lightened up a little bit I found some new calm and clarity in my mind that weren't there previously, and I was finally able to concentrate again.

All in all it was a wonderful retreat. The SPUDS group is completely in love with Tucker, as he is willing to speak openly and frankly about a number of things that us Pragmatic Dharma folks obsess over. Tucker said that it was the best run / smoothest retreat he's ever taught, which was high praise and made me feel wonderful for working to hard to get it set up and running. Everyone in our group seemed to have a great experience, a number of people had very deep insights, and there was a lot of good juice all around.

Later on Monday, after going home, we went to see Amma in the evening. There's not much to say about this experience, I guess -- it was a bit underwhelming but overall quite pleasant. I got to tell a guy next to me that a spiritual experience he had sounded a lot like the A&P / Dark Night, and made the hair on his arms raise up. I hope he goes home and does some reading. Also talked to a woman who wanted to see my copy of TMI (I got my TMI copy blessed by Amma, haha) and said she was really happy that such a technical book exists, because people should be able to ask and get answers to more technical spiritual/meditation related questions.

Hugging Amma was a crazy and rushed experience, as they're more or less throwing people down to hug her and pulling you away to get off the stage. I will say that for all the chaos in the room, hugging her really felt like it was just her and me for that one brief moment. It felt very motherly and reassuring, kind but also kind of amused at me. It was lovely to hang out with my meditation friends all weekend.

Now in these three days of samsara before my next retreat, I'm thinking a lot about "getting out of my own way." When am I getting in my way? What's it like when I do so? How do I know if "I'M" in any way at all, and can I discern when thoughts/motivation/action is guided by this Geoff-drive instead of by the deeper wisdom? Seems juicy to think about. I'm looking forward to this 7 day trip quite a bit.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
6/10/17 6:22 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Cloud Mountain "iMind" Young Adult Retreat Report - 2 JUN - 9 JUN 2017

I just got back from a 7 day, silent vipassana retreat at Cloud Mountain Retreat Center in Washington. Not sure about my overall day count, but Insight Timer says 174 days in a row now, so I'll take that as the gospel truth.

Apologies if this whole report veers off track here and there -- I'm pretty exhausted as I write this. It turns out the shift from retreat space to the world of samsara is as jarring as they say it is. I'm going to start writing this and hope I get somewhere fruitful with my report, but may have to come back and revise it later. I'm hoping it's a good personal indicator of my practice as well as a useful report on this style of practice, of the Cloud Mountain center, of the teachers, and so on. I'm not sure what all folks would want to know about a retreat - feel free to ask questions and I'm happy to answer.

Also, it's going to be quite long, so bear with me.

The Basics
This was a seven day silent retreat, focused (and subsidized) so young adults from ages 18-35 could attend at a VERY good price for a 7-day retreat (around $250, excluding dana). 35 is pretty old for "young adult", but pretty young for retreat attendance, so I hear  The mix was pretty well distributed -- there were college age kids, some folks who would "age out" this year, and others in the middle. Nice balance of men and women as well. Thankfully the unfortunate name "iMind" wasn't brought up or referenced in the slightest at the retreat. It was just the Young Adult retreat.

The retreat was run in Noble Silence, meaning they collected our phones, no talking (except brief necessary communication for yogi jobs so you don't have to pantomime "cucumber"), no reading, etc. Eye contact was optional - I mostly opted to stare at the gravel. Eye contact is a surprisingly powerful thing, especially when you're in the kind of stillness you get a few days into retreat. Lots of proliferation arises there. Being in silence for an extended period is very interesting - you get a strong sense that you're really sitting stuck in your braincase, unable to transmute internal experience to external experience. There's so much going on in our heads all the time that we either miss or take for granted, which is an obvious thing to say to any meditators reading this, but sitting in silence really hammers that in.

The daily schedule ran something like this. I lost the actual schedule so some of it is hazy, especially the after-dinner schedule.

5:30AM - Wake up
6:00AM - Chant precepts / morning sit
6:30AM - "Awareness in motion" (they use awareness for mindfulness, more on this below) walking meditation, hikes, walk to bathroom, etc.
7:00AM - Breakfast and morning yogi jobs (I chopped veggies)
8:30AM - Awareness sitting in hall w/instruction and brief Q&A
9:15AM - Awareness in motion
10:00AM - Awareness sitting in hall
10:45AM - Awareness in motion
11:30AM - Awareness sitting in hall
12:00PM - Lunch and afternoon yogi jobs
12:00PM - 2:00PM - Unstructured afternoon time. I went for a run immediately after lunch, showered, used the bathroom, and usually took a brief nap before afternoon sits.
2:00PM - Awareness sitting
2:30PM - 5:00PM - Unstructured afternoon practice. Early in the retreat, I'd sit in the hall until dullness became unworkable, go walk a couple laps around the grounds, and go back to sit and repeat. Later in the retreat, dullness was less of an issue, but the sun came out so I'd go sit in the sun somewhere.
5:00PM - Dinner and evening yogi jobs
6:30PM - Awareness sitting
7:10PM - Awareness in motion
7:30PM - Dhamma talk / discussion
8:00PM - Awareness sitting
8:30PM - Awareness in motion
8:45PM - Evening sit / reflections / final sit of the day

The meditation hall was open all night so you could sit as long as you wanted, and the dining hall is open all night so you can stare into middle distance and drink tea as well, if that's more of your jam. Infinite PB&J available for anyone who wanted it.

The Teachers
Three teachers ran the retreat - Kari Pederson, Shelly Graf, and Alexis Santos.

It was taught by the Seattle Insight Meditation Society young adult teacher Kari Pederson. She's a kind, loving presence, very open and funny to talk to. I don't know anyone who's talked to her / worked with her that doesn't like her. She also is great at working her own personal experience into her dharma talks in a meaningful / poignant way. I really, really appreciated being able to talk with her and hope to attend her Under 40 sangha at SIMS -- seems like a good life-focused integration piece for a practice-focused SPUD. I won't get into the nitty gritty of her practice and teaching history, but you can find out more about her at the links at the bottom of the post.

It was also taught by a teacher named Shelly Graf, who I know less about. She was also very kind, had a cold the whole time but you couldn't tell b/c of how EQ she was about everything. She teaches at the Common Ground center in Minnesota. Founded by Mark Nunberg, who folks seem to like as well.

Finally, the third teacher was dreamboat Bhikku George Clooney, cover-model for Salt & Pepper Dharma Magazine, ex-monk and all around lovable dude Alexis Santos.

I mean seriously, look at him:


It was probably annoying for the other teachers, but I don't think a person there wasn't in love with Alexis. He's naturally and gently funny, soft-spoken and kind, very wise / forthcoming with dharma advice, and very approachable. He was also ordained under Sayadaw U Tejaniya for two years, so has direct information for the style of practice we did on retreat. Clearly I have a massive man-crush on him, but who wouldn't?

All in all they were a great group of teachers for a group like ours. They called themselves the "marshmallow team" as the retreat was generally not run as strictly as some others may be, and they mostly tried to nurture positivity in our practice. I think there's a big desire to keep young folks coming back, so for better or for worse, there was a lot of lee-way given for the retreat in general through unstructured free time, no real discipline for coming to sits late / leaving early, etc. But most everybody followed the structure of the retreat closely and faithfully - it was a really good group of folks.

The Center
Cloud Mountain has been around for a long time now and has apparently hosted a wide variety of teachers. It's cool that Kari Pederson had been coming to Cloud Mountain for so long, even working there for a period, and is now back as a teacher. Really shows how the teachings get passed along generation by generation and kept alive.

It's a beautiful, relatively small retreat center nestled in southern-central Washington. I didn't take any pictures because they collected our phones for the retreat, but it's a densely packed bit of old forest with lush ferns, mossy trees among the gravel paths, charming and rudimentary old buildings, and a number of little ponds teeming with pond life. I enjoyed sitting by the biggest one and watching salamanders darting around eating pond skimmers, birds washing themselves, fish leading their little schools around, and all of the other little joys of nature.

Rooms are doled out first-come-first-serve based on time of registration, and I registered early enough to get a single room in the same building as the meditation hall. Tiny room - just enough space for a bed, a bedside table / lamp, a clothes rack, and that's it. I used a battery alarm clock to get myself up at 5AM most mornings before the official wake-up bell. I also signed up to ring the temple bell at 8:40PM every day, which was kind of fun. Except I usually tried to toll the bell in a doleful, end-of-evening slow cadence and sometimes forgot how many times I had rang it -- it's supposed to be 5 rings of the bell. I may or may not have actually done 5 each time.

The Practice
The practice that was taught on this retreat was a style of vipassana from Sayadaw U Tejaniya. Links to his teachings at the bottom of the post.

The main components are that it's "awareness" based mindfulness -- the object of meditation doesn't matter as much as HOW you're watching the object. Keeping an eye out for the defilements of craving, aversion, and delusion in the meditative lens is key. If you are able to watch the mind without craving or aversion, wisdom naturally arises, so they say. The benefits are supposed to be that it's a very easy practice to do off-cushion (how much energy does it take to "check in" to see what you're aware of in a moment?) and that it's "object-less" meditation, which is a standard component of the sort of choiceless-awareness vipassana IMS has been teaching. The main difference is that while a lot of IMS teachers taught a "pay attention to whatever is happening", this adds a layer of "pay attention to how you're paying attention to whatever it's happening." Off the bat it seemed a little advanced for new meditators, but a lot of people still got a lot out of it. Many folks mentioned that they liked the freedom from not having to get concentrated around a specific object, and how there is no fear of failure when all you have to do is notice the fear of failure, or notice the dullness, etc.

It was a bit of a change from the shamatha-based Mind Illuminated practice I've been doing, but it's more or less "metacognitive introspective awareness" in Culadasa parlance so definitely still related to my home practice. I didn't do much specific TMI practice on the retreat, but the few times I did try, I noticed marked benefits from having practiced introspective awareness continuously. More about this later.

The Retreat
What follows will be my day-to-day report of how things went. Italicized / quoted text is raw journal notes, and then I'll do more contextualization afterwards. I tried to keep journaling to a minimum, but the entries got a little longer as the days went on.

ArrivalArrival. Gregarious in car but nervous and self-conscious when alone/quiet around strangers. Hard time knowing how to interact with folks.Not much to say about arrival day - I drove two folks down/back with me, which was nice. I had a good time talking with new people that have similar interests. It was interesting to see how easy it felt to chat with two folks in my car, but in an open space around a bunch of strangers, I didn't know how to walk by anybody / start conversations.

They walked us through how the retreat would go, gave us a light dinner, and then we had the usual intro talk and beginning of Noble Silence.

Day 1Mix of decent awareness and distraction. Realized that if I'm at ease, I think I'm complacent. Stress = "right effort' for me. Thought a lot about how to detach from my distractions, the same voice that tells me to come back to awareness also feels like it's leading the distraction train.
First day was a little weird, getting used to a new practice, getting used to being at retreat, getting used to the whole thing. Especially after struggling with getting into shamatha via focusing since December, trying NOT to focus actively on an object was weird for me. I saw some negative perception around myself trying to relax and be at ease, and realized that I assume that being easy / restful is a bad thing or reflects laziness. Conversely, if I'm stressed, it must mean I'm being productive. Being able to see this as a "thing" helped me ease up around practice for the rest of the retreat.

I started to see the usual pattern of how days would go all week -- morning sits would be more focused as I came up and down from morning coffee, sits around lunch would start to get hazy. I'd go for an afternoon run and take a nap before the mid-afternoon sits. During unstructured time, I'd alternate sitting and walking based on how dull I was feeling, or try to do sits out in the sunshine as it was available. In bed by 9:30PM to journal and fall asleep.

Day 2Noticed how little actual effort was required to keep my mind on the breath w/ awareness present. Spent the day trying to ease up all around. This lead to long dullness midday and around dinner. Took a nap and slept through the 6:30PM sit on accident. After dinner reflections, kept sit going for a while and felt some "hype up" energy / body sensations. Had strong emotional reactions around "am I good enough" again.
The first full night, I had vivid nightmares that the Demogorgon was rampaging around killing everyone and I had to watch it all. Not super pleasant.

Second day was still pretty similar to the first day as far as awkwardness and getting used to the routine of things. Fortunately, I didn't During morning sits, I kind of stumbled into realizing I was keeping concentration on my breath without the effort I was normally putting into following/connecting/discerning subtle sensations doing TMI practice. I started to play around with letting go as much as I could without dullness slipping in. I started to get better and better at this, and was surprised at how subtle my observations could get without the comparatively ham-handed efforts I was previously putting into watching the breath.

Kept this sense of ease going all day, and after dinner I started to get some creeping energetic sensations, kind of like how it feels right before you shiver, but maybe a little "sharper". Kind of like trying to press out of my own skin. The evening reflects were reminders of keeping the meditative lens a relaxed, kind one -- the reminders to keep confidence in the practice/ourselves made me feel a lot of strong emotions, and I did Tucker's "move behind it and hold it" practice which was very helpful for me as I felt a lot of stuff get processed.

Day 3After waking up feeling OK, I got very agitated and self conscious at breakfast. Later, when asking for a new bag of coffee, I received it and got extremely happy and joyful. I started laughing at myself and saw how the agitation and this excess joy are essentially the same thing. Later while sitting, an intense and sudden ear itch arose while I tried body breathing, and the itch spread out into vibrating sensations across my entire upper body. It felt like getting wracked by pulses of keening energy, and my eyelids twitched and flashed. Walked around feeling shellshocked afterwards. Felt like something else in the evening - champagne bubble sensations at my nostrils and same hype-up / keening energy throughout my body. "Traumatic" run. Blind spot - I was mindful while running but assumed I was closed off b/c of negative feelings. Teacher was like, 'You sure remembered a lot for saying you weren't aware *WINK*" Weird energy - saw teacher agitation @ two students leave the sit. Lady sobbing into teacher's arms after evening reflections. CRAZY sexual cravings/imagery during evening / post-dinner naptime
No coffee in the hall during the morning, so I got a cup of black chai instead. I stood outside feeling nice and relaxed, enjoying the first non-cloudy sunrise of the trip. Somehow this got transmuted to severe agitation around breakfast as I sat there hating granola and hating yogurt and hating feeling weird around people and all sorts of nasty feelings. I told myself that this agitation was just passing, and just an "object" like everything else I'd been watching thus far. After the morning sits, I decided to ask the kitchen guy for a new bag of coffee, which he readily gave me. I got so happy holding that bag of coffee that I couldn't help but start laughing at myself for such extreme swings of emotion, and saw that the happiness I was experiencing wasn't really any different than the agitation I felt earlier -- both just "objects", and while it was nice to feel happy (and drink coffee) I'd clearly be experiencing more sudden agitation later in the retreat, if not that day.

I tried being mindful during my after-lunch run, but I dropped it due tothe exhaustion from trail running up hills, breathing hard, sweating profusely, self consciousness and body image at walking back through camp all sweaty and out of breath, having to use the bathroom all sweaty and gross, taking a shower in the showerhouse which is always kind of awkward, especially when everyone's just silent and shuffling away from each other. I got clean and dry and sat down on a bench to "turn the mindfulness camera back on" and realized just how closed off my mind had become for the last couple hours, compared to how open and receptive it had been. "Jesus, that was TRAUMATIC" and "The real world is TRAUMATIC" were a couple thoughts I had. I relayed this story later at group sharing and got a bunch of laughs, and the teacher said "You sure remembered a lot of details for not being mindful -- remember that mindfulness doesn't just have to mean calm and happy." So a bit of a blind spot - I was taking the same negative lens towards practice as I have been, thinking I'm not doing it right / not making progress.

TMI alert: We took the precepts every morning, so by now I had gone a few days without participating in a certain standard male recreational activity, and my sex brain was going haywire. Pornographic thoughts about my ex reeling off nonstop for a few hours. I'm only mentioning it here as it was a pretty noticeable experience to sit through for as long as I did, and seems like one of those "usual" retreat experiences folks talk about having.


Day 4Morning started good with what felt like effortless concentration, or maybe high EQ? I got excited and tried running over the the factors of enlightenment in my head to see if they were all there and lost it. Teacher interview was fun, got gregarious and chatty, asked about my ear itch explosion, she said I may be getting more sensitive to physical sensations. After afternoon run (got a high five after yesterday's self-consciousness anecdote) thing went downhil.
Got more and more restless. Vulnerability hangover and embarassment. Self consciousness. Tried to sit through it, got mad, scared, nauseous. 6:30PM sit was wrenched up in suffering / involuntary rocking side to side - maybe with heartbeat? Head twisted and kept shaking back if I moved it away. Bolted out of the hall at the bell. Writing this eased it up a bit. Dharma talk was nice. "dukkha day" for everyone apparently. One guy got an insight into no-self.
Between that and other things, I'm seeing a lot of desire / clinging / striving going on. Feels like dull sadness at this point in the night. I wish something would click and I'd feel better.

Morning sit on Day 4 was awesome - the teacher was giving instructions and while I was already pretty near effortlessness, she said "See if you can let it be effortless" to the group and I found that the mind stayed with the breath without any effort at all. Thus far I was unfortunately sat in the hall directly next to the coughiest, burpiest, snortiest guy in the hall, which had been a large source of annoyance previously in the retreat, but I had no problems with his noises at all this morning. It was totally fine. I got pretty excited about being in what I perceived as EQ and started grasping too hard, reeling off factors of enlightenment to see if I was fertile to "pop" and even asking Amitaba buddha to "flip the switch", haha.

I had my second group teacher interview today, where I got a little gregarious and chatty around the open space allowed for talking. This started to highlight a pattern that kept repeating during the retreat -- I'd have the opportunity to open my mouth, I'd open my mouth, and later I'd have intense regret / embarrassment / shame about saying anything at all. It was pretty unpleasant while it was happening, but I saw that it was just a pattern in my brain (for the most part). And folks were telling me that my comments / sharing was useful and nice, so I'll try to stick with the external feedback 

The vulnerability hangover kept going downhill and I tried to chase away the bad feelings with caffeine, which just resulted in me getting more and more tight and agitated. By the 6:30PM sit I was in pain and wrenched up, hugging myself while I tried to keep a relaxed awareness going watching all of this. I noted that I felt anxiety and "moved behind it" to hug it out, but when I did so I realized it wasn't anxiety as much as it was coarse, animalistic fear. While I sat there hugging that, telling it nice things, my stomach started twisting and I got nauseous for a minute or two. I sat with my brow furrowed until the bell rang and I was first out of the hall after the teachers, where I laid in bed trying to relax before the next sit. The dhamma talk was relieving and full of laughter as the teachers cracked jokes about everyone being in "dukkha day", so I went to bed feeling general malaise but no more acute pain. I genuinely wrote the line about "wishing something would click and I'd feel better" without realizing how that sounded until after I wrote it, and then I started laughing at the pretty obvious desire-for-deliverance there.

Also whether or not this is worth noting, from dukkha day onwards I kept the gentle rocking side to side or forward to back whenever I'd get to a certain level of concentration. I could stop it and exaggerate it at will, but if I relaxed around it it would just happen on its own.

Day 5Feels like there's lots to unpack today. Kinda wish I had journaled halfway through the day like I wanted to. Morning started OK, felt a bit weird in public as per usual but that's fine. They mentioned 1-on-1 interviews and I stressed hard about getting one in general / getting on with Alexis, and then I stressed about what to talk about. "stop chatting / breaking the container" threw me off after getting goofy at veggie chopping. Got a meeting w/ alexis and some relief. after running I sat by the pond and got suddenly sad at the sound of windchimes and water bubbling. I saw how sadness was an object. I saw how my holding it with kindness was an object. I started seeing how all these subtleties I'd been missing are objects.

Sitting at a table drinking tea w/ my glasses off, a person walking by set off a tangible spread of feelings / reactions / clinging -> "objects" like someone running their hand through that phosphorescent algae in water. Or, my mind was a still enough pool that I saw the ripples spreading from an object stirring the water. Tried "is self an object" but was really striving/heavy-handed about it. 1-on-1 with Alexis was good, blathered a bit about vedana and tanha and how the mind spins a ton seeing more and more layers. He gave me a thing to investigate - what if an alien completely new to consciousness dropped into your body right now? Thinking about that at evening sit didn't exactly blow my gourd but I did shift pretty hard into a dense, concentrated state w/lots of white light focused behind my eyelids. Any time the light started to fade, I'd notice a couple more subtle aspects of consciousness and it would brighten back up.
Saw individual objects floating by as they came and went. Felt high as fuck afterwards.

how my brain felt this day: 

This was a pretty big day / felt like a turning point. I had a morning full of stress and sadness, seemingly focused on getting this 1 on 1 with Alexis so I could chat w/ an ex-ordained monk and relay the information back to SPUDS. After my run, I sat down by one of the koi ponds and listened to the windchimes clanging softly and water bubbling. I started to feel really sad for some reason, so I went behind the sadness and held it kindly. I thought about how the sadness was an object like my coffee-agitation and coffee-joy from Day 3. I then had a moment where I saw that the kindness I was holding it with was also an object, and that there was craving with the kindness and aversion to the sadness, which was made of craving for social acceptance and aversion to loneliness and embarrassment, and so on and so forth. The "larger" objects of coarse emotions were breaking up into their smaller, constituent pieces and I was seeing how the observing mind had craving or aversion for each of those pieces that would form a larger attitude about the object, which was itself an object, and onward and onward. I also started hearing HVAC noises underneath the wind chimes and bubbling water, which had been going on the whole time but unheard by me, and felt a surge of energy as I realized it was something of a parallel realization with this leveled-up mind observation.

Walked around the rest of the day trying to see what mental formations I could objectify and examine. I tried turning that on the concept of "self' but I don't think it really works like that. I kept trying pretty hard to force a clear anatta-insight the entire retreat, but couldn't get it going. Might not be time for that one yet.

I talked about maps and striving with Alexis at our 1-on-1 and we nerded out a bit at the difference between tanha/lobha (synonyms for craving) and how to see positive vedana (examine feelings of satisfaction and how you got there) and he gave me the aforementioned mental exercise of "be an alien who's never experienced consciousness before."

That one tweaked my lid pretty good later in the evening as I slipped into alien-consciousness and started digging into all these background layers of experience -- physical sensations, time sensations, human social experience, male identity, emotions, goals, ideas, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and on and on. It slipped me into an energetic but stable concentrated state with bright white light behind my eyelids which would brighten and diminish as I peeled back more layers of the onion. I felt happy and high as hell after that sit ended, and ended the day feeling pretty good about the stuff I'd seen.

Day 6Last day. This one's a bit of a mess. Panic attack sensations in the morning, unable to catch my breath, just had to ride it out. Group meeting was fine, shared without oversharing. Awareness was not very continuous the rest of the day - lots of planning around leaving. They let us talk from 4-6:30 to practice mindful speech which was so emotionally draining. Like high school dances all over again. Anxiety, fear of rejection, extreme self consciousness,
words coming out all wrong, you name it. So much clinging and craving and social interactions and how I look/act around people. No awareness, just regret and shame at opening my mouth. Weird way to end a retreat, but such is dukkha.

Boy, last day was a mess. During the morning sit I had an experience where I felt "out of breath' sensations in my chest the entire time and I couldn't breathe fast enough to get it to go away. Most of my day was planning and thoughts about the real world, and keeping awareness up was difficult. They let us talk from 4-6:30PM through dinner, which was a landmine of emotional problems. I think it was for the entire group, but I had so much embarrassment, awkwardness, anxiety, and all negative emotions come up. I was also excited and hopeful about connecting with people and hearing about how peoples' retreats had gone. Mostly my tongue turned into a club in my mouth and I blundered around, unable to filter my reactions, not staying mindful, just a general mess. It was pretty gross, lol. Talk about vulnerability hangover and regret after that period was over.

Felt a little sad about the last day being like this, but I figure a lot of folks end up thinking about the real world on the day before departure, and it's not easy for anyone to start talking again after a week of being silent. I thought about how someone told me that you should get your psychology right before starting down the stages of Enlightenment, as stream entry is like the war in Iraq -- at that moment, you dethrone the dictator and there's party in the streets for days, but eventually all the lesser kings who've been kept in check start coming out and fighting for territory. During the social time, it felt like I didn't have a thoughtful / reserved Geoff around to say things like "just listen" or "hold your tongue" or "don't say that" and I was just raw social/emotional constructs bumping each other out of the way in my brain. It was fascinating and terrible to watch - car crash / trainwreck metaphors abound.

Departure
Last day was short and sweet - I helped folks out with yogi jobs as best I could, got packed up, and headed out with my passengers. I made sure to hunt down the folks in my group to give them hugs and tell them that they did a great job -- they seriously did. The issues everyone brought up at their first shares of the week and the resolution they brought up at the end of the week were very impressive, and some people shared extremely personal stuff for the first time in their lives. I was feeling pretty lovey and magical interacting with people today - maybe worked out the initial grossness of social experience the first time.

Driving home was awesome - we didn't listen to any music, just talked about the retreat, what we learned, what we hoped to carry with us, and everything else. It was really nice and easy, and I DIDN'T have a vulnerability hangover afterwards. Hell yeah.

Real world has been noisy and rushed since I got back. It was super-fuckin-weird sitting down eating thai food turning my phone back on for the first time. It was almost like I had a week long cessation and woke up back in my normal life. Time both stretched infinitely long on the retreat and flew by extremely quickly. It's good to be back home, though - it's much easier to be mindful in my shower than the showerhouse 

Conclusion
I loved this retreat, and feel like I got a lot out of it. I would go back in a heartbeat and have already registered for the same retreat next year.

Maybe it'd be easier to make a list of what I'm taking home than try to write an overwrought conclusion to sum it all up. So here goes:

What I'm taking with me:

Faith in myself - the U Tejaniya practice loop has you start with confidence -- both in the Dharma and in yourself. By the first couple days, I found that I was observing nearly no doubt about myself being able to practice, which if you've been following along, is pretty incredible for me. A few examples to illustrate how far I've come (and I'll actually acknowledge that I've made progress today ):

www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/wiki/logs/g...eene#wiki_days_36-43
www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/wiki/logs/g...eene#wiki_days_78-85
www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/wiki/logs/g...ne#wiki_days_120-127

Ease isn't laziness, Stress isn't productivity - Speaks for itself. This was a big "mundane insight" for me this trip.

Objects are subtler and more complex than gross emotions / sensations - A more Insighty-insight and one that I look to explore further in practice. How much of what I assume is "me" in my standard experience is just another onion-layer, or another thing I can hold in my hand and then let go?

A great off-cushion practice - It's super easy to ask "Am I aware?" and then check into what objects / view of objects is present at any given moment. I took a long walk this morning through the park and watched things come and go. I hope I can keep the momentum going at work and while things start to slide back into the world of samsara.

Improved TMI skills! - Doing introspective awareness all week seems to have kicked me up into Stage 6-7 territory from the retreat. While I expect some regression, I'm excited to see how much ease I can bring into my concentration practice and then start working more insight practices into on-cushion time. If anyone reading this has been struggling at Stage 4 and 5 for a while, I recommend trying to actively work some relaxation into the practice, as well as some self-positivity. I was honestly shocked at how un-efforting I could get and still keep concentration on or around the breath.

I may think of more as I go, as this was a bear of a thing to write, but these are the main things I got out of it. Oh, and my daily running and lean food intake meant I lost 4lbs since my last weigh-in two weeks ago! Hell yeah.

Additional Resources
Cloud Mountain retreat center website - www.cloudmountain.org
Cloud Mountain retreat center recipes - we used these for the Tucker retreat as well! - cloudmountaincookbook.wordpress.com/

Sayadaw U Tejaniya practice information. All his teachings / books are available online. ashintejaniya.org/

Kari Pederson / SIMS info - seattleinsight.org/Teachers/Teacher/TeacherID/43
Alexis Santos info - dharmaseed.org/teacher/525/ and seattleinsight.org/Teachers/Teacher/TeacherID/93
Shelly Graf info - commongroundmeditation.org/about/teacher...eachers/shelly-graf/

Let me know if you have questions / comments / want more information about anything I talked about here.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
6/20/17 2:30 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Up to day 184

Starting the day counter back over in the title here, lost track somewhere around the retreats 

My first impressions of practice upon returning from retreat were "Wow, that post-retreat regressions really does come quickly." Felt like I sat right back down into Stage 4, dealing with distractions and dullness again, all the "shine" gone from my vipassana-waxed retreat mind. Spent a couple days feeling sort of disappointed about this, but trying to do my best to keep the awareness practice going off cushion to the best of my ability. Resistance to sitting came back strong - same kind of resistance that pops up after I "binge" on any one activity for a while. Any time I go on a long bike ride (50+ miles) I notice that I skip riding my bike for the next few days 

Talking to Tucker last week, he basically confirmed my hunch that the two biggest things I took back from my retreat were 1. beginning to see things as "objects" or empty, basically synonymous he says and 2. understanding that ease is important and not necessarily laziness. I complained to him about how I still have urges to check the clock at the end of a sit, and he pointed out that that urge has absolutely nothing to do with the clock, or the sit. When that arises again, I should try to resist following the urge to act and try and see what's going on underneath all of that. He also says I'm one of his students that he just wants to get a line going a-la the movie Airplane to slap and shake me and say, "LET GO! LET GO!" I'm trying to incorporate more ease into my practice, but I guess I still feel some confusion as to what methods I should be doing and when, or if it even matters. I feel drawn to further explore the vipassana side of things, but TMI is supposed to keep transforming me into a better explorer, so I should probably do that first, right?

I got to practice seeing past action/reaction this past weekend at my brother's bachelor party. There's a lot of dukkha in the college town bar scene. I noticed myself getting seriously affected by one friend's desperation to have an "epic weekend." Just doing things like putting on loud rap music, wanting to indulge more and more in substances, feeling like touching/grabbing/"messing" with his friends was being "goofy' and having "fun' despite our repeated protests, etc. The veneer of "I'm doing this to be a party person" was so thinly laid over obvious craving/aversion/delusion that it felt really difficult to interact with them. I didn't want to hurt his feelings by pointing out that I could see through it, either.... I couldn't figure out how to navigate that skillfully.

On the other hand, one of my old friends reached out to me upset about how she can't seem to relax on weekends, keeps pursuing destructive habits, and is pretty unhappy with herself overall. I feel like I actually was able to pretty skillfully take her past the things she's doing and get her to look more at the things she's running away from. I'm not a therapist so I'm of course still wary of doing anything like that, but it seemed useful / was what she needed to hear. Again, I kind of understand what Tucker/my therapist say when they're like "it's right in front of you!" This friend was basically describing all of her problematic underlying tendencies but making it about the reactions, not the generative patterns. She clearly could see, or at least had it in her vocabulary, that she was running from something, but the perspective was just ever-so-slightly skewed in the wrong direction. Makes me wonder more about what I'm not seeing in my own life, or this post! 

Seated practice has been super inconsistent, so the next few weeks are about getting back to a repeatable 30min morning / 1hr evening habit again.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
6/25/17 11:12 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 184-190

Well, it's been a week.

I missed most of my morning sits for the week but sat for an hour in the evening for almost the whole week.

Sits have been back down to what seems like Stage 3 - lots of discursive thinking, following trains of thought, lots of distraction overall. I notice that I want to do my usual moaning about it -- lack of progress, doubt and aversion and all that, but I'm getting pretty tired of writing the same old story, so I won't -- or at least, I'll try not to. I heard a useful tidbit this week that meditation is like exercise -- you have to judge progress on a larger timescale than daily, or even weekly. You don't lift weights in the morning and then get frustrated in the evening when your muscles aren't any bigger. It takes a while and you probably won't notice progress until, well, you notice progress. I'm trying to keep that in mind, and keep the right view that this is a natural process, that even my frustrating sits are working on something at a deeper level, and so on.

As far as the frustration goes, I'm doing a couple of things now. One is that I'm going to start doing metta more regularly - I think I'm going to replace my morning shamatha sit with a 30min metta sit, and keep doing an hr of TMI in the evening. If I feel my concentration is spotty, being happy/calm/joyful can only serve to improve that concentration. The other thing I'm doing is trying to treat this frustration itself as the interesting thing to be observed. I've tried doing this before to no avail, but we'll see. It keeps coming up. Progress, regress, doubt, aversion (and abandonment, for most of my other interests) is a deeply seated pattern of mine.

The aversion is interesting. I had a morning where I sort of realized I might be mildly depressed - I'm avoiding a lot of the things I usually do to keep myself sane/happy, I'm letting chores slip, I'm indulging in temporary/unhelpful habits, I'm only halfheartedly meditating and I'm seeking distraction basically everywhere. There's something big I don't want to see, apparently. Or maybe it's even less dramatic than that, and it's just aversion energy I've kept feeding that now has a life of its own.

It might be correlated, but I tried downloading dating apps again for the first time in a while this week. It wasn't very much fun, mostly it just caused me to confront my motivations for being on there at all, which had nothing to do with the human being on the other end of the phone. I did a lot of comparing people to my ex, missed my ex, and felt self conscious, insufficient, and afraid. Yesterday I just deleted the apps again. I don't think it's time for that. It's interesting to see the things that pull more of the covering off deeper layers of my programming, though. I've been using work as sort of a barometer of progress - how well do I handle the anxiety of my job, how well do I communicate with my boss. I've been doing well on that front, so maybe I got a little complacent. Looking at my experience trying to think about dating again, though, and there's clearly huge regions of territory left untouched. It sucks, lol 

This week I'm going to try to push through this aversion as best I can. Bike to work, run in the mornings, not eat candy out of boredom, avoid playing so many video games, get my sit schedule consistent again, etc etc. And, of course, let it be OK if I don't succeed at all (or any) of those things.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
8/1/17 1:53 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 190-198

This week has been insane for me. One of the most difficult weeks (emotionally) in a very long time, but the amount of growth/progress it's showing me is unreal.

On Monday I had one of my absolute worst fears come true. It felt like the bottom fell out from beneath me, "all is lost", no way to recover. I started to shackle myself up to the pain and put up armor, planning to cut people out of my life, pinballing around in a fury, ready to make drastic decisions that would've matched the same sick patterns I've participated in my whole life.

Strangely enough, I sat that evening despite all the hurt and did metta for those involved, and a way forward opened up to me. It's not the easiest path forward, but it is the one most full of love and acceptance, both for myself and for others. I would never, ever have considered my choices in my previous incarnations -- I was much too sick, closed off, spiteful, and angry. I have to keep checking to make sure I'm not lying to myself with how uncharacteristic my current actions are, but they feel completely true.

I've had to stare my worst demons in the face all week/end, and meet them with love and self-support. I broke down sobbing in a public restaurant, and instead of thinking "god you are an emotional weirdo" I thought to myself, "If anyone laughs at you, I'll beat them up!" I've never had my own back so readily before. I broke down sobbing at the SPUDS meeting on Friday, and was met with nothing but open arms and unconditional love. Love has been the theme of this struggle - letting myself trust in it, letting myself rest in it, letting it be the floodlight that illuminates my dark and hidden wounds, and then the salve that soothes the when they're raw.

It might sound strange, but it's like I'm finally learning to love myself as well. The voice that would normally be full of self-hatred is sick of causing itself harm, so it's extending the olive branch and a hug to the voice that's only wanted to be loved this whole time. I've wanted to be my own friend forever, I've always thought I had a lot to offer myself / the world, and the power of finally seeing that within my grasp is overwhelming. I've never cried so much in my life, but it's beautiful, and it's what needs to be happening.

Of course, as we all know, cycles are cycles and tomorrow I'll be in pain again, hell, probably in an hour or two. But I'm here with it, and I have my own support, and I feel capable of making it through this hard time with love, acceptance, compassion, and ultimately even joy.

-- Note, I wrote this for my /r/streamentry update and am a little tired from raking over the same wounds, so I don't feel like adding much more. Copying here for posterity  I will say that I talked to Tucker today and he says I'm doing great on the emotional management aspect of practice, but should look to explore the emptiness of emotions more on-cushion. So, i'm trying to deal with that. It feels terrifying to have to give up all these structures and ideas that I hold dear, identify with, and find so valuable, but I can see that on the other side is more moment-to-moment connection and beauty. I have a hard time believing you can make a solid, secure life on that sort of looseness, which maybe makes it hard to let go.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
8/1/17 1:53 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Up to Day 212

It's getting hard to keep this journal going as it forces me to retread a lot of the same pain I'm dealing with on a day to day basis.

tl;dr Relationship problems and attachment issues flare up almost daily, and it's hard to know what's true and what's useful, what's me and what's a projection I'm trying to wear, and so on. Right now I'm in something of a low moment, so my experience is colored completely differently than it's going to be later when I get some relief.

My psycho-emotional progress is pretty impressive, I'm forced to stare at jealousy, insecurity, inadequacy, lack of safety straight in the face all day every day, so it's helping me see through some of that on the mental/emotional level, but on the physical reaction level all the symptoms of fear/longing/anxiety/jealousy are strong and persistent.

Perceptual practice / TMI progress is largely waylaid by gross distractions at this moment -- my brain is super interested in watching sex fantasies instead of the breath, and it's difficult to catch those before they catch me.

I'm doing 30min of metta every morning as a way of keeping my heart open through all of this, and that's been largely successful. It feels like a very important practice, so I'm going to make sure I keep doing it as much as possible.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
8/1/17 1:53 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Up to Day 221

Well, the life situation that was causing me so much stress and pain is reaching some sort of resolution point, even though there's a long period of transformation and integration ahead of me. It's my hope and goal to keep my heart open as I have learned to throughout this difficulty, and not dive back into clamming up, shutting down, self-preservation mode.

That said, the patterns that came back up throughout that lead to the end of the situation are some deep-seated shit. It's going to take a lot more "x-axis" work, or some pretty huge insights, to help me uproot a lot of these patterns. Which is going to take time and work, but I'm willing to do it.

As far as practice goes, I'm trying to do Six Realms off cushion when I can but I have to admit that I haven't wanted to be super present for my life the last week or two. I've had some scary intrusive thoughts leaking in, which was a pretty clear indicator to me that the situation was unsustainable.

On-cushion is going pretty well, metta practice in the morning feels like it's of life-or-death importance. I'm considering swapping my TMI shamatha-vipassana pursuits to "Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation' which is more or less still shamatha-vipassana but using metta as the object instead of the breath. The difficulty here is that I have to be able to generate the metta feeling, but that's getting a little easier as I go along. I'm really hoping to start to be able to hit (and recognize) jhanas here soon. I'm pretty tired of my limited, samsaric, dukkha conditioning and really want some freedom from all this.

TMI sits are OK - I've been ejecting from the cushion a lot, which isn't helping a lot. Every time I do it, I reinforce that urge to check the clock and get up, so I need to start braving it out. It's tough though, man. It's been a pretty hard time.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
8/1/17 1:54 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Days 221-227

Alright, well, the situation I've been struggling with for the last couple months has finally reached a sort of resolution, and I'm finding some solace in knowing where I stand, feeling greater clarity about what patterns drove me to suffer like I did, the ways I acted unskillfully, and how to move forward with my life in the direction of recovery and improvement. That's translating to practice feeling a little easier and more focused again, but still accompanied by the dull ache of scabbing over and healing up.

Metta/Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation
Metta sits have been super helpful, though the metta feeling has been tougher to generate lately than usual. I notice a lot of the time, when I try to invoke the metta feeling sensations of fear, anxiety, or tightness arise instead, and then I do my best to sit there and hug/love the tightness, or encourage the metta feeling in other parts of my body to flow up through my chest and hopefully wash away the anxiety. I haven't had much success with the latter, though, so perhaps that's not the "right" way to go about it. Going to keep experimenting as best I can.

I've noticed that after 20min of my metta sits, my mind tends to incline naturally towards my TMI/anapana practice. It's like the breath slides back into focus and feels easier to grab onto. I want to say it sounds like improvement/unification of some sort, but it's also usually accompanied by me getting distracted from keeping metta going. Kind of like "ok I'm done with metta, let's do TMI now"

TMI Practice

TMI practice has been fairly distracted. Lots of gross distraction on the content level, and I've unfortunately retrained the desire to eject early from sits, or skip nightly sits altogether. Refocusing my intention this week to sit through any difficulty no matter what, and to make sure I am making time to do TMI practice. I'm having fun reframing a lot of the TMI material as emptiness practice, given my pursuits of....

Emptiness / Anatta Investigation

This is a fairly new aspect of practice for me, but I'm feeling like it's time to start doing more regular insight investigations / some slight pursuit of the ever-elusive anatta insights. I'm reading Seeing That Frees and working through the practices there, and some of them have been very useful for dealing with regular waves of negative emotion as they arise. Detaching from the content, trying to see what starts the papanca generator running, unpacking the ways my current emotional experience colors objects vs. past emotional experiences, and how has the object changed, if at all?

As far as no-self stuff, I started trying to do gentle "not me, not mine" as I go throughout the day, and my friend Andrew started me down a "game" of self-inquiry, trying to find where the self is, is it in my body, what's it look like, what's it feel like. This has been a fun pursuit - I've enjoyed trying to sit in the "control room" and figure out where the "central processor" is that receives all the sensory input, try to figure out where the identification with self is in my body, try to feel the sliding scale of self-solidity as I move from being free/open to being closed/reactive. I haven't been able to find a self yet, of course, I intellectually understand that I WON'T find a self, but there's a nagging feeling like if only I could look the right way, and if only I had a better conception of what a self was, I'd see it there.......

Tucker says I've made huge emptiness progress in the last couple months, which feels good to hear. He thinks metta to no-self is a worthy path to pursue, so maybe that's the direction I'm headed. I feel like I'm in very close contact with dukkha all the time, which gives me lots of opportunity to work with and investigate the nature of suffering as a characteristic.

Overall, excited to be back to work on this stuff. Really looking forward to the rest of this year with practice.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
9/27/17 4:49 PM as a reply to Geoff.
13 AUG 2017 - Days 227-238

Skipped last week because of a Grade 6 Life Shitshow that I'm starting to recover from, but man, I'm ready for things to calm down some.

"x-axis" or therapy work is at the forefront of my mind this week. In the last couple weeks, I've seen with no confusion how the exact patterns from my childhood and upbringing have manifested themselves in my relationships. Like, the EXACT SAME patterns. Having this insight brought with it a sense of muted sadness and acceptance, as I see what it actually means to be powerless over the way my life plays out thus far.

That sense of powerlessness crept into practice as well, but in a more useful sense -- I'm past thinking that I can do anything on the cushion. I can't keep distractions away, I can't keep myself sitting upright, I can't make myself get into deeper concentration, I can't make anything happen. It happens as it happens, and besides getting myself on the cushion and holding the intention to practice, everything else just does itself. This has brought some freedom to my sits, but also sadness as I let go of expectation, a sense of control, and even losing some excitement about the speed/ability with which "I" can progress through this path. Tucker said something like, "sometimes the path looks like getting to Stage 6, and then two years of therapy, and then Stage 7" which of course made me a little sad - I hope it doesn't take that long, but I see how me hoping that is ignoring the present progress that's taking place right in front of me. Practice isn't about hitting SE, though that's definitely an admirable goal - practice is about being here for practice, so I'm going to try to do more of that.

So, working my way back up to longer and more regular sits. Working my 12 step program for codependency. My therapist says "IT IS TIME" to stop talking about meditation in therapy and make therapy about therapy, so she's tasked me with digging into my family history and bringing what comes up to the next session.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
9/27/17 4:51 PM as a reply to Geoff.
28 AUG 2017 - Days WHATEVER I LOST MY STREAK AND IT'S OK

Had visitors for the last week or so and my practice dropped off accordingly. I took a 4 day, 3 night hike into the Hoh Rainforest area out on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, which was a lovely foray into some green, green territory, and capped the trip off with a large dose of psilocybin mushrooms on Kalaloch Beach.

I took a lot of mushrooms hoping to hit some sort of state of ego death, or deep subconscious exploration, and while I'll spare everyone the long ramblings of a trip report, there were some good takeaways that have lead to drastic shifts in my life and will have long-running ramifications for how I move forward with practice.

Basically, I kept seeing fear and desire, maybe just craving and desire -- either it was a sense of unease, scary imagery changing before me, or strangely erotic visceral imagery - nothing specific or pornographic, just a feeling of lust and churning soft red shapes. Any time I got sucked too far into a state like this, I'd eventually come out of it through acceptance -- It's OK that I'm scared! It's OK that I have erotic feelings! And then the imagery would break up into relief and I'd laugh like someone on shrooms, lying spread-eagled on the sand.

That "It's OK" broke into more and more recursive layers of acceptance -- It's ok that I am who I am, it's OK that I'm on shrooms, it's OK that I have feelings and thoughts and boundaries, it's OK to like things, it's OK to not like things, it's OK to hurt and be hurt and not want to be hurt anymore. My therapist came to me as a loving mother figure, and I saw myself as I perceive she sees me, with kindness, acceptance, some amusement, encouragement, and love.

Eventually the elation and self-love faded as I laid down in the sand and become deeply introspective, kneading wet sand between my fingers, diving back down through my mind into states of prepubescent childhood, innocently playing in the sand. I felt a sadness at having lost this, and saw that there's an intense psychological break that occurred for me (and probably everyone) around puberty, junior high, and high school. I saw I used to be a certain person, and I saw I "killed" that person to assimilate into society. It felt violent and alarming to see the things I've done to myself.

Residing in that state of youth, I saw how deeply my recent traumas affected me. How they cut to the core of this childlike self within me, I saw the way I lost trust in a friend, and subsequently the way I've lost the friend himself, and I cried and grieved those losses very deeply and purely. Just crying and crying on the beach, sobbing into the sand, grieving a part of the situation I hadn't let myself see or feel before.

I came out of the whole situation still holding that deep sense of acceptance. It's OK that I lost a friend. It's OK that I can't be an all-loving bodhisattva of compassion. It's OK to be hurt, and my needs are valid. It's OK to stand up for myself and it's OK to sacrifice things that are important to me if they are harmful at the moment.

Long story short, I'm taking an extended sabbatical from the SPUDS group to keep myself from encountering certain harmful situations. Sure, there's aversion there, but I think aversion for an arrow-wound is acceptable. Sometimes you have to remove the thing that hurts you from your body, bandage, heal up, and then keep walking.

I'm going to keep practicing as hard as I have been, and am scared about losing the support of a sangha that means so much to me, but I plan to keep my individual relationships with people going as best I can while not participating in the group as a whole.

If happiness is a core factor for samadhi to arise, I need more happiness in my life. It's time to move on from all this and start pursuing happiness in the places I've forgotten, and to find what new things are out there for me to explore.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
9/27/17 4:50 PM as a reply to Geoff.
11 SEP 2017

Talked with Tucker last week about how I was feeling, and he told me about how there's a part of the path where it seems like practice stops working, you become averse not just to sitting but dharma itself, and that this is the fabled "rolling up the mat stage." He said the cure for "rolling up the mat" is samsara, so I have faith that the world will hammer me back into regular practice again 


It's been a tough week or so with some personal challenges around relationships, seeing how my patterns come up again, and learning from that. It's good, though. I'm not suffering about problems as much as I would have been in the past before practice and therapy.

Therapy has been awesome lately. It helps that I'm getting out into experiences where my patterns can come to bear. Big 'therapy insights' this week were:

1. I don't need to share every tiny detail of everything with everyone
Growing up in a narcissistic household, I learned to operate in an environment without boundaries. One of the side effects is that for me, the violation of boundaries (mine or others) feels like INTIMACY. Like "breaking through walls" or something idealized like that, when in reality, it's healthy and necessary to have some segmentation in one's life.

2. It's ok to just enjoy things instead of forcing them through an analytic filter all the time
I'm looking at a potentially newly forming relationship, and as such my brain is stuck in its patterns of "what does this mean, what is the shape, is this sustainable, how could this go wrong" planning contingencies and evaluating/comparing instead of being in the relationship itself. Sometimes you can just go hiking and make out and that's awesome for what it is. I don't need to try to predict where these causes and conditions will take me 100% of the time, because to think I can do so is fundamentally deluded.

So it's been productive, even if practice has been slow. But practice is picking back up!

I sat for an hour yesterday and 30min in the evening during compline service with my friend Zai. This morning I actually managed to sit for 30min before work. I'm not doing metta at the moment because it seems exceedingly dry, but I'm back to TMI / shamatha practice. It feels simple and graspable right now. There's much less meta-analysis of the sit going on while I'm sitting. It's more like: there's the breath, there's attention, there's awareness. Simple. Keep the attention on the breath, simply. Oh, there's a distraction. Back to the breath, feel love for the breath, hold attention there. Not "ok holding the breath now if it starts feeling vibratory i should up focus/effort by 20% and let's analyze how that impacts the sit, ok, getting more distracted, ease up effort, refocus breath, oh eye-light flashes are starting, ok, analyze etc etc etc".

So that seems promising - hopefully the analytical overmind is learning something from all the therapy work and can be carried over into the sit. I'm looking forward to getting back to work.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
9/27/17 4:51 PM as a reply to Geoff.
18 SEP 2017


Well, I practiced for a week straight and then haven't really practiced for the last few days. Seems like I'm still dealing with Stage 1 (establish a practice) issues. Talking to Tucker last week, he reminded me that "CDEF" is necessary to proceed, Courage - Diligence - Equanimity - Faith. And he said it seems like I have all those, but this week I think I'm lacking in most of that.

The cure for rolling up the mat is samsara - maybe I haven't had enough samsara to convince me to get back on the cushion yet. But, I'm still here and still around. So I haven't thrown in the towel yet.

Self-severing myself from Sangha means I haven't really been thinking about, reading, researching, or otherwise participating in any dharma discussions during my weeks. I've mostly been caught up in the rhythm of life, which has gotten pretty busy for me -- taking dance lessons, socializing and meeting people on weeknights, going on lots of dates, working on creative projects with friends, it's been a deep dive into the experience of the material world.

Dating takes a lot of time, but feels like practice unto itself. Sharing my space, figuring out how I respond to dating situations, figuring out how I relate to others, figuring out where my and others' boundaries are, figuring out what my relationship to sex is, all these things -- it takes up a lot of time and energy. I'm chalking it up as "practice" for the time being, because I think it is practice, but I can't let it override these other things I know to be important.

On cushion, idk what there is to say. I think I uncovered a new sense of self-doubt relating to practice today. I'm still convinced the path works, but I see that I'm not convinced it works for me. And I'm not looking for a cheer squad here, I know it's had benefits for me and such, it's just a feeling that's arising. Lots of aversion to getting back on the cushion, and convincing myself that other activities are just as valid / more appealing to me anyways. I told Tucker, "You say I have CDEF, but what do I do with this petulant attitude towards practice? "

Hope to try and refocus on practice this week.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
9/27/17 4:52 PM as a reply to Geoff.
As an effort to get the meditation habit restarted, I think I'm going to go back to daily / more frequent updates here. There's a self-imposed sense of obligation (which can be unpacked) there that might be useful in keeping myself accountable. It used to be my daily sit streak, but I've let that go so something else is needed 

9/20/2017
I don't remember the specifics of my sits but do remember general themes. I'm seeing that the difficulties I went through this summer are almost never a problem for me off cushion these days, but they're the first thing to come up on cushion or even when I read about dharma. Apparently I've created some sort of association between meditation practice and all the stuff from the summer, which makes sense given how closely it was tied in with SPUDS, enlightenment, emptiness, and all of that.

So that may be a significant cause of my sitting aversion, but re-reading Stage 1 in TMI and re-reading the beginning parts of Seeing That Frees, I once again re-re-re-remembered about the Hindrances, specifically that I don't have to participate in hindrances any more than acknowledging them. And that doesn't have to be ignoring the content or pushing it away, but I see how I started telling myself stories about Doubt, for instance. Doubt is a problem of mine, doubt is a thing I have to solve, I will solve doubt by doing these things, these readings, talk to these people, etc. When in reality I could just say "Ah, doubt is a hindrance and it's temporary - keep sitting and it'll fade." Having that thought yesterday felt like a big release and made me laugh and smile to myself. And in Seeing That Frees, Robbie B. talks about insight simply being any experience / perception that reduces dukkha -- so maybe that was an insight of sorts.

As mentioned, I've felt aversion towards dharma in general, resistance to trying to adopt Robbie B's emptiness view, lack of interest in metta, and all this. Seeing all that as hindrances, and temporary, is helping me "just do it" and try to become interested in that aversion itself rather than trying to ignore it.

Another positive note is that I do see a lot of ways in which I'm even taking my progress for granted, and noticing that there are lots of ways that my processes have become more automatic towards positivity / compassion / reduction of suffering. It's easier for me to do everything I've written about in this post than it was almost a year ago, so I'll take that as a good sign.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
9/27/17 4:52 PM as a reply to Geoff.
9/21/2017
No formal sit today - met up with a few select SPUDS in the evening (for a politically non-affiliated dharma bros meeting ) and had a good time talking about dharma and such.

Not sure if I've mentioned it here, but I'm taking an intro to dance class (modern dance?) as an attempt at "body work" -- I figure if I can get comfortable dancing and being in my own body/skin in a performative way like that, it means I've also overcome 100 other neuroses to get to that point.

I thought I had nothing to bring to therapy this week, but through discussion a big therapy-type insight bubbled up --- I generally want to be left alone in relationships, likely stemming from having my boundaries violated / having connections be fraught and unsafe throughout my childhood. I have a conflicting desire to be "seen" and to be thought about in a positive way, I want people to care about me, so I also want to be a "good" person / be perceived as a good person, and my relationships end up being a balancing act of "leave me alone" and "think kindly of me" - oftentimes I break my own boundaries to focus on the latter, which makes me resentful and disconnective. Not sure where this one's gonna lead, but going to keep an eye out for it this week.


9/22/2017

AM - 30min - 7:25-7:55
Some mental discomfort while sitting -- last night I had long dreams about people I feel aversion to and that bubbled up in the sit -- some simple attention @ nostril sensations, trying to keep "bare" attention at my nose, some dips down into forgetting/mind wandering. A couple moments of seeing that I was holding attention at the nose even while distractions were very loud in background awareness. Seems like a very subtle differentiation between "distracted" and "attending through distractions". Discomfort/impatience arose as usual near the end of the sit, desire to check the clock. Sat through that, reminded myself it's a hindrance, and attention flagged near the end.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
9/27/17 4:52 PM as a reply to Geoff.
9/23/2017

PM - 30min - 5:28-5:59

Sat down carrying a lot of vague unsettledness from a more or less unproductive day, feeling inertia hard, anxiety about getting up and going out tonight.

Body felt heavy but very still, attention also felt heavy but very still. It stuck pretty closely to the breath when I placed it there and didn't stray too much. I wondered if this was subtle dullness and tried "brightening" my mind and feelings of body-awareness. I wondered about what awareness was, as I more or less rapidly touched parts of my body with attention and let them "linger" when returning to the breath. I tried to see if I could "see" something in awareness without the fluttering of attention. I couldn't, at least I don't think I could.

I tried some TMI stuff - body scanning, body breathing, feeling the sense of an "energy body" - body feeling was very very stable and calm. Like being made of hard, warm clay. Saw thoughts arise and moods arise and quickly detached myself from reification, noting them as thoughts / movement instead of objects. Some thoughts generated anxious body feelings. I asked myself, "who feels anxious?" "what in these sensations says 'anxious'?" and of course there was no "anxious" in the body sensation, so I asked, "where do these sensations land to make "anxious" happen?" and tried to follow the string of yarn from body sensation to anxiety. The yarn never ended - "where does anxiety land?" "who feels anxious?" I couldn't find any specific place where sensation "landed" so I wondered, "who's looking for sensation?" "where does looking for sensation happen?" and tried to feel for the investigation location. Of course, couldn't find a specific location for that, either. Anywhere in my mind that said, "here!" felt like another thought or idea, not convincing or solid. Something shifted slightly in my head and it felt like the "investigator" gave up and hung out with the ends of yard / endless strings of yarn. Thought "huh that's different" and came out of it. Had "desire to check timer" impatience sensation and followed the same "where's impatience happen?" train of thought to get the slight head-shift to happen again. Wondered if it was dullness again, or just sleepiness shifting down, brushed that aside.

Distractions settled in near the end of the sit, kept popping in to see where "I" was hanging out. Had a couple content-ful thoughts that seemed clearly generated by an "I", but I saw the "I" generate them. the "I" generator and the head-shift I had earlier felt like different states of mind.

Bell rang and I got up.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
9/27/17 4:52 PM as a reply to Geoff.
9/24/2017

"AM" - 45min - 12:15PM - 1:00PM

Sat down overcaffeinated and a little on edge from lack of sleep. Physical senses were great and stable throughout - not sure if this is what pliancy feels like but I didn't feel uncomfortable at all while sitting.

Attention was stable if not over-energized and stayed on the breath @ nostrils fairly cooperatively. Sat and counted breaths, did following for a bit, until things seemed to generally quiet down. Had a couple moments where it felt like my body got energized when I expanded the sense of awareness to include all body sensations. After the first 15min bell, I decided to try that line of self-enquiry I followed yesterday and see if I could get myself back into whatever state of mind that was. I felt sensations in my chest, tried to follow those to where they connected to the "meaning" in my mind, found frayed ends of yarn leading to blank space, tried to hole up in that blank space and see all the other ends of yarn (thoughts, emotions, perceptions, feelings, decisions, etc) get created and attempt to land or connect in that place as well. Asked, "who am I" and "where are these phenomena happening", looked for where the asker was asking from, looked for who the asker was asking, got a sense that none of this was located anywhere specifically, and feelings of fear started to arise in my chest. The watcher-mind felt amused at that and continued to try to find the connection of fear-sensation to fear-concept, generated more fear sense, but I couldn't "make" myself calm the fear down or relax into whatever space was opening up. Told myself "the switch isn't on this side" (not that I was close to hitting a switch) and decided to back away for a little while, returning to breath and body sensations, fostering a sense of peace and relaxedness.

The last part of the sit started to get a bit distracted - I tried to find the "screen" that visual distractions were being projected on, noticing how the black space with my eyes closed didn't actually take on the visuals, but the blackness / visuals / senses all seemed to inhabit the same space. Had some moments of auditory examination where the "sound" of listening (concept of listening? concept of sound?) seemed much louder than the actual sounds coming in through my ears.

Phone lit up near the end of the sit and I checked the clock w/ 3 minutes to go. Gotta remember to put it face down and farther away 

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
9/27/17 4:53 PM as a reply to Geoff.
I'll start consolidating posts - I wish the site had a "draft" functionality or something like that, but I can find a way  Sorry for continually renewing the thread!

9/24/2017

PM - 30min - 8:40PM - 9:13PM

Sat down again to warmish, heavy, but stable attention on the breath. Wondered if it was subtle dullness, did my best to brighten and enhance the quality of attention -- attempts to see the freshest moment of every inhale / exhale / space between. At the beginning of the sit, body sensations started ramping up, things got pretty energetic feeling, and I noticed a sense of excitement and happiness arising. It felt like listening to a friend tell you something you can't wait to hear the punchline of, or when you realize you're being given an exciting gift but have to wait until the friend actually gives it to you to let the excitement loose. I noticed my breathing sped up while this was happening. I also noticed that when I stopped focusing on the excitement feeling and gave it space instead, it got even more excited.

Tried body scanning to limited degrees of success, got my right arm to light up pretty well, and could more or less feel a warm buzzy sensation across most of my skin, if I tuned into it. Sounds started to feel loud at one point and became "seen" almost as much in my head as vision might be. Awareness grew and shrank, I tried to keep it open to internal / external sensations when I remembered to. Never really noticed any "forgetting" of the breath - even when gross distractions started to creep in and become interesting, my breath was pretty close at hand.

Tried the self enquiry thing but not much to dig into this sit - tried to "detach" and wondered "who am I" and "where is this happening", felt some mild calming of thoughts as I did this, but it's likely dullness was indeed present. Had an interesting moment where some slight, nearly imperceptible snag in my mind pulled up a bunch of sadness along with it. I sat and watched it come, intended to feel compassion for it, and let it go. More difficult content thoughts started arising near the end and I did the same - had some clear "release" feelings when I let compassion gently hang out WITH the difficult feeling instead of overriding it. Happiness would "pop" and override the difficulty. Sat with one until after the bell went off and the grossly difficult feeling softened, and I got off the cushion.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
9/28/17 12:02 PM as a reply to Geoff.
9/27/2017

AM - 30min - 7:20-7:50

Used the four-step transition to get from open attention down to attention at nostrils and really had a clear sense for each "stage" moving super clearly and obviously. It felt like to move attention from "random points in space" down to body sensations, it just required some sense of letting go / "not-doing", like relaxing a muscle I previously didn't know was there. I've noticed I've been able to relax the "doing" muscle moreso this week -- maybe it's me trying less to "do" meditation? I notice whenever I see it and relax a bit, I have a very small kriya type experience. Usually my head twists or jerks a bit, or a few times my hands have done a little flap. Nothing really special, but it's been new and consistent, so that's interesting.

My sit, besides focus on breath, was about letting that sense of not-doing come up more clearly, and noticing when I was "doing" again. If I noticed myself "doing" I tried to let the various threads attached to that come up -- notice whatever contraction/craving/aversion got me back to doing, and un-do it.


Met with Tucker in the evening and he was happy to hear about all this -- I realized I didn't have an actual question for him, mostly I just wanted to tell him about the stuff I've written lately and ask him if it sounded "legit" or if I was just scripting/still grabbing for "cool experiences." He said it all sounded like the real deal, that I would probably continue to understand what people talk about when they talk about anatta/no-self, and that it's probably OK for me to start talking about jhanas / dharma diagnosis again. I told him how I've perceived that as harmful for me, and he said I've had really strong right effort and that I seem to be at a place where a little investigation and discussion is fine. We'll see. I don't feel a need to really talk about progress of insight or map myself to the nanas, but I guess it's a nice little bit of satisfaction to think I'm getting somewhere. I asked him if I sounded like reobservation entering low EQ, and while he doesn't really speak in explicit nana terms, he said he'd probably put me around that territory. I also asked him if any of my stuff sounded like jhana, 'cuz if I'm getting near Stage 6 in TMI, it's getting close to 1st/2nd jhana time, I think. Probably no - not jhana - but that's OK too.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
9/29/17 9:31 AM as a reply to Geoff.
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9/28/2017

AM - 20min - 7:30AM - 7:50AM

Quick sit before a work call. Tried to feel out that sensation of "doing" again - feeling for subtle layers of tension, effort, or action, and trying to let them go. Tried to feel the fact that I was trying, and tried to let that go as well. Gross distractions came and went various times throughout the sit, and I had more instances of energetic sensations and minor body shakes.

PM - 45min - 9:45PM - 10:30PM

Longer sit, had a lot of vibrating / buzzing / pulsating blobs of sensation in my face and body when I sat. This carried over to my breath for a little while, which was fairly stable but a bit dull feeling. Once again played around with effort - applying more of it to keep my breath focused, applying less of it to see if my breath would stay, occasionally feeling back out into body sensations. I was really hot - it felt like my body was in kind of a buzzy, hot blanket. Felt bodily emotions as they arose, had some inklings of relief / joy when I saw a few difficult emotions arise without my participation in them. Tried to feel all the body sensations as "not me, not mine", but by the latter half of the sit I was getting swept into dullness and distraction. Tried to stay aware of defilements near the end of the sit. Some disappointment arose at not having the anatta view come as easily to me this sit, felt acceptance about that, and pulled back from more and more "doing" to just stay at my breath @ nostrils. The freshest sensation of every new moment. More energetic sensations / body shakes throughout, and I pushed through any timer impatience that arose and got to the end without bailing.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
10/3/17 10:00 AM as a reply to Geoff.
9/29/2017

AM - 20min

PM - 20min

Don't remember much about these sits other than that they seemed to mostly be around TMI stage 4 material.. gross distraction, working on continuity of attention, trying to feel out senses of "doing".


9/30/2017

No sit.


10/1/2017

45min - AM
Don't remember a lot of specifics (need to do quick notes after a sit if I'm gonna do daily updates) but I know I dealt with gross distraction, continuity of attention, trying to feel a sense of the body, trying to do "whole body breathing", feeling and nurturing any sense of an "energy body", noticing I'm still getting tiny "kriyas" or jerking sensations. Starting to wonder how much "doing" I'm doing by looking for "doing".

30min - PM
Feeling body sensations, noting a kind of keening, almost uneasy energy sensation in my body when I expand awareness to include all of it. The same feeling arises when I relax the "do-er" sensations in my head. Balancing "doing" and "not doing", noticing how far I can go down either side before distractions and dullness sneak in. Impatience and timer feelings arose pretty strongly halfway through. Tried to watch those without participation, but expanding "not me, not mine" into a view seems tougher the last few days. Could be the "window" of peak practice is closing for now, back to the meat and potatoes of sitting.


10/2/2017

30min - AM
Had nightmares and woke up at 4am, mind turning over an unpleasant conversation from last night. Tried to balance my therapy-goals of letting myself feel angry and my meditation goals of not being attached to / proliferating that anger. Cushion time was fraught with a lot of gross distractions, doing my best to stay on the breath and feel sensations cleanly and crisply, but often getting pulled into trains of thought/stories/emotions. Tried "holding onto the flagpole in the wind" a la that one turbulent sit I had a few days ago, hoping and trusting that the process would take care of itself. Made it to the end of the sit and appreciated just sitting for 30min through difficult emotions, even if the sit wasn't "productive" (but I see that it WAS productive, i didn't bail or check the clock)

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
10/3/17 10:25 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Yesterday took a dukkha turn for the worse during the day. The discomfort and unhappiness from the nightmares / morning thoughts turned into full-blown hellish mindscape for most of the day. I keep saying that it's like low/mid-level emotional responses have been quashed, so all that's left (that I'm seeing) is the red-lined emotion responses -- mental triggers going straight to despair, hatred, rage. Comparing mind set me up against things that seem impossible or inevitable, I'll never be good enough, I'll never be as good, I'll never be etc etc and seeing the complete hopelessness of being "good enough" and feeling completely trapped and cornered by these thoughts and feelings, it's like my self became a cornered animal who could only think in terms of terrible, final, destructive outcomes. It wanted my enemies to die (it decided it had enemies), it wanted itself to die, it wanted to see peoples happiness unraveled in a Monte Cristo-style satisfying revenge tale, it wanted to see people fail and come apart, it wanted to spit on peoples joy and revel in their destruction. There was no evident avenue for relief other than complete and utter obliteration - skyscraper sized rubber mallets squashing me and the people I hated and all my problems into vapor, grease spot, destroyed beyond all possible existence or recovery. Just complete and utter hate and rage for people, and absolute despair at seeing the inevitability of this continued pain, the impossibility of escaping my flawed imperfect self, the tight cage of this shitty existence.

So yeah, not my best day. My friends were helpful to talk to, which was good, and they were patient and supportive of me as I railed and spun out for the better part of the day.

Didn't sit in the evening.


10/3/2017


AM - 30min


Emotional sensations akin to yesterday's episode started to arise in my chest as I sat. I didn't see any recourse other than just to watch my breath as best I could, accept what I could, let whatever was happening happen. Believe that this is temporary just like everything else and it'll pass someday. If I could "do" anything about it, it was to be aware of mental proliferation as best as possible. Gross distractions, mental content, some "worsening" of the "bad" sensations, though I tried to just see them as sensation and not spin the story. Easier said than done. Maybe this is a big purification? Who knows. It sucks, I hope it passes soon.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:56 AM as a reply to Geoff.
Rolling up the mat continues to roll up the mat....

10/4/2017
No sit

10/5/2017
PM - 15min sit - bailed early, I remember lots of dullness and backwards zen-lurching.

10/6/2017
AM - 15min sit - bailed early, was working from home, got emergency work call
PM - 30min sit - sat through the whole thing, stayed very "top level" of mind, lots of mind wandering and distraction, daydreaming, checked phone near the end

10/7/2017
Was out of town camping, no sit

10/8/2017
Was out of town camping, no sit

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:56 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/9/2017
AM - 15min
Quick sit just trying to get momentum going again. Mostly sat and watched soft breath sensations. Did some thinking about purifications. Near the end of the sit content arose and I started crying. I tried to make space for the pain, a la my therapist's advice (and everyone else who's given me advice recently  )

PM - 30min
Tried "do nothing" practice at the beginning which seemed like an interesting way to watch what my brain was trying to do, but quickly spun out into dullness and distraction. Hypnagogia, agitation, distraction for the rest of the sit. Didn't get up though I did check the clock with 2min left.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:56 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/11/2017

AM - 18min
Set the timer while on the bus and sat with my eyes closed until I heard us get to the bus tunnel. Just tried to gently stay with the breath and let whatever come up come up. Don't remember much specifically about it.

PM - 30min
5min of watching my breath followed by 25min of "do nothing." Sat down with a strong headache and body feelings but thought, "I don't really have to do anything about this" and wasn't quite as bothered by it. The do nothing part was fine -- it's still tricky to tell the difference between attention and intention. I tested myself out, looking at my breath and seeing how that felt, and then trying to "drop" the looking part. I thought about how it seemed like my mind wanted to do sweeping searching motions, like moving would keep it from latching onto something with attention. Remembered the goal wasn't to not pay attention, just not to direct attention. Tried letting go of doing more and more and felt myself get really relaxed, or "deeper", or something. The degree of "deepness" seemed to change depending on the degree with which I could de-identify with whatever was driving my attention. not sure how else to put it... maybe like the more I became the space of my mind rather than a thing within it, or looking at it, or something. idk. when the deepening first happened my breath got really fast and intense for a bit. while floating around "do nothing" space I noticed that there was a lot less "going on" in my mind than I would've thought.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:56 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/12/2017

PM - 45min
Started with 15min of breath focus and transitioned into "do-nothing" at the first 15min bell. Breath focus was nice, I felt calm, if a bit dull, and found it was easy enough to stay on or near my breath, and coming back from a distraction didn't have a significant emotional message attached to it (like, no correction, no admonishment, etc). Do-nothing was fine, had a hard time seeing when I had an intention for attention. Lots of dullness and mind wandering tonight. Body started to feel tingly during breath focus and during do-nothing I had a pretty high amount of small neck/head movements compared to most sits. Honestly having a hard time remembering specifics even though I just sat. It was pretty drifty. I know when I opened my eyes, it felt like I was pulling myself out from somewhere more than usual. Usually I just sort of alight with the bell, or am already agitated beforehand. It felt like I needed more deliberate effort to move my fingers, move my body, get off the cushion. May have just been the dullness/sleepiness.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:57 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/13/2017

AM
25 min

Did breath focus for most of the sit. Drifted on and off the breath, distractions came and went. Intensity / clarity of the sensations seemed "down" and when expanding awareness to incorporate the whole body, I often lost concentration or had a hard time sussing out sensations. Near the end of the sit tried "do-nothing" for a little while and got tripped up again on "attention w/o intention" vs. "attention via intention" and probably did a lot of doing around trying not to do.

PM
10min

Benadryl fog

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:58 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/14/2017

PM - 30min

Was out camping for a Washington Trails Association work party. Couldn't fit on my bench in my tent so laid down in my sleeping bag. Most of the sit was drifting in and out of sleepiness / dullness. A couple times I had the thought, "It doesn't really matter how my body feels / how my mind feels", as in whatever is watching while meditating doesn't seem necessarily bound to the state of the body/mind.


10/15/2017

PM - 20min

After a long day of driving home from Eastern WA, sat for 20min - tried to see if I could maintain attention on the breath with light effort but was often swept away in distractions / dullness. Had one intense moment of emotional content/body feeling come up, and kind of had an "ooh! let's see if I can make space for this!" and then efforted into making space for it. Wondered if that was somehow aversion and I ended up pushing it away / rejecting it / forcing a change to the experience. Distraction momentum made me bail early.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:58 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/16/2017

I think I did 8min of attempted meditation on the bus, but no other sit.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:58 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/17/2017

AM - 30min
Attempted breath focus for most of the sit, really trying to dig into nose sensations, see if there were sensations I was ignoring/passing over. My breath felt subtle and not very obvious, but I knew I was breathing, so I tried figuring out what sort of sensations were telling my brain i was breathing in or out. This had the side effect of letting me sustain focus on the breath for a couple minutes straight, which made me think about "using effort to maintain attention."

PM - 30min
Impromptu sit with some SPUDS friends. Lots of strong dullness, gross distractions. Thoughts about work.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:58 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/18/2017

AM - 30min
Breath focus, trying to keep awareness expanded within the room and have attention encompass all bodily sensations as well as nostril sensations. Felt a little less acutely aggravated this morning and even looked forward to sitting a little bit. The breath was subtle and I couldn't make out many different sensations, but I was able to stay pretty steady and attentive on it. My body felt strong and stable as I sat. I was able to expand attention from nostrils to nostrils+abdomen and then nostrils+abdomen+shoulders+back and some arms. I felt pleasant and tried to discern where pleasantness was, what sensations were pleasant, and make those an object. Limited success there. Got a bit dull and distracted near the end of the sit.

For posterity's sake (for me to come back and read later and hopefully laugh at) it's worth noting that off-cushion I have been super belligerent about practice and my life lately. I still mostly feel like I want to "die" but by "die" I really just mean poof and disappear in some unfelt instantaneous vanishing. I've been watching this cycle of anger -> aggravation -> hopelessness -> despair -> impatience -> apathy -> anger over and over. Friends are giving me great advice but I'm belligerent and resistant to all of it. I know I could be doing metta, or deity yoga, or anatta practice, but the party line is "fuck this, fuck that, fuck all of it". I am profoundly stuck and attached to content the last week or two. "Make space for the pain" and "acceptance+surrender" seem to be the tenor of the advice I'm getting, but it's been difficult. I guess it feels like all this shit has been stirred up in my life, via therapy / experience / practice, and OBVIOUSLY enough it really sucks to be aware of all these failings/blind spots/negative patterns but still have no real clue as to what I can "do" about them.

All that said there is still an understanding that this isn't my default state, this is a "thing", and I'm still doing my best to maintain faith that this is part of the path, is normal, is natural, is impermanent, etc.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:58 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/18/2017 part 2

PM - 45min
Did 15min of breath @ nostrils. Body felt kind of dull tingly, blobby vibrations in face. Attention was back and forth, slow alternations of object/distraction.

Tried doing noting for the next 30min, felt like I ended up just saying words in my head, kept trying to refocus to be "precise" in the note but nothing felt very precise, noted effort, had long periods of spacing out where it seemed like my mind couldn't figure out what it was looking at or why. Got frustrated and impatient near the end, noted frustration and impatience.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:59 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/19/2017

AM - 1hr

Did an hour of samatha on the airplane. Unfortunately this was a very early airplane, so the sit went about 15min of attempts at concentration, just calm and tired breath watching, 15min of hypnagogia and sleep, 15min of trying to shake myself out of it via effort, and 15min of hypnagogia and sleep.

AM - 30min

Did a brief period of noting on the plane. Can't remember much as far as details go, tried to make sure each label was actually associated with a "note" and I wasn't just saying words in rhythm in my head. Lots of resorting to "waiting" while I tried to figure out what was actually going on, or what I could be looking at. In those moments, tried starting to note "unsure" or "ambiguous" or "waiting", or instead looked at body sensations instead. Still feels a lot like I'm selectively moving my attention around from thing to thing and naming it instead of letting it come and be named, or something. I should probably read some actual instructions on this.

For most of yesterday I was in a pretty good mood and tried to make sure I noted happiness / satisfaction / comfort / ease / relief when I could. Also trying to note off cushion when I remember to.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:59 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/20/2017

PM - 20min

Quick sit waiting for a friend's arrival. Sleep deprived from travel yesterday, mostly focused on samatha for 10min which lead to hypnagogia and driftiness. Tension in my head and neck that kept trying to shake itself out, got very very hot and warm. Transitioned to noting, noted tension, unsure, ambiguity, hot, disacomfort, waiting, impatience, tired, heavy, tingling, hearing, seeing the various "flow" imagery behind my eyelids. Got lost from the notes multiple times due to hypnagogia.


PM - 45min

Read a wonderful post on /r/TMI about Stage 4 practice here: www.reddit.com/r/TheMindIlluminated/comm...tr/tips_for_stage_4/

Sat with the intention to rely on intention to direct my attention instead of just a general sense of "efforting" or "holding my breath" on something. It feels like when I get ahold of intention it's like bypassing the part of mind that needs to TRY to make decisions and jumps straight to the decision being made. "I'm going to pay attention to the breath" as opposed to "I'm going to try to pay attention to the breath (background head voice secretly wants to stop practicing / wants to wallow / etc). Promptly setting a clear intention to pay attention felt really GOOD.

This had the direct effect of helping me stay super concentrated for almost 20-25min straight. There was some minor distraction coming in and out and I had to redirect attention a few times, but for the most part I stayed pretty still and stable and enjoyed some quality time with my breath. Had a few moments where it felt like I could feel vibration/sensation increasing in my nose, and I also tried to spend some time expanding attention (via intention) to the rest of my body, observing any energetic phenomena, I had a lot of neck movements/motions again. It seems like my head jerks related to some sort of "dissonance" in my head while concentrated, like one part of my mind starts overtaking intention with a distraction but gets pulled back into line by the rest of my mind paying attention, and my head jerks.

Had a few moments where the usual content-related painful things started to try to come up, and it felt like they had more space to just BE there with intention steering the ship for me instead of me trying to force the rudder myself, if that makes sense.

Near 30min or so my intention started to get tired and distractions moved in more readily, so I decided to try and spend some time seeing if I could get a better sense of what it's like to get distracted. At the 30min bell I switched to noting and noted pretty quickly but not very clearly and not consistently for extended periods. Heavy, spacey, tired, distracted, warm, tense, jerking, sleepy, energy, tense, shiver, etc. While noting after coming back from one distraction, my body started rocking side to side surprisingly quickly and strongly. That hasn't happened for me since my 7 day retreat earlier this year. Some moments of pretty intense energy well-up throughout my body. Sat there sort of amused watching my body move, felt like my intention could steer the ship back to the breath again, so spent the rest of the time more or less watching the breath.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:59 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/21/2017

PM - 20min

Just a quick sit for continuity past midnight after along day of wedding festivities / dancing / partying / etc. Very tired, sleep deprived, attention wandering all over the place, falling asleep.


10/22/2017

PM - 30min

Sit before bed, started with samatha practice. Head shakes and tension in shoulders/neck. Attention / intention distinction soupy, the ability to hold intentions was weak. Tried noting about halfway through, kept dropping out of mindfulness into mind-wandering but noted body sensations, impatience, agitation, heaviness, tension, heat, sleepiness, distraction, spaciness, and so on. Had some emotional content come up that I participated in more than I observed, caught myself down the line of a long session of mind wandering and had to keep fighting myself to stay out of it. Hypnagogia and drifting. Impatience arose strongly near the end of the sit, caught myself 3-4 times wanting to grab for the phone and check the timer, but caught myself before doing so each time and tried to "make space" for the impatience to be there.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 11:59 AM as a reply to Geoff.
10/23/2017

PM - 23min

Samatha, intense emotional content coming up, bailed early.

Met with Tucker tonight for the first time in a month, who recommended 'just keep going' and then he saw how bad of shape I was in, and recommended self-care instead.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 12:00 PM as a reply to Geoff.
Still been sitting everyday, but I think I'll go back to more of a weekly / general update. It seems my practice is mostly moving in "gross" type movements, there's not much day to day change and maybe the daily updates encourage me to wallow a little bit.

Practice is largely still samatha focused, but pretty distracted. The last few days have been pretty content-driven, but I've managed to keep myself on the cushion til the end and not bail early. 30-45min a day.

Therapy was very useful yesterday. We looked at the shape of some intrusive thoughts I've been having recently and, of course, it all ends up pointing back towards childhood traumas and the things I've learned. Pointlessness because working the "system" could never make me feel safe, feeling trapped to keep working the system for survival, and a nice reminder that no one's suffering is unique. Had a moment where my therapist and I made direct eye contact and I felt very vulnerable telling her that I trusted her to take me through this process, and she reassured me that I could get through, which made me very emotional.

Near the end we looked at how psychological changes are at the heart of all great literature, how there really isn't a "great" book that doesn't have at its heart some sort of psychological drama / trauma -- we looked at Moby Dick as it's my favorite book, and talked about how Ahab was basically driven by a wound that was inflicted upon him. Instead of making space for his suffering, he reactively drove him and his crew to destruction. Ditto Breaking Bad, which I think we can probably put on the "literature" list  Basically my takeaway, which I think counts as a lowercase-i "insight", is that I'm never going to get over the situation(s) that keep making me hurt / insane if I keep focusing on the recovery being about the situation, or the continued symptoms that my suffering brings me. Something deep in me got wounded this summer, and it's finding out what exactly got wounded, why it got wounded so badly, and what deeper patterns are keeping it from healing that's going to be the "good work" of therapy and other examination.

So I'm feeling a little better, feel some intentionality recovering and reforming around this, and will keep moving as ever. I'm looking into either working some sort of relational tantra practice into my normal stuff (it's highly recommended by a few SPUDS and seems like a direct antidote to attachment/fear/lack of faith issues) and/or the Mindful Review analytical type meditation from the TMI book. But maybe neither, too. One thing Tucker told me is that I have no shortage of techniques or skill, but my primary blocker seems to be a lack of faith. And I don't know if doing 100 different practices helps with faith very much. We'll see!

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 12:00 PM as a reply to Geoff.
copy and pasted description of me trying Perfect Parent practice for the first time last night (or diety yoga, guru yoga, relational tantra, idk) - sorry if formatting is shit, it's from chat.

- last night I sat down to do it and started out trying to envision what qualities I wanted a PP to have, or what I felt I was missing, so I thought of determination, affection, safety, assurance, love, warmth, all that
- basically tried letting those qualities radiate at me from some being or location in front of me / outside of me, and visualization was tough / confusing so I mostly just envisioned myself getting hugged
- all the painful thoughts that were arising into that compassion, the PP was patting me on the back, rubbing my back, saying it's OK
- i know this is hard, you've been trying so hard, you're doing really well, it's going to be OK, I know, shh etc
- the visualization turned into my ex doing that, which I quickly noped my way out of, but the PP said "it's ok, I know you miss her" which was some acknowledgment I hadn't been letting myself feel
- so i started crying for a long time
- but it was OK, the PP was metacognition watching me cry and hugging me
- letting me get it out
- and then i spent some time trying to keep visualizing it [but had difficulties determining a "form" for it to hold]
- i crave loving, feminine energy
- i have mommy issues
- i want to lie in someone's lap and get petted and cooed to
- but i don't want the PP to become sexualized or problematic so I was trying to steer it away from being my ex or my therapist, which were the natural movements of my mind, and tried to make it more masculine / neutral / sexless but still embody that same hugging comforting warmth
- but yeah it was just a good voice,any time something tough came up it was just acceptance
- and then near the end it did the sort of encouraging parent thing after you've been crying a while and was like "how about a smile?" and I saw I COULD be happy
- it felt like the waking up from fear/shame I had on shrooms
- like oh duh
- of course
- and i started laughing
- and then the bell rang


Another note, regarding my last post -- in a dream, the thought came to me that part of the "wound" of this summer is me feeling like there's a deeper, more whole, more beautiful, fulfilling, easy, joyful, connected layer of life that's not available to me and doesn't seem like I've ever had or ever will have access to it.. And as an arrow in the arrow wound, being unable to access that layer caused me a lot of pain and loss this summer. This is, of course, just a story, but it seems something in me truly, truly believes it at a very deep level. Going to pick this apart with my therapist tomorrow.

Though, last night I brought that up at our Tuesday SPUDS meeting and my friend told me that it's likely that part of my identity-view has adopted suffering as a core component of itself, and so that story is perversely comforting to me, because if I was able to be truly convinced that I DO have access to that layer of life, it would mean my identity-view needs to shed a core component, and that is very scary to some aspect of my self.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 12:01 PM as a reply to Geoff.
THERAPY
Current investigation of this new thread is as follows:

As mentioned in last post, I discovered a story of mine: I believe there's a deep meaningful layer of life that I desperately want access to, but feel like is cut off from me. I tell another story that people ARE at that level that aren't me, and I'm being left behind and forgotten as a result.

Therapist pointed out that so much of my suffering is caused by a deep seated belief that I'm separate, unique, special, apart from the rest of the world / humanity. That separation was a defense mechanism/served a specific purpose during my childhood, but now I still have it and, as above, desperately want to have this sense of connection.

It's like I'm looking at other peoples lives and telling myself stories that they're perfect, they're at that level, they're connected and whole, they're ideal, and I want THAT. I want that specific connection, I want their specific connection. I want to form myself into a shape that fits with the rest of the world, or will slot nicely into this "deeper layer", but I'm missing the basic fact that trying to form myself to fit the shape of life is still considering myself separate from it. Even more, it's less abstract an issue than "life itself", it's a lack of connection to my OWN LIFE - to MYSELF - I want to feel like I'm a part of myself, feel like I can fully and connectedly be a part of my own life, but I can't seem to do that. It's a deep, deep, deep terror in me that I'm never going to be truly connected to my own life, and the events of this summer dug deep and touched that nerve - that fear of not being there, never being there, not knowing how to get there, inadequacy, failure, fear, frustration, despair, anger, and me trying to doggy paddle to keep up with The Deeper Layer Of Life when really, that movement was a betrayal of my own life, the connection that was missing, and the things I knew to be true but ignored.

We also talked about that moment of vulnerable eye contact from last week, how I tried practicing that moment again with the "perfect parent", and how it feels intense / sad / vulnerable to try and hold another's gaze when they're looking at me with compassion and affection. There's fear there for me, and sadness - like when I'm truly exposed to another in that moment, I'm scared they'll see me and deem me unworthy, and turn away. This is tied back to mom stuff, in true therapy fashion  A moment of being seen, followed by years of being unseen. Learning to cope and operate in that lack.

The wins from this week were how I was able to intuitively know and understand that what she was telling me was true. I've felt disconnected from my own life for my entire life. It feels like something fundamentally wrong or broken or missing in me. Being able to say "Yes, that's true" means there's some connection with my reality. I also stopped myself from saying something untrue, which also shows some improved connection with where I am and my ability/willingness to stay aligned with myself.

PRACTICE

Had a cool moment while driving today where content that would normally be causing me pain was simple, kind, compassionate. I noticed a less contracted sense of self and thought about how nice it is to have that suffering reduced. It made me hopeful that I'd be able to be like this on the regular someday.

On-cushion practice is going steadily, back to 2x 45min a day sits mostly, either 15x samatha / 30x perfect parent or vice versa. Perfect Parent is basically self therapy on the cushion, given my issues - feeling encouraged by it to "explore" when I come back from being distracted, feeling steady acceptance when I return to it after spinning out on a tantrum. It seems very promising a la metta and I'm going to stick it out.

Samatha-vipassana has been pretty distracted. It's tough for me to stick with even 10 breaths still, and I've noticed some sense of dullness that is likely due to lack of sleep. It's a little frustrating that I can't seem to "feel" the mindspace like I was a month or so back when I was investigating "doing-ness" and had a clearer sense of anatta. That's OK, though - I'm making it my goal to just have faith that whatever is working is working, to patiently just enjoy practice, and to try and not think too hard about maps / progress / states / etc. Also trying to refresh my intentions to note off-cushion.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/8/17 12:01 PM as a reply to Geoff.
A note from past-Geoff to now-Geoff, and hopefully to future-Geoff:

Someday you're going to wake up doubting yourself, doubting practice, doubting enlightenment, doubting all the teachings you've ever read, and you'll think, "Wow Doubt is a big thing standing in my way, I'd better do something about it if I ever want my practice to progress (which I doubt it ever has)."

You'll go off and google all about the hindrances, try and find strategies, tools, and techniques for dealing with doubt, you'll doubt the solutions you found, you'll feed into your own despair and feelings of impossibility, you'll keep moving around in this big circle not believing you've ever done it right or will ever do it right, BUT:

Remember that you googled Doubt as a hindrance. Remember that Doubt is JUST a hindrance. The more you build it up as a wall in your mind, the more it becomes an obstacle. It's not actually preventing you from practicing right now. There's nothing actually preventing you from practicing right now. Just keep going like you believe in yourself. Fake it til you make it, cuz this mood is impermanent, as you'll hopefully remember later today or tomorrow when you're feeling confident and energized again.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/9/17 5:33 PM as a reply to Geoff.
11/9/2017

THERAPY
Interesting week this week. Went in feeling very positive but sort of disconnected after some "do nothing" and relaxing into joy in the waiting room. Thought I couldn't get into any deeper feelings but ended up peeling the onion on some things that, as usual, point to things like fear of abandonment, aversion to pity/being seen as pitiful, feeling like "not enough", and looking at other ways I may be ignoring my intuition or trying to convince myself of untruths that I think I want. Looked at how I think everything in a relationship is my responsibility - I talked about meeting with someone I was dating to see if we could "try again" now that a lot of the summer's stuff has begun moving out, but these notions I have of "it COULD be better" or "it COULD go right" hinge on the assumption that it's my personal failings, that if only I acted more perfectly, more perfect results would arise, etc. More looking at how not everything in my life is my fault or my responsibility, but my upbringing definitely taught me that I needed to treat everything as my responsibility for survival's sake.

PRACTICE
Concentration practice mid-late last week was lacking in focus, so I rabbit-holed down more "what practice should I be doing?" pits, even though I kept reminding myself of the advice i've gotten - all practices are shit at this stage. I talked to one friend at length about Reobs and EQ and that lead me to "do-nothing" practice again, but more like "do 3% of nothing so you don't try to do nothing" practice. It feels "right" at the moment, like I just need to be seeing more general "what's going on here" instead of trying to keep focus on my breath for 10+ breaths or really trying to get nose sensations to turn into vibrations. Idk. Could still be wrong, but part of it for me is "no limiting beliefs", so no self-doubt or unsurety allowed either. Just gonna keep doing this, believing my awakening is imminent, giving doubt space to arise and pass away but not building any more strategies for handling it.

I've noticed I've been able to sort of relax into joy more, like if anxiety or sadness is present I let it be there, I really let myself feel it, but then I remember "it doesn't really matter", which is probably the wrong words - it's the "waking up" feeling I had on my shrooms trip or have had in other sits recently. Like, I'm sad, but it's OK. Things are fine. Usually if I really feel this it comes with a sense of relief and happiness. In the therapy waiting room today I got nearly ecstatic as thoughts of the summer arose but were met by "wow, that was sure something, wasn't it." or "that was weird, huh." type thoughts. I've also felt like some people have stopped being massive, monolithic structures of potential harm to me in my head and have returned to just being human beings with reasonable human being needs and emotions. I'm trying to let myself enjoy this while I'm here, but also trying to acknowledge that cycles be cyclin' and I may yet have some more "chin-ups" to do between emotional states.

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/17/17 12:23 PM as a reply to Geoff.
11/17/2017

This week is an especially strong blend of "therapy" and "practice" so I'm having a hard time structuring this post in my head. Hopefully everything comes through clearly. It's gonna be a long one, BAY-BEE!

GENERAL LIFE STUFF
So, I started weightlifting last week, and haven't missed a workout yet. It's interesting, it feels like something "clicked" and this is just what I do now. I've been waking up at 5:30AM on M/W/F to get to the gym without a second thought, without hesitation. I go to sleep on time so I can wake up without too much struggle, and don't sleep through my alarm. I went grocery shopping for myself and have been cooking my own healthier food (healthier than take-out) and counting calories. Feels like this is a big step towards "taking my life back" or helping myself do some of the "x-axis" style rounding-out I'm hoping to accomplish this winter. Just calling this out in this post as it's a relatively big life change, one that indicates things may be trending a different direction than they were this summer, and I'm feeling calmly hopeful about what the next few months may bring. I told my therapist that my most recent breakup felt like the "bottom" of the emotional rollercoaster that started rolling this summer, and now that I feel the events have mostly resolved, it feels like I saw myself and said, "It's just you and me now, Geoff. Let's do this thing." And so it is.

THERAPY
This may have been one of the first therapy weeks in some time that I didn't cry! Writing that now, there's a very minor sense that maybe I didn't "work hard enough" at it, which is a funny thought and I'm laughing at it. Ha ha, brain!

Anyways, before therapy this week, a friend and practice-advisor shared a quote from AH Almaas that resonated extremely strongly with everything I've been working on. It was basically a word-for-word transcription of my last few weeks. It's also an excellent descriptor of the "wall" I hit a week or two ago when finding myself unable to "let go" in EQ. I'll copy the whole thing here for posterity:
Achieving a measure of freedom from this incessant ego activity is not easy; it requires a deep surrender. This letting-go requires several factors. One of these is learning . . . that not knowing what to do in order to be is not a deficiency, for being is not a matter of doing anything. When there is nothing to do, then not knowing what to do is an objective situation and not an indication of a personal failing. When this happens, then the feeling of “I cannot do anything” and “I do not know what to do,” which is the hole of the Diamond Will, transforms into the solidity of essential support, with the understanding that Being is the support for being.

Surrender also requires deep and unquestioned trust in truth, in reality in general. It requires an unusual faith or basic trust that if one suspends the activity, everything will be okay, that everything will be taken care of. For most people, this basic trust was eroded because of early parental treatment that failed to give the child the implicit confidence that she will be taken care of without having to manipulate for her environment to provide what she needed. 

The inadequacies of the early holding environment made her feel that she cannot just relax and be; she has to take things into her own hands and make sure that she will be safe and cared for. This orientation manifests in later life as a general distrust of reality. She learns to react instead of being to manipulate things in an attempt to compensate for inadequate holding. . . .

This reactivity is part of the very structure of the self-identity; the fundamental distrust is one of the deepest motivations for the compulsive activity. Because the self believes that she can trust only her own activity, she is certain that it would be foolish and dangerous to cease this activity. Therefore, the prospect of the cessation of the activity tends to produce a tremendous amount of terror. Another important factor in the ego activity is that the self is always striving to be a particular way, in order to achieve support. . . . The self tries to approximate a certain ideal, in the hope that if she succeeds, she will be worthy of the support she needs. Thus, effort is a chronic characteristic of the self-identity structure. . . .This lack of basic trust is fundamental to the normal identity. There is no sense that the deeper nature of the universe is good and loving. This basic distrust reflects the ignorance of the knowledge which arises only with self-realization, which is that Being is the fundamental ground of all existence, and that its nature is inherently benevolent. (pp. 342-343).
This seems to more or less be the "bottom" of the current "canyon" I'm walking down in therapy. I asked my therapist if she thought it went deeper than this, but she said this is where she'd probably stop, but it may go deeper. This lack of "basic trust" seems to be the "wound" that was exacerbated this summer, and that more or less drives a lot of my life choices, social interactions, hopes, dreams, fears, etc. I don't trust (yet) that the world is going to catch me if I fall. Life requires constant effort from me to keep it from abandoning me. And when, despite my best efforts, all that trying and manipulating fails and I'm "abandoned" anyways, it twinges that deep, deep nerve that says "You are inherently not good enough, and do not deserve love and support."

The "antidote" for this is, well, love and support. From myself, and from others -- the key aspect to the latter is that I have to LET myself be loved, trust that the love is there, and "fall" into it if needed. And that's to TRULY fall into it - not to try and manipulate or mitigate my feelings or myself for the fear of being abandoned. My friends have been extremely present for me for months now. Y'all on AN have been here for me for a while now. They hold me when I'm spinning out, offer endless advice and encouragement, and do so without asking much in return. My fear kicks in when a voice says, "Ok that's enough negativity, it's time to turn on "reciprocation mode" - hi how are you, how are you doing, etc". The "reciprocation" comes off metallic and cold if I'm obviously not there, and I know from being on the other side how easy it is to see when someone's still too caught up in their own shit to connect with you. All this has made me feel truly appreciative of my friends and loved ones this week. It's not that I just have a group of positive people who extend that positivity to me, but I have friends who are personally invested in my life, success, enlightenment, happiness, etc. And they give me personal love and attention and encouragement, and that's extremely valuable. I feel very grateful for it this week.

One thing my therapist said that I liked was, "It seems like you're on your way out from your 'first big cage', which is very freeing, but then you'll see you're in another one, but it won't be so bad because you'll know it's just a cage'" etc etc.

PRACTICE
I had a friend keisaku-chat me the other day and say, "What would it take for you to sit for an hour a day and 6-8hrs on the weekend? And don't say faith."

I got pretty reobs-y over this last weekend -- had so many practice dodgeballs being thrown at me, felt like I'm "digging too many holes" but not having faith that any one hole is working for me. Another friend, when hearing me complain about a lack of faith, brought up the basic trust/basic mistrust thing I copied above. I won't have faith in a practice rooted in surrender if my faith in reality is so shaky that I refuse to surrender to it. I can make some headway there, and am doing so, but that's a big one to work through. Some key experiences early in the week helped me significantly with this most recent chin-up into Reobs:

1. Perfect parent practice is a tantric "antidote" for that basic mistrust in reality. Continuing to do that keeps providing me with a sense of being held and nurtured even if I'm feeling unsure, cranky, doubtful. The PP's love doesn't waver. I've supplemented the PP practice with "calling up the retinue", basically imagining that I'm sitting in space (on a big cool glowing mandala type thing, of course) and all around me are the enlightened beings of time and space, all the buddhas, bodhisattvas, friends, MYSELF as an enlightened being, all sitting around me and witnessing my practice. They're also supporting my practice, just as I'm supporting theirs. This gave me some keep emotional healing experiences around feeling like a "peer" - it wasn't that I was a subject in the center of them being observed, I was a PEER of theirs, I belonged in the circle, and they were "with" me instead of "around" me. I got distracted once while visualizing all this, and came back kind of sheepishly like I had gotten caught daydreaming, but me & the retinue all just laughed lovingly and openly. Like, it's less than a problem, it's just a thing - everyone gets distracted, even the retinue. It was like someone told a good joke and we were all happily laughing about it.

2. That realization moment that all my friends specifically had MY back, loved me, and wanted to see me succeed.

3. Re-reading shargrol's post on problemness vs. no-problemness, this is a new avenue of investigation I'll bring into RO-ish sits. Might help me with the "be with it" "problems" I face.

Practice itself has been interesting, very distracted despite all my best efforts. I had one sit where I focused on breath sensations to get grounded, got the "acquired appearance" sense that it stopped being a "nose" or "breath" and just became sensation, and then it was like my whole head stopped being a head and just became sensation, but huge, zoomed in, out of place. Like I was a blown-up Picasso painting on a movie screen and the watcher got stuck in the front row of the theatre. This quickly lead to hypnagogia, at least that's what it seemed like, though I noted in my head that it didn't seem like normal sleepiness hypnagogia. Just uncontrolled visions, thoughts, movement of mind.

Last night I got stressed/frustrated thinking about work while sitting so did some "problemness" investigation, which seemed to cool it out quite a bit and gave me some space. Space brings on dullness right now, so there's some investigation/experimentation to be done with that.

I unfortunately don't have the same sense of "I'm just enacting the future in the present" certainly/ease of action with practice as I do with lifting atm, but I am trying to sit for an hour a night from here on out and do long sits on the weekend. I think it's time to wrap this shit up, n'aw mean?

RE: Geoff's Practice Log
Answer
11/28/17 5:17 PM as a reply to Geoff.
11/28/2017

GENERAL LIFE STUFF
Happy post-Thanksgiving to all. I traveled back to Chicago from Wednesday til Sunday to see family and friends for the holiday, and it was a good and exhausting trip. My home situation has changed a lot in the last few years - my mom lives with her boyfriend in a rented apartment, my dad lives at his friend's house, my brother and his wife live with her family, and my youngest brother lives in a bro-esque apartment downtown. As such there wasn't much of a place for me to "land" - I don't want to stay with my mom, my dad/middle brother are out, and my youngest brother's apartment is kind of a heap.

Fortunately, I have a lot of friends who care about me, and I called in some favor cards and bounced between three different apartments during my trip. It was really wonderful to see my friends, and I know they love and support me, but there's a nagging feeling of being burdensome / "putting them out", despite their assurances to the contrary. I don't want to take anyone for granted. Maybe I'll send some gifts for the next holiday, which I do NOT plan to go home for emoticon

Seeing friends was interesting, maybe it's just how I don't really come with anything OTHER than "real" shit to talk about, but it seems like a few of my friends are going through periods of introspection that seems new to them. I'm grateful that I'm able to give them a few pointers, show them a couple faulty thinking patterns, and give a few gentle suggestions for exploration moving forward. Nothing preachy or too crazy, but it seems like we all really do go through the same things, at a deep deep level. We all want to be safe and seen. Everything else is flavors of that.

THERAPY
No formal therapy session last week because of the holiday. I didn't find anything new out about myself on my trip home, I still don't enjoy spending time around my mom but am not quite ready to make a change or any movement there. There's plenty to unpack here with myself first.

PRACTICE
I didn't practice much when I was home, but did some sits on the plane and at the airport both ways. Lots of dullness there, but I was also taking 6AM flights both ways. Back at home, I had a moment of resistance to practice where my brain was telling me, "Of course you aren't going to get awakened. It's silly to think you are." which made me not want to practice, but I did anyways. Lots of distraction during that sit - seems that voice convinced my sub-minds that sitting wasn't the thing to do right then.

Still sort of wrestling with / investigating the concepts of effort vs no effort. I notice that I TRY to not try, and want to optimize for non-optimization. It still feels like trying and doing, so I'm trying to get a sense for what the flavor of that is. I talked about this some with my friend yesterday, who did some light pointing out, including sending me this:
Let go of what has passed.
Let go of what may come.
Let go of what is happening now.
Don’t try to figure anything out.
Don’t try to make anything happen.
Relax, right now, and rest.

Reading the last three lines, I think I got a sense of actual not-doing, or ACTUAL rest. I saw the doer trying to "do rest", and saw that I didn't have to do that, I could just relax and rest. And I did, for a brief moment, which felt, oddly enough, kind of intense in the relief it showed me (for like, .3 seconds. A very very brief touch). It was like dipping my toe into a really hot spring or something, my brain recoiled and I started almost giggle-weeping next to my coworker. Reflecting on it, I see how nearly impossible it would be to describe the "motion" of relaxation there. My friend calls it the , "yeah, but..." machine -- it's like stopping the "yeah, but..." machine and seeing it's unnecessary. Everyone always says "Just let go, just surrender, just relax, it's all right here, etc" but that means literally nothing to someone who hasn't actually REALLY relaxed like that.

And now my brain wants to try to relax, so that's gonna be interesting to keep an eye out for.