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Jens's practice log

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Jens's practice log
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1/10/17 9:42 AM
Hi everyone!

Introduction & experience

I'm Jens, a 26 year old man from Northern Europe, currently pursuing medical studies. I came to this place via MCTB, like most people here, I'm guessing.

I've been "dabbling" in meditation for a few years now. By this I mean I have not really doing it in a "structured" way, doing a few rounds of Headspace, reading and listening the people from the Be Here Now network (Cornfield, Salzberg et.al.), reading MCTB -- generally spending a lot of time wanting to work with and improve my mind and figuring out how to do it, and comparatively little time actually doing it. So I'm starting a log here partly as a way of structuring my practice, partly as a way of keeping track of time and progression, and partly as an initiative to get involved with a community that shares my interest and goal.


Current practice, goals and scheduling

My overarching goals are stream entry and eventually Awakening. I try not to make too big a deal out of this, for fear of frustrating my current practice. For the moment, I'm content to work on developing a stronger concentration.

In addition to this, I've struggled with anxiety and depression for basically as long as I can remember. It manifests as introversion and shyness, fear of rejection, and approval-seeking, all of which have distinct thought process patterns. When I was about 18, these developed into a bit of an alcohol problem, with a bit of a hereditary tendency towards the same mixed in for good measure. I cut down dramatically in the past half year, and I went completely dry just before new year's eve. This is still very fresh, so it may seem uncertain -- but I'm doing much better this time than I have in previous attempts, and sobriety has become very important to me. While this is not my main reason for wanting to establish a practice, I definitely do hope a practice might help me deal with the cravings and poor self-image -- at least seeing them differently, or as Sharon Salzberg put it, developing new relationships with them.

I stumbled into The Mind Illuminated more or less by accident online, and seeing how popular it had become in the /r/streamentry community on Reddit, I bought it. I've found it enormously appealing, to the point where I've decided to use TMI as my primary guide towards Awakening. According to the roadmap in the book, I veer between stages 2 and 3, tending towards 3 recently -- I usually catch distractions before they become the focus of attention, but my mind still occasionally wanders for a good while before I realise it.

Med school takes a toll on the time I have available to practice, but I'm working extra hard to create space for two sessions per day. Currently I'm doing 20 minutes each, slowly ramping up -- my study schedule varies quite a bit so it's hard to adjust, but when feasible, I hope to manage 2x45 minute sessions per day. I will update this log weekly, probably on weekends, and count today as my first day.

RE: Jens's practice log
Answer
1/11/17 3:51 PM as a reply to Jens.
howdy jens,
you, and your track sound like the idealized version of who i want to be ;-)

your attitude and focus seem great and your sources are definitely right on.

cut yourself some slack, and try to enjoy the ride.  be ready to be surprised and believe that with positive effort the path will reveal itself and the knots will untangle with sustained efforts.

best success

tom

RE: Jens's practice log
Answer
1/15/17 8:19 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
Thanks for your reply, Tom! I will try to cut myself some slack, but for the moment I want to maintain a fairly strict regimen in order to make a regular habit of it. I've tried beginning regular practice a few times before, but they fizzled out because of procrastination and doubt, I hope this time around I can make room for it.


Log 1/10/17-1/15/17

Length of Sits: 20-30 minutes
Posture: Cross legged on pillow, on small stool (stool because of occasional very painful tendinitis)
Meditation techniques: Anapanasati as per TMI
Circumstances: Aversion and tendency to procrastinate very prominent to begin with before all sits, this is quickly decreasing -- I believe because I'm actually enjoying the practice now!
Experience: Still working pretty much exclusively on developing my concentration. I am able to follow the breath continuously for several minutes at a time at the beginning of a sit, then around the 15 minute mark (estimate) I seem to tire easily and my mind begins to wander, a couple of times even slipping into something like monkey-mind. I also experience restlessness, typically manifesting as a bright, rapidly quivering energy that arises in my legs and seat, climbing quickly to become very strong in the chest. When I increased the duration to 30 minutes, I noticed my concentration grew more stable again just a few minutes before the end of the sit, and the sensation of restlessness faded quickly.

All in all, I'm pleased with some things and less pleased with others. I'm glad I've able to more or less maintain this fairly rigorous schedule of mine, and my worry that 30 minute sits would be too long proved to be groundless, it's easier than I thought it would be. On the other hand, I have seen virtually no progress in shortening the duration of fatigue, which is a little frustrating -- time will tell if I need to explore different approaches here, I suppose. While I hesitate to attribute off-the-cushion effects to meditation this early on, I have felt unusually calm and centered the past few days, and I seem to get caught up in my "standard pattern" cycles of self-criticism less easily, which has been very pleasant.

In the upcoming week I am hoping to work on extending the period of stable concentration, as well as increasing to 35 minutes per sit, 40 if things go really well.