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Nick O's Log Nick O 3/30/18 2:57 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 11/16/17 10:57 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 11/17/17 6:25 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 12/3/17 9:28 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 12/3/17 10:21 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 12/3/17 11:57 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 12/4/17 1:29 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 12/10/17 11:12 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 12/10/17 11:50 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log D. 12/10/17 12:16 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 12/10/17 1:28 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 1/1/18 8:20 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 1/10/18 11:36 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 1/11/18 6:02 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 1/11/18 2:02 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 1/19/18 9:28 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log shargrol 1/20/18 6:48 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 1/20/18 7:49 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 1/20/18 9:18 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 1/28/18 4:31 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 2/11/18 10:44 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 2/12/18 5:28 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 2/12/18 7:16 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 2/12/18 9:41 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log terry 2/19/18 4:56 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 2/18/18 11:11 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log terry 2/19/18 3:49 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 2/19/18 8:15 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log terry 2/19/18 5:55 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 2/19/18 8:12 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log terry 2/19/18 10:39 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 2/22/18 2:16 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log terry 4/12/18 4:29 PM
Thatagata 9.5 day Retreat Nick O 3/11/18 3:07 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 3/12/18 12:47 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 3/23/18 11:59 PM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 3/24/18 6:41 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Nick O 3/24/18 9:24 AM
RE: Nick O's practice log Yilun Ong 3/24/18 10:20 AM
RE: Thatagata 9.5 day Retreat Ben V. 3/24/18 7:36 AM
RE: Thatagata 9.5 day Retreat Nick O 3/24/18 9:39 AM
Off-Cushion Practice / Mental Planning / Desire of Self-Expression Nick O 3/30/18 3:03 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Yilun Ong 3/31/18 6:24 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 4/1/18 9:55 AM
RE: Off-Cushion Practice / Mental Planning / Desire of Self-Expression Lars 4/1/18 12:25 AM
RE: Off-Cushion Practice / Mental Planning / Desire of Self-Expression Nick O 4/1/18 9:43 AM
RE: Off-Cushion Practice / Mental Planning / Desire of Self-Expression Lars 4/1/18 7:31 PM
RE: Off-Cushion Practice / Mental Planning / Desire of Self-Expression Nick O 4/1/18 10:50 PM
Honeymoon? Nick O 4/8/18 2:41 PM
RE: Honeymoon? terry 4/12/18 5:22 PM
RE: Honeymoon? Nick O 4/12/18 9:05 PM
RE: Honeymoon? terry 4/20/18 6:09 PM
RE: Honeymoon? Nick O 4/21/18 12:11 AM
RE: Honeymoon? terry 4/21/18 3:58 PM
RE: Honeymoon? Nick O 4/21/18 7:43 PM
RE: Honeymoon? Nick O 4/21/18 10:33 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Yilun Ong 4/13/18 3:01 AM
April Insight Nick O 6/15/18 9:06 AM
Cessation! Nick O 6/22/18 5:01 PM
EQ is a trickster Nick O 8/10/18 10:11 AM
RE: EQ is a trickster Nick O 8/11/18 11:42 PM
Free Time / Daily Noting / Journal Nick O 8/14/18 9:23 PM
Calm Nick O 8/19/18 8:16 AM
Blue Orbs Nick O 8/24/18 9:07 PM
Popped Nick O 8/26/18 5:43 PM
RE: Nick O's Log shargrol 8/27/18 6:03 AM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 9/23/18 9:03 AM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 9/26/18 10:52 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 9/30/18 9:14 PM
RE: Nick O's Log ivory 10/1/18 1:31 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Hibiscus Kid 10/1/18 9:17 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 10/2/18 7:48 AM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 10/2/18 11:49 PM
RE: Nick O's Log shargrol 10/3/18 5:42 AM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 10/8/18 9:51 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 10/9/18 10:26 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 11/2/18 12:02 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 11/3/18 6:08 PM
RE: Nick O's Log shargrol 11/4/18 5:40 AM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 11/4/18 8:57 AM
RE: Nick O's Log shargrol 11/4/18 9:18 AM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 11/8/18 9:54 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 11/14/18 9:11 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 1/29/19 11:20 PM
RE: Nick O's Log shargrol 1/30/19 8:16 AM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 3/5/19 11:00 PM
RE: Nick O's Log shargrol 3/6/19 6:27 AM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 3/6/19 8:03 AM
RE: Nick O's Log Oochdd 3/8/19 9:53 AM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 3/9/19 1:49 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 3/22/19 3:58 PM
RE: Nick O's Log shargrol 3/23/19 5:07 AM
RE: Nick O's Log spatial 3/23/19 1:16 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 5/15/19 10:12 PM
RE: Nick O's Log Oochdd 5/17/19 3:33 AM
RE: Nick O's Log Nick O 5/17/19 7:01 AM
Nick O's Log
Answer
3/30/18 2:57 PM
Ok, so I decided to get one of these going after a recommendation. If anyone lurks these threads, feel free to comment, critique or offer suggestions!

Been practicing an hour session on work days and two to three sessions on off days including a walking session.

The meditation object is typically the breath sensations on the nose. The monkey mind generally winds down in the first few minutes and I have pretty solid focus on the object while periphery becomes more apparent. Usually about 15 minutes in I feel a surge or a rush of bodily sensation as if everything is magnified. It's typically a bit uncomfortable, overwhelming and my body begins to shake a bit as I try to relax. A couple weeks ago it would sometimes hang up on it and I'd begin to feel shakey in the breath like some sort of whimpering. Recently I've been breaking through it and on the other side I experience a super strong clarity of sensations,  attention and awareness. Here is where I lose it. After a few minutes of this hyper-clarity my mind gets busy again, mostly trying to analyze what's going on. I keep returning to the object but am easily thrown off course. Sometimes it'll settle down and I'll enter a time of stillness but the thoughts will be running around even if I am only aware of them instead of being pulled away. 

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
11/16/17 10:57 PM as a reply to Nick O.
The surge could be access concentration. The mode to stay in throughout all kinds of meditation I know is Equanimity, absolute calm, observing, non-participatory nature. It's common to get excited but you need to rein it in. If you are not shooting for Samatha jhana access first, I suggest doing Vipassana for faster progress. This means that you do not rush to return to the breath, you stay with distractions, especially the negative and watch them arise and pass away. You can swing from one distraction to the next, and keep the breath and peripheral awareness in the background. This should keep you busy and engaged, thus achieving good improvements in concentration. There's nothing to do with negativities like nervous ticks except to observe them with equanimity. You sound like you are doing great! emoticon

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
11/17/17 6:25 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Excellent, thank you for your response. You see I think that's where my confusion was between samatha jhana and vipassana. I guess I've been in between somewhere. I'll stay with those distractions the next time around. Thanks again. 

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
12/3/17 9:28 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Ok folks, pracitce is going well but I have a rub with some meditation theory.

I'm part way into Culadasa's The Mind Illuminated and I've decided to follow his approach because as most of you know it's so well laid out, straightforward and the terminology is exquisitely defined. According to his map, I'd gather that I'm working on stage 4: Overcoming strong distractions and strong dullness.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that his beginning level techniques (stage 1-4) are more samatha "styled" than insight. However, his emphasis on holding peripheral awareness feels like somewhere in between the two. I see he's guiding you on your way towards insight practice but getting you there by means of returning to the breath and not following distractions. That being said, I'm getting other advice (like from Yilun Ong above. Much appreciated!)  to actually stay with the distractions and let the breath remain in the background untill the distraction has fallen away. Now, some people might just choose one way or the other and get on with things. I feel that I can't decide between the two. Let me explain using Culadasa's terminology.

Most of the time during my sessions, an unintended thought is generally going to end up being a gross distraction. That means I completely forget what I'm doing and "become" the thought untill it's over or I remember that I'm meditating (even if it's for a few seconds or less). Sometimes, rarely, when I'm at my best, unintended thoughts become subtle distractions and I am able to keep peripheral awareness. Most of the time phenomena that enter all other sense doors are merely subtle distractions (car driving by on the street, water heater kicking on, numbness in my leg, etc.). Now if I work the vipassana method, it's most of the time impossible to "stay with" the distraction mindfully if I "become" the distraction and forget what i am doing. If I work the Culadasa method, when I remember that I'm meditating I feel that I unintentionally drop the thought too quickly in effort to return to the breath, not allowing for investigation into the nature of thoughts. There was also something that Culadasa mentioned that controlling the thoughts too aggressively can interfere with your ability to obtain consistent inrospective awareness. What I'm trying to say here is that it's extremely difficult for me to investigate the nature of unintended thoughts and I'm not sure the best way to move forward without stunting progress. Am I just battling with semantics here, guys? Should I just continue doing what I am doing? Should I not be so concerned with the distractions and return to the breath naturally? Did I just answer my own question? Probably.  

For the log: Getting sleepy! Battling a lot of dullness. Typically catch it before it becomes strong dullness and use mindfullness of the body or holding a deep breath to bring wakefullness. Seem to be past any of the shakiness. Concentration has slightly improved. Still becomes harder to concentrate towards the end of the hour session but little steps each day.  

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
12/3/17 10:21 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Hi Nick! Great to hear from you.
That means I completely forget what I'm doing and "become" the thought untill it's over or I remember that I'm meditating
BIG NO NO. This is being lost in content. You cannot hear/see/register anything? Not meditation.
Sometimes, rarely, when I'm at my best, unintended thoughts become subtle distractions and I am able to keep peripheral awareness.
Congratulations! You have the insight that thoughts are the same like any other sense knocking on your door. You do not glue yourself to traffic sounds, unable to pull yourself out right? Same with thoughts. That is what you should aim for - unsticking yourself from whatever you wish. Keep distractions at distance (of not jumping in) unless you are investigating them. You can:

1. (Vipassana) note their coming and going (notice impermanence and also that you did not have to make them go away for them to go away), return to breath or investigate the next internal distraction e.g. the numbness in legs.
2. (Ideal Samatha) stay on what you were focused on (breath) like super-glue and ignore thoughts as the 6th sense just like all the others and let them dissolve themselves in the periphery. You are not concerned about them at all.
3. do a great number of things to get you to either 1 or 2. Use your own thinking to find out which actions are best to suit. e.g. thoughts pulled you away from breath as you could not ignore them, go to them and note "thinking" and return to the breath, till they pop up less occasionally and you are fine with them chirping in the background like the birds you hear.
Now if I work the vipassana method, it's most of the time impossible to "stay with" the distraction mindfully if I "become" the distraction and forget what i am doing.
At no point is it permissible to lose the observer identity, becoming thoughts/pain/etc. It is difficult in the beginning, laugh if you find yourself getting lost, keep at it and you will emerge. emoticon
What I'm trying to say here is that it's extremely difficult for me to investigate the nature of unintended thoughts and I'm not sure the best way to move forward without stunting progress. Am I just battling with semantics here, guys? Should I just continue doing what I am doing? Should I not be so concerned with the distractions and return to the breath naturally? 
I think you should be able not to 'be' the distractions first, however you achieve that is fine. If you can glue yourself to the breath, that is a great achievement. If you can kinda put yourself on a throne, watching thoughts/distractions and not go swimming in them, that is a similarly great achievement. Both requires concentration capabilities that draws power from the same source; the difference is akin to a fixed vs moving CCTV.

Does this help? Feel free to clarify! 

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
12/3/17 11:57 PM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
BIG NO NO. This is being lost in content. You cannot hear/see/register anything? Not meditation.
Yup. Unfortunately it happens. I have a very stubborn overactive mind. One good thing is that I can usually remember what thought pulled me off track and note it, so I'm not completely in the weeds. Practice, practice, practice. 

Congratulations! You have the insight that thoughts are the same like any other sense knocking on your door. You do not glue yourself to traffic sounds, unable to pull yourself out right? Same with thoughts. 
Thanks! Sounds, feelings, smells, etc I do not (usually) get "glued" to. Thoughts are a whole other animal. When I first tried to investigate unintended thoughts, I couldn't locate them. They'd just grab me and pull me into their dimension. I kept asking "where are these thoughts?" When I can limit thoughts to subtle distractions, I can at times see their "shape" and location. Can't better describe it. 
Does this help? Feel free to clarify! 

Yes! Thanks again for your help! You know, it's funny: I made that last post, closed my computer and then had perhaps my best meditation; a remarkably high powered, crystal clear session with limited gross distractions and virtually no progressive subtle dullness. It made me feel a little silly about picking apart all this theory. The session was encouraging and made me remember that all you can really do is have the effort of intent and the rest has to happen by itself.  I can't remember who wrote in a book I read, "Your spiritual life is none of your business." It's true. All you can really do is show up, be earnestly present and take note of what happens.  
  

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
12/4/17 1:29 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
I cannot stop discrete thoughts from popping up or forming in the subconsciousness. What I can do is not give them any weight, by ignoring them, they will slink away like a sad puppy. See discrete thoughts as what they are: sounds, images, songs; words: memories, plans, worries etc. See how they do nothing to you if you do not make the effort to entertain them, just like your questions about practice - see what happens when you ignore it? emoticon

One gets into trouble once one fails to see their impermanence and give continuity to thoughts, especially if difficult emotions gets into play. Such a useful insight that can be carried forward to all-day living, no? 
The session was encouraging and made me remember that all you can really do is have the effort of intent and the rest has to happen by itself.
Yes the power of resolutions and raw willpower. You can make resolutions not to be distracted by thoughts before you practice and see how that works. You can use this across your life, starting with little changes.

Much Metta!

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
12/10/17 11:12 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
WEEK 12/4 - 12/10

After an awesome one day retreat at a local insight center last weekend, this week has been a struggle. Encountering a plague of sleepiness, more than ever before. A couple of sessions this week it kicked me right off the cushion early. The sleepiness has lead to more gross distractions which has lead to a great amount of aversion, resistance and contraction. By the end of the session at times my mind is running around wildly with my focus growing very fatigued and agitated. I've been backsliding. Making effort to remain equanimous throughout, observing what happens and realize that in the toughest stretches is probably when I'm making good progress.

I work 4 10 hour shifts a week at a very physical job (I install solar electric systems). Historically, for me, early evening sessions have been the best versus early morning. I find it takes my mind a while to come around after waking up. However, after coming home very sleepy from work lately, I'm thinking of adjusting my sleep schedule back an hour to give time for my hour session in the morning. Also, maybe considering trying two 45 minute sessions instead. If the sleepiness continues, I may consider standing meditation.

To combat sleepiness, I've mostly meditated with eyes open. I find that if my eyes remain closed, I am more likely to get sleepy or fall into a jhanic state. Out of most of the material I have read, meditating with eyes open seems to be widely accepted, yet rarely elaborated upon. Does anyone have any words on eyes open mediation?

Thank you all for being here! All the love!  

       

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
12/10/17 11:50 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Eyes open: an addtional sensory channel to deal with. Benefits are as you mentioned - harder to fall asleep. Try it, do a thousand yard stare at nothing, letting the visual information bounce off your consciousness.

A suggestion to do walking meditation. IME, this raises the energy level thus really helping to accelerate progress. I would make it a habit to meditate whenever I walk alone. Simply focus on your legs:

1. contact and loss of contact of soles with ground.
2. the arc of feet/leg cutting across space.
3. muscles and balance shift.
4. leg/feet skin contact with clothes/shoes/breeze.

For purposeful walking meditation when you have time, do it as painfully slow as you can. For other times, focus on any 1/few of the above and walk at normal speed. If you want to try visualization: imagine energy coming up the feet in contact with ground, raising to your solar plexus. If you start to really feel it, congratulations. If it comes on strong, stop somewhere safe non-excitedly, close your eyes and do standing meditation by simply feeling the waves or vibrations running on their own. If you get this going well, next step of visualization is from solar plexus to your eyebrows. If you get there the nana/jhana's are a calm step away...

Good luck! emoticon

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
12/10/17 12:16 PM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
I also tend to meditate with eyes open(Mostly because eyes closed feels uncomfortable after a while.)

Is it true that it's harder to access deep samatha states with open eyes? I feel 'energy'/vibrations alot more when my gaze is lowered to an almost-closed position.

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
12/10/17 1:28 PM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun Ong:
Eyes open: an addtional sensory channel to deal with. Benefits are as you mentioned - harder to fall asleep. Try it, do a thousand yard stare at nothing, letting the visual information bounce off your consciousness.

A suggestion to do walking meditation. IME, this raises the energy level thus really helping to accelerate progress. I would make it a habit to meditate whenever I walk alone. Simply focus on your legs:

1. contact and loss of contact of soles with ground.
2. the arc of feet/leg cutting across space.
3. muscles and balance shift.
4. leg/feet skin contact with clothes/shoes/breeze.

For purposeful walking meditation when you have time, do it as painfully slow as you can. For other times, focus on any 1/few of the above and walk at normal speed. If you want to try visualization: imagine energy coming up the feet in contact with ground, raising to your solar plexus. If you start to really feel it, congratulations. If it comes on strong, stop somewhere safe non-excitedly, close your eyes and do standing meditation by simply feeling the waves or vibrations running on their own. If you get this going well, next step of visualization is from solar plexus to your eyebrows. If you get there the nana/jhana's are a calm step away...

Good luck! emoticon

Great, yes, thank you! I do a little walking meditation on the weekends but have shied away from it as a daily activity mostly because during the hours I dedicate to practice it's dark and cold outside! However, there's room in my small living space to make about a dozen steps in one direction, enough for pacing back and forth. I also should note that during my best walking meditation (especially at the day long retreats) I've noticed some flickering in the ground moving beneath me. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!  

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
1/1/18 8:20 PM as a reply to Nick O.
12/10 - 01/01

Still facing some dullness during my after work sessions, especially during bouts of mild insomnia. A couple weeks ago, during a stretch of better sleep, I was able to hold steady attention without many distractions. I began to experiment with body scanning as TMI instructs. Definitely was feeling the burn! A great workout. However in the last week after some frustrations with mental distractions, I've switched to noting as it keeps me more attentive.

To push through quicker, I've decided to go big on the weekends (I usually have 3 days off). I put in 6 hours on Saturday, a few hours yesterday and 5 hours today alternating 1 hour sessions of sitting and walking. Holy cow what a workout. Afterwards the brain was mush, the emotions were drained but the progress was clear.  

Previously I had been battling with impulsive thoughts sharing the same "channel" as my ability to note. There was either one or the other. They couldn't share the same line so I'd only be able to note the memory of having an impulsive thought unlike other sensations that can be noted during their arising. This began to change in a big way today. During walking my 4th session I noted virtually all clear sensations and didn't miss a thought. The thoughts seemed quieter and in the background, not interfering with noting ability. There was a strange echoing behavior to each thought. The first thought was the loudest, then pass away. A couple seconds later the same thought would check back in again, quieter, and pass away. Then maybe a third or fourth time again each quieter like clockwork before receding again. Walking a circle around my yard, the thoughts seemed to increase in frequency in a certain span of the circle. I would change directions and the thoughts would "pick" a new span of the circle to increase frequency. Really freaky, WTF?

I've noted before the emotional components to thoughts. Today I was able to pinpoint the "frequency", if you will, and location of a very small "stab" of unpleasant emotion (sort of in the realm of fear or worry) in my abdomen that corresponded with most arising impulsive thoughts. I got such a hang of it that sometimes I could notice the emotion a split second prior to a thought, having my noting rifle aimed and ready when it popped out of the mindship. Shootin' aliens!

In other strange news from the mindworld this weekend at one point I felt like I was peering into "subminds", or deeper into the mindworld. It was like this old cartoon flip book of mental images flickering, maybe 8 or 10 frames a second, throwing one up on the projector every so often. In 2016 I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (4 months of hiking 2600 miles) and lately in meditation, mental images of campsites or places that I hiked through will come randomly popping up. Many places I haven't thought about once since the trip.

Another phenomenon that I can't really explain is something to do with sense doors or sense walls. There was a point where I could almost "see" the walls between them, but I don't even know if that's an accurate description - might be me projecting what I read onto my experience. More on that later...

During the weekend there has also been some equanimity. I won't go as far as give it a capital "E" but some feeling of ease and less struggle walking the path (even though my brain is seriously fried after 6 hours). There's the panoramic expanded feeling of consciousness of a magnitude that I haven't experienced since the months after A&P. I see a lot of home weekend retreats on the horizon! Happy New Year!    

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
1/10/18 11:36 PM as a reply to Nick O.
01/01 - 01/10


About a week ago I came home with a throbbing headache probably due to not drinking enough water at work. I welcomed it for my evening meditation as it would serve to keep me alert and give me something to study. About 30 minutes in the pain was pretty bad and I made an intense effort to feel the pain and all other sensations. This effort kicked me into a realm I had noticed before. It was as if I was cut in half and the feeling of my hands were distorted and far out to each side. The center was wide open but attention was panned (to use an audio mixing term) out to the sides. 

I'd read about the jhanas and nanas but had not yet cared to compare and contrast the models with my experiences (gasp!). I figured I'd do investigation first and then the models would be helpful later. Now that I had familiarized myself with a recurring state, it was time to go back and get familiar again with the models. 

It was pretty obvious that during that particular session, I was investigating dissolution / 3rd jhana (ish). I familiarized myself with the MCTB descriptions and the next time through was able to notice passing through each nana up to the DK zone. It was amazing to make the connection between second jhana and A&P. MCTB says "the second jhana has the quality of showing itself to you." My next time slipping into the second jhana instilled a moment of slight deja vu thinking of when the A&P first showed itself three years ago. What a mysterious, overwhelmingly blissful, seemingly supernatural, life transforming visitor it was. 

Last weekend I was practicing at my dad's house which is in the middle of nowhere and super quiet. I was able to get to dissolution  easily and fairly quickly, noting away. After a bit, the hard panned attention began to creep back inwards and my attention spanned my entire body, the room, all sounds, all thoughts. At this point noting seemed useless as I felt it just got in the way of experience and disrupted attention. After a little while it became a little tough to hold the concentration (honestly, the weakest of my three trainings).

Two of the last three sessions I have been able to get to this place. This morning was remarkable. I flew through the nanas quicker than ever, reached the "all focus" place and I ceased noting except for in / out breath and thoughts. Everything vibrating subtly.  I feel in this place that there's nowhere to go next.  I alternated between hyper-extreme effort and complete surrender. When the slightest feeling of attention dulling out would occur, I'd re-energize with extreme effort. I found this to be a good place to try a technique Shinzen talked about: Reversing the arrow of attention. Look forward, forward, forward, look back. Again. Again. I started to notice, when concentration was at its peak, a void, emptiness behind the arrow of attention. There's nothing there. Then what was the remaining feeling of self? I knew all along. A knot. An emotion in between my heart and the pit of my stomach. I turned this area into the focus point of attention and shit got weird. My consciousness started to spin in a vertical circle, like being stuck to a tire (or doughnut?). This lasted a couple minutes, splattered a bunch of uncomfortable energy everywhere,  destroyed my posture and concentration. I recuperated and got back to a solid "all focus" state but I was fatigued and knew I didn't have it in me to further investigate. My hour bell sounded. 

I remembered Daniel talking about consciousness turning into a toroid (or doughnut) via the suffering door in the three doors section. I like doughnuts and felt like I almost turned into one so I read back on that chapter.

I sat back down a while later for another hour. I began to immediately investigate my abdominal pit of self. It opened a can of sadness and buzzy, irritating vibrations. It was insightful to discover that I still have some stuff to unpack and experience in there. The rest of the day I felt extremely transparent, light and almost empty, besides the tiny abdominal pit of heaviness.  

Practice Goals:

1. Further investigate thoughts. 

2. Practice more in daily activities. 

3. Dig further into that knot in my abdomen that turned everything into a doughnut.

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
1/11/18 6:02 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Great to hear such solid progress and strong practice!!! 

Some recommendations to check and lookout for:

1. Desires, especially for attainments. A desire/aversion-free mindspace is a wondrous place and key to progress.
2. Never be complacent about equanimity, be mindful and there is almost always another subtle level to get at.
3. Acceptance of what you find at that knot and beyond.
4. If it gets too busy during normal life, keep constant mindfulness with the mind itself (intentions/thoughts/emotions and their cause/effect) will throw up more material to work on and yield great benefits.

All the best Nick! emoticon

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
1/11/18 2:02 PM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun,

Thank you kindly for the continued support and wisdom. It means a lot! 

The further down the path I find myself it becomes more and more about curiosity and discovery. Desires for attainment are minimal. Curiosity is strong. Aversion is dwindling. Acceptance becoming easier, in all aspects of life, not just on the cushion. I know there's still work to be done "under the hood",  but that's fine. I've all the time in the world.  I'm not going anywhere!

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
1/19/18 9:28 PM as a reply to Nick O.
01/10 - 01/19

Spilled into some challenging territory. Coming off some major peaks in the equanimity / 4th jhana realms last week,  I used that energy to crack open an emotional knot to which I felt strong self-identification. Brutal, but progressive. Chaos.  Dissonant raging vibrations of unpleasantness.

Strong feelings of sadness and pain don't appear to stem from any obvious current or past life issue (I know in reality they do, but they have no memory reference) I've come to call them "free-standing emotions". Because they don't reference any particular memory, it's relatively easy to view them objectively and with acceptance.

One particular exhausting session last week induced body shakes and a repetitious neck spasm. Afterwards, I swung by a supermarket where I was assaulted by the bright lights. Body shaking aftershocks continued as my ears where agitated by the invasive sounds of a busy grocery store.

While the above still sounds like progress, I've stumbled into something else that seems to be far more problematic. About half or more of my sessions in the last week have been failing to gain any kind of traction. I'll attain access concentration after way longer than normal. Then it'll just kind of fall apart and at the end of the session I'll just be sitting there staring at my cabinet, sitting half lotus like a goof feeling like day 1 of meditation 101. No absorption, no stillness, no vibrations, little to no insight into impermanence. Thoughts are slippery, cloaked and easily distract. The narrator is going off on his story about some bullshit, how he was a pretty decent meditator once. Skill evaporated. To make it seem even more like a brick wall, all this is accompanied by a pervasive and pathetic apathy. It feels almost like starting over. Like everything is out of phase in a way that's akin to losing "faith". 

During the other half or so of sessions of the last few days I've been able to enter some weak, slowly vibrating 3rd jhana where I investigate this heavy sadness that slowly creeps to the left and out my body. It will hang by the left shoulder till the end of the session or when absorption is strong enough, will turn into this strange vortex that'll pull on me.

All this said, been trying to be more mindful off the cushion and if there's anything else positive to say about practice: The "abdominal knot" or "pit of self" has unraveled. Only now there seems to be other cans of worms to open and lot of cleanup to do. 

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
1/20/18 6:48 AM as a reply to Nick O.
A fun way to think of what is happening is your mind is showing you your weak link. It's as if your inner self/mind is saying "Hey great sits Nick. In fact, you're doing so well that I think it's time for you to turn your attention to your prideful and ambitious thoughts. If you're going to get enlightened some day, you're going to need to hold this idea of "a good meditator" less strongly and with a little more humor. Your practice is going to be up and down and unless you can deal with that, you won't get far. So let's work on that a little bit. Let's try some sits where you drop out of concentration and you are simply with "what is". Notice all the thoughts that come up. Can you note them as thoughts?" emoticon

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
1/20/18 7:49 AM as a reply to shargrol.
You're an excellent motivator of a teacher, shargrol... *deep bows*

Keep going Nick! Supporting you all the way... emoticon

P.S. It might help to look for the I in SufferIng.

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
1/20/18 9:18 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Ah yes, it's responses like these that make me so grateful for this community. Thanks shargrol. Back to the basics! 

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
1/28/18 4:31 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Been attempting to extend from 60 minute to 90 minute sessions but finding myself mentally and physically fatigued in the last 10 to 15 minutes, leading to aversion to frustration and sometimes anger. This will occasionally bleed into my day leaving me edgy and not even wanting to think about my path. That said, moving forward to dialing it back to 60 minutes and incrementally increasing slowly. Still able to do longer 3-5 hour sessions when I have time broken up by hour sitting / walking. 

Sessions a week or so ago were more or less claustrophobic with difficulty attending to center focus and sneaky, stealthy busy thoughts. Edgy, very high frequency vibrations. A couple high powered sessions there was the sense that I was splitting in half. Suffering on one side. Emptiness on the other. The last few days things have seemed to open up a bit, with one particular session feeling like I could feel every single square centimeter of the epidermis. 

Thoughts! Thoughts! Thoughts! I have giving time to only investigate thoughts. One particular walk through the woods I was able to calm my mind to a great degree and try applying Shinzen Young's "do nothing" technique. This is where once you notice a thought you drop the intention to stop or even note the thought. This had a very interesting effect. Noting thoughts, or "slashing thoughts" (Mahamudra)  or "shootin aliens" (MCTemoticon, for me,  causes the thought to stop in its tracks. However, using the "do nothing" approach,  once a thought would percolate, dropping the intention to do anything would oddly cease the thought, yet it would project a large reverb tail, like your own voice echoing in a empty cave..No one home I guess! 

Practicing "doing nothing" in a sit this morning was empowering. An immense amount of space spilled over time and eventually I was able to point the arrow of attention through the mostly empty space of rising thoughts and rest lightly on the breath. Emotions would fire thoughts like firework cannons from the gut, watching them explode in my head and echo in the great unknowingly selfless cave. More subtle than our thoughts are our intentions in what we do with them, making this practice an incredibly powerful microscopic look into their nature. I realized through this practice, as obvious as it may sound, it truly does take a great amount of effort to do nothing. This is why the whole effort versus no effort debate is a little silly. It takes effort to make no effort. How can anyone deny this? 

I've done away with the maps for now. No need to give the commentary more to bark about during sits. Besides the "do nothing" I've settled on mahasi noting for now as I will be attending a 10 day vipassana retreat at San Jose, CA's Tathagata meditation center in in the beginning of March. 

Thoughts thoughts thoughts! So many thoughts! 

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/11/18 10:44 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Unseasonably warm weather (probably for the worse, rather than the better but besides the point) here in Northern California has tipped off a spring feel. There's something about the smell of the warm vegetation, the days getting longer and the sun climbing higher in the sky that every year brings about a heavy nostagic effect. As the high temperatures climbed a couple weeks back, so did my spirit and my practice. I had settled back into practicing an hour daily during the work week and two one hour session on the weekends. No marathon sessions recently as I am rehearsing to record some music at a studio in a couple weeks. I'll have plenty of time for that on a 10 day vipassana retreat in early March.

The heavy, gruling territory of the month prior has lifted. The heavy pit of self has thinned and I've found myself basking in love becoming heavy even in times off the cushion. My mind wandering has become a little more active in this time but there's an awareness of the mind wandering and a freedom to it. There's little concern to control it. As if I am finally seeing it not as an enemy. There's an ability to investigate sensations with great detail and immediacy. Memories of warm spring days during my childhood pass through. Visual vibrations are very quick with eyes closed and at times seem to change frequency in relation to breaths. Digging into the 3 C's firmly with great curiosity. Noticing something new at high speeds while driving. The act of motion has some strange new detail in it. The way the trees rotate as you pass them, the detail in which distant objects grow as you approach them. Feeling closer to new friends I've made in the last year and a half at my job.  There's a deja vu feeling at times seeing us all together like we've always been together. I've entered a profoundly different chapter in my life in the last two years as opposed to the previous dozen and there's a deeper acceptance and less clinging to the past identity.

Arising is the intuition that to further exploration in wisdom, there needs to be stronger training in concentration. I've resolved to introduce some samatha jhana and metta practice into the mix in the weeks approaching my first meditation retreat. 

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/12/18 5:28 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Reads awesome Nick! All the best to your retreat. A word of caution of not hedging too much into the outcome/s of the retreat, over-gearing yourself and burning out. Here's wishing that you can self-govern well and make sure you are on healthy levels of pushing yourself.

Concentration is a strange animal and at higher levels (where you are now), do not equate to more effort. The obvious alarms to back way off are frustration/irritation/anger. <- Barking up the wrong tree.

Regarding your goal of 90 minute sits, may I suggest a qualitative approach:

1. See the time;
2. resolving to sit for 90 minutes (with a mini-goal relevant to knowing more about something);
3. Sit stress-free with no judging of the sit (good/bad)
4. Emerge when it feels like it is time to (not too eager to see the time), again -> stress-FREE

The outcome can only be surprisingly good, frankly... A good laugh is my favourite! emoticon

May your latest breeze carry you far. Metta is a sure bet, mate!

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/12/18 7:16 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Great thanks. Much appreciated! Any words of wisdom for a first timer on a Mahasi noting retreat? 

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/12/18 9:41 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Go SLOOOOOOOOWWWW & make life 'easy'  - Never beat yourself up! Switch off the thinking/strategizing/reviewing brain (trust the instructors to do the thinking for you with what you can remember from your sits - do not try to remember stuff during sits to report). Just trust your past training and get with the program, no questions asked to self. Any more effort than this will likely result in suffering and stunting progress.

Enjoy yourself (if sits are sh*t, they are great 'food' for investigation) and keep goals/expectations at home (at least hidden in the deep recesses).

Allow surprises to happen! emoticon - Don't think I've ever had a fruition where it wasn't a surprise. Says much about it being a state where much (control) has been relinquished.

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/18/18 11:11 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Been a great week for concentration. There were a couple sessions where I reached a peak. It was if the concentration became very, very firm but smooth, like pressing down on polished stone. Mental sensations echoed far behind in some unintelligible mess. I was able to sit there for many minutes without distraction. 

I took Yilun's advice and started doing some sits off the clock. It's been very helpful. I've not reached 90 minutes off the clock yet, but I'm not really concerned with that anymore. Not having the clock timing me has a great ease to it. It's like rehearsing music, knowing that there isn't anyone hearing you. I still sit for about an hour and the last couple sessions I haven't even bothered to check the time afterwards. When I'm done, I'm done and I feel now I'll progress to longer sits naturally. Another game changer is wearing these isolation headphones I use for playing drums. I no longer hear most traffic or my neighbors bustling about in their yards.

I've been starting every session with metta, whispering "May I be well, happy and peaceful" on repeat until I progress through two little body shakey mini-raptures and spill into a nice base of concentration. Then I move to family, friends, etc.. This has been a great help getting prepared, focused and most of the time, full of joy.

This weekend, however has brought on some concentration challenges. Did a few hours yesterday where the mind wandering was very strong, nearly uncontrollable, but I took note and had less reaction to it than before. Something very strange happened when I started meditation this morning with a twinge of sadness that has been hanging out off and on the last couple days. Whenever I make an emotion the meditation object, it always moves slowly to the LEFT and eventually is perceived outside of the body. Sometimes it will dissapate, sometimes it will turn into a vortex and pull on me, sometimes it will just stay there. The little bugger moved to the RIGHT! In three years of meditation, this has never happened. Visual vibrations continuing. Heavy 10-20hz frame rate effect during walking meditation. 

Now for the off the cushion stuff: Been really paying close attention how my actions, behaviors, social life, diet and water intake affect my practice. How do I feel and act when I go out in town and run errands? What about my interactions with strangers? Or when I visit my favorite local restaurant with the cute waitress who pulls on my heart strings? Am I less mindful because of that beer I had with mexican food yesterday? What about that extra coffee? Or even the tiny things, like how 'bout when my little Tazmanian Devil 4 year old nephew is pushing my buttons? Some days I'll leave home in a very tranquil state, only to return with slight mental and emotional disturbances after doing any combination of these things. Fascinating material to study!

I've adopted a loose paleo diet. Been vegetarian off and on mostly for morality reasons. Factory farming is a huge bummer. Jinxed P's book "The Awakened Ape" inspired me to try some meat in my diet. All free range, humanely raised of course. I've already noticed improvement sacking the dairy!

Most importantly really gearing up the gusto to remain mindful as much as possible throughout the day. Like for REAL this time. The paradox of not being in control of anything but having the apparent ability to impose intent falls somewhere, somehow in line with Yilun's comment that "Concentration is a strange animal and at higher levels (where you are now), do not equate to more effort." I have a nervous tick of slight autism that's been with me since birth and built upon it is a tremendously stubborn mind. It's super bored and LOVES to have fun with itself. Make up ideas for stories, scratch the itch of memories and weird neurotic things I cannot even begin to describe. I'm beginning to see that a lot of it is just conditioning from childhood crap and lack of discipline. I've been a lifelong mental couch potato and now I'm hitting the gym.   

 

  

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/19/18 3:49 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:

I've adopted a loose paleo diet. Been vegetarian off and on mostly for morality reasons. Factory farming is a huge bummer. Jinxed P's book "The Awakened Ape" inspired me to try some meat in my diet. All free range, humanely raised of course. I've already noticed improvement sacking the dairy!

  
aloha nick and all,

   I used to post all the time on the old insight@ list in the nineties, and on a number of lists since, but lately returning to looking at online dhamma lists, I've been very surprised to learn that people who call themselves buddhists eat meat, at all. Isn't it against the precepts? Perhaps it is ok if they are "humanely" slaughtered. (Lethal injection?)

   I haven't eaten meat in 40 years...there is a story. Back in the seventies "the family" commune was living in a five bedroom farm house outside of petaluma, california. The farmhouse was fenced off from a pasture where cows were kept. Curious animals, they loved to line up and watch us hippies whenever we were in the yard. So one day we were having an outdoor picnic, grilling hamburgers and taking lsd, and the cows all lined up to watch. We looked at our brothers, the "cows" (steers), and I want to say we quit eating meat right then. In truth, it comes back to me that at that time we developed a conscious connection with those animals, and when they all disappeared one day a few weeks later, none of us would buy or eat beef after that, it could be one of our friends. And that led to a consensual dedication to really eating well, fresh bread and granola and fresh corn and new potatoes and fruit...and no meat. We bought all our food in what were called "natural foods" stores, or co-ops; supermarkets and groceries in those days did not sell healthy food and we did not patronize them. I think things are headed back in that direction, too, despite the craze for "organic" labeled food. Visiting my son in los angeles, none of the supermarkets in his upscale neighborhood carried ordinary whole wheat flour; the closest thing I could obtain was whole wheat pastry flour which is simply not the same.


terry

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/19/18 4:56 AM as a reply to Nick O.
[quote=Nick O

 it truly does take a great amount of effort to do nothing. This is why the whole effort versus no effort debate is a little silly. It takes effort to make no effort. How can anyone deny this? ]


aloha nick,

  In the classic mahayana formula, which goes 'blank is no-blank, thus it is truly blank,' we may say "effort is no-effort, thus it is truly effort." Dogen emphasized "shikantaza," or "just sitting." "Just sitting" is the practice of effortlessness, which in itself is the attainment of effortlessness.

   When it comes to thinking during meditation, dogen emphasized the practice of "thinking not-thinking" with the attainment of "non-thinking" being the object kept in mind.

   In the diamond sutra, the buddha asks subhuti:

"When I got supreme unexcelled enlightenment, what did I get? Did I get supreme, unexcelled enlightenment?"
"No, teacher, you did not get anything when you got supreme, unexcelled enlightenment."
"Correct," the Buddha continued, "Because if I had gotten anything, it would not be supreme, unexcelled enlightenment." 

terry

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/19/18 8:15 AM as a reply to terry.
Hi Terry,

I grew up with a single vegetarian father, but as a kid I'd eat meat occassionally. He became veggie just as you, in the hippie days of lore. He claims no moral reasoning but says he noticed feeling a little ill after consuming meat. Today he includes some fish in his diet. I became fairly strict pescatarian from the time I was 18 - 25ish, then sorta have been all over the place till now (I'm 33). The last 6 months I've eaten vegetarian at home, but would eat meat if it was served to me. I've heard the Bhudda ate meat only when it was served to him and even the Dalai Lama eats meat.

I won't do beef or pork, unless its served to me. I figure at that point, the people serving it to me have already decided the fate of the being and I may as well take its nourishment. My new diet includes some chicken and fish. This is an experiment in health and morality. If including more chicken and fish in my diet improves my health and well being to influence others and if I am truly an agent of a non-dual universe (whether I see it yet or not), is it worth the sacrifice of the chicken or the fish? I'll be mindful and report!

Hunter-gatherers eat a paleolithic diet and are/were the happiest, healthiest people on earth. But they eat what they can with no choice. I think that's the real kicker on the morality side that I've preached in my vegetarian years. We have the choice to not slaughter animals and eat a vegetarian diet. And may be the reason that brings me back to a vegetarian diet. We shall see! Thanks for writing!       

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/19/18 5:55 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:
Hi Terry,

 I've heard the Bhudda ate meat only when it was served to him and even the Dalai Lama eats meat.

    


aloha nick,

   The buddha's practice as related in the majjhima nikaya was to accept meat if it was offered to him as alms-food. At the time, people weren't eating steaks and hamburgers, just a little meat or fish mixed with rice or similar. The rule was, if the animal was specifically killed to be served to you, and you knew it, you would refuse. If it was genuine alms-food, an offering of leftovers or food appropriate to monks, it would be accepted. The buddha even accepted bad meat from a sincere giver as his last meal, and died of it, rather than prevent his host from receiving the merit of giving. I think jesus had the last word when he said, "it is not what goes in to a man's mouth that defiles him, but what comes out." Seung sahn had a koan he gave some students, asking them why they had two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, but only one mouth. If you had two mouths, you could eat and talk at the same time, he added, with grandmotherly tenderness.

  The dalai lama may be more politician than holy man. He knows the dhamma in a mechanical way, but I don't find his talks inspiring (that's just me). He is a pleasant old man it would be enjoyable to have tea with and talk of clocks and motors, and watch his face light with interest.

   If you meet the dalai lama, kill him. Or the buddha. The dhamma is no better than a privy hole (rinzai).

   Just stay free, bra; I admire your effort and enjoy your writing.

terry


"Never
will I taint
my renounced life
for the Buddha,
for the dharma.”

~ryokan

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/19/18 8:12 PM as a reply to terry.
terry:
[quote=
]

   If you meet the dalai lama, kill him. Or the buddha. The dhamma is no better than a privy hole (rinzai).


I agree. Dogma has no place in absolute reality and so neither does a diet have an absolute quality of being "Buddhist" or not. Which reminds me of something funny I thought about but forgot to mention in the last post:

If all beings became enlightened, "it" would still need to kill and eat itself. If "it" had a choice, would it? emoticon

And there's that funny concept of choice again.

Enjoy your writing and poetry as well, Terry! 

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/19/18 10:39 PM as a reply to Nick O.
[quote=Nick O
If all beings became enlightened, "it" would still need to kill and eat itself. If "it" had a choice, would it? emoticon



   "It does not slay, nor is it slain.

    "It is never born and it never dies, nor will it come back to life again when it has ceased to be. It is unborn, eternal, constant, and ancient. It is not slain when the body is slain."

bhagavad gita, chapter 2, 19-20

kill the buddha, ok, but kill krishna?

(wink)
terry

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
2/22/18 2:16 AM as a reply to terry.
I wanna say something because I have the intention to be friendly to Nick & Terry - the content may not make any sense emoticon
The rule was, if the animal was specifically killed to be served to you, and you knew it, you would refuse. If it was genuine alms-food, an offering of leftovers or food appropriate to monks, it would be accepted. The buddha even accepted bad meat from a sincere giver as his last meal, and died of it, rather than prevent his host from receiving the merit of giving.
In Thailand, I have not seen any refusals although I see whole (small) animals being offered, e.g. fish squid, prawns, etc. This seems to break the first rule but as your example of the Buddha shows, I guess the spirit of simply not rejecting is upheld nowadays. And yes, I have received refrigerated left-overs and ate them.

There is much liberty in not having to (OVER)-think or choose my food as a monk. Before I became a monk, my culture and upbringing dictates that I never reject any food served nor talk (at the table) about other people's choice of food. I think that is a skillful guide for living amongst a multi-cultural Singaporean country. The Chinese openly eat their pork beside the Muslims having their halal food and there are no problems. Then I witness people in Chinese weddings, openly critisizing shark's fin (usually the 2nd course of a 10 course dinner), causing the whole table to be in a sour mood. I have also seen gracious/ugly behavior with vegetarians. 

I think everyone is absolutely entitled to eat what they want, any thought is to be checked for prejudice/judgement first. Rejection if at all necessary had best be very, very skillful to avoid 'suffering' to all parties.

Bon Appetit & Love You Guys! emoticon

Thatagata 9.5 day Retreat
Answer
3/11/18 3:07 PM as a reply to Nick O.
I've arrived home yesterday from my first multi-day retreat. A 9.5 day Satipatthana Vipassana stint at Thatagata Meditation Center in San Jose, CA. It was an extrordinary, earth-shattering experience that ended in bittersweet fashion.

My Confession:

I am incredibly humbled to report (even though I never made outward claims otherwise) that I am not nearly as far along the path as I once thought. However, believing that I was served me greatly as motivation and progress was made. My whole confusion stemmed from having a somewhat sudden kundalini event in 2015 and then wrongly assuming I wouldn't have to cross it (A&P) again because I was mistaking a Three Characteristics diagnosis for Re-Observation. I thought I was entering the retreat in some low grade form of Equanimity. I hadn't read MCTB for a long time so I missed important details and the following excerpt explains my missed self-diagnosis to a T:

"It is very easy to confuse this stage with descriptions of stage 11. Equanimity, especially as the stage before it, 10. Re-observation, has some distinct similarities to stage 3. The Three Characteristics. A brief discussion of the fractal nature of things that describes this will follow in the chapter called The Vipassana Jhanas. The big difference is that this stage is ruled by quick cycles, rapidly changing frequencies of vibrations, odd physical movements, strange breathing patterns, heady raptures, a decreased need for sleep, strong bliss, and a general sense of riding on a spiritual roller coaster with no breaks. The higher stages (10 and 11) do not have those qualities."

I realized this after an explosive A&P (not EQ) experience wrapped up on the last day and there was no fruition. It became clear to me immediately in the nanas and jhanas table. Woops! Packing my car, in tears, extremely A&P hungover, disappointment and embarrassment weighed upon me. I felt like a chump for all my prideful reflections and naive assumptions. There were doubts about continuing practice but on my drive home was reinvigorated by the fact that I did make good progress, had a remarkable retreat and my life is set up to dive into the potentially challenging material ahead. 


The Center:


Thatagata is beautiful, spacious center hidden behind tall gates and cypress trees on a large city block in San Jose, CA. There's a small bit of city noise in the background and an occassional noisy neighbor but it wasn't an issue. It's owned, operated and supported by the local Vietnamese community. The food is exceptional (breakfast @ 6, lunch @ 11). The living quarters are clean and basic with cots. Most yogis, to my knowledge had their own rooms. The bathroom facilities are kept clean and comfortable. The living quarters, mediation hall and dining hall surround a lovely courtyard with plenty of space to spread out for walking meditation. The abbot, Sayadaw U Thuzana, is the former meditation master at MBMC. I didn't notice his beaming presence until I stepped into a small room where he was holding a question and answer session. I was floored. My jaw dropped. The man is so comfortable in his surroundings and exudes loving-kindness effortlessly. I looked forward to hearing his soft voice during metta chanting first thing every morning.


The Experience:


The first day was exciting and sloppy as to be expected. I rode waves of happiness and bliss overjoyed to have actually finally set aside the time to be doing it. My thought machine wasn't taking the whole thing seriously. I found it to be cracking jokes, fantasizing about pulling pranks and the like. I welcomed this kind of attitude. Show respect, show gratitude, practice hard but don't take it too seriously. The seriousness would come plenty on its own.

On day two was all about settling in a little more. It was feeling more like work as the concentration gained momentum. 

Day three is when I really did some hard pushing and found my concentration becoming increasingly powerful. That night while really seeing how hard I could push it an explosive rapture occurred in my head that felt like a two ton bomb of MDMA. My racing heart beat the air out of my lungs with every pulse for about 10 seconds. My cushion neighbors were probably concerned. When the bell rang, I shuffled out the door a little unsettled. While retiring to my quarters for a bit to calm down, sexual images flashed in my mind. If I only would have been more versed on details of the stages, this would have raised a red flag immediately that I was entering A&P. Not to mention, other obvious factors of the Three Charactaristics stage like body shakes, sudden neck movements and so forth.

On day four concentration was exceeding anything I had ever been able to reach prior and noticed large spans of time go by without distraction. I believe it was also day 4 when while not practicing like a good yogi, I was reflecting on something from earlier that day. A family brought in alms for the monks and served it to them at their table. While U Thuzana and U Khippapanno started eating, the family including their little girl bowed together. A new appreciation for Buddhism as a religion dawned on me. A new respect for the sanctity. For all its flaws and inefficiencies, devotion in Buddhism was the very thing holding this retreat center together. The very function of devotion was the reason that this spoiled white boy from the sticks could come to the city and have a life transforming experience for a mere $25 a day. The very function of sanctity was what was keeping this center out of the clutches of a fee for service society. I became overwhelmed with gratitude and sobbed. Never so clearly have I been able to perceive a tear rolling down my cheek.

Day five was when shit started to get weird. After lunch I strolled out into the courtyard where a bizarre and destabilizing insight hit me like a train. It was a crystal clear, chilly beautiful day. I was feeling relatively normal, light and happy. I took a few steps and then slowed as there was a strange stillness to a particular moment. A thought arose "What do I do now?" Then a funny feeling appeared like I had forgotten the key to my room or neglected to do something important. I patted my pockets and quickly looked back to the kitchen, then surrendered to the momentary fact that... there was simply nothing to do…. I was just here... right now…. However I try to describe this experience doesn't quite cut the mustard for it was beyond language. My best effort would be to say that I momentarily saw though the mental construct of past and future. The experience was knowing directly that time is an illusion. (To be fair, I'm sure this was partially brought to the surface by the fact that I didn't really have anything to in either direction of time except for dozens of hours of sitting and walking.) A bit of panic set in and I got "the fear". I felt like a lost little boy asking a stranger if they had seen his parents but only to get the response "Oh silly little boy, you never had any parents!" After pacing around nervously, holding my head between my hands, I ended up hiding in the back parking area weeping for a few minutes. It scared me deeply and that was the first wave of psychedelic fear that would come and go throughout the retreat. The next sit served some comic relief in the act of an adorable old Vietnamese man sitting in front of me snoring. I really thought I'd be able to keep it together until some Beavis behind me (another old Vietnamese gent) started snickering. Like any Butt-Head would, I couldn't help it and I started snickering too. I eventually had to lightly touch the man gently on the shoulder to wake him up. I laughed to myself about it for days and the old timer slept pretty much the whole time. During this day, strange time warps and memory gaps started to occur. I remember looking at the clock in the dining hall eight hours after an interview with U Thuzana thinking that it could have easily happened an hour or two before.

Day six was a breakthrough when the geometric visuals kicked in. Eyes closed, I was seated with a wall on my left and in one particular sit I noticed an expansion of space to my left and felt as if the wall was not there. Space was filled or constructed with repeating and shifting 3d triangle patterns that looked similar to ball-and-stick molecule models. This was also when a consistent recurring visual phenomenon appeared that I had seen occasionally in the two or so months leading up to the retreat. I have dubbed them, "stretchy box things":

Imagine a two dimensional square or rectangle in a three dimensional space. The top two corners will move horizontally in one direction and the bottom two corners will move in the opposite direction, resulting in a trapezoidal figure, most commonly a parallelogram. Sometimes one or both bottom or top vector would move closer or farther in space resulting in an isosceles shape. That's a "stretchy box thing". The movement is rhythmic, happening about once a second, or much quicker as I moved closer to the A&P event horizon.
  

Sensate reality was becoming increasingly intense to the point that it was almost unbearable and the fear seemed to be stronger at these times.  At one point I entered the men's quarter hallway after someone had mopped. Strange to say but the smell of the floor cleaner was orgasmic. Opening the door to my room, the smell of my own funk was repulsive. The fear became stronger and deserved closer investigation. I dedicated one sit to feeling the fear to as much as possible. It slowly moved off to the left in typical fashion. Stepping outside afterwards there was a new calm. Warmer weather had moved in and the air was thick and comforting. For the first time I remembered how I felt after my initial sudden awakening. The ease, the intriguing pleasant feeling in the hands. The day continued with ease until later that night in the restroom. I was washing my hands when a gentleman using the urinal breaks noble silence. "Nick, how you doing?" It was like a bomb going off. I turned and replied quietly, "uh..pretty good man. How are you?" He introduces himself and asks, "You mind if I break noble silence with you?"

"Uh..sure"

"Let's walk to the back parking lot?"

"Uh..sure."

The fear returned but I had no problem with chatting with this guy. At least I could get off my chest to someone that I momentarily witnessed time stop. I thought I had heard him crying at one point and perhaps the guy might just be losing his shit and needed to talk to someone. Pretty much he just wanted to tell me that I look like Bodhidharma (I do have a beard, but I'm not balding) and how he has aphantasia. The fact that he would go through life never being able to visualize his family members was the cause for his crying. I had never heard of such a thing and didn't have much to say to comfort him. Before telling me he was leaving the retreat and saying his goodbyes, he left me a new way to look at noting practice.

"You are cultivating a simple, streamlined consciousness," he said.

I never thought of it that way. And to be completely honest, I never really have done much noting. It's all about simply feeling, as deeply as I can, straining my nerve endings outward like antennas to the heavens. I'm rarely even on the primary object (even though U Thuzana had me do so and it helped me feel more clearly). I'm studying every sensation, jumping around to catch whatever arises. Even though it's a tried and true method for many, for me noting has seemed like wasted effort. It's like calling on the phone to someone in the same room. To use TMI's sub minds as a model of example:

A dials up B and says, "Dude, Sub mind C just expressed a thought."

B, distracted from his attention replies, "I know man, I heard him. We're all right here."

A dials up B and says, "Dude, did you feel that earthquake."

B replies, "Of course man, I'm sitting right next to you. Can we stop talking about it and simply feel the vibrations?"

Sure it's a way to not get lost in the content of thoughts, but in my experience whether or not I'm noting or simply "feeling", I'm gunna spend a little time bullshitting with mental phenomena from time to time. Perhaps moving into dissolution it will be more helpful.

Day seven was the real kicker. The visualizations moved away from the molecule models and into more complex spinning pinwheel patterns. Quicker moving and more pronounced "stretchy box things" appeared very frequently. The euphoria built into orgasmic highs. Blasting concussions in space-time rippled through on occasion. This was the day when I could no longer sit on the cushion. My left knee was toast. An apparatus of cushions had been constructed and altered many times. Numerous ways of sitting were explored. Aches, throbs, stabbing pain and stiffness were welcome and served me well. However, unbearable burning, clicking, popping, deteriorating knees and heavy limping at the end of the day were signs that I should consider a chair. Growing up ski racing, I've noticed my knees never making a complete recovery. The "resting" chairs at the back of the hall with a "15 minutes maximum" sign were my only refuge. I notified the coordinator that I would need to rely on those and she didn't seem to think it would be a problem. Moving away from my sitting position was a symbolic departure from the yogi tribe. Meditating in a group had been powerful and motivating. Whatever was happening now didn't seem to ask for motivation. It was simply a process running itself and I was along for it, watching carefully. Moving into the evening, my concentration seemed to give out and I was simply laid out in the chair, hooked to an IV of primordial opiate-infused ecstasy watching a spectacle of geometric visualizations, spinning pinwheels of cat heads, and a meditation hall that warped under the movement of "stretchy box things". To quote MCTB, "…as if we have been submerged in thick syrup and partially sedated by some strong, opiate like drug." 

At the end of this particular sit I stayed past the bell eyes closed, seated near the women's entrance. As the women exited slowly there were visuals of the feminine energy built into these gorgeous women all waving to me as they passed. I was tripping balls.

That night there was barely any sleep under the spell of gooey euphoria. A party erupted in the middle of the night on the next property over directly on the other side of the fence. Drunken shouts and singing were followed by 20 minutes of blasting mariachi music at 4am. I smiled to myself but was also a little wigged out. The contrast of a banal cacophony against the backdrop of an esoteric journey through deep consciousness was slightly unsettling.

I'm thinking day eight is when, under my delusion of being in EQ, the careful observing of "formations" began. There was definitely heavy flickering of all senses and I thought at one point I was seeing the "tri-ality". Sensate vibrations on one side, a void on the other and my observation point. The whole thing was spinning as a carousel. There would be cycles of slow, deep and chunky vibrations evolving to very fine ones quick ones over a few hours. The euphoria became pure and fine. Fear was diminishing and nearly extinguished. My appreciation for the strict religiousness of it all was waning quickly. The experience was no longer fitting the mold of disciplined, consistent meditation.  There were times when I could focus and times where I intuitively knew there wasn't any progress to be had and that it was best to rest. My concentration no longer had the ratcheting mechanism it had before.

I missed a couple sits throughout the day and lied in bed under the weight of some sleepy apathy. Many people were falling sick and I was feeling myself fighting it. You could taste it in the air of the meditation hall. Since I only had two days left, it wasn't a bad idea to keep my distance. There was no urge to do anything at all. Completely content. I forced myself to keep meditating when the energy was present, paying close attention to the vibrations. In one nap there was an experience of sleep paralysis, something I hadn't come across in 10 years. In the past there's been a presence of a demon, gremlin or some dark entity. But during the lucidity of it, I heard the voice and felt the presence of an old friend I hand't seen in years. "Nick, wake up. Nick are you alright?" I could see the room from a distance and eventually wrestled my way out of the spell.

On day nine the euphoria washed out and I was left in perfect bliss. Sitting in the courtyard, I admired the beauty of the tall cypress trees, blue skies and bees pollinating the flowers. This was exactly how I was for months after my sudden change in perspective in 2015. The vibrations became very fine and extremely quick, but fading.

During the last hour of meditation on the half day ten, I lied in bed confused by what happened. This is when I looked at the jhanas and nanas table. Aha! I was not crossing the same apex as I thought. It was temporarily soul crushing. No wonder U Thuzana didn't have much to say in the interviews, but the obvious. "More precise feeling of the primary object and more accurate noting."

...

So here I am, a little shell shocked from the experience, feeling a little alien in my own living space and thinking about how much deeper this rabbit hole goes than I thought. This is very, very similar to the after effects of an acid trip. I'm still seeing stretchy box hallucinations warp my surroundings, different rates of vibrations and occasional spinning visualizations. When moving my eyes there's a slow frame rate-like quality to my vision. I'm sure things will "normalize" at some point but I'm uncertain what it will be like to return to work, produce music and hang out with family. I feel tremendously different and "thinner" in a strange way. I'm looking forward to moving on with practice into this new strange territory. I'm still shocked that all this stuff is real and works the way it promises when after 2500 years, most people think its hocus-pocus or worse. 

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
3/12/18 12:47 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Desire - when it is rough, how can one shape it? Watch it...

WHAT IS RIGHT VIEW???
I'm still seeing stretchy box hallucinations warp my surroundings, different rates of vibrations and occasional spinning visualizations. When moving my eyes there's a slow frame rate-like quality to my vision.
This is eerily similar to what I am seeing all the time for months now. Do you see fan blades?


RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
3/23/18 11:59 PM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun, 

Ya, the spinning visuals are still present (but no longer the detailed sacred geometry - just spinning suchness) , especially when I get into access, but also it can sometimes grab areas of my visual periphery when I'm concentrated in other activities, like when recording my singing. Fan blades are a good way to describe but the stretchy box things are gone. I've also seen mixed in a lot more of the much slower steady chunky post AP vibrations along with the mood swings,  existential qualms and lust (yet feel my concentration skills have improved).... Here we go! It's funny to come out of a retreat feeling worse than going in and know it's progress . 

By the way, I now have a note posted to my bathroom mirror that asks "WHAT IS RIGHT VIEW???"

Thanks for that inspiration ... 

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
3/24/18 6:41 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Love you Nick and sincerely wish you well. Not gonna offer any advice as my head had gone loose recently. 

Hang in there brother! emoticon

RE: Thatagata 9.5 day Retreat
Answer
3/24/18 7:36 AM as a reply to Nick O.
I read your retreat experience. I was delighted to read about B. Khippapanno being there. I did most of my retreats with him in the past. Did you get to do interviews with him? He's very open to talk about nanas and paths during interviews. Also made me smile reading your breaking noble silence part. I remember breaking noble silence in one of those retreats and feeling quite overly guilty about it! Now I think it may be needed sometimes.

Thanks for the reporting. Best wishes in your practice.

Benoit

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
3/24/18 9:24 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun Ong:
Love you Nick and sincerely wish you well. Not gonna offer any advice as my head had gone loose recently. 

Hang in there brother! emoticon
All the love! No worries, I understand. I got this! Whatever wacky version of dry insight practice I'm doing is obviously working. Now it's all about making the time for weekend warrior retreats until I say fuck it all, sell everything and fly to Thailand emoticon 

RE: Thatagata 9.5 day Retreat
Answer
3/24/18 9:39 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
I read your retreat experience. I was delighted to read about B. Khippapanno being there. I did most of my retreats with him in the past. Did you get to do interviews with him? He's very open to talk about nanas and paths during interviews. Also made me smile reading your breaking noble silence part. I remember breaking noble silence in one of those retreats and feeling quite overly guilty about it! Now I think it may be needed sometimes.

Thanks for the reporting. Best wishes in your practice.

Benoit
Hey Benoit, 

I did not get any interviews with Khip. He seemed to be there to interview Vietnamese speaking people only. I had U Thuzana both interviews. He didn't get into anything about nanas, as I was gently prying on him to do so. But it was fine. I think he figured I knew what I was doing, so didn't have much to say.

U Khippapanno gave the Dharma talks all in Vietnamese. A woman translated the talks into somewhat broken English afterwards, which was a little silly as it took up a lot of time. His talks were from the heart and I actually enjoyed hearing his gentle old, soft and enthusiastic voice. Vietnamese is a beautiful language. 

Thanks for reading. Best wishes to you as well!

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
3/24/18 10:20 AM as a reply to Nick O.
All I can say is we WILL meet one day. And what a fine day it will be! emoticon

Off-Cushion Practice / Mental Planning / Desire of Self-Expression
Answer
3/30/18 3:03 PM as a reply to Nick O.
"IT"

There has been a surprising amount of off-cushion progress being made in the last few weeks. I'm beginning to notice mindfull presence more often without making effort to not "forget". This leads me to mention something about an early metacognative curiosity I had that began in my teens or earlier:

I used to call it thinking about "it". I didn't know what "it" was and still don't but now have better terminology.  "It" was small, located in my head and didn't get much of my attention as I was rarely thinking about "it". When I did think of "it", I found "it" perplexing because "it" was a dead end as I knew there was no way to explain "it"."It" was simply of "itself" with no attributes to contrast "it" from anything that was not "it".

Fast forward many years: I have my initial transformative, paradigm-shattering spiritual awakening (K, A&P, whatever) upon discovering meditation and eastern philosophy. "It" becomes much larger, panoramic and permanently transformed. Fast forward to last year: I discover insight practice and now come to call "it" metacognative awareness or mindfullness. "It" is no longer a curiosity. "It" is now "it" and that's it. End of story.

***

The Suffering In Planning

The other day my crew finished work a little early and a friend asked if I'd join him for some beers.

A sub mind projected "Oh come now, you should head home, do your meditation, make dinner and maybe try to work on some music."

This was the last fucking straw. I had had enough. An insight dawned on me. The discipline that had brought me to have this very insight was becoming a burden of itself. I didn't need to go home right then. There were absolutely no consequences of not doing so. I'll do meditation when I do meditation. I'll work on music when I'm inspired. I'll hang out with friends when the opportunities present themselves. None of these activities have deadlines. Meditation isn't going to fall out of my life because I miss one day. I am aware of the benefits and will naturally do a sit when I do a sit. The less future planning and less worries over what I "should" be doing will most defititely lead to better off-cushion practice and if I'm being completely honest, more unscheduled sits. This epiphany made a noticeable shift in mental behavior. After enjoying a couple beers with friends, I lied down at home and noticed the worried "you should be" sub mind making futile attempts to catch my attention. Some automatic process had initiated to knock them away. The experience is similar to a concentration state I could attain approaching the A&P horizon. One that I have described in a previous log as "hard but smooth like polished stone". It's as if all the sub minds got together and were like "Yeah, this "should be" mind has become a problem. They were helpful for a long time but now they only induce needless suffering." The "should be" sub mind taught me how to drink moderately, eat better, go to bed at a decent hour, keep a cleaner house, be more mindfull throughout the day, develop a decent meditative practice and much much more. It helped me to move beyond a lot of suffering. I appreciate its help but it's time to move on. It will always be there, but to a much lesser degree 

***

Ignorance in the Desire of Self-Expression 

I've been working on a recording project off and on for six years now. It's coming close to "fruition" but I have had a rough time battling with myself. As much as I love art, there's a lot of underdiscussed and largely unnoticed ignorance in the desire of self-expression. Music was a death march for me for about fifteen years - a campaign to prove my individuality. And when artists express their lives through aesthetics and strict identities (especially exacerbated in the age of social media) suffering and denial ensues. Approaching art fueled by inspiration and not in defense of ego is my new pracitice. It is an opportunity for mindfullness practice in a challenging setting. To know when I am hitting a wall and becoming creatively frustrated and knowing that it is due to defending my identity of "Nick the musician, Nick the visionary, etc.". Knowing when to put down the headphones, walk away and wait for inspiration to arise again is a strength. Like I said before, no deadlines.

Could this exploration also releal the most pertinent shadow side of the "should be" sub mind?

This practice will go beyond music. Knowing when to open my mouth. Knowing when to comment on internet conversations. Often times there is a little regret when in entertaining my desire of self-expression I make comments or say things that were unneccessary. The ignoring of impurities in the desire for self-expression causes an effect of egoic weakness reveal. Right View. Right Speech. Right Action. 

A local Dharma teacher here in my little town once said, "Right View is really 'No View'."  

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
3/31/18 6:24 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Knowing when to open my mouth. Knowing when to comment on internet conversations. Often times there is a little regret when in entertaining my desire of self-expression I make comments or say things that were unneccessary. The ignoring of impurities in the desire for self-expression causes an effect of egoic weakness reveal. Right View. Right Speech. Right Action. 

I will be very sensitive in balancing what the ego-self wants to do and what should be done (even in Sutta). There is absolute truth in both, although we eventually want to get to the Sutta version of ourselves, we need to do it in a sensitive, intelligent way, that is we do not force ourselves to do the 'right thing' whilst internally not-accepting that fully. With great care and with the aim for true comprehension, we allow ourselves to see the truth that going towards the Sutta way, IS better, makes us feel better, then can we fully do the Right Way, naturally and without turning back.

Right View IS No View, but until then we need to EASE ourselves towards that...

I wish you ease, my friend!

RE: Off-Cushion Practice / Mental Planning / Desire of Self-Expression
Answer
4/1/18 12:25 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:
Fast forward to last year: I discover insight practice and now come to call "it" metacognative awareness or mindfullness. "It" is no longer a curiosity. "It" is now "it" and that's it. End of story.


It's funny, for decades I deliberately increased what I called "situational awareness" both for my job (I used to test games, being able to perceive quickly, "widely" and accurately is key) and because I was creeped out by how many people have narrow tunnel vision. Then I start meditating again a year or so ago and read TMI, and realized i'd been developing my meditation skills unintentionally for years while calling it something else.

Just goes to show there are many roads leading to rome. I should open the Church of Quality Assurance. Not only do you develop the factors, you get paid! emoticon

* Pay is likely below industry standard and overtime is voluntary
** There's pizza!

Lars:
Nick O:
Fast forward to last year: I discover insight practice and now come to call "it" metacognative awareness or mindfullness. "It" is no longer a curiosity. "It" is now "it" and that's it. End of story.


It's funny, for decades I deliberately increased what I called "situational awareness" both for my job (I used to test games, being able to perceive quickly, "widely" and accurately is key) and because I was creeped out by how many people have narrow tunnel vision. Then I start meditating again a year or so ago and read TMI, and realized i'd been developing my meditation skills unintentionally for years while calling it something else.

Just goes to show there are many roads leading to rome. I should open the Church of Quality Assurance. Not only do you develop the factors, you get paid! emoticon

* Pay is likely below industry standard and overtime is voluntary
** There's pizza!
Yes! Some people definitely get a head start by developing other skills. I know that being a drummer and developing a sensitivity to extremely small units of passing time gave me a "meditative" edge. Same with mixing a song and listening for very fine details / artifacts across a stereo spectrum.

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
4/1/18 9:55 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun Ong:
Knowing when to open my mouth. Knowing when to comment on internet conversations. Often times there is a little regret when in entertaining my desire of self-expression I make comments or say things that were unneccessary. The ignoring of impurities in the desire for self-expression causes an effect of egoic weakness reveal. Right View. Right Speech. Right Action. 

I will be very sensitive in balancing what the ego-self wants to do and what should be done (even in Sutta). There is absolute truth in both, although we eventually want to get to the Sutta version of ourselves, we need to do it in a sensitive, intelligent way, that is we do not force ourselves to do the 'right thing' whilst internally not-accepting that fully. With great care and with the aim for true comprehension, we allow ourselves to see the truth that going towards the Sutta way, IS better, makes us feel better, then can we fully do the Right Way, naturally and without turning back.

Right View IS No View, but until then we need to EASE ourselves towards that...

I wish you ease, my friend!
Right. It's really just refining the sensitivity to what choice is going to bring the least amount of suffering. If we are aware of our actions, we can only make our best possible guess based upon our past. I will say that I'm having a hard time seeing that there is an absolute way in the noble eightfold path. This would imply that every fully enlightened being would respond to a situation in exactly the same manner, which I find very unlikely. 

Nick O:
Yes! Some people definitely get a head start by developing other skills. I know that being a drummer and developing a sensitivity to extremely small units of passing time gave me a "meditative" edge. Same with mixing a song and listening for very fine details / artifacts across a stereo spectrum.


Ok this is getting funnier, I also used to play drums (now I play guitar). One of the "breakthrough" moments a while back was experimenting with vipassana techniques while air drumming, basically applying the mahasi walking meditation technique to an even more complex motion. Essentially I focused on experiencing playing the snare drum (one of the slower beats) with as much mindfulness as possible from the beginning of the motion to the end, while still playing all the other parts. It was really difficult at first, but worthwhile. Using tinnitus as an object has also been surprisingly effective.

I'm curious, have you found your playing is more natural since you've been practising? On the guitar there is a definite change, it doesn't feel like i'm constantly struggling like I used to, it flows better.

Lars:
Nick O:
Yes! Some people definitely get a head start by developing other skills. I know that being a drummer and developing a sensitivity to extremely small units of passing time gave me a "meditative" edge. Same with mixing a song and listening for very fine details / artifacts across a stereo spectrum.


Ok this is getting funnier, I also used to play drums (now I play guitar). One of the "breakthrough" moments a while back was experimenting with vipassana techniques while air drumming, basically applying the mahasi walking meditation technique to an even more complex motion. Essentially I focused on experiencing playing the snare drum (one of the slower beats) with as much mindfulness as possible from the beginning of the motion to the end, while still playing all the other parts. It was really difficult at first, but worthwhile. Using tinnitus as an object has also been surprisingly effective.

I'm curious, have you found your playing is more natural since you've been practising? On the guitar there is a definite change, it doesn't feel like i'm constantly struggling like I used to, it flows better.
Funny you ask. Three years ago, after briefly stumbling into meditation and Buddhist philosophy, I had a very sudden paradigm-shattering awakening experience a la Eckhart Tolle's description of his experience in the book The Power of Now. A day after it kicked in, I was driving to rehearsal not knowing what it was going to be like to play drums as my experience and understanding of life was so greatly altered. I was even considering the possibility that I may not even want to continue with music anymore. I started playing and realized it was only better! Much better!  A month later, a friend watched me perform and commented that she noticed a new depth of expression in my playing.

Meditation / Attainments : VERY GOOD FOR MUSICIANS. But I still suck at guitar damnit, a little less than I used to emoticon

I love the air drumming meditation you mention. Terrific idea! I may experiment with doing an hour meditation just playing a repetitious beat on the kit.

And yes, I have heard using tinnitus as an object works well and I have a good amount of it to work with from 15 years of playing loud music! I'll try it out. 

I greatly appreciate the ideas. Best wishes!

Honeymoon?
Answer
4/8/18 2:41 PM as a reply to Nick O.
In some honeymoon state in the aftermath of the collapse of the "should be" submind. The minds seem to have been supplied proof that it's better to be present than running away in aversion.

Had a very strange momentary centerless experience the other day while out at breakfast, sitting on a patio. It was as if my whole body went numb but in a visual sense. There was just a couple arms and hands holding a phone. No identification.  

Off-cushion practice gaining effortless traction and momentum. Not much effort needed to be mindfull in daily activities. In fact the minds find it fascinating to be present and aware. Games are played to see how much can be noted when doing laundry or grocery shopping.  Sitting motivation at a very low point as all is fine where it is. On cushion vipassana practice feels at this point, superfluous. Considering taking up a concentration practice. Fire kasina? Magick? Volunteer work? Who knows!?   

RE: Nick O's practice log
Answer
4/12/18 4:29 PM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun Ong:
I wanna say something because I have the intention to be friendly to Nick & Terry - the content may not make any sense emoticon
The rule was, if the animal was specifically killed to be served to you, and you knew it, you would refuse. If it was genuine alms-food, an offering of leftovers or food appropriate to monks, it would be accepted. The buddha even accepted bad meat from a sincere giver as his last meal, and died of it, rather than prevent his host from receiving the merit of giving.
 I witness people in Chinese weddings, openly critisizing shark's fin (usually the 2nd course of a 10 course dinner), causing the whole table to be in a sour mood. I have also seen gracious/ugly behavior with vegetarians. 

I think everyone is absolutely entitled to eat what they want, any thought is to be checked for prejudice/judgement first. Rejection if at all necessary had best be very, very skillful to avoid 'suffering' to all parties.

Bon Appetit & Love You Guys! emoticon


aloha yilun,

   Shark fin soup is a big issue here. Sharks are a part of the hawaiian religion, they are "aumakua" - a word usually (mis)translated as "household gods" but which refers to animals who make a spiritual impact. Aumakua include sharks (lono), owls (pueo), 'vana (poisonous spiny sea urchins), honu (turtles), nene (geese), io (hawk) and others. They are regarded as omens when they are seen, usually an ancestor trying to tell you something. If you have seen the disney movie "moana," grandma comes back as a manta ray (also aumakua). Captain cook was killed because he was thought to be the personification of lono the shark, but then failed to fit the profile, not least by being drownable.

   Even now, sharks are regarded as sacred to a sizeable percentage of the residents of hawaii. Sharks are a slow growing creature which does not produce large numbers of progeny. Killing sharks indiscriminately endangers the species. Hawaii nei (the archipelago) has many "long-liners" catching ahi and what not who have a sideline in "finning" sharks. That is, they stun or kill the shark, then cut off the fin and sell it for $100s/kilo to be used in shark fin soup, discarding the remains.

   This practice is illegal in hawaii, probably illegal internationally. Definned sharks die quickly, if not killed outright. Local folks regard this as a travesty.

   If they were serving tiger soup, or spotted owl soup, or even turtle soup, would you object? partake? I knew a guy who illegally caught turtles here and tried to sell the meat door to door; he was quickly arrested. It is a federal offense even to possess nets of a certain mesh size. It has been said that turtle is the most delicious meat in the world. (I personally wouldn't eat meat if jesus/buddha came back and handed me a sop. No thanks, lord.)


your friend,
terry




"Crimson—
the seven treasures!
I hold up a gift of
pomegranates
with both hands.”

~ryokan

RE: Honeymoon?
Answer
4/12/18 5:22 PM as a reply to Nick O.
[quote=Nick O

Sitting motivation at a very low point as all is fine where it is. ]

aloha nick,

   If "all is fine where it is," why do anything other than sit? When I sit, one of the things that keeps me sitting is that there is no place I would rather be right then; and no place I am needed more. It doesn't require a lot of motivation to keep up a habit.

   I also think of meditation as more restful than a nap, and I get to stay awake the whole time. Perhaps you are working harder at your sitting than I am, and need to be more motivated. 

   Do you think more "enlightened" people have a reduced need/desire/ability to sit? 

  
terry



just because I like this story...


"Ryokan was once invited to a tea ceremony. Several guests were supposed to share one bowl of thick tea. Ryokan swallowed the entire contents of the bowl before noticing that the guest next to him was waiting. He spit some of the tea back into the bowl and passed it to the next guest. Having no choice, the guest finished the tea while chanting “Homage to Amitabha Buddha.”

RE: Honeymoon?
Answer
4/12/18 9:05 PM as a reply to terry.
terry:

aloha nick,

   If "all is fine where it is," why do anything other than sit? When I sit, one of the things that keeps me sitting is that there is no place I would rather be right then; and no place I am needed more. It doesn't require a lot of motivation to keep up a habit.

   I also think of meditation as more restful than a nap, and I get to stay awake the whole time. Perhaps you are working harder at your sitting than I am, and need to be more motivated. 

   Do you think more "enlightened" people have a reduced need/desire/ability to sit? 

  
terry



just because I like this story...


"Ryokan was once invited to a tea ceremony. Several guests were supposed to share one bowl of thick tea. Ryokan swallowed the entire contents of the bowl before noticing that the guest next to him was waiting. He spit some of the tea back into the bowl and passed it to the next guest. Having no choice, the guest finished the tea while chanting “Homage to Amitabha Buddha.”
Hey Terry,

Great questions. Correct me if I am wrong, but from what I have gathered from reading your posts, you practice "just sitting". Just sitting is a terrific practice and directly points to more than the "results" of practice.  The last few months my sitting has been noting, body scanning, active inquiry into the 3C's, etc. More than "just sitting". Like it or not, this practice is very goal oriented for most practitioners. Stopping short of claiming attainment, I'll say there has been a shift towards a pleasant impasse where motivation of this style of practice has dropped away (for now). It just is and nowhere to get to. Why not just sit? Well I could just sit, but I can also just work (still have to do that), just record music, just read a book, just converse with a good friend or just stare at a candle flame. I can just do anything. Sitting isn't the only place to realize that "there is no place I would rather be right then; and no place I am needed more.  
Do you think more "enlightened" people have a reduced need/desire/ability to sit? 
Depends on your idea of "enlightenment" and who we're talking about. I can't see awakened people having less ability to sit. Less desire? Depends. Less need? Depends on their desire and what they wish to attain. But I probably just fell into a koan trap by spelling this out. Jokes on me!

Hope you are well Terry! All the love! 

EDIT: Oh and by the way Terry, I'm back to being Vegetarian (mostly) 

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
4/13/18 3:01 AM as a reply to terry.
As a monk, the responsibility of thinking and thinking I make a difference to the world with my food choice is thankfully taken away from me. I eat whatever it is, ask no one and bother no one for more/less of anything - that is my contribution to a very perceivable "prevention" of suffering to the people around me. This repeating "no one really cares" scene looks blissfully real to me, killing more seeds of thought around food in my head.

This shark thing: ~10 endangered out of >400 shark species, is a massive topic from multiple angles, the only number that matters for sure is that it will benefit from one less view (a monk's especially)... emoticon

RE: Honeymoon?
Answer
4/20/18 6:09 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:
[quote=]

Great questions. Correct me if I am wrong, but from what I have gathered from reading your posts, you practice "just sitting". Just sitting is a terrific practice and directly points to more than the "results" of practice.  The last few months my sitting has been noting, body scanning, active inquiry into the 3C's, etc. More than "just sitting". Like it or not, this practice is very goal oriented for most practitioners. Stopping short of claiming attainment, I'll say there has been a shift towards a pleasant impasse where motivation of this style of practice has dropped away (for now). It just is and nowhere to get to. Why not just sit? Well I could just sit, but I can also just work (still have to do that), just record music, just read a book, just converse with a good friend or just stare at a candle flame. I can just do anything. Sitting isn't the only place to realize that "there is no place I would rather be right then; and no place I am needed more.  
Do you think more "enlightened" people have a reduced need/desire/ability to sit? 
Depends on your idea of "enlightenment" and who we're talking about. I can't see awakened people having less ability to sit. Less desire? Depends. Less need? Depends on their desire and what they wish to attain. But I probably just fell into a koan trap by spelling this out. Jokes on me!

Hope you are well Terry! All the love! 

EDIT: Oh and by the way Terry, I'm back to being Vegetarian (mostly) 

aloha nick,

   Fair enough, bra.

   I'm glad to hear you are (mostly) vegetarian.

   Yah, as for practice I just sit, and try not to be too ritualistic or compulsive about it. It is a curative for an excitable nature. I didn't regard it as important until it became obviously important, and now I find it indispensable for many reasons. I suppose you can overdo it; my daddy used to say, "A fool can drown in a cup of coffee." Still, I recommend "just sitting," as a practice and as a corrective to more busy and result oriented practices, aka "spinning your wheels" or, as in dzogchen, "building sand castles."

   The "koan trap" you are afraid you fell in is probably the business about attainment. "There is nothing to attain" the wisdom traditions tell us, because it is all right here and now, at every moment. Not to be attained later as later never arrives.

   Everyone has their own Way.


terry

RE: Honeymoon?
Answer
4/21/18 12:11 AM as a reply to terry.
terry:
The "koan trap" you are afraid you fell in is probably the business about attainment. "There is nothing to attain" the wisdom traditions tell us, because it is all right here and now, at every moment. Not to be attained later as later never arrives.

   Everyone has their own Way.
The way I see it, there are two different ways we can talk about "attainment" or "awakening" or "enlightenment". Let me begin by giving an example using the issue of free will.

I am firmly aware that free will is an illusion. All decisions made are the result of present conditions weighed against past conditioning. But as physicist Sean Carroll puts it, "There is a way that you do (have free will) and a way that you don't."

When I wake up tomorrow morning, I am going to choose what to make for breakfast. I am going to choose when to stop pouring the half and half into my coffee. When I choose to begin recording music, I am going to choose which takes are good and which aren't. I am completely comfortable with assuming free will is a real thing in this context because I am completely correct when I acknowledge that I do actually make choices each day (in this conventional framework).

The same silly paradox can be applied to awakening. Enlightenment has nothing to do with "me".  There's nothing to be "attained" and to "awaken" is to not gain anything. There's nowhere to arrive because every moment is now. But at the same time there is a very real moment in time when we "arrive" in realization. Attainment occurs. Enlightenment happens to people in a moment in time (in this conventional framework).

So here we are. Do we disclose this paradox with a newbie with compassion, honesty and integrity (via conventional framework)? Or do we dance around being all clever and witty with koans and riddles teasing them into confusion (via poetic framework)? Either way there's going to be confusion and either way they're gunna call the teacher's bluff when they see through the illusion. The somehow ironic part in all of this is that the "poetic" direction is the real truth, yet the "conventional" way is a gross approximation of language. 

In the same way that I don't want to explain to the server that my brain made "my" choice for me based on neurological physics every time I order a meal, I'd rather stay with the conventional terms of awakening as well. This IMO, is the less pretentious and morally sound option. To be up front and say "there's nothing to gain, but you won't realize it till you put in the work!"

Love the discussions, Terry!         

RE: Honeymoon?
Answer
4/21/18 3:58 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:
terry:
The "koan trap" you are afraid you fell in is probably the business about attainment. "There is nothing to attain" the wisdom traditions tell us, because it is all right here and now, at every moment. Not to be attained later as later never arrives.

   Everyone has their own Way.
The way I see it, there are two different ways we can talk about "attainment" or "awakening" or "enlightenment". Let me begin by giving an example using the issue of free will.

I am firmly aware that free will is an illusion. All decisions made are the result of present conditions weighed against past conditioning. But as physicist Sean Carroll puts it, "There is a way that you do (have free will) and a way that you don't."

When I wake up tomorrow morning, I am going to choose what to make for breakfast. I am going to choose when to stop pouring the half and half into my coffee. When I choose to begin recording music, I am going to choose which takes are good and which aren't. I am completely comfortable with assuming free will is a real thing in this context because I am completely correct when I acknowledge that I do actually make choices each day (in this conventional framework).

The same silly paradox can be applied to awakening. Enlightenment has nothing to do with "me".  There's nothing to be "attained" and to "awaken" is to not gain anything. There's nowhere to arrive because every moment is now. But at the same time there is a very real moment in time when we "arrive" in realization. Attainment occurs. Enlightenment happens to people in a moment in time (in this conventional framework).

So here we are. Do we disclose this paradox with a newbie with compassion, honesty and integrity (via conventional framework)? Or do we dance around being all clever and witty with koans and riddles teasing them into confusion (via poetic framework)? Either way there's going to be confusion and either way they're gunna call the teacher's bluff when they see through the illusion. The somehow ironic part in all of this is that the "poetic" direction is the real truth, yet the "conventional" way is a gross approximation of language. 

In the same way that I don't want to explain to the server that my brain made "my" choice for me based on neurological physics every time I order a meal, I'd rather stay with the conventional terms of awakening as well. This IMO, is the less pretentious and morally sound option. To be up front and say "there's nothing to gain, but you won't realize it till you put in the work!"

Love the discussions, Terry!         


aloha nick,

   We see things somewhat differently. Notably, you contrast one way, which involves "compassion, honesty and integrity" to another way, to "dance around being all clever and witty with koans and riddles teasing them into confusion." Lightly dressed, of course, but it is clear where your sympathies lay, with "the less pretentious and morally sound option." That's fine, bra.

   To me, neither free will nor determinism exist, in the light of the dependent co-arising of phenomena.

   Newbies and teachers similarly cannot be distinguished.


terry



When Zhaozhou asks, “Yes?” I say, “Yes.”
When he asks, “No?” I say, “No.”
When you ask, “Yes?” I say nothing.
When you ask, “No?” I say nothing.
When you ask, “How is it so?”
still I say nothing.
 
~ryokan


   

RE: Honeymoon?
Answer
4/21/18 7:43 PM as a reply to terry.
I don't think we see things so differently. I just choose to play a different role at times. To go out on a limb and take in a stand in conventional duality knowing perfectly well that the inflexibility of doing so won't stand up to the nebulosity of the Dharma. It's all a game. It's playing the devil's advocate. No matter what stand or opinion someone takes, the Dharma police can always come through and smash it with non-duality. This is what I was getting at with the "koan trap" remark. Sarcasm. It reeks. Sorry to stink up the place. emoticon

Besides, as you know, if we wanted to discuss absolute truth, we couldn't. emoticon

RE: Honeymoon?
Answer
4/21/18 10:33 PM as a reply to Nick O.
And I guess to further clarify what I'm getting at here, to put it bluntly, I don't find it helpful to only say "there's nowhere to get to" so "just sit". Having goals in meditation is not polishing a tile to make a mirror.

April Insight
Answer
6/15/18 9:06 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Everything changed in early April with a powerful insight. It made everything I’ve typed in this log appear silly and the very practice of philosophizing seem pointless (temporarily). I took a month away from meditation and the internet after I witnessed the following unfold over the period of a few days:

1. It was as if there were two parallel versions of myself in parallel realities. One that was just Nick living out his life in peace. The other was Nick trying to conceptualize a better idea of himself and striving to become that self. Without effort, the illusion broke and the latter merged with the former and the former remained.

2. There was a realization that awakening had nothing to do with the individual. There is a “higher” awareness that realizes.

3. A strong desire to serve and to give arose but seemed to lose its energy over a few weeks.

4. If sitting for meditation was the act of asking a question, there is now an answer. Something is known that I don’t know what.

There was about a month of equanimity and strong feeling of being held in love. Riding this wave, laziness / indifference ensued and I began to feel the effects of subtly unskillful ways. Emotional friction or stickiness has returned, but with less effect. The afterglow has waned but I think only because there’s no longer contrast to compare it to the state of being before the insight. I have returned to practice, but with a less motivation. When I sit for Vipassana, I move through the nanas into equanimity over about 20 minutes, sit in a peaceful state, but then find myself drifting in thoughts and boredom eventually. Have never had a perceivable cessation. During the week, after a long day at my physically intense job, sleep takes me during my sits post EQ. Some days I skip due to exhaustion. On days off, I’ve been continuing with one or two one hour sessions, able to complete them with some challenging boredom on occasion in the last quarter hour.

Off cushion practice seemed to accelerate into the aforementioned insight and it continues to be the bread and butter of practice, taking note of emotions, thought patterns and meditating on the discomforts of hard work. It doesn’t require effort as I tend to just find myself doing it.

There’s a feeling of being partially stuck and partially liberated but feeling somewhat indifferent. With daily life, I’m on top of everything with work and other responsibilities. With Dharma practice, there feels like there’s no longer a question to ask, but curiosities of how to further refine. The curiosity, however, is not quite strong enough to fuel motivation. So here I am.

Cessation!
Answer
6/22/18 5:01 PM as a reply to Nick O.
This morning I had my first undeniable perceived cessation. Moved through the nyanas in typical fashion into EQ. Sitting in EQ the mind will typically wander into boredom but this time I made special effort to study the sensations of the breathing abdomen. Several minutes into EQ there was a tiny blip, quickly followed by the bliss wave. Soon afterwards my body began to feel both very heavy and very light somehow simultaneously. Space and time became distorted as I felt less and less inside my body.

I have very recent memories of similar rogue bliss waves in EQ and perhaps I was not concentrated enough to perceive the cessations.

Three days a week my schedule permits morning meditations where I'm able to sit without dullness. The other four days I attempt evening meditations after long days of hard work in the sun. Since the weather has turned hotter,  it has been almost impossible to stave off strong, sinking dullness during these evening sessions. Off the cushion practice serves me well during the work week, but my goal now is to conquer evening dullness even after a long day of solar installation.   

EQ is a trickster
Answer
8/10/18 10:11 AM as a reply to Nick O.
EQ is a trickster. In April, a deeply penetrating insight left me feeling “enlightened” with no desire to practice. This lead to a month of no practice, then to realizing the euphoria was fading, then to humbly ironing out rusty practice and lost progress. It taught me a wonderful lesson, however. WHATEVER HAPPENS, NEVER STOP PRACTICING! This has done good for self identity issues and brought forth back into focus into Right View.

Then there was the fruition false alarm that I have now assumed was an A&P sidetrack out of EQ. I've wanted multiple times to forget the maps, forget the maps, forget the maps as they have often times lead me astray due to my limited knowledge/experience. However, in recent sits, the nanas have been presenting themselves with stunning clarity (with some question marks) up to EQ.

Recent sits evolve like this:
  • Access concentration into Mind and Body / Cause and Effect?
    An attention magnet flips on within the first few breaths of the sit.
  • Three Characteristics
    A few seconds later it will slide into a more energetic, choppy state. Slightly uncomfortable loud vibrations. Shaky and turbulent.
  • A&P
    Usually about a minute into the sit. It’s like going over the top of a peak of a roller coaster and sliding into dissolution. It goes in rhythm with the breath. Slightly uncomfortable - blissful but in an annoying sugary sort of way.
  • Dissolution
    The long coast out of A&P. Vibrations subside, the lights dim, the body relaxes. For a while I had a problem with sinking here or battling with heavy dullness. In a way, dullness seems to be a natural aspect of this territory especially in the finally seconds when consciousness dissolves while falling into a dark hole. 
  • Fear / Dark Night
    This explodes out of Dissolution with a sudden rise in energy, turbulence and discomfort. Choppy, intense vibrations - similar to Three Characteristics, but more riveting and lasts a little longer. I have not been able to discern the individual nanas (Fear, Misery, Disgust, Desire for Deliverance) but I will mention a possible Re-observation below.
  • Equanimity
    It’s like pushing a boat out into a calm lake. I’ve been lately arriving here in 4 or 5 minutes from the point of access concentration. After a hard day at work I sometimes end up succumbing to sinking or dullness here. When I’m awake I am able to sail out further. Still trying to navigate this territory. It’s quite vast and the changing breezes seem to drift the boat this way and that (and going with the breeze seems to be the point). When I’m at my best, I notice slight changes to scenery here that seemed to imply different “stages” or “areas” but haven’t had enough experience to begin to remember discernible qualities.

    On a recent sit, reality seemed to break down into more elementary parts. Mindfulness was on fire and I was able to keep steady awareness of the changing phenomenon. There was a sort of “oh shit” moment with a little insight into no-self and it was the slightest bit unsettling. A storm rushed in and I descended into what I can only describe as a potential...
  • Re-observation
    This particular descent was the most harrowing dark night experience I’ve had so far. Super heavy legs, distorted body sensations, hard panned focus, reality ripping apart, primal fear, crazy nightmare clown freak show. There was a sense of disappointment from falling out of deep new EQ territory and also a little bit of “holy shit, what happens if this gets worse?”. I just had fun and stayed with it, didn’t take it seriously, and it was far from causing any psychological instability, I passed back into EQ but the mindfulness muscle was worn out and didn’t have much more in it.

In the broad scope of things, there's a confidence of how to investigate this stuff and a confidence to let things be. A confidence that I'll be full of shit sometimes and a confidence that that's ok. 

On the off-the-cushion tip, I've been alcohol free for a month and really feel like I've quit for good. My gentle and patient approach to weening beer out of my life has seemed to work out. There's a freedom arising from it. The love and appreciation for the freedom outweighs the cravings.

RE: EQ is a trickster
Answer
8/11/18 11:42 PM as a reply to Nick O.
The further I refine my perception of suffering, the less suffering I find yet finer details emerge of the suffering that remains. Contrast forms our judgements. I find greater overall happiness and sharper awareness in sobriety but because I have a sober month to dilute the contrast of a drinking rut, the alcohol craving serves as an aversion to a higher defined view of suffering. Same with insights. At first, the before vs. after contrast is fresh. The insight might seem profound and liberating (and it may be) but it also has the illusory appearance of solidification. Then we get used to it and it merely turns into a stronger lens to investigate smaller, tighter knots. This is the gosh darned crux of impermanence and the chore of the path.

My life is simplifying to an even greater degree. I work, meditate and study for a big exam to further my career. Noticing longing for other times when I was part of young tribes. Times of close companionship, music, art, travel, amazing drugs, parties. Times when we felt it all meant something. And the meaning was enough to justify being miserable and scared for our current and future situations. I no longer have any fear of the future but I miss the past, even though I know deep in my bones, I'm the happiest I've ever been.

So as I watch that identity of who I thought I was get snuffed out in the dust of the path, I note "longing". Maybe there's fear that it shouldn't be so simple, maybe there's FOMO, maybe there's lonliness growing from the lack of that deep connection with close friends from past tribes. And maybe this EQ is even more of a trickster in that it's really dissolution - a slow acceptance of the reality of my new life - the reality of impermanence. I'll accept that possibility with my renewed confidence and acceptance in the possibility of being totally full of shit. 

EDIT: changed a word, spelling     

Free Time / Daily Noting / Journal
Answer
8/14/18 9:23 PM as a reply to Nick O.
The last couple days, I've been making a sincere effort to practice off-the-cushion noting when home or out running errands. Driving home from work this evening, I was able to call some bs on a submind when it projected the hilarious thought of "If you're noting all the time, when will you have any free time, to like, relax?" It lit up a little lightbulb of intellectual insight.

First off, the crushing logic here is that even if we're not noting, the mind will be on autopilot "busy" with other stuff anyways. There is no "free time" for the mind whether it wants it or not. Thoughts arise. Thoughts pass. The brain gets tired. The brain sleeps.

I was also able to relate the idea to another issue I've dealt with which is the "problem" of free time. Sometimes during the work week I'll be craving the weekend when I can "just relax and have free time", only to get to the weekend at watch some of my "free time" manifest into some anxious, fidgety and aimless wandering - both mental and physical. By the end of some weekends I realize much of the time I am happiest at work with a project infront of me, being outside in the field, mindfully putting the pieces together to make a system work. 

There are different ways of seeing the above paragraph. These two come to mind:

#1. The thought of a potential workaholic in the works who can't relax, needs constant stimulation and needs to be always "doing".

#2. The thoughts of someone who is realizing the effort needed to practice mindfulness effectively. A realization that the idea of free time being "freedom" is a false assumption.  Lounging in samsara is more mentally/emotionally exhausting than working in mindfullness. Right effort seems like hard work but only against a backdrop of heedlessness's mirage of complacency and ease. 

This seems somewhat obvious, yet refreshing to spell out. I'm going to go with seeing in #2 for a bit.

--------------

I've started an offline daily sleep / meditation log to observe patterns in the two and how they relate to each other with the goal of making improvements to both.  

Calm
Answer
8/19/18 8:16 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Been sitting in the most calm, wide, broad, clear and tranquil spaces I've ever experienced, oscillating between very high frequency vibrations and large pillowy soft ones. Occassional bouts of low grade fear. Occassional bouts of the classic "feeling like something exciting is about to happen". Throwing the effort throttle back when it feels intuitive.

After a sit last night, I lie in bed, continuing to meditate not because I intended to, but because that's just what was happening. Suddenly I found my breathing lungs to be very strange and alien. It then became very strange to be the awareness of this organism. "I" then felt that I didn't really know who I was or what I was. It was the same unsettling no-self territory that had dumped me into re-observation the previous week. The "EQ Mini-Dark Night" that Daniel describes on his pathways chart seems to line up with this experience pretty well. I relaxed through it and eventually fell asleep.  

Blue Orbs
Answer
8/24/18 9:07 PM as a reply to Nick O.
A little over a week ago, a still small, crisp blue dot appeared for a few seconds during closed eye meditation. Since then, there have been numerous ones, sometimes 3 or 4 in my field of vision, swaying slightly this way and that. They aren't crisp like the first one, but could be better described as blurry and glowing orbs. They at times appear off cushion as well.

The higher energy and deep bliss of last week and early this week has faded, but meditation is still enthralling. Virtually no aversion while sitting. Finding wide, calm spaces with very detailed sense information. Occassionally succumb to sinking after long work days.

The magic that pervaded off cushion life a week ago is mostly gone, except for the strange visual effects. Noticing a lot of high frequency frame rate "skipping"  and visual "echoes". All sense information is very present and deep.

Been taking 30 minute naps in the afternoon on off days from work but considering discontinuing taking them. They sometimes make me a little more alert for my evening sit but I often awake in groggy, sour moods that brings upon doubt and feelings of aversion. It's funny to watch a mind be so content, happy and excited about life one moment and then watch it turn sour just a couple hours later. It's easy to deal with at this point but I still have to remind myself that life and practice is beyond being one and not the other.          

Popped
Answer
8/26/18 5:43 PM as a reply to Nick O.
It did the thing. Two nights ago. The cosmic shutter close and open thing  Such, such empty. This is going to take some getting used to. 

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
8/27/18 6:03 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Taking time to get used to things is good. The cosmic shutter is a complete re-boot, but 80% of old program eventually comes back on line. It can be good to put down the dharma books and go for a walk or bike ride. No need to overthink it. 

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
9/23/18 9:03 AM as a reply to shargrol.
A belated thank you Shargrol ^ . Always appreciated.

Things have settled naturally. Other than a deeper, direct understanding of the notions of non-duality, emptiness and dependent arising, a certain permanent change was noted in a private log:
One way to put it, would be that something is missing that had always previously been there and the void created spreads across a certain plane of perception. Some sort of self-reflective mechanism is missing - or maybe ‘part” of said mechanism has been erased.

The most important thing to note is that arriving here reveals just how much more work needs to be done, but there's less mystery and unease about the path forward. The next set of dualistic constructs to be broken down are seen in a clear sense, however stubborn they may appear.

Practice has drastically changed.  A few more fruitions were experienced, but in the passed two weeks, the review cycle has mutated as some sort of unrecognizable blissy loop occurs in EQ. It seems time to move on, especially after the following: 

I've been a long-time hiker/backpacker but hadn't been out since practicing insight. Two days ago I completed a stunning seven day, sixty-five mile trek with my dad in the High Sierra. It proved to be the best complimentary experience to a retreat; one where you face aversions of all sorts. Long cold nights in a worn out sleeping bag, chafing in horrible areas, trail food (nuff said) and long grueling climbs in high altitudes. The only form of entertainment: jaw-dropping scenery and a map and compass. I found little time for sitting practice and in fact did little to no Dharmic contemplation, noting, etc.. This was a test drive of the ego in the silence of wilderness allowing all mental chatter, stuck songs, emotions run wild without any discipline.

During this I watched the leaning into a new potential beginning. The subtler and perhaps more stubborn "abdominal pit (or knot) of self" (as I called it on first path) appeared alongside the visceral uncomforts.

My first sit upon returning last night focused on this. The blockage is less of a pit or knot, but more a "wall". After some time of primary objectifying this wall, it moved outwards to the left. It came to rest running between the left temple and the lap. The goal now is to see about dissolving this. The neck/head kriyas have returned as a form of curiously strong seismic activity.     

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
9/26/18 10:52 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Working with off-cushion practice of holding space. Holding the space is holding love.

Noticing when the space collapses into cravings, lust, fear and judgements of self and others.

Noticing when the space is squeezed into this versus that. 

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
9/30/18 9:14 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Ending the weekend noticing how my mood will slowly sour by the mid to late afternoon, especially now that the days are getting shorter. Mornings feel fresh and glorious full of inspiration. Afternoons often lead to fatigue with a touch of anxiety and restlessness.

Spending the weekend head down trying to finish this music project several years in the making doesn't help. I had ceased doing music, and shelved the project in the spring. I've recently found the inspiration to see it through and I actually believe I'm going to finish it this time. It's been this cluttered mess in the corner of my mental garage and I'm more getting it done to have it done (and make space) rather than it serving some outlet of self-expression. I no longer feel the material represents anything to do with "me", which is maybe why I'm able to see it objectively now. With less self-conscious, self-critical nonsense lurking around in the mind, I'm more free to capture vocal takes I can live with. This may be the last music project I ever produce. Or perhaps its just the beginning to being able to create from a more pure perspective. 

After my session, I listened to a new track from some old friends of mine. Truly beautifully done and very sad tune. The sadness permeated my thoughts of their suffering expressed in the song, my suffering in comparing my lesser talent emoticon , and how there's still that very tiny part of me left that is longing for the past (when I was miserable emoticon ). 

There was a post recently in r/streamentry about somone "letting go of music". This has been a hot topic of contemplation in my mind. On a recent hiking trip I noticed songs or beats being "on loop" in my head and found it rather abnoxious. I see why the monastics would want to curb consumption of entertainment. What about for the rest of us? Music used to be the end all be all answer for my happiness. Now that I see that that assumption is far from the truth, is music just some unnecessary distraction? The really stupid thing here is that I know the answer and it is beyond "listening to music vs. not listening to music" just like everything else. I've just seen a lot of people suffer over their art and seen a lot of suffering in myself creating and perceiving art.

I've also noticed lately some confusion in portrayal of identity and purpose of use on this internet forum and others. Practice is progressing quckly and comfortably but I feel far from wise enough to teach. So why this log? Will someone by chance take something from it indirectly? I hope so. Otherwise it may be just a way to feel connected to others who also found this relatively esoteric practice and way of life truthful and indescribably liberating - which is reason enough to rant once in a while.  


     

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
10/1/18 1:31 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:
Ending the weekend noticing how my mood will slowly sour by the mid to late afternoon, especially now that the days are getting shorter. Mornings feel fresh and glorious full of inspiration. Afternoons often lead to fatigue with a touch of anxiety and restlessness.

Same here. I don't know why this happens but it's the reason I hate evening meditation sessions. They're just so unpleasant. This has led to investigation that's been going on for some time.

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
10/1/18 9:17 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Hey Nick, 

Your thoughts about music resonate with me because I've had a very long relationship with music. I started taking piano lessons in the 3rd grade and taught myself guitar throughout middle and high school. I eventually got into the idea of producing my own tracks and learned how to use Logic Pro X to make that happen. I was obsessed with creating music to be an "interesting person". Sadly, at some point, producing seemed more like work than fun and I wasn't actually finishing tracks. I still believe that I have a lot of "good" music ideas however, and it would be fun to share them some day to inspire others to make music. We are interconnected after all! I'm dealing with motivation and self-worth issues related to making music and I think that I will be more focussed on it once I cure some level of existential angst.

I saw the thread on reddit that you are referring to, but I still hold music in high regard for many reasons: 1. For instance, sometimes music can inspire me to practice meditation more... 2. I like to try to turn music into an opportunity for insight "meditation". I try to see how quickly I can get the noticing up if the beat to a song is fast paced, or I try to noticed if my width of attention is taking in one instrument or the entire soundscape... 3. Music that we have certain personal ties to can elicite emotional reactions that are worth exploring (in the form of thoughts and body sensations, etc.). 

If music is a super huge distraction, then maybe it is smart to take a break from it. The way I see it though, awakening is all encompassing, so our practice must be as well. Just note whats going on. 

RE: Nick O's Log
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10/2/18 7:48 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I was obsessed with creating music to be an "interesting person".



I have a deep love for music as a listener that transcends identity. There are albums that almost put tears in my eyes the moment I press play.

However, my outward expression of music is deeply rooted in identity. Being a "badass musician" was forever a defense to all things "lame" and mundane. It was THE outlet for teen angst. It was in defense of being a "loser", a "nerd" or worse. It was my only sense of self-worth. It was everything I was and the only thing I was going to be. It was the gateway to freedom, romance, friendship, noteriety, parties, adventure and pyschedelia. It provided those things for many years to varying degrees but I slowly realized through the haze of a decade of hangovers that it only masked the real suffering. And now that that identity has been deconstructed, debunked and found truly empty, the mind is trying to process the implications - like confused wasps returning to a nest that has been removed.

So when I work on music, it dredges up some of the neurosis of this former identity. When I listen to music it does also, but to a lesser degree. While I think it may be worth while to investigate what comes up during these activities mindfully, I also think it may be a dead end and in the same way of investigating what comes up if I get drunk, do cocaine or investigate what comes up when I'm hungover.

Of course this is all to eventually realize, in the end, that music was never the unwholesome thing. Just my relationship to it.   

RE: Nick O's Log
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10/2/18 11:49 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Just experienced an interesting event in tonight's sit. Started practice sending metta to a friend who's having a difficult time.

I resume vipassana. Getting over half way into the hour. My knees are a aching a bit from a tough day of work. I focus on the pain and my relationship to it. All tactile sensations change quality becoming lighter and transparent. Somewhere deep in the subconscious a connection is seen, recognized and understood - something unexplainable within the higher realm of mind. Then, ZIP! It was like getting pulled through a wormhole. Afterwards there was a bliss but of an unrefined, raw quality (more A&P ish) . Didn't feel like a post-Fruition glow. Was this the toroid shaped suffering door thing? Who knows. Good stuff.

RE: Nick O's Log
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10/3/18 5:42 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Probably a momentary pull into a formless jhana. Yup good stuff. Keep sitting. Good stuff can happen at any time! (And be sure to notice the delicious irony that this most recent good stuff happened because you were paying close attention to bad stuff.)

RE: Nick O's Log
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10/8/18 9:51 PM as a reply to shargrol.
I've decided it is time to switch gears and work on TMI for a while, My reasons being..

1. The "watch everything that happens" technique, while effective for insight, lacks the sort of discipline I feel is needed to accelerate growth in concentration. I'd like to work towards achieving absorptions and to eventually experience what the "hard jhanas" are all about. Longer sits. Deeper states. My concentration has always been pretty piss poor (by whatever relative and probably arbitrary standards I hold). I'm surprised by the progress I have been able to make in insight with this in consideration. I figure with a stronger base in concentration, I'll have more traction going in to the next vipassana retreat (hopefully March?).

2. I've lost a bit of motivation lately. I still practice nearly every day but its a lot more difficult than usual to complete an hour sit. There just isn't that determination. Maybe stepping away from the really dry stuff will introduce some invigoration.

I worked with TMI breifly last winter. I believe I started practicing stage 5. The last couple days I've just been practicing stage 4 to get in the groove. Stil baffled by the thought of being able to completely overcome dullness (especially while practicing a technique like TMI) just as I would find it baffling to completely overcome nodding off while driving sleepy. But that's rant for another day.   

RE: Nick O's Log
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10/9/18 10:26 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Tonight I sit for TMI but instead get distracted by the almost constant neck wiggle kriyas, body tightness, agitation, mind-darting and aversion. Last time I experienced this was...hmm...let me think....Cause and Effect / 3C's of the last time around? The first seismic activity before the eruption of Mt. A&P.

Completely OK with ridin' dry when this stuff comes up. Completely OK with returning to TMI when the tremors settle. 

RE: Nick O's Log
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11/2/18 12:02 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Fell into a period of lazy practice for a few weeks. My weekends were filled to the brim with obsessive marathon recording / mixing sessions and MLB playoff binges. I'd miss a day or two of practice often. All this screen time, lack of meditation and being exposed to a bombardment of advertisements (I don't typically watch TV) compounded poisons of lust, perversions, complacency with suffering and general unskillful mental garbage. The most notable insight following first path (to my best and honest self-diagnosis) is that I clearly see that I create my own suffering, rather than being the innocent victim.

I have a bad habit of falling into an "all or nothing" or linear mode of thinking. "I can't deal with this, until I deal with that." I can't be a disciplined meditator until I finish this album. I can't study for my career until I finish this music. It's a slippery slope and after recently slipping a surpirsingly fair distance down the slope, I've self-arrested. I know that these things that I fill my time with will not lead to happiness and over-indulging in them does quite the opposite. The cure for this is of course balance, but under the structure of a schedule.

For a long time I was a little snobby about shorter sitting sessions (less than an hour), but now I'm embracing them. This is the sitting schedule for the week:

Monday-Thursday (work week)

AM:
5:15 - 5:45 (30 min sit. Used to just drink coffee and read the news / DhO during this time)
PM:
7:45 - 8:45 (15 min stretches / dharma talk followed by 45 min sit)

Friday-Sunday (days off)

AM:
5:15-6:15 (dharma talk followed by 45 min sit)
10:00-10:45 (45 sit)
PM:
7:45-8:45 (15 min stretches / dharma talk (followed by 45 min sit)

*Looking to increase day-off sitting time greatly (to 4-6 hours) after finishing music project.  


Thanissaro Bhikkhu's dhammatalks.org have been a great compliment to TMI stage 4 as they are short 12-15 minute talks to settle down with before diving into the sit. The goal for now is to really nail down introspective awareness; To be able to hold introspective awareness for an hour without any hiccups as thoughts and mental images are received knowingly. My hyper-noticing technique brought about a tremendous amount of insight but what about discipline?  Beyond making progress, this "going back to the basics" is also a gesture to being really incredibly happy where I am when I practice daily; It's a tip-of-the-hat to the fact that there's not much suffering when I'm mindful and take care of the breath on and off the cushion. This is where discipline can be truly enjoyable. Nothing to do but watch the breath.

On a side-note, the other day I had short but intense bout with food poisoning. It was my first run-in with intense pain for quite some time and as I lay doubled over the toilet, dry-heaving the last couple drops, I realized how relatively easy it was to surrender to the experience. The inner peace was largely undisturbed. Lying in bed into the next day, turning the stomach pains into objects of focus made the experience much easier to deal with. It was reassuring to see the fruits of practice hold up in a difficult situation.          

EDIT: corrected spelling of T. Bhikkhu's site. It is dhammatalks.org  
  

  

RE: Nick O's Log
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11/3/18 6:08 PM as a reply to Nick O.
ANGER

I rarely come across the emotion but in the last year there has developed a strangely altered and crystal clear perception of anger when it arises. After learning of the dharmic "hell realm" and its relationship with anger, I started to understand and perceive its "heat" property.

I received a phone call yesterday from a perturbed friend at work informing me that one of our customers was very upset with some of my work (an extremely minor, ridiculous and easy to ammend thing). A ball of anger formed in the chest. I was able to complete the phone call calmly and skillfully but after trying to get back to what I was doing, the thought storm feedback loop arose spewing arguments and self-justifications. I stepped outside and sat in a chair to observe the madness. The burning in my chest and the mental cyclone burgeoned. Sitting mindfully, I observed and sought to wait it out. After realizing it wasn't going anywhere, I just accepted being pissed off and returned to a task. As the night progressed I watched the mind return to the same arguments and justifications again and again and again and again. It was unpleasant but easy to compartmentalize. It was just a toddler throwing a fit.

A singed hot scar of anger remained in the chest this morning. It became the object of the morning session. The spicy sensation slowly moved towards my right shoulder and crept down the right of my spine, leaving a heat cloud in its wake. It eventually came to rest in the lower back just above the right hip. The thoughts associated with the anger were diminished but still active. When they would flare up, so would a new prick of heat in the chest. Around mid-day, after the second session, the emotion and thoughts were mostly extinguished. A vague cloud of heat remains charred across the chest.

--

PRACTICE

Feeling like settling back into a good routine. Distracting thoughts, images and forgetting are par for the course during the early morning sits as I am still waking up. I keep that one loose.

The rest of the sits I settle in with the breath while keeping introspective awareness. If I start feeling a little burnt on the effort of that technique, I'll switch focus to subtle and whispy feelings of clinging that appear close to the diaphragm or sometimes strangely in front of the face. Switching to full body breathing has been effective in combating drowsiness. Feeling more prepared to tough it out during the heavy drowsiness that often plagues the evening sessions.    

RE: Nick O's Log
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11/4/18 5:40 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Just for fun, here's a technique that works well when you are not overwhelemed by a strong emotion anymore yet want to go into root causes... See if you can find the core of being wounded and really explore it...

Anger is usually a protective mechanism that is often overblown, but at the core there is usual a very true sense of injustice or wounding. Perhaps your co-worker not respecting your time or your skills. Go to what is motivating the anger.

The trick is not to stay with the sense of being outraged, but to explore the next layer. It's important recognize that you wouldn't be angry if you didn't honestly percieve yourseslf as unrespectible or unskilled (in this example), too.

(It's important to recognize that anger never shows up if we don't believe the accusation/implications at all. The co-worker would just be seen as crazy. The anger floods in if we are vulnerable about something and feel like we need to protect ourself. Keep looking for this thing about the situation that is both unjust yet also somewhat true. This is digging out the subtle "ignorance" of the situation.)

Once you find it, now you have a much more complex and strange knot to deal with. On one hand, someone being unfair. On the other hand, they are pointing out something that you really don't want to see. On one hand, they are at fault. On another hand, there is an element of truth. And you have the you, right now, observing all of these dimensions. 

Now sit with both extremes of anger being right and wrong, unjustified and justified, and you being a participant and an observer, you as being trapped by the situation and you being independent of past history --- all the polarities of the situation. 

If you hold this complex tangle of emotions/senations/ideas it will slowly untangle. Usually with an "ah ha!" kind of realization about other times this circuit of anger was triggered. There is no way to hold someone's hand and lead them through this, but by digging around, reliving it, and investigating it, usually there is a critical thing that hasn't been seen before, something that would actually prevent a similar thing (hours of post-event anger) from happening again. Maybe something you can do at work to document things better or communicate things better, maybe something you need to work on psychologically ---- it really can be amazing to see the burst of creative thinking/seeing that happens after the "knot" of the event is digested.

And then you need to flip the whole situation and see that this idiot at work actually helped point you towards something important, so in a way was very helpful, so you thank that person, too. emoticon  And then kinda marvel at how the world works, how strange and interesting and painful and exciting and enjoyable. It really is an amazing adventure.


Anyway, there are a lot of versions of this that can be helpful for getting at deep confusion/ignorance. 

Hope this is helpful to someone in some way!




 

RE: Nick O's Log
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11/4/18 8:57 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Ah! Thanks Shargrol. I've done all this to some degree, but perhaps too much in the shroud of a blind spot - and your post brings it to the foreground. 

Basically I wasn't really happy with the only way a task had to be accomplished and wasn't quite tooled up properly to complete the task as well as I could so it bit me in the ass. Then you have person A (customer) with obiously very little emotional control unloading on person B (my friend who I love dearly, who is also prone to being thown by their emotions) unloading on me who is defensive because I know I was questioning my work when I was doing it, felt a little rushed and didn't have enough materials. Moral of the story: better communication. The hilarious thing is that this task in question will only take about 2 minutes to fix.   

RE: Nick O's Log
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11/4/18 9:18 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Yeah, the real tell-tale of when a deeper reactive pattern is triggered is that something small becomes something big. Anyway, thanks for putting up with my unsolicited advice! emoticon

RE: Nick O's Log
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11/8/18 9:54 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Since I've stepped up my practice recently there's been this general overlay of sadness; It isn't the beautiful kind that one feels grateful for feeling. More like a raw, agitated and drained version. One part of it takes on disturbing feelings about the state of the world churned by fierce jabbing judgements. Another part is a deeper almost entirely false and irrational inferiority complex with my abilities as a tradesman (I've been calling out the unskillful and unhelpful thoughts as they arise). And I think the last part is seasonal; The time change and the shorter days always make this time a year a little mentally "claustrophobic".

Drowsiness during evening sessions is at an all time high. Aversion to sitting through it usually just sends me to bed. 

When there is wakefulness, sensed phenomenon is grainy, jagged and leads to irritability. Concentration and discipline are absolutely abysmal but I seem to stumble my way through vague, uncomfortable "nanas" - noting murky qualties of 2nd and 3rd vipassana jhanas. It becomes harder to relax throughout the session as the limbs become restless and tense. Can't help but find myself pulled into extremely dry modes of practice and there's no telling if it's out of intuition, frustration or laziness! The pleasant qualities of the breath are drowned out by buzzy fields of unease that end up becoming the meditation object. At times senses are hightened. Smells are vivid.

Thinking to watch for feelings of disappointment through all this. There's also this curiously strong, stubborn and nihlistic submind resisting progress. It's saying "fuck this shit, you're tired, go to bed." or "fuck this shit, the worlds fucked anyways" or "whatever dude, you should just get drunk". It has had a bit of a spell on me lately.    

I'd like to quote Richard Zen from over at the "is there a short cut?" thread. Feeling this.....
I needed to learn that as long as I follow and continue thoughts, I'm in the self and, barring some other major insights I haven't realized yet, the earlier realization doesn't mean much when I'm lost in thoughts. I have to look at these thought-feeling associations as "worlds" and pick and choose which ones to follow, which is like reminding me of those insights over and over again. 

Sloppy progress!    

RE: Nick O's Log
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11/14/18 9:11 PM as a reply to Nick O.
After watching my concentration and overall well being improve dramatically over the last few days, there was a tremendous discovery and breakthrough.

I've been spinning Thanissaro Bhikkhu's short dhamma talks before my evening sessions. He points often to looking for the pleasure in the breath to keep the mind captivated and spells it out from different angles. Of course, this is meditation 101 in many traditions but an epiphany arose that I've greatly overlooked this simple notion repeatedly, for whatever reason.

After finding a way of breathing that really caught my mind's attention I've ascended to 8th Jhana two nights in a row (absorption limited to concentration abilities and the rate at which mind creates self dualities). I have never previously counted through the jhanas as they have always been vague, never in the exquisite detail of these last two sessions. Tonight, after hanging out in the wonderful peace of 8th for a while, then waiting for a fruition that never came, the mind began to wander into insight mode. As my concentration lessened I found pains in my legs and a bit of restlessness which I began to study.

Another thing that seems to help is that moved away from the Seiza bench back to sitting half-lotus flat on the floor which does a lot for my alertness. Doing nightly stretching to further accomodate that sitting position.  Will probably still need the bench for retreats in the future to avoid destroying my knees until flexibility allows.

A little unsure what was happening with all the neurosis, lack of concetration and gloominess in the past weeks. It seems to be entirely cleared up. DK cycling? 3C's nana? None of the above? Doesn't matter.

         

RE: Nick O's Log
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1/29/19 11:20 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Just had one of the most bizzare and visceral experiences on the cushion. I've been practicing Dzogchen very recently (as directed in the book Pristine Mind by Orgyen Chowang). I've been doing shorter sits recently (25-40 mins) as I have been in review from a path (2nd as my best guest) in late December.

I've decided its time to push again and to step it back up to 60 minutes. About 20-30 minutes in I started to feel aversion to sitting. I began to study the aversion and pushed on. Frustration heated up in the center of the torso. A couple light raptures occured over several minutes. The heated frustration began to give rise to a never before experienced brand of creepy fear - almost terror. It was as if what I was feeling wasn't my own - A demonic presence filled the room. The room began to spin in two opposing oscillations. The spinning forms of energy built themselves into a obelisk shape above my head. A grimace stretched across my face. I tapped out of the session and began writing this post.

My mother called me a nervous wreck 10 minutes later. About the same time I was experiencing the above she had been throwing a temper tantrum hundreds of miles away regarding some nightmarish drama that has been playing out in my extended family. I was able to calm her down. She apologized for "ruining my meditation". I explained that it goes both ways. Feeling closer to mom tonight.   

RE: Nick O's Log
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1/30/19 8:16 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Good stuff! It really is wonderful how others can benefit from our practice!

RE: Nick O's Log
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3/5/19 11:00 PM as a reply to shargrol.
A subtle shift with a large reveal occurred a few days back.

I had been working on "I am seeing", "I am thinking", "I am feeling" and simply observing the feelings, constructs and ideas of self. In the days preceeding the shift, sits began to get "chunky". Mind moments began to break down into perceptions of "self" and "other" at rapid speeds with increased clarity of the division between the frames like pages flipping in a cartoon book. Passage through nanas became obscured and virtually invisible to perception.

During one sit there were what I perceived to be about three pulses followed by a deep cessation. Perhaps this may have been the first time that I was able to perceive conformity, change of lineage and path as separate moments.

In the days that have followed, I have observed the following:

- Virtually complete centerlessness. There are moments of some mental processes of self-reference but even these seem to occur in the space where the are generated.

- The concept of agency (and self) has become fuzzy. When I am especially mindful, I find it nearly impossible to sense any agency. It's almost as if the meaning in the word has been altered. In conversations with others, I find my words forming on their own.

- The "I am seeing/feeling/etc" practices no longer seem to gain purchase. There are a lot less rough dualistic edges for them to sand down. 

- There is a reduction of suffering that is also "subtle with a large reveal".

- A fresh, warm "softness" to experience.

All that said, it's become even more obvious that this liberation of perception only goes so far. It's been a extremely wet winter and therefore I haven't been working very much. I'm out of sync, out of shape, out of routine, binging on the internet, drinking alcohol more and seeing my mind's health and attention power diminish. Physical and mental health are still and will always be foundational to the fruits of insight work. I'm ]content and things are quite lovely but I can see where to make improvements for a better "self", others and world.

RE: Nick O's Log
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3/6/19 6:27 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Very interesting. Not saying it's path, but the "taking a look at my non-practice life and I need to make some changes" often goes with path. Of course, could be a fruition from a previous path, too. Or other things...

But it can be great to use the current clarity of mind and make some resolutions. "I resolve to..." You might want to link in the benefit of others. Attaining full awakening for the benefit of your self and all beings. Having a healthy body to feel good and be able to be of benefit to others. Reducing alcohol as a mindless habit for the benefit of your body and mind and to be able to have your body and mind be of greater benefit to others. Etc. 

Make sure what you resolve is 100% heartfelt. There is no benefit in saying what you "should" say. Get clear on what you really want, and don't forget that probably others want it too, so you can share the benefits and support their work too. 

RE: Nick O's Log
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3/6/19 8:03 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks shargrol. Always appreciate your comments.

I think the big thing for me to accept is that areas of life where I find nourishment (spiritual or otherwise) are often times in conflict. When exploring the deepest reaches of my current wisdom there is a knowing in having faith in the gradual balancing process of these forces. Resolutions in my experience have seemed forced (what I should do) and are often in neglect of something else. Maybe this outlook is out of my own ignorance but even that ignorance I feel needs to be shed away gradually to keep the balance.

RE: Nick O's Log
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3/8/19 9:53 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Cool that the “I am seeing”, “I am thinking” practice seems to have quickly induced a shift in you as well!
Also would mirror your other insight: after perception has become centerless there is still a lot of water to carry! emoticon

RE: Nick O's Log
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3/9/19 1:49 PM as a reply to Oochdd.
Thanks again Oochdd for sharing the practice. I see that you have shared it over at r/streamentry as well! The shift has seemed to hold so far. Perhaps a bit of the illusion of agency has returned slightly. This has been the most unique shift yet in that it has exposed just how much as Ken Wilber would put it "cleaning up" and "growing up" that I have to do. There's less suffering yet the suffering that remains cries louder. It's as if I've reached a fork in the road where I can no longer proceed without taking a big step in making the Dhamma my sole focus and complete way of life. I'm seeing clearly now that these techniques, maps, perceptual shifts and technical paths are only a part of the picture. I'm in the process of reaching out to a teacher in effort to better live and share the teachings.

EDIT: So yes shargrol, this means resolutions emoticon  

RE: Nick O's Log
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3/22/19 3:58 PM as a reply to Nick O.
For the first time in my practice, I have decided to start meeting with a teacher, one lineaged in the Theravada tradition. I was directed to really enjoy my practice and keep the fire burning hot with off-cushion sati in particular attention to right view.  My off cushion practice has for the most part been successful in general but bringing more joy into daily life allowed for recent insights to coalesce. Last week was undoubtedly the finest afterglow of the recent shift. For the first time I was noticing off-cushion cycling occurring fairly rapidly. I’ve come back down to earth in recent days with fresh entanglements to investigate.
 

I’ve been following the absolute gold coming out of curious’s practice log currently. The term “parallax” caught my eye as now I have a way to explain this phenomenon that has been greatly expanded through the last shift. It’s particularly fascinating when driving at high speeds with the canopy of trees in the foreground moving past the mountains in the background or when watching objects stretch past and out of view. When at higher levels of concentration, objects seem to “pop”, become smoother in their essence, and sit alone with themselves. The visual field is vibrant, crisp and often flickering. There is no center in the answer to the question, “where am I?”.

In coming back down to earth, I’ve found new knots and restless energy for investigation. Sitting practice has been pleasant and spacious with gentle self-inquiry and mind and body type investigations of knots that appear in and out of body. I’m more likely to seek entertainment, listen to music, read articles, philosophize or talk politics during this post shift honeymoon phase that I can now recognize this time around.  In Curious’s practice log Shargrol posted an amazing reply about “investigating and realizing what is at the heart of your seeking.”

The answer to this is a whole lot of identity baggage and really that’s what I need to unpack with pure honesty. Here’s the short list…


  • The desire to deconstruct others' overly simplified views of the world that cause them suffering. (I often instantly regret it when I try)
  • The desire to have the most informed and rational opinion about topics of interest.
  • The desire to figure out why the world is the way it is and feel special by knowing.
  • The fear that what I say in person or on the web is going to seem trite, insensitive or both. The fear that people won’t like what I have to say.
  • General American guilt (not doing enough to fix the world or holding a “wrong”, “taboo" or offensive opinion)
  • General subtle patterns of self-loathing wrapped up in all of this.

All this stuff lies dormant or far in the background most of the time but will flare up suddenly, giving me plenty of material to investigate. It seems the above has taken the place of the former musician ego / self-identity in recent months. It’s all subtle and fleeting but seems to always be the shit that I come back to after calm seas…The core of this stuff becomes more clear and naked with every step of progress.

RE: Nick O's Log
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3/23/19 5:07 AM as a reply to Nick O.
The nice thing is you don't have to perfectly master everything on your list in order or make it completely go away to wake up, but you do have to really see what all that stuff is (for example, the basic urge for strengthing or protecting the imagined self -- or whatever it is for you). For example, you'll probably still have "General American guilt" appear after awakening, but you won't be confused by it (neither a good or bad thing, but fundamentally an urge, a desire, information that you might be able to help a situation if you do XYZ but also a trap if you build an identity around XYZ). So yeah, it's all about bringing all this core stuff into awareness and make it clear and naked.

RE: Nick O's Log
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3/23/19 1:16 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:
The answer to this is a whole lot of identity baggage and really that’s what I need to unpack with pure honesty. Here’s the short list…

  • The desire to deconstruct others' overly simplified views of the world that cause them suffering. (I often instantly regret it when I try)
  • The desire to have the most informed and rational opinion about topics of interest.
  • The desire to figure out why the world is the way it is and feel special by knowing.
  • The fear that what I say in person or on the web is going to seem trite, insensitive or both. The fear that people won’t like what I have to say.
  • General American guilt (not doing enough to fix the world or holding a “wrong”, “taboo" or offensive opinion)
  • General subtle patterns of self-loathing wrapped up in all of this.

All this stuff lies dormant or far in the background most of the time but will flare up suddenly, giving me plenty of material to investigate. It seems the above has taken the place of the former musician ego / self-identity in recent months. It’s all subtle and fleeting but seems to always be the shit that I come back to after calm seas…The core of this stuff becomes more clear and naked with every step of progress.


I can't speak for your experience, but I'll share my own. This list is all stuff that I have as well.

The fact does seem to be that most people do indeed have overly simplified views that cause them suffering. If you point this out to them, they often don't want to hear it. They will say you are arrogant and insensitive, among other things. 

Maybe I'm arrogant...not really sure. But, it seems to be the case that apart from arrogance, there are at least two other things going on:

1. Enthusiasm for problem-solving and comprehension of complex systems.
2. Fear of being an "outcast."

So, this is a tough spot to be in, for me. If I let others see this enthusiasm, it is easily misunderstood as an insensitive compulsion to show everyone else that I'm the smartest one in the room. It confused me so much, to the point where I started to believe that interpretation. 

I have found it useful to encourage more awareness of number 2. That is, whether or not I "have the right opinion" or "should say something" or "shouldn't say something", the fact is that a great deal of my behavior is motivated by the desire to be accepted by others. That desire is there, whether I like it or not. It seems to put things in a much clearer perspective when I acknowledge this, and let itself play out as it wants to. Only then, decide what I want to do with it.

I could make a huge list of things that have filled me with lots of anger toward others. It is startling to realize that those are mostly the product of my insistence on clinging to the "I need to be accepted, so I will let other people call the shots" story. If that's the story, it's way too easy for resentment to build when those people simply don't understand you, and are therefore incapable of accepting you (at least, the part of you that is presenting itself when you try to please them, by "helping them" or "sharing your interests" or whatever).

TL;DR: People are actually stupid, and thus they don't want your help, and that sucks. But, it's actually completely up to you where you want to go from there.

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
5/15/19 10:12 PM as a reply to Nick O.
It's been two months since the most profound shift since probably first path A&P's. Most of every day is spent joyfully plugging along at life.  Even when the mind is busy, there seems to always be a shoe in to the present moment. I no longer experience ñana progression during sits or perhaps they are so subtle or transformed that I no longer recognise them. Vibrations have at most ceased. Reality is soft, clear and pristine. I'm much less fascinated with the perceptual transformation and just go about business. I sit much less these days, but always make a 30 minute sit happen in the morning. Just sitting and watching the breath or listening to the birds serenade the incoming dawn. Most of the time I'll fall into jhana and maybe have a fruition will occur. It's all just sitting for sitting's sake now. There's not really much of any goal in mind anymore..  

Life began to get extremely busy and a bit stressful in the last couple weeks as I'm studying for an exam, working on a music project and trying to tie up a few loose ends that have been the result of years of procrastination. Cleaning up and growing up. The busy schedule and exhausting mental work has lead to sloppy sila. I watched my cynical, shit-talking side return and with it some emotional turbulence - however - nothing worth more than a laugh or a tongue in cheek glance. Some fear between the chest and head has arisen at times of stress. In a dream last night I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The fear of death was surprising as it's been virtually non-existent for years. Pride has been getting me into a little trouble here and there. Practicing to do things with love instead. Even when I appear to be caught up in the drama slightly, there remains an unshakable baseline of contentedness. 

Life feels like it's in orbit around itself, spinning closer and merging at times of perfection. The inertia of karma propells it back into orbits of delusion but at a little less altitude with each pass. Momentum is slowing. Some day I'll be sitting here and realize I'm just sitting here.....for good. Some days I do but then forget.    

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
5/17/19 3:33 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Awesome, seems we've landed in a similar place emoticon

Enjoy the fruits! 

RE: Nick O's Log
Answer
5/17/19 7:01 AM as a reply to Oochdd.
Your techniques were a big help! Many thanks!