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Lars' Practise Log

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Lars' Practise Log
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8/5/18 1:40 AM
Starting a practise journal, it seems preferable to asking questions or describing practise in other's threads. It's also been an interesting last few days and could use a little feedback and advice, and don't want to dump this long post somewhere inappropriate.

Quick Summary

Decades ago I practised a fair bit zen style (or whatever I thought was zen style) and hit what i'm guessing was A&P, which I mistakenly thought was "the big one". Crazy bliss, compassion and joy and all the rest for 4 days, followed by 15 years of popping in and out of dark night. Since I had no idea what was going on, wasn't exactly fun. Finally got back into practise a few months ago and hit A&P again using vipassana. Progress of noting went something like this:

1) Sensations are solid and constant
2) Sensations have a beginning and an end
3) Sensations have a beginning, middle and end
4) Sensations have a beginning, middle and end, each of which also contain a sub-beginning, middle and end.
5) Sensations break up into pulses/particles/vibrations
6) Sensation (rarely) ceases to be normally perceived and instead there is an almost repellent "screech" alternating with gaps (in the case of hearing)

I've essentially been on home retreat for the last few months (though i'll admit I didn't practise as much as I had time to). Read TMI, MCTB, Thanissaro Bhikku, Shinzen Young, etc. This time when I fell into DN again I had some idea what was going on. Figured out how to navigate it and made it to EQ, bouncing between low and high, had some help from some of the folks here.

Had some interesting sits where it felt like something was pushing its way up my spine and forcing my spine/neck/head into alignment, followed by strong energy and seeing light. Was able to get into 1st and 2nd jhana, occasionally what i'm guessing was 3rd. Average sits increased in duration from 15 minutes to an hour. A month or so ago I also realized more deeply that intentions etc arise fully formed, I don't create them consciously.

Recent Practise

A few nights ago I decided to play around with the "nada sound" or tinnitus or whatever it is. Instead of breaking it up in my right ear as usual (usually strongest in right ear, but now equalizing) I decided to alternate between left and right as quickly as I could. This worked surprisingly well and noting (no labels) quickly became unbearably fast. My body and mind started reacting with strong aversion to what was occurring and I started feeling what felt like a rubber band snapping against the middle of my brain from the back of the head, maybe 5-10 times a second. Then it started happening in my body as well, all my muscles were individually contracting and releasing multiple times a second, totally out of phase with each other. I was actually a little worried I was having a psychotic break/stroke etc, but I just settled into it and relaxed. It eventually started to subside with some residual muscular twitching.

Next night I tried again, and almost immediately it began again. Muscles began twitching randomly like crazy. I noticed a few tiny gaps occuring in the sensory stream, and then suddenly it felt like all the various muscle contractions were aligning and the vibration of it started noticeably syncing. It felt like an engine that was out of alignment suddenly started shaking itself back into sync and running perfectly. I felt this tremendous energy and very fast vibration just filling the entire body, way beyond what piti has ever felt like. It felt like the whole body/mind was humming and blissful. When I woke up this morning the body was already humming and in sync like it had been doing that all night.

Today I did another sit, feeling the humming and my fingers twitching within seconds. Then my face started twitching, constant vibration in my eyes, cheeks and forehead, like I was getting out of sync again. When sitting a second time a little while later I felt the physical vibrations sync up again within a couple minutes, but this time I distinctly heard the nada sound also sync up with it so that every sensation in my body and mind seemed absolutely harmonized and I can only describe it as "smooth" lol. The facial twitching didn't occur this time. A&P territory energy felt very rough (occasionally flowing), this feels very smooth.

Sat again later and as soon as I noticed that the bodily vibrations were slightly out of phase (and nada sound was wavering) they aligned again. All I need to do is relax and it happens on its own. Also just tried it while walking to the store for coffee filters, the syncing occurred and then I had a brief "gone" in mid step, which I wasn't expecting at all. When I finally went to bed to get some sleep, just as I got totally relaxed my face started twitching again, I lol'd.

Any suggestions on practise at this point would be appreciated, I don't want to make any assumptions about what this was or how to proceed. Thanks to everyone for their help so far.   emoticon

RE: Practise Log
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11/27/17 9:13 PM as a reply to Lars.
Whatever this is seems to be deepening, woke up this morning with the body humming again. I noticed that even these synchronized and pleasant vibrations were very slightly "rough" and they started to fade. Now it quickly settles into a stillness i've never experienced before. The body/mind becomes incredibly still, even though there is breath and a heartbeat it feels like the body almost isn't there. Breath becomes very subtle and outbreaths take a long time, followed by what seems like a long gap before inbreath starts again. It seems like my only job at this point is to be aware, the less effort I use the deeper it gets.

Changed focus to mental activity and suddenly the face muscles started twitching very subtly again.

Sat again, body synced quickly but then started going out of sync again and "stuff" started forming. It didn't feel like muscular tension, or vibrations, but like a very vague fog in the chest. It eventually dissolved and I noticed that breathing was very subtle, both in and out breath and sometimes stopped for a few seconds before starting again. Then noticed that there was mild tension/pain in the neck and immediately it started relaxing and then dissolved. It feels like the body has changed in the last few days, like it just optimizes itself and automatically syncs anything that's dissonant, returning to stillness by itself because it likes it.   emoticon

Another sit, after being still for a while I noticed I was starting to think about this stuff intellectually, and dropped it. After sitting in the stillness again for a few minutes I began feeling a very strong piti-like energy, but one-pointed and located in the spine at about heart level. Usually I feel piti in the whole body, but this felt like all the usual energy was bundled up into a single point and it felt orgasmic, and lasted for a few minutes. It was almost too much. When I noticed that my breathing was being effected and there was a slight tension around my spine it faded.

Sat again later and after getting into stillness again the energy started bubbling at my feet and going up my spine in a thick current, but stopping at around the same point just above the heart. I focused on the nada sound and it started moving up into my head and got quite strong.

There seems to be more sensitivity to nerve tension in addition to muscles now. There's a nerve that got damaged in surgery a few years ago that's been painful ever since. After feeling some subtle tension there and really getting into it, it "clicked" a few times and then released and I felt strong pulses of pleasure from the nerve cluster for a few minutes (this was a few days ago and it hasn't come back). The area that felt oversensitive and "wrong" before just feels like normal flesh now.

More sits, the vibrations are getting more subtle as I keep syncing back to stillness again (though they were so heavy while lying in bed last night that it felt like my apartment building was shaking). Vibrations etc sync, stillness for a while, then some subtle vibrations or muscle tension starts again and I go through the cycle once more. My body seems to prefer the stillness and sometimes does the syncing thing when i'm thinking about something else. Usually the first vibrations that start interfering with the stillness on the way back out is in the heart/chest, or between the eyes. It feels like the heart has a vibration to it that's seperate from the physical sensations, and it is one of the last things to sync, and first to desync. It's also interesting that the feeling of heart and eye tension help to create a feeling of personal space or location.

Had two dreams on successive nights which were very similar and seemed to be making the same point. In both dreams there was a strong emotional response to something (in the first someone close to me died, in the second a black widow spider crawled across my abdomen). At the moment when the emotional response was strongest, I suddenly awoke and it was incredibly obvious that the strong emotional/physical reaction that I was feeling was based on something that wasn't actually occurring, that I was freaking out over fabricated drama. Watching the suffering drop to almost nothing after being caught up in fabricated drama only a moment before was interesting.

RE: Practise Log
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1/7/18 4:26 PM as a reply to Lars.
Took a break for a while to integrate whatever the above was. Getting back into it has been relatively quick, 20 minute sit first day, 30 the next couple days, an hour the next, hour and a half the next etc. Access concentration happens almost immediately and the breath becomes calm and slow. Flowing piti and sukha become obvious within a couple minutes, eventually the piti fades and is replaced by a light humming through the whole body. Sometimes there are obvious nanas that I pass through relatively quickly, sometimes they pass so quickly I barely notice. Usually at this point my spine and neck straighten up on their own and there is white light at the crown, like there's a white fire burning on top of my head. Then this also fades somewhat and there's just a peaceful stillness in body and mind.

It's amusing though, the "narrator" still shows up sometimes, even when all other thoughts are largely gone. It's as if the narrator has admin priviliges, though the narrator has switched from a hero narrative to more of a commentator. When I notice something like a nana passing, or piti fading, it sometimes shows up to do a running commentary, and I don't always notice until it's already talking. Most other thoughts are recognized and fade before they even fully form.

I'm not currently trying to access any particular jhana or state, I just watch awareness itself. When reviewing the cessations that occured previously, awareness seems to be the most interesting aspect about it. At that moment there was no eye, ear or thinking etc consciousness, only "black". But for there to be even an awareness of that, awareness must have still been present. If awareness was still present with no object to make contact with then it can't be dependently originated. If it's not dependently originated then it shares the same characteristic as nibbana. It's hard not to infer that awareness itself is nibbana. However this also causes me to wonder why there was awareness of "black", but when in a deep state of sleep or under anesthesia there's not even that, instead you're only aware afterwards that you were unaware during that time. I'll just keep sitting with "awareness of awareness" and see what happens, I know this is about direct experience, not trying to figure it out intellectually.

Update: Did another sit, this time the light humming in the body I mentioned before became much thicker and intense (it felt like someone duct taped a big vibrator to the back of my chair lol). I suspect the strong vibrations from last month are coming back now that i'm practising again. Should be interesting.   emoticon

Update2: Yes, it's back. Went to bed last night and almost immediately the face vibrations from last month started. Did the "syncing thing" and the body became still again. It's interesting that stopping practise for a month either caused the vibrations to go away, or caused me to be unable to recognize them. A few days of practise again, and *bam* vibrations in the face lol.

RE: Practise Log
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1/10/18 1:00 AM as a reply to Lars.
Sat for about 3 hours yesterday, one sit being 1.5 hours long and got very deep. I dropped into what felt like 4.5 jhana, some odd mix of 4 and 5 (I can only guess about the 5 part since this is my first taste of anything resembling formless jhanas, with the exception of some OOBE etc in my youth).

I started by making a resolution to enter the 5th during that sit, and to then be able to exit it easily and comfortably when I wished to do so. I'd tried before (without resolution), but had no success. This time the sit went as usual, eventually reaching a soft 4th. I tried to tune into the spaceousness of it, but it didn't make much difference. I got distracted in thought for a few moments, and then I noticed it was suddenly more wide. After getting distracted noticing that it again got more wide until I suddenly found myself floating in what felt like a huge grey-ish sphere that I couldn't see the boundaries of (though there was a vague sense there was a boundary out there beyond what I could see, in a way it felt like I was floating in a giant holodeck so big I couldn't see the edge). What was odd was that there was "stuff" in there, i'd expected the 5th to be a completely empty space. There were what looked like pebbles and rocks suspended in the space, and at one point some reaaaaally odd little "creature" came flying up to me, made a gesture and then flew away. Its body made no sense, and was made of what seemed like random objects that weren't connected (including what looked like a slice of an orange lol). The visual aspect was both very clear and vague. It was very stable and detailed, but looked a little like watching a high resolution movie with a little vaseline smeared on the screen (colors were also very washed out). Eventually I got distracted by the "oh wow, this is crazy" type narration and the session ended soon after.

At one point I checked in with the body to see if it was truly formless, and I had barely any sense of the body, though I could hear the sound of traffic (it's always very loud, I live in a big city on a major street), but it was like I was wearing earmuffs and the sound was muted and far away. So, I don't think this was a "real" 5th jhana, but some odd mix of the spaceousness of 5th combined with the clear visual aspects that can sometimes occur in 4th. Instead of fractal 2d/2.5d shapes, this time it was 3d within a large space.

The relationship between intent and letting go is becoming a little more clear. I used to have a more binary view of it, ie - you either need to strongly intend something, or recognize agencylessness and let go completely. Now it seems more profitable to define an intention, and then also let go of it, allowing it to either happen or not without attachment/aversion to either result.

Was speaking with someone else here last night and they mentioned "action potential", had no idea what that was. Did some reading on axons and action potential etc and it really blew my mind lol.



If you change "stimulus" to "contact" it looks a lot like the arising and passing away of phenomenon. With no contact (or too low an action potential) there is no arising and passing away (depolarization, repolarization), just the resting state. If you look at the "refresh rate" that different types of neurons and muscle fibres are capable of, it looks a lot like the number of cycles per second that can be seen during a concentrated vipassana session. Perhaps keeping action potential below the threshold required to fire neurons etc (so it remains perpetually in rest state) is nibbana from a physiological perspective? Yeah yeah, speculation.   emoticon

RE: Practise Log
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1/10/18 11:16 PM as a reply to Lars.
While sitting today I very clearly saw an instance of a thought being conditioned by a prior thought, which then led to another thought conditioned by the last, which led to a conditioned physical sensation reacting to the thought, etc etc. Even as I was being very mindful of it, it just kept happening as a chain of events. I stopped counting at about 20 when it was obvious it just keeps going like that, and always has. Of course it's also conditioned by sensations which occured previously even minutes/hours/days/years before in some tangled temporal mess.

I noticed a while back that we don't create intentions etc, they just happen like other sensations do, but seeing them condition each other like that in sequence was like seeing agencylessness from a different angle. In a very real way this is essentially karma without the mystical aspect that's usually attributed to it. All of the sensations we experience from moment to moment (both physical and mental) are conditioned by our past sensations (which again includes both physical and mental). Intention in particular is more important than i'd realized, it's not just physical actions which have that cause and effect process, intentions directly shape the sensations we experience on multiple time scales. Karma with no judge, or judged required.

RE: Practise Log
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1/10/18 11:15 PM as a reply to Lars.
How does the nature of whatever exists change as that meaningless process of mental activity and frabrication plays out? 

RE: Practise Log
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1/11/18 1:41 AM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
How does the nature of whatever exists change as that meaningless process of mental activity and frabrication plays out? 


The underlying nature doesn't change, but one meaningless process colors another meaningless process like an object with wet paint on it leaving a smudge on anything it contacts, and the contacted object also leaves a smudge on the one that contacted it. It's an impersonal process, but I hadn't seen before how deep that conditioning process really is. It functions on many more "layers" and timescales than i'd realized.

Many texts describe the enlightened as being "beyond karma", if there's no self to take ownership of the sensations which are the result of this conditioning process (and i'm not saying this is the only form of karma), then the process doesn't cause the suffering which would usually help to fuel the process. The body/mind is still subject to and aware of the process but there's no clinging/aversion to the content of that process. I would imagine that over time the sensory experience would become less and less conditioned as prior entanglements are worked out, and new ones aren't being created through clinging/aversion/proliferation.

RE: Practise Log
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1/11/18 1:44 AM as a reply to Lars.
In my experience, once you have seen that the whole experience of human meaning is just a mental process, the mind can begin ignoring the apparent meaning in it all and begin to consider the unchanging nature of This.  To be truly free of craving is as stupid and simple as realizing what you have realized about the mind just being a meaningless process -  and being perfectly ok with it.   If you pay attention just to the nature of reality - This, the mind will stop craving meaning at all.  Upon inspection, This is manifestly perfect as it is.  Does that make sense?  

RE: Practise Log
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1/11/18 2:00 AM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
In my experience, once you have seen that the whole experience of human meaning is just a mental process, the mind can begin ignoring the apparent meaning in it all and begin to consider the unchanging nature of This.  To be truly free of craving is as stupid and simple as realizing what you have realized about the mind just being a meaningless process -  and being perfectly ok with it.   If you pay attention just to the nature of reality - This, the mind will stop craving meaning at all.  Upon inspection, This is manifestly perfect as it is.  Does that make sense?  

Yes, this whole thing follows the previous realization that everything i've ever experienced is mind, and it's devoid of a seperate self. There is less and less aversion to the process, i'd just like to understand it better and I know i'm not "done" yet. Even if you subscribe to the "there's nothing more to be done" model (or have reached arahant) there's still so much to learn.

Regarding This, as mentioned above "awareness", "stillness" or whatever you'd like to call it is my primary practise lately, and yes the perfection of this moment is getting clearer every day. Though apparently i've been doing too much intellectualizing during my experimental periods (I devote a certain part of each session to just screwing around).  emoticon

RE: Practise Log
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1/11/18 9:35 AM as a reply to Lars.
I found that trying to understand stuff was just another trap for me.  In Hawaii the locals always say - it Iz what is Iz, bro.  All the meaning, every drop of it, that I have in my mind - I made up (the mental process you describe, fabricated it). Chasing comprehension of my own meaning structures turns out to be pointless and endless.  In my view, we are always just sitting here in perfection, in this moment and there is nothing we can or need to change. 

RE: Practise Log
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5/25/18 7:21 PM as a reply to Lars.
After the last shift I stopped sitting for a few months, a combination of integration and laziness. This seems to be a cycle that repeats after every shift, but this is the longest gap in a while. There was still practise, but not formal sitting. This time there was no significant DN, except for a short one caused by a friend here on the site when challenged to a "sila duel".  emoticon

As mentioned in other threads, there are occasional "hearing things where they are" perceptive moments, but not as often as right after the last shift. There are also visual changes, including a beautiful glow that I get when looking at light reflecting off objects, or strong light sources. When looking at the glow as a whole, it looks like a spray of particles coming out of and back into the light source. The particles seem to be tinged like a rainbow, there is at least white, blue, red and green and most likely more subtle hues as well. When I zoom in on them they appear to be thousands of tiny cells moving about turbulently. It's like the light source is illuminating the cells in my eyes and I see them like looking at a microscope slide (as opposed to the usual floaters/gunk that appear in vision). This doesn't require staring at a light source, it's pretty much constant, though staring does change the movement of the particles. I can also often see the "refresh rate" of visual perception. It's like looking at a video on the internet that's slightly choppy because it was captured at 15 versus the usual 30 frames per second. Maybe i'm just getting old and macular degeneration is setting in.

Stress has diminished to a point that i'm almost waiting for the ball to drop, it's been so long since I freaked out at anything. I'm in a pretty much perpetual EQ'ish state, just aware of what is occurring with minimal volition. A few weeks ago a friend asked me to cover a few shifts as a cashier since one of his employees was being flaky. After working a few shifts they fired the flaky worker, and hired me full time. They've since promoted me to assistant manager, which I find amusing. I'm making about 1/2 what I made in my last job as a programmer and I don't care, my rent is paid and there's food on the table.

How is this related to practise? I'm approaching this job as basically meditation/service and it seems to be working really well. I just move about as necessary, am aware of things that the boss wants done, and they get done. Customers arrive and I deal with them with as much compassion, care and humility as i'm capable. There's no need for opinions about those tasks, ownership of those tasks, pride or dissatisfaction at those tasks, etc. Of course, those concepts do arise and I do my best to just be aware of that and continue flowing with whatever occurs. There's a really simple joy in just doing the job with no drama, and seeing both the customers and the other employees being happy at the result. I've had every employee and manager I work with thank me for not being a drama queen like the previous employees. What makes me laugh is even just a few years ago I was the drama queen employee. There are still hindrances of course, but they're as empty as anything else and will work themselves out in time.

After sitting for a few days again i'm somewhat surprised by how quickly concentration dropped, but is also coming back. The first sit was like being a total newb again (with awareness of that lack of concentration), the second was still pretty scattered but I stuck with it for over an hour without even intending to. What's amusing is i'm more equanimous off cushion now than on, perhaps because that's been my primary practise now for a while (no division between on and off cusion, being mindful of all activities).

I have to say Seth, you were right. It's all just stuff, and it just happens, and it's perfectly beautiful.

There's also so much still to do, even if none of it needs doing, and there's no one doing it.  emoticon

RE: Practise Log
Answer
5/28/18 12:48 AM as a reply to Lars.
After reflecting on my recent post, conceit and pride appear to have crept into my practise. Ironically i've become proud of acting without pride, which is just silly on so many levels. My apologies, i'll be more mindful of that going forward.

RE: Practise Log
Answer
6/20/18 7:07 AM as a reply to Lars.
Approaching work as service/meditation has been very educational, though it's bringing new challenges. Being kind and compassionate and really listening to the customers has been great, but I now have multiple customers who have become very clingy and desperate for my company. Some have obvious issues and seem to be seeking some stability (someone to listen etc), most are seemingly "normal" and may just be confusing my pretty much constant smile for flirting. There are also numerous other customers who are just overly friendly and flirty. I haven't dated in years and have no real desire to, so it's an odd situation to be in. Dealing with the situation with compassion and without judgement is sometimes difficult but i've managed so far. I try to accept them as they are and accomodate them as best I can, while still setting appropriate boundaries when necessary.

When sitting tonight I sat in open awareness for a while, and then started to do vipassana on the whole field, not literally noting but simply being aware of as many shifts of attention as possible. At one point I was going fast enough that I missed a sound as it occurred (attention shifted to the continuation of the sound but not the beginning of it) and instead caught the mind bringing up the memory and noticing the memory of it instead of the actual sound. This caused a thought regarding how the perception of time is correlated to memory and there was a strange feeling in the body, a welling up of energy through the spine, neck automatically straightened up suddenly and then a "near miss" sensation in the neck and head. The blockage or near miss or whatever seemed to be caused by my noticing and grasping at what was occurring with a feeling of expectation (I should really know better by now). What's interesting is this isn't the first time lately that i've had that sensation when thinking about the relationship of memory and time. I know time doesn't really exist, the past is just memory and the future is imagination, there's just now. But it feels like i'm missing something obvious, like I need to see it more directly. Perhaps that "knowing" is the problem.

RE: Practise Log
Answer
6/20/18 5:33 PM as a reply to Lars.
Now isn't a thing any more than the past and future are. Silly meditator, go sit some more.   emoticon

RE: Practise Log
Answer
8/3/18 4:33 AM as a reply to Lars.
The "ball has dropped" so to speak, i'm in a state that feels very DN'ish at the moment. Many of the usual sensations I would associate with it like doubt, shame, stress, confusion etc are there, but they don't seem like a big deal like it did years ago. They are just temporary impersonal sensations and recognized as such. What's interesting is the intense volume, this feels like panic attack levels of mental anxiety. I can feel physiological responses as well, but it doesn't feel like it's happening to me. It's like watching a very loud and chaotic thunderstorm from a distance.

I suspect the DN was caused by a sudden onset of aversion today. One of our "toxic" customers showed up in the store, and instead of dealing with it compassionately as I have for months now, I just said I was taking my break and ate some ice cream in the break area with a co-worker and let someone else deal with them. I deliberately waited until they left (they waited around for a while to see if i'd return) before I came back out again. I recognized the aversion as it was occurring and did it anyway. A few hours later, they called right as we were closing and when I saw who was on the caller ID, I didn't pick up (and again recognized the aversion yet ignored the call). Later that night a drunk ex girlfriend called me up and tried to rope me into some drama with her latest ex boyfriend and heavily hinted she wanted me to loan her some money. Again my response was nope.

Neither of these were horrible offenses, but i've been deliberately "leaning into the knife" recently so it was noticeable that I just politely disengaged. It's interesting to watch the mind retrieve the memory of these things and then build it into drama, then it falls apart. Then it reconstructs it a different way, and again it falls apart. (DN sensations have now faded, mind and body are calm)

I wonder if this is just another subtle selfing thing. If over the last few months i've created a "nice compassionate guy" identity that I cling to at some level, and today's events contradicted that, it could cause the stress described above. I've also been becoming more aware of "aversion to aversion" lately, which is twisting my noodle a bit. Or maybe I just had a bad day....   emoticon

RE: Practise Log
Answer
8/5/18 1:26 AM as a reply to Lars.
The DN'ish sensations haven't returned, and I noticed something about suffering during the experience. It's been obvious for a while that clinging/aversion is the primary source of suffering, but this put it in contrast in a way that was very clear. The level of stress that I experienced from being intentionally aversive was far worse than the stress I would have experienced from simply experiencing the original situation without aversion. It also likely caused stress for those I was aversive to (while I wasn't explicitly rude, I did disengage). Obviously unskillful behaviour, and seeing that clearly will hopefully make it easier to behave more skillfully.

It's funny how it wasn't some huge thing that caused the "ball to drop", like someone screaming at me or being threatening etc. (which does occur at my job). Instead, it was my own moderately aversive internal reaction to a fairly mild stimulus.

Aversion to aversion. In theory aversion to being aversive is good since aversion causes suffering, but if i'm being aversive to aversion then i'm still being aversive, so i'll still suffer <ad nauseum>. But if I let go of aversion towards aversion, then will I act aversively and still suffer?  emoticon

Gut reaction tells me to drop aversion to aversion and let aversion function freely as required with the simple recognition that it's empty. Perhaps easier said than done.

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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8/9/18 4:34 PM as a reply to Lars.
After not having touched them for 25 years or so, I took about 2 grams of very potent magic mushrooms yesterday afternoon. They hit like a sack of bricks after about 20 minutes and continued to be very intense for the next few hours. I'd made some intentions at the start to see the experience clearly and accurately but also to enjoy it. The three characteristics then "displayed themselves". First the experience of being in a body was very intense and the suffering involved was clear. Then the characteristic of no-self became very apparent (and insistent), to the point that I mentally commented "yeah yeah, i'm aware" and the experience suddenly shifted to impermanence (with a mild "don't get cocky" mental response lol). At one point I noticed that deep within all that chaos there was that stillness and joy smiling back at me. This was followed by the sensation of what felt like a literal knot of rope in my heart unravelling. Then it was like a switch was flipped (this was during the peak), and it felt like I was dead sober while also being on mushrooms. I could feel the effects very strongly of the mushrooms, but I was very lucid, able to speak clearly and felt like I could have gone to work if necessary. The rest of the trip was very joyous, lots of laughing and noticing all the new loops that my life has accumulated since I took mushrooms decades ago.

Since it was a psychedelic experience i'm wary of attributing too much meaning to it, or assuming any real insight was gained, but I don't regret the experience at all. If anything it just showed that meditation practise is fruitful. The same "accept it as it is" and gentle curiosity that works so well on the cushion helped navigate the more chaotic aspects of that experience. It was like reobservation or dark night on steriods. I probably spent about half the trip meditating (vipassana was intense and amusing), and the rest just having fun and just experiencing my current loops on mushrooms.

RE: Lars' Practise Log
Answer
10/8/18 6:33 AM as a reply to Lars.
A few posts written over the last few months by others on the site helped me to realize that I was holding myself to an unsustainable standard, and that doing so is essentially selfish. This also led to the hero/dingus cycle where I would practise very diligently until I burnt out, and then regress for a while to recharge, followed by another "going hero" phase. I'm now formally sitting pretty much daily (in addition to the usual "everything is meditation" approach), though i'm not grasping so hard as to burn myself out, and if I miss a day it's not the end of the world.

Interesting accidental sit tonight, I was lying in bed pretty relaxed and not really intending to sleep or meditate. As I lay there I just observed the sensory stream until it became very "smooth" and there was minimal awareness of any watcher or Me there. There was just awareness of sound as sounds arose, thoughts as thoughts arose, etc. Because of this, they didn't really capture attention, there was just what felt like a stream of awareness for a few minutes, until finally exitement arose and it wasn't recognized for what it was so attention was captured. As soon as mindfulness had broken (and that was recognized), there was a sudden tightness in my chest. It felt like there was a tiny black hole in the centre of my chest (not sure if it's heart or solar plexus chakra) that was sucking my breath inwards to a point. It didn't just pull down, it pulled in every direction like it was pulling in the entire subtle body, not just the literal breath in the lungs. What's interesting is that point has been opening and closing for the last year or so. Whenever I engage in any "naughty" behaviour volitionally in the last few months, I feel a very slight electrical charge there, like a 9 volt battery on a wet thumb. I tried to use that strong pulling sensation as an object for vipassana tonight, but it faded quickly. Even now after that sit I can still feel that spot slightly contracted, and slightly cold. If I try to continue vipassana on it, it begins to "swirl" a bit, and some other odd sensations.

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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10/9/18 6:08 PM as a reply to Lars.
When sitting last night I scanned the head/face for tension (this has been a focus lately) and released the tension at the point where the brow and the nose meet (there was what felt like a 5 pulse per second vibration). Then subtle tension at the top of the nose became apparent, and it released. Then a little lower in the nose, a small pocket of tension, released. This continued with small regions of the nose feeling slightly tense and it began to move downward automatically, tensing, releasing until it reached the bottom of the nose. This reminded me of "pacification of the senses" and I noticed that my eyes had some tension. This tension then released in a similar fashion, little groups of tension becoming apparent and then releasing. Once the eyes were no longer vibrating/tense I focused on the ears, but found no tension there (which is interesting since hearing is already partially pacified from a previous shift). After all of this the head and face felt odd, almost overly relaxed. In particular my eyes almost felt heavy, as if they weren't straining anymore and were just lying back on a comfy chair relaxing.

I've done this sort of scanning for tension practise many times, but this was the first time that the tension was so clear and broken up into so many "parts". It also had an interesting "this is happening by itself" aspect at many points, particularly in the nose.

There was also the fluttering in the centre of the head, but that wasn't really the focus last night (still interested in any info on that subject btw lol).

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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10/20/18 2:42 PM as a reply to Lars.
Continuing to sit, letting the drama of all of it go. There has been too much grasping at progress, "meaningful" or "interesting" sensations etc. Shargrol's simplified map was very useful, it made it more clear that while I did recognize certain nanas for what they were, there were others that I didn't fully recognize as a reactive pattern. Of course after reading/meditating on it there was an instinct to react to the newly recognized reactive patterns lol. I'll just continue to sit, being aware of sensations as they arise without trying to put any of it in a particular box or attribute any meaning to it. Whatever peak experiences happened previously aren't happening now (just the memory of them), whatever I think future progress involves is also not happening now (only the thought of it). Keep it simple, focus on the sensations occuring at this moment from sit to sit.

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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12/24/18 4:03 PM as a reply to Lars.
Oct 22

Sat 40 minutes, the first 20 or so were dominated by the usual distractions like itching, pains, muscles wanting to move, thoughts, memories, etc. Instead of scratching, moving etc I just kept going back to the breath. Eventually I realized the breath had become fairly stable and attention wasn't leaping around much anymore. I then switched to awareness of all sensory input both in the body and "outside", watching the field of awareness grow and become more clear. As I became aware of more and more sensations per second, vibrations in the body increased in intensity and there was the feeling that "something was happening" but I remembered not to get carried away so I just recognized that feeling as with all the other sensations occuring. This state then quickly transitioned into a very calm and clear state with minimal vibrations or sensations of movement, like a lake with no ripples. After a while I did some metta practise and ended the sit.

Oct 23

Sat 40 minutes, started similar to the previous session. During the phase where I focused on increasing the clarity and width of sensory experience I kept noticing things that distracted me, which I did my best to just recognize without reacting. Part of this was noticing the push and pull of perception, it felt like mind was reaching out to sensory data instead of just being aware of it naturally as it occurs, where it occurs. Eventually settled into slightly more vibratory version of the clear state from yesterday, and did metta practise before ending the sit.

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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11/25/18 1:59 AM as a reply to Lars.
Still sitting most days, not posting much anymore. Finding a better balance between hero mode and not practising. Sits are usually almost exactly 40 minutes, I don't intend to sit for any particular duration or use a timer. I start with 10 breaths, if I lose concentration I go back to 1. Then I switch to using the tinnitus in my right ear as an object. I'd previously used this object with some success, but had switched to the breath since it seemed like the "correct" thing to do. Back to sound, it seems to work more naturally for me. When either using breath or sound, I just keep attention on it until I get distracted, then come back. Once the sound is breaking up into squeals and squeaks and multiple frequencies laid upon each other, I pick a particular frequency and attend to that until it also breaks up. Sometimes I attend to the dominant sounds, sometimes the more whispery subtle sounds. I know from experience the effects of purely "dry" practise so sometimes I do choiceless awareness or just focus on pleasant sensations initially and let jhana just go as deep as it wants to (usually fairly soft 1st or 2nd, rarely 3rd).

Lately the eyes don't dart around like they used to during meditation, following the sound or whatever object i'm focused on. The effect of continuous practise is becoming clearer, that momentum and slow increasing of the factors. When I stop formally practising for whatever reason i'm more immediately reactive to circumstances (even when trying to stay mindful in all things), when practising for a period of time there's often a short period of clarity before reacting to things. Hero mode followed by dropping practise followed by hero mode generates novel experiences (and inevitably a DN), but the factors are all over the place.

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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12/24/18 7:48 PM as a reply to Lars.
Continuing to sit for an average of one 40 minute sit a day. In addition there are usually many "mini-sits" during the day where an object is picked and vipassanized for a few moments or minutes while waiting for customers to arrive or coffee to brew etc). Various types of emotional and physical reactions are investigated as they occur when the situation allows. Slowly working back up to the previous "high water mark", building concentration and equanimity again after regressing for a while due to scattered practise and some spiritual bypassing.

Formal sits are still roughly as described above. Not surprisingly due to the consistency of practise for the last few months, awareness of vibrations has increased markedly (though still not at the previous peak). Sound is easily broken up into particles/pixels/vibrations, but the visual field is now pulsing and pixellated more often as well. Bodily vibrations present with even minimal relaxation, sometimes even just when reading suttas etc. Trying not to get lost in the content of all this as I have so many times before, and instead just be aware of all this with as much clarity and precision as possible, including the reactive elements of the nanas etc.

In the last couple weeks i've added a new note when doing vipassana, "observer". I've deconstructed that sense of an observer before, but it was more of a specific exercise. Now it's being added to general noting practise and it's been interesting to see the variation and instability that appears to make up those sensations. It's obviously not some consistent solid thing, instead it's similar to a pattern recognition mistake like seeing Jesus in a slice of toast.

There has been one difficulty I would appreciate some feedback on. Previously there was a shift where somewhat soft versions of the first and second Jhana were easily accessible, but I found the vibrations (particularly in the first) to be rough and dissonant. After a later shift the ability to sink into an almost perfect stillness within seconds presented itself (possibly a 3rd jhana state or mimic). If there were even strong bodily vibrations all I had to do was be lightly aware of that, and the vibrations would fade (like all bodily sensations synchronized and then dissolved into stillness) without any effort. This felt amazing, and sitting with open awareness in that stillness was very seductive. The issue is, i'm now trying to relearn the Jhanas properly instead of discounting those rough vibrations. However whenever they become very apparent the "stillness routine" kicks in and they dissolve. I'm slowly learning to be aware of those vibrations without the subtle mental "movement" which seems to trigger that shift into stillness, but it seems counter-intuitive. That still state seemed to be more refined than the rough ones, am I wasting my time by focusing on the more rough sensations versus allowing that stillness to just do its thing?

I suspect this may be due to mixing of samatha jhana and vipassana jhana techniques, jumping around too much without being clear about which is being practised at that moment. Perhaps using intentions at the beginning of the sit to specify which type for that session might help?

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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12/24/18 8:39 PM as a reply to Lars.
Thank you so much for sharing your work! You are obviously ahead of me in several respects, but I do recognize myself a great deal, and that encourages me to keep working and do longer sits. You are the first person I have seen describing the same phenomenon as I so often experience, with the spine correcting itself on its own volition. I’m new here, though, so there may be many others who have described it, I don’t know, but for me it was new. That face thing seems to be the same as well, or at least something similar. For me it’s about two thirds of my face dissolving into waves that are in turn built up by smaller oscillations. Body parts may also ”disappear” from my consciousness.

I’m looking forward to reading more from you. I believe I have a lot to learn.

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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12/25/18 12:00 AM as a reply to Lars.
I notice this as well. After a while practicing the jhanas, the mind wants to bypass or go quickly through jhanas 1-3 for the seductive stability of 4 and beyond. I have found that focusing on generating little jolts of piti and sukkha and kundalini throughout the day and then setting an intention to progress slowly through jhanas 1-3 can be a good way to prime myself to take more time in these jhanas. Now is there much more to learn there? I'm not sure. For me anyway, jhanas 1-2 are the most shamatha-like and difficult to vipassinize. If that's the case for you too, perhaps there is more there to unwrap if you gain finer control?

One word of caution about that technique: I at least tended to get into a loop where the kundalini stuff would start coming up unbidden a lot during the day. Getting constant hits of kundalini can be distracting/annoying/exhausting if you are trying to concentrate on anything else (Like work), so this should probably be done for a limited amount of time.

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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12/26/18 5:00 AM as a reply to Milo.
Linda: The spine aligning thing is actually fairly common at certain stages from what I understand. I'm glad you're encouraged, just don't make the same mistake i've made repeatedly (going hero mode and then burning out, then repeating that cycle). Consistent practise seems to be more beneficial.   emoticon

Milo: Thanks, i'll try to be more clear about what practise i'm using during a particular sit. Part of the problem is I seem to enjoy "breaking things up", so whenever I notice impermanence showing itself in a sense door (even during samatha) I instinctually focus on that and start vipassana instead. Someone mentioned in another thread that the mind can "chase after bliss like a puppy", in this case it seems to be chasing after stillness in a similar way. 

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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12/26/18 9:38 AM as a reply to Lars.
Cool. I just didn’t know about it.

Thanks for the advice! Yes, I have prioritized consistent practice over longer sits, so I have set the minimum to only 20 minutes per day to be sure that I can make it.

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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12/27/18 6:05 AM as a reply to Lars.
Lars:
Linda: The spine aligning thing is actually fairly common at certain stages from what I understand. I'm glad you're encouraged, just don't make the same mistake i've made repeatedly (going hero mode and then burning out, then repeating that cycle). Consistent practise seems to be more beneficial.   emoticon

Milo: Thanks, i'll try to be more clear about what practise i'm using during a particular sit. Part of the problem is I seem to enjoy "breaking things up", so whenever I notice impermanence showing itself in a sense door (even during samatha) I instinctually focus on that and start vipassana instead. Someone mentioned in another thread that the mind can "chase after bliss like a puppy", in this case it seems to be chasing after stillness in a similar way. 

Oh yeah, stillness is nice so of course the mind wants to chase it! =D

I'll second that consistent practice is more beneficial than cycles of going hero mode, burning out, and quitting. I personally think a critical step in the cultivation of a deep practice is making it just something that you do every single day, period. No matter what. As the saying goes, the only bad meditation is the one you didn't do. It may be that the ones we don't want to do but do anyway are some of the most important. 

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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12/31/18 6:02 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
The other night I realized that i'd been continuing to focus on single objects during vipassana, and it could be related to stagnation at certain points in practise. I opened up awareness so the sensory field was as wide as possible, while still maintaining focus on the primary object (the very whispy background noises in my tinnitus). At first I noticed lots of odd squeaks and squeals (different from the usual ones) occuring, and then it felt like the whole perceptual field was strobing. After a while it became apparent that the strobing was related to my attention jumping to the squeals, back to the primary object, then to another squeak, back to the primary object, etc. It was about 5 cycles per second and very "visible". Doing two sits per day of 40 minutes the last few days (this all has the stink of Desire for Deliverance on it, but also some level of Equanimity).

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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1/2/19 6:21 AM as a reply to Lars.
Yeah, no need to focus on a single object. It's good to have an anchor to return to when you get very distracted, but you can let your mind be mind and notice what it does. If you realize you have been distracted, then return to your anchor. In Dark Night and EQ it is very important to notice how the mind can do all sorts of stuff but there is still a "knowing" of this. You can be in a state of misery or a state of ease and the mind >knows< this. What is the nature of this knowing?

RE: Lars' Practise Log
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1/2/19 6:04 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks, i'd switched to open awareness style at certain points previously, but for some reason kept coming back to the single focus stuff (i'm guessing because it worked a few times for getting through A&P). As for knowing, i've been gently asking those questions when I get into 3rd jhana territory lately, thanks again for the simplified map you posted earlier.

Switching from one 40 minute session a day to two 40 minute sessions was a bit of an abrupt jump, easing off a little on the gas pedal and going back to monthly posts unless someone else asks a question etc.

Update: One last thing, which just occurred to me while making coffee lol. The stages of grief are very similar to the nanas, specifically both are reactive patterns which are "ended" through calm acceptance, giving up the attempt to fight what's actually happening.