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Alice Meditates in Wonderland

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Alice Meditates in Wonderland
Answer
12/31/17 1:33 PM
Yesterday I had my first discussion with a meditation teacher.  He started by saying this was my time and we would use it as I saw fit. 
I started with several questions, just to get a feel for what this would be like.  I have never worked with a teacher outside of retreat, so this was a new experience.  Having asked questions on Vipassana retreats and getting a smile with an answer that skirts the question has been
the all
too frequent experience.  Would this be different?  What should I ask?  I had a list, but... having never met this person and having our first
meeting on the phone was a little intimidating.  Fortunately, that didn't last long.  Helpful answers with practical advice followed.

I was encouraged to keep a journal of my meditation.  Just a few sentences after each sit, or more if I have time.  Mostly a place to record
experiences and write questions for our next meeting. So, here it is. 

I confessed that I am not a religiously regular sitter, but that I wanted to change that.  Start with the minimum amount of time you are
certain
you can do every day, without fail.  5 minutes was my reply.  I started a stickK page and comitted to donating $25/week to the anti-charity of
my choice if I fail to follow through for the next 4 weeks.  If that goes well, I will increase to 10.  Would like to work my way up to 20 minutes, even on my busiest, most exhausted days.  Usually when I sit I am somewhere between 45-60 minutes and if I don't have time for that, I
will skip sitting as opposed to sitting for a shorter time.  Clearly, that needs to change if I want to make any sort of progress. 

How to make the most of my practice off the cushion?  Pick something you do regularly and commit to using that to bring presence to the
activity.  Handwashing was chosen, as I do it frequently at work.  Just be present while washing your hands.  Check.  Easy enough so far,
eh?

What map to work with and how to report back at our next meeting.  Suggested reading material was given and I agreed we would
start there.  "Five Ways to Know Yourself"  Shinzen Young

We covered some other territory including my solitary practice in a small town with many SDA's.  He suggested posting here as well as 
some groups in the city.  The city is quite a drive (2+ hours without traffic), depending on the location.  So, here I am.


This morning, I sat for 5 minutes.  Slept terrible last night (chronic, lifelong sleep issues) but in general, I am sleeping better these days, but still not great.  Had to drive an hour to work and have to be there by 7 am for a 12 hour shift.  I did a guided body scan sit.  Needed the
voice to guide me through my sleep deprived haze.  Followed along with the sensations in the designated areas and was able to stay
focused, allbeit only for 5 minutes.  Sometimes the sensations are overwhelming.  No wonder I am inattentive to my body and its
sensations most of the time!  If I had to note all the
sensations I managed to notice in the 5 minute sit this morning all day long, I'd be exhausted without any additional activites. 
This seems to be par for the course in my sits when noting sensation.  Was able to watch some sensations arise and some pass.  Some
sensations seemed like they were there when I noticed them and were still there when I moved on to the next area of the body scan.
That said, while they remained and I did not note them arising or passing, they are not "solid".  The sensations when observed oscillate and the frequency is different in different areas of the body. 
Nothing stood out today.  No pain, itching or discomfort.  Pressure, tingling, fine buzzing and pulsing of blood through vessels in all areas.
Made several attempts to note things deeper inside my body and briefly felt some warmth and more pulsing from deeper inside my head,
limbs and torso. 


Having never journaled or discussed specific sensations with a teacher, it is difficult to write about the experience in a meaningful way. 
Finding my voice will also be a practice!  A longer sit will provide more opportunity for description, too.

My plan is to update here weekly, but to keep a daily handwritten journal immediately after sitting. 

RE: Alice Meditates in Wonderland
Answer
12/31/17 7:53 PM as a reply to Alice S.
Thanks Alice.  I look forward to reading more.  The advice & reccomendations of this teacher all sound really wise.  The evidence says that working with a good teacher is the proximate cause for accomplishing your goals in meditation, whatever they may be.  Also, from my own experience, I can say that having a weekly log online is better than having a daily one, since it emphasizes consistency over the long term rather than intermittent bursts of activity.

edited: meant daily not monthly 

RE: Alice Meditates in Wonderland
Answer
12/31/17 6:35 PM as a reply to Noah D.
Thanks for the encouragement, Noah!  I enjoy reading your practice log.  I admire your consistency with posts and your descriptors. 

RE: Alice Meditates in Wonderland
Answer
1/1/18 4:40 PM as a reply to Alice S.
aloha alice,

   Thanks for your notes on your meditation practice.

   I used to commute an hour each way from a small town to a suburb of "the city" to work twelve hour shifts in a hospital. Seven days on, seven days off; on my days off I put in a long weekend at another hospital, as well. For one stretch of eight years I was on call 24hrs/day, ten days out of every fourteen. If I was sick I dragged myself to work anyway; there was no one else. Tending the sick is like milking cows, or changing nappies, there are no holidays or off days. I averaged 65 hours a week those years. I gained weight and began to have health problems.

   Recently I watched a movie called 'logan' about 'the wolverine,' a strong but loyal character. At one point his honored master dies in his arms, and he cries for the first time since infancy. He goes out and his old truck won't start. Yelling and screaming, he opens the hood and starts banging on the engine. He grabs a shovel and begins smacking the truck with it, smashing off the mirror and breaking windows. Finally he lays down in the middle of the highway, crying, cursing and screaming, fully engaged in impotent rage, this man of miraculous abilities and great age.

   The very picture of attachment, I thought.

   Now my sons don't need me, my wife doesn't need me, I have built a cabin and shop out on a lava flow where I live with no neighbors visible or audible. Now I meditate 45 mins in the morning and 45 mins in the afternoon. During the day I make silver jewelry and listen to dhamma talks or similar; in the evening I read philosophy and think. My simplified lifestyle and plain vegetarian meals are deeply satisfying, and it is easy to be mindful throughout the day. Perfect weather and the awesome view don't hurt, I will admit; and two or three times a week I take the dog to a remote beach or bay for a swim.

   My life is my own again in a way it hasn't been since my twenties. I wonder at the degree of attachment that caused me to neglect my health and my spirituality (not to mention theirs) for the sake of providing a conventional "good life" for my wife and kids. Good lives they still live today.

   When enlightenment and insight find us, we are always caught up in life, with commitments which seem to bind us tightly. Minds free, we realize we bind ourselves. (If you bind yourself, you see, you are not unfree.)

   There was a russian mystic, georges gurdjieff, who said: "You have to be able to make your living with your left foot." He himself managed to support as many as 200 of his "relatives" through incredible events, generally with flim flam or rug selling. Nothing material is more important than the spiritual dimension, just as a house is not necessarily a home, a car not necessarily simply a vehicle. The less of your energy you can put into making money (and acquiring status), the more you have for living, for being there, authentically. Sincerely, genuinely, spontaneously present and open, like a little child, finding life quite amusing and interesting and joyful. (A two or three year old child averages a belly laugh every three minutes; something to aspire to.)

   There is nothing in life more important than the natural unfolding of your own character. I know precisely the attractions of your lifestyle, providing a comfortable, safe and healthy home for your family at the expense of your own health and sanity. In the end your children will learn two things from this: self sacrifice, and to value material goods above spiritual ones. In our culture raising such children is called "success." And in the event, our children value us, if at all, for what we have done for them, not for our ideas, values or who we are presently. We have always encouraged them to "live their own lives," and if they have no commitment to service to humankind, it is because we lived, in practice, only to live well. (I'm presuming you have children from the 14 hour days; who works that hard at a job except for their dependents?)

   I admire your self sacrifice and your commitment to spiritual practice. In the buddha dhamma, such sacrifices are perhaps similar to the asceticism the buddha practiced before he became enlightened. Such efforts are good karma, but if you seek enlightenment, or wisdom, you will sooner or later see that sacrificing yourself for material gains, even for others, is misuse of precious human spirit, which could be experiencing the present in wonder and joy, and thus being a source of wonder and joy for others. Freely giving what is freely taken; freely taking what is freely given. Letting go all else.

   I'm not saying you should abandon your family, your commitments. Just that you should consider winding down your material needs, so that making a living does not utterly drain you of vitality and make you ill, and leave you no time for meditation practice. In buddhism, we seek to reduce our desires, and those of our associates, and seek happiness in practicing peace and love.

   
   Thanks for your evident sincerity; cling to it as to a rock and you won't go far wrong.


love, terry

RE: Alice Meditates in Wonderland
Answer
1/2/18 12:22 PM as a reply to terry.
Aloha, Terry!

Thanks so much for the carefully written, thoughtful reply.  It was so sweet and written from a perspective that only comes with having lived some life.  I appreciate that you took the time to read the post and write a reply.  

I didn't give much background info, becuase I really didn't think anyone would be that interested.  So, here is a little more about Alice's life. 

I am 50 and have been practicing since 2006.  I have a lifelong, chronic sleep issue (since I was 12) and came to meditation with the hopes I would be able to sleep better.  Profoundly tired.  Every day of my life.  And very intolerant as a result.  Meditation didn't help my sleep, but I did begin to have some insights pretty quickly.  Nothing earth shattering, just the general ones you get initally.  "Wow!  I think A LOT!  My mind is busy and I am distracted with the same top ten thoughts on replay!  This prevents me from being present for the rest of my life."  You know, that sort of thing.  Since 2006 I have gone months and even years without sitting.  

In 2007 I was diagnosed with sleep apnea.  Though I was a normal weight, (25% of people with sleep apena are a normal weight) it seemed to be getting worse.  I was chronically late for work and getting grumpier by the day.  Thinking this was the problem (because the doctor and a sleep study confirmed it) I started to use CPAP.  It didn't work.  I had surgery (a "UP3"- 1/3rd of my soft palate removed, tonsil and adnoids removed and a devidated septum repair).  It helped a little, but certainly not the relief I was looking for.  Life went on in a grumpy, sleep deprived haze.  

Last year in June I was diagnosed with primary hypothroidism.  I have started on meds and tried a few different things-levothyroxine only, nature thyroid and finally I have landed on Levo with cytomel.  Works pretty well.  I am working with my doc to tweak my dose.  Think there might be some cortisol/adrenal issues that need to be corrected, too.   My sleep is significantly better and I am significantly less grouchy, but still not optimal.  From the way I feel now, I think hypothyroidism was my problem all along.  When there is something your body is missing, try as you might, substitutes (in my case, meditation, CPAP, UP3) don't work.  Only the missing substance will make you feel the way you should.  Seems to me this is determinism in action, but that's a whole other conversation.  

As for the job, I am a RN working in labor and delivery.  Have been doing it for 30 years and there is nothing else I could do to support myself  (I am single and still need to contrubute to my retirement fund for a few more years) without significant retraining, which I am unwilling to take on at my age.  Can't think of another job I could do and make what I make in 24 hours a week.  It is the most efficient way I have of earning a living.  Not sure what you did in a hospital-from your call schedule I am guessing doc, PA, CRNA?  Almost all L&D units work 12 hour shifts.  There are a few hospitals here in Northern California that do 8's, like Kaiser and Sutter, but I am not a fan of algorithim medicine and that's how those places function.  

Long ago and far away, I worked a lot more, like when my kids were little.  Thank god and greyhound, they are grown and on their own now.  I love them and they are now dear friends, but it certainly makes life easier not to have anyone who depends one me.  I too did those 60+ hour weeks.  Not so much anymore.

In addition to not working so much, I have downsized my life and my job.  I have a part time job (24 hours a week) at a sleepy little place that delivers about 20 babies a month.  A far cry from the 650/month at a previous job!  We have a lot of downtime at work to use to help our manager with writing policies, researching, education, etc.  It's such a great place to work.  The people (patients and staff) are stable and connected to the community.  We run into our patients and their babies at Safeway.  It's probably the best job I've ever had. Occasionally, I work a job about an hour away, but only if they need me.  We do about 15 deliveries a month at that hospital.  I tend to work there more during the holidays.  They have had a few people out on somewhat long term leave, so I have helped to pick up the slack the past few weeks, thus my comment about being up early and driving.  Not something I do daily.  
 

About 3 years ago, I moved from a 4 bedroom, 1700 sq ft house to an 1100 sq ft apartment in the trees in a sleepy little town.  I owned a house in Ohio, too and I sold it.  Got rid of a ton of stuff and lightened my load physically and financially.  I can now walk to my lovely little job 2 days a week in 10 minutes!  

In 2014, I did a contract job on the Big Island.  I am thinking maybe that is where you are?  It is a beautiful quiet place and living there seemed to flip a switch and made me want to start practicing seriously.  I reread MCTB and started to sit more.  When I returned to Calfornia, I went on a few week long retreats and my practice continues to pick up steam.  

That said, I have a lot of downtime to meditate. Five days off a week, most weeks.  The difficulty is on the days I work.  0630-1900 is a long day, even if we are not busy.  Coupled with my sleep issue, it's a bear to get out of bed at 0400 to meditate.  And when I come home, pretty much all I have energy for is to read a bit and go to sleep.  Thus the stickK commitment to help me at least maintain my meditation habit, even it is only 5 minutes on the days I work.  On the days I am off, I can and do sit for much longer periods.  

I think finding a teacher is going to be of real benefit, too.  As Noah said, this teacher is wise and I am hopeful that together we can make my practice more efficient and effective.  And if not, well, so be it.  As I alluded earlier, I am a determinist.  Understanding determinism has helped me to see that there is only so much I can "do" -and who is the "doer?"  ;-)  Of course, no one is going to "do" it for me.  I have to make the choice to meditate and work with a teacher to be more efficient and effective when I practice.  I can make a choice, but once I choose, the reults are out of my hands.  Another insight is that a little equanimity goes a long way in life.  This log is merely an attempt to document my (hopefully) increasingly skillful choices with regard to my life and my practice.   

Thanks again, Terry, for sharing your thoughts and wisdom.  What you say is true.  Having less, wanting less, working less- is part of the secret to a better practice.  I am on that road, without doubt.  I hope you will continue to follow the journey and chime in with more.  :-)

Much Metta,
Alice

RE: Alice Meditates in Wonderland
Answer
1/2/18 3:47 PM as a reply to Alice S.
aloha alice,

   That clears a few things up... I wondered how you could spend hours documenting your practice but had only five minutes to sit. I'm not sure five minutes would have much benefit. I usually suggest a minimum of ten.

   For a determinist you do a lot of self determination. I still think any number of 12 hour shifts is going to cause sleep problems. I suggest smoking pakalolo, or ingesting it. More benign and effective than drugs. 

   Yes, I live on the big island, 25 years now, and spent years on kauai and oahu before that. Ran labs for kaiser in kona and for clinical labs in kohala, as well as being a bench tech at all the labs in north hawaii and at wilcox on kauai. Talk about sleepy little towns and small hospitals, I know them intimately. I spent perhaps half of those 65 hour weeks sitting and reading. Probably more. It was stressful anyway, and virtually no one else would take such call in such a remote area; people become very idiosyncratic in such situations. This was old hawaii, my house in hawi was the last built by the kohala sugar corporation, and I have seen the last of the era of big sugar die, now dead and buried. The community resisted change until the last few years, but the haoles moving in with their money and airs of entitlement are once again ruining what they came here to experience. I don't mind people who come here with something to offer, like nurses or teachers, but we get too many grifters, carpetbaggers and retirees, that is, parasites.

   My neighbors are impossible, and my wife refused to move. I became so angry with the neighbors (for good reason; don't get me started) I had a stroke; fortunately the symptoms, losing a quarter of my vision in both eyes, resolved completely in six weeks. In fact, I see perfectly without glasses, to drive or read, odd because I wore glasses from childhood. I also have atrial fibrillation off and on, and it is much worse and more frequent if I get angry or upset. I did not want to die of apoplexy, of anger and resentment and bitterness. I have come to think of my condition as a blessing, for now I absolutely will walk away from a confrontation or a fight, and formerly I relished such. If my heart isn't acting up I am very healthy, being a vegetarian since I was a boy, fresh out of the navy.

   At the same time I have become somewhat alientated from my older son, who is perfect in every way. He's already made more money than I have total in my life, and I was the highest paid med tech in the state for many years. He has a business selling led light bulbs, getting them from china and selling them to large hotels and government agencies and the like, replacing all their bulbs at once. It is very ecological and high tech, but they might as well be widgets, as they are in it for the money. Despite their praying to allah five times a day, I haven't seen much compassion from them, though my granddaughter, who is four, told me last week "I want to go to hawaii with you, grandpa." (smiles) 

   I mention my son blake because it was partly a reaction to his materialism that caused the way I went about changing my lifestyle. 

   I bought three acres in ocean view ranchos, flew my nephew richard the third over from phoenix, and we built a cabin and shop from scratch to my own design; I have it all documented in pictures. The work was life-changing, physically. I could only stand five minutes at a time to begin with and now I have considerably more stamina than the young men I work with from time to time. The cabin is 12 x 12 on the bottom, and 16 x 12 on the top, the extra 4 x 12 being a balcony which overlooks a view of the coastline which reminds me of silverado, when scott glenn finishes off the bad guys and emerges from the cabin to a sweeping vista (and the music swells). I have a fully adequate apartment above, and below I have my jewelry shop.

   I tend to work, or study, or meditate, do my simple chores, and try to be mindful all the time. That is, I don't do anything else, most days; though I'm always ready to go to the beach. I return to the house in hawi twice a month (100 miles away, it is a big island) to work on the house and maintain my plants. My work seems to me a meditation. Increasingly, fixing food, bathing, washing up, even defecation and voiding urine all seem to be meditations. Much of what I used to do in my meditation periods, I now do outside the formal sitting. I try to change up my meditations so as to keep them fresh and awake, but mostly I count breaths, one two three four five one two three... Sometimes I'll get as far as twelve. Sometimes I find I have stopped counting. The first ten, twenty, even thirty minutes are pretty easy; an hour is very hard, but I can count my misses on my hands on a good day. I may only sit once a day, though I try to sit two times and nearly always manage to do so at the cabin, but I don't do less than 45 minutes. I set a timer but I know to the minute when it will go off or if it hasn't.

   I had an enlightenment experience at age 20, lived in a hippie commune fifteen years, and have spent my life studying spirituality and philosophy. But it is only in the last couple of years out here at the cabin that I have really succeeded in meditation, and made it a constant practice. This is why, when I responded to you, I was speaking of lifestyle - detachment - and how important it is to one's practice. Before every morning meditation at the cabin I read a sutta or two from the majjhima nikaya. The buddha emphasizes non-attachment. In one sutta, the buddha is told, "It is wife and sons that make a man happy." The buddha responded, "It is wife and sons that make a man suffer." The buddha enjoins the radical practice of giving up all desires. Delusion tells us it is ok to indulge ourselves, it will do no harm; the buddha says don't be deluded. There are higher pleasures, and the buddha says those are ok. I can often and fairly easily fall into a meditative trance state which is physically very pleasant; if I were to spend days sitting, like if I were in jail or very old or at a retreat, I would find that trance state "a pleasant abiding." At this point I practice concentration by breath counting. The more I practice concentration, the more I actually get done in my work, no matter how much time I actually spend "just sitting." The practice of letting most thoughts and daydreams and memories go as soon as they are noticed becomes routine throughout the day. Emotions can be traced to their roots and discarded without residue.

   Even the isolation has been a blessing, forcing a self-reliance which is new and vivfying. I do have my faithful brittany spaniel, an actual male who generally displays very good manners.

   I worked with nurses many years, of course, though my wife was a teacher. I always liked the ob nurses best, they were funny and had big hearts. Girls and boys were "innies" and "outies." Most people don't know that one in twenty four or so deliveries is seriously complicated. Healthy young moms are everyone's favorite patients, not to mention babies; it hurts badly to lose one, and it happens, regularly. The lab crosses pint after pint of blood, plus ffp, factors, platelets, whatever we can throw in; it's never more hectic in the lab than when there's a new mom in dic. You always hate to lose someone after you have put twenty units of blood products into them. The ob nurses would be blown away, compassion so deep it was a physical pain in the chest...it's a tough business and few of them last to your age, they usually move up to management or on to something else. I hear you that nothing would pay you so well. Just once again, consider the dynamic of being paid to undergo stress, and be sure you are making the free choice.

   Thanks for your reply, I really expected nothing. You might check out my other posts, which got little response; I thought the one on golden ages quite colorful. I drop in here but seldom and may only read one message when I do.


love, terry


 

RE: Alice Meditates in Wonderland
Answer
1/8/18 8:24 PM as a reply to Alice S.
While this log started with a report from a 5 minute sit (mostly becauses there was time to write and I wanted to start the thread), there has 
been a significant amount of practice in the last week.  Sits ranged from 20 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes and the time was relative to my
work schedule.  One day off work this past week, but sit time prior to work is increasing in length and at the very least it is happening daily.  
Sitting before every shift is still a challenge, though getting easier and the decrease in anxiety at work is a strong motivator.  The thing that
is really motivating in the morning is the thought of donating to my favorite "anti-charity."  Nothing like the thought of my hard earned cash
going to the Republican PAC to get my feet on the cold floor and my arse on the cushion, thanks to the people at StickK.com

Trying to focus on the breath at the tip of the nose remains difficult.  Much easier and less distracted if there is observation of the body as a
whole and I observe the strongest sensations as they are brought into awareness.  Sound continues to be a sensation that pulls the
awareness away from body sensations.  Shortly after noting the sensations and sometimes before they can be labeled, a thought will arise
and be noted, "Who is feeling?"  or  "Who is hearing?"  Answered by silence for a few seconds and then a sensation will call out to be
noted, only to start the process over. 

The mindfulness handwashing project helps to bring awareness into the day and it comes more frequently than it did before.  The amount
and lenght of awareness off the cushion increases daily.  Such an easy way to make it happen. 

Anticipating more time to sit next week as I am off to cook for a Vipassana retreat in Santa Cruz for 6 days.  Looking forward to significantly more time to practice on the cushion and several visits to Hidden Peak Tea House.  The tea house will likely step in for the somewhat        decreased incidence of handwashing due to the lack of 12 hour shifts around sick people.  The mindful handwashing project will contine,
though and of course, be frequent while in the kitchen. 

Registered to sit a 5 day Adyashanti course in February this week.  Longing to sit for more time several days in a row noted.  Will await its
passing.  ;-)

RE: Alice Meditates in Wonderland
Answer
1/19/18 7:27 PM as a reply to Alice S.
Time for an update will be limited next week.  My love will be in the country for 4 weeks to support me after minor surgery on Wednesday
next week and if things go well, we will be going away for some more extended recovery time.  My time at IRC was productive in terms of
increased pratice time and off cushion practice, too, so here is the update. 

Awareness during hand washing stimulates awareness at times of the day when I am otherwise certain it wouldn't exist.  Being in the
kitchen
the awareness seemed to translate seemlessly from hand washing to the cutting board for veggie prep.  There's a reason Dogen wrote
Tenzo Kyokun (How to Cook Your Life)-unlimited opportunities to examine reality and see the three characteristics eaily available in the
kitchen.  Colors, thickness of slices,
ever changing water patterns on the board, textures, temperatures, weights, beginings and endings, etc. found with ease.  Impermanence
in
empty containers becoming full and cucumbers transitioning from whole to half to completely sliced and on to the next.  Dukkha in cutting
my
finger.  Realizing once again, I have no idea where awareness comes from or where it goes.  Sometimes present with what I am doing and in the next
moment drug away to who knows where by who knows what.  Sometimes there was just  flow-no one there to do anything, but something
happening without a doer.  More seeing clearly, more of  the time, but not enough for my liking.  Happy about that and realizing that too will pass and be replaced by
more thoughts, mental talk and body emotions.

Sat in the morning and afternoon and some evenings.  Not as much time for formal sitting as I would have liked, but more than I would
have likely done at home.  Sadly realizing that like other centers in California, this one too is suffering with identity politics and the changes that accompany it, taking the focus off the purpose of the place.  A lot of anger and frustration arises when the topic is discussed, providing an opportunity to watch it arise and note the
body sensations associated with it and distinguishing those from sensations associated with other emotions.  Watching where anger arises and realizing the progression is different from fear, jealousy or other negative emotions, yet there are some similarities, too. 

Anger arises from the "pit" of my stomach and continues up, feeling like it rises quickly, shaped like a cylinder up my esophagus, hangs out mid chest and then 
into my jaw, teeth clenching
and then the sensation continues down my arms into my hands and fingers.  Some of the sensations/tremors dissipate from the middle of my upper arms.  The sensations themselves feel warm, but my body ends up
feeling cold.   Full body tremors sometimes result and I note a desire to make them
stop, especially in the presence of others.  Difficult to accept and deal with the sensations in a group setting and grateful when they come
up during a sit when I have a better
opportunity to examine
them without wishing they would go away, resulting in further sensory clarity.  Understanding they are "just sensations" and they too arise
and pass, as do the associated
thoughts.  And this realization too, is just more thought. 

Who is angry?  Who is shaking?  Why does it arise here?  Yet knowing there is no where else it could arise.  Asking "who" and why results in a few seconds of stillness.  Temporary relief, ad hoc.  Available anytime. 

RE: Alice Meditates in Wonderland
Answer
7/29/18 7:39 PM as a reply to Alice S.
Much time has elapsed since the last entry and much has changed, though more has remained the same.  

A new job, living in a new place and a more regular and frequent practice.  

Return from retreat where some odd experiences occured and then some even more odd changes seemed to take hold afterwards.  

In general, I am more relaxed, better able to respond, better able to focus, kinder and better able to give pleasant, unpleasant and neutral situations in life a bit of much needed space.  I joked about Dan Harris writing "10% Happier" stating something like, "After this retreat, there was 7% less Alice."
Hehe!

Seriously, though, in general, everything is a little easier.  Not a lot, a little.  But a little enough that it seems like a lot.  In all fairness, life is pretty good.  I've moved to a place that has more meditation options to which I continue to avail myself.  More options for food, companionship and other pleasures of life.  When I have time, I enjoy those things.  The menu of meditation options is the one I enjoy the most.  

Two topics came up with my teacher in our last discussion.  I brought up the changes that had occurred since retreat and how I had viewed them and tried to integrate them.  Realizing that the experiences were new and unusual, but wondering how to integrate them into daily life and realizing I couldn't even describe why it was difficult to do so.  Tracing the experiences back, I tried to view them through a few lenses.  

#1. The stages of insight
#2. The 3 characteristics
#3  The first 3 fetters 

I matched up my retreat experiences to the stages of insight and how those experiences showed me the 3 characteristics and the first 3 fetters.  Years had passed since I had even looked at the stages of insight.  They just never made any sense.  Now... well, it all seemed obvious.  Clearly seeing no self reveals suffering and impermanence.  Clearly seeing, after 12 years of practice off and on, that the practice works.  Clearly seeing that all this really doesn't need an Alice to contiue.  And clearly seeing there is so much more to be seen!

Of all practices, it was one that was brought up by someone on retreat, not the teacher, that gave me a first clear glimpse-though in fairness, the teacher is the one who asked us to try it.  I've done the "headless practice" (Douglas Harding) several times and it has always lead me to be more frustrated.  After a practice discussion and being advised to "go easy on yourself tomorrow," somehow I was able to hear that advice. Who heard it?  Certainly not the stable Alice I thought I've been all my life.  The end result was looking out the window and "letting go" a little.  Not ignoring, not quitting.  Just, as Daniel would say, "Don't artificially solidify a bunch of trasient sensations."  And then, seeing a shift in how things appeared.  In retrospect, realizing that shift was much the way I am now experiencing those changes in everyday life.  Soft, gentle and in a way that is very subtle, freeing, compassionate and curious.  A lot of concentration, previously cultivated, accompanied those sensations, without which I might have missed the freeing nature of the change completely.  

the other thing I discussed with my teacher is my lack of a voice with which to describe what happened.  I commented that one of the things that made working with him so positive was his ability to describe what he had seen and I asked how I could  learn to express those things I had seen, too.  He laughed and said, "Yeah.  Because I was born being able to do that!"  We spent the remainder of the time discussing how I could learn to do it.  Basicaly the advice was, now you've seen some things.  Go describe it.  

So here I am, trying to do that.  I don't want to teach now, nor can I imagine ever wanting to teach in a formal way.  That said, I heard Shinzen say somethign like- no matter who you are or where you are on the path, you are a teacher.  And then there's Daniel, who would seemingly like to be surrounded by co-adventurer's-an idea of which I am extremely fond.  So, I suppose in my own way, here I am on DhO, teaching.  I see it more like learning.  Learning how to express myself so I can continue to better do so with my teachers, with fellow practitioners and with people who have no experience with meditation and who are asking me why I do it, or how it has benefitted me.  

He also suggested I get some "spiritual friends."  Ugh.  Such a misfit is this ape called Alice.  I have such difficulty in ordinary reality making friends and yet now feel less spearate from others in an ultimate sense. Even so, there is some progress, too.  And again, here I am, on DhO, with my spiritual friends.  Sharing the journey.  Thanks to all who have helped me progress thus far.  Hoping that I can have more contact with like minded people, virtually and in person.   

May I make more frequent entries to this practice log, for the benefit of myself and all beings.  :-D

RE: Alice Meditates in Wonderland
Answer
8/13/18 6:06 PM as a reply to Alice S.
Sitting a lot more frequently and some longer sits too, on days off.  Finishing up this contract in the Bay and figuring out my next job.  Looking like I may go to Long Beach as I have a dear friend who is married to my best friend who is quite ill.  She could use a hand with the situation, so I am looking at 13 week contracts there.  Lots of places to sit, so I won't be missing out and can continue to meet with my current teacher by phone.  

Reading Rob Burbea's book, "Seeing that Frees."  Been listening to some of his dharma talks on DharmaSeed, too.  Interesting guy and have had some good converstaions with the teach about emptiness and how to look more effectively and efficiently.  All in all the advice is keep doing what I'm are doing.  I continue with one hour sits prior to work, 5-10 minutes on breaks and 10-20 minutes at lunch.  Oddly, I'm not sitting as much on days off, but do frequently attend Satsang and have been invited to a local pratitoners group near where I am staying.  Dear teacher insists I make some "spiritual friends."  I'm working on that and am trying to chose wisely.  I continue with bathroom and handwashing practices, headless practice and other practices that are done at Satsang that interest me. 

One practice was coming up with a goal you'd like to accomplish in the future related to meditation and a word to describe it.  I used liberation.  Then, bring an image to mind of someone who emulates this quality.  I used the good old teacher.  Using body sensations, mental talk and mental images we imprinted our chosen words while holding the body sensations, images and mental talk (repeating the word silently).  Moving on to a new word, I chose free, and continued the exercise using Gil Fronsdal's image.  Gil always says he's free-he never cops to being "enlightened" or awakened.  The third word was "enlightened" and I used Daniel's image for the final exercise.  It initally seemed odd that I had chosen all men to visualize and then quickly realized it truly was irrelevant.  This exercise was challenging for me because mostly I'm just using body sensations for on cushion practice.  It was fun to do something different and have a new practice I enjoyed.  It's helpful to have something different I can use when I'm tired.  Just seems to make it challenging enough to stay awake and different enough to keep me focused.  It's another tool for combating dullness or sloth and torpor or whatever you want to call it.  

It's also interesting to continue to integrate some of the retreat stuff.  Realizing day by day I'm less hooked less frequently than I used to be. Knowing that I don't have to take any of this day to day crap at work personally provides immediate, albeit temporary, relief from suffering at this stage.  Like I have said previously, I seem to get hooked more when tired and I really have to watch out at the end of a 12 hour shift.  But, even so, it's like Rob Burbea's thought experiment about enlightenment being like a ball bearing that sits at the bottom of a U tube.  I still am likely to get blown up the side, just not as often and I don't stay as long.  

I'm anxious to make further progress on the path, but watching that, too.  Asking what I want out of this, as Rob suggests, and why- other than second path and what I think it might be like to get it.  Just watching the desire and knowing there is nothing wrong with having it, but still looking to see the emptiness of the desire and the self.  

Watching Noah's practice log for hints about how he is viewing his sleep (or lack thereof) and what he is doing about it.  I ordered a second generation Oura Ring in May.  Ouraring.com if you are interested.  It should arrive sometime at the end of August or September.  Anxious to see if it can help me find a way to align my circadian clock.  Maybe I'll change to a different shift or a different job.  I'll post an update when I get it and have enough info to assess my situation.  In the mean time, my sleep has improved and I'm continuing to tweak supplements, diet and work in an effort to improve it further, but it's less of an issue, so it gets less of my attention.  

I really want to step up my sitting time.  I've been toying with the idea of doing another Stickk contract for motivation.  Nothing like the thought of donating to Trump and his minions to motivate me!  Yes, I'd like to sit longer, but mostly I just want to sit more.  

Less than 5 weeks until my scheduled 10 day, mostly self directed retreat.  My longest retreat so far has been 7 days.  At the end of 7 days, I'm usually quite concentrated, over the pain, feeling good and not really ready to go home.  Looking forward to see how 10 days changes my perception and my practice.  Doing a 2 day retreat the weekend before I leave for the 10 day retreat and think that will provide a good warm up.  I have a schedule worked out for the 10 day and know it may not hold up once I get there, but at least I have an idea of where to start.  Going to see if I can meet with a teacher early on to tweak the schedule and get to know them a bit, so as to minimize the amount I will need to talk for the rest of the interviews.  

I'm excited to sit with different teachers in a different setting.  I've only previously been on organized retreats and hoping I'll be able to be as self motivated as I believe I will when I will essentially be left to my own devices.  Yikes!  Sounds dangerous! LOL!  That said, there will be others to sit with, so knowing that will keep me motivated, too.  I feel like I have some good mometum and good practices going and don't want someone new to disrupt that.  Certainly hoping I will be advised for the most part to continue doing what I'm doing, but maybe get some advice on how to do it better, different, more effective/efficient.  But, I'm aslo excited to hear what they recommend and feel how the advice lands-see how it works by trying it out in real time.  Certainly, dear teacher is fantastic, but you never know what someone else will say that could be a major game changer, so I will listen attentively for those potential gems. 

Concerned about doing my own meal prep and want to work out a simple menu in the next two weeks.  Thinking about drinking Ayahuasca when I visit the boyfriend in Canada after the retreat, so that will dictate some of the diet, too.  Mostly, though, I'm just looking forward to having some time off to sit, uninterrupted.  

Until next time.  May all beings sleep well! ;-)